Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Making Bread

A few years ago I took up  bread making as a bit of a hobby.  I didn't use a machine, I did it all by hand.  Mixing together the ingredients, kneading the dough and watching it rise are all very satisfying and the aroma of the bread baking touches a spot deep in the soul. 

Most importantly, you can control what goes into your bread.  I look at the label of the whole wheat bread I usually buy and it contains such things as calcium propionate, acetylated tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides, ammonium chlorate.  Plus, store-bought bread contains an alarming amount of sodium - in this case 250 mg or 10% of your recommended daily allowance.  When you make your own, you have a much shorter and more pronounceable list of ingredients:  flour, water, yeast and some kind of sugar with a pinch of salt.

Recently, the Bean and I decided to make a loaf of challa which is a braided egg bread.  It turned out okay, considering I left out an ingredient and baked it at too low a temperature.  And it was a wonderful thing to do with the Bean.

Whisking Together Ingredients

Letting the Sponge Do its Thing

Letting the Loaves Rise

The Finished Product

Monday, 23 July 2012

Project 52: Week of July 23

I continue to make some progress on a number of fronts:

Lose 35 lbs:  When I wrote this, I expect I weighed a good bit less than the maximum I reached at the beginning of April, so I will amend this to lose 40 lbs., or achieve a weight 190 lbs.  Through exercise and trying to being a little more disciplined about what I eat, I have lost 14 lbs since my birthday on April 10.

Get into shape to run 10K:  I have began running again and am taking it very slowly.  On a running day I probably cover in the nieghbourhood of 6 kms, of which I run about 2 kms and walk the rest.  So far, this is working well for me; I have very little of the shin pain I have gotten in previous attempts.

Resolve my depression:  I feel like I have made progress on this front, although I still have a long way to go.  I have felt better these last couple of weeks than I have in a long time.

Learn Calligraphy:  I have a good friend, Elizabeth, who came for a visit from Hong Kong yesterday and she and her family came bearing gifts.  She saw on my Project 52 blog posts that I am interested in calligraphy, so she brought my wife, daughter and me each a Chinese calligraphy workbook, a brush and a bottle of ink.  An incredibly thoughtful person is our Liz.  So the three of us have been trying our hand at it and thoroughly enjoying it.  I hope to do a separate blog post on this shortly.

Clean out gardens:  I have cleaned all the overgrowth out of one of our front garden.

Build a crystal radio with the Bean:  While vacationing in Oakville recently, we went to a great little toy store called Mastermind Toys, where we bought an electronics kit for building an FM radio.  I'm not sure it qualifies as a crystal radio, but it's in the right neighbourhood.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Poor Behaviour in Children and their Parents

So, last night Kate, the Bean and I were trying to relax in our hotel room in Oakville but unfortunately, kids were running and yelling through the halls making relaxation difficult.  I mused on my Facebook page about what kind of parent allows their children to disrupt every other paying guests' peace.  The answer came about an hour later when the adults decided the hall was the perfect place to drink their beer and have a loud conversation.  Kate went out and asked them tersely if they could take the conversation back to their room.

When I was a kid, if I behaved like that I would earn a threat to have my ear cuffed if not actually getting a cuff from one of my parents.  I just seem to remember kids of my generation were held to a higher standard of behaviour than kids seem to be today.  My childhood was one long lesson in honesty and respect for others.

Permissiveness, though, seems to be a popular parenting model these days.  An old high school friend of mine often posts on Facebook about bratty behaviour from kids and more importantly on the lack of concern about that behaviour on behalf of their parents.  I wonder about the reasons for this.  I have gone so far as to blame Canada's adoption of a Charter of Rights and Freedoms which I find instills in many a sense of entitlement, that they can do whatever they like without concerning themselves how their behaviour may affect others.  The notion that their freedom ends where another person's begins is an alien concept. 

Certainly many parents seem to be distracted a lot of the time - too busy being plugged in via their "smart" phones or tablets so they may not even be aware of the bratty behaviour.  Maybe they are even oblivious to the fact that their kids may be annoying other people.

I'm not saying the Bean is perfect, or that we are perfect parents, but we would certainly have halted similar behaviour and pointed out to her that she needs to consider what impact her actions have on the other people around her.  We expect her to be a considerate and polite person.  When she strays from our expectations, we use it as a teaching moment and point out how her behaviour may or may not have been appropriate and what she could have done differently.

Even as write this now, I hear the kids again out in the hall being loud.  Despite our complaints last night, the parents continue to find this acceptable.  My god, talk about the unbearable burden of being.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Summer Vacation: Part I

I am writing this post from my 19th floor hotel room overlooking Niagara Falls, Ontario.  Yes, it is summer vacation time - that time of year when we delve into the dark folds of our brains to come up with activities and trips to entertain our child.  I remember my youth when day camps didn't exist and we were left to fend for ourselves.  Somehow we muddled through and managed to keep ourselves mostly entertained.  Something changed along the way from childhood to parenthood and we all now seem to be invested with the responsibility of finding something interesting for our kids.  So what do we have lined up for our little Bean this summer?

Well, we started our vacation by going to see the RCMP Musical Ride with a neighbour and her kids.  This is something that everyone should do once in their lives, but only once.  The choreographed horse riding is okay, but probably not worth the crowds and the hour long wait to get out of the parking lot.  I tried to make it more interesting for the kids by suggesting that we might get lucky and see the Mounties shoot some terrorists, but alas, we were thwarted.

Next up on the agenda was preparing for a trip to Southern Ontario to visit my brother-in-law, his wife and their brand new baby girl.  We arrived two days ago and our new niece is, as advertised, a beautiful little giblet.  Our first visit with them was short-lived and the next day we headed to Niagara Falls - the town that kitsch built:  wax museums, museums dedicated to the creepy, weird and unusual, haunted houses and I could go on and on.  And of course we saw the falls.  And they are majestic and magnificent.  We took a Maid of the Mist cruise which brought us surprisingly close to the falls.   You could really feel their power.

Today, we visited Marine Land.  I found it so-so.  The attractions are scattered over a very large piece of land, which meant a lot of walking and with Kate being a little handicapped these days.  At least she was able to rent a wheelchair, so when she got tired the Bean and I could push her.  Largely, the rides were what I like to call vomitrons - rides that spin you around in different ways at the same time and make you want to, well, vomit.  Not my favourite kind of ride.  The Bean and Kate went on a couple of them together and the Bean was quite happy to go on some by herself.  The only ride I really enjoyed was the roller coaster.  This was the Bean's first time on a coaster that had loops and she had a blast, although she bruised her back the second trip around.  I was very proud of her.

The other good thing about the visit to Marine Land was the show featuring sea lions, dolphins and beluga whales.  I have to admit to some ambivalence about keeping these beautiful and graceful animals in captivity and in the service of man.  Keeping them so confined and essentially working seems inhumane.  On the other hand, I feel privileged to be able to see them so close.  Another moral tussle for me to have with my conscience.

Anyway, I hope to file another vacation report later in the summer.  Hope everyone in the Northern hemisphere is having a good summer and those in the South a good winter.  Til next time.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Canada Day and Independence Day

I just want to wish my Canadian readers a very happy Canada day.  Kate, the Bean and I are lucky to be living in Ottawa and to be able to celebrate with what is unquestionably the largest Canada Day Party in the world, although we won't be partaking this year.  We hope to catch a sight of Canada's aerobatic team, the Snowbirds, though, since we live quite close to the airport.  I hope wherever you are, you take a moment to reflect on what a great country we live in.

I also want to wish our American friends a very happy Independence Day.  The U.S. will be celebrating its 236th birthday this year, an older cousin to Canada's 145 years old.  We had the pleasure of being in Boston last year for the Fourth of July celebrations and it was something to behold.

A toast to both countries.  Cheers.