Archive for December, 2012

Spring Rolls

In all my previous blogs I have detailed my great culinary achievements.  There are, however, some failures.  As the saying goes you learn more from your failures than you do from your success, but I think that is a load of  crap.  Give me success every time. 

Tomorrow night is New Years Eve and we are attending a party at a friend’s house.  The plan is for everyone to be involved in the cooking with many small courses (so we do not finish up and head to bed by 10 pm) 

I declared that I was going to make Thai Spring rolls as one of the appetizers.  I made them before but many years ago so I decided to do a trial run tonight for Pat and I to make sure I can shine tomorrow night.  It was a disaster.

I followed a recipe exactly.  The rolls burst open when I put them in the hot oil filling the pan with bean sprouts and shrimp.  I managed to save a few that we ate but they were not crisp and looked like hell.  Flavour was great but what a horrible presentation. 

Too late to change my mind about tomorrow so I went on-line to see what might have gone wrong.  I suspect that there was too much fluid left in the fillings so when they went in the deep fryer they immediately boiled and burst the wrappers. 

I would like to test it again with a drier filling but I am on stage tomorrow night so I hope I figured it out.  Fortunately Pat is preparing a Margarita pot de creme desert (which we had at Lisa’s) so even if my dish is a failure, by the end of the evening with lots of wine and later champagne I will be forgiven (or better yet forgotten)


Each night as I lay my head down to sleep I go through a routine to blank my mind from the days events and allow me to relax.  This has gone on for years with many favourite themes (one where I am the 19 year old surprise superstar third baseman for the Blue Jays)  Actually that is a good one because there are episodes where I am on Jay Leno (after a .400 season) and I meet and date Taylor Swift.  Anyway that is another subject

Last night I was debating the best way to be invisible.  Mentally I investigated the 3 most popular concepts.

There is the twice done movie  Invisible Man from some nuclear experiment.  The pros are that you are invisible and can run around all you want.  The bad is that you have to be naked which is not great in the Canadian Winter and everything you eat is visible in the body until digested.  I then debated if the …. how do I politely put it…. bowel movement is itself invisible. 

The second concept is the Invisible Cape from Harry Potter.  Just covers you and as you walk around everything you have is also invisible so you can be wearing clothes.  Disadvantage is that you are still physically there and have to keep ducking people and dust and grime on the outside would eventually make it slightly visible.  From the movie I realize that it is relatively short so if I did not want my feet showing I would have to crouch which at my age would hurt after awhile.

Finally there is the ring from Lord of the Rings.  Put it on and you can do cartwheels.  Everything you have on and attached to you is invisible.  There is the downside.  Every time you use it you end up with a progressively worse migrane headache. 

As I was debating the selection I fell asleep which was the objective of the exercise.  In case you think I am making this up for the blog, this actually was my go-to-sleep thought last night.

 I have learned over the years to think of weird scenarios as I lay there to wipe out anything that was going on in reality.  Hence I sleep well.

December 22

Well we made it.  Why everyone thought that the Mayans, a people too dumb to mix Tin with Copper to make Bronze and thus better tools, could think up a calendar that would predict the end of the world is beyond me.  Truth is if they had been smart enough to use bronze for the carving tool that they used to produce the calendar, the tool would not have worn out before they could lay out the next millenium.

I, of course, never believed in the prophesy.  But what are we going to do with all those smoked mussels, crackers, pasta sauces and bottles of water?

Victory Capstans

It is my blog so I get to put up my minor achievements.  I have finished the double Capstans for the Victory model.  Capstans were the engine that would be used to raise the anchour.  There are two double capstans on Victory.  Double because one is on the lower deck and one on the middle deck.  Two because there is one in the aft and one towards the bow. 

If you see the little holes, that is where they would they would put in the bars.  On the Victory the bars were16 feet long.  Up to 10 men per bar, 160 men in all.  A messenger cable was wrapped around the slabs of the drum and they would push in a circle to raise the 5 ton anchor.  The upper capstan would be used to raise 3 ton spars up the mast. 

You are looking at roughly 10 hours of work.  I have made these in the past so I am much quicker than I used to be. 

Double Capstans

Paid to Read books

Not sure if you picked up in the news about a retired Manitoba Civil Servant named Jack Dagleish spilling the beans about his life. 

A brief synopsis.  He was an accountant working for the Manitoba government in 2000 and assigned to check out a Labour sponsored venture capital fund being promoted heavily by the Provincial NDP government.  He found major issues and advised a warning to his superiors.  The government did not want to hear it and as a whistle blower he was sent off to a non job expecting he would quit but he was 4 years from retirement so he hung on.     The fund later went bankrupt with major loss but by then, the government had forgotten him.

They could not fire him but he did not have any work.  So he openly brought in books to read all day.  Over the 4 years he read many books and made a list of the top 156 books he read while waiting to be retired.  The list  is wonderful.  He did not go trivial as he had all day to read them.  It is a list of great books to read.   I will not go into it the full list as you can download it from National Post, but here are a few of the highlights to give you a flavour.

The Maltese Falcon, Lord Jim, A Passage to India, Grapes of Wrath, Satanic Verses,  All the Kings Men, The Sound and the Fury,  Wuthering Heights, Schindler’s List, Of Mice and Men, Lord of the Rings, Don Quixote,  and his personal favourite, In Cold Blood

Many of them I have read but I love his taste.  One of the books is Deliverance by James Dickey which made a great movie.

I have a copy of his list and will try to read all that I have missed.  I also keep my own list of books, but I think his has more classic popular books.

Not sure if this is how I would have liked to have spent my last 4 years in office, but maybe better than some of the trips to China I had to endure and the endless meetings. 


Vacuum Food Saver

For some time Pat and I have been thinking of buying one of these machines to vacuum seal bags of food for the deep freeze.  We often buy in bulk from Costco (for example 5 pork tenderloins)  use what we want and freeze the others for future.  Wrapping in saran wrap and then in a Ziplock bag has not always been that successful.  Freezer burn and dried out food has occured.

However when we went looking for a system the prices were beyond an impulse buy, until today.  I was down at C Tire and noticed they had the Food Saver machine with rolls on sale.  I bought it and brought it home to present to Pat as an early Christmas gift. 

While she liked the machine she pretty much vetoed the idea of it being a Christmas gift for her.  Apparently the can opener I bought her for Christmas a few years ago is still fresh on her mind.  Looks like I will still have to go shopping and I am not sure if C Tire or Home Depot will suffice.

Anyway I used it tonight to store the left-over beef from our dinner and it seems to work great.  We shall see over the months ahead if this was a wise investment and will keep you advised.

Hot Dogs

When we were growing up as a kid I loved Hot Dogs.  I am not talking of the boiled wieners in a bun that we occasionally had to eat at home, but the ones cooked over an open fire on a stick.

Over the years I have had hundreds of Hot Dogs.  A natural product to eat when you are at a baseball game.  Quick meal in the evening when the kids were small.  All of them were those basic meat tubes that come in a pack.  Once the kids moved out Hot Dogs disappeared from our menu.

Last summer we were attending the August reception for Ryan and Corrie at a park by the Peace Arch south of Vancouver.  All our kids and grandkids were attending and we needed something to do from noon until the reception started in the park that evening. 

We decided we were going to have an old-fashioned Weenie Roast with games and activities to spend the day.  Back to the days when Blaine and I were kids and we would go to Qu’Appelle valley with all the Tregarva friends of our parents.  Sweet memories

I was never enthused by the pink meat tubes even grilled. But this was going to be a throwback party so we needed hot dogs.

I had noticed that Costco had packs of spicy wieners that looked different.  For one thing they were about 25 cm (9 “) long.  We bought a bunch along with long buns to go with them (and some Turkey weenies for Janine)

The afternoon was a great success.  Krystal joined us which was wonderful because instead of having 15 family we now had 16 so we could break into 8 teams for the many games.  Weather was wonderful, games were great and plenty of food. 

For me though, the highlight were the wonderful Costco wieners that Sean grilled on the mini BBQ.  The best Hot Dogs I had ever eaten.  Granted a few beers and my family around might have influenced my opinion, but still great hot dogs.

If you read my blog you will realize that Pat and I like to prepare and enjoy meals. Often an adventure in dining as we experiment from our food magazines or cookbooks.   But at least once a week we always prepare a simple meal.  Could be Pizza or Hamburgers or a soup.  We have now added Costco Weiner Hot Dogs to our list of relaxing meals.  Tonight I BBQd the wieners and we enjoyed them with buns from the bakery (toasted of course on the BBQ) Cheddar Cheese, Kosher pickles and leftover spicy Chili.   Yummy

Victory Lower Gun Deck

After months of working on finicky stern details, Channels, side entrance I can now get back to the carpentry of putting in deck beams and laying deck planks. 

Not basic carpentry.  If you can imagine building a house where every beam is a different length and must be positioned with a swail along the length.  Still no where near as intimidating as carving minature flags and figures and trying to paint wreath strings 2mm in length. Fun times

Planking Lower DeckStern View


December 21 Armegeddon

As the final days of our society count down to the December 21 deadline, we are finding ourselves increasingly tied up in the preparations for the limited life afterwards.  We have been going to Costco to stock up on bulk items (Smoked mussels, tomato paste, pasta sauce, crackers etc)  I have put aside a large container of fresh water in the basement (after all you can only drink out of the back of the toilets for so long) 

I have been studying the televised preparation documentaries (AKA “The Walking Dead” and “Revolution”)  and believe I am prepared to defend our stockpile of supplies from the neighbours.  Granted since our neighbour Andy the retired Paratrooper moved away there is not much challenge in our immediate area.

For weapons I have laid in a supply of sticks and sharpened all the knives in the house.  However to be honest I am not looking forward to the life after December 21 (assuming we live through the apocalyptic event)  A big factor will be the lack of refrigeration and the ability to store food.  Those lucky enough to live in Alberta or Ontario with their natural refrigeration will not appreciate the disadvantage of living on the mild west coast where we will be unable to maintain fresh vegetables or dairy products. 

The very thought of being forced to eat smoked mussels on crackers without the cream cheese layer…ooooooh  shudder

Politically Correct Christmas

We are all aware of the trend to take Christmas away from our culture.  No longer can you say Merry Christmas  in case you offend the Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Animalists etc.  Happy Holiday is the correct salutation.

For those of us that are still Christians (although we still make up the largest religious segment in the world) all our traditions are under threat to be correct.

Take Santa Claus for example.  Not sure if you have been following the controversy in Holland this last 2 years. 

In the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas arrives on a white horse from Spain with his Moorish servant on a donkey carrying gifts.  See picture 1.                 A long way from the reindeer and sleigh of our tradition.

The moorish servant is known as Zwarte Piet (Black Peter)  and is as common in their parades and traditions as the elves are with our version.  Their Christmas excursion has Saint Nicholas with many assistants refered to as Black Peter.  Obviously a racial stereotype, but as ingrained in Dutch tradition as vertically challenged elves are with us.  (see picture 2)

They are being pressured to eliminate Black Peter although the average resident of the country does not accept the issue.  The current theory is that Black Peter is that colour from going up and down the chimneys to deliver the gifts (Yeah like that is going to work).  Still Political Correctness will win out.  They will soon have Happy Holidays just as we have no Christmas trees and only neutral music. 

A number of years ago Santa had to give up his pipe for the non smoking people and of course you never see him with a whip in his hand as he drives the reindeer from  roof to roof.

Here is what I forecast.  We will have to lose the elves.  The male Santa Claus will have to be replaced with either a hermaphrodite or alternate years when Mrs Claus delivers the presents.  By the way what is her maiden name because we may need to learn it? 

Mrs Claus in red tights ooo shudder!

Thank goodness I am old and my memories will carry on but I pity the next generation. 

17.jpgBlack Peter