13 Amazing Facts You Didn't Know About Sir Christopher Lee

More than Saruman - R.I.P. Good Sir

13 Amazing Facts You Didn't Know About Sir Christopher Lee


The world is a little bit of a darker place now that Christopher Lee has passed away. He was 93 and he lived a life more amazing than most people will ever hope to do. Here are some amazing things about Sir Christopher Lee, because the man many today know as Saruman from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit was not only a great and powerful wizard, but also so much more.

He was Knighted in 2009.

What was he knighted for, besides being awesome? His service to drama and charity. 

His mother was an Italian Countess who was actually descended from the line of Charlemagne.

Like. Cool. So he was technically some kind of royalty.

He was a military badass WWII Special Forces Vet.

He volunteered to fight with Finland, fighting evil Soviet Commies in WWII when it broke out in 1939. But they sidelined him and the other British volunteers with guard duty, so he returned home and lay in wait as a mild-mannered clerk until the British were facing Nazis. Then he joined up with the RAF, later joined their Intelligence branch, and did some secret work for the branch that would eventually become the SAS. This is all he had to say about it:

"I was attached to the SAS from time to time but we are forbidden – former, present, or future – to discuss any specific operations. Let's just say I was in Special Forces and leave it at that. People can read in to that what they like."

He was always pretty close-lipped about these years of service, but it's public record that he retired as a Flight Lieutenant in 1945, he hunted down Nazi war criminals, he'd been personally decorated for battlefield bravery by the Czech, Yugoslavian, English, and Polish governments, and he knew what it really sounded like when a man was stabbed in the back.

He was freakin' tall.

He was 6'5" in 1940. While today you may say "So?", back then people were munchkin-sized and he was told he was actually too tall to be an actor. Of course, (not-yet-Sir) Christopher Lee said "Right, I'll show you..." (direct quote) and went on to do it anyway, because he didn't give a crap about the opinion of puny mortals. In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records actually gave him an award for being a tall actor.

He was a step-cousin of Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels. 

Small wonder he played a Bond villain, Francisco Scaramanga, in The Man with the Golden Gun later on. And rocked it. Look at that face.

Has won awards for the number of movie and TV roles he's played in (over 200).

Before he died, he had most roles of any living actor. And included in this lengthy, prestigious award list is "Most sword fights." You don't get much more manly than that.

Did I mention he was really good at fencing?

This might have contributed to his "most sword fights" swagger. Possibly.

He knew evil.

In addition to rocking the Bond villain, he has been a mummy, Dracula, Lucifer, Death, Count Dooku, Saruman the White, Fu Manchu, and Lord Summerisle. 

Lee and Cushing breaking the ice.

He had more lives than a cat.

During his military career, he spent leave in Naples and climbed Mount Vesuvius, which erupted three days later. Apparently it had to wait for him to leave town. Christopher lee also purportedly survived tripping over live bombs (which were too in awe of him to detonate).

He actually met Tolkien.

Tolkien reportedly gave his blessing to this amazeballs giant hunk of actor to be Gandalf the Grey. Peter Jackson, of course, decided to make him Saruman. He crushed that role anyway. Sorry Tolkien.

He met Prince Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, the assassins of Grigori Rasputin.

As if, you know, being descended from Charlemagne wasn't awesome enough, he also hobknobbed with royal assassins. Ironically, many years later, Lee would end up playing Rasputin.

He spoke like 9 languages.

Among them were German, English, Spanish, Italian, French, and Mandarin. The modest Christopher Lee admitted he only spoke Swedish, Russian, and Greek "moderately proficiently."

And he wrote a Heavy Metal album. About Charlemagne.

At age 87. Probably because he was sick of listening to your vanilla pop music and the oldies. 

God bless and godspeed, good Sir. The world is unlikely to see the likes of you again.

We will miss you.

Rest in peace.


Budget Eating: You Won't Starve, but You'll be Exhausted

Please someone; Make me a sandwich

Budget Eating: You Won't Starve, but You'll be Exhausted


Week Four of my Budget Eating Challenge started with a conundrum. This was the last week of the challenge. Should I:

a) Live like I would if I knew all budget restrictions come off me next week? Or
b) Live like a person would knowing that they were stuck on a restricted budget for the foreseeable future?

Why was this a conundrum? Because to be perfectly honest, I could probably have done little or no shopping this past week. It wouldn't have been comfortable or very tasty, and I might have skimped on some of the Canada Food Guide recommendations some days, but TECHNICALLY I could have drained all of my resources.

This is what I had left over:

Half a bag of lentils
3/4 bag of barley
Most of a new 5kg bag of flour
Plenty of sugar, both white and brown
About 1.75 kg of rice
1kg of rolled oats
Plenty of mustard
Most of my apple cider vinegar and soy sauce
1 cup of cocoa powder
Most of a new jar of Wowbutter
A few meals worth of seasoning
Half a jar of mayo
About 1 cup oil
About 1 cup sour cream

A bottle and a half of Motts Garden cocktail
About 8 lbs of potatoes
5 homemade tortillas
Most of my cheddar and about 2/3 of my mozzarella
1 lb hamburger
6 pork chops
½ lb stewing pork
1 roma tomato
Two zucchini
About 4 lbs of carrots
Almost 3/4 of a 1kg bag of frozen green beans
1.4 kg of a 2kg bag of corn
500g of frozen peas
11 single-serve apple sauces
2 1/4 loaves of bread
4 boxes of soy milk
Some lunch meat to get through the week
14 eggs
3 peppers
2.5 boxes of spaghetti
Half of our hash browns
2 700g bags of frozen blueberries


As much as that looks like on paper, it’s really only about a week’s worth of food. For example, this represents about 8 days’ worth of protein servings remaining in meat and eggs (excluding lentils and Wowbutter)—assuming I didn’t use eggs for baking and we ate only the bare minimum of 2 servings (of 2.5 oz / 2 eggs) per person per day.  

If I treated all of this money as expendable, a person who has to continue on with the diet would be bumped back to somewhere where I was between weeks 1 and 2, pretty much with only dry goods, spaghetti noodles, and vinegar in their pantry. But if this were an ongoing thing - if this was my life - my shopping would obviously look very different. Let's face it. Week one was hell, and if I were living on a severely limited budget, I would prefer to remain at my current standard of eating. 

In the end, I opted to show you a little about how one should use this ongoing surplus to restock and expand the pantry. In limited budgets, the pantry is the great enabler. Since this week I was out (or nearly out) of baking powder, seasonings, oil, and convenient, easy to pack lunch items, I would need to repurchase those over the coming two weeks. I would also be using it to help expand my pantry, buying things that we’d like - like tea, coffee, and salad dressings (yes, we’ve gone this month without any of these things). 

Pantry Items ($44.03)

Baking Powder 450g - $3.39
Olive Oil (1L) - $7.50
Condensed Milk 1 can - $1.25
Salad Dressing - $1.97
Coffee - $17.99
Tea - $4.47
Vegetable oil (3L) - $3.98
Thyme - $1.99
Red Pepper Flakes - $1.49

Grocery Items - ($64.83) 

Chicken Breasts (5 / 1.06kg) - $8.03 53 cents per serving
Peppers (4) - $2.97
Chips - 3.36
Bananas (5) - $1.35
Elbow Macaroni (900g) - $0.97
Romaine (2 heads) - $2.47
Grapes (.9 kg) - $2.23
Cucumber (1) - $0.97
Watermelon - $2.99
Cream of Chicken soup (1 can) - $1.89
Onion - $1.00
Bread (3 loaves) - $5.99
Hotdog Buns (8) - $1.99
Wowbutter - $4.79
Hot dogs (10) - $4.49
Lemons (bag) - $2.97
Apples (3lb) - $3.97
Strawberries (454g) - $2.99
Spinach - $3.99
Tortillas (10) - $1.49
Tomatoes (4) - $2.23


Lil Caesar's Hot-N-Ready Pizza - $5.00

Total: $113.86 ($2.18 under weekly budget of $115.50 plus $0.54 surplus from week 3)

Yes, holy crap, I ended up under budget, but you can see I didn't end up under budget by much.

What I made

As it happened, I needed to use up some of the early-purchased items. Everything is more susceptible to freezer-burn when you don't have a chest freezer handy, so to avoid food waste, be sure to use your older items on a regular basis.

Breakfast was mostly traditional - I ended up having to make some more instant oatmeal for hubby. We had cereal and Wowbutter on toast through the week; eggs, and hashbrowns on Saturday, and pancakes for kidlet on Sunday.

Lunches for work consisted of leftovers and sandwiches (wowbutter & jelly or lunchmeat). After serving as a replacement for Maple syrup and all these lunches, my 500ml strawberry & cocoa jam is just about used up; I will have to make more, or buy more.

Tuesday - I had that lonely tomato wilting in the fridge and peppers to use up, so I made tacos again with the last of my bulk-purchased taco seasoning (which you can also make a ton of homemade, by the way, for much cheaper than you can buy taco kits), half of my remaining ground beef, the 5 remaining tortillas, the tomato, a pepper, cheddar and sour cream. While I was making tacos, I grabbed my full bag of veggie peels from the freezer and one of my last remaining garlic cloves, sauteed them in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes, and then filled the pot with water, some salt, and a couple bay leaves, and simmered it over the next hour while we were eating. Set a colander over a large pot or bowl, pour the liquid through, and voila! Instant vegetable stock for the next day.

Wednesday - I used my homemade vegetable stock, the remaining ground beef, and my last bell pepper from week 3 to make a variant on my hearty Cheeseburger Soup. 1/3 cup of dried green lentils and about a half a cup of frozen peas helped me extend the ground beef since I didn't use a full pound, and a little cheddar and my remaining cayenne pepper substituted for the spicy jalapeno Monterrey Jack. Since I didn't have my food processor, the soup was chunky in style, but it was still really good.

Thursday - Hubs and I went shopping, and we were so tired by the time we got home that we broke down and got a Hot-N-Ready from Little Caesars. Apparently hubs was right when he said our new diet was verging on "disgustingly healthy for us," because the pizza was so rich that it upset our stomachs.  

Friday - I let kidlet have some input on what he wanted to eat for supper. We ended up with quick-broiled pork chops, rice, and boiled frozen corn. I have concluded that you can never trust a kid to pick out anything but frozen corn for vegetables.

Saturday - it was a nice enough day I sent hubs out to grill the hot dogs we had bought. I threw together a quick salad with a little romaine, a handful of spinach, a couple leftover pieces of broccoli, half a tomato, and a chopped pepper. Chips and fresh fruit rounded out the picnic.

Sunday - we had half the package of hotdogs left over, so we packed two for kidlet (food allergies) and he chowed down on those as we made the rounds visiting friends and family up north. We had lunch at the mother-in-laws and mostly grazed at home for dinner.

Monday - Kidlet decided to make himself a sandwich for supper, so Hubs and I threw together some homemade mac & cheese with the last of our cheddar and a salad, because easy and fast. I have decided that oil makes excellent roux--though I've heard it doesn't hold up as well as butter if you have leftovers. But really, leftovers are pretty rare. Anyway, roux will be a topic I cover in the future.

Tuesday - Hurray, last day! Kidlet's first game of soccer was tonight, so I decided to cook up the chicken breasts I bought before they spoiled, since I forgot to throw them in the freezer. You're probably like "OMG you bought boneless skinless chicken breasts?" Yes. I did--they were the only meat on sale this week. Hear me out, you can actually buy boneless skinless chicken breasts at "whole chicken" reasonable prices from time to time. Don't forget, you've got about 30-40% inedible waste in a whole chicken... so the 1kg of chicken worked out to be about 53 cents a serving (no waste). Given that most meat has been ranging between 45-50 cents a serving, it's actually in the right ballpark. ANYWAY - I used the can of chicken soup, some wine, chopped potatoes and carrots and the last of our sour cream to make crockpot chicken breasts


I still believe I'm mostly at a maintenance standpoint, with maybe getting a few bucks ahead every week (assuming one can maintain this effort). I've been replenishing things that were out and almost gone (there was a wicked sale on vegetable oil this week), but there are more things that will require replenishment over the next week - cheese, spices, shelf-stable snacks, and I've all but wiped out my meat. Because I went shopping a few days later than normal, I'm better than usual right now in the fresh food department for the early part of next week, meaning I don't have to go grocery shopping right away tonight or tomorrow. There's room - now - to take some of the extra budget to grow and take advantage of sales and situations as they come up.


I guess I've proven that one can eat relatively healthy and well on low budget (fat content's a little high when you have to opt for the fattier meats and cheeses, but hey). Food may not be fancy; there's a lot of sandwiches and salads. Except that doesn't really feel like that should be the takeaway here.

I would be lying if I didn't say that there wasn't a sense of profound relief that this challenge is over... though possibly not in the way that you think. I've had people asking me what my first meal will be once I'm "free." But the thing is, is that NOW we are not eating too far off from the way we were before, and I'm pretty happy with our diet.

Why, then, am I feeling relief? Well, what most people don't know is how damned constant the food challenge made cooking and shopping. This is crazy to admit, but I actually don't usually cook every day - I like to spend a couple days a week cooking and storing meals for eating throughout the week (and sometimes I just get lazy, and we order pizza). I definitely don't usually shop two stores every week. But the limited budget meant I had to opt for smaller quantities of things, and the quantity of fresh meant I had to go more often. Limited money and time meant I couldn't cook so many things at once - it was about all I could do to prep stuff ahead to make the next day a little easier. 

The fact that we ate as well as we did, that we had as much extra money as we did, I have to credit almost entirely to scratch cooking and the eating of whole foods. But there was a hefty price to pay in time and effort. And it's crystal clear to me that not everyone might have the time, inclination, or cooking knowledge to do so, especially if they're working multiple jobs. I don't know what the answer is, but I think if we want society to be healthier, we need to find a way to enable them to have the time and ability to choose and make more healthy, satisfying meals.

Apart from being deprived of my initial pantry, I found the loss of my chest freezer utterly crippling. I believe wholeheartedly that a large freezer is the single most important thing you can do to help you save money and eat better on a limited budget--even before learning to cook. Without the ability to store goods, you're completely at the whim of sales, and you're without the means to store bulk purchases for long term--a fridge freezer just isn't going to keep foods as long. In fact, if I were really without a chest freezer, I'd be putting by as much of my extra budget money as I could afford to save up for the purchase of one. Many can be found used for under $200.

So the answer to what my first meal will be is "something I don't have to cook." Don't get me wrong, a steak or the cheesy risotto and a nice glass of wine would be nice. But honestly, I would be happy with a grilled cheese if it met the "I don't have to cook" criteria.

My friends, I thank you for joining me on this wild ride all this past month. I hope you found it as informative as I certainly did--for me, taking this challenge has been nothing short of life-altering. I will never look at grocery shopping the same way again, at the very least.

I will have more posts and recipes related to this challenge trickling out this month after this follow up (these get too wordy as it is). But I appreciate your readership and support during May. 

If you have been moved by this series and you are of means, please consider donating nutritious food options (whole-meal baby food, canned fruits and vegetables, and canned meats) to your local food banks to help offset food insecurity for needy families. Let's make sure that all children have what they need to grow and thrive.

Small luxuries--like chocolate, coffee, and tea--would also do much to improve quality of life for those in need. 

Thanks for reading.


Crockpot Pork & Lentil Stew

Lentils can help you stretch a little meat

Crockpot Pork & Lentil Stew


It's pretty much official: my slow cooker is coming into its own for the Hunger Games Challenge. I haven't put it away since the first day I've had it out.

This challenge has been a crash course in the use of lentils for me. I've had them, but I haven't done much with them (apart from deciding I liked them in my multigrain oatmeal that I made a few weeks back). I did, however, know going in how the edible seed pulse is capable of some pretty astonishing things, up to and including making ice cream. They're versatile and easy to cook. A few minutes to learn, a lifetime to master.

While I've not abandoned the ways of the meat, I've discovered on this challenge that lentils are a great way to extend a small amount, particularly soups and stews. Vegetarian or not, here's some good reasons why you should get to know lentils better, regardless of your diet:

  • They're local (with all the sustainability/eco benefits that go along with that): Canada is actually the world's largest exporter of lentils to the global marketplace (99% of them being grown in Saskatchewan). Who knew, eh?
  • They're one of the cheapest sources of protein you can get. My family doesn't like beans, but they'll eat lentils, and lentils come in at about 12 cents per serving, unlike eggs (40 cents per serving) and most other cheap meats, even when they're on sale (~45-60 cents per serving for pork, chicken, ground beef, etc.). 
  • Lentils have a bunch of other health benefits including that they're a high source of dietary fiber, are low in fat, are reasonable in calories, and are high in many minerals including magnesium. 
  • Having not much of a taste of their own, you can sort of put the green ones in everything, and they hold up excellently in the slow cooker.

This rustic slow-cooker pork stew is rich and meaty, it comes together in a flash, and for only a few minutes prep, you can have hot food that you didn't have to slave over a hot stove to get. Serve with chunky bread and butter.


  • 1/2 lb cubed pork stewing meat
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp light oil
  • 1 cup strained tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup green lentils
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • Salt & pepper


 In a frying pan, saute the onion and garlic in the oil with a pinch of salt. Once the garlic begins to brown (2-3 minutes), transfer the onions and garlic into the bottom of the crockpot. Brown the pork, seasoning generously with salt and pepper, and add it to the crockpot as well.

 Add the tomatoes, lentils, bay leaves, carrots, celery, potato and water to the crockpot, stir, cover, and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or 5-6 hours on high, until most of the liquid is absorbed.

 In the last 5-10 minutes, add the peas, and stir again.