More eatin' adventures

Our ongoing tour of Halifax restaurants continues. Recent weeks' noshing included:

  • Milano's on Chebucto Road. The first BYOB restaurant in Halifax. We didn't BOOB, though. I had a delicious fresh-made manicotti with beef. The restaurant is built into an old home. The decor wasn't anything spectacular, but it wasn't busy, and the food was lovely and tasted authentically Italian (not that we've been to Italy, but, y'know, it tasted more authentic than East Side Mario's).
  • Sweet Basil Bistro came recommended. A nice bistro in the Historic Properties district. The menu wasn't huge and involved, but the food was mighty good and portion sizes were generous. Amanda enjoyed a lobster fettucini dish, and I had a Pad Thai brimming with fresh veggies. After dinner, we took the pedway over to the casino and won $75 on the slots, to be spent later on pedicures for the both of us. Woo! Nice feet!
  • The Watefront Warehouse was a spur-of-the-moment choice after a visit to the farmers' market at the old Keith's brewery. A breezy lunch on the patio near the ocean -- can't beat that, huh? I tried prime rib on a pretzel roll. Not bad. Amanda's tuna melt was nice, too.
  • We continued our visit to the best Italian restaurants in Halifax at Piccolo Mondo Ristorante, downtown on Argyle Street. A beautiful interior and a tempting menu! Amanda enjoyed a chicken breast with prosciutto, and cherry tomatoes which were inexplicably tasty. My chicken manicotti with bechamel sauce was good for the first few bites, but became monotonous eating a whole plateful. Next time I'll get something with a bit more zip.
  • Deco BBQ Diner is downstairs from Deco, which I've wanted to try for a while, just for the decor. (I love Art Deco/Art Moderne/Streamline architecture and decor.) The Diner is known for BBQ chicken and ribs. So, we tried the quarter-chicken. More distinguished than Swiss Chalet, but nothing outstanding.
  • M&M Meats. Alright, it ain't a restaurant, but the steaks are going over well on the barbeque!

Worst ... cover ... ever

I was Googling "bigasssuperstar" today and stumbled upon something I hadn't seen before: a message board posting on the web site "in the 00s" on the topic of "Top 25 Worst Cover Songs of All Time." And yours truly is mentioned. A poster named Apricot writes:

Ever heard of BigAss Superstar? Oh God, they suck. They took people's request for covers, and did covers of the most obscure artists. They covered Ween, and DEAR LORD IT SUCKS. Like Tom Petty's Beck cover sucking. They have a horrible, metallic, robotic even, voice.If You're Feeling Self-Destructive, Look At "Sarah", "P-ss Up A Rope" and "Big Jilm". You Have Been Warned


Well! I admit, "Sarah" is virtually unlistenable. It's pretty brown. Very brown. Drizzlingly. But "Big Jilm" was the hit single, man! I love that tune! I'm flattered that Apricot thought I'm a "they", even though we were just me, up really late during a sad summer with a freshly-bought-at-auction Portastudio 246 four-track tape recorder, a cheap mic and a guitar multi-effects box. (Sample the songs yerself at http://www.bigasssuperstar.com/serotonin/ -- as above, you have been warned.)

No sleeping in on Victoria Day

Every day at noon, a cannon is fired on Citadel Hill, which is across the street from the apartment. Today's shot was so loud, the cats scattered -- mine went and hid, Amanda's sat and look afraid. But then, seconds later, another blast. Then another. Must have something to do with Victoria Day. Here's video shot after I took some photos (see the BigAss Photo Gallery for those). NOTE: This is not the normal noon cannon. The noon cannon is much louder.


New video: Kitty gets a haircut

Back in March, we took Amanda's kitty "Kitty" to the groomer for a trim. I tossed together some clips for a short presentation. Here it is. (Small picky note: I re-rendered it for YouTube, and the soundtrack didn't come out the same as in the original. So the segment with the wind noise isn't intended to be so frickin' noisy.) Enjoy.


Update: I went over to YouTube after realizing that Google Video makes ya wait for videos to be approved. Well, it's been approved, so you can see it over on Google Video, too.

Calorie cutting without sacrifice

We've been changing our eating habits in recent weeks, with great enthusiasm and joy. Amanda's seeing results. The scale shows none for me, but my pants keep falling down, so maybe there's a rearranging of bodily materials going on.

I haven't done the explicit math on how many calories I've saved with the daily changes... so, let's see what I can come up with on the spot.

  • Morning chocolate milk: switched from 500ml 2% to 375ml 1% with added calcium: 360 calories vs. 240 = 120 saved.
  • Kaiser-bun sandwich switched to wrap (spinach, or garlic pesto, or flaxseed): dunno how many calories. Switch from big bun to thin wrap, so that's gotta be something. Switched from Kraft skim-milk processed cheese to Montarey Jack Jalapeno cheese in wrap. Romaine lettuce stedda iceberg. Added onions and red peppers. That's gotta be good for something.
  • Muffin: switched from banana/chocolate chip to Liz Pearson's super-healthy banana/chocolate chip colon-blow muffin, including wheat bran, flaxseed meal, whole wheat flour, yogurt instead of butter.
  • Sugar Free Red Bull instead of Full Ass-Kicking Red Bull: 10 calories vs. 110. Saving: 100 calories.
  • Kellogg's William Shatner All-Bran Bar (130cal) vs. cookies (probably about 200). Saving: around 70 calories.
  • Yoplait zero-fat Source yogurt (50cal) vs. Hunts Fat Free Chocolate pudding (about 100cal, I think): 50 cal savings.
  • Gatorade (~150-200 cal) vs. 500ml bottled water with Crystal Light Singles (uh, three or four calories, I think): savings: let's call it a full 200.
  • Switched at dinnertime from 1% chocolate milk to 0.5% "chocolate milk beverage" (which I call "malk"). Has added calcium, and possibly fewer calories.
  • Dinnertime meals switched from, for example, pizza or spaghetti or lasagna, to a small steak and BBQ-roasted peppers, potatoes, onions, mushrooms and grape tomatoes. That's gotta be something.
Well, that's 500 calories cut, based only on the stuff I was able to find numbers for. Wicked. Now that the weather's nice and I'm able to walk home from work (or bike soon!), things ought to be picking up steam.

What's on the teevy

I'm not watching a whole lot of TV any more. Having BeyondTV lets us record selected shows and watch 'em later, whether it's later that night, later in the week, or much later when the hard drive is nearly full. The only thing we seem to watch live any more is the news before bed. TV used to be a big part of my life as a bachelor, but now that I'm working later hours and me 'n my lady have Better Things To Do a lot of the time, the ol' Radiation King has taken on a smaller role.

So, just the for the helluvit, here's what's on the regularly recorded viewing schedule lately:
  • Jeopardy. Every weeknight. Except Wednesdays, when CTV pre-empts it for more "important" programming which we don't happen to watch.
  • CSI: Original Flavour. Kinda like Law & Order, but with science nerds in place of wiseass cops. This show must have been on forever, since I keep seeing new episodes I've never seen.
  • Law & Order: SVU, known around the house as "Perv Squad." Used to be a great show with the Law & Order template of spending the first half chasing the bad guys, second half prosecuting the bad guys, sometimes to mixed results. But more often than not, I'm shaking my fist at the screen as the show insults my intelligence or goes off in crazy directions. I want the cops to be smarter than me. I want the detectives to cleverly find the bad guys and catch 'em and prosecute them. But more often than not, they're flummoxed, and turn to the in-house computer nerd who says "oh, I have a new gadget that'll find the guy..." and then they go off like the A-Team and try to set up a zany sting, which ends up going wrong, and... I dunno, it's just gone crappy.
  • My Name Is Earl. Best new comedy of the year. Lovin' it, but ... but ... do you know what stars Jason Lee and Ethan Suplee have in common, along with guest stars Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Swayze and Juliette Lewis? Can ya guess? Does it matter, as long as it's a good show?
  • Supernanny. British woman Jo "Jo-Jo" Frost intervenes in a home full of rotten, out-of-control kids and restores order and sanity. Delightful to see how some simple, consistently-applied parenting skills can bring the kids in order without the use of powerful drugs or chicken-wire.
  • Til Debt Do Us Part (Life Network). Makes us realize how well we're doing with the money. Kind of like Supernanny as an accountant.
  • X-Weighted (Life Network). Cameras follow overweight folks over a six-month span as they use diet, exercise, psychology and a "self-esteem expert" (local hairstylist 'Fred') to attempt to change their life and looks. No prize, no competition. Just a focused, humane and personal look at trying to go from fat to fit. Everyone has slightly different challenges to face. The cool part is, most of the episodes so far have been shot in Halifax, so we get to pause and say "Hey, that's our apartment building!" or "Hey, let's try that restaurant!" or "Hey, how's a hairdresser considered a Self-Esteem Expert?"
  • The Ultimate Fighter. I haven't watched wrestling regularly for a long time, it seems. A reality show in which contestants battle for a contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I watch this alone.
  • Trailer Park Boys. Shot in nearby Cole Harbour, this show is an even bigger hoot now that we're getting some of the local references. Problem is, the current season has been decidedly unfunny. They've gone from shooting the show in the style of Cops to shooting the show in the style of a college film. Perhaps it's to transition us toward the upcoming TPB movie, but I ain't diggin' it. Such a shame.
  • Kenny vs. Spenny. The mean, crafty and funny friend vs. the sweet, gullible and neurotic friend in a series of sophomoric competitions. Was being pushed heavily on Showcase, but it looks like originator CBC has reclaimed it.
  • Family Guy had a rough start this season, but the one from a couple weeks ago was freakin' hilarious.
  • The Simpsons has been flat. I find myself letting it sit in the Recorded Shows for a week or two before watching it. Sad.
  • Sunday's highlight is America's Funniest Home Videos. This is where the HTPC gets the biggest workout -- both for replaying the funny parts, and skipping past the introductions.
  • Cops is back on the agenda now that the Leafs are done for the season.
  • The Daily Show is routinely recorded, though with TV viewing time cut way down, it often doesn't get watched. Am I slacking off, or have I only seen Lewis Black once so far this year?
  • Amanda tapes ER, America's Next Top Model and Felicity reruns. (Trivia: Did you know that the Pink Ranger from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers wrote the theme to Felicity?) I can't comment on those, since I don't watch 'em. She's big on Grey's Anatomy, though. Season finale comes tonight, I think.
  • Shows I've never seen: Lost, Desperate Housewives, American Idol, Canadian Idol, The West Wing, Deal or No Deal, Prison Break, House, 24, Survivor beyond season one, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, or CSI: Clearwater.
May the episodes of your life be compelling and full of the sort of drama that can be concluded in 22 minutes of action and hilarity.

Eating in, eating out

We've been going out for dinner on Friday nights for most of the time we've lived here in Halifax, but in recent months, I've tried to make the extra effort to pick a nice restaurant for a more romantic start to the weekend. Something more fine-dining than Swiss Chalet, but not Da Maurizio every week. We've tried a few great restaurants in town:


  • Il Mercato on Spring Garden Road. A busy Italian restaurant with a nice atmosphere and decor. We've tried the pork tenderloin, the steak, the lamb, and a delicious bruschetta.
  • Jane's On The Common is a small place with a window on Halifax Common, a big greenspace in the centre of the city. Small and cozy. The food was artfully presented and full of flavour.
  • Vivo Bistro on Windsor Street was recommended by a coworker. It's on the main floor of a big old house. The food was pretty good -- I had a chicken curry -- but the room was rather loud.
Restaurants on the local to-do list include Sweet Basil, Duffy's, and a fine-looking French place in the historic pedestrian mall around the corner... name slips my mind right now.
We went out for some great meals in Calgary, too:
  • Hy's Steakhouse has been around since 1956. It's a classy, pricy joint. Makes The Keg look like Swiss Chalet, but honestly, I've enjoyed my Keg steaks more. Not that the Hy's beef wasn't good, but I shouldn't have ordered one with the trademark BBQ sauce. I'm not a sauce connoisseur, and would've been better off with a naked steak. Amanda's peppercorn steak tasted great, but was apparently very peppery.
  • Bow River Barley Mill in Eau Claire Market highlighted a visit downtown. Eating on the patio on a cool day under propane heaters, I devoured a steak sandwich with a side of tortellini soup.
  • Denny's next to the hotel. Generally good food. A visit to Denny's will tell you why so many Americans are fat. Generous portions of delicious but not particularly healthy food at decent prices. At least here -- the Denny's we visited in Niagara Falls had the prices jacked up.
  • Earls (not Earl's or Earls'). I don't know how many Earls run the place. Punctuation aside, great eating. I ordered the Jerk Chicken Breast but ended up eating the Curry Chicken. I didn't know I got the wrong thing until we reexamined the menu to look for dessert. No matter -- the curry was damn good. The dessert we'd been coveting, however, was not available.
  • Chili's. Another American chain. Nothing exception, but nothing to complain about. I think I had another steak.
  • Botanica, the restaurant in the hotel, served up good food. Hotel restaurants -- boring, right? Sure, I guess. But the ingredients were fresh and flavourful and the prices reasonable. The stir-fry was crispy and bright. The steak was among the best I had on the trip. Amanda says her Monte Cristo sandwich was enlightening, and an omelette drew praise.
  • I ventured over to "My Donair" behind the hotel, drawn by its nearness, my cultivated fondness for donairs, and its claim to serve the "best in the west" ... well, the west is missing out. Dry, bland, nothing to recommend these donairs. And I just noticed that two of the chain's outlets were cited as part of an e. coli outbreak a while back.
Our trip to Banff was brief, so we had to choose our eating carefully:
  • Melissa's beckoned as our first stop in search of brunch. It boasts all-day breakfast and light lunches, which sounded just right. I enjoyed a little tiny steak; Amanda had a perfect soup.
  • We chose the Maple Leaf Grill for our big fancy dinner. I selected a steak with herbed mash and the biggest honkin' onion ring ever -- just perfect. Amanda's Brome Lake Duck with vanilla bean risotto, bok choy and ginger rhubarb sauce was a huge hit. (Photo) The bruschetta was tricky to eat, but oh so tasty. The oil-and-balsamic mix was the best yet.
  • Our way-outta-town meal was suggested by the staff at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge. Craig's Way Station was a packed diner with all-day breakfast. Nothing fancy, nothing special, and the service was downright slow. But the food was decent. Diner food that hit the spot.
After all that, we've decided to get on the healthy eating bandwagon. Cracked open the heart-and-gut-healthy cookbooks and picked some good starters. Amanda's been cooking up some great stuff. We're getting adventurous and lovin' it. Plus, with a new barbeque and patio set on the balcony, the options have opened up significantly. Fired the thing up last night -- what a joy.

Already budgeting $80 for this

Reuters reports:
The original theatrical versions of the first three "Star Wars" films are finally coming to DVD on September 12, two years after diehard fans blasted George Lucas for releasing only the digitally modified 2004 versions of the celebrated trilogy in a boxed collection.

That's gonna be tough to figure out, 'cuz as any genuine, fanatic, how-have-I-ever-gotten-laid Star Wars nerd knows, it's hard to figure out which version of the original Star Wars is the "original" version. There were multiple audio mixes at the very least, and tiny things were changed with each theatrical re-release. Tiny things like Aunt Beru having a different voice, whether or not the stormtroopers say "close the blast doors!" as they're chasing Han and Chewie through the Death Star, whether C3P0 comments on how shutting off the tractor beam will let the heroes get out ... petty stuff like that. But, we are reassured, Han will indeed shoot Greedo first.

(If you're realllly curious, imdb has a rundown of changes.)

Today was my last day at work, and I'm okay with that

Today marks a weird spot on the calendar for me. It’s one of those landmarks that really doesn’t mean anything, other than to illustrate the...