One homeless trailer

trailer
Last year in November, going into winter storage

I am booked to pick up our Airstream from CanAm RV in London on the 5th of May – in just over a week.

As we live in downtown Toronto, we need a place to park when we’re not using the trailer. Last summer, we stored her away away at Milton Heights Campground, on a storage field. The setup is perfect, 40 minutes from home, five minutes from the 401, with fresh water and dumping facilities available. We even stayed overnight from Friday to Saturday a number of times, then left early the next morning for a weekend of camping.

So it came as an unpleasant surprise when I called to book a storage space for this summer only to be told they were all booked out. Last year, half the storage field was empty, so I didn’t give this much urgency. Had I known, I would have booked a space in early April. Bummer.

This is now leaving us scrambling to find a place to park during the week. I’ll be calling a number of campgrounds next week, but it looks like we might have to use a storage facility instead. RV Park & Go in Oakville looks best so far, but is asking for a 12 months contract. We’ll see what comes up. Worst comes to worst, we can always continue to store her with CanAm, but I’d much rather have her close to home.

The Fuji x100s

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After jonesing for this camera for over a year, I finally bit the bullet and pushed the “order” button on amazon.

I’ve been wanting a compact digital rangefinder forever, but just could not justify the cost of a Leica. The x100s is the next best thing, in some ways perhaps even better. It’s everything a camera of this type is supposed to be, it delivers perfect results under challenging conditions, in short it’s the best camera I’ve ever had the pleasure to use. Ken Rockwell calls it The World’s Best Digital Camera (in caps), and I am inclined to agree with him.

    The hybrid viewfinder is fantastic, delivering all the information you need and none of the distractions
    The controls are proper camera controls, located where they make sense.
    The lens is fast and sharp.
    The world will run out of light before this camera runs out of ability – I routinely shoot at 6400 with very, very little noise

I am not going to add another gushing review – there are enough of those available – but if you’re even half-serious about photography, go and get one. You won’t be disappointed.

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Whoa. A dishwasher for the Airstream?

dishwasher

Today I learned, much to my surprise, that there’s such a thing as a dishwasher that should fit in the empty space that originally housed a big, fat, 1980′s microwave in our 1984 Airstream.

And while camping in Provincial Parks, or even boondocking on crown land, and a built-in dishwasher might sound like a strange combination at first, the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

We’re five people, and washing the dishes three times a day takes both time and water. The sink and the kitchen in a trailer are smaller than in a regular kitchen, so things can get cramped, quickly.

When reading up about the specs, it turns out that the dishwasher actually uses less water, 3 gallon on average, than washing the dishes by hand. If the measurements work out, this will be the next upgrade to the silver bullet.

Next year we’ll also be swapping the current RV toilet, which uses a black tank, for a composting toilet, most likely a Nature’s Head model. This will free up the current black tank for grey water, giving us more independence from services.

Deep Freeze Toronto

In the middle of the never-ending winter. -30º today.

A couple of years ago I spent time in Iqaluit, Nunavut. I was up there in April, when the average temperature was hovering around -40ºC. On that occasion, my Arctic Snowgoose jacket kept me warm, but I hadn’t really had an opportunity to wear it since.

Until this winter, when I wore it a bunch of times, walking to work.

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Iqaluit

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Staying warm in the Arctic

Pasta faces

Dramatic printer

Winter sky

Front Street in the snow #Toronto

#Toronto

I am going to miss my Kensington lunches.

From one tiny grill. Amazing

Dinner is looking good.

First trial run of the Cobb grill.

We bought a Cobb grill to take camping. It helps that the bottom keeps cool to the touch, so cool that Cobb have some amusing videos on their website showing a guy floating in a pool with a lit Cobb on his belly, but the real advantage is that this little grill works amazingly well.

It’s more of a portable oven than a full on BBQ, but for me that’s an advantage. A load of charcoal keeps the temperature at between 380º and 420º for about two hours, the perfect time to roast a chicken. Wrap some veggies up in tin foil, and they will happily steam alongside.

Good morning

Checking out a new day together

Desert

Smoke rapini

Happy Canada day

Weird things you were in Liberty Village

Way to spend a Friday evening

Canada vs Ireland.

Wednesday drinks

Good coffee at the office.

The best way to eat cauliflower. Roasted with anchovies and good olive oil.

Toronto alleyways

Kensington Market characters

Toronto alleyways

Toronto alleyways

Alleyways

In Kensington

Midweek Frittata. Asparagus, potatoes and anchovies in happy harmony.

Lunch at Seven Lives. Octopus, here we come.

Quick cut this morning at Garrison Barbers.

The things people do to animals at work

The games are about to begin.

The team getting ready

More Olympic medals in this room than I’ve ever seen.

Hanging with the Olympic athletes

Props ready to go. The studio smells delicious.

Prepping for a shoot in Montreal today.


The things you find in your coat pockets when there’s a two year old with a fire engine fetish in the house.

Aerial photography with a DJI Phantom Quadcopter

We’re now proud owners of a DJI Phantom Quadcopter, complete with GoPro mount. Expect to see all kinds of cool aerial shots in our videos soon.

quadrocopter

My new pocket camera – a Sony RX-100

I used to carry a Ricoh GR Digital II as a pocket and street photography camera. While it was a great camera when it came out, with a number of features specifically tailored for the street and architectural photographer, by today’s standards it is getting slow. Low light especially is a challenge for this little camera.

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Shots taken with the Ricoh.

Enter the replacement: A Sony RX-100. So far, I am extremely impressed. Flawless RAW shooting, beautiful F1.8 Zeiss lens, a huge sensor (for a pocket camera, near micro 4/3s territory), this small camera gives low end DSLRs a run for the money. As far as size is concerned, it pretty much matches the Ricoh. Both are small enough to slip in the front pocket of a pair of jeans.

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I considered selling the Ricoh, but in the end I decided to keep using it. It offers a number of features I really like that haven’t ever been matched by any other camera: Snap Focus, which is essentially a focus preset with no discernable shutter lag, the ability to switch off the viewfinder screen completely, allowing for total stealth shooting, screen can be set to preview in b/w and my absolute favourite: a square preset, my favourite shooting format.

Things that are taking up my time these days

GSP planning for the next three years at Volunteer Toronto, developing a Board Training strategy, there’s always something new to do.

One of the things I love about Cafe Pamenar on Augusta, our local coffee shop: The water comes nicely flavoured.

Pentax K1000 with HP5

Just stumbled across these scans from a roll of HP5 I took last year with an old Pentax K1000. One of my favourite camera/film combinations.

Lunch at El Trompo

I’ve always liked the gang at El Trompo, the little Mexican restaurant on Augusta Avenue that pretty much started the influx of Latin American businesses. Their tacos are simple, home made and the hospitality can’t be beat.

A handful of NFC tags

We got these for our guided video tours we produce for the Princess Margaret Home Lottery prize homes. These are leftovers, we’re currently trying to come up with a clever use for them.

nice

Economics for non-economists

Fascinating read and a book I am sure to check up with in the future. I am constantly surprised by how few marketing people try to understand the basics of economics, anthropology and behavioral psychology.

dyie

Back to pen and paper

I recently went back to pen and notebook vs. taking notes on my iPad or Nexus. Turns out that taking notes by hand leads to significantly higher memory retention than taking notes by typing. If you want to remember, or recall, the content of a note, write it, don’t type it.

I haven’t seen any research that compares writing on a screen vs writing on paper and the resulting recall, but if it exists, I’d be interested in reading it.

If I need screen backup, my Nexus 7 fits perfectly against the back of a standard Moleskine notebook.

moleskine

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Reality check

You’re not the CEO of a startup, you’re running a small business. Ain’t nothing wrong with that, either.

Smoky cauliflower frittata. Yum.

From Plenty, my new go-to vegetarian cookbook. Cauliflower, smoked mozzarella, eggs, sour creme, chives and smoked paprika.

Delicious.

Great presentation by Rory Sutherland at FFW

When I first moved to London as a green 21 year old graphic designer, I was lucky enough to snag a job as a junior Art Director at Ogilvy & Mather. I had arrived in London six months earlier, with all my earthly belongings stuffed in a duffle bag and £600 in my back pocket.

It was the best possible introduction into the world of advertising anybody could hope for. I was being paid a pittance, but I worked in Soho Square, right in the heart of London. Next to Madison Avenue, this was the centre of the marketing universe. Then as now O&M was great at training people and even today I still make use of lessons learned all these years ago.

The office was located on Rumor had it that the building had a history as a brothel in Edwardian days.

Part of the gaggle of young talent at O&M was Rory Sutherland, a recent Cambridge graduate, scarily bright and working in the planning department. Rory’s uniform, then as now, consisted of a tweed jacket, a silk cravatte and a constantly glowing pipe.

We worked, laughed and drank together for three years. I left O&M for another Soho agency when they moved further east in search of cheaper rent and larger spaces; I wasn’t ready to leave the Bar Italia or the Dog and Duck behind.

Rory stayed at O&M and steadily climbed the ranks. I moved from agency to agency and did the same, ending up as the Creative Director and Director of Broadcast for the Banner Corporation, an agency within the Y&R network back in London; now as one of the principals of my own shop here in Toronto.

Rory has always been an excellent speaker and presenter, so when I learned that he was coming to Toronto to give the keynote speech at the FFW opening lunch, I got myself a ticket and shot off a mail, asking if he had time for a coffee afterwards. He did, his presentation was predictably amazing and we managed to even squeeze in a late lunch.

It was great catching up after all these years.

Next up – a 1984 34ft Sovereign

After the 31′ Sovereign turned out to be too damp and dingy for us we decided to take a look at a 1984 triple axle.

1984

From the outside, this is a beast and considerably longer a trailer that I had envisaged for us – I had hoped to find a 25 or 27 footer. But once we saw the inside, a lot of things made sense. First off, it is build like an absolute rock. Outside the frame looks rock solid, no sag or signs of front or back separation. On the inside, everything is solid wood, cedar lined wardrobes, a spacious back bedroom ready to take bunk beds for the kids, a large galley and a dinette that will make it easy to feed the hungry mob. All points in its favour.

Owners swear that, despite the intimidating size, this is one of the easiest Airstream trailers to tow, with a very low centre of gravity and straight tracking. Yes, six wheels and three axles are more expensive to service than four, but the increase in cost isn’t a deal-breaker for us.

The trailer is semi-renovated, with many of the systems that make it work either new or recent replacements. Some work still needs to be done, mostly upholstery and flooring. Right now we’re getting quotes in to see if this is the one – if it all makes financial sense we might just pull the trigger on this model.

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Why we’re buying a vintage Airstream

We used to own a sweet little farm worker’s cottage in the country, nestled away in a hamlet close to Lake Huron in the heart of Mennonite country.

As a weekend property, it was close to perfect. Heat came from a wood fired stove, our property sloped down to a lake, we were close to the sandy beaches of Lake Huron. Still, after a couple of years we decided to sell, mostly because we were getting bored going to the same place weekend after weekend but also because looking after the rural property was just too much work.

Grass needed cutting, firewood needed stacking, trees trimming. The jobs never stopped and we used to return to the city on a Sunday evening ready for another weekend.

When we bought a new house in Toronto, with a large backyard, we decided enough was enough. We sold the cottage and spent our weekends exploring Toronto.

Some years later we found ourselves as parents to three little boys, one older brother and the baby twins. We started thinking about finding another weekend home, ideally by a beach for the kids to play on. But once bitten by the work involved with dual home ownership we decided that we also wanted to be a: low maintenance and b: mobile.

It didn’t take us long to decide that the answer to our needs was an Airstream trailer. Airstreams last forever, over 70% of all Airstream trailers ever build are still in use, they have an iconic look and they tow better than most other trailers. It sounded like the ideal solution to our needs.

The first Airstream we took a look at

A 1979 31′ Sovereign, with front bath and twin beds. This wasn’t the one. While the frame was straight and the body in good condition, inside it reminded us of “that” apartment you see when you’re a student that you really want to like – but then take a pass on because it’s just that little bit too grotty.

The first warning signal was the smell. Temperatures were well below freezing and still the inside of the trailer smelled damp. This usually means that it’ll smell really bad once it gets warmer, as pointed out by the ever helpful folks over on airforums.com. It also means that the smell sits, in all likelihood, in the insulation and that there are, or were, issues with leaks.

Ripping out the interior skin of an Airstream and replacing the innards is more work than I am willing to invest at this time, so we’ll be giving this one a miss.

Why I stopped buying ebooks

I jumped on the ebook bandwagon as an early adopter. I owned an early Sony reader, with a dreadful store, especially up here in Canada. I owned a Kindle and I used various readers on my iPad. I loved the portability, the convenience, the instant gratification. I told all of my friends that paper was dead, done and over.

But recently a funny thing happened. During the last year, I found myself buying fewer and fewer ebooks and returning to good old paper instead. Rather than browsing amazon, I am visiting book stores. It started as a health concern, when I learned about the correlation between evening screen time and interrupted sleep patterns. Sleep is precious to me, especially with three young children in the house. As I do a lot of my reading in the evening, this was important.

Then I read the licensing terms for ebooks and didn’t like them one bit. My paper books I own. I’ve got the right of first sale. I can legally lend them to a friend, sell them on if I feel like it. With ebooks, I own nothing. Also, short of breaking into my house, amazon will have a hard time removing books from my shelves, the way they have done from people’s kindle accounts.

But the thing that clinched the change back to paper for me was that I remembered how much I like to be surrounded by books, real books.

I like browsing a well stocked library and picking out a book for the evening. I like the smell of books, the feel of paper. I like that paper books don’t need to be recharged, they don’t go down when the power does. I like that real books age. I like that fact that ink on paper will still be around and relevant when today’s ebook standards will long be forgotten. I like that my children’s children will be able to read my books the way I read my grandfather’s books.

I still think there’s a place for ebooks. The convenience can’t be beat, especially when travelling. I still don’t understand why paper books don’t come with download codes the way music on vinyl does these days. I’d happily pay an extra dollar or two for the privilege.

But there is a pleasure in the analogue that the virtual has a hard time matching. So please excuse my while I put my iPad down, put a vinyl record on my vintage turntable and go read a good book.

Things that happen in our test kitchen.

Reasons to love winter. Baked apples.

One of my favourite winter treats: baked apples.

Core apples, butter an ovenproof form or pan. Fill apple core with raisins, walnuts, brown sugar and a dab of butter. A splash of maple syrup, perhaps some rum.

Bake at 400 degrees until it looks like the picture above, about 20-30 minutes. If at all possible, eat by a fire with the snow falling outside.

Chemex for the coffee win.

After ten years of drinking tea exclusively, and in the process turning into quite the tea dork, I recently re-introduced myself to coffee.

In my case the gateway drug were Americanos, especially when pulled by my friend Pouria of Cafe Pamenar in Kensington Market.

The next challenge was to brew decent coffee at home. I have never managed to recreate a good Americano with a domestic espresso maker and I’m not a fan of the I’m-gonna-punch-your-face-in type coffee that’s so typical for a French press. Too much oil, too much acid for my taste.

I decided to try a Chemex, figuring that at under $40, if I hated it I could just put it on craigslist. Truth is, I love it. I picked up the six cup model at The Green Beanery, with 1/2 a pound of awesome Sumatra coffee.

The folks at the Beanery recommended quite a fine grind, coarser than espresso but finer than normal drip. The results are amazing, exactly what I had been hoping for. A bright, floral, full flavoured cup with no oily residue or acidity.

The fact that the Chemex has an awesome back story, it was invented by a madman/genius during WW2 to preserve metal for the war effort, is icing on the cake. Also, that it has a permanent place at MOMA and appears in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel, From Russia with Love.

Getting there with the Little Free Library project. #littlefreelibrary

Midnight snow clearing. Finally winter.

A late white Christmas.

The hipsters are having kids. My local coffee shop is adapting.

Reasons to love winter: Simmerpots. Cloves, fir, cinnamon and orange

Some years ago, friends gave us this lovely cast iron simmerpot for Christmas. In goes a stick of cinnamon, a handful of cloves, little twigs snipped of a fir or similar tree and an old apple or orange, sliced. Fill up with hot water.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat as low as it will go, keeping the pot at just a simmer. Your house will smell amazing. While this pot looks lovely, any old pot will do. If you have a wood burning stove in the house, just place it on there.

The feast continues. Venison braised in Mill Street Coffee Porter, with roots and home cured pancetta.

Merry Christmas

Surf and turf

Cranberry glazed ham. This might be to much food.

Half a leg, smoked, Mennonite raised on a farm just outside Toronto. This year’s Christmas ham.

I braised it with molasses, cloves and a handful of other spices for four hours on a low, low heat, then roasted it with a mustard-cranberry glaze until it was crackled and burnished.

Confit de canard.

I normally make my own duck confit for Christmas, but with three young kids in the house this year it didn’t happen.

Thankfully the Christmas elves at Peter Sanagan’s Meat Locker had been busy and I managed to pick up four duck legs, all prepped for the oven. Here they are, in my old blue steel saute pan, ready for a good roasting.

A simple recipe for puy lentils to accompany a duck confit

Cook puy lentils in water with 1/2 an onion studded with 5 or 6 cloves, one or two bay leaves and a smashed clove of garlic. I had some thyme that needed using in the fridge, so in it went.

Season with salt and pepper, then finish with a good, peppery glug of olive oil and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar.

Serve with duck confit.

Cheese and good things

Who needs turkey…

Out for a morning stroll

Roast that cauliflower. Anchovies, olive oil and capers.

See you on the other side. Never forget, if you’re using a free service, you are the product.

New in the Market. Beautiful things.

Date night.

Gracie wants to share your balance pad.

At the Distillery District Christmas Market.

Tuesday team lunch with the fisheye crew.

Oh Canada.

Fisheye Christmas lunch with the gang. Molluscs beware.

Canadian winter rituals: the annual fitting of the snow tires.

Kinship.

Mushroom chestnut soup.

If you need a Christmas present for a two to three year old, this book is awesome.

Parked in the neighbourhood.

On location, our team is covering the draw of the Princess Margaret Hospital Lottery.

Brotherly love. Oscar reading to the twins.

Another day, another shoot

Home

Styling props for an upcoming food shoot.

One of the many benefits of walking to and from work – you get to see things that you’d just pass by when driving. Found an entire box of old cutlery in a little antique/vintage store on Queen West.

We’re doing a lot of food photography at the moment, so these will come in extremely useful.

Chat with on google+ or twitter

Nigella Lawson’s pancake mix.

Beautiful morning in Toronto. Coffee, then board of directors meeting @VolunteerTO

We’re testing the new fisheye IPA. Delicious.

New standup desks at fisheye HQ

Our new stand-up desks are ready. We now have communal desks in three different heights: tall, medium and short.

In typical fisheye fashion, we designed and build the desks ourselves, from 3/4″ black iron pipes and furniture grade plywood. We became good friends with our local Home Hardware in the process and the results look amazing.

The fever seems to be catching on, as even Ian, our video editor, has now expressed interest in working standing up.


Julian hard at work. We did run a router around the edges of the wood, then whitewashed and varnished it.


Kendel behind her desk, made-to-measure for her 6’1″ frame. A mat on the floor makes standing comfortable.

Chat with on google+ or twitter

In Toronto harbour, a shoot on top of a mountain of sugar.

Redpath Sugar has a problem. The St. Lawrence Seaway, which is the route ships take to Toronto Harbour, freezes in winter, cutting the city off from the ocean. This means that for several months, no fresh deliveries of raw sugar make it to the Toronto plant.

To keep production going, Redpath stores raw sugar in Toronto Harbour, delivered during summer and ready for winter, safely tucked away in concrete basins underneath heavy duty tarpaulins.

Yesterday we climbed one of these sugar mountains to shoot a portrait of Jonathan Bamberger, President of Redpath Sugar. The view from the top was awesome, all over the city and Lake Ontario. We’ll post pictures when they’re ready for publication.

Chat with on google+ and twitter.

Zonked.

Little Felix, after a long day of playing.

Happiness is a slowly smoking smoker full of bacon.

Dinner time

New desks

Ian Graham, a new fisheye director, is getting his picture taken.

We’re shooting a bacon making video with Peter Sanagan. Fun way to start a Friday.

Building stand-up desks at the office.

Plumbing pipe and plywood. We’re building a bunch of stand-up desks for everybody. Total cost for 3 desks in various heights – each desk accommodates up to four people – came to under $500.00.

Google Sketchup

Google Sketchup is a 3D modelling program. It’s awesome.

I’ve started using it at work, to show clients what their booths at trade shows will look like, and at home, to plan out the Airstream reno.

It’s amazingly powerful, it’s easy to use and it’s free. What more can you ask for.

Should I buy a Blomberg Appliance?

If you’ve perhaps typed the above into google and as a result ended up here, and if you’re looking for more information on Blomberg appliances and if you might have chatted with a sales person who gave you the German Quality spiel and if you might still be a trifle undecided:

Don’t do it.

We got talked into buying a Blomberg Dishwasher and a Blomberg fridge and have regretted both purchases. The dishwasher is four years old and finally gave up the ghost for good. In these four years our kitchen got flooded twice, for reasons unknown, the cleaning has gotten progressively worse and worse, bits fell off the baskets, the seal deteriorated, etc, etc.

Yesterday, finally, the control panel stopped working, giving us an excuse to send it to the Big Heap of Garbage in the sky, where it belongs.

The fridge is still working but produces the most amazing amount of condensation, meaning water collects at the bottom and stuff freezes to the back of the fridge.

So, if you’re asking me, no I will never buy anything made by Blomberg, ever again.

From cottage to caravan

We used to own a beautiful old farmer’s cottage close to Lake Huron.

We sold it when we moved from a house with a tiny backyard, and no kids, to our current home with a yard full of trees and enough space for our newly aquired children to play. While beautiful, the cottage wasn’t close enough to water and maintaining it took just too much time.

The current answer to “where will we be spending our summers?” is this:

Yes, we’re looking into buying an Airstream trailer, then parking it close to a lake for the summer. Both my wife and myself are clamouring for a classic model, from the 1970′s or even older.

In constant rotation right now

So good!

USB cufflinks

I am way too proud of this project but come on – this is cool stuff.

A client of ours needed a leave behind for select high-value sales conversations. We came up with this idea: what if we’d create USB cufflinks, then load them with a self running presentation. Was it possible? Could we find components small enough? Could we get the tolerances right?

We talked to Made You Look, a jeweller in Parkdale, who decided to give it a go. Three weeks, many prototypes and much research later and these beautiful cufflinks saw the light of day.

And because I like to document the work we do, here’s how it all came together.

Our backyard used as location

Recently we used our backyard at home as the location for one of the Redpath Sugar recipe video we’re producing.

Baking on the BBQ; cupcakes baked in grapefruit. It was Anna’s first presenting job in front of a camera, she did really well.

The Little Free Library project

With the twins still needing pretty much full time attention, there isn’t much time at the moment for fun and games, but I’ve still managed to plan out the measurements for the Little Free Library I am planning to build.

A scrap piece of 3/4″ plywood in the garage will be put to good use. I’ll post pics of the build, when it finally happens.

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Fall clouds

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This was the sky tonight, from the No Frills parking lot. I know, I lead the most exciting of all lives.

With the recent cooler temperatures and the light turning golden, the first hint of fall is in the air.

A lifeline home

These big old satellite dishes used to stream TV from the Azores to the Portuguese immigrants in Toronto’s Little Portugal.

How to fit three kids under three into a Honda Odyssey

A bit of an off-topic post for this blog, but then again it’s been pretty free-wheeling recently so maybe this is just the logical extension.

Our family of three grew recently, with the addition of two lovely twin boys. Our little Mercedes B-Class wasn’t able to cope with three kids under the age of three, so we did the sensible thing and purchased a Honda Odyssey van. Off lease, at a great price.

I spent considerable time researching the best seating setup for three kids, all of whom need child seats. Iif you’re in the same position, here’s what works for us.

The Honda Odyssey has two anchor points for child seats on the third bench. We’ve got the twins back there, with space in the middle for mom or dad if required. We then removed one of the second row seats, creating easy access to the back.

Out two year old sits on the remaining seat in row two. It works extremely well. We have easy access to all kids and the seats slide in and our easily. If needed, putting the car back together takes all of two minutes.

Wood fired bread

Our backyard served as a location for a recipe shoot today – baking on the BBQ. Once the crew had left I fired the oven up once more for my own use. A spelt loaf with oats and flax.

I started baking bread three years ago. It’s easy to go down the geeky, takes-a-lifetime-to-master, rabbit hole with this, but for now I am happy that my personal bread mojo is good enough to churn out reliably awesome loafs based on Michael Ruhlman’s 5/3 ratio:

  • 500g flour – I use 250g King Arthur bread flour*, 50g oats and 200 whatever takes my fancy. Spelt, rye, Red Fife…
  • 300ml filtered water. Filtered because chlorine kills yeast.
  • 8g salt
  • 1tsp instant yeast (I used to own a sourdough starter, but with three kids under three in the house that was just one too many thing to keep alive)
  • 1tsp ascorbic acid (powdered vitamin C). This keeps the bread fresher longer, especially during the hot humid summer days here in Toronto, and the yeast loves it.

*expensive, especially with shipping to Canada, but worth every cent. 

The serenity of the lanes

Watching the soccer

Toronto, condo city

This week’s pictures

Monday Morning

Kensington

This weekend’s pictures


Queen Street West

Queen and Spadina, early Saturday morning

The Vision Grill – update

There’s a fair amount of traffic coming to my initial review of the Vision Grill; a Big Green Egg look-a-like, but considerably cheaper.

Having used the Vision now for a couple of weeks, it’s time for a quick update.

In a nutshell, we love it. I’ve used it to bake bread, I’ve used it to smoke pork shoulder for pulled pork tacos and we’ve used it as a straight-up BBQ. It’s been performing flawlessly. It holds a low heat for ten hours at a time, it goes up to 700C without even trying and it stays warm for hours, ideal for slow cooked stews.

If you’re thinking of buying one, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

How to make Turkish tea

We drink a lot of tea, at home and at work. Some years ago, my wife and I took the tea sommelier course at George Brown Culinary College, I’ve been geeking out about tea ever since.

My everyday teas tend to be Oolongs, with perhaps a white tea thrown in on a sunny Sunday morning.

At least, until recently.

Three years ago, my good friend David met a Turkish girl. Things clicked, David ended up living in Turkey for a year and now the two of them are back in Toronto, happily married. An ex-chef, David is busy exploring Turkish culinary traditions. Last weekeend, this led to a number of friends sitting in his backyard, devouring a Turkish style brunch.

At this brunch, David served tea, from a two tier teapot. A smaller pot at the top contained a strong tea concentrate, the bigger pot at the bottom hot water. Pour some concentrate into the traditional glass, then dilute to taste.

Lena, David’s wife, told me that the tea concentrate gets to steep for up to 15 minutes before it is ready. This of course went against everything I had learned about tea.

In the Chinese tradition, white teas can steep for as little as 30 seconds, Oolongs rarely longer than 90 seconds and even red tea, what we in the west call black tea, rarely steeps for longer than two minutes. Steeping any tea for 15 minutes was bound to create a bitter, tannin laden brew. Or so I thought.

The reality was that the tea David served was delicate, floral and light. Lena suggested adding a single small mint leaf, a little bit of sugar, which took an already wonderful drink and made it even better. I had to learn more.

Later that week I made my way to the Marche Istanbul, a small Turkish store in North York that came with a bunch of good Yelp reviews. The owner had been in business in Montreal for over 20 years, then decided to open an additional store in Toronto.

I walked out laden with olives, cheeses, sesame encrusted bread, a traditional two tier teapot and a package of tea grown in Northern Turkey, at the Black Sea.

The preparation is intriguing. Fill the bottom pot with water. Add two tablespoons of tea to the top pot, and just moisten the tea with a little water. Put the top pot on top of the bottom pot, then put them both on the stove. The water in the bottom pot will boil, gently heating the tea in the top pot, steaming the leaves open.

This I believe is the reason the tea doesn’t get bitter – the steeping happens at a relatively low temperature. When the water in the bottom pot has boiled, take the pots of the heat and wait for 60 seconds. Fill the top pot with hot water, refill the bottom pot with cold, fresh water and put back on the flame – but make sure to keep the flame low to avoid boiling the tea.

After 10 to 15 minutes the tea leaves in the top pot will have sunk to the bottom, indicating that the tea is ready to be drunk. Dilute to taste with hot water, add sugar to taste, and enjoy.

I finally found my lovely Ricoh GR Digital II again – after looking for it for over two years. Somehow it had made its way into the basement, on top of a cabinet.

My favourite street photography camera. There’s faster and better out there by now, but I still love the original. I use this camera exclusively to shoot square format b/w.

First test run of the Vision Grill

Today I took my new Canadian Tire bought, Big Green Egg inspired but for half the money, Vision Grill for a first test smoke. I had picked up a nice piece of pork shoulder from Peter Sanagan’s Meat Locker, which got a rub with a mix of coriander, smoked paprika and chipotle powder.

I mixed wet wood chips with the charcoal, covered the bottom of the firebowl evenly, then lit one side. I set the air in and outlets to the suggested values and within 10 minutes the grill had reached about 230º. Which it them proceeded to hold, on the same load of charcoal, for nine hours.

The resulting pulled pork was awesome; moist, smoky and tender. I served it with Joe Beef’s Redneck BBQ Sauce – Coca Cola, Ketchup and instant coffee, which was pretty awesome.

More Polaroid Blue

Polaroid Blue, transfered on a paper napkin. Shot this morning at The Mascot, my local coffee shop.

Polaroid Blue

Shot with an old Polaroid 100, which admittedly doesn’t focus on anything closer than 10ft. Ever. But who cares, I was after shapes and colour.

The fisheye analog photo contest

Part of the let’s-upgrade-our-photo-skills mission we’ve got going at work is a competition. Everybody gets handed a Pentax K1000 and a roll of Ilford HP5. People have one week to shoot 36 images that need to be connected by a theme.

I walk to work whenever possible, a pleasant 30 minute stroll down Queen West and through Trinity Bellwood Park, which will be my theme for my entries.

Battery adapter for the Yashica Electro 35

Got this from the Yashica Guy, for an utterly reasonable $17.00, including a fresh battery. Awesome. This means I can use the Electro 35 with a modern battery.

A whole lotta film

The second Pentax K1000 arrived today, together with an order of Ilford HP5 Plus 400 black and white film. This means I am all ready to start the photo contest at work.

If you’re after a Pentax yourself, I purchased mine on ebay, for just over $100 a pop, in close to mint condition.

Eat your books – genius idea

This is a fantastic idea. Like many of my foodie friends I own a large library of cookery and recipe books. A library I don’t have access to when I am out and about, or shopping for ingredients.

Enter Eat your Books, an online database that makes the recipe books you own searchable, wherever you happen to be.

Try it out with five free books, if you see value in it then upgrade to the unlimited plan for $25.00/year.

Awesome

I so need one of these.

Nice little image presentation

Just had lunch with my wife in a new pizza place on Queen West and saw this. Nicely presented, with just a hint of varnish. The pizza was good too.

Look what the postman just delivered


Five packs of Polaroid Type 100 Blue, courtesy of the Impossible Project, via the Camera Store in Calgary.

I just had to try a quick transfer, despite having neither a timer at hand, nor the right kind of paper. This is the result.

I’ve got a feeling this is going to be good!

The Sisters Brothers

If you’re looking for something to read in these quiet days between Christmas and the new year, the Sisters Brothers has me utterly captivated.

Violent, bleak yet laugh-out-loud funny at the same time, the book takes the reader into the head of a hired killer in the American West of the 19th century.

As he journeys with his brother, and even more violent partner in crime, from Portland to California, where the next hit awaits, he begins to question his life, his destiny and his attitude towards dental hygiene in equal measure.

Polaroid transfers with Fuji FP-100C instant film

I’ve been experimenting with creating transfers, using Fuji instant film. Where the original, and discontinued, Polaroid film needed wet watercolour paper, the Fuji FP-100C works best on dry, absorbent print making paper. I am currently trying out different papers and settings, to see what works best.

So far my best results were achieved with a 90 second development time, with the transfer done out of direct light on Arches 88 paper.

No face? No problem!

Saw this in the window of an old Portuguese photo studio on my walk to work and thought it was pretty awesome. Sounds like a line out of a zombie movie.

Picking up a bunch of Pentax K-1000 cameras

Everybody I know, of my generation, who went to art school learned their photographic ropes using a battered and student-abused Pentax K-1000. The K-1000 was the undisputed workhorse of the photographic world, so successful that Pentax only discontinued the model in 1997.

I just bought two of them, in great condition, with the stock f/2.0 50mm lens. What struck me immediately is just how heavy and well built these cameras are. The shutter clacks with the same satisfying solidity the door on a Mercedes Benz closes, everything is precise…and mechanical. The only electronic part is the light meter, returning an evaluative average of the entire frame. In other words, in order to use one of them you need to know your stuff.

I’ll be using them to teach our team at work how cameras actually work, how light behaves when it travels through a lens and meets a light sensitive surface, be that film or an electronic sensor.

Right now people are relying far too much on machine intelligence for my liking. Time to use a camera that doesn’t have a “scene” setting, facial recognition or anything auto at all and start by understanding the basics. Nobody has ever become a great photographer by relying on the auto setting.

New, old, Yashica Electro 35 GSN Rangefinder

Picked up this lovely little Yashica with a sweet f/1.7 lens in mint condition. Matt Denton has this to say.

These cameras sell for about $100.00 on ebay, depending on condition. Because so many were made, they also make frequent appearances at yard-sales or even at charity stores. Well worth picking one up if you get a chance, they won’t be this cheap forever.

Goose Decoy

Nice typography on this bag, found at a rummage sale. My wife is planning to make a cushion out of it.

Seen in a local shop window

These guys are renovating and have covered the window with hand drawn vintage ads on brown paper. Sweet.

Beet painting

Parchment paper, after roasting beets. Looks like an expressionist painting of poppies to me.

Paper food wrapper at the Grand Electric

An awesome taco wrapper, from the Grand Electric in Parkdale.

At the coffee shop with the offspring

Hand lettering in the neighborhood

Hand lettered store signs are making a comeback in Parkdale, the neighbourhood of Toronto I live in. It started with a vintage clothing store, now everybody from coffee shops to restaurants are following the trend.

All I want for Christmas is a download code

Here’s a confession: I’ve always hated music CDs. Not for some imagined sound quality issue, I just don’t like the way they look. They try and mimic the design of a traditional vinyl album, but always without success. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever cracked the challenge to create a CD design that breaks truly new ground.

So when mp3 players first came out, I jumped ship immediately. CDs were banished to the basement and 90% of the time the music I listened to lived as a file on a drive. But I always kept my records and when I had time to truly listen to music, it was almost always done on the turntable. Even though it looked at the time that vinyl was finally dead.

Then something amazing happened. Bands started to release albums as records again, in heavy duty vinyl that sounded fantastic. Even more amazingly, they started to include a download code to the digital file with the record. Now I had access to a beautifully designed analogue copy and the convenience of a digital file for my iPod. Heaven.

Sadly, this model hasn’t translated into books. I am an avid reader and I love having all my books with me on my iPad. I use the Kindle, Kobo and iBooks apps with equal enthusiasm. But I still love books, real books, made from paper. I love standing in front of our bookshelves, deciding on a book to read for the evening. Come next year, we’ll be remodelling one room in our house to be a library. Empty shelves with an Pad or Kindle on display just aren’t the same.

Today, if I want to own both a paper and an electronic copy of a book, to read while travelling, commuting, waiting in line, I have to pay twice, something very few people are prepared to do. I get that the publishing industry needs to make a profit, but I don’t get why for a nominal extra payment, say $1.00, I can’t download an electronic copy of a book when buying the paper version. The ebook version exists anyway, and this would create easy extra income for the publishers.

I am Andreas Duess.


In my professional life, I am one of the principals and chief creative at the fisheye corporation in Toronto, Canada. I also serve as a board director for Volunteer Toronto.


This is my personal blog.


I am interested in many things; cooking, photography, vintage Airstreams, behavioural psychology to name but a few. As a result, this site can be pretty freewheeling at times.