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).

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Plum Dumplings

One of my favourite German dishes, plum dumplings take some effort but are definitely worth it.

Here's my mother's recipe for them:
1 pound grated potatoes
1 pound flour (adjust this based on the dough)
1 pinch salt
1 egg
6-12 plums (depends on the size of the plums)
[assume 3 large or 4 small plums per adult]
2 tablespoons ground poppy seeds [I use a mortar & pestel to grind them - and remember to store the seeds in the fridge]
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter

Take the boiled potatoes and grate them. [Two notes here, first, don't cook the potatoes in the microwave or you'll get tough skins, which mess up the dough. Second, if you don't want to grate the potatoes on a cheese grater (which is what I used to do) I used a potato masher the last time I made them and it worked. It's not the same, but it's close enough and saves a lot of effort.]
Once the potatoes are well mashed, add the egg, salt and flour. Mix into a dough. Wrap the dough around washed, but not pitted, plums [wet your hands a little when doing this to keep the dough from sticking to them].
Place the plums into boiling water [if it's not boiling you risk the dough falling off], and let boil 10-15 minutes OR UNTIL THEY FLOAT. Mine typically float in about 5 minutes, so check to be sure the dough is fully cooked but be careful not to overcook them or they'll taste unpleasant.
Top with the butter, poppy seeds and sugar.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Kitty Moment

Our cat has this odd propensity for sitting on things. The floor will be perfectly open, lots of nice comfortable places to sit, and she'll find the one piece of paper that's fallen down and sit on that, making sure her body's only on the paper. While we were getting the windows replaced all our electronic equipment was moved aside. That resulted in a pile of wires on the floor. Even once things were put back together, some wires remained. Despite having swathes of open carpet to lie on, our cat heads straight for the wires. Bizarre.

The Apostrophe Song

As a former teacher, I can appreciate wanting people to use correct grammar and punctuation. This is a great little song to help with apostrophes. I'm actually surprised by the number of people adding punctuation where none's required. This is taken from Cool1000Rules's youtube channel.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Busy Busy Busy

I've been doing double posts on my other blog, which, on top of all the other things I've had to do this week, leaves me little time to post here and little energy to come up with post ideas. I made plum dumplings and canned senf gerkin (German mustard pickles), started and finished a rather short but interesting book, etc., etc. Once my Fan Expo posts are out of the way I should have more time to dedicate to this blog.

In the meantime, Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games series, awaits!