Friday, September 30, 2011

September 2011 Recap

So after a bit of a dry spell, I managed to finish 3 things this month.  I had been hoping for a fourth but it didn't pan out as I expected.

The first thing I finished off was earlier in the month when I baked a key lime pie.  It was awful.  EDP thought it was okay but I didn't like it at all.  Needless to say, I will be sticking with peach, apple and lemon meringue.  The second thing I finished off was learning how to use EDP's DSLR camera.  I had started this a few months ago but didn't get my third session booked until September.  But it's done now so learning to use the camera is complete.  And the third thing I finished was drinking a beer, which was done on our first night in Prague.  I had also hoped to count our thermal swim in Karlovy Vary as relaxing in a hot spring but it wasn't very warm at all.  

I made some decent progress on my ongoing things, as well:
  • I've started listening to the Lost City of Z by David Grann, which was recommended to me by the Stuff You Missed in History Class ladies (specifically, Sarah.)  I'm about halfway through and it's been interesting so far
  • I sent a couple of handwritten postcards already from Prague - hopefully they arrive sometime this year.
  • I'm still doing my drum lessons, which are going to be greatly enhanced by the drums I bought (which include a fancy Zildjian cymbal that was made in Canada!  A rare thing, indeed, though not at all valuable)
  • My debt and my TFSA are continuing their trend of decreasing balances.  I gave strict instructions to my colleagues to get the stock price up to $19 while I was on vacation but it doesn't look like they are taking me seriously.  
  • Penny and I have walked a total of 85.03 km.  
  • I've read 38 books for my 50 Book Pledge (up from 33 in August) and my TBR pile is down to 46 books (down from 47 in August.)
  • My Dad's birthday gave me the chance to try two new recipes and along with the soup and that damn pie I tried, I brought my total up to 10.
  • I've listened to 31 of Rolling Stone's Top 500 Songs.
  • My orchid is still alive, though there are no flowers left on it.  I'm past the half-way mark with it now, which I'm quite pleased with.  
  • I'm still at 16,660 grains of rice donated through but I did make another microloan through Kiva, bringing me up to 9 loans made,
  •  I've read 63 articles on Wikipedia, which is not very many at all. 
  • We tried a new Thai place and a new Chinese place, which were both excellent contenders for becoming our go-to places.
  • I saw my Gran twice this month - once for her birthday and once on the way to the airport for our trip.  I'll see her again at Thanksgiving so I imagine she's going to be sick of me soon.  
  • I signed up for a 24 hour read-a-thon in October.
  • I ordered and received a book on how to use my Mac that I've looked at but haven't gotten past the first few pages.
  • I tossed out a couple more things - some socks that have seen better days and a couple of pairs of EDP's boxers (though, I'm not sure I should count them in my 101 things...)
  • Oh, and while this doesn't really count as progress - Penny and I are waiting for the next evaluation session for her to become a therapy dog.  I really don't hold out much hope, but if she passes, she and I will be volunteering together for 25 hours.
October will see a few more things get finished up.  My Kiva repayments for October will be over $25 so there's no reason I won't make my 10th loan, which will finish off Thing 48.  I'm also going to the Vienna zoo early in October (or perhaps in late September - I'm writing this on the 28th and we're heading to Vienna on the 29th.)  And, that read-a-thon will be taking place, as well.  And voting in the provincial election.  That seems like a busy enough month, though I need to be finishing something every 8.86 days to stay on track with my things so maybe I'll need to find something else to do, too.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I drank a beer just to try it, hope my white wine don't mind it

In case you are unware, I'm blogging from Prague right now.  EDP and I arrived this morning (and I'll be posting about our day on my travel blog after this.)

Look at me!  I can do this!
Drinking a beer went on my list after we were out at a brewery with EDP's parents and I sampled a couple of beers and didn't want to douse my tongue with gasoline when I was done.  I figured we'd buy some beer from the brewery and I'd drink one of those and be able to say that I had drank an entire beer at least once in my life.  Then we booked a trip to Prague.

The Czech Republic is a beer-oriented country.  It seemed like it would be the perfect place to drink my first beer.  So tonight, we set out to find a restaurant not far from the Old Town Square for some traditional Czech fare.  Once settled in, our waiter took our drink orders.  A glass of pinot grigio for EDP and a Pilsner Urquell for me.  

Oh, this doesn't taste very good.
Having briefed myself on the history of this beer (read: I read the Wikipedia article), I am now aware that it has been fermented in Pilsen, Czech Republic since 1842 and was the first pilsen type beer in the world.  9 out of 10 beers in the world are actually derived from the original Pilsen beer.  Clearly, this is not only a beer that really represents the Czech Republic but it also represents most beers in the world.

So, now, it's time for my review:

Sorry, I didn't like it.  It did start tasting a bit better when I started eating my traditional Bohemian cabbage pancakes but I won't be going out of my way for another (though, my beer was 1/3 the price of EDP's wine...)  I did finish it, though, so I can cross this one off my list.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'm signed up for my read-a-thon!

Honestly, in retrospect, this was such a stupid thing to put on my list. I require a full eight hours of sleep every night in order to function so I'm baffled as to what made me think reading for 24 straight hours would be a good idea. However, I'm forging ahead and on October 22 starting at 7:00am (assuming I've translated GMT to EST properly), I'm participating in the Dewey 24-Hour Read-a-Thon. This read-a-thon has been going for a few years. It was started by a lady named Dewey, who has since passed away. It runs twice a year and for 24 hours, the participants read, blog about reading, read other participants' blogs and participate in mini-challenges. They don't require you to stay up for the whole 24 hours but I'm going to try to be awake and reading for as much of the time as possible.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be compiling a list of possible books to read.  I'll probably try to get at least one of my Thing 1 books read.  And I don't think I'll have finished my 50 book pledge by then so I'll be looking to polish off a few works in progress to really get that number up.  Wouldn't it be great if I finished my 50 book pledge during the read-a-thon?!

Anyone care to join me and turn it into a slumber-free slumber party? If you are interested, you can sign up here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A busy weekend!

It's 6:17 on Sunday evening and I think this is the first I've really turned my brain off all weekend.  

Friday night, I got out of work mode a little later than usual and went straight into what-cake-to-bake mode.  It was my Dad's 60th birthday this week and my mom commissioned me to make a golf-themed cake for the occasion.  I make a lot of cakes but I have a serious problem in that I never remember what recipe I've used.  I'm pretty sure I've used a different recipe for every cake I've made.  I finally settled on a Cocoa Fudge Cake from the my 1970s Betty Crocker cookbook that I hadn't made before - as far as I can remember.

With having the cakes to bake, I wasn't really interested in making dinner so EDP and I ordered Thai food from a place up at the north end of Guelph called Sombat The Thai Guy.  And it was delicious.  Delicious enough that I was pretty close to declaring Thing 67 finished.  But there's another Thai place right by this Sombat one that EDP wants to try and there's three others I wouldn't mind checking out (a Red Papaya downtown that is apparently not part of the chain, a place called Lemongrass in the same plaza as the Long & McQuade and something that might be called the Golden Basil near the mall.)  So Sombat is currently a strong front-runner in the race for our go-to Thai place.

Once I stopped raving about the pad thai, I got to work on baking two sheet cakes.  They kept me in the kitchen for a while and when the second cake came out, it was time for bed.  The next morning, EDP took Penny on a nice long walk to the dog park so that I could get started, uninterrupted, on getting the cake together.  While he was gone, I got in another trip to the grocery store before getting my lemon curd in the fridge and one of my two batches of fondant done.  I stopped for some breakfast and then got right back to my second batch of fondant, a chocolate marshmallow fondant.  It ended up being a bit dry for my tastes but turned out pretty well.  The colour worked well as the body of the golf bag I was attempting to create.  I was worried about my regular icing being too sweet to go with the marshmallow fondant (that was going to be two layers thick in a few places) so I did something I never do and bought store-bought icing to go between my cakes and the fondant.  You can't use store bought icing to do much in the way of decorations on cake so I never use it.  But everything on this cake was fondant so I took off for a couple of errands with a stop at the grocery store to buy icing (FYI - no one commented on the icing so either my family didn't notice or they were too polite to say anything.  Knowing my family, I'm guessing the former.)

Dad's cake
Then, it was time to start assembling.  I had looked online for some inspiration and found something I thought was cute and wouldn't be too complicated.  I got to work on shaping the cake, filling it and icing it.  Then it was time for fondant.  It took me so much longer than I expected but around 1:30, I was done. And pretty pleased with myself.  With the cake safely in the box, it was time for a shower and getting on the road to St. Marys for my Dad's birthday dinner.  We had some tasty, tasty snacks & champagne before heading into Stratford for dinner at Down the Street.  Then it was back home for cake, 12 year old scotch and a couple of rounds of euchre before collapsing into bed.  All-in-all, it was really nice afternoon/evening and my Dad got a good chuckle when he saw the cake.

Once we got home today, it was time to do laundry and clean the house.  All the laundry is done now so we'll be able to pack for Prague & Vienna without searching for anything (in theory.)  I cleaned as I did laundry and with EDP helping me finish off the last few things when he came in from frisbee, I'm ready to do nothing for the rest of the night.  This week should be a busy one with our trip looming but just for now, it's time to turn off my brain.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

9th Kiva loan!

Today was Kiva reloan day and for the very first time, I had enough loan repayments come in to get in on another loan without adding any more money to my Kiva account! I loaned to Angela Mercedes Loor Mendoza in Ecuador so that she could buy fertilizers for her lemon and cacao fields. Angela has been farming ever since her husband died a few years ago and now employs three people.

November and December are also looking like I'll have enough repayments to loan again without adding more money, which is nice. And November will also be when I receive my first final payment - the second loan I made had a repayment term of six months so it's last payment is coming up soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

10 days until we leave and...

I am now ready to say that I can use EDP's DSLR!

I connected with Doug Wilson in the summer and signed up for a series of three one-on-one lessons to teach me to use EDP's DSLR.  I had two sessions in July and then my last session today.  The first sessions focussed on more of the technical side of taking a photo whereas today was more about composition and travel photography.  I learned some excellent tips to make my photos more interesting and appealing.  And really, the timing is perfect since we leave for Prague & Vienna in TEN days.

Anyway.  Here are a couple of the photos I took when we were in Halifax in August.  I don't know how to do any photo editing so they are untouched.  Once EDP teaches me a bit about Lightroom, maybe I'll tweak them and post them again.

Yup, learning how to use EDP's DSLR is done.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I made some soup

I'm sorry, I know that isn't very exciting.  But I'm really pleased with myself right now so you're going to have to hear about it.

A couple of weeks ago, while at Solutions (perhaps the best store in the world), EDP and I bought some leak-proof soup bowls.  We decided we'd start making a pot of soup every Sunday and eat it through the week in our lunches.  It's been a bit warm but today, I barreled ahead with making a cream of cauliflower soup.  The only cream soup I've ever made before has been a cream of mushroom that really just relies on cream to thicken it.  This soup needed to be pureed.  It had potatoes, carrots and cauliflower, along with onions, garlic & chicken stock.  Once it had all simmered together for a while, it went into the blender and then back into the pot for some nutmeg, salt & pepper, milk, and sherry.  I gave it a try and it's delicious, if I do say so myself.  And I don't think I'm too far off base with thinking that - EDP just came in and said it smelled really good in the house.

If anyone wants to stop by, you are welcome to try a bowl.  I'm really looking forward to having it at lunch tomorrow with some French bread.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A quick update

Earlier today, I was thinking that I had something interesting to say but I've forgotten what it was now... So you're going to get a couple of boring updates instead. Sorry 'bout your luck.

I went to Chapters at lunch the other day to take a look at the books on Mac OS X Lion to help me learn how to use it. Since it was so cold, I got a latte at Starbucks and gave serious consideration to paying for the guy behind me. But then I saw his shoes and since they looked like they cost more than everything on my entire person combined (including my purse and everything in it), I opted not to strike that one off my list. I did find a book I wanted and promptly returned to work to order in online where it was $26 instead of $39.

Last night, EDP and I ordered Chinese food. I searched online for the best Chinese food restaurant in Guelph and found a place. After EDP took forever to figure out what he wanted, we called and discovered the restaurant was closed.  So I left with the dog for our walk and left it to EDP to call another place I had found.  The food looked awful when it arrived.  The fried rice was pretty close to being the same colour as my highlighter.  But it tasted okay.  I'm not willing to stop looking but the menu has been put up on the fridge as an option until something better is found.

My road to being a rockstar just got a little smoother - I picked up the drums I bought after work today.  I haven't assembled them yet.  The weather was so nice that I took Penny on a walk up to the new pet store we noticed on our way home from dropping off my rental drums yesterday.  We were both exhausted when we got home and so I have been sprawled on the sofa, watching Masterchef with EDP (don't tell me who won Season 2 - we're only on the top 9!) We also picked up a pamphlet on therapy dogs while we were at the store.  I'm not at all confident in Penny's ability to pass the tests to become a therapy dog, though I think she'd make an excellent one.  I think we'll at least give it a shot though - and if it works out, I'll be on my way to 25 volunteer hours!

Oh, and someone remind me to look into when advance polls are for the provincial election.  I'm pretty sure we're only getting home from Vienna on election day and might not make it to the polls so I'll need to vote before we leave if I'm going to get my vote in.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

FINALLY finished something!

So after I posted my August recap yesterday, I decided I wasn't going to bed until I had finished something.  Reading the rest of my 1001 Wiki articles or climbing a volcano didn't really seem reasonable so I baked a pie.

It wasn't apple, peach or lemon meringue.  It was a key lime from Martha Stewart.  And I hated it.  It was easy enough to make, aside from the lime juice.  It had a graham cracker crust, which was much simpler than making pastry but I enjoy making pastry so I was a bit sad.  I juiced an entire bag of key limes just to get a half cup of juice.  For those who aren't aware of the key lime's characteristics, they are about the size of golf balls.  I juiced 20 or 25.  Good thing I didn't have any paper cuts or something.  And it's a good thing I have a reamer, otherwise, I probably would have been juicing 50 of those suckers.  Then, it was topped with whipped cream, which again was easy enough.

EDP thought it was okay, though was not what he was expecting.  I thought it was awful.  Of the two people that were over, one agreed with me and the other thought it was really good.  I can safely say I will not be making this recipe again, though since it was a new recipe, it counts towards trying 101 new recipes.

Friday, September 2, 2011

August 2011 Recap

Another month has come and gone and I have gotten NOTHING finished.  AGAIN.

I still have lot on the go but it is time to pick up my socks and start finishing some things.  I had been hoping that I would make steady progress throughout all 1001 days but it's not looking too good for me.  I'm not even going to look at the average number of days I have to get the rest of my tasks done.  I think it'll make me stare blankly at the screen for a good half hour and let's face it, if I don't get my butt in gear, I'll need every single possible minute for finishing up my Things.

Okay, so nothing done but how much progress did I make on the things I have in progress?

  • I finished the first of my 12 books for Thing 1.  I've kinda slacked off in asking for recommendations for books so I still need 6 recommendations.  While my plan is to very carefully choose people to ask for recommendations based on a number of top secret factors, if anyone wants to post a comment with a recommendation, I'll add at least one to my list.  Next up is Sarah & Deblina's recommendation - the Lost City of Z, which I will also be listening to.  
  • I sent my handwritten letters through two postcards while we were in Halifax.  I will probably leave my September letter until we're in Prague & Vienna and send a couple more postcards from each to cover September and October.  Should you wish to receive a postcard, send me your address.  
  • I'm still taking drum lessons, though I can't remember if I had a lesson in August or not.  Now that fall is here, the lessons will be more regular.  Also, I just agreed to buy some drums off someone who posted a set on our electronic bulletin board at work so I'm pretty committed to this one now.
  • While my debt continues to fall, so does the balance in my TFSA.  If the stock market doesn't improve, and my company's price in particular, $10,000 may never happen.  
  • Penny and I have walked 17.39 km in August, bringing our total km walked to 76.23 km.
  • I have 47 books on my TBR pile (down one from July) and I've read 33 books for my 50 Book Pledge (up from 28 in July)
  • I tried a couple of new recipes in August - most notably a tasty chocolate mousse and a new recipe for chocolate zucchini cake.  I also made a bunch of zucchini bread but I have no idea if the recipe I used for that was new or not - it's been forever since I've made zucchini bread but there's a good chance I used a recipe I've used before.  That takes me to 6 new recipes but I'm sure I've tried more than that so I need to get better at remembering to record them.
  • My orchid is doing okay.  It doesn't have any flowers left but only one of the two plant stems died and it still has several very healthy looking leaves so I have hope that it'll stay alive for a few more months, though no hope it'll ever see flowers again.  I'm at the 2.5 month mark so I'm pretty pleased with myself on this one.
  • I still have one more session with Doug before I can say I know how to use EDP's DSLR.  I'm going to email Doug about the last one today.  Promise.  
  • I haven't gotten a book yet to finish learning how to use my Mac.  Maybe I'll get that ordered today, too.
  • EDP and I went to see Train & Maroon 5 earlier this month as my second of five concerts.  Train was amazing.  Maroon 5 was okay.  I particularly enjoyed all the teenage girls who only knew Train's recent stuff and sat down for Meet Virginia and Drops of Jupiter.  
  • I've made 8 microloans and donated 16,660 grains of rice.  
  • I hardly read anything on Wikipedia and am only 61 articles read.
  • I still have that pile of stuff going to get rid of and I actually got 1 thing out the door this month - I went through the bin of warranties & instruction manuals I have and tossed the warranties that have expired and the manuals for the stuff that's no longer around.  I counted them all as one item, even though there were probably 25 booklets and sheets that went into the recycling.  

So what's coming up in September?  Most exciting for EDP and I, we will be leaving in 3 weeks for Prague & Vienna.  YAY!  While we're there, I should be finishing up drinking a beer (as the Czech Republic is known for its beer), relaxing in a hot spring (as we're planning to go to one of the most famous hot springs in the world - Karlovy Vary, perhaps better known to most as Carlsbad), and going to the zoo (Schönbrunn Palace palace in Vienna has a zoo that I'm going to see even if EDP and EDP's pal don't come with me.)  I'm not sure if I'll be updating this blog while we're away but I will be blogging our entire trip over at Waltzing Beyond the Iron Curtain so you can keep on top of things over there.

Finally, lest you should accuse me of slacking, the entire time I've been writing this post, I've been listening to songs from Rolling Stone's Top 500 Songs of all Time.  So there.  I think Penny liked it when I danced and sang along with Johnny B. Goode because she kept trying to lick my face.  Wait, maybe she was trying to get me to keep my mouth shut.