Movin’ Out.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?

It’s been a long time!

I don’t mean to be a pain, but I’ve relocated! Everything from Little Black Book can now be found at Miranda Writes. Please update your bookmarks and Google Reader subscriptions.

I’m still in the process of reorganizing everything over there, but at least there’s something going on.

Thank you for reading and see you at Miranda Writes!

Miranda

An Ode to Ottawa

I’ve left Ottawa indefinitely. School’s finished and there’s no reason to return in September unless a job presents itself. But after four years at school, I’ve grown accustomed to living in the Capital. It’s set in that I won’t be back there for a while, apart from my visit for graduation.

Here is a list of things in Ottawa I will truly miss.

Not out the kitchen window, but still facing down the hill, in the same direction.

Not out the kitchen window, but still facing down the hill, in the same direction.

Sunsets from my kitchen window: I’m convinced Ottawa has the best sunsets. Probably not the best, but I really can’t feature a sunset prettier than those I’ve seen from my apartment’s kitchen window at Bank and Heron. The window faces West, and, being on a bit of an incline, we have the perfect vantage point for the evening show. Also, it helps that there aren’t a lot of tall buildings in Ottawa. Being from Toronto, I always refer to Ottawa as a “short” city – well there’s a benefit to that: being able to see the sky!

Bridgehead Coffee Co.: Specifically, I loved the location that used to be at Bank and Third. Glebe residents will mourn the loss of the old computer nook when the company opted for a brand-spanking brighter spot at Bank and Gilmour. Still, the ambiance of the Bridgehead chain has no equal in Toronto or otherwise. Great tunes, but not too disruptive. Delicious coffee and a fridge-full of delicious snacks, sandwiches and salads. Oh, and the tomato soup is top-notch. Bridgehead, food-wise, is miles ahead of any other coffee chain. The seating is cozy, there’s free wi-fi, and the staff don’t care if you sit there for hours. Many an essay has been written here, my friends. There’s just this warm feeling in Bridgehead that you can’t get from a Second Cup, Timothy’s, or that mammoth mermaid herself, Starbucks.

The ducks under the bridge at Riverside and Bank: These are the bravest ducks I have ever seen! Every winter they’re camped out on the ice, burrowing their beaks in their back feathers. They’re really quite the crowd. The group’s most fearless members wiggle down into the water and go fishing in -30 below. Honourable mention to any Good Samaritan who scatters crumbs for them in the nearby park.

Nicastro’s amazing sandwiches: For about $3.50 you can get a big sandwich stacked with delicious sliced meats (from mild to spicy), lettuce, tomato and other pickled condiments like roasted red peppers. My favourite topping is the spicy eggplant.

Irene Parlby, that's a little inappropriate.

Irene Parlby, that's a little inappropriate.

Parliament: Every time I pass by the buildings I remember how far away from home I am. I think to myself, “Wow, I live in Ottawa, our nation’s capital,” and I feel so far removed from Toronto. I feel like Ottawa is this little tucked-away place, the control centre for the machine. I don’t know if that’s a good thing exactly, but I just have this refreshing, awakening moment every time I see the flag flying atop the Peace Tower. Also, there are many memories of times when friends and I have assaulted the various statues.

Shoppers Drug Mart at Bank and Heron: The saving grace of my neighbourhood came in my last year at school! My neighbourhood is not neighbourhoodly. Albeit there are a couple great restaurants and a Tim Hortons around the corner, nothing is quite as convenient as an open-til-midnight Shoppers. Well, maybe a 24/7 Shoppers. Some pleasant memories include cheap milk; late-night, pre-nightclub makeovers; awesome sales on food (99-cent litres of chocolate milk); when one is sick, one need but crawl to Shoppers to have a prescription filled; and its plethora of snacking delights for schlubby sweatpant roommate movie nights.

How Friendly the People Are: Say what you want about Ottawa, but the people are friendly! An example: I have worked at independently-owned toy stores in both Toronto and Ottawa.

In Toronto, the customer is always right. It’s their way or the highway. If they knock something over, they breeze past and expect you to clean it up. If they’re not happy with their giftwrapping, they’ll tear the package open, expecting you to start again.

In Ottawa, customers are kind and apologetic. If they bump into something, it’s “I’m so sorry. Here, let me help you.” If they don’t like the way you giftwrapped something, they’ll say “No, it’s my fault. I should have been more specific with what I wanted.”

They are also much nicer when it comes to public transit. They say thank-you to the bus drivers. However, people in Ottawa are a little too respectful of personal space. Learn how to squish on buses, people! But still, kudos to these friendly folk.

1000 Sushi Islands: Never having done the all-you-can-eat sushi thing before, 1000 islands was such a fun experience. The perfect way to have a long chat: over endless food! For a flat price, you order sushi by the piece off an extensive menu. It’s a great way to try stuff you might be a little squeamish about. I am not usually a seafood person, though by trying a little of this and a little of that, I got used to (and enjoyed) fishy stuff like spicy tuna rolls and Nigiri sushi. The restaurant appeared to have no seating time limit and the dining room featured cozy booths by the windows.

And some hot spots:

Barrymore’s: Music? Meh. Theme nights? Cool. Layout? Siiiiick. This place used to be a movie theatre, so the interior is a steep, terraced auditorium. The bouncers are really strict with stumbling girls in 4-inch heels, as the many flights of stairs don’t make walking drunk easy.

Helsinki: Generally speaking, I’m not into the nightclub scene, but this is a rare gem! It has the look and feel of a modern, flashy club, but it’s so small so it still feels intimate. I’ve had several boogie-downs here – definitely worth checking out if you’re in town.

Zaphod Beeblebrox: I didn’t really get into Zaphod’s until the end, but as soon as I did, the fiesta of Gargleblasters and flashing lights made me happily delirious.

Babylon: Oh, sweaty, dirty, grimy Babylon! Babs is probably my favourite place to go out in Ottawa. I love that there’s a lot going on here. Seating if you want to chill and have a beer, a big, bad dancefloor and some sweet tunes and even pool and foosball! Best nights are Sunday (for the Mod Club Dance Party) and the first Friday of every month for Disorganized.

So those are some things on my list – what are some things you like about Ottawa? Which places have I missed?

Clutching forks and knives…

Frances Boehmer is not one to mess with. A former waitress at the Ritz 3, she hoped to one day own the restaurant, but her boss sneered, “When pigs fly.”

Ten years ago, the pigs spread their wings for Boehmer. Her restaurant, Flying Piggy’s Bistro Italiano is a diamond in the rough of Ottawa South, serving up fresh homemade pasta and other Italian favourites.

Fettuccine con scallops con basil

Fettuccine con scallops con basil

Nestled at Bank Street and Heron Road, Piggy’s looks like a weather-worn cabin, unworthy of attention. Yet the parking lot is always full – there is more here than meets the eye.

On a Thursday evening, the cozy restaurant is busy, but not full. A long table hosts a party of retirees, and there are a few couples seated at tables-for-two. Piggy’s has its fair share of regular customers, and reservations are recommended. The dining room, which holds about 40 people, is packed for lunches and weekends.

The dining room, awash in cheery orange paint, is dotted with pig knickknacks – a piggy mobile, pig holiday ornaments, even speckled hogs stare up from placemats. Handwritten chalkboards announce the specials, and soft jazz music plays below the hum of dinner conversation.

The menu is varied, but concise. Generous appetizers don’t disappoint. Springy mixed greens, artichoke hearts and button mushrooms are tossed in a creamy basil aioli, and topped with slender sprouts ($8.00). Chicken satay seems a long way from Thailand, but tender skewered morsels arrive alongside asian-style slaw and peanut sauce with a zing of heat ($11.00).

Service is friendly, familiar and no-nonsense. There’s no snooty flourish here, it’s like having your favourite uncle serve you dinner. For mains, our server recommends the full portion of pasta over the half size. At a few dollars more, he points out it’s a better value.

The Flighty Boar

The Flighty Boar

The Flighty Boar’s crispy prosciutto and sauteed mushrooms lend their smoky flavour to a bed of elastic homemade fettuccine in a slick of white wine and cream ($15.00). A seafood pasta dish ($17.50) overflows with shrimp, mussels and scallops, tossed in a perfect marinara sauce  – not too sweet or acidic. Silky noodles in a cream sauce flecked with basil are just the right nesting spot for succulent scallops ($17.50).

Sundried tomato pesto noodles with pear and ewe's milk cheese

Sundried tomato pesto noodles with pear and ewe's milk cheese

The menu specials are equally tempting. Ripe pears add unexpected sweetness to short twisted noodles in sundried tomato pesto with rapini and ewe’s milk cheese. A large rib eye steak is perched atop turnips and other tender vegetables, drizzled with a reduction of currants and gin. The sauce is slightly overpowering, but well matched with the steak, which can hold its own.

A full dessert menu is a pleasant surprise, as all sweets are made on-site.
One misstep though is the crème brulée special. While Piggys’ chocolate-fig anise crème is a brave flavour combination, the dish falls flat. A good helping of the dark brown crème could use a little more brulée, and while the fig chunks are a treat, the chocolate weighs it down. The flavours are a delight, but the dish is better described as a rich mousse.

A luscious chocolate cheesecake with a walnut cookie crust hits the right balance between dense and fluffy, and the slight orange scent makes it a refreshing end to the meal.

Flying Piggy’s is fine rustic Italian cooking at its best, served in a warm, casual atmosphere. It’s a rare gem of a spot, and for Boehmer, those little oinkers are soaring to great heights.

Carpooling Safety on Living in Ottawa

As some of you know, I did an apprenticeship at the CBC in late January. It was a great experience – everyone was really helpful and friendly and I learned a lot.

I went out on shoots (roller derby, curling, and Ultimate), helped around the office, and did research for upcoming segments.

I also researched and produced a segment about carpool safety. It’s a videographer piece, which was exciting to do because at school I’ve been used to working with a group. For this, I had to do my own camerawork and everything! Well not quite everything, I did get some much welcomed help from our editor, Sebastien.

So, without further ado, the item!! The link to the item is posted below. It’s an interesting episode, but if you don’t have time for the whole thing, the piece is 10:40 in.

Enjoy!

Watch Living in Ottawa

Condiments and Ice Cream: A Theory

You’re at a barbeque. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, you’re wearing your favourite flip flops and there’s a cooler full of your favourite beer.

The host tosses you a hot dog, hamburger, or veggie alternative of your choice.

Best Buddies!

Best Buddies!

You sidle up to the condiments, but obviously party planning isn’t the host’s strong point – they are only offering two condiments, ketchup and mustard. For some reason, you can only pick one to dress your weenie or burg. Choose your favourite. Don’t ask why. The cosmos will be thrown out of whack unless you select just one condiment.

What did you choose?

You eat and the meal is delicious. Now your host is serving up ice cream cones, but they’re running a tight budget and the only flavours are vanilla and chocolate. Like before, for some untold reason you can only choose one.

What did you choose?

Chocaholic, anyone?

Chocaholic, anyone?

Now, the theory:

I believe that those who choose ketchup probably also chose vanilla ice cream. Ketchup-Vanilla people are classic. They are often picky or unadventurous eaters. Cheetos or Regular chips were probably a favourite snack as a child. They are probably shy. They are level-headed, kind, and emotionally, they run on an even keel.

I believe those who choose mustard also chose chocolate ice cream. Mustard-Chocolate people are generally unruly. They are adventurous eaters, and usually enjoy spicy or sour foods. By nature they are extroverted, boisterous and pretty in-your-face.

Of course, there are those anomalies that mix and match outside the theory’s parameters. These people tend to strike a balance between the two categories – perhaps the ketchup lover in them makes them a picky eater, but the chocolate ice cream streak makes them a social butterfly.

Note: These patterns don’t hold true for everyone, but they are fairly accurate. These are my unscientific findings after several years’ investigation and results. Like any theory, there are exceptions to the rule.

Try this theory on your friends and see where they fit in. Does the theory hold any merit or am I just making wild assumptions?

Necessary Necessities

Canadian cinema has long dealt with themes of isolation and colliding cultures, but rarely does a film capture these with such simple beauty as The Necessities of Life. Set in 1952, Benoît Pilon’s film explores an Inuit man’s profound culture shock as he’s plucked from his homeland.

Necessities tells the story of Tivii (Natar Ungalaaq), an Inuit hunter stricken with tuberculosis. When he is admitted to a Quebec City hospital for long-term treatment, Tivii struggles with the separation from his family and his home. Though comforted by a caring nurse Carole (Eveline Gelinas) and an earnest friend, Joseph (Vincent-Guillaume Otis), Tivii is subject to ridicule and insensitivity from the other patients. Although he develops some friendships, Tivii is desperately homesick for Baffin Island, a land he claims has everything one could ever need, and as the film’s title suggests, all the necessities of life.

Best known for his francophone documentaries, Pilon has selected a fine cast and Ungalaaq is a compelling lead. His quiet composure and even voice is magnetic. Though his eyes are often still, they convey subtle emotions with ease. A carver by trade, Ungalaaq puts his talents to good use, constructing intricate wooden mementos from his homeland. Gelinas’ nurse Carole is patient and understanding as she tends to Tivii, though she’s not afraid to be firm. One bright cast member is Paul-André Brasseur, who plays Kaki, an Inuit boy invited to translate for Tivii and help him adjust to his surroundings. Brasseur’s Kaki is young and innocent yet also shows maturity. Although he’s also a patient confined to the hospital, Kaki knows how the world works.

Bernard Émond’s screenplay is elegant. The dialogue is clear and short – every word is necessary. The film highlights themes of intolerance and staying true to heritage, but Émond doesn’t thrust these at the audience, instead they subtly emerge. One minor flaw is that the translation blurs the characters’ use of both French and Inuktitut languages. Sharing these languages are key moments in the film, yet the significance is lost on English audiences.

The cinematography captured the lonely mood of the piece. Lingering shots of Tivii walking alone show his isolation, and some handheld camerawork added movement and interest in the hospital scenes.

Pilon and his team create a beautiful soundscape for the film. Chilling silence and natural sound mark Tivii’s arctic home (to which he travels in his dreams and imagination). Blaring boat horns and other abrasive noise helps the audience understand Tivii’s shock and frustration with the white man’s world. A constant element in the film is the use of breath and coughing to distinguish between Tivii’s home and the hospital, while deep string music rounds out the soundtrack.

The Necessities of Life is a beautiful homegrown film that entertains, yet also pays homage to our culture. Necessities shows that sometimes simplicity is best, and that films don’t have to be flashy to make an impact. As Canadians, it’s a work to be proud of.

Books to sink your teeth into

I love food. Always have, always will. The most memorable moments from my childhood involve food. Making mud pies at the beach, playing house with plastic food, making “salsa” and peppery carrot soup… just to name a few.

It’s no coincidence my favourite books as a kid have some foodie element to them. Let’s discuss.

Teddy Rabbit by Kathy Stinson

Teddy Rabbit

Teddy Rabbit

A book about Tony, a little boy from Toronto who’s going to the Teddy Bears’ Picnic at Centre Island. But Tony’s worried – he doesn’t have a real teddy  – his favourite toy is a plush Rabbit. It’s okay though, the kids’ “Teddies” are all kinds of animals, and Tony and Rabbit are welcome to join the picnic.

Yum Yum: Tony’s mom packs carrots in a paper bag for the picnic. The kids and Teddy animals eat sandwiches, cookies, berries with honey, tinned tuna and carrots. Stéphane Poulin’s artwork is drool-worthy.

Fish Fry by Susan Saunders

Edith goes to a fish fry picnic on a Texas forest riverbank with her family. There, she and gangly Eugene Greene meet an unwelcome reptilian visitor.

Yum Yum: Cookies, cakes, pies, and huge jars of pickles. Butter beans, potato salad, hush puppies, deviled eggs, fried catfish and watermelon cooling in the river. S.D. Schindler’s detailed illustrations make me hungry.

Too Many Babas by Carolyn Croll

Too Many Babas

Too Many Babas

A group of Russian grandmothers all want a hand in Baba Edis’ soup. In this story, too many cooks is not a good thing!

Yum Yum: Their first pot of soup is too garlicky, peppery and salty. When the Babas delegate and organize tasks, their cabbage, potato, bean and carrot soup is delish! My 1979 edition’s sepia illustrations lack pizazz, but the updated version has colourful folk art.

Chicken Soup With Rice by Maurice Sendak

Chicken Soup With Rice

Chicken Soup With Rice

This rhyming book of months is a delight! I enjoyed my birth month most of all:

“In May I truly think it best to be a robin lightly dressed concocting soup inside my nest. Mix it once, mix it twice, mix that chicken soup with rice.”

– Sendak

My copy is well-loved, and taped up.

Yum Yum: Chicken soup with rice, all the time! Sendak’s illustrations set the tone for the month, but always incorporate the book’s namesake.

A Difficult Day by Eugenie Fernandes

A Difficult Day

A Difficult Day

Melinda has crumbs in her bed, she can’t sleep well, a nasty boy punches her in gym class, and she’s rude to her Mom. On the whole, it’s a rough day.

Yum Yum: At bathtime Melinda feels like a noodle in a beautifully illustrated bowl of chicken soup. Later, she and her sympathetic Mom share chocolate chip cookies under the bed.

And let’s not forget my favourite of the bunch…

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban

Bread and Jam for Frances

Bread and Jam for Frances

Frances is a fussy yet lovable badger.  She soon grows tired of her favourite food and yearns to spice things up! This book reminds me of my childhood bread and jam infatuation  – every day for breakfast – bread cut in half, both cut sides facing me.

Yum Yum: Spaghetti and meatballs, veal cutlets and elaborate packed lunches complete with hardboiled eggs, a pickle and a cardboard salt shaker. Lillian Hoban’s simply-coloured illustrations don’t skimp on detail.

So many mouth-watering reads! What were your favourite books as a child?