Friday, December 28, 2007

and on earth...peace...

I'm not a very political person. Most of the time, I have trouble following what is going on in the world. But I know enough to know that yesterday's assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a horrible thing for the long suffering Pakistan. She cared about her people and fought hard to bring peace to her nation. And now she is gone. Who will stand up for the people of Pakistan?

Every time something like this happens in a far corner of the world I am thankful that my father emigrated to Canada. I can't imagine what my life would have been like if he had remained in then communist Yugoslavia. Everything I have now is because he was brave enough to leave his homeland. I am proud to be Canadian and even prouder that my father was brave enough to leave the comfort of his family for a better future. I only wish that the rest of the world had the same opportunity for a better life.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Oscar Peterson

As a Canadian and a fan of jazz music, I feel compelled to post about the passing of Oscar Peterson. O.P. died on December 23 at the age of 82. He was one of the pioneers of jazz music in Canada. A brilliant musician and a remarkable human being. He will be sadly missed and fondly remembered.

Rest in Peace.

where's the beef?

Steve did a ton of work around the house today that was long overdo. So instead of having Christmas leftovers for dinner I suggested that we go out to his choice of restaurant. He chose the Keg. Awesome! I love a good hunk of cow any day. So we set out for the Keg in Burlington and were greeted to the usual packed parking lot and 1 hour wait. You'd think that this was the only restaurant in town! But we were not in any rush so we decided to wait it out. We sat in the bar, enjoying a beverage and an appetizer. Although very busy, the waitress was very friendly and attentive. So far, no complaints. However, by the time we got a table, well over an hour later, our bill was already $50. You have to wonder if this is why the Keg is always so busy and the dining room is never big enough. But I digress.

So we headed to our table and were greeted by Barb, our waitress. Before I go any further I have to tell you that Barb was fantastic! Friendly, helpful, efficient & attentive. Everything you want in a good waitress. We ordered our meals and more drinks and everything arrived in good time, given the fact that the restaurant was packed. Steve ordered the sirloin and I the prime rib. Now the Keg is usually one of those chain restaurants were you always know what you are going to get. You could dine in a Keg in Vancouver, one in Regina, and another in Halifax in the same week, order the same meal and get the exact same thing every time. That's probably the main reason this restaurant chain is so successful.

Well tonight was the complete opposite. Steve's steak was smaller than their usual sirloin cut and a little too charred than the usual Chicago style. My prime rib was raw. Seriously. I have never sent back a meal in a restaurant in my life, no matter how bad it was. I took a polite bite but realized that there was no way I could eat this meal. I like my steaks medium rare. I can even handle rare beef but this was pushing it. As Barb approached our table to check on our meals, I could tell that she knew exactly what I was going to say. She had practically picked up my plate to take it back to the kitchen before I even said a word. She explained to me that they were out of prime rib so instead of giving me a new order they would just grill this piece. That was fine with me, as long as it was actually cooked. I would rather that then they waste a perfectly good piece of meat. She brought my plate back very quickly and at least the beef was edible this time, even if it was still a bit underdone for the medium rare that I ordered.

We ordered coffee and desert and ended up spending about $150 on the meal. Now I don't mind spending that much on a good meal once in a while but this was not a good meal. We waited over an hour for a table, were served poor quality food and were never offered apologies or concessions for the long wait or crappy food. The only positive part of the experience was the staff. Brianne in the bar and Barb in the dining room were excellent. Everything else about the Keg in Burlington, completely sucked.

Burlington is not a small town and it has a good number of restaurants. But for some reason, the residents of Burlington always flock to the chain restaurants, The Keg, Milestones, Jack Astors, etc. These establishments are always busy with long wait times and sub-standard food. Almost a year ago, I went out for dinner with our good friends Mia & Peter. Mia had just signed a contract for a new job and wanted to celebrate with steak. The Keg was packed as usual and we didn't feel like waiting so we headed to the Landmark Steakhouse in downtown Burlington. The restaurant was about half filled and we were seated immediately. We were treated to an excellent dinner of wine, mussels in a cream curry sauce, beautifully done steaks and amazing creme brulee. The dinner was about $15-$20 more than the Keg but the quality was leaps and bounds what I experienced tonight. So the moral of the story? The next time I'm craving steak, I'll be heading to the Landmark and not the Keg.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

cover me

For some reason, I had this crazy idea that instead of buying gifts this year, I would knit them. My goal was to knit blankets. 3 in total. One for my mother in law, one for my father in law and one for my brother & sister in law. As of 11pm on December 25, 2 of the 3 blankets were completed. We exchanged gifts this afternoon, on December 26. Luckily, we thought of a good alternate gift for my mother in law, since I haven't actually started her blanket yet. I don't feel too guilty, since her birthday is late in January and I should have her blanket done by then. Right?

In the meantime, here are the ones that I did manage to complete.

This one doesn't look like much. It's pretty basic, just a whole lot of knit stitches. The beauty of this blanket is the yarn. Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick. It is thick and has a great weight to it. Perfect for a cuddly, warm blanket. The pattern is called Plush Throw and is available for free on the Lion Brand website. (You need to set up an account to access the free patterns, but believe me, it's worth it.)

Same blankie. Folded and ready for the gift bag.

This one I am really proud of. (Ignore the unfinished-ness of it. I finished weaving in the ends before we gave it to them.)

The Cable Comfort Throw, also from Lion Brand, looks complicated, but the pattern is quite easy to knit. New knitters are terrified of cables. But they are so easy! Just follow the instructions. The first time I knit cables I thought, "That's it? What are people so freaked out about?" For me the challenge with this one was sewing the 5 panels together. I generally avoid patterns that require seaming. I'm just bad at it. But this one wasn't horrible. After this experience, I may even feel brave enough to knit a sweater!

A close up of those scary cables.

The recipients of these blankets were genuinely appreciative. It's nice to be able to give practical, homemade gifts. Now if I just had more time for knitting...

a little help from my friend...

I can't believe I haven't blogged about this wine yet!

The lovely Elizabeth first introduced me to the Montecillo Crianza Rioja 2003 from Spain. I am quickly learning that you can't go wrong with Spanish wine. This one is slightly spicy, quite dry, and tastes of ripe berries especially cherries and black currants. There are also slight hints of vanilla and cedar. At the LCBO, it's $14.75 a bottle. And from now until January 6, it's only $12.75. Needless to say, I'll be stocking up.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

merry Christmas to all...

Merry Christmas everyone! I have been a bit of an absentee landlord as of late. Life has been ridiculously hectic. So much to blog about, but no time to do it. I'm off work until January 7, so I should have plenty of time to catch up on the myriad of things I have to tell you about. But for now, a festive holiday meme. Please play along.


1.Real tree or artificial or treeless? Any special traditions with the tree?
Real all the way! 2 trees actually. One in the living room upstairs, with a lovely, mature, red & silver theme. One downstairs in the rec room with Disney ornaments. I know, it's commercial. But hey, isn't that what Christmas is all about?

2. Eggnog or Cider or Mulled Wine?
mmm...Eggnog. One of the only ways I will consume rum.

3. Spiritual or Secular celebration?
Totally secular. If in doubt, read my previous post.

4. Favorite Christmas music?
Charlie Brown Christmas.

5. One special holiday memory
1998. 7 days before Christmas. Steve and I got engaged. :)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

knockin' on heaven's door...

Margaret and Bob stopped by yesterday. They came to see Steve but he was out. I'd never met them before and Steve has only known them for a couple of months. He met them one Saturday morning when they rang our doorbell. Steve had mistakenly left the front door open with only the storm door to protect us from the outside world. Since it was obvious that we were home, Steve answered the door. We are generally polite people so Steve listened to the sales pitch and accepted the pamphlet. Margaret and Bob left after a few minutes and Steve vowed never to leave the front door open again. They visited again a few weeks later, catching Steve outside with no escape. Again, he patiently listened and they left after a few minutes.

So yesterday, just before noon, I had just got home from kick boxing and was making my lunch. I had the stereo turned up loud enough that it could be heard outside, so when the doorbell rang, I had no choice but to open it. I knew at an instant that it was them. Margaret asked for Steve by name, Bob stayed a couple of feet back, not speaking, only nodding in my direction. After I told them that Steve wasn't home (which he wasn't, otherwise I would have made him answer the door), Margaret went on to read a passage of scripture and ask me how I felt about the bible. Not wanting to get into it with them I replied that it was a really big question. Margaret than babbled on for it a bit while I impatiently held the door open to the freezing cold air streaming inside my toasty warm house. She did say something about how back in the day there was a bible in every house and how advances in science and technology have made us into sceptics. She than handed me a pamphlet entitled "Can You Trust the Bible?" Apparently, this was a special issue that "would not be reprinted", according to Margaret. I think this was supposed to make me feel special for receiving it. I can assure you, it did not. She opened the pamphlet and drew my attention to it's "selling features", which included:

"Reasons to Trust the Bible
Historical Soundness
Candor and Honesty
Internal Harmony
Scientific Accuracy
Fulfilled Prophecy"

and then a section that reads:
"You may wonder, 'Is there any source of guidance that is worthy of our trust?'"

and another that reads:
"After reading the articles that follow, you can decide for yourself whether the Bible merits your trust."

I had just about had enough at this point. I was raised Catholic and currently consider myself agnostic. I don't know what I believe but religion is not currently a part of my life. I do know how I feel about the bible. When we were kids, my brother received a gift from our parish priest. It was a thick, beautifully bound book called "Beautiful Bible Stories". It was full of passages from the bible in large print accompanied by beautifully painted pictures. Obviously it was meant to be an introduction to the bible for young children. But what struck me then and what sticks with me now is the title. These are stories. Whether you believe that they are true or not, they are simply stories. And these stories are interpreted differently by each religion who claims this book as their own. So who's right? If I had my way, we would all agree to disagree. If everyone could accept that their are several interpretations of this text and no one is more correct than the other, wouldn't the world be a happier place?

Margaret and Bob left me with the pamphlet and were on their way. They were very efficient. The visit wasn't more than five minutes, although it felt like a lifetime to me. And not once did they mention that they were Jehovah's Witnesses, although the tiny print on the back of the pamphlet confirmed it. But the most interesting thing happened after they left. No, I didn't magically become a believer. I watched Margaret and Bob walk to their car, parked in the court across from our house. They sat in their car for a few minutes, presumably taking notes and then drove away. Clearly they were not visiting anyone else in our neighbourhood that day. Either the rest of our neighbours had successfully brushed them off or they think that Steve and I really need saving. Oh we need saving all right. But not in the way they think.