November 3, 2010

I didn't knit this!

I made my machine knit something. And it mostly doesn't suck!

I've been hand-knitting my stripey baby sweaters for years -- I've done at least 8 of them, possibly more. And I thought it'd be an ideal project to work on the machine, as well, especially as I was quite familiar with it.

This is the yarn, some cream, some green.


I started out by casting on with waste yarn. Bright orange waste yarn. So there's be no doubt which was the waste yarn, and which wasn't.


And I made some progress, and the stripes were not a problem at all, right up until they were. Oops.


I fixed that. And then I screwed it up again two rows later, and wasn't up to fixing it again, so I pulled it out and started again. It went better the second time around. I got the sleeve done.


And then, with some difficulty, I figured out how to add stitches and cast on the extra stitches for the front.


And some more for the back, which proved even more annoying than the front. I really need to think through where I want my needles before I do things. And really, really think them through, not just sort of guess.


I rejoined it all together to finish the rest of the body. Then I had to figure out how to knit just the sleeve stitches. Which was, I might add, also a giant pain.


But then, finally, it was done. For values of done that included, you know, not really, but all the stockinette was done anyway.


First I had to take a sleeve off to fix a teeny tiny missing row in the pattern. It's a good thing I bought a *lot* of KnitPicks interchangeable wires.


And then I grafted it back together. And grafted the sides. And sewed the sleeves.


And finally, I hand-knit all the ribbing. I suspect this is cheating in machine-knitting terms. But machine knitting is cheating in hand-knitting terms, so I figure it's even odds either way.

Here's the final product:




One down. Two more to go.

July 12, 2010

2 times 50 is a 100, right?

When this NYMag story about Del Posto's 100-layer lasagna first crossed my desk, it immediately caught my imagination. Nearly anyone on my IM contact list who has even a passing interest in food got an OMG! type IM from me with the link, because I love lasagna and that photograph is something else.

Without having a recipe or a sous chef, I set about to see if I could at least partially recreate the experience.

The first problem was pans. There's no scale in that NYMag picture, so it's hard to say how thick that lasagna actually is. I looked around at a few kitchen stores, and finally settled on some Wilton long loaf cake pans, which at 4 1/2 inches, were the deepest pans I could find without ordering something in special. There are 6 inch deep cake pans out there, but nobody seems to actually carry them routinely.

Having bought pans I will probably never use again (if anyone has suggestions for other things to use these pans for, please do let me know), I was committed to the project, and started looking around for sauce recipes. The article mentions Marinara, Bechamel and Ragu. I don't really need a recipe for marinara sauce, but while I can make a passable bechamel without a recipe, I wanted to get the proportions right for this lasagna.

I eventually settled on a Wild Boar Ragu recipe from Frank de Carlo at Peasant, but decided to use regular pork instead of Wild Boar, because, well, Wild Boar is expensive and pain-in-the-assy to acquire, and the things that make it great weren't likely to shine through in a dish as complicated as this lasagna.

For a bechamel, I opted to use the Cooks Illustrated recipe from their spinache lasagna, since I figured it'd me the right thickness for lasagna.

Even with recipes in hand, what I didn't have was any idea how much of anything I'd really need. The pans each hold 4 liters of water, so I estimated 2 liters of each sauce plus pasta. Then wildy overshot those marks in actually making the sauces, but what the hell. It's sauce. It freezes. Plus, I didn't think one giant can of San Marzano tomatoes was going to be quite enough, once I'd opened the second giant can of San Marzano tomatoes, I figured I should use more than a cup or two of them.

lasagna can

The lasagna was needed for a Saturday afternoon potluck, and would need most of Saturday to cook and congeal, so it was clear it had to be ready to go in the oven by end of day Friday. Calculating back through all the things that needed to be done, I started on Wednesday night, by prepping the pork and getting it in the marinade.

lasagna marinade

Thursday night, I didn't have a lot of time due to other commitments, but I did take an hour and a half to prep 8lbs of fresh pasta dough. I had a feeling that might be overkill, but one carton of eggs worth of dough (4lbs) didn't seem likely to be enough, and I don't really eat eggs anyway, so saving half of the second carton of eggs didn't seem all that useful. Plus, as with the sauces, I was far more worried about running out than having too much.

lasagna noodles

Friday morning, I got up early and browned the pork, added the other ingredients for the ragu and set it in the oven to braise away while I was working.

lasagna fry

lasagna ragu before

I also threw a pot of marinara on the stove to bubble merrily throughout the morning.

lasagna marinara

I took both the marinara and the ragu off heat around lunch time to give them a chance to cool down a fair bit before I had to work with them. Took advantage of the giant vat of ragu, rolled out a smidgen of the pasta and tried it for lunch. Needed salt. Glad I tasted it.

I knocked off work about 5pm, at which point the two red sauces were cool. I fished all the pork out of the ragu, shredded it with a couple of forks, blended the rest of the sauce, and returned the pork to it.

lasagna ragu after

As I was doing that, I was also making the bechamel. As with every single other time I've ever tried to multi-task while making bechamel, I came to regret it.

lasagna burnt

Sigh. Fortunately, I burnt that before the grocery stores closed for the evening. I ran off to get new ingredients, my mental list comprising milk, garlic and caffeine. The caffeine wasn't so much for the recipe as for the chef. I probably should have drank some at the grocery store, and I wouldn't have forgotten the garlic. Fortunately, I had double forgotten the garlic, because in adding it to my mental list, I had forgotten that I had chopped way too much of it for the first batch, and that there was still more than enough in a ziploc baggy in my fridge. Yay for my lousy short term memory!

The new bechamel was much better, in so far as it didn't taste like carbon. It was a little garlicky, but garlic > carbon.

lasagna bechamel

A little trial and error determined that 1.5 ounces of pasta dough rolled to the lowest setting on my machine almost precisely filled my pans, and I was off with the layering -- marinara - pasta - bechamel - pasta - ragu - pasta - repeat. I managed to fit 8 iterations of that in my pan, finishing off with a layer of marinara, and then planned to add cheese for the 50th layer half way through baking. I could have added a couple extra layers to each pan, but 50 seemed like a much nicer number than 53 or 57 or whatever it might have eventually worked out to.

By the time the second pan was layered and nestled in the fridge, it was a little after midnight.

lasagna before

The next morning, I got up, popped both pans into the oven under tin foil and left them alone for awhile. With an hour left in my totally guesstimated bake time, I took them out and applied fresh mozarella.

Or, to be more precise, I applied fresh mozzarella to the first pan, in my usual manner of doing these things: a little for the pan, a little for the chef, a little for the pan, a little for the chef.

As I started the second pan, I was going through the same motions. A little for the pan, a little for the ... blech ptooey! The second ball of mozza was definitely bad. I pulled off the slice I'd already applied and finished the second pan with a layer of parmegiano reggiano instead.

Another hour in the oven, and they were ready for their glamour shot:

lasagna oven

I mean to get an action shot in the pan at the potluck, but I was otherwise occupied with scoping out everyong else's food. Once the first slice came out, it was a lot easier to serve than I'd expected. A long metal spatula did the trick quite readily.

Here's what it looked like on the plate:

lasagna plate

The NYMag article also mentions that they pan fry the leftovers for the lunch menu at Del Posto, and there were leftovers, so, hey. Refried lasagna? What's not to love?

lasagna fried

And plated with some leftover ragu and bechamel:

lasagna sauce

I actually liked it much better re-fried and covered in sauce than I did when it was fresh. My overall impression is that there was too much pasta and not enough sauce in my version. It ended up being kind of brickish and heavy. I think the pasta needs to be much thinner (but my machine doesn't go any thinner, so I'd have to have done that manually) and the sauce layers thicker to give it more balance. I also think I'd use a much thinner bechamel, to make those layers less gluey, as well.

Still, it was a fun little project. Now what else can I make in these pans?

July 6, 2010

Bookclub Discussion Questions: The Reluctant Widow

I've long told my bookclub I was going to make them read a romance novel, so this month, I did. Unfortunately, the one I chose -- The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer -- was a little slight on the romance angle, more of a mystery, really, but here were the questions I prepared.

1. Do you typically read romance novels? Why or why not?

2. What about other examples of what's thought of as 'genre fiction' as opposed to literary fiction -- horror, mystery, fantasy, sf, etc. Do you read any of them?

3. Georgette Heyer basically invented the Regency romance genre, attempting to emulate the novels of Jane Austen, with 150 years between them. If you've read Austen, does the Reluctant Widow genuinely compare? Were you aware of when the book was written? Would you have guessed if you didn't know?

4. Kathleen Woodiwiss is said to have invented 'modern romance' in 1972, with The Flame and The Flower, the first book to have followed the characters into the bedroom. Heyer's predates the bodice-ripper innovation, so there's no physical affection between the characters in her books (other than one kiss, typically). Do you have a preference for style?

5. One common criticism of romance novels is that the romance itself seems to arise out of nothing -- characters with little in common and no real reason to fall in love other than that they did. Did the romance itself feel believable in this novel?

6. What about the mystery element?

7. Genre tropes:
* mystery or farce elements in the plot
* references to the Ton (le bon ton)
* a secondary romance between another couple in addition to the more serious story involving the main protagonists
* mistaken identity, deliberate or otherwise
* false engagements
* marriages of convenience
* depictions of activities common during the social season such as balls, routs, carriage riding, theatre events, fittings, suppers, assemblies, etc.
* references to, or descriptions of, leisure activities engaged in by fashionable young men of the period, including riding, driving, boxing, gambling, fencing, shooting, etc.

8. A common subject of debate around Regencies is the level of details into things like carriages, pelisses, dances and the like. Did you find the world seems fully inhabitable or would you have liked more or less details about the setting?

April 1, 2009

Midtown Bookclub: Divisadero


by Michael Ondaatje

From the Publisher:
In the 1970s in northern California, near Gold Rush country, a father and his teenage daughters, Anna and Claire, work their farm with the help of Coop, an enigmatic young man who makes his home with them. Theirs is a makeshift family, until it is riven by an incident of violence — of both hand and heart — that sets fire to the rest of their lives.

Divisadero takes us from the city of San Francisco to the raucous backrooms of Nevada’s casinos, and eventually to the landscape of south central France. It is here, outside a small rural village, that Anna becomes immersed in the life and the world of a writer from an earlier time — Lucien Segura. His compelling story, which has its beginnings at the turn of the century, circles around “the raw truth” of Anna’s own life, the one she’s left behind but can never truly leave. And as the narrative moves back and forth in time and place, we discover each of the characters managing to find some foothold in a present rough-hewn from the past.

Breathtakingly evoked and with unforgettable characters, Divisadero is a multi-layered novel about passion, loss, and the unshakable past, about the often discordant demands of family, love, and memory. It is Michael Ondaatje’s most intimate and beautiful novel to date.

Because I disliked thinking about this book so very, very much, I didn't want to take the time to create my own questions about it, and I ended up simply using the somewhat repetitive ones from Random House's Divisadero Reading Guide. That said, I didn't hate reading it -- Ondaatje does have a way of putting sentences together that makes me enjoy the process of reading it -- but when I got to the end, I could barely remember the beginning. Nothing about the plot or characters was compelling or memorable, and it would be hard to have a 2 hour discussion about the flow of language.

That seemed to form the consensus opinion at the club -- some people loved and others didn't love the actual language used -- but in general, people thought the story felt incomplete, and more like a series of vignettes than an actual novel.

We debated a bit whether the quasi-incestuous angle on Anna & Coop's relationship is what drove her father to his particularly strong reaction. We also talked about the impracticalities of the early story, and of a single father with a farm to run also raising two infants with no apparent help other than a 4 year old.

It also lead to a discussion on why so many novels that we've read and found seriously flawed have ended up winning big awards -- is it politics or reputation or what?

March 16, 2009

Ex-Midtown Bookclub: Late Nights on Air

Late Nights On Air

-- Elizabeth Hay

From the Publisher:
The eagerly anticipated novel from the bestselling author of A Student of Weather and Garbo Laughs.

Harry Boyd, a hard-bitten refugee from failure in Toronto television, has returned to a small radio station in the Canadian North. There, in Yellowknife, in the summer of 1975, he falls in love with a voice on air, though the real woman, Dido Paris, is both a surprise and even more than he imagined.

Dido and Harry are part of the cast of eccentric, utterly loveable characters, all transplants from elsewhere, who form an unlikely group at the station. Their loves and longings, their rivalries and entanglements, the stories of their pasts and what brought each of them to the North, form the centre. One summer, on a canoe trip four of them make into the Arctic wilderness (following in the steps of the legendary Englishman John Hornby, who, along with his small party, starved to death in the barrens in 1927), they find the balance of love shifting, much as the balance of power in the North is being changed by the proposed Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline, which threatens to displace Native people from their land.

On the whole, our group did not love this book, though a couple of people did. They felt strongly that it was missing a plot, and that the canoe trip, in failing to involve the some of the main characters in the novel, was an inadequate climax to the book. They also felt many of the characters failed to exhibit any real emotional growth, and that far too many more interesting stories were left unresolved in favor of an big finish that didn't seem to tie into the remainder of the book at all.

There was also a great deal of discussion about how much the perspective offered in the book was limited to a white outsider's view of things, and whether it was a deliberate, self-aware choice, or merely a result of the author's limited vision.

There was also a lot of confusion on basic plot points like who was sleeping with who, that might have been a deliberate effort on the part of Hay, but in the reading, it was less a tantalizing mystery and more an inability to keep track of what we were supposed to being tantalized by in this chapter.

March 1, 2009

Midtown Bookclub: Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed -- Emily Giffin

Something Borrowed

From Indigo:
Rachel is an attorney living and working in Manhattan who has always been the good girl-until her thirtieth birthday, when her best friend Darcy throws her a party. That night after too many drinks Rachel ends up in bed with Darcy''s fiancee. Although she wakes up determined to put the one-night fling behind her, Rachel is horrified to discover that she has genuine feelings for him.

As the September wedding date nears, Rachel has to choose. She discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren''t always neat, and sometimes you have to risk it all to win true happiness.

On the whole, our members were not impressed with Something Borrowed. They found the characters shallowly drawn and unlikable. Still, the discussion managed to be quite active, as a chorus of dislike.

We did find it a useful place to jump off into a discussion of life paths, and the expectations that women have vs. the realities of their lives.

The questions we used were partially based on the book group guide in the book itself, partially made up:

Did you think the characters were likable in general? What about Rachel, Darcy and Dex specifically? Did you like any of the supporting characters?

Did Rachel sleep with Dex because Rachel wanted it? Because Dex wanted it? Because it would hurt Darcy? All of the above?

Rachel does a lot of moral math on who betrayed who and basically comes up with Darcy as the evillest amongst the group. Did her math add up?

Is Rachel & Darcy's friendship genuine? Why does Rachel defend Darcy from attacks she basically agrees with?

Some editions include the first couple of chapters of Something Blue, covering the same ground from Darcy's perspective. Did you read them? Did they change your perspective?

How much does Rachel's self-image contribute to her relationship problems?

What's Dex's motivation in all of this? How much is he running to Rachel and how much is he running away from Darcy?

At what point does Rachel make decisions and take responsibility for the situation with Dex?

The Midtown Bookclub Reading List, including past, future and possible reads.

August 21, 2008

Banning Bottled Water

London, Ontario, has banned bottled water sales on city owned property.

It's limited to places that have other sources of water (fountains) and thus, at first blush, seems like a grand idea. People will still be able to get water, and they won't have to pay for it, and it won't come in a bunch of waste plastic.

A second thought, though, reveals the unmitigated dumb of it. Water fountains? That's the alternative?

Water fountains can't be taken to your seat. Water fountains don't give you 500ml of water at a time. Water fountains aren't particularly hygienic given the way people tend to use them. The water in water fountains is very often nasty and warm.

If I'm buying lunch and I can't buy a bottle of water, I'm not going to think 'well, let me run off and find a water fountain that I may or may not actually be willing to drink out of once I see it', I'm going to buy a diet coke.

The end result of banning bottled water sales isn't going to be less plastic, it's going to be more caffeine, and, since most people don't drink diet coke, more calories.

July 31, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

A Chow Pick entry reminded me of another food 'moment' that I remember with fondness.

I was flying home for the holidays and it was a hell of connecting flights (as it always was in the early days of WestJet) and weather and staffing delays (as it usually is at Christmas), and after being on planes and in airports all day, I wasn't going to make it home. They were offering two choices -- I could overnight in Calgary and catch a 6am home the next morning, or I could fly on to Vancouver that night, overnight there, and catch an 8am flight home.

Since I was already exhausted, not to mention starving as I'd eaten nothing but snack packs of nuts for about 12 hours, and kind of upset since I'd planned to be home that day, I opted to stay in Calgary. Another flight that night I didn't need, and while a 6AM airport run wasn't exactly my idea of a good time, at that point, I didn't care. Plus, 6AM in Calgary is 8AM in Toronto, so it wasn't quite as early as it sounded.

The airline agreed to put me up in a hotel as a distressed passenger, and distressed was surely the right word for it. I was on the edge of tears as I gathered my luggage and headed out to catch a shuttle to the Hilton Garden Inn.

As I got into the shuttle, the driver turned to me with a friendly smile, and asked me if I'd like a chocolate chip cookie.

If you'd asked me a minute before what I wanted most in the world, I probably would have said sleep, but as it turns out, no. Chocolate chip cookie was definitely the answer. Still warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. He could have offered me a million dollars instead, and I think I'd have taken the cookie.

The Hilton Garden Inn did several other wonderful things that night that helped make one distressed passenger a whole lot less distressed (including keeping their restaurant open late to serve one last cover) but the thing I remember most is the chocolate cookie. I don't think I've ever cried over food before or since.

June 24, 2008

Hag Days

So, despite my request, someone asked me to explain Hag Days. I'm going to try, but I think it's possible that Hag Days might actually be inexplicable.

Hag Days was an annual event in Bear Lake, and it was a strange town festival, the sort of thing you might have expected to see in Stars Hollow, except so totally politically incorrect that it couldn't possibly have happened in Stars Hollow.

The core of Hag Days was a competition amongst teams. They all wore funny costumes, and one particular person per team would be 'The Hag' -- dressed in the funniest, ugliest, batty old lady costume. Teams would participate in a variety of vaguely embarrassing, quasi-sexual, semi-athletic events and at the end of the day, one of the teams would win. For certain values of win that include 'managed to humiliate themselves faster and better than all the other teams'.

For non-competing people, there'd often be a children's fun fair, a potluck dinner or a pancake breakfast, and the general joy of watching people humiliate themselves in public. It was like a Japanese game show crossed with a Fourth of July picnic.

June 17, 2008

5 Food Moments

I mentioned the top 5 best things I've ever eaten, now not necessarily the best foods I've eaten, but some fun food related moments and my favorite food anecdotes.

In no particular order:

Kitchen Table Tasting Menu at Colborne Lane. Yes, this also made the top 5 food list, but it was more than just one truly mind blowing bit of cod. Even though not every dish was fantastic, the evening was. A mix of great, foodie friends, really excellent service, fine food and jokes about the women at the top of the stairs made this a perfect birthday.

Some random chocolate shop in Queens. We were on our way from one place to another place when Jim decided that we needed to try this chocolate shop he loved. He called them, and they weren't open, but since they were in the shop making chocolates anyway, they opened up. They had no idea who we were, just random people who wanted to try the chocolates. In we went, ducking under the metal gates and bought out chocolates and went on our way.

The Bear Lake Hag Days (I'm not even going to try to explain Hag Days. I don't think I could do it justice.) when I won 5 cakes in the cake walk. My mother was appalled. But we had a freezer full of cakey goodness for months!

Jamie, Linda, Louise and I, residents of the celebrity dorm room at Twangfest 9, were driving back from Twangpin when we passed the St. Louis Penzey's. 'Oh my god! Penzey's!' Jamie, Linda and I shouted in unison, as Jamie slammed on the brakes. 'What's a Penzey?' Louise (who is British, and can't be expected to know these things) asked, amidst the whiplash. We stopped and introduced her to one of the great spice stores ever.

The SF chowhound picnic was a real highlight of my year last year. Dozens of hungry hounds all chowing down on the best of the best that each of them could come up with. And after an entire afternoon of nibbling and noshing, we followed that up with a post-picnic dinner. But because we had time to kill between the picnic and dinner, we inserted a pre-post-picnic-dinner dinner. SF chowhounds really know how to work meals into their day.

June 2, 2008

Top 5 of Deliciousness

I've been trying to make a mental list of the top five most delicious things I've ever eaten. It's a tough call since, of course, I've eaten a whole lot of very delicious things. I've also eaten a lot of very mediocre things that kind of all run together. In no particular order, I would choose the following:

Miso Black Cod at Colborne Lane. I was there for the kitchen table tasting, and this was approximately dish 6 out of 15 very interesting dishes. It was without a doubt the standout. It was perfectly cooked, lightly sweet and totally wonderful.

Ricotta, spices and honey at the home of a friend. The ricotta was bought fresh on Arthur Avenue in New York city, and topped with a bit of fleur de sel and herbs de provence and some single origin honey. Despite the fancy description, it was relatively basic food, but so much subtlety in the flavor really set it apart.

Fresh pineapple, Maui. We had some really fantastic fresh pineapple in Dominica, but the stuff in Hawaii was even better. So fresh, so juicy, so sweet.

Grilled pineapple, Red Violin. Apparently I really like pineapple. They lightly grill it with cinnamon and sugar, so the juices are really flowing. It gets just a little bit caramelized on the outside, as well.

Nutella on crusty buns, my Oma's house. This was a childhood favorite, before you could commonly get Nutella in North America. When we'd visit her in Germany, we'd go in the morning for fresh crusty buns from the nearby bakery, and then slather the still warm buns with runny, melty, chocolatey goodness.

March 31, 2008

Kiva Loans

February 15, 2008

Dear DJ

Dear DJs, Music Directors, Station Manager, Receptionist and anyone else who works at Country 95.3 and could, at any point, have said 'Hey, that's a stupid idea!' but didn't.

I can understand the attraction of a feature called 'Legends of Country Music'. You get to tell a neat story about an artist. You get to play a catalogue track without anyone complaining that it's old, since that's the point. You get to mention Country95.3 an average of 95.3 times during the intro. You get to record the intros in advance so you get something that sounds like a live DJ while your actual DJ is getting a blowjob from the nearest indy promoter. All very good reasons for introducing such a feature.

But really, Kenny Chesney?


February 13, 2008

Unanswering Machine

If someone leaves a voicemail or answering machine message which is very clearly a wrong number. Do you call them back:

A) Most of the time -- I want them to know their call didn't reach the right person.
B) If it sounded really important, like they thought they were leaving a message for their doctor or something.
C) Never -- it's not my problem they can't dial.

January 10, 2008

Notes from the Condo Board Meeting

That's right, my building doesn't even exist yet, but already, we have condo board meetings. Or, actually, what we have are co-op meetings, even though the building will be a condo, not a co-op, since it's being built on behalf of a co-op of the owners who will then sell the units to the individual owners at the time of the incorporation of the condo. Makes perfect sense, no?

I'm amused to find that I seem to have pre-emptively co-founded a stitch n' bitch group at the building which, I once again note, does not actually exist. I walked into the meeting and saw someone else knitting so I asked her if that was the knitting section of the room. She laughed and said yes. A few minutes later someone else came in and sat with us and pulled out her knitting. Now the three of us have all traded email addresses and guild information.

It sounds like construction has, not surprisingly, been pushed back a few months. I could've guessed that by the fact that they haven't yet knocked down the old building. On the other hand, the occupancy order has been altered, because they're going to start the phase 2 building first, and then occupy the two buildings simultaneously. This means that despite construction being pushed back 3 months, I will, if things go to plan (ha!) probably get into my unit earlier than previously expected since I'll have one of the earliest occupancy dates -- probably in the second month out of 10 months of occupancy dates.

It never occurred to me, but apparently one of the biggest reasons why it takes so long to occupy a building is not, you know, waiting for it to be finished, but that once it is finished, you can only move a few units in a day because of a lack of elevators. The things you learn!

November 14, 2007

Useful Advice

Someone once gave me some very useful advice that I was reminded of earlier today. I was freaking out over some bureaucratic snafu that I couldn't immediately resolve. I think it had to do with my driver's license.

He said, "Imagine for a moment, a world in which this has happened before."

And I replied, "What, are you kidding? Of course this has happened before."

And he, sage man that he was, said, "Exactly."

October 20, 2007

Fun Paragraph of the Day

The Cook and Housekeeper's Complete and Universal Dictionary
Mary Eaton

CANCER. It is asserted by a
French practitioner, that this cruel
disorder may be cured in three days,
by the following simple application,
without any surgical operation whatever.
Knead a piece of dough about
the size of a pullet's egg, with the
same quantity of hog's lard, the older
the better; and when they are
thorougly[**sic] blended, so as to form a
kind of salve, spread it on a piece
of white leather, and apply it to the
part affected. This, if it do no good,
is perfectly harmless.--A plaster for
an eating cancer may be made as
follows. File up some old brass,
and mix a spoonful of it with mutton
suet. Lay the plaster on the
cancer, and let it remain till the cure
is effected. Several persons have
derived great benefit from this application,
and it has seldom been
known to fail.

August 1, 2007

House Shopping Rants #2: Less than informative websites

I realize that condo construction isn't really a web sort of business. It's fundamentally brick-and-mortar in a way that few businesses are. At the same time, developers are building websites for their developments, so they obviously see some value there. So why do so many of those websites suck so very, very badly?

Few websites contain more information than the print advertisements in New Homes & Condos. Some, and I'm looking at you, Sophia Condos, actually have less info on their website than in their print ads. Less! Nowhere on the web page does it even say *where* the development is going to be. But they do have that lovely flash intro of kaleidoscoping vaguely European things, so I guess that makes up for not having the slightest idea where I'd end up living if I bought a condo there. A map to the sales center, when the sales center is not on the actual build site is not an acceptable substitute for location information, Plaza Royale.

Pricing information is rare as hell, which is sort of to be expected. They want you to keep in mind that 'suites from $189K' advertised price instead of the reality that anything larger than your couch is actually closer to $300K. But would it be so hard for more sites to have floor plans available? Preferably on a page that doesn't require individually clicking on each cutesy suite name to load the corresponding painfully slow PDF file?

Here's another fun idea--how about some idea where the complex is in the development process? It'd sure be helpful to have an idea whether prospective move-ins were this year, next year or in 2027 when they finally sell enough of those damned units to start construction, no? I don't need firm dates, but some ballpark figure would be nice. I know they have them, because if you find newspaper or condo mag articles on the developments, they'll list them there. So why not on the website?

July 31, 2007

House Shopping Rants #1: Marble Lobbies

A ridiculously large amount of time and web real estate is spent lovingly displaying artist's renderings of the inevitable marble and chrome detailed lobbies with 20 foot ceilings. And then you get half hearted line drawings of the layouts of the actual suites with minimal information about them beyond the square footage. Given that I'm interested in buying a place to live, and not a place to hang out and chat with the equally inevitable 24 hour 'concierge' (by which they mean an underpaid, unqualified security guard in a black turtleneck), I fail to see the attraction of these mammoth lobbies.

No one hangs out in the lobby of their condo building. Sure, it might impress your guests for about 2 seconds before they hop on the elevator, but they're pretty likely to notice that while your lobby has leather furniture and 20 foot ceilings and marble walls, your actual condo has IKEA, claustrophobia and scratches in duralex semi-gloss because you're paying maintenance on a lobby you never even see (since you enter via the parking garage) instead of using that money for something you might actually enjoy.


The brochures for the Canadian Sewing and Needlework Festival (now called something dorky that I refuse to acknowledge) have arrived!

The current iteration of my planning spreadsheet.

Events are colour coded as sewing / knitting / feature presentation. Choices are in order of preference from top to bottom. I have 27 class hours to schedule, so I won't get something in all those timeslots unless I add another day's worth of classes.