Welcome to Plaid Eggnog!

Welcome to Plaid Eggnog!

Dec 24, 2010

Gryffin-Gram 2010

Christmas Greetings from Gryffin, Julie and Steve!

This year, we sent out about 350 Christmas cards, before running out of time and budget. We apologize to all of the friends and family we missed sending greetings to by post this year, but good news! Gryffin has found a way to send his (and our) greetings to you nevertheless! (Ah, such a persistent and thoughtful terrier he is!)

As every year, Gryffin has written a fabulous newsletter for Christmas 2010. This year's highlights include photos from our travels, Gryffin's winning coffee label photo, and a recipe for Slow-Cooker Pickle Roast.

Check out the Gryffin-Gram by downloading it here: Gryffin-Gram 2010. For all you tech-savvy folks - it's a pdf. For all the rest of us - all you need to be able to view it is Adobe Reader, a free program which most people have these days.

Merry Christmas from Julie & Steve...with an enthusiastic wag and face-licking from Gryffin! :-)

Dec 20, 2010

What is a "Book"?

What is a "Book"?

You would think Julie and I could have figured this out by now - our shelves are filled, after all, with thousands of paper + cardboard + cloth + ink things that we call Books.

So many, in fact, that I wrote us a Home Library database program to keep track of them all - titles, authors, dates, subject keywords, loaned to whom, etc.

In a typical year, I read about 30 books. Like the list-keeper that I am, I record the ones that I read, and when, and what I thought of them. But since buying an iPad in the summer, I have started to wonder, well, what is a Book? Should the e-books I read on the iPad count in my 2010 list?

This latent question, percolating beneath the surface of my mind, came to the fore this morning, when I read The Idea of the Book, a review in the Books and Culture magazine.

I appreciated the author's teasing out of the differences between Book-as-Object, that physical thing that any toddler can identify, and Book-as-Concept, a "considerable length" textual document that "expresses a long story or complex sequence of thoughts," regardless of technology (scroll, codex, eBook, whatever)

I wonder: does The Cat in the Hat meet his Book-as-Concept definition?

So now I'm inclined to add those eBooks to my already-read list. Do I now need to go back and rethink some of the assumptions in my Home Library database program..?

-SP

Nov 15, 2010

Fantuz Fancies

A Fantuz Fancy - by Julie & Steve
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are off to the CFL playoffs!

Saskatchewan folks are nuts about the Riders and their bid for the Canadian Football League's 2010 Grey Cup. To celebrate, we made Rider cookies. We took them to church in Arborfield yesterday, and they were a hit! So here, by popular demand, is the recipe:

Fantuz Fancies

Ingredients:
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 beaten eggs
2 ½ cups flour
1-2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups crushed Fantuz Flakes* or other flake-based cereal (e.g., Corn Flakes)

Ingredients for Fantuz Fancies
* Fantuz Flakes are a special cereal, created to honour Saskatchewan Roughrider player Andy Fantuz. They're part of a host of products made for the 100th anniversary of the Riders in 2010.

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 375 F, with the rack in the middle position.
2. Melt butter, add sugars and stir. Next, stir in soda, salt, vanilla and beaten eggs. Then add flour and mix dough well.
Finished Fantuz Fancies
3. Add crushed Fantuz Flakes and chocolate chips and mix thoroughly.
4. Form dough into walnut-sized balls with your fingers and place on greased cookie sheet, 12 per sheet. Press Fantuz Fancies down slightly with palm or spatula.
5. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.
6. Cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes, then remove to wire rack until completely cool. (The rack is important – it makes them crisp.)
7. Frost with green or white icing, then make the Roughriders' "S" with sprinkles on the top of the cookie, in the opposite colour. (We used a cookie stencil we made out of an icing jar top.)

Yield: 5-6 dozen. If Fantuz Fancies spread out too much in oven, reduce heat to 350 F and do not flatten fancies before baking.

- Adapted by Julie Golding Page, from Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies, in Joanne Fluke’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

Nov 4, 2010

Film & Faith

We've been film fanatics for years, and we can't seem to help starting a film group in each new community we live in. But our film groups have a twist - they combine watching films with exercising our faith in God.

Intrigued? Why not check out our article, published in The Anglican Planet this month. (That's a cross-Canada, monthly Anglican newspaper.)

Here's the link: http://www.anglicanplanet.net/canadian-news/2010/11/3/film-faith-meeting-god-at-the-movies.html

Hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did writing it. Let us know what you think!

And beware, combining film & faith is so much fun, it's addictive! ;-)

Oct 12, 2010

Good Mail Day - by Julie

Since I found my first penpal at the age of 10, I've always loved getting mail. And today was a particularly good mail day. :-)

When I went to the post office and unlocked the post box today, I found a fistful of letters. Here are some of them, from places as far-flung as Wyoming & Illinois (USA), and Oslo (Norway).

Besides that, my mail stash contained the year's first (gulp!) Christmas cards. Kudos to my far-ahead-thinking friends in England and Norway! And thanks for prodding us into card-making mode, so we can get our 300 Christmas cards made and mailed in good time.

I love all the mail I get, but today the pièce de résistance and winner of the "most exotic" award had to be this letter from my friend, Anna, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Check out the photo envelope - isn't that cool? And there's even a Russian stamp honouring the Vancouver Olympics.
Was today a good mail day for you, too? Why not write a letter, post card or greeting card and give someone else a good mail day? I'm off to write letters for the rest of the afternoon...see you at the post office!

Our Radio Talks for Sept 27-30

Here are our final 5-minute radio talks for September. We'd love to read your comments - just leave one below.

Open to all - Sept 27 (by Steve)
Chicken or egg - Sept 28 (by Steve)
Followers - Sept 29 (by Steve)
God answers in surprising ways - Sept 30 (by Julie)

Sep 5, 2010

Julie & Steve are on radio again

This month, we're broadcasting radio devotionals again on Hudson Bay's CFMQ. We're working out of the New Testament book of Acts, which tells the story of the very first Christian church communities.

Here's the first of our devos - hope you enjoy them!

Sept 1 devo - Waiting on God

Aug 8, 2010

Good Book: Author reads Bible, Dazzles CBC

We stumbled upon a show called Tapestry on CBC radio while making our way home from Arborfield this afternoon. The host interviewed David Plotz about his new book and his experiences in researching and writing it.

Mr. Plotz is a Jewish man who had never read his Bible (what we call our Old Testament). He decided one day to check it all out, read every word, and publish his thoughts on his blog and in a book (Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible).

Hear the interview by clicking here (Adobe Flash player required).

We found 2 things especially fascinating:

Listening to his observations and wry commentary on some of the Bible's shocking texts; and
Listening to him correct the interviewer and her profound unfamiliarty with the Bible

Mr Plotz has clearly taken a big step into new terrain on his journey of faith. Would that more of the Christians who have sampled too little of the bizarre, hilarious, disturbing, marvelous, inspiring and life-changing Bible would follow his lead.

Aug 4, 2010

No Rest For the Holy: Clergy Burnout a Growing Concern

This article, sent to us by a clergy friend, is a shocking wake-up call to all paid ministry staff and their congregations. We can identify with most of their concerns. Why not give the aritlce a read and then send your own minister a friendly word of encouragement today - or tell them to take the day off for a change! :-)

No Rest For the Holy: Clergy Burnout a Growing Concern

Jul 26, 2010

Fresh Red Currant Pie

Yesterday, when we were at our church in Arborfield (120 km / 80 mi from Hudson Bay), a nice lady named Eleanor Alyea gave us a big bucket of red currants. We'd never tried using fresh currants before, so we came home and combed both cookbooks and the 'Net. Here's one of the dishes we came up with:

Fresh Red Currant Pie
The currants lend this pie a stunning red colour, which contrasts beautifully with the pale crumb topping. A very patriotic, red & white Canadian pie!


Filling Ingredients:
  • one prepared but uncooked, 9-inch / 1 L pastry crust, bottom only (either homemade or storebought)
  • 1 cup / 125 ml sugar
  • 3 Tbsp / 45 ml tapioca (the no-cook kind)
  • 3 cups / 750 ml fresh red currants
  • 1/3 cup / 75 ml water 

Crumb Topping Ingredients:
  • 1 cup / 250 ml flour
  • 1/2 cup / 125 ml sugar
  • 1/2 cup / 125 ml chopped nuts (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp / 45 ml butter
  • 1 Tbsp / 15 ml oil


Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F / 220 C.
  2. For the Filling: In the bottom of the crust, sprinkle a small amount of sugar from filling ingredients. Mix remaining filling sugar and tapioca together, then add the currants and water; pour into crust.
  3. For the Crumb Topping: Mix together flour, sugar and nuts (optional). Cut in butter and oil until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Cover pie with topping mixture.
  4. Bake at 425 F / 220 C for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F / 180 C and continue baking 25-30 more minutes.
  5. Serve pie when warm, with a dollop of ice cream if desired.

Jul 22, 2010

Our first French Press

Good coffee is one of the joys of our everyday life.

Living in coffee-savvy Vancouver in the late 90s, we absorbed the coffee culture into our pores. From Julie's work at our college's coffee bar, Footnotes, we learned how to choose the best coffee - made from arabica (the best beans), bought in whole bean form, and then ground in small batches at home. Steve even acquired the taste of coffee for the first time, during this exploration of what makes for a great cuppa.

Through the Grinder (A Coffeehouse Mystery, #2)Lately, we've been improving our coffee-making process even more. First, Julie read the Coffee House Mysteries, a series featuring a barista at a coffee bar. The books are filled with coffee tips, and we learned that leaving coffee on the burner of a drip coffee maker actually burns it over time. As a result, we bought a coffee thermos, and our coffee tasted even better.

Then we visited Minnesota's Caribou Coffee, a fine coffee chain headquartered in Minneapolis, and one of our favourites. They advised that a French press produces the best coffee of all. So off we went to get a French press.

What we found? A French press really DOES do the best job. Besides that, it's a very small, portable and inexpensive kitchen item that can be bought for about $10 and is dishwasher-safe. The process is a little more lengthy than a drip coffee maker, but it's worth the trouble for the end product. Here's how it works:

Our French press - photo by Julie
First, put the kettle on to heat some water. While that's heating, grind your beans. Place 1 Tbsp of ground coffee per 4-ounce cup in the bottom of your French press. When the kettle boils, let it cool just slightly from the boiling point, then pour the water over the grounds in your French press. Place the filter & plunger on the French press but do not push it down yet - set a timer for 4 minutes (our press came with one pre-set). When it beeps, press the plunger down very slowly to filter the coffee.

Then - voila, du café magnifique! The coffee will be noticeably different, with a somewhat murky look, as well as deeper colour and far richer flavour than a drip maker produces.

The French press has made our already pleasant everyday coffee routine even more special and interesting - we hope it will do the same for you.

Jul 19, 2010

Slow-Cooker Pickle Roast

Need an easy, people-pleasing supper that won't take too much time, heat up your kitchen, or keep you from enjoying company and all the other perks of those lazy, hazy summer days? Try this pickle roast - we loved it, and so did our guests!

Utensils:
Slow-cooker

Ingredients:
1 beef roast
1 jar pickles, undrained (any style/flavour works; you can also add some relish if you like)

Method:
Place beef in slow cooker. Pour pickles and their juice over the beef. Cover. Cook on low 8 - 10 hours. Remove beef to platter and shred with fork.

Serving Suggestions:
Pile onto toasted buns and serve with salad. Or make it into a traditional meal by serving with potatoes/rice and vegetables of your choice.

- Modified from Crock-Pot Five Ingredients or Less Cookbook.

Jul 18, 2010

Green Tea Tiramisu Cake - by Julie

By popular demand, here's how to make my 2010 birthday cake. (Check out the photo I took of our cool cake, below.) This recipe comes from a Malaysian-Canadian friend, Chin-Wei Eow. She has a wonderful Malaysian cookbook that is “fusion” baking at its best, blending Western baking methods & cake types with Asian ingredients & tastes. Disclaimer: Those unfamiliar with Asian desserts and flavours may not find this cake to be to their taste.

 
The Utensils Needed:
Springform cake pan (20-25 cm / 8-10 inches in diameter works best)
Two round cake tins the same diameter as the springform pan

Time Needed:
2 – 2 ½ hours from start to finish

The Cake:

Ingredients:
1 whole egg
6 egg yolks (reserve the whites)
100 g / ½ cup flour
5 ml / 1 tsp baking powder
1 ml / 1/8 tsp salt
80 g / 1/3 cup cooking oil
15 g / 2 Tbsp green tea powder (available in Chinese grocery stores)
50 ml / ¼ cup water
25 ml / 1/8 cup milk
6 egg whites
2 ml / ½ tsp cream of tartar
140 g / 2/3 cup superfine (berry) or caster sugar

Instructions:
1.      Grease the two cake tins with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F. In a large bowl, place whole egg, yolks, flour, baking powder, salt, oil, green tea powder dissolved in water, and milk. Whisk by hand until combined and smooth. Set aside.
2.      In a small-medium mixing bowl, mix egg whites on high speed until stiff and glossy. Add cream of tartar and sugar gradually, in small increments, while still mixing on high. When mixture is once again stiff and glossy, fold it into the other mixture in the large bowl.
3.      Pour well-mixed batter into the two round cake tins and bake approximately 30 minutes. (Cakes may need a little less or a little more time, but they are done when a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean.)
4.      While cake is baking, start preparing filling according to instructions below. (You can finish it while the cake cools.)
5.      Remove cake from oven and invert onto metal rack immediately.

The Filling:

Ingredients:
5 egg yolks (reserve the whites)
80 g / 1/3 cup superfine (berry) or caster sugar
500 g / 1 lb mascarpone cheese at room temperature (or substitute: blend 250 g / 8 oz low-fat cream cheese with 250 ml / 1 cup fat-free sour cream until smooth)
5 egg whites
50 g / ¼ cup superfine (berry) or caster sugar
30 ml / 1/8 cup water
30 ml / 2 Tbsp unflavoured gelatine
60 ml / 4 Tbsp hot water
500 ml / 2 cups prepared whipped cream (lower-fat version: prepare 1 envelope of dry whipped topping powder)
Optional – 160 ml / 2/3 cup cooked red beans (used in Chinese desserts; if using these beans, soak them overnight and then cook on stove or in slow cooker, 1 part beans to 3 parts water, for 2 hours.)

Instructions:
1.      Tip: It is best to prepare the filling so that it can be used immediately on the cooled cakes. If filling is refrigerated, it will gel and not spread well on cakes.
2.      Mascarpone custard: Place egg yolks and first amount of sugar in a double-boiler and stir over simmering water until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool, then stir in mascarpone or substitute.
3.      Meringue: While waiting for egg mixture to cool, whisk egg whites on high in a small-medium bowl until stiff. Meanwhile, bring second amount of sugar and water to a boil. Gradually, add this mixture to the stiff eggs. Beat another 2 minutes on medium.
4.      Gelatine: Dissolve the gelatine into the water.
5.      In another, large mixing bowl, prepare whipped cream or topping according to package directions. Fold into this the mascarpone custard, meringue and gelatine mixtures.

The Assembly and Decoration:

Ingredients:
Cooled cakes
Prepared filling
Green tea powder to sprinkle
Optional – more whipped cream
Optional – cooked red beans

Instructions:
1.      Place one cake into springform pan. Spread half of the filling evenly on top of cake. If using red beans, spread them on evenly as well.
2.      Place second cake on top of filling. Spread the rest of the filling on top of cake.
3.      Chill for a few hours or overnight, until set.
4.      Just before serving, top with whipped cream if desired. (Tip: if cake is not going to be eaten all at once, leave whipped cream off whole cake and instead add it by the piece as it is cut.) Sprinkle green tea powder over cake or by the piece to decorate.

Serving Suggestion:
Try this tea cake with green tea  or green chai. The American Stash company’s green chai pairs very well with the cake, picking up on the green tea flavour and enhancing it by adding a flavourful blend of spices.

Recipe modified from the original found in Delicious Cakes, by Amy Heng. Published by Y Three K Publisher, www.y3k.com.my.

Jun 16, 2010

Book Review: Growing Up Christian

Growing Up Christian: Why Young People Stay in Church, Leave Church, and (Sometimes) Come Back to Church Growing Up Christian: Why Young People Stay in Church, Leave Church, and (Sometimes) Come Back to Church by John P. Bowen


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
At a recent meeting in one of our parish’s churches, vestry members suddenly realized that not one of their children currently attends an Anglican church. Some of the young people have changed denominations, while others have simply opted out. This experience – which could be easily duplicated in many congregations within the Anglican Church of Canada – begs the question: Why have these young people left the Anglican Church?

John Bowen, a friend and professor from Wycliffe College, an Anglican seminary within the University of Toronto, provides some thoughtful potential answers in his recently released book, Growing Up Christian: Why Young People Stay in Church, Leave Church, and (Sometimes) Come Back to Church.

In his book, John offers answers within carefully structured limits. He draws the entire population of his research study from his many years as a worker in a Leadership Training Program at the Christian Ontario Pioneer Camp. John follows up with these students (many of whom are or were Anglican) and asks them about their current levels of church and faith commitment.

This book will not address all Anglicans’ concerns about why their children and grandchildren no longer attend church. Why not? Because the population that John draws from (including both students and their parents) is unusually committed to church life, to the point of sending young people – and having the young people interested in going – to a several-week-long Christian leadership camp, with all its associated sacrifices and expenses.

However, some of John’s findings can be applied to the Anglican church as a whole. First, the young people who have stuck it out in the Christian church over the years say that what keeps them going back, despite many devastating disappointments in both the church and their personal lives, is first of all their personal relationship with God. Second in line is the support of their local Christian community.

Significantly, the church was also a main factor in the decision of many young people to leave and not come back. In their case, the church proved either inflexible in terms of explaining the claims of Christianity or incapable of living them out. Those who left simply did not receive the intellectual or friendship support they expected and needed from their church communities, and hence their decision to leave is understandable. After all, how many among us would remain part of a group where we felt neither sure of the local values nor personally welcomed and appreciated?

Many who have left the church, however, have not left their faith in God. These young people expressed an interest in returning to church, if they could somehow find one that offered a warm community of friends. This is made even more difficult in today’s highly mobile society, where people are constantly moving across town or across the country.

In the end, what most young people in the study were looking for was “a good church.” Toward the end of the book, John offers ideas on what makes a good church, including the quality of its community life, openness to questions and new ideas, social activism that resonates with the desire of young people to influence the world for good, and excellence in whatever worship style the church attempts.

Basically, what these young people – and, arguably, Anglican and all other young people – are looking for is a church community where they can find authentic friendships, passionate worship of God, and the ability to exercise their creativity and skills as they live out their Christianity. And judging from the lack of young people in our Anglican churches, they have unfortunately not found it with us. The question is, what are we willing to do about it?

-review by Julie

View all my reviews >>

Book Review: Stirring up Strife, Hope Street Church Mystery #1

Stirring Up Strife: A Hope Street Church Mystery (#1)The concept for this book - Stirring Up Strife: A Hope Street Church Mystery - is what caused me to pick it up - it's unique for its genre, and also largely untapped within literature.

Heroine Cooper Lee is a 30-something with an unusual job; she repairs copiers and other office machines. Like many people of her generation, she's long ago left church behind, despite being raised in an at least somewhat religious family, where weekly church attendance is simply part of the landscape of life.

At one of her work sites, seemingly by chance, Cooper meets a very friendly and genuine churchgoer who invites her to attend her church. Cooper decides to take her up on her offer, but she turns up an hour too early and ends up in a Bible study group meeting. This group is a mix of eclectic characters who would have little to do with each other, if it were not for their shared faith: a real estate diva, a rich banker, a blind artist, and a computer geek, among others. However, their authentic friendship attracts Cooper despite her misgivings about getting too involved with a church, and she sticks, becoming a supporting and supported member of the group.

Speaking from many years of church experience, both good and bad, I can say that Cooper's experience rings true - especially her reluctance, shyness, and indecision about re-joining a church. In addition, the Bible study group characters come across as real people that you might find in a church, with very real strengths, quirks, and blind spots.

Unfortunately, though, the mystery itself turns a bit formulaic, with the characters acting in stereotypical and unbelievable ways with respect to the actual solving of the murder. The bright spot, though, is that through it all, the characters keep their integrity - hopefully a sign of good things to come as the series progresses.

I would especially recommend this light read to people who are thinking of coming back to church and wonder what the journey might be like (hopefully theirs won't involve a murder, of course!). And long-time church people would do well to read this book, too, to "experience" Cooper's tentative first steps on her faith journey back to church.

Rating:
Concept & characters: 5 stars
Mystery storyline itself: 3 stars
Overall: 4 stars

-written by J

Book Review: Me, Myself & Bob

Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About God, Dreams, and Talking VegetablesLike Veggie Tales? Have a dry sense of humour? Are you a computer nerd or a business person? Wonder how "Christian" companies are run? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then this book - Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About God, Dreams, and Talking Vegetables - is for you.

Phil Vischer's true tale of how he came to build - and bust - his Veggie Tales empire is alternately funny, painful, and thought-provoking. He takes us through each step along his journey of making his dream of telling computer-animated, wholesome and Bible-inspired stories to American children en masse, giving us his years-later, rearview mirror commentary about what was really happening all along, but he hadn't noticed at the time.

Veggie Tales fans will love the story of how those beloved characters, Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, came to be. Computer geeks will lap up the first half of the book, with its exploration of the technology of the day, while business whizzes will appreciate the company-building (and busting) final half of the book. All the while, Christians and those curious about Christianity alike will get an insider's view of someone trying his best to live out a dream - while simultaneously having to put out managerial and ideological fires among his brilliant but often-in-conflict staff, both Christian and not.

Perhaps most valuable of all is Mr. Vischer's honesty about the loss - and subsequent re-forming - of his lifelong dream. His conclusion is that although dreams can be good, giving us vision and excitement, they can get out of hand if they master us. He ties all of this into his quest to know God better:

"Beware of your dreams, for dreams make dangerous friends...Why? Because God is enough. Just God. And he isn't 'enough' because he can make our dreams come true - no, you've got him confused with Santa or Merlin or Oprah. The God who created the universe is enough for us - even without our dreams."

- written by J

Jun 13, 2010

Review of Israeli film - Ushpizin

Our film & faith discussion group in Arborfield just viewed this excellent and entertaining film today. Here's Julie's review:

This delightful film will be especially appreciated by Jews, Christians and anyone who's curious about how believers in the Judeo-Christian God think he interacts with them. In the film, a devout couple is forced to confront an uncomfortable past, when obnoxious old friends come to visit. As these guests overstay their welcome, both the God-fearing couple and the guests come to a new understanding of God, and whether or not he can really change people for the better. While there are no easy solutions to these questions - and even more difficult is the living out of life in the in-between time - all come to see that God really does work in people's lives, sometimes by invitation and sometimes against our best efforts to shut him out...but always for good. This would be an excellent discussion film for a movie group, particularly for (but not limited to) those interested in how story and theology intersect. It would also be a great film for those who are curious about God but aren't yet ready to check out a synagogue, church or other "officially" religious place.

Jun 12, 2010

Review of "Did You Hear About the Morgans?"

Steve says:
A Rom-Com that's both sweetly romantic and charmingly funny. The "witness-relocation" excuse to relocate 2 urbanites to small, rural, western America was a bit forced, but their fish-out-of-water reaction was very believable, humorous and consistent with my own experience. 1st film I've ever seen SJP in, and was pleased with her range. HG was funny if a bit one-dimensional. A fun couple hours.




Julie says:
This charming romantic comedy offers surprising substance and realism, along with the love story and laughs.

The characters are an older-than-average couple for this genre, and already married for several years when the story takes place. In an impressive and courageous move, they decide to forgive each other's infidelity and pursue making their marriage work, instead of opting for divorce like so many people (even in films) these days.

While their foray out of the Big City and into rural life is fun to watch, the story takes a gutsy turn at the end of their stay. Instead of the fairy-tale ending of having them come to love their new town where they obviously don't fit, they take the lessons they've learned and happily go back home to New York. For me, it's always more impressive when characters put what they've learned to work in their own "home" circumstances, instead of having a permanent, rather unbelievable and overly dramatic change of situation put them on the right path.

Another really fun part of this movie is Hugh Grant's actual encounter with a real, live grizzly bear. Check out the special feature on DVD and see how he does it - without becoming lunch.

This is one of the best romantic comedies I've seen in a long time - and I don't generally go in for chick flicks, so that's saying something. I would definitely recommend it.

S&J Rate This Film: 3.5/5 Stars

Jun 11, 2010

Update: Bruised Golf to be Healed

When we struck the deer, we were on the last leg of our trip home from Minnesota, just south of Esterhazy. We came through the accident unscratched, and felt very protected, both by God and by the car's fine German engineering. It's easy to imagine things being so much worse if the impact was a split-second earlier or later. As it was, I (Steve) didn't even spill my coffee, the impact on the cabin occupants was so little.

Our worry of how and when we'd get home was relieved when we discovered that (1) our Insurance provides some loss-of-use coverage for wildlife collisions, and (2) the body shop in Esterhazy (and I have nothing but good things to say about how they've treated us!) had a 2006 Pontiac Pursuit (now called a G5) they could loan us. Not many rental car agencies in these small towns... So we got home just 4 or so hours later than expected.

We sometimes moan about the BIG distances with little population here in Saskatchewan. One wrinkle that results was that our insurance company's adjuster only travels to the Esterhazy area once a week, so it was a full 7 days after the accident before they got there to take a look.

They approved the repairs (estimated at $5200). Then the body shop estimated another week to get the parts in - not many VW parts in small-town SK, after all!

So we expect to have our beloved "Happy-Silver" VW Golf back by the end of next week! YAY! In the meantime, we're mobile, although every day the list of things I dislike about this cheap Pontiac loaner grows... It might be half the price of a Golf but that's because a Golf is at least twice the car!
(SP)

Jun 7, 2010

Petits gâteaux au fromage au cappuccino

Ça fait longtemps qu'on poste quelque chose en français ici sur notre blog...alors, c'est le temps de nous exprimer encore dans la langue de Molière. :-)

On a trouvé la recette suivante sur un paquet de yogourt. On ne l'a pas encore essayée, mais on voudrait bien le faire. J'imagine que ces petits gâteaux seront délicieux! Voici la recette:

Petits gâteaux au fromage au cappuccino

Ingrédients pour 12 portions :

• 1 ¼ tasses (300 ml) gaufrettes au chocolat émiettées
• 1/3 tasse (80 ml) beurre fondu
• 1 paquet (8 oz / 250 g) fromage à la crème, ramolli
• 1 tasse (250 ml) yogourt naturel
• ¼ tasse (60 ml) café fort ou espresso
• 2 œufs à la température de la pièce
• ½ (125 ml) tasse sucre
• 1 ½ c. à thé (7.5 ml) fécule de maïs

Croûte:

1. Préchauffer le four à 325 F (160 C).
2. Bien mélanger les gaufrettes émiettées et le beurre.
3. Déposer 1 ½ c. à soupe (22.5 ml) du mélange de gaufrettes dans 12 moules à muffins tapissés de moules en papier. Presser le mélange fermement au fond de chaque moule.

Garniture :

1. Fouetter le fromage à la crème à l’aide d’un malaxeur électrique jusqu’à ce qu’il soit crémeux.
2. Ajouter lentement le yogourt, puis le reste des ingrédients. Répartir le mélange de fromage à la crème uniformément dans les croûtes.
3. Cuire au four pendant 20 à 30 minutes, ou jusqu’à ce que les gâteaux soient fermes. Pour une présentation élégante, garnir d’un filet de chocolat fondu ou de poudre de cacao.

Bon appétit! :-)

Jun 6, 2010

Minnesota - Murder, Mayhem and Munchies?

Minnesota on my mind...OK, so the real song is about Georgia, but we just got back from Minnesota, so Minnesota it is! ;-)

While in Minnesota, we were visiting Chris & Steph (our bro & sis-in-law) and their two girls, Aimée and Olivia. (We'll be posting pictures soon. You can visit Steph's blog by clicking here.)

Steph was interested in a recipe for mini cheesecakes (there are the "munchies") that we'd found in a Minnesota murder mystery (there are the "murder and mayhem"). The book's title? Why, Cherry Cheesecake Murder, of course. But don't worry, no cheesecakes were harmed in the writing of this post.

The recipe comes from the Hannah Swensen mystery series that we've mentioned before on the blog, by Joanne Fluke. Hannah is a 30-something cookie bakery owner in small-town (you guessed it) Minnesota. The books are a light, fun read in the "cosy" mystery genre, perfect fare for curling up with a cup of coffee or tea and some goodies.

Without further ado, here is the easy-cheesy, yummy recipe, for Steph and all the other cheesecake aficionados out there.

Mini Cheesecakes

Preheat oven to 350, rack in middle.

Ingredients: 
  • 2 x 8-oz pkgs softened cream cheese (room temperature)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 24 vanilla wafer cookies
  • 24 cupcake papers
  • 1 can pie filling, any kind
Instructions: 
  1. Line muffin pans with papers. Put one vanilla wafer in the bottom of each, flat side down. Meanwhile, chill the unopened can of pie filling.
  2. Mix softened cream cheese with sugar until thoroughly blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. Mix in lemon juice and vanilla, beating until light and fluffy.
  3. Spoon batter into muffin tins, dividing it as equally as you can. When you’re through, each paper should be between half and 2/3 full – they will look a bit empty but will rise in the oven.
  4. Bake at 350 for 15-20 min, or until top has set and has a satin finish. If the centre sinks a bit, it’s OK, as the topping will cover it.
  5. Cool mini cheesecakes in pans on wire racks.When cheesecakes are cool, open can of pie filling and spoon some onto each cheesecake. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving; overnight is even better.
These mini cheesecakes are a great alternative to making one large, baked cheesecake. They're less finicky to make, there is no messy cutting involved, and the portions are just right for dessert or snack time.

Jun 4, 2010

Going postal

Julie weighs in with her opinion of Canada Post's parcel rate scales.

I've always been a great fan of Canada Post.

I've been hooked on penpalling since the age of 10, and I currently have 150 penpals (give or take a few) around the world. Steve and I (and Gryffin, too) have also lived in 4 different regions of Canada, so we've got heaps of friends and relatives all over, with whom we keep in touch through the mail. Besides that, my grandmother was a postmistress in her town - so you could say that Canada Post is "in my blood."

The local Canada Post staff here in Hudson Bay is super-friendly and very accommodating when I do all my mass mailouts, and I can't say enough nice things about them and the excellent service they provide on a daily basis.

But something is definitely amiss in the parcel pricing structures of Canada Post these days. And I think that in his out-of-the-box thinking, Gryffin (pictured above) has the right attitude toward Canada Post's parcel services. Let me explain...

I send a lot of books around the world, as a member of bookmooch, a free book exchange website. Recently, I sent a book to another part of Saskatchewan, and one of similar size to Brazil. Guess which one cost more to send...unbelievably, the one going to Brazil, and by a substantial amount, too!

That didn't make sense, so I did a little research...and here's what I found out about the prices to mail a pocket novel of 400 pages, weighing 200 g or .44 pounds, from my house here in Hudson Bay,to several different destinations:

Mailed from my house in Hudson Bay, to:               Cost (including taxes)
My parents' house in New Brunswick, Canada              $13.67
The next town down the road from Hudson Bay             8.53
Anywhere in the USA                                                   5.44
Any other international destination                              6.44

It's actually cheaper to send the book outside of Canada, than to send it within our own country! And the price difference is significant, too...in fact, it is more than twice as expensive to send the book to my parents' house on the other side of Canada, than to send it to Australia, England or South Africa!

This seems ridiculous to me - how can it possibly make sense? There seems to be no correspondence at all between the distances & times travelled between the destinations, and their associated costs. Does Canada Post need new accountants? Or some maps?

All I know for sure is that I'm looking for more economical ways to send parcels. It makes me annoyed, but more sad than anything. I think that our stamps in Canada are some of the most creative and interesting in the entire world, and I hate to criticize my longtime friend, Canada Post. But their package deal has pushed the envelope just a little too far this time. They just might be receiving a Dear John letter sometime soon.

Jun 3, 2010

Oh Deer!

Our getaway holiday week to Minnesota and back was a great trip. Four days of solid driving, framing four days of fun visiting. We'll post lots of thoughts and photos in coming days. But the scariest part was the final bit.

We hit a deer about 3 hours from home.

The deer was killed on impact. Thanks be to God there was nary a scratch on Julie, Steve or Gryffin. More thoughts and reaction to follow.
(SP)

May 24, 2010

Chili con Cocoa for supper

Steve recently had a craving for homemade chili, and Julie suggested trying a chocolatey variant. The base recipe came from www.Hersheys.com but here it is after Steve's adaptations:

Ingredients:
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 lb mushrooms, chopped
1 lb ground beef
2 Tbsp cocoa
2 Tbsp chili powder or ground cayenne pepper
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 can whole tomatoes, undrained
1 small can tomato paste
1 - 2 cups water
3 oz. dark chocolate (ours came from a chocolate bar, not baker's choc.)
1 can kidney beans, undrained
1 can other beans (ours included black and romano beans - chili needs a bean variety, IMHO)


Directions:
Cook beef in frying pan; drain fat if necessary. Add onions and fry 2-3 minutes. Add green pepper and mushrooms, fry another 2-3 minutes. Pour it all into a crock pot.
Add tomatoes, water, tomato paste, beans, and all spices to the crock pot, and stir to blend.Cook on High 30 minutes.
Break dark chocolate into small pieces. Add to crock pot and stir until melted. Cook on High another 3 to 4 hours.
Serve over rice.

May 23, 2010

Why should Christians care about Jesus' resurrection?

That's a big question...ever wondered what Christians really think about this?

Whether you're a Christian, or not, or just not sure, check out this great article. It's short, clear and profound, with the intriguing title "The Church must stop trivializing Easter."

May 18, 2010

On Busyness

Chronic busyness seems to be the disease of our time. Here are some thoughts on busyness, including some tongue-in-cheek and some serious ones. Enjoy, be encouraged, and be challenged & changed, as you see fit.


Atheism is the religion of the busy      - Fay Weldon

A prayer for the busy:
Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being. Guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
              - Book of Alternative Services, Anglican Church of Canada

May 17, 2010

Snowy Lake Louise - by Julie

Earlier this month, I took my parents to see the famous Lake Louise, in the Rockies of southwestern Alberta's Banff National Park. (It's about a 12-hour or 1200 km drive west from Hudson Bay.)

We all expected to see the picture-perfect lake, with its distinctive colour that's somewhere between robin-egg blue and turquoise.

Well...it wasn't quite like that when we were there...

In fact, it not only snowed the whole time, but the lake itself hadn't even lost its snow and ice cover yet - including deep snowdrifts - despite our visit being in May!

This photo shows our only glimpse of the lake itself - you can just sneak a peek at the greenish water under the snow.

We found that Lake Louise has its own beauty in the snow, and we enjoyed a winter wonderland instead.

Plus we found some fun in the snow that we wouldn't have found otheerwise...thanks, Mum, for this photo!




The only part of the Lake Louise visit that wasn't so popular was the news that grizzlies are often in the area. Here, my mum is less than impressed by the trail sign's grizzly warnings.

In all, we decided that Lake Louise was well worth a visit, whether in winter or in summer. There's much to enjoy at any time of year, regardless of the weather. And here we are, attesting to that fact. But if you do visit the famous spot anytime other than summer, here's a piece of advice....bring your winter gear, especially some decent-weight gloves and a hat!

May 15, 2010

Gryffin promotes Lizzy's Fresh Coffee

Lizzy's Fresh Coffee, a little micro-roaster café in Ketchum, Idaho (pop. 3,000) has chosen a photo of Gryffin for one of their coffee labels this month! They use submitted images on most of their coffee bean packages, and choose new ones monthly.

They call their dark-roast blend "Bad Dog." A while ago we submitted a photo of Gryffin destroying our feather-duster, and it's the May winner! See the image of the package, from their website (left).

Our prize included a photo credit; the pride of seeing one of our images used in a funky way; and four free 12-oz packages of Bad Dog coffee beans! Yumm!

Just as good: we received a Coupon Code good for a 30% discount on any coffee orders we or any of our friends, family, co-workers, etc. place during the month of May. Here's the code if you want to order your own bag of Gryffin's Bad Dog Coffee, or another of their fine products: PH36744. Good through May 31st.

Good Dog! Good Bad Dog, too!

May 13, 2010

Ascension Day in Arborfield

Today, May 13th, is Ascension Day in the Christian calendar. At our Church of the Ascension in Arborfield, that means a party!

To the right, you see some of the smiliing Church of the Ascension folks, in front of their church building. They're showing off the 2010 Book of Common Prayer calendar, which displayed a photo of their church building this April and was distributed across Canada.

But back to Ascension Day...we'll start with a yummy supper, then go outside to the church lawn for a short service, including a brief talk, prayers and singing. The focus will be on Jesus' ascension into heaven, returning to his Father, after his resurrection from the dead - and what this means for us today.

Then comes more fun - a balloon launch! We'll each have one or more helium balloons to release into the sky, symbolizing both the ascension of Jesus and our releasing of prayers up to God. This is the part the children like best, and there is usually a virtual horde of them taking part in this aspect of the outdoor service.

This year, it's supposed to be sunny and warm - much better than last year's rainy launch. Even then, though, the balloons brought smiles. Check out how carefully Elaine Kapeller and grandson Marshall are choosing their balloons from Steve the Soaked Balloon Man.

In fact, the only creature we know, who doesn't like the balloon launch, is...you guessed it...Gryffin the Welsh Terrier. Here's his reaction to having balloons blown up and stored in his "space" - otherwise known as our church office in Arborfield.

Will you be in Arborfield today? Why not come along for the fun?

Even if you can't physically participate in the party, here are some prayers you can use to participate with us from across the miles:

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord. Keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of his peace, and bring the whole of creation to worship at his feet, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Alternative Services, Anglican Church of Canada)

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Anglican Church of Canada)

May 12, 2010

Drumheller Day - by Julie

While my parents were visiting us here in the Wild West earlier this month, I took them on their first trip over to Calgary, Alberta (1000 km / 600 miles west of Hudson Bay). En route, we stopped in Drumheller, one of my favourite towns in Canada, for its uniquely beautiful location in the semi-arid badlands and its dinosaur connections. (The Drumheller photo to the left was taken by my mum.)

Drumheller is the home of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which boasts one of the finest collections of dinosaur skeletons in the world. We didn't stop there this time, but the museum is well worth a day all by itself.

What we did do was stop to see the world's largest dinosaur - check out how big this Tyrannosaurus Rex is! (That's my mum and me, waving from the toes.) This giant dino is 26 m (86 ft) high, about 4 times the size of a real T-Rex. (Thanks to Dad for the photo.)

This T-Rex was hungry, too...take a look at how she crept up on my parents! But they escaped, and we sped off to Calgary.

I'll leave you with the Flintstones theme song, since it seems so appropriate:

May 5, 2010

Eat your peas - whatever they look like

As we get ready to put our veggie-garden in (hopefully the flurries will stop soon...), we thought we'd try a few different ones this year.

That meant catalogue-shopping, since most stores in our area carry rather basic varieties of the usual culprits - peas, carrots, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, cukes, etc.

Our most exotic seeds came from Heritage Harvest Seed, and include:
Albino Beets, with sweet, white flesh;
Dragon Tongue beans, yellow, 6 inches long with purple streaks;
Purple Dragon carrots, with purple skin and yellow-orange flesh;
Sweet Meat squash, slate-blue skin colour, about 10 lbs mature;
Black Hungarian peppers, a hot pepper variety;
and 3 varieties of tomatoes (although last year our tomoatoes were a total flop. Hopefully this year!)

From Vesey Seeds in the maritimes, and other more local seed merchants, we've rounded out the garden with Green Zukes, Gold Zukes, pumpkins and other winter squash varieties, patio-pickles, yellow wax beans, lettuce, spinach, and "ordinary" carrots and beets.

What's growing in your garden?
-SP