Monday, 28 May 2012

Harry Belafonte

I worry about Harry Belafonte.
I shouldn't, really. I mean he's in his 80's and has done just fine so far without my stressing out. He looks damn fine, too, and yes, I would "tap" that.

Can women "tap that"? I'm never sure of what the young people mean anymore with their crazy phrases and their hip hop pants and their iPhones. Maybe I'm just old, but really, wouldn't you way way way rather have sex with Harry Belafonte who is 85, rather than with Justin Beiber, who is 18 and would be, according to science legend, at his sexual prime? I imagine Harry would be like a smooth gentleman James Bond and Justin would be like a pink and purple cartoon creature giggling the whole time.

Lets sit with those images for awhile, shall we?
Anyway. back to Harry Belafonte.
One of the things I loved best when I was a kid was when my mom and dad would let me fall asleep in their bed (I would magically end up in my own bed in the morning. I know. Freaky!). They'd tuck me in their bed, put on their reel-to reel tape of Harry Belafonte's Greatest Hits" or The Kingston Trio or “Hits of ’68” and they'd leave me to fall asleep while they went back to their tv shows, their mortgages and their trying to invent meth.
I don't know why it was easier to fall asleep alone in my parents' bedroom than it would have been to fall asleep alone in my own bedroom. Being four years old is complicated.
I thought the story in "Scarlet Ribbons" was true and if I prayed hard enough I could get scarlet ribbons (or the Barbie Dream Cottage), too. Worked for Harry. Worked for me too, as it turned out.

My parents took me to a Harry Belafonte concert in Winnipeg. I was thrilled. He sang the "There's a hole in the bucket" song, of which I was a major fan. These days if a kid liked a song with that title, it would mean an entirely different thing. And it would involve sparks flying from someone's bra (is this supposed to be sexy? It looks like 3rd degree burnt nipples to me).
Harry always toured with an opening act - someone he believed in and wanted to support. I am pretty sure that his opening act was Miriam Makeba, but my mom would probably remember better.
Plus he was on the Muppet Show. This means he is a God unto me.

So why am I worried about Harry? 
I’m afraid that Harry and artists/people like him will be attacked and mauled by creatures like this:
A talented musician, outspoken activist and humanitarian, Harry Belafonte has always stood up for his beliefs. 
Plus his buttery voice is like valium for me.

Thanks Harry. Take care of yourself. 

Maybe I'll send someone to watch over you. 

Watch out for Anne Coulter. She lurks.... yes... she lurks.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Foodie Friday - Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

There is kind of a glut of recipes for vegan chocolate cupcakes. It's like the lawyer of the vegan baked goods world. There might actually be too many.  Still, when you need a lawyer or a cupcake, you usually need one RIGHT AWAY and don't care it's charging you $400 an hour/400 calories a serving. 

But if I'm going to fit in in the vegan world, I know I have to do a few things: avoid animal products; float 2 inches off the ground at all times; and make a good vegan cupcake.

I love baking. I mean, I really love it. But cupcakes have never been my forte. So I turned to my friend Ryan, who you all know and love, because he is our circle's go-to baker for cupcakes and for high end baked delights. He has his own food blog which we are all imploring him to get back to. After begging him and promising not to draw any embarrassing portrait of him, Ryan consented to help me with this week's post - for Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate frosting.

The original recipe is found at this site, but we made several changes. 

But before we could embark on our morning of baking, as every vegan knows, it is important to align your Chakras before you start. If your Chakas are out of balance, your cupcakes will fail and butterflies will die and the Euro will plunge further.

So we aligned our Chakas.

Whew, that feels better.

Ryan is more of a purist than am I when it comes to baking - he sources out the best ingredients,

sifts his dry ingredients, and weighs them rather than just scooping them up slap dash in the measuring cups like I do. 

He even did research to ensure that the icing sugar we were using was vegan. Lantic icing sugar IS vegan. Redpath sugar is NOT vegan. Ryan says, "you're welcome".


Ryan created a pousse cafe of oil milk and sugar

Sam wants cupcakes. Sucks to be Sam. No cupcakes for Sam

 Here is the recipe as adapted by Ryan and Elpoo:

Vegan Deep  Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

275 g/2 cups all-purpose flour
100 g/3/4 cup natural cocoa powder  (Hershey's)
1-2 Tbsp espresso powder (Ryan suggests the King Arthur Flour brand of espresso powder)
2 teaspoons (10 ml) baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
a pinch of salt
450 ml/1 +3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 teaspoons (10 ml) red wine vinegar
320 g/ 1 + 2/3 cups raw sugar, pulsed to make a fine powder (or caster sugar)
320 ml/1 + 1/4 cups oil (we used vegetable oil - next time I'd use sunflower or canola to keep the soy content down)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vanilla extract (Rebecca's home made!)


1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line 24 muffin tin cups with paper liners.
2. Sift twice, the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large  bowl. 
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond milk, vinegar, sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared cupcake pans about 1/2 full,  and bake in the preheated oven for 40-55 minutes.

 A wooden skewer inserted in the middle should come out with almost no crumbs attached, and the middle of the cake, when pressed, should spring back slightly instead of sink. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes if necessary.  
5. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Slide a table knife all around the edge to loosen the cake, then remove from the pan. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 1 hour
They will be VERY moist. So be careful if you take off the paper wrappers. It's better to leave them on, actually. You could refrigerate the cooled cupcakes for a bit to firm them up before frosting them.

Psychotic weirdo puts cupcakes into oven

Dark dark dark and deleeeeeeeeeshus.

Vegan Chocolate Frosting

1 cup (227 g) Vegan, non-hydrogenated margarine. I used Earth Balance or Becel Vegan margarine.
1 cup (125 g) icing sugar (confectioners’ or powdered)

1 tsp espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoons  pure vanilla extract 
5 oz (145 g) quality bittersweet, chopped, melted and cooled 
1/4 cup (60 ml) almond  milk
pinch of salt
1. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the icing sugar and margarine and beat on low speed for about 1 minute.
2. Add vanilla and beat on low until well combined. Add the melted & cooled chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes).
3. Add almond milk and salt, and beat on medium speed for another minute. Do NOT over beat. Keep an eye on it.

adding the cooled chocolate to the sugar and vegan "butter"

The frosting should look creamy and smooth. Decorate with vegan approved silver coloured smartie things.


Full disclosure time. The first time we made this, the cupcakes turned out great. Super moist and dark, almost black. But the frosting was a disaster.

Ellen is saddened by awful icing. Yes. icing an be awful.

We tried to tart up the awful icing with a silver smartie thingie, but it just looked like a silver smartie on a cow pat.

 Not wanting to waste all the time and ingredients, Ryan whipped up a new batch of vegan frosting when he got home so he could take the cupcakes to a barbecue without losing his King of Cupcakes status.

We couldn't figure out why the icing failed so epically. We may have beaten the margarine and sugar too long. Was it because our Chakas were not really aligned? As a vegan, was I not being strident enough? In the end, we decided that it was most likely because instead of using a good quality chocolate to melt and use in the icing, we just used an old Easter Bunny broken up and melted down. 

not really for baking.

What were we thinking? How could I use an innocent chocolate bunny in this, this what was supposed to be VEGAN! I'll never harm another animal shaped food again. Serves me right. I have been chastised. 

Now I have to go and put tiny razor cuts in my leg and sit in a bath tub full of vinegar. Because that's what vegans do when they know they've been bad. 

Anyhooo, have a good weekend. Save the bunnies.

These cupcakes are so good - before he ate this cupcake, Peter had brown eyes.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


It's been a week since my last post. Better late than never, right? Or maybe that's the opposite of what you were thinking. If so, go back to your witch's coven and finish what you started. You know what I mean. Don't play dumb.

Anyway, I was in Manitoba visiting her Royal Highness, Mom The Grammatical, and when we drove out to the Winnipeg Airport to send me back to the centre of the known universe (Toronto), we passed an abandoned building with a vast deserted parking lot that I remember well from my early university days.

Yes. This building once housed that super awesome and excellent Winnipeg night club, "Valentino's".

It's the green roof building. it used to have a neon sign saying "Valentinos". Appropriate, given that the club was named.... Valentino's.

So I've already mentioned, ad nauseam that I am panty weight when it comes to partying, but my friend Karen and I used to go to Valentino's about once a month, just to dance. We'd spend hours getting ready (getting ready was probably the most fun) and then we'd drive out McPhillips Highway to get funky with the rare 80's vibe that rocked Valentino's every night.

We didn't drink. We would have diet coke all night. And we also didn't tip. I couldn't understand why no one wanted to serve us. We were nice girls, and friendly, weren't we?

We also had no idea that the place was basically a mecca for coke dealers and prostitutes.

We were likely the only people who frequented that place that were really only there to have fun. Our favourite song to dance to was "Crush On You" by The Jets. Yep. We really did give 'er.

At one point I briefly dated a guy who worked at the club in some capacity. He was probably 10 years older than I and a good foot shorter, but I was pretty fat and weird looking so I was flattered that anyone wanted to be seen with me. He even showed me off. I was like his huge golden State Fair prize winning pumpkin that he paraded around the club. He had a lot of chest hair and had a thick accent that I think may have been Italian. 

yes, he DID look slightly evil.

He was probably pretty exasperated that I would never have sex with him. It's just that I wasn't all that attracted to him or interested in anything he had to say.

In fact, one day he just showed up at the University of Winnipeg and found me in the big cafeteria. I saw him pulling up in his weird little car and I felt my gut clench. In my head I screamed, in slow motion, "Noooooooooo!".

I was humiliated. I did NOT want anyone to see me with this guy. Not the kindest of reactions, but it was only at that point that I discovered that I should not date someone who has nothing in common with me, to whom I am not attracted or because I have such low self esteem that I am willing to overlook those things just to be able to say "Hey, look see, I've got a boyfriend. Ergo, I am normal".  When I saw this fellow as I imagined my ego-healthy friends would see him, I gave him the rather unceremonious boot. I felt a little (not very much at all, really) guilty, but then I thought, what the hell does this guy want with a nerdy university student who clearly will not be having sex with him any time soon, who doesn't drink, who doesn't really have anything in common with him and who is a decade his junior?

So, or course Karen and I could never go back to Valentino's again. This was probably a good thing. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

My Selkirk

I grew up in Selkirk, Manitoba, population 10,000 or so. Not sure. Depends how much of the surrounding area you count. It is a the usual Prairie combination of sweet quaintness and bleak sameness that are all small towns.

Here follows a long photo essay of my home town.

There are a lot of photos. You might get bored. 


Dark Shadows. Dirty Car.

Strippers and beer

Classy like steak house now. Used to be the place for underaged teens to get beer. Not me, though, mom.

Fancy now. Used to be old school drive in with the trays that hung on the car window.

Thrivingest business in town.

Used to be Balcan's house. Not it's a bank or something.

the house I lived in from birth til 8 years. The upper window was my bedroom window.  Many Barbie and GI Joe corpses beneath it.

the parking lot across from my first home. I got lost in the parking lot when I was 3 - couldn't see over the cars. I'm still recovering.

maybe you had your high school graduation on this boat?

photo credit:

Rexall, but originally it was The Met store. Karen and I would sit on the steps waiting for Ron Gigolyk to drive by in his Gremlin. And then after he did, we'd go to the Riverboat for french fries. 

Apparently there were hockey games here. And the beginnings and endings of many a Junior High romance. Not mine.

Socials were held here to raise money for teenaged brides. Rye bread, cheese and kolbasa.

Curling club. For Selkirk's Scottish community who liked to drink in places where it was cold and people screamed at brooms.

When I was taking this picture I heard this little voice "hello.... hello...". There was an old guy in a wheel chair stuck down the ramp below the wall in this photo. If I hadn't heard him he'd have been there all night! Poor chap. 

Lutheran Church. For the Germans.
My high school. God in upper left hand corner waiting to smite those who were mean to me.

Where fancy Selkirk Ladies buy their clothes

Now a respectable art gallery. It was mostly unused when I was growing up.

Where to go for things made of plastic, Garfield figurines and toxic toys.

Strippers and Beer

Site of Hooker's Lumber Supply.

Will someone just tell Peter Gabriel already?

Merchant's Hotel. I am not allowed inside.

Closed now. Riverside Grill used in movies - super old school.

Mural commemorating Selkirk's annual Cotton Candy harvest and Acid Trip Festival

If you have to ask, you wouldn't understand.

Fire Hall

Mclean Ave

used to be Souter's house. Currently being decorated for a movie set thingie.

Selkirk can do better.

This one's for Kevin Patterson. Victory comes with a price. At least when it comes to Banana Split Eating contests...

my mom is, like, totally into this place.

Site of the Esso station where the Robert Smith patrols stored their flags. There was  gas there and a garage of some sort as well.

Used to be where my dentist, Irving Olofson had his office. Two doors down (far left) was a candy shop.

Grades 1 and 2. 

I never went here, but Sherene Sololoski did. And she was pretty popular.

Have to include Chuck the Channel Cat.

Road to Nowhere

My mom says she gets all my Xmas gifts here.

Who doesn't love Sears?

Place of fries and cola.

Site of my first/best job.

Pump house

The horror... the horror.

Robert Smith School. It used to be brightly coloured. 

Fancy church

More wedding receptions and socials for teenaged brides.


Centennial School. I didn't go here for school, but I went to Brownies here for a little bit.

Kara's house.

no idea who lives there, but my mom really likes the tree, so it gets in the blog.

Nancy's house.

Playground. Ish.

Mom and Dad's first house.

what one feeds hoards of teenaged bride's guests.

United Church. Even Satan is welcome there. As long as he makes a donation to the Building Fund.

Melinda's house. So many languid summer days in that porch