Friday, December 03, 2010

My New Serger Is Here

When I got up I didn't have much planned for the day. Then the doorbell rang and my new serger arrived! I'm impressed with how quickly UPS got it to Canada from the States, but not impressed by the fact that I wasn't made to sign for this expensive package. In fact, considering the delivery guy was driving away as I got to the door, I wonder what would have happened to it had I not been home to collect it right away. I'd have been righteously angry indeed had someone stolen my serger because the delivery company left it on my front porch.

I opened the box and found my extra thread, 8 serger feet, workbook and DVD on top. Underneath was the serger in it's factory box. I set it up and started reading the manual before realizing that once I got going on that all blogging would be ignored and I had an interview to post.

So now that my blogging obligations are done, it's back to the serger I go. :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


So, after debating the issue for a while, I finally put in an order with for my serger. I went with the Juki MO735. All brands threw in all 8 serger feet, thread, needles, etc., so it was a pretty good deal. I was leaning towards to separate cover stitch machine, but in the end, I probably don't sew enough to justify the expense, and looking at my sewing table, I'm doubtful I'd be able to fit a third machine. And this machine is said to be their best, with up to 5 thread capacity for knit fabrics, and 2 thread chain stitch.

I got notification today that my machine has shipped, which means I can (after a year) finally return my mother's serger to her. I've also been stocking up on patterns (fabricland had sales for several of the pattern companies), and baby fabrics. Not for me. I have a relative who's having her first child and figure this will be a great opportunity to use my sewing machine and get to know my new serger, while at the same time making one of a kind gifts. :)

Life is wonderful.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Review: Dexter By Design by Jeff Lindsay

Pros: wickedly funny, returns to the style of the first 2 books

Cons: story arc is getting repetitive

The third Dexter book, Dexter in the Dark, took the series to places I didn't want to go, so I was very happy to see that Dexter By Design returned to the fun style of the first two books.

Dexter is working on his 'disguise' by taking Rita to Paris for their honeymoon. A bizarre art exhibit reminds him that his dark passenger hasn't played for a while. Back in Miami, a serial killer has started arranging bodies as art objects and Dexter is at a loss as to how to explain it.

After someone close to him is hospitalized, he makes an error of judgement that threatens his new family and the disguise he's worked so hard on.

It's a quick read, with Lindsay's characteristically wicked humour. My only complaint is that it seems any cops who start to wonder about Dexter, find themselves no longer in a position to do anything about him by the end of the book. It's a little too convenient for Dexter. Still, it's a minor complaint and didn't impact my enjoyment of this instalment of the Dexter series.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Complete Serger Handbook by Chris James

As part of my decision process to buy a serger, I read through some books to see what a serger can do and what in particular I should look for when buying one.

And so I came across Chris James' The Complete Serger Handbook. It's got a lot of colour pictures to illustrate the text, and sections on needles, thread, tension, stitches, techniques, etc. I especially liked the subsection on elastics and rolled hem (didn't know you could do that!). Most of the information was great for a not quite beginner. A few times the text was outside my experience level, so it's probably a good guide for beginners to intermediates.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

To Serge or to Coverstitch...

I've been researching sergers the last 2 weeks. I want to make more clothes and it's time I return my mother's Janome 3-thread serger and get a proper 4-thread of my own.

The thing is, I'm also interested in coverstitching - as that's the best way to hem stretch fabrics and do certain types of decorative stitching. So I was going to get a combined machine. But everyone complains that it's a pain to covert the serger for coverstitching so I've been debating my options.

1) get a combo machine and potenti
ally not use all the features (if it is a pain to switch over or I'm too lazy to do it)

2) get separate machines, which costs more and takes up more room and potentially not do as much sewing as I currently feel I will...

Of course, it's possible either way that I won't sew enough to make back the investment I'd put into a serger. Especially since good models are pricy.

I'm currently deciding between the Juki MO735 (which is a serger that does coverstitch) and the Juki MO654DE (which doesn't).

I've picked Juki because I've heard the manufacture is top notch, with industrial strength materials used and a better blade than most sergers have.

Any advice or suggestions?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The End of the Garden

So I finally got around to digging over my garden. I put a lot of work into my garden over the year but only managed to harvest some lettuce, one zucchini and lots of tomatoes. So, I obviously put the tomatoes in a better location (last year I think I only got one or two).

I put compost all over after, hoping to improve the soil quality. I've added fertilizer and top soil already - digging it in in the spring so the plants have more of a chance to survive. Still, it's a lot of work and I'm starting to think that if my yields are as small next year I might give up and just go to the farmers market more often during the summer. It worked this year.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

National Geographic's Great Migrations

November 7th, the National Geographic channel starts airing their new program: Great Migrations. I had the opportunity to see the first episode this Monday after the Random House Kids Preview for booksellers. It is phenomenal. The photography is gorgeous. I also managed to win one of 4 prize packs they had (and I never win at these things). Inside the bag was the adult hardcover that goes along with the show, and 5 kids books - one generic about the show, 4 dealing with the migratory patterns of specific animals (with quizes, vocab and ways to help).

A bit about filming the show, from the kid's guide. The photographers spent:
350 hours perched in trees
400 hours underwater
150 hours in helicopters
250 hours filming at night
800 days shooting

I suspect the DVDs for this program - and the books - will find their way under many Christmas trees this December.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jeff Lindsay in Toronto

Last night I was privileged to attend a special bookseller event to meet Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter (good guy/serial killer) books. He's in town promoting his most recent book, Dexter is Delicious and will be doing events at the International Festival of Authors. I brought my copies and talked to other booksellers as we waited for him to arrive. The poor man's flight was delayed, so after coming in for a quick 1 question Q&A, he signed our books then ran to his next appointment, giving a pre film speech for a special showing of Casablanca.

My video taping wasn't the best, so I've put a still photo over the voice track of Mr. Lindsay explaining where he got the idea for the Dexter books.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Can't Blog... Canning

Sorry for the paucity of posts recently. I've been busy with life things. Like canning. This week I did 4 bottles of pizza sauce, 3 bottles of chopped tomatoes and 5 of hot mixed vegetables. I've only done a bit of home canning as an adult (my mother did a LOT when I was young), so I decided to start with smaller batches to avoid major problems (like fermenting my german pickles last year). Hopefully all will turn out well with these attempts.

Next week I've got to dig over my garden and prep it for the winter. And sometime soon I really ought to vacuum...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Kitty Moment

I finally managed to achieve a measure of peace in my office with regards to the kitties. The one who meowed outside my door got to sit on the bookcase below the window and look out. The other one could curl up on the second chair in the room. Ah, peace.

Alas, I had to repot my herb garden so it fit into one planter and move it inside. The only place where it can get light is my office bookcase - where I kept my seedlings this spring. The cat didn't like being supplanted. I tried to keep her out at first and gave that up. I thought she might jump up on the bookcase and sit opposite the window next to my plants and be good.

Nope. She wanted to be between the planter and the window, and as I watched, she started eating my herbs. So now she's not allowed in my office again, and I have to put up with her begging outside my door.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Corn Maze

(Canadian) Thanksgiving Sunday, my husband and I went to a corn maze. There'd been rain that week so some parts were muddy, but on the whole it was a lot of fun. I love how the walls are high enough that you can't cheat and look over, nor can you see anyone more than a few feet away.

Instead of making the maze solvable, the owners turned it into a game. You're given a map with numbers on it - the corresponding spot on the map has the clue for a word puzzle to do once you've found all the evens or odds.

The shot with people is to give you an idea of how tall the stalks really are.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


This is a German dish my mother used to make for special occasions (when we didn't have turkey with all the trimmings instead :P ). I've heard there are lots of varieties, so I'll explain how my family makes them. Like most home style recipes, amounts depend on how many servings you're making so I didn't list any here.

beef 1/person (see note below)
chopped white onion for sprinkling on the beef
thinly sliced uncooked bacon (optional - I leave it out)
plain mustard
salt & pepper for seasoning
cotton thread for tying
1 beef bouillon cube
1-2 cups water
flour for thickening the broth

Notes on the beef:
- I typically buy actual roladin cuts at European grocery stores, but at times I've had to get creative and have therefore also used shabu shabu sliced beef in Japan and fast fry beef in Canada. You're looking for beef that's about 1/8" thick, 8" long and 3" wide. I'm pulling these off the top of my head, so anything long enough to be rolled without making the rolls too thick should do it. And you do want the beef fairly thin.
- If you make extra beef rolls, you get a richer sauce and both the sauce and meat freeze and reconstitute well.
- wash and dry each slice of meat
- put a thin later of mustard on top, followed by salt and pepper, onions and bacon
- roll up the meat and tie it with the string
- brown the meat rolls in a pot (once you add water they won't brown anymore)
- add water (the more water you add the less flavourful the gravy will be, so start with 1 cup depending on the number of meat rolls, taste the broth and adjust accordingly), bouillon cube and bring to a boil
- reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes
- remove the rolls, cut off the strings
- whisk flour into the broth to create gravy
- return the roladin rolls to the pot
In my house, roladin was typically served with egg noodles, bread or potato dumplings, mashed potatoes, corn and red cabbage. I've started adding stove top stuffing and yorkshire puddings to that list. Oh, and the leftover sauce is fantastic on rye bread.

** I found out the last time a bought meat for this dish from the international grocery store that it's actually spelled rouladin, though a google search brought up both spellings. As I learned most of my German via culture rather than through school I guess I shouldn't be so surprised I was spelling it 'wrong'. I wonder if the German uses an umlaut... as that would explain the variation.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I've been doing a lot of work on my other blog, so this one's been a bit neglected of late. But here's a video we found via Vidque called FLOWERWORKS. it's by Alex Hammond.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Desserts 4 Today - Cookbook Review

By: Abigail Jhnson Dodge

This dessert cookbook has an interesting hook. Each recipe requires only 4 ingredients. There's little room for adjustment, though the author gives substitutions and additions in the 'switch-in' and 'gussy it up' sections of each recipe.

Basically this makes the recipes quick and easy - and surprisingly elegant.

The book is separated into 5 sections: cookies, creamy desserts, frozen desserts, fruit desserts and pastry desserts. I decided, for the purposes of review, to try one recipe from each section. Here are the results.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Buttons (Cookies)
(Sorry for the quality of the photo. I photographed a screen to get this rather than typing it out. I wanted to show the page layout, which I thought was well planned.)
The dough was quick and easy to make (I forwent the hand mixer and it still didn't take that long). The fact that there's no flour in these means they're safe for those with flour allergies. When they come out of the oven you have to wait a few minutes for them toharden enough to lift off the tray - but fresh from the oven they're the best peanut butter cookies you'll ever have. I also used smooth pb rather than crunchy, and added in mini m&ms.

Mini Bitter Chocolate Cheesecakes
With this recipe I subbed in milk chocolate (which I habitually keep at home) for the bittersweet called for by the recipe. As a result, I also had to lower the amount of sugar I used to compensate. The recipe makes 3 ramekins or 6 mini cheesecakes using muffin cups. The cheesecakes are VERY rich, so I'd go for the 6 cups in future. I found a ramekin was too much, with half being a good amount for one serving. And because they're smaller than a regular cheesecake, they don't take as long to bake.

For the frozen dessert, I picked Frozen Chocolate-Covered Banana Nuggets.
These tasted great and, with a little practice, would look quite elegant for a fancy party. The addition of butter to the chocolate made it easier to dip the banana pieces in and made the chocolate taste very creamy.

For the fruit dessert, Classic Baked Apples, I followed the recipe faithfully.
Be careful not to punch a hole in the bottom of the apple when you're coring it or you'll lose the sugary goodness in the apple. Recommended for eating with fork and knife.

Lastly, I chose the Raspberry-White Chocolate Tart for the pastry.
Here I cheated for time, using a pre-made graham crust and frozen blueberries for the topping. I wouldn't use frozen berries again for something like this (didn't have the right texture and leaked into the filling) but the crust and filling were fantastic. And once again it only took a few minutes to mix up the ingredients and prepare dessert.

Ultimately, this is a great dessert book, with recipes that look great for entertaining and are quick and easy to make. There are some more complicated recipes as well, should you get bored of the easy ones. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kitty Moment

No picture again today, just a story.

"Jessica was cooking in the kitchen. The weather was gorgeous, so she opened the balcony door to let in some fresh air. The kitties meowed, so - having previously determined it's safe for them - she let the cats onto the balcony. They sniffed around her herbs and settled down to enjoy the fading sunshine.

Jessica went back to cooking, knowing her husband would be home soon. Then she heard it, the garage door rumbling open. He was home and the food wasn't quite done yet. Jessica hurried to finish things up.

Downstairs she heard the door open. Suddenly there was a horrible cross between a scream and a meow at the balcony. Jessica looked over to find Sam, the white male cat, clawing his way up the screen door. Her husband was now upstairs and Sam was clamouring to greet him (he normally greets him at the front door). With a bit of trouble we managed to get the cat down and inside."

Seriously, the cat climbed half way up the screen door in his attempt to get back inside.

Crazy cat.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Seen in a Cemetery

Cemeteries are places of sadness. They're the final resting place of loved ones. But the love of those who mourn is expressed in sculpture and words in ways that are touching to others simply passing by.

These photos are from a local cemetery. The cemetery joins a hiking trail by a river, and is thereby easily accessible to others. I was amazed at the artistry on the tombstones and loved the little statues placed around the grave markers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On the Decline of Proper Grammar

I like grammar. I'm no grammar nazi, but it does annoy me when people say certain things wrong. Texting really irks me, not because things are being shortened so they can be written faster, but because the spelling is somehow 'kewl'. As a writer, words are my tool. My use of words determines how well my message will get across. You mess with my tools and I'll get angry - just as any craftsman would. Experimentation is fine. Shortening things is fine. But please tell me you don't write essays the way you text.

Anyway, here's an amusing video about things we say wrong.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Konapun - Japanese Fake Food Toy

We stumbled across videos of konapun a while back. It's a Japanese toy. I'll let the video poster, RRcherrypie, explain:
(1) It's not edible.
(2) It doesn't cook with actual heat. It is just powder and water with the sound effects.
(3) The fake food made of Konapun will rot soon.
(4) It's not for children under 8 years old. And must do play under the adult.
Basically, it's chemicals that are made to look like food. The kits make elegant looking meals and deserts, so it's a shame you can't eat them. There are a lot of videos and they're rather addictive. Visit RRcherrypie's site if you'd like to see more.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kitty Moment

A few months ago I bought my husband a remote control helicopter as an early birthday present. The kitties love it. That is to say, they're terrified of it. And yet, at the same time, fascinated by it. They try to get as close to it when it's in flight as they can without actually touching it. Occasionally they'll take a swipe at it, but for the most part it's like they're hypnotized by its flashing lights.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Terra Cotta Conservation Area

Part of Credit Valley Conservation, Terra Cotta C.A. is about an hour NW of Toronto. The area includes 1 lake, 2 ponds and several walking trails covering both water and forestland. We walked two trails, some of which loop back to the parking lot while others simply veer into woodlands. The Terra Cotta trail, which loops around Wolf Lake, is a converted roadway, so is easy for hikers of all experience levels. The McGregor Spring Pond trail starts out close by a pond and then takes you through easily navigated forest. Enough trails intersect that you can lengthen your route should you choose. We also took the A.F. Coventry Nature trail, which headed up a few more hills and across some valleys (via wooden bridges).

The park has several picnic areas and an information centre so families with children will have plenty to do. There is no wide open space though, so sports, etc. aren't feasible here.

As for wildlife, fishing is allowed during certain times of the year and in certain places. We saw a lot of dragonflies, crickets, frogs and one great blue heron.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Libraries Will Survive

This is a video done by the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Virginia. The first part is a demonstration of all the services libraries offer, and how they've suffered due to budget cuts. The second is a music video by the various branches in the region set to "I Will Survive". The video was written, directed and edited by Sean Bonney. I got it from Crrl's youtube site.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reimen - Korean Cooking

I first learned of reimen (冷麺) while living in Japan (it's a Morioka specialty), and therefore mistook it for a Japanese dish. But it's actually a cold Korean soup. Alas, I don't have a recipe for it, I've either used kit dinners from Japan (brought back with me from trips and soon missed) or strained sweet chili spring roll dipping sauce and added kimchee for spice. I know that's not how you're supposed to make it, but when in 'desperation'... And it works, after a fashion.

So, reimen. Cold rice noodles in a spice broth with kimchee, a slice of beef, cucumbers, a boiled egg and fruit (I've had it with watermelon and nashi - Japanese pear). If you've never had it before, I highly recommend it. And if anyone knows the proper recipe for it (I've looked online before without luck), please send it my way.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Kitty Moment

No picture today, just a story. In my last Kitty Moment, I mentioned how our cat likes to sleep on things, despite having lots of carpeted flooring. Well, a few days ago she decided to mess with my mind. I saw her sleeping on, you guessed it, carpet. Regular, nothing on it, carpet.

I noticed this and picked her up, petting her for a while. When I put her down she immediately walked over to the wires on the floor and laid down on them. It made me wonder if she'll sleep on comfortable carpet when no one's watching, then switch to something uncomfortable just because a human's in the room.

Kitties are strange.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


I hate spiders. Always have. Seeing Arachnophobia as a kid didn't help. I can kill spiders. I lived alone long enough that I had no choice but to 'man up' and deal with them myself when they invaded my apartments (especially the basement I lived in for 1 1/2 years).

I find myself in a truce with a spider at the moment. It's big (about 1 inch across, including the legs). It's pretty scary looking. And it's living on my tomato plants.

It hides behind a leaf, waiting for something to fly or crawl onto it's rather large web. I removed a few other spiders from my garden, but for some reason I've left this one alone. Maybe because it's huge and all I can picture is it jumping on my face as I try to whip it away with a stick. Maybe I know that if I do remove it another spider's going to find that sweet spot in a day or so so I might as well stick with this one and be done with it. It has kept a lot of the bugs away, which is good so long as those bugs aren't the ones I need for pollinating my plants.

Maybe when the growing season's officially over I'll ask my husband to get rid of it for me...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Mysterioiusly Yours - Dinner Theatre

I first head of Misteriously Yours several months ago when researching things to do in Toronto. So this past weekend, myhusband and I decided to go. All we knew in advance was that there's a dinner and a show with audience participation. Beyond that, it was all a mystery.

You enter the theatre via a short hall that goes directly down a flight on stairs (the theatre is not wheelchair accessible). There you meet the host and get your table assignment. You put on a name tag (so the actors can identify people) and head down a second flight of stairs to the dining room/theatre.

The room is gorgeous, dark carpeting, split level flooring, gilded mirrors along one wall, green and orange tinged lanterns hanging from the ceiling. There's a lot to admire while you wait to be served.

The dinner menu is small if comprehensive. For a set fee of $25 (sans drinks) you get an appetizer (choice of soup or salad), an entree (vegetarian pasta, chicken, ribs or fish) and desert. Be warned, while the food is delicious (especially the duo chocolate mousse my husband had for desert) the portions are on the small side.

The actors begin mingling at tables around the time desert is served, or 8:00, whichever comes first. They're great at eliciting responses from the guests, and set the stage for the mystery. In this case the mystery was Dr. Jekyll, There's Nowhere to Hyde. The setting was a criminology symposium, run by Marie Curie and attended by Alexander Graham Bell, Dr. Henry Jeckyll, Ivy Leege (Jekyll's assisstant), Prof. Jan Jansky and Dr. Sigmund Freud. They each had an opening pitch to explain who they were and why they were at the meeting. It helps if you're willing to ask questions and play along with them. They all had great senses of humour, necessary for this type of acting.

When they've set up their first batch of victims 'volunteers' (people who have birthdays, anniversaries, etc., who have actually been volunteered by whoever made the reservation), the show actually starts. Marie Curie welcomes you to the symposium and introduces the other attendees. Periodically an actor will call on an audience member to stand or respond. For example, one gentlemen was handed a hat and told to put it on. He was then introduced as Sherlock Holmes. Around 8:30 the murder victim is discovered.

This is when things get interesting. The actors uncover secrets about each other while playing up their individual quirks. Mr. Bell had a can on a string that acted as the first telephone, to which he added facebook and texting! There are 2 intermissions during which the 'clues' end and you have the chance to talk to the actors, asking questions or just playing around. Finally, the guests get to guess who done it, and those that guess correctly have the chance to win prizes.

It was a fun evening and I'd definitely do it again. The shows change periodically, and they also do harbour cruises, brunches and this winter a Caribbean cruise (where there will be 3 murder mysteries).