Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Brunch: Easy Peasy 'Cheesy' Biscuits

2 Cups Flour
1 tbsp Baking Powder
1 tsp salt (although if you use Daiya, use a bit less salt)
1/2 cup Margarine, frozen in chunks (acts more like fridge butter if frozen)
2/3 cup Soy Milk
1/2 cup Shredded Vegan Cheese

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Knife in margarine until dough becomes pilly. Add in 1/3 cup soy milk and stir in. Add the other 1/3 cup and the vegan cheese and stir together lightly. Knead over once and roll into 1/2"-1" thick slab. Cut out circles using a glass or rip out pieces for that home-cooked appearance.

Bake in oven at 400F for 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden on top. Serve warm!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Record a Week: Pat Benetar - Live From Earth



Pat Benetar is one of those names you know and you're not sure why. Her songs are those that you hear and never remember who they are by. Hopefully, now that I've heard this album I will be able to adhere the songs to the name for good.

It's a live album and a sort of a makeshift best-of. Well....I should say live up to 'Love is a Battlefield'. It's as if they felt they had all of her hits recorded live except that one, and if they were going to have it be seen as a hits album (despite it not being titled as such), then they should probably slap on the last two songs. Either that or they recorded a very short concert and weren't left with enough material to fill up a live album.

Either way, this album contains her best known songs, mostly performed live. From the sounds of it, her concerts were a great time at the peak of her popularity. In the early eighties, she was a female rock legend and her strong-willed lyrics undoubtedly an inspiration for women listeners.

When I put on the record, I looked at the track listing and thought 'That's a lot of songs before love is a battlefield' (my favourite Benetar track). However, as I listened through, I thought 'this is her?' pretty much every time a song came on. It's a good collection of tracks, even though they are littered with their share of 80's cheese. Plus, there's just something about Love is a Battlefield that makes me smile. Perhaps it's the ingrained image of my wife and her sister always getting so into it whenever the song comes on.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Recipe: Salads

A while ago, we had a bit of a gathering at our house and I decided to make some salads. Although I enjoy a regular lettuce salad, I do tire of them and I imagine others do as well. There is nothing special about them and other than add some fruit or make it a spinach salad or maybe using different dressings, you can't jazz them up all too much.

So I decided to try my hand at a grain salad and a beet-slaw.


5-6 cups Cooked Grains (at least 4 different kinds and at least one rice. I used a wild rice mixture from bulk barn, buckwheat, quinoa, barley and orzo)
1 cup Olive Oil (approximate)
2 tbsp Lemon Juice
1 tbsp Vinegar (wine or cider)
1 tsp Sugar (or to taste)
2 cloves Garlic
sprinkle of salt and pepper

After cooking, mix grains thoroughly in large bowl to get even consistency. Set aside and let cool Put remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste to make sure it's to your liking. Pour over grains. The salad will soak up a lot of the dressing, so you may need to use more to get a good coating over the whole thing. Try to add dressing as close to serving as possible, as it will continue to soak it up as you let it sit.

3 large Beets
2 Carrots or 1 large Carrot
1 stalk of Celery (optional)
1 cup Vegan Mayonnaise (veganaise, nayonaise or make your own)
3/4 tsp Seasoning Salt
1/2 tsp sugar
dash each Lemon Juice and Cider Vinegar
dash Dill Weed

Peel and shred the Beets and Carrots (and celery if you like) into a large bowl (wear disposable gloves if you want to keep your hands free of red beet dye). Combine remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and toss with the salad. use only enough to coat the salad lightly. Set aside in fridge, covered, for at least 1/2 hour. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Record a Week: Bix Beiderbecke (Giants of Jazz Collection)

COPENHAGEN (Wolverine Orchestra)
BIG BOY (Wolverine Orchestra)
MY PRETTY GIRL (Jean Goldkette and His Orchestra)
CLARINET MARMALADE (Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)
SINGIN' THE BLUES (Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)
OSTRICH WALK (Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)
RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE (Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)

I'M COMING, VIRGINIA (Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)
WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS (Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)
FOR NO REASON AT ALL in C. (Tram, Bix and Lang)
THREE BLIND MICE (Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)
BLUE RIVER (Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)
IN A MIST (Himself)
CLEMENTINE (Jean Goldkette and His Orchestra)

WRINGIN' AND TWISTIN' (Tram, Bix and Lang)
HUMPTY DUMPTY (Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)
KRAZY KAT(Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)
AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL (Bix Beiderbecke and His Gang)
ROYAL GARDEN BLUES (Bix Beiderbecke and His Gang)
JAZZ ME BLUES (Bix Beiderbecke and His Gang)

GOOSE PIMPLES (New Orleans Lucky Seven)
SORRY (Bix Beiderbecke and His Gang)
CRYIN' ALL DAY (Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)
SINCE MY BEST GIRL TURNED ME DOWN (Bix Beiderbecke and His Gang)
THREE BLIND MICE (The Chicago Loopers)
CHANGES (Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra)

LONELY MELODY (Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra)
MISSISSIPPI MUD (Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)
DARDANELLA (Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra)
FROM MONDAY ON (Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra)
SUGAR (Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra)
'TAIN'T SO, HONEY, 'TAIN'T SO (Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra)
THAT'S MY WEAKNESS NOW (Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra

BECAUSE MY BABY DON'T MEAN "MAYBE" NOW (Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra)
LOUISIANA Bix Beiderbecke and His Gang)
LOUISE (Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)
I LIKE THAT (Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra)
CHINA BOY (Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra)
BESSIE COULDN'T HELP IT (Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra)

(Performance groups in parentheses and italics)

This record set comes with a delightful booklet detailing everything you could possibly want to know about Bix Beiderbecke. He lived a short life that was centred around music and booze. He was a natural talent that played from the heart and could repeat a song by ear, never actually bothering to learn how to read any music. He played alongside the likes of Bing Crosby and his skills were (and are) the envy of jazz musicians from all styles and cultures. Cornet was the instrument he most frequently played, though he was also adept at the piano.

This collection has a lot of good dixieland-style jazz on it. It's a style I'm not normally into, but this record could certainly provide a basis for liking it. The style often comes across a little 'silly' for me, but the talent is quite evident there on this record.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Record a Week: Beethoven Symphony No. 7 (Toscanini and the NBC Orchestra)



Once again, I don't know enough about classical music to rate the performance of it by one orchestra or another. To see if I could spot any major differences, I listened to a few different versions and couldn't differentiate all that much.

The piece itself is considered to be one of his most complete symphonies. It has a very quick pace throughout, except for the second movement, which slows down a bit. The second movement is the most recognizable of the bunch, parts of it having been used in various movies, tv shows or commercials.

I am not usually not as big of a fan of classical music in major keys. However, the pace of this one keeps me interested and I think that the piece as a whole is quite well composed.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Working the Night Shift

As I mentioned last post, I've started working a new job and the pros so far have been pretty endless. First and foremost, it took me away from my old job, where I felt they were overlooking my skills and still saw me as the temp they had hired four years previous, not the guy who had learned a lot about the business, only to be shuffled around. The money is better, the benefits are fabulous and I have much less hassle to put up with.

The one thing that a person might find somewhat unappealing about the position is that it is overnight. I don't actually mind it very much, but as a person who has spent the last eight or nine years at jobs that start at between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m., it was a bit of an adjustment.

There's a lot of work to get done, and I wear my Ipod, so for the most part my mind is kept off of the hour. Much like a day job, though, there is a wall you hit at a certain point in the shift that you just have to push through. Combine that with the darkness and things can get iffy. Many times I've seen things move out of the corner of my eye that I thought was an animal or person, but were probably just things blowing in the wind. One time, I yelled out to what I thought was a co-worker, but turned out to just be a garbage bin with a tree behind it (easy to see how I could mistake this).
Spot The Difference

Sleeping is another issue. If you sleep right when you get home, you are up by 3 or 4 in the afternoon and have a loooot of time before work. Staying up for the morning and sleeping in the afternoon can mess up your eating schedule and make you miss out on family or friend-oriented activities such as dinner, games night or your favourite prime-time television. Then there is the matter of what your body does. I sleep with a sleep mask and earplugs and my body naturally wants to be up during the day anyways. I will fall asleep around 10 or 11 and be up by 3 or 4. This may change as I spend more time in the schedule, but from what my co-workers tell me, that might not be the case. The best results I've found is to accept the 5-ish hours of sleep during the day, then go for a nap some time around 8 or 8:30. This nap has a duel effect of being a refresher and to trick the body into that "getting out of bed and going to work" feeling.

At first, I thought I'd stay up all night on my weekends, keeping the schedule intact. However, before I even got to the first weekend, I changed my mind. I realized how lonely it would be to be up by myself (and the pets) all night long, just reading or watching tv, only to go to bed by myself when my family wakes up. Weekends are supposed to be the time you spend seeing the most of your family and friends, not sleeping while they are awake.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

5 Albums from 2010 + My Year in Review

Even though I write about vinyl that I have accumulated over the years, I do still listen to new music as it comes out. I thought I'd take a moment to look at 5 albums that caught my notice in 2010.

1. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
Local Natives

This Album hooked me in with its catchy guitar lines; at times soft vocals coupled with great harmonies; and a unique percussive backing. The songs 'Sun Hands' and 'Wide Eyes' get constant plays whenever I get the chance to listen to music.

2. Menomena - Mines

Although the singing may not be the best, the album is very soothing and well written. It is one of the albums that sneaks up on you. You give it a listen upon acquiring it and then a song turns up here and there as you listen to shuffle on your computer or mp3 player and leaves you thinking it should be in heavier rotation.

3. Jonsi - Go

For fans of Sigur Ros, probably already know about this. For those who aren't Sigur Ros fans, they are an Icelandic band with long, beautiful songs which often are eye-welling through either sadness or their wonderful performance. However, I personally found years of songs that last 7 or 8 minutes, despite being well done, got a bit tedious. When this album came out, I thought I'd give it a try. I found the new upbeat styles paired with Jonsi's terrific vocals to be very refreshing.

4. Liars - Sisterworld

With its understated delivery,
is a departure from previous Liars Albums. They were always a crazy band and in releasing loud, dancy, percussive, sample-laden albums prior to this; it makes the almost low-key-indie sound of this album sound weird. Who knows if this will be a permanent sound change like Black Dice or Daughters went through, or just an experimental one-off. I suppose the next album will tell.

5. Eminem - Recovery

It feels sort of out of place on this list, but it belongs here (mostly because it's a list of albums that caught my ear this year). I used to love Eminem's offensive rhymes and silly beats when I was a late teen/early 20s guy, but they sort of got repetitive and I think everyone got tired of them. This album is a reset in quality for him. He isn't so angry and offensive, he is almost apologetic and introverted. He discusses getting sober and staying strong for his daughter, bad relationships and much more. All the while, his flow is better and the backup music is terrific. It all makes for a great rebound album from the rap superstar.

As for my personal 2010, it was spectacular. I had a baby girl, left a job I had been aching to leave for a much better one (more on this in another post). I got to spend a whole lot of time with family and friends, as well as seeing some family we never get to see and more time at the cottage. Here's to a great 2011!