Kristmas Kindle

Kindle Kind of Kristmas
I got a Kindle for Kristmas!

Skeleton Bunny

I came up with this one tonight while watching The Wire.

I think he's kinda cute.

My (Delicious) Chocolate Mistake

Kristie and I have been making a really good, and easy chocolate chip cookie recipe for quite a while now; the original recipe comes from the Healthy Food Guide website.  A couple nights ago, we were baking up another batch to have as snacks with our movie, when something went horribly wrong!  Or did it?

The original recipe calls for you to cream the butter and sugar together, but we keep our butter in the fridge, so the first thing I had to do was to heat up the butter in the nukerwave to soften it up.  Evidently, soft butter to me now means liquid, steaming and bubbling.  Yes, I put the butter in for too long on too high a setting.  Not wanting to let good butter go to waste, and because I already had a full glass of butter for breakfast earlier, I decided to use it anyway.  I've got to say that creaming the sugar with hot, melted butter is pretty easy.  The next step in the original recipe is to add the vanilla and chocolate chips.

In retrospect, I probably should have waited to add the chocolate chips until after the mixture had cooled down to room temperature, but in retrospect, everything is clear.  I mean, had I known at the time, I wouldn't have stuck my tongue in the light socket...but now I know.  I never would have guessed that chocolate chips would melt while in a hot medium...I mean, how could I?  Anyway, now instead of a bowl of creamed butter, sugar and chocolate chips, I've got a hot steaming bowl of rich, thick chocolaty sludge.

Not wanting to waste the ingredients we put in, we decided to continue with the recipe and make the batch of cookies anyway.  The result?  Two words: Yum & Me!

So here, for the first time ever, based on a recipe I shamelessly stole from HFG, are My (Delicious) Chocolate Mistake Cookies:


Ingredients
100g Melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/3 cup chocolate chips (I prefer dark)
1/4 cup dried cranberries, blueberries, and cherries, chopped
1/4 Flax seeds and sunflower seeds
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder

Instructions
Set the oven to 180ºC.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until thick, light and creamy; add vanilla and mix through. Add chocolate chips and until melted and mixed through.  Add dried fruit and seeds; mix well. Add flours, oats and baking powder and mix until well combined.

Lightly grease a large oven tray (I use oil spray for this). Roll the crumbly mixture into balls - it's quite a crumbly mixture but it will come together - and arrange on a tray, allowing space for mixture to spread. Press down with a fork, holding onto the sides of the ball to prevent it crumbling.

Cook for around 10 minutes or until lightly browned on top but still soft in the middle. Allow to cool for a few minutes on the tray before removing to a wire rack.

Stepping Out in Dunedin

Over the last few years, I have been lucky enough to tag along with Kristie as she goes off to different library conferences as part of her professional development.  We’ve been to Montréal, Toronto, last year we went to Christchurch and this year we’re in Dunedin.
What is really great about tagging along is the fact that other than air fare, virtually everything is paid for.  The hotel is generally paid for by the organization sending her to the conference, in this case the Ministry of Health as are her meals.  The good part about the meals being paid for is that ever since meeting up with our friends in Hawaii, Kristie and I have always found that meal portion sizes are easily large enough for two people; any time a meal doesn’t fill us up, we will generally purchase some snack items on our own dime.  For instance, a couple nights ago, we were a bit hungry in the evening, so we shared a small tub of yoghurt between the two of us.
Another great part about tagging along for conferences is that most conferences are held within the heart of a city.  The one we are at now, for instance, is at Otago University, which is just north of the down town core.  In order to save on cab fare, the organization paying for the trip will generally try to house the attendees close to the conference; within walking distance.  That gives us the advantage to exploring the city on foot, which is much better than driving as you get to fully investigate all the nooks and crannies of an area to your heart’s content, which is exactly what we always do.  We walk, and walk, and walk, and walk, and walk... Which brings me to the point of this blog entry: Holy frig do my feet hurt!
Kristie and I walk a lot normally; in the summer, that can amount to anywhere from about 15 – 21 km a day.  That is walking to and from work, and then taking the dogs for a 2 - 5 km walk after work, depending on weather conditions or how tired we feel.  That is a fair amount of walking.  Whenever we’re on these kinds of vacations however those numbers go out the window.
Toronto, Montréal, Christchurch, and Dunedin have all taken their tolls on our feet leaving them bruised, blistered and swollen.  I knew we walked a lot on vacation, but until Christchurch and Dunedin, I never knew how much it actually added up to.  As I’ve talked about before, I now wear a pedometer ever day to track how many steps I do on a given day.  The data from the pedometer will be uploaded to my computer and then I upload the data to an online spreadsheet/reporting program.  My goal is to complete 5 million steps in a year’s time.  Using this pedometer as a guide to tracking my progress has vastly improved my fitness level over the last few years.  It has also given me insight into how much walking we actually do on vacation.
As I mentioned earlier, a good normal walking day at home will be about 21 km, which will equate to about 32,000 – 34,000 steps.  Last year, while on vacation in Hawaii, I racked up about 46,000 steps on my best day, which can be roughly estimated to equal 28 km.  Two days ago, I recorded my largest number of steps ever recorded since I started doing this about three years ago.  I walked 53,173 steps.  This total can be roughly estimated to equal about 33 km of walking in a day!  It is no wonder my feet hurt when on vacation!
The next day, I wanted to give my feet a bit of a break, so while Kristie was at the conference, I pretty much just puttered around the downtown core.  Sitting here and there, reading a book, enjoying the sunshine, walking to some of the cafes, etc.  I still managed to rack up almost 37,000 steps.  Even on a day I try to take it easy, I end up walking about 22 – 25 km!
Today, after the conference, we’re heading to St. Claire beach, and I bet you I’ll still walk over 20,000 steps today.  Oh well.  My feet hurt, but I’m seeing some really amazing sites.  Next post should have some of the pictures I’ve been taking while on holiday.

My Life Needs a Sound Track

I've mentioned in a previous blog post that Kristie and I are now walking to and from work virtually every day.  I have also mentioned that on the last leg of the route home, we come to a very large hill that is about three times as long as the Hotel MacDonald Steps in Edmonton.  I actually counted the steps one day, and there were well over 600 steps; the number of steps at the Hotel MacDonald are 200.

Sometimes I try to take the steps quite quickly, doing a run/walk thing, and sometimes I am just too tired from a long day and end up taking much longer coming up the steps.  In any event, no matter how tired I am or how quickly I take the steps, I NEVER hear the theme song to Rocky when I reach the top!  And therein lies the problem.  What sort of incentive do I have to take the steps quickly if my life doesn't include a sound track?

I'm currently in talks with John Williams to do my life as a symphony.  It should be funny to see the Tubas coming up those steps.

Chapped Ass

Why is it that some of the most stupid things we've ever done seem to get etched into our minds? For the last little while, and for no apparent reason that I can think of, I have been reliving a painful day from my past. In many ways, it is a story of sadness. It is a story of caution for the next generation, and a story that will live on in the annals (giggle...annals) of history. This is the story of how I got wicked road rash on my ass.

It happened when I was about 10 or 12 years old, and the whole family was on a camping trip. While the rest of the family was sitting around the fire toasting inner tubes, chopping owls into kindling, and singing kumbaya, or whatever else one does while camping, I was taking my skateboard up to the top of a very large steep hill....you can see where this is going already can't you?

For those who are old enough to remember, back in the late seventies/early eighties, skateboards looked and behaved nothing like the current boards that kids ride today...at least not the ones that we could afford. The skateboards that I remember from that time were hard plastic decks set upon the old roller skates from the fifties, and were about 30 cm long and 2.5 cm wide. Oh, and every single one of them was yellow. It was like alternate colours didn't exist in the 80's or something. Every single person who owned a skateboard from that period, owned a yellow skateboard. Don't believe me kids? Check out your parent's old photos. Go ahead, I'll wait.... See!

Ok, back to the story. When we last left Leo, he was standing at the top of a very large, steep hill without the common sense that god would bestow on a dung beetle. I set the board on the road and got on. But being the chicken that I am, I decided to just go a few feet first; to see how fast I'd go. Turns out, within a few feet, you can go pretty frigging fast. So I jumped off the board and stutter stepped to a stop. Whew! No injuries, and I learned a powerful lesson. Unfortunately, the powerful lesson that I learned was that it would be much safer to ride the skateboard down the hill while sitting on it.

Now, you may remember that these old cheap skateboards were not much wider than the span of your palm, and even though I was still a child, I can assure you that my tiny ass was spilling over the sides of the board and found it hard to keep upright even before heading down the hill. Why I thought this would be safer, is something that will never be explained. But knowing that it would be safer, I pushed off and headed down the hill.

Now, as I was pretty young, I wasn't familiar with the physics behind calculating the speed of a skateboard going down a large, steep hill. But allow me to illuminate you with the formula: (Skateboard + Mass of idiot on top) * vertical drop of the sheer cliff being ridden on = Batshit fast! Einstein said it first.

At some point, while accelerating down the hill, I had a premonition that this was not going to end well. Call me crazy, but when a tween riding a skateboard manages to break the sound barrier, you can pretty much assume he's going to come to a sticky end. Speaking of end...now seems to be as good a time as any to discuss how I managed to loose control of the board and ass surf the asphalt (That's why it's called that!) for another 20 metres or so. Again, being a child at the time, but the physics equation would look something like this: Speed of the Concord * mass of child sliding down loose gravel = #*&)(*#@ *#* red butt cheeks.

After walking back, stiff legged, back to the campsite, I spent the next hour or so screaming in agony as my mom sprayed antiseptic spray onto the hamburger that use to be my ass.

Ahhhh....good times.

A Nice Reminder

I forgot to post this a couple of days ago, but as I was walking down the street on my lunch time walk recently, I saw a dude in a vintage Edmonton Oiler's Jersey...the away game Jersey.

I didn't look back to see what number he was wearing, but if I had to guess, I bet he would be wearing number 11.

10,000 Step Update

I updated my step count today for the first time in a while.  The graph below shows an accurate depiction of where I'm at for the moment.

If I'm able to sustain the current pace, I should reach 5.7 million by my one year deadline of: August 1, 2011.

Supply Your Own Joke

09:06 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
I was doodling a few days ago and came up with this cartoon.

I had a few captions in mind for it, but I thought I might try to crowd source the joke out to you guys.

Come up with a caption for this cartoon and put them into the comment section.

More Exercise Means More Laundry

Since coming to New Zealand, Kristie and I have endeavored to get into a healthier lifestyle.  We take the dogs for a long walk every day, in the winters we try to do a morning run 3-4 times a week, and now that spring has sprung we've switched to walking into work 3-4 times a week.  I posted about our walks to work in an earlier blog posting.  All in all we are loving the healthy lifestyle.  I am absolutely enthralled with walking into work now too, as the views are spectacular, and I just love being out in the sun.

We're getting tonnes of exercise, gobs of sunshine, plenty of time together as a couple, so you might say that I would have nothing to complain about.  Well, you might say that, if you didn't know me that is.  What on earth could I complain about with all this goodness that I am enjoying?  Bottom line: I sweat like Richard Nixon on camera!

I have always been a profuse sweater; even a leisurely walk in cool weather can cause me to perspire a large amount.  So morning runs, long walks wearing a backpack, etc. make me absolutely drenched.  And its not like you can just leave them out for a few minutes to dry and they'll be fresh as a daisy; no-no-no..these things are sopping wet!  The only thing that would allow these garments to be worn again is a run through a washing machine and a line dry.

This means that I'm going through a lot more laundry now than when I'm inactive.  I go through three pair of underwear a day for god's sake!  Three!  Today for instance, I'm on my third pair of underwear, third pair of shorts/pants, third shirt. and second pair of socks.

Added to this is the fact that I now have one less day a week to tend to laundry and such.  I use to only work three days a week, and now I'm up to four, so that is one less day per week to get caught up on the chores.  Oh well, leave it to me to take a silver lining and stuff a dark cloud into it!

Bunny Rescue 911

House Bunny
As today is my day off, I walked into work with Kristie for some exercise.  On the way back home, I was nearing the entrance to Trelissick Park, when I saw a little white bunny hopping around.  She looked very much like Maple, our house rabbit back in Canada.  She was pure white, except for a little bit of dust on her paws and butt, she had a fair sized dulap, and seemed quite tame.

Upon first seeing her, I thought she might be a wild rabbit, but she looked too big compared to the wild rabbits that I've seen here.  Not to mention that the rabbits here are incredibly timid.  You'd be lucky to get within 300 metres of one.  So, I squatted down, made some kissie noises to attract her, and offered her a handful of grass.

She started to come over and I was able to reach out and pet her, so I knew she must be someone's pet.  I was afraid that she might hop out into the road, and I was going to start door knocking when a neighbour of the bunny's owner came and showed me which house she lived in, as well as knocked on the door to tell the owner that the rabbit was out of the yard.

Apparently she is a free ranging rabbit, who has a pen in her yard, and I guess with all of the trick-or-treaters yesterday, she got out.

Needless to say, the owner was quite happy, and I made a new fuzzy friend.

Please Feed Us

Friday, October 29, 2010 20:46 Posted by Leo Saumure 1 comments
Kristie and I will often select our weekly dinner menus based on a theme, like Breakfast for Dinner Week, or Mexican Week, or Asian Week.  Well, this week we want to try something we've never done before, and that is put our fate into your hands.

We've scoured the web to find 10 prospective recipes for next week, and we'd like you to decide which are the top five.  Here are the recipes:

Ok, so here is how it works.  Check out the recipes we've posted by clicking the links above and then use the form below to vote for your top five.  Next week, we'll tally up the results and then blog about each recipe.

Haddock and Potato Soup

We found this recipe website a while back called Kayotic Kitchen, and haven't been disappointed by any of the recipes we've tried yet.

Today we made the Haddock and Potato Soup.  Holy Yummers Batman!

Here is the recipe.  Her recipe is broken down into 9 steps, but it is really very easy.  Be sure to checkout the blog itself.


Haddock and Potato Soup

Ingredients:

9oz haddock
1 cup left-over mashed potatoes
1 medium onion (diced)
1 large leek (Diced)
3 1/2 cups milk
2 bay leaves
flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp cream
1/2 to 1 tsp mustard
pepper
salt

Directions:


  1. Cut the haddock in small pieces.
  2. Get 2 tbsp all-purpose flour in a bowl and add a tiny splash of milk. Stir well to turn it into a lump-free concoction.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp butter and cook the onions and leeks, over low heat, for about 5 minutes. Until they start to soften.
  4. Pour in the flour mix, stir to coat the vegetables with it and cook for an additional minute.
  5. Bit by bit (and while stirring) pour in 3 1/2 cups of milk. Season with 1 tsp salt, pepper and add 1 or 2 bay leaves
  6. Bring the soup to a boil and simmer, over very low heat, for about 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the bay leaves after 15 minutes and add the haddock. Simmer the soup—depending on the size of your haddock pieces—for another 10 to 15 minutes.
  8. Finish the soup with 2 tbsp cream, 1/2 to 1 tsp (Dijon) mustard, 1 cup of left-over mashed potatoes and the chopped parsley.
  9. Warm everything for a few more minutes, check the seasoning and serve with crispy French bread. This is the life, guys, this is the life!

Damn You Steve Jobs (Part Deux)

19:41 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
iPods are Broken
Ok, I ranted once before about the problem with my iPod alarm.  Now, I've been noticing that after syncing, it will begin playing a podcast where the last podcast ended off.

Although I do have a lot of music on my iPod Touch, I don't actually listen to very much.  I primarily use my iPod for listening to podcasts.  I like doing this as it gives me a chance to be learning when I'm doing other passive tasks such as walking, running, etc.

So here is what is happening.  Lets say I'm listening to the Quirks & Quarks podcast from CBC, and I stop listening to it after 23 minutes.  Then, I go about doing other things, and leave the iPod as it was when I stopped listening to it.

Later, the next morning, I will connect my iPod to my computer to download the latest podcasts.  Then, instead of resuming Quirks & Quarks, I decide to listen to a different podcast.  When I click play for the new podcast, it will start playing the new podcast where the last one ended off.  So in this case, I would have missed 23 minutes of the podcast that I was listening to!

Yes, I know it isn't a big deal to rewind with an iPod, but it is the principle of the thing.  Apple made its mark by saying switch to Apple products, because PC products all suck, and break, and smell like rotten fish poop, etc.  Yet their products, as of late, have been fail after fail after fail!

I'm just saying it isn't that hard to get a good reputation, but it seems really difficult to be able to keep it!

Guacamole Salad with Spicy Avocado Dressing

We made a really good salad today that you have to try! At least as soon as the weather warms up in Canada again. :-)  It was adapted from two separate recipes, but I think they combine to make a wonderful dish!

Guacamole Salad with Spicy Avocado Dressing
adapted from Pink Parsley & Life's Ambrosia

Salad:
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 large yellow tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (12-ounce) can of whole kernel corn
1/2 cup small-diced red onion
1 Tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper, seeded (1/2-1 jalapeno)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 ripe avocados, seeded, peeled, and diced
  1. Combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl, except for the avocado and toss well.
  2. Just before serving, fold the avocados into the salad. Check the seasoning and serve at room

Dressing:
1 large avocado, pitted, skin removed
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup sour cream
juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 jalapeno, chopped
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
salt to taste
  1. Combine dressing ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth.
  2. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Serves 6

Walk to Work Days

14:52 Posted by Leo Saumure 2 comments
In lieu of some of our running days, Kristie and I have started walking into work a few days a week.  At the moment it is kind of sporadic due mostly in part to the weather.  Because a large portion of our walk takes us through Trelissick Park, which has natural paths through out the Ngiao Gorge, the paths can get quite muddy; with the steepness of many of the trails, it would be unwise to venture down without proper hiking attire, for example waterproof shoes).


View Walk to Work in a larger map

The walk itself (see the map) shows that it is about 3.79 km, to Kristie's place of work, and 6.93 km to mine.  What the map doesn't show however is the topography that makes up Wellington.  Kristie and I live in Ngaio,  which is situated pretty much at the bottom of a small valley.  To get to Trelissick Park is all up hill, then once there it is a steep climb down.  When you reach the bottom of the gorge, every direction you go is up hill.

Climbing out of the gorge, when going into work isn't too bad, but we get huffing and puffing.  Once out of the gorge you emerge into the back streets of Wadestown, but even though you're on the roads, it is still a steady climb for about another 1.5 km.  Then we descend until we reach Kristie's work.  From there you're pretty much on the flat as downtown is built along the waterfront.

Coming into work isn't too bad, but I've got to say that coming out of the gorge, when going home is quite the hike.  For those in Edmonton, picture walking up the steps to the Hotel MacDonald, minus the steps, and about twice as long.

We're hoping to make this more of a semi-daily experience as the weather permits.

Boring, but We've Got Cookies

Friday, October 15, 2010 21:50 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Just a quick post to say that due to our lack of sleep over the past week or so, Kristie and I went down for a Friday nap today at about 5:00 pm and didn't wake up until 8:00 pm!

With nothing on TV here in the spring, other than maybe reality TV (and not the good reality TV either, one of those crappy spin offs from Rock of Love), we decided to try a new cookie recipe.  They turned out to be excellent!  You should totally give them a try.  No, not you...you don't get to have cookies.  But YOU should totally give them a try!

White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies
Source: Allrecipes


INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

DIRECTIONS


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Combine the flour and baking soda; stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in the white chocolate chips and cranberries. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. For best results, take them out while they are still doughy. Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.


Serves a whole heap!

Prebaked

Post baked

In Search of a Full Night Sleep (Part Deux)

Last Night:

Walnut: Pst...Leo.  I have to go pee!
Leo: Not now Angus, go back to sleep!
Walnut: It's not Angus, its me Walnut.
Leo: Awwwww....
Walnut: Leeeeeeeeooooooooooooo...
Leo: Alright!

P.S.  To all of you mothers out there, I understand the lack of sympathy. 

In Search of a Full Night's Sleep

I have to go pee.
I don't know if I've discussed this before, but every now and then Angus gets on a kick that gets him up in the middle of the night, and in turn gets me up in the middle of the night.

The scenario is like this: We've gone to bed at our regular time, after a day of regular things, and in the middle of a sound sleep, usually around 2:00 am or so, he jumps out of bed and starts scratching at the bed.
Angus: Pst....Leo....I have to go pee.
Me: Not right now, go back to bed...
Angus: Leeeeeeeeooooooooooo....I have to go pee!
There is no arguing with this guy either.  Once he has something in his head, he won't stop until he gets his way.  This usually goes on for a two or three nights, and then it is back to sleeping through the whole night.  There is no accounting for when it will happen either.  We pretty much follow the same routine every work day:

  1. Get home
  2. Walk Dogs
  3. Make Dinner
  4. Feed Dogs
  5. Play with Dogs
  6. Take Dogs for Bathroom Break
  7. Go to Bed

On the days when Angus does get up, he'll sometimes throw in a twist here and there by getting a nice long drink, or instead of taking a quick pee, he'll sniff around for a few minutes before peeing.

What I don't get is he can last an entire work day without having to go, why can't he last through the night?

Bottom line is for three nights out of the month, I'm pretty tired and grumpy.

There Is No Accounting For Taste

Friday, October 08, 2010 09:32 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
I have been working on creating a new database application for work for the purpose of taking interpreter bookings, and I am almost ready to start rolling it out.  Yesterday, I was demonstrating some of the things that I  have incorporated into the application to other staff members; highlighting things like stability, validation, and generally trying to point out why this application is much better than the old application.

While demonstrating the application, I was asked about things like the ability to batch invoice generation by agency and venue.  To which I replied that it is not only possible, but it is almost as easy as flipping a switch.  I went on to show them how quick and easy it was, and then produced a few batched invoices....They were all in awe!

This is going to make life so much easier!
This is wonderful!
I have noticed similar instances when they have asked for other features.  When I tell them how easy it is to do, they are almost always incredibly enthusiastic.

I find this very interesting as I have spent so much time on the design of this application, ensuring that it was setup properly so that regardless of what we threw at it, it could expand along with us as the organization grew.  But the end user doesn't care about the design.  They expect that the application will work properly and can expand along with the business.  What they don't seem to realize is that when they ask for these features to be incorporated (e.g. adding/revising/removing different price structures based on agency type), it is because the application is designed properly that the features they request become easy to incorporate.

This is a bit of an over simplification, but I guess you could compare it to someone who designs a house.  The house owner generally doesn't care about how cleverly the space was designed, or how the designer uses interesting features, etc.  The house owner simply cares about having good closet space, enough light to work and doors that don't squeak when you open them.

I guess I'll just have to appreciate my ingenuity on my own.  *sigh*

Sweet Potato Lasagne

Sunday, October 03, 2010 20:53 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Kristie and I made an excellent Sweet Potato Lasagne today.  Which is  the amalgamation of two separate recipes, so I can't really direct you to one particular recipe.  The recipe itself was inspired by a couple of our friends who came to visit us here in NZ last year.

Here is what we came up with:


Sweet Potato Lasagne

Ingredients

Filling

2 tbsp Olive Oil
5-6 Small Sweet Potatoes, thinly sliced
2 Zucchini, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cup Mushrooms, sliced
3 Cloves Garlic

Cheese Sauce

1 brick Cream Cheese
250 g Ricotta
1/4 c Basil
1 1/2 c Mozza/Cheddar combo

White Sauce

3 tbsp (50 mL) vegetable oil or butter
¼ cup (50 mL) all-purpose flour
4 cups (1 L) 1% milk, hot
1 tsp (5 mL) salt or to taste
¼ tsp (1 mL) pepper
generous pinch nutmeg
pinch cayenne
2 cups (500 mL) grated mild cheese (e.g. Lappi or mozzarella)
¼ cup (50 mL) grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

  1. Peel and slice the sweet potatoes. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, minced, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the sweet potatoes and the mushrooms, and bake on a foil-lined cookie sheet for 20 minutes.
  2. While the vegetables are roasting, mix ricotta, cream cheese, goat cheese, basil, 1 clove garlic, minced and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Melt butter in a large saucepan, whisking in flour. Cook gently, without browning, about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in hot milk and bring to a boil, stirring until mixture thickens. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne to taste.
  4. To assemble, spoon about ½ cup (125 mL) sauce over the bottom of an oiled 9- x 9-in. (2L) baking dish. Line with a layer of noodles, then a layer of roasted sweet potatoes. Spread with 1½ cups (375 mL) sauce and half the grated mild cheese. Repeat layers.  Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano.
  5. Cover lasagne with foil, and bake in a preheated 350°F (180°C) oven for 45 minutes.  Remove Foil and bake for another 15 minutes.  Let cool for 15 minutes.

Damn You Steve Jobs

You're luck I have coffee
New Zealand has just adjusted its clocks to daylight savings time last weekend, and as I live here, I thought it might be a good idea to follow suit.  I'm such a wimp when it comes to peer pressure.

"All the cool kids are setting their clocks forward.  Are you chicken"
"I'll show you who's chicken.  I'll set my clock forward an hour and a half!"
Without going into the facts that study after study shows that due to daylight savings, productivity is lost, more accidents occur, and now a new study shows that it doesn't even save money on electricity anymore due to people running their AC for longer, let me just say that I hate daylight savings.  Worst idea ever!  Rest assured, I have been cursing Benjamin Frankiln's name on a daily basis.  True story!  I keep an American C-note in my wallet and swear at it daily.  Makes my boss look at me funny every day.  Well, that and the feather boa I wear to work.

So it is bad enough that because of daylight savings, we lose an hour of sleep, but due to a software glitch in the iPod software, over the last two nights I have lost an additional hour as well.

Kristie and I get up at 5:15 AM three weekdays a week to go for our morning runs (giggle...morning runs).  That in itself is hard enough to do.

"Hey Leo, its me, your iPod.  Listen, I know it is pitch black outside, and it is cold, rainy and windy, but what do you say to getting out of that warm bed and going for a run?"
"Ugh"

Anyway, to make matters worse, with daylight savings, we're now getting up at 4:15 AM.

"Hey Leo, I know it is pitch-"
"Shut up!!!!"

Ok, so now we get onto why Steve Jobs is now dead to me.  How many of you out there still have alarm clocks?  I'd bet many of you now use cell phones, computers, etc. to wake yourself up.  Well, I use my iPod.  But due to a glitch in the iPod's software, after we switched to daylight savings, the alarm of the built in alarm app is malfunctioning.  Instead of the alarm going off when scheduled, it goes off an hour early!  That's right, not only do we have to get up at an ungodly hour normally, now we've lost an hour of sleep, AND the alarm clock is ringing an hour earlier than it is suppose to!  That means for the last two mornings, we've been getting up at 3:15 AM in the freaking morning!  Yes I know that saying AM and "in the morning" are redundant; I'm operating on very little sleep here people!

What is strange about it is, the current time on the iPod clock itself read as 4:15 AM, but the alarm, which was happily chiming loudly, reads 5:15 AM.

"Leeeeeeeoooooooooooooo, its me, your iPod.  It is 5:15 AM!  Time to get up!"
"No it isn't!  It says right here it is only 4:15 AM!"
"Oh.  Sorry.  Never mind.  Love you!"
"*&#% You!"
This has happened the last couple of mornings.  The first time, I thought it was user error, but the next morning, after I fished the iPod out of the trash, I found that I had indeed set it properly.  Today I did a bit of Googsearch (Googsearch, a word coined by me, and is now trademarked) and found a blog posting that confirms that I'm not crazy...well, at least in this particular instance.

I took the advice written in the blog post and just set a single alarm rather than a repeating alarm, and then tested it.  From what I can see, it is working at the moment.  But if I get up at 4:15 AM tomorrow, I'm going to see how many flushes it will take before that thing goes down the drain.

Steve Jobs, you owe me two hours of sleep!

Engage

Shields Up!
I was doodling today on my Wacom (hey, I was alone and bored), and I came up with a character who looks a lot like Patrick Stewart.

I didn't mean to make the character look like Jean Luc Picard, but the character just took shape as such.  I don't think I'll include him in the book that I'm planning, but it kind of got my creative juices flowing.  Speaking of which, I'm thirsty.

If you look at the character, it kind of looks like he's going to cry.  I guess he just heard that Star Trek Next Gen. had been cancelled.

Current Work In Progress

At long last, I've found a few minutes tonight to work on one of my ideas for the book.

Buttons the Owl
I started working on buttons here two weekends ago and managed to complete the mask, beak and chest plumes.  Since then, today I managed to colour in the base colour of the owl and start the highlighting process (kind of looks like dandruff at the moment).

At this rate he might be complete by 2012.

I'm Not Really Lazy

11:41 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Lazy
I have no problem getting up a little early for some exercise.  I do have a problem getting up really early for some exercise!

Kristie and I get up at 5:30 in the morning, thee to four days of the week in order to go for a run.  We guzzle a half cup of coffee in order to get our heartbeat started, and then venture the cold, rain, wind, sun, whatever.  Even if we go to bed early (like 9:30 early), I still find it very difficult to get up that early in the morning.

Today was one of those days.  The alarm sounded and I laid in bed for about 30 seconds while the alarm chimed, thinking to myself: *Dammit, Dammit, Dammit*!  We got up, drank our coffee, went for the run, and I was faltering right off the bat.  It felt like Kristie was sprinting the entire run, even though I'm sure she wasn't running any faster than usual.  I was panting, huffing-and-puffing, and gasping for breath whenever I tried talking.

Even after the run, I felt horrible.  You know those times when you exercise and even if you didn't have the best energy, you are glad that you did it?  Not so much today!  Each time I get out of my chair at work, it takes effort to straighten my legs.  I look like an out-of-shape centenarian who just got kicked in the stomach.

Anyway, I just thought I would vent...sorry about the smell.

Where Does the Time Go? Seriously!

I just wanted to do a really quick blog post to say that although I've enjoyed the bump in income due to working four days a week now, I am seriously losing a lot of free time.  This is my first blog posting in ages, I haven't drawn in about two weeks, I haven't been taking many pictures lately, I just can't seem to get my leisure activities completed.

Walnut & Angus
Ok, I guess Kristie and I did manage to complete a project that we have been working on for her parents, which I can't talk about too much as they read this blog.  I suppose we did spend an amazing weekend out and about at the beach, and we did manage to watch a couple of videos on Saturday.

Fine, it appears that my leisure activity is alive and well, but I seem to have shifted my focus.  I would like to get back to drawing though.  I've had this one image that I've been working on for about a day, and it hasn't gone any further.  Hopefully tonight I can get in an hour or two before going to bed.


One of the flowers in our back yard.
Here is one picture that I managed to take today.

Holy Erratic Weather Batman

Today's weather was all over the map.  It started cloudy, then heavy rain, then blue sky, then heavy cloud cover again.

Make up your mind already!

Here's a few pics I took today.
Bubble Gum Tree
Tulips Starting to Bloom
Singing in the Shower
Large Sculpture

Nice Lazy Saturday

09:23 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Yesterday Kristie and I got up too early as the birds were chirping up a storm, thus making it very difficult to sleep.  We both still felt pretty tired, so we decided to forgo the morning coffees.

We didn't do too much as we were both feeling a bit bleary eyed.  We futzed around for a while, checking email, watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother, had a bowl of cereal; just keeping a low key approach to the day.

After about an hour or two, we started feeling the effects of the early morning and decided to go back to bed.  We read for a while and started feeling our eyelids getting heavy, so it was off to dreamland for a while.  We slept for about 2 hours and woke up feeling refreshed and ready to take on Saturday.  Granted there was only a little more than half of Saturday remaining, but we felt ready to take that on.

It wasn't exactly a bright sunny day yesterday, but it was dry and warm, so we thought we would take off to Queen Elisabeth Park on the Kapiti Coast for some off leash time with the dogs.  There was very little wind, the sun was trying to poke through the clouds and the dogs had a wonderful time at the beach.

Upon arriving at home, we read for a while longer and just rested until it was time to make dinner.  Dinner was something new.  We made a Ruby Red Beet Burger that we found on the Strawberry Pepper Blog.  We modified the recipe somewhat as we used egg as a binding agent, but because it is a vegan blog, they used gluten flour.  The burgers tasted fantastic, and were a total make again.

After dinner and dishes we sat down to watch our movie rental: Cinema Paradiso.  It is quite a long movie, so we're finishing it off today.

Here are a few pics we took at Queen Elisabeth Park.
Spring Is In The Air
I'd Vote For Her
Garbage Tree Or in NZ Rubbish Tree

Top Ten Influential Books

Kristie and I put together a list of our top ten, most influential Books.  Here, in no particular order, are mine:


Hounds of the Baskervilles - Aurthur Connan Doyle
Possessing Genius: The True Account of the Bizarre Odyssey of Einstein's Brain - Carolyn Abraham
A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
E=MC2: A Biography of the Worlds Most Famous Equation - David Bodanis & Simon Singh
The Problem with Islam Today - Irshad Manji
The Odyssey - Homer
Death from the Skies: These are the Ways the World will End - Philip Plait
His Dark Materials Trillogy - Philip Pullman
The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha - Miguel de Cervantes
Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift

I'd be very interested to see all my Facebook friends and Buzz friends do the same.

Why Does This Interest Me?

Today, like every Monday, I cleaned house and did laundry, etc. while listening to my various favorite podcasts. I listen to a lot of technology podcasts, science podcasts, and of course skeptical podcasts.  One of my favorite podcasts, in the skeptical genre is Skeptically Speaking, which is also a weekly radio show that is run from CJSR in Edmonton.  As a quick side note, I didn't find out about this podcast until we had moved away from Edmonton.

Today I listened to part two of Nobel Prize Women in Science, which was an interview with author Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, who wrote a book about (duh) Nobel Prize Women in Science.  The interview(s) discuss a long history of many women in science who have both won the Nobel Prize as well as those who have not been as lucky, despite contributing immensely to science as we now know it.  As was true with part 1 of this interview, I was absolutely riveted by this interview, and my question is: Why?


As far as I know, I'm not a woman.  Although my misogynistic friends may disagree with this statement.  So I don't share any of the inequities that many of these women obviously faced throughout their professional careers, if not their entire lives.


I am a huge fan of science in general (in fact, I don't think I've read a fiction book in over three years) so maybe my fascination on this topic had more to do with learning about a large body of work that I never knew about; at least not as it applied to women.  Along these lines, I have also been developing an appreciation of history as well, so maybe this also explains why I am interested in this topic.


The final reason I can think of as to why I am so interested in this book, is the fact that I found the author, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, had an unrestrained passion about this topic.  She sounded like she was absolutely aglow with her enthusiasm about these women!  She made the subject matter intesively interesting to me.  In the interview, she would discuss their pasts, their struggles, their personalities, etc.  It was really, really interesting.


For instance, for those of you who are science minded, did you know that Watson and Crick, the scientists who supposedly discovered the double-helix shape of DNA, actually stole it from Rosalind Franklin?  They were pretty unabashed about it too.  In interviews after the fact, they were basically unapologetic about the whole thing.


For whatever reason that I'm interested in this, I have found my next book to read!  Luckily there are two copies available at the library too!

The Dogs Killed A Mouse

Angus and Walnut killed a mouse last night.  Granted it was a toy, stuffed mouse, but still.

Poor little bastard never had a chance.

What I Saw on my Walk

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 15:36 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Virtually every day during my lunch hour, I like taking a walk along the water front.  While walking, I try to take some interesting pictures of things that catch my eye.  Here are a few of today's pics.

Interesting Bicycle

Park Exercise
Ok, Shirtless and a Toque
"Aw Come On!"

Moms in the Park
Push the Button

Vespa Warrior Completion

Monday, August 30, 2010 20:00 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Vespa Warrior
I've completed my contest entry for Wacom's Create Your Original Monster contest.  The one on the left isn't exactly the same, as I added a filter in this one that kind of punches up his dramatic quality.  The original submission is simply the Vespa Warrior himself.

I also had to change a couple things on the character in order to ensure that it met with the contest rules such as changing the logo on his top right (your left) chest plate as the original version had a stylized V, which was remarkably similar (coincidence eh?) to the Vespa logo. This change was required as it would have infringed on copyright restrictions.  In addition to this, I had to change a bit of the detail on the armour itself as well as changing his name from Vespa Warrior to Waspa.

One final change was that I chose to remove the spear that was in his hand as the contest submission guidelines mentioned that they don't condone the use of violent imagery.  I'm pretty sure the spear would have been fine, but I thought it would be better to be safe than sorry.

I encourage you all to check out the contest submissions at Wacom.  Some are quite cute, some are quite dark, and some are just plain cool.  My favorite submission are Nejo, is The Sockmonster and The Eyes.

Evidently We Have Barking Cats

15:41 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Sun Bathing Puppies
Last night Kristie and I rearranged our living room as we want to purchase a dining room set to have in the same room.
Our living room is huge, and our kitchen isn't too big, so we thought it would work out better in the living area.  Anyway, we moved the couch right by the window, and just like it was when we were in Edmonton, Walnut and Angus have started using the new couch location for sun bathing.

Angus on the Road to Recovery

11:55 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Angus looking at me with contempt.  Which is pretty normal.
Angus has been on his medication now for two days and is already starting to feel better.  He isn't shaking his head like he was with the infection, and he is smelling much better too.  (The yeast infection in his ears was quite pungent)

He also seems to have a bit more energy than previous days, despite having antihistamines as his medication regiment.

Mini Break

Sunday, August 29, 2010 12:33 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments

Last weekend Kristie and I took an extended weekend to celebrate our 12th anniversary.  We booked a bach (NZ's word for a cottage) outside of Levin, which is just off the Kapiti coast.

The place we rented was a gorgeous little bedroom loft with a completely stocked kitchen, wood burner, walnut and hazelnut grove outside as well as a lemon tree.  The bach was kind of rustic, but also very modern in its conveniences.  In addition to just providing the accommodations, they also provided food for your breakfasts free of charge, including Muesli, Free-range-organic Bacon & Eggs, Coffee and Tea.  They also included fresh produce, OJ, and a bottle of wine.  They also had freshly made hazelnut fudge as well as home roasted walnuts.  These were all the freebies.  They also had a fully stocked larder with tonnes of food, both frozen and packaged that you could buy if you wanted to stay inside the whole time.  Added to all this goodness, they allowed pets too!

The mini break kind of started for us on Saturday when we were making all the preparations for the trip.  We made a batch of our famous (at least in our house) spaghetti sauce, we baked a batch of chocolate-hazelnut cookies, and also brought along a frozen batch of our pumpkin soup.  We bought a few things to bring along as well such as pesto, sundried tomatoes, and a can of tuna for a great panini that we like making for road trips, some corn chips, salsa and chili beans for some hot nachos, as well as some fruits and veggies and some pop (fizzy drinks for the NZers).

We left in late morning on Sunday, when we packed up the car with groceries and our furry friends, and drove the approx. 100 km to Levin.  (See, that's me locking the door).

We stopped at Paekakariki for a walk along the beach and picnic.  While there we saw lots of dogs (and their owners) out for beach walks as well.
After a nice long walk along the beach we headed back for a nice picnic in a little sun trap called the Pickle Pot in Queen Elisabeth Park.



One of the great things about this weekend was the fact that although the weather was supposed to be rainy (at times heavy) the whole weekend, it seemed that the further north we went, the better the weather got.  On the beach, we could see the clouds encompassing Wellington, but it was quite sunny directly overhead and the sun seemed to be expanding further north.

Here you can see Walnut and Angus reveling in the sun at another beach stop along the way in Otaki.  Here in Otaki, we took another long walk, and then headed back to the car to fetch our beach blanket to lay out on the sand and enjoy about a half hour of reading.

We stopped in the town of Otaki for a short walk along to look in the shops, but we didn't spend too long, and bought nothing.

After packing it in at Otaki, we continued on for the short drive to Levin.  We got lost (not really lost, but misdirected) from Google Maps.  Thank you Google.  We only went off a couple kilometres, so no big deal.

We arrived at the bach at about 4:00 pm and unloaded the car.  Here are a couple shots of the bach:
After settling in, that night we made our first dinner of famous (at least at our house) spaghetti.  We accompanied the dish with some whole wheat bread and L & P (A famous drink in NZ).
After dinner we washed up and watched a miniseries that rented here in Wellington called State of Play.  This miniseries was the basis of the American movie of the same name.  Based on the fact that we've now seen both, I would have to say that the miniseries was much better than the movie.  If you get the chance, I would totally rent the movie.  Actually, we did, so there you go.

While watching the movie, we enjoyed a plate of our homemade chocolate hazelnut cookies as well as a bunch of the walnuts provided by our host.  We watched three of the six episodes and then went to bed.  Oh, by the way, wood burners, totally rock as opposed to fireplaces.
The next morning we made a breakfast of fresh eggs and bacon, as well as a side of muesli, before we headed off to Waikanae for another day at the beach.

After a few hours of meandering on the beach, where a I got a bit of a sunburn, we went back to the cottage for lunch and some reading.  The dogs also took a bit of time to relax and smell the flowers:


Later that night we headed off Kimberly Reserve, where we went for a walk along the river and through the fields.  I took some wonderful pictures of birds in flight, but the birds were blurry.  My camera work was fine, but the birds were blurry.  Also, it seems that the Kimberly Reserve is built on a slope or something, because I appear a bit crooked.
When we got back to the batch that night we enjoyed a meal of pumpkin soup and toasted cheese sandwiches.  We also capped off the evening with the final three episodes of State of Play.
The final day, instead of making eggs and bacon again, we had a breakfast of freshly made BLTs  Only we didn't have any L, we had A as in avocado.  They were quite yummy!

That day, on the drive home we stopped at Kuku beach which didn't hold too much interest for us as it seemed more a place where the water met the fields than an actual beach, so we continued on to Waikanae again.  After one final walk along the beach there, we stopped once more at the Pickle Pot for a final picnic lunch of our toasted paninis.
That pretty much summed up our trip.  Here are a few more pics of spots along the way: