Friday, October 30, 2009

Bathroom Humour

Guess what I did yesterday? I broke our toilet. Not in the conventional way, either. It all started when I noticed it was making funny hissing noises. I don't know if the hissing noises were technically bad, but I could hear them in the bedroom and it was starting to get on my nerves. Plus I automatically assume that any noise a toilet is making when it probably should be silent could possibly be wasting water somehow and that irritates me even more than the sound. So I was actually trying to fix the darn thing when all of a sudden, all this water started gushing out the top of that tall pipe and wouldn't stop. I got all freaked out and panicked and the only thing that would stop the water was lifting the float all the way up. After a minute or two, I realized I couldn't very well sit there all night holding the float, so I wedged a bottle of SPF lotion in there while I thought about what to do.

What I thought was that I should tell you, so if you were to find yourself sitting on your toilet, holding your float in the air, you'd at least have some idea of what to do. I'll try to explain as best I can what I did to fix my particular problem, but this is only going to fix this particular problem and not every problem imaginable. I just want you to know that it's really not that hard. Plus  it's totally fulfilling. I can definitely attest to the sense of pride and accomplishment you'll get from taming a wild toilet ballcock, not to mention the money you saved by doing it yourself.  And don't laugh about the ballcock. If you haven't touched it at this stage in your life, you most definitely will in the future. It's a part of growing up.


After I removed everything, I also realized I had a problem with the rubber ring and the whole ballcock area. It wasn't just the screw that was unhappy. Perhaps the pressure from the water was needlessly pushing on the screw...I have no idea, but regardless, it's kind of a good thing this happened because everything got fixed in the process.

First of all, you have to shut off the water. That way, you can unwedge your bottle of SPF lotion, and really get down to the meat and potatoes of the problem. My immediate problem was that blue screw. See it up there? That little screw tells the water to stop going because as the float (attached to the metal float arm there) lifts, it pushes down on the plastic buttony thing inside (oh hey! That's the ballcock!), and there you have it, closed. Oooh, lookit how scientific I'm being! What it's really used for is adjusting the water level in your tank, too. But I'm just telling you the stuff I observed. And this is what it looked like to me. All right, so the problem with the screw was that the threads were pushed in and stripped. Basically, my screw couldn't screw anymore. So it kept sliding out and the ballcock just thought, oh! You need more water! I'm just gonna keep on pumpin' then, don't mind me! (toilet talk is dirty on all sorts of levels)

What I hoped was that I could change out the plastic screw or maybe just the top. I had no idea what they sold for parts. And by "they" I mean, those stores that sell junk like that. Or the stores you think sell junk like that. Case in point, I immediately went out searching for my dream part. First, I went to Canadian Tire. It's closest to me, and I wanted to go the easy route first. Nothing. They had no toilet fixing paraphernalia that I could see and if they do, they also had no staff willing to look at me so I could ask them where it was. Then I drove to Walmart. They only had entire toilet tank kits. I looked at them for a while. Fondled them a bit. I thought, well, they aren't that expensive, but I don't want to install the whole thing, so maybe that'll be my fall-back plan. Installing a whole new system seemed like too much work, plus it was 3 p.m. and this whole project was already encroaching on my me-time. Finally, I went to Home Depot. I really should have started there. They had an entire wall of little parts and pieces for toilet fixing and I found exactly what I needed in less time than it took for me to walk to the aisle. Just that part there, the cap with the four screws. That's all. No metal arm, no fill valve, nadda. I compared it to the picture I took, plopped down my $5, and skipped on home. Yes, you read right. That was not a typo. It cost me all of FIVE BUCKS. You thought it'd be astronomical, didn't you? Nuh uh.

Now because I failed to take pictures of the actual process, I'll show you the diagram printed on the back of the fill valve cap (which covers the ballcock, just so we're clear and so I can say ballcock again).



So, following the directions on the back, I worked in reverse. First I took the old screws out (2), then I removed the top. Secondly, I unscrewed the float arm and removed that. Next, I removed the old rubber ring (that black circle up there) which I should mention was gross and sticky and almost completely disintegrated. Then, to install the new top, I did those steps in reverse. Placed the new rubber ring in, put piece 3 into the cap (that's part of the package instructions), screwed on the old float arm, placed the cap on the ballcock, lined up the screw holes, and screwed it on tightly. I finished up by turning the water back on and letting the tank fill up again, lightly adjusting that top screw (the one I had problems with on the old cap) until the water level was where it should be (there's a line on the inside of your toilet tank telling you exactly where, but it can be a bit lower than that, if you want).


Marvel in your accomplishment.

That wasn't so terrible, was it? Not that you'd need extra help or anything for that, but if you do, Google it (I discovered [after the fact] that there's a ton of great pictures over the interwebs that are actually pretty helpful), or you can check out the Home Depot Improvement book (I bought it for Idle Husband last year. It's just about in every aisle in Home Depot). It's super awesome, because it has super awesome pictures and comments. I've found that for most things (I've had to use it for, anyway) it's tons easier to look up your problem in this book rather than finding it on the internet (sometimes the internet has too much information, you know?). I hope that makes you feel a little less scared about what's lurking inside your toilet tank. Knowing it's not that bad is really half the battle, isn't it?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I love me some Greek!

Do you know how hard it is to get a picture of this stuff?!

At least once a week, I have to make some sort of greek-style dinner. Not because Idle Husband commands it, but because I need it. I have to taste those simple flavours. Flavours that I've discovered are super easy to replicate at home. Honestly, I'd never tasted any greek cuisine before meeting IH, and he never forced it on me. In fact, I had to ask him to take me to a greek restaurant just so I could try it. Ever since then, I've been fixated on making it myself. I've tried making just about everything except moussaka (I'm the only one in love with that dish, so unless I plan on eating it for an entire week, it's not in my cooking queue). And I'm still looking for the perfect pita bread recipe. I finally found one that's closer to being authentic than the one I was using, plus it helped that there was also a video as my old recipe was just about the same, except for the technique.

I have, I think, perfected tzatziki. It took a few tries and some figuring, but I've managed to get it to the taste and consistency that IH prefers -- which makes me believe it to be about as authentic tasting as it gets. He should know, afterall.

It's not a hard recipe, but for me it's kinda drawn out. The biggest problem is the yogurt. I can't find any of that fancy greek yogurt anywhere. You know? The thick, almost butter-like consistency type? The type everyone else in the world seems to have except us? (Yeah, Fage, I'm talking to you. Don't make me send you another angry, woeful email.) Eh, hem. Anyway, I could drive to the north of the city, to the only greek shopping store I know of, and buy their home-pressed greek yogurt, but it's super out of my way and I really can't be bothered. Instead I buy the thickest yogurt I can find and strain it myself. Doing this has caused me many problems, but I've finally figured out the best way to do it.

This is the yogurt I like to use. Balkan style isn't exactly Greek style, but it is the thickest one I've tried yet.

I've got my tallest bowl ready. Inside it, I've placed the large strainer that comes with my canning set. I'm just using it to help hold the yogurt in place so it doesn't turn into an unruly blob in the bottom. I've also cut off a piece of cheescloth, opened it, folded it in half, and draped it over the bowl, trying to ensure it's equal on all sides.

Next, I spoon the yogurt into the blue strainer. While doing this, make sure none of the cheescloth ends get lost under the yogurt. This will make it spill out and you don't want that.

Gather the corners of the cheesecloth together and tie tightly with a twist tie. It should already have a lot of water dripping out of it and that water shouldn't be too milky. If it is, you don't have enough layers of cheesecloth and some of the yogurt is seeping through. It's ok though, it'll firm up and you won't have lost that much.

Then, I twist tie the bundle onto a rarely used knife (I use this long one because it fits across the bowl) and then suspend it in the bowl. Make sure it's suspended so it doesn't sit in the drips!

This is the most successful method I've found. I'm sure you'd figure out a way to make it work for you, so you, too, would have a nice, neat yogurt bundle instead of yogurt all in the bowl, on every inch of your cheesecloth, your hands, the counter, only to then find yourself without a free, non-yogurted hand to help you fix the situation.

That bundle, then, stays dripping away in the fridge all day or preferably overnight. I'll usually do it in the afternoon, check on it a few times to empty the liquids, (if it's just sitting in the liquid that's dripped out, it kinda defeats the purpose, right?), and I'll make the tzatziki the next day. By then, the yogurt is about the consistency of butter which is perfect.

Edit: I now use one of those resuable coffee filters (like so) that I found at Value Village for next to nothing. I have to do it in stages now as I can't fit a whole tub of yogurt into it, so just getting the yogurt ready is usually a 2-3 day process. Nevertheless, it gets the job done and I'm not going through a bunch of cheesecloth anymore.

That's not-so-easy step one. It truly is the hardest part. The rest is simple. Well, it is now. When I first started making this, I would go about shredding the cucumber by hand on a cheese grater, and packing it into a measuring cup, then squeezing out all the juices. Now that I've started straining the yogurt first, I don't have to drain the cucumber juice or squeeze the pulp or anything like that. And then, after that realization, I magically remembered I also have a food processor, so now I do the whole thing in that which saves oodles of time and energy.

Tzatziki

4 cloves of garlic (yes, four. It's very garlicky. If you don't like that, reduce it)
1/2 cup of cucumber (again, I've stopped measuring this exactly. I use about 4"-6" of a long english cucumber, and I don't even peel it anymore.)
2 cups thick greek-style yogurt (or the whole tub of yogurt you've just strained overnight. It looks to me like it works down to about 1 cup after straining, but I don't know for sure. I've never measured it and I never will, I just use all of it)
1 tblsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried dill (if you like or you could use fresh, you know, whatever you have)

Cut up the cucumber into rough chunks and add it along with your peeled garlic cloves into a food processor. Chop them just enough so they're in little pieces yet not blended into a fine liquid-like substance (it's ok if they're not quite all chopped to perfection. Don't stress about it). Add in your olive oil, lemon juice,  dill, and yogurt, and blend until it comes together. Don't over blend it! Scoop it into a container and let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour so all the flavours get a chance to co-mingle a bit before serving.

Serve with anything! I love it scooped up on a pita with a greek salad, Idle Husband uses it as a spread and wraps up whatever meat we're having pita-style (I'll also use it in place of mayo on his sandwiches for lunch). It's also super tasty with calamari, so tasty, in fact, that I don't think calamari should be served with anything but tzatziki. Basically what I'm saying is, go nuts with it!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Win some, lose some.

I discovered Baking Bites a little while ago, and I felt so inspired by some of the seasonal treats posted, I just had to try a couple of the recipes. The first goodies I baked were the Impossible Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes. They looked so easy and so delicious!


Win!

And...they were! I baked them a little longer, so perhaps the filling would have been a teensy bit creamier, but otherwise, the texture was exactly like a pumpkin pie and the taste was unmistakeable.

I'd also been eyeing the Vampire Cookies. Seriously. Get over there and look at the picture of them. I think that's my favourite part about Halloween. All the meals and treats people create that have that deliciously spooky vibe. When I saw the vampire cookies, I thought I had finally found a Halloween-styled treat I could actually pull off.

After making the cookie dough, chilling it in the fridge for its required hour, I discovered it was impossible for me to roll them out. Could not, would not. Maybe I need a lesson on rolling out cookie dough, because this isn't the first time I've had difficulty. It stuck to the counter, to the rolling pin, to my hands -- and yes, I did have flour on the counter, on my rolling pin, on my hands. When I finally got a bit of it rolled and pressed in my cutter, I realized I'd never get the cookie off the counter and on to the pan. So in a desperate attempt to save the idea, I rolled it up log-style and popped it into the freezer where it sat overnight. My thought was to slice them to the requested thickness and then continue with the recipe as planned.

Well, they did not freeze very firmly. They were sliceable but crumbled everywhere. Plus, as I cut and held the log from slipping around, I compressed it so my shapes started to turn out rather uneven. I finished matching them up as best I could, slopped on some crabapple jelly and threw them haphazardly into the oven. They baked for about double the requested baking time, too. Yeah. Tell me about it. I was also making pitas and I had everything timed out perfectly, but once the pitas had risen, I couldn't wait forever to get them in the oven, so I increased the temperature to 450 while the cookies were still in there. I really had stopped caring around the slicing and jamming step.


FAIL.

Putting the jam on and drawing a trickle of blood down to simulate a bite mark was even more difficult. I did about six of them and then quit. I don't think I'm meant to do fancy cookies, and if I ever get the desire again to make a recipe where it says, "chill dough, then roll out, then cut out with fancy cutter" somebody please stop me.


I'm going to turn them around so they look like weird little faces with spooky red, pupil-less eyes and cracked random smiles. I, um, meant to do them that way, anyhow.

What took these cookies out of the complete embarrassment zone is the taste. They're pretty good, though I think I'm going to attribute most of that to the jelly. My crabapple jelly. The cookie itself has a very subtle vanilla/almond taste. It's not anything special. But when combined with the jelly, it really works.

Anyway, I'll definitely make the cupcakes again, but unless I take cookie dough rolling 101, the vampire recipe is going in the trash.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Louis Prima: The Bigger the Figure



I've found myself a little obsessed with halloween/monster themed cartoons lately, so I've been saving them up in our TiVo queue. This past weekend, I decided it was time I watched Igor. What I loved most about this movie was all the great classic music. This song in particular has found itself on repeat in my head since then. I had to search it out, so I could have some music around while I go about my idle day. Enjoy!

Easy Measuring Spoon Access

When mom came on Friday, she brought a bunch of junk high quality stuff with her again, and I found myself in the possession of two vintage key holders that were too cute to immediately put in the donation pile. I decided I wanted to put the larger one at the back door to hold keys as it was intended, but I didn't quite know what to do with the second, smaller one. I've already got a bowl at the front door for keys and there's no real space to hang something up (also, I'm a little scared to hang something fragile on that wall ever since a guest slammed the door and knocked down a picture I had, breaking it).

Yesterday, as I found myself organizing and cleaning up my pantry -- a job I didn't really set out to do, it just sort of happened -- I was struck with a brainstorm.



Isn't it the cutest?!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fearsome Farm



On Saturday night, Idle Husband and I decided to check out the Farm of Fear at the Edmonton Corn Maze.  I can honestly say I've never been to a haunted house and neither has IH, so other than being scared, we didn't really know what to expect.


We can finally read the sign and see the entrance! Progress!

First of all, we didn't expect there to be as huge a line as there was. I didn't actually time it (it was dark, I couldn't see my watch), but I think our wait was a good 10-20 minutes long. Also, the temperature was above freezing, but it was also kinda windy which made it pretty chilly. I'll admit that my feet, legs, and arms were quite cold after standing there for only a couple minutes. I saw a lot of adults and children dressed only in hoodies and I don't know how they were surviving. I was really happy I decided to wear my winter coat, touque, scarf, and mittens. They were life-saving.


Pitiful moon shot. Wuh wuhhhh.

The great thing about waiting was taking in the night sky. I didn't realize how much I missed seeing it until that night. The moon was at a perfect crescent and the sky was crystal clear. It was well worth the wait just to be able to see the stars again. I really miss that in the city. City people don't understand the true meaning of darkness, and I think that's a shame.

PHOTO HERE
[inside the haunted house there were strange vignettes we didn't have time to fully appreciate]

I do have a couple of pictures of those scenes from the very beginning of the house, but on second thought, I don't want to ruin it for anyone. I had planned to take photos as much as I could, but I quickly abandoned the camera after getting those two snaps. I thought I would drop it at the next big scare, and I felt too rushed to get good pictures anyway. We managed to get the bulk of the good scares inside the house before we started hearing a group coming up behind us. Not that that should have mattered, but when you're in a haunted house, the actors scaring you then have to reevaluate their scare. Should we jump out to scare these two people, ruining it for the five behind them or jump out and scare five people and get a bigger bang for our scare? Obviously, they chose the latter, so the rest of the haunted house (outside in the corn field) for us was essentially just a walk around shaking corn stalks with people screaming directly behind us.  Awesome.


Corn is spooky. Don't let anyone tell you it's not.

Despite all that, we really did enjoy ourselves. I wish we would have hurried through the house a little bit just to avoid people coming behind us, but that's really hard to do when you're expecting something creepy to happen around every corner. Though that's entirely my fault since Idle Husband spent the majority of the house behind me, pushing me to go through everything first.  I didn't really notice until the halfway point when I had to go through a bunch of plastic screens. Favourite quote from the night: [as high pitched and whiney as you can possibly go]
Why do I have to go first this whole time?! You're the husband!
Anyway, we definitely felt like we got a good scare for our buck, so I'd recommend anyone going if they haven't before. It's on this week starting Wednesday night. I'm sure it's going to be busier since this is halloween week, so if you plan on going, take that (and the weather!) into consideration.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Truthfully, in a moment of weakness, I ate the last 2 pieces of baklava yesterday so I didn't have any treats for Idle Husband after dinner



Whenever we want something sweet and it's 9 o'clock at night, I usually reach for this recipe. It's really fast, really easy, and I always have all the ingredients on hand (there used to be a time when I rarely had coconut, but then I found myself in a situation where I felt like I needed to buy a bag of shredded coconut the size of my head. Needless to say, I have yet to even make a dent in that). It's also very tasty which is really the most important point to any recipe.

Coconut Peanut Butter Balls

1 cup powdered milk
1/3 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened, your call)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter (regular or light, your call. I always use light)

Mix in a bowl in that order (I only do it in that order to save myself from using three measuring cups. I'm anal like that, but you don't have to be! Mix it however you like, really). It takes a little while to get it all incorporated so don't freak out if you find yourself mixing for a little bit. Just kind of cut it in like you would with butter.
Squeeze, squish, or roll into whatever sized balls you like.
Enjoy! (they also taste really good the next day, too, and I like to pretend they're mildly good for you because of the milk)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Normal life Greek Joke

#2

We were in Blockbuster the other day, when Idle Husband spotted these chocolate bars.

Theobroma, in Greek, means 'god awful stench' which makes this chocolate bar really appetizing, doesn't it?

We were going to buy it and try it, but our movie selections weren't available and it felt weird to be going to Blockbuster just to purchase a chocolate bar. I'm sure we will some day. If we're brave enough.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Baklava with just regular honey cuz I'm not buying expensive fancy honey



I made this yesterday! Oh yes, that's right. I actually got phyllo dough and made something with it! Can you believe it? I could barely believe it myself. I've always seen desserts made with it and I've also tasted desserts made with it (duh), but I've never actually used it. So when I saw this recipe, coupled with the fact that I have a Greek husband with an affinity for honey (especially when things are drenched in honey), and not to mention the oodles of time on my hands (which actually makes less sense, because yesterday was a Monday. The one day I particularly like to use to do as many household chores as possible), I figured what the hell! Let's do this! (you have to kind of hiss the S of "this" and then do some arm pumping to read that correctly).

Anyhoo, here's what I learned (in no particular order):

1. Read the phyllo dough package ahead of time. Like, so ahead of time, you've actually travelled back in time to a day or so before you planned on making it. When I saw that it was kept in the freezer, I kinda just assumed it was ready like, right out of the freezer. Freezer ready. Then, I was reading the recipe which kindly stated:
24 (14 x 9-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
And I thought, oh. Mine's still in the freezer and I kinda want to make this right now. So I took it out and left it on the counter. Then I went back to the recipe (after doing a bunch of stuff on my way there) and read the comments again (I always read the comments to recipes. Sometimes I don't even make a recipe if there aren't any comments about it. Even if it's got 5 stars or mitts or whatever. Why couldn't you have said something like, "this worked out perfectly for me! But I reduced the heat!" -- screaming in exclamation points, naturally -- while you were clicking on the stars and mitts? Does it really take that much more of your time?), and I read this:
...When working with the dough, follow the thawing instructions that are on the box exactly! It makes things easier if the dough behaves.
Ok. So I went and read the box, and you know what it said? Unthaw in the fridge OVERNIGHT or FIVE HOURS before using! FIVE HOURS? I couldn't remember when I'd taken it out. Like an hour ago? Half? And my oven was on already! I have no idea how long it took to unthaw, but I removed the dough from the box, placed it on a cutting board and put the cutting board on top of the oven (mine's kinda crap so it gets like frying-an-egg hot on top) to warm.

2. Hi, um, I know I've already chosen a time-consuming recipe, basically admitting, HEY! I have time to make this already time consuming recipe! But does getting the raw ingredients for it have to be time consuming as well? Seriously. The recipe seems to think that finding unsalted pistachios will cause trouble. They are so wrong. If anyone knows were to buy unshelled pistachios, that would be an awesome alternative, because all I could find were shelled pistachios (I really like saying, pistachio). Admittedly, they're pretty easy to unshell but it's still time consuming. Time I would rather spend on crafting some seriously awesome layers of phyllo dough. So if I made it again, I'd probably just take the pistachio amount and use walnuts and almonds instead (mostly because I didn't find that the pistachios really added any layer of flavour. They just stand out cuz they're a pretty green and I didn't chop them as coarsely as the others so they're chunkier).

3. Even though all the syrup ingredients fit nicely into my small pot, use the biggest pot available. As I was heating the syrup, it started bubbling up and up and up and ohmygoditjustaboutwentoverthetop! So I transferred it to my largest pot and it still bubbled all the way to the top, just without the intention of going over.

4. Maybe I needed to cook my syrup longer. No, I definitely did. I think it's a bit too runny. Here's what happened, because I was fiddling with the pot situation, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees in the repotting, so when I was finally ready to let it get to where it needed to be without disturbing it a bunch of times (the recipe said it should take about 10 minutes), it never did. And quite honestly, I was tired of waiting. It had probably only been like 5 minutes, but it felt like 20 to me, and it would never go past 220. It was just hovering there so close to where it needed to be, but not even giving me 5 degrees of movement over a 5 second time period (come on!). Finally it inched up to 225 and I decided I'd had enough waiting and turned off the heat.

5. I didn't have troubles with the phyllo dough tearing or drying or anything else commonly associated with phyllo. Actually, it did tear, but I decided not to concern myself with it because it was just a few tiny tears in amongst 5 other sheets of dough. I  had a cloth to put over it to help keep it from drying out, but it was kinda hard to take the cloth off, take out a delicate sheet of dough, put the cloth back, then arrange the dough in the pan, and then repeat all that 24 times. I ended up just putting it on while I was sprinkling on the nut layer. What I did have troubles with was this part:
place 1 phyllo sheet lengthwise in bottom of prepared pan, allowing end of sheet to extend over edges of dish;
Which I did, dutifully. But then, you get to the end of all the sheets of dough and layers of filling and you've squished it down in the pan as far as it goes, and you're left with all these thick layers extending over the edges of the dish. Waste not, want not, I folded them into the pan, but now the sides and corners of the baklava are really thick on dough. And it's not very flavourful dough. It's kinda like eating super thin pieces of paper (no wonder they've drenched it in honey). If I make it again, I think I'd fold in every 6 layers or every piece or something. Something to get it more even and uniform. Not that I'm anal like that and I need to have every portion equal to the next, but you know, I feel like someone getting a corner piece is going to be gypped out of filling cuz it's mostly all dough on top with a honey drenched bottom and a few nuts. It's unfair.

After that, cooking was easy. The precutting instructions were interesting, but I guess it made it easier afterwards and helped the honey to really get into everything.

Most importantly, it's delicious and IH thinks it tastes like the real deal. There were some comments about it being too sweet. Well, fyi, others, you don't know what sweet is until you've actually been to Greece and sampled most of their sweets. This is tame in comparison, so I don't find it overly sugary or as sugary as other baklavas I've had. It's just right for me, but you know, taste is all in your mouth. It's also kinda light on calories -- or at least light enough for me to not feel totally guilty. And, because I want to try out my phyllo folding ideas, I'll probably make it again. It's a really great end to a Greek supper night (IH isn't the one craving Greek, it's me. I'll admit it).

Eerie



There's really heavy fog this morning which makes it look delightfully spooky outside.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Idle Vacation


We visited Jasper a while ago, and I meant to post pictures but I forgot. Anyway, I shouldn't say we specifically went to Jasper because beyond driving through it, we didn't stop or do anything there at all. It was far too busy for us. The whole point to being out in the mountains is to put some distance between yourself and the city crowds, isn't it?


The drive was sort of the whole point. The scenery is gorgeous! We passed this lake (I don't know if it was a lake, per se, it wasn't identified as anything) and there were about 20 cars parked along it and everyone was out wading through it. It was super shallow and people were going all the way out to the middle. The next morning, we stopped here since there wasn't anyone around at that time and tested the water for ourselves. It was super cold plus it was cold and windy that morning. I couldn't tolerate it at all, but IH had a lot of fun wading out.


Just another marshy mountain scene


(sorry for the poor picture)
We got tickets for the Jasper sky tram. It's basically this box that goes up a mountain on a cable line. This was another attraction that would have been more tolerable had we waited another hour or so to see. We were stuffed in that box like sardines. It was much better for people going up later in the day.


Since it was around dinner time, we stayed at the top and had a hamburger. This is the view from our table. It was a little too foggy that day to see anything specific, but it was still incredible.


We then travelled to Athabasca Falls. So beautiful! Plus there's an excellent walking area around it that gives really great views of the falls at every angle. The sound of rushing water is so lovely, and I love the look of the rock surrounding it -- aged and weathered and smoothed from the constant flow of water.


The next day we spent driving around a little. We stopped for a bit at Pyramid Lake;


Contemplated boating;

But ended up finding the happiest of snail shells in the sand.


I think this would be a fantastic time to travel out this way. It would be crisp and extra pretty with all the fall colours (most likely covered in snow now), and there would be fewer tourists than what we experienced. It would be like having the wilderness to yourself which is how you're supposed to experience it!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I think I need to breathe into a paper bag


Oh me gosh!

I have to take a second to relish this moment! The Tomato Soup Cake is one of the featured recipes over on Tasty Kitchen! This was seriously exciting for me! Nothing like this ever happens! And come on! First the unicycle and now this?! How am I still standing upright?!

Husbands just don't understand --
me: OMG!! I've got one of the featured recipes on Tasty Kitchen!!!
Idle Husband: [responding to some random thought I had earlier that I can't even remember anymore]
me: OH, WHO CARES ABOUT THAT! LOOK!!!
IH: nice
me: you're not nearly as excited as you should be.
IH: yay!! ohmegod ohmegod yippee skippee!!!
me: I KNOW, RIGHT?!!!
IH: right.

I can't even get full leg extension while walking on this ice and then I see THAT

I have to tell you about my walk this morning! T and I encountered two rather strange things. The first was a minivan plastered with decals from tv shows, movies, restaurants -- you name it! It had so many different ones we  kept circling it so we could look at all of them.



Where does one even find a huge "Ka-Chow!" sticker for a vehicle?

Awesome doesn't even begin to describe this

Then, on one of the slushiest, slipperiest (it's a word now) days we've had, we spot this:



Your eyes do not deceive you. That is a guy on a unicycle.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy Shawarma Thanksgiving!

Yesterday, I decided I didn't want to make dinner (sometimes I want a break from planning a meal, you know? Plus I didn't take anything out of the freezer to defrost) so we went and got beef shawarma from that place on 34th we like. Al Salam Pita (10141 34 ave). (It used to be called Pita the Great, if that helps you reference it) I think that since it was Thanksgiving, we were probably like one of the very few customers they had that day because the beef and the meal overall was extra tasty. Either that or it could be because after we ordered, I proclaimed enthusiastically, HAPPY SHAWARMA THANKSGIVING!!! And the guy who's always there and always takes our order looked back at me, smiled, and thought, oh my god! she's just too adorable! Then, feeling a rush of inspiration, he proceeded to give precise details to the cook on how to make the meal tastiest, going so far as to supervise the entire meal assembly just to ensure that our beef shawarma would be the best damn beef shawarma to ever leave the restaurant. Anyway, my cuteness paid off (again), cuz everything was extra good and the beef was super extra tender. Just look at it:

Tender beef, hummus, garlic dip, fatoush salad, pickles (it's weird, but it works)


Then, as if that wasn't enough, you eat it with these huge, uber fresh, uber puffy pita breads

The first time I tried it, I had sexy dreams about it for a week after. I'm not kidding. Sexy dreams. I couldn't stop thinking about it, and since I had taken pictures of the pitas due to their puffyness, I kept staring at them whenever I had a chance, and then soon, they started to take on a personality of their own which ended up inspiring this:


Happy Pita loves slow walks on the beach

Oh, Happy Pita! Where have you been all my life?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ewww! Wha?! Stick my HAND in there?!

After last year, I was pretty determined to find us some pumpkins to carve. Is that silly? You're thinking, but it's October! Month of pumpkin carving! How can you not find a pumpkin? Well, let me tell you something. Something about last year.

Last year, I discovered Idle Husband had never carved a pumpkin before. They don't do that in Greece, apparently, and what a horrible shame that is. So I said, well, for Halloween we must carve a pumpkin! It's now on our to-do list! But I didn't want to carve one in the first weeks of October because I wasn't feelin' it. I didn't want to have a carved pumpkin sitting around, rotting, and then have it be shrivelled up and gross by the time you'd actually want a pumpkin out on your porch. What good was that? So despite seeing bins and bins of pumpkins every week we went shopping, when the time came and I was ready to buy and carve, the city was out. Out of pumpkins, that is. We looked everywhere we could think of and not one single pumpkin could be found. I felt awful.

This year, I decided we'd carve pumpkins for Thanksgiving. Halloween be damned! (no pun intended) We got on our coats, marched ourselves down to the Superstore, picked out two pumpkins, and marched ourselves home to immediately carve them.

The results were really great! IH went with a more traditional jack-o-lantern face. Creepy? Check. Spooky? Oh, yup. Perfect pumpkin? Double check. I decided to go a little more artistic with a bat and a spooky tree which was a first for me since I usually do faces. Obviously, the best part is when they're lit up and flickering in complete darkness, casting shadows all over the living room. I love that.


IH's spooktacular pumpkin


I also love GIFs, so naturally...I couldn't help myself

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thanksgiving

This year, we didn't plan a huge family get-together nor did we have any fancy dinners to attend, but I still wanted to have something that reminded me of the season. I decided to attempt a pumpkin soup. I've never made one before, but after some searching, I found a few recipes (even one from Martha) and decided to use them as a base point and go from there. I mostly followed this recipe from Tasty Kitchen. I did a few things differently. I didn't include any celery (we're not huge celery fans), I added more chicken broth (I thought it was a bit too thick for my liking), I added some garlic (duh!), and I added honey to taste (I felt like it needed something, and I already know from experience that honey can really bring out the flavour of a dish). I served it with some chopped turkey bacon and some home-made cranberry sauce on top. It was so delicious! I've even had some for breakfast this morning! The rest I've frozen for later, so we'll see how it fares after that. I don't think it's going to last long in the freezer, though! I might eat it by next week!


I've also been going through boxes of books and personal items I've had in storage for almost 8 years. During this tedious task of deciding what to keep and what to give away, I discovered my gram's tomato soup cake recipe! I was pretty excited, I have to tell you. Everything about that cake reminds me of autumn, so I was pretty determined to make that for dessert (usually I'm all about the pumpkin pie). It was just as easy and delicious as I remembered! And as strange as it sounds to put tomato soup in a cake, it really turns out being more like a spice cake than something strange and tomato-tasting. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I'd give you the recipe. It's super easy and well worth the nay-sayers -- and yes, there will be some of those. I had to deal with Idle Husband's scrunched up nose and tomato soup cake!? exclamation, so you should have to, too.


Gram's Tomato Soup Cake

1 can tomato soup (284 ml)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup margarine/crisco/butter/shortening (whatever you prefer)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup walnuts or other nuts (also optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Combine tomato soup and baking soda in a small bowl. In a seperate mixing bowl, cream shortening. Add sugar and egg until nice and light. Add the tomato soup mixture. Mix flour, salt, and spices then add them to your wet ingredients. Stir in raisins and walnuts if using. Bake in a greased 8" pan (or two round cake pans -- like I used to get a layer effect) for 30-45 mins (depending on your oven and pan choice) or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

I used a maple cream cheese frosting for the top and middle. Pretty basic, really. I like it a lot with cream cheese, that makes sense to me, but you can leave it plain or ice it with a glaze or whatever else you feel would be good. Here's the frosting recipe in case you don't want to go through the hassel of googling it ; )

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package Cream cheese (I used the lite version)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 tblsp maple extract (or 2 tblsps/to taste pure maple syrup or any other type of extract you love)

Blend cream cheese and butter until creamy. Add sugar. Blend some more. Add extract. Blend again! Use however you see fit (I thought about eating it straight out of the bowl, but somehow managed to restrain myself)

Happy Thanksgiving, Canadians!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

But it's still the first week of October, damn it!


And so begins another winter.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rainy days


I thought our tree looked so magical with all its clinging raindrops.