For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Things are picking up

Well, our busy season seems to be kicking in faster than usual this year!

This whole past year has been an odd one for us.  Some things dropped off entirely, such as our park days and Youngest's singing lessons.  Others are new, such as her guitar lessons, while still others just aren't what they were, such as our library days.  Those have gone from regular one-day-a-week things to perhaps none one week to 3 or 4 visits the next!  The kids are as likely to go without me these days - or even without each other.

Of course, having Raider King living with us for a while changed our habits, but that's to be expected.  Now that he's got his own place, things just haven't gone back the way they were, really.  Though I suppose I never really expected them to.

This weekend is a double whammy for us.  Our co-op is doing another garage/craft/bake sale.  I don't know why I bother signing up for a table.  Only the very first one I did was any success - and I was one of the few that made any money!  The others have been utterly dead.  I really ought to set up in actual craft sales, rather than our co-op sales, but the craft sales that are around are pretty huge and require a substantial amount of money to book a spot.  For one of them, there was a group of my fellow crafters that considered getting a spot together, but at a cost of $400, it was just too much.  The crazy thing is that, even though they have so many people booking spaces (for some local crafters, these two sales a year are all they do!) at such a high cost, the place still charges an admission from customers just to walk in the door!


So I've got the sale on both Saturday and Sunday.  Meanwhile, the art festival Eldest is booked for in the summer is having an advance "block party" sale to promote the event.  It's very small, with space for only a handful of artists to set up, so it was great that Eldest could get a spot at all.  It's just for the one day, and the hours are the same as for my sale!  Which means Dh is going to have to do the driving to get Eldest and her supplies out there.  She's been busy choosing and preparing which paintings she will include for this small sale, with some framed pieces while others are without.  For those, she picked up some special plastic bags to protect them.  Though Dh will have to drive her, he won't be able to help her set up.  His back went nasty on him a few days ago.  He ended up missing three days of work and is walking with a cane again.  He's banned from lifting anything right now.  Even driving will be uncomfortable for him, but the alternative is for him to sit with my stuff at the sale, and that won't be any easier on his back than driving.  It'll be okay, though.  Eldest needs to figure out how to set up in the spot she's been allocated (and a good spot, it is!), and it'll be easier for her to figure it out on her own, anyhow.  Hopefully, he'll be able to swing by later on, though, and take over at least long enough for her to have a bathroom break!  That's the down side of these events.  Unless you've got someone with you to help out, you're stuck watching over your own merchandise for the entire time.  Granted, the artists tend to keep an eye out for each other, and are known to watch their neighbours' stuff so they have a chance to get something to eat or answer the call of nature.

Youngest might be joining me off an on over the weekend.  She's got a few of her own pieces in the sale, too.  Of course, anything of hers that sells, I'll keep the money separate for her.  Like my stuff, however, hers really should be in a different sort of sale.  She's got a lovely triangle shawl in the sale that was made with a really neat yarn that has a metallic thread running through it for a bit of sparkle.  It has to be priced to at least cover the cost of the yarn, and that stuff wasn't cheap.  Garage sale goers, on the other hand, do tend to be cheap - after all, bargains are what people are going to garage sales for.  That this is also a craft and baking sale doesn't change that much.  People still aren't likely to care that something was hand made with high quality materials, excellent workmanship, and is an original design.  That's boutique stuff.  Well, I hope at least her little child-size hats sell.  They're adorable.

On top of all this, I have a new job, of sorts.  I've been hired by a major craft store franchise to be their crochet instructor and, if things go well, may even start teaching other crafts as well.  The reason I say "of sorts" is because I won't have any sort of regular hours and get to make my own schedule, to a certain extent.  The classes are a new thing for the store, so there are none actually booked.  Until then, I will be doing the occasional demo.  That part gets paid by the hour at minimum wage.  For the classes themselves, I'll be paid a very generous percentage of the registration fees.  Meanwhile, I'll also be taking a distance certification course at home through them.  I only need to do the first two levels to get the instructor certification, but if I can do the third level as well, I will get to include the word "professional" in there, too.  That part of the course requires, among other things, designing a garment - something I've already done, so it's no big deal for me.  The main part for me is that my name gets into a database for North American instructors, which opens me up to other possible contracts.  Looking over the course descriptions, there's nothing in them I can't already do.  Of course, the group that runs the course gets to determine if I'm actually doing them well enough to be certified.

I'm not too concerned about that. *L*

Dang it.  Just looked at the time.  I need to get up early to get a start on the sale tomorrow.  What am I doing still up at 2 am?  Time to go to bed!

Have a good night, all!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

That Olde Tyme Thang...

In the last little while, I've been enjoying the blog, Ridin out the Recession.  I heartily recommend bookmarking it and visiting often!  It's been a fantastic read.

It's a blog that has got me to thinking food again.  If you've been following either of my blogs for a while, you may have noticed I have an interest in food history.  You can learn alot about people by what they eat, how they prepare their food, and the customs and traditions surrounding food.  I find it fascinating.

Ridin out the Recession, in their posts talking about different ways to put up food for the future, has reminded me about this a lot.  Our modern society, with its technologies and international trade, has not only made an astounding variety of foods available to us, but it has made preparing and preserving our food for the future much easier, more consistent and safer.  Modern canning methods sure have improved from the days I helped my mother top her jars of jam with a piece of string and paraffin wax! (The string was allowed to hang outside the jar so you could pull the wax up to "open" the jar - but sometimes the wax would just break apart, and we'd have to use a knife to get the rest out, then fish little bits of wax off the top later on.)

Not too many people preserve food anymore, beyond sticking things into the freezer, though doing so was regaining interest even before the global economy tanked.  Much like traditional crafts often see a resurgence in popularity after being displaced by industrial versions, increased numbers of people have found that these old methods are satisfying and enjoyable skills.  It feels darn good to do things for yourself!  Being able to grow a garden, then fill your pantry with food for another day really does something for you!  Even those who aren't DIY'ers are increasingly appreciative of hand made items.

I love old cookbooks.  While I enjoy recreating historical recipes, some of my favorites are just a generation or two old.  As much as I like the recipes in modern cookbooks, I find myself less willing to try them out. With so many of them written and published in the US, for example, they tend to call for ingredients that aren't so easy to find in Canada, if they're available here at all.  New cookbooks also tend to use a lot of packaged ingredients. While the use of canned, bottled or powdered ingredients makes things handy, we just don't buy a lot of prepared foods.  I have little interest in buying them just to try out a recipe.

The old cookbooks don't have these prepared ingredients, since they didn't exist at the time.  Of course, there's also the problem of the old recipes using ingredients that were common then, but aren't anymore!  Others are foods that were common and cheap at the time, but are now expensive, luxury items.  Like rabbit!

Among my favorite cookbooks is The Canadiana Cookbook, by Mme Jehane Benoit, published in 1970.  This was one of those flea market finds that are such treasures.  The book is organized by province and territory, with plenty of Mme Benoit's wonderful commentaries strewn about.

In the Manitoba section, she has a recipe for Pemmican (Chippewa), which she in turn found in the Prairie Pantry cook book.  Pemmican played a huge part in Canadian development and trade, and in Metis culture.  Many of our modern highways closely follow the Pemmican trails - the Metis trade routes.  Pemmican was a vital food for a very long time, and was originally made using bison, elk or venison. 

I haven't tried this recipe yet.  In the cookbook, Mme Benoit says she made it using smoked venison instead of beef.  If you give it a try, please let me know how it turned out!

Pemmican (Chippewa)
The Canadiana Cookbook, pages 144-145

1 pound dried beef or smoked venison
3/4 pound dried crushed chokecherries*
1/2 pound fresh beef suet, chopped fine
1/2 cup light brown or natural sugar

Pass all through meat grinder, except the sugar.  Add the sugar.  Mix thoroughly.  Pack in a bowl and keep covered and refrigerated.  Serve with sourdough bread.

* I dry my own chokecherries in a 200 F oven.  They are usually easy to find in Health Food stores.  Dried currants can replace them, or fresh lingonberries when available.


Well, I don't know if you can get chokecherries in health food stores anymore.  Besides her recommended alternatives, cranberries, saskatoons and blueberries can be used, too.  The fruit is actually optional, and a more modern addition.  This is the only recipe I've seen that uses sugar.

We've made our own beef jerky, and if you want to dry your own meat, it's easy to do.  Get a cut of very lean meat, such as flank steak, and cut it very thin, against the grain (partially freeze the meat to make it easier to cut, if you want).  We laid wire cake racks over cookie sheets, then spread the meat out over them evenly.  After letting the oven warm up to the lowest setting (about 150 - 200 F), we put the meat in and left it overnight with the oven light on, but the oven off.  The oven can be heated back up as needed, though it just needs to be warm, not hot enough to actually cook the meat.  If you take the meat out to turn it, though, make sure to warm it back up again.  It can take a very long time to thoroughly dry the meat (I've seen as long as 15 hours - we didn't take as long with our jerky, since we wanted it to still be chewable).

In the days before meat grinders and food processors, the dried meat would be pounded into a powder.  The fat would be rendered and everything would be put into special leather bags and mixed together.

Pemmican was valuable because it was extremely nutritious, portable and, properly wrapped, could last 4-5 years.  It can be eaten as is, though I've read of the Voyageurs adding it to boiling water to make a soup.

I don't know how economical it would be to make pemmican now, with how much meat costs these days.  At least for someone who has to get their meat at the grocery store.  For a hunter or beef farmer, it might be a practical way to preserve some trail food.

Officially done for the year

Well, that's it for this year!  At least on paper.  We've had our facilitator visit (which was a huge amount of fun, as usual. :-D), got our paperwork done for next year, submitted our receipts, and our school year is done.  We've decided to extend Eldest another year, rather than "graduate" this year.  It gives us access to resources she can use to help get her going with her art as a business.  We were even able to get her a laptop this year (and many thanks to Dell for letting us get it at the originally quoted sale price - a savings of some $400.  We ended up ordering it online, using a purchase order, and the guy that helped us was really great).  She has no plans to use it on the internet, so we haven't bothered setting that up.  It has the capability to do quite a bit, should she choose to.  In fact, I think it's better than our latest desktop!  The old desktop the girls had been using is basically a big paperweight right now. :-P

As usual, the official year end doesn't really change much for us.  Summer is always our busiest time of year for activities.  There's just so much out there!  That reminds me.  I have to find out if Youngest's guitar lessons break for the summer or not.

Dh and Eldest went geocaching again, in the wee hours of last Sunday morning.  Youngest got interested, too, so they went out again after Dh had a chance to take a break (Youngest is like me - NOT a morning person! *L*).  She had a blast!  They are now on geocache as a team, and plan to go out regularly.  One of these days I'm going to have to go with them, just to take pictures of some of the interesting places they're finding in the process.  Eldest was telling me about their last trip out, which took them into the river valley, exploring a park we've passed through, but never checked out.  It's always amazing to be wandering around the woods, with nothing to tell you you're actually in the heart of a major city!

Hopefully, my summer will be busier.  I've just been hired as a crochet instructor at a local Michaels!  I'm pretty excited about it.  It's not exactly regular hours, though - I will have classes as people register for them, and the franchise is just getting into these classes (they're also going to be having knitting, beading and scrapbooking classes).  I'll be taking a certification course at the same time, and the hours I teach will count towards completion of the certification.  So far, I've only done a single demo, which was fun, but I spent more time answering questions on where to find things around the store than about crochet!  Though there was the one woman who asked advice about making a baby blanket as a gift, so I ended up helping her make some decisions and choose a yarn.  I hope that works well for her.

I'll have 4 different courses to teach (each a 2 1/2 hour class) for different levels, from bare bones beginners to more advanced techniques and stitches, and I get paid based on how many students register for the classes.  If things go well, I hope to be teaching at least those 4 classes a month.  It might take a few months for word to get out that they're available, though.  I can make myself available to other locations, too, even just as a back-up instructor.  Once my certification course is done, I'll be in a database for all of North America as an instructor, too.  The course I'm going to be taken is Levels I and II, but there's also a Level III Professional available that I will want to take as soon as I can.  For that one, I'll have to design a garment (something I've already done) and take an exam, plus have a higher number of hours teaching to be done within a year. 

I'm really looking forward to teaching my first class - even though right now, it's so new, I don't even know what I'll be teaching (other than the specific stitches), and neither does the woman heading the program in the store that hired me!  The classes are already planned out for the instructors, including patterns and material lists.  I'll just need to focus on actually teaching.

We're still hoping to get a trip in to visit the family back in Manitoba at the end of the summer.  Not sure how that will work out, or even if all four of us will make the trip.  We're trying to set aside money for it, but with the gas prices going up so high and taking everything else with it (I'm going to have to increase the grocery budget again - which means cutting from somewhere else, of course), I'm starting to wonder if we'll be able to at all.  My parents were planning to have a permanent gravestone placed on my brother's grave a day shy of the anniversary of his death, with a mass and blessing from a priest, followed by a get together with friends and family.  There's no way we can make it out for then.  They haven't been able to find a priest available for that date, though, so they might have to move it to later on.  The permanent stone would still be placed before then.  We'll see how things end up working out.

Meanwhile, we're looking ahead to a summer filled with activity, from taking in as many of the local festivals as we can, including Eldest's art display, geocaching, and general out-and-abouting on top of our usual routine.

Hopefully, that means I'll be posting more often, too! *L*

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Interesting times

Well, I've got a bit of catching up to do!

The biggest news is that Raider King found himself his own place.  It's the basement of a co-worker's house, and at an amazing rent - especially considering all the utilities are included, and it even comes with some furniture and a TV.  He's got Internet, too, but they haven't figured out how to set him up yet.  He's been there for about a week now, and it's working out really well for him.  Ah, I remember those days of living in one's very first independent home!  We're really happy for him, and he's finally not only got privacy, but space, as well.

I haven't even tried to do library lists lately.  The girls have been plowing their way through several series of Manga comics.  These days, our library trips involve putting a whole bunch of things on hold, then going in long enough to pick them up.  This past week I finally went for a regular library day with Youngest, bringing Eldest's card along so we could pick up her holds (Eldest had to get a new library card, now that she's an adult, which means her card is no longer free.  Not that it costs much, anyhow).  I hadn't been to the library in ages, so Youngest and I split up.  I went to the crafting section while she picked up the holds, then headed for the mythology section.  We met up in audio/visual, where I found a few dvds to borrow.  By the time I was done, she was waiting for me, reading one of the books she found.  Then she showed me the rest of the stack she'd picked!  When we got home, she insisted on weighing the backpack.  It was about 17 pounds of books! *L*

We've been doing an awful lot of running around lately, which has been a bit frustrating for Eldest.  She has to get ready for the art festival, and has been working on quite a few new paintings, along with her other sketch work, etc.  The festival is in July, but there's lots of preparation in between.  Her biggest challenge, I think, is going to be finding frames. 

Dh had brought up the idea of geocaching recently.  He's got GPS on his phone, so yesterday he and Eldest headed out in the wee hours of the morning to find some nearby caches.  It turns out there are seven of them near our place, some of which we've gone by many times without knowing they were there!  Of the seven, they found four this morning.  A couple of them were nano-caches - these are so small, they recommend bringing tweezers along to take out the log "book."  It's actually a tiny roll of paper that the finder dates and initials.  They also found a micro-cache, which is about the size of one of those magnetic boxes used to hide spare keys, plus a regular sized cache.  One they didn't find, they plan to go back to, as Eldest is now sure she knows where it is.  The other two, there were too many people around for them to be able to look for them.

Youngest now wants to go out geocaching, too!

Meanwhile, we're winding up our official school year.  Our facilitator visit is this Friday.  Looking forward to it. :-)

Youngest's guitar lessons will continue through the summer, though, as far as I know.  At least her teacher hasn't mentioned anything about a summer break.  She's still enjoying the lessons, though pains in her wrist (which, it has been determined, has nothing to do with her guitar playing) have been a bit of a problem. 

On a completely different note...

I quit.  I've thrown in the towel.  I give up in defeat.

(and no, Eldest, you are not allowed to feel guilty about this)

I've whined and moaned previously about how much I hate shopping.  In particular, how much I hate grocery shopping, due to the diverse nature of likes, dislikes and dietary requirements.  It's not usually much of an issue.  Dh has breakfast at home before I wake up, and usually has leftovers from supper as a lunch at work.  The girls have been making their own breakfasts and lunches for quite some time now.   We've basically had one major meal of the day, which I usually do, though the girls certainly have stepped in fairly regularly. 

The problem?

Well, I got tired of throwing away food.

You see, every now and then, no matter what gets made for supper, it just doesn't get eaten.  Oh, sure, some of it does, but very tiny amounts.  Then the leftovers get put aside for Dh to make a lunch for work, except he doesn't for some reason, so it sits there.  Next thing I know, I'm throwing away almost entire meals.  This *really* irritated me when that involved throwing out a lot of meat.  It got to be a real problem.  Sometimes, it was because leftovers were tucked into the oven or something, with the intent of it being used right away, only to be forgotten about.  I always made a habit of leaving the oven light on when something was set aside in there, but it would get turned off, and promptly forgotten about until the next time someone needed to use the oven.

Not good.

Well, about a week ago, I went to start supper, only to discover some food that had been sitting for 3 days, virtually untouched.  I'd made extra specifically so there would be enough left over for Dh's lunch, and not even the normal amount of it had been eating.  Few things bother me more than wasted food!

So I quit.

We are now responsible for our own meals.

Not that we don't cook for each other once in a while.  We've started using the BBQ now that the weather has finally improved, for example.  But overall, I've washed my hands of meals.

We'll see how long that lasts.