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.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Trying out my new gadget.

This is mostly a test post.  This blog is supposed to be where I record our activities as a homeschooling family.  Lack of access and time on the desktop has meant posts are few and far between. As of today, I now have a tablet.  The girls and I are currently at a Second Cup, having made a trip to the library.

The touchscreen keyboard is a bit of a pain, but it`s better than trying to blog on my phone!!

The girls are waiting on me to finish this before we head home, so I am off for now.  I hope that this thing will work out to be a useful tool for us.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


The last while has been pretty ridiculous.  I feel like I've been running around constantly!  We had some unusual stuff pop up and that had us rearrange pretty much everything.  When it all settled down, I expected things to slow down a bit and get back to normal.

They didn't.

With our Christmas season soon to kick in (yeah, I know, it isn't even Halloween yet, but I'm a crafter, which means getting started requires more time), things are just going to pick up.  Throw in my husband's health issues and Eldest's new job, and I find myself heading out about 3 times a day.

Did I mention Eldest has a new job? :-D

Locally, the job market seems to be picking up dramatically.  I'm seeing "help wanted" signs everywhere.  Part of it is because businesses are looking for more staff for Christmas, but it started picking up before that could be considered the reason.

Eldest had dropped her resume off at a few art stores, but they haven't been looking for much lately.  Then she filled out an online application for Michaels.  She specified a store that we usually frequent.  A day or two after she finished submitting the online application, she got a call from a different store.  They called on a Wednesday, asking if she could come in for a Thursday morning interview.  She walked out of the interview with a job!  She applied for, and got, a job in receiving.  They asked her to come in on the Saturday at noon to do some paperwork, saying it would be about 3 hours.  She finished the paperwork after about an hour or so, then they put her to work in the back!  Her first shift was 3am on the next Monday, and today she just finished another shift with a 3am start.

The down side of a 3am shift is that the buses stop running at 1:30am and don't start again until 5:30am.  Which means I have to drive her.  She could take a cab I suppose, but the cost is prohibitive, and we don't exactly have reliable cab service in our city.  There are plenty of cabs out there; their service just sucks.

I don't mind driving her, though.  I tend to be up late anyhow, and it gives us a chance to chat.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to make up for the lost sleep by sleeping in.  Whether it's running errands that are time dependant, needing to pick up Dh from work because his back has gone bonkers again, or whatever, I just haven't been able to get any real sleep.  The things that need doing aren't a problem; it's just that I'm not getting any chance to catch up on things in between, whether it's my email, my course work or just plain sleep! *L*

My crochet classes are getting sign ups now, though.  I had my first official class, and it was a blast.  I've got classes booked every week; it's just a matter of getting people to sign up for them.  I've finished the first part of my instructor's course and have started on the second part, but with all the running around, I've accomplished little.

We've had some issues with our van, though.  Some weird electrical gremlin is affecting our lights, inside and out, and it's getting worse.  For the first time in 2 years, I contacted the dealership asking about our coverage for that (if the coverage we paid for does cover it, it'll only cost us our deductible.  Otherwise, I have no idea what it will cost to fix), along with a couple other questions.   After 2 yrs of no claims against our roadside assistance, we were supposed to get some money back.  I was told to talk to the insurance company and they had no idea what I was talking about.  What they had was a different type of coverage, and it would require claims free to 2015.  Which means if we get our van fixed using our coverage, we lose the rebate.

We were supposed to go into the dealership on Thanksgiving afternoon to talk about that, including the possibility of a trade in (that would allow us to have lower interest rates, though I doubt it would have given us lower payments).  The dealership has moved since we bought that van and, while I had a vague idea of where it was, having driven past it some time ago, the salesman gave me directions to the entrance, which isn't on the main road.

We never found the place.   His directions sent me someplace else completely. This actually exemplified why I had numerical street systems.  Dh tried calling for directions while I drove around, trying to find the street the salesman told me I should take (it turned out to be an avenue), but after following the directions from the receptionist, who somehow got it in her head that we were coming from a different direction, we got to an area that was primarily residential.  Dh even used google maps on his phone, which was so vague, I still didn't know where it was supposed to be.  We decided to just go home.  Dh phone again, this time to leave a message for the salesman we were supposed to meet, but the receptionist couldn't get past his name (a French version of a common English name).  He was so pissed, he gave up trying to leave a message and we just went home.

Once home, I looked up the place online and that's where we found out that the place was no where near where we were told to go, and that the avenue (not street)  their entrance is on didn't even extend to where we were told to go - it was cut off by the residential area we saw, instead.

So I fired off an email to the salesman explaining why we didn't make it, expressing our unhappiness, and asking the one question they weren't addressing, even after asking 3 times; did our coverage include the sort of electrical problem we described.

It's been 3 days and he still hasn't answered.  I don't think he will.

So now I'm driving around with a van with only one headlight in the front, one set of lights in the back, a break light that pops on and off, sometimes dinging, sometimes not, at random, a left signal that blinks at double time, but not sometimes doesn't turn on at all anymore, and a right signal that sometimes becomes a left signal, then back again on its own.  I've already been warned that trying to track down a problem like what we're having can be extremely expensive - and that's before the cost of repair. 

Beyond this, I'm really happy with our van.  I have no real desire to trade up, though if it would have resulted in lower payments, I would have been okay with that.  I'm just ticked that we're not getting our questions answered, and then that weird runaround, and now no contact at all.


Well, I'm feeling myself fall asleep as I type this, so I'd better finish up.  Not that I can go for a nap or anything.   Time to go do dishes, then dirty them up again to make supper.  Assuming I don't get a message from Dh asking for a ride, which I expect will happen within the next half hour.


Friday, October 07, 2011


Eldest's friend, Raider King, has been visiting with us recently.  For those who missed out on previous posts, he moved in with us for a few months until he could find a job and his own place. 

He did, but the place turned out to be a disaster, including a black mold that started growing everywhere after the basement flooded during heavy rains.  The room he was renting was in the basement. 

Long story short, he ended up moving to a nearby city with his bio-dad, where he got another job and his soap opera life continues.  It's been good to have him back again for a visit.  And to feed him.  

We'll not go into that long and sordid tale.

Our library system has a Writer in Residence program, with a different local author every year.  It seems our city is teeming with excellent writers, and they are willing to share their expertise in a number of mentorship programs, talks, workshops and so on.

Eldest has been trying to talk me into doing NaNoWriMo this year.  When I saw the library was doing a NaNoWriMo related event with their Writer in Residence, I signed all three of us up (Youngest has no interest at all).  We went to it tonight and it was really quite interesting. 

The topic was making outlines for novels, ranging from the vague and general, to one with a bit more detail to outlines that flesh out all the major events in the plot.  The author was informative and enjoyable to listen to.  There were a couple of unpleasant things.  He had use doing a couple of exercises.  One was a game where we were to make four statements about ourselves.  Three were to be true, one was to be a lie.  Then we were asked to split off into groups (not with the people we came with).  We'd read our list out to our partner(s), and they would ask questions to try and figure out which statement was a lie.

I had the hardest time coming up with a lie.  Eldest didn't take part at all. 

The purpose was to demonstrate how asking questions about our characters would help us flesh them out and make them believable.  The game, however, didn't seem to go much to demonstrate that.  As Eldest said later on, while she understands why it's used, she finds this style of teaching very manipulative.  Why not just tell us what we're supposed to know?  We could never do well under the Socratic Method! *L*

My problem was with the "lie."  I don't lie.  I hate lies.  I had a revelation about lying when I was a child and decided it was more important to me to tell the truth and deal with the consequences then it was to lie and get away with something.  My personal sense of integrity was more valuable to me than not getting in trouble.  So being told to tell a lie about myself, then make it convincing under questioning, just rubbed me the wrong way. 

Of course, there was no need to "lie" about anything.  This is an exercise in fiction writing.  Why not say, "make 3 non-fiction statements and 1 fictional statement," instead?  There's a big difference between saying something about yourself that is a lie and creating a fictional scenario.  I suppose it's a matter of semantics, but accuracy in wording is important to me.


The whole thing took about an hour and a half, including the Q&A portion.  Afterwards, the author stayed to talk to people and answer their questions.  Eldest, Raider King and I headed out, but got so engrossed talking about outlines, writing, character development and so on, we ended up stopping at a coffee shop so we could sit and chat about it some more.

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening, and I'm glad we went.  It wasn't as much use for Eldest, since her focus is very different than novel writing, but Raider King does a lot of writing and plans to do NaNoWriMo this year, so it worked out for him.

As for me doing NaNoWriMo, I'm still  not sure if I'm going to take the plunge.  My problem is that I've no idea what I would write about.  I have several potential projects, but none of them are the sort of thing I'd want to do for NaNoWriMo.  Of course, there's also the never ending problem of carving out the uninterrupted time to write, even if I did know what I'd write about.

We shall see how it works out.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

You ate what?

I unabashedly admit that Eldest is braver than I am.

As someone who has such an interest in food history, culture, and trying new things, I'm actually a total suck.  As much as I'd like to explore new flavours, I often end up being very safe about it in the process.  Some is with good reason.  I have no tolerance for spicy heat.  I love the flavours, but what is mild or moderate heat for others leaves me in a whole lot of burning pain.  There's a reason for this, but I won't regale you about the condition of my tongue. ;-)

Other foods, I just can't bring myself to eat.  Like raw fish, or Eldest's favourite canned eel.  The smell alone sends me running.  While Eldest happily noshes away, analyzing flavours and textures, I'm off on the side with my fingers in my ears going LA-LA-LA-LA-LA and trying not to hurl.

She laughs.

One of the foods Eldest has been wanting to try for a long time is preserved duck eggs.  I finally succumbed and bought a package.  She tried one on rice, but I could only bring myself to taste a tiny bit of the "white" (which isn't white anymore) and that was it.  I didn't really eat enough to be able to taste it. That left us with a package sitting around and no one quite knowing what to do with it.

Well, today, I finally girded my loins, did some research, brought out the camera, and did a taste test.

Here is the result.  Click on the photos to see them in larger size.

First, the package.  This is the type we got, and I've no idea what the brand name is. It was found at a local Asian grocery store, though I've seen the same brand available at Superstore.  They come in a Styrofoam box and are not refrigerated.  Visit here (pdf) to learn more about their history and how they are made.

Inside, each egg is lovingly wrapped and nestled in it's own little pocket. 

Unwrapped, they look like this.  They're really quite pretty!

Ah, but what do they look like inside!

I used the back of a spoon to carefully start cracking the shell.  After the second hit, I heard a weird little pop, and a hole appeared.  I'd hit it over the air cell and I think there had actually been a bit of a vacuum, as the broken piece of shell had got sucked right in.

Is that good?  Bad?  I have no idea.

The shell is quite thick, as is the inner membrane.  It peeled rather easily, though, revealing this.

Again, it's really quite lovely!  The branching pattern in the white is a result of the preservation.

I believe the outer layer on the shell is part of the preservation, but I'm not sure.

While a bit startling to see such a dark colour where one would normally see white, I find it quite appealing.  The colour and semi-transparency, with the branching "fireworks" patterns are beautiful.

After cutting it open, however...



This is the point where I look at it and wonder, "just how hungry did someone have to be to look at this and think it's edible?"

I mean, I can still appreciate the aesthetic appeal of the colours and textures from a purely visual standpoint, but as food?  No.  If I were to stumble upon this by accident somewhere, as it is guessed some ancient person did, I would not think this is edible.  I would think this is something that's gone rotten and might make me ill.

Quartering it didn't make it any better.  That squishy, slimy middle just...

No.  Uh-uh.  I am definitely getting nervous at this point.

In looking up how to eat these, I really didn't find much.  It's served in quarters like this with pickled ginger as an appetizer.  It's cut up and eaten in congee.  It seems they are mostly eaten just like this, though it's recommended the people not used to its pungent flavour eat it in small amounts or with something else.  There was little to tell me what that "something else" could be.

I did find a few recipes that described serving it with pork or on rice.  Well, I was making pork for supper anyhow.  I'd cut up some pork loin and wrapped it in aluminum foil with olive oil, a hint of vinegar, soy sauce, and spices.  After sitting overnight in the fridge, I roasted it still in the foil, opening the foil near the end to let things brown a bit.   To go with the pork, I made some quinoa, cooked in half water, half home-made turkey stock.

Then I made it all pretty for the picture.  There's only a small amount of quinoa and pork here, and I was afraid using an entire quarter of an egg would be too much.  Cutting it into little pieces did make it seem more like something I could eat.

My first taste, I made sure to have a bit of everything.  Some yolk, some white, some meat and quinoa.  When I finally tried it, I was totally amazed.  It was just bursting with flavour!!  I couldn't believe how good it was!  The egg added an earthy, mushroom-like flavour that I just loved.  It was awesome.

Eldest tried it, and she enjoyed it too, but the real litmus test was Youngest.  She doesn't like quinoa.  She was thoroughly turned off by the appearance of the preserved duck egg's yolk.  She dislikes mushrooms, too, so saying it had a mushroom-like flavour didn't exactly win points for her, either.

She tried it anyhow and even she enjoyed it!  Quinoa and all!  After eating she announced that yes, she liked preserved duck eggs. 

The flavour was still very strong, and small amounts are recommended.  It's not something I'd have often, but we're not going to have any problems figuring out what to do with the remaining four eggs!