Too Cool For School

Your cheat sheet to acing some of life’s trickier issues.

How to Get Organised Using Recycled Horseshoes
Are your books and tablet lying around in a disorganised mess? Is your study or work area decidedly uninspiring? Then you need desk accessories that will tidy things up with a good measure of quirkiness. To the rescue is fifth generation blacksmith David Barrett and his tablet holder and bookends, made from horseshoes. He created them at the Fernie Forge, a workshop that includes a traditional coke-fired hearth he and his wife, Sandra, founded in nearby Hosmer. He sourced the shoes near Sparwood and, yes, they’re real horseshoes once used by real horses. Recycling can be an important part of the blacksmithing process. Barrett explained, “With iron and steel, you can infinitely recycle it.” When he’s not producing his own pieces, both practical and artistic, he’s fulfilling a surprisingly wide variety of commissions–everything from heavy-duty tent pegs to sausage-making machine parts. Local farmers ask for new ploughshares (Google it). The oddest request? He figured that’s when a museum representative asked for a metal stand to display a Polaris missile. A decommissioned one, of course.

Horseshoe tablet holder, $45, pair of horseshoe bookends, $48, at Eye Of The Needle, 260 5th St. Other recycled horseshoe items include a key holder, candle holder and coat hooks.

How to Cook Like a Chef With One Special Bottle
If knowledge is power then thank goodness Pat Robertson, a former teacher with three degrees (I’ll repeat that, three degrees) is using his accumulated powers for good, not evil. One of those degrees was in microbiology, including the study of industrial fermentation. Fast forward to his retirement and now he and his wife, Loie, a retired banker, are bottling your easiest way to turn dinner from okay to gourmet–a carefully aged, small-batch cabernet wine vinegar crafted in their Fernie home-based vinegary. Chefs at some of the best restaurants in Calgary, Edmonton, and Banff, as well as Chateau Lake Louise and our own Island Lake Lodge routinely order it by the case to add a dash of specialness to their dishes. For non-pros like you and me, Pat suggested trying it in vinaigrettes, pan sauces, on oysters, and, intriguingly, in tomato soup.

So what elevates this vinegar so far above that days-old grocery store stuff? First, the juice, sourced from the Okanagan, is aged a full year in small barrels of French oak. Pat pointed out that the oak, coming from only a few select forests in France, is the most prized in the world for making barrels to age wine and vinegar. Then there’s the fact that it’s additive free. Pat explained that vinegaries and wineries using a faster production process (as in those above mentioned grocery store vinegars) need additives to increase their products’ shelf-life. The Robertson’s long, slow process stabilises the liquid naturally. As long as it’s stored in the dark, their vinegar can be kept indefinitely. “We like that whole slow food, slow life style. You’re here to enjoy life,” said Pat. Wise words and one smart buy.

Robertson Estate Cabernet Wine Vinegar, $13.95 for 200 mL, $29.95 for 750 mL, at Le Grand Fromage, 672 2nd Ave.

How to Multi-Task With Buttons, At Every Age
Kate Moran, the talented force behind Ace Ferguson Studio, reckons it took “just about a year” to transform a school bus she found on Facebook from unregistered, sticker-covered kid-mover into inviting mobile store and studio. Board the light-filled bus now and you’ll find eye-catching displays of her work, including fibre jewellery, crocheted tops, and block-print cards, as well as rotating feature displays of works by fellow artists–all for sale.

One of her collections is particularly popular. “Kids really like the buttons!” she said of her fabric covered metal pin buttons. Beyond the appeal of their bright colours and intriguing prints, many from vintage fabrics, “they’re actually quite useful”, Moran pointed out. “I use them on cardigans that don’t have a button,” and for “sweaters with really heavy hoods that pull the back down. I just pin the hood to the back of the collar.” And then there’s the option of “just flaring up a hat or a jean jacket or a purse or whatever!” Her two young models, shown here, did exactly that, diving into a basket of buttons to find just the right ones to add personal pizzazz to their tops. First day of school outfit solved!

Assorted fabric buttons, $3 each, three for $8, at the Ace Ferguson Studio mobile store/studio, located on 6th St., between 1st Ave. and 2nd Ave., near the Arts Station, Wednesday 10 am to 3 pm, Thursday to Sunday 10 am to 5 pm, until end of October depending on weather.