Monday, January 29, 2007

Getting ready for our trip out west

Some of you know that we are going to Calgary for a week in March to see some friends and to tour the city. Tara and I have never been that far west and we are looking forward to it - quite a bit actually.
This is my Double Black Diamond face, before the casts and braces
This is my "Double Black Diamond" face, before the casts and braces
Calgary seems to be growing in leaps and bounds. Lots of high-tech jobs springing up there (don't worry I won't be looking) and there is a new vet collage opening in 2007. From all accounts, it seems like a happening place - a great destination to go for vacation.

Of course, what winter trip to Alberta could be complete without a little skiing? Well for Tara at least. She skied a lot in high school - and was even on the schools racing team. Tara loves to ski. Me not so much. I went with friends a couple of times in high school and I did a week of lessons when I was in grade 7, but not a bit since. When in Rome...

We are planning to do a bit of skiing close to Calgary and perhaps a couple of days in the BC interior. I didn't have any ski clothes or equipment so we started getting me outfitted this weekend. So far I've got pants, a jacket, a helmet and gloves. I just need a pair of goggles that don't smack up against my glasses and a preppy ski attitude and I'll be all set. Well, except for the whole not-skiing-in -12-years part. It's like like riding a bike though, right? You never forget how to wipe out, lose all you equipment and walk half way up the freaking hill to collect it all. That's why I got a helmet. Oh ya, this should be fun....


TasteSpotting - my new favorite food related site.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bits and pieces

I've got the low sunlight melancholies; no energy when I get home, no desire to do much beyond watching TV, surfing the net and sleeping. Perhaps a mild dose of SAD, perhaps just a bout of the blues, who knows?

A few miscellaneous snippets, nothing warranting a full blown post.
  • I haven't done anything worth blogging about culinary-wise lately, but I did make a mean sticky toffee pudding the other night. Pudding in the English sense: a moist cakey dessert covered in a sticky toffee sauce. So very very good (but not terribly healthy)
  • It has finally gotten cold here and I love it. No more hovering around zero with moist, heavy, damp air. Now it's clear and bright and crisp and cold. It's great! If you put on your long johns and keep moving, the cold isn't a problem. I am looking forward to the weekend; perhaps I can go for a walk or maybe even a bike ride with Tara and King.
  • I got a table saw for Christmas and it is set up and sitting in the garage. I am very excited about using it, but I don't know what to build first. Any suggestions?
  • I've become addicted to two new shows (for me at least): The Office and 24. The Office has this amazing dry humour that puts me in stitches. And 24 has so much suspense and drama I can't not watch. I'm a sucker. Add that to House and the occasional CSI (original) and my TV week is complete.
  • Tara's family is going to be at our place tomorrow for dinner and an evening of laughter and fun. We've started to thaw a nice ham, but I don't know what else to serve. Perhaps scalloped potatoes, corn, fried mushrooms, a nice salad, some sort of dessert. If you read this before 5:00 Friday (the 26th) and you have a suggestion, leave a comment.
That's it. I hope people are still reading this stuff.

[Update - Jan 27]
The dinner with Tara's family consisted of: baked ham with a maple-mustard glaze, baked leeks au gratin (bit hit), green beans, mashed sweet potato, and creme brulee for dessert. It was all very very good.

I forgot one important TV show that I never miss: The OC. I'm a quite sad that Fox has decided to cancel it (even though it has gone down hill now that Marisa is gone).

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tasty Mushrooms

One of the Christmas presents I was most excited about was one I didn't think I would get: mushrooms!!!

Tara got me a 'grow your own mushroom kit' from Wylie Mycologicals; the shiitake version. It came in a bag, a clod of sawdust inoculated with spores. Unfortunately it came a couple of weeks early and Tara didn't know if it would last until Christmas so we opened up the box it came in. The documentation seem to indicate that it would last and we didn't have time to take care of it, so we put it back in the box (still sealed in the bag) until the week before Christmas.

When we opened it up there were two mushrooms, full grown on the top. This was odd because the mushrooms weren't supposed to grow until the clod was out of the bag. We opened the bag, twisted the mushrooms off, and made a wonderful bechemal sauce with them (very tasty).

The clod is now sitting in a ornamental birdcage, covered with a large transparent plastic bag. It gets misted twice a day. So far we have taken off 6 mushrooms and there is another 4 growing. After new mushrooms stop growing we are supposed to soak it in water and put it in the fridge overnight and then new mushrooms are supposed to start forming. Here's hoping!

These things are really intriguing. I can't believe how fast these things grow! I might start looking into growing other types of mushrooms after this is finished. I might even try to extend this clod past the four 'harvests' that the documentation says are supposed to come.

Most of the information online indicates that you need a fancy setup to grow mushrooms properly; you have to grow spores in a medium that is fairly sterile otherwise other molds and stuff will compete and take over the spores you want to grow. Sterilization equipment, laminar flow hoods, and well ventilated areas are needed. I'll see what I can come up with.

These were the first mushroom we got, the ones that grew in the bag. The tops are turned up, which means they are past their picking date.

This is under the mushrooms before the bag was opened. It was as slimy as it looks.

The second batch of mushrooms, just starting out as wee little things.

This is just a few days after the picture to the left. These mushrooms grow like mad!

These are 3 of the 4 mushrooms of the second batch (the first one grown out of the bag). We put the 4th (not shown) in a couple of calzones on Friday.

A close up of the underneath.

For scale (that's Tara's hand, not mine :) ).

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Biking the middle of Winter

A few of you know I got a bike early last summer. The plan was to get into shape by biking into work and by riding trails around our house. Tara got a bike as well so we could ride together.

A week after I got my bike, building management (at work) decided to reno the basement, including the shower facilities. No shower facilities for the summer or fall meant no biking into work. And with all the stuff we did around our new house, I wasn't able to get out much around our house during the fall

Yesterday Tara and I headed out to the barn to do a trail ride together. It was a mild day (around 0°C) so we went for a trail ride; Tara on King and myself on my bike.

The ground was a little soft in places and very slick in others. We rode around the quarry (behind the barn). There is a trail that goes all the way around, but we cut through the middle because we weren't sure we were really supposed to be there. It was a blast! Most of it was flat, but there were a few good dips and crests to make things interesting. Going down to the quarry floor (a steep incline, maybe 40° and 15 meters down) was a little hairy, but we made down safe, if a little muddier. Getting back up out of the quarry was harder, but the incline wasn't as steep.

We really had a great time. Tara loves riding horses and I love riding bikes. Although we only went 3.5km, it took us an hour. You can look at our route with this link.

If the weather stays mild I'll keep going. I figure -10°C will be my cutoff. I'm also going to look at getting studded tires - my knobbies were good for most things but not for the snow-covered logs or rocks. And I transport my bike in the trunk (thank you Volvo for your large trunks) instead of on the bike rack because I want to minimize the salt my bike picks up. Next time we go, we might explore some trails just to the east of the quarry

(For any of you bike fans out there, the bike I bought is a Rocky Mountain Trailhead from Braun's in Kitchener)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Recipe: Orange Rum Cake

Tara and I tried a number of new recipes over Christmas: cakes, cookies, main dishes. The one that stands out in my mind is this one: The Joy of Cooking's Orange Rum Cake. It is like a pound cake, but lighter. The first time we made it we omitted the rum; the second time we didn't. Both results were fantastic.

I didn't, unfortunately, snap a picture of either result. The next time I make it I will.

Orange Rum Cake
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • zest of 1 large orange, grated
  • 1 1/4 cup flour (all-purpose)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tbsp dark rum

Preheat the oven to 375 F

Grease a 9" round pan

With an electric mixer, mix together the sugar, salt and eggs in a large bowl for about 4 minutes until it is pale yellow

Fold in the flour and baking powder

Stir in the butter and cream

Scrape into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean).

Run a knife along the edge and invert over a cooling rack. Remove pan and let cool right-way-up.

If adding the rum, poke holes with a toothpick or skewer all over the top of the cooled cake. Drizzle the rum over it.

I attempted to top with icing sugar, but the presentation wasn't terribly good as the sugar disappeared after soaking up the rum.

Amazing Christmas Tree

We put away our Christmas tree last night and I dragged it outside this morning. I don't think I have ever seen a Christmas tree so resilient! It wasn't watered since Boxing day but yet it was green and fresh - almost like new.

I can't remember the name of the place we got it from, but if I do (or, more likely, Tara does) I 'll let you guys know. It a farm between Kitchener and Guelph, close to the 24 and Guelph. I most definitely will be considering getting our next tree from them!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Christmas 2006 has come and gone and all that's left is to strip the tree, put away the decorations and somehow figure out how to lose the extra weight gained (thanks for all the chocolate Mom and Mom-in-law!)

I trust that the season was good for you and yours.

It was a green Christmas here in Kitchener; not a lick of snow in sight. It's not the first green Christmas I've had, but I think it was the warmest. Kind of an odd feeling to wake up Christmas morning to a green-brown lawn.

We had, for the first time, my entire family at our place for Christmas morning. It was pretty cool. I had forgotten how nice it was to have my folks around for Christmas. There was much laughing and eating and present opening and domino playing.

After a too-short-a-visit with my family, we headed up to the great whiter north to have a too-short-a-visit with Tara's family. Again there was much laughing and eating and present opening; there wasn't any domino playing but there was boxing day shopping.

And while there wasn't a lot of snow in North Bay, there was more than there was in Kitchener. We trekked through the bush a couple of times and got wet and snowy. A good time was had by all.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. When we saw the forecast for freezing rain in Barrie on New Year's day, we high-tailed it back home a day early. We had one day of relaxing and then it was back to real life... Too bad.

A few pics to make you all happy :)

This is how green the grass was outside

Mom riding King - look at that form!

The whole clan


If I was quicker, we could have had venison for dinner

Just a nice pic of the dog

Finena sitting pretty for Dave