January 03, 2009

Tracking Credit Reports

Happy New Year!

For the past couple of years, I've been meaning to get my credit report from the two major credit bureaus in Canada. It's such a pain, though... but it's gotten slightly easier. But at least it's free.

Transunion still wants you to mail them a form, along with some supporting documentation. Instructions can be found here. You can also go in-person, but they only have one office per province.

Equifax, however, has a telephone service: 1-800-465-7166 (You should verify with their website before calling, just in case I'm trying to steal your identity.) It's automated and 24-hour, which is nice! The only disadvantage is that you'll have to give them your Social Insurance Number. Their prompts for entering your postal code are a little bit flaky, but work ok.

Posted by JAY at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2009

Anyone want a Thermopen?

Thermopens are the awesomest food thermometer on the planet. I have one and love it - probably my most used kitchen gadget over the last 3 years. I want another one! Sadly, they're also very expensive. (Everyone bitches about the price but admits there's no viable alternative.)

They're not expensive when you consider that they can take the place of at least 3 thermometers:
high: candy and frying
medium: meats
low: chocolate tempering
very low: food safety applications (ie meat storage)

Add that to the fact that it's ultrafast and super accurate (in fact, it can be calibrated)... it's a clear winner.

You can get a free one if you order six. Dom, Sean and I are in... but would need 3 more to get a minimal discount for the group.

If you're interested, lemme know! (The last time, there weren't any duties... don't know if ordering more might change that.)

Posted by JAY at 11:34 PM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2009

Light Cheesecake!

Inspired by Anna and Kristina's Grocery Bags, where a disbelieving chef chose a Cook's Illustrated light cheesecake over the full fat version, I set out to make it for myself! It's from this cookbook.

And wow, it was actually really really good. It was a bit of a pain to make, but worth the trouble for 1/4 the fat and 1/2 the calories - considering that I liked it better than other cheesecakes I've eaten. I fed it to some friends and they had no idea it wasn't "real" cheesecake and got compliments for it (haha and they don't hesitate when I give them something they DON'T like, the ungrateful bastards).

Several 'secrets' are involved. Yogurt cheese (made by straining yogurt overnight in cheesecloth) and drained 0% cottage cheese are emulsified in a food processor for an ultra smooth texture. I won't put the recipe here because it's kind of the cookbook's flagship recipe - totally worth the price of the book, even if you make nothing else!

Posted by JAY at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2009

World of Warcraft... the Boardgame

Dan picked up the World of Warcraft boardgame recently. It's an impressive translation of the online game's mechanics. However, it also takes a good 3 hours. So if you want to play WoW without a computer, it's pretty fun!

I made some cookies to take with me to Martin and Fiona's house when we went to play. All went well until we went to leave. Jen's kid, Naomi, was OUTRAGED at being woken up and taken into the cold (despite refusing a jacket and preheating the car and a hot water bottle). The ferocity of her anger was really startling - she usually loves me but almost bit my hand off when I tried to comfort her.

By the time we reached home though, she had remembered that I had made cookies and asked for some to take home with her. Thankfully, I had saved some for just that contingency - because the adults had eaten them all out at M/F's house. Phew! No need for 2 traumas in one night!

Posted by JAY at 08:58 PM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2009

Budget 2009 R.I.P.

How many ways has my budget died so early in the year? Let me count the ways:

1) New tires, $800

The car really needed some new tires as they were getting a bit threadbare. Michelin LX MS tires were highly recommended by Sean. They weren't cheap. This pretty much means that I'll be doubling my yearly automobile budget in 2009.

2) Vacation reservation, $800

All told, this vacation will likely cost about $5k. Which is more than double the amount that I spent on all fun stuff last year. Ouch. But I haven't gone on vacation since I started working about 11 years ago and it should be a good time. Should be fun! And hey, it's Vegas - maybe I'll win enough to cover the trip!

3) New bed, $300 (corrected from $400)

I wasn't going to buy this, but Canadian Tire had a memory foam mattress on sale for less than 1/4 of what a more expensive foam mattress would cost. New sheets for the queen sized bed were another $50 on sale (3 sets) at Zellers. The bed is a bit firm, but I topped it with my old memory foam topper and it's pretty nice. Not sure yet how well I'm sleeping on it - I think I'm sleeping more soundly (not waking up during the night) but not sleeping as long - usually on the weekends I can wake up and go back to sleep for another few hours. It could just be that I'm getting more restful sleep at night.

Edit: I'm so -duh-. I didn't realize it, but I actually paid only 200 bucks for the mattress, not 300 like I thought.

4) Assorted sales, $100

Of COURSE on a month where I'm spending too much, there are a lot of sales that I MUST take advantage of. Scharffen Berger chocolate bars, regularly $4-5, were on sale at Dollarama for a buck. Foldy tables that I've kind of wanted for a long time (but were a total rip off at $30) are on sale for $10. And some random purchases for family added a tiny bit to the total too.

Posted by JAY at 01:36 PM | Comments (2)

January 31, 2009

Ping Pong Table

Continuing the money bleed...

A crappy, four piece ping pong table costs about $99 bucks on sale. This model from Costco.ca, is priced at about $600 bucks. Luckily, you can pick it up for just $200 bucks in store. Unfortunately, the straps to attach it to the car were another $25 bucks.

Interestingly, we were able to attach this to my small SUV but not Sean's bigger one, since the hooks for the straps fit around my roof rack, but not Sean's. Sean did most (ok, all) of the setup. Damn, that box was HEAVY.

Anyway, current score: 2 wins each.

Posted by JAY at 10:28 PM | Comments (0)