Archive for October, 2011

Joe Wright, whats he up to next?

I watched the movie Hanna for the second time last night, it’s certainly worth a watch for those that haven’t seen it, its kind of somewhere in a mix of Bourne style, comic style, Disney film. Ok it’s not really that Disney except for the film’s lead being a 16 year old girl, but the villains do have comic book feel to them, and the action is as good as the Bourne series.

There are some moments of darkness in there, really quite sad, and yet at the same time some deadpan line delivery which is hilarious, making a movie that rather being a one-dimensional action piece works on a few different levels.  Throw in the Chemical Brothers soundtrack and you’ve got an impressive 111minutes of movie.

But its not Hanna I wanted to post about, its its director Joe Wright, he’s already directed Pride & Prejudice (not seen) Atonement (though it was great and McAvoy was amazing) Soloist ( I thought it was alright but got great reviews) Hanna (see above). With quite different movies released I’m quite intrigued to see his next movie Anna Karenina, I’m not interested in finding out anything about it, I generally like to know as little as possible about I movie before I watch it so I have no preconceptions, but Joe Wright has already done enough for me to think that I’d be willing to spend the money on a theatre ticket on his previous work alone. I do also know that Kelly McDonald stars, and in my opinion she’s an Oscar waiting to happen, so perhaps this is the one….

Having watched Donnie Darko I now expect to see more than one good movie before automatically going to see others by the same director.

Things I hate

You know what I hate, what I really detest?  When you decide to have ketchup on something and the first thing to come out the bottle is that reddish water, the separated liquid from the main sauce itself caused by a lacklustre attempt at shaking the bottle.

I hate that.

Sushi story

This week one of my favorite sushi places got a bit of a hammering in one of  the local papers.  It’s a good paper too, it’s a freebie, but arguably the best for getting the low down on what’s good and going on.

I hadn’t been to this place in a while, part of my more diligent budgeting means I have drastically cut back on the amount of money that I spend on work lunches, so I thought it was a good time to head along, show a bit of support and remind myself how good it is.

Unfortunately it wasn’t very good.

From the slightly meh California roll, to what appeared to be the dregs of the miso soup it just wasn’t up to much. Combine that with the fact that the normally jovial and friendly service was no where to be found meant that it may be time to hunt down a new favorite sushi place for lunch.

A sad state of sushi affairs!

Is it winter yet?

Funny 404 pages

I thought this was a good change from the norm, and there are some crackers in here;

http://egotvonline.com/2011/10/14/a-gallery-of-funny-404-error-pages/

Kinda makes me think I should harass work until we can come up with a better one for our site, but I dont think its ever going to happen.

Slow cooker lamb shank recipe

It may still be warm outside, but it definitely doesn’t feel like summer, so its time to bring out the slow cooker. I’ve already decided that this year I want to try and do more with the slow cooker than just repeatedly making beef casseroles, and first up for a try was a lamb shank recipe. This takes around 20 minutes prep time, 4.5 hrs in the slow cooker and serves 4.

For this you’ll need;

  • 1 carrot (finely diced)
  • 1 leek (finely diced)
  • 1 onion (finely diced)
  • 2 celery stalks (finely diced)
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 4 slices of prosciutto
  • 60g of tomato paste (1/4 cup)
  • 500ml of beef stock (2 cups)
  • 250ml red wine (1cup)
  • 90g olives (1/2 cup)
  • Handful of chopped parsley (to throw on at the end)

First finely dice all your veg up and place in the bottom of the slow cooker

Then cut 3 or 4 little slits into the meaty part of each lamb shank and insert some of the sliced garlic

Place a sprig of rosemary on each of the shanks and wrap with a slice of prosciutto, securing with a couple of toothpicks

Add the tomato paste, stock and wine, and a good pinch of salt (leave pepper till later in the cooking)

Put on ‘High’ for 4.5 hrs

About 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time add the sliced olives and the parsley, then serve with your side of choice, and enjoy.

Slow cooker lamb shank

Here is a photo of my version, it doesn’t have the olives as my other half isn’t keen on them so I left them out for her sake. I served mine with a side of turmeric mashed potato which looked neon in the kitchen lights!

Money talk & my first impressions of Mint.com

Way back at the start of the year I said that 2011 was going to be the year that I got my act together with money. It’s not that I was bad with money before, more that I just didn’t actually have any kind of longer term plan.  Being that 2010 was the year I bought my first house, it seemed like the logical step that as I work my way through the mire of mortgage payments I should be looking above and beyond that, to my short and long term financial goals and how my mortgage played into them.
Then I realized my only financial goal was ‘to not be poor’.

So I got about trying to work out some more specific goals, and while I was doing that I more importantly started looking quite sternly at my cash flow. One of the ways I thought I would do this was to get an app on my iPhone that would allow me to record my transactions, so I downloaded a few and tried them out but none were as user friendly as I hoped, then I tried the mint.com app, and I was instantly more impressed.

This led me quite quickly to Mint.com and since then I have become a bit of a Mint.com geek. Rather than having to physically type in transactions of what, where, how much I spend and then turn these records into different categories that will really help in working out where your money is going. You can even pick from a selection of graphs.  This is of course as long as you use your credit card, if not you do still have to add it the old fashioned way BUT with your iPhone app it will work out where, you are (as in what store you’re in) and you just add the amount.

 

It’s funny because I now rarely use the iPhone, 95% of my transactions are on credit card (I know the likes of Gail Val-Oxlade say that you should use cash, but I like the cash back I earn and always pay the balance in full) yet it was via the app store that I became a Mint.com user.

The first thing I noticed was that I was spending far too much on groceries, so I’ve now got that under control, the second thing I noticed was that I was spending way too much at the bar. I’m still working on that one…
There is a hesitation with any web based service that has anything to do with your own money, I’m sure the majority of people would think twice before allowing a third party access to your personal financial information, and I think that that skeptisim is a good thing, it was will hopefully ensure you’re never ripped off online, but in this case I would certainly recommend Mint.com for its user-friendly way of keeping an eye on your finances.

Red Onion Relish Recipe

Red Onion Relish Recipe – Say that 10x over and really fast!

relish onion red

Looking to add a little bit ‘more’ to dinner tonight (a pretty simple affair of bangers and mash) I decided I’d try and do something to go along side.  I optioned for a BBC Good Food recipe for red onion relish;

  • 2 Red onions (sliced)
  • 50g butter
  • 1tbsp of brown sugar (not the rolling stones kind)
  • 1tbsp of red wine vinegar

The recipe calls for ‘good quality red wine vinegar’ I used what I had in the cupboard its quality is unknown……

Melt the butter, add the onions, a few minutes later add the sugar and vinegar, simmer for 20 minutes stirring frequently to ensure the sugar doesn’t burn and enjoy. Easy enough.

Having just made this though, I would suggest a little longer on the cooking time, a really wanted a deep red so left it on longer and it did get slightly darker, and next time (its so easy there will be a next time) I think I would be a bit more generous with the vinegar.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1415637/red-onion-relish

Thanksgiving eh!

Thanksgiving isnt part of what I ‘know’ mainly due to me originally being from the UK where it’s not a traditional holiday/celebration. Now having lived in Canada for the last few years I am on board with the whole thing, I’m just not normally here for it as I spend a lot of time overseas with work.  This year though I actually made it back with 24hrs to spare.

Tired and beaten down by travel, but home.

So what am I thankful for?  Well being home is the obvious one, the weather for a second. It may sound a bit trite but its true as I’ve been able to come home and walk the dog round the lakes taking in the beautiful fall colours (hmm I think I’ll be thankful for them too while I’m at it) without freezing my face off.  That will come later in the year.

I think with the economy still creaking I should be thankful that I have a job, a home and a car.  More than anything though I am thankful that I have my other half in my life, I genuinely have no idea where I would be without her, other than pretty sure it would be a lot less worthwhile and happy place.

What I’m not thankful for is the insomnia I have caused by jet lag which leaves me posting on my blog at 2am when I have to be up at 6am to head into the office.  Bah.

 

So, what now?

I think I’m a bit old for a quarter life crisis and a bit young for a mid life crisis, but after working a silly amount of hours yesterday non stop (22 if you’re interested) I’m starting to think I need to step back take a breath and revaluate my situation.

I’m not going on a crazy soul searching mission, and I don’t expect to jack it all in and go live in a commune in the woods, but a while back now I left nearly everything behind with not a lot other than the women I love and off we set on an adventure in a new country. We had ambitions of doing more with our lives than we would have done if we’d just continued on our career paths where we were. Now I just seem to be working loads, primarily just so I can buy more ‘stuff’.

I didnt really think I was the ‘stuff buying’ type.

Dont get me wrong I love my surround sound system, cranking it up with new tunes (Broken Bells is the latest random purchase) or even better with a good movie blaring out, but I’m not convinced that dialling the volume up to 11 was really the height of the adventure I imagined. I think deep down the slap in the face that was being laid off in 2008 has left me with a fear that I need to work hard and attain some sort of financial security, which is sensible. But where is the end?

I’m not fussed about being different or standing out from the crowd, I’m just fussed for being happy and I think I’m having a wee crisis of conscious that I need to revaluate  what creates that happiness for me, and not necessarily tow the party line of 2 cars in the garage and a freshly mowed lawn. The last 2 years have just whizzed by, literally, I fell like things are just picking up pace and passing me by. Whilst I’m not looking for a complete stand still I think a bit of a slower pace is in order while I take stock.