Reversible Infinity Scarf Tutorial

Sewing

scarf2edit

Take a good look, people. Those are indeed my armpits. Also featured in the above photograph is my most recent creation, a reversible infinity scarf!

Scarves are most definitely a year-round appurtenance. My summer neckwear selection seemed a little scant, so I picked up some quilting fabric from The Make Den, a super awesome sewing studio in the west end where I attended Sewing Garments Camp back in June! In fact, I spent my week at sewing camp admiring the beautiful fabric selection at The Make Den, and finally picked up a half yard of my two favourites on the last day.

As it turns out, half a yard of fabric isn’t really enough to make anything even semi-wearable. I kind of knew this at the time, but I let the unduly frugal part of my anima take over during the transaction, and ended up with enough fabric to make my envisioned infinity scarf only if I cut four small pieces of fabric, instead of two large pieces, and sewed an extra seam up the side.

No problem! The result was actually better than my original plan – instead of having a scarf with one pattern on the outside and another on the inside, each side is reversible, which displays nicely because both patterns can be seen equally from each side.

This reversible infinity scarf pattern will take about an hour to make, beginning to end. You know when you buy a Simplicity pattern and it says it will only take an hour, and six hours later all you have is half a semi-lined bodice and your apartment looks like a Malaysian garment factory?

Not this time. This tutorial will take an actual hour to complete, as in sixty minutes, and should result in minimal frustration. Here we go!

Materials:

  • 1/2 yard each of fabric A and B
  • Needle and thread

Cut two 11″ x 26″ rectangles of each fabric (four rectangles total).

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With right sides together, sew each fabric A piece to a fabric B piece along one of the short edges. You will now have two long fabric rectangles.

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With right sides together, sew the two pieces together along each long edge, leaving the short edges open. You will now have one continuous tube of fabric.

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Pin the two short edges together, matching upper and lower seams. Sew in a continuous circle, leaving a 2″ gap. Pull the entire scarf through the gap and press. Slip stitch the gap closed.

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Creamy Lemon Cheesecake

Food

cheesecakeedit
If too many cheesecake posts is wrong I don’t want to be right.

I realize it has been only a few short weeks since my last post about cheese-based confections, but my dear friend Sarah recently had a birthday, and what better way to celebrate one’s thirtieth voyage around the sun than by gluttonizing a deliciously creamy cheesecake? (Answer: none. There is no other way.)

This particular cheesecake is made of cream cheese and Greek yogurt, giving it a super velvety texture and slightly increased protein content (yay!). And it contains lemon zest and freshly squeezed lemon juice, which adds just a hint of citrus to your ever-discerning palate.

Here’s another fun fact about this cake: it’s a huge pain in the ass to make. If your heart is set on consuming this creamy treat (which I am personally burdened with at all times), be prepared to dedicate an entire afternoon to the feat. Or if you’re not one for time management, you can follow my approach and bake late into the evening and set an alarm to wake you up when it’s time to let the cake sit in a water bath, another when it’s time to let the cake cool, and another when it’s time to refrigerate.

The point I’m trying to make here is that I’ll only make this cake for you if I really, really like you. So far my friends Sarah and Cait have been the only ones to cross this threshold.

Just look how happy birthday girl Sarah is with her cake!

cheesecake3edit

As far as I could tell, Sarah and the other birthday party compatriots seemed to really enjoy this lemony cake. (Although what kind of monster would outwardly expresses disgust at one’s baking efforts?)

Here’s the recipe for this deliciously time-consuming cheesecake and the ultimate way to say “Hey. I really like you”:

Ingredients
Crust:

  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Filling:

  • 32 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 whole lemon, zested and juiced

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt. Slowly add butter and stir until crumbs are well coated.
  3. Grease a 9×3″ springform pan and cover the bottom and sides with a double layer of aluminum foil.
  4. Press graham cracker crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan.
  5. Bake crust for 10 min and set aside to cool.
  6. Reduce oven to 325°F
  7. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
  8. In a electric mixer or food processor, beat cream cheese at medium speed until smooth, about 5 minutes.
  9. Slowly add sugar, salt, and lemon zest while continuing to beat the cream cheese. Scrape down the sides of the mixer and beat another 5 minutes on medium speed.
  10. Add vanilla.
  11. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each and scraping the sides of the mixer before adding additional egg.
  12. Turn mixer on low and add Greek yogurt and lemon juice. Mix until blended and smooth.
  13. Place the aluminum-foil wrapped pan in a larger pan, ensuring there is some space between the larger pan and the foil-wrapped pan.
  14. Pour cake filling in the springform pan and place in the oven.
  15. Pour boiling water halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
  16. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the door open. Allow cheesecake to sit in the waterbath for an additional hour.
  17. Remove pan from oven and carefully remove the aluminum foil.
  18. Allow cheesecake to cool to room temperature.
  19. Cover cheesecake and refrigerate overnight.

“Blindness” by José Saramago

Books

Blindness

A veil of milky blindness leaves an unnamed man in an unnamed city without sight. One minute he sits in his car waiting for the traffic light to change, the next his world is dissolved in brilliant pearly whiteness.

As the amaurosis spreads, hundreds of the recently blind are placed in quarantine, herded into an abandoned asylum surrounded by guards who have been instructed to shoot any potential escapees who risk spreading the white blindness to the outside. So begins José Saramago’s lurid portrayal of captive humanity, a novel replete with hulking paragraphs, sparse punctuation, and ambiguously written dialogue.

But this is a good thing! At least in the case of Blindness. Saramago wields a very distinctive writing style, one that perfectly mirrors the characters’ blinded plight. I love when writers do that!

Saramago’s writes page-long paragraphs that subject readers to the same forboding and stifling claustrophobia as the novel’s victims, and walls of unpunctuated dialogue keep readers ignorant of which internee is speaking and to whom.

In fact, none of the characters in Blindness are even named, instead descriptively referred to as “the first blind man,” “the doctor’s wife,” or “the boy with the squint”. As one of the characters states, “Blind people need no names.”

Much of Blindness takes place in the horrific asylum where basic needs such as food, clean water, and medicine are lacking and where the sightless microcosm succumbs to violence, filth, and societal breakdown. The reader, too, is confined to the crooked sanctum, blind to the endemic devastation that is spreading outside the asylum’s walls.

There’s really nothing better than an expertly crafted story about a debilitating epidemic that pushes its characters to the brink of humanity, am I right? Blindness is much like Albert Camus’ The Plague, but without the excruciating monotony, and much like John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, but without the carnivorous foliage.

I’m not saying Blindness couldn’t have used a little murderous greenery, but it definitely was one of the best books I’ve read all year, if not the best book I’ve read all year. (We’re in July now, so that’s a lot of books.)

I really, really want to give a vigorously detailed account of everything that happens in Blindness because it’s all so delightfully harrowing, but I will resist so as not to deter any of my faithful readers from exploring the unholy depths of its pages themselves.

Blindness is the first novel I’ve read by the Nobel Prize-winning José Saramago, who, as it turns out, was an absolute cutie:

Jose Saramago

Just look at those baby blues! I realize I’m making massive generalizations based on a single photo, but I bet he was the super-sweet quintessential grandpa type. He couldn’t not be with a face like that.

Regardless, Blindness is a fantastically bleak tale of tragedy and despair, and a deeply sociological portrayal of human desperation written with the command and sagacity of a true (and bloody adorable) master.

Butterick 4720

Sewing

B4720

Pattern Description: 1960s Misses’ Culotte. Concealed culotte darted into waistband has front and back overskirt with patch pocket.

Pattern Sizing: Waist 25 1/2″; Hip 36″

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Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? So easy.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Well, it’s a culotte pattern, so everything about it was inherently awesome.

Fabric Used: Super soft and drapey cotton suiting fabric.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: None, other than I used a contrast fabric for the shorts.

Would you sew it again? Yes. It is totally time for culottes to make a comeback, and I plan on spearheading the movement.

Would you recommend it to others? Definitely!

Consider the culotte. Versatile, urbane, and an exceedingly stylish nod to the knee breeches-wearing upperclassmen of the fifteenth century. Why aren’t these things still in style? Why did they ever go out of style? Can someone please explain this to me?

Culottes are decisively awesome. They are simultaneously shorts and a skirt! Check this out!:

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Right? If you hadn’t already guessed, I’m super excited about these culottes. My momma bought me this lovely vintage Butterick pattern for Christmas, and I’m so so happy with the results. I plan on making a summer pair out of something light and flowy very soon, because culottes need to happen all year ’round.

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I’m also really excited about my new cat Francis! He is the sweetest boy in the whole world and a soon-to-be cat bow tie recipient. Or… oh my god. Cat culottes. Yes. This needs to happen!

The Humble Beet’s Guide to Homemade Bacon

Food

homemade bacon

I’m pretty sure I was born in the wrong time period and some cosmic flaw in the spacetime continuum expelled me into the late twentieth century instead of the 1760s where I belong.

I mean, can you imagine what a kickass pioneer girl I would have been? All I want is to be a butter-churnin’, pie-bakin’ ranch wife whose fur-trading helpmate buys her petticoats and hunts domestic fowl.

Instead I’m just a homespun hussy, bound to the newfangled scaffolding of the twenty-first century.

But that is ok! Because I know how to make bacon, and few things give me the same feeling of anachronous contentment as home-cured meat.

If you are fortunate enough to know me personally, you may feel baffled by this new undertaking, given my widely known and amorous love affair with the vegetable kingdom. It is true that I prefer greens and legumes over fleshy comestibles, but it is also true that homemade bacon tastes way better than store bought varieties.

It’s just like the difference between freshly baked bread and packaged; hand-squeezed lemonade and from concentrate; stove-popped popcorn and microwaved. Homemade is just better.

Making your own bacon is also incredibly easy. Here’s my step-by-step guide on how to cure and smoke your very own sowbelly.

step1

First you’ll need to acquire a pork belly. You can buy a whole pork belly from any butcher shop, or if you’re feeling thrifty, from any of the meat counters in Chinatown. Make sure to thoroughly wash your pork belly, cut off any excess fat (but not the skin!), and pat dry.

You can put just about anything you like in your seasoning mix, but kosher salt and pink curing salt are both necessary. Curing salt (also called pink salt) is a mixture of table salt and sodium nitrate that inhibits bacteria growth while your meat is curing.

Did you know that curing salt is a controlled substance in Canada? I didn’t either until I attempted to cure my own meat and learned that it’s a little difficult to find. I did manage to find some at Williams-Sonoma, and have since seen it in specialty meat shops, so hope is not lost.

Here are a couple of spice combinations I’ve tried that have yielded very tasty results:

Classic bacon (pictured):

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. pink curing salt
  • 4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 bay leaves, crushed
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. chili powder (optional)

Maple bacon:

  • 3 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. pink curing salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • step2

    Rub the spices into the pork belly, distributing evenly on all sides. Place the pork belly and any leftover seasoning in an air-tight freezer bag and refrigerate for 7-10 days, turning the bag every 2-3 days.

    After the 7-10 day period your meat will be fully cured. It will be darker in colour and firm to the touch. Before curing, rinse off the rub and leave the pork belly out at room temperature for an hour.

    step3

    There are many ways to smoke a pork belly. You can use a meat smoker, as is tradition, you can use a gas or charcoal grill, or you can opt for the super easy method of oven smoking. (I highly recommend this method. It is almost impossible to mess up!)

    You’ll need a foil roasting pan, aluminum foil, and five cups of wood chips. Line the roasting pan with several long sheets of aluminum foil and put the wood chips inside, like so:

    step3a

    Very good. Now you’ll need to find a way to elevate the pork belly so it’s an inch or two above the wood chips. A roasting rack is ideal, but if you are without, I’ve found that an inverted metal dish rack will also do the trick. Place the pork belly on your chosen meat elevation device and form a sealed tent with the aluminum foil:

    step3b

    Place the roasting pan in a 200°F oven. Smoke your pork belly anywhere from 4-10 hours, depending on how smokey you want the bacon to taste. My strategy involves putting the pork in the oven right before I go to bed and removing it in the morning, which results in anywhere from 6-8 hours of smoke time.

    When your bacon is finished smoking it will look something like this:

    step3c

    When the pork belly is cool, slice off the skin and discard. Wrap the belly tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

    step4

    The culminating moment. Fry up some ovums and toast some rye, ’cause it’s time for a fervently well-earned breakfast.

    You can leave your bacon sealed and in the fridge for up to two weeks, in the freezer for up to three months or, if you’re seriously lacking in self restraint, in your gastrointestinal tract for six to eight hours.

    Happy curing!

Spicy Thai Soup with Tofu

Food

Spicy Thai Soup

There is very little I find more comforting than a hot bowl of soup, especially when that bowl of soup is spicy enough to induce an evening of dyspepsia and acute gastritis.

Ok, this soup isn’t that spicy, but it should leave you with at least a mild case of belly burn (a sensation I find to be incredibly satisfying). Such is true for most Thai food, which is why food from the southeast region of Asia is among my favourite.

Visiting Thailand during my Tour de Southeast Asia in 2011 was a very conflicting experience. I was tempted by exotic, fiery street food at every turn that wreaked absolute havoc on my digestive system. But I was in delicious Thailand! What was I to do? (Stuff myself full of the delectable local fare and pay the consequences later, of course.)

This soup is definitely reminiscent of soups typically consumed in Thailand, but is much less likely to cause a peptic ulcer.

It is also a very versatile soup in terms of the ingredients you can use. My plan was to include sauteed mushrooms, because I love me some fungi and put them in almost everything I cook. A thorough search through my refrigerator yielded no mushrooms, so after a good, hard cry I decided to substitute celery.

And the celery was good! It gave the soup some crunch, which I really liked.

This soup also calls for jalapenos, which I forgot to include until after I had taken a photo. I planned to retake the photo the next morning, but in a state of post-slumber haze decided the original picture would suffice. So just pretend there are vibrant rings of jalapenos nestled against the chunks of tofu and sliced onions.

This spicy Thai soup recipe is incredibly tasty, and vegan! (You could deveganize this recipe by adding 2 1/2 pounds or so of chicken instead of tofu, which I bet is really tasty, but I am partial to coagulated bean curd.)

Enjoy!

Ingredients ☑ Vegan

  • 3 stalks lemongrass, bulbs thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 2″ piece of fresh ginger root, chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 package of tofu, drained and sliced into 1″ cubes
  • 12 oz mushrooms or 4 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 2 tsp Thai red curry paste
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 (14 oz) cans coconut milk
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced into rings

Method

  1. Heat 3 tbsp vegetable oil in a pan and add tofu cubes. Fry until all sides are golden and crispy. Set aside.
  2. Stir lemongrass, garlic, and ginger together in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes.
  3. Strain chicken broth and set aside. Discard lemongrass, garlic, and ginger.
  4. Heat vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add celery or mushrooms and cook 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in curry paste, fish sauce, and lime juice until just combined. Add vegetable broth and coconut milk. Return to a summer and cook on low for 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Skim off any excess oil that rises to the top and discard.
  7. Add red onion and stir until softened, about 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and garnish with jalapeno slices.

Cat Bow Tie (Pattern Included)

Knitting

Cat Bow Tie

Yarn: Any will do. I used DK, but a double strand of fingering yarn would work too

Needle size: 3.75mm (US 5) straight needles

This is the post the Internet has been waiting for. Dashing, chic, and lush with contemporary flare, cat bow ties are the perfect accessory for the modern feline.

In fact, you should probably abandon whatever it is you’re doing right now and start making your beloved felis catus one of these super easy and immoderately stylish bow ties, because the benefits of doing so are innumerable. Cat bow ties are a clever way to use up scrap yarn, they knit up extremely quickly, giving novice knitters an excellent opportunity to hone their knitting skills, and they bequeath your cat an air of acuity and refinement that will do wonders for his self esteem.

My cat Aldous was kind enough to model his bow tie for me, and I think he looks very smart. Here he is, sporting his swanky neck accessory, and posing in front of a Doc Martens shoe box (now cat bed) he recently appropriated:

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So dapper! Aldous also has one in purple, which he swaps with the green bow tie as his mood and current ensemble dictate.

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The nice thing about this kitting pattern is you can use almost any needle size and any kind of yarn (except for itchy wool-based yarns, which might be uncomfortable and a little too hot for your cat). I used 3.75mm needles, but almost any size will do, so long as you adjust the number of stitches so your finished product is still bow tie-sized.

Here’s my cat bow tie pattern so the kitties in your life can be the snazzy, trailblazing fashionistas they’ve secretly always wanted to be:

Bow
Cast on 17 sts.
Knit in K1, P1 (seed stitch) until piece measures 10cm.
Cast off.

Front Band
Cast on 6 sts.
R1: K
R2: P
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until piece measures 5cm.
Cast off.

Neck Band
Cast on 7 sts.
R1: K2, P1, K1, P1, K2
R2: P2, K1, P1, K1, P2
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until piece comfortably fits over your cat’s head (mine ended up being 20cm long).
Cast off.

Now you have three pieces that look something like this:

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To assemble your bow tie, wrap the front band around the centre of the bow, pinching the bow in the middle. Sew the ends of the front band together. Sew the ends of the neck band together. Place the bow where the neck band ends meet and sew into place.

And that’s it! Super simple. The whole bow tie knits up in only a few short hours. Incidentally, this is the same amount of time it takes to power-watch a season of Golden Girls. I’ll let you decide what to do with that information.

Fingerless Mitts (Pattern Included)

Knitting

Fingerless Mitts

Yarn: 50g Cascade 220 Solids from The Purple Purl

Yarn weight: DK / 8 ply

Needle size: 4mm (US 6) straight needles

Mail carriers and dermatillomaniacs rejoice! Finally a winter hand sheath that offers the warmth and comfort of a traditional mitten without the stifling finger confinement.

The morning following the completion of these Fingerless Mitts was a frigid one, so I slipped on my newly knitted mittens in an effort to keep the bottom two thirds of my hands toasty while I brushed ice and snow off my car.

Things went swimmingly until I scraped off a considerable portion of my precious hand flesh on some jagged ice that had formed on the roof of my car. (Unfortunately I didn’t notice how severe the lacerations were until I had started driving to work, vital fluids leaking from my hand wounds onto my beautiful mittens.)

The lesson to be learned here is that fingerless mitts, while rife with aesthetic appeal, are not ideal for all activities, for example those involving sharp things.

Regardless, I was so pleased with this Fingerless Mitts pattern I knitted a second, almost identical pair (but with gold contrast!), cause a girl’s gotta have mitt options.

This Fingerless Mitts pattern knits up very quickly and is super easy to follow. They’re knitted on straight needles, which was a nice change from my usual circular knitting projects, AND they allow for ardent displays of spirit fingers while maintaining the thermal comfort of my lovely metacarpals.

The pattern.

Baked Mini Cheesecakes

Food

Baked Mini Cheesecakes

Whoever came up with the idea of making cake out of cheese deserves an extremely vigorous high five.

And let’s not forget the cunning mastermind who made the first miniature version of something.

I mean, name one thing that doesn’t taste way better in a slightly shrunken state. Mini muffins are approximately 2350569 times better than their regular-sized counterparts. And mini Chips Ahoy cookies? Don’t even get me started.

Cheesecake is, of course, no exception.

Shelly’s birthday was last weekend, and I had the super thoughtful and industrious idea to bake her a surprise birthday pie. I was all prepared to spend my Saturday afternoon buying pie ingredients, laboriously rolling out a double crust, and packing that bad boy full of fresh apple and pear slices. Then I accidentally got drunk and told her all about my pie plans.

I fully expected her to be ecstatic about the impending birthday pie, but instead she leaned in and said “You know what I want more than pie? Mini cheesecakes.”

That ungrateful she-devil.

Just kidding! Cheesecake is way less involved than pie, and so delightfully cheesy, so I was pretty open to the idea.

I’ve made all kinds of cheesecake in my day: no-bake, crustless, sour cream-based, yogurt-based, ricotta-based, goat cheese-based, but none quite as satisfying as the mini cheesecake. These mini cheesecakes are incredibly easy to make and taste great topped with fruit, chocolate, jam, or just plain. Plus, mini things can be eaten with your hands, and utensils are absolutely for chumps.

This recipe makes 12 mini cheesecakes and includes enough dairy to challenge even the brawniest of digestive systems:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup(s) graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 cup(s) ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/4 cup(s) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup(s) icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 eggs

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. Grease cupcake liners.
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Spoon evenly into muffin cups (approximately 1 tbsp per cup) and use something round and firm to press the crumbs into the bottom of the cups.
  3. In a large bowl, beat ricotta until smooth. Add cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar and mix using an electric mixer or food processor until smooth.
  4. Add eggs one at a time and mix into batter.
  5. Evenly distribute cake mix into muffin cups.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until set completely and slightly golden around the edges. Let cool 1 hour and then refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Remove paper lining and top with fresh fruit.

Note: These cheesecakes will collapse if you attempt to remove the paper before they have been sitting in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours. It’s probably best to make them a day ahead, but if you’re tight on time you can serve them in their paper cups and just pretend they’re supposed to be that way.

“Shades of Grey” by Jasper Fforde

Books

Shades of Grey

Part fantasy, part dystopian, part satire, part sci-fi, part thriller, part romance, Shades of Grey is the first in a genre-defying series by Jasper Fforde, where one’s place in the social hierarchy is determined by his or her limited colour perception.

Jasper Fford is the author of the acclaimed Thursday Next series, but was completely unknown to me when I picked Shades of Grey up off the shelves of my favourite book shop, Circus Books and Music.

If you’re a book-loving Torontonian like myself, you need to pay Circus Books and Music an immediate visit. The store is owned by a super friendly bookmonger called Ron who always has a fun story or anecdote to share when I’m checking out. And he almost always has what I’m looking for in stock. I don’t know how he does it! I’ve left Circus Books and Music with a massive stack of paperbacks in my arms on numerous occasions.

On this particular day, Ron sold me a copy of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, a biography on Mao Zedong, and Fforde’s Shades of Grey. My plan was as follows: read the first page of each book and start with whichever best caught my interest.

I picked up Shades of Grey, began reading the first page, and didn’t put it down again for the next two hours.

Shades of Grey immediately drew me into its peculiar, colour-coded world of Chromatacia, where ‘Yellows’ make up the elite, ‘Greys’ (those with no colour perception at all) comprise society’s lowest rung, doctors called “swatchmen” show swatches of colour to patients to rid what ails them, and certain shades, such as Lincoln green, are outlawed due to their narcotic properties. Shades of Grey is weird in all the right ways.

The story follows Eddie Russett, a 'Red' with excellent colour perception, who gets sent to East Carmine to conduct a chair census. There he meets Jane, an ill-tempered and unruly 'Grey', and together they seek to uncover the false evangelism that keeps their world intact.

This was easily the most visual and imaginative book I’ve read in a very long time. It’s Terry Pratchet’s Discworld meets George Orwell’s 1984 meets Terry Gilliams’s Brazil. It’s full of bizarre details, fortuitous plot turns, and inventive wordplay.

And that’s not all! In addition to being the literary equivalent of a thermonuclear detonation, Shades of Grey is a very clever work of satire. Citizens of Chromatacia live in a world of planned economies and repressive bureaucracy. They are coerced into following strange, arbitrary rules such as rule 1.1.19.02.006, which states that team sports are mandatory in order to build character. Character is there to give purpose to team sports, or rule 3.6.23.12.028, which dictates that Ovaltine may not be drunk at any time other than before bed, and prestige is awarded to those who possess arbitrary characteristics (i.e., colour perception) that are outside their realm of control.

Shades of Grey is an incredibly amusing and whimsical novel, and one that doesn’t hold the reader’s hand as she progresses through it. In fact, that was my favourite part about the novel: it felt like I was exploring the world of Chromatacia myself, experiencing the same confusion and thrills as its inhabitants.

I tend to get caught up reading books that are very serious and reflective; Shades of Grey reminded me just how fun reading can be.

Jasper Fford’s followup, Shades of Grey 2: Painting by Numbers, will purportedly be available later this year, with two more novels scheduled to be released shortly after. Colour me very excited.