Despite the title, these pixels are anything but lazy. This is a site of my own photos, my own art, my own written text and more. There are no memes. This is not a portal to someone else’s brain. It is an outlet for my own creative soul. I plan to post words and pictures about things that interest me and all the projects I'm exploring in multiple formats: long, short, deep, and shallow. Share and enjoy.

The Wandering Guy

Posted
11 months ago

It was a dark and stormy, uh... Wednesday morning.

Adventure beakoned, but the weather was hardly cooperating. I’m no stranger to getting soaked to the bones in a torrential downpour, but I prefer to step out the door with a headstart on the rain. A small cohort of fellow runners and I had paced out a friendly and casual seven kilometer neighbourhood run the previous night, and it had ended with cold rain water sticking our technical athletic shirts with clammy grip to our shivering skin, but we had started before the rain at least. Stepping out the door this morning into the torrent seemed like it would be welcoming a nearly immediate defeat. It was bound to clear eventually. Right?

If not, it was certainly a waste of a perfectly good day off. Well, maybe not perfectly good.

Listening to the rain through the screen door of my kitchen is a reminder that so much of my recent adventuring has been through a screen of another kind. Locked down through a pandemic has a million and one limitations, and not the worst of them (but certainly not the least, either) is the restriction of exploration. International travel is all but forfeit. Zooming off to the mountains for a weekend has been replaced by Zooming(TM) off to the office. Even just trekking into the local trails with friends is a collective effort in practiced physical diligence that is met with judgmental societal scrutity, and not undeservedly during this summer. My adventures have been reduced to a handful of carefully planned exclusive local runs, and watching others explore the world via films and pre-pandemic YouTube videos.

This is bound to clear eventually. Right?

I started this website to write about projects. Projects are vague things to define. Cooking sourdough or making ice cream, are simple crafts, but strung together as a patient effort of trial and error to improve and refine and methodically document successes and failures on that chain is a project. Sketching in a notebook is merely a distraction, but sharing and honing and researching a community of practice in an effort to become better at artistry is a project. Tending a garden is a hobby, but tracking the ecology of a plot of soil in ones own backyard for over a decade and measuring the outcomes of trying to manage and control that ecology is a project. So when I write that going for a walk in the local trails is probably just an activity it is also fair to follow my chain of logic to note that exploring those and other trails, mapping, photographing, and documenting the world that one accesses on foot across decades of ones life is also a kind of project.

I’ve been watching other adventurers turn their lives into projects. Blogs. YouTube. Instagrams. Enviously, yes. Inspired, very much so. Longing to participate in a meaningful exploration that sends a particular sort of existential justification to the world relating to what stepping out the front door between rainstorms really means to me and my temporary, fleeting impression of this world. Also, cautiously. I’m not seeking to become a shallow influencer or a branded individual. I’m not seeking to build an audience or monetize a trend. I’m not seeking fame or fortune.

I’m just...

And that’s the missing piece. Is there room in the modern world for someone who just wants to narrate the thread of their own life for that simple purpose. Is there still space to just make a project out of one’s existence?

I think so.

Out the window, past the good kind of screen, as I’m staring at these words in another, the rain is still pouring down. It is a dark and stormy Wednesday morning, a holiday, and a terrible day to be a rural explorer — at least one who prefers to start dry. Yet the adventurer in me is itching to step outside, past both screens and into the pouring rain.

Life isn’t about the single event, after all. It’s the thread of the story that strings all the crafts, hobbies, efforts, and activities into an adventure. Wet or dry. Rain or shine.

Garden Update, Part 5

Posted
11 months ago

It is raining as I write this, but yet I ran outside to snap a few pictures. As the first half of the year begins its final day, July sweeping into view ahead, the vegetable garden has in ten days evolved into a proper patch.

Two weeks more of on-again off-again rain and sunshine has definitely helped. And as things settle into this splendid spread of virtually weed-free gardening bliss I start to look at the nuance of possible risks approaching.

Fearing to jinx myself, I’ve been watching the forecast for some kind of terrible storm. In July we are often cursed with at least one helluva-hail-storm where one unlucky quadrant of the city is pummelled by frozen pellets from the sky. That happened once about five years ago and it literally pulped what had been a fantastic vegetable garden into a mess of compost. Broke my heart, to be honest.

So, that has become a lingering fear that, pragmatically if it happens it happens, but would crush my soul a little bit more if it did.

On the other side of that fear is a blossoming collection of amazing future salads.

The carrots are bushy and strong.

The lettuce is at that phase where we actually think we might better start eating it now else it risks running away and getting ahead of our capacity to harvest it.

The peas are proper tall and I expect in the next couple weeks will start blossoming and producing some fruit.

The cukes have established themselves and by next time I write I expect I’ll have needed to start tending where their vines are growing as I loop them back in on themselves and try to contain them to the small space I’ve allocated.

And I can’t even talk about how unexpected my garlic crop is pleasing me. I don’t even know how we’re going to use it all.

Don’t call it cheating, but I made a rare trip to the store shortly after my last post with a shopping list exactly two items long: some ant powder to deal with the infestation in our front yard and a couple of hostas to replace two dead shrubs in the back. I had visited a couple of greenhouses in May to seek out some starter tomatoes and such, but due to the pandemic seedlings were in short supply. Yet as I entered the checkout lane, there as one of the lane barriers was an entire rack full of tomatoes and other little starters.

Needless to say my list got a little longer than two items as I picked up a trio of tomatoes, some spicy peppers, and a couple small flats of leafy greens, specifically some kale and bok choy — things I never would grow from seed — to fill in the spaces where nothing ever really germinated. Those have eagerly joined the garden patch and are faring well... ish. More on that in a later post I hope.

Garden Update, Part 4

Posted
11 months 3 weeks ago

This is the point in the garden when optimism is flourishing as much as the plants seem to be.

It’s been about a month since we planted, and much has come up strong and healthy.

It doesn’t hurt that we’ve had almost perfect rain during that span. Day-long drenching soaks followed by a few days of hot sun followed by another day-long soak. Repeat for a month.

It also doesn’t hurt that because of the work-from-home situation that is now looking to be all summer long, I have been able to get outside multiple times per day, often rain or shine, and pick away at the weeds.

A couple years ago we didn’t even grow a garden the weeds were so bad. I fallowed for 2018 in hopes of spending the summer tackling the weed situation. My approach was a mix of manual and chemical attack. I pulled aggressive weeds (which rarely works as well as you think) and applied multiple drenchings of Round Up (specifically to take on the quackgrass that had infiltrated from every approach.)

The success was limited.

I did make a huge improvement in the quackgrass situation, the deep-rooted aggressive grass had reached a point of garden takeover that made the mid-summer soil look like a meadow rather than a carrot patch. By the end of 2018, that invasion had been reduced to a single digit percentage of its pre-battle state.

The other weeds, likely as not because of some germination adaptation that staggers and makes dormant with some randomness the seeds of weeds, coupled with the abundance of birds, paired with the never-ending flow of wind and air through the yard carrying unseen seeds and spores... well... that was a different situation. As it turns out, for every weed one pulls, two more seemed to spring up in its place.

It was a long summer, and (not working from home) the weeds had the advantage over my schedule. In the summer of 2019 while the grasses had been tamed, there was no let-up in the thistle, knapweed, dandilion, stinkweed, and more. I would miss a few days of weeding, they would go to seed, and inevitably (no matter how careful I was) a there would be contamination and a whole new generation caught in the wind.

Also, I learned that composting may not actually destroy these seeds... so I've started putting them in the trash. Oops.

But in the summer of 2020 things have vastly improved. Daily weeding means the plants I'm cultivating are significantly out-surviving those I am not. My carrots are strong (if patchy), the lettuce may be salad-worthy in a few weeks, the peas are tall and strong, and the cucumber plants look to be starting a runaway attack of the patch I've generously allocated for them.

Fifteen years in the house and (barring a hailstorm or other disaster) this may be the best garden ever.

Lazy Pixels Creamery, S’mores Ice Cream

Posted
11 months 4 weeks ago

Thinking up original flavours for ice cream recipes seems like it should be easy and straightforward, but it turns out that it's tougher than it appears. Serendipitously, I was watching a YouTube channel I enjoy and the host was making "toasted marshmallow ice cream" -- using a recipe that was really close to my vanilla ice cream recipe... but with toasted marshmallows.

Hmm...

I can work with that.

In fact, looking out at my summer backyard, and pondering a season of travel-less, stay-at-home, pandemic-lockdown staycation, the first thing that popped into my mind when I thought marshmallow ice cream was... how could that not taste amazing with some chocolate and graham crackers mixed in?!

Recipe: S’mores Ice Cream

2 cups, heavy cream
1 cup, milk
2/3 cup, granulated sugar
1/4 tsp, coarse salt
5 egg yolks
1 tbsp, vanilla extract
150 grams, marshmallows
100 grams, milk chocolate
100 grams, graham crackers

In a saucepan we combined and warmed the cream, milk, sugar, and salt over medium heat until the sugar was dissolved. After the sugar had been fully combined, the yokes were tempered in with the warm milk/cream mix to avoid curdling and thus creating a mess of scrambled eggs. And since previous posts we've acquired a digital thermometer which is making hitting that 170F sweet-spot for the whole mix so much easier.

I'd spread out a baking sheet-sized piece of parchment and cut the marshmallows into halves, spreading loosely on the pan. I broiled these on medium (about 400F) until they started to turn a golden brown. I suppose if you are going for that authentic campfire flavour, it would be easy enough to burn them a bit ... and certainly easier than building a fire, and charring them one at a time with a roasting stick.

Timing this was not tricky, but the mix and mallows were ready at about the same time, so the gooey, browned mess all went into the saucepan and we stirred it until it was blended. Strain. Refrigerate. Chill.

Over the course of the chilling process there was a lot of separation. A foamy head (which would have been awesome if this was beer ice cream) separated out in the container. I revisited every hour or so and whisked it back together, not knowing if it was going to set on me.

After about seven hours in the fridge, I weighed out the chocolate and crackers, crumbling the latter and finely chopping a bar of the former into nibble-size chunks. Chocolate chips may have been easier, but I opted to go with a whole Dairy Milk bar, the same kind we use when we s’more-it-up around the fire. Consistency!

I gave the custard mix one really good whisk again before I poured it into and churned it in the well-frozen ice cream maker. At about twenty minutes along, when the blend was starting to visibly thicken and I could drop one or two bits of crumbled graham cracker or chocolate into it and see them bobbing around buoyantly just below the surface, I tossed in the solids and let it churn for five or so more minutes before scooping into freezer containers.

The result was sweet and smooth. The marshmallows gave the final ice cream a slightly creamier texture, and a nice light marshmallow touch that, along with the chocolate and graham really evoked a memory of s’mores.

Now I just need a cozy campfire to site beside while I eat it.

Spice Nirvana

Posted
1 year ago

I wish I had paused for a moment in my focused determination to clean up my cupboard to pull out m y camera, take a picture, and preserve an image of the chaos that was our spice rack.

I can now only express the disorder in words. multiple tiered racks, supporting jars of a dozen different shapes and sizes, precariously balanced by sheer force of will as half-filled, crumpled baggies with gnarled twist-tie labels filled every available space. There were multiple jars of the same spice multiple times over, each labelled slightly differently. Nothing was stackable. Nothing was findable. To delve into the darkness while a hot stove simmered nearby was to risk a collapse of the system as spice jars fumbled onto the countertop below. Jars has been re-used so commercial labels had been taped over with label-maker labels, which had been crossed out and rewritten in sharpie.

It was not a good system.

Over the last couple weeks I acquired two dozen small, 125ml mason jars.

When I posted the photo on social media of my completely spice rainbow at the end of this process, the question I got asked multiple times was “Where did you get those jars!?”

At the grocery store. Nothing special. They were just the smallest canning jars with metal lids. It’s not so much the jars as the effort to DECIDE to do this.

I pulled the spices from the cupboard and through force of time and will (and a few spice induced sneezes) consolidated like spices in jars, tossed some obviously well-past-due inventory, and at the end of the process had neatly arrayed glass jars full of colourful spices.

The beautiful thing, and having used them for a short while, is that the wide mouth jars make for a perfect opening to both (a) extract spices as needed with a measuring scoop, and (b) refill the spices without precision tools. The narrow “spice jar” that everyone is familiar with is likely great for shipping spices across grocery supply chains, and definitely simpler if you’ve got three or four in your cupboard, but we were well past that.

As for labels, the approach I’ve taken at the moment is two-fold.

First, I generally have a sense of the colour of the spice I’m looking for. Not having labels on the sides of jars is aesthetically much nicer, but one needs to know their spices. I do, but realize that this approach will not work for everyone. At the end of the day, I’ll be able to narrow what I’m looking for down to two or three jars and then look at the label, but for those who need a system with a better “at-a-glance” approach, this might not be it.

Second, I had contemplated buying a couple dozen new lids with a nicer look to them. The nice thing about mason jars is that this old system is both standardized and modular. There has been lots of simple hacks now sold as retail. For example, I had for a few hours put into my Amazon cart a set of chalkboard topped lid replacements and a set of coloured chalk markers. This was going to cost me more than the jars themselves tho, so hitting the order button gave me some pause. Instead, I dug some black paint out of a different cupboard (the art supply cupboard, which may be a different organizational project itself!) and painted the lid inserts one-by-one.

A gold and silver sharpie let me express some creativity on the fresh black surfaces, and the result was —in my opinion — a unique collection of spices and a much needed fix to the spice cupboard chaos that had frustrated me for years.

Spice nirvana achieved.