Mother’s Day Lunch and Knife 4 Life

I made a late lunch for my mom on Mother’s Day.

Yup. There’s that omelet again! My mom wasn’t here when I made it last weekend, so naturally, I had to make it again. 🙂

I stuffed these with a lot of onion and mushroom. Not a bad thing, at all, but it certainly prevented them from being sealed. 🙂

And I think I’ve finally found the right pans. It’s funny, I kept trying to do it on non-stick pans, and low heat. Well, it works much better on buttered steel pans, over high heat. (Bit-a-butter-makes-it-better?) Plus, it’s way quicker! You just have to be careful not to burn it, or overcook it.

Also on the weekend, I got myself a new chef’s knife. I will have this knife for the rest of my life. Using it is an absolute pleasure.

Gourmet

Yes, I’m alive. And I’m well. It’s been a long time since I posted anything…. I have 6 posts categorized as drafts, so it’s not like I’ve completely ignored blogging. ^_^ But wow, it’s been a while. This post will basically be some pictures, since it’s not hard to put together. I took some casual cooking classes, a while back, in November. It was lots of fun, met some great people, and learned quite a bit. My interest in cooking, food, and the kitchen has only increased. But cooking… I’m still just starting.

On Friday night, I had the house to myself and made myself a nice meal: inside round steak on top of spinach, red pepper, asparagus, green beans, carrot, mushroom. Cooked and paired with some cheap pinot noir. 🙂

Still practicing cooking meat. I like medium-rare. As I get more confident, I’ll buy nicer cuts of meat. 🙂 And the great thing about steak? It’s super quick and easy!!

Saturday afternoon, I made a French-style omelette for myself and two homestay students. In hindsight, this was slightly overcooked and the pan I chose was not the best for the job… but at least it wasn’t browned and I know better for next time.

I’ve attempted this elusive French omelette a few times, but I don’t normally put that much effort into the rest of the plate. I had some fresh spinach from the night earlier, and I thought tomatoes and lightly fried zuchini would go well with everything. Sprinkled a bit of olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, grated cheddar and mozzarella….. Inside the omelette was sautéed onion, mushroom, red pepper, garlic, spinach, and melted cheese.

There was certainly a lot of work put into this single dish, but man did I enjoy it. Everything. The preparation, the cooking, and the eating. 🙂

Gourmet couch candy

I’ve really been enjoying these shows: Good Eats, Chef at Home (though I hate the theme music), and Posh Nosh.

DIY Wireless Booster

To access the Internet on my desktop computer, I must use wireless. Unfortunately, it’s about as far away from the access point as possible: opposite corners of the house and different floors. And the wireless card I’ve got in my desktop is a little old and pretty cheap. Basically, I’ve had to battle with a poor connection for years. Often, I would have to manually move the antenna an inch this way or that, try reconnecting, and repeat. I vented to my friend, Shirley, about my connection, and she said her friend was having similar issues, so Shirley recommended she make a signal booster. That’s something I’d been thinking about doing, and thought it was about time. I googled how to make a booster. Enter the Parabolic Reflector available here. I’m sure there are lots others, but this is the one I decided to try out.

Desktop antenna with booster

I made 3 of them. the first was made entirely with paper and tinfoil and it worked fine, but I figured I would try making a couple more with different materials: 2 different strengths of card. It’s good I did that too, as I ended up using 2 of them and giving the paper prototype to Shirley’s friend who most likely has better things to do than build paper parabolas. 🙂 (I, on the other hand, do not.)

Gluestick?  Check.  Scissors?  Check.

Access point hidden away, with booster pointed down slightly (towards my room)

What does it do? It turns your omni-directional antenna into a directional antenna with a stronger signal. The tinfoil does the radio wave reflecting and the shape (the parabola) just happens to be an efficient way to do that. Using this new direction, I’ve “pointed” the antenna on my wireless router towards my room – even on a bit of an angle through the floor. In my room, on my desktop PC, I’ve just pointed it horizontally in the direction of the access point.

Wireless signal strength over a few days

The results have been great. Without any home-made boosters, I received 25-35%, with one on the access point, i received 35-55%, and with one on both the access point and my desktop antennas, I’m receiving a pretty steady 62-68% (see the graph, above). I still receive disconnects, but it’s now much easier to reconnect… usually happens automatically on the first try – I don’t even have to do anything!

So if you’re having wireless issues, give it a shot! It certainly doesn’t cost much. 🙂

Happy Halloween!

Did this FlipNote animation on the bus, yesterday.

The pumpkins, this year:

unlit jackolanterns

lit up jackolanterns

I did the one on the left (least effort!). ^.^ And it should resemble the pumpkin in the FlipNote animation, above. 🙂

Happy Halloween!

New (Used) Car: 1993 Honda Accord EX-R

Last weekend, I finally got a car. I’m not a car guy and know next to nothing about them, so I just mentioned some criteria to the car people in my family and asked them to tell me about it if they figured it was a good deal and fit my criteria. My primary criteria was this:

  1. Get me to the mountain (Cypress) and back with snowboard gear and maybe friend or two +their gear.
  2. Doesn’t consume too much gas doing #1.
  3. Doesn’t beg to be broken into. I want to be able to leave it places without being paranoid.
  4. Isn’t huge. I hate parking huge vehicles. I don’t even like driving them very much. I don’t need a huge vehicle. (More than 2 seats would be nice, however….)
  5. Doesn’t cost a lot to insure.
  6. Doesn’t cost much in any regard, really. ^.^ CHEAP. But works.
  7. I’m not looking for an investment. I may only insure it for the ski season, and sell it afterward, depending on circumstances.

Basically, I wanted a cheap, reliable car so I could go snowboarding whenever I wanted. I bought a discounted (due to the 2010 Olympics) season’s pass to Cypress Mountain this year and plan on using it intensely.

I received a few suggestions from everyone, but they were either a little too expensive or not quite what I was looking for. But then my uncle came across this 1993 Honda Accord EX-R with 193,000 km that was in great condition. Long-ish story short: I bought it, last weekend, Saturday October 24. 🙂 It’s not super sexy, but it drives great and was a good deal ($2500 before tax). Actually, I do find it pretty hot….

The things I love about it: 4 cylinder (good on gas) yet seems to have very decent acceleration, back seats fold down to easily accommodate snowboard/ski gear, it’s manual and front-wheel drive to give better control in snow, and it just feels great to drive. The one problem with it, which is really more of a nuisance: the ignition alarm on the driver’s side that indicates you still have the keys in the ignition when the door is open, goes off even when the keys are not in the ignition (getting in/out of the car). My dad and I poked around in the fuse box to see if we could cut it off, but it was connected to the interior lights, so I’ll live with it for now. In the process, however, we disconnected the stereo from the battery, which activated some kind of anti-theft mechanism. Now the stereo requests a 5-digit code before it will start working again! I managed to find the code hand-written in the manual, and tried entering it many times, but I couldn’t get it to work. So I drive in silence, for now. ^.^ It’s not so bad, as the stereo only has a radio and a tape deck; one thing I wanted to upgrade soon, anyway. We actually have a spare car stereo (doesn’t everyone?), I just need to find someone to install it.

Anyway, except for a couple little things, I’m very happy with my first car. Yay 🙂

Baking Powder Biscuits

Another potluck lunch at the office, and I took another easy way out. But these really are great, and ridiculously simple.

Cheddar Cheese Baking Powder Biscuits!

Ingredients

  • 2 c flour
  • 4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t cream of tartar
  • 2 t sugar
  • 1/2 c shortening
  • 2/3 c milk

Instructions

Sift the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening. (Optional: Add grated cheese.) Stir in milk. Knead. Pat out to 1/2″-3/4″ thick. Cut with floured cutter. Bake at 450F (230C) for 10-15 minutes.

Makes 6-16 biscuits, depending on size. (This recipe would probably only make 6 of the large pictured biscuits).

Broken Water Pipe

Had a bit of excitement on the way home, today. As I was walking home from the bus stop, after work, I noticed a lot of muddy water bubbling up from the street. A water pipe had broke. I must have just caught it in the early stages. Went home, my mom had already contacted the municipality, and went out later to check on it. The bubbling puddle had become a lake. Some neighbours were directing traffic around the hole initially, and then eventually telling people to take the long way around. We couldn’t use our water for a while, and now it’s a little brown, but at least we can use it!! Just don’t plan on drinking it for a while. Hours later, people are still working on it. Not quite sure what the status is.

Lake Strathcona

Driving across the lake

New Digital Camera: Canon PowerShot D10

(photos below)

My beloved Canon IXY (ELPH) digital camera has finally (mostly) died, thanks to me putting it in a bag that had falsely secure liquids. (It got beer on it and now it behaves very strange and lacks some features, such as playback.) Oops. Anyway, I don’t like having to be so careful with my camera; it interferes with my lifestyle. So, a logical choice for my next camera would be… a waterproof camera? 🙂 And since I know I like Canon cameras already, a waterproof Canon would be great! Luckily, Canon released their first waterproof camera, this year.

I’ve had the Canon PowerShot D10 (youtube, dpreview, dpreview group test) for 2 weeks now and taken over 100 photos. The interface and features are a nice refinement over my old Canon camera, but there are a few notable things that irritate me. It’s a little larger and heavier than I would like for a point-and-shoot; most importantly, I can’t put it in my pocket. 🙁 It lacks HD video, which I would love and is common for digital cameras this size and price point. It seems to select a rather high ISO setting, compared to my IXY, when on Auto and in lower-light situations – I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or not, but I have to get used to it. And, of course, making a camera waterproof puts some restrictions on the physical interface: no sliders, no knobs or dials… just buttons. But overall, I have tested it indoors and outdoors in different lighting, in the pool, the ocean, and the rain, and it seems to work pretty good. It turns on really quickly, and the battery life is fantastic (it’s just started flashing for the first time, and I’ve taken a lot of video, as well). In addition to being waterproof to 10 metres, it’s shock resistant and cold-resistant, so I will definitely be using it on the mountain, this ski season. It’s certainly not perfect, but I think I’m going to keep it. 🙂

Here are a selection of photos taken with it:

Kitchenware and Shopping!

Last Friday, I had no plans and decided to do a little shopping at Pacific Centre before leaving downtown Vancouver. I wasn’t really looking for anything special, just looking to see if I could find any sales or see anything I “simply must have.” (I was bored and didn’t feel like going home quite yet.) When I entered Sears, I headed straight to the men’s clothing section, on the bottom floor. Lots of sales, so I bought a few shirts. And when I asked the cashier if she knew when the jeans would be on sale, she told me she just took the sign down – they’re on sale, right now! Alright then! Picked up a couple pairs of jeans for 40% off, as well! Sweet. Nothing like clothes that fit and are on sale. 🙂

Next stop: Kitchenware, top floor

I’ve been looking at cookware and knives, recently, so they’re a bit of a personal weakness.
There was a sales person setting up signs for a sale starting Saturday: 50% off all cookware sets. Well! I really had to look around, didn’t I!? Most sets are originally $400-800, so 50% is $200-400. Not bad, not bad. But I found an 8pc Kenmore Elite set that I was really impressed with. There were only 2 boxes left, and the price was $160. If this set was also 50% off, I was going to pay the $80 and walk out of there with it that night. I asked a sales associate, and he said it was already at a clearance price, but brought it to the cashier to check – it didn’t register a price when it was scanned and he said she was “too chicken” to ring it through at 50% without a manager’s approval. Okay, alright. No biggie, I don’t need a pot set, right now. I put it back, but I was still thinking about it at the $160.

Knives and knife sets were also 20% off and lots of other things were on sale, so I picked up a great little Lagostina chef’s pan (originally $65) for $20, and a couple of cheap-ish knives: a Roscan 8″ Chef Knife and a Henckel Santoku. I had honestly bought quite enough that day and was very happy with my purchases. But when I got home, I checked my receipts and I had only received a discount for one of the knives. I had to go back… and when I did, I could check on the pot set again. 🙂

The next day, after meeting friends for dimsum (which I totally thought was Sunday!! Sorry…), I went back to Sears to check on those pots and get a few dollars back on my knives. As I entered, I was given a Scratch-N-Save card: 10-50% off whatever I buy, but I have to scratch it at the cashier. Obviously, odds are pretty high for the 10% and ridiculously low for 50%… but this applied to all regular and sale-priced items. Anyway, everyone just assumes they have a 10%, so whatever they get is an at an additional 10% discount. I wasn’t planning on buying anything, unless those pots were 50%…. That’s the first thing I checked. Nope. The $160 price tag was already a clearance price – they’re cancelling this line for some reason, and there was only 2 boxes left there. Not surprised in the least ($160 was still a really good deal), I took my receipt to get the rebate on the knives. The cashier took both knives back and applied my 10% scratch-n-save. Cool. I guess I was done. But I had the car… I almost felt obliged to get something, or at least give another look. So I did. And I decided on a $30 salad spinner (I hated the salad spinner we used at home) and took it to the till.

When it was my turn, I was offered another scratch-n-save and told to “pick a lucky one.” So I selected one from the fan of cards the cashier had made for me and pulled my Visa card out as she scratched it. No, wait…. is that… 50%?! WHAT?! It was funny, everybody around me got really excited asking me to buy their items… there aren’t many of these. They announce this shit over the PA. Of course, it’s an absolute WASTE on a $30 salad spinner… so I asked, “Um… Can I go grab something else…?” She replied, “Well, we’re not supposed to let you do that, but if you know what it is and it’s nearby…. I guess so.” I quickly hopped over and grabbed the $160 pot set and brought it back, totally elated. Fate? I think so. I felt so good I made a small donation to the boys and girls club. Hah. Am I really that shallow?

Now here’s the question you’re thinking: Steve, why didn’t you get an $800 set that was on sale for $400, for $200? You know, I had a tiny sense of regret shortly after I bought them, but I brushed that off quickly. Think of all the things that came together for me to get the pot set I wanted for the price I wanted. I didn’t get full discount on my knives, had to come back. I was late for meeting my friends for dim sum (was delicious), so I borrowed my mom’s car. The people I let ahead of me in the line. The time I took. The visitor parking at my friend’s being full and making me decide to leave early – and maybe having time to drop by Pacific Centre. The fact that I had the car encouraging me to buy the salad spinner. The clerk fanning out a selection of discount cards, and me picking the right one. Seriously amazing. True, I didn’t save HUGE, but the way everything fell together … I still get giddy thinking about it. Those pots would not let me leave without them! 😀 So that day, I walked out with a 8pc pot set and a salad spinner, made a small donation, and paid tax for barely over $100!

That was Saturday. I kept telling my mom if she needed anything, she should at least go look. So she did. Sunday. My mom picked up the same Lagostina chef’s pan I had (75% off). I tagged along, figuring my shopping was long done. It wasn’t. *sigh* I ended up buying a cutting board and 2 new pillows (half price). Scratch-and-save discounts on these were 15%, because the store was dead and the cashier was younger and scratched a couple herself on my behalf. 🙂

Next up on the to-buy list is a replacement digital camera (mine’s totally busted), and an HD TV. If you see any deals, let me know. 🙂

Hi. My name is Steve. I’m a sucker for sales.

(I’ve since used the sauté pan from the set, and I absolutely love it.)

Dinner: Sautéed Salmon

Sauteed Salmon and Asparagus

Eager to use some new kitchenware I bought over the weekend (a post in itself, perhaps), I made dinner last night. Along with the salmon, I stir-fried veggies & rice and attempted a simple white sauce using a white wine reduction. All things considered, it went pretty well. The biggest problem was that the salmon was too dry by the time we ate: I shouldn’t have fully cooked it, because it became a bit overcooked while staying “warm” in the oven waiting for me to finish the rest. I used a single sauté pan because I wanted the flavours of everything in the reduction/sauce – so I should have planned better. I also think I used a bit too much oil. I had never tried making a white sauce or a reduction before, but they turned out quite decent. The red onions used as garnish on top of the salmon were also sautéed in a little white wine, making them sweet. The sauce ended up compensating for the dry salmon. I had a decent lunch today. And it was pretty low carb, too! 😀

I like my new pots. And knives. Cooking’s fun. 🙂