The DapperDame does Injera (badly)

This gal loves ethiopian food but so far I’ve only ever eaten it at restaurants. With the other staples like indian or middle eastern I’ve managed to recreate a few recipes to get me by at home but injera has been a daunting task.  After finding some (pricey) teff flour at the bulk barn this weekend I decided to make it work. The recipe only included teff flour, water and some salt which was to then sit out on the counter for a few days. Since Saturday my batch of batter has been under-towel on the kitchen table looking not very exciting at all. That was, until I returned home from work today to a very yeasty odour in the dining room (ok, dining room “area”) and found the started all puffed up and bubblin’ with bacteria.  Mmmmm. That signalled time for cookin’.

So I grabbed both of my frying pans (the stick and the non) and poured on the batter – first in silver dollar-sized blobs and then gradually built up crepe-sized courage.  The problem: it turned out kinda gross. It has a slightly sour/tangy taste but the texture was entirely off. Crumbly (no good for scooping!) and dry on top, much more brittle and only an optical illusion of sponginess.  Some people online are saying I should have done a full 3 week sour dough starter and then gradually morphed it into a teff starter.  A lot of work when I don’t even have the true flat pancake maker thing. Maybe I should just work on the yummy yummy dishes and buy the dang injera (if I can find it here…).

If I try it again I’ll do a few things differently: let it sit another day to ferment; use a recipe that has some non-teff flour as well; potentially cook it at a higher heat.

Help! Has anyone made injera successfully in their very own kitchen?

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The DapperDame does Pumpkins

When the leaves start to change and the temperature mellows I start to feel so much more Albertan. sometimes that means learning to shoot a gun, sometimes it means going to a small town pumpkin festival. This year was firearm free. This weekend we headed out to Smoky Lake for their annual pumpkin (and assorted gourd!) celebration. For a town of only 1000 people it sure knows how to turn it out. The whole downtown was flooded with hundreds of vintage cars. And not-so-vintage cars. Some locals felt the need to display their 1992 dodge pickups. I believe the cut off would be 1988 for the “vintage” label this year. Back to the story. Apparently Edmonton has its very own vintage hearse club. They good-naturedly fill the hearses with zombie babies and dress up in vampire costumes.

Not sold yet? Let’s see. A bakery selling goodies like pumpkin pie, pumpkin cinnamon buns and chocolate whoopie pies with pumpkin cream cheese filling.  Or would an adorable little museum complete with ukrainian handiwork, old school baby incubators and an asbestos fireman suit do the trick? A nice gentleman in his 80s kindly pointed out relics I would have walked right past like the little $2 piece of paper from the 1930s granting the holder licence to listen to a radio.

How about hay stacks? Surprisingly warm and soft. Dome-roofed ukrainian churches with melancholy old cemeteries?  Farmers market? Petting zoo for holding chickens, geese, goats and pot-belly pigs? Massive pumpkin weigh-offs and auction?

Of course I’ve saved the most epic for last. 200 foot crane + car + 800 lb pumpkin = crush + boom + splatter of wondrous reach. Watch out for next year!

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The DapperDame does Victoria

One summer, two major Canadian cities. Three if you count my triumphant return to Calgary after an 8 year hiatus. Yes, let’s count it. Three major Canadian cities. Each city was (unknowingly) trying to win my allegiance but who will earn a spot on my top places to live ever? Victoria!  I must drone on and on about how spectacularly better-than-everywhere-else Toronto is because my colleagues were all incredulous that I could be more enamoured with the quaint harbour city of Victoria over its massive neighbour across Georgia Strait.  Well people, it happened. Maybe it was the romance of a pinterest-perfect wedding (Congrats Hi-C!) at Glendale Gardens or sharing it with friends from all over the continent but I was sold. It really was one of the loveliest cities I’ve ever visited. For only having 350,000 in the entire metro area Victoria has a downtown of unique boutiques and fancy treats (oh heck, and charming eats!*) in keeping with (and surpassing) much larger centres *cough* Edmonton *cough*.  Calgary’s Glenbow was just about to win the “impressive museum” contest when the Royal BC Museum rolled in with its totems waving and its detail-oriented walkthrough replica of old-timey life steppin’ up its game. Not to mention touring the Maritime Museum complete with THE OLDEST WORKING BIRDCAGE ELEVATOR IN NORTH AMERICA. Did I ride it? You bet I did. Despite my fear of elevators I rode that creaky bastard up two whole floors and back down again just because National Geographic has decided it is the second best elevator ride in the world after the CN tower (also conquered by me). Didn’t know that was a list, did you?

JSLPA, ShanWow (+fetus) and I airBnB’d the cutest bachelor suite with a bed that actually rolled out from under the washroom and was hidden as a faux china cabinet drawer set when closed. We were walking distance to all of downtown and used it as a touring point for wandering. Downtown finds include hidden little shopping streets in back alleys, a store selling just macarons (pineapple basil was the best find), a gourmet chocolate shop and the best used bookstore on the planet. My finds for the trip included a pair of pink leather ballet flats for $15 second hand – an affordable way to buy quality footwear; a number of mid-century grammars of less commonly spoken languages like Sesotho and Barbadian dialect. Having not left the city there is still so much island to see nonetheless I was impressed.  The only thing that didn’t impress me was all the rain, cold and subsequent umbrella carrying.

The the worst photographer ever because I decided to leave my camera at home to enjoy the wedding sans lens so no photos to share! Sorry!

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I carried that darn parapluie all over the city so it was making an appearance in a photo!

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Girl can smize

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JSLPA taking her top model challenge seriously. We’ll be taking orders for the purse and boots.

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The most idyllic petting zoo sheep

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That freakin’ umbrella again (beacon hill park)

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JSLPA itching to get her gumboots wet

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The loverly shore line at Beacon Hill Park

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Someone’s art overseeing the beach

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Somewhat traditional: sea JSLPA and Sea Dapperdame show up (but miss Hi-C and ShanWow!)

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Bronies are alive and well in Victoria (this one is for you, Spice Boy)

*case in point “JAM”: the brunch place where the owner’s grandma supplies the homemade spreads)

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The DapperDame Does Vancouver (for the first time!)

Fact: Canada has the world’s longest coastline. Despite this (nationalistic pride inducing) fact it has taken me 28 years to make it to any of that beautiful edging.  Last weekend I met the lovely Nads & Hi-C to explore Vancouver and confirm my suspicions that Toronto is still the best my favourite place in Canada. Vancity came prepared with a strong case for itself. So beefy a case, in fact, that I am forced to divide the title in half: Vancouver is (so far) the most beautiful large city in Canada. If I were to speak with someone who had never been to our fair country and they asked what ONE CITY they should see I would tell them Vancouver and be done with it. The city puts on a good first impression – even landing at the Van International Airport was a beautiful sight over the misty water with mountains framing the view. But (but!) as soon as the talk turns long term Toronto still remains more varied and big-city – it has the cliched “heart beat” I’ve yet to find elsewhere.

Enough comparison. With only three days I would say that I hit a good chunk of the city. Staying in Mount Pleasant with Nads and having Friday to myself I took the bus down to Stanley Park to tour the aquarium. Highlight: giant octopus eating.a.crab. Highlight #2: the view of downtown from across the water and the big tree in the park. From along the waterfront it becomes apparent that downtown Van is not a city but a condo farm. They all share the same DNA and were bred to look good beside the water. A difficult commodity to export, though.

The rest of the day was spent building up blisters by walking from Stanley Park to Gastown and then on to China town. Over the weekend we also explored Commercial Drive, Kitsilano and Granville Island. We partook at, according to the internets, the only hookah place in the city, shopped a bit including at a mini-flea market and ate excellent food. Vancouver would be a great place to be a vegan. On my walk to Gastown I ended up sitting at the bar of a humid underground eatery ordering a raw-vegan-organic “nice” bowl. The restaurant was aptly named Gorilla Food.

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Definitely try the apricot + fennel macaroni

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Julian Assange making my green hippie food

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The DapperDame gets a little Folky (2013)

I haven’t been blogging. The end. There is little explanation other than laziness and the fact that I have been so busy I haven’t really owned groceries in weeks. Thanks, Tim Hortons, for your hearty vegetable soup. What kept me so busy from Thurs-Sunday of last week was a very special event indeed: Edmonton Folk Festival 2013. 4 days of music that was (mostly) new to me. Plus it was Edmonton’s only second real scorcher all summer.  That is until the haunting Loreena McKennitt summoned the thunder and the rain in the last half hour. Thousands of people huddled on the hill with lightning flashes in the orange sky behind us with her playing the storm in like the band on the deck of the Titanic. The whole event ended rather abruptly with an announcement to “get thee off the hill!” as, within minutes, we were all drenched and running through a lightning storm across a bridge to the car. A glorious evening, even for someone who gets a little jittery around electricity stabbing down from the sky.

Here are a few of musical highlights from the festival. I’m sorry you couldn’t all be there to watch some of the mash-up sessions but I’ll link to some of my new favourite songs and artists.

LP – the big star of the main stage that was one of the most anticipated and easily delivered. Her hair didn’t disappoint, either.

John Smith – a deep-voiced ginger crooner from the UK (Edited to add: this song feels like the perfect soundtrack to the novel Away by Jane Urquhart)

Lisa Hannigan – best line of the day: Irish people spontaneously combust at 29 degrees. Thankfully she didn’t catch on fire.

David Francey – I was missing out on this folky-goodness – he wrote this diddy for his new step-daughter who was entering high school

Carolina Chocolate Drops – insane bluegrass and the first black band to play at the Grand Ole Opry (in 2010…great and sad). Plus one of the members plays these awesome sticks.  Also recommended: Your Baby Ain’t Sweet Like Mine

Cold Specks – this is an artist I had already listened to and was very much looking forward to her concert. She has an incredibly powerful voice and is a bit of a quirky person/performer.

Bonus: I now see what all the fuss surrounding the Avett Brothers is about.

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PhotoBomb (Update)

Someone on the climbing trip was extremely kind to trek up a big steep hill and take photos of me while I was on the 32m rock face.  These are at about 1/3 and 2/3s of the way up the wall.  Yup, I’m scared but having quite a bit of fun.

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The Dapperdame Rocks

Har har. It was that title or something about spider(wo)man. This was the weekend I have been anticipating for months; the culmination of the 10 week class for outdoor climbing that teaches participants how to confidently set anchors and rappels.  Even though we had practiced the skills at ground level or slightly above over and over it was time to test ourselves at real heights on real rock.  There was some shaking. Let’s just say, I was always sure to empty my bladder before a big climb.  Plus there was camping so it was a good thing spiderM had my back and packed all the important things like a tent and cooking supplies.  For growing up in a small town I sure can be a city girl.  Friday night we all drove down to Canmore, set up camp at Three Sisters campground in Deadman’s Flats and looked forward to the next day.

Saturday was Grassi Lakes, pocket rocks overlooking a teal mountain lake.  Despite a few spitting showers where we huddled against the wall with rain jacket hoods up it was mostly sunny.  That day I climbed 5.5, 5.8 and 5.9 and had an unsuccessful summit of a 5.10a.  Sunday had us hiking a half hour through Cougar Canyon to the House of Cards wall for slabbier rock with more interesting hand holds.  At first I was a little intimidated by the new rock but it was exciting to test gripping new holds and sending higher climbs.  Higher being 32 metres.  Now that is a view.  The element of fear is still there. A few times the images my brain kept sending me of anchors failing above my head nearly overwhelmed me and my confidence at the bottom was always less than at the top so I declined a few rappels I should have handled.  It is all a learning curve. Do I want to go again? Heck YES!

Here is a sampling of photos from the weekend.  Unfortunately I kept forgetting to get others to take pictures of me climbing so I have almost none of those.  But you get the idea.

Yes, that’s fresh coffee in the foreground. Drool.

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Very thirsty climbers

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I’m the orange thing on the rock in front of that lovely lake

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Orange (not red) in the top left corner

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Deep campfire discussions followed by ukelele sing-a-long

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Prepping to climb in cougar canyon

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The Dapperdame goes Raw?

Hardly. Don’t worry, raw is still too extreme for me.  Plus I would never give up hot chocolate.  Lukewarm chocolate is infinitely less appealing.  Some things are just tasty, though.  A few weeks ago Earth’s General Store had a surprise 15% off of everything in the store and I stumbled across it and right into the raw food aisle.  Although I wasn’t lured by dehydrators there were some bars recommended to me by a friend (Alive Bars).  And they were not lying – super tasty! And filling. And at almost $6 for a little box that is unfortunately where the sellers will now have customers saying “I can do this at home”.  Know why? Because it is all just raw stuff from the bulk barn put through a blender.  So I made my own.  Yes, it is likely that something I bought at the bulk barn was at some point heated above that magical enzyme-destroying temperature but I think I’ll live.

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Just how easy was it? Ingredients: 1/3 nuts (I used walnuts and cashews – unsalted) and 1/3 dried fruit (apricots and dates) + a bit of unsweetened and shredded coconut + a dash of peanut butter

Soak the nuts beforehand for about an hour.
Pat them dry with a towel.
Put all of the lovely ingredients into a blender (I used a ninja) and blend until it is a paste.
Spread paste on a cookie sheet between two layers of parchment paper.
Let sit in fridge for a few hours.
Cut up and store.

They are just as good as the others and about half the price.  Next time I’ll try to ramp up the health factor (chia seeds?) or the richness factor (cocoa?) but overall they work just how they are.

And a fun little find at the farmers market became a hit at the work ice cream party as stewed rhubarb topping. That and a couchsurfer I hosted from Mexico had never heard of this strange but edible plant part.

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The DapperDame eats Greens

My quest to try new (and preferably healthy) foods continued today. I went for the veal of the vegetable world: fiddleheads aka baby ferns plucked before they even have the chance to reach adolescence.  Even though my dad comes from a long line of fiddlehead sleuths and pickers they never appealed to me. Now I get to pay $5 for half a pound at the farmers market.  Lunch today was fiddleheads sauteed with garlic.  Glad I tried them but I’ll go with asparagus next time.

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The Dapperdame Deserves

Last week I hung out with the lovely Bethaf in her hood in Toronto.  While exploring the neighbourhood we wandered into a Goodwill in which she explained to me that she had challenged herself not to buy anything new (or, if it had to be new, it would be ethically produced) for a whole year. A few days later she blogged about it (here) and explained that the decision came partially from this feeling of entitlement to new things that is so pervasive to Western culture.

Reading her post helped me more eloquently think about my recent self-challenge of a plant-based diet (aka a less-than-completely-ethical vegan) and my motivations.

Do I (we) deserve to eat meat?

Meat is tough on the environment.  Well, not meat exactly, but raising animals for consumption uses much greater resources than plant-matter.  We put resources (water, land, grain, etc.) into raising animals to eat instead of just using that material to feed ourselves.  Meat is resource intensive and very inefficient to produce.  This is a figure from eateco.org (the percentages represent amount of energy available for human use divided by the amount of energy it took to produce).  We are getting negative returns from meat and dairy products.

Food Item Energy
Efficiency %
Chicken 18.1
Milk 20.6
Eggs 11.2
Grain fed beef 6.4
Lamb 1.2
Salmon farmed 5.7
Shrimp 0.9
Corn 250
Soy 415
Apples 110
Potatoes 123

The lower the figure the more inefficient the process, requiring higher energy inputs.

This isn’t even mentioning the environmental impact of all the manure created by these animals and the horrific living conditions almost all of them endure. As other countries like China and Brazil move to match our meat/dairy consumption it puts even greater demands on the environment and these countries have massive populations.  These massive populations are becoming richer and realizing that they too “deserve” a chunk of this dietary high-life we have experienced for decades.

All of this info can be found with a quick google search (and I encourage you to do so) but the point is always the same:  animal-products are not a sustainable way to feed the planet.

So do I deserve to eat meat more than others in our world?  Do I deserve to eat meat if it means others will go without food? Do I deserve to eat meat if it will have a much more negative impact on the environment than a plant-based diet?

The answer I have come up with to each of these questions is no.  So I’m going to try very hard not to.  I’ll probably slip up sometimes or choose to eat the occasional treat with dairy but, for the foreseeable future, I’m plant-based.  I’m on a slippery slope to hippie-ism.

Plus, does this make you want to eat bacon? (No, it isn’t a sad peta video)

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