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Annual Potluck 2017 – Korea

Once again we all gathered this December at John and Margaret’s house to share the holiday cheer with our annual potluck.

group picture

Everyone is gathered around the table to explain the dishes they have cooked. Here John is showing the kimchi that took him a week to prepare. 

Each year we choose a different theme for the potluck. We all agreed with enthusiasm that this time around we wanted to eat Korean food, and so, we got our creative juices to work.

We learned that Koreans take great pride in their cooking traditions and having good wholesome foods in their homes.

You are welcome to try any recipes below. We have tried to include their sources. This doesn’t mean that the recipes were always followed to the letter. Adaptations were made for available ingredients. It was all very good and as ever, it was great fun to try cooking dishes we had never had before, as well as eating them!

Melhik – Tong Dak (barbecue chicken wings)

melhik wings











2 pounds chicken wings and drumettes

1 inch piece fresh ginger, minced

2 tsp sesame oil

6 tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp honey

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 small onion, minced

1 tbsp red pepper paste (kochujang)


  1. Mix all ingredients together except the chicken (for the sauce).
  2. Marinate chicken for at least an hour in the sauce.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Brown the chicken in a heated pan on the stove until browned on all sides, reserve the marinade for later.
  5. Transfer wings and drumsticks to a shallow roasting pan, pouring sauce over pieces
  6. Put chicken into preheated oven.
  7. Turn once during cooking, covering with more sauce if needed.
  8. Cook chicken for a total of 40-50 mins in oven. Serve.

Mila – Japchae (glass noodle stir fry)

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 3.36.21 PM


For Main

250 g Korean sweet potato starch noodles

100 g rib eye fillet

1 medium carrot, rinsed, peeled and julienned

110 g baby spinach, rinsed and drained

1/4 small red pepper, rinsed and julienned

1/2 large yellow onion, peeled, rinsed and thoroughly sliced

100 g fresh shiitake mushrooms, cleaned stems removed and thinly sliced

For Spinach Seasoning

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp sesame oil

For Beef Marinade

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp rice wine

1/2 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp sesame oil

Noodles & mushroom marinade (mix in small bowl)

For finishing touches

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 egg, yolk and white separated


  1. Slice rib eye in thin strips and put in medium bowl. Add the mixed beef marinade to bowl. Cover bowl and set aside for 30 minutes.
  2. Prepare veggies in the “main” section. Put mushrooms in a separate medium bowl and add 1 tbsp of the prepared mushroom marinade. Set aside.
  3. Boil water in a medium pot. Dip spinach for 5-10 seconds and scoop out with strainer. Run spinach under tap water to cool, then squeeze to remove excess water and place into separate bowl. Add prepared spinach seasoning, mix and set aside.
  4. Boil water in a large pot. Boil noodles for 7 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water to cool. Cut noodles with kitchen scissors to 6-8 inch length. Put in large mixing bowl and set aside.
  5. Add some oil to a pan, cook egg white on low heat and then place on cutting board. Repeat this step for egg yolk. Slice into strips and set aside. Fry the onion with some oil and set aside, do the same to stir fry the carrots, red capsicum, marinated mushrooms, marinated meat, and noodles, all in separate steps.
  6. Stir fry all ingredients together to heat through. Add finishing touches if desired. Serve.

Elyn – Haemul Pajeon (seafood pancakes)

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 3.36.15 PM


Dipping Sauce:

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tbsp gochugaru (red chili flakes)

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp sesame seeds

1/2 tsp minced ginger

2 scallions, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

For pancakes:

1 pound mussels or clams, or a combination, scrubbed

1/2 cup white flour

1/2 cup rice flour

2 tbsp potato starch or corn starch

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 egg

1 cup ice water

4 ounces raw shrimp, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

4 ounces raw squid, sliced into 1/4 inch rings

6 scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 red finger chile pepper/Fresno chile, thinly sliced

1 medium shallot, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup chives, cut into 1 inch pieces

1/2 cup canola oil

salt, to taste


  1. Combine dipping sauce ingredients and set aside in small bowl.
  2. Boil 1 inch of water in saucepan, add mussels or clams, cover tightly with lid and cook until the shells are open and the meat is just cooked. Drain, pick the meat from shells when slightly cooled, and set meat aside. Discard shells.
  3. Add the flours, starch, sesame oil and egg to a large bowl. Add the ice water and whisk until well incorporated. Add shrimp, squid, scallions, chile, shallow, garlic, chives, 3/4 tsp salt and mussel/clam meat. Mix.
  4. Add 1/2 cup batter to a skillet coated in oil and spread evenly until it is all a single layer on medium heat. Cook until sides are crisp and small bubbles form on top. Flip the pancake and cook until brown. Keep flipping often until the pancake becomes crispy. Repeat until all pancakes are done. Serve with dipping sauce.

Maria – Manju (baked sweet pastry)

Maria sweet pastry


1 cup lima beans, soaked overnight

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup flour, plus 1/2 cup flour

2 eggs

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Pop beans out of skins with your fingers. Discard skins. Place beans in a pot of 1 1/4 cups water and boil for 10 minutes.
  2. Lower the heat and simmer for about 35-50 minutes until the beans are soft and fluffy. Mash beans until they have the consistency of mashed potatoes. Add sugar, half the salt and 1 tsp vanilla and mix to thicken the filling. Turn the heat off, cool and set aside (as filling).
  3. In a separate bowl 3/4 cup flour, egg, half the salt, 1 tsp vanilla and the condensed milk and mix until combined. Set aside (as dough).
  4. Divide the dough and the filling into 8 same-size balls. Flatten each ball onto a floured cutting board, using the palm of your hand. Place a filling ball into the center of a flattened dough ball. Wrap the dough around the filling. Seal the edges and form into an egg shape.
  5. Dip one side of each manju into water, then dip into sesame seeds. Brush the egg yolk over the sesame seeds. Repeat for each pastry and place on baking sheet sesame side up. Bake on 350 for 20 minutes, then serve.

Matt – Various Dishes

Matt prepared three different dishes, including an appetizer, a side dish, and a chilled dessert.

Baesuk (pear dessert)


4 Korean pears, peeled

3 cups water

15 g fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tbsp sugar

24 black peppercorns (2 or 3 per slice)

Pine nuts for garnish


  1. Place sliced ginger into a pot and add water. Boil over medium high heat until rolling boiling. Cut pears into wedge shapes. Push black peppercorns into the back of the pear slices, 2-3 peppercorns per slice. Push them in deep so they don’t fall out.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, discard the ginger. Add the sliced pears and sugar into the pot. Boil them over low heat for about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the pot from heat and cool down. Chill in the fridge for a few hours, garnish with pine nuts and serve cold.

Gamja Jorim (Korean potato side dish)


12 oz baby potatoes

1 dried shiitake mushroom

3 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp sugar

2 cups water

1 tbsp vegetable oil

swirl of sesame oil

sesame seeds for garnish


  1. Rinse baby potatoes. Place in a pot with enough water to cover them. Boil water and cook for 10 minutes then drain.
  2. Add potatoes back to pot, add 2 cups water, soy sauce, sugar, oil and 1 dried shiitake mushroom. Bring to boil and then simmer, covered for 30 minutes until liquid has reduced to one third.
  3. Uncover and add maple syrup, keep simmering until there is almost no liquid. Reduce for a few more minutes while stirring. Finish with sesame oil and seeds, then serve.

Gochujang (bean balls)


For bean balls:

1 can black beans, drained

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/4 red pepper, finely chopped

1/4 cooking onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp flax seeds

2 tbsp gochujang (red chile paste)

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated

2 cloves garlic, grated

For glaze:

3 tbsp gochujang

3 tbsp maple syrup

3 tbsp rice vinegar

1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 clove garlic, grated


  1. Mash black beans and add remaining ball ingredients. Mix thoroughly and roll into balls.
  2. Place on baking sheet, brush with oil and bake for 20-25 minutes in an oven heated to 430 degree fanbake (convection setting).
  3. While bean balls are cooking, make the glaze by adding all ingredients to a saucepan and simmer. Cook until glossy and thickened, then serve together.

Margaret – Hoogim-ja (black sesame coconut milk ice cream)

ms ice cream


6 tbsp black sesame seeds

1/3 cup plum syrup

2 cans full fat coconut milk

1/2 cup unrefined sugar

pinch salt

3 tbsp cornstarch


  1. Put sesame seeds in dry skillet over medium heat. Toast until they start releasing their aroma and start popping. Remove from pan and cool. Grind seeds with a mortar and pestle, place them in bowl and combine with plum syrup until a paste forms.
  2. Heat 1 can of coconut milk, the sugar and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. In a bowl, whisk other coconut milk can into cornstarch until no lumps. Add to saucepan, mix and cook for 4-6 minutes, stirring constantly until mixture thicken, making sure the bottom does not burn. Remove from pan, transfer to large bowl, and pass mixture through a sieve if there are any lumps.
  3. Stir the sesame seed paste into the mixture until combined. Place a piece of parchment on top to prevent a skin from forming on the top, then refrigerate for 1-2 hours until well chilled.
  4. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

From the Cookbook “Our Korean Kitchen”, by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo

John – Various Dishes

john all food

John prepared a number of different appetizers  and main dishes.

Daeha Jjim (pan fried king prawns)


1 garlic clove, crushed

1/4 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp roasted sesame seed oil

1 tsp honey

1 tsp vegetable oil

5 oz king prawns, shelled

1 green onion, thinly sliced

2 tsp roasted pine nuts, roughly chopped


  1. To make the sauce, combine garlic, ginger , soy sauce, sesame seed oil, and honey in a bowl.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over high heat. When very hot, add in the prawns and cook for 1 minute, then turn them over. Add the sauce and fry for about a minute until cooked through.
  3. Remove and place on a plate and sprinkle the sliced green onion and pine nuts, then serve.

 From the Cookbook “Our Korean Kitchen”, by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo

Godeungeo Jorim (braised mackerel with white radish)


1 large mackerel, filleted

11 oz Chinese white radish, peeled

1/2 cup light soy sauce

2 tbsp sake or rice wine

2 tbsp maple syrup

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp Korean chili powder

1/2 onion, chopped

1 red and 1 green chili, seeded and sliced


  1. Slice the mackerel into medium-size pieces with a very sharp knife. Cut the radish into 1 inch cubes, then arrange evenly across the base of the large pan. Cover the layer of radish cubes with a layer of mackerel.
  2. Pour the soy sauce over the fish and add 1 cup of water, the sake and maple syrup. Sprinkle on the crushed garlic and chili powder and gently stir. Add onion and sliced chilis, then cover.
  3. Place over high heat and bring liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the fish is tender, spooning the soy liquid over the fish as it cooks. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

From the Cookbook “The Complete Book of Korean Cooking”, by Young Jin Song

Gal-Bi (barbecue beef short ribs)


2 lb beef short ribs, cut into 2 inch squares

Side of shredded scallions seasoned with Korean chile powder and rice vinegar, to taste.

For the marinade:

4 scallions, finely sliced

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 asian pear,

4 tbsp dark soy sauce

4 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp rice wine or sake

2 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp sesame seeds

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated


  1. For the marinade, place the scallions and onion in a large bowl. Core and chop the Asian pear, being careful to save the juices, and add to the bowl. Add the remaining marinade ingredients and mix together thoroughly.
  2. Add the short ribs to the marinade, stirring the coat them. Leave to stand for at least 2 hours to allow the flavours to permeate and the meat to soften.
  3. Heat a heavy griddle pan or frying pan and add the ribs. Keep turning them to cook the meat evenly. When they become crisp and dark brown, serve immediately with a bowl of seasoned shredded spring onions.

From the Cookbook “The Complete Book of Korean Cooking”, by Young Jin Song

Garibi Gui (spicy scallops with enoki mushrooms)


5 scallops, with shells

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp sesame oil

2 egg yolks, beaten

1 sheet dried seaweed

1 red chili, seeded and finely sliced

1/2 green pepper, finely sliced

2.5 oz enoki mushrooms

Salt and Pepper

Grated rind of 1 lemon, to garnish


  1. Scrub scallop shells, then cut the hinge muscle at the base and lift of the rounded shell.
  2. Scrape away the beard-like fringe, next to the white scallop and orange coral, and remove the intestinal thread. Then ease the scallop and coral away from the shell.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a wok and stir-fry the scallops until browned. Season with sesame oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Place the scallop shells into a pan of boiling water and then drain. Add 2 tsp oil to the wok and heat it over a low heat.
  5. Pour int he beaten egg yolks and add a pinch of salt. Cook to form a thin omelette. Once set, remove from the pan and slice into strips.
  6. Cut the seaweed into thin strips. Add the chili and pepper to the pan, adding oil if required, and stir-fry with a pinch of salt.
  7. Place the scallop shells i a steamer, and set one scallop on each shell. Place the pepper mixture, some omelette strips and some mushrooms on each shell and steam for 4 minutes.
  8. Garnish with the seaweed strips and a sprinkle of lemon rind.

From the Cookbook “The Complete Book of Korean Cooking”, by Young Jin Song

Gogooma Tweegeem (prawn and sweet potato tempura)


2.5 cups sunflower oil, for deep-frying

1 scant cup flour, plus a little extra to coat

3/4 cup glutenous rice flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper

1.5 cups ice cold sparkling water

2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (no need to peel)

8 king prawns, shelled and deveined, tails left on

For the dipping sauce:

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp mirin

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds


  1. Combine all dipping sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Place oil in a pan over medium heat. Test the temperature with a deep frying or candy thermometer to 350 degrees, or by dropping a bread crumb into the oil; it should turn golden in just under a minute.
  3. While the oil is heating, combine flours, baking powder, salt and pepper. Quickly stir in the cold sparkling water until you have a milky consistency. Don’t over-whisk, batter can be lumpy for added texture.
  4. Lightly coat sweet potatoes and prawns in extra flour, then dip into the batter and shake off excess so you have a light coating. Carefully place in hot oil, without overcrowding pan. Fry the sweet potato for 4-5 minutes and the prawns for 2-3 minutes, until lightly golden and cooked through.
  5. Remove with slotted spoon, dry on paper towels and serve immediately with dipping sauce.

From the Cookbook “Our Korean Kitchen”, by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo

Julie – Gyeongdan (sweet rice cakes with red bean filling)

julie rice cakes


For the filling:
  • 1 cup Adzuki red beans
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
For the dough:
  • 2 cups sweet rice flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ cup boiling water
For the toppings:
  • 1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, roasted and ground
  • 4 tablespoon shredded coconut, roughly chopped
1. For the filling, rinse the beans and soak overnight. Drain beans and put in a pot with 3 cups of water, bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook until very soft, and when ready, drain excess water and puree in a food processor. Place back in the pot, add the brown sugar, salt, vanilla and cinnamon. Set aside.
2. Place 2 cups of sweet rice flour in a bowl and add in the salt and sugar. Slowly add the boiling water and mix thoroughly until it forms a firm dough. When mixed through, set aside and prepare the toppings.
3. Combine the matcha green tea powder with the sugar. Roast the black sesame seeds until they pop, then lightly grind with a mortar and pestle. Place those in another bowl. Place the shredded coconut in another bowl.
4. To assemble, roll dough into ping-pong sized ball and place on floured surface. Flatten into a bowl shape, about ¼-inch thick. Place a ½ teaspoon of sweet red bean paste into the center and fold the edges over. Pinch together at the creases to seal the red bean inside and roll back into a ball. Continue with the remaining dough.
5. Boil rice cakes in a pot of water for a few minutes, until they float to the top. Place cakes directly into ice/cold water until cooled, then remove. Once dry, roll in toppings and serve.

David – Crispy Rice Squares (decorated with Korean flag)

david flag


1/4 cup butter

2 cups mini marshmallows

5 cups crisp rice cereal


  1. Melt butter in large sauce pan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted and well-blended. Cook 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  2. Add cereal. Stir until well coated.
  3. Using buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture evenly and firmly in buttered 13 x 9 inch pan. Cut into 2 x 2 inch squares when cool.




Things We Like – Kitchens

The JMA team had another great day exploring “Things We Like” for kitchen designs! Each member of the office brought in their favourite kitchen photos that brought beauty, functionality, and unique features to each space.


David chose a kitchen in a post-victorian home with a clean design and a strong relationship to the exterior.

The Prinseneiland House

Matt selected a kitchen that combines materials to open up space and extend visual lines.

Jamil 10 11 2017

Jamil gave us a glimpse of his childhood kitchen in Israel that his father built. From the window he could see who went by, including friends and relatives.


Maria’s kitchen combines rustic and industrial materials.

Melhik Kitchen crop

Melhik brought a futuristic circular kitchen hub.


John’s kitchen showed us an L shaped island to combine a prep and eating area in a brightly lit space.

Margaret kitchen crop

Margaret’s kitchen makes the most of the tight space. The large window gives a focus to the room and expands the space.

Elyn Kitchen crop

Elyn’s kitchen is fashioned after the commercial kitchen model, with space dedicated to different tasks.

mila kitchen crop for blog

Mila liked this bright kitchen of pale woods and capitalized on the design potential of architectural language of kitchens.

LED kitchen

Julie’s eccentric taste in designs brought her to pick a classic kitchen layout with a punch of colour from LED lighting.

We want to hear about Things You Like! Leave a comment below on your favourite types of kitchen designs!



Miigwech Nibi (Anishinaabe for “Thank you water”)

Here at JMA, we’ve decided to have some fun by participating in the City of Kitchener’s Neighbourhood Placemaking Challenge. We’re looking at one of the founding community locations in our City, and have proposed a preliminary design to enhance a focal point at the trail / pedestrian / cycling crossing of Queen Street South, and explore the history of the place. If our Placemaking Challenge application is successful, next steps involve working with neighbours, stakeholders, and the surrounding uses and destinations, including Schneider Haus and the Queen’s Green Community Garden, to explore these possibilities further.

Placemaking Challenge Proposal-Thank you Water-07

Many of us are not aware of the significant aboriginal and non-aboriginal patterns of movement and settlement within our community, and in particular at this Queen Street location. The presence of Schneider Creek, as it flows from Victoria Park Lake under the roadway and onwards to the Grand River, is also not part of our everyday experience of the City.

The laminar flow fountain brings the idea of water back into the public realm. It will act as a focus for the crossings and help to transform the streetscape into an interesting and vibrant place in our community. This transformation will benefit all users and neighbours, and will celebrate the importance of water to our community. It will also make more apparent the story of Joseph and Barbara Schneider, who came from Pennsylvania to build homestead and mill at this location. We have named the intervention Miigwech Nibi (thank you water) in honour of the historic aboriginal trail that followed the creek, and our First Nations’ holistic view of water and stewardship of our planet.

Placemaking Challenge Proposal-Thank you Water-01

The laminar flow fountain can be programmed for continuous operation (creating an arch that “frames” the street) or intermittent operation (creating the sense of a jumping “fish”). By using programmable LED lighting for nighttime use, the fun and effects can be further explored and enjoyed. The final design might be one or several fountain streams, but the idea is to create “arches over Queen Street” so that this sense of connection, of  “leap”, and of celebration, is the focal point of an enhanced place for pedestrians and road users.

Placemaking Challenge Proposal-Thank you Water-05

We hope that this project and design can change perceptions and relations among pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, and create a sense of place for this important intersection of cultures, people, and history.

As the project and design move forward, we wish to engage everyone:

John MacDonald Architect (Business)

Queen’s Green Community Garden (Community group)

REEP (Business / Environmental group)

The Schneider Creek Neighbourhood Working Group (Neighbourhood group)

The Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association (Neighbourhood group)

Local businesses at Mitchell and Queen Street (Business owners)

Polocorp (Business at 379 Queen St. S. and developers of Barra Castle)


Tell us what you think, should Kitchener implement the idea of having a water fountain over Queen Street South?


To Buy or to Build?

For the past ten months my fiancé and I have been submerged in the housing market. The frustration, disappointment, excitement, and prices have all been a little overwhelming and I thought I would share my experience.

As a first time home buyer the process of buying a home is a little confusing and as the largest purchase I have ever made, I wanted to be sure we picked the right one. We saved up our downpayment and with our realtor went shopping. In our price range we found very little that met our expectations, most homes needed major renovations, which we wouldn’t have the money for after buying the house. So we decided to increase our budget a little, sadly we where met with the same situation. We knew we would have to do some work to make the home our own, but we were met with homes that needed total renovations, needing some combination of a new kitchen, walls removed, new floors and bathroom guts. Any large renovations were not something we were willing to under take with our up coming wedding, and our housing budget maxed on the cost of the home.

After viewing countless homes in many different neighbourhoods a family member suggested we look at a new build in a brand new subdivision. I was sceptical, I hate subdivisions, on the outskirts of town, so disconnected, nothing within walking distance, all the houses look the same, little or no parks or public spaces, and the homes themselves are not very architecturally pleasing. Despite my objections my fiancé convinced me to keep an open mind.

We visited the sales centre, and yes the street and the exterior of the homes lacked character, but the interior was beautiful, a far cry from the homes we saw with our realtor and on MLS the past seven months. We were shown all the finishing choices and floor plans we could select, we could completely design our home for a price less than our original budget. It was exciting, but I had to take a step back and think about if I could live in an isolated subdivision, turns out for the price, I was willing to give it a shot. After reviewing all the possible floor plans we selected the best option for us and put down our deposit. We bought in during the pre-build phase which meant we where able to make some changes to the floor plan at a very reasonable cost. We where told we could move in on December 11, “Home for the holidays” is what they told us.

Then the set backs came, pushing our closing date back four months. We where renting at the time and could not sign another years lease, we had to move to another residence where we could live month to month. We were very disappointed we would not be “Home for the holidays”, but glad we where not forced into another years lease, even if it meant moving. Then after a few more months of waiting we were contacted by the builder to start making our finishing selections, we were met with disappointment again. Turns out most of the finishes we were told in the sales centre were standard, were not, and we would have to pay extra for these “upgrades”. This gets expensive, we were given one to eight standard options and the rest were upgrades. So, we  mixed  in some upgraded options on things that could not easily be changed or would make for better resale value.

We are still in the process of building and I often think if we would have bought an existing home we would be living there already, slowly making changes to suit our taste. Then I remember the houses we viewed and the amount of renovations they needed to be comfortable. Even with all the set backs I feel we made the right decision for our first home, we just have to remember to keep the upgrades to a minimum. I will keep you posted on the process as we move forward. 

Guest Author: Trena Tataryn

From the Office to the Barn

It was cold and a bit muddy, but it was the most fun we have had at the office all year, okay maybe not exactly “at” the office. JMA closed up shop for a day last week and headed to the International Plowing Match 2012 in Roseville. Our team volunteered our time and muscles to assist the Mennonite Disaster Service in a demonstration of an “old fashion” barn raising, which took place over the course of the Plowing Match within the antique section of the event. The barn was brought in from Paris Ontario for the demonstration and was assembled and disassembled at the event before being transported to it’s final resting place at a private residence in Collingwood.

Our day started out with a very appropriate tractor ride from the parking area to the event grounds, once we where able to find the barn raising site we grabbed our hardhats and waited for instruction among the other volunteers (about 40 in total). Most of us being first time barn raisers listened carefully as we where explained the process. Come 10am it was show time and people begin to gather in the bleachers to watch our efforts. It started with most of us lifting the first positioned frame by hand as high as our arms would let us, yelling “Yo-He” which means hold on “Yo” and lift on “He” (trust me, you do not what to mix that up). A few people pulled on ropes on the opposite side, guided the frame as the rest of us lifted it.



Once our arms couldn’t push the frame any higher assigned people put the pikes (long piece of timber with a spike in one end) in place, butting them up against the frame.  Once the pikes where set everyone moved out from holding the frame and helped either on the ropes or on pushing the pikes moving the frame up to its vertical position. Once the frame was up and resting on the prepared foundations, the ropes where tied off and nails where hammered into the legs of the frame where they met the foundation.



This process was continued for the second and third frames, then support beams where raisin by ropes, these beams secured the frames together and where fixed in place with pegs and braces. Over the course of the day we rose 3 frames including their supports, but our work stopped there, since this demonstration was to be completed over the week, we had to leave the rest of other volunteers to complete in the days to come.



JMA had a great day learning the traditional way to raise a barn. I only wish we could have been there the rest of the week to help finished what we started.

The Perfect Party House

Have you ever wondered what makes one home better for entertaining than another? Why no matter how many times you invite friends over for a get together they never seem to commit, but there they are the next weekend at the house with the pool table, and wet bar. Sure these features are fun, but it’s the space within the home that makes people feel welcome.

Making a few changes to your space can create a more inviting space where your guests can feel comfortable and are more apt to having a good time.

First impressions are important. When you welcome people into your home you want to put your best foot forward. Your entrance should be warm and inviting, clutter free, and large enough for a few people to comfortably remove their outerwear. A good party house has ample shoe storage (you don’t want guests tripping all over each others shoes), as well as an area near the entry where guests can independently get their coats.

The entry is where first and last impressions are formed, so make sure it’s pleasant. Try to take advantage of any nooks and crannies in and around your entry, creating open shelving, or a small closet will make better use of the vertical space allowing you to remove entry consoles, freeing up valuable floor space.

Traffic flow is always important and a party is certainly no exception. The ideal entertaining house is large enough for people to move through freely but maintains intimate and warm areas to converse. These comfortable areas ideally should be created around what one might call a central “hub”. This is a room that connects other key entertaining spaces, like the kitchen, dinning room, patio and living room. This allows for guests to move through the space easily and encourages conversation by creating several intimate social areas while maintaining the traffic flow through the “hub”.


Having different areas of the home open for guests to move through also allow them to decide where they feel most comfortable rallying.

Simply re-configuring your rooms can create this type of “hub”; for example it might make more sense for your family room and dinning room to switch places. Also consider any rooms that tend to go unused, maybe removing or partly removing a wall will open up the space to its full potential. Really think about how your spaces are or are not used and take into account the flow, a few small changes can completely change the feel of the space.

Making your guests comfortable is the key to hosting a successful gathering.

A group of guests will always settle in the kitchen. Having high-level seating in this room is the best way to ensure that they are relaxed and don’t feel as if they are looking to be waited on. A kitchen island with pub style stools encourages guests to help with the preparations while they keep you company. If you don’t already have a kitchen island you can put one in, if you have the space. If not consider the option of a movable island.

Think about transitional pieces. If selected correctly, the kitchen island can double as a serving buffet or that wet bar you always wanted.

Think about your home practically, if you have a formal dining room that is never used there’s no point to it. Change it up and create something beautiful in that space instead. Make every public area in your home one that’s comfortable and enjoyable and your guest will never want to leave.


Dickens’ Muse Lives Here

Muses inhabit this part of town. Urban myths of the tough and gritty city are born here.  Even though this place is great for raspy voiced poetry, it is not what we want our real city to be like. This harsh streetscape, lined with a mix of businesses that could use a facelift, makes me wonder how it came to this. I would have thought that a mixed use block of tight knit commercial, with residential on the second floor, near two schools,  a church, a supermarket, varied housing, and an assortment of businesses, all within walking distance to each other, would have been enough to help maintain higher standards. Is it that the street’s balance is tilted to accommodate driving, at the expense of walking? Is it that the neighbourhood hasn’t been able to take ownership of its streets? Or is it that it has entered a cycle of neglect that has infected all the pieces that make up the street?

The empty storefront of a second hand clothing store advertises the contradictions of this site with eloquence. Is that decrepit sign of VERSE, with the first E falling down, there to remind us of the poetic potential of urban decay, or is it just falling down and no one cares?