Sunday, February 28, 2010

One Last Proud Canadian Post Until Regular Foodblogging

I promise an actual food post is forthcoming...Just not today.

The photo, above, is of Sidney Crosby. He scored an overtime goal in today's Canada vs. USA men's hockey game. It was very exciting and nervewracking to watch. I even ended up cleaning out and organizing my kitchen cupboards (during the game) because I was too stressed out watching. The goal by Sidney Crosby currently has 88 Facebook pages in its honour. Yes, the goal itself.

This video was taking at a Centretown corner in Ottawa by Zoom at Knitnut.

Update: Have to add this one of Portage and Main in Winnipeg.

Great job to Vancouver for a successful olympics. Canadians are very proud to beat the record by winning 14 gold medals. It was nice to be able to showcase some of Canada to the world. StumbleUpon

Friday, February 26, 2010

Everything you ever wanted to know about curling but were afraid to ask

This post is not about food. It's about a sport I enjoy and since it's popularity may be increased as a result of the Olympics, I was to take this opportunity to share more of it with you.

Let me tell you about all of the "basics" of curling.

Here are two of the 4 Canadian women team. They played a good game,

but unfortunately lost against Sweden tonight Source

Curling originated in Scotland around the 17th Century. Some great things about curling are that it's accessible to all ages, a sport that women and men can play together or separately and unlike most sports, women's curling is followed just as closely as men's curling. Oh..and it's also fun - both to play and watch on television.

So, it all starts off with 8 players, 4 per team. You play on a sheet of ice in a curling rink that usually houses between 4-6 sheets.

This is one of the "houses" on the sheet. On each end of the sheet of ice (in a regular curling rink), there is a separate house. This allows you to shoot all of the rocks in one direction and then play them back to the other house.

Each "end" (of which there are a maximum of 8/game, 10/game for professional competitions) consists of "throwing" (or what would more accurately described as sliding) 16 rocks. A player from each team alternates throwing 8 rocks. Each player throws 2 rocks per end. If, however, a player is missing and a spare is not available, you can play with 3 people and the first two shooters throw 3 rocks each and the last shooter throws 2.

Each person has an order of shooting, which goes lead, 2nd, 3rd and skip (although very rarely, a 3rd will throw last rocks). The skip is the one who makes decisions about the type of shot to be made by "calling line" (which I'll explain later) and the other players (minus the shooter) focus on sweeping.

The traditional image of curling is the witch style broom.

But with more recent advancements in curling, the only time you may see that type of broom is when someone is throwing the rock. Today, brooms look more like the one below.

You can also see the slider in the above picture. The slider is the piece on the bottom of one of your shoes that you slide out of "the hack" (shooting area) when shooting. The shoe with the slider is the opposite of the hand with which you throw. So, since I'm right-handed, the slider is on my left foot. The black shoe cover on the ground covers my slider when I'm not shooting. However, it it quite common for people to leave the rubber off when playing, but I personally would probably end up falling on my ass and "burning" (touching a rock that is in play -- a bad thing) the rocks if I did that.

In terms of actual game play, the goal of the game is to get as many points for your team as possible. You win by having more points at the end of the game than the other team. Sometimes the end of the game comes early if one team is getting slaughtered and decides to "shake hands".

The skip, as I was saying, gives directions to the shooter about where to throw the rock and the weight. The skip will hold his or her broom in a location to indicate where to aim the rock. This can be a tricky job because the idea of curling (and hence the name) is that when the rock is slowing down it will veer in one direction or another. The direction depends on how you turn (in turn or out turn) the rock while shooting. You may see a skip raise his/her right or left arm and this indicates the rotations of the rock (it's not necessary information since it's pretty obvious which way you want the rock to rotate). You can rotate the rock to the right or left. The positioning of the broom is based on a number of factors: 1. The ice - if rocks are "curling" a lot, the skip needs to give the shooter "more ice" (allow more space for curling), 2. the type of shot (draw - which refers to a slow paced rock that will come to a stop somewhere at the other end of the sheet without hitting another rock; take out - a rock that is meant to take out another rock). A take out is obviously thrown harder, so less curling will occur. With less curling, the skip does not need to give as much ice, 3. the throwing idiocyncracies of each player (some people prefer certain turns, tend to be off the broom in predictable ways, or tend to throw the rock harder/lighter), 4. where you want the rock to end up (this is the most important factor).

In the video above, you see an excellent raise, triple take-out. The shooter (yellow) is hit on to a red guard (rock that is guarding other rocks). The guard is then raised and takes out 3 red rocks from play. Granted, the red rock at the bottom right isn't going to have a big impact on anything because it is well outside of the "rings" (the bull's eye area). Rocks are taken out of play if they pass that line behind the blue ring or if a rock touches the line (or side boards) that divides the sheets.

As I was saying earlier, the skip's job (and the shooter's after he/she has released the rock) is to "call the line". This is why you hear people yelling "hard" like lunatics.

The shooter also watches the line of the rock and will yell "yes", "sweep", "hard", "hard line", etc.

This annoying lady likes to sit on the ice after shooting which is a big no-no.

You do not want to put your body heat on the ice because it will create unevenness that can really affect the rock. You also want to keep an eye out for lint on the ice because the rock can "pick" on that stuff and it'll completely affect the rock.

"Hard" means, sweep fast because the rock is overcurling. Overcurling means that the rock is going to end up rotating past the desired point and will either hit the rock in the wrong location, not hit the rock at all, not draw to the proper location, etc. So, why sweep? Sweeping creates heat on the ice that will form a slick layer and gets rid of a fair amount of natural friction on the ice. The other reason sweepers may sweep is if the shooter's weight is down (rock not thrown hard enough). Again, the slick layer will allow the rock to go faster and, therefore, further.

Sweepers have different ways of determining whether to sweep. You may see several players with stop watches.

Sweepers will time the rock (how long the rock takes to get from one line to the next) and then infer how far the rock will slide. Based on the ice, you know how long it should take the rock to travel between these two lines. So, if the throw is light (even by milliseconds) you start sweeping. Personally, I don't use a timer. R does and I sometimes listen to him. But, after a few shots, you can usually tell whether you need to sweep. Professionals will have all of this stuff figured out down to the millisecond.

One image that is synonymous with curling is the slide curlers use when throwing the rock.

There are a lot of details that go into throwing the rock, but the basic reason for this slide to have a good visual of the line of your rock. Since you want to aim the rock at the skip's broom, it's a lot easier to do that if you can get close to eye level with the rock. But, you don't have to be a good slider to make a good shot.

Another issue with the ice is that each sheet, each curling rink, each game, etc. the ice changes. As you play on the ice, it changes as well. So, reading the ice is a bit of an art. So is taking care of the ice. Between each game an ice caretaker will spray little water droplets (pebble) the ice and scrape it. I'm not an expert on how this works, but ice maintenance is just as important (if not more so) in curling as it is in hockey.

Now...the most important part - getting points. After each end, the 3rds (from both teams) look at the rocks to determine how many points were won. Points are determined by seeing how many rocks of the same colour are closer to the button (centre of the bull's eye) than the other team's rocks.

So, in this picture, it looks like the red team has 4 points. The red rock that is on the left is not "out counting" the blue rock at the back. You'll notice the skip's broom (from the red team) by the blue rock because they want to get rid of this rock. If they get rid of the rock and the shooter stays in position, they will increase their score to 6 points because they will have six red rocks that are closer to the button than the one blue rock at the back of the house.

Sometimes the rocks are so close together you can't tell which is outcounting. There is a special contraption that you use to measure minute (less than millimeter) distances.

After each end, the 3rd of the team that scored goes and puts up the points. The scoring system is a little bit counter intuitive. The cards indicate the end and the permanent number indicate points (this is not true in many competitions, though).

In this picture, you can see that in the first end, the red team scored one point (not a good end for them because when you score, you lose the "hammer". The hammer is the last rock and it's nice to have the hammer because you get to make the last throw. Last throw is like the final decision, when you don't have to worry about your opponent's next move. If you are going to lose the hammer, you want to have lost it because you scored many points, not just one). The second end, the blue team scored two points. Then, in the third end, the red team scored 4 points. I think that was the 4 red you see in the picture just above this one. Then, in the fourth end, the blue team 4 points. In the end (not depicted here), the blue team (the good guys) won.

Depending on the traditions of the ice rink, the winners will sometimes buy the losers a drink. After the game, everyone sits around and socializes, which usually consists of carrying on some sort of conversation about hockey, politics and different shots played throughout the game.

Of course there are many other aspects of the game (strategy, technique, etc.) but if you've gotten this far into the post, you're probably on information overload anyway. - clear as mud? StumbleUpon

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Palm Springs - Part 1

Do you ever have so many post lined up that you're excited about that you don't know what to write about first? Then you just procrastinate and don't write any of them. No? Just me? Ok - then I'll stop the madness.

Let me tell you about my trip to California! It was my first time to the state.

It's hard to fully internalize the reality that not everyone in the world lives in freezing weather during the winter. It has been such a reality for all of my life. But, after spending a week in Palm Springs in January, there's no denying that the rest of the world is not sitting under a blanket with a hot water bottle every night.

If you're like most people, you're wondering what two newly weds are doing in Palm Springs in the middle of winter. We were about 40 years younger than the average aged person in Palm Springs.

We went to spend a week/help out "Bugs Baba". Bugs Baba is my grandmother (a.k.a Baba or Babba), who we've introduced in other posts (see here for example). The "Bugs" part is a play on "Bugs Bunny". I'll share more Bugs Baba stories in a later post.

The day after arriving in Palm Springs, we met up with That Girl from Paved with Good Intentions and That Boy. You can read about her take here. After patiently giving me a list of restaurant options, I suggested Matchbox Pizza because it looked like it had a nice outdoor area.

I've been a regular reader of Paved With Good Intentions for several years now. As That Girl put it, it was " meeting people you've known for a long time. And in a way, we kind of have known each other for a while, which makes this meeting a long time coming". You get to bypass many of the usual introductory aspects of meeting someone and next thing you know you're sharing stories about how you met your significant other and making fun of each other's husbands (apologies to That Boy).

Here's the waffle I ordered:

and R's burger:

The next day, we took advantage of the previous week's rain by catching a day of the Bob Hope Classic that extended to the Monday (for more information on the event, click here).

I'm not a golf fan, so I was a bit skeptical at first. But, it was a beautiful day and the course itself was amazing.

I risked grave consequences a potential warning by bringing my camera in. We even made up a code: any reference to strawberries meant that I should take/wanted to take a picture.

We spent a good portion of the day following Mike Weir around. Lucky for him, despite R's repeated requests, I refused to "take a strawberry" of him waiting in line for the port-o-potty. But I did get this decent shot of him taking a practice swing.

Some of the holes are actually partially situated on the mountain side. Just gorgeous.

I can even imagine living right on a golf course like this (crossing fingers and toes that I win the $50M lottery this Friday).

I'll stop there, but I have many more pictures to share!


Monday, February 22, 2010

Raffle for Haiti

The raffle for Haiti is now live with good activity. The donor generosity is nothing short of heart warming and the quality of prizes is ... well, have a look for yourself HERE . For those who haven't been informed, the charity chosen to be the recipient of funds raised is called Concern Worldwide.

They are currently on the ground in Haiti providing emergency and longer term solutions for fresh water. Do have a look at their website here

The prize I've donated is your choice of any piece from my jewellery website and I'm happy to ship worldwide. This is only one sample of what you'll find on the website. (

The sale of raffle tickets will only run until February 28th so don't be disappointed. Many of the prizes are super interesting.

Finally, huge props to Jeanne of Cook Sister who has tackled this event without a whole lot of input. She just dove right in and got everything pulled together AND donated a prize to boot. We really couldn't have tackled and accomplished the whole thing without her expertise and organizational skills.

Please help us to advertise this raffle - on your blogs, twitter, facebook pages -our goal is ambitious - I know that collectively we can! StumbleUpon

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hope for Haiti

As we watched the horrifying events unfold in Haiti and reflected on how soon in the new decade thousands of people's lives had been destroyed, it was easy to feel overwhelmed. We talked amongst ourselves and contemplated on how best we could help those who desperately needed any help we could give them. We received a letter from Jeanne one of our members of BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine who set the wheels in motion with her dedication to a new project. As you know there is always much to do behind the scenes and plenty of co-ordinating to get any fundraiser started.

The biggest hurdle was to choose a charity with an excellent reputation where we would be assured that any funds we raised would go directly to Haiti. I think we have made an excellent choice since our charity was already on the ground and committed to helping the people of Haiti long term.

So from Sunday, February 21 - Sunday, February 28th, BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine (BA-CFF) will be launching H2Ope for Haiti, an online raffle, similar to Menu for Hope, to raise funds for Concern Worldwide's relief effort in Haiti. As clean drinking water was one of the most acute needs in the aftermath of the quake, we selected Concern Worldwide because of its long track record and quick response after the quake to provide clean drinking water and water purification tablets. Slowly the infrastructure is being rebuilt.

For full details and how you can help please visit our Home Page at BloggerAid-CFF as well as our donation page at Justgiving . A list of prizes will be available on the Justgiving site when we go live on Sunday, February 21st. The prizes will have international appeal and the generous donators will ship anywhere. Justgiving will handle all of the money raised for our charity for us and accept all manner of payments including debit cards and credit cards

We want to thank Jeanne from Cook Sister who has been the lead in getting this project off the ground. Each raffle ticket costs a minimal amount. As she says, "Although each person's donation may be small, even single drops of water will eventually fill a swimming pool." StumbleUpon

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Culinary Olympics: Dukkah-Rubbed Salmon with Honey Tarragon Potatoes

There's something about participating in The Culinary Olympics that makes me hear the Rocky theme song in my head. I keep wanting to run through the city and find a long staircase to run up.

BloggerAid: Changing the Face of Famine (BACFF) is hosting an event to promote both our sport (food) and mission (to actively promote the allevation of world hunger).

We have until February 28th at midnite to submit a recipe that represents your country to blogs4famine(at)gmail(dot)com.

BACFF has been actively working to raise funds and awareness of world hunger. Just this past November they completed The BloggerAid Cookbook. All of the recipes in the cookbook come from foodbloggers around the world. I have my own copy -- it's a very impressive accomplishment, completed by a devoted group of volunteers.

The BloggerAid Cookbook

100% of the proceeds target children and education through the World Food Programme called School Meals. Purchases can be made by clicking the cookbook cover above.

Representing Canada, here is my submission:

Dukkah-Rubbed Salmon with Honey Tarragon Potatoes

The salmon is rubbed with Oregon Dukkah (I also added some paprika). The salmon is from Atlantic Canada. The rub is from the States. But, what's more Canadian than a recipe that includes American-produced ingredients? The rub was nice, but tasted mainly of sesame seeds.

The potatoes are a variation on this recipe. Except this time, instead of a plain dijon, I used a honey tarragon mustard. It was excellent!

This mustard come from Mrs. McGarrigle's, a well-known local manufacturer of mustards/savouries/chutneys/preserves/sea salts/peppercorns. Any food specialty store you go to in Ontario carries a range of Mrs. McGarrigle's products.

The Olympics start in one week. I hope you'll participate in The Culinary Olympics! StumbleUpon
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