A Surfeit of Croissants

The Sandy Food Chronicles

I’m learning how to make breads at the George Brown culinary school.  Last week’s class was French croissants.  It was my introduction to laminated breads i.e. breads made with layers and layers of butter.

Through a series of missteps and happenstance I ended up making over six kilos of dough.

If you’re familiar with the lamination process, you will appreciate the magnitude of  that effort. Suffice to say it took twelve hours of kneading, rolling and folding to produce these three batches of dough.

I cut and baked the first batch at school. This first set I called my ‘learning batch’. They were less than perfect.  I’d cut them too big, shaped them wrong and had not left enough time for proofing. While they tasted ok, there was obvious room for improvement. I took the remaining batches home for practice.

Learning Batch of Croissants Croissants – First attempt – the Learning Batch 

Two batches (4…

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Gurushots Addiction

I may be addicted.

Lately I’ve been spending too much time huddled over my phone, checking status, entering challenges, voting and topping up my exposures. I’ve been playing Gurushots, a real-time online photo competition system.

It works by entering challenges and accumulating votes to achieve levels. The levels tip to points and the points tip to ranks. The more you vote, the more exposure your photo entries get for voting.  There is no limit to the number of challenges you can enter.  And that’s a problem.

At one point I had ten challenges going.   I was constantly checking on my exposure meter and submitting votes to bump it up.  Problem is that voting involves paging through hundreds of photos, some good, some not so good and some downright puzzling.   It all depends on the wording of the challenge. Sometimes, the guidance is too vague.

Take for instance the “Starts with a K” challenge.  The description was too vague.  It should have qualified the language.   I paged through hundreds thousands of Kittens, Keys and Kiwis.  (Question: How many interesting angles are there to a Kiwi? Answer: None. I’ve seen them all.) But then I started seeing Cakes, Coffee and Corn. Someone couldn’t spell. Wait … maybe they could spell but it was in German. Kuchen, Kaffee and Korn.

Another fun challenge was “Face in the Crowd”.   There were lots of pictures of crowds but no distinctive single face.  Other pictures were classic single person portraits; you had to imagine the crowd. One remarkable shot was taken on stage, of the back of a band performing to a crowd. No faces seen but they were facing the crowd. Ha ha!  That one got my vote.

Anyways here are a few of my photos in recent Gurushot challenges.

Toronto, Canada.  2018

via Daily Prompt: Vague

Sartorial Inequality

I suppose I should be more concerned with grander things.  Trump-o-mania. Plunging stock index. Escalating Syrian-Israeli-Iran crisis. North Korean everything.

But the thing I’d like to know is … how come Boris Pasternak ca 1920 looks like a LLBean model in 2018?

Consider the same of Virginia Woolf ca 1923.

Is there no justice in fashion evolution through the ages?  While men continue to wear the same old cable knit and trousers will women’s fashion constantly re-invent itself?

And really, will there ever be a time when floppy hats and lace curtains become stylish  again?

Oh … and if you’re keen on last week’s Lit Hub, click here.

California Jerk

The Sandy Food Chronicles

Google Jerk

This is a photo my daughter sent to me.  Here’s the chat* session we had. 

Hi Mom! This is what the cafe at work made for lunch today.

It looks like Rice & Peas ?

It’s Jamaican Rice & Peas with Jerk Chicken.

It don’t look like Jerk Chicken

The Rice & Peas was so-so and the chicken tasted

It looks like Curry Chicken

of  curry

But there’s no Curry in Jerk.
There’s no potatoes and gravy in Jerk.
All Jerk spices are black !

It didn’t taste of home at all

You should protest this

I can give them feedback

It is cultural misappropriation
of an iconic Jamaican dish.

Mom I have like
WORK to do

It’s OK dear.
You can come home and
I’ll make you real Jerk chicken

Thanks Mom!


(*) or something like it … same as much as this Californian style Jerk.

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Photo Challenge: 2017 Favorites


It’s that time of year when we look back and think about the past twelve months.  Things done. Lessons learned.  It’s  good to look back and wonder.    For isn’t that what makes everything worthwhile? The wonder.

For my 2017 Favorite, I chose a photo which represented the start of doing something different. I started to capture visual stories.

Previously I’d been focused on taking one shot photos of people and scenes.  Single, opportunistic shots which captured the essence of a place or a person.  With my Bagan Monks collection, I aimed for a sequence of shots to document an important part of their  day: collecting alms.   To make the photo’s interesting, I used a combination of  angles and crops.   Individually, the photos were o.k but collectively they gave context and intimacy to the ritual.


Of course, I still take one-shot photos.  But sometimes I think ahead and plan out multiple frames in a story. The shoots then become more anecdotal and less opportunistic.  It’s a different way of approaching photography.

The Daily Post  Photo Challenge: 2017 Favorites

Photos taken in Myanmar, 2017

Two Minute Action Movie

It’s that time of year where in my old job, we’d give our team of engineers the day off to watch the latest block-buster action movie.

Nothing says the holidays like a good guy-bad guys shoot-up with gratuitous high speed car chase.

A large bag of hot buttered popcorn and an over-sized liter of soda-no-ice.

What more could anyone want?!

Times have changed and I don’t do that anymore.

I’m not even sure if they do that anymore.

However, in the spirit of the season – here’s a two minute respite from whatever drama is going on.

It’s an old favorite of mine.   Enjoy!

Snippets of my Son

snip·pet (noun) 
  • a small piece or brief extract
  • e.g. “snippets of conversations with my son”

I’ve been away travelling for the last six weeks and it was the first week-end back. I made a big Sunday dinner so that Daniel, my son would come home to visit.

My boy is going to be twenty two soon. It’s his final year in Engineering but it’s still hard to think of him grown up and living on his own. Well, not on his own exactly. He’s sharing an apartment with three other boys young men, all engineers.

“So what’s new Daniel? How’s it working out with your house mates?”

“It’s fine,” he said.

“No more eating their food?” I said, referring to the first week when he’d unceremoniously opened and cooked food from someone else’s stash. He’d said the food had been sitting there untouched for days. Shortly after, house rules were clarified in an impromptu meeting.

“It’s fine,” he said.

“How’s the house keeping going?” I said, dusting out a memory from my own university days. I vaguely remembered a fall out, something to do with the shower and hair.

“Aah. Sometimes I get fed up and just do it,” he said.

I am stunned. Daniel, getting fed up with mess and cleaning up. My son. Where did he go?

“Yeah. I’m the only one who doesn’t eat onions but there’s always bits and pieces of onion peel all over the kitchen. I wear socks and it was gross. I had to clean it up.”

I am so impressed. My boy is growing up.

“But then I realized I was the only one not wearing slippers. So I got some slippers and I don’t do that anymore.”

Hello. There he is. My son.

Toronto, Canada. 2017


Travel Planners and Pantsers

My mobile phone lights up and vibrates with a new text message.

“Packed and ready for you trip?”

Putting my paperback aside, I painstakingly thumb back

“Not yet. I’ll start tomorrow.”

“Aren’t you leaving tomorrow?”

How does she do that? Type so quickly, almost instantaneously. But we’ve had this conversation before. Maybe she has the text on instant recall. My phone doesn’t have this feature and so I slowly tap out my reply, backspacing and re-tapping my typos.

“Not until aftrtoon pm. ill pack in am.”

My friend and I are two different beings when preparing for a trip. She’s a Planner. I’m a Pantser.

A Planner is someone who researches and maps out every detail of a trip. They consider each aspect of their journey and etch out an itinerary with all hours spec’d out. They know the place’s history, the must have foods and must do activities. They pack their luggage three days ahead of time.

A Pantser packs three hours before departure.

OK. OK. Maybe I do myself discredit. I do have some short-cuts in preparing for a trip. I have a checklist of things I must pack and stuff I must do. I build on that list, incorporating corrections to mistakes from prior trips.

Mistakes like forgetting essentials, like reading glasses, toothbrush and toothpaste or preferred conveniences like full-sized bars of soap (to circumvent those evil slivers of hand soap and un-lather-able shower gel.) I pack first aid items of antiseptic wipes, antibiotic cream and miniature sewing kits. I have ziploc bags pre-filled with un-mime-able-in-an-emergency supplies of feminine product, antacid and Imodium. I also have a list of clothes (clean or near so) that I can throw into the suitcase just before leaving.

It helps that I know enough to not pack for activities that will never occur. I don’t pack for cruise ships and dinner theater. I don’t need strappy sandals, beady handbags or high heels.

I do pack hiking shoes, dark glasses and cotton scarves. Hiking shoes because it’s always hot, dusty or muddy. Dark glasses because traveling in an open tuk tuk is the surest way to get dirt in your eyes. Cotton scarves because they work as sunscreen, gear cleaner and ground cover for outdoor photo shoots.

I always bring a small purse to hold local currency. Something small enough to hold a room key, a take-me-home card and change for bottled water. I also scribble down the value of each bill note and sort them into bundles according to denomination.

Hmm. That last bit sounds almost anal retentive. Very un-pantser-like. Buu-uth …

I never adequately prepare for the places I’m about to visit. I used to buy travel books and pour over the glossy pictures and hi-lights. I used to tote these volumes on the trip, adding unconscionable poundage to my carry-on. But then I realized that I never actually read them. That anything listed was assuredly included in bus tours. Tourist expeditions for which I would assuredly never sign up. Not since that first time on the Yellow River Dam, where I was held captive in a tour bus and tortured with details of dam construction, shouted through a tinny megaphone in loud and incoherent Chinese.

Instead I do research after the fact, when I look at my pictures and review my trip notes. I look for the reasons why the Padaung women wear neck rings and why there’re so many refugees on the Thai borders. I read up on the Vietnam war and why my Hanoi Kids city guide had such a different view from my Saigon photo guide. I research the White Buildings of Phnom Penh and the withered ideals of Le Corbusier’s Utopian city.

Maybe in the process of not planning the trips, I miss the big ticket tourist items. Like The Grand Palace of Bangkok or the gilded Schwedagon Pagoda of Yangon. I miss the crowds and the press of tourists clambering for two fingered selfies.

No. I miss it not.

My mobile shudders again with a new message.

“Did you remember to get your visa?”

Aiyo! I forgot to check my checklist two weeks ahead of time.

I slowly tap out  “Visa requirements for …”

Singapore. June 2017