Sunday, April 27, 2008

grade four recess pretzels

In grade four I had a friend named Megan. Megan had long, thick braids and a five foot tall Barbie hotel that her Dad built her for Christmas one year. During our grade four year Megan's Mom starting sending home made soft pretzels to school in Megan's lunch. She let me try one, and it was one of the most delicious things I had ever had. Before long, Megan was selling me pretzels for a quarter at lunch time. Not long after that, Megan's Mom gave me the recipe. All these years later I'm still baking them.

If you want to taste one of the most delicious pretzels of all time, here's the recipe. It's pretty simple and even easier if you can just throw the whole thing into the KitchenAid. One caveat, trust me on this one, take your rings off before you start kneading the dough. And don't use a scrubby to try and clean the bowl afterwards, you'll be picking dough out of it for weeks.

Megan's Grade Four Recess Pretzels

1T Yeast
1 1/2C Warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 - 4C white flour
1 egg (beaten, to coat)
coarse salt

If using a metal mixing bowl, warm the bowl with warm water and dry it out. Dissolve the sugar & yeast in warm water. Leave to foam untouched, about 10 min. Stir in salt & 2C of flour. I find a fork works better than a wooden spoon. Beat with fork until smooth. Stir in enough flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface & kneed until smooth, about 5 min. Place in a grease bowl and turn greased side up (I never do this step). Let rise in a warm place until double, 45 - 60 minutes. Turning the oven on to 200 and putting the dough bowl on top covered with a tea towel works nicely.

To form pretzels first divide dough into equal pieces --12 or 16 depending on how the dough rose. Take each piece and with a little flour on your hands roll it between your fingers just like make a play dough snake. Once the rope is about 12" long, twist it until it wraps around twice and then fold the ends over the loop to make the pretzel. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse salt. If you don't have course salt, table salt will work in a pinch but be careful not to over salt.

Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them, they tend to turn quickly. You're looking for golden tops and bottoms. Serve with fresh marinara, or mustard if you prefer. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

sun, no run, still fun

For several years now a group of us have done the Sun Run together. It is always good times. This year I caught the office cold. I could barely breathe sitting at home so going 10K was out of the question. I was sad to miss out, but when Amanda got home she showed me the following video I felt a lot better. I may not have been there in person, but I was certainly at the Sun Run in spirit. This video comes with one warning -- the screams at the end are quite loud so adjust your speakers if there's a sleeping baby in the house.

This was definitely my easiest Sun Run ever -- all of the glory, none of the work :) Thanks Wall Family for once again making me feel very included, and very loved. Next year I'll do the Sun Run the more traditional way. See you there!

**Note I do apologize for the quality of the vid. I had to push this through 4 different programs to get it up here. There *has* to be a better way to do that. I was using Windows MovieMaker (which was probably my first mistake). WMM requires a subscription to Neptune in order to export the video. (No idea why, but I'm guessing it's just $$.) So the footage went WMM -> Neptune -> saved a copy to computer ->uploaded to YouTube. Then I copied the HTML from Youtube into Blogger. The original footage was pretty clear. I remember the same thing happening with my Rubby Ducky video last year. Does anyone have a fave program for casual, light video editing?

Friday, April 11, 2008

hold on for the ride

I was doing a little blog stalking research tonight and it occurred to me that American Idol is like a roller coaster. All of the dramatic highs and lows are scripted in well advance. You know, even as you're standing in line, where this train is going. There is little danger of any lasting effects. And yet, even knowing all this, it can be a lot of fun to just climb on board and enjoy it for what it is. Let yourself go, pretend the best singer stands a snowball's chance of wining. Imagine for a moment that the whole thing just might fall off the tracks.

In the spirit of suspended disbelief, I'll play along. Here's my guess for final outcome. I'd type this with my hands in the air if I could. ('Cause you know, everything's more fun with your hands in the air.)

The next three to go off, in any order at all will be (I hope) Kristie Lee Cook, Syesha Mercado and Carly Smithson. The first can sing, but not well enough, the second can sing but is not memorable (but she just might be America's Next Top Model) and the last can sing but can't smile while doing so. Carly, Carly if only you could connect with the audience.

So that leaves us a top four of, in random order: David Cook, David Archuleta, Jason Castro and Brooke White.

First up, Jason Castro. I'd love to see him make top three but I can't see the ticket-takers at Idol going with an all male finale (who would wear the gown?) so I'm guessing he'll go fourth from the top. He won't win, and as mentioned yesterday, it won't matter a bit. He'll on to make amazing records, be spared the horror of ever singing "This Is My Now" and will, if my dream comes true, record a duet with Jack Johnson. Sign me up.

David Cook will go third from the top. You're surprised I know. You're thinking, but that leaves Brooke and the kid in the top two. I'm getting to that. Cook's best hope is to go the way of Chris Daughtry. This guy has front man written all over him. I just can't see him as a solo artist. How many solo rockers are there anyway? Can you name one? So he won't win either, and thank goodness for that.

So that gives us a top two of David Archuleta and Brooke White.
And no, I didn't really see that coming either but there is a certain logic it to it. What both David and Brooke have going for them is

the cute factor. They both make you go Awww which while it may be nauseating for those of us old enough to drive, it strikes a chord with 11 - 13 year old girls. And when it comes to a competition decided by rabid fans, there's no outrunning (or out-texting) a rampaging herd of preteen girls. (Pass the LipSmackers.) The upside of this is that if Archuleta wins AI will actually, finally crown someone with real talent. The downside is that he could use a couple of years yet to grow into that talent. So who will win in the end? My money's on the little guy.

Predictable? As sure as there will be tears and confetti on finals night. But even so, it's fun while it lasts. Hold on for the ride. Besides, you never really know what will happen when Americans vote. They did bring Dubya back for a second term . . . sorta.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Update: The powers that be at AI have heard my plea! As of sometime this afternoon, Jason Castro's rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is available from the Canadian iTunes store. Hurrah! I have my copy, do you have yours?

I heard the rumors, but had to head over to
YouTube to check this one out for myself. American Idol closing out the "Idols Gives Back" show with. . . a slightly edited version of "Shout to the Lord" ? I would have *loved* to have been in the room for that discussion. An interesting choice on so many levels. (And what's with the all-white ensembles?)

Also in the "Unexpected things from American Idol" folder this morning, Jason Castro's studio single of Somewhere Over the Rainbow is available for purchase from iTunes, sure, just not in Canada. Unexpected, and seriously disappointing. I don't doubt that this kid has a record contract in his future but this means I'm going to have to wait a whole lot longer to get my hands on this track. (He won't win Idol, and it won't matter a bit.) Unless someone with access to an American account on iTunes is feeling generous, this will have to do for now.

(And if the AI rights division is reading this, can you please, please try to work out the kinks to get Castro's full length version of Hallelujah available for purchase too? Pretty please?)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Shauna and the Sylvia

I have known Shauna for almost longer than I care to remember. (I insist on telling her that she might be old, but I most certainly am not.) Who knew that a bond forged over blue rainbow pencil boxes could last so long? This past week Shauna got on a jet plane and came to visit. Good times ensued.

I figured if Shauna could brave a flight across the country alone, I could attempt Vancouver traffic. Still not my favorite thing, but it was worth it. Shauna needed a recommendation for a hotel and I had to suggest The Sylvia. A stone and ivy colored old lady of a hotel right on English Bay, the Sylvia has been a Vancouver landmark since 1912. Many times I have gazed longingly at it while waiting for the Symphony of Fire to begin. (Ok ok I know it's now the "Celebration of Light" but the new name's nowhere near as good.)
It did not disappoint. Thursday afternoon the sun was out, mostly, so we took advantage of the weather to head down English Bay and take in the sites.We hopped the False Creek ferry over to Grandville Island. The market there is always a treasure trove of delights. One day I plan to drop some serious money in Paper-Ya. Granville does have some great window shopping. On Friday we took the hop-on hop-off trolley all around Vancouver. It was a great way to cut a huge swath through the city. Clearly I have some more exploring to do around here. There were parts of the city on the tour that I'd never seen before.
Friday evening we headed back to my place for some more tea and talking and Saturday I knew I had to take Shauna to see my beach.
We went for a long walk down the beach all the while studiously ignoring the fact that the wind was truly, truly wicked. Of course the only logical course of action was to go eat ice cream. We walked to the very best spot on the beach, or anywhere else, for frozen confections Dolce Gelato. Davide and Elizabeth are still there making edible art. It's almost too pretty to eat. Almost.... Good times.It was too early for supper at Shinjuko yet so we went to Reitman's. It has been long, long time since Shauna and I last got to go shopping together. I even managed to convince her to buy a dress (an easy sell really as she looked AMAZING in it). All too soon it was Sunday and time to take Shauna back into Vancouver. There was time for one last event -- Shauna's first ever Starbucks. Ah, Shauna my friend, first the sushi, now this. I'll turn you into a west coaster yet.