Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mmmm... baked pancake

I went from this on Tastespotting

To this on the New York Times website

To this on my table

Seriously - this may be the simplest recipe I have posted so far. If you have a 20 minutes to spare (15 of those is waiting for thing to bake), you should try it. Sunday morning before church works, as does Thursday after dinner before CSI.

[update - April 4, 2007] The NYT link has gone registration-only. This link will take you to the recipe.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Advice: Which DSLR?

So I'm thinking of buying a digital camera to celebrate income-tax-refund day. I've got a small point-and-shoot (Canon S410) that I have been very happy with (except for the lens cover mechanism). We've taken the little guy all over and we'll expect to continue to use him for a while yet.

But I've been aching for more command over my pictures and that's where a DSLR comes in. Hopefully I'll be able to take better pictures with a camera I can control more. Unfortunately I won't be able to just blame the camera for my lousy...

What I'm looking for:
* Lowish initial cost
* Full control over aperture, shutter speed, white balance, flash,...
* Automatic mode (for when I don't want to think too much)
* Interchangeable lenses

While I don't have my heart set on this combination, I think I've found a winner with the Nikon D70s. I'll pick up a Nikkor 18-55mm lens (or perhaps the 18-70mm) and in a few months an external flash. This allows me the money to invest in decent lenses later on and I don't have to worry about them being compatible with current/future Nikon cameras.

So I'm looking for advice - any thoughts on the D70s? Should I be looking at a different model? Or perhaps Canon is a better choice? Please - I'll take all the information and suggestions I can get.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

It's Pasta Time!

This weekend Tara and I made pasta from scratch. If you have never made pasta let me tell you it super easy (if not a little time consuming). And once you have made pasta from scratch, you'll wonder why you waited so long.

We made a couple of types of ravioli: Sweet potato with Edam cheese and German sausage with mushrooms and onions. They both turned out really well.

Pasta goes from ingredients to your mouth in 3 easy steps
1) Make the dough and let is sit for an hour
2) Cut the dough and optionally fill it with good stuff
3) Boil the pasta and plate it.

Step 1: Make the dough (no images - too easy)
Take 1 lb of flour (preferably semolina or pastry but we used all purpose). Dump it on the table in a pile. Make a well in the center of the pile and put in 5 eggs. Slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs (or vis versa) until it's homogeneous. Need the dough for 5 minutes or so until smooth, silky and elasticy. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and toss it into the fridge for an hour.

That's it. That's all the hard work. The rest is as easy as you want to make it.

Step 2: Cut the dough (and optionally fill it - pictures at the end)

Cut the dough into 4 or 5 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest wrapped up.

If you don't have a pasta roller:
Roll the dough out with a rolling pin until it is a few mm thick. Then go get a pasta roller the next time you are at the Italian grocer.

If you do have a pasta roller:
Keep feeding the dough through the roller until it is a few mm thick. Remember when you had to roll the dough with a rolling pin an quietly chuckle to yourself.

If you are making straight pasta (spaghetti, linguine, tagliatelle...) cut the pasta with a knife and proceed to step 3.

If you are making stuffed pasta (ravioli, tortellini...) put the stuffing in little mounds on one half of the pasta sheet. Dampen then other half and fold over. Press all around the stuffing (removing as much of the air as possible) and then cut squares (or circles or what-have-you). If you are making tortellini fold the pasta into the hat shape.

Step 3: Cook (too easy - no pics)
Bring a pot of salted water to a very gentle boil. Put the pasta in water. Boil the pasta for 3-4 minutes. Drain. Serve.

We ate out ravioli with just olive oil, balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese. It was excellent. We threw the rest in the freezer for another day.

First you roll out your dough

Then you pose

Then you take an artsy picture

And then you cover them up and cut them out

And finally, you feed the rest to your cat

Monday, March 19, 2007

Guest pictures

Our most excellent friends George and Carolyn took care of our place and our cats while we were away. While they were here, they snapped a bunch of pictures of our cats and put the best of them up on their blog (with other cats pics). Take a look over at Tales of Interest! (ours are Fez, Pippin and Soleil).

There is a lesson here. If you have bought a digital camera and you find yourself without things to take pictures of, you should get a cat or three. We are always taking pictures of them. I guarantee that if you get a cat you will take more pictures.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Breakin' in my bike

or "When I didn't turn back"
or "The stupid map was wrong"

The weather today was -2°C, sunny and a slightly windy. A perfect day to start getting back into shape and to start getting ready to bike into work.

I decided to go for bike ride. Nothing too too long: through the little wooded area near our house, over to the Grand River, down the trail there, and back to our house. And Tara would be riding with me for the first leg. Easy peasy.

Except that one of the roads that existed before no longer does. Zeller Dr. has been removed and replaced with a rough dirt road. And here's the thing about waterloo region dirt roads and bikes: they get along really really well until Mr. Water comes along and turns all that dirt into mud - sticky, dries-like-cement mud.

I must take the majority of blame here. I should have turned around when I saw the "The Road Is Closed" sign. I should have said to myself "just go home".

I thought I could get to the Grand River trail. I thought that the road was dry enough to bike on. I thought that it would be easy and good exercise. I thought wrong (well, except for the exercise part).

I soon found myself rim deep in mud that was sticking to everything. I decided to plough my way through it thinking that it was only for a few meters. I kept ploughing and ploughing, each pedal rotation getting harder and harder. Eventually I did get onto a dry patch. I hopped off my bike to look at the situation.

I lifted up my bike - it was at least twice as heavy. I quickly muttered a self-despising grunt and I turned me and my bike around.

The amazing disappearing tire

Now, not only was I peddling a 40lb beast, but the wind was against me and it felt like it picked up. I chunked it into a lower gear, bowed my head and kept rotating my feet.

Once I got off the dirt road I stopped to clear off as much of the mud as possible. It is at this point in time that I learned about the 'quick drying cement-like' quality of the dirt that just attached itself to my bike. Most of it wouldn't come off without a quantity of work that I was unwilling to do at the time. Another grunt and I jumped backed on and made the long trip home.

All in all I probably biked about 9km. Long enough for the first bike after the snow. Maybe I'll wait until the ground dries up again before heading to the river...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

There and back again

It's amazing what a little time away from the ins and outs of life will do for you. Tara and I were away for just over a week, but we both free rejuvenated and refreshed. We can take on the world again instead of it taking on us.

This is a pretty long post and I won't be upset if you just skim it for the pictures :)

We left our home two Fridays ago. The weather was so bad the shuttle company sent a taxi for us instead of the van - fine by us. We flew out of the Hamilton airport which was something new for us. The trip out was pretty uneventful save two events: 1) we foolishly bought a couple of Tim's right before we went through the gate and they would let us take them through (they were too hot to chug so we dumped them in their garbage, rolled up the rim and won nothing) and 2) I, um, misplaced my boarding pass (but we found it in time and made it onto the plane).

We arrived in Calgary and got a lift to Jane and Bill's new place. As in 2 weeks old new. It was pretty cool to be the first guests there. It's a very lovely place and they both did a great job of picking upgrades that were nice and increased the value of their house. They also have a really cool faucet in the powder room, but I forgot to snap a pic.

We toured around Banff with them on Saturday. It's nice (but a bit cold). We walked around the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel; one day we'll stay there. We toured the shops and had a good lunch at Wild Bills. We capped it off with a great game of Carcassonne (we liked the game so much we picked up a copy ourselves). A great day all around.

We also did a bit of shopping with Jane and Bill and I picked up a much needed pair of ski goggles. Ones that are designed to go over glasses. I was very happy to find them. Plus we stopped into all the pet shops we could find. Bill wants to get a pug and Tara egging him on didn't help too much :)

The next day we went to church and then drove out to Cindy and Dave's. Way across town. For such a small city, it sure takes a while to drive from one side if it to the other (Langdon to Cochrane).

Cindy and Dave live on the foothills of the rockies and we had more time to snap pictures there. It is quite beautiful there. Each morning we could see deer and the occasional coyote. Plus the 200 head of cattle that live right behind the house (for now at least).

We toured downtown Calgary one morning and Tara got to stop in to an ophthalmologist (part of the Western Veterinary Specialists clinic - very very nice clinic). I got to stop in to MEC - the third one I've been to. After downtown, Cindy gave us a quick tour of the new Vet school in Calgary and then it was back home for a wonderful diner of veggie burgers (very good- from the Whitewater Cooks cookbook which I just ordered).

Something that I wasn't expecting about Alberta was their amazing sunsets. Every other day we were treated to an amazing display of pinks, purples, blues and grays as the sun set in the west. I took a fair number of pictures but a lot of them didn't turn out (I think my camera got a little confused with all the infrared of the sunset).

Dave and Cindy have a bunch of pets. The dogs (Madelene, Marcel-Bruce, Diesel, and Telly), one cat (Oscar), and one bird (Ms. B). I was on Reactine the whole time but I didn't mind. The dogs are really well behaved and the bird likes me for some strange reason; it sat on my shoulder for the last part of the trip to BC. Tara really fell in love with the afghans (Diesel and Telly). There may be an afghan in our future... You may want to buy Reactine stock now.

On Thursday we packed up everything, climbed into the SUV and drove to Big White (near Kelowna). The 7 hour trip took us an extra couple of hours because of a mud slide on the TransCanada between Banff and Lake Louise. It was a long trip, but Tara and I hardly even noticed; driving through the rockies is a majestic, dwarfing experience. The beauty is grandiose and the scale so very very large.

Tara and I had an amazing amazing time at Big White. Tara, who skied a lot in high school quickly regained her ski legs and was carving and mougeling in no time. (Is mougeling even a word? It is now.) I, on the other hand, hadn't skied since high school and even then I didn't really enjoy it. I decided to take a quick beginners lesson the first day which reminded me of all the things my brain was supposed to tell my muscles to do. In the afternoon of the first day the we all skied together (Cindy, Dave, Kal, Char, Tara and myself). Everyone was really patient with me and no one laughed too hard when I wiped out (at least, I couldn't hear them laughing).

Big White is beautiful. I can't believe the amount of snow they had. The weather was amazing (sunny, +2C at the bottom, -8C at the top) and the crowds were scarce. It was a great day topped off with a nice soak in the hot tub and a great pizza dinner. The view from the top of the hill was incredible.

The second day had really foggy weather. Really foggy. Can hardly see the chair on the lift in front of you foggy. But we had such a great time skiing we hardly noticed. I skied a lot more Saturday then I did Friday and it was a lot more enjoyable with the confidence of a day of skiing behind me. But the extra skiing brought extra soreness the next day. I didn't care - it was worth it.

Sunday morning we headed down the hill and into the Kelowna airport. From there we flew to Calgary where we changed our destination from Hamilton to London, thus saving us a 6 hour layover in the beautiful Calgary airport. But while we were pretty proud of our last minute change of plans, we didn't account for one thing: transportation to Kitchener. "Surely, " we though to ourselves, "there will be a shuttle from the airport back to Kitchener". We were wrong. Quite wrong in fact. No shuttle, none of the car rental places had cars, the train just left as did the last bus. However we ran into luck with the guy behind the greyhound counter. There wasn't a bus to Kitchener but there was to Cambridge. We snatched up the tickets and ran into line. We were a little late however; the bus filled up when were were only 4 people from the front. We looked behind us and there was another 10 people or so; so sure enough they brought another bus. A quick bus ride and a quicker taxi trip and we where home safe and sound, all before midnight.

What a great trip. I'd do it again in a heartbeat