July 16th, 2010

Things to do on a “writing day” that are not writing

Despite the fact that none of the activities listed below are actually writing, they all offerred comfort or encouragement to the heat-besieged writer, and I have no regrets whatsoever about anything that happened yesterday. (I also got a little writing in between all the other stuff.)

–go to the gym where, because of the air-conditioning, you actually sweat less than elsewhere
–pick raspberries
–eat the raspberries immediately. Do not even bring a bowl to put them in–eat’em right off the bush.
–read and read and read Russell Smith’s Girl Crazy. I am only at the halfway point, so I can’t fully tell you whether it is a brilliant novel or not, but I know that I am mad every time I reach my TTC stop and can’t read anymore for a while, so that’s a good sign.
–have lunch at Ackee Tree, where the staff is incredibly nice and everything seems to come with coleslaw.
–go sit on the lawn downtown that no one ever sits on (they sit on benches and stare out at it, as if it were the sea). I will leave out the exact location of the lawn to protect the identity of my partner in crime, but that is one nice lawn–all long and lush, with no worn bits (because no one ever sits on it or even walks on it) and certainly no cigarette butts or dog poo.
–give blood! I am still trying to figure out where to donate money, but at least there’s really only one place to give blood. I asked and the supply is currenly not bad, but they always need more, especially B- and O-, if you happen to have those. (Side story: as part of the usual intake assessment, the nurse asked to examine my inner arms to check for track marks. I had none of those, but I did have a cookie crumb embedded in the sweat of the crook my elbow–sex-ay!)
–watch Nicole Holofcener’s amazing film Please Give starring Catherine Keener and a really talented woman named Rebecca!! (Hall). I am not famous for my interest in complicated, serious, grown-up movies, but I did get blown away by Lovely and Amazing, also by Holofcener and also staring Keener, way back in 2001. I’m actually going to try to review this at some point, so I’ll shut up now.
–scuttle about the city in the heat, and enjoy watching folks in suits and ties eating ice-cream, skateboarders, children pitching fits, tour groups, street charity solitictations, and the nice people from a hair products company, whom I ran into both at Queen and Spadina and later at Yonge and College (I get around) and who gave me a mini bottle of conditioner both times.
–when you get home from all this, pour astringent on a white cotton pad, and then run it over your makeup-free face. If you are disgusting and immature like me, you will be fascinated to see the brownish colour of Toronto smog that has accumulated in your pores. I do this every night in summer! (Is this TMI? I never know.)

What a nice city I live in!

December 22nd, 2009

Rose-coloured and Mark review Milk Coffee Pocky

Back in the summer when Scott first loaned me his tape-recorder, I field-tested it by doing a joint-review of Twix Java with novelist Mark Sampson. We enjoyed ourselves and the candy, and that particular post was oddly popular according to my site meter. So I thought it would be fitting that before I give Scott back his recorder in January (good news, Scott…), we close out this tape-recording epoch with another coffee-confection review verbatim conversation transcript. I bring you me, Mark, and Milk Coffee Pocky (purchased at T&T West Edmonton Mall.
RR: This is the second review of a coffee-chocolate confectionary product by myself and novelist Mark Sampson. Hello, Mark.
MS: Hello.
RR: Thanks for doing this with me.
MS: Oh, it’s great to be back.
RR: Hold this.
MS: Certainly.
RR: Ok…mic me, not the candy.
MS: Hello, candy!
RR: So this is…Pocky, Milk Coffee…most of the rest of the label is in Japanese. There’s a picture of a cow–
MS: Licking his lips.
RR: And “+Ca” which is…calcium?
MS: Probably calcium, yes.
RR: And there 170 calories per 33 gram serving and…nobody cares about this. Ok. [crinkling noise, male laughter] Anything to add?
MS: No, I think you’ve pretty much covered it.
RR: Inside the box is a little foil bag with no English on it. A pocky is–would you like to describe a Pocky?
MS: Certainly. So it’s basically a stick of cookie that has been dipped in milk chocolate. Or in this case, I guess, coffee chocolate. Or some kind of coffee related milk product. Right?
RR: Exactly right. We are now going to each try a Pocky…stick.
MS: All right.
[chewing sounds]
RR: This tastes a shocking amount like coffee with milk and sugar.
MS: Pretty much, yeah.
RR: And like a little bit of biscuit.
MS: It’s like someone dropped a cookie in your coffee.
RR: But fished it out really fast, because it’s still crispy.
MS: Exactly.
RR: There’s not a lot of chocolate going on, actually.
MS: No, I don’t–
RR: Maybe it’s not really chocolate.
MS: I don’t think there really any chocolate involved here. I think it’s just coffee-flavoured…milk…
RR: Goo.
MS: Yeah. That the cookie has been dipped in.
RR: This is not–I mean, I haven’t tried all the Pocky flavours, but I’ve tried a number–this is not my favourite…There’s nothing wrong with it.
RR: It’s just kinda–
MS: This is a popular snack though in Asia. When I was living in Korea, over there it’s called Pepero and it has its own holiday, November 11–
RR: Ha!
MS: –because it looks like the sticks, the 1 1 1 1.
RR: But nothing to do with the war?
MS: Not at all. It’s all about candy. But a very popular snack over there, but it’s pure chocolate on top, not any of this coffee business.
RR: Yeah, chocolate or the more elaborate chocolate, like two layers of chocolate and one is white. I forget what that one is called but that kind of Pocky is really my favourite.
MS: Yeah, this one is I would have to say a bit disappointing by comparison. I kind of want that chocolaty explosion.
RR: Or at least more of the sugary goodness…as opposed to–this is quite substantially pretzel. Like the stick is a pretzel without salt, which is really not a bit draw for me…it’s more of just a method of getting to the candy.
MS: Right. Basically it’s holding the candy for you.
RR: Exactly–it’s very tidy because you don’t have to have your fingers on the melty part. So I mean, Pocky is genius, but this is just not…
MS: It’s subpar Pocky.
RR: I mean….this is six. I’d say six. It would pass, but…
MS: Out of ten? Yeah, I would say six. It passes, but…like a C-.
RR: It’s inoffensive. If this was exactly what you wanted, I’d say more power to you.
MS: I think this is what weird Japanese children would have. All the regular children would have the milk chocolate Pocky, but then there’d be the outsider who would have this. And probably stand by it.
RR: Oh yeah. And there’s also tomato…I think it’s tomato Pepero, not Pocky [note: later research reveals that in fact it’s Tomato Pretz that I’m talking about]. But, again…you know, I think a fringe member of the popular crowd could have Milk Coffee Pocky, but you’d be alone on the playground with the tomato stuff.
MS: I think so.
RR: I also notice that neither one of us has reached for a second.
MS: No. We haven’t.
RR: So I think that is worth noting.
MS: Not to say it’s bad, but it just doesn’t…knock our socks off.
RR: I’m gonna offer it to some other people–if we don’t eat anymore–and see if anyone likes it. [note: this effort was an utter failure, as *no one* would take me up on the offer, which I found odd. It’s not *that* strange a flavour–everyone knows what coffee is!!]
MS: You could take a poll.
RR: A Pocky poll!
MS: A Pocky poll.
RR: So. Yes, and thus ends the epoch of audio reviews. Mark may return in some different format in later Rose-coloured Reviews, but I’m giving back the recorder so I’m afraid in terms of transcribed conversations, this is goodbye.
MS: This is goodbye!
RR: Goodbye, Mark!
MS: Goodbye, Rebecca!

November 13th, 2009

Rose-coloured reviews Kimchi House, Jasper, Alberta

Note: this is review is in conjunction (but not consultation) with a review by my dining companion, AMT. Please see her blog for another perspective on the same meal (I’ll edit this to add a link when hers is up).

Right, so the small mountain town of Jasper, Alberta, is beautiful, semi-remote, mildly touristy and not at all the first stop on anyone’s Asian cuisine binge. Nevertheless, there is both a Chinese and a Korean restaurant in town, and as my dining companion had had previous good experiences at KimChi House, we decided to go there for our one dinner in Jasper.

I needed little convincing, being a lover of Korean food and inhabitant of a city that is a much more probable destination if one were seeking to (over-)indulge in the stuff.

So the first thing to report is that the kimchi was subpar. I eat a lot of kimchi, the spicy pickled cabbage that is so much of the Korean diet. I can’t really be called an expert, as I can’t make it (I think it actually takes a village to make kimchi) but I know what I like–lots of sticky bright red chili paste and salty-sweet-spicy flavour. This kimchi was overwhelmed with brine, and had very little chili paste–it was sort of pinkish beige, and very drippy. Also not so spicy, although it was the drippiness that really put me off.

Ok, that’s it for the negative–the rest of the food was excellent. I didn’t sample AMT’s bulgogi because I don’t eat beef, but it looked and smelled great. My own dak bulgogi (bulgogi only chicken instead of beef) arrived all sizzling on a cow-shaped platter and was stellar. I especially liked the random little bits of veggies–one broccoli floret, three mushrooms, a bit of celery, etc. The sauce wasn’t super-spicy (I’d ordered “medium”) but it had a good kick to it.

There was a thing of steamed rice that I didn’t eat (I don’t care about rice; sorry) and that was it for free side dishes. Unusual for Korean restaurants in Toronto, at least, which usually throw in two or three little dishes of pickles or somesuch. We paid $3 for the dribbly kimchi, plus $3 each for a wonderful if salty seafood salad (AMT’s choice) and a platter of lettuce leaves (my choice; the menu promised “leaf-lettuce salad). I made lettuce wraps out of my meat and the lettuce, which was quite tasty but not quite orthodox.

Ambience: a nice big restaurant, well-appointed but undistinguished. I appreciated the lack of “look, Asian stuff” art–it was just comfortable. The music was, unfortunately, some sort of classical hits album. When we entered, something from the Nutcracker was playing (full disclosure–AMT id’d everything that played, but I only nailed the wedding march.) The aspect that of course the restauranteurs didn’t directly control was the other patrons. On the night we dined, these were: someone waiting for takeout and fiddling with a laptop; a man eating alone who later came over to ask us what we’d ordered and if we liked it (I couldn’t tell if this was genuine culinary fascination or loneliness–I ran out of things to say about dak bulgogi, but I would have chatted with him more about something or other if I could have discerned what he wanted); a young couple in ski jackets, he with pants and a shirt underneath, she in a wedding down. Perhaps the classical march was appropriate. Anyway, it was all interesting.

The meal was a bit on the expensive side. Even leaving out the a la carte sides, $18 is more than most Torontonians would pay for bulgogi. But well, it is the mountains, I suppose you pay more for the ingredients being trekked into the mountains. And perhaps we were subsidizing the lack of other patrons. Anyway, the owner came out and talked to me while AMT was in the bathroom, and she seemed charming and dedicated and very very nervous about our liking the food. Her family immigrated 9 years ago.

So while I do have to disclose that my dining companion spent a small but striking portion of the night throwing up, I am not sure what to make of it. It seemed like such a nice place–maybe everyone screws up once in a while.


June 29th, 2009

Web presence

My audiobook debut edges ever closer–Rattling Books has made me an author page for my contribution to Earlit Shorts 4. And now I know that my partners in audio shorts are Chris Benjamin, Michael Collins, J.J. Steinfeld and Leslie Vryenhoek. I’m stoked!

In other news:

1. I had a lovely weekend and was only outside during the sunny parts.
2. I’m starting to be ok holding babies, although only if a) the parents are present and b) the baby is awesome.
3. Ontario strawberries!!!
4. I’m the least-efficient writer ever.
5. This week has a holiday in the middle of it!
6. Yay, everything (except #4)!

And the girl at the top wearing tulle

May 20th, 2009

Post Not about Japan

When I sat down to write about Kyoto and shrines and candy filled with figs this morning, this note popped out of my diary:

E: That’s the idea, let’s abuse each other.

(They turn, move apart, turn and face each other.)

V: Moron!

V: Abortion!

E: Morpion!

V: Sewer-rat!

E: Curate!

V: Cretin!

E (with finality): Crritic!

V: Oh! (he wilts, vanquished)

I was thinking of that scene (from act 2 of Mister B’s *Waiting for Godot*) because of the new Revenge Lit critic-killing flash fiction contest that Biblioasis is doing to support Terry Grigg’s new novel, *Thought You Were Dead*. I meant to post that ages ago, cause it’s funny and I think reflects the tenor of the contest (though I haven’t read the book yet)…but you (and I) have until June 12 to send our entries. Deets at the link above.

In other non-Japan news, I will have a little Q & A about short stories for Short Story Month over at the the National Post’s The Afterword on Thursday. I’ll try to post a direct link then, but you know Japan… Or your could just read today’s Q & A with Pasha Malla, which is pretty good too!

Finally, ok, one thing about Japan: it’s 30 degrees here! I’m getting a tan, which is an unexpected bonus to everything else that is good about this trip! Oh, and that food I liked, in the picture post? Hiroshimamyaki (spelling=questionable); I had the Osaka version today, called Okanmyaki. Hiroshima rules, I think, but both are tasty.

Oh, and the deer of Nara are *out of control*–so cute and pushy pushy pushy. Thanks to Kerry for the day-trip recommendation. Shrines, botanical gardens, Buddha museum, giant Buddha sculpture, scary scary carp and adorable deer. And Okamyaki. All wins.

Well, that was more than one thing, but oh well!

Sometimes I think things are worse than they are

May 18th, 2009

Kyoto Hello

Ok, so this is pay-to-play internet and I have 10m18s remaining, so this will be typo-ridden but I just have to say–bullet train = bliss! It has a pointy nose like a hornet, and giant windows from which you can see the countryside zooming by, and when you pass another bullet train going in the opposite direction, the combined speeds (200k/h + 200 k/h!!) makes it impossible to even discern the windows on the other train. And the ride is as smooth as silk and the weather was gleaming sun, so I just watched the ride fields and the tiered stacks of pink and grey houses and windy roads around ponds where all the cars looked the same for *two hours* and didn’t even open my magazine once (and it was a good one–Exile Q).

And Kyoto, once we arrived, is also pretty impressive. Although we got lost lost lost (my fault) even that was sort of entertaining. When we were wandering around an appartment-complex parking lot (very very lost) a bemused security guard watched us walk by, and when we returned, he practically danced for the prospect of helping us. He walked us to a tiny path by the train tracks we never would have found, quite far in the heat, and left us with a map that he apparently kept around just for dumb lost westerners who strayed into his parking lot.

And then we went to the shrine of Fushimi Inari, of which I have many pictures (some with cats) which I will upload when it doesn’t cost anything to do so!! But trust me, it was amazing. After the main big shrine, there are these long winding paths that go up up up in the hills, and they are covered with archway after archway, bright orange holy things called toris, hundreds and hundreds, making a hike enough for threeish hours (we did perhaps half, because I am lame).

Oh, and I finally found a pineapple bun, one of my favourite Chinese snacks that I had for some reason been craving lately. And a fun arcade (really a pachinko parlour, but who understands pachinko? I’ll take Sega games any day). And and and…so much stuff!! Plus, I miss Canada. Well, parts of it. Well, you guys.

I am walking up the face of the mountain

So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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