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Not spring yet…

It was a beautiful day today, but I’m not ready to call spring yet. Yes I know the red-wings blackbirds have arrived. The sparrows in the back yard have started nesting. That’s all good but it’s not spring. First of all, there are still snowy owls hanging around the hood. One of our friends saw one perched on the chimney of the yacht club today. Aren’t they supposed to fly back up north when winter is over, and eat lemmings or something like that? Speaking of the yacht club, the other marker for spring around here is the day the big crane shows up and they start moving all the yachts from dry-dock into the harbour. When I see that, I think OK it’s official, spring has arrived. Stuff can start growing now and all the other spring events can get going in earnest. For now, it’s pretty nice out there for a late winter day.

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Sourdough pizza

Here in Toronto, thin crust pizzas are popular, and apparently “authentic” especially if made in a wood-fired oven. That’s not the pizza I made today. I decided to try using my sourdough monster for pizza. The other idea I wanted to try out was making pizza in a cast iron skillet. IMG_8950.jpg

Both ideas worked out just fine. Crust was fairly thick with a nice chew, great flavour, and a bit of crispiness on the bottom.

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Electrician’s bad dream


I snapped this photo when we were in Saigon. We were walking from the war museum to the monument marking the spot where the Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức burned himself to death in June of 1963 to protest persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government.

We had made a decision to not buy any data for our phones, mostly because we didn’t want to be those people who traveled halfway across the world, only to stare like zombies at the same little screen we could see back home. That decision meant we were using old-fashioned paper maps to find our way around. Sometimes when we were a bit lost and asked people for directions, they looked at our map then looked at us like we were nuts and suggested politely we just use our phone.

Navigating by the inaccurate little hotel map, we overshot our destination, and that’s how it happened we came upon the hydro nightmare in the photo. It’s just like Saigon, over-the-top. The city is vast and sprawling. High-test. Overwhelming. Eight and a half million people live there and it seems as if they’re all out on their motorbikes at once.


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The best phở in Vietnam

I was at home this afternoon, practicing the fiddle, and what should cross my mind but the best phở in Vietnam.


I enjoyed this bowl in Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, served with heaps of herbs, limes, and sliced red chilies. Serious soup.

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Sandy River Belle

I’ve been participating in the “tune of the month” at a Facebook group called Clawhammer Rules. This month’s tune is called Sandy River Belle. It’s a tune I used to play quite a bit in a specialized tuning known as, what else, Sandy River Belle tuning. Along the way I stopped playing the tune. I think this was because I only changed to that tuning for this one tune. Over the past few days, I re-learned the tune in standard G tuning and it turns out I really enjoy playing it.

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Ruby Update


It’s been 5 days since her surgery and Ruby continues to recover well. Her incision looks good, and she’s starting to put some weight on her hind left – that’s the knee which has been surgically fixed up. Her appetite is getting better too. She’s still on antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory. Next week she goes back to the surgeon for a check. At some point, she will have to get the other knee done too, as she’s torn both cruciate ligaments, but I’m not sure yet when that will happen. Ideally, it will be after the first one fully heals.

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Loaf #8 – first sourdough rye

The other day I bought some rye flour and decided I would try making a sourdough rye. The intelligent thing to do would have been to lever the knowledge of someone with a little expertise and follow a formula. Did I do that? Nope. For no particular reason I decided to use 1/3 rye flour and 2/3 unbleached bread flour. I’m gaining a fair idea of how wheat flour works in the this process so I thought adding some rye flour for flavour without overwhelming the mix with it would be the way to go. In the future I’ll mess around with some different ratios to see what happens.

This dough -1had plenty of fermentation going on (first fermentation this time about 9 hours and proofing about an hour and a half), but the dough lacked structural stability. While it multiplied nicely during the first fermentation, it didn’t hold height when I shaped it. Had I researched a little before diving headlong into bread baking, I might have tried gently folding the dough a few times during the fermentation to build up the structural strength I was looking for. Next time I’ll try that. While the bread didn’t achieve the vertical height I had hoped for, it was otherwise excellent. I coated the towel I wrapped the dough in for the proofing with bran this time rather than corn meal. It’s decidedly different and quite nice on this loaf. The crust is not too thick but nice and crunchy and the crumb is softer than my previous breads. As usual I baked this loaf at 500F in my Dutch oven, 30 minutes covered and 15 minutes uncovered. The crust came out a nice deep brown colour.

Most importantly, this is a super-delicious bread.

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Partners in crime reunited


Ruby is resting quietly today. I’ve taken the Elizabethan collar off as long as I’m here to supervise and make sure she doesn’t lick or scratch her incision. I put it back on anytime I have to leave her or can’t watch her. She’s taking a painkiller + an anti-inflammatory + antibiotics. She hasn’t got much appetite today. Hopefully that will come back soon.

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Chip Taylor at Hugh’s Room

Chip Taylor is a phony name, to use his expression. He made it up when he was in the rock ‘n’ roll business. James Wesley Voight grew up Yonkers NY, but his family had radio and he discovered country music, which became his love.  We’re familiar with the period of his work when he performed with Carrie Rodriguez, records like The New Bye & Bye and Let’s Leave this Town. Maybe you know him because he’s the guy who wrote Wild Thing and Angel of the Morning or maybe because he has a famous actor brother.

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Chip Taylor played a wonderful show at Hugh’s Room tonight, accompanied by bass player Tony Mercadante, along with Taylor’s own guitar, a harmonica in a rack, and loads of stories about the songs and his own life as a songwriter, performer, and for a time, professional gambler –

Sometimes the songs start as stories and they’re songs before you realize it happened. Taylor’s approach to performing is understated, often laid back, often tender. He’s 77 now and has just released a great new collection of songs called Fix Your Words. Tonight’s show featured a mix of new and old, famous and obscure.

Here’s a video from YouTube – one of the songs Chip Taylor performed at the Hugh’s Room show.

Great show.