Thursday, October 3, 2013


We got KITTENS about a month ago!  I have never had a good pet before (only things like gerbils, turtles, and the most exciting one that wasn't actually exciting: a hedgehog) so I have just been blown away over the last month at how much you can actually like a good pet (e.g. a cat or dog).  They are the greatest little things even though they are sometimes bad and ALWAYS want to touch your technology when you're trying to do something important:

They are also fun to mess with:

We named the orange/brown one Biter and the black one Jaypeg, because if you have known us for any length of time we have been wanting to name a pet (or someone to name their baby, preferably) Jaypeg for a long time.  And it finally happened!

My mom doesn't like the names so she decided to rename Biter "Jangles" and Jaypeg "Mittens."  This led to maybe the best Text from my Mom of all time the other day.  She asked how the cats were doing and I said that they had destroyed the strings on a bunnyhug (HOODIE FOR THE JERKS) that Brahm had left out on the stairs.  She replied:

"Haha they were prob hmmm whats this said the black cat them she told the jangles cat that its their own fault if brahm left a toy for them"
"And it gets wrecked Haha"

They are so bad!  But we love them.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Ultimate Beet Borscht

When I was a kid my grandparents used to make an amazing beet borscht.  If you are the kind of person who thinks beet borscht should basically just be beets and maybe onions or something and only the teensiest smattering of dill, go home now please.  Sometimes at work there is beet borscht and everyone is all "this is just the deadliest beet borscht ever" and I'm like "you guys, no" because you haven't had beet borscht until you've had the kind that uses the whole beet and also ALL THE VEGETABLES.  And no meat, please.  Let the vegetables shine on their own.

My grandma stopped making borscht a few years ago because it is too much work for her to tackle anymore so I've been getting my borscht fix from the Farmers' Market - one of the vendors makes a good one that is pretty close to what I remember eating and loving as a kid.

We got a bag of beets in our latest PayDirt Farms CSA box and Brahm said "we should make borscht" and by "we" he meant "Robyn".  My mom had a couple of different recipes from an old Ukranian cookbook that she said she thought was close to what my grandparents used, but just to try and combine the recipes and use trial and error.

These instructions might sound daunting to some ("sort of combine these two recipes and use trial and error") but I consider myself to be a fairly talented soup-maker so I gave it a shot.  And it WORKED. 

I wasn't totally sure what was going to happen but as soon as I tried the first spoonful out of the stock pot and the familiar flavour I had been missing for so long came back to me, it was possibly the highlight of my week.

Knowing you can create something that you thought might be lost forever is kind of amazing. 

And now, the recipe for the ultimate beet borscht.  Try this and you'll never go back to your wimpy "beets only" borscht.

Please note that quantities are EXTREMELY APPROXIMATE.

1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
10 cups of weak chicken stock (or 5 cups water, 5 cups regular strength stock)
~15 young (small) beets, including leaves and stems (not optional)
  •  Chop the beets, stems, and leaves but keep each section separate
3 medium potatoes, cubed
4 carrots, chopped small
~1/2 cup fresh peas
1 lb green or yellow beans, cut into bite sized lengths
1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed (I forgot to include these but good idea for protein)
~1/2 cup of fresh dill, chopped but not too small (or even more if you want but don't skimp on the dill)
~1.5 cups of diced tomatoes (canned is okay)

Heat oil in a large stockpot and add onions and garlic.  Cook for about 3 minutes, add the cabbage and stir until cabbage is starting to get cooked.  Add the water/stock and bring to a boil.  Add beets, turn heat down to medium-high.  After about 5 minutes, add the carrots.  After another 5 minutes, add the beans, peas, potatoes, beet stems, and tomatoes.  When the potatoes are basically done, add the dill and beet leaves.  Cook for a few more minutes until everything you try is cooked through.  Salt and pepper to taste if desired.  This makes about 4-5 litres of soup.

As long as you understand cooking times and stuff, you really can't go wrong.  Use the whole beet and use a ton of dill and dump in every vegetable you can find and you'll have yourself a bowl of amazing beet borscht.  The cooking time of this soup was really quick but the prep (working alone) took a couple hours.  Worth it though!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

XTREME Hardening

If you have ever started seedlings indoors, you may be familiar with the concept of "hardening off" the plants.  Or maybe not.  Hardening off means basically "training" the plants to live outside, by doing small things like brushing the baby plants with your fingers to simulate wind and encourage strong stems, putting them outside for a bit longer every day, etc.

The first year I planted tomatoes I did zero hardening off.  I just planted them outside on a warm day and they all did splendidly.  Last year I did some hardening off but quite honestly it didn't seem to make a difference.

This was the year of XTREME hardening off.

I accidentally started my tomatoes almost a month late, at the end of April.  Once the seedlings were about 2 weeks old and the sun was getting too high in the sky to really provide much light into my kitchen window, I decided to do an experiment.  I put them in a mini-greenhouse (basically just a metal frame with a clear tarp overtop), inside which pretty much all of the plants got scorched and a few completely burned to a crisp.  Okay, 2 down.

Within about a week it got too hot to even have a greenhouse at all so I just started leaving them outside 24/7.  It wasn't freezing anymore and even if it got a bit too cold, this was going to be the tomato year for survival of the fittest.

Nobody froze thankfully, however they did all blow out into the yard during a particularly windy day and another couple of plants were lost.

After I potted them into their grownup homes, it rained HARD for pretty much a solid week and ended with a magnificent hailstorm.  I sat in my living room, helpless, as they got pummeled.  After the storm I went outside and discovered that while they were all quite mangled, nobody had died.  And a week later, those mangled plants had developed ridiculously thick, strong stems and branches, at least tripling in size.

I was discussing my accidental method of hardening off with a plant scientist friend, who confirmed the hardening off myth:  "I have always figured if they aren't tough enough to handle the elements, I don't want them anyway." 

So there you go, Saskatchewan home gardeners.  My XTREME hardening experiment of 2013 has appeared to be very successful.  Don't be afraid to throw those babies outside in a thunderstorm; it'll only make them stronger.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Quiet People

I love quiet people.  I am a quiet person and I can tell you from experience that quiet people are often misjudged.  I think I even misjudged quiet people including myself until I read Quiet (which I will say once again was life changing and should be required reading for all humans) but it turns out that quiet people are the best.

Quiet people are not necessarily shy, they just don't feel the need to talk all the time.  Because think about it, most of the people you know who are loud really only need to say about 1/3 of the stuff they say (if that).  The rest is fluff, and sometimes fluff can get annoying.  Nothing drives me crazier than being in a meeting with a person who keeps reiterating the same point over and over and over and wasting my time.

What can you say to annoy and insult a quiet person?  "Why don't you TALK MORE?"  Please.  Would it be socially acceptable for me to say to you "Do you EVER shut up?"  Listen up, loud people:  quiet people will talk when we feel it's important to do so.  Otherwise, we don't feel the need to contribute to the fluff.  We just want to get this meeting over with so we can get back to work.  We're not dumb, we just don't have any questions at this current time.  If one comes to us we'll ask you later, because asking in front of this group of 30 people would be a waste of time when it doesn't pertain to everyone here in the first place.

I'm always mildly insulted when someone comments how surprised they were that I "spoke up."  "But you're so quiet!" they say incredulously.  PEOPLE.  Quiet people are not doormats!  Let me say one more time, we just don't feel like talking all the time and the amount of talking a person does has absolutely zero correlation to their intelligence, assertiveness, or courage to speak their mind.

I think my favourite thing about quiet people is our ability to shut down an obnoxious situation without saying a word.  I've witnessed many a loud person annoyingly trying to get a rise out of a quiet person who barely responds, at which point the loud person sees that the situation is futile and backs off, embarrassed.  This past week some annoying loud dude I'd never met before came into my office asking for help with something, while trying to flirt with me and tease me.  Over the course of 3 minutes he called me a "f*ckin' liar" and "extremely unhelpful" among other things to try and get a rise out of me, but I just ignored all of his comments, acted like nothing weird was happening, and as he left he sheepishly said "I was just joking, you were very helpful, thank you."

Before fully accepting and embracing my quietness (and even in my daydreams now) I wanted to be the girl who was super quick on her feet and could come up with an immediate snide comeback to obnoxious jerks like the one described above.  And even telling people this and similar stories, they always suggest things I could have said, because doesn't not responding mean I was okay with the situation?  No.  Wrong.  My not responding made the situation super awkward and made the guy feel like a jerk, which was exactly the outcome I wanted.  I didn't achieve it through a snappy comeback, but I still achieved it.  And I guarantee he'll never try it again.

Maybe there is such a thing as "too quiet" but I bet most of the people you think are too quiet actually aren't.  Stop and appreciate the quiet people in your life.  Watch them work their quiet magic on all the loud assholes who try to walk all over them or get a rise out of them.  Be glad that they aren't wasting your time talking just to hear their own voice.  Don't be surprised when they express their opinion, expect it.  And please, please never again ask a quiet person "Why are you so QUIET?" 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Working on my car

Me:  So I have a new great idea.  I am going to start calling getting gas in my car "doing work on my car".  Then people will think I'm so cool because I know how to work on cars.

Megan:  But what if they ask you to elaborate?

Me:  Then I'll say "just some routine maintenance, topped up some fluids."

Megan:  And if they ask what fluids?

Me:  Then I will say "gasoline" and they will realize how funny I am.

Megan:  You're right, this is truly a win-win situation.  Either people are impressed that you know about cars, or end up thinking you're funny.

YOU GUYS I am so funny.  I can't believe that I have not been approached to write a comedy pilot or something by now.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Math Degree

I have a math degree.  I'm not really sure why as it doesn't do me much good but I took so many math classes and so many extra electives in university on my way to my engineering degree that I just turned the rest into a math degree for some extra street cred.

Here is really the only useful part of having a math degree:

(Set the scene:  Me buying tickets for food and drinks.)

Me:  I will take 6 tickets please.
Seller:  Okay, so at $2 each that's uh... uh... I'm so braindead today...
Me:  12 bucks.
(I hand him a 20 dollar bill.)
Seller:  Okay so I owe you uh... hmm... sorry, so out of it...
Me:  8 bucks.
Seller:  I'm so sorry, I don't know what's with me today.
Me:  Don't feel bad, I have a math degree.

Granted, these little exchanges would me more hilarious if the other person realized I was making a joke.  But I'll take what I can get.  Thanks math degree!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Transformers 3 Review: Let's Get This Over With

It has been nearly a year since I watched Transformers 3:  Dark of the Moon, but because I have blogged reviews of the first two Transformers movies I need to finish this off.  Let it be known that my review of Transformers 2 is my second most popular blog post of all time, however the reason it is so popular is that people are looking for that picture of Megan Fox having sex with a motorcycle.

Here is something funny about Transformers 3:  I couldn't remember the plot, because I watched it a year ago.  That is not the funny part though.  The funny part is that I looked up the plot on Wikipedia right now and got so bored/confused reading it that I am actually worse off for plot memory than I was before I tried to read the plot summary.  OOPS that's what you get for trying to do research on a Michael Bay movie I guess!

So let's get this over with.  I don't really know much about the plot of this movie but let's just dive in.

Here is one thing I do know about this movie though:  the moon landing was actually a mission to have a look at some Decepticons and/or Transformers (I don't remember and/or care) that landed there.  They landed on the dark SIDE of the moon.  OMG, I just remembered the worst/best thing about this movie.  The TITLE is supposed to be "Dark Side of the Moon", not "Dark of the Moon", but likely due to the fact that Dark Side of the Moon is already a thing, they couldn't use it, so they just removed the word "Side" from the title and figured everyone would catch on.

But "Dark of the Moon" does NOT have the same meaning of "Dark Side of the Moon."  Not even close.  The space robots were on the dark side of the moon.  Not the dark of the moon.  That doesn't make sense!  It doesn't.

"Michael Bay!  The final edits for the movie are due in 5 minutes and it turns out we are getting sued by Pink Floyd for using Dark Side of the Moon as a title!  They said you are the worst and don't want to be associated in any way with this movie!"  

"OOPS LOL just take the one word out I guess, too late to change the dialogue so any of it makes sense!  My bad you guys! Shia, as always, excellent job of acting, this script really lets your talent shine.  I am just blown away that my 14 year old nephew wrote something this good in only half an hour!"

Okay so there were transformers on the moon, and then I think they brought them back to Earth, and then there were lots of robot fights.  That is the gist of the plot, and that's all I'm going to say about the plot because it was so boring.  Let's instead delve into some character studies.

While I applaud this movie for not being nearly as horrifically sexist as Transformers 2, Shia LeBleaghusf still somehow keeps getting these hot girlfriends who don't understand what appropriate attire is for various emergency situations.  Such as his new Australian girlfriend (I think?  Or was she British?  I can't remember but probably Australian since there was a hot blonde Australian in the first movie too and Michael Bay doesn't seem to know that there are more than 3 types of women) who thinks that when you are running away from giant space robots that you should wear stiletto heels.  Like, I am totes cool with it if you want to wear stiletto heels through life; that is your choice and while I would personally not make that choice myself, power to you.  However I just would like to say that it is a universally bad idea to wear stilettos if you are trying to run away from giant space robots.

Here are some alternate options for if you are trying to run away from giant space robots, but find yourself wearing stiletto heels:
  • Take them off and run in your bare feet
    • Carry the heels with you
    • Throw the heels away so they don't burden you
  • There are not really any other smart options.  You should take them off so you don't roll an ankle while you are running, or get the heel caught in a crack on the sidewalk.
Let's see, what else happened in this movie.  OH YEAH the other best part:  PATRICK DEMPSEY was the villain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  HAHAHAHAHA oh Patrick Dempsey.  Taking a break from Made of Honor, Valentine's Day, and Gray's Anatomy to mix it up a little.

I am pretty sure Patrick Dempsey was like "YES, this is totally going to be my BREAKOUT ROLE into action!  No one will ever typecast me as a dreamy doctor again after my brilliant turn as an evil villain in the masterpiece that is Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon!  What's that, Michael Bay?  We're removing 'side' from the title?"

Another interesting character development is that Shia LeBeaoghfsifh is a giant loser in this movie (more so than the first two I mean).  He can't find a job and he really sucks at job interviews (he should probably have gone to a career counselor to pick up some interview tips) and he's all "Barack Obama gave me a medal of honour and all I do is whine about it!  Give me a job please because I have a car who is actually a space robot!  I will settle for nothing less than CEO!"  Ladies, we all know that if we met a guy like this we would run away and never look back.  According to the story "story" this is what Megan Fox's character (does anyone know her name?  I think we all know the answer to that question) did.  And yet somehow he has managed to enter into a serious relationship with a gorgeous, rich, successful art dealer (I think?) Australian woman who for some reason is living with him and paying his bills while he sits around in his pyjamas yammering about his medal of honour and not getting jobs.  But as evidenced by her emergency footwear choices, I guess we know how smart she really was in the end.

Well, that's about all I can remember about this terrible movie.  I also believe that it was over 3 hours long and we had to watch it on two different days because it got too late at night and too boring to watch in one sitting.  If this review seemed unstructured and all over the place, it's because that's what the movie was like too.  Watching it was like "Okay robots are fighting again, what else is new, why is that girl wearing stilettos, OMG PATRICK DEMPSEY IS A BAD GUY HAHAHAHAHA" and that is why my review was similar.

Longtime readers, I hope you have enjoyed my trilogy of Transformers reviews.  Now let us never speak of these terrible movies again.

Friday, May 31, 2013

How's married life?

Me:  People keep asking me "How's married life?" and it's always awkward because I'm like "Good?  Nice?" I don't know what they want me to say.  It's such a weird question!

Brahm meanwhile had just taken all the dishes that I put in the dishwasher out and was putting them back in in a more orderly fashion.

Brahm:  Next time you get asked that you can tell them that your husband thinks you are physically incapable of loading a dishwasher.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Sad Question/The BS+V Miracle

So I was in the Walmart cleaning products aisle a couple weeks ago and a very confused looking guy in his mid-to-late twenties approached me.

"Excuse me, can I ask you a question? ... How do you clean a bathroom?"

Ummm what?  I was super confused.

"Like... what kinds of things should I buy to clean it?  What should I use for scrubbing?"  He held up some sponges and a couple of bottles of Mr. Clean-like products.

"Uh, I don't know, looks like you're on the right track, is this for soap scum or what?"

"Yeah the thing is I've kind of left it a really long time and it's pretty bad..."

I told him to look for Magic Erasers (which he'd never heard of - DUDE, do you not watch TV at ALL?  Oh wait, they only advertise cleaning products during "girl" shows like Real Housewives.  THANK YOU sexism in marketing, you are the reason this young man is asking me such absurd questions) and went on my merry way.

Two thoughts on this:

1.  Why has a man who is approximately my age never cleaned a bathroom???  Has someone always cleaned up after him OR more gross, has he lived in the same place since he moved out of his parents' house and never cleaned it and by "pretty bad" he means How Clean Is Your House bad?

2.  A week or two later I realized the secret to easily cleaning soap scum from a shower/tub which I now wish I could have imparted on this lost little puppy:  baking soda and vinegar.  Before we moved out of our gross apartment I wanted to find a way to clean the oven without having to buy respiratory protection/oven cleaner and a quick Google search told me that I could basically just use baking soda and vinegar.  I wish I had before and after pictures because it worked AMAZINGLY well.  I figured if it worked on oven gunk it would likely work on simple soap scum (and I'd had experience soaking shower floors in vinegar to remove that awful dead skin/soap scum mixture that is the worst thing to clean in the world).  I made a baking soda and vinegar paste, painted it on the shower walls, waited for it to dry, and then everything wiped off like you see in commercials.

So the moral of the story:  PARENTS, please make sure you teach your kids how to clean things before they move out.  Also, baking soda and vinegar are literally the only cleaning products you need.  Stop wasting money on toxic garbage that doesn't even work in the first place and go spend 5 bucks (total) on a giant jug of vinegar and box of baking soda.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Update list

I have said many times, it is hard to know what to write about when you haven't written in a while, and don't have any major announcements to make.  So maybe for today, since I'm trying to get back into writing on this thing, I'll make a list of some small updates of good things going on that normally I'd probably write a whole post about but it's hard when you aren't in the blogging habit.

1.  Macarons - I'm getting good at them but having a bit of trouble with hollow shells.  The shell isn't supposed to collapse, yet it does for every kind I make except hazelnut.  I have figured out everything else - the browning problem was due to the pan I was using and the bubbles and cracking I think were due to my batter-making technique, which is pretty solid now.  I don't have to babysit the bubbles for 10 minutes anymore - maybe 1 or 2.  I'm not sure if the hollows are due to the freshness of the nuts or something else but that's my last thing to figure out. 

A couple excellent things I was able to do so far though - make near perfect (except for browning one time, hollow another) macarons with unaged, egg whites from a carton.  And that don't need to be rested before going into the oven.  These are the two main things bakers apparently hate about making macarons and it turns out with the right recipe they are not important!  Stella's recipe is awesome.

2.  KING BED - we did a bedroom makeover a couple months after moving into our new house and finally got a king bed, which is sure welcome.  Because Brahm is a larger than average man, a queen doesn't cut it for him and another person, even a smaller than average woman like me.  It is AWESOME.  Also, we did our entire bedroom makeover (including bedding) for under $2500.  That's less than the price of most bedroom sets alone!  Thank you IKEA furniture and Costco mattress!  Speaking of which, we really took a gamble on ordering a Novaform memory foam mattress from Costco without ever even touching it, but it worked out!  On the downside of everything, it is now hard to get up in the morning because I just want to keep sleeping in this great bed.

3.  Greenhouse - a few months ago at Home Depot I saw a small greenhouse (about 4-5 feet tall) for 30 bucks.  I bought it and set it up this weekend to give my tomatoes a better start in life.  I waited too long this year to start them so they were just tiny little things growing in front of the kitchen window, but they seemed to do well in there outside.  Last night it froze but they survived.  I have a couple of dark containers of water in the greenhouse with them which supposedly keeps it relatively warm in there overnight.  Though, one day it got too hot and killed one of the smaller plants... oops. 

Unfortunately this year won't be a good one for much gardening because we don't have a yard yet - we have to wait for our builder to do final grade and build our garage before we can do any landscaping, so I'm just going to do some containers this year.  I'm hoping they at least do final grade soon so I have a place to put the containers though, since I don't want to set too many things up if I'm just going to have to move everything when they need to move the dirt around.  Hopefully soon, as the weather is finally warming up.

4.  Downton Abbey - this is the best show.  Are you watching it?  If not, get on that please.  You can buy all the seasons on eBay for 40 bucks.

5.  Hawaii - the first vacation where I was actually really sad to go home.  Even if I've had a super fun time on a trip, I'm usually a bit excited to go home and get back to normal, or not be so busy, etc.  But I could have stayed in Hawaii for a long time.  I totally understand why people go there and then move there.  I loved it.  We ate so much fresh fish and fruit.  I want to go back already.

Okay that's the end for today.  Summer is a hard time to blog but I'll keep trying.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Macarons! Update!

Eight mini-batches later, I think I sort of know how to make macarons!  Macarons that LOOK like macarons, I mean!  I don't think I have the exact temperature and time down yet but there are a lot of things I know now that I didn't know a few weeks ago when I first attempted "the divas of the pastry world."  Most of my attempts, other than the first try, happened in the last week.  Some things I learned:

Our oven is either a) running a bit hot or b) not at the correct temperature when it dings to say it's preheated.  After a couple days of oven experiments with various thermometers, my gut tells me it's probably about 15 degrees hot but also definitely needs to preheat for about 15-20 minutes past when it dings.  Otherwise at that point the temperature is still climbing.

Proper meringue consistency - definitely dry-looking and super-stiff.  The first try I did nail this, the next few I started second-guessing myself and being worried about over-beating.  I know what it looks like now.

Why every batch kept tearing open instead of rising and growing feet - likely this was a combination of a few things (oven too hot, runny meringue) but the biggest breakthrough here occurred when I realized that the larger bubbles in the batter needed about 10 minutes to come out.  Prior to this discovery I was just following other recipes that said to rap the pan sharply a couple times after piping and you were good to go.  It could be the fact that I'm making such small batches and therefore mixing the batter much less than you would for a full-sized batter that makes it not possible to get most of the air out during mixing, but whatever it is, I need to sit with the tray for 5-10 minutes and drop it hard on the kitchen table every minute or so until the bubbles aren't coming anymore.  After figuring this one out, I had two almost completely crack-free batches!  WITH FEET!

I also started using the Wild Serendipity Foods recipe instead of Bravetart's, figuring my best chance at success was trying a recipe that someone is having success with in my own city.  It has given me better success however I plan to try the Bravetart recipe again soon to check if the problems with it were just my technical mistakes.  One thing I like about Michelle's recipe is that you mix half the dry ingredients in with the wet first, and then add the rest of the dry.  This seems to allow me to get everything mixed together better, but again I'll have to give the less-tedious Bravetart recipe another go eventually.

One interesting tidbit - my first batch was made with hazelnuts and so was my last batch.  By far, my best batch was my last, but of course it should be.  However the hazelnuts seem to make for a bit thicker of a batter and overall a bit easier to work with.  And, more delicious than almonds.  I imagine the thickness of the batter/higher rising is due to the higher fat content of hazelnuts.  Personally they may become my nut of choice for macarons, though I will have to try out a few more varieties.

Stuff I still need to learn - the exact cooking time and temperature to use so I don't dry them out.  I'm still a bit terrified of underbaking them (the dreaded hollow shells) and today's two batches looked amazing but were totally dry after cooling and also browned considerably.  You don't want browning and they should apparently still be a bit chewy after cooling - but this is easily remedied by filling them with icing or jam and allowing them to absorb that moisture overnight.

I'll end this post with a couple of pictures of today's successes:

Finally - feet!  (Almond above)

Even bigger feet!  Hazelnut.

And the best part - no hollow shell!  This one was a bit cracked, and you can tell it's quite dry from all the browning but it set properly and looked like a macaron so I'm declaring today a major victory!

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Okay okay... it's been like, forever.  I apologize and also hope that some people are still subscribed to this/still check it every so often to see if I've made any new posts.  I promise I am making a comeback.  Things were really busy for a while and then I just got out of blogging and had a hard time getting back into it, but I'm going to try harder this time.

Anyway what better way to make my comeback than macarons?

If you don't know what macarons are, do a Google image search.  You will likely come up with lots of GORGEOUS pictures, like this one (source:

Truly, macarons are one of the most photographed pastries.  They are also one of the most feared pastries, according to what the internet tells me.  Only attempted by the most accomplished of bakers and even then, often resulting in failure.

After hearing about how difficult they were to make I kind of decided against ever trying them, but after eating a lot of them from Wild Serendipity Foods at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market and starting to really love these little almond-meringue confections, I started wondering if they might be possible.  Then a couple weeks ago I stumbled across this post from Stella of Bravetart, linked from my favourite food blog The Kitchn.  This led me to Stella's other posts about macarons and the comments of her posts where once-afraid readers attempted macarons using her recipe to (eventual) great success.

So then I was like, "I HAVE TO DO THIS."

Honestly, I don't really know what happened but I have never been hit with a baking obsession like this before.  I basically started feeling like I wouldn't be satisfied with my life until I had a) tried and eventually b) mastered making macarons.  Being at work and unable to make macarons, I scoured blog posts of amateur bakers' failed attempts, trying to figure out what went wrong for them.  They clearly had mixed too much, or didn't measure properly, or didn't bake long enough.  I could totally do this.

We're going to Hawaii on Saturday (!!!) but today, after getting up early, cleaning the bathrooms, and doing pretty much all the laundry in our house, I decided I needed to make a small batch.  Just an attempt.

I used the Bravetart recipe, subbing hazelnuts for almonds because Stella says any kind of nuts work.  I weighed out one egg white in a bowl (and yes, I made Brahm go buy me a kitchen scale while I was at work so I could be ready to make my first batch of macarons whenever the urge hit) and scaled Stella's recipe based on 31 g of egg whites (it worked out to about 1/5 of her recipe).  I don't have a stand mixer so I used the whisk attachment on my new Breville immersion blender for the meringue (which did take about 10 minutes), and then the food processor attachment on the Breville to make the hazelnut flour.  PS I LOVE this Breville thing and I haven't even used it for the reason I bought it yet (pureeing soups).

Following Stella's recipe, I mixed the macaronage to what seemed like the right consistency.  Then I used a Ziploc (perhaps committing one of the cardinal sins of macarons, but I didn't want to run to the store) to pipe 13 rounds onto a Silpat.  The last couple rounds definitely got "re-mixed" in the "piping bag" as I squeezed out the last bit of batter so I was expecting them to be the worst ones.  Turns out they were the only ones that even started developing a hint of the "feet" that are so important to proper macarons - next time, I know I need to mix more.

Below:  before baking.  The few at the front of the picture were the least-mixed, and were the ones that started to grow feet a bit by the end.  But were also slightly undercooked.
See?  The makings of tiny feet..

After baking... all cracked.  Sorry for the bad phone picture.  I should have dug out the SLR for more detailed photos.

The final product - hazelnut-vanilla macarons with Nutella filling.

My oven was running hot, but it was also seeming to have trouble going down, according to the temperature probe I had in it.  So I tossed them in anyway and 7 minutes later they all had lovely cracks running through their surfaces - apparently a sure sign of a too-hot oven.  So then I turned the oven down the amount that it seemed to be running hot, which then made it too cold... anyway.  I need to calibrate this oven before my next attempt.

BUT!  They still sort of turned out.  They didn't get super flat like the ones I saw on some blogs and a couple of the ones that got the most mixing had the makings of feet.  I didn't turn the pan which is recommended, and I noticed the row at the front of the oven was slightly undercooked, but the middle row seemed to be cooked perfect.  And they taste amazing so really, who cares? 

I think my first attempt at making macarons was a success, even though they turned out less-than-perfect.  I figured out a few things I need to change for next time (oven temperature consistency, mix more, turn the pan, pipe from a real piping bag).  My plan is to continue making tiny one-egg batches until I get my technique down.  And I currently have 6 little French pastries in my fridge that, while they may not look much like macarons, most importantly TASTE like macarons.

Monday, January 14, 2013


There are lots of little stories I still want to tell and record about our wedding weekend.  It's cliche but honestly, it really was one of the best weekends of my life, if not the best.  But before you roll your eyes at that, what could be better than gathering all the people you love together in one place and getting to spend time with them?  How do you top that?

So anyway, this is the story of how my sister Megan and I went to Folkfest two nights before my wedding.

I generally enjoy going to Saskatoon's Folkfest and eating my way through the various pavilions, although for the past few years my work schedule hasn't left me in town during Folkfest weekend.  But!  This year, my wedding was on Folkfest weekend, and this was possibly going to be my last chance to go to Folkfest for several years until my schedule shifts.  I decided, around 4:00pm on the Thursday before my Saturday wedding, that I was going to Folkfest.

I texted Brahm and asked him if he wanted to come with me but he had already made plans to play video games or something with his friends, so I convinced Megan to come.  "All I really want is perogies and cabbage rolls" I said.  "Let's just quickly catch the bus, go to Prairieland" (where the Ukrainian pavilion was located) "and come home.  Get on the bus at 5, eat perogies at 6, we'll be home by 7."  Conveniently, one of the pavilions was located just two blocks down from our house so we hopped on the bus, hungry and ready for perogies.

Except... we forgot how freaking long it takes to use the Folkfest bus.  My brilliant idea of "we don't have to worry about parking at Prairieland!" was definitely a bad idea, due to not attending Folkfest for the previous few years and forgetting how slow the bus is.  During our time waiting to get to our destination, we planned out a route of about 6 or 7 pavilions we would patronize that night before eventually getting off the bus near our house.  We transferred at City Hall and HONESTLY 2 hours later, got so hungry that we jumped off the bus at the German pavilion (we still had not made it to Prairieland), scarfed schnitzels, and missed the next bus.  So, we waited for another 15-20 minutes, got on the NEXT bus, and were eating perogies by 8:00pm.  NOT JOKING, a full 3 hours after we got on the bus.

After the perogies, we went to the Greek pavilion (the food there is always to die for), stuffed ourselves some more, and then realized we were totally Folkfested out.  After 3 pavilions.  At 8:30pm.

After another hour on the bus, driving all over the city (and literally past our house) on a hilariously empty bus, we decided enough was enough, hopped off downtown, and walked home. 

Was going to Folkfest two nights before my wedding a waste of time, money, and energy?  Probably, although we did sell our passports on Kijiji the next day.  And it was kind of ridiculous and fun, maybe in a "you had to be there" way, but complaining about the slow bus and eating schnitzel, perogies, and Greek donuts is one of those silly wedding weekend memories I will cherish for a long time.

Friday, January 11, 2013

And a Happy Kijiji New Year

It's been a while.  My Christmas break was busy and I just didn't feel like spending time on the computer most days.  One thing I don't think I've mentioned on here yet is that Brahm and I finally bought a house.  We actually bought it a few months ago, and move in in a couple weeks.  Overall, buying a house and house hunting was a far more emotional experience than I'd originally anticipated and I decided to stop blogging about it.

But anyway, we have now begun the process of purging things we don't want to take with us - this mostly includes a few pieces of ugly, cheap student furniture, the biggest of which was an older blue couch.

You know all about my bad Kijiji experience with the monitors so I was not looking forward to trying to sell a couch on Kijiji.  Plus, looking at Kijiji Saskatoon brought up tons of couches that people were giving away for free - how could I compete?  I asked as many people I could think of if they wanted or knew anyone wanting a free couch, to no avail. 

So finally, I decided to put the couch on Kijiji just to see what happened.  I took a co-worker's advice about not putting it on for free, because free generally means "garbage".  I took a few respectable pictures with my DSLR camera and posted an ad, asking $50.

(Dude - this is the power of a DSLR.  It looks super bright in our apartment, right?  It was totally a cloudy, dreary day but I still managed to take these without a flash.)

I also put some rules in my ad, to the effect of "I hate being jerked around by buyers, so here are the rules you need to follow if you want this couch."

And wouldn't you know, I had an interested buyer in about 30 seconds.  She used real sentences (not "can u take pic thx"), told me what her name was, and showed up well on time.  I also had two more interested people lined up if the first buyer didn't work out.

The girl who picked up the couch told me that I was the only seller on Kijiji who even responded to her.  It drives me nuts when people don't remove their ads after their item has sold and just ignore emails that come in about it - come on people, that is bad Kijiji etiquette!

The moral of the story is, I think I have learned my lesson about Kijiji buyers.  My rules are going in all future ads.  I am sure I'll get burned by some more idiot buyers in the future but this experience has restored my faith that good Kijiji buyers do exist, especially if you lay down the ground rules from the start.