Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An epic sendoff

Yesterday, the mister and I attended the funeral of our dear friend and marriage sponsor Eileen.

I don't actually remember when or how I met Eileen and her husband Larry. I'm the accompanist for the morning choir at my church, and my best guess is that Larry came up to me after Mass one day to compliment me on my playing - because that's the type of person he is. I DO remember very clearly that even before I met the mister, they told me several times, "When your time comes, we will do your marriage prep." 

You see, the Catholic church requires every engaged couple to go through some form of marriage preparation before they get married. At many churches, this takes the form of a class spanning a few weeks, or one weekend retreat with a group of other couples. The course takes you through topics such as family, communication, conflict resolution, and intimacy.

At our church, Eileen and Larry have been running the marriage prep program. Fortunately, our wonderful community has so many volunteer couples that they are able to match up engaged couples with volunteer couples to go through the course on a 2-on-2 basis. We got to know them well during our sessions and they became wonderful role models to us of a married couple whose love continued to grow until death parted them.

Anyway, mister and I were also honoured to do the music for the funeral. As the closing hymn, Larry requested The Holy City, which apparently is a party favourite among them and their friends. Their friends sang it with gusto - it was like having a choir of 200 voices - and it was a wonderful sendoff. Eileen, I hope we did you proud!

Last night I lay asleeping, there came a dream so fair,
I stood in old Jerusalem beside the temple there.
I heard the children singing, and ever as they sang,
Methought the voice of Angels from Heav'n in answer rang;
Methought the voice of Angels from Heav'n in answer rang.

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Lift up your gates and sing,
Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna to your King!

And then methought my dream was chang'd, the streets no longer rang,
Hush'd were the glad Hosannas the little children sang.
The sun grew dark with mystery, the morn was cold and chill,
As the shadow of a cross arose upon a lonely hill,
As the shadow of a cross arose upon a lonely hill.

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Hark! How the Angels sing,
Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna to your King!

And once again the scene was chang'd, new earth there seem'd to be,
I saw the Holy City beside the tideless sea;
The light of God was on its streets, the gates were open wide,
And all who would might enter, and no one was denied.
No need of moon or stars by night, or sun to shine by day,
It was the new Jerusalem that would not pass away,
It was the new Jerusalem that would not pass away!

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Sing for the night is o'er!
Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna for evermore!
Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna for evermore!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Baked: Banana Muffins

My mom scribbled down this recipe from a friend's book and made these regularly when I was a kid. When I got to university, I made them so often that I eventually memorized the recipe. I made a lot of friends with these muffins. They are super moist and fluffy and make a wonderful breakfast. I zap the leftover muffins in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds each to make them taste just as good as freshly baked.

Depending on my mood, I may or may not add chocolate chips - fantastic either way. This time, I did half a batch of each. :)


  • 3 large bananas - the riper, the better
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
  • chocolate chips, chopped walnuts (optional)
  1. Mash the bananas.
  2. Add the sugar & egg, mix.
  3. Add the melted butter/oil, mix.
  4. Add the dry ingredients, mix.
  5. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Microwave potato chips... who knew?

Last night the mister made these potato chips in the microwave. They were delicious. And not fried!

  • A potato, sliced thinly
  • Vegetable or olive oil
  • Salt or seasoning
  1. Pour the oil into a bag or container. Add the potato slices. Shake to coat.
  2. Coat a large dinner plate with oil or cooking spray. (I think he lined the plate with parchment paper or a paper towel.) Arrange the potato slices in a single layer on the plate.
  3. Microwave for 3-7 minutes until lightly browned. In my microwave, they take somewhere between 5 and 6 minutes. Watch carefully because if they burn, they'll be bitter. I'd suggest trying 4 or 5 minutes at first and then doing short bursts of 15-20 seconds until you get them the way you want.
  4. Toss them with a little salt or whatever other seasoning you like.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Ah, Christmas & Handel's Messiah. They go together like ketchup and eggs (in that they don't really, but a lot of people think they do).

Full disclosure: I love ketchup with my eggs.

We performed in Messiah this past Sunday in Richmond Hill with Vocal Horizons and Voices. My favourite part of performing Messiah is always when the audience stands up for the Hallelujah Chorus. It is said that at the first London performance of Messiah at the Covent Garden Theatre, King George II, who was in attendance, stood up for the duration of the number. Since it was protocol to stand when the king was standing, the entire audience also stood for the whole chorus, and the tradition remains to this day.

It's not exactly known why the king stood. Perhaps he was moved by the performance, or wanted to pay tribute to God as the King of Kings. Personally, I prefer the explanation that he had dozed off and was startled to his feet. :)

Anyway, just for fun, here's a recording of a different performance that I was also in, a couple of years ago, at the Newman Centre.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Baked: Chocolate Chip Muffins

I'm craving something sweet and cakey for breakfast, and I do have a box of Tastykakes sitting around... but I couldn't very well eat just Tastykakes for breakfast. (Could I?) Anyway, I've been in a cooking and baking funk lately so I thought I'd break out of it by making myself a batch of muffins.

The basic (chip-less) recipe is once again from my trusty BHG Baking Book. It's not a complicated recipe by any means, but that's what I love about it. I had everything on hand and it took no time to whip these up. They're nice and light, not too sweet or rich. But really, these are all about the chocolate chips. There are also lots of other variations at the end of this post.


1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil (I have been known to substitute melted butter in the past)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Grease twelve 2-1/2 inch muffin cups or line with paper baking cups; set aside.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the centre of dry mixture; set aside.
3. In another mixing bowl, combine egg, milk, and oil. Add the egg mixture all at once to the dry mixture. Stir just until moistened; batter should be lumpy. Fold in the chocolate chips.
4. Spoon batter in prepared muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake in a 400F oven about 20 minutes or until golden. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups; serve warm.

(These obviously don't include chocolate chips)

Buttermilk muffins: add 1/4 tsp baking soda to dry mixture and substitute buttermilk or sour milk for the milk.

Cheese muffins: stir 1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese into dry mixture.

Cranberry muffins: combine 1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries and 2 tbsp additional sugar. Fold into batter.

Oatmeal muffins: reduce flour to 1-1/3 cups and add 3/4 cup rolled oats to dry mixture.

Poppy seed muffins: increase sugar to 1/2 cup and add 1 tbsp poppy seed to dry mixture.

This recipe also lists a variation to make banana muffins, but I have an even better banana muffin recipe which I will post some other time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tiny Shroud

Earlier this week, I finished the Tiny Shroud that I started several months ago. It is a ministry at my church; volunteers knit shrouds and bonnets which are donated to hospitals for stillborn babies.

As I finished the pieces, I prayed that Avery, Trinity and Langston would be there in heaven to welcome the baby that gets wrapped in this shroud.

If you are interested in doing something similar in your area, here are the instructions.


1 Ball Fine 3 Ply Baby Wool
1 Pair 3 1/4 mm Knitting Needles

Cast on 82 stitches.
Knit 16 rows.
Row 17: Knit 11, Purl 60, Knit 11
Row 18: Knit across row.
Repeat Rows 17 & 18 to measure 19'' from beginning.
Knit 16 Rows.
Cast off.
Block. Should be approximately 12'' x 20''.

Cast on 48 stitches.
Rows 1-6: Knit 1 Purl 1, repeat across row.
Knit 1 row;
Purl 1 row for 10 rows.
Row 17: Knit 6 Purl 2 together across row, Knit last 6 stitches.
Row 18: Knit across row.
Row 19: Knit 5, Purl 2 together across row, Knit last 5 stitches.
Row 20: Knit across row.
Row 21: Knit 4, Purl 2 together across row, Knit last 4 stitches.
Row 22: Knit across row.
Row 23: Knit 3, Purl 2 together across row, Knit last 3 stitches.
Row 24: Knit across row.
Row 25: Knit 2, Purl 2 together across row, Knit last 2 stitches.
Row 26 : Knit across row.
Break wool.
Draw yarn end through remaining stitches and pull tight.
Weave in ends.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Proud of my roots

I was born in Hong Kong. I moved here with my family when I was 5 years old.

I remember kids making fun of me for being an immigrant. In my efforts to fit in, my worst fear was being called a FOB (fresh off the boat). After all, "fobby" people smelled like mothballs, dressed funny, and ate weird stuff. Speaking Chinese and going to Chinese school was for losers. They sneered at me in their best imitation of a Hong Kong accent.

(Oddly, the worst offenders were the Canadian-born Chinese kids. Somehow, having no ties to their heritage gave them an extra notch of coolness.)

I don't remember being ashamed of my ethnicity, but I certainly wasn't proud.

The funny thing is that the same people now post pictures and talk all about their world travels, showing off what cool places they've seen. One of the top destinations? Hong Kong.

Of course, I now realize that those kids were just completely insecure and intolerant of anything that was different. But oh, how I wish I had known back then.

I mean, how could you not be proud to call this your birthplace?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baked: Cocoa Cookies

I found these cocoa cookies one evening when I had an urge for cookies, but found myself low on baking ingredients. I didn't love them at first because they seemed like a poor man's drier, less sweet, and Nutella-less version of the Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies I had made before, but they've since really grown on me. (I would have made the thumbprint cookies but I didn't have icing sugar or enough eggs.) They have a nice light cocoa flavour, but a satisfyingly heavy texture. They go great with a cup of tea or coffee.
I admit: I thumbprinted in them in case they needed the Nutella
From The Boston Globe

  • 3 cups flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • Extra sugar (for sprinkling)
  1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the sugar gradually, beating until smooth. Add the vanilla and eggs, one by one, beating until thoroughly blended.
  4. With the mixer set on low speed, beat in the flour mixture. You'll have to finish mixing with your hands; the batter is quite stiff.
  5. Spoon rounded tablespoons of batter into your palms and roll into 1-inch balls. Set on the baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Press down with the tines of a fork, once in each direction, to create a crisscross pattern. Continue until all the cookies are shaped and marked.
  6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly brown. While they are hot, sprinkle the tops with extra sugar. Cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

There is good in the world

The past couple of days have been a bit of a daze for me. A friend of mine (from The Knot) lost her triplets after going into preterm labour at twenty weeks over the weekend.

We are all devastated. Most of us on The Knot/The Nest haven't even met each other in person, but we've grown so close over the past couple of years that we all feel the loss as keenly as if it was one of our best friends.

But what happened next is amazing. Our group of "Internet strangers" pulled together to raise almost $600 (with more to come) towards a small token of comfort and gift card for the couple, and a donation to March of Dimes in memory and honour of Avery, Trinity and Langston.

In the face of tragedy, I am reminded that there is still good in the world. God is with us in our deepest hour; if you ever need a reminder, just look at the faces of the people around you.

"Unity" by TheMidnightOrange on Etsy
Rest in peace, little ones.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cat-related business: cat calls

For a creature with a walnut-sized brain, Sherlock is quite adept at communicating with us. When he first moved in, he was pretty quiet, but as he's settled in, he's become a lot more vocal. I've also gotten pretty good at translating:

Mmmmah! = Good morning!

Mmrh = Run away! (Because mommy is a pretend monster)

Miao? MIAO! Mmmiaaooooowwwwwooo! = Let me out! I know you're leaving and I want to come... (This is when he is the most vocal)

(High-pitched whimper) Miao? = Pleeease let me out?

MrrOW = Come play with me!

Prrrrrrr = Mmm, dinner... OR Mmm, snuggles:
What a life!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An honour

Last night, I got to have one of my coolest performing experiences to date.

I was asked to sing with the Windago Chorus, headed by my friend Elaine, in two mini-concerts as part of the Soundstreams Project. Last night was the first of the two performances. The event was a Q&A chat with Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, and we performed his pieces Gamelan, and Felix's Girls (excerpts).
Photo from Soundstreams

When I first looked at the music, I thought: Not really my cup of tea... but a little musical exposure never hurt anyone.

Gamelan is a piece inspired by the traditional Indonesian musical ensemble of the same name. Here's a Youtube video of the piece, though not by my choir. Cool stuff, right?

Felix's Girls is a compilation of nine pieces set to nine short poems by Henry Felix, with whom Mr. Schafer was personally acquainted. As he introduced the piece, he explained that Mr. Felix was a German Jew (though the introduction in the score says Polish) who escaped the Nazis by walking, by night, from Germany to Greece. The poems each describe a different girl, with the author's great sense of humour.

It is certainly nerve-wracking to perform a piece for its composer! You can only hope that you got his vision right and do him proud.

Gamelan went pretty well. Most of us were nervous about that one because of the irregular rhythms and competing lines from other parts. Also, the composer was very specific about assigning certain syllables to certain notes, so we couldn't just fake it. But we got through it.

We were more relaxed about Felix's Girls. They were fairly easy, straightforward pieces - so we thought.

Mr. Schafer practically jumped off his chair when we finished the performance. "You have to MOVE when you perform these!" He encouraged us to perform Jou-Jou (a poem of nonsense lines like "Everytime I hear a crocodile sneezing in the Nile, I shall remember you, Jou-Jou" with a background of nonsense syllables) again. "This girl is completely crazy," he explained. "You need to let go and be just as nutty as her. And gentlemen, you're just wondering how the heck you got yourself spending an evening with this crazy girl."

So we did. And suddenly the music came ALIVE!

I feel so privileged to have had that experience, and I will never forget it. I hope to be able to bring that kind of life to all of my future performances, even if the composer isn't watching.

The second Soundstreams performance will be this Sunday afternoon at 2:00 PM, in the Royal Conservatory of Music's Koerner Hall. We will be performing Gamelan and Felix's Girls, along with Arvo Pärt's Summa.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I went to the doctor's office today for a routine check and my flu shot.

A couple came in with their nine-month old son. The mother went to check in while the father settled his son into the play area.

Dad tried to teach his son how to use the pop up toy. "Look - press it!" He pressed all four buttons. Then he reset it. Little boy wasn't strong enough to press the buttons down so dad helped him out. "You need more pressure! See?"

Then Dad showed his son the beads on the wire. He showed him how to move the beads around and shoot them in different directions. Little boy tapped on a couple of the beads. Dad continued to play.

Mom came back. "Look - he loves this toy! He's totally into it!"

Hehe - I'm pretty sure Dad was more into it than the kid. No wonder people procreate.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Baked: Big Soft Ginger Cookies

Continuing the fall theme, I thought I'd take a stab at these ginger cookies. OK, I suppose ginger cookies are more of a Christmas thing, but anyway. It's a great comfort cookie.
Whoops. That would be a ginger cat.
Small oven -> Small cookie sheet -> Square cookies
I tried replacing the ground ginger with a few tablespoons of grated fresh ginger, but it still wasn't gingery enough for my liking. So I wouldn't recommend it.


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup margarine, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My first 5k!

This morning, I ran my first 5k race! My chip time was 32:47.5, which was better than the 35:00 that I expected. (The race time was 32:54.7 because I started in the middle of the pack. I'll take the chip time, hehe.)
I positioned myself in the 30-35 min pack
So far, I had completed up to the end of week 4 of the C25K program. The next step - week 5 day 1 - was to alternate running for 5 minutes and walking for 3 minutes.
And we're off!
I decided to push myself a little harder for race day. My goal was to run at least 1k before I took my first walk break.

To my pleasant surprise, I made it almost to the 2k mark before I decided to take my first walk break - almost 11 minutes! This was a nice milestone because the first batch of firefighters were waiting at the 2k mark to pass out water (tee hee).

See the firetruck?
Sunnybrook Park was an absolutely gorgeous course! The fall colours were at their best, and the weather was perfectly brisk.

Another batch of firefighters greeted us at 3k.
In total, I ran probably somewhere between 3.5 to 4k out of the 5k course. I'm feeling optimistic that I'll be able to run the entire 5k within a few weeks. If I can do that, and if I start my next race a little further up in the pack and pace myself against someone faster, I should be able to break 30 minutes.

According to the lap times I tracked on my iPhone, I did the following:

Run 10:53
Walk 1:45
Run 6:37
Walk 1:37
Run 8:21
Walk 0:27
Run 3:18
The mister, and my friend Lena were cheering at the finish
A picture with Mr. Peanut for good measure
The race was great fun and I look forward to the next! Thanks to everyone who encouraged me!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Baked: Classic Apple Pie

Yes, I was excited about the 3 lb of Golden Delicious apples that I picked up in Kensington Market. But I was even more excited about the opportunity to use this contraption:

Medieval torture device? Nay. Modern-day deliciousness device!
It was a wedding gift from another engineer/scientist couple who decided that it would be perfect for both the food-lovers and engineers that we are. It was.

Step 1: Load up the apple
Step 2: Crank that handle
Turn, turn, turn
Step 3: Pop off the neatly peeled and cored apple
But wait! It's also sliced into a neat spiral!
All I had to do was make a single cut down the middle to get a perfectly sliced apple. Awesome.

Anyway, I unfortunately made the rookie mistake of forgetting to put a cookie sheet under the pie pan. So the pie leaked and now there's a sticky sweet mess on the bottom of my oven waiting to be cleaned. Sigh.

But it was worth it!
With pretty fluted edges
I was too impatient to wait for it to cool so I sliced into it a little early. That's probably why it's soupy - Whoops. 

I can't figure out how not to achieve that cave-like effect. I know that the apples shrink during baking, but how do I avoid the top puffing up OR make the pastry sink down with the apples? (I don't actually know what happens to cause this.)

But how could you resist that flaky crust??
Nonetheless, my craving for apple pie is well satisfied. The Golden Delicious apples were absolutely perfect for pie - just the right blend of tart and sweet, and they held their shape nicely. And the crust was nice and flaky. Mmm.


Old-Fashioned Apple Pie

Prep: 30 minutes Bake: 45 minutes Cool: 2 hours
Pastry for Double-Crust Pie: Stir together 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in 2/3 cup shortening (I used 1/3 cup shortening and 1/3 cup butter) until pieces are pea size. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cold water over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat, using 1 tablespoon cold water at a time, until all the dough is moistened (6 to 8 tablespoons water total). 


  • 6  cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples
  • 1  tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2  cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4  cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4  cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash  ground cloves
  • 1 recipe Pastry for Double-Crust Pie (see above)
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
  • Milk (optional)


1. In a large mixing bowl toss apples with lemon juice. Combine granulated sugar, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add to apples and toss until apples are coated. Set apple mixture aside.

2. Prepare Pastry for Double-Crust Pie. Divide dough in half. Form each half into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 ball of dough into a 12-inch circle. Ease pastry into a 9-inch pie plate.

3. Transfer apple mixture to pastry-lined pie plate. Dot with butter or margarine. Trim pastry even with pie plate. For top crust, roll out remaining dough. Cut slits in top crust. Place top crust on the filling. Seal and flute the edge. Brush with milk, if desired.

4. To prevent overbrowning, cover the edge of the pie with foil. Place pie dish on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil; bake for 20 to 25 minutes more or until the top is golden brown and apples are tender. Serve warm with cheddar cheese, if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ah, love

I work at a university, where I encounter lots of young students every day.

Sometimes, as I did just now, I encounter a young would-be couple flirting with each other.

She is all dressed up today. He asks her a question. She blushes and giggles. He leans a little closer, ever so slightly, and tries to say something witty. They don't even notice me walking by. Then they part - in 30 seconds, they've made each other's day.

I love witnessing these encounters. They remind me of our early dating days and all those lovely feelings.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apple season

Today I came across these beauties in Kensington Market:

I bought 3 lb of Golden Delicious (top of picture). Tomorrow (or at some point this week) they shall become pie. Apple pie is one of my favourite fall things. Mmmmm.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Mr. Ringy just sent me this link. It's a recipe to cure your own bacon.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Breakfast Blunder

This weekend, I made the worst food-related blunder I've ever made in my life.

Not in some exotic country with some obscure delicacy. Nope - but in Columbus, Ohio.

Our hotel offered complimentary continental breakfast. We decided it would be a good idea to eat up before the game.

It was a nice spread. Along with fruit, yogurt, and a scone, I found a big pot of oatmeal. I used the giant ladle to make myself a bowl. It was a little thick, so I went over to the cereal station to add a little milk. Then I took a container of honey for sweetener, just in case.

I mixed it up. I tasted it. It wasn't oatmeal.

"Honey," I said. "This isn't oatmeal."
"Yeah. It's like... cream soup. With little bits of meat in it. Cream of... breakfast sausage??"
"Maybe it's an Ohio thing."

I ate a few more spoonfuls before setting it aside. Later, I asked Sarah about it. She had no idea, until:
"Was it... gravy?"

The scone wasn't a scone. It was a biscuit. And I had eaten half a bowl of gravy for breakfast. (It honestly never occurred to me that people eat biscuits & gravy for breakfast. And the gravy was white!)

And for a final kick of irony: I went to the breakfast buffet the next morning to take a picture (so that I could retell this story) but this time, the pot actually did contain oatmeal!
You can tell because of the brown sugar and raisins.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Actual conversation with the Mr. on Monday night:

Me: Hey, isn't there football on tonight?
Mr: Is there?
Me: Yeah. It's Monday. Isn't there Monday night football?
Mr: ... Who ARE you?

It seems I've caught some sort of football bug (I was NEVER into pro sports before).

This afternoon, we are heading down to Ohio State University and tomorrow, we will experience our first Buckeyes football game! We are totally excited for the experience... you just can't find that kind of school spirit here in Toronto.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kudos to teachers

Today and tomorrow, I'm running a workshop to teach concepts of simulation modeling to a group of strategy and business analysts working for one of the hospital networks in Toronto. They plan to apply these skills in developing solutions to improve wait times for diagnostic imaging (MRI, CT scans, etc.).

I've spent more than a week preparing for this. And getting nervous. End of day one - I am drained.

A big kudos to those who do this every day!

In other news... this weekend, we attended the wedding of our friends Angela & Jeff, a great couple who have been together for over eight years. It was a gorgeous wedding, but my favourite was The Legend of Zelda theme as their recessional (played by yours truly).

The gorgeous cake depicting Bluewater Bridge (a feature of Sarnia, the groom's hometown), the Toronto skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Chinese word for "love". They're engineers. Engineers like bridges.
The lovely couple's first dance

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Baked: Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

This was the weekly recipe on August Cooks, a cooking blog in which I contribute.

I haven't had Nutella since I was a kid, and had almost forgotten how good it is.

Delicious. Go and make these. Right now.

From Cooking Light


  • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso (optional) [I used coffee liqueur instead]
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts, toasted [I skipped these]
  • 1/3 cup hazelnut-chocolate spread (such as Nutella)


1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt; stir with a whisk. Place butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Stir egg yolks with a whisk, adding espresso, if desired. Add the yolk mixture and vanilla to butter; beat well. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. [I mixed it in with a fork; if you beat it, the dry ingredients will go flying.]
3. Turn dough out onto a sheet of wax paper; knead 6 times or until smooth and shiny. Shape dough into 28 (1-inch) balls. Roll sides of balls in nuts, pressing gently. Arrange balls 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Press thumb into center of each cookie, leaving an indentation. Bake, 1 batch at a time, at 350° for 10 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Spoon a scant 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut-chocolate spread into center of each cookie.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


This past weekend, I completed Week 2 Day 2 of C25k.

As I mentioned last week, this is my third attempt to learn to like running. I've always hated running, but quite frankly - I needed a way to exercise that was free.

The first year that I decided to give it a try, I vastly overestimated my fitness level and started off way too hard for a beginner. My first run, with a runner friend, was at the Queen's Park track; when I started feeling dizzy after only half a loop (about 400m), I thought I was doomed. (Have I mentioned that I hate doing things when I'm not immediately brilliant?)

The second year, I achieved some success. I found a virtual running buddy in Andrea, and the opportunity to gloat report to each other, as well as my upcoming wedding, kept me motivated for a few weeks. But I still dreaded each run, and when wedding planning became hectic, I found an excuse to let Attempt #2 fizzle.

This time, I'm finally following the Couch to 5k program (which I really should have done when Andrea started it last year), and what a difference it has been. I'm actually looking forward to strapping on those shoes - whoa!

What did I do differently this time around?
  1. Start slow. Really slow. Week 1 of C25k consists of three workouts in which you alternate 60s of jogging with 90s of walking. Totally doable, right? Believing KNOWING that I can do it has made a world of difference in my willingness to go out and do the run.
  2. Get real. During Attempt #2, I told myself that I'd do my runs in the morning before work. I am NOT a morning person. I managed it several times, but not happily. As a result, I started associating running with the dread of early mornings - not a great way to stay focused. This time around, I'm fitting my runs into my evenings, which is much more in tune with how my body works.
  3. Get a buddy, preferably one who is at the same level as you. Reporting back and forth with Andrea helped me get much farther in Attempt #2 than Attempt #1. I now have a network of three others, which has been amazingly motivating.
  4. Just do it. Doing it always feels better than NOT doing it.
I'm pumped for week 3!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Baked: Chocolate Chip Cookie-Brownie-Cake Thing

Text from my husband: Need eggs for cookies!

I arrive home. I smell baking.

"Are you baking?"


"Did you get eggs?"


"Oh. What did you use instead?"

"I added some cornstarch and water."


The oven beeps. Mr. Ringy pops this onto the cooling rack:

"Um, honey? Why is it so thick?"

"I didn't realize that the recipe was for 60 cookies."

But just as I finished saying, "Perhaps you should leave the baking to me in the future," I popped a piece in my mouth. And... it's delicious. It's like a chocolate chip cookie/brownie/cake thing.

Anyway, here's the original recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. He tells me that, in place of the eggs, he used about a tablespoon of cornstarch, and enough water to make the dough look "right".

Yields 60 cookies
  • 1/2  cup  shortening
  • 1/2  cup  butter
  • 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 2    eggs
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla
  • 2-1/2  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1  12-ounce package (2 cups)  semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1-1/2  cups  chopped walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts (filberts) (optional)
    In a large mixing bowl beat the shortening and butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and baking soda. Beat mixture until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour. Stir in chocolate pieces and, if desired, nuts.

    Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree F oven 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

    Make-Ahead Tip: Bake and cool cookies completely. In an airtight or freezer container, arrange cookies in a single layer; cover with a sheet of waxed paper. Repeat layers, leaving enough air space to close container easily. Seal, label, and freeze up to 1 month.

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    C25k update

    I do my running on the dirt path around Queen's Park.

    View Larger Map

    I usually go around 5:30 in the evening which is prime rush hour on the busy road around the park; lots of drivers get to witness my C25k journey.

    I've noticed that a lot of people look out their windows and watch the runners while they're sitting in traffic. I like to tell myself that they must be thinking how awesome we are.

    C25k progress: Week 1 complete, and I feel great! I can definitely feel that it's been getting progressively easier, and I also recovered more quickly from the second day than I did from the first.

    Cat-related business: naptime

    Boy, does Sherlock sleep a lot.

    In his bed...
    ...on the window sill...
    ...on top of the couch,
    ... or in a ball.
    Hmm. It's 1:00 AM. Perhaps I should take his lead.

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    C U 2nite?

    Victor and I will be singing in a fundraiser concert for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind tonight.

    We were chatting about the event with Greg, a member of our church choir who has 5% vision. He is registered with the CNIB and was interested in attending.

    "So, we'll see you there then?" we asked.

    "Well, you might see me... but I won't see you," he replied.

    We had a hearty guffaw at that one. Thanks, Greg!

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Break time

    My church has a new music director, Bruno. Last night was his first rehearsal with our choir.

    We normally rehearse on Thursday nights from 7:30 to 9:30.

    Around 8:30, he asked, "Do you usually have a break?"

    "No," we replied.

    "What?! Oh gosh, you need a break. Let's take ten."

    It had never even occurred to me before, but this new policy is going to be so good for the choir. Obviously it'll be a little easier to get through the two-hour rehearsals, but I think that the chance to socialize a little more will build the cohesiveness of the group, which in turn can only help us make better music.

    I am excited for this year.

    Don't forget to take ten every now and then!

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010


    ... breeds efficiency.

    I can't take credit for this. Apparently it was a favourite saying of my friend Eric's dad.

    In other news, I've begun the Couch to 5k program. This will be my third attempt in three years to achieve something with running. I just did Week 1 Workout 1. Wish me luck!

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Baked: Lemon Ricotta Cookies

    Ever since we remodeled our kitchen back in April, spending time in the kitchen has been much more enjoyable. As a result, I've been doing a lot more baking. Cookies are my favourite.

    Last week, I had a hunkering for something lemony, so I whipped up a batch of Giada De Laurentiis' Lemon Ricotta Cookies.

    Yields: 44 cookies

        * 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
        * 1 teaspoon baking powder
        * 1 teaspoon salt
        * 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
        * 2 cups sugar
        * 2 eggs
        * 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
        * 3 tablespoons lemon juice
        * 1 lemon, zested

        * 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
        * 3 tablespoons lemon juice
        * 1 lemon, zested

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

    In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

    In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

    Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

    Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Pack the cookies into a decorative container.

    The result

    The cookies turned out light, airy and moist, almost like ladyfingers, but also had a really nice richness from the ricotta. I loved the cookies on their own and didn't feel that they needed the glaze. The glaze was intense - like lemon candy - and it really overpowers the cookie, even though I had doubled the lemon juice in the cookie. Depending on what you want, I'd suggest trying the cookies on their own before deciding whether or not to add the glaze. (I think that the naked cookies are great with a cup of tea, but perhaps you like candy-like cookies, as my husband does!) You could also try substituting some of the lemon juice in the glaze with water.

    One more subtle tip about the directions: you'll make your life a little easier if you beat the butter first, before mixing in the sugar. This is the standard procedure in Better Homes and Gardens recipes that I always use; it's a good way to cheat if you're like me and always forget to let the butter thaw.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    Go Daddy!

    On Saturday, I headed to Wasaga Beach to cheer on my brother in his first sprint triathlon.

    At the finish line, I stood next to this little girl. There she is, waving her purple pom poms and doing her little cheerleader dance, cheering for her daddy.

    Goooo Daddy! WOOOO!
    Daddy had the biggest smile as he crossed the finish line.

    My brother did pretty good too. Way to go Kevin!

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Bottoms up

    I've been on a committee interviewing candidates for a new music director at my church.

    The two top candidates were neck-and-neck as far as qualifications. In the end, selecting the successful candidate came down to this:

    "I'd really like to go and have a drink with that person."

    So, the next time you're looking for a new job - drink up!


    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    The sauce that tastes good on everything

    Japanese kewpie dressing. It's a sesame-flavoured, MSG-enhanced vinaigrette.

    Awesome salad dressing. Great for cold or warm pastas.

    Today I'm having it tossed with cold linguine and strips of cucumber.
    I don't even like cucumber. But this makes it taste awesome.

    I have no idea what the label says, and if they ever change the packaging, I might be screwed. If you're looking for it, it may also be labeled as Baisen Goma dressing.