Monday, 27 July 2009

The Pantry

In order for the pantry to be more user-friendly, The Geek added more shelves and a whole lot of order.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Two Grueling Months

The Geek noticed last night that the plastic hose cover on the pull out nozzle of the kitchen tap, installed around Victoria Day, had started to fray.
She took the tap unit out and after an extensive, but futile, search for the receipt, we were off we to Rona. At Home Depot, the lack of a bill of sale would have been no issue; they just look you up in their computer system. However at Rona, after a very long...discussion... they gave us a gift card.

We could not find any pull-out kitchen faucets at Rona that did not have the plastic hoses and only one model with a steel hose at Home Depot. We decided we could live with the HD one, and the rest is history.

I would much rather support a Canadian company like Rona, but they will have to so something about their customer service.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

All Tied up in Knots

This new 'phone has a really long cord. If I were so inclined, I could use it while I am in the shower. Or wrap it around the Geek five or six times.

We All Have Our Vices

We went riding around to garage sales today.

One of the three vices the Geek bought for her workshop came home clamped to the rack of my bicycle. We went to six garage sales and found a vice at three of them.

The Geek hauled the rest of the loot home in the trailer.
The trick to riding your bike to garage sales is to park your bike close enough that no one helps themselves to your stuff, but far enough away that they aren't considered a part of the offerings.

Fort Garry is apparently a hub of political activism.

Instruments of Mayhem

Jay (4 years old): Dad, when can we play the Instruments of Mayhem?

Ruzter: Pardon?

Jay: You know, the Instruments of Mayhem, like the ukulele!

Ruzter later found out that his son's music camp is called Music Mayhem...

We found this ukelele today on our garage sale rounds so, of course, it had to come home with us. How often does one get to have their own instrument of mayhem?

Friday, 24 July 2009

Rough Water, Volatile Sky

On days when the wind comes out of the northwest it creates waves as it blows against the current. When the wind is from another direction, it seems to go with the current and you would hardly notice at all.

When you row, you face the stern of the boat and you can never be sure what is ahead of you. So today was one of the days where you don’t realize the waves have whitecaps until you are past the curve of the river and right in the thick of it.

I heard the crest of a wave rolling along the bow. I waited, with the same breathless anticipation one has wading into a cool lake, knowing a wave is going to hit the bottom of your bathing suit before you are ready. The wave came, slapping me on the bottom before breaking over the decking on the stern of my scull, temporarily turning the decking to silver. The next wave came and broke against the bow stays, before rolling into the cockpit.

At this point, things were very turbulent, so we decided to turn around. As we sculled northeast along the Red, we could see clouds boiling along in the east. It looked as tho’ a huge storm was brewing, but the clouds did not spread from the eastern sky.

Perhaps growing up on the Prairies has given me an appreciation of the ever changing sky and I wonder if I would even notice the infinite variety if I grew up in the mountains.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Recipe # 5 Mark's Mushroom Risotto

This is my friend Mark's recipe for mushroom risotto. I didn't use the chicken and I used shitake, crimini, portobello and button mushrooms. It was great!

The recipe, in his words....

Olive oil
2 Chicken thighs (or not, this one can be meatless)
Mushrooms (go nuts. I use button, shantrell, and oyster)
6 to 10 shallots
1 onion
Green onion
4 tbsp butter ((only butter, not margarine, not unsalted butter, just real full-fat salted butter)
1 cup carnarolli or arborio rice
Chicken stock
Nutty Sherry ie Amontillado
Black pepper
Crushed walnut
Chevre (I confess, I put this on a lot of things that I don't need to)

Heat the olive oil, then add the meat, shallots, and onion. Burn it to the bottom of the pan. This, by the way is why you just can't use cast iron. It doesn't work.
Add the sherry and spices. The smell is going to get you all worked up, but concentrate. Add the mushrooms, butter, green onion.. I'm not going to tell you how much to use, but in large enough quantities nutmeg is an hallucinogenic (bet you didn't know that).
Drop the lid on those little 'shrooms and let them enjoy a short schvitz.
Lift the lid, and add the rice; stir it in and let it sit. You want to shock the rice with the heat. Now get it moving. Keep the rice moving round and round the pan. Add a little stock. It should look like the stock comes up under the rice, but doesn't drown it. Keep it moving.
As the stock cooks off, the consistency of the risotto thickens. Actually it's more like the “viscosity” increases. When it starts to look like molten lava filling the space your stick leaves, add more stock.
You need to sample the rice periodically. When it no longer crunches between your teeth, it's just about ready. Stop adding stock and cook off the excess. Just like before, keep stirring until it's got the viscosity of molten lava.
It's ready to serve. You've done all that work cooking it, so don't blow the presentation. FLAT PLATE ONLY. Yep, that's right, you want to put it in a big comfy bowl, but resist. Resist! Lay it out on a big flat plate. Crumble a little goat cheese on top, and the walnuts and serve only to people that you really like. If you don't like them, undercook the rice, they won't come back.

This recipe doesn't specify any definite amounts for the ingredients. Does that make you nervous when you are cooking?

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

A Flatlander Cycles in San Francisco

I received this e-mail a while back from my friend, a prairie boy, presently living in Victoria.

(ring ring) I like the bell. These straight bars are going to be a bit of a pain, and I'm sitting up higher than I want to, but as rentals go I could do a lot worse. This is the monologue that ran through my head as I pulled away from the Blazing Saddles bike rental kiosk at Pier 39 in San Francisco. "Blazing saddles" huh? The way I feel now, after seven hours on that bike the seat might as well have been on fire.

This morning I left at seven. I walked the length of the Embarkadero. I had a cup of coffee at Pier 39. I rented a bike at Blazing Saddles, and set out to see as much of San Francisco as my legs would allow in a single day. (Oooooooow! We interupt this e-mail to bring you the cramp you knew was coming... dummy.) Back to my story. The bike was what they call a hybrid. It had narrow tires like a road bike, but they were knobby on the sides to handle a little gravel. The seat was cushy (for a while). The handlebars were straight like a mountain bike, and it had a bell. I liked the bell. I liked it so much I rang it at everyone I passed as I peddled toward the Presideo, and beyond to the Golden Gate Bridge. I rang it at people walking, I rang it at people cycling. I rang it at this old guy doing tai chi. I rode along ringing my bell with a big goofy grin on my face knowing that the little Canadian flag on my backpack would protect me from scorn. People would just think, "Oh, he's Canadian. They're so polite." I passed the aquatic park where people swim in the ocean in the shadow of Frisco's great span. I'd grown tired of my bell by then so I didn't ring it at the swimmers. But I rang it at a woman walking her dog. Dirty look. No more ringing the bell.

The approach to the golden gate bridge is a pretty good climb. It's got to be about a hundred metres vertical from the Presideo to the bridge. It was hard work, but as I crested the top I was feeling very confident. I had conquered the climb to the bridge, and nothing would be nearly as challenging as that. The rest of the day would be a nice light cruise on this reasonably comfortable contraption. Store that away for later, as always I will refer back to it later in my story.

The bridge is amazing. It's impossible to take it all in except at a distance, and when you're on it, it makes you feel a little insignificant. In the morning I couldn't see the city from the bridge because of the fog. I could barely see the water. It was like flying above the clouds in an airplane. The bridge has it's own fog signals. They're a deep base horn, and they seem to make the whole bridge resonate. There are call boxes at regular intervals. They have blue plastic placards with a message written in a soothing font. "Crisis line. You're not alone, we can help you." I don't imagine they were in the original design. People were having they're pictures taken beside the call boxes. We are a morbid society.

On the north side of the bridge is Sausalito. It's a little like Victoria, except it has palm trees. I mean it has more palm trees. There are more trendy coffee shops than any other kind of business, and the most common car is made by BMW. I'm passed by about a hundred cyclists on my way into town. They all ride road bikes, and sport team racing outfits like you'd expect to see in the Tour-de-France. I see one at the side of the road. He's gone down. He has a tire in hand, and a line of snot connecting his face to the pump in his other hand. He's about seventy. I stop and ask him if he's alright, if he needs help. He smiles and lets out a little laugh, "No, no." he says in his French-Californian accent. "This too is part of the game. Thank you." I roll past.

As I enter Sausalito I remember reading about the Open Water Rowing Club. It's located on Liberty Ship Road. They rent shells out to visitors and casual users. I decide to try and locate them, and maybe take out a single. I stop at one of the prolific cafes and ask a trio of team racing outfits if they know of the club. One is Swiss. He knows where it is. Another is Italian, and he knows of another. So far everyone I've spoken to in Sausalito is European, belongs on a cycling team, and knows where a rowing club is. Well, that's not quite right. The French guy might have known where a rowing club was, but I hadn't thought to ask him. I follow the Swiss directions hoping I can identify the turn in the road he said would be obvious. I find it, and roll to a stop outside the Open Water Rowing Club on Liberty Ship Road.

I didn't get to row. I did get an invite back the next time I was in town. Had I called them just the day before i could have gone out with one of their crews, but as it was they were done for the day, and heading for an out-of-town regatta on Sunday. I chatted with the coach (whose name now escapes me), and said I would call ahead next time. Everyone is so friendly here.

Next stop, Mill Valley. Mill Valley is another small town, populated mostly by trendy coffee shops, and team racing outfits. It's also the place I made my mistake. I had taken along a map, provided by Blazing Saddles, with suggested routes, and approximate distances. Conspicuously absent was any indication of elevation. Anyway, the map had little bubbles indicating local attractions, on of which was Muir Woods. Muir Woods is a lot like Cathedral Grove. It's a stand of giant redwoods that have been preserved by making them a National Monument. The Mill Valley Grocery store is like something out of a Rockwell painting. There's fresh fruit lining the outside of the store, and what I take to be the manager is sitting in a chair by the door, white apron on, greeting customers. I roll up in front of him, and ask for directions. "Why?" This was his answer to, "How do I get to Muir Woods?" "Why? Why do you want directions to Muir Woods?" He realized i was confused by his reservation, and explained. "You know, it's quite a ride." I explained that I had already come from Pier 39, accross the Golden Gate, through Sausalito to meet him there in front of his store in Mill Valley. Muir Woods was just another 4 miles up the road... straight up. He was trying to tell me that the special kind of Hell I was biting off for myself was something that a guy on a Blazing Saddles rental bike should not be attempting, bell or no bell. I wouldn't listen. I had climbed the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge without even slipping into granny-gear (the lowest gear available). Surely I could make it up some hill between me and my giant redwoods. He sighed and reluctantly wrote out a set of very clear directions.

I don't remember the name of the mountain. It was Latin-American, but it just doesn't come to mind. It had an elevation of about a thousand metres. I might be way off, but I'll never know given that there were no elevations on my little map. (ring, ring) I rang my bell at the steep incline trying to prevent me from coming face to face with the world's tallest living things. It seemed to help. It made me smile. The pain that had settled in my hamstrings seemed to fade. (ring, ring) I was moving faster. (ring, ring) Whenever my mind started to tell me to turn around and go back down I rang my bell. At the top I surveyed the entire Bay area. San Francisco was like a model on the bookshelf, and Sausalito barely visible. Where were the trees? Oh. I had to go down the other side. I considered the possibilities. I could get to Muir Woods, and find out that I had a very delightful little ride out some back way that would end at the Golden Gate Bridge, returning me to San Francisco. I stopped considering possibilities. I had beaten the hardest climb I had ever undertaken on a bike. Surely I was up to this.

Turns out Mill Valley isn't at sea level. In fact I had been gradually climbing the whole way there, before my ill considered ride to the top of ______ Mountain. As a result the other side was quite a bit longer. I stopped at Muir Woods, and locked up my silver steed. I paid the three-dollar entrance fee. I was disappointed. They're tall. They have nothing on our Sitka Spruce for pure majesty. No need to go to California, just zip up the road to Port Renfrew, or Tofino. After pooh-poohing the silent giants I remounted my Blazing Saddle, and continued on down the mountain to Muir Beach. I had it in my head to rent a surfboard, and hang-ten in California the way I had in Waikiki. No such luck. No surf. I road on. I've never faced a greater physical challenge than that hill. The ride up from Muir Beach put me at odds with every muscle fibre in my body. It was excruciating, and it wouldn't end. The road twisted and turned, and at every new corner I would tell myself, "just around the next bend is the top" before another bend would appear. I can run a marathon. I can do it next week if I want to. I've done a half. This hill was at least five times more demanding. It was a two-hour climb.

I had to walk the last four blocks to return my bike to the Blazing Saddles rental kiosk. I thought about stealing the bell. I thought about how I would recommend elevations be included on their maps. I thought about how my ass was never going to recover. The woman at the kiosk took out a marker when I told her where I had been. She traced the route on a map on the counter, counted, laughed. It had been quite a day.

Monday, 13 July 2009

What's Growing in the Garden

The sunflowers, potatoes, peas and beans are off to a good start.

And it looks like we may have zucchini,

and maybe even some raspberries.

Monday, 6 July 2009

One Of Each

It doesn't take much to make me happy. In this case, one boy flower and one girl flower on the zucchini plant!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Pile O' Perenniels

This mass of vegetation includes violets, oxalis, a fern, elephant ear, lily of the valley, and swamp lily. We got them through Freecycle from a lady who couldn't manage her perenniel bed anymore. How cool is that?

The River is Still High

And there is so much trash that we have only been out rowing twice this year. I can only hope things improve.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

The Smell of Cedar

The Geek made some cedar planters.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

High Water, Tricky Rowing

With the inches of rain that fell last weekend, the river has risen about three feet. The ramp to the docks at Winnipeg Rowing Club was, and still is, under water. The docks have been moved 'inside' the ramp which must have been tricky. It will also be tricky to get them back out.
The ramp is that object marked with the orange buoys.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009