The House of DaVinci

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dube and Davison Win Gold!

Nationals were awesome. The level of figure skating was great and I think it was the best skating we have had for several years. It was exhausting though. Mom and I were at the rink for 12 hours a day.

There will be lots of other posts about the skating but the highlight for me was Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison winning gold in the senior Pairs. They have only been out of juniors for a short time. They won the Junior title in 2004 and had to withdraw from the 2005 Nationals. Last year, they came out of nowhere to win the silver medal - with it a trip to the Olympics and the Worlds. The Olympics were their first big international event and they finished 10th. Then they were off to the World Championships in Calgary and they finished 7th. They had such a great year.

But Jessica got injured and had to have athroscopic surgery on her knee this September, which sidelined them from the enitre fall Grand Prix season - in other words, Nationals was their first competition of the year. Plus, both Jessica and Bryce compete in Senior single skating as well.

They rocked their short program and were in 1st place. This was with Jessica skating in her short program in Ladies on the same night. Jessica eventually pulls out of the Ladies, focusing her energy on the Pairs competition. During their warm up, she looked nervous. Was I just projecting? I don't know. But I was worried. I shouldn't have. They nailed it. Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin, the reigning gold medalist, and in 2nd place after the short, were skating last. Valerie ended up on her butt a couple of times and Jess and Bryce won gold!!!! It was very exciting. I can't wait to see them break into the top 6 at the Worlds in Tokyo in March!

Book 2: My Ox is Broken! by Adam-Troy Castro

This book was a Christmas present from my sweet hubisand. My Ox is Broken! Detours, Roadblocks, Fast Forwards, and Other Great Moments from TV's The Amazing Race by Adam-Troy Castro. It was an enjoyable read but it made you want to be his editor - if it only lived up to its potential.

If you understand the title of this book than you are an Amazing Race fan. It is one of the best moments of the race. In season 5, Colin and Christie were the power house team from Texas. The Detour required racers to drive an ox drawn plow through a field of mud until it hooked on a line attached to the clue. Early racers figured out fairly quickly that both team members needed to guide the ox, and everyone is out of there quickly. Colin and Christie are all alone when they arrive and Colin ends trying to guide the ox himself. It does not go where Colin wants and anxiety grows. After yelling a lot, Colin comes up with the cry of "MY OX IS BROKEN!" It was classic.

Amazing Race fans are quite fanatical and there are many websites devoted to them. Many publish detailed recaps of each episode ( being the best by far) and Adam-Troy says he will not do so. Instead he gives us little short recaps, which are completely inconsistent in their breadth and depth and the key elements which they cover. As well, instead of using popular nicknames for the teams from the internet, which most of his readers would know, he makes up his own. These nicknames don't really make any connection with the reader, are hard to remember, and twice as long as the teams actually names! So the recaps are frustrating. This is part of the book where I wish I was his editor.

The most annoying part is when you read the introduction you find out that many interviews with different teams from the race itself have been cut because the book was too long. Talk about placing importance on the wrong stuff - ARRGH! Please, can I be his editor?

However, this was an enjoyable book. The recaps, though frustrating, were like looking through a photo album, remembering good times. I had forgotten some of these teams, and it was nice to think about them again. But the greatest parts of the book is the anaylsis of the racers. Who was the greastest racer ever? Why did Flo break down and would you have in the same situation? Did Tara throw the race? Should Colin go to jail? What was the biggest mistake ever? These are fascinating chapters and a great read.

He also has some interesting chapters on key elements we see over and over through out the different seasons. Also, behind the scenes issues about the rules and how real the race is make for interesting reading. He also has a chapter on fixing the race and we race fans love to analyze. And of course, he didn't cut out all the interviews, so we hear some fascinating insights from many racers, including Jonathan.

All in all, it was fascinating reading and I enjoyed it quite a lot. If you weren't a big fan of the Amazing Race, this book would not take you there. It is for fans of the Race, but you don't have to be obsessive to enjoy this book. It really made me excited for Amazing Race, All-Stars which is set to begin in February.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Winter has finally hit the East Coast of Canada, and of course, it is when I have a road trip planned. I'm heading to the BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championship, where hopefully my sweetie (pictured left) Olympic Bronze medalist Jeffrey Buttle can win a third consecutive title. He has been injured all fall, but that is supposed to be behind him. Unforuntately, his conditioning is poor, but I'm sure he can do it.

It also is supposed to feel like -26 C tomorrow. Now those of you North of Nain might not that that is cold, but it has been hovering around -3 C around here, so it'll take some getting used to. The funny thing, the last time I went to Nationals was 1992 and it was friggin' -40 C the whole time. It was really frigid. I think this is only going to last one day though.

See ya next week!

Recipe 1: Chili-Stuffed Peppers

Company's Coming Stews, Chilies & Chowders
Jean Pare, copyrighted 2001

1/2 lb Lean ground beef (used a bit more)
1 Cup Chopped onion (I used red onion)
2 garlic cloves minced (used granulated garlic)

1 Cup water
1/2 Cup brown rice, uncooked (used 1 cup of pre-cooked white rice)
14 oz. can Kidney beans, rinsed and coarsely mashed (used 16 oz. can)
51/2 oz. tomato paste
2 tsp. chili powder (used more)
1 tsp. granulated sugar (oops, never noticed this)
1/2 tsp ground cumin (used cumin seed)
1/2 tsp. salt (none in house so skipped this)

4 large green, red or yellow peppers(used 5, red, yellow & orange)
12 Cups boiling water

3/4 Cup grated cheddar cheese
3/4 Cup grated monterey jack cheese

Scramble fry ground beef, onion and garlic in a large pot or dutch oven until beef is no longer pink.

Add water and brown rice. Stir. Bring to a boil. Cover. Cook for 30 minutes until rice is almost tender. (Since I used pre-cooked rice more or less skipped this step. Found it still needed a bit of water though, and handy to clean out tomato paste can.)

Add beans, tomato paste, chili powder, sugar, cumin and salt. Stir. SImmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes to allow flavours to blend.

Cut pepper in half lengthwise through stem. Remove seeds, leaving stem intact. Blanch in boiling water in a large pot for 2 minutes. Drain. Rinse under cold water. Drain. Blot insides with paper towel. Fill peppers with chili.

Combine both cheese in a small bowl. Sprinkle cheese on peppers. Place on baking sheet. Broil on center rack in oven for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted and peppers are hot. Makes 8 stuffed pepper halves.


I would definitely make this recipe again. I would definitely keep the increase in chili powder and the red chili flakes that I threw in. The little amount of spices the recipe calls for doesn't give much kick. I didn't need the salt at all, and you definitely didn't need as much cheese as the recipe called for. I added a larger can of kidney beans, and I knew my package of ground beef was bigger than 1/2 pound, thus the addition of the extra pepper. My filling filled the 5 peppers perfectly. I blanched the peppers in two batches, and the first batch I thought I over did, but they ended up being the better batch. Not much cooking gets done in the over. My husband really enjoyed them, and they reheated well the next day. When I took them out of the tupper ware, they were sitting in a pool of water, so I would store them on some paper towel. This one is definitely a keeper, with some experimentation on the spices.

Do you want some sugar with that?

I'm in the middle of baking and have removed a bunch of canisters filled with baking supplies from under the cupboard. This, of course, leaves an empty space on the shelf which my sweetie doesn't hesitate to fill. She's handy with passing things out too.

Book 1: Six Weeks to Toxic by Louisa McCormack

I had intended to read this book for quite a while - Louisa has PEI connections (much of her family lives here) and she spent the summer on PEI working for our local CBC suppertime program. She was doing a reading at the local Indigo store and I wanted to have the book read before I went.

Well, it turned out I couldn't go to the reading and my incentive to read the book diminished. Then in December I saw it listed in the new holdings by the local library and I finally put it near the top of my list. And I have to say, I was disappointed.

From the press about the book, I knew it was about a friendship breaking up - that there were lots of books on breaking up with your boyfriend but this one was about breaking up with a girlfriend. So I made some assumptions about the book - that early on the main character would break up with her girlfriend and the book would be about the aftermath. I was wrong. But I don't think the fact that I didn't get what I was expecting was why I didn't like the book.

The titular six weeks to toxic turned out to be the layout of the book - separated into the six weeks that this friendship took to detoriate into a breakup, which was at the end of the book. Unfortunately, I only really knew this from reading the back of the book. This friendship between Maxine and Bess seemed pretty shakey from the start - and not that interesting. The horrible issue that broke them up? Bess got a boyfriend and a job leading the foley department on a major motion picture. While Max's supposed boyfriend bought her flowers and candy for Valentine's Day - apparently a big no no. The friendship never held any interest for me, never appeared to be anything to special, and I wasn't heart broken when it broke up. Right from the beginning it was clear that Bess could do better and the story just didn't engage me.

There were some interesting characters in the book. I really did like Bess and found her life interesting - especially her relationship with the man who becomes her boyfriend. Relationships were definitely not her thing and it was interesting to watch her struggle. McCormack's writing style is very strong - I think I would recognize a book she wrote just from reading a few pages. I couldn't always decide if I liked it or not, but in the end that was the most engaging part of the book. She used interesting words and the language made it feel more than just a chick lit book. However, I can't imagine it appealing to anybody other than 20 -30 something females.

Her next book is supposed to be set in PEI so I'm sure I will read it, but I can't say I'd recommend this one to many.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Second Kick at the Can

This is DaVinci - the center of the household and the namesake of this blog. Hopefully, this will end up being more than just me talking about my cat - even though she is the most awesome cat in the history of catdom. She loves cheese more than anything, even us, and will take all donations sent. The only thing is she cannot eat low-fat or skim cheese - only full fat for her. Plus, like most cats, she is lactose intolerant so cheese inevitably leads to vomit - so small donations only!

For those of you who have read my first post, you will notice it happened about 10 months ago - a weekend project which never came to fruition. This time I hope to keep up and relinquish some of the guilt of never talking to my friends - both far and away. It will also help me keep a couple of my New Year's Resolutions - read 100 books this year (which I will then review for you kind readers) and cook at least new 50 recipes (you can look forward to a rating of those as well). Plus, I'm sure, sporting commentary and cat chat.