Lucky Dip – A Selection of Strange and Awesome Stuff – January 15th, 2015

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Mötley Crüe rehearsal, 1983. Photo credit: Gary Leonard.

If you’re in Los Angeles, stop by the Los Angeles Public Library and check out the fantastic exhibit From Pop to the Pit: LAPL Photo Collection Celebrates the Los Angeles Music Scene, 1978-1989. Full of photos of some of your favourite bands (especially if you’re a GenXer) from gigs to publicity shots, and encompassing the full range of pop-ish music from rap to punk to metal with everyone from Quiet Riot to the Minutemen  to the Go-Gos.

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Autumn Hawk / 8″h x 5″w x 5″d / Hand-dyed Wool housed in a Glass Dome by Lana Crooks

Lana Crooks is a Chicago-based textile artist whose work, made with wool and silk, includes some spectacular pieces meant to look like bones and skeletons. Just as fascinating as the real (creepy) thing, but also art. [Via This Is Colossal and Geyser of Awesome]

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Awesome Thing – Geraldine’s Parisienne Milk Punch

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At the beginning of January, the last thing anybody wants to hear about is milk punch, am I right? Weeks of parties full of cloying egg nog, resolutions to get fit… there is no place in there for a punch made with milk. Or so I thought.

On New Year’s Eve the hubbs and I celebrated our 17th anniversary at the lovely Geraldine restaurant (1564 Queen Street West). The menu was resplendent with oysters, foie gras and duck, and despite a massive hangover from a party the night before I was tempted by a couple of the fabulous cocktails created by bar manager Michael Mooney. Specifically the Parisienne Milk Punch, inspired by the Jerry Thomas Bartender’s Guide from 1862,which balances absinthe with a variety of aromatics, juices, rums and tea along with milk. Milk? Ugh! I was skeptical, but our server convinced me with a “just wait and see!”

The end result is not a creamy, gloppy drink at all, but a light, refreshing, fruity cocktail that is surprisingly clear but also amusingly smooth. Flavourwise, it reminded me of a very intricate Tiger Tail ice cream, which is never a bad thing.

It turns out that the trick to this type of milk cocktail is to mix all of the fruit, juices, herbs and liquors together to infuse, then add hot milk… and let it curdle. Yep. The drink is then strained so that the curds are removed, leaving the whey of the milk behind to create that silky smoothness.

The folks at Geraldine were kind enough to share the recipe with Sarah Parniak of NOW last month in a piece about party punches, but the recipe serves 30, includes 14 ingredients, and must infuse for 48 hours. Easier to just head over to Geraldine where a single Parisienne Milk Punch will set you back $13 or get the “tea service” (for the table, wink wink) for $48.

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Awesome Thing (That I Made!) – Scones That Are Flaky not Cakey

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When did flaky scones become a thing?

Growing up in Nova Scotia, scones in our house were always fried. We had tea biscuits, which are the closest in texture to what we now refer to as a scone, but they were dense and cakey, never flaky with discernible layers. We had heard of Southern biscuits, which were known to be flaky, and were served with savoury foods such as chicken and gravy, but they never graced our plates. If a bread product made an appearance at supper it was a nice white dinner roll, or possibly brown bread (made with molasses).

But the flaky scone is what we’re all after here in Toronto. I’ve no idea if flaky is what they go for at Betty Windsor’s house, but here, we can’t get enough of those layers and layers of rich, buttery dough. There are a few places now to buy gorgeous flaky scones, and it was after reading an interview with the owner of shop Baker & Scone that I resumed my search for a decent recipe.

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Awesome Thing (That I Made!) – Feathered Hat Pins

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For decades, I wasn’t able to wear hats. The things just didn’t look right on me. Then a year or so ago I changed my hair slightly and all of a sudden, hats looked grand! I celebrated by buying many of the things. Which was suddenly easy because hats had become stylish again. Or at least basic hats had become stylish again. Fedoras, pork pies, cloches in basic colours. Outside of weddings and horse races, women still weren’t getting their Downton on, even though I think we all secretly wanted to. Damn Toronto’s conservative streak.

In any case, I was tired of wearing plain hats so I started making feathery pins that I could mix and match amongst my hat collection. A couple of these are reworked pins from hats I bought long ago from the amazing Gina at Retro G when she had a shop on Queen West (and never wore, because hats looked dumb on me then), but the majority are whipped up from a pile of goodies bought at Sussman’s on Queen West.

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Awesome Thing – Halloween Greetings

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Back in olde times, Halloween wasn’t the big deal it is today. The trick or treating, the parties, it just wasn’t as prominent. Although, as the ladies above demonstrate, the “sexy” costume dates back to at least the 1920s (honestly, no idea where this image came from or if it’s at all Halloween-related, I just dig the flappers).

One thing that does seem to have a place in history is the Halloween postcard, and the Toronto Public Library has an extensive collection. Even better, a great number of the things are online for your enjoyment. Most seem to be from the early 20th century, and range from the adorable to the downright creepy.

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Awesome Thing – Fashion Blows

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Anyone who follows fashion will have heard of Isabella Blow, the iconic stylist who was  fixture on the UK fashion scene. She was known for her fantastic wardrobe, purchasing Alexander McQueen’s entire 1992 St. Martin’s College MA collection and launching his career.

Blow committed suicide in 2007 and her entire wardrobe was sold to another UK fashion icon, Daphne Guinness.

As part of a fund-raising initiative for the Isabella Blow Foundation, Guinness has brought part of Blow’s collection, as well as a few piece from her own extensive wardrobe, to The Bay at Yonge and Queen in an exhibit entitled Fashion Blows.

The fund-raising part was a swank dinner, for the rest of us, the exhibit is free to view, set up throughout The Room, the Bay’s upscale fashion boutique. Blow’s well-worn pieces (complete with stains and cigarette burns – she didn’t believe in keeping fashion for special occasions) include many items by McQueen, as well as Galliano, Gaultier and Dior. It’s a beautiful selection of Blow’s memorable pieces (most with her famous Phillip Treacy hats) and the styling fully captures her spirit.

The exhibit runs until November 1st.

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Full press release here.

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Awesome Thing – Brooches from StoryFolk

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Who is your favourite fictional character? Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice? Goldilocks? Romeo and Juliet? Maybe Anna Karenina? Wouldn’t you love to have an adorable brooch with their image on it?

Christine Su is the mastermind behind StoryFolk, and creates felt brooches of a vast array of characters from literature, from the gingerbread man to Gatsby and Daisy. Her work is super cute and very well done and it’s incredibly hard to choose just one. She’ll also bring beloved characters to life via custom orders.

Perfect for the bookworm in your life for this upcoming gift-giving season.

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Awesome Thing – A Floating Historical Garden

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Barges used to make up a large percentage of England’s boats. Used to haul pretty much everything up and down the interior waterways of the UK, the bottoms of these flat boats would be filled with ballast (rocks, earth, etc) to weigh down the vessels when they docked. This ballast was often dumped, leaving behind large quantities of plant seeds, many non-indigenous, that were preserved in the river beds.

Turns out “ballast seed” stays preserved pretty well. So well that designer Gitta Gschwendtner and artist Maria Thereza Alves have created this floating garden on an old barge in Bristol England, made entirely with non-native seeds dug up from English riverbeds, creating an interactive and natural bit of history.

The Ballast Seed Garden is located on Bristol’s Floating Harbour.

Full story at World Landscape Architecture. Discovered via Messy Nessy Chic.

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Awesome Thing – Toy Rebuilds from Professor Morbius

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They walk, they talk, they play music. They’re cool and creepy at the same time. They’re the fantastical creations of one Professor Morbius who takes old toys, rebuilds them, steampunks the crap out of them, and sells them at local craft fairs as cool curiosities. Each piece moves, walks, sings, or crawls. All are one of a kind pieces of art created from upcycled toys and robots.

With prices ranging from $30 to $80 for most items (larger pieces and custom work is more), Prof Morbius’ birds, spiders, flying pigs and other critters all come with a little sign, and a couple of accessories. There’s even a page of sold items on the website that resembles an “adopted” page from an animal shelter.

If the steampunk fan in your life has more top hats and monocles than they know what to do with, perhaps one of Professor Morbius’ curious mechanical pets might fit the bill on the next gift-buying occasion.

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Awesome Thing – Tibetan Shabaley

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The shabaley, which doesn’t seem to exist on the Internets at all, although all of the Tibetan restaurants in Toronto’s Parkdale have their own version, is a heftier cousin to the traditional Tibetan momo.

The momo, Tibet’s version of the dumpling, can be steamed or fried, and comes with a variety of fillings, usually vegetable or beef. Momos are approximately 2 inches in diameter and are typically made from one round of dough, expertly crimped in the centre. Shabaley, on the other hand, are closer to 4 inches across, are made from two rounds of dough crimped around the circumference, are always filled with a beef, onion and spice mixture, and are always deep-fried. In terms of appearance, they vaguely resemble an empanada.

Shabaley filling (like most Tibetan food) isn’t spicy but is a unique layering of flavours that is enhanced at the table with soy and hot sauces. The pastry is thicker than the delicate momo wrapper, crisp on the outside while slightly airy inside, and vaguely, but not overwhelmingly, sweet.

Shabaley are usually served as an appetizer, four to an order, but they are extremely filling and reheat nicely the next day if you (ahem) can’t finish them all.

The shabaley pictured above come from Norling Tibetan and Hakka Cuisine (1512 Queen Street West), but most of the Tibetan restaurants in Parkdale include a version on their menus.

 

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Awesome Thing – the Tourtiere at Victor

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With no family nearby and a great fear and loathing of travelling during peak times, the husband and I typically spend the winter Solstice holidays in Toronto, just the two of us. Over the years we have made up our own traditions, which usually includes going out somewhere for dinner on Christmas Eve. Last year we found ourselves at Victor in the Hotel le Germain (30 Mercer Street) because Chef David Chrystian had put his family’s tourtiere recipe on the menu as a special, and the husband, being of Acadian stock, was jonesing for some. It was fantastic;  rich, flaky pastry (thicker than regular pie crust) and a spicy filling made up of a variety of meats. We made plans to repeat the experience this Christmas.

Turns out, lots of other people liked the tourtiere too, so much so that Chrystian has added it to Victor’s brunch menu. It’s available as a single portion with fries and salad, or as a whole pie for the table.

If you’re not such a fan of tourtiere (which, really, is just crazy talk, but I’ll let it go), there are plenty of other great offerings on Victor’s brunch menu. Chrystian even creates some eggy Toronto-inspired brunch dishes with flavours and ingredients reminiscent of our various neighbourhoods.

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Awesome Thing – Nature-Inspired Glassware

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I’ve got a bit of a tree theme going on this week, but I was too enamoured of artist and glass blower Brad Copping‘s fantastic glassware, I had to share it.

Copping makes these fantastic shot glasses, tumblers and pitchers by shaping molten glass around the end of a tree branch, dusting the outside with a coloured, salt-like powder that melts and fuses with the glass, and then shaping each item further so that the rim of each glass is slightly wavy, and no two are exactly the same.

I came home from the last week’s Craft Ontario show at Wychwood Barns with two of his glasses and I can’t wait to get a few more. Copping lives in Apsley ON, so the best place to buy his work in Toronto (or online) is through the Craft Ontario website.

For a better look at Copping’s work, check out this site, or this one to see the glass he designed for the G8 summit in 2010.

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Awesome Thing – Scones from Baker & Scone

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I am so addicted to the scones at Baker & Scone (693 St. Clair Avenue West) that I have started to make up excuses to go to the Hillcrest neighbourhood. Thankfully there’s often something going on at Wychwood Barns, so it’s easy to make a stop on the corner of Christie and St. Clair West and come home with a box of Sandra Katsiou’s flaky, layered delights.

Arranged in the bright, pretty shop in tall apothecary jars, the fresh-baked delights come in 35 sweet flavours and 8 savoury, with around a dozen sweet and one or two savoury versions available at any time. So far, Toasted Coconut and Salted Caramel are my favourites, with the Old White Cheddar, Dill and Chive scones winning my favourite savoury flavour.

Why are they awesome? Katsiou’s got a great technique (folding and re-folding the dough like puff pastry) that creates high, layered scones, and her flavour combinations are fantastic. The scones are slightly cheaper by the dozen, which is just a great excuse to try one of every flavour in the shop. (Yes, I have done this. It was awesome.)

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Awesome Thing – Skeletons as Art

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I want to be able to tell you all more about today’s Awesome Thing but the URL on the card I got doesn’t mention any work with skeletons or reconstruction. Brian Martland is a Toronto-area artist, but his website hasn’t been updated since 2012.

What I can tell you is that I came across this work at the Annex Flea, that it was reasonably-priced and that it was created with an artistic eye in terms of display and presentation. I’m kind of surprised to have not come across these pieces before at events such as Steam on Queen or the Bazaar of the Bizarre as they would seem to be a perfect fit for shoppers and collectors with a macabre sensibility, or anyone into Victoriana, or biological science.

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Awesome Thing – Soma’s Birch Branch

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Two secrets that I will admit to you about today’s awesome thing – I have been known to break into the log song while cutting slices of this delicious treat.  I have also been known to cradle it in my arm like the log lady from Twin Peaks (timely, huh?), except you can’t do that for too long because it will start to melt.

Alright, technically, the folks at SOMA Chocolatemaker consider this treat to be a branch because the mould was made from a birch tree branch from the forests of Lindsey Ontario. Either way, it’s one of the coolest chocolate treats you’ll come across.

Filled with a sour cherry jelly and hazelnut crunch, it’s a really lovely and unique creation that typifies the quality we’ve grown to expect from SOMA. And given that it might cause you to break into song, it definitely qualifies as awesome.

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Awesome Thing – Modern Tea Cosies

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At first glance, they look like hats. Beautiful, thick, felted wool, with nifty little flowers or fringe at the top. And then Flock of Tea Cosy creator Michaelle McLean pulls one up to reveal a teapot underneath. Or a bodum.

For tea drinkers with modern decor, grandma’s knitted tea cosy might look a bit out of place. But McLean’s felted works of art offer clean lines and quality, eco-friendly materials to fit into sleek kitchens and dining spaces. She also offers trivets and table runners, as well as coffee cosies to fit over French press coffee pots.

Why are they awesome? First of all, they’re art, and add a bright, cheerful touch to a table with none of the twee usually associated with tea. Second – eco-friendly, renewable resources. Third – they keep your tea (or coffee) warm so the second cup isn’t gross.

 

 

 

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Awesome Thing – Vintage Glassware

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This festive display of fall-themed glassware caught my eye at a recent Annex Flea and drew me to it like a moth to a flame. Sonja Stefanovic of Woo Hoo Decor has a great eye and finds some really cool things that she then passes on to the public (at great prices – the two orange dishes at the lower right were $15 each) at local flea markets. Any of these pieces would look great on a Thanksgiving Day table.

Merchandise changes regularly, and Sonja vends at many local flea market events. Visit her at the upcoming Leslieville Flea (October 19, Ashbridge Estate, 1444 Queen Street East and November 30th, SH Armstrong Community Recreation Centre, 56 Woodfield Road ), Annex Flea (November 6th, December 13th & 14th, Centre for Social Innovation, 720 Bathurst Street) or Habitat for Humanity Durham Christmas Showcase at All Saints High School 3001 Country Lane, Whitby, December 6th & 7th.

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Awesome Thing – Cashmere Jockstraps

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So… being neither a guy, or a jock, I can’t speak to the quality and comfort of the wares of Happenis Jockstraps (Get the play on words? Cute, huh?), but when I came across Phred Stewart and his display at the Etsy Made In Canada event, I had to declare the things awesome.

Each jockstrap is handmade out of reclaimed cashmere. So not only are the things soft and cozy, they make great use of old bits of lovely sweaters that are no longer wearable, keeping lots of fabric from becoming landfill. Phred even details the original garment in each Etsy listing. Items are sized for a comfortable fit, and custom orders are available.

Why are they awesome? Come on – how can you not love something that is cheeky, upcycled and fuzzy? These would make the best Christmas gift for the jock in your life.

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