Old Sock Drawer

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#101: Culinary creations (and other updates)

March 10th, 2010 by Mary Leong
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Currently listening to: “Dear Confessor” – Immaculate Machine

I really ought to keep up to date with blogging; life is simply flying by at the moment. Over the past week, the Olympic haze has lifted, propelling us back into the skid-stop-go routine of la vie quotidienne. In between dashing from meetings to class to work, I’ve been listening to way too much Architecture in Helsinki, fangirling Joseph Stiglitz, and practicing the ukulele.

Oh, and cooking.

From stews and soups for one to treats for sharing, I’ve been de-stressing by making delectable little creations – as I type this, there are meringue cookies baking in the oven and they smell absolutely heavenly, if I do say so myself. Photos will follow in due time!

Egg whites and sugar
Beating sugar into egg whites until they form stiff peaks for the meringue cookies!

Another fun little savoury treat which my roommates adore are microwave potato chips. If you’ve ever got a spare potato lying about the fridge, this five-minute recipe for crisps is unbelievable. I was initially skeptical about making crisps in the microwave, but they turned out excellently: just the right amount of crunch, and made perfectly to taste. These are particularly wonderful when you’re just craving a crisp or two – or if you’re like me, can’t be bothered to run down to the convenience store and grab a bag. I’ve also been experimenting with flavours…salt and vinegar might be the next one.

Microwave crisps!
Microwave crisps! Omnomnom.

So I thought, well, you could probably make chips out of other things in the same way, with some minor tweaks.

Apple chips!
Apple chips! Sliced apples on a plate, sprinkle with a little sugar, microwave. Not quite as delectable as the potato chips, but tasty nonetheless.

In the meantime, what are your favourite recipes? What other vegetable chips should I tackle next? Drop me a line, and contribute to procrastination!

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#100: Les Cowboys Fringants @ Place de la Francophonie

February 25th, 2010 by Mary Leong
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First things first, HAPPY 100TH POST, OLD SOCK DRAWER! Secondly, hello to all readers from Victoria, where I have been traipsing around for the past three days.

Cowboys Fringants

So, my week definitely got off to an amazing start as a result of Sunday’s Cowboys Fringants concert. The last time they were in town, I missed their show as I was in Ottawa, so this is two years’ worth of bottled-up excitement spilling over in one glorious spectacle of néo-trad folk rock. Having rallied my non-Francophone (and thus substantially less hysterical) friends along in this grand adventure, I couldn’t wait for the show to begin. After a lacklustre opening band and a long set change, the audience anticipation had built up to epic proportions, further fuelled by a silver medal win in women’s speedskating. These expectations were more than met by the brilliant show that followed, comprising a sublime series of tunes that everyone knew and sang along to, witty repartee, and theatrics galore. Most notably, violinist/fiddler Marie-Annick Lépine was simply amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone play violin with that kind of passion and energy- and yes, that includes surpassing Joshua Bell’s live concert with the VSO. The musical merits of this band aside, their song lyrics are incredibly pertinent social commentaries on government, environmental degradation, homelessness, and culture, to name a few. A Québécois friend of mine once said, and I quote verbatim, “Their songs show every part of how Québec people live.” My music school friend present at the concert may have mentioned something about the guitar being slightly sharp (or flat), but that was the furthest from the minds of the audience, which was content – no, happy – to be part of this crowd, singing and chanting along to lyrics that truly reflect ideals dear to their daily lives.

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#099: Grand Dérangement @ Place de la Francophonie

February 17th, 2010 by Mary Leong
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Currently listening to: “Dear Elkhorn” – Said the Whale

grand dérangement

Tap-dancing Acadian fiddlers rapping, playing jigs, and singing the blues. If that doesn’t already sound like a recipe for an epic evening, I don’t know what does. Named for the Acadian expulsion from Nova Scotia (historical context woohoo!), Grand Dérangement was definitely a delightful treat which Cameron and I stumbled upon on our cross-Vancouver Olympic adventure. We had arrived at the Place de la Franco this afternoon as we poked around Granville Island; upon hearing their rehearsal and soundcheck, we were so blown away that we simply had to return to watch their actual show. And what a show it was! These incredibly diverse tap-dancing musicians rocked their way through a continuous stream of toe-tapping crowd-rousing pieces including Acadian rap, Irish ceilidh-inspired tunes, jazzy blues, and traditional Nova Scotian folk songs. In addition, the crowd was fantastic- kids were dancing circles around their parents, while exuberant audience members linked arms, singing and circle-dancing along. The atmosphere was brimming with a frisson of life I’m glad the Olympics have roused in sleepy Vancouverites. Overall, we definitely had ourselves a most brilliant Atlantic Canadian evening and I’m looking forward to seeing more this Sunday from Ode à l’Acadie (6 pm) before the Cowboys Fringants show at 7.30 pm!

Check them out on their website and MySpace pages.

Twenty-second videoclip of the performance. Yes, my camera is definitely not of the fancy videotaping variety.

(On that note, my fellow bloggers, how are you guys getting your YouTube videos and such to embed? Technological ineptness aside, I cannot seem to get it to work.)

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#098: Mes Aïeux @ Place de la Francophonie

February 14th, 2010 by Mary Leong
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Currently listening to: “Le Déni de l’Évidence” – Mes Aïeux

Continuing in the recent vein of live music and theatre reviews, here’s bringing you the first in a series of upcoming Cultural Olympiad reviews. As a performing arts aficionado, I am infinitely gratified by the exposure and support that local Vancouver artists will gain from these performance opportunities. Likewise, the presence of some of my favourite French Canadian artists in town is always a good heads-up to those on the West Coast who are unfamiliar with French Canadian culture and music. With daily free shows at the Place de la Francophonie on Granville Island, this is an absolutely amazing chance to check out the incredible diversity in French Canadian performance talent this country holds.

Tonight, I had the pleasure of watching Mes Aïeux perform on the Scène Air Canada Stage at the Place de la Francophonie. With a repertoire featuring mostly from their latest album, La Ligne Orange, and keynote works from their previous albums, the energy level was absolutely out of the world. With an energetic and eager crowd willing to play along, it may have been pouring, but spirits were definitely not dampened in the least. With Celtic fiddling, Balkan-infused melodies, and traditional Québécois musical influences, the sheer intricacy of the music was absolutely incredible to hear performed live. If I had thought they were great in recordings and CDs, well, this show was definitely electric and blew me right away.

Here is a sampler: “Antonio”, from La Ligne Orange.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF2OwssHCdE
(the song starts around 2:17)

Notable upcoming performances:
Feb 14 @ 6 pm: Pierre Lapointe (pop piano-vocal virtuoso)
Feb 21 @ 7.30 pm: Les Cowboys Fringants (reigning royalty of Québécois folk-rock)
Feb 23 @ 7.30 pm: Les Trois Accords (which I will not be in town for, unfortunately)
Feb 25 @ 7.30 pm: Ariane Moffatt (indie-pop-rock brilliance)

In the meantime, aside from spending copious amounts of time at Granville Island spreading the Francophone love, I shall also be scoping out the English performances and duly reviewing, and being slightly put out that I will not get to watch Great Big Sea perform. But my ramble about how Great Big Sea is so very quintessentially Canadian…well, that is another story entirely…

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#097: Louis Riel @ The Chan Centre

February 6th, 2010 by Mary Leong
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Currently listening to: Cameron Golinsky’s rendition of “Mad World” (kid is brilliant)

Louis Riel

(click on picture for UBC Opera’s Facebook page)

Last evening, I was lucky enough to score a complimentary ticket to UBC Opera’s Western Canada premiere of the Confederation-era historical opera, Louis Riel. Far from being what one usually expects from a traditional opera (à la Mozart/Puccini/Verdi), Louis Riel draws heavily from postmodern influences (think Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring) and is further embellished by the colourful tones of traditional French, Scottish, English, and First Nations musical influences. With a libretto written in English, French, and Cree, the discordant melodies sung in different languages reflects the English Protestant-French Catholic clash during a particularly tumultuous period in Canadian history. As a history geek, I was quite pleasantly surprised by how accurate it was – and how potentially controversial this opera can be. Bringing up some of the darker sides of Canadian history, it forces audiences to consider the bigotry prevalent in both sides in their respective striving for autonomy.  The cast is sublime, and the chorus is energetic in its rousing renditions of battle rallies. You may not walk out of the theatre humming its atonal melodies, but you will leave slightly unsettled, ponderous, and indeed, rather impressed with all the technical aspects of the production.

Louis Riel plays Saturday (Feb 6) at 8 pm, and Sunday (Feb 7) at 2 pm.

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