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Women’s Post

Women’s Post

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

I’ve never felt a need for this newspaper (or, in fact, noticed it before). Does this mean I’m an amateur woman?


The Estonian Easter dessert.

(Ingredients, courtesy of my grandmother. Method developed by my mom’s trial-and-error experiments, and mine.)


2 lbs dry cottage cheese (This is sold in vacuum packs near the regular cottage cheese. Salted? Unsalted? Some of each? Up to you. I used 1/2 salted, 1/2 unsalted, but that’s just because that’s all Loblaw’s had.)

1/3lb currants
2 tbsp candied fruit
1/2 c sliced almonds

6 egg yolks
1/3 lb melted butter
3/4c whipping cream, or 1/2 c sour cream
1/2 lb (1 1/4c) white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
grated peel of one lemon

What to do:

1. Assemble the following:
• 2 large bowls
• Food processor or hand mixer (or both)
• Cheesecloth
• Empty dishwasher or an accomplice willing to clean up after you
• Something heavy (like boxes of nails, or a brick)

2. Process cottage cheese until it’s somewhat smooth and put in a large bowl. My grandmother apparently uses a food mill for this.

3. Process currents, candied fruit, and almonds until they’re in reasonably small chunks but not completely macerated. Add to cottage cheese, but don’t bother mixing it in yet .

4. Process egg yolks, melted butter, lemon peel, sugar, vanilla and whipping cream or sour cream.

5. Combine with the cottage cheese mixture and mix well (this is where the hand mixer comes in). It should be kind of a soupy texture.

Pasha #1 - before mixing (It looks rather more appetizing after it’s mixed!)

6. Line the other large bowl with cheesecloth. Transfer the mixture to the cheesecloth and tie closed. Place in a colander, put the colander in a large bowl, put a clean pot lid over it, and put it in the fridge (remember about those egg yolks). Then put your heavy item on top of the pot lid and leave it for a few hours until the texture is somewhat firm, rather like ice cream. About 1 cup of liquid will drain off.

7. Clean up the enormous mess all of this has created (or hand it off to your accomplice).

Pasha mess

8. Remove the cheesecloth and transfer the pasha to a container with a tight lid (to keep it from drying out). Refrigerate.

9. Makes about 8 cups. Don’t eat too much at once — it’s really rich!

Pasha & bunnies

Happy long weekend!

Reading at the museum

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

Yesterday we bestirred ourselves only to head down to our local for brunch (crab-and-spinach eggs benny and double-chocolate cherry stout, mmmm) and then we sluggishly lay about the house digesting for the rest of the day, burping occasionally and studiously ignoring the snow flurries outside. Very enjoyable.

Today we were more active and hit the ROM — or the bit of it that’s fun for kids, anyway — with a pile of friends and our horde of small ones. We were going to go to a farm but it’s hard to ignore the snow flurries when you’re out in them. The kids would’ve been fine, I’m sure, but we adults felt wimpy about the cold. So the museum it was.

Then lunch, and now we’re embarking on Projects. M is doing something with small bits of wool and her unicorn toys, D has just arrived back from an expedition to Home Despot and I am messing about (fairly literally) in the kitchen with Estonian dessert recipes and phyllo dough appetizers for tomorrow’s dinner. That’ll be enough activity, I think, and we’ll probably lie around sluggishly and burp again for the next two days.

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xkcd nails it again

XKCD - the difference

March 2007 26 Things

I did pretty well with the March 26 Things list (hope that link works — if not try this) — I got 20 of the 26 this time, better than I’ve ever managed before.

26 Things, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a sort of photographic scavenger hunt. You get a list of 26 words and then you try to take a picture for each word. Fun stuff, and a good excuse to carry a camera around and look at things a little differently or more closely than you might otherwise.


Birthday wisdom

I had a lovely afternoon at the craft show on Friday and am now the owner of:

  • a laptop bag for my new computer (in grey flannel with red satin dragonfly-pattern lining from Melissa Beth Designs — I did NOT want yet more black cordura),
  • a new handbag (picked out for me by the guy who made it, same guy who made my last purse; this new bag is big enough to hold my lunch, my camera, my notebook and the huge-ass daytimer necessitated by unsharable electronic calendars at work),
  • a hammock-chair for under our chestnut tree out back,
  • a bag of Citrus-Glazed Almonds with Candied Ginger from the Bruce County Fudge Co.,
  • some new clothes for M.,
  • and a whole pile of sniffy soap.

My birthday’s not until tomorrow, but we had the cake event already (D’s first attempt, and a triumph) so I feel I can deliver my bit of wisdom for this upcoming year:

Spend your tax refund the day after you get it, so you’re not tempted to do something sensible with it.

Some people’s Estonian grandmothers share recipes

…with the Toronto Star, no less: Estonian cuisine via grandma.

Mine on the other hand, is deeply reluctant to share.

I have her recipe for apple cake: “It’s a sweet dough, with yeast and cardamom. Then apples and some sugar and flour on top.” Okay then! I did attempt this “recipe” once. What I made was yummy, but resembled her applecake not at all. I’ve clipped the recipe from the Star article, but it doesn’t sound right either. Ah well, at least experimenting is a tasty process.

Or I could try her buttermilk pancake recipe, which is something like: “Some buttermilk, flour, and sugar. Then cook it.” Right.

It took my mother — who is not Estonian — something like fifteen years and two tries to extract a usable version of the Christmas cookie recipe (which makes 200 dozen tiny cookies, all brushed carefully with egg white, all with a tiny piece of citrus peel on top, if you do it whole hog. Estonians don’t mess around with the desserts.). Even then Grandma didn’t mention that she usually doubles a bunch of the seasonings; this pearl of information took another ten years.

I’m not sure whether she thinks we’re just asking to be polite, or whether she’d really rather we not even attempt to make them since in her mind we’re probably incompetent in the kitchen, or what. I have a suspicion she amuses herself to tears thinking about us struggling with the vague little clues she drops. Which in turn amuses me. The whole thing is just funny — frustrating, but inherently farcical, and I can’t help but laugh as I play my part.

Recently Grandma gave my mom the recipe for pasha, an Easter dessert. Well, sort of. Grandma wrote it down in Estonian. She actually wrote it down! A first! But there were no instructions, just a list of ingredients. Mom’s trying to make it, now, and (as was revealed in a series of progress-note emails) apparently it needs to be wrapped in cheesecloth, pressed and drained at a certain point, which Grandma didn’t mention.

The whole thing makes me giggle helplessly. I’m sure I’ll be hooting loudly and wiping my eyes when I turn my first pasha attempt out of the cheesecloth. The stuff can’t help but be good, given the ingredients in it. But I’m sure it won’t resemble Grandma’s — not a bit.


Crocus – March 27

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

I have a nasty migraine, but when I saw crocuses blooming as the mailman dropped off a package I was compelled to head out into the sunshine to take pictures. Two minutes of bright light would be worth it, I thought.

There I was outside in my oh-so-attractive John Deere flannel pants commandeered from D, a very unsupportive tank top and bright pink Crocs. Just for a minute! Who would see? Of course M’s daycare chose that exact moment to walk by on their way to the park, and I had to be sociable despite the absurd outfit and splitting headache.

At least the pictures turned out well!

Scientific illiteracy, pt. 4003

There’s been a lot of coverage of the Bristol University study on rating various drugs’ potential for harm (BugMeNot will get you in). The intent of the piece was to develop a more objective rating scale — NOT to compare various drugs directly. A comparison of fourteen drugs was done by two different groups as part of the study, however, in order to see if the scale was sufficiently objective. Since both groups came back with similar ratings for the drugs, the conclusion was that yes, the scale was probably pretty good.

They included tobacco and alcohol to provide a sort of baseline, because the various dimensions of the harms they cause have been well-studied.

The authors took care to point out the obvious:

However, direct comparison of the scores for tobacco and alcohol with those of the other drugs is not possible since the fact that they are legal could affect their harms in various ways, especially through easier availability.

This is key. You can’t go comparing the harms of illegal things with legal things. How much of the harm from illegal drugs stems from their illegality? How would that change if they were made legal? On the other hand, how would the level of societal harm caused by tobacco and alcohol change if they were made illegal? We don’t know. Which means direct comparison of illegal and legal drugs is entirely meaningless both scientifically and practically.

And how have the media covered this study? By drawing little bar graphs directly comparing the scores, of course (view the attached PDF). Or by hopping on the little “alcohol and tobacco are dangerous” soundbite without putting it in context, and by doing pretty much anything but including that critical caveat in their coverage. For shame.

Yes, the line between legal and illegal drugs is drawn arbitrarily. But drawing scientifically meaningless bar graphs is not going to help solve that problem.

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The adorableness

My birthday is coming up soonish, so M has been making me n-billion little cards with cheering birthday messages to distract me from my impending dotage. I am compelled to provide n-billion small envelopes for these missives; the envelopes come from a stock I inherited from my grandfather. I’m sure it would please him to know to what use they’re being put.

The adorable part is that I’m not allowed to look at the cards as they’re being made. M makes them at the kitchen table, though, and is not yet good at writing things without sounding the words out verbally. So while I’m not allowed to actually LOOK, as she writes I get to hear “Huh … Ah .. Puh … Eee.. Buh… R.. th… Duh… ay… Muh….mm….eeee”.


Make a List
  1. It’s raining
  2. Really hard
  3. Yay!
    • Perhaps it’ll remove some of the disgusting scum left behind by the melting snow
  4. Temperature is well above zero.
    • Rainboots instead of snowboots this morning.
    • Also, splash pants instead of snowpants
    • It’s definitely good for the poor crocuses, who stuck their heads above ground last week and were instantly hit with a 20C temp drop
  5. Thunder!
  6. A perfect day to:
    • Be working at home
    • Contemplate making some soup stock
    • Enjoy the feeling that it might actually be spring soonish
Musical Crush of the Moment

It seems that Young Galaxy is streaming their entire album (which will be released next month) on their website. It’s pretty stuff, if a little bleak in spots.

If they don’t happen to please you, go ahead and pick another Arts & Crafts band. What an excellent label.

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Attn: NASA

M: Who was the first person on the moon?

Me: A guy called Neil Armstrong. And he said something like, “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

M: Well that doesn’t make sense. (brief discussion ensues, in which it becomes clear that the “mankind” part is the source of the confusion) What if he was a girl? Then what would he say?

Me: I don’t know. What do you think a girl would say?

M: “One small step for a girl, one big hop for girlkind!” That’s what I’ll say when I go to the moon.

Me: Sounds pretty good to me!

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Fie on large, brainless corporations

From User Friendly:

User Friendly

Reminds me of this:

Pirated DVD spoof ad

which is spoofing this ad:

Pirated DVD ad

Why should we pay to watch ads in already-expensive products? Or be forced to sit through nasty warnings about piracy on DVDs that, since we’re seeing the warning, clearly aren’t pirated? Unskippable ads in children’s DVDs drive me crazy too. Why go to such trouble to make your customers hate you? Phhtthththththhtbt.

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Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

Now that the great piles of snow have pretty much melted off our lawn, I spotted the beginnings of a crocus.


QOTD for March 12:

“When he was younger Mr Phillips had hated meetings. Or at least he had once he had got over the grown-up feeling, the warm glow of inclusion, of being invited to his first meeting with his first employers, Grimshaw’s. Children and students didn’t have meetings; only adults, serious employed people had them. So at the start there was the sense of being a big boy now. But Mr Phillips soon came to dread the whole business of sitting around a table with colleagues pretending to decide things. He hated the rooms in which meetings took place, with their horrible large tables and nasty chairs, with arms for the important people at the ends of the room, and the dank smell of the company coffee on the hotplate, and people’s briefcases, calculators, pencils, notebooks, agendas, personal organizers, beepers, copies of last meeting’s minutes, all of it. Most of all he hated the feeling that they were all impostors or impersonators, and with it the feeling that they were conspiring together to kill time, so that every second in the meeting was being wilfully murdered, bludgeoned to death.”

John Lanchester, from his novel Mr Phillips.

(I don’t hate meetings all that much, so long as I can scribble. Love the notion of meetings murdering time, though.)

Ballet recital

Ballet recital

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

Another hilarious ballet recital. They all had a great time and actually did some dancing, in between tugging on their clothes, picking their noses, playing with their faces, chewing on stuff, staring out the window and running to Mom & Dad for smooches.

Next session M is trying soccer, just for fun. She wonders if there are soccer recitals. We think not, and wonder if now is a good time to break the news that one typically dispenses with the tutu while playing soccer.

Death to spammers

Lately I’ve noticed a bunch of spam has come in with delete-receipt requests attached. Since most people’s email programs auto-process such requests, it’s an efficient and invisible way of marking live addresses for further spamming and/or sale. Sneaky!

An old friend’s “death by spoon” concept could be applied to spammers with great public support, I think.

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White white dead stick white wet cold dead stick white


Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

I’m trying to do the 26 Things list for March (a sort of photographic scavenger hunt), and wow, it’s hard to take interesting photos right now that aren’t all white snow and dead sticks.

I think I’d be doing better with a less perky list. It’s oddly upbeat this time.

2 down, 24 to go…

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Geotagged photosharing on Flickr

Flickr geotagged map screenshotThis is a really cool bit of technology.

Flickr recently added — or perhaps it’s always been there and I haven’t noticed — the ability to geotag photos. Being Flickr, they’re friendy and non-jargony about it. When you’re looking at one of your own photos, “place this photo on a map” appears on the right, along with the camera type and the date the picture was taken and all the other metadata. Click it, then up pops a map and you drag a little thumbnail of your photo to the right spot. That’s all.

Once you’ve mapped your photo, “place this photo on a map” becomes “taken in Toronto, Ontario (map)”. Click the link, and you can see all your geotagged photos on the map(1).

But that’s not the cool bit.

Looking at that same map, you can choose to see everyone’s(2) geotagged photos from that area. Click my screenshot at the top of this post for a (nonfunctional, since it’s just a screenshot) example. It provides a whole new approach and an element of serendipity to exploring an area via images (from a passive perspective), somewhat like the [murmur] project does via cellphone messages. More interesting, however, is that it adds the ability to collaboratively — even with total strangers(3) — visualize and document an area (from a more active perspective).

Very interesting possibilities there.

(1) The one thing that seems to be missing is the ability to correct or delete geotags. I hope that’s in the works.

(2) There are other options, such as viewing based on date or group filters, which are pretty neat too. The group filter would enable this to be used for things like class projects or other deliberate collaborative efforts.

(3) You can see whose photos you’re looking at, of course, and can click through to the rest of the author’s photostream… which brings us back to issues of identity and privacy. You can edit the privacy settings to control who can view a photo’s location on the same page that you use to decide who can see the photo itself. So, good: you can set a photo to be viewable by all, but its location might only be viewable by friends and family.

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