Gena's Peanut Butter Balls

For years up until she passed away a few years ago, my mom would send us a big container of Peanut Butter Balls at Christmas time, because they were always one of my favorite treats that she made. And in later years it was also an extra incentive for her that one of my sons loved them as much as I did (the other is not so big on peanut butter)

Here is her recipe - we made it with pecans instead of walnuts - and I think it was a good change.

  • 1 cup nuts ( 100g ), crushed smallish
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup crisp rice cereal
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Making Fermented Dill Pickles

We did not make any of Dills last year, but are currently down to our very last bottle so I definitely had to this year! My oldest son is the biggest pickle eater in the house, and now that he is nine I figured it was well time he could chip in with a good deal of the work on these. And thankfully he was eager to do just that.

Make sure that you are buying freshly picked cukes for your dills. These are #1 size, which are the smallest and also the most expensive. Size does not really matter so get whatever size you like. Just make sure the fruit are firm and crisp, and that you clean them well and check each and every one of them for imperfections. Tiny imperfections or soft spots can be cut out, but larger ones mean you should just discard the whole thing. I was really impressed with this half bushel - there were only four discards in the whole thing!

Microsoft Support Scam

This is the second time in a week now that someone has tried to take me on this scam, so I thought I should write up something quick about it. It is a really simple one - you get a call on the phone from someone claiming to be Microsoft Technical Support, calling about the problems you have been having. And of course given the sheer number of people who have trouble with Microsoft, I guess they get a fair number of people who fall for it. This time I decided to play along a lot further and both kill as much time of theirs as I could, as well as try to find out more information about them.

Samba Ottawa

Last night was the annual Samba Ottawa event at the park at the end of our street. Samba has its origins in Brazil, and of course Wikipedia can tell you far more about that than I can. My first experience with Samba was when I was living in Cologne, Germany in the early 90s. Cologne has a massive Karneval prior to Catholic Lent, just like Brazil does, so I would suppose this is the connection which brings Samba to Cologne. During the week of Karneval Samba bands roam the streets thumping their drums, playing their music, and competing to try to get the most number of people following them. At our annual even in Hintonburg, the Samba band plays stationary for a good while, then keeps the tradition alive by parading around the park once or twice, and then a short distance up the street.

My New Sauerkraut Setup

Some minor changes in my setup - I wanted to go with smaller buckets but had a fair bit of difficulty finding something of the right diameter to hold the cabbage below the brine level - then it struck me that I could easily cut the bottom out of one of the buckets and use it. Afterall, I'd gotten them for free.

In Memory of my Father

Leo F. McKay spent most of his working life fighting for the rights of other people - mainly the little guy. He passed away last night in his sleep, in his comfy chair at home. He was born in the late 1920s, and left school in his teens in the early 40s, when he went directly into the workforce as a labourer. I cannot say with certainty what his first job was, but I do know that he spent a great deal of time at the Car Works in Trenton, where he helped make rail cars. It was here where he first got involved in the labour movement which would consume his entire life. In fact, a few weeks ago after he found out he had terminal cancer that would soon take his life, Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, had heard about my father’s condition and phoned him in the hospital to thank him for a lifetime of hard work fighting for the rights of regular working people. That call meant a great deal to my father.

Even though I think a lot of my rebellion as a teenager was against my father for various reasons, I still held the utmost respect for him, and consider it his influence that has molded me into the person I am today. When we found out 5 or 6 weeks ago that he did not have much time left, I called him up on the phone to tell him something that was very important to me. I asked him if he remembered an incident way back when I was about 12 years old. He took me aside one time and said something like “Pal, I want to ask something of you. I want to ask that when you are out chumming around with your friends, that you never refer to me as ‘The Old Man’”. He did remember that, and when I called him that day I told him that not once in my life did I ever call him “The Old Man”. I always remembered that and never once did it. Even when I was rebelling against him, I had the utmost respect for him, and always honoured that wish of his.

Bytown Beanery - Our New Coffee Business

I've been waiting for the right time to write about this here but there never seems to be one. One of the key reasons there has not been much activity on this site lately is that my wife and I have started up a new coffee roasting company called Bytown Beanery. Actually we had another name very briefly, but it ended up being way too similar to another local company, as we found out after-the-fact, so we wracked our brains for a week or two until we finally came up with a name that we like a lot better anyway.

If you live in Ottawa, our business model is that we custom roast for you. That is to say that if you ask for "a pound of whatever we have on hand", you'll get nothing, because we don't keep anything roasted on hand. The reason for this is that we want people to experience just how fantastic coffee is when it is freshly roasted, and we've been doing exactly that for the last month or so. You can click through to our website for more details.

When The Nightmare Comes..

My middle son started suffering badly from nightmares back in the Fall. I would awake to him screaming in his sleep, to him gently shaking me awake, or to him curled up at the foot of our bed — I shudder to think of the number of times I might have kicked at him, thinking he was the cat!

At first I tried talking to him about them — attempting to see if there was any link between them and something else going on in his life — but I eventually realized they’re likely a resurgence of the nightmares he had as a toddler, so I started focusing on teaching him coping strategies.

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