Thursday, December 20, 2007

Settlers of Catan -- best board game ever!

Ottawa is currently experiencing a surge of interest in an unassuming board game -- Settlers of Catan. It seems that Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's is the only retailer which regularly stocks this German game (at a reasonable price, anyway), and they were sold out across Ottawa yesterday evening (as well as last week when I checked, and should've put my name on their next shipment). Settlers is literally being sold as soon as it's unpacked from Toronto! Sale clerks were perplexed as to the cause of the game's sudden popularity...

Settlers of Catan has a boring name, the box's design is outdated, and the description doesn't make it sound any better. In short, unless someone else has forced you to try the game, and you survived the learning process, there is no way you'd begin playing on your own. Settlers simply isn't the type of game you pick up thinking "Oh, this looks fantastic -- I'll get it for Suzy!"

Settlers requires an introduction by an experienced player. It's like... a virus.

I've gone the the States a couple times in the past month for Christmas shopping, and have looked everywhere for Settlers to no avail (I've gotten a number of strange looks). I was hoping for a cheaper American price, but it appears that the only US retailers which carry Settlers are the online variety -- they haven't even heard of the game in Waterstown or Messena.

Will Nathan receive Settlers for Christmas? Or an IOU? Stay tuned for the final outcome this Tuesday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tiramisu #4

It's that time of year again -- Tiramisu time!

I'm heading over to the Polizogopoulos' for dinner on Saturday, and offered to make dessert. Christmas/New Years' just wouldn't be the same if I didn't attempt to make a wonderfully delicious light, smooth and creamy Tiramisu.

I looked over my past recipes, and decided to try a new approach -- beaten egg whites. There's a risk of salmonella, but I'm counting on the alcohol to kill any bacteria... what doesn't kill us, eh?

So I found a recipe for Zabaglione on that had slightly different proportions than what I'd done previously, so I thought I'd try that out. Here's what I did...

5 Eggs, separated
1/2 c Sweet (Cremova) Marsala Wine
1/4 c White Sugar
475g Mascarpone (Trestelle)
1/3 c Espresso Forte (Second Cup)
1/3 c Kahlua
2 dozen Ladyfingers (sugar-coated)
Cocoa for dusting

1. Beat egg yolks, Marsala and Sugar until smooth.

2. In a double boiler, continue to whisk Marsala mixture over high heat until it thickens (10-15 minutes). Cover and cool in refrigerator.

3. Beat egg whites in a glass bowl until soft peaks appear. Set aside.

4. Beat Mascarpone cheese until smooth.

5. Add cooled Marsala mixture to Mascarpone cheese. Beat until smooth.

6. Gently fold Mascarpone mixture into beaten egg whites.

7. Mix Kahlua and coffee.

8. Dip half of the Ladyfingers into coffee mixture and arrange across bottom of an 8" springform pan.

9. Gently spoon half of the Mascarpone mixture over Ladyfingers.

10. Lightly dust with Cocoa.

11. Repeat with remaining ladyfingers and Mascarpone mixture.

12. Lightly dust with Cocoa.

13. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

14. Serve well chilled, with chocolate dipped Ladyfingers and strong coffee.

Update: I tried a scoop this afternoon, and was pleased with the overall taste. It's hard to tell from the sides, but I think I should've soaked the ladyfingers a bit longer than I did (they were pretty dry/stale to begin with), and I probably could've done without the egg whites. Maybe I'm just not used to my Tiramisu being light and whipped -- I prefer denser, custardy layers. I just don't think it's worth the risk of eating uncooked egg whites =/

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Stately Commode is DONE!

After hours of ripping, crosscutting, jointing, assembling, sanding, gluing, sanding, pore-filling, sanding, staining, sanding, and restaining, this is what I was left with...

The carcase on the left hasn't been stained yet, so you can see the white dust left from the plaster I used as a pore filler (worked amazingly well)

So... this is my final project, after pore filling with Plaster, using a gel stain and 2 sprays of lacquer.

Ain't she a beauty?

As you can see from the light filtering through the clearances, I didn't have time to rip a back >.<
Look at that silky smooth top!

A detail of the moldings and dovetailed drawers. Apparently the stripe of stain down the joint is "traditional". I prefer showcasing the dovetails, personally, but meh...

The feet and base molding (a wee bit dusty)

The top drawer, with side detail... look at the shine off the gables!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Current Project: Stately Commode

I thought I'd share my current project. It's a love-hate relationship, really, and it's taking *forever* to put together.

For our 2nd semester, students are usually put into groups of 2 or 3 for a major machined project. Some work from previous years is on display at the front entrance to our building. We oohed and awed over them at the beginning of our course, and in the middle of February(?) we actually got to start working on them.

I was done my Pine Single Commode (might get a pic up later) 3rd. The 1st and 2nd students were put together, as were the 4th and 5th, so I was given the option of going it alone. I figured alright -- no problem! Five months later, I realize I bit off *far* more than I could reasonably chew >.<

Lapped, rebated dovetails -- oooh.. ahhhh

The base -- John C. used a particle board base to hold the three pieces together

The feet on the lathe -- rather messy work ;)

A foot in progress

So what exactly do you do?

So... there's 3 weeks left in my programme, and some of my friends & family still don't really know what on earth I'm learning to do... "Cabinetmaking and Furniture Technician" sounds like someone who makes kitchen cabinets (a la Ikea), and works on a furniture assembly line. It really is an awful course title :P

Here's our 1st semester final project. It's a pine tool chest made entirely with hand tools (well, aside from the wood milling and the curved side opening), and I *loved* the outcome.

Inside, notice the "girly" knobs :) When the projects are marked, they're all lined up with no names. Dave knew this was mine as soon as he opened it up *lol*

Notice the lapped dovetail drawer sides -- all hand done with a dovetail saw and chisel.

Dog Agility

I think my Mum should make her own version of "Agility and What Can Go Wrong" :)

Alpaca Shearing

I think this is the next step for my Mum after she masters dog-grooming :)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

I Blame the Heat Wave!

My gorgeous $5 Fuschia is dead :(

I accept ZERO responsibility -- it was this dreadful heat! The fact that I hadn't watered it in 3 days while it was baking on our balcony had NOTHING to do with it >.>


/me runs off to Parkdale Market to find another Fuschia before DH notices...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hogan Kitchen Design

Update: I've noticed a number of Google hits on this blog for "Hogan Kitchen Design." While it would stroke my ego to think hundreds of people are fascinated by my college project, I have a feeling they are actually looking for Hogan Kitchens. I am (unfortunately) not affiliated with them in any way. Beautiful kitchens and website though -- makes me proud to be an Hogan. I'm thinking of sending them a resume ;)


So I'm doing my parent's kitchen, as a giant Thank You for paying for my Cabinetmaking degree at Algonquin College. I did it up on 20/20 Design (version 5.8, or something) at school (VERY good program, but a couple years out of date).

My Mum was*thrilled* when I showed her the plan and the 3d view. Here are some pics of it, taken from the program. Some known issues: I couldn't figure out how to insert the bulkheads, so some cabinets are lower than others for no apparent reason (trust me, it'll be fine), I removed the kickplate, the appliance garages should have wood sides, the walls won't be a dreadful shade of grey or bright green, the spot-lighting isn't in it's final location, and the overhead lightbox is a very ugly shade of green.

Monday, July 09, 2007

SawStop 10" Cabinet Table Saw

I’m currently a Cabinetmaking and Furniture Technician student at Algonquin College. Personally, the table saw is the machine I am most apprehensive of. There’s something unsettling about a 10″ blade with sharp jagged teeth spinning angrily towards you while you slide your hand towards it

I heard about SawStop at the beginning of the year, and was impressed by the hotdog demo and testimonials. The safety feature is well-designed, and I have yet to hear of a confirmed failure (you can bet the unlucky customer’s maimed digits would be all over the news).

The riving knife is a great feature, which greatly minimizes kickback. I’ve ripped casehardened mahogany which would have kicked back something fierce — thankfully, it gripped the knife instead of the blade. The stock was warped so badly, I ended up with matching canes…

The false positives have been reduced thanks to the newer feature which allows the operator to test the moisture content of the wood. If the lights indicate that the wood is too green, you can leave the brake off while the cuts are made. Also, Sawstop will replace accidentally tripped brake cartridges for free (the spent cartridge contains data regarding the incident which they can use for further improvements). Of course, you’ll still have to replace your blade.

Every review I’ve read of the SawStop has given it top marks for quality of construction and ease of use. Even without the remarkable braking mechanism, the SawStop is a well-designed tablesaw, worthy of the higher price tag. WITH the brake, the SawStop is a bargain.

My college’s Perth Heritage campus has 3 of these fine table saws, and the main Woodroofe campus just ordered their first one earlier this week. There is some concern that students will be less vigilant about safety when using the SawStop, however I’m sure the same argument was raised when Air Bags were first introduced. I certainly don’t drive more carelessly as a result. Safety features like the SawStop and Air Bags provide peace of mind should an accident occur — the main goal is still the *prevention* of accidents.

In the end, my fingers are worth more to me, my family and my future than the $2200 CAD price difference between a fully loaded SawStop and a Delta Unisaw w/ Biesemeyer fence (which we currently use in the shop). I only wish the SawStop was a decade older so I could find a used one on kijiji.

- 10″ 3 HP cabinet SawStop, sliding fence, extension table, regular and dado brakes, delivery (Laval to Ottawa) & 14% tax = $5141 CAD

Friday, April 27, 2007

Morning Smoothie

The flaxseed and oils are optional, but they add a nice healthy/nutty taste, and are a great way to get your daily dose of omegas and whatnot ;)


Ice-crushing Blender (with gradations on side)
1T Measuring Spoon
Large glass (about 2.5c)


1/2c Fruit Juice (ie. Ceres, or Bolthouse Farms Strawberry Banana)
1/2c Plain Yogurt (Milk & Bacteria only)
2T Flaxseed (Cold-Milled)
1T Pumpkin Seed Oil
1T Hemp Seed Oil
1T Honey (Unpasteurized - optional, if it's a little too healthy for you :))
1/4c Frozen Raspberries (optional -- for added zing)
Couple handfuls of Frozen Fruit (2.7 kg of No Name = $10)


Add everything except the frozen fruit, and pulse a few times.

Add in small handfuls of the frozen fruit (pulsing with the ice-crush feature), until the smoothie is nice and thick

Enjoy :)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Naturally Protective Hand Cream

Two Lord's Days ago, Mrs McC invited me and my Mil over to her home to teach her eldest daughter R how to etch glass. I ended up going home with more materials than I had brought -- Mrs McC taught me how to make hand cream, and gave me bottles of everything I'd need to make it at home :D

Naturally Protective Hand Cream

Working in the shop wreaks havoc on your skin. The air is dry and wood just sucks all the moisture out of your hands. Wearing gloves is a safety hazard when working with machines, but moisturizers will transfer waxes or oils to the wood, interfering with the finish, so they're out too. The only solution is to toughen up and use a protective hand cream after working:!:

You can mix around the oil or water-based ingredients to your liking, as long as the ratio of oil to water stays 1:1. For a lighter lotion, increase the water ratio slightly. I used brackets to indicate which ingredients were combined to make the listed amount.


2c clear measuring cup
1/3c measuring cup
1t measuring spoon
small double boiler or pot
small spatula

Cream = 1 1/3c WATERS[1c water + 1/3c[Honey + Aloe + (opt. Glycerine)]] + 1 1/3c OILS[2/3c Liquid Oil + 1/3c Solid Oil + 1/3c[1t Lanolin + Beeswax] + (opt. 1t Vitamin E)] + Opt. Essential Oils

Waters (total 1 1/3c)

1c Water (preferably distilled)
1/3c [Honey (unpasteurized), Aloe Vera (food grade) and Glycerin (optional) combined]

Add Honey and Aloe to Water in the clear measuring cup, leave on counter to warm up to room temperature. Rinse out small measuring cup.

Oils (total 1 1/3c)

1c Oils
- 2/3c liquid oil (Sweet Almond, Grapeseed, Jojoba, or Apricot Oil)
- 1/3c solid oil (Coconut Oil, Cocoa, or Shea Butter)
1/3c [1 tsp Lanolin, topped up with melted Beeswax]


1t Vitamin E oil
Essential Oils


If you use beeswax regularly, it would be a good idea to set a pot aside as its permanent home. A small kettle works very well -- easy to pour the wax. I was concerned about overheating the wax, so I used a double-boiler, but it turned out to be not quite hot enough (started to turn solid as soon as it hit my blender).

Melt all oils on the stove top, then pour mixture in blender and pulse a few times to blend completely.

Put blender cup in the fridge until cloudy (very important -- too warm, and it won't blend easily with the water mix).

Turn blender on and slowly drizzle water mixture into the center. You can add a teaspoon of Vitamin E oil at this point, if you like.

Use the spatula to scrape all the way down the sides of the cup (in between pulses) until well-mixed. Make sure to get all the oil off the sides, and that there's no sign of water around the top.

Blend in a few drops of essential oil if you like (Unscented is best for babies), then pour into small jars. Let sit until firm -- it might feel oily until it sets.

A Tip from my friend:

Add water and a touch of gentle soap to the blender cup and pulse a few times to clean. If you didn't scent the cream in the blender then use the wash water to make your own baby wipes:!:

Check out this site for great baby wipe directions ;)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hair Today

So... my hair is starting to get pretty darned long. So long, in fact, I need advice on caring for it, and styling options. The last time I had hair this long, I was 7, and my Mum did everything for me :)

I found a great site -- the Long Hair Community. It has pages and pages.. and pages of really helpful info on just about every beauty topic (and more! Oh, and hair care, of course). The women (and some men) are an enormous wealth of information. I've already joined a half dozen challenges (No-Trimming, No-Picking, Hair Oiling, Condition Only, Oil Cleansing Method, and Oil Pulling (not entirely sold on that one)), and I'm sure I'll find more bandwagons to jump on ;)

I've decided to keep track of my hair's growth, to see how fast it grows. This is a picture I took this evening (25 Apr 07). I've been using using my Jojoba herbal mix every night, doing WO in the morning, and CO every 3-4 days. Lots and lots of BBBing, trying to spread all the good stuff down my length.

I thought I was BSL, but as you can see, I'm very nearly waist length at the longest point. I'm pleased with the overall shape from my last haircut (Jan 29/07), so I'm looking forward to the no-trimming challenge. I'm fairly confident I won't reach terminal length for a few years at least. As long as I take good care of my hair, I should reach a solid classic length by 2010, without the ends looking ratty... I hope, anyway >.>

My facial blemishes are starting to disappear since I started cleansing and moisturizing with a 60-40 mix of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Castor Oil. I smell a little bit like a pizzaria, but I think it fades away after half an hour... I hope, anyway >.>

I've stopped trying to manually "fix" my skin, too -- no more popping, poking or picking. It's a bit frustrating... I find my fingers roaming over my chin looking for bumps, but I think in a couple weeks I'll stop touching my face altogether... I hope, anyway >.>

For comparison purposes, I dug up this old picture from our Honeymoon (27 Aug 04). It was the only one I could find from the back, with my hair down. It's B&W and fuzzy because I think DH was playing with our camera's features, but it shows my length well ;)