Saturday, November 20, 2010

Locking in Kim the Hundai

Kim the Hyundai will be with us for another year at least - we have taken the plunge and bought her new front brakes and winter tires, enough to keep her safe for another year, if we add such sundries as new wiper blades and perhaps some gasoline. With Jenn extending her schooling until next December from Next September, it seems that with two winter seasons to go, it would be prudent to put snow tires in place. We also took care of the Input Shaft Speed Sensor problem and did some general cleanup.

I think I may have spoken ill of Kim the Hyundai on a number of occasions, saying that she is boring, thirsty, ugly, and causes problems. This may well ignore the fact that poor Kim has now taken us exactly 100,000 kilometers further down the road. She is 10 years old, she has nearly 200,000 km on the clock, and she keeps running. And then consider the items that have actually required replacement:

Tires (Summer)
Tires (Winter)
Spark plugs & Wires
Timing Belt
Front and rear brake pads and rotors and rear calipers
window lift
input and output shaft speed sensors

With the exception of the window lift (an inexpensive but annoying repair), the brake caliper (inexpensive), and the transmission speed sensors (inexpensive and easy to do one's self) all of these items are normal wear and tear items on a car.

She doesn't rattle, she doesn't creak, she doesn't rust. She starts on the first try every time. Her heater blows hot and her AC blows cold. She gets 9L / 100 KM in my normal commute. Kim doesn't complain. She does her job and is quite happy to let Joy the Mazda sleep in the garage and hog the glory.

Oh, Kim, I know you will take me another 20 or 30 thousand klicks down the road, I just hope you won't be sad when we finally have to part ways.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Another day

A wife looks across the breakfast table one morning at her husband, back from his 7th 28 day shift in a row managing construction on upgraders since they arrived in Alberta. She knows that two days from now, he is heading back to McMurray in the trailer he bought so that they could pocket his per-diem allowance. She looks at the kids, too young to understand what she is saying.

"You shouldn't come back after. I can't do this anymore."

Four years later, I walk beside him as he is leaving the courthouse. The warm inside stink of old paper and fear-sweat giving way to a cold blast of stale cigarette smoke and diesel fumes.

"It's over, no more fighting... And you succeeded on a lot of issues..." I offer...

"Doesn't feel like that."

"I know."

We wait in silence for the light to change on our way to the parking lot. I pretend to check the cross-light to see if it has gone yellow. Really I am taking a sidelong glance at this man. Good looking, charming, intelligent, articulate and successful, his eyes are slit shut against the cold wind. For the first time in three years, I see him fish out a cigarette and light it up. He takes a deep drag and looks out at the tips of smokestacks, gas flares and cracking towers visible in the distance from behind the courthouse. The wind snatches away the smoke from his cigarette. From the parking lot behind the Army & Navy, he sees the cold, cruel unforgiving bitch who took his wife and kids from him - Alberta Oil. "Come on out, come make your fortune and head home with a million in the bank and take it easy, teach the kids to fish at your new place by the lake..."

He sees the reality now.

"I hate this place," he says, turns, tosses his butt, and heads for his truck.

I get in my car, and just drive.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Wow, no September post, either.

OK, OK, it has been a bad year for this blog's level of content. I blame a complete lack of time on Jenn's part caused by her school work and my complete lack of time ( and then motivation) stemming from looking after the chores to the extent I do and practicing law full time.

So to finish off the reviews I started in August - Palliser Hotel -

You get what you pay for, but you pay a lot.

The beds are great, the bedding is soft and pillows are quality. The public spaces are beautiful and full of grandeur. The location is tremendous, right near everything in Calgary's downtown that you might want to do or see. The rooms are a bit small by modern standards, and the plumbing is a bit retro, but it isn't the worst I have seen.

We didn't try the food, since there were so many other options so close. I'm sure it's lovely.

The service is what you expect at a Fairmont hotel in Canada. Good.

There. The Palliser. Good hotel. Also the pool was nice.

And Jenn and I had a lovely time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Finished" the reno

The last of our construction, painting and stuff is now finished!

I say this knowing that there remains the possibility to change out the kitchen faucet and downstairs light fixtures and do a tile backsplash in the kitchen and put new carpet in the stairs and finish that baseboard there, but everything we had actually going on is over!

How does it feel? It feel good.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fon-do or Fon-Don't?

On the 30th of July, Jenn and I went to the Laurier Lounge for our Anniversary dinner. We were a little skeptical at first, as a couple of Calgary-style middle-aged downtown jerk-wads were seated at the table next to us almost right away, and talked loudly of how awesome they were. It was like dining in a Maxim Magazine article. They were rapidly shunted to the patio (where they were more comfortable looking at the "Chicks" and we were more comfortable being without them. We asked the hostess if they could keep us a bit isolated for our romantic dinner, and they did their very best to accommodate.

Our waitress was a thirty-something Aussie surfer-chick on walkabout, but did a reasonable job. She did inform us that Warren Buffet, when he was in Calgary, had dined there, and had their trademark burger and declared it was the best burger he had ever had. I have my doubts. Although I was impressed with the looks of some of the appies, we went with the three course fondue dinner for two, a Prix Fixe option of some excellent value, along with a carafe of the house red, Adobe Malbec from Chile, which was also excellent.

The food was great. The cheese fondue to start was tasty and had a splash of Kirsch. The meat fondue was in a french-onion-soup kind of broth, and came with excellent sides, and the chocolate fondue to finish as to die for. I probably would have died if I had eaten everything with the main course.

All in all, a nice little place in the belt line to try out if you are in Calgary. I would go again, for sure. Also looks fun for groups.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Mexican Food in Calgary

So Friday afternoon on the way back from bodyworlds, Jenn and I stopped at Holt Renfrew to do a little window shopping (the only kind I can afford at Holts). She hit Luis Vuitton, and I hit Hermes, and then we split up, jenn hitting ladies wear, while I checked out the blowout clearance racks in Menswear. 70% off is not helpful when the regular price is $3500.00 for a sport coat. I did see an Armani tux I wanted (only $1100.00, after markdown) and I drooled over the Zenga and Canali suits, but I think I will be sticking with secondhand. Even the shirts I liked were well out of my price range right now (marked down from $300.00 +)


We did drop $200.00 at the Bay later on during their season clearance + reno sale and got a large bag full of clothes to last us a little while.

But that leads me to Mexican food (or at least nachos) which we got on the patio at Juan's on Stephen Avenue at about 3:00 in the afternoon on the 30th of July, along with a couple of lime margaritas on the rocks. The nachos were the best I have had in a long time. I would definitely get them again, they are probably the best nachos on Stephen Avenue. The margaritas were good too. The other items on the menu also looked very good, but we didn't feel like a real meal. Also the Guacamole was amazing. I don't make better than that myself, and i am pretty proud of my guac usually.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sorry about no July Posting, I've been lazy.

But now I can post three or four quick ones back to back thanks to my trip down to Calgary this week.

Jenn and I were married a bit over five years ago, five years ago this past Friday, to be exact, and to celebrate, we booked ourselves into the Palliser Hotel in Calgary. (Why the Palliser? Why Calgary? Keep looking for a future post to inform the Calgaryness)

While we were there, we ate out enough to make up for the no-new-food-reviews-in-months situation. The first place we ate was Earls, because we were looking for a place to eat at 9:30 on a Thursday night on Stephen Avenue that wasn't either hyper-expensive or straight pub food. It was an Earls.

The next morning, we decided to take breakfast at the Avenue Diner in the 100 block of Stephen Avenue. Upon walking in, you are greeted by a mid-sized, cheerful space with a long counter in front and tables towards the back on the way to an open kitchen. The Menu is small but enticing, with some wonderful sounding options. Jenn and I, being on vacation, each had a variation on eggs Benedict. Mine west-coast style with smoked salmon, and Jenn's Florentine, with spinach, shallots and smoky bacon. Each came with the same herbed Hollandaise sauce and hash-brown Yukon gold potatoes, as well as an organic cherry tomato, which more or less exploded into a flavour-bomb of tomato-ness as soon as you bit into it.

The food was knock-you-on-your-ass good. The ingredients were of obviously good quality and fresh and local. The portions were a good size and the price- at about $15.00 each, were higher than going to Smitty's but not substantially so, and for the value, they were great.

If you are having a hankering for breakfast (served all day) and you are in Downtown Calgary, go there. It is good.

Five cups of organic, fairly traded coffee.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Health food

For a person who makes their own yogurt and grows their own sprouts, I have a terrible attitude about "health food".

Of course I also make Aioli and Holandaise from scratch.....

Monday, May 31, 2010

Beer Celebration

To celebrate the kegging of my Treewhale Irish Red ale, I made Mac& Cheese.

I seethed some vidalia onions in butter, then made a roux and added a mixture of half red ale and half half-and-half. From there, I added a cup of lite cream cheese, a cup of applewood smoked cheddar and a cup of mozzarella. I blended in the macaroni and diced smoked ham, topped it with crumbs and baked it for a half hour.

That's what I'm talking about, baby... Yeah.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Owen didn't win something

Came in 5th in Canadian Brewer of the year without really brewing that much this year. Big plans for summer, though. The Aurora Brewing Challenge wrap up was a fun time after several evenings of judging beers. We killed a noble pig and ate a great deal of home-made sauerkraut. It was lovely.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I know, I know, two beer posts in 3 days. Get over it.

So I won the 2010 Vanbrewers beer competition on the weekend. Best of Show. The grand prize? Yaletown Brewing makes a batch of your beer and sells it to customers. Woo hoo.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Black Irish Red

Today, over came Nick the Mighty Brewer, and we proceeded to make ourselves a batch of Irish Red Ale, which turned out a bit more Brown than we expected. It sure smelled good, though, and we are looking forward to trying it out in a few weeks. Also in the beer news this week, Last Sunday was Big Brew at Alley Kat Brewery, where I walked away with a couple of carboys of a pleasing American pale ale, one of which I will be dry-hopping, and the other will be, I dunno, infused with raspberry essence. Yes, that would be nice.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Edmonton International Beer Festival Sucked

I think the title to this post says it all, but just to give some detail, you can learn more about it at, where my good friedn Jason Foster keeps us all up-to-date about beer happenings in Western Canada.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Another recipe request

This time from Vanessa, for sticky rice in lotus leaves.

1. Steam a steamer of glutinous rice. Don't think you can use regular rice and it will turn out. It won't. I have tried to do this in a bamboo steamer according to directions with the recipe, but it turns out way better if you just put it in a rice cooker. It is easier too.

2. Soak 4 large lotus leaves in hot water for an hour or so. This takes some doing because they are so big. Cut them in half when they are ready. T&T doesn't carry these, so you will have to hit Lucky 97 in Edmonton, or another indie specialty grocer in the place where you are. They keep forever and they are dirt cheap,l so if you find them, get a couple packages if you really like these things. (One package will make a couple of double batches.

3. Soak 4 dried Chinese mushrooms and a couple of tablespoons of dried shrimp in boiling water for an hour or so. Chop them all up together.

4. Heat a wok. Ass oil, stir-fry 12 oz cubed chicken or ground pork until browned. Ass the shrimp and mushrooms, a clove of chopped garlic, 2 thinly sliced Chinese sausages, and 2 sliced green onions. Stir fry another 2 minutes. Add 1 TB oyster sauce, 1Tb light soy sauce, 1 Tb sugar and 1 tsp sesame oil. Mix well. Add 1 TB cornstarch dissolved in 3/4 cup water. simmer until thickened.

5. lay out a half a lotus leaf. put a generous handful of rice on the leaf and flatten it a bit. spoon a portion of the cooked mixture over the rice, and add another generous handful of rice on top. wrap up and lay aside. Repeat until you are out of something. If you are careful, you should run out of everything at once.

6. At this point, you can wrap and freeze, or you can steam them for 30 minutes. If steaming from frozen, steam longer.

7. You can double this recipe easily. I recommend it because doing it for a regular sized batch is a lot of work and soaking stuff, and doing it for a double batch is not that much harder. They freeze well, and they are super handy for an easy supper with some stir-fried veg or as part of a leisurely at-home dim-sum breakfast if you have some other dumplings in the freezer.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Calgary Style Ginger Beef recipe circa 1996

Ginger beef is not Chinese food. It is as Canadian as it gets. It was purportedly invented at the Silver Inn in Calgary sometime in the late 70s or early 80s, depending on who you ask. It quickly spread throughout Calgary, and now Canada (a Friend told me of a restaurant in Toronto advertising "Calgary Style Ginger Beef"). Edmonton's version is not the same, being sweeter, more of a sweet&sour beef with ginger, and lacking the darker flavours of the original.

In the early days of my use of the World Wide Web, I searched for Ginger beef recipes using the then state-of-the-art Alta Vista, and what should come up but the Ginger Beef Peking House in Brentwood, who had, inexplicably, posted their recipe on line for all to steal.

It works.

Several of you have asked for it over the years, I have always said I would get around to it. Here it is, Owen's (stolen) recipe for Calgary Style Ginger Beef:

1/2 pound flank steak, sliced thinly against the grain


1/2 egg
8 TB water
10 TB corn starch
1.5 TB flour
2 TB oil
1/4 TB white pepper

(combine batter, mix the beef up with the batter and deep-fry the strips of beef until crispy)

2 TB light soy sauce
1TB white vinegar
1.5 TB Mushroom soy sauce (dark soy sauce is an acceptable substitute)
0.5 TB Chinese cooking wine (or dry sherry)
1/4 cup water
8 TB sugar
1/4 TB or more crushed chilies

(mix together and put to one side before you start to assemble the final dish)

Slice 1 red and 1 green pepper (you can substitute celery, julienned carrots, baby leeks, whatever), chop 3 garlic cloves finely and julienne a hefty chunk of ginger, depending on taste. (At least the size of your thumb.)

Stir fry the vegetables you have chosen with the garlic and ginger until crispy. Ass the sauce mixture and bring to the boil. Add the beef strips and stir to coat with the sauce.

For authenticity stop here and serve. If you want a thicker sauce, you can add a little cornstarch and water and bring back to the boil.

There you have it. It is about as simple as it gets. Enjoy. I know you will try it, Kelly and Lesa.

Monday, January 18, 2010

24 Down

24 down, having brewed Dunkleweizen yesterday. Next up, Kolsch and California Common Beer, and then who knows?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My mistake

It isn't 16 down, I went back throught the blog and counted up, and it is 23 down, 57 to go after 30 months. Time to get brewing.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Brewing Doubles and Feeling.... Uh... Married.

Today, with a visit from Nick the Mighty Brewer, we brewed up two styles of India Pale Ale, English and American, both of which are going to be great. I expect to keg both within 10 days or so, though we will see. I want to have them both ready to head to the Cowtown Yeast Wranglers competition in February, which means they need to be bottled/kegged within about 2 weeks.

This means that we are 16 down and 64 to go, with a forecast of 2-3 more beers this month if the weather holds.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The world is my freezer.

Literally. The world is my freezer. I just made a big pot of soup and the portioned tubs of it are sitting on my deck because they it is colder out there than in my freezer, and also a lot more spacious.

For Christmas, I received a ton of great presents, one of which was Jim Murray's 2009 Whisky Bible, a document which purports to rate every known whisky. Scotch, Irish, English, Bourbon, Japanese, Nepalese, Norwegian, Spanish, Australian, and not the least of them is Canadian, or what we in Canada would call "Rye". Although a disproportionate amount of the text is devoted to Scottish Malt whiskeys, he repeatedly observes in his introductions to other sections that blended whiskeys are currently overlooked by whiskey drinkers around the world.

Being a patriot, and long having been an advocate of the principle that it is better to drink good rye than cheap Scotch, I turned my attention immediately to the Canadian section, where I found an interesting statement - that the 4 highest rated Canadian whiskeys in his book would give the four best whiskeys from any country a run for their money - presumably including Scotland. The second through fourth were rather obscure premium bottlings. The number 1 whiskey in Canada, described as a "National Treasure"? Bottom shelf booze. Literally. In my hometown, the top brand is a discount brand relegated to the bottom shelf, leaving room for more lofty drinks like Crown Royal.

Best Whiskey in Canada? Alberta Premium. So the man says. Who am I to argue?

A dedicated booze enthusiast, that's who. I went to the store.

This is a big whiskey. The Lagavulin of Canada. It grabs hold and shakes. Big body, big flavour, big aroma, big rye taste. Go get some if you are a rye drinker. It is worth the shame of being seen buying discount booze. This is a whiskey to run with the best premium spirits in the world.