Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Brunch: Banana-Cherry Oat Muffins



INGREDIENTS:
1 cup Flour (white or spelt)
1 cup Quick Oats
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
dash Salt
3 Ripe Bananas, mashed
1/2 cup Vegan Margarine
1 cup Brown or Demerra Sugar
1-2 tsp Vanilla
app. 1/2 cup Fresh Cherries, pitted and chopped to various sized pieces

Preheat oven to 325F and line or grease 2 muffin tins.

In a medium bowl, cream margarine and sugar together, then add vanilla and mashed bananas. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and stir together until just mixed, then add cherries and give it a few stirs. Fill muffin papers about 2/3 full and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until golden on top.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Record a Week: City of Caterpillar - City of Caterpillar



SIDE 1.
AND YOU'RE WONDERING HOW A TOP FLOOR COULD REPLACE HEAVEN
A HEART FILLED REACTION TO DISSATISFACTION
MINUTE-HOUR-DAY-WEEK-MONTH-YEAR (THE FAITH'S IN MY CHEST)

SIDE 2.
FUCKING HERO
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME WE PAINTED OVER THE BLOOD ON THE WALLS
A LITTLE CHANGE COULD GO A LONG WAYS
MAYBE THEY'LL GNAW RIGHT THROUGH YOU

I don't like cursing on here, so I considered blanking that out before I realized that's the name of the song.

City of Caterpillar was a band comprised of members of bands like pg99, Darkest Hour and near the end, Majority Rule. As I was into all of these bands, I thought I'd give them a chance. They took that hardcore and sometime 6/8 screamo sound and added the spacious ambient instrumental riffs. The shorter songs are straight up emo/screamo with great shots and yelling-style vocals. The longer songs are pieces of that mixed in with long melodic, dark guitar parts. It didn't take me long to warm to this record.

Sadly, though, like many bands from that scene, they broke up after far too short of a time playing together. They went on to form Malady, who was also good, but also put out one album then broke up. Also they formed Haram, who may still be around, but I don't think so.

The opening song of this album is one of those songs that just ropes me in. The combination of the energetic quick parts and the long drawn out build up leading to another energetic part. Good stuff right there.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Birthdays

Today is my birthday. This is not a post to celebrate that, but a post to recall significant events that happened on or around my birthday over the years.

When I was 9 or 10, I remember being in a McDonalds on my birthday and not being able to eat what was my chosen birthday dinner (obv. not anymore!) I felt so sick and I remember thinking 'Why does this have to happen on MY BIRTHDAY!?' Which sounds like something a kid would say at that age, or a thing I would at any age.

When I was 13(?) it was nearish to my birthday when my parents separated. I think they told me on mother's day, which always falls right before my birthday, but I could be wrong and it was father's day.

By the time I turned 14, I had come to the realization that having separated parents meant double birthday celebrations.

When I turned 16, I promptly got driven to the DMV to write my G1 driver's test, which I then promtly failed. I rewrote it a few days later with more success. (8 months later I double failed my G2 test before passing. My G test I passed in one shot, so please don't be scared if you ever have to be in a car with me...it's that one that counts the most.)

When I turned 18 I was just writing my final high school exams. Back then school was 5 years if you paced yourself and took OAC courses to go to university. I didn't pace myself and went to college instead, saving myself a year of school. Now, apparently, you can finish up in three and a half if you really work hard. How can you possibly be ready for the thing that propels you towards your life-long career at 17? But I digress.

When I turned 19, I had moved to Toronto and was attending Trebas Institute of Recording Arts. I didn't know a lot of people in the city yet, as I was a fairly new resident and spent all day in school or the studio, mostly. My dad and sister took me out to a local bar for my first legal drink. The server didn't ask for my ID at all and when they forced him to ask it all felt very anti-climactic.

When I exited my teens, I was in the midst of my Trip to Baltimore/D.C.

On my 21st birthday, I thought I should give another shot at the 'turning legal' thing. I flew down to New York, then Colorado to celebrate being able to buy booze in all parts of North America.

This is making me sound like a real drinker, which I'm not and I don't even think I ever was.

I got married just a couple of weeks after my 24th birthday, so that year it was mostly consumed by that and the ensuing honeymoon.

Last year I got the best birthday present ever a month early when my daughter was born.

That brings me up to this year, where I plan to sleep for the bulk of the day and spend a nice quiet evening with family.

Origins

As my supportive hockey playoff beard grows and grows, I find myself thinking about how it is I got into the Boston Bruins and the other sports teams I like.

Sometimes we forget why it is we enjoy the various things that we do; why we have the habits we have and the tendencies as well. It may be that you just never think of how it started, or you've forgotten, or in some cases it simply just is.

For me, family has always been a major influence in life. I think that's true of a lot of people, but I know for sure it is for me. The music I like now I have come to like on my own, or through friends or just attending local shows. However, in my earlier years, it was the music playing in the living room that I held close. Bands that have stuck with me over the years like Blue Rodeo, Meat Loaf, The Beatles, etc. were all bands either of my parents played or had in their collection. At first, of course, it was only the music playing that I heard, but as I got older, my curiousity had me sampling them to see what was interesting. There are boxes of records at my cottage that I spent countless rainy days (and some sunny ones too) going through to try out. That in a long and indirect way led to the record a week portion of this blog.

Then there are the sports teams. I guess a lot of people end up supporting the teams that are local to them. And I guess I might be a bad person for not rooting for the local team in the two sports I care most about. The Boston Bruins and the New England Patriots are the two teams I am a diehard fan of. Both of them I got from my cousin Russ, who I looked up to a lot as a kid. For the record, he also likes the Leafs, so is not as anti-patriotic as I apparently am.

Phrases and quirks are obviously picked up from the people you spend time with and blended together with aspects of your own personality or other things you've picked up over time. I have over the years noticed starting to say words or sayings that people I am spending a lot of time with use frequently. As an adult, though, I have started to notice some stuff I had considered my own weird quirks are perhaps passed down generationally. Even in looking in old photos I will se one of my parents standing in a way I always stand or making a gesture that I never remember them making, but certainly am aware of doing myself.

The old battle of nature vs. nurture is eternal and in my mind, there is no doubt that the origins of everything you do come from a little bit of both.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Brunch: Veggie Congee



INGREDIENTS:
1 cup Rice (white, Basmati, or Jasmine)
10 Cups Water or Stock (I used a blend)
2 cloves Garlic, mashed
1 tbsp Ginger (or more if dried)
1 cup Mushrooms (any type, preferably not white)
1/2 cup Carrots
1/2 cup Greens (peas, broccoli, etc.)
1/3 brick Tofu, crumbled or small cubes (medium or firm)


Congee is an Asian porridge that is made from rice instead of oats and is based on flavouring from vegetables or meats instead of adding sugars. Traditionally it is made with pork or chicken.

In a large pot, boil the rice and water together, stirring often. When it boils, turn it down to medium, add the garlic and ginger and cook for about 40 minutes to let the rice over-saturate with water, making sure you continue to stir often. Add the veggies and tofu, lower to simmer until the rice breaks down quite a bit and the water is soaked up. If it is too thick before it's cooked, add more water. If it is too watery, turn up the heat a bit to boil off the water.

Serve as is for a light flavoured breakfast, or add hot sauce, soy sauce or other flavouring for a meal later in the day.

A Record a Week: Chicago - Chicago (or Chicago II)



SIDE 1.
MOVIN' IN
THE ROAD
POEM FOR THE PEOPLE
IN THE COUNTRY

SIDE 2.
WAKE UP SUNSHINE
BALLET FOR A GIRL IN BUCHANON(TITLE TO ENCOMPASS ALL OF THE FOLLOWING SONGS)
~MAKE ME SMILE
~SO MUCH TO SAY, SO MUCH TO GIVE
~ANXIETY'S MOMENT
~WEST VIRGINIA FANTASIES
~COLOUR MY WORLD
~TO BE FREE
~NOW MORE THAN EVER

SIDE 3.
FANCY COLOURS
25 OR 6 TO 4
MEMORIES OF LOVE(TITLE TO ENCOMPASS ALL OF THE FOLLOWING SONGS)
~PRELUDE
~A.M. MOURNING
~P.M. MOURNING
~MEMORIES OF LOVE

SIDE 4.
IT BETTER END SOON(TITLE TO ENCOMPASS ALL OF THE FOLLOWING SONGS)
~1ST MOVEMENT
~2ND MOVEMENT
~3RD MOVEMENT
~4TH MOVEMENT
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE

The first thing I thought when I put on this album was 'sounds like Phish meets Led Zeppelin.' The album features multiple singers, or rather four singers where each one sings at least a couple of songs on the album.

That 'progressive rock' or jazz-rock style doesn't really sit all that well with me. Add to that the fact that I felt like crap yesterday and it made for a long listen. The album is full of long songs wrought with solos by whoever feels like it at the time and lyrics that come in and out. They aren't as stoner rock as Phish, but the jam band sense is still there.

On a production note, this was Chicago's breakthrough album and possibly their most successful. It was the groups second album a self-titled one, which was later re-named Chicago II after the following record was titled Chicago III and they continued on with that naming style for all albums. Their success went on through the early and mid 70's until their lead singer, Terry Kath, died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot in 1978. The band replaced Kath and continues on to this day, having gone through several different lineups over the years.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Record a Week: The Chieftains - The Chieftains 4



SIDE 1.
DROWSY MAGGIE
MORGAN MAGAN
THE TIP OF THE WHISTLE
BUCKS OF ORANMORE
THE BATTLE OF AUGHRIM

SIDE 2.
THE MORNING DEW
CARRICKFERGUS
HEWLETT
CHERISH THE LADIES
LORD MAYO
MNA NA H√ČIREANN (Love Theme from Barry Lyndon - Women of Ireland)
O'KEEFFE'S SLIDE/AN SUISAN BAN/THE STAR ABOVE THE GARTER, THE WEAVERS

This is the Chieftain's 5th album (there was an album just called The Chieftains before they started the numbers thing, according to a few sources...though the band is officially listed as forming in 1963, four years after that album) and the first where they employ the harp. The album is credited with popularizing the style of Irish folk in other parts of the world.

This album is in large part the expected fiddle and pipes that you would associate with the genre. However, beyond that, they do an exceptional job using different tempos and techniques to set the mood and atmosphere without using any lyrics. A technique I have only heard executed many years after this by Godspeed You! Black Emperor and other such bands (and movie scores, but they have the aid of the movie itself to get the idea across). When you close your eyes, you can picture yourself in the scenario they are trying to portray instrumentally and that takes a lot of talent to do. This is particularly evident on the track "The Battle of Aughrim" where you can feel the slow, dark rise of a battle followed by the happier post-battle marching music.

It is easy to see how this album made famous both The Chieftains and Irish folk itself, as it is written and performed with excellence. It generally takes an album of this quality to bring a lesser known style of music to the forefront and allow more people to connect with it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Record a Week: James Brown - Body Heat



SIDE 1
BODY HEAT
WOMAN
KISS IN '77

SIDE 2
I'M SATISFIED
WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE
WAKE UP AND GIVE YOURSELF A CHANCE
DON'T TELL IT

After listening to this record, I think I can pin at least some of the blame for terrible disco-style funk on the Godfather himself. I have noted my distaste for said style of funk before, and I stick to it in the case of this record. A few of the songs hit on the snappy, upbeat style of funk (which I love) and one or two have the sensual style of Man's World and Please, Please, Please, but the disco was creeping its way in. Whether it was distractions in his personal life, or just the inevitable way that music just changes over the years, he just wasn't the same anymore.

The back of the record makes note of it being a spiritual journey, so the change in sound could be noted to that. However, I would suspect that if that were the case, the album would sound more cohesive, possibly along the lines of a concept album.

Following the release of this record, Brown never was the chart-topping genius he was prior to it, and eventually just toured with his older, more popular material.

On a personal note, my stepfather and I had tickets to go see him in January 2007 at Casino Rama(which I was so excited for), only to wake up on Christmas morning to find out he had died. At first I couldn't believe it was true, and nor could he when I passed on the news. After that, when Bob Dylan came to Rama, he wouldn't let me buy tickets to go with him, just in case.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday Brunch: Chocolate Hemp Protein Bars



Adapted from my mother's recipe for haystacks.

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Margarine
1/4 cup Soy Milk
4 tbsp Cocoa
2 Cups Oats
1/2 cup Coconut
1/2 Cup Hemp Seeds, Hulled


In a saucepan, heat sugar, margarine, soy milk and cocoa over medium low until it low boils. In a pan, toast hemp seeds over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Add the seeds, coconut and oats to the chocolate mixture and stir until mixed. Pour into a lightly greased 9x9 pan and cool until solid. Cut into bars and enjoy.