Sunday, November 18, 2007

Zucchini? Bleh!

I hate Zucchini. I hate the taste and the texture; just the thought of it makes me unhappy.

And I'm going to learn to like it.

I've made myself like olives. A month before our trip to Morocco, I ate olives until they didn't disgust me. It took a bit of work, but by the time the trip came I could eat olives without making a face. And then in Morocco I had the most wonderful olives in existence (they have whole isles of olives in the grocery stores with trays to put the pits for tasting).

I've made myself like wine. The first wine I had was some awful ice wine, but then I started with the fruity wines and moved to more oaky and smoky wines. Now I'm into Chiantis and Pinot Noirs (not sure how you pluralize either of those).

My next target is zucchini - never really liked it. I bought 4 on Thursday and haven't yet had the guts to make anything with them. But tonight I'm going to try it sauteed with butter (lots of butter) and parmesan. Wish me luck.

And if you have a really great zucchini recipe that doesn't hide the taste, leave it in the comments - I'm willing to try pretty much anything.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Back from the hunt

I'm back. From deer hunting.

(Fair warning: long post about deer hunting. If you morally object to hunting skip this one. My next post will be about zucchini [don't know if that is better or worse].)

My father-in-law told me that his hunting group needed a couple more people to go deer hunting with them this year as they were getting a little low on young blood. I got Friday off and we headed up to Lake Memesagamesing Thursday.

I was very excited but also very nervous. I didn’t grow up with people that hunted and I always envisioned them being crazy rednecks. I’m not really a “man’s man”, if you know what I mean. I also don’t do all that well around blood. Way out of my comfort zone.

I bought all of the gear I needed which really only consisted of clothing of the orange variety. Fluorescent orange toque and jacket, plus insulated rubber boots. Add a compass to that and a couple of things you should always have with you in the woods (matches, knife...) and I was ready to go.

Quick explanation for those who don't know how this works (I was in this category until Friday)

The group hunts from about 8:30 until 4:00 each day, doing 4 or 5 runs each day. A run consists of two groups of people: the watchers and the doggers. The watchers line up in a row and wait. The doggers walk or boat short distance (500-1000m) away and start walking to the watchers, barking occasionally. Yes, I said barking. The point is to scare the deer to the watcher line at which point the watchers will hopefully shoot one.

At this point you've probably realized that the watchers need to have guns, but the doggers don't. I don't have a gun. I ended up dogging every run. That's somewhere between 7 and 10 km of walking each day, through the bush, half the time without a trail. Noon the first day I started to hurt and the hurt lasted right until the end. I am out of shape.

We hunted Friday and Saturday. We got a deer on the last run of the first day. The run was on Burnt Island; the doggers making a line across the island and the watchers on the shore or in a boat. We accidentally let a deer get behind the line so we had to double back and then go forward again, walking the length of the island about 2.5 times. I was so tired after that run that I couldn't move. I just sat down and watched the deer being cleaned (no photos posted of that - you're welcome). I don't know if it was the fresh air or the fact that I was dead tired, but I watched the whole thing without getting queasy.

The second day was more and less eventful. Less because we didn't get a deer even though we walked a lot more than day 1. It was more eventful because I found a dog. In the bush. I crested a little hill and there was this little female beagle, just sitting there with one paw in the air. I tried to feed her but she wouldn't eat. I tried to get her to follow me, but she would do that either. She was close to skin and bones and I couldn’t just leave her there, so I put her on my shoulders like I would a lamb and dogged that last ¾ of the run with a 30 lb dog on my back.

We tied her up at the boat and continued hunting. At the end of the day we brought her back to the cottage with us. She belongs to a hunting group just up the road from where we were. The guys figure that she took off after a deer or rabbit and couldn’t find her way back. I’m just glad I found her and brought her back (even though I got a bit of ribbing for carrying a dog through the bush).

After each day, everyone from the hunt, plus their spouses and kids, plus others from the group of cottages all gather somewhere for drinks and food. Here the stories come out about great hunts, getting lost, or someone's folly. Everyone was ultra-friendly and made me feel right at home.

The guys who hunt Memesagamesing are a great bunch of guys. They accepted me without hesitation. I got my fair share of teasing for not having a gun and for rescuing the dog, but it was all without malice.

There is tonnes more to talk about, but I'm sure I've bored you long enough.

So I’m back. I didn’t get lost in the woods (not a huge concern) and I didn’t faint at the sight of a deer being gutted (a big concern). And I’m thinking of getting my firearms license and a doe tag and going up again next year.

(FYI: this is my 100th post)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Stepping out of my comfort zone

A wise man once said to me:
"People are so afraid of being uncomfortable. Don't people know that you grow the most when you are out of your comfort zone?"

The conversation was in June and I have been thinking about it ever since. And while I firmly believe that one needs a comfort zone where one feels safe, I also agree with my friend about stepping out of that zone.

And I am. This weekend. I'm going on an adventure, at least for me.

Wish me luck - I'll let you know how it went on Monday. If I make it back.
Several weeks ago a Martin Gommel posted a blog entry entitled 100 Things I've learned about Photography. If you are into photography, there are some real gems of information in there.

Making a list of things you've learned about a particular subject is worthwhile activity. If you are like me you often forget what you've learned. Writing it down re-enforces it in you brain; you'll remember it quicker next time you need to.

I'm not at the point in photography to have a list of 100 things I've learned (I'm not sure I can fill a top 10 list). I can, however, fill a top 13 list of things I've learned about cooking. So without further ado:

Thirteen things I've learned about cooking

1. Cook with others - you'll learn something new.
2. Cook for others - nothing will spur you on to be a better cook then that look of appreciation when handing someone a meal, a loaf of bread or even a homemade cookie.
3. When trying out a new recipe do as much prep as possible before you start. The same goes of old recipes.
4. Acquire and use prep bowls of all sizes - they are invaluable and you can never have too many.
5. There aren't many foods that don't benefit from the addition of cheese.
6. Place an oven mitt over the handle of anything that comes out of a hot oven.
7. Cooking without a recipe exercises the creative part of your brain. Closing following a high-quality recipe exercises your technique. You need to do both.
8. Try to overcome food dislikes and periodically retry food that you thought you didn't like. You might surprise yourself.
9. Learn how to make roux - it'll make pan and b├ęchamel sauces a breeze. Sauces finish a plate.
10. Learn to make your own chicken stock. It'll blow away the store bought stuff.
11. Practice chopping. Carrots, onions and potatoes are cheap. Consistency is better than speed.
12. Use your good friends as new recipe guinea pigs - they'll tell you when a meal stinks.
13. Be mindful of presentation, even for you and your family. Good presentation will make food taste better.

So there you go - 13 tips you can use next time you cook.

Can you make a top 13 list of things you've learned about something?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Totally stoked

Let me preface this with the blatant observation that I am neither young nor hip so I don't know if "stoked" is a word that is still in use by the hip kids. In case it is not and you weren't born between 1970 and 1985, the definition is as follows:
adjective - to be "stoked" is to be completely and intensely enthusiastic, exhilarated, or excited about something. Those who are stoked all of the time know this; being stoked is the epitome of all being. When one is stoked, there is no limit to what one can do.
And I am officially stoked.

If you look at my flickr stream you probably know that I take my camera to the barn almost every time I go. A few weeks ago someone asked Tara if I took pictures of horses for people (other than Tara). She said she would ask me.

I thought about and decided to give it shot. I figured that if I put up a small ad at the barn for 'photos by Richard' the worst that would happen is that either a) I would get no takers b) I would take some photos for someone and they wouldn't care for them. While both would be a blow to my self-esteem, it would be one I could handle. So I put up a flier with a quick advertisement, my flickr account link and my email address.

A week went by with no takers.

And then the Friday before last, one of the boarders at the barn asked Tara if I would mind taking photos of her two horses. When Tara told me, I was both excited and nervous. We set a date for the coming Sunday. I didn't sleep well the night before.

Sunday came and as soon as we got to the barn, the sun slipped behind some rain clouds. As quickly as I could, I took some photos of the first horse. I did my best to remember all the theory in my brain - the rule of thirds, filling the frame, movement towards the center, change up the perspective, look for the details, the exposure triangle. Plus I did my best to carry on a conversation with the horse's owner. After about 25 minutes of shooting we felt rain drops and called it quits. I wasn't thrilled with all the shots but I thought I had done a decent job considering the lack of sun.

I watched Tara tack up Lego and warm him up. After a few minutes I looked outside: the rain had stopped and the sun was peering out. I ran to the door and look at the clouds; there were still a number of them in the sky, but I had some time. I walked out to the paddock and started shooting. 45 minutes I had some better shots of the first horse and a few of the second.

Later that day I picked out about 70 of the best shots, then cropped and corrected their colour. I turned them into thumbnails and burned them to a CD; Tara was going to drop the CD off on Monday. Her schooling got in the way and the CD didn't make it to the barn until Thursday. Friday night I got an email - the client (I can call her a client!) requested 11 photos! Eleven! I was totally stoked!

I got her photos printed today and I'm going to deliver them tomorrow.

I'm not looking to turn this into a career but it is very very cool that someone wants to buy my photos.

Beautiful Gaze Coming for a visit