Pizza Oven Progress

The other evening some friends and I gave up an evening of cards, foosball, and whisky drinking to instead demolish a stone and concrete planter in our front yard, and using the rubble from it, and a large brick planter in our back yard, built up the base for my pizza oven.  We still had some whisky, and enjoyed a great evening around the fire pit as well :)

Only bad part was me getting stung in the eye by a wasp that I upset when digging out the gravel from the demolished planter in the back yard. That was a couple days ago, and the swelling has come down – so I don’t look like Igor anymore!

Pizza oven base I didn’t use any cement/mortar for now – everything is just laid in place and we’ll see how it works out!  I ended up pouring all the bags of play sand onto the base and just lightly tamped it down.  I might be able to add more sand once I tamp it down a little harder, and level it out.  Next step will be to lay out the insulation bricks, and then the kiln bricks that will make up the actual floor of the oven.

Home Made Beef Pho

Home Made Beef Pho
Recipe type: Vietnamese
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • 8 cups beef stock
  • 6 cups water
  • 1½ lb ground beef
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered - divided use
  • 5" ginger piece sliced thinly - no need to peel
  • 6 star anise pods
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 4" stick of cinnamon
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 Kaffir Lime leaf
  • ½ cup fish sauce (divided use)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp plain sugar
  • 1 lb thin rice noodles, soaked in hot water and then quickly boiled
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 3 scallions, green parts only, cut on the bias
  • 12 oz rib eye meat, very thinly sliced - easier done if frozen a bit before.
  • 1 jalapeno pepper sliced thinly, maintaining seeds and ribs
  • 5 oz bean sprouts
  • additional fish sauce (to taste)
  • 1 bunch Thai (or in a pinch regular) basil
  • 2 or 3 tbsp srirarcha (to taste)
  • Lime wedges from 2 limes
  1. Place the ground beef into a large dutch oven and barely cover with water. Bring to the boil over high heat, turn heat down and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes. Strain off and discard the water (and associated scum). Rinse the beef, clean the dutch oven and return the ground beef to the dutch oven. Add the onion, aromatics, fish sauce, salt and sugar to the pot, followed by the beef stock and water. Stir to combine as well as possible. Bring to the boil and then simmer for at least 45 minutes.
  2. Strain the beef and other solids reserving the liquid. Discard the solids. Strain the broth again, this time through cheese cloth until clear.
  3. Soften the noodles in warm water for about 10-15 minutes, then boil them for 1 minute.
  4. Layer the noodles, some thinly sliced onion (from the remaining quarter), the scallion tops, cilantro and beef into preheated soup bowls. Fill the bowls with steaming hot broth
  5. Serve accompanied by sliced jalapenos, basil, srirarcha, fish sauce and lime wedges.

Big changes in Alberta

The New Democrat Party of Alberta has been voted into power with a significant majority. After 44 years in power, the Progress Conservatives are now the 3rd, with only 12 – er, 11 seats (Jim Prentice quit the party, and despite being elected in his riding, quit that too).  The Wild Rose party is the official opposition, winning 21 seats.


Hopefully this means positive change for the majority of Albertans, and not just corporations.  Hopefully we’ll see real improvements to the quality of health care in our province, and real progress in getting out of the boom/bust cycle of the oil industry, and diversifying our provincial economy.

The New Democrats have been given a great opportunity, and a big challenge by Albertans – they have the opportunity to prove that we can be prosperous and fair to all, and  demonstrate to the rest of Canada that there are choices…

Beautiful bread boards!

This past Christmas, Chef Michael Smith showed a great looking bread board in a prize package he was putting together.  The board was a demi-baguette board, made by Apple & Acorn Woodworking, in Ontario.

I ordered one as a birthday gift for my Mom, and she loves it!  the craftsmanship of these boards is excellent, with a flawless finish, and there are rubber feet on the underside, so that the board doesn’t slide around on you.  The board was well packed, and shipped via Canada Post, which was very reasonable.  A nice added touch is that the board is inside a burlap bag, which will be useful if you need to store the board in a cupboard.  My mom is going to find a spot in their kitchen to hang the board up and display it though – it’s really too beautiful to tuck away :)


Gado Gado Salad

Saw this on the Jamie Oliver site, and had to try it out – whole family loved it!


The only thing I didn’t have on hand was some bean sprouts, and the prawn chips.  I wanted to use up some mushrooms that I had, so I sliced them up and fried along with the tofu.



Browse my record collection

I’ve been working on a new section on my site here, under the Music section.  I’m  adding my vinyl record collection, and cataloguing it in the process.  Wow – talk about time consuming!  I’ve created a custom post type for it – and a number of custom fields to store various details about each record.  There’s still a few things that I’m sorting out with the templates, but it’s getting there.

So far I’ve added 119 albums…. leaves about 500 or so remaining to be added.

Would need a few of these to hold them all  :)  (I actually had one when I was much younger!)

Shrimp Curry Linguini

Shrimp Curry Linguini
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Quick and easy - just keep a package or two of frozen shrimp, peeled and de-veined, in the freezer
  • 1 pkg 26-31 Raw frozen shrimp (thawed)
  • 2 tsp mild curry powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 1 sweet red pepper, sliced thin
  • ½ red onion, diced fine
  • 2 tbsp cilantro stems, chopped fine (save leaves for end)
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 small pkg of linguini (or whatever you have on hand), cooked
  1. Heat skillet to med-high heat and add olive oil and butter
  2. Add garlic, ginger, curry powder, and onion, cook for a minute
  3. Add shrimp, cook for a couple minutes, then add carrots, and sweet pepper
  4. Cook until shrimp is pink and cooked through
  5. Toss in orange zest and cilantro leaves.
  6. Toss with linguini and server


New additions to the new aquarium

The stand for the 55 gallon aquarium turned out very well – unfortunately, the used aquarium I bought off Kijiji was way more scratched up than I had noticed.  Over Christmas, Big Al’s had a sale so I bought a new one – which looks awesome.  I also purchased a Hydor canister filter, and Eheim 150W heater.

55 gallon community aquarium and stand
New community aquarium

The aquarium is up and running, and is currently stocked with:

  • 6 siamese algae eaters
  • 10 Black Tetras
  • 27 Neon Tetras
  • 10 Glowlight Tetras
  • 3 bundles of Vallisneria spiralis
  • 2 bundles of Hygrophila corymbosa

Some coffee tips

  1. Favorite Beans
    For the freshest roasted beans, I would recommend Transcend.  Their main shop is on the southside, a block south of Argyll Road, just east of 99 Street.  They also have a location next to the Garneau Theatre on 109 Street – parking can be tricky there sometimes.  On 109 Street and 102nd Ave, Mother’s Market, where Mother’s Music used to be, it’s open Friday, Saturday & Sunday.

    While the Transcend beans may be the freshest, I’ve found that Sunterra carries 49th Parallel’s coffee, and it is very fresh (just double check the roast date on the bag).  Their Epic Espresso is my current favourite – and I really like the fact that it comes in 454g bags, instead of the 340g bags sold by Transcend. (Those 340g bags are a pet peeve, as they don’t last me a full week – whereas the 1lb. bags do.)

    I prefer medium roasted beans - they'll be the color of milk chocolate, and won't be shiny (or oily)
    I prefer medium roasted beans – they’ll be the color of milk chocolate, and won’t be shiny (or oily)

    At 3 Banana’s in Churchill Square, you can get Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso – bought a bag the other day for $22 for a 454g bag.  These may not be quite as fresh roasted as the other two unless you catch them on the right day.

  2. Favorite Brewing Methods
    When brewing coffee, I use my espresso machine.  It’s awesome – and I can have an Americano in less than a minute. A latte I can make in about 90 seconds :)

    If the machine has been off for a while, or I’m camping or something, I use an Aeropress to make coffee.  These are sold at Transcend (and other places around the city I’m sure).  These make very good coffee!  I just have to grind my coffee a little coarser than what I use in my espresso machine.

  3. Grind beans yourself
    Regarding grinding beans – this is the best way to get the most from your coffee beans.  Don’t buy pre-ground coffee.  The consensus on sites like and, is that the grinder is the most important piece of hardware when making coffee.  Look for a burr grinder, not a blade – there are some decent ones available, but they can get pricey. Check out the coffeegeek and home-barista forums for recommendations, and buy the best you can afford.  The forums also get into the different brewing methods – it’s not all about espresso :)

Here is my coffee set-up is here – yes, it might be bit excessive, but it’s been an investment that is serving me well – even after almost 8 years!

Roasted Chipotle Pepper and Garlic Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Cipotle Pepper and Garlic Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Chipotle Pepper and Garlic Pumpkin Seeds
Recipe type: Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 cup
  • Seeds from a couple pumpkins
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  1. preheat oven to 350F
  2. wash and rinse pumpkin seeds, pat dry with some paper towel.
  3. spread seeds evenly on baking sheet.
  4. sprinkle garlic powder, chipotle pepper, and salt over seeds.
  5. pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil over everything.
  6. stir seeds up, to evenly coat everything with the oil and seasonings.
  7. spread evenly across baking sheet.
  8. bake seeds for 10-15 minutes
  9. seeds should be golden, and dry.
  10. After the initial baking, seeds were a touch damp after cooling, so I roasted for another 5 minutes at 250F - perfect!