Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fall Organizing

Everyone has heard of 'spring cleaning'. After a long winter shut up indoors, out come the cleaning supplies and everything gets a good scrubbing while the windows and doors are flung open to let in the fresh spring air. It's a ritual performed by households all over the northern part of the hemisphere, including my own and probably yours!

What I've just come to realize, though, is that for me there is a counterpart to the spring cleaning ritual - 'fall organizing'. Every year, as soon as that crispness hits the air, I begin to feel the need to get my life in order. Closets and cupboards get emptied, sorted and organized. The filing cabinet, with its myriad of paperwork, is given a once-over and reams of stuff is sent off to be shredded and recycled.

So far this year, all of my organizational zeal has been focused on my crafting stuff. With some wonderful results! I have now condensed and downsized the contents of 2 giant storage tubs into 1 giant storage tub. How, you may ask, was this miraculous feat accomplished?

To begin, I pulled out all of my scrap yarn - a rather sizeable collection of leftovers. I then channeled all my crafting energies into completeing a scrap yarn afghan that I have been working on for 5 years. It felt wonderful to finally have it done, but I still had a huge amount of scrap yarn to use up, so...

...I started working on another afghan - this one not quite as stylish, but definitely colourful! Right now I've used up about 90% of the scraps, so it's almost done.

I was also able to give away this afghan to some friends of ours who just got married this weekend. And I've made the commitment that I will not be buying any more yarn until I've used up the rest of my stash.

That being said, before I made that commitment, I had stopped by a local yarn store that's having an inventory sale for the month of August where if you pay cash, you get 10% off and they pay the tax. How could I not buy something? So I picked up a skein of Fleece Artist Sea Wool, which is going to make a lovely pair of Jaywalker socks. But not until I finish all my WIPs!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Awkward moment...

For the past month or so, I've really started to notice how un-fit I'm feeling, largely because there is very little physical activity and far too much sugar in my life. I got off track back in Feb/Mar when my life was so crazily, insanely busy and I just never really tried to get back into a healthy routine. So, over the course of this past weekend I made two decisions: 1) I am going to start attending yoga classes once a week at the studio down the street, and 2) I am going to cut out any and all desserts for the month of September to break the habit of needing something sweet after a meal.

I learned today that these decisions were made not a moment too soon, as I was asked by someone at work if I was expecting. I am not. Awkwardness ensued...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Raspberry goodness

Behold the incredibly yummy Raspberry Custard Kuchen that I made this week. I was looking for a way to use up some plums that I was given, and stumbled across this recipe and just had to try it. I'm so glad I did! It's good as a dessert or for breakfast - or both :) And I'm pretty sure that you could substitute just about any fruit for the raspberries, depending on what's in season. Here's the recipe:

Raspberry Custard Kuchen

1-1/2 cups + 1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter
1 cup + 2 Tbsp. whipping cream
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups fresh raspberries (or other fruit)

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2) In a medium-sized bowl, combine 1 cup of flour and 1/2 tsp of salt. Cut in 1/2 cup of butter until it has become the consistency of coarse crumbs. Stir in 2 Tbsp of whipping cream. Pat into a well-greased 9"x13" baking pan to form the crust.

3) In the now empty bowl, combine 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/2 cups of flour and sprinkle it evenly over the crust. Evenly distribute the raspberries on top of this.

4) In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 Tbsp of flour. Add the eggs, 1 cup of whipping cream, and 1 tsp of vanilla extract to the flour mixture and stir it in. Pour this evenly over the berries.

5) Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Let stand for 10 minutes or so before cutting.


Thursday, August 21, 2008


I saw something rather amazing yesterday on my way home from work. As I sat down in the subway train, I noticed a guy a little way down from me playing with a rubix cube, which in and of itself isn't that remarkable. What caught my attention was the way he was flipping it around like he'd been doing it his whole life. He then proceeded to mix it up and then solve it 7 times in the 20 minutes that I was on the subway with him. He even took some time in the middle to make different patterns with it, like having the 4 corner squares on each side the colour of the opposite side. Everyone in the train was watching him, to which he seemed oblivious. I couldn't help thinking that he was either an exceptionally gifted person or someone with way too much time on his hands. Probably both. In any case, it was fun to watch!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Paucity of Posts

Sorry everyone! Things are going to be a little sparse over here for a little while. Work has gotten extraordinarily busy, so my posting time has been drastically reduced. I'll still post when I can, though, so you won't feel neglected ;o)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Raisinet Anyone?

Hee hee hee! Nick and Maureen pointed me to this site over here, and I'm rather thankful. I can always use a good chuckle.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nasal overload

One of the hazards of using public transit for those of us with scent allergies is that you are guaranteed at some point in your journey to be assaulted by the overwhelming perfume/cologne/etc. worn by far too many people. And there is no escape, unless you get off at the nearest stop, but then you'll just run into the same thing on the next ride. So here are my tips on how to avoid the worst of it.

Tip #1 - Avoid sitting or standing near black women.
Now before you get upset, let me explain. The fact of the matter is that the majority of black women use a significant amount of hair product, which is usually very heavily scented. There are, of course, exceptions to this, so look to see if the woman's hair is straight or looks like it's glued in place - those are the ones to avoid. Anyone with a more natural-looking hairstyle is probably safe.

Tip #2 - Avoid sitting or standing near teenage girls.
This one shouldn't need much explanation. Without a great deal of perfumery experience, it's easier for them to overdo it. As a bonus, you don't have to sit and listen to a conversation riddled with the word "like."

Tip #3 - Avoid sitting or standing next to anyone wearing animal prints, fur, or with extra-long fingernails.
This goes for both genders, folks. These are the people who think more is better - trust me, you want to stay far away.

Tip #4 - Try to sit or stand next to people with small children.
People travelling on public transit with small children are either: a) environmentally conscious yippies (that's a cross between a yuppie and a hippy) who wouldn't wear such chemically laden products, especially around their children, or b) too busy or sleep-deprived to even remember such frivolities as perfume and hairspray.

Tip #5 - Try to sit or stand next to people dressed in work clothes.
Anyone dressed in work clothes, and I don't mean suits and ties, is going to be doing some significant labouring and generally doesn't bother with scenting themselves. That's saved for when they clean up after work. There is one exception - if the work clothes are covered in paint, you may want to avoid them unless you'd like to get a passive high en route to your destination.

Tip #6 - Try to sit or stand near a window or door.
That way, if you are unable to avoid the three categories of people mentioned above, or a seemingly innocent-looking person turns out to be a walking scent bomb, you can at least get a brief whiff of fresh air on occasion. Another bonus: if you're sitting next to an open window in the winter, chances are no one is going to want to sit near you anyway. Just make sure you bundle up!

I can't guarantee that following these rules will keep the scent assaults at bay, since there are always exceptions, but I've been riding the TTC with allergies for three years now and can attest to the fact that every little bit helps!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Stratford Pictures

I found a few more pictures on our camera from Stratford, so I thought I'd share them with you all.

I didn't realize when I took this one that the bottles framed the lady's derriere quite so well.

We had to walk past this tree to get to the theatre - isn't it just begging for a tree house?

This is a group of Korean drummers that were rather amazing to watch. As they drummed they were dancing and spinning those ribbons on their heads. It was making me dizzy just to watch :)

The Avon River. It looks very pretty from a distance, but smells horrible and has all kinds of unidentified floating sludgy stuff in it. Mmm...

The sludgy stuff doesn't seem to bother these guys, though. There were quite a few ducks and swans swimming in the river.

That's all folks!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

In a pickle...

I decided that this year I wanted to make my own bread & butter pickles, using my MIL's recipe:

8 cups thinly sliced cucumbers (the little ones)
2-1/2 cups thinly sliced onion (peel and slice into rounds)
1/4+ cup salt
2 cups white vinegar
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. celery seed
2 tsp. mustard seed
2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine the cucumber, onion and salt in a large pot. Cover and let sit for 3 hours.

After the 3 hours, dump the cucumbers/etc. in a strainer and rinse well. Then dump into an extra-large pot.

Add the vinegar, sugar, celery seed, mustard seed, turmeric and cinnamon. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved and the cucumbers are coated.

Bring it to a boil for 20-30 minutes, until the cucumbers are transparent. Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars. (Makes approx. four 500ml jars.)

So I went out on Saturday morning to pick up the ingredients that I needed, as well as the canning jars, since I didn't have any. I thought to myself, These cucumbers look rather small. It will probably take quite a few to make 8 cups. Big mistake. It really doesn't take that many.

The result?

A plethora of pickles - 3 batches on Saturday, 2 more on Sunday, and the one last night.

I have learned an important lesson this weekend, and that lesson is this: It is always better to start small and have to get more than to start big and wish you hadn't.

On the plus side - I may never have to make pickles ever again :)

Monday, August 11, 2008

We're Fine

You may or may not have heard about the huge explosions here in Toronto this weekend. It's dominating the news here, with good reason as it has affected just about everyone in the city in some way. We live between six and seven kilometres away from the propane facility and the explosions were loud enough to wake us both up. I had actually been dreaming that I was in a war zone being shelled, and then woke up to hear what I thought at the time was some really weird thunder that lasted a good 20 minutes. It wasn't until we arrived at church and practically no one was there that we found out about the explosions and put two and two together. They shut down the 401 and the subway system in that area (which stranded us at church for a while until we could flag down a cab), and evacuated the whole neighbourhood. Scary stuff!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Haiku Friday: Summer Rain

Haiku Friday

Summer rain gently falls
In little drops that bring life
And wreck my hair-do.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

To Post or Not to Post...

Let me begin by saying that if you ever have the chance to visit the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, you should definitely avail yourself of it. TC and I just returned from a wonderful weekend spent exploring the admittedly touristy but still charming little town and attending three plays by Shakespeare - All's Well That Ends Well, Hamlet and Love's Labours Lost.

It was a perfect weekend. The weather was ideal, and it was fun to get out of the city so that we could enjoy it. We rented a car and drove there, staying at the Noretta Motel in a small room with a tiny bathroom, but with air conditioning, so it was all good :) It was also within walking distance of the Festival Theatre (pictured to the right), where 2 of the plays we saw were staged. We arrived on Friday night just in time to check in, grab a bite to eat at Wendy's and then hoof it down to the theatre to see All's Well That Ends Well. It was a good production, with the provisio that they set it in Victorian times, which didn't work very well with the subject of the play.

Saturday morning we spent wandering about Stratford, popping in and out of all the little stores. Some of our favourites:

Distinctly Tea (okay, this was more my favourite than TC's).

It's a wonderful place, with over 350 different kinds of loose teas to choose from. I think I did well to come home with only four! Decaf Darjeeling black tea, Decaf Earl Grey black tea, Pai Mu Tan white tea and a Chocolate Mint rooibos tea - mmm, I can't wait to try them all! And the store was just so darn cute! They even had a couch in the area out front where TC, and others like him, could sit while we tea-lovers oogled the shelves of tea. Or they could go to the antique clock repair shop next door and look at the dozens of old clocks. Or the make-your-own ceramics shop one door down, where they could pick a ceramic object (mug, coaster, plate, etc.) and paint it as they please. But I digress.

Another favourite was a store called The Book Vault (no surprise there, I'm sure). They had a good selection of books, at truly remarkable prices. They sell the books at the American prices, in Canadian dollars, and then have a fair number of them on sale after that. We picked up four books there, but I can't remember now what they are, though one has to do with Henry James.

Saturday afternoon we went back to the motel and I had a delicious nap while TC read and then wandered off to do some more exploring. That evening we saw Hamlet, and I can honestly say that it was one of the best plays I have ever seen. A fabulous production - I actually cried at one point, as Ophelia in her madness was grieving her father's death. The people sitting around us were rather funny. There was one guy to our left who went "Oh, hmm" every time he recognized a saying (One of TC's mentors tells the story of asking someone who had just seen a production of Hamlet what they thought of it, and they replied "It's pretty good, except it was full of cliches."). By the end of the play he was repeating them after the actors. And then at the very end, as the dying Hamlet gave all his instructions for the care of the kingdom to Horatio and then said "all that's left is silence", the same guy said rather audibly "What'd he say?" Too funny!

On Sunday, instead of going to church we went to hear Janet Cardiff's Forty-Part Motet. It was rather amazing. What they've done is had a choir sing Thomas Tallius' "Spem in Alium" (1573). Each of the 40 voices was recorded separately and the recordings are played back through 40 speakers placed in a circle around the auditorium. You can sit in the middle of the room and listen to all of the voices together, or walk around and listen to each individual singer, hearing what they would hear. I've sung in choirs, so I didn't feel the need to walk around the edges, but sat in the midst of it, surrounded by the music on every side with the ebb and flow as the emphasis moved to different sections of the choir. The effect was very moving - I felt like I was inside the music.

Afterward, we went into Rheo Thompson Candies, a chocolate and candy store where they make everything right on the premises. I cannot sufficiently describe the aromas that were wafting about the place - suffice it to say that we did not come out empty-handed :) The only problem was that I couldn't buy the chocolate I wanted to because it would have had to sit in the car while we went to the last play that afternoon. I contented myself with a little bit of chocolate that I could eat after lunch, and some cinnamon hard candies. TC decided to risk it and bought a bar of their gourment milk chocolate. It sat in the trunk and by the end of the day had become chocolate soup. It was still quite tasty once it had re-solidified, though!

The last play we saw was very funny - I enjoyed it tremendously. We saw it at a much smaller venue, the Tom Patterson Theatre, making it easier for the audience to connect with what was happening on stage. Which was a good thing, since Love's Labours Lost is known for being one of Shakespeare's most linguistically complex plays. But it didn't matter that much when you could clearly see the expressions on the actors' faces. I'm glad we weren't in the front row, though - one of the actors was quite the spitter!

The food on our trip wasn't all that memorable, except for an amazing soup and sandwich that I had for lunch on Sunday. It was a Curry Cauliflower & Carrot soup, and the sandwich was a grilled cheese made with thick slices of olive & oregano bread and havarti cheese. Soup and sandwich heaven, people!

This post is growing unacceptably long, so I'd better end it :) Let me say again, though, that if you ever get the chance to head to Stratford for the Shakespeare Festival, do it! You won't regret it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Watch This Video!

A friend just sent me this link to a really interesting, well done and incredibly funny video. It's called Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog. Seriously, people, check it out. It's about 40 minutes long, and it's currently free but apparently won't be forever. You can check it out by clicking here. Be sure to come back and tell me what you think :)

[Edit: I've been having trouble with the link above, so if it isn't working for you either try this one.]



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