The Dark Crafts. (Dark Chocolate Crafts That is…)

(Blueberry inspiration. What got this topic started.)

For this entry, I, Mikey am merely the typist. Sunshine and Grant settled down for a chat and this is a rough transcript of their discussion. A little background however. At Sunshine’s visits to our home a few routines have emerged. Generally Sunshine and I do some craft, some cooking, something fun. Over time, Grant has emerged as a master of a certain craft, that is the craft of dessert. Sunshine and I have talked about this evolution of the skill of feeding the stomach and the heart, so to speak, and even wondered at times if it also falls into the category of Art. But perhaps that is a discussion for another time.

Sunshine: What is your true identity and how did you come to this? (In Sunshine’s notes Grant is  described as a 6 foot tall person who is a “sweet guy” who goes by Dessert Whisperer. Awwww.  editorial comment.)

Grant: I am known as the Dessert Whisperer. We watched that Dog Whisperer guy on TV one night and I thought, hey, that’s what I do! You have to watch what the person needs, and remember that there is no problem meal, rather it is a matter of close observation and letting the solution for the best dessert emerge.

Sunshine: What is the best creation you have come up with?

Grant: That’s not easy to answer, there are so many levels to this craft. But, oh well, gotta go with CHEESECAKE! Strawberry, chocolate, blueberry, New York, there is so much to explore. (Not a surprise here. editorial comment.)

Sunshine: My favourite is CHEESECAKE too, but another favourite you made is a large butter tart, warmed up with fancy vanilla ice cream on it.  Where did you learn this craft?

Grant: From my mommy! I learned at the age of three, when the sweet tooth fairy paid a visit and collected some teeth. (three??? editorial comment.)

Sunshine: What’s your motto?

Grant: Extra sweet and lots of it! Should I get a t-shirt printed up?

Sunshine: Can I be your apprentice?

Grant: Sunshine, you already are!

A Walk on the Dyke

Two days of heavy rain and all the snow is gone from our city. The temperature has risen from minus ten – ish, to plus seven and it now feels like spring. Pretty discombobulating over all. In Steveston there are loads of places to walk, the Richmonds dykes are a favourite. I met a certain person who had also headed outdoors, hmm a theme from my last post. We timed it to share lunch and then on to our separate adventures. The pictures are a combination of our walk and ride, plus, to remind myself that this is a craft blog, at least in theory, I tossed in a shot of my current knitting. Sunshine and I did some not – wildly inspiring bath bombs last week, I must ask her how they worked for her. (Mine did a bit of a slow, unassuming fizzle out. So sad when a more exciting bath bomb experience is anticipated.) Grant rode by the sculpture pictured below and took that shot. It is Chinese New Year in a couple of days, the upcoming is the year of the Dragon. It was really pleasing to hear that the creator of this spectacular dragon finally sold the piece. It is now seen by lots of passers by. It took a lot of time and discipline to create and is really something wonderful to see in person.

The mittens are adaptations of traditional patterns so I can’t really say I made them up completely but I don’t tend to use actual patterns for projects like these. I feel a sense of some connection with a long line of women doing an activity that has been quietly done for hundreds of years in the same way. The yarns all have meaning, at least to me. The brown and cream mittens are done with a wensleydale yarn given to my teacher, who then passed it to me. The cream is from a shetland fleece I found and spun after carding it at home. The grays are from a black corriedale fleece and a romney, both purchased locally or on some road trip or other. These mitts are practical, warm and very comforting to wear. Of course I will finish the dark gray ones in time for this warm weather…

A Time for Quiet

I have talked to colleagues about the kind of re-charge that’s necessary in the work we do. Our jobs, if we do them reasonably well, involve trying to actively listen to what people need, and then attempting to work within a system that seems bent of confounding this to accomplish that end. On a good day it all comes together in a kind of flow, but on a more usual day, well, it’s a good practise in letting go. Of expectation mostly, that all the factors will line up, that what we want is what  our clients actually want and what is actually good to do.  This sounds a bit esoteric but good case management, when you are meeting people where they are at, involves all of this. (And more.) I listened to a dear colleague the other day who essentially had to convey that there was nothing he could offer  a fairly stressed family but he did it with such kindness and honesty that the family thanked him afterward. He took the time to listen and connect and sympathize with their worries about their loved one. I was really impressed as I listened to his voice through the wall separating our offices. Anyhow, the consequence of doing this kind of work means that a little down time is needed to stay healthy. My colleagues all describe how after hours, no one really wants to interact socially for some time. It’s easier for some than others. We don’t tend to spend lots of time on the phone after work, and the option of letting calls go to voice mail is a blessing! It can be a little off-putting for friends and family who aren’t required to be “on” all day long. Or who may wonder why, like Grant and I, we head into the woods in some form at any good opportunity.

Generous friends offer their rustic cabin and we head there periodically. In summer we walk, in winter one needs snowshoes to get in. No water, no power means just the basics.  I love my amenities but it’s good to do a retreat sometimes.

This Buddha overlooks the valley seen from the cabin. This small figure sits unmoving through the seasons.

View of the privy.

Grant made the sled to carry our gear in, pretty handy actually in the fairly deep snow. Easier than packing a backpack. The chocolate may have weighed it down a bit but those are essential rations!

Sunshine’s Experiment with Baking!!

Ignore the title, because when I bake, I don’t experiment, since I consider myself quite a good cook and baker:)  It just so happened that while baking a brownie cake for the Christmas eve dinner at Mikey’s that I forgot baking soda. It wasn’t my fault that I forgot baking soda, since the recipe put baking soda in the ingredient list but didn’t mention when to put it in.  By the time I realized what happened, it was too late, my brown cake did not rise. It was only a inch tall.  And it was very mushy.  So I put it in the fridge for couple of hours so it would gain some structure and I also didn’t realize that a couple of hours would make a brownie cake rock hard.  I’m not joking, Grant literally had to smash it with a knife.  The good thing that came out of this was the taste was still the same even though it was an odd little brownie!!
And since my brain could not except failure, I had to go bake something else chocolately for Mikey and her family.  This time I used a cake mix, which I wouldn’t have used if my mom wasn’t scared that I was going to destroy another baking experiment.  This time I made sure I had all the ingredients and put them ALL in.  Now what happened next isn’t completely my fault.  I asked my mom if I could put it in a tall rectangle baking pan and she said sure.  When I pulled it out of the oven, it looked fine until I stuck a knife to see if it would come out clean.  It didn’t, it came out gooey and then I realized that there was too much batter in the pan.  Mom this is your fault, not mine.  I had to rip off the top layer of the cake which was already crusted and put it in the oven for another ten minutes.  But guess what, I had to go make a another mistake.  Since I was in a hurry, I forgot all about cooling the cake and dumped it upside down on a plate.  The cake started to sag, so it resembled a sunken ship of sorts.  Then I iced it with frosting which was difficult, since whenever I tried to ice the corner of the cake it would pull apart and I would have to stick back together.  Since it looked a bit sad, I sprinkled a generous amount of rainbow coloured sprinkles.  It tasted really good though:)
 (Edited to add that this picture was taken 30 seconds before Grant devoured the last of the brownie. Apparently it REALLY WAS good!)
For anyone who wants take on the MIGHTY BROWNIE, here is a recipe:
Brownies (remember the baking soda!!!)
175 mL ( ½ cup+2 tbsp) FLOUR
125 mL (½ cup) MARGARINE or BUTTER
250 mL (1 cup) SUGAR
A pinch of salt
3 mL (½ tsp+¼ tsp) BAKING SODA
80 mL (1/3 cup) COCOA POWDER
40 mL  (2 tbsp+2 tsp) COCOA POWDER
30 mL (2 tbsp) MARGARINE or BUTTER
10 mL (2 tsp) WATER
    1.  Preheat oven to 350F (175C). In a small saucepan melt margarine or butter and cocoa, stirring as it melts. Remove from heat
    2. Beat eggs in medium bowl until frothy. Add sugar, flour, salt and baking soda. Don’t stir yet. Pour cocoa mixture over top the dry mixture in the bowl and stir all together.
    3. Cover the interior of the 8×8 inch pan with wax paper. Pour batter in to pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. To check if the brownie is done baking, insert a toothpick in the center and if it comes out clean without any batter clinging to it.
    4. Icing: Beat all 4 ingredients together, adding more liguid if mixture is too firm to spread and more icing sugar if it’s too soft. Spread over warm brownies. Allow to set before cutting. Cuts into 25 squares.
Remember the baking soda!! Hope it turns out well:)