Archives for category: Activities


Some friends recently recruited me to help make beer from absolute scratch. It’s no easy task, requires a major investment of time and equipment and certainly qualifies as a serious hobby. But if you love beer enough to put in the effort, or love the people enough who asked you to make it with them, then it’s a whole lotta fun to do as a group – maybe even start a club?

I guess that’s kind of what we did by accident, hanging out on Saturdays cooking hops, bringing out the rich golds and reds of an IPA and brown ale. I hardly like beer, barely drink it even, but wow! it smells fantastic when it’s cooking on the stove top. Beer soup anyone?

First step to get started spending your weekends brewing the next best beer is to look out for local courses in beer making. Local enthusiasts can teach you the basics and either sell you directly or lead you to the right spots to buy equipment. Keep motivated by teaming up with fellow graduates from the course and start brewing on your own.

Alternatively, join people that already know what they are doing and learn from them.

As a last resort, Google will do the trick as well with tons of resources out there to get you started. Find a few buddies and work it out together.

brewersbooks.com
homebrewers.com
tastybrew.com

Having tasted the final product of many of these gatherings, it’s worth the trouble. The beers have a very natural flavoring that commercial beers could never achieve. They come out surprisingly very good, no matter how amateur the brewers may be. The love and labor that went into that bottle of your homemade beer probably doesn’t hurt either.

So bottle those beers and start your own local brew. Have a bottling party, supply your own beer to small parties or to a friend’s wedding. What better way to pass a weekend internet-free!

Best part is naming the beer.

Good luck!

Logging out now.

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Ah, the teeny tiny plastic pie pieces, the impossible entertainment trivia questions… can’t top playing a round of the classic board game, Trivial Pursuit. Thank you Canada for this fantastic timeless export.

By now of course they’ve got digital versions of this old-school trivia challenge. The game has its own iPhone ap and there is even a Wii version – how exactly Trivial Pursuit becomes some kind of remotely controlled video game, who knows.

Apparently the Wii game is (not surprisingly) a bust; “The lack of online multiplayer and the overabundance of geographic questions means there is little reason to play this version over any of the cardboard originals…” (Gamespot review). Amen. Or in other words, Trivial Pursuit for one person pretty much deceives the point of it all, no? Proving to everyone how smart you are.

Wii Trivial Pursuit game. No thanks.

So think about pulling out that dusty navy blue and gold box from the bottom of the cupboard. It won’t hurt either that you’ve probably got about 10 more years of knowledge stacked up since the last time you played.

And now for some quick Trivial Pursuit questions to entice you even more… and think 1984 on this… the questions are fantastically dated in the older editions.

Q1. In what city was Bobby Kennedy assassinated?
Q2. What’s the capital of West-Germany? (Love this one!)
Q3. What is the biggest satellite orbiting the earth?
Q4. Where is Yogi Bear from?

Bringing Trivial Pursuit back into my life in recent months has not only improved my knowledge of what were once current facts in 1984, but brought a little geekiness and fun into Saturday’s at the in-laws where cross-generational teams has made it a successful after lunch tradition.

So dig up the ol’ Trivial Pursuit from out of the woodwork (and some people over 30) or just get a new one and bring the tradition alive again!

For those stuck with the answers to the above questions just at the tip of their tongues:
A1. Los Angeles
A2. Bonn
A3. The Moon
A4. Jellystone National Park

Logging off now.

For those of you south of the equator or for anyone lucky enough to get a warm, sunny winter day in January, there’s never a bad time for a picnic. Rainy? Stormy? Living in subzero temperatures? Just have it indoors on your living room floor. Snowing? Sunny, but chilly? Make some hot chocolate and fill up the thermoses – the cold is surprisingly bearable and the snow even prettier with a hot drink in one hand and a fresh cookie in the other. Go crazy. Dunk the cookie in the hot chocolate. 😉

This past weekend I baked some cookies, pulled on a sweater and headed out with a couple roast beef sandwiches, drinks and some friends to the park (forgive me, I do live in a climate warm enough to comfortably take the picnic outside every once in awhile in winter). The pleasure of enjoying a meal or snack in the outdoors or simply in a creative way – like on that blanket spread across your living room floor – jazzes up the daily practice we call eating and makes a regular weekend lunch a little more special. No television, blackberry, iPhone or laptop required.

To sweeten up your picnic, below is my recipe Oatmeal Nut Chocolate cookies.

3/4 c. margarine
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. sugar (or a little less if too sweet)
1 c. brown sugar (or a little less if too sweet)
1 egg
1 tsp. baking powder
1tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. ground cloves
2 c. quick cooking oats
1 c. white chocolate chips (or regular chocolate, or raisins)
Handful of sliced almonds and/or pecans

Preheat oven to 375F/190C.  Mix margarine with about half the flour, brown sugar, sugar, egg, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon and cloves. Mix until fully combined, then add the rest of the flour and stir in the oat and chocolate chips. Make dough balls and take a pecan  and press into the balls as you flatten them slightly before placing on greased tray. For the sliced almonds place them like a pinwheel and flatten like before (see pic below). Bake 10-12 min. or until edges are turning golden brown. Place on wire rack to cool about 10 minutes. Then immediately place in airtight containers to keep ’emsoft!

Ah, the miraculous printed family photograph, a lost art in the digital age. Or maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration and maybe we’re not quite near the point of extinction, but when was the last time you printed photos and really put the time into building a photo album? A scrap book? Documented your kid’s year at school?

With friends and family visiting, something about crowding around the computer to view a photo album lacks its charm (and comfort). And sure, slide shows on the television screen are nice, but something about printed photos – though it may be old school – creates actual keepsakes you can hold… physical evidence of travels, life cycle events, etc. I guess at some point we’ll be inheriting a disc on key of a person’s life rather than a stack of photo albums.

So instead of spending endless hours in front of the computer building the best photo slide show the world has ever seen or simply clicking through a Flickr account to show your friends, try heading back to the basics. Grab a friend, a kid, or maybe a sibling and take those thousands of digital photos and not only print the best of the best among them, but incorporate the pictures into scrapbooks, special photo albums, make a photo collage, etc. I’ll never forget the framed poster-sized photo collage I got for my 13th birthday packed with hundreds of cut out photos.

Better yet, think ahead and save ticket stubs, post cards, brochures and keepsakes from your travels or family events that can then be pasted into a scrap book along with your photos.

An album, a little creativity, a pair of scissors and a rainy Sunday is all you need.

Plenty of resources available here to get you started:
scrapjazz.com
scrapbook.com
the-scrapbook-store.com

Logging off now.

The most boring Saturday in a long while almost brought me to break a pact with myself to no longer log on to the internet one day of the week.

I chose Saturday this week and as the day progressed, the clock slowly ticked away the seconds of nothing to do. Organizing my desk lasted a whole 10 minutes. Sweeping the floor, another 10. Walking the dog. Watching a Seinfeld rerun. Making the bed. Tick. Tick. Tick.

The combination of a rumbling tummy and a craving for something sweet turned out to be the trick to undo my boredom. I shall bake!

A lasagna, a few trays of cookies and a fruit crisp later… time was flying and the computer still off. I’m no Betty Crocker, but a few rounds of whipping up goodies in the kitchen warmed up the house, my mood and certainly made my husband happy when he came home. The fruit crisp turning out to be a cinch to make and very tasty.

So take the time to log off and bake something for yourself this week, or for your neighbors, family, roommates…

Try my recipe below if you can’t think of anything better:

FRUIT CRISP*

Filling:
3 peeled, cored and cubed pears
3 peeled, cored and cubed apples (fuji or gala type apples)
½ c. dried cherries
1 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. honey
1 ½ tbsp. lemon juice

Crisp:
1/3 c. brown sugar (can be a bit more, can be a bit less depending on your sweet tolerance)
½ c. flour
¾ c. quick cooking oats
¼ c. finely chopped walnuts
¾ c. butter
Pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190C). Mix the filling together and lay out in an 8 in. (20×4 cm.) baking pan. Mix the crisp ingredients together and loosely lay on top of the fruit (doesn’t need to cover it completely). Bake for 45 minutes or until top part is crispy!

*make with whatever fruits are in season and for the less health conscious, plop some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top.

Logging out now…

 

For years now I’ve opted out of the so-called Soduko craze (or is it no longer a craze and so very five years ago?).

People on the train or plane are always sketching out numbers and filling in those neat little squares to make what? I never really knew. Maybe it’s my fear of math.

In an effort to take on more internet-free activities I started working on the newspaper’s daily Soduko puzzles… meaning just the beginning of the week for those beginner folks that still struggle on the “easy” level.

I found a decent web site among many out there where you can download and print them out by level to get more practice: www.sudoku-puzzles.net. Plenty of people out there post daily puzzles: www.dailysudoku.com and tips too: www.sudokuessentials.com

Seems a legitimate internet-free hobby for life with many, many variations (calculated at 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960 possible grids for a 9×9 square) and certainly plenty of levels that I and many of us mere mortals will never get too.

There is something extremely satisfying about coming around that final stretch and realizing you’ve worked it out – all the numbers are in their place. There IS order in the world.

So no need to worry, there will always be Sudoku puzzles and weekends waiting for you to sit down and do them.

Get your fine selves offline and soduko’ing!

Logging out now.

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I was home all day yesterday with the spouse at work on the weekend, twiddling my thumbs searching for bad romantic comedies on television when the book I am currently reading (a real book made of paper) started glaring at me and so did the computer screen.

So, do I break my internet-free Saturday rule to send a few e-mails or aimlessly cruise the Web? Or, do I work on finishing up a book that isn’t that good but not bad enough to give up on? I thought of this blog and thought of my poor ol’ brain and picked up the book. Went outside, grabbed a chair and sat in the shade – a nice sunny 75F day didn’t hurt.

It was definitely the right idea. I think I started the work week more refreshed and less apprehensive about flipping on the hard drive yet again to start a day of work.

Don’t give up on books my friends!

Logging out now.

So the main idea with starting this blog was for me to encourage others and myself to get offline more often. And in doing so, take up more activities that are internet-free.

So…My first activity: Write a letter. With a pen. And a piece of paper. I went digging for some stationary and a nice pen, wiped the dust off both and sat down to scrawl something out.

Having decided that my sister would be the beneficiary of such an act I quickly realized that writing a letter would mean skipping over anything immediate, because she’ll know about it anyway by the time she gets the letter. The result: a relatively emotional account of my current feelings and life situation. A blurb to her on Facebook just wouldn’t have inspired me to write in such a way. Nor would it have exercised some majorly underused muscles in my right hand.

I have to admit that there is something more intimate and of course literally, more slow about letter writing. The time it takes to write the words down gives me more brain time to formulate what to write next. And that I am writing it in my own handwriting makes it more personal to the individual on the receiving end, not to mention there is something physically important here too… I am taking something in my hand and mailing it so it will rest in another person’s hands and somehow we are sharing something together in that way as well.

Maybe my sister and I will make a habit of this… 21st century pen pals. Now to find a stamp.

Logging out now…