Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Much of the busyness was due to getting ready for our Christmas dessert / housewarming party.
We wanted to have a bunch of friends and colleagues over for a dessert party. So we sent out a whack of invitations and started baking. And baking. And baking. Almost three weeks of on-again-off-again baking.
And then we started cleaning. It's funny how you can leave your house untidy unless you have people over. We really should try and keep it tidy for ourselves (but we never do).
Sunday was the big night. We told people to come sometime after 7:00. The food was laid out, the cider was hot and the wine was cold. 7:00 rolled over and then 7:10 and then 7:15 and no one showed up. Tara and I looked at each other and thought "What if no one comes? What are we going to do with all this food?" Just then then door bell rang and slowly people started coming in. And then more people and more people. We had people come that we didn't think would show (and others didn't show that said they would - you know who you are...)
Food was eaten, drinks were drank and a laughter filled the house. All told we had about 25 show up. We had way more food than we needed, but better more than less. Everyone we've talked to said they had a good time and that they hope we do it again.
I'll post the recipes of the favorites from the evening. If you are reading this and you want a recipe for something, leave a comment (it's super easy). If you are reading this and you weren't there, let us know so you get invited next time (sorry we couldn't invite you all).
Sunday, December 03, 2006
I finished The Picture of Dorian Grey this week. It's a bit of a slow read and is both interesting and depressing. At the end I thought to myself it could be really well adapted as a movie. Sure enough, a quick jaunt over to IMDb shows that 14 movies made from the book. I may just track one of them down.
Talking about movies, Tara and I watched Akeelah and the Bee last night. It was a good movie - something that I would take kids to.
I tried the bread recipe a few posts down with half whole wheat. It didn't turn out - it was really dense and mostly unpleasant. I may have left it to rise a bit too long (20 hours). I am going to go back to the recipe and get that down pat before I start making variations.
We had cannelloni for dinner tonight - stuffed with mushrooms, ricotta and mozzarella and smothered in a nice marina sauce. Stuffed pasta is sooo good. And it really doesn't take all that much time to make (75 minutes, door to plate). We really should make it more often.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
The movie itself was good although there were a few car-size plot holes (why didn't Vesper allow him to re-buy in, especially in light of what was going to happen to the money?). There was also lots of missed opportunities for a more complete plot (blood tears, the Asian lady at the table). And who was that dame in green?
The low number of gadgets creates in me a dichotomy; I love the gadgets and their incredibleness, but plots have often relied on gadgets too much in the past. I do know that I want a laptop by the side of my bed though - especially one that just has the colour green.
After walking out of the theatre last night the comment was made that we have to go to our regular, boring lives now. I think that might be the real reason that James Bond has attracted such a following and for the success of many of the movies. The Bond world is a world of tuxedos and gowns, clever quips and clever gadgets; where women get saved, men battle and the winners are always the good guys. There is too a sort of gnosticism - where everybody in play is part of a secret knowledge, a secret plot. We are attracted to secrets, to life-styles that we could not afford and to characters that act and behave like we could never.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
I started two awful books - The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell and Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen. Both were stinkers that I gave up on after several pages in. And yes, 'stinker' is the correct literary term for books that you just can't get into. If any of you guys out there want the books just let me know. They are just collecting dust here.
Feeling a little discouraged I picked up a copy of The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien). It was good, really good. I hadn't read it since grade seven or eight, but it was better that I remembered it. It's too bad it was so short; I blew through it in a few days.
I'm going to try and sink my teeth into The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde). It might be over my head, but I'll give it the old college try.
After that - who knows...
(Oh - happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers)
Monday, November 20, 2006
- Christmas music playing in stores
- People turning on their Christmas lights
- Store fliers selling fake Christmas trees
- Signs up for cut-your-own Christmas tree
- Christmas parades happening
Saturday, November 18, 2006
I made a loaf today. I haven't made bread from scratch in a long time, partly due to me always screwing it up. My bread tends to turn out dense, tasteless and overall disappointing.
Not this time though. I tried a new recipe and decided to actually follow the directions as much as possible. Except that I couldn't bake it when I was supposed to, so I put it in the fridge for a few hours and let it come up to room temperature before throwing it into the oven.
I will definitely make this recipe again, except next time I will probably make it with 50% whole wheat (if I am feeling lucky).
The recipe says to put the dough in a dutch oven that is already hot. I had never done that before, but it make the crust nice and crunchy. And it actually crackles when it cools (don't ask me why...)
The dough must slowly rise over 12-18 hours. This poses a problem if i want to make the dough on a weekday. If I make the dough right before I go to bed (11pm), and then get off work a little early (5pm, by the time I get home), I'm looking at 18 hours on the nose. I'll give it a try this week if I can.
I was bullied a fair amount as a kid - more so in elementary school than in high school. I have no respect for people who resort to bully tactics. People often have negative things to say about bullies ('Bullies are really cowards', 'Bullies don't have self-confidence', 'Bullies always back down when someone stands up to them'...) These things are often said by people trying to console the kids/people being bullied. I don't buy into those 'words of wisdom'.
I'll tell you what I think. I think people bully others because it works for them; because it provides some sort of positive feedback. Whether it is lunch money, a prime spot in line, or a sales contract it doesn't matter. Bullies bully because in the end they receive something that benefits them. They may be cowards, they may not. They may be self-assured, they may not.
We were on the short end of two bullies today. One wanted money for providing an unrequested service, the other wanted choice time-slots in a limited schedule. Both of them were demanding and unpleasant. Both of them didn't respect us (it just so happened that Tara dealt with them both and didn't back down).
The question in my mind is how do you properly respond to the bullying behaviour while properly valuing the inherent worth of the bully. I don't know the answer. I know it is really easy to dismiss the person as a whole - I was guilty of that twice today. But that isn't the proper response. I just don't know what the proper response is.
(This photo is of my awesome brother-in-law Tim. As far as I know, Tim has never been a bully - he was just pretending to be the Hulk)
Monday, November 13, 2006
It’s larger than I though it would be, but she shares it with several others. There were no smoking beakers full of blue or red liquid; there was no Vandergraff machine in the corner; and there were no caged rats.
But there were several fume hoods and microscopes and there were lots of containers with red liquid in them scattered around.
There were no radioactive materials in this fridge. I checked.
I got to watch Tara change the media on her corneas (explanation: Tara sliced up bits of eyeball and put the pieces in a little tray with liquid called media that makes the eye bits reproduce; if you ever need an extra eye, get Tara to grow you one).
After 45 minutes of changing media we (she) was done. We then went to the barn for the rest of the evening.
You know that scene in the Simpson’s opening credits where the radioactive bar lands in Homers shirt? Well, I think that must of happened to one of us because a) the radioactive material was probably laying on the counter (since it couldn’t be in the fridge) and b) our cats got into it when we got home
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ah the weekend. A time to relax, a time to slow down and take stock of life, love and yourself. At least that's what it should be. More often than not I find myself filling up the weekend with activities, jobs, rushing around and busyness.
This past weekend I
- Worked on a coding project
- Got a good chunk of the boxes and mess in the spare bedroom cleaned up
- Shredded several bags worth of old documents
- Went to church
- Put together bathroom shelves
- Did laundry
- Collapsed several packing and delivery boxes for recycling
I don't know. I think I need to make a more concerted effort to relax, rid my mind of the clutter of everyday and focus on what is important. I don't know how I'll do that, but I'm going to try.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
This was the second raking of the year; it didn't take us too long to do the backyard (a couple of hours between the two of us). There might be a third raking if the weather stays nice; but we might just let them compost the yard.
I've been considering getting a leaf blower. Ya they are loud and noisy, but there are areas that are hard to rake (gardens, over rocks). I'd still use the rake for most of the work - there is something peaceful and relaxing about moving leaves into a pile.
We do get to rake our leaves to the curb in our new place; we couldn't in our old place because we lived in too much of main road. We pilled the leaves onto a tarp and dragged it to curb. Four loads later and the back yard was done.
- Tara did some tack shopping and picked up another blanket, some saddle cream and a few other things
- We all partook in the many and varied samples at the booths. Samples that stand out are some good soft cheese and some great cranberry salsa
- We watched the afternoon show which consisted of
- The Canadian Jumper finals
- Tommy Turvy (rode around on two ponies standing up - kinda a one trick show)
- The Iam super dogs (dogs that ran over dinky little jumps - last year was much much better when the dogs ran the same course that the horses did)
- Two wheeled cart competition (Percheron)
- Four wheeled cart competition (Road horses - Standarbred)
- Wagon completions (Clydesdale)
- Large Pony Hunter
My camera didn't work too well in the fair, but here are a few pictures to make you want to go
Friday, November 03, 2006
From the article:
JAMES Bond's guns are going under the hammer at Christie's. The weapon which Sean Connery wielded in 1962 film Dr No is the star lot and is expected to fetch up to £25,000 ($61,705).
Other guns up for auction include Roger Moore's Walther PPK from For Your Eyes Only, which carries an estimate of up to £12,000. ($29,618).
The model from 2002 film Die Another Day is expected to sell for up to £7000. ($17,277) Timothy Dalton's WA2000 sniper rifle from The Living Daylights has a price tag of up to £6000 ($14,809).
Other lots include Bond girl Halle Berry's Beretta Cheetah handgun from Die Another Day (£5000 - £7000 ($17,277 - $12,341), the midget Nick-Nack's Derringer from The Man With The Golden Gun (£3000 - £5000 ($7404 - $12,341) and Tanaka's Gyro Jet gun from You Only Live Twice (£3000 - £5000 ($7404 - $12,341).
Alas, I won't be going to London and I won't be buying those guns. I don't have £61k just laying around.
But I'll still pretend to be Bond when no one is looking...
Saturday, October 28, 2006
We are really happy with how the colour turned out. We are still not sure if we like the doors (a pigment called 'lemongrass'), but that can be easily changed if need be.
We still have our cheap Ikea book case in here - we'd like to get something a little more classy. But with Tara in school again we'll have to wait until we find something classy and on sale. Or I could get off my butt and make one.
On second thought - let's wait for a sale.
Tara rode around the arena on King while I talked to Sydney's mom on the side lines. I snapped a bunch of pictures, but the lighting in the arena on rainy days isn't handled too well by my subcompact Canon, especially with the halogen bulbs. Pictures with Tara moving come out blurry and noisy. You'll have to ignore both of those factors in the next couple of pits
The camera does ok without a lot of movement, but there is still a lot of noise in the photos. I'd like to borrow a nicer camera (perhaps even a DSLR) to see if the issue goes away.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Offtopic 1: If you are looking for house paint, you can't go wrong with Benjamin Moore paint. We have been getting ours at Expressions on King (sadly no web presence). We highly recommend them. The staff has always been helpful and the paint has gone on like a dream.
Offtopic 2: Who comes up with the names for paints? Do you need a degree to do such a job or just a dictionary?
To pass the time, I thought I'd pass along a few websites that I visit daily or semi-daily (this is a hyperlink document after all)
egullet: This isn't your ordinary culinary site. This is the place where professionals go to talk and learn. There have online courses on all sorts of things, thoughtful articles, and very very interesting forums. They take food seriously; if you want to become a member you have to write an essay on food. If you have a passion for cooking or baking or eating, this is one spot you don't want to miss.
Creating Passionate Users: If you write software, create a product, or provide a service that people use, this is a must read. It is all about getting people to love what you produce. Reading this blog makes me wish I was involved in software that was marketed to a wider audience.
Coding horror: This a blog about software - coding, methods and philosophy. It is geared towards the windows crowd, but a lot of his stuff is useful all over. I don't agree with 100% of what he says, but his points come across well and always make you think.
PopURLs: This site amalgamates the top links from a number of sites (digg, del.ico.us, reddit, flicker, metafilter...) into one handy site. When I want to see what is interesting on the web, or at least, what is popular, this is where I go.
Hmmm - that's all. My daily surfing routine includes several other sites (dilbert, foxtrot, xkcd, boingboing, slashdot, making light, joel on software, braidy tester, make, plus others), but I don't have time to go into each of those here...
Monday, October 16, 2006
I chose three classic science fiction novels for my reading material. Or so I thought. It turns out that the last book I read was less of a sf novel and more of a regular suspense/intrigue novel. Oh well - two out three ain't bad.
So here they are:
Dune by Frank Herbert
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
Having a summer reading list is a great idea. It forces you to do something better than watching TV or surfing the net during the summer and, for me at least, it doesn't prevent you from getting some good fresh air. This is the first summer that I gave myself a reading list, but I think I'll do it from now on.
Here are three quick reviews of the books. Synopses can be found following the links
1. Dune. You must read this. Even if you don't like science fiction. It's not a super easy read and there are a lot of things to keep in your head, but the plot lines and character development are well thought out. Again - if you are looking for a book to read, read this one.
2. Stranger in a Strange Land. This was good. It wasn't what I was expecting at all. It has some very hippie undertones (free love and all) and I wouldn't let my 12 year old son or daughter read it, but it was good. It presents humanity in a light that I hadn't considered.
3. Cryptonomicon. Great story - just 700 pages too many (it was a slog just to finish it). Way too much sex - I don't need to read that. It is quite technical at times, in a very mathie sort of way. They cryptography ideas presented were interesting and the tie in to WWII was entertaining, but you had to endure many pages of unneeded narrative to get to the good parts. Every day I read this book, I considered stopping. But I got through it.
Now I'm bookless. Any suggestions on what to read next?
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
For those who are worried, both my mom and dad are as doing as fine as can be expected. It will take a while to get used to their new life - trips to the hospital, living with family, and eating things other than fish, croissants and grapes. Prayers are still needed though - they aren't anywhere close to being out of the woods yet - but they have found the metaphorical stream by which they can rest a little.
Julie and Peter's new patio is amazing. If we ever decide to build one, I can only hope it looks half as nice.
I made quiche for the first time in a long long time (probably only the second time making it). It turned out well. It's quite like a frittata; a staple in our house - but it takes longer to bake because the egg isn't put into a hot skillet.
Due to the new dietary restrictions, there was 3 pies made for 7 people on Sunday. Never can have too many pies.
We visited Greg's new place - quite nice. Good location, great choices in upgrades and the perfect size.
We also visited Aunt Nan and Brie out in South Mountain. A good time was had by all.
We picked up some linen at a Third World Bazaar outside of Manotick.
Tara discovered she loves a London Fog. I whipped up a vanilla simple syrup after we got home and it seems to work quite well.
The weather this weekend was nearly perfect - warm, sunny and a bit breezy. The air was filled with the wonderful smell of fall - leaves decomposing. Several walks were taken. One of then went by this demon dog on the left(whom I'm sure is very friendly).
We are now back and we have to try to get onto life as best we know how. Too bad.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Sunday, October 01, 2006
We started off with a cheese plate with homemade toasts. We then moved to chicken dijionnase, squash-pear-pecan salad and maple butter carrots. And then for the pièce de résistance, wild berry crème brûlée. All this with a nice unoaked Chardonnay (Thomas & Vaghan). We were stuffed and, if I may speak for everyone, satisfied.
This chicken dijionnase was a new recipe for me, but I wasn't too worried about it; a riff off of many a chicken and sauce meals made. It was the creme brulee that made me pause. The creme brulee stirred fear in heart. I had never made a brulee and the whole thing seemed too delicate and finessed for by brute cooking skills. (And I'm dropping the accents on purpose - too much work to type).
Now for those who don't know, a creme brulee is a three part dessert; bottom layer is something fruity or sweet (berries, chocolate, or citrus are popular), the middle layer is a simple custard, and the top layer is caramelized sugar. If you have never had one, order it next time you are at a resturant or, better yet, come over to my place with a days notice and I'll get more practice making them.
Getting to the heart of the matter, brulee always seemed out of reach for my cooking. I was actually afraid to make it, putting it off and putting it off. I didn't want to try because I knew there was a good chance I would fail. And I didn't want to fail with all the implications that brought.
But it turned out to be a lot easier than I had anticipated. The custard didn't set quite as nice as it could have and it wasn't as snow white as I would have liked. But the berries on the buttom were very tasty and even the sugar behaved itself under the broiler. I will be making creme brulee again.
So now i am wondering what else I have missed because I have been afarid to fail at cooking it. Beef Wellington? Liver Pate? Turducken? The world of culinary arts seems to have just gotten larger...
Thursday, September 28, 2006
All of you who have never tried a pomegranate stop reading this now, go to your local grocers and pick up a pomegranate. Look for one that is hard and feels dense. You should be able to get it for two or three bucks. Bring it home and score it around the circumference with a knife. Use your brute strength to crack that puppy open, pick out a seed or three and pop it into your mouth. Hmmmm.
I picked up a couple on the way home tonight to have with our trout (disappointing trout though - I should have picked up a tuna steak). I whipped up a salad of Romano leaves, pecans toasted with adobe chili pepper, roasted squash (from the other night) and pomegranate seeds. It was very good.
Pomegranate seeds go well on salads and fruit based desserts. I'm sure you could whip up a nice salad dressing with them. We just like to eat them, straight up. I'm thinking of attempting to make jelly out of them this fall if I can find a sale. That should be interesting.
So stop surfing and go shopping!
Saturday, September 23, 2006
1. Crane operator. We have the new medical school going up beside PEER Group and there is a very large crane right in the middle of it. I don’t have a window seat yet (sigh) but whenever I walk past a window I think about the crane operator and what he/she is doing. I think I could do it; I am not too afraid of heights and I’m pretty good at taking orders. I suspect they get paid well too.
2. Stone mason. What could be more satisfying than building something out of rocks? It would last forever (if built well) and look good to boot. If I was a stone mason I would be well muscled (as opposed to now). They used to be looked down upon as ‘just a trades worker’ but not anymore. They are in quite a high demand. Look for me to do a stone mason-ish project in the spring.
3. Cook. I love to cook. If I was at a restaurant I could cook all the day long. But the hours are pretty bad and I would never see my wife. But I would get paid to get better at making food – that’s hard to beat.
Those are the jobs the pop into my mind these days. What other careers to do think about when your day has gone into the toilet?
Friday, September 22, 2006
Some people are amazed that we make our own crust. They think it takes too much time or is really hard. It's neither. And once you have done it a few times, you won't go back to store-bought crust except in an emergency.
The recipe below is isn't the best crust I make, but it is the quickest. Perfect for when you come home after work and are hankering for something carby and cheesy.
Richard's Homemade Pizza Crust (1 extra large pizza or 2 medium pizzas)
1 Cup warm-hot water
1 Tbsp honey
1 package yeast
2.5 C flour (some combo of white and whole wheat)
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
Step 0. Preheat the oven as hot as it will go. We crank ours up to 550F
Step 1: Dissolve the honey in the warm-hot water and then dissolve the yeast in the water.
Step 2: Mix the salt and oil into the flour and put into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the water/honey/yeast mix.
3. Slowly incorporate the flour into the liquid. Mix the dough and kneed for about 5 minutes (the longer the better)
4. Shape into a ball and let rise for 10-15 minutes.
5. Roll out into one or two disks as thin as you like. Top (the less the better) and bake for ~10 minutes or so until the crust and cheese are browned.
Total time, with baking - 40 minutes.
a. The longer the dough rises the better. If I have time in the morning, I make the dough then and throw it into the fridge.
b. If you put the pizza on a pizza stone it will get a better crust - but don't roll the dough out too thin or the crust will burn before the topping cook. If the pizza consistently sticks, put it on a sheet of parchment paper. It'll scorch a bit, but it won't burn.
c. If you have a wife/husband, get them to prepare the toppings while you are making the dough. Seriously.
d. Use real Mozza. This is something that I have just discovered; real Mozza (ie, in a ball) makes a better tasting pizza (as opposed to block cheese). The cheese will be the most expensive part of the pizza, but I can get one recipes worth of cheese for $4.50. Not bad for a meal, IMHO.
e. This ultra cheap wine is perfect with a typical pizza. Available at the LCBO.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I have a substantial number of cooking magazines. About half of them are the amazing and free Food and Drink (from the LCBO - even if you don't partake in alcohol, go in and grab one). The other half are Gourmet. There are some other smatterings of Cooks Illustrated, Savour, and Bon Appetit. I have some Fine Cooking mags but they are too nice to chop up.
Unfortunately the magazines are mostly ads and articles that, while interesting, aren't worth keeping. I want to just keep the recipes; with the vain hope of making a majority of them (probably not going to happen, but I want to keep then anyways).
So I got this idea from my wonderful sister - just cut out the recipes and stick them in a binder. A very good idea - I can probably reduce the whole lot to a single (large) binder.
But there is the question of how to do it en masse? I don't really want to tear them out - that can be messy. Below are a couple of options I've considered - both of them involve removing the spine of the magazine and then picking out the pages with recipes:
1. Find a willing friend with a table saw and saw off the spines. This is probably the quickest, but I am a little afraid that it won't be good for the saw and/or the magazine sheets.
2. Find an old, heavy-duty paper cutter, guillotine style. Then I would slice off the spine with either my brute strength, or hook up a pulley or hydraulic jack system to do the dirty work. But I don't know if I can go through 75+ pages with a paper cutter...
So - I'm calling on you guys to help with this question - how can I transfer my cookbooks to binders? Any one who has a good suggestion that gets used will get a free dinner - they can even chose the recipe from the binder!
Monday, September 11, 2006
1. Jars of Clay album Who we are instead. I know the CD has been out for almost 3 years now, but we just picked it up (or rather downloaded it from itunes). The album is more bluegrass (if that's the right word) then previous albums. It has the wonderful ability to make you feel happy and melancholy at the same time. It you enjoyed Jars early works but haven't bought any of their stuff recently, I highly recommend it.
Their new album Good Monsters has had some pretty critical acclaim, but I haven't listened to it enough to decide for myself.
2. Gridwars 2 (download). I'm not much of a gamer. Sure I have an XBox and a few games, but that was a gift from work - I would have never bought it for myself. But this game is something special. It is quick and twitchy, but there is also strategy and thinking. If you have a relatively recent machine and you want a quick diversion, grab the game (while it is still available).
Tonight I have wasted about an hour on it already. My highest score is in the low 300k.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Two rooms down, Six to go :)
Saturday, September 09, 2006
I'll post a pic of the finished product. But this is what it looked like before (with the furniture of the previous owners)