Wednesday, August 26, 2009

If you can't find me, I might be lost in a comic-book shop

I am a late-comer to the whole graphic novel/illustrated story/comic book party. Very late.

Not to mention the fact that I am not even well versed in the basics yet.

(I have yet to read a single issue of Sandman! Gasp! I know! I will get to it...eventually. I do love Neil afterall.)

I am not sure what kept me away from this wealth of story telling all these years. I suppose, probably not uncommonly, I had a host of stereotypes parading around in my brain ("well you see, superheroes just aren't my thing"). The problem being that those stereotypes are so, so wrong. Yes, of course there are superhero comics... and perhaps I should revisit that whole "not my thing" catagorization of them at some point, but in the meantime there are so many non-superhero-ish things to read.

[Note: I don't really mind the term graphic novel, but there is a fair amount of disdain for it in the comics world, since it comes off as snobish or contrived or something, but I don't really want to get into all that. I don't care what we call them, I just want people to keep making them. ]

A few favourite discoveries so far:

  • Bruno/Little Dee/short pieces by Chris Baldwin
    I think, if memory serves, that Chris Baldwin (a relatively not well known comics-writer, as things go, but a talented one) was my first introduction to comics that were neither superhero-related nor the stereotypical newspaper-funnies. I have no idea how I found him... oh wait yes I do. For a while was featuring Little Dee strips, and I liked them so much that I looked up the creator and found my way to his other work online. Namely Bruno. Bruno (warning: not all is sfw, but most is) is long, meandering, philisophical, endearing, strange, lovely. I was able to read it all because ... erm... I had a lot of time to spend in front of a computer. Not exactly my own time... but... I will say no more. ANYWAY. It totally hooked me. It took a few weeks to get through the whole of the archives and then I wanted to find MORE of that kind of thing.

The Little Dee gang.

The Bruno gang.

  • Digger by Ursula Vernon
    Another of my first introductions to non-typical (as per my assumptions) comics, and still a favourite. Ursula studied anthropology at school but became an artist because "there was more money in it". Ha! Anyway, she's clever and funny and has a style of story-telling that appeals to me. Digger is a fairly epic tale of a wombat who takes a wrong turn in a tunnel and ends up getting entangled with a dead god, some angry hyenas, a statue of Ganesh and a "shadow-child". It's good.

  • Dicebox by Jenn Manley Lee
    Both of those led me (in a roundabout way) to Dicebox, and the discovery that a whole bunch of comics-makers (warning: some of those links do have nsfw content) live in the Portland-Seattle area, and that made me love them EVEN MORE because I was (and am) so homesick for the wonderful west coast. Sigh. Dicebox is on-going, and a bit slow-going, so it was best (for me) when I was new to it and could zip through the archives. So much interesting detail in the images. It looks like a ton of work.

Isn't it pretty??

And that led to:

  • Blankets by Craig Thompson (and Goodbye Chunky Rice, and Carnet de Voyage)Absolutely one of my favourites. So, so lovely. Everything he does is gorgeous.
  • Castle Waiting by Linda Medley
    Neat stories-within-stories kind of tale. Fantasy/medieval setting.
  • Bee and others by Jason Little.
    Not bad... kind of fun. Gets dumb sometimes, in my opinion, but still worth the read.
  • What Birds Know by Emelie Friberg & Mattias Thorelli
    Neat little fantasy story. Was stalled for a while but seems to be back on as of this month.

  • The Paul series of books by Michel Rabagliati.
    I've read a lot of them, but not all. Some in English (translations) some in French (orginal language). There's nothing wrong with reading them in English, except it sometimes makes me forget that the original language is French and I start to read them as anglophone stories from Montreal. Which they aren't. Anyway, they're great!

  • The Magical Life of Long Tak Sam by Ann Marie Fleming
    Which I just discovered is going to be a movie! Neat! This is not a comic, more like an "illustrated biography" including photos, illustrations, various ephemera, some short little comics, drawings etc. Highly recomended.

Well.... that is a pretty good list of my prefered illustrated stories. I have left out a few... including the Flight anthologies (because there's SO MUCH in them!) Kazu Kibuishi is fantastic though, and I love Copper and all his contributions to the Flight books, which he also edits. And there are lots out there that I'd like to read but haven't gotten around to yet. Thank the GODS for libraries (especially ones with comic/graphic novel collections!).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Snail tales, in summer

(Just a few summer memories... whatever comes to mind)

* Portland, Oregon. Age... ? Let's say... ten. Ish. Staying with aunt & uncle for a few weeks one summer. Stay overnight at their neighbours (well, neighbors I suppose) because they have daughters my age. We watch several horrifying movies including this. And then we DECIDE TO SLEEP OUTSIDE IN A TENT. I don't decide this, obviously, but I go along. In the darkest part of the middle of the endless night something scratches the outside of the tent. The other girls giggle fearfully and go back to sleep. I don't close my eyes, even to blink, for about 48hrs. There are WEREWOLVES in Oregon, didn't you know?

* Somewhere above the clouds. Age: 5. Am sent to visit grandparents in Denver, Colorado. First time flying, and I am doing it all by myself. Sit next to business man who teaches me a few words of Mandarin. Peek out the window and marvel at seeing the TOP of the clouds.

* Waterslides. Loooooooooooooooooooooong lines, feeling the sun burning my shoulders, my hair getting stringy and dry from the chlorine. Slowly making my way up the stairs and platforms behind the slides, wishing for shoes (feels gross to stand on the old sodden wood in bare feet). Finally my turn. Sit down and WHOOSH, the running water carries you into the pale blue plastic straw-like slide. Slipping along the curves and up the walls: WILL I FALL OUT???? Zip zip zip. Over too fast. Splash! At the bottom, into the waiting pool. Next time: The Rapids.


* Summer camp for les jeannettes (hmm... no links. Basically: French Girl Guides). Big open one-room shacks, making bannock, sneaking around at night, cute boys, non-sensical games (ex: make spaghetti for supper for about 20 girls then don't allow them to use regular utensils... someone got stuck with an egg beater. MESSY.), going fishing (one fearless girl poking the eyes out of a fish with her BARE HANDS), ghost stories, pillow fights (for real... actually kind of vicious and painfull), truth or dare... and camp fire songs: "You must never laugh when a hearse goes by, for you may be the next to die ... worms crawl in, worms crawl out... they play parcheesi on your snout..." or "Baden-Baden POW-weeeeeeelllllll" (there are hand moves for that one).

* LOTS of time spent at my cousin's place in Ruskin. Watching scary movies, making forts in the forest, riding our bikes on gravel roads, tire swings in huge empty fields, listening to Corey Hart, swimming in the ocean, wearing enormous stuffed bras and laughing too hard to talk, playing with her Barbie empire in the basement (wolf spiders as big as my hand!!!), deer wandering up next to us in the front yard, nearly getting kidnapped at the hall and running for our lives in matching pink jelly shoes. Good times.

* Several dozen visits to the Aquarium. Face to face with killer whales (we didn't call them Orca yet then). Being afraid of the piranhas (there was a cow carcass in the tank for god's sake!), but not the snakes (large they were, but seemed so sloooow... quite drowsy), intrigued by the octopus, in love with the otters. Back then the belugas were in that small pool, in between the main inside area and the killer whale tanks. Way too small for them. Whale shows: SPLASH ZONE.

* Harrison. Sigh. So many visits to Harrison beach. SAND SCULPTURES. Lots of other lakes too, and of course the REAL beach: the PACIFIC OCEAN. (Mainly White Rock, I think).


* Spending time at The Cove. My grandparents still lived on their boat back then. It is so nice to sleep on a boat. Rocking, ocean sounds, fresh air. And everything on a boat is so neatly made, space used so efficiently (at least this is true when the boat is built by my grandpa). Little cupboards and hidden storage areas absolutely everywhere. Everything, even the table, has a lip for when the sea gets rough. Running on the wharf, peering over the edge down into the depths of the cove, looking at anemonies, fat purple sea stars, transluscent jelly fish. Hearing about my mom, when she was a little girl. Visiting the Georges (who ran the marina), who had brightly coloured hanging baskets, a deck with a great view and a painting (Mrs George was an artist) that featured the cove and a tiny little figure that was my mom.

Deep Cove marina.

... And there are so many more! And now I'm homesick. SIGH. Still, that was kind of fun.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rhubarb Scuffins

A quick google search will show that, alas, I am not the first to coin the adorable moniker "scuffin". They are a tasty blend of scone and muffin, and (in my kitchen, anyway) they were born as a result of needing to use up the rhubarb, wanting to do so with scones, but not having another cookie sheet available (I had already made pizza). I was pleased with the results though, so I decided to share.

Rhubarb Scuffins

(keep in mind that I am a terrible one for measurements... I am more of the ilk "a little of this... a little of that... hey presto!" so the following is a bit more of a guess/guideline.)

1/4 cup butter
2 cups flour (whatever blend of white/whole wheat you like)
2tsp baking powder
1/8 cup powdered almonds

Use a pastry blender (or your hands) to mix the flour and butter.
It should end up the consistency of bread crumbs.

1tbsp sugar
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp allspice
2tsp ground ginger

1/2 cup milk
(doesn't have to be real... I had oat milk so that's what I used)
1/3 cup water

Once you have mixed all of this together you will have a sticky but solid ball of dough.

2 stalks rhubarb, diced (or whatever fruit you are trying to use up)

Toss it in and do your best to get it folded into the dough.

Small handfulls of dough go into a greased muffin tin (with a drizzle of honey on top, if that suits your fancy) and bake at 350° for about 15 mins, or until a fork comes out clean, and they are lightly browned just at the edges.

This makes one dozen small scuffins.
Or six giant ones, I would guess.

(ps: Sorry for the blurry photos. I could have been
fussy and re-taken them but I was too busy eating scuffins.)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Feeling balmy

Man, I keep "forgetting" to post. By that I mean.... I keep being too lazy to post. I read lots of gorgeous blogs with near-daily posts full of luscious imagery and delectable words. And I eat them up! However, when it is my turn to write... I go eat a popsicle. I have lots of half-started posts saved under "drafts" in both my head and on blogger but they never seem to materialize into anything post-able. Which is fine! Because this is just for fun! Right! ... ! ! ! ... ! ! ... ! ... ?
Ok, so. On to the business of Fun.

Among the many things that I enjoy in other blogs are product/company recommendations. So I thought I might endeavour to offer a few of my own. My one cosmetic vice is lip balm... not super vice-ish, I know, but it is more about the quantity in which I consume it than anything else. I do wear actual make up most days (usually just mascara and a little eye liner) but it is not NEARLY as exciting to me as shiny little tubes of lip balm. They make me so happy! I don't know why, THEY JUST DO (hi Andie!).

So, that said, the thing I feel most qualified to review and give a hearty thumbs up or down to is, naturally, lip balm. I have discovered a few other great products too though so if lip balm is not your thing, maybe some of my other faves will be more useful to you.

One thing that is always important to me, whether I'm looking for shampoo, mascara or the all important perfect lip balm, is the ingredient list. I am certainly not an expert in this area, but there do seem to be a few nasty ingredients out there that I'd rather not have soaking into my skin every day. Parabens for example. I don't really know the low-down on them... mostly it is rumour and innuendo, but it seems to be bad. So, just in case, I try to avoid them. And in any case, there is PLENTY of selection in the whole "natural/organic" lip balm catagory now, so it's not like staying there is in any way limiting. I am not vegan, so I don't necessarily look for that in a balm, but I don't avoid it either.

[Side note: Recently I have been using this website: Skin Deep
It allows you to search by ingredient or, in many cases, by product (they don't have everything in there, but I did find quite a lot of brands and products) and gives you both a rating of 0-10 (0 being totally harmless and 10 being toxic grossness) as well as a % of uncertainty called a "data gap". Meaning that if hardly any research has been done on a particular ingredient (a high data gap) it may have a rating of 1 (mostly harmless! Just like Earth!) but all that means is that it is not PROVEN to be harmful. It also references the journals used to generate the ratings. So far it seems to be pretty helpful.]

So, without further ado, I shall commence by recommending my very favourite current lip balm. I do tend to have several favourites, so I can't really be trusted to have ONE ALL TIME BEST EVER... Often my favourite is either A) my most recent purchase or B) the one I can find. But, I am kind of picky about it (after all these years of searching and sampling) so I probably don't loose the ones I really like.

The one I use most right now is MLuxe Almond (beeswax lip balm) by mudlark (whose website is not yet up and running, apparently). I can't seem to find any photos of the lovely tube online, so I will have to take a photo of mine and add it later (the image to the left is of their coconut lip balm). It looks as if they have a variety of pretty designs even within one flavour choice, so you can get a different one each time if you want. Nice! Not surprising though, since one part of their business is making stationary.

Ingredients: Beeswax, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Flavor, Lanolin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Comfrey Leaf Extract, Rosemary Extract.
There are a couple of ingredients that may irritate very sensitive skin, but on the whole, not bad. Especially since they are not actively going for the Health Nut crowd (of which I am a mostly active member. Mostly.).
I found this one by happenstance while visiting Toronto a couple of weeks ago (Hi Andie! Again!) at one of those stores that sells a hodge podge of stationary, fancy lip balm, and semi-goofy touristy stuff. As the mLuxe/mudlark website is not working, and as I'm having trouble finding their products online otherwise, I am guessing that this is the best way for others to lay their hands on a little tube of their own. Don't find it, IT WILL FIND YOU. Trust Serendipity.

What I like about it: smells great (very almond-y... like the middle of an almond croissant); is smooth but not too soft (so it doesn't smear and go on way too thick, but it also isn't so hard that it hurts to apply). There is no flavour to speak of, which is fine (I don't really like super sugary flavoured balms anyway). It was not too expensive ($3.50 I think) and, as I say, the label is really pretty. So. HEARTY THUMBS UP!
Maybe I should come up with some kind of rating system... like 5 out of 5 kisses! Or something less nauseating. 5 out of 5 thumbs up? Suggestions?