21 July 2014

eat the cup, 2014 :: auf wiedersehen and danke schön

give credit to dom, who said all along that this was germany's year. after england was eliminated, my loyalty basically transferred to germany, who are always such an entertaining team to watch, but i was honestly worried that they would let themselves get rattled, as they have in the last few world cups. i'm kind of glad to be wrong. so once again, a week after the grand occasion, i took to the kitchen to prepare a feast in honour of this year's champions. [i'd actually intended to get to it earlier this time around, but i've had a sort of bizarre health issue, the kind of thing that only happens to me.]

german cuisine is simple and hearty, which makes it fairly easy to prepare, although not necessarily great for summer. i did, however, manage to find a couple of things that were suitable, although this still isn't the lightest meal in the world. [when we're talking european cuisine, it really would be easier if they had these competitions in the winter, although i guess i understand why they don't.]

probably even less fun than it looks
first up, i made german-style potato salad. much of german cooking embraces the humble potato, but this variation is warm-weather friendly. instead of the more standard north american version, german potato salad is made with potatoes, chopped herbs [i used parsley, chives and a tiny bit of tarragon] along with vinegar and sugar. i have to say that this felt strange to me, being used to the creamier version, but the herbs make it much fresher. plus, of course, it's much healthier. it replaces the fatty dairy element, but it also features parsley, which is unfairly relegated to the role of garnish these days. in fact, it is both tasty and incredibly healthy. [it's worth noting that a lot of fresh herbs are quite concentrated in important nutrients. plus they make your food taste better.]

to accompany this, i made a traditional german onion pie. well, almost traditional. dom's reaction was "it's a lot like quiche". yes, in fact it is basically quiche, but quiche is french, so we call this version onion pie. although it requires you to turn on an oven, which is never a great experience in the summer, it is very simple to prepare, so you don't actually have to spend much time in close proximity to the oven. [why would you ever need to stay in close proximity to an oven? -ed.] [shut up, editor -kate]

i used:

1 giant onion, chopped [probably a 1.5-2 lb onion; spanish is good and vidalia would be amazing]
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream [light is acceptable if you want to make it healthier]
1/4 cup smoked herring, crumbled [other smoked fish like mackerel or trout would be acceptable as well
2 x 9" pie shells
butter or oil for frying

i should note that the smoked fish is something that i threw in there and it's not part of any recipe i came across. however, smoked fish of various sorts is common enough in german and eastern european cuisine, just be careful not to add too much, since it's much stronger in flavour than anything else in the dish. you could also add some cheese instead, for a vegetarian version.

preparation is simple: fry the onions over until they are very limp and translucent. have the pan plenty hot when you first add them, but after a minute or so, reduce the heat to the low side of medium. that way, you can basically leave them be while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. you just have to stir them occasionally to prevent them from burning. if you arrange the pieces in a circle around the edge of the pan, it'll help ensure they cook evenly.

while you have the onion frying, mix the eggs, sour cream and herring together. when the onions are done, add them and blend everything together. the smoked fish should add enough salt on its own, but you can throw in some pepper if you like. there should be some liquid from the onion pan. make sure that goes in there too. the final mix should be thick , but still pourable. if it's too thick, add a little milk or water.

put the filling into the pie shells and pop into a 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes. i find that every oven is different, so the rule of thumb i use is that the quiche pie is done when you can lightly bounce a fork on the top. remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing.

i'm always sad to see the end of the cup, since it means that i won't have the games to entertain me and that i have to go back to thinking up meals with no theme to help me. i considered doing a version of 'eat the cup' for the euro, which will happen in two years, but there really doesn't seem to be enough meaningful variation between a lot of european cuisine to make it a real challenge. dom had suggested a 'drink the cup' version, which sounds awesome, but of course, i wouldn't be preparing anything myself. [nor would you be in any condition to do so, i suspect. -ed.] we shall see what the future brings.

i've seen many comments that this may have been the best world cup ever. i don't know nearly enough about world cup history in order to make that sort of statement, but i will say that it is definitely the most entertaining one i've ever watched. the strength of the teams compared to past teams is subject to debate, but i found that there was an overall balance, so that there were relatively few easy games for anyone. [in fact, the easiest games were more shocking than anything else, since they generally involved the pummelling of a previously strong side.]

in parting, let's not forget to celebrate the beautiful part of the beautiful game by enjoying an assortment of

man candy of the matches

chile's alexis sanchez, who has a great smile, among other assets...

brightens your whole day
brightens your whole week
we like short shorts
hell, we like everything
 and who doesn't appreciate the bad boy charms of mario balotelli?

the intensity... 
the shirtless intensity...
the wet, shirtless intensity... 
whatever kind of intensity this is...
or how about balotelli's teammate, flaxen-haired, azure-eyed ciro immobile?

blue is your colour
so handsome i don't even need to ogle your body
...but i will
molto bene
and finally, we bid a fond farewell to didier drogba, since this is almost definitely the last time he'll be making a world cup appearance. at the ripe old age of 36, he can still put the youngsters to shame.

so long, farewell...
auf wiedersehen, goodnight... 
we hate to go and leave this pretty sight... 
sighs and smiles all around, sir
by the way, if you miss the man candy too much, you can always check out soccer players in underwear, a site i came across during my diligent research. it's exactly what it says it is.

19 July 2014

making faces :: the goddess and the princess

meet my inner princess
ah, the height of summer. the apogee of relaxation. the longest light. the compressed nights. it is here. [actually, the nights are getting longer all the time at this point, but that's like telling people in january that spring is right around the corner.] at no time of year can you be bathed in more flattering natural light and at no time of year do you want to spend less time fussing around with your appearance.

for a cosmetic aficionado to deal with these times, i recommend two things:

1. find an eyeshadow duo you like, because it's the easiest, most cost-effective way to get some different options without having to think about different products.

2. find a nice lipstick in a semi-sheer or semi-opaque formula that can transition from day to night.

so you just know those two things are what i'm reviewing here...

ok, first of all, i'm just going to acknowledge that when i did my initial review of products from mac's "alluring aquatic" collection, i made a statement that i simply couldn't buy "goddess of the sea", because i had similar shades already. i even singled out one limited mac shade in particular that i'm not even close to finishing as an example of such a shade.

ahem. so apparently willpower is not my thing. i bought "goddess of the sea".

i personally blame my mac counter associates, who go by the book when it comes to the amazing mac recycling program [return six and get one free lipstick, gloss or eyeshadow for free]. "by the book" in this case means that they follow the rule book which states that you're allowed to trade for any product unless it's one that's manufactured under license from another company. that means that you should be able to trade for limited products, even if their in special packaging, as long as that packaging is done by mac and isn't, say, a tie-in with a film or other non-mac entity. so i was allowed to trade in some deader than dead soldiers and get a lovely new berry lipstick that i needed like a hole in the head.

there are lots of things i could have traded for, but what can i say? teh purpleberrieez. dey callz to meh.

in fact, i'm happy that i did choose to get "goddess of the sea", because it made me very aware of just how much the mac cremesheen formula has improved in the last few years. when it originally launched, back in 2008, i really didn't care for it. i found it somewhat drying and it also seemed to be prone to migration. but i've found that over the years, things have improved and there could be no better example than "goddess of the sea". it applies smoothly and evenly, doesn't dry my lips or bunch up in my lip lines, lasts well and doesn't find its way outside the vermilion border. it's creamier, less glossy, than the mac lustre lipsticks, but it's not totally matte.

in terms of the colour, it is a berry-toned purple of medium depth, not translucent, but still semi-opaque. it will have a little variance from one person to another because of this. it can be layered to achieve a deeper shade or applied lightly for something quite subtle. the more it's layered, the more purple/ less berry it looks.

goddess of the sea
goddess of the sea
goddess of the sea
for me, this kind of colour is catnip, which is why i can't resist even when i know that i have similar options. in particular, it reminded me of the limited edition shade "bust out" from mac's summer collection a few years back [2011]. seen side-by-side, they are fairly similar, but i will say that "goddess of the sea" is noticeably redder and therefore warmer. "bust out" has a cooler greyish cast. the importance that you attach to these nuances will depend on how much you love such shades. i can easily spot the differences between them, but that isn't going to apply to everyone. [likewise, if you show me a dozen different semi-sheer nude pinks, i'm going to be at a loss to describe the distinctive qualities of any of them, whereas others will have no problem.]

l to r :: mac bust out [l.e.], goddess of the sea
if you want to see more colours that are in the same ballpark, check out my original review of "bust out".

next up, we have something that is considerably more original from the first glance: nars eyeshadow duo in "tropical princess".

one of the reasons that nars has such a cult following is their genius for combining unexpected shades like an icy lavender and an electric lime green. these are the sort of unions you never would have considered, but which work undeniably well. i get more excited about the seasonal nars shadow offerings than almost anything else in the cosmetic world.

"tropical princess" is just so outrageous that it demands to be taken home, even without being seen in person. of course, if you do get to see it in person, it's only going to tempt you more, because trying the shades on my hand, they looked even more incredible than in the pan.

the icy lavender shade has a pronounced white frosted effect- hence the "icy". it's so shimmery that it almost looks like a gloss. from some angles, it may look like a very cool tone of white, but i find that i can always spot the slight lilac cast. it applies sheerly at first and can be built up to something more opaque. because it's so dazzling when built up, i think that it's a blessing that a single swipe is much more delicate. if it always looked the way that it does built up, it wouldn't be a very versatile shade. [note: swatching the colour with your finger will give the effect you get from building it up in application. don't worry, you can make it more muted in use.]

indirect light
direct sunlight
i didn't make any comparisons because i honestly don't have anything that's both this light and this cool. there are highlight shades that have a similar effect, but none of them lean violet. i'm surprised that it is so unique, since very light shades tend not to be. i'm not saying that there aren't similar colours out there, just that they aren't in my collection.

i do find that after a few hours wear, the lavender tones disappear, so what you get is more of a chilled white. definitely, by the end of the day, even over a primer, the effect is one of a lot of shine, but relatively little underlying colour.

the acid lime shade is a heavy hitter as well. its light green base and dense yellow shimmer create a colour that appears almost neon. it's buttery in texture and dazzling when swatched. like its partner, a light application gives you more a hint of the colour- closer to a chartreuse yellow. as you build it, the green tones and the inherent brightness move to the fore. however you apply it, the colour has a great clarity- it never appears in any way muddy, a difference that became obvious when i tried to compare it to a couple of others.

indirect light
direct sunlight
mac "true chartreuse" pigment is yellower, matte and slightly more muted. mac "lucky green" eyeshadow has a dirtier quality. looking at the three of them together, "true chartreuse" has just a hint of grey in its base, while "lucky green" has a little brown. "tropical princess", by comparison, is like glass or a gemstone- pure colour, unadulterated by undertones that would dampen its brightness.

l to r :: mac true chartreuse, tropical princess, mac lucky green
i really wish that the formula of this colour made it easier to achieve that incredible clarity as easily in use as it does in a small swatch. as breathtaking as the colour seems to be on the smoother skin of the hand or arm, it becomes surprisingly finicky on the eyelids. i tried several ways of making it work, with decidedly mixed results. again, it's easier if i show you pictures.


16 July 2014

making faces :: an armani armada

forza italia
hold on to your seats, folks, because armani has unleashed an italian armada upon us. the brand has been in the process of reinventing its entire line over the last few years, with their updated lipstick and lipgloss formulas, as well as their divine, sparkling potted eye shadows. now is the time when they take the big plunge and redo their single eye shadows [they've already launched some beautiful four-colour palettes] and their blushes. it didn't take me long to indulge, however it has taken me long, very long, to get around to writing this review. lucky for me, everything is permanent, so it's not like they've run out of product.

for this initial review, i have one of each new product, an eye shadow and a blush, which i grabbed with my grubby little hands as soon as they hit counters. seriously, the counter at the bay wasn't finished filling the sample display when i descended on them. [i don't think they know quite what to make of me, since i always seem to go in knowing exactly what i'm looking for.]

i should warn you that there is some serious face spam, to follow.

i'll start with the easier review, which is the blush. i do love a bold cheek against my pale skin, so i gravitated towards #509, eccentrico. it's unabashedly bold, equal parts pink and red with a very fine shimmer that translates to more of a sheen in use. you need very little product to get a big hit of colour and fortunately, if you overdo it, it's a very easy product to blend out. [it also responds well to being subdued with highlighter.] my preferred tool for application is a mac 188 brush, which picks up and deposits less product than a denser brush. i don't find that most other bright blushes have quite this level of pigmentation.

eccentrico 509

in my collection, the only shades i had that could compete with it are mac "azalea" [cooler, pinker and frostier] and mac "salsarose" [redder and warmer].

l to r :: mac azalea, eccentrico, mac salsarose

this is a really nice formula and about the only thing i can say against it is that with the exception of "eccentrico", the range of colours is mostly light and muted, so they're unlikely to work on a wide variety of skin tones.

moving on to the realm of the shadows...

14 July 2014

the moon in the garden and me

something i wrote quite a while ago and discovered, in an old format, on my computer. i think that it's actually from a few computers ago, which goes to show you how careful i am about reviewing the contents of my precious writing folders. god only knows what i've lost over the years. i like to pretend that i remember every single one of my literary children, but the fact is that as i've gotten older, i'm just as lax about them as i am about almost everything else in my life. [i can however, tell you for certain whether or not i have a specific limited edition lipstick. my priorities need tweaking.]

aside from the fact that this story was written a long time ago, the idea for it goes back years earlier. it's something that came to me as a much longer idea, but written out long, it got very whiny and dramatic in a way that i didn't like. i've condensed most of the plot into a much shorter framework and as far as i can recall, the only thing i've retained from the original work-in-progress-that-never-seemed-to-progress is the opening line. i'm still not sure about the final result, but i'm at the stage where i truly don't know what to do with it anymore, aside from just add it here and contemplate its existence.

strangely, the story always seemed secondary to me, because the idea was fuelled more by the idea of the atmosphere i wanted to convey. the two words that come to mind are "foliage" and "watery", which aren't descriptive of atmosphere in any meaningful way, but that's as much as i have to offer. i seriously think i got the original idea looking at reeds in a pond at the halifax public gardens. not that you can tell.

the pictures i've used are from all over, but i found them all on pinterest. my page is linked at the right and you're more than welcome to peruse my boards at your leisure. all the photos from this post are on the board "flora" with links to their original posters/ owners.


Now I am a mermaid, vines for hair, breathing water and mud, stirring up clouds in my descent, clouds that obscure and clouds that disguise. I am falling back through time, sinking into dreaming where I am safe again, where I have always been at home, Tendrils of grass are woven into me, forming a braid with my body and everything around me that I call myself, that I call myself because it is so familiar. I am not trying any more. It is earthy and real and I am as relaxed as reeds. Powerless.

We would play here when we were children. Carolyn and Eva and I, out of sight, quietly, not like children but like elves or fairies, on the edge of reality for those large people who looked on over us. Those large people who were so incomprehensible, statues in the garden, this huge mysterious garden that isolated and protected us. One Father, close and distant as if that were possible. Warm by turns in the evenings, with a thousand life stories we might have believed early on. Not for long. One Mother, while she lasted, frustrated and wanting, always, to be let alone. She was never alone. For too long, I believed that it was because she was always surrounded that she really did always dream of being alone. Because I believed she wanted the one thing she could not have. I believed that although she had so much, she did just want her private space. I believed her claims longer than my Father’s. She was more convincing. But, in the end, just as aluminum-siding fake. She wanted to be out, but never alone.

When I was a student, living in a larger city, I was entirely alone although I wasn't by myself. I was older than most students. I lived with someone then, not so long. Long enough. My Father would call, more stories. And my sisters. They would call to remind me that there was still a sense in which we were together. And then I would come home for a few days, where my Father languished in loneliness, never understanding why she had gone, why all his women had disappeared, and I would realise that the home where we had been, where we had stood in the pond and sat in the garden, no longer existed. Autumn comes and burns away the last golden ashes of Summer and the foliage fades to  brown and grey and there is ugly detritus where beauty once ruled. Here is home.

None of the three of us understood the whole story. We knew our Mother was from California. That her family had a great deal of money. We found the pictures in the attic, our Mother as a young woman, perhaps pretty but not as polished as when we saw her. We could not picture the scraggly tendrils in the photographs being lacquered into the hairstyle she wore for us. There she was, unaccustomed to her handlers. Filled with so much kinetic energy that her two-dimensional image seemed ready to charge off the page. What would our Father have thought of her like that? Not much, but he never had to think of her that way, since she came to him later. Not much later. Late enough.

Around Carolyn’s graduation from high school (it must have been then, because I remember that there was a sort of occasion in progress), that was when the mysterious other man with dark hair came to visit. He spoke softly to Mother and to Carolyn and after that she was Carolyn Morris instead of Carolyn Fitzgerald and we understood that what we had found long before in the attic were souvenirs of a woman who no longer existed. Her parents didn’t approve of him and they cut her off, Carolyn explained later. It was like she was telling someone else’s story, one from a book, but from the staircase, I had heard her sobbing softly, rhythmically when Mother and this new man were speaking to her. In one stroke they had told her that she might have been someone else, someone happier with a normal Father and a happy Mother but had lost out and, at the same time, she was severed in her mind from Eva and I, made into someone else, without any history.

12 July 2014

eat the cup 2014, part ten :: remix

seems that the two semi-finals could not have been more different. one was a scoring assault where even the winners looked a little embarrassed by the end of the proceedings. the other was a dull crawl towards penalty kicks, which i maintain is a stupid way to end a game on this level. in the end, argentina snuck by with their [thus far unassailable] strategy of hanging back and keeping anything from happening for as long as possible. it does not make for great viewing, but it's kind of hard to argue when it keeps working. 

holland have been great throughout the tournament and found themselves outdone by an argentinian keeper who wanted to show that he too could be a penalty-saving hero. today, they won the match for third place against a shattered brazil. 

the two semi-final matches were as different in terms of cooking experiences as they were in terms of play. although you wouldn't think so at first blush, the cuisines of argentina and the netherlands go together quite smoothly, since both incorporate things like ocean fish and greens. i also thought that it would be nice to make something that came together quite quickly, just to offset the plodding pace of the game. 

and what's always super-quick to cook? that's right, fish. 

i used a combination of haddock and cod, although there's no meaningful reason to use more than one type. both of these are staples of the north atlantic, which means that they're well-known in places like holland. preparing is simple: just sprinkle your filets with salt and pepper and fry them in about a tablespoon of olive oil. fresh is always best, but in this case, it's absolutely necessary, since the flavour of the fish is right up front in the starring role. you can't afford to have your star player underperforming. 

before you get around to doing that, though, prepare an argentinian chimichurri sauce, a green condiment that is ubiquitous in the country. it's extremely simple and can be done anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of hours ahead of time. it's like making a fine herb salsa, although i added a twist to this one. last "eat the cup", i prepared a dutch-style fish dish with mustard sauce and while i didn't want to do a straight repeat, i did like the dish enough that i wanted to try something like it. so i added a hit of mustard to the chimichurri. just a little, of course, because herbs taste delicate and mustard is anything but. i used: 

1 cup parsley [chopped very fine]
1/2 cup cilantro [chopped very fine as well]
1 shallot [minced]
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 tsps dijon mustard

you can prepare this in a blender or food processor quite quickly- blend the other ingredients first and then add the herbs. the herbs shouldn't be completely reduced to paste, but should retain a bit of texture. my preference, however, is to prepare this the old fashioned way, with a mortar. [meaning the kitchen implement, not the explosive. the explosive gives the herbs the wrong texture and ruins your mixing bowl.] to do this, combined the ingredients in a mixing bowl, then pound, mash, scrape and pulverize them slowly and with certainty. you might want to think about a team you really hate if you're preparing this for a world cup match. it helps with the blending process. 

when the fish is cooked, serve a little of the sauce over it. you could have rice or potatoes or something if you wanted to add bulk, but personally, i went with a mix of greens- including several common garden herbs- in a light vinaigrette tossed with some chopped nuts. because this world cup has been just a little nuts, after all. 

and thus are two national cuisines joined in less than the time it takes one to eliminate the other from competition. 

and because that's such a refreshingly light meal, i trust you have room for

man candy of the match

one of the highlights of the match between argentina and the netherlands for me had very little to do with the play. it was seeing the return of argentina's top shelf man candy sergio aguero. he had a listless start to the tournament, probably due to the fact that he was nursing an injury. said injury got aggravated and he's been sidelined since the group stage, leaving his side significantly lighter on the man candy front. 

unlike a lot of the men featured here, sergio isn't big on advertising his handsomeness. there are comparatively few pictures of him off the pitch, which makes me think that a lot of people have somehow missed just how cute this guy is. perhaps it's because, when you look at earlier photos of him, he looked vaguely like an awkward teen with a sloppy mullet. but that was long ago and a distinctive "punk-ish" take on the popular giroud-flip hairstyle that a lot of footballers seem to love, plus a few years for his elegant bone structure to emerge from his youthful babyface have turned him into quite the devilishly handsome young buck. 

he's also pretty high on the adorable scale. aside from his looks and perfect [although rarely seen] body, his jersey bears the name "kun aguero", "kun" being a nickname he acquired as a child from his favourite kids' television show. that's like lebron james opting to wear the name "big bird". boyish adorableness check. and on his left arm, he has a tattoo of the words "kun aguero" written in the elvish language from lord of the rings. geeky adorableness check. 
hello, handsome!
that smile could melt steel
you must be at least this intense to carry off this hairstyle
one dimple to rule them all...
parting is such sweet sorrow...
but it makes it that much better that you're back. 
rumour has it that he's single, having split from his former wife, daughter of argentinian legend diego maradona, last year. how can that be? 

kate and dom pick guess the champion

so when it all comes down, who's going to be number one in the world? 

dom has stuck steadfastly by team germany and certainly, after their showing against brazil, there would be no reason to doubt that. the germans have a deep and mostly healthy team that can put on a pretty dazzling offensive display and their defense is admirably solid and grounded with the man who may be the best goalkeeper in the world. there's very little reason to think that germany can't win. there's very little reason to think that they won't. 

but i'm thinking it anyway. argentina were always my pick to win and while i would actually prefer to see germany take it [the better team overall and it would make for a better game], i think it's telling that nobody has managed to find a way to siege the argentine fortress. if germany are to win, they need to break through and they need to do it early, or else argentina will fall into the same pattern that has won them every game thus far, slowing things down, taking their time and waiting for lionel messi to find an opening. if that happens- and i think it will- it'll be like 2010 all over again for germany. their tremendous firepower will be contained and their frustration will make them prone to tiny, crucial mistakes. 
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