Thursday, May 3, 2012

LOCATION: Pinery Provincial Park, Grand Bend, ON
DATE: Mid-April


Karen Founk, aka "Founky-Town!", aka "Barry Gibb"
Responsibilities: Comfort Optimization Officer, Hammock Tester

Jon Bartel, aka "Fleece-Sweatsuit"
Nikolaus Hubert, aka "Broth-man"
Responsibilities: Woodpile Curators, Playing Catch

Kristina Hubert, aka "Tina", aka "Teen Wolf"
Responsibilities: Whatever's Happening In The Middle of This Picture

There's something about forcing yourself up and out of bed at 8am on a crisp, cold April morning. Getting clear of the tent is the hardest work... all that stooping and crouching to pull on yesterday's clothes without waking up your partner. The zipper fighting you for every last inch before finally pulling wide to hit you with those first few, icey gulps of morning air. The fumbley, mechanical act of building a fire, stick by stick, with hands too cold and a back too stiff for the fluid motion of the later, warmer hours of the day...
I love that stuff. It's tough to beat spring camping!

The highest priority on any camping trip: Food! This trip's menu including chinese vegetarian dumplings, grilled chicken with garlic roasted potatoes and grilled zuchinni , pancakes, bacon and eggs. And wienies... naturally.

One of the great things about a weekend like this is that everybody has a task...

The Pinery is right on the shores of Lake Huron, so on Saturday we took an afternoon walk down to the water. It was freezing, but the view was great.

The hammock zone. Nik and I listening to the Blue Jays on the radio, Kar and Tina talking philosophy...

Comfort Optimization Officer confirms, this mini-chair is the business!! J

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Punch Brothers!

Saw "Punch Brothers" at Lee's Palace last night. It was a mind grenade.

What a thing, to witness people pushing, there at the outer reaches of artistic excellence. You just can't take your eyes off them. You're with them, and you're thinking... "this is, conceptually, an understanding of the creative process that I'm just not equal to..." and then they take a left turn and go into their own plane, and you're totally lost. But you still can't look away, because, simply, there's something inexplicably riveting about watching somebody do something extremely well. And then just when it feels almost, maybe, like they're getting into that "arbitrary-for-the-sake-of-itself" territory, everything falls back in line and, within a single bar the entire previous detour falls into order, sortof revealing itself in retrospect as a function of what came after it.

Punch Brothers is one of those bands that can play most of a tune at 45%, throwing in little flashes of dominance to keep everybody honest, in a way that leaves you feeling like perhaps that last tune wasn't so impressive... until you take it home and destroy your left hand for 3 hours working through the intro at half-speed.

The ability to play so fast it feels slow. And then, when you want to, play so fast it feels incredibly fast! This kind of music induces a sort of rolling laughter in me.


Monday, February 13, 2012

The Judy Bartel Baker's Invitational, Sponsored by deliciousness...

Cookie challenge, round 2!!!

If you'll recall, I took a stab at Mom's Christmas Chocolate Crinkles a while back. The results were sub-optimal. Burnt bottoms, dry centres, and an overall lack of what we might playfully dub 'cheer', or perhaps more accurately... taste.

Friends, there was a time, not so long ago, when one need only look to the corner of the local ice rink to find me face-flat, tears streaming down rosy cheeks, painfully aware... nay... ashamed, of my innately un-canadian lack of inherent talent at our national past time. And friends, I ask you, did I falter? Did I remain there, snot-nosed, defeated, wallowing in the embarrassment of my failure? I did not. My friends, I did not.

And so in the spirit of that young buck, I retired again to that nemesis, that achilles heal of mine... the kitchen. Tonight's task was another Judy Bartel classic. A right staple in our erstwhile home. Mom's Chocolate Chip Cookies. Simple, honest... everything a good chocolate chip cookie should be. Folks, if I was looking for glazed duck confit with a broccoli rabe, I'd find a little cafe overlooking the Seine, and order it up. If I was looking for the best cookie this side of the Mississippi, I'd go to mom. It's that simple. She's a magician... always has been.

Anyway, tonight's results were promising. Very much so in fact. Our resident taster for the evening, the lovely miss Karen Founk had this to share, "Jon has a way of making a simple chocolate-chip cookie taste elegant, modern, and packed with flavour. He should go on 'sweet genius." Thanks Karen!

Dear readers, I take no credit for this great success. May my cookies be but a mirror, radiating such kind words straight back in the direction of those all the more deserving.

C'mon over. They're still warm!


Saturday, January 28, 2012


... and so I sit here, at this cluttered desk, and work. But not without a few reminders, on top of a speaker here, or tucked in beside a monitor there, that not all Saturdays have been spent here, stolen away in this quiet basement, on task, on schedule.

Beside me:

Our tickets for Red Sox vs. Yankees, September 1st, 2011. Our anniversary, and a present from Kar for my 27th birthday. One of my best days. Walking into Fenway Park and just feeling the place. The smell of it, and the sound... the sound of Boston. To walk into a major league ballpark on any day is an experience. As the line goes, "It's hard not to be romantic about baseball..." To do it here, at the oldest park in the country, was a special moment. Kar will always remember the excitement of being asked, at the food stand, "do you want chilli on those hotdogs?" (do people actually say no?!) My memories are much less tangible... a sort of overall experience that I'll never forget.

This one just makes me lose it every single time I look at it... look at that girl!! Still got the best smile I've ever seen. She sits right under my monitor, front and centre. It's a guaranteed shot of good every time I look down.

From our wedding day. I have no idea what Ronnie is laughing at, but when I look at this picture, I can't help but think that life is good. That people are good. That to wake up tomorrow, and attack the day with the a renewed sense of joy, and energy, and faith in the good of the people in my life is the most reasonable, and honest thing I might do. It's been a welcome bit of added perspective on more than a few occasions.

I never properly knew Opa. But he and I shared some things that make this photo interesting to me. My first guitar was one of his. I gather he looked like me when he was younger. Which, I suppose, makes this photo something of a prediction piece. He loved to sing. He had a habit, I've been told, of holding that last note just a fraction of a second longer than the rest of the choir... something I find positively hilarious. I think, were he around today, we'd probably retire to the deck to share a secret cigar and maybe a few fingers of scotch. I think I'm probably more like him than I know, which I admit I rather enjoy.

On the back of the picture,

"Dear Jonathan, your Opa always loved music. In his youth he dreamed of owning + playing violin. Since his family was very poor he had to settle for a guitar + mouthorgan. In this picture Opa is entertaining his employees at a Christmas party in our basement. December 1966 or 67."

Small reminders throughout a day's work that bring me back to what it is, exactly, that I'm working for.


Monday, January 9, 2012


We're back in action... kindof!

Coming back to work after a solid week of eating is a challenge at the best of times. Nothing screams success like hauling your general largeness out of bed at the crack of "heaven help me" after about 8 days waking up somewhere closer to lunch-o-clock. How soon is too soon for nachos if you wake up at noon? It's noon.. which, to me, has always screamed "salt and cheese with a side of processed tomato product." But, if you just woke up, calling it noon seems a bit of a stretch, no? I don't have a good handle on these things...

Anyway, in addition to coming back to work, in my case that also included coming back to two solid weeks of nights.

Working nights (or, as the case is at the moment, evenings...) has a way of turning everything upside down. It isn't the work that proves challenging. Work is great. It's simple enough to alter your schedule, sleep later, etc. But there's something vaguely unsettling about waking up to an empty, Karen-less house, puttering around for a while, going in and doing your job, and then coming home to about 5 hours of post-midnight, pre-dawn nothingness.

The math is off. How many coffees am I supposed to drink? And WHEN!!? I don't know that I was ever really aware of it, but it seems I am a creature of habit. Desperately so. I know I usually drink one just after I wake up, but after that, things get sideways in a hurry.

Concerning the holiday, it was lovely! Mel and fam, can't wait till next year when "the gang's all here..." Gonna be great! You were very much missed. Kris and Mike's wedding was a highlight for us.. So fun!! We love those two.

So, in conclusion, I'm going to sign off for now. This ripped, low-res, youtube version of "Tombstone", one of the great westerns of the modern age, isn't going to watch itself. .... as I said.. it's dark outside, and everybody's asleep...


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Chocolate Crinkles!!!

Lately I've been unsuccessfully, and rather messily, trying my hand at baking! Baking goes against all that I am. It is entirely antithetical to my nature and core personality. It is the "1979 Chateau Lafite" to my "relatively cold Coors Light in a can." I have a tendency to mis-measure. I'm prone to cutting a recipe down to a half-batch, but still managing to add the full quotient of baking soda. Or mixing up baking soda and baking powder. Or adding 2 cups of baking powder instead of 2 tsp. Cooking is my speed... if it tastes weird you just add rosemary, and then at least it tastes like rosemary.

That said, I actually rather enjoy baking! Something about messing around in the kitchen brings about a sort of deep, very real sense of joy. Food is, inherently, a joyful thing to me. That sounds ridiculous. But really, I think Kar and I both see food as a form of community, or at least a catalyst to it.

So yesterday I called Mom for a recipe. No particular preference. I wouldn't dare tackle her famous "Christmas Cookies". The term is generic, but those of us in the family know exactly which ones I'm referring to. As I mentioned to her over the phone, trying to pull off those puppies would be sacrilege. Like covering a Beatles tune. It's simply not done.

So she listed off some options, and we decided on her "Chocolate Crinkles." Little known fact: these little nerds were originally born out of the kitchen of one Linda Epp! (as noted boldly on top of the recipe card Dad scanned and beamed over to me...)

Once again, my success was decidedly measured. I forgot to grease the pan (Kar rolled her eyes exceedingly at this...). I also burnt the first run. In the end, though, I think we're making progress. If they aren't good yet, they're at least getting less bad...

So c'mon over and help us out with these things! It turns out every one of Mom's baking recipes results in approximately 8 dozen cookies. 8 DOZEN!!! Your fault Steve.

Test run!!!

It's unclear whether this reaction is positive or negative...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hello, my old friends!

Hey family! (and friends..)

I'm on a journey in search of reality. Finding things that are genuine is an experience I find increasingly challenging, and comparably rewarding. People who do what I do for a living learn to create moments. We spend our days searching for new ways to convince the same audience that they really are having a very good time, very good indeed! (Michael Cane?) This is not inherently bad. Roger Ebert writes often about the notion that, in film-going (and I'll tack on television-watching), the goer and the creators willingly and knowingly enter into a sort of suspended reality. We're playing make-believe, and it's a riot!

But by an interesting shift in my own personal paradigm, I find myself lingering increasingly around the "honest, if a little less glossy" bin in favor of the other, shiny-er substitutes. Our society moves with increasing swiftness towards a day in which we fail to intelligently engage with that which we consume on any cognizant level.

By taking a step back from some of the staples of what it is to live in this great age, I suppose I've been making something of an effort at seeing the forest, while maintaining a healthy professional interest in the trees. In practical terms, this has meant less social networking (facebook, et al) and more face to face conversing. Less email and more phone calling. It's meant seeking out forms of entertainment that challenge me to engage, as opposed to bludgeoning me with a sort of "you should be enjoying this!" synthetic energy.

It's been a worthwhile and ongoing exercise. I feel that our sense of the world and the people in it is directly tied to our relationship with the media we consume. Our ability to be moved and inspired by the creative is dependent on our understanding of it.

On a lighter note, with the holidays upon us we're making plans for homemade eggnog, cornish game-hens, and a hot toddy or two! I'll post some pics soon with a few updates on what we're up to!

Be well, mon amis.