Dorie’s Cookies – Cranberry Five-Spice Cookies

Cranberry Five-Spice Cookies

I baked up a storm the last two weekends, helping stock the bake sale table at the craft fair my mother organizes every year. I made three selections from Dorie’s Cookies this year, including the Cranberry Spice Cookies that were one of this month’s selections. I took out some squash that I’d frozen to make the variation of the Sweet Potato Pie Bars, but my mother got hold of it and turned it into several delicious creations of her own, instead. Luckily, I’ve got a really big squash ready to roast, so I’ll make those bars some time before the holidays.

Peanut Brownie Sablés

I also made the Peanut Brownie Sablés and the Melody Cookies (in snowflake form!), along with several batches of cookies from other cookbooks and recipe cards. I managed to taste a couple of cookies along the way (thank goodness for broken cookies!), but I was in production mode, so didn’t take great photos of any of them.

Melody Cookies, masquerading as snowflakes

I am going to have to make all of these again, at a time when they’re not earmarked for sale – they were all so delicious that I was sorry all I got was a share of the very few broken bits when they were unpacked. The Cranberry Five-Spice Cookies were especially lovely, because they’re not sweet – amongst all the sugar bombs on the table, they made a nice contrast. I loved the way the butter and cranberries played against the spices. It’s a perfect cookie for a grown up dessert tray or a grown up cocktail nibble.

Cookie Mix and Match Bake Sale Table

I may not have gotten to eat many cookies this weekend, but I’m going to steal one of their ideas for my next cookie swap – the mix and match table was a huge hit!

November’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here and here at Tuesdays with Dorie.

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No resolutions, but a promise

Cute little holiday card

I got a little extra cheer today, in the form of a holiday card that had been hiding at the bottom of my mailbox. Thanks, Betsy! I am now resolved to pull my mailbox down every now and again. That’s as close as I get to a New Year’s resolution.

I am not a resolution-maker, but I do like to make myself a promise or two now and again. Right now, in this gloomiest of Januaries, I’m promising to make time for more creative endeavours. My life has been a little too grindstone-centric of late. I’m missing writing for my blog, but even more I’m missing the connections to the people behind the scenes of my favourite blogs.

It’s not just writing and cooking, though, that I want to do more often. I want to get back to exploring community and creativity and I have a few ideas. I’m even considering joining a choir. (Too East Van? Maybe.)

For now though, I’m making a list of things that have the potential of brightening up the last few weeks of rainy, gloomy Vancouver winter. I encourage you to make your own list, wherever you are, then share it with me.

Get Out of the House

It’s nearly time for Dine Out Vancouver, which is a great, affordable way to experience creative set menus at some of Vancouver’s best restaurants. I’ve had some terrific meals and some interesting adventures at my Dine Out choices over the years.

You can also be fed, in a less literal way, with the smorgasbord of offerings from this year’s PuSh Festival.

Scottish Caramel Pu-erh

Or Hunker Down, I’m Not Judging You

There’s a new tea shop on Commercial Drive, Babylon Tea Company. Ye Olde East Van Tea Drinkers (we’re not a club, but we should be) have been speculating on when it would open for months. And now it has, I’m finding myself wanting to stay home and nurse a cup…well, let’s be real…a pot of their Scottish Caramel Pu-erh all evening. I’m actually afraid to go back, because I am susceptible to developing a tea of the week habit.

And speaking of good habits, the lovely folks at Tea Sparrow have a new initiative, the Community Grocer. Healthy, plant-based foods delivered to the door, helping you wait out winter. I’m hoping to tell you a little more about this soon.

The Globe & Mail Holiday Crossword

Be Good to Your Brain

Crave the spotlight? Find out if you’ve got chops at Vancouver Theatre Sports‘ Saturday drop-in.

Or get ready to conquer Paris with conversational aplomb with Alliance Francaise. It’s also a great excuse to go to Salade de Fruits for a long French language lunch.

And if you’re really daring, you can stretch both body and mind in one of Harbour Dance‘s many classes. Just make sure you invite me to opening night.

Okay, it’s back to the grindstone for me. But, I’m back on the regular in 2018 with lots to share with you. So add me to your list of gloom-chasing strategies. Or, maybe just grab a cup of tea and we’ll hang out.

Soup to Heal the Heart – The Soup Sisters Family Cookbook Launch

Making Chicken Tortilla Soup

I received a review copy of The Soup Sisters Family Cookbook from Appetite by Random House at a book launch edition of a Soup Sisters evening. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

I firmly believe that cooking for others and with others is one of the surest ways to build and support community. It’s the belief that underpins block parties, cookie swaps, and soup swaps, as well as initiatives like the community kitchens that bring vulnerable people together to cook and connect or Montréal’s Newcomer Kitchen that gives space to newly arrived Syrian women to prepare and sell food, establishing themselves in their new home.

For Sharon Hapton, this motivation blossomed into the Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers, a network across 25 Canadian and U.S. cities that brings groups of people together to cook and eat, all for the benefit of women, children, and youth in crisis. A typical monthly gathering yields 150 – 250 litres of soup, which is brought to local shelter partners the next day. Participants benefit from working with a group of like-minded folks, alongside talented chefs that keep everyone on track in the kitchen. While the soup is simmering, those same chefs feed the night’s volunteers, starting with a hearty bowl of soup. It’s an elegantly crafted concept that’s resulted in waiting lists for these monthly gatherings and a steady stream of healthy, lovingly crafted food for folks who need it.

You can learn more about Soup Sisters directly from Sharon, in this interview:

Sharon Hapton on CBC’s The Homestretch

Last night, I attended a gathering at one of Vancouver’s regular Soup Sisters venues, Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. It was both a soup-making event and a book launch, because the third Soup Sisters cookbook, The Soup Sisters Family Cookbook, arrived on October 17th. Appetite by Random House and Food Bloggers of Canada invited a number of bloggers and foodies to make soup and learn more about Soup Sisters and its newest collection of recipes.

This isn’t my first introduction to Soup Sisters. I’ve been following their work for years and have always wanted to take part in one of their soup-making evenings. I also own a copy of their second cookbook, The Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers Cookbook, which I reviewed in 2015. I turn to it often for recipes and inspiration when I’m in a soup-making mood.

Like their previous cookbooks, the new one features recipes from chefs, bloggers, and Soup Sisters participants, but this time a number of the recipes were contributed by kids and teens. Cooking with young people is the focus of this book, with some tips and advice for getting kids into the kitchen and a host of accessible recipes. Making soup is a great introduction to cooking, especially with kids. It’s a process that can be broken down into many manageable steps, there is always something new happening throughout the process to keep kids interested, and the end result is the kind of meal that people of all ages will enjoy.

5 soups for Sereenas House

Last night’s participants split up into teams, each making one of five soups destined for Sereenas House for Women, a supportive housing program in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. All the recipes were from the new cookbook, as was the soup that Chef Tony Minichiello made for our meal. His soup was a recipe from his wife’s family, an Armenian lentil and rice soup that has a deceptively simple list of ingredients for a soup so rich in flavour. My team (which dubbed itself “Team Nourish”) made a Chicken Tortilla Soup that was shared by Earls Restaurants. Other teams tackled Maritime Fish Chowder (Laura Calder), Spaghetti and Mini Meatball Soup (Bonnie Stern), Every Bunny Loves Carrot Soup (Skylar & Chloe Sinow), and Posh-Tasting Red Pepper and Coconut Soup (Taya Groner). Those last two were contributed by young participants and they were in attendance at the event to cook their soups with us.

House-made brioche topped with ricotta, arugula, and roasted tomato.

Our evening started with appetizers made with brioche the cooking school students had made that morning and topped with ricotta, arugula, caramelized onion, and roasted tomato. We were given an introduction to Soup Sisters, a presentation from a representative of Sereenas House, and a talk from Sharon Hapton, introducing the new book and talking about the program’s origins. Then we all went to our stations and started chopping and dicing. In no time at all, it seemed our soups were ready for their long simmer. In part, this was because many hands truly make light work, but it was really the help and guidance of Northwest’s chefs and students that made the work fly. They also kept an eye on our soups while we went off to prepare labels and eat dinner. Our dinner started with Chef Tony’s soup and he talked about the history of the soup in his own family while the bowls were passed down the table. The soup was followed by a salad rich in greens and topped with couscous and our meal finished with slices of light mousse cake that had been prepared for us by the school’s pastry students. After dinner, we ladled soup into containers and each team produced between 25 and 30 litres of soup for donation. I think we all felt a little spoiled and also quite pleased with how much soup we collectively produced.

The Soup Sisters Family Cookbook

We all went home with a copy of the cookbook courtesy of Appetite, but I think many of us will also be buying copies to give as gifts this holiday season, especially because the sale of the books helps to support the program. If you’re curious about any of the Soup Sisters cookbooks, they have some sample recipes from the 2nd volume in the series up on their website. I’m happy to have 100 more great soup recipes at my disposal and I’d especially recommend this book to anyone who cooks with kids.

I’d also suggest, the next time you’re considering a gathering for a celebration or a team-building exercise, find out if there is a branch of Soup Sisters near you and book an evening. The fees go toward purchasing the best seasonal ingredients for the soups and you’ll have a richly rewarding experience and a richly delicious meal, to boot.

Mid-Summer Ambitions

Roxy's summer style

My ambitions this summer are modest: making the best of summer produce, experiencing what the arts and culture scene has to offer in the off-season, and keeping cool (though not as stylishly as Roxy, as you can see in the photo at the top of the post).

Old-fashioned blueberry bars

I feel a little behind on stone fruits this year, but I did a heroic job with berries and rhubarb, with some more blueberries waiting for this weekend’s baking. I got a small harvest of figs from my five-year-old back yard tree this year (beating last year’s inaugural harvest of exactly one) and celebrated with a fig tart and some very tasty jam. There’s also plenty of kale, cucumber, beets, and homegrown lettuce in the refrigerator, which will make for a very healthy weekend of lunches and dinners. I’ve scattered photos of some of my recent kitchen projects through this post – let me know in the comments if you think I’ve been giving summer fruits their due.

<Frangipane fig tart

As for my second summer ambition, there is plenty going on this weekend and for the rest of the summer.

If you can get yourself out to UBC tomorrow night, the Blackout: Night Sky Festival would be a wonderful way to spend the evening. It reminds me of my childhood trips to the lake country around Kamloops, when we would set out lawn chairs in our campsite and stay up late watching the Perseid show.

Fig, balsamic, honey, and vanilla jam

If your idea of making the most of this hot, muggy, smoky summer is finding something to do indoors, you’ve got lots of choices. Movie theatres are great places to hide from high summer and they provide their own kind of visual feast. I’d start with The Cinematheque‘s annual Film Noir program, then move on to the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

Or you can embrace the elements, heading out to sea with Caravan Stage Company’s Nomadic Tempest, then enter a salmon stream in the middle of the city with Uninterrupted: A Cinematic Spectacle.

Chocolate cookies and a whole lot of blueberries

If you want to get out of town, you can head over to the Sunshine Coast for the Rogue Arts Festival or out to the Shuswap for the Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival. And if you’d like to skip the organized activities, you can DIY your own Okanagan wine tour, explore the Fraser Valley’s Circle Farm Tour destinations, or spend August the way my family did when I was a kid and find your favourite fishing spots in the Thompson-Nicola region.

I’ll bring the treats.

Flavour On The Go: A Visit to the Maille Flavour Studio

Maille mustards Prisma illustration

Vancouverites are used to consoling themselves with our proximity to mountains, forests, and beaches. It takes our minds off the things we secretly wish we had closer proximity to – like the Maille boutiques that can be found in places like Paris, London, and New York.

Happily, Maille Canada brought the boutique experience to us last weekend, when they visited the Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Festival.

They were kind enough to invite a number of bloggers to an early afternoon media event to kick off the day’s activities. I was happy to say yes, hoping that I’d have a chance to sample some more of their Malossol pickles and to try some of their exclusive mustards. I did both, and more besides.

Maille treats and custom mustard

Maille had set up work stations where visitors could mix their own custom mustards (I used their Moutarde à l’Ancienne as a base, adding raspberries, rosemary, and black pepper). They had both their commercial and boutique mustards at the ready, with bread sticks and cornichons standing by. There was a cocktail station, serving tiny Maille crocks of the Que ca Maille!, which blends Dijon mustard with lemon, apple juice, thyme, and vodka. And there were waves of appetizers that made the most of Maille’s products.

Maille Gourmet Mustards

Tasting their various mustards one after the other is a good education. Their Chablis mustard is bracingly strong, but nuanced. Their flavoured mustards run from ones that could easily be eaten alone to those that are meant to complement other flavours or finish a dish.

Harry Lalousis, Maille mustard sommelier, highlighted mustard’s role as an ingredient in his presentation to us. He asked us to think about how the mustards in our kitchens can enhance the food we cook, while breaking free of recipes in favour of creativity and taste.

Maille Vinaigrette Demonstration

As a demonstration, he shared his vinaigrette ratio with us: 3:2:1 – olive oil:vinegar:mustard. Once you have that, you can let your creativity flow, based on what is in your pantry and what you’re preparing. He quickly made up two vinaigrettes on the spot, using his ratio and measuring by eye. His first vinaigrette made use of Maille’s raspberry vinegar and original Dijon mustard. The second, their white wine vinegar and mustard with White Wine, Mangoes and Thai Spices. The first is perfect for topping a salad of spicy greens. The second, marinating chicken, fish, or even tofu. I enjoyed the way he made creative cooking so accessible, while demonstrating ways to make the best of the products we’d been sampling.

Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Festival

Afterward, I was almost too content to visit the food truck festival and accompanying artisan market. I’m glad I didn’t skip them – the artisan market was full of BC producers of wine, spirits, and beer, along with artisans and makers. The food truck festival, with around 100 to choose from, provided enough exercise to whet even the most sated of the mustard samplers.

Artisan Market at The Anvil

I came away with contacts that I’d like to pursue in future blog posts and a full belly from the (more than I care to admit) treats I found at food trucks. I’ll be marking my calendar for next year and crossing my fingers that Maille’s Flavour Studio will make a return visit.

Maille mustards and cornichons

If you’re in Montréal, you’ll have the last chance this year to sample Maille’s boutique line – the Flavour Studio will be visiting Festival YULEAT next weekend. I’m tempted to fly out.

I received an invitation to the Flavour Studio press event, along with a jar of custom mustard and a jar of Maille’s Malossol Cornichons from Maille Canada, but received no other consideration. All opinions are my own.

A Late Summer Round-Up

Informal Installation

August means vacations, farmers’ markets, days at the beach and in the woods. But there’s also a surfeit of festivals, performances, and events this month. So when your vacation days are spent, your fridge is full, and hungry bears take precedence over hikers, there’s still lots left to do.

Here are a few of the things that caught my attention:

The PNE is more than just mini-doughnuts, Superdogs, and gravity-defying rides – it’s also a musical treasure trove. Their Summer Nights series is a mixed bag of nostalgia acts and current bands, with great seating (if you get there early) and an unbeatable price – it’s free with admission to the Fair. This year’s highlights include Culture Club and A Tribe Called Red.

The Museum of Vancouver has another intriguing exhibition running this summer and fall, All Together Now: Vancouver Collectors and Their Worlds. I love the way their curators stretch stretch the boundaries of what a museum is supposed to contain. This show includes a seed bank, fly fishing gear, action figures, and drag wear.

The Vancouver Mural Festival may be over, but its legacy is the art it has left in its wake. Make your own Mount Pleasant walking tour, using the mural map as your guide.

And then, there’s Pet-A-Palooza, for those who think that free samples aren’t something that should be restricted to humans.

There are also festivals, markets, and performances happening all over Metro Vancouver over the next few weekends. It can be hard to decide what to do. I had that problem this past weekend. I ended up at the Columbia StrEAT Food Truck Festival. On Friday, I’ll tell you why.

Spring Things

Persea Fumée

It’s been an busy season so far and there’s lots more to come, at least there is around here. The photos scattered through this post are from two of the events I’ve attended this month – the Avo Showdown and the Lick My Plate launch. Now I’m looking forward to fun with food, stimulating presentations, and more than a little art appreciation over the next few weeks.

Lick Your Plate treats

Tomorrow, the Heritage Vancouver Society hosts the first in the Shaping Vancouver 2016 series – What’s a Neighbourhood? In the face of so much change in our city, what are the things we should be preserving or encouraging to maintain and promote community in our neighbourhoods?

AvoShowdown entries

This coming weekend, you’ve got a chance to weigh in on the Vancouver Public Library’s future. Whatever comes of these sessions, that future should include physical books. They’re still the surest way to guarantee equal access to knowledge, especially in a climate of growing income inequality.

Lick Your Plate swag

The weekend after, there are two events I’m excited about – the Parker Art Salon and the East Van Hop Circuit.

The Parker Art Salon is a chance to view and buy art from the studios at 1000 Parker Street, with a little less chaos and much warmer weather than November’s Culture Crawl. The Hop Circuit is a self-guided tour of 13 of my neighbourhood’s craft breweries, with some samples, insider tours, and food trucks. Both are within walking distance for me, cycling distance for many, and transit for everyone else – I wouldn’t drive if I were you, the parking alone will just make you miserable. Between the two events, I think I’ve got that weekend covered.

AvoShowdown contestants

And just in case you need a little incentive to (a) add to your cookbook collection and (b) get canning/fermenting/preserving, the folks behind Well Preserved have released a cool zine-style bonus package for their upcoming Batch Cookbook. Once you’ve pre-ordered the book, you can find the download link, here.

AvoShowdown appetizers

At the very least, April’s already shaping up to be a delicious month, if what I’ve tasted so far is any indication.

Avocado Parfait

Food in the Fraser Valley

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It’s become a habit of mine to kick off the spring season with a visit to the Fraser Valley Food Show. I’ve told you about it before, and this year was just as enjoyable.

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This year I brought my partner for the first time, so much of our time was spent exploring the Gluten-Free Living section, so much so that we came home with bags packed with products we bought to try. I’ll be featuring a few of the ones we like best in upcoming blog posts.

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I was on my own for the sausage-tasting, since my partner is vegan, but there was plenty to occupy his time before we reconvened in the wine, beer, and spirits tasting area. I ate my way through about ten excellent offerings and was hard pressed to choose a winner, so I’m not sure how the judges, who tried many more, could come to their decisions. You can see the list of winners here.

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Here are a few of the highlights for me this year:

Nextjen gluten-free flours

Ravens Brewing Company Dry Irish Stout

Wayward Distillation House‘s Unruly Gin, Vodka, and ‘Depth Charge’ liqueur

Nuoc Cham Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Onnick’s Blueberry Farm‘s bottled iced teas

Stapleton Sausage Co.‘s duck sausage with blueberry, made with Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry duck

ZipGrow Farm Walls

Hanes Hummus

Simply Delish Soup and Salad gluten-free soup mixes

That’s just a sampling of what we enjoyed at this year’s show. I’m hoping to do a little exploring of some of the farms and makers in the Fraser Valley this year, so stay tuned for more!

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I attended the Fraser Valley Food Show on a media pass, but had no obligation to review or write about any aspect of the show. All opinions are my own.

Spring Into Action

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The clocks went forward an hour on the weekend and the lighter evenings are waking me out of winter hiberation mode. Which makes it a good time for a round up, don’t you think?

Here are a few things that have caught my newly refreshed eye:

I haven’t yet made time for the Vancouver Art Gallery’s current show, MashUp: The Birth of Modern Culture, but I need to correct that soon. It seems like everyone I know has been making multiple trips to the exhibit – the whole gallery is devoted to this exploration of contemporary cultural production and it’s too much to absorb in a single visit. If you’re in Vancouver before it closes in June, you should block it liberally into your itinerary.

Last year, I brought a recipe to the AvoShowdown, competing against a number of Vancouver bloggers. This year, the general public is invited to submit a recipe – 16 competitors will face the judges on April 10th. You can find all the details here: Call for Recipes – Avocado Showdown. I’m looking forward to attending as a spectator this time around!

The Eastside Flea has moved from Commercial Drive to Main Street and have a bigger, permanent home. If you’re a vendor, they’re looking for all sorts of goods purveyors for their grand opening on April 16th & 17th.

The Femme City Choir brings their new show to the York Theatre on June 5th & 6th – I’m telling you now because it’s best to get your tickets early. Their shows sell out.

Food and community find perfect expression in the Food Connection Friends Potluck Dinners. For folks in and around the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, they hold regular potlucks and DIY food workshops. There’s one coming up this Friday, March 18th, in fact.

But the big question this week is would you rather celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by rocking out to Pogues tribute band, Shane’s Teeth, at the WISE Hall’s annual St. Paddy’s Day Bash, or are you more into the nostalgic (and nearly as lively) sounds of the Irish Rovers? Just let me know – I’ll be sipping on a Guinness while you decide.

A Post-Holiday Progress Report

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I’m still not back into the post-holiday swing of things, are you? So, instead of a full post, here’s a report card of sorts – what I’m reading, what’s on my radar, where I’m aiming to be.

Book Report

I don’t have the manual dexterity to qualify as a gamer, by any stretch of the imagination. But, I do find the narrative potential of the form fascinating and gaming has also become a frontier for discussions around activism, social justice, feminism, race, and more. The State of Play: Creators and Critics on Video Game Culture by Daniel Goldberg & Linus Larsson is a good place to start if you’re interested in where progressive game culture is headed.

The next book in the pile on my nightstand is Creating a Learning Society by Joseph E. Stiglitz & Bruce C. Greenwald. In a time when learning is becoming a more and more closely guarded resource, the implications of a “learning society” for a healthy economy are intriguing.

Then, I’m on to Amy Halloran’s The New Bread Basket, exploring the rise of local grain production.

There’s also one book I finished recently that’s lingering in my mind. Sally Mann’s Hold Still is a compelling exploration of an artist’s appraisal of her work and history. It’s also a book that reminds me that misgivings about an artist’s views on some subjects shouldn’t preclude admiring their take on others. Mann’s striking honesty and openness is what stays with me, along with her sharp insights into art, photography, and memory.

Lunch Hour

I like to test-drive cookbooks by taking them out of the library. I tell myself that it keeps me from buying more and taxing my groaning bookshelves. In truth, if I like what I see, the book mysteriously appears on the shelves sooner or later. Oh, well.

Here’s what I’m currently taking out for a spin:

Oodles of Noodles by Louise Pickford could be my mother’s dream cookbook. Whenever we go out for lunch, she’s angling to try another restaurant that serves one variety of noodles or another. This book does a sort of survey of East Asian cuisines.

I’m getting a head start on next year’s holiday cookie lineup with Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. Though, who am I kidding? Cookies are welcome every day of the year.

Modern Jewish Cooking by Leah Koenig has a world focus, rather than being grounded in one tradition. So far, I’m finding her Breads and Pastries section particularly tempting.

Social Studies

Did you find yourself wishing that Tina and Amy had taken the Golden Globes’ stage one more time? I did. Here’s one of the reasons why: Ricky Gervais‘ jokes about trans people.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the great essayists of our time, able to take on even the trickiest of subject matter.

Extreme weather is already becoming a factor in our lives and will affect how and what we eat in the future. Researchers are studying the impacts in order to adapt.

Jeff Wall’s body of work is celebrated world-wide. Even so, he harbours doubts about the direction of his artistic career.

Recess

If you think the holidays are the biggest reason to max out on sugar, you’re wrong. It’s nearly Hot Chocolate Festival time.

Or, if you have a more grown up palate, you could check out the Vancouver Whisky Festival.

I’ll probably spend some time at the Gluten Free Expo next weekend – when half the household has celiac disease, it’s a yearly must.

If you want to feed your mind instead of focusing on your stomach, the PuSh Festival starts next week. If you’re of a more urbanist bent, MOV‘s Your Future Home exhibit is starting soon.

That should give you enough to chew on until my next full-fledged post. Enjoy the rest of the week, even if it’s not incipiently spring-like where you are.