Apples are ubiquitous this time of year. There are always a few of these delicious ruby red fruits stashed in our fridges or left over from an over-zealous picking excursion at the farm. While the saying may very well be “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, sometimes it’s more enjoyable to deviate from routine and try something new. Paired with a latte, these apple chips are the perfect snack; with just the right amount of crunch, but far healthier than a typical potato chip and sure to satiate your sweet tooth.
4 cups water
2 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup lemon juice (approx. 5-6 lemons)
8-10 small apples, the crisper the better (like Spartan, Empire or McIntosh), washed and cored
In a medium pot, add the sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Using a mandoline or sharp knife, slice the apples horizontally as finely as possible (into disks with the cored part at the center) and sprinkle them with lemon juice to stop them from browning. Submerge the apple slices in the cooled syrup mixture and cover the pot with a lid or plastic wrap and let the syrup infuse in the apple slices for a few hours, or better yet, overnight.
Place parchment paper on baking sheets and preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Place a few sheets of paper towel onto a large plate and lightly dry off the apple slices before placing them side-by-side in a single layer on the parchment paper. Bake in the oven for about 55 minutes, or until crispy (add 10 minutes for larger batches). Let the apple slices cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, and then remove them from the parchment. If the apple chips aren’t brittle and crispy at this point, put them back in the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes.
The recipe can be halved to make a smaller amount, or the syrup mixture can be used for multiple batches of apple chips baked over a few days, as these delicious chips are sure to go quickly!
To temporarily suspend our belief that the first signs of nippy air and falling leaves heralds the imminent doom of winter, we take every opportunity to savour summer’s fleeting memories. Besides the visual display of multicoloured grandeur around us, autumn also blesses us with a bounty of sumptuous and hearty vegetables which bless our daily cooking with glorious flavours. The Pumpkin Spice Latte has recently risen to the title of “Autumn’s Quintessential Beverage”. While most coffee shops offer variations of this delectable beverage, most fail to actually include the core ingredient that this drink is based on: pumpkin. Here is a PSL that proudly elevates the pumpkin and takes your espresso to the next level.
5 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
1 ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (see recipe below*)
Finely ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
3 cups milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 shot espresso
Frothed milk or whipped cream
Mixer, whisk, or hand blender, to whip cream
Espresso maker or coffee maker
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, use a wooden spoon to stir the pumpkin puree with the pumpkin pie spice and a dash of ground black pepper for about 2 minutes or until it heats up and changes to a darker colour.
- Add the brown sugar and continue stirring until the mixture starts bubbling and turns into a syrup.
- Add the milk and vanilla extract and turn the heat to medium low so that the mixture warms up but doesn’t boil. Stir for 5-8 minutes, or until the mixture has completely warmed up.
- Brew the Lavica espresso of your choice in a regular sized mug. Add ¼ cup of the pumpkin spice mixture and stir. Using the Lavica milk frother, froth some milk as a topping or, for a more decadent drink, top off the drink with whipped cream. Sprinkle some cinnamon over the frothed milk or whipped cream topping. Enjoy!
Note: If coarser ground spices were used, or for a less “rustic” beverage, strain the mixture before portioning into the espresso. The remaining mixture can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a week and warmed up as needed.
*Pumpkin Pie Spice Recipe
Mix 4 tablespoons of ground cinnamon, 4 teaspoons of ground nutmeg, 4 teaspoons of ground ginger, 3 teaspoons of ground allspice and 2 teaspoons of ground cloves. Store in an airtight container to use in all pumpkin-related recipes.
I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I’m thankful that I had a camera with me to capture it.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I never had an answer for this. I was passionate about so many things that I couldn’t verbalize the culmination of all my interests into one easy title. As I breezed through school, I surmised that I would decide my career path based on a simple process of elimination; if I didn’t like it, or if I wasn’t good at it, I wouldn’t pursue it. Unfortunately, I excelled at most subjects, and even what didn’t come easily, I viewed as a challenge to prove that I could accomplish anything. (Yes, a competitive and stubborn spirit has followed me since childhood.) I wasn’t even going to let a few bad teachers dissuade me from “owning” any and all subjects, ok well, with the small exception of math.
Oh Math. I can palate calculations, problem solving, even quadratic equations and trigonometry, however, back in grade 11, I completely checked out mentally when imaginary numbers were introduced. How is one supposed to quantify what is unseen, hypothetical and illogical?! If it’s tangible, I’ll calculate it; budgets, percentage of savings, unit conversions, etc. It was only after the college Cal I class with the teacher who wore the lone latex glove to write on the chalkboard (supposedly to prevent a rash from contact with the chalk), that I gave in and grudgingly crossed “accountant”, “engineer”, along with anything requiring Cal II and beyond off of my mental career list.
Looking back, it was at this point that my most life-altering decision was made. Scholastically-speaking, I had taken the scientific route, since most teachers and councillors highly recommended taking science courses to “keep your options open”. I blindly obliged, challenge accepted, with grandiose visions of morphing into a geeky hotshot in a crisp blazer, pressed pencil skirt, “clicky” heels and glasses, presenting an award-winning lab report to a captivated panel of scientists. I cringe at that image today. It was only at graduation upon receiving the English Achievement Award, amidst all of my enlightened knowledge accrued over the past five years, my proverbial Edison bulb flickered on. My English teachers had often praised my writing skills, my acute perception and analysis of literature, and creative ways of expressing myself, yet I had attributed all those compliments to simply being gifted in that subject. I never thought to monetize my God-given gits. The same went for music; receiving an overall A+ and “honours with distinction” for the multiple piano and theory exams I took over the years. Music however stuck to the “once a hobby, always a hobby” mentality.
Art somehow, was different. In a brave new world at the dawn of the 21st century, on the cusp of a digital technology renaissance, I found my niche. Something about the persona of the carefree artist intrigued my logic-inclined brain and compelled me to study those whose work I had always admired. I wasn’t simply satisfied with the theoretical side, of art, no! It was the feelings and ideas flowing through one’s hands, cascading forth through the medium and surging into the culmination of a satisfying chef d’oeuvre that sparked my passion, instead of simply regurgitating memorized scientific formulae, rules and processes as I had previously endured. Hours could melt away, like Salvator Dalí’s clock, spent in the studio, pouring my heart into my etchings, screen prints, fabric dyes and paintings. I had found my calling and I was “all in”.
After graduating university, I was ready to take on the world and thrive… only, I didn’t know how. School life and “real life” are separated by a vast chasm piled high with dreams. Dreams crushed by harsh realism. Studio arts was my identity, yet without a studio space and access to equipment, I was just a person with a few great prints on the wall to show for myself. Graphic Design seemed the most logical artistic-yet-currently in-demand job. And I loved it. The past tense “loved”; a word saturated with a passion for the craft, yet jaded by life’s outcome, more specifically the result of the economic downturn and the intense level of competition for few permanent positions in the field. You may think you’re amazing and accomplished, but to most employers, you’re just the eager, bright-eyed youth destined to fill their most junior positions and to collect the coffee orders. Salaries are reflected by experience, and with experience comes with hard work; most often doing seemingly endless menial tasks towards no foreseeable goal. Even with experience, I’m finding that the job market is rather stale and unstimulated and next to impossible to permeate.
Without dabbling any more into the autobiographical, I’ll admit that I still have grandiose daydreams, desiring to excel and create a legacy. However, with age and wisdom, I am begrudgingly beginning to realize that although I may never be a household name, win an award of excellence, have my accessory line debuted on a prestigious catwalk, be featured as a cover story, or have a piece in the MoMA (of even the local gallery for that matter), that I shouldn’t give up trying. It’s so easy to allow failures, shortcomings or rejection dictate the future and scare away future endeavours. I have to keep reminding myself that although this season may be rough and seemingly unending, that what I must endure what today will bring in the form of skills and patience acquired to succeed in tomorrow’s venture.
New dawn, new year, new ventures, new resolutions.
There is a purity surrounding beginnings; starting off with a heart full of hope, spirit rejuvenated and eager to take on the world. The blunders and pains of the past can be buried and the excitement of the future and all that it could hold propels us forward. Naive almost. This year will be different. Yet, how many days in until old habits creep back, until resolutions get discarded? Ushering in the realization that all that the new year brings is ultimately an increasing digit to our calendar year and a glimmer of utopia.
But this year WILL be different, won’t it? One year older, one year wiser, and (hopefully) at a slightly better state of being than 365 days ago.
So raise a glass to new beginnings, take a breath, stand up, stretch and walk away from whatever device you’re reading this on and turn your potential into reality before all momentum is lost. Bon courage!
When all else fails, do something that you love.
Well, I’ve had my fair share of failure lately. It seems that 2013 as a whole has been a failure with the negative far outweighing the positive. I don’t want to come across as pessimistic, so I tend to put out “happy vibes” through sharing the little nuggets of joy in the mundane to lift my spirits. But as a whole, this year has been less than desirable.
I know one’s identity shouldn’t be solely found in one’s work, but it’s hard to carry on polite conversation when one of the first ritual questions asked after the initial “How are you?” is “So what do you do?” Dread. “Oh, I’m a graphic designer” is usually met with “Cool! Where do you work?” The “I freelance for now” is the best cover-up I could muster, albeit partially true, instead of blurting out “I’m currently looking for a job full-time, attending countless interviews, but always come up short. The ‘runner-up’ never gets the job, and there’s always someone better than me that does. Each subsequent call-back gives me just enough hope that my pathetic unemployed state might improve, until the ‘but we have other applicants that are a closer match to the specific requirements of this position’ jargon dashes those dreams against the proverbial rocks”.
How’s that for an answer?! Yeah, “I freelance for now” is a whole lot easier and avoids the wide-eyed look of concern and horror of unsuspecting victims just looking for a polite and superficial 2 minute chat.
Back to my opening statement. When all else fails, do something that you love. I love graphic design, honestly I do. I may not be the best at it, I realize, or even the second best, but one thing that I have is a creative mind and a willingness to learn and improve. Throw me a challenge and I’m up for it. Unfortunately, in this competitive field, true skill is measured by a quick glance at an online portfolio, a list of LinkedIn badges and accomplishments and a timed mock-up test.
As a side note, I’m not sure if companies purposely throw curveballs at the applicant taking such tests during job interviews, but I’ve come across quite a few obstacles such as:
- Default shortcut keys that have been disabled, causing the candidate to go to the toolbar for any and all Photoshop modifications and tools, wasting precious time.
- A Windows 8 operating system with double screens (I honestly haven’t used Windows since Windows XP 2003). As with the above issue, most shortcut keys are different, and rolling the mouse too far over to the right opens up the 2nd screen. Certain Windows keyboard keys which are shortcuts keys on the Mac cause the current program to hide and the desktop to be revealed. Learn as you go, fun!
- A dysfunctional mouse that jumps all over the screen at random times, breaking concentration and messing up layouts. Also, this computer had “hot corners” where if the mouse goes to a corner, all open windows and programs pop up at the centre of the screen. Therefore, a randomly moving cursor jumping to the corner frequently causes much frustrations!
- A broken chair which would not raise past the height of a kid’s chair, so that my hands ended up on the keyboard at shoulder height. At least it forces good posture!
- An interviewer that, in the span of the 15 minute meeting, literally answered a phone call, replied to multiple text messages and had a conversation with another employee in the hall who knocked on the door. All while I was answering his questions. Really makes you feel valued!
With the scope set-back and frustrations, I’ve strongly considered switching careers, although to be quite honest, I don’t really have a plan B and I hate quitting. I’ve dedicated my education and career pursuits to one field, and if no opportunity materializes, how long should one clutch at one’s dream before the realization hits that it inevitably won’t work out? I’ve been wrestling with this notion and it’s honestly heartbreaking and completely humbling. No one appreciates admitting failure, and the perfectionist in me hates conflict and unsolvable problems. My hard-working and dedicated side holds fast to the “never give up” mantra, but the realist in me reminds me that the bills won’t pay themselves. A true mental and emotional tug-of-war!
Thus far, I have no answers and no resolution to this open-ended rhetoric, simply a thesis statement and facts. All the components to a proverbial essay, minus the conclusion. As 2013 draws quickly to a close, my hope is that my “something that I love” produces a fruitful opportunity, or that my DNA and goals can be quickly altered to find a new passion.
I understand that it’s probably easier to write a piece criticizing the societal tendencies towards shunning nature and favouring the institutions of exercise and fitness known as the gym. Although running aimlessly on a treadmill like a hamster on a wheel pales in comparison to kayaking on a peaceful lake bathed in sunlight, or skiing on fresh snow in the crisp, wintry woodland air; by simply waiting solely on utopian experiences to work out one’s muscles, we would all end up looking like blubbery Jabba the Hutts.
True, a sprint through one’s neighbourhood is a passable watered-down compromise, but how many times have we witnessed a poor jogger running on the spot to avoid disturbing his rhythm, waiting for the traffic light to change? Or, going through the effort of planning a canoe trip, only to have mother nature thwart any lingering iota of fun by producing a deluge capped off with thunder and lightning. My personal favourite remains the bandana and goggle-clad cyclist (to avoid inhaling a lungful of bugs) who appears to be nothing more than a spandex-wearing bank robber without the means of providing a proper getaway vehicle. Yes, nature is unpredictable and rigged with a plethora of obstacles to deter the average human from experiencing the joy and benefits of physical activities.
Alas, the gym was created to be the perfect microcosm in which to experience the ultimate workout. Machines are meticulously calibrated to adjust to any desired terrain, elevation and resistance, all while providing the comforts of televised or musical entertainment. A built-in cooling system and cup holder insures that while statically navigating through virtual mountainous typography, you will be remain in the lap of luxury. And that, dear blog readers, is why I subscribe to this fine salubrious establishment. By eliminating all of nature’s interference alibis, what better place offers the outlet to release one’s calories and sweat droplets in exchange for beach-ready body?
*Disclaimer: never embark on this workout adventure without essential earphones to drown out all grunts and groans from juiced-up jocks straining to bench press exorbitant amounts of iron.
“Oh, I dunno, just make me something.”
Frustrations! As an art student, this request was a whole lot easier to grant, with unlimited access to fully-equipped studio space, art supplies and surrounded by inspiring peers. Today, living in a two-bedroom 1,200 square foot condo (with the second room acting as the office/odds & ends and musical instrument storage), creating something gift-worthy (besides a simple card) is next to impossible. Especially for a
picky, umm, particular sister who’s a vegetarian, freegan (check it up, yikes!) and will single-handedly bring back the barter system. While we don’t see eye to eye on most subjects, I still love her dearly and make it a point to rack my brain around Christmastime and her summer birthday to come up with a suitable gift.
This time, I decided to make something that didn’t require a darkroom exposure unit, spray booth or acid (for intaglio copper plate etching of course, what were you thinking, gosh). As you’ve probably read in my previous posts, I enjoy baking, so creating a little jar of lemon curd seemed to be best solution to the gift conundrum, to be paired with her homemade bread. Lemon curd + toast = divine! I also heard from a secret source (thanks mom!) that she lost her bike lock, so I broke the no-purchase rule and bought a “Montreal bike thief-resistant” U-bar. Thankfully, bike-related gifts are exempt from said rule.
Thirty minutes later, the curd was cooling, and my freshly-designed label was ready for printing. My next endeavour will be to learn proper canning techniques for future delectable gifts.