Sean M Puckett

Portrait and fine-art photographer. Radical programmer. Culture activist. Passionate & opinionated, yet kindly. Mind the froth.

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Another false fire alarm last night. According to our condo newsletter, it's caused by people seeking refuge from the cold in the parking garage stairwells and smoking / lighting fires to stay warm. I mean, understandable to take refuge, but it's not like one can stay if the alarm goes off. So not ideal.

So I guess we'll probably have another one or two over the weekend as temps drop to -20.

The board says they've gotten approval from the city to instal maglocks on the doors so they can't be forced at night. Certainly have mixed feelings about it, but apparently every time fire trucks roll it costs us a not insignificant amount of money so...

As someone who is easily disturbed by something as simple as even car doors slamming, this would drive me crazy. Hope it improves.

Stay warm this weekend. PA is getting a bit of snow after a fairly mild winter. (And now I've gone and jinxed us. )
Karen 1/18
Everything is really quiet here, despite being in the middle of Toronto. Poured concrete walls and floor, triple glazed windows. It's quieter than any house I've lived in, that's for sure. Except for the spurious fire alarms. Sigh. Being awakened by them is really tedious.

Temps here are predicted to fall to -20C over the weekend. We'll be warm inside, but going out is going to be fraught. Y'all stay warm too!

Tonight the condo's book club did an annual thing they do, which is check out a bunch of play scripts from the library and do a reading. Sounds interesting, but not much information provided, least of all _which play_.

So I go down because how bad could it be? And it is about 10 people, mostly older, and we're all sitting around around a table (there's no designated readers OMG 1) and everyone takes turns reading, switching roles scene by scene (OMG 2) and I've already done the social niceties and kind of committed, and then discover that it's a fucking Woody Allen play and by then it's too late to back out. 

So for two and a half hours I read different roles from _Don't Drink the Water_, trying not to turn the obvious Allen character into a whiny schmuck when I get him, but the language is just so exactly that ... and there's all the misogynistic bullshit, the toxic masculinity, the casual racism, the colonialism, the physical sexual assault (that she later says she hoped he'd do), the terrible plot that doesn’t even have the most obvious and interesting twist, the unnecessary rape/suicide references, the ... just ... OMFG 

Anyway, everyone was super nice, I met some new people in the building, I made some folks laugh, and got compliments on my cold reading, so it wasn't a total loss. 

It could have been worse, said d -- it could have been a hobby script. 


This building is so warm. It's bizarre. Even at -10 outside, it's 22 in here. The air handler hasn't come on in a couple months despite a colder than normal month. I'm not sure where the heat comes from. I guess I could walk around with an infra-red thermometer and figure it out.


I did walk around with a thermometer and there's no obvious source of significant heat. The little wall in the laundry room with the hot water pipe in it is 4C higher than ambient but everything else is all within 1C of the floor and walls.

I guess a pie-wedge shaped dwelling design in a circular building with a lot of insulation on the exterior wall is just really efficient (duh), and at least on the south side where we are, exposed to the angled winter sun, it's enough. The cats sure like the sun.

We'll see how it goes in three months though.


It's certainly a pleasant change from multi-hundred dollar heating bills in the old house.  

There are other bills, though. The condo fees ($630) pay for all utilities except electricity, along with exterior and common area maintenance, amenities, staff salaries and property tax on the building. Our electric bill is about $70 a month, with $40 of that a constant connection fee, which kind of sucks. And then there's city services tax, and contents insurance. Under $1K a month all in, with not much chance of a sudden disaster/emergency expense, which is really what you want for a retirement situation. Sure, we're a few years away from that, but it's good to be settled early.


Also, for those of you in the south who celebrate the harvest well after those of us in the north have typically already several days of frost in the morning, happy Thanksgiving. (We do it in early October in Canada. Because we like to eat more fresh things than potatoes.)

11/22 '18 2 Comments
It’s 22 degrees outside right now where we are in the Philadelphia suburbs. I turned off the heat throughout the house because it’s 67 indoors.
This house is shockingly warm. What the thermostat says is actually true in every inch of it. New Swedish style construction by someone who's not a criminal in a hurry will do that I guess.
Thomas Boutell 11/23 '18

I find this recipe necessary because most home-prepared syrup recipes rely on baker's chocolate or chocolate chips, and not only are those more expensive than cocoa powder, they add unnecessary fat. This recipe has little fat and yet won't granulate or set up in the fridge because of the corn syrup and xanthan gum.

I am not down on fat, but I don't see that it's necessary here; the xanthan gum in addition to helping avert crystallization adds a nice bit of unctuousness to the texture. This is really good on ice cream, which is what it was designed for.

Chocolate Syrup (cocoa powder base)

  • 2 C white sugar
  • 1 C cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/16 tsp Xanthan gum (seriously do not add too much)

​​​​​​​Stir dry ingredients thoroughly together in a saucepan, then add

  • 1.5 C water
  • 1 Tbs corn syrup

And bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, over medium heat and clip on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat when temperature passes 220F and let cool somewhat. To finish, Stir in: 

  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract

Then decant into a serving container, e.g. squeeze bottle or glass jar, whatever. Refrigerate. Will keep at least a week in the refrigerator without granulating.

11/18 '18

Decided to repack the four remaining bins (reminding we ate two and lost one) to put in the fridge and stop fermentation. Just seemed wise after two months. Threw one of them out as after rinsing they were a little slimy and very mushy. The other three were fine. I put them in fresh bins submerged with a bit of salt, a splash of vinegar and a trace of sodium metabisulfite. And into the fridge. 

I tasted them all, very nice. The batch with the split chile pepper was excellent, just a step above. Not obviously hot, but leaving a few tingles on the tongue. 

I doubt they’ll last out the year until next pickle season. But I also doubt we have a place to ferment and store a whole bushel next time. Half a bushel is kind of pushing it. 

By any measure, it was a successful experiment. I brought some to a party last night and those that tasted them were keenly delighted. It was cheaper to make them than buy finished pickles, even with the losses. The only downside is storage. 

So that’s where we leave the pickle story.

11/4 '18 1 Comment
I bought myself a jar of pickles in anticipation of your unveiling. :) I plan to kill it shortly. Glad you had a successful venture. Yay!
Karen 11/6 '18edited

By request!

Dry Ingredients

  • 1/2 C sorghum flour
  • 1/2 C brown rice flour
  • 1 Tbs tapioca starch
  • 1/2 C cocoa (be generous)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • Optional mixins up to 1/4 cup: choc chips, nuts, etc

Wet Ingredients

  • 5 Tbs butter, melted (86 grams)
  • 1 & 1/4 C granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cold espresso (or 1 tsp instant coffee in 1 tsp water)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F; lightly grease a 9" baking pan
  2. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl
  3. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl
  4. Fold wet ingredients into dry, only until combined
  5. Turn into baking pan
  6. Bake 25-35 min, until toothpick in the center comes out clean
  7. Cool on rack under a cloth, don't cut until room temp.
  8. Keep covered in the fridge, if any survive the day.


The vanilla and coffee flavours make these extra yummy. Also mad wack chocolatey. They don't need frosting, but you could drizzle a little melted chocolate (melt 1/4 C chips in microwave, e.g.) on top once they're cut up. I've been using a 9" round springform pan; you get less of that yummy brownie "edge" but it's easier to cut them up when you can take the sides off.

NB recipe was modified by my partner from an Alice Medrich non-GF original. 

10/15 '18 8 Comments
You and your mixins. You and your topping.

Any recipe with all rice flour, especially brown rice flour, is too gritty. Sorghum adds loft and a touch of sweetness.
There's no point in using a tasty starch like arrowroot in these, though arrowroot starch is excellent in more delicately flavoured baked goods to provide the structure GF non-mix flours don't have. I have always tried to avoid guar and xanthan gums (common in commercial baked GF food and some GF flour mixes) in baking due to their weird texture effects.
Dawn Keenan 10/16 '18
This looks yummy. I wonder if it'll work with the Earth balance baking margarine.

Re: beans, ymmv, but black beans are notably low in FODMAPs as beans go. Which could make them a better bet than others for those who are fluent in flatulent.
Thomas Boutell 10/17 '18

Went to one library this morning to pick up some holds. A couple SQUIRREL GIRL stand-alones, plus also SOFT X-RAY MINDHUNTERS which was recommended.

Then made my third batch of gf fudge brownies in the past seven days. In our defence they keep getting brought to parties and people other than us eat them. This batch is all ours. Also made sweet potato sticks with a bit of heat.

And now the errands are piling up again. I have four stops to make. I guess it's not terrible that I can just walk to all of them.

A different library (the big reference one) to return OTHERWORLD BARBARA which was just a bit too-too for me), dollar store for a few snack items, bulk food store for a few staple baking goods and peanuts, grocery store for eggs.

d is off at a choir intensive rehearsal until early evening. I've been keeping busy but at some point I'll probably just sit down and read. Or maybe go out and look at something or ???

I'm working on making more friends but still don't have anyone close enough to just hang out with kind of spontaneously. It doesn't help when half the time I feel too worthless to see the merit in anyone else hanging out with me. Not a good headspace to be in when meeting new people. But that's not this post.

Nope, this post is just -- hello autumn weather, I've been busy today, I made some food, I ate some food, I pet some cats, now I'm going out.

Hope y'all's day is doing you a solid.

-- edited to add -- 

Sweet Potato Sticks (air fryer)

These are dead simple if-and-only-if you have an "air fryer" device. Otherwise I probably would not bother trying to make them with manual stir-fry methods. Anyway.

  1. Julienne 2lb of rinsed but unpeeled yellow flesh sweet potatoes into 1/8" x 1/8" sticks of varying lengths.
  2. Add to air fryer along with 2T oil (we use bacon grease, anything is fine).
  3. Season with about 2t of salt or to taste.
  4. Add additional spices to taste. I've used Montreal steak seasoning, chili powder / hot sauce, whatever I feel like. I bet dill powder would be great.
  5. Run your air fryer for 40-45 minutes or until some of the sticks are starting to get a little blackened. Stir occasionally if the automatic agitator kind of sucks like ours does.
  6. Turn out onto a cookie sheet to cool; they'll become quite crisp.
  7. Try not to eat them all immediately.
10/13 '18 7 Comments
I wouldn't be sad if you shared your recipe for sweet potato sticks...
Anne Mollo 10/13 '18
I added the recipe to the post!
Sean M Puckett 10/13 '18
I wish we could do a OPW IRL hangout. That wouldn't solve the spontaneous-hangout-pal problem, but it would be cool nonetheless. (But that may cause yet another batch of GF fudge brownies to be eaten by someone other than you two... bwa-ha-ha)
Yeah, it would be pretty great to see y'all occasionally or on the regular.
Sean M Puckett 10/13 '18
If people want to make that happen, I will ALWAYS volunteer to host. I LIKE having folks in the house; gives the place a warm happy feeling.
Anne Mollo 10/14 '18
You are the second resource in my life that has recommended air fryers.
Well, I will tell what we have used ours for: bacon (two packages at a time, cut in half), chicken parts (wings, drums, thighs), potato sticks. It’s good for smaller items of consistent size. Riblets or stir fry or etc. Its easy enough to clean. Not as widely useful as Instant Pot though.
Sean M Puckett 10/13 '18

I'd just like to give you an update on the pickles. Since we ran out of commercial pickles a couple weeks ago, I've been harvesting them out of our fermentation bins and putting them in the same jar, reusing the pickle juice that's in it. And, eventually, topping up the juice with our own.

The pickles are good. Not the best; I want a bit more garlic, a bit more dill, a bit more tang. And probably fewer additional spices. The flavour is complex, which is nice, but I think generally you want a pickle that's less of an orchestra hit (THWAMP) and more of a simpler but more harmonic electric guitar chord (BWARRRMM). So the pickle can join in with other flavours rather than just try to own the plate. 

Maybe there's a distinction to be made between solo pickles that you eat on their own, and harmonic pickles that you eat with other food. Am I over thinking this? No, these are pickles we're talking about. You can't overthink pickles. You can, however, overeat them. I assume. I won't test this hypothesis. Take it as read. 

Any way, the process seems solid. Next year, when number 2 cukes come around again, I'll try a difference recipe. I'll let you know if any of the bins fail; I'll be doing an edibility test on each new bin as we break into it just to be sure. 

10/11 '18 8 Comments
I was, literally, JUST thinking to myself, "We haven't had a pickle update in a while..."

When you say you want a bit more tang, do you mean greater sourness? Or something else? I'm wondering if they'll get tangier the longer they sit...

Also I love your musical analogy.
Anne Mollo 10/11 '18
Yeah, I do want more sour. A more aggro pickle, one that bites back. The fermenting guide says the amount of salt in the brine controls sourness, up to a point. I went with the "half sour" salt:water ratio because I wasn't sure what that meant in terms of taste. Next time, I'll do full sour.

.... though I'm considering adding salt to one of the bins to see if I can kick it up now. I wonder if that's how that works.

Hmmmm... sounds like SCIENCE.
Sean M Puckett 10/11 '18
Ooo. I wonder if adding more salt (or using more salt the next time) would also help keep any batches from going bad? I mean, doesn't the brine itself help keep unwelcome bacteria/yeast beasties from colonizing?
Anne Mollo 10/11 '18
I definitely prefer BWAAARRRRMMMM to THWAMP.
Kimchee is a kind of pickle. It owns the plate, the dish, and the next few hours.
Dawn Keenan 10/11 '18
They bury it to protect the innocent
Thomas Boutell 10/11 '18
Yep, Kimchee definitely lets ya know who's temporarily taken over as the boss of your mouf and innards. (Nom nom!)
THWAMMP and BWARRRMM. I freakin' love this. Your brain is most excellent.

OK if you take the soft white corn tortillas (which are very thin and fragile) and spread a tbsp of pasta sauce on them then put them in the toaster oven for a "toast" cycle and let them rest a bit, the sauce will cook down enough so that you can then put cheese and meat on top for a second toast cycle and they won't fall apart when you eat them. Maybe even have a bit of browning on the bottom for a lovely crusty crunch.

And it's not terrible, even tastes pretty good, for a GF pizza-like food product.

It's taken like a half dozen disintegrating, bad tasting, why am I eating this garbage variations to arrive at this bit of culinary wisdom over the past few weeks.

So if this is a road you'd like to travel, I've put down some gravel, at least, so you don't get your wheels stuck in the soggy tortilla mire.

9/25 '18 3 Comments
Thank you. I might have to try this.
Thomas Boutell 9/25 '18
Sounds interesting! And simple.

I keep wanting to try a cauliflower crust, as people who have rave about it. But then I look a the recipes and think it looks like too much work.
Anne Mollo 9/25 '18

I was just reviewing my OPW posts and saw I'd put up a floorplan of the previous apartment, but I haven't posted our condo's floor plan. So here it is.

A bit sloppy as the original was flipped but I've updated it with the moved closet in the master BR (it used to be a wart in the smaller bedroom, rude). The kitchen bar/passthrough is wider and has no uppers now, and there's a laundry machine in the adjacent storage room.

It's an interesting building and I think it's very smartly designed. There are two 20 storey circular towers, each floor with nine suites. (There is no "13" floor, and the top floor that would be 21 is labeled "PH" though the suites there are identical to those below.) That angle between the two walls is indeed 40 degrees and it's kind of a pain dealing with it. On the other hand, it makes for much less wasted space in the common elevator area. All of our doors open very near each other in the centre of the tower, a small hallway that runs around the elevators / stairwell / mechanical ducts in the centre of the building. Most of the units are nearly identical in layout and size, though there's +/- 10% square footage to accommodate structural elements. There's a low building between the towers that has six floors of units with rectangular layouts. On the ground floor and three floors below that are parking, lockers, and extensive amenities (gym, sauna, pool, library, movie room, hobby/woodworking room, etc). And there's a nice garden too.

All told there are nearly 400 units. I figure this, combined with the smart design, is how our condo fees are so low given what we're getting for them. One might think the $250K per month the condo corp receives in fees is a lot, but it's not cheap to run and maintain a big building, and do it well. Plus pay city taxes.

We like it here, and the only annoying thing right now is the shortage of personal storage lockers (e.g. rental closets) that are presently oversubscribed, so we still have a few boxes / bins of art materials and tools that should ideally be stored away out of sight but there's nowhere to put them but in our living space.

Also it's easy walking distance to p much everything.

9/22 '18 8 Comments
This V-shaped floor-plan clearly demonstrates that Sean, and not Richard Herd, was actually the leader of the Visitors.
Brian Rapp 9/22 '18
I have a cookbook for sale, too.
Sean M Puckett 9/22 '18
Thomas Boutell 9/22 '18
There are surprisingly more right-angles in this floorplan than I would have expected on first glance.

This looks and sounds like a wonderful place to live. Congrats again on the move and finding a place you both love and can feel comfy and welcome, and where you can get what you want closeby.
Yeah, they really did a good job with minimizing wierd corners. That said it was still a pain in the ass doing the baseboards.
Sean M Puckett 9/22 '18
Wow! What a nice layout! But you didn't diagram in where the pickle buckets are...
Anne Mollo 9/22 '18
Heh. Right now they're in a spill-proof container on a small furniture dolly in the laundry area. I should post an update ... tomorrow.
Sean M Puckett 9/22 '18
We also pay city taxes. Not the sum someone with their own yard to maintain would, but enough to cover services.
Dawn Keenan 9/23 '18