It is the end of December and I keep forgetting that it is also the end of the year. So to commemorate the last days of 2012, I have put together a list of several music favourites that is a bit of an atypical listicle instead of a traditional end of year music blog post. Here are the musicians and their albums that were inspiring, addictive, and my favourites for 2012.
ALBUM THAT MAKES YOU BELIEVE IN MUSIC AGAIN
Grimes was everywhere in 2012 and for a good reason. Her fourth effort since 2010, Visions, is utterly fantastic and hypnotic, aptly described as “witch house.” Visions sounds like no other album before but with its lo-fi dance beats and girlish vocals it is still catchy and, in my opinion, very accessible. I can honestly say that her work makes me have hope that talented musicians can still reach the masses without the requirements of booty shaking and Nickelback replications. Other than Nightmusic (video above), also check out Genesis and its wacky Japanese anime and samurai inspired video.
BEST ALBUM FOR PRODUCTIVE DAYS
I love finding musicians and their albums that serve as background music for work days, and Burial makes quite a few great tracks for this purpose. His Kindred EP came out earlier this year with three strong tracks, and Loner (above) is the highlight of this issue. The Mercury Prize nominated artist has two full albums and several EPs, including collaborations with Thom Yorke and Four Tet, and as I am big fans of both Radiohead and Four Tet I am not surprised that the resulting works are solid.
Listen to more tracks and read my previous posts about music for productivity in these November and December posts: Things That Go Bump in the Night Part One (electronic tracks) and Part Two (alternative tracks). Look out for Part Three for instrumental jazz music and Part Four, to conclude the series, in the new year.
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131 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON M5S 1R1
Last weekend as I was making plans to meet up with some friends for brunch, it was suggested that we go to La Société in Yorkville. I like to keep up with the going ons in my hometown so I had heard about this French bistro in the former space of an average quality dim sum restaurant. I like trying new restaurants so as stuffy La Société seemed to me, I agreed to have Sunday brunch in the six months old bistro.
The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) completed a four year renovation project in 2008. I was still living in Toronto when the Franky Gehry-designed redevelopment plan was completed but I did not have the chance to visit the gallery until now. I definitely missed a lot since the AGO reopened its doors four years ago.
The AGO is located in the Grange Park neighbourhood, between the financial district and Chinatown in downtown Toronto. Gehry designed the most recent expansion and the renowned Canadian architect lived in the neighbourhood as a child. As one of the largest art galleries in North America, it holds the largest collection of Canadian art works which includes the Group of Seven, David Milne, the Native Canadian artist Norval Morrisseau, and Cornelius Krieghoff, as part of their permanent collection.
Lawren Harris, Beaver Swamp Algoma, oil painting (1920)
Every December when I have finally peeled myself away from my books, and gathered lots of flour and butter, I start baking. I put aside one to two days (some times three) to put my mixer and oven to good use and churn out a few different Christmas cookies. My favourites are Sugar Cookies (festive) and Cranberry Pecan Shortbread (very easy), then I rotate between a couple of different cookie recipes that I have collected over the years. This year, in addition to the two standard recipes, I also baked Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies, Triple Ginger Cookies, and Orange Pistachio Crescents (which in the end actually became a sandwich linzer-cookie-type concoction). Hyperlinks for the cookie recipes are the same recipes that I used, with the exception of the Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies, and Triple Ginger Cookies, which are linked to similar recipes.
Orange Pistachio Crescents, which ended up as sandwich cookies.
Cookie baking requires quite a bit of elbow grease, but if you have time, patience, and love being crafty, this makes a fun activity where in the end you have treats to share. I do not do a gift exchange with anyone outside of my immediate family, but for friends I like to give personally baked cookies for the holiday. Giving cookies can also be a more cost efficient endeavour than buying individual gifts for everyone on your list, though it does require quite a bit of an upfront investment. After the first purchases, the annual replenishment of perishable ingredients (butter, eggs, etc.) and the replacements of such items such as candy sprinkles and cookie containers, are required.
When I first started baking Christmas cookies, I was an apprentice to the baking world. I love cooking, but baking barely has any room for improvising allowed in cooking; baking requires exact ingredient measurements and faithfulness to the temperature requirements of the recipe (more on butter temperature is below). It has now been a few years of cookie gifting, so I gathered some tips for Christmas baking neophytes.
Triple Ginger Cookies
momofuku noodle bar
190 University Avenue
(University, just north of Adelaide)
Toronto, ON M5H 0A3
Ah, momofuku. Beloved by New Yorkers, food lovers, and hipsters and Koreans (and hipster Koreans). I met up with a friend for lunch at its new noodle bar in Toronto which opened in September after a late launch and with much anticipation. The noodle bar is amongst a total of four momofuku restaurants residing beside the new Shangri-La Hotel on University Avenue, including daishō, shōtō, and nikai.
daishō, meaning “pair of swords”, is located on the third floor of the momofuku complex and serves large-format meals and sharing plates. This means that parties of four to ten guests share dishes meant for multiple consumers that are similar to that of momofuku’s ssäm bar in New York. Menu items in NYC’s Ssäm Bar includes whole roasted pork (“bo ssäm”) and “raw bar” items such as Santa Barbara Uni. Shōtō, which translates as “short sword”, is similar to momofuku’s ko in NYC with tasting menus. nikai, which translates into “second floor”, is indeed above the Noodle Bar on the second floor, and is a bar and a lounge.
This date is the last time most of us living today will experience a day where the numericals in the month, date and year are the same. To celebrate, here are some facts regarding the number twelve and today’s date:
1. The name for the number twelve is believed to be have Germanic roots meaning “two remaining (after having ten taken).”
2. The Twelve Days of Christmas is also called Christmastide and is celebrated for the twelve days starting Christmas day to January 6, The Feast of Epiphany. This tradition varies slightly amongst the churches and sects of Christianity.
3. Both Western and Asian astrology are based on twelve horoscopes. Asian (including Chinese and Korean) astrology is based on twelve animal signs depending on the year of birth according to the lunar calendar. Did you know that every twelve “horse” and “pig” years is a special horse and pig, the White Horse and Golden Pig, respectively? My sister happens to be a White Horse and my dad is a Golden Pig.
4. The ancient Greeks loved the number twelve. Greek mythology’s twelve Olympians were gods that lived on Mount Olympus after taking over the elder gods, the Titans. Additionally, Hercules, the son of Zeus, was ordered to perform the “Twelve Labours” as atonement for his misdeeds. Hercules was also forced to serve King Eurystheus for twelve years in return for immortality.
5. The next time the date will again have the same numericals for the month, date and year will be in 88 years on January 1, 2101.
Also of note: The Mayan calendar does not end on December 12, 2012 but on December 21, 2012. Which means we have nine more days until the end of the world…apparently. Good luck to all of you.