Last July Matt called me at the office, to ask me a very important question after spending much of the morning with Zack digging up our crab grass infested lawn:
“Umm… I got a whole bunch of dirt here, you want to make a garbage can pizza oven?”
DO I EVER!
Let’s back up though. How did I know what the hell Matt was talking about?
Well, a few years ago my friend Daniel went to South Africa for an internship with an architectural firm. He returned to Canada with a bunch of terrifying stories of how dangerous and corrupt Cape Town is. . . and some good stories too about cool things that he did (though those ones seem to escape me). Anyway, he also came back with a cookbook for me:
Cooked in Africa by Justin Bonello (which I talked about here)
I’ve only tried a handful of recipes from it, but one that I had been wanting to do since I got the cookbook was the Dustbin Pizza, not just to piss off the neighbours by building a hideous hobo oven in my backyard but also because wood oven pizza is probably the best food in the world.
So I picked up a metal trash can (Edited to add: Make sure you get a garbage can that is not galvanized!) and Matt, Zack, and I got to building the oven when I got home.
How to Build a Garbage Can Pizza Oven:
1) Lay some soil down as a base for the ungalvanized metal garbage can.
Clay soil apparently has the best insulating properties, but we just used whatever we dug up out of our lawn.
2) Lay the garbage can (on its side) on top of the base soil and pack more soil around and on top of the garbage can. Again, the soil will help insulate the fire.
3) Acquire a square pizza stone for baking the pizza on.
Ours is actually rectangular measuring 14”x16”. We originally tried using a stone that was longer than 16”, but it was impeding oxygen flow to the fire so the fire wouldn’t stay lit. It might take some trial and error to figure out what size is best for the trash can.
So we made the oven last summer, but didn’t actually get a chance to cook anything on it until last night! I finally bought a new, appropriately sized pizza stone this weekend so we were able to make our first home made wood-fired pizzas.
How to Make Pizza in the Garbage Can Pizza Oven:
1) Start a fire at the back of the oven.
We set up 2 logs and some small kindling branches and got the fire started with a bit of newspaper. It didn’t take long to catch with the newspaper and the kindling.
The flames were pretty intense: I realized this later when I rubbed my forehead and found that I had actually singed off some of my hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes! That’s intense. Maybe just 1 log next time?
2) Place the stone in front of the fire and allow it to heat up.
We definitely didn’t let our stone heat up for long enough so the bottoms of the pizza didn’t get as crispy as I would have liked. It could probably use a good 10 minutes or so before putting the pizza on it.
3) Slide the pizza onto the stone using a pizza peel thoroughly dusted with semolina or cornmeal.
If you don’t have a pizza peel, you can use the back of a baking sheet instead. It works relatively well as a substitute. We put in two pizzas at a time because they were only about 6”. If you make a larger pizza you’ll probably cook one at a time.
4) Keep oven mitts and a set of tongs handy to rotate the pizzas as necessary.
Obviously, this oven is hot, so oven mitts are a must.
Keep an eye on the pizzas and make sure you don’t burn them like we did with this first batch. Woopsie!
Batch 2: Much better
5) Enjoy your hard earned pizza!
I’m thoroughly excited about the success of this wood oven. Not gonna lie, it’s way cooler than a barbecue. I’m planning on baking some bread in here too this summer.
Justin Bonello’s Tarzan Roast – a leg of lamb cooked over a fire built in a wheelbarrow. Genius!
Friday was a cardio day for me but I wasn’t in the mood for a run or a spinning class or a forgettable elliptical experience, so I tried busting out some crazy conditioning moves instead.
In addition to jumps and hops and swings and some other heart-pumping moves that have escaped my memory I did these two amazing exercises: Plate Pushes and Treadmill Sled Push which are both good sled push substitutes if you don’t have a sled or prowler.
They were both exhausting and they brutalized my quadriceps. So, naturally I can’t wait to do them again.
Treadmill Sled Push
I did this exercise in Tabata intervals– 20 sec work + 10 sec recovery –for 16 intervals and resting for a full minute after 8 intervals (so a total of 9 minutes: 4 minutes Tabata, 1 minute rest, 4 minutes Tabata)
I was exhausted and thought my quads were going to fall off. If you drive more with your heels you can work you hamstrings, but I found this to be really awkward.
How to do it:
- With the treadmill OFF, hold the dashboard or front handles and keep your spine neutral
- Use your legs to drive the belt of the treadmill and work up the speed as fast as you can manage.
- Push for 20 seconds then rest 10 seconds. Repeat 7-15 times.
I got a lot of “‘the fuck she doing?” looks for being on all fours and pushing a weight across the gym floor.
I used a 45lber and pushed about 20metres. On every set I was forcing myself not to fall to my knees in exhaustion for the last few metres.
How to do ‘em:
- Lay a towel or frictionless mat on the ground and place a weight plate flat on top. Use anything from 25lb to 45lbs. (I tried stacking a couple of plates, but I found that they moved around too much when I pushed so I just used one.)
- Position yourself behind the plate in a low sprinter’s start position
- Place your hands on the plate and push, driving the motion with your legs and trying to keep your butt from sticking up in the air. You want to keep it as parallel to the ground as you can.
- Push as fast as you can for about 20-30 metres then rest 15-30 seconds and repeat 4 or 5 times.
Saturday April 21 marks the date of the 22nd Annual CN Tower Climb for the World Wildlife Fund of Canada.
In 2008 I was unwed and was working and living in Toronto. Coming from a very small city myself, here were a lot of things that I disliked about living in the big city. But I did appreciate a lot of things about it too—the holiday window display at Holt Renfrew, the eggplant sandwiches at the St. Lawrence market, Hallowe’en in the gay village (and the neighbourhood in general, for that matter), getting free swag daily at the corner of Yonge & Dundas Square, and seeing Dallas Green on my walk home from work to name a few.
One thing I especially loved about living in Toronto was having access to so many different events all year round. There was always something going on. Things that I wouldn’t necessarily travel all the way to Toronto to do, but that I took full advantage of while I lived there.
The CN Tower Climb was one of them.
1,776 steps (144 flights of stairs) to the observation deck of a Canadian landmark and the world’s second tallest building.
I took part in the challenge in 2008 after about 30 minutes of undemanding and lax training on the gym’s stairclimber. So with my only experience based on a set of stairs that rotated on a belt under my feet and daily practice in my fourth floor walk-up apartment, I hadn’t the slightest idea of how long it would take for me to climb 144 flights of stairs.
I gave myself a general goal of 30 minutes and hoped for the best.
When I got to the event I learned that you’re not allowed to carry anything while you climb. Nothing. At all. No cell phone, cameras, iPods. Not even water!
I was determined to bring my camera up with me though because I did the climb by myself and I wanted a picture at the top to prove I did so I hid it in one of the millions of pockets in my cargo pants and figured I’d be okay if it were hidden.
Once I finally finished the trek from the event check-in to the start of the climb I discovered that we had to go through a security checkpoint and guards with metal detector wands. This was not going to bode well for me. I contemplated turning around and heading all the way back to check my camera, but I decided I would take the risk.
When it was my turn to be wanded, a combination of sleight-of-hand, misdirection, and my irresistible charm miraculously keep the guard from noticing the camera in my pocket. Phew! I was in the clear.
I made it to the stairwell and got started.
The stairwell leading to the observation deck was dark, narrow, and windowless with a dampness from the sweat of the climbers that made me feel like I was climbing the General Brock Monument, except this stairwell never seemed to end.
The number on each flight of stairs was stencilled on the wall so you could keep track as you went up. For the life of me I couldn’t remember how many flights there were, so I tried not to pay too much attention to how many I completed because I had no idea how many were left to go.
I had a solid pace going. One step behind me the entire way was a very fit woman whose own pace was the keeping me motoring. I wanted to be fast enough so she wouldn’t have to bother going around me and that she wouldn’t step on my heels. And I didn’t want to let her down since she spent much of the climb cheering on the people that we passed on the way up (and frankly we passed a lot of people).
When it got to flight 135 I was starting to tire. I called out to everyone around and no one in particular
“135! How many more flights?!”
“30!” Some woman responded.
30?!? I couldn’t keep this pace for 30 more flights, I knew that much so I let my partner pass even though she encouraged me to “keep my pace, almost there!”
In 9 more flights I was at the top. Only 9. Bitch! I cursed the girl that told me I had 30 to go. I could have kept my pace for 9 flights of stairs.
But I made it in 18:32. Not too shabby I daresay and well under my ambiguous 30 minute goal.
And I got a picture of myself at the top of the tower in all my sweaty glory!
Would I do it again?
I can’t decide.
I found the stairwell itself to be uncomfortably hot and dark, and very confined.
When finally you get to the observation deck there are a million people there which makes it tough to appreciate.
It was nice to do once, but I don’t know that I would care to take part in the event again. Maybe for the sole purpose of improving my finishing time.
1) I apologize if it is arrogant of me to post an event recap 4 years after the fact. I guess I should take it as a cue to do something fun and exciting now in 2012.
2) I cannot believe how small my arms were in 2008. I still have that climb t-shirt and it is much tighter on the biceps these days. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
3) The fact that my ass is also bigger than version2008 is definitely a good thing.9 Comments
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On Saturday, Matt and I went on our Date of the Month for April, a self-guided Downtown Detroit Walking Tour, focusing on the history and architecture of the downtown core, that I came across on the VisitDetroit.com website. It was supposed to be a podcast, but it wouldn’t download properly so instead I printed out the script and we read it as we went along.
Being from the area, I know a bit about Detroit’s history as a French fort founded at the beginning of the 18th century and the city’s role as the last stop in the underground railroad, but I haven’t spent much time wandering around the downtown area and I knew nothing about the architecture in the city.
One of my favourite parts of the tour was an arch sculpture called Transcending, located in Hart Plaza on the riverfront The sculpture included a path with quotes and bronze reliefs representing the landmark events in the history of the Labour Movement.
I also enjoyed getting a view of the Windsor skyline from Hart Plaza since I rarely get to see Windsor from the other side of the river. Unfortunately Detroit gets the shit end of the stick when it comes to skyline views since their skyline viewed from Windsor is much more pleasing to the eye than the reverse.
My favourite work of architecture, the best in my ignorant-about-architecture opinion, is the colourful art deco Guardian Building with its painted murals, intricate mosaics, stained glass, and varieties of marble.
The whole tour took us about 3 hours which was much longer than I expected.
Following our tour we drove up Woodward Ave to the Cass Corridor for dinner at the eclectic diner Traffic Jam and Snug on Canfield, but not before picking up a couple of very tart loaves of sourdough bread at the organic bakery Avalon just a block over on Willis. I am always drawn to scoping out a 3 things when I travel: churches, cemeteries, and bakeries.
If you go:
You can download several different walking tours from VisitDetroit.com
- The iconic Spirit of Detroit bronze statue
- Transcending, the art installation in Hart Plaza representing the Labor Movement with famous labour quotes and images representing workers’ and human rights.
- The Beaux-Arts Classicism of the Wayne County Building
- The opulent Siamese-Byzantine style interior of the Fox Theatre
- The Guardian Building‘s bright, multi-coloured Pewabic tile on the exterior and the gorgeous interior lobby featuring a mosaic of Michigan’s State Tree, the White Pine, back-lit stained glass, a Tiffany clock and a five story mural of Michigan.
- The tour took us into a very, very shady section of the downtown area to show us the birthplace of the first Ford automobile where we ran into some heavily inebriated individuals.
- We saw a person doing hard drugs in the middle of Grand Circus Park
- Downtown Detroit on a Saturday is a very lonely place when there are no sporting events going on. I see more pedestrians in my suburban neighbourhood. Tourists were even harder to spot though we managed to see one other couple posing for a photo-op with the Spirit of Detroit and what looked like a bicycle tour in Hart Plaza. That was it.
- In spite of the city’s efforts, there are still lots of abandoned, formerly beautiful buildings
- Campus Martius Park is Detroit’s point of origin and one of the best public squares in North America
- The city’s motto, established after the 1805 fire, is “We hope for better things. It will arise from the ashes.” which is still very applicable today
- Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the “I Have a Dream” speech for the first time at Cobo Hall in Detroit.
- The Marriott at the Renaissance Centre is the tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere.
- The building at One Woodward Ave was designed by the same designer of the World Trade Centre and was inspiration for the twin towers
- With 13,000 theatre seats, the Detroit has the second largest Theatre District in the US
- Detroit was the original capitol of Michigan and the state’s first governor was only 22 years old
- Detroit is the only American city ever to have been occupied by a foreign power, the British, during a 13 month period of the War of 1812
Date of the Month Club
Check out other posts in the Date of the Month club, where Matt and I go on one special date every month of 2012:8 Comments
It’s time for another Eating the Alphabet recipe link-up where each month we make a recipe featuring a fruit, vegetable, legume, or whole grain from a different set of letters of the alphabet.
So far I’ve done:
This month is E and F so I decided on figs!
Figs are one of my favourite fruits. They’re amazing when they are fresh in the summer months because they have a great texture is both smooth (from the flesh) and crunchy (from the seeds) at the same time.
Dried figs are satisfying in their own right because of their intense sweetness (one of the main reasons that I love them).
Even the leaves from the fig plant used in cooking, often as a parcel for roasting meat or seafood. I’ve never tried this before but it sounds pretty intriguing.
Aside from their deliciousness, figs are a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps to control blood pressure, and one of the highest plant sources of both fibre and calcium.
There are several different varieties of figs, but the more common ones are Black Mission which have a deep purple skin and Calimyrna which have a green skin (and are my personal favourites).
Fig Newtons are one of my favourite cookies (or should I say, ‘fruit and cake’) so this recipe appealed to me. Since figs aren’t in season right now, I made this recipe with dried Calimyrna figs that I picked up at the grocery store. The result was delicious. Matt and I nearly ate the batch in 3 days. Nearly. The cookie part is more of a cookie than ‘cake’ like a traditional Fig Newton, but I quite liked it.
I will make this recipe again.
Homemade Fig Newtons
1/2 c butter
1/2 c sugar
1 egg yolk
2 T milk
1/2 t orange blossom water
1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1 package (8 oz) dried figs, chopped
1 1/2 c water
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 c brown sugar
juice of 1/2 lime
Cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add in the egg yolk and orange blossom water.
In a separate bowl stir the flour with the baking powder and add this dry mixture to the butter mixture a little at a time, mixing on low speed until the dough starts to come together.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (about 2 hours).
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the jam ingredients over medium-high heat until bubbling. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 to 35 minutes, until it is thickened to a gel and very little liquid remains. Cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8”x8” baking dish.
On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a 8” x 16” rectangle, about 1/4” thick. Cut the dough in half (into two 8” squares) with a pastry cutter or pizza cutter.
Lift one square gently off the floured surface and place it into the baking dish. You want the dough to just cover the bottom of the dish so trim off any excess.
Spoon the filling on top and spread it over the dough evenly.
Place the second square of dough on top of the jam and again cut off any excess.
Bake for 22-25 minutes, rotating the baking dish halfway through, until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before cutting into squares with a sharp serrated knife.
Happy 3rd Birthday to my best friend and favourite dog, Bagigis!
Bagigis at the Run for the Cure
We got Bagigis in June of 2009 not long after buying our first house. I desperately wanted a puppy and Matt went along with it for my sake.
We drove all the way to Woodstock to pick her up from an amazing cocker spaniel breeder there. She was the tiniest little thing and so adorable. She slept the entire 2 hours drive back home on the floor of the car at my feet.
The first few weeks were terrible. She picked up on potty training pretty quickly (we crate trained her to speed up the process) but of course there were always accidents. I would find myself stepping in puddles of dog pee or smelling dog poo wafting from the far corners of the house.
She would chew everything in sight, especially Matt’s electronics cables and my shoes. It took her a long time to learn her name, and to learn ‘no’, so the whole process of training her was frustrating.
I was stressed out. Matt was angry. Livid, actually.
I don’t know that I will ever bring another puppy into our house. I was pretty sure that Matt was going to divorce me for bringing a little terrorizer into the house.
But eventually she started to calm down. I don’t know how it happened but she started listening when we called her. We stopped hiding things that we were afraid she would chew. A little bit at a time we trusted her in the house while we were out, intead of being crated. First for a few hours, then for the entire work day. I started walking her without a leash on pedestrian trails.
Now I can’t imagine not having her around to greet me when I come home, or to curl up on my lap and fall asleep snoring while I read a book on the couch, or to stand by my feet as I cook waiting to pounce on the first thing I drop.
She has such a little personality. She’s not very smart, but she is unbelievable friendly. She loves people. She gets so excited when people come over that she runs laps around the living room. She even makes friends with cats in the neighbourhood (I’m pretty sure she thinks they’re dogs too!)
When I first planned on getting a dog the only people that tried to talk me out of it were people that didn’t have dogs. They would say home much work it is, how much money it costs, and how much time it takes up. Dog owners would say, “You have to get one!” because they knew how fun anf fulfilling it is to have a pet in spite of all the work that comes with one. And they were right.4 Comments
I am on week 5 of this 3 Day Full Body Circuit Routine and I’m bored.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really tough workout. Every week I push myself extremely hard to try to improve my time from the prior week. It is fantastic to be done a full, exhausting workout in under 30 or 40 minutes.
But one thing I don’t like about timing my circuits: my form suffers.
I develop this “must. finish. set.” attitude even as my elbows are splaying outward in a tricep extension or my push-ups are only about a quarter as deep as they should be. I start sacrificing my form for speed and it’s not good. Not good at all.
And, to be honest, I’m tired of doing these same exercises over-and-over.
I had planned on doing this routine for 6 weeks, but I think I’ll quit after I finish 5.
I rarely get bored when I lift heavy weights. It takes a lot longer to get my workout finished (what with all the rest time) but I find it motivating to see my strength increase and so I get excited for my workouts.
I have plateaud in the number of consecutive push-ups I can do: 35 push-ups. I was doing this 4 weeks ago and haven’t improved. But, I haven’t really been pushing myself to try to do more.
With a circuit workout I think I need to change it up more often to keep myself motivated and excited.
6 Day Full Body Lift and Circuit Routine
So next week I’m going to start a brand new workout that will start with my favourite heavy-lifting exercises and end with a few rounds of a circuit.
The workout is 6 days spread out over 2 weeks, so I won’t be doing the same things every week, but every other week intead.
Each day has 6 exercises:
- 3 heavy lifting exercises where I lift 3 sets of 8 reps, followed by
- 3 exercises performed in a circuit for 3 rounds
Hopefully this routine keeps me more motivated than the last one. At least for 6 weeks.2 Comments
My sugar-free Lent went fairly well. I cheated a few times with hard candies if my sugar craving was really bad and I started to get lax about the sugar-laden condiments, like ketchup or plum sauce, the closer it got to Easter but for the most part I did okay.
I broke my fast at my family’s dinner celebration on Good Friday. Actually, that’s a lie. I broke my fast on Holy Thursday when someone at work offered me a mini cinnabon and I thought, “eh, why not? I’ve never had one before” and gave it a try. Oh heavens! That frosting they use is delicious.
So I broke fast again on Friday with my sister’s homemade birthday cake (that I somehow neglected to take a picture of, I swear I took one!)
2 layers of delicious chocolate cake
filled with strawberry curd
and frosted with white buttercream
And I also had some of the Colomba di Pasqua that I made.
Colomba di Pasqua means Easter Dove. It’s an Italian yeasted bread with candied fruit and raisins that is shaped like a dove and served at Easter. My favourite part is the topping which is a sweet paste of ground almonds, egg whites, almond extract, and sugar that makes the colomba taste like it’s covered in amaretti cookies.
I tried to make my colomba tropical by adding in shredded coconut and candied pineapple that I soaked in coconut rum straight from the Philippines. I thought it turned out quite good!
And I actually learned to properly shape the colomba so it actually looks like a dove.
Sort of. Kind of. You see it don’t you?
Saturday I broke my fast again with Matt when we drove all the way out to the Dairy Freez in Cottam for ice cream. I haven’t been to the Dairy Freez since I was a kid.
It may be blasphemous to say but I think I prefer the sundaes at Dari DeLite on Howard Ave.
On our way home from the Freez we stopped at Schinkel’s in Essex where I found the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten (and yet another way to break my sugar fast):
What is speculaaspasta you ask? It’s a creamy, smooth spread made from speculaas, you know, the Dutch gingerbread that I deemed to be my new favourite cookie this year. Yes, a spread made from cookies. It’s genius.
It’s a little on the pricey side at $6.50 for this wee jar, but it was definitely worth the money to taste it. I’m not entirely sure how to use it. Mostly I’ve just been eating it by the spoonful out of the jar. I tried some on my colomba and it was heavenly. I can imagine it being very good stirred into vanilla ice cream. My Dutch friend Heather said that her grandparents ate it on thick round crisps.
Matt said he like it, but he is still firmly rooted in Camp Nutella, whereas I might be a Camp Speculaaspasta convert. I apologize to my Italian heritage.5 Comments
I read an article in The Gloss last week claiming “Athletic” is a stupid way to describe female body types. It really is.
You’ve seen it before, in magazines or on television, with tips on how to dress or ways to exercise, there’s almost always an “athletic” descriptor given to women with wide shoulders, small bust, and narrow hips.
Who comes up with these monikers anyhow?
If we’re talking about body shapes, then maybe we should keep our descriptors confined to just that, shapes. “Rectangular” may be a more appropriate term for the so-called “athletic” body type, because athletic is certainly the wrong word. It implies either that women athletes all have this shape or that all women with this shape are sporty. Neither of which is true.
Maybe it’s just semantics and I’m making something out of nothing, but calling only this rectangular shape “athletic” is a slap in the face to the athletes who don’t fit that descriptor. Not only that, but it also advances the notion that a healthy body is one size and one shape, something which is not only untrue but also damaging to a woman’s body image if she doesn’t fit the ideal.
Across all sports, body shapes differ. A speed skater has a different body shape than a rower who has a different body shape than a golfer. Even in different variations of the same sport the body types aren’t even comparable; put a marathoner next to a sprinter and try finding similarities in their figures, yet they’re both runners.
Matt told me once that I my body was similar to a certain female hockey player. One time a person at the gym insisted that I was a basketball player. I have also been told that I “must be an athlete”.
I have shoulders that are wide enough to make me feel uncomfortable wearing anything strapless, but my bust and hips are too large for me to be considered ‘athletic’ by the standard definition. I boast a belly that might put me in the ‘apple-shaped’ category if you see me from the front, but I’ve built up my butt through weight-training so from the back I have more of a pear shape. My body shape seems impossible to define but yet I’ve been told I look like an athlete and, since athletes come in all shapes, it must be true.5 Comments
My favourite part about Easter is the Lebanese food. I spend all year waiting to eat these:
Kabeb courtesy of my Aunt Randa. It’s like fried kibbeh but isn’t made with meat and it’s stuffed with onions, raisins, and nuts.
I devoured two for breakfast this morning.
My aunt also made us a big batch of makhlouta, a Lebanese bean soup with bulgur and little dough balls inside. That was my lunch this afternoon.
Another Easter favourite of mine is bukho (or m’jaddara) which is a lentil, rice, and caramelized onion dish which I made for Matt and I a few times already during Lent.
Easter is the best time of year for Lebanese food. : d
I hope everyone has a great Easter this weekend!
Oh, and happy birthday to my older sister Victoria who turns 29 today!
Vicki at Creemore Springs5 Comments
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- Lose 6cm from my waistline
Start (Aug 15): 83cm/ 91cm/ 166.8lb
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Oct 1: 83cm/ 88cm/ 165.6lb
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Dec 1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.2lb
Jan1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 169.4lb
Feb 1: 84cm/89cm/171.8lb
Mar 15: 83cm/ 88cm/ 170.0lb
Apr 15: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.0lb