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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

This is fascinating!

How Superconducting Levitation Works.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I've noticed quite a few new visitors from Blazing Cat Fur coming over for a visit through my other blog.  Welcome!  I hope you enjoy your stay. :-)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Beefy Lentils

Yesterday I caught an old episode of Iron Chef America.  My favourite Iron Chefs have always been Morimoto and Batali.  They are awesome!  As I don't watch tv much, it was a surprise to me to find out Batali isn't an Iron Chef anymore, and they've got these threee new chefs, instead.  New being a relative term, I guess, since I think at least one of them has been there for a few years now. 

Did I mention I don't watch tv much? *L*

So there was this episode with Batali, and the secret ingredient was lentils.  By the time it was over, all I could think of was the bag of lentils I had in my cupboard and, my goodness, wouldn't those be great!!

So the following recipe was inspired by Iron Chef America and whatever I scrounged out of my cupboards and fridge, and it was so good, even my lentil hating Eldest liked it. 

It was all I could do not to finish the pot off last night.  Instead, it made an even better lunch. 

Beefy Lentils

2 cups brown lentils
about 3 1/2 cups liquid (I used some bullion powder to make a beef broth)
seasonings to taste (I used some Emeril's Essence, approx 1/3 tsp)

1 medium onion, chopped fine
2-3 stalks celery, plus the inner heart of the celery bunch, with its leaves, chopped fine
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
about 3 tbsp butter

1 small cooked and seasoned beef roast, cut into cubes

Pick over the lentils for any odd bits and pieces that don't belong.  Get rid of any shrivelled ones, too.  Rinse and set aside.

Prepare your liquid.  I just used some beef bullion powder in water and stirred in the Emeril's Essence, but go ahead and change it up however you like. 

Melt the butter in a pot large enough to hold everything.  Once hot, toss in the onion and lower heat to about medium/medium low.  Slowly cook the onions in butter until they are just starting to get transluscent.  Add the chopped celery (I had intended to use carrots originally, only to discover we were out, so celery it was).  Raise the heat a bit and cook the celery until it's starting to get soft.  Add the garlic and cook a minute or so longer. 

Add the chopped beef and cook until heated through.

(I buy warehouse packs of beef roasts, which usually have 2-3 hunks of meat in them.  I roast all at once, seasoning them with my favourite steak spice mix first.  If your meat isn't already seasoned, you may want to add more seasonings to taste later on.)

Add the liquid, raise the temperature again, stir and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add the lentils.  Bring back to a boil and cook at a boil for 2-3 minutes, stirring occaisionally.  Reduce temperature to medium low, cover and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

Taste the lentils to check doneness.  I like mine rather toothsome.  Adjust seasonings, if necessary.  If there's more liquid on the bottom then you like, give it a stir and simmer a bit longer without the lid.

When done, cover and let sit for a few minutes before serving, or cool and refrigerate.  Reheat and serve the next day for even better flavour.

Between the beef broth, Emeril's Essence and the seasoning on the beef, I didn't need to add any salt or pepper.  Adjust your own seasonings to taste.

I'll mention right now, this is not the most visually appealing dish! *L*  The whole thing comes out a rather greyish brown colour.  Including some finely chopped carrots instead of (or along with) the celery would have added some colour.  I'll have to make it again the next time I've got carrots and see what a difference it makes.

Oh, and it's AWESOME eaten with buttered rye bread.

Okay, I've gone and made myself hungry.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Confessions of a Filthy Addict

The following post is an exploration of a theme about gaming and its affects on people.  Particularly the evil affects of gaming on boys.

This is the sort of thing that gets discussed in our household a fair bit, and since I, according to Eldest, I am a filthy, filthy addict, I figured it'd be something to explore here.

We are a gaming family.  At the moment, Dh plays hour upon hour of WoW.  Youngest has switched allegiances to the new Star Wars MMO.  Eldest used to play a lot of WoW, but she's stopped playing it altogether.  These days, she mostly plays with doll building games.

I don't usually think of myself as a gamer.  Certainly not these days, as I no longer play PC games or Xbox, and I never got into the online RPGs.  Yet when I stopped and thought about it I realized that, yes indeed, I most definitely fall into the gamer category.  I just don't fit the usual stereotype.

I think the first game I became thoroughly obsessed with was Civ II.  The game was already old when I bought it.  I had taken the Greyhound to Edmonton for a weekend seminar.  I checked out of my hotel on the Monday morning and walked over to the Greyhound station, but had over an hour to kill.  Looking around, I saw a Staples nearby, so I headed over.  It was a place to fill time, looking at stuff.  In my wanderings about the store I found a bargain bin.  In it was a Civ II CD pack that I decided looked interesting.  It was cheap, so why not? 

It turns out that this is the sort of game I really, really love.  I like empire building games, and soon I was building roads and cities, farms, mines and so on.  At the end of the game, I would deliberately leave one opposing faction barely alive, just so I could finish building the space ship to Alpha Centauri.  So many hours were spent on that game!

Then I discovered the Age of Empire games and their expansions.  Then Alpha Centauri, which I enjoyed even more.  Why that game never went on into new versions, I don't know, but I wish they had.  Empire Earth came out, then its expansion.  I think at some point, I even picked up Civ III. I spent so many late night playing these various games, it would be easy to label me an addict. 

Dh, meanwhile, had no interest in such games.  He preferred Diablo and Starcraft.  As the girls got older, they preferred the games he played over mine. 

Then we got an Xbox.

I didn't get into the Xbox at first, much preferring my empire building PC games.  I had no interest in shoot-em-ups or snowboarding or car racing.  I left those to Dh and the kids.  Until...



Knights of the Old Republic.

When we first got that game, Dh played it obsessively.  Every spare moment he had, he was in the game, pushing through the levels to the end, with the occasional hunt online to figure out how to accomplish certain goals.  He reached the end, then immediately started over, playing a different character.  Then he did it again.  I'm pretty sure he finished the game 3 times before I finally gave in and gave it a try.

What sucked me in was the storyline.  As Dh played the game (and the girls played while he was at work), different aspects of the characters stories emerged.  The choices made in the game also affected things.  My curiosity piqued, I picked up controller one evening, shortly before everyone else went to bed.  Dh helped me figure out the controller, but I play very differently then he does, so it wasn't long before I had to tell him to stop back seat gaming while I played. *L*

Once I got into the game, I got into the habit of starting it after everyone else had gone to bed, and often played all night.  I play very methodically, not leaving an area until I've explored every inch of it.  I also questioned all the characters I could, and sought out the back stories of the NPCs that made up my character's team.  By the time I finished the game, I had a character developed to a level Dh had no idea was available, simply because he had been more interested in pushing through to the end then exploring and digging.  I discovered nuances to the storyline and game place that hadn't been explored.

The action and fighting in the game were tertiary to me.  I played for the story.  After finishing it, I played it again making different choices, which brought about different responses from the NPCs.  Then I did it again.  And again.  And again.  Eventually, I had figured out just about every possible variant of the game.

But only for half of it.

You see, there was one thing about the game I simply could not do.  I could not be a Dark Side character.

KotOR allows the player to make a number of moral choices.  These choices place the player's character on a scale between Light and Dark Side.  Dh played it as a Dark Side character to get the alternate story lines, and see how it changed the way the NPCs interacted with the player's character, but for some of these choices, he actually felt bad making them.  When I played and was faced with choices that would push the character towards the Dark Side, even when I *wanted* to explore that part of the game, I found I simply couldn't choose them.  It was curious to find myself responding this way, since making such choices affect only the game play and have no real world consequences.  Yet I still couldn't do it.

When KotOR II came out, we bought it immediately.  More obsessive playing. 

It was glorious!

There's only so many times you can play a game, however, and by the time I'd explored all the avenues that interested me, I promptly got bored with it and stopped playing.  Instead, I went back to my empire building PC games.  Eventually, however, we upgraded computers and the old games no longer worked on them, and we weren't willing to spend the money to buy the newest versions. 

I still like playing Civ II, but it's too obsolete to play on our current desktop, though I'm sure there are online versions available I can get.  I miss Alpha Centauri, too.  That was a good game.

I haven't touched the Xbox in ages, and while I can play Empire Earth on our current computer, I can't install the expansion version (lost the registration key), and I now find it very boring.

Instead, I play Facebook games.

When I first got on Facebook, I had no interest in getting any apps or games, but somewhere along the line, I discovered Hatchlings and started playing it. Before long, I was trading game tips and tricks with other people to get as many eggs as possible, feed all the hatchlings with only one egg, and get the rarest of eggs.  When I was playing it the most, I would sometimes have two or three browsers up, each with 20-30 tabs open, using keyboard shortcuts to go through all the tabs as quickly as possible to get the eggs before someone else did. I never reached number one on the local leader boards, but I was able to get into the top 10.  It was not unusual to find me up in the wee hours of the morning, hunting eggs on Facebook.

After a while, though, it got to be just too much.  Too many new eggs, too many levels, too many hatchlings to feed.  My play time dropped to just enough to keep my hatchlings fed, to allowing the hungry hatchlings to run away, to not playing at all anymore and blocking it from my feed.

There were a couple of other games I started playing as well, but only two others really caught my attention.  Frontierville and Farmandia.

I had not intended to get into any of the "ville" games, but I'd accidentally clicked on "accept" on an invite instead of "cancel."  Once I was in, I figured I may as well give it a try.

Before I knew it, I was playing it for hours at a time.  As I increased in levels, new goals required more "neighbours," which required adding people to my friends list.  I ended up adding about a hundred people I didn't know to get enough neighbours (though I vetted them somewhat).  Hour after hour was spent tending my own Frontier, then visiting my neighbours - all of them - to tend their crops and help them reach their quest goals, too. 

As the game play increased, with larger and larger Frontiers, I found myself spending more time waiting for things to load then actual playing.  Ah, well.  That's what tabs are for.  While the game was loading, I'd be catching up on my email or reading the news or something in other tabs.  Then they added the Pioneer Trails.  Never really liked that one as much, and especially didn't like how long the game took to switch from one area to another.  At Halloween, they added a whole other town.

By the time Halloween arrived, I'd stopped playing it altogether, and blocked the game from my feed.  I also unfriended most of the people I'd added to my list because they were there only for gaming.  I kept some of them, though.  I've actually met some really great people through Facebook games!

Now, I'm down to just the one Facebook game, Farmandia.  I like this one because I can set it to do things, then open other tabs and do something productive while the game plays itself in the background.  I have only one "neighbour" that actively plays it.  I've levelled up ridiculously high, but without more neighbours, there are certain areas I can't advance in.  I also limit myself to visiting the game only once or twice a day.

So you'd think I am done with gaming, right?


We picked up a tablet not long ago, and I upgraded my phone to something with a wi-fi hotspot so we can go online with it even when in areas without free wi-fi.  As long as I can get a cell signal, I can go online.  Tablets and phones, of course, come with apps.  I ended up downloading a Solitaire app. 

And discovered Forty Thieves.

How did I never encounter this game before? 

Which means that I now sometimes find myself lying in bed with either my phone or the tablet, playing Forty Thieves in the wee hours of the morning!

Now, for all the gaming that I and my family do, none of us are "addicted" to games.  We are obsessed with them, sure, and spend way too much time playing them.  Time that, arguably, be much better spent elsewhere. 

Game detractors dismiss these not only as time wasters (which I would have a hard time arguing against) but as harmful.  Especially for children.  Video games were being portrayed as being the cause of violence, ADD/ADHD, obesity, laziness, and general dysfunctional behaviour.  "Experts" write books and articles about the evils of gaming (making a pretty penny to do it, too), just as they did for DnD, heavy metal music and TV in years past.

Can gaming become a problem?  Absolutely.  When gaming takes over a person's life completely, it can definitely be a problem.  The mistake being made, however, is blaming the game for this.  If the games themselves were the problem, all people who played them would show these signs.  Of all the misconceptions and myths about gaming, this idea that the games themselves are addictive and causing harm is dishonest and misleading.  They may be part of the problem, but the are not THE problem.

There is no doubt that people, adults and children, develop an unhealthy obsession with gaming.  But who defines what that limit is in any individual?  How much is too much?  Dh, in his WoW gaming, has got to know some other players outside of the game, too.  One has become a pretty good friend.  She's a nurse, with husband and family, who plays the game obsessively.  Is she playing too much?  I have no idea.  Another gamer friend also played obsessively, but he also recognised him himself an addictive personality.  He ended up turning his account, with everything in it, over to Dh and stepped away from game playing  completely and almost all computer activity as well.  They still keep in contact, and this guy is really turning his life around and getting ahead. 

Did WoW cause all the problems he was having?  No.  He had the problems first, and obsessive game playing was simply a symptom that helped reveal the problem to him.

The more we learn about addictions, the more it become clear that there are people who, for some reason (which seems to have a strong hereditary component) become easily addicted.  Where one person can go out and get drunk every weekend and never become an alcoholic, the addictive personality is endangered by a single drink.  Some people can smoke for years, then quit cold turkey without any side effects.  Others are never able to quit, no matter how hard they try.

People don't just get addicted to "bad" things.  Anything can become a source of addiction.  Here's just a list of things, off the top of my head, that people become addicted to.

Video games
musical genres
arts and crafts
eating "healthy" (orthorexia)
keeping up with the Joneses
social causes

That's just a short list.  The point is that people can become addicted to just about anything.  Some of these things, however, are considered "good" and others "bad."  I contend that, whether someone is so addicted with being "healthy" they starve themselves to death, or someone buy so much yarn their houses are jammed and their bills aren't being paid, they are not really any different than someone addicted to alcohol or cigarettes. 

So for parents, what about when it comes to our own children? 

My personal philosophy is that, in the end, even kids who are absolutely obsessed with games and gaming are going to be fine.  They're going to get bored of them and move on eventually.  Or, they might end up becoming game designers and start their own companies.  Who knows?

A concern that had been brought up is that gaming affects developing brains.  Well of course they do!  So does everything else.  But gaming doesn't *cause* the addiction.  It reveals it. 

So when does a parent know it's time to intervene?  At what point does an obsession with an activity cross over to being harmful?  That is up to the individual.  You, as a parent, know your child best. What is a problem for one child may not be for another. 

Our personal philosophy has been to give our kids a lot of autonomy.  We made sure they knew what certain things were expected of them (we expected them to do their chores, eat regular meals, and get out and about for fresh air and sunshine, for some examples).  Beyond that, we left them free to make their own decisions.  We didn't always like the choices they made, but they were theirs to make.  Only rarely did we have to put our foot down and tell the kids it was time to stop, get off the game, put down the book, or whatever, and move on to something else.  I honestly can't remember the last time we had to do that.

This would not have worked for a friend of mine.  She recognised an addictive personality in herself.  Her sister is addicted to TV, and she knew she herself could easily fall into that trap, so she didn't watch it at all.   She had a computer, but it was almost never used.  She recognised the same response in her daughter, so she allowed only rare times of TV watching (movies, actually, as they did not have access to any channels where they lived).  As her daughter got older, she was able to cautiously allow more screen time.

She knew her own limits, and she knew her daughter's limits.  It wasn't TV that caused the problem.  The risk was there, with or without TV or computers. By using controlled exposure, she was able to teach her daughter how to control her addictive tendencies towards anything with a screen, something I never had to do.

That's the call we parents have to make.

Now excuse me.  I have some crops to harvest.

When things turn out better then you think

You know those times then all sorts of things go wrong at once, and it all seems to be falling apart?  You know what's nice?  When all those things turn out to not be anywhere near as bad as you were afraid they were!

Like just about everywhere in Western Canada, we've gone from an incredibly mild winter to a sudden deep freeze.  It's a bit of a shock to go from temperatures as high as +8C during the day, with no wind chill, to -25C with windchills bringing it down to -40C or so.  Nasty stuff!

A few days back, after some delays, I finally got to doing our major shopping.  We usually do a big grocery shopping trip every other Friday, buying things in bulk to last us a while, then only needing to do small trips during the week for things like milk and such.  Now that I teach crochet classes on Fridays, I don't have the time to do the major errands, so it gets pushed aside for a few days.  This time, that meant doing the shopping on Sunday.  The temperatures had already started to drop by then, but not severely, yet.

First, a trip to Costco to get the big stuff.  We took our time about it, and I'm glad we did, as we found a really nice folding chair for Eldest to use the next time she's selling her paintings in her booth.  We'd been using folding camp chairs.  They're a bit low and have seats that are slightly rounded, so getting in and out of them when a potential customer walks in is rather ungainly.  This chair, unfolded, looks like a regular dining room chair, so it'll be perfect.

After getting all the stuff we use Costco for, we had to stop at a different grocery store on the way home to get the stuff we need that Costco either doesn't carry, or aren't worth getting there.  Sometimes, their bulk quantities are just a bit too much! 

That done, we head home with a very full van.  Rather then park in our spot and make numerous trips carrying ungainly things across the street, I usually pull in near our front steps, which has me facing the wrong way on the side of the street, so we have to be fast about it..  I unload the van to the first landing of the stairs, Eldest takes stuff up the stairs to inside the door and Youngest takes the stuff from her to the kitchen.  I then quickly park the van in our spot and, if there's still stuff left outside, help Eldest haul the last of it in.  Usually, it's all in by the time I'm parked.

Now, we did have a cold spell before this winter.  Just a few days of extremely cold temperatures that had us bringing the stray cat and her kitten on our balcony indoors, even though we're not allowed to have more then 2 pets.  They wouldn't have survived those temperatures.  This means that we also set up the extension cord for our block heater and battery warmer.  We plugged the van in for all of two nights, I think, but left the cord out, wrapped around the driver's side mirror.   So it's not like plugging in would have been inconvenient.  I just wasn't in the habit of doing it yet.

Perhaps you already see where this is going.

Sure enough, I didn't think to plug the van in after parking it.

That night, temperatures plummeted.

Dh has been having a lot of troubles with his back since before Christmas.  Totally laid him out with massive amounts of pain.  Things have improved, but I have been driving him to work in the mornings.  He used to usually walk in, which he can't do right now, and even taking the bus would be very unpleasant.  More so in the mornings then the afternoon, so he's good to take the bus home now and again, but it's still not a good thing.

Monday morning, I go to start the van to drive him to work.  I chastised myself for forgetting to plug in the van, but we've had it unplugged last winter in similarly cold weather, so I wasn't too worried.  In I go and turn the key.  The engine started to turn over and


I immediately turn the ignition off again.  What the heck was that?  I try again.  The engine starts to turn over and...


I stop trying to start the van, concerned that my attempts to start it were causing more damage.  Back in I go (after plugging the van in, belatedly) and tell Dh what's happened.  This leaves him in a rush to get to the bus stop to get to work.

After looking at the forecast and seeing that temperatures were only going to drop further, I ended up cancelling Youngest's guitar lesson.  I had originally thought to drive her to her lesson and just drop her off, but that was obviously not an option anymore.  We usually walk it, but with the temperatures as low as they were, even a 15 minute walk is rather dangerous.

Some time later, after giving the block heater and battery warmer some time to do their thing, I did try the van again, and the same thing happened.  It was thoroughly dead.

But what happened?

We've had some very bad experiences when it comes to vehicles and breakdowns.  The most severe was when we rented a car in Victoria, BC, to drive to Manitoba and surprise our family for Christmas.  We stopped in Saskatoon, SK for the night, on a night when temperatures hit -61C with the wind chill.  Long story short, the engine block cracked.  Other adventures include dropping a valve and damage caused by what turned out to be unethical garage mechanics who "repaired" our vehicle, but drained it of fluids.

As you can imagine, I was expecting the worst.  From the noise, my thoughts were that the starter was blown.  Unfortunately, we didn't have the money in budget to take the vehicle into the garage.  Sure, damage would most likely be covered by the insurance we'd bought, but even then the insurance doesn't cover everything, and I wasn't going to send the van in if we didn't have the funds to cover anything unexpected like that.

The next day, the van was still quite dead.  Unfortunately, busing to and from work in the cold on the Monday wrecked Dh's back again, so he worked from home.  Wednesday, he was better so he bused in again. 

Talking to the folks at work, someone suggested that it might just be the battery, and that all we needed was a boost.  That hadn't occurred to me.  The noise had me thinking starter, but there was also power to the dashboard lights and such.  We've had batteries die on us before, and when they did, nothing worked at all.  I decided to call our roadside assistance to have a tow truck come and give us a boost.  This roadside assistance was one of the selling features when we got the van, so I didn't think there would be an issue.  As far as I knew, we were covered for the length of our contract, which is 5 years.

Of course, things are never so simple.

It turns out that our van's roadside assistance was still under the name of the previous owners - a company - and it expired in June.  So I talked to the dealership and had it changed to our name.  I called the roadside assistance back and...

It's still considered expired.  It seems we didn't actually get the roadside assistance we thought we did, because someone else had already bought it and it was still good for another 2 1/2 years, which no one told us about, so we had no idea about any sort of expiry.  Nothing in our paperwork said anything about it, other than listing the toll free number we were supposed to call if we needed roadside assistance.

Back to talking to the dealership.

After much time on the phone, I finally got to someone who could help me figure out it.  After explaining to me that we had only been covered by the previous owners buying a 5 year roadside assistance plan, which was now expired, and me being quite unhappy, I hear an exclamation from the woman I was speaking to.  Looking through our file, she found that yes, we were covered, but not through the roadside assistance program.  You know, the one with the toll free number on our paperwork, telling us to call it if we needed assistance.  Also the number on the free keychain they gave us, while touting roadside assistance as a selling feature.  No, that's not where we were covered.  You see, when we bought the van, we paid a bit extra for "new vehicle" coverage, as well as the highest version of repair insurance they had available. It turns out that this insurance company is also the company that provides us with roadside assistance.  The only place that toll free number was available was inside a pamphlet that I had to hunt for.  She also gave me the certificate number I would need when I called them - a number that was no where in our paperwork.


By the time all this was figured out, several hours had passed.  Meanwhile, I was on the computer, so I could check my news or whatever while on hold.

Part way through one of my calls, I lost my internet connection.

So while I was on the phone, I was also trying to repair my internet connection, which included restarting the modem, restarting the computer, and all the standard stuff to run through when such things happen.

No go.

My cell phone was still working, though (our cell phones are with the same company that provides our home internet), so I texted Dh and asked him if he could call our provider and find out if there were problems at their end, since I was still on the phone and couldn't call myself.

Eventually, he found out that our provider was having an area outage, so it wasn't just us, and likely due to the temperatures.  It was a hardware problem, too, so someone would have to physically go to the box for the area and do a repair.  They had no way of knowing how long it would take.

Frozen van, frozen internet.

By the time I finished up on the phone with the dealership, it was getting late enough in the day that I didn't want to call the insurance company's roadside assistance number.  We could wait until the next day.  As for our internet, it stayed down.  At this point, I was really glad I upgraded my phone to one with a wi-fi hotspot, because that became our way to go online.  I could use my phone or the tablet, but there's only so much you can do with those.  Touch screens just can't compare to using a keyboard for things.

I was really glad we got our grocery shopping done when we did, though.  If we hadn't, we would have been in a bit of a pickle.

Busing in had done a number of Dh's back again, so he was home from work on Thursday, but with no internet, he couldn't work from home.  He called again in the morning and found out they were having multiple failures, and they didn't know why they were happening.  I found out later that other providers were having troubles, too.  Not good.

Meanwhile, I called the insurance company and arranged to have a tow truck come out and give us a boost, hoping it was just the battery but fearing it was much worse.  It took over 2 hours for the truck to come, but I was sure glad to see him.  I told him that when he greeted me and asked how I was doing, too.  He laughed and told me he was getting a lot of people saying how happy they were to see him lately!  And no wonder.  This sort of weather means a lot of people are needing to call for assistance, and at times like that, there's nothing more beautiful then the site of a tow truck!

Anyhow, he hooks up the van, we give it a try and...

It starts immediately!!


Talking to the driver, he told me to leave it running for at least 20 minutes.  I did.  I headed back inside for a bit, but wasn't going to leave the van running and unattended, so I spent most of that time sitting in the van playing solitaire on my phone. *L*  I lost track of time and it ended up being more like 30 minutes.  I got back inside and went to plug my phone into it's USB cable to charge when I happened to look at the modem and discovered all the right lights were on.  Yay!! again!  We had internet! 

I knew I'd need to take the van for a run, but things needed to be done, so it was a couple of hours before we could head out.  Eldest asked to come along, so off we went to the van and...


Oh, no.

Sure enough, I'd waited too long and the van was once again dead.  Calling for roadside assistance again wasn't an option, as it's limited to one such call every 24 hours.  I went into our co-op's office and asked our administrator if she knew anyone we could get a boost from.  I found out that our maintenance guy will do that for members, which I really wish I'd known about the day before.  He only works for us 3 days a week, so he wasn't there.  She couldn't think of anyone else.

Someone I know on facebook happened to mention that cab drivers will boost cars for a fee, so I ended up calling a cab company and asking about it.  Sure enough, for a set fee you pay whether the vehicle starts or not, they will send a cab out to boost vehicles.  We arranged for it and off I went to the van to wait.  It took less then 10 mintues for the cab to arrive, which is shockingly quick.  It started without any problems.  This time, I was set up and ready to take it for a drive right away, just waiting long enough for Eldest to join me.  While doing my errands, I left the engine on, with Eldest in the van to make sure no one would drive off with it.  Then we went on a route march, taking a freeway across the city and back again, just to give the altinator more time to charge the battery.

The van has been working just fine ever since.

And I have been diligently remembering to plug it in, every time! LOL

It sure has been a relief to find the fix was so simple, and I am once again able to drive Dh to and from work.  It did make me think about how much we appreciate having it.  We went without a car for a couple of years, so it's not like we don't know how to make do without it.  It's just that things are so much better with it!

I like my van.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Starting Anew

Here we are, coming to a close of the first day of 2012 (at least in my time zone).  In my efforts to update this blog more often, here's what today has been like.

The main goal of the day was to get Youngest out for a driving lesson.  It had been my intention to take her to a nearby mall to practise in the empty parking lot.  Alas, the mall was open today, and quite busy, too!  So we went on a route march to find someplace else.  We ended up at the park we used to go to weekly park days with a local home school group.  It was actually busy, too, though there was a section of parking lot that was largely empty. So we went there and I got her do to some parking.  Just backing in and out in different directions and moving the van to different spots to park in.  I'd thought to let her drive on the road through the park, which has a 20kph speed limit and is one way, but there was a remarkable amount of traffic.  After she practised in the parking lot a few times, we were going to go somewhere else where she could do some straight driving.

As we went around the loop to the exit, however, I noticed that all that traffic we'd been seeing disappeared about half way around, and people pulled into various parking spaces.  The second half of the loop was pretty much empty.  So we went around again, then I pulled over and we switched places.

She was nervous driving, of course.  She was also following the speed limit. Which meant that we soon had vehicles coming up behind us, which made her more nervous.  Most people take the drive at 30-40kph rather than 20kph.  I have to admit, I usually do, too.  It's surprising hard to drive that slow.  Anyhow, she pulled into an empty parking area for a while to let cars go by, then we continued on.  Near the end of the drive there are three little parking areas in a row, and I got her to pull into the first one.  That wasn't done particularly well, so I got her to do it again and go into the second parking section.  That was a bit better.  We switched off and I demonstrated to clarify for her by pulling into the third section.  She'll need to get used to the feel of the van and where the tires are, and the more she drives, the more confident she will be.  For now, she just wants to do short little drives like we did today.  Will have to make a point of taking her out often.  She's got a minimum of 1 year on her beginners license to practise before she can take the test for the next level, so it's no hurry, but I still want to give her plenty of opportunities.

Besides that, it was a quiet day.  We were all up quite late with our New Year's activities.  The BBQing mostly worked.  Despite soaking the skewers for the kabobs, the first batch started to burn, so Eldest took them in and did the second batch under the broiler.  Then, just to be safe, she put the first batch in for a bit, too, as the shrimps were still looking a little blue.  They turned out great.  They were a real group project, too.  Youngest pre-cooked bacon half-strips.  Eldest cut up the veggies.  I wrapped scallops in bacon while Eldest put them together - each kabob had a piece of bell pepper, a prawn, a section of onion or shallot, a bacon wrapped scallop, and a chunk of mushroom.  Because the food tends to spin on the kabobs once they start cooking, we used two skewers per kabob.  When a few were ready, I started brushing them with olive oil; a job Youngest eventually took over.  That was all we did with them - not even salt or pepper was needed.  My goodness, they were tasty.

Though the kabobs on the bbq didn't quite work out, the steaks sure did.  Unfortunately, by the end of the day, only Dh was hungry enough for steak!  We'd had a cheese fondue earlier, as well as other small appetizer type snacks throughout the evening, and he'd had less of those than we did, so he was the only one not stuffed by the time the kabobs were eaten.  Then, before we could go to bed, the leftover scallops, shrimp and veggies needed to be cooked.  Eldest broiled the seafood, and the veggies were pan fried in the leftover bacon grease.  Soooo tasty!

Which meant that today, there were stacks of dirty dishes waiting to be done! *L*  Ah, well.  It was worth it!

With so much steak left over, however, I didn't bother cooking the turkey I was intending to do today.  Will have to do that tomorrow.

Looking forward to it! :-D