Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Passed!

Okay, the craziness is over, things should be back to normal now.

On Monday I got up at the crack of dawn and headed downtown to write my RIBO exam. I will say that I felt pretty important to have business on Bay Street to attend to. That was a Toronto first for me. I headed to a floor high up in the Simpson Tower and wrote my exam in a board room of about 30 people.

As is typical for me, I was the first one finished so I had no one to talk to afterward to compare answers with. So I hopped on the subway and went home to have lunch with John before going back to work. When I returned to the office, everyone was freaking. No one (including me) felt like they had even passed, let alone done well. Almost all of the questions had been unlike anything we'd seen in class.

So we spent the next couple of days on tenterhooks and finally this afternoon we all headed back to Bay Street to get our marks back. I got at 92%. So I guess I had nothing to worry about after all. Actually, everyone in my class passed, although some only just barely. And no one did better than me! So I'm now a licensed insurance broker for the province of Ontario. Neat! I get a membership card and everything. Only six weeks to go until I actually start working. I made some cupcakes tonight (pineapple and coconut flavoured) to bring into class tomorrow since we all did so well.

That's all I've been up to for a week. But hopefully now that the pressure is off we can get back to having some semblance of a life again. Although we did make it to a movie last night. We saw Zombieland. I didn't think I would like it because I think zombies are lame, but it was actually one of the cutest movies I've seen in a long time. Woody Harrelson was great.

John's been keeping busy as well. He's on his third round of interviews with two different companies and he's been sending out resumes every single day. I'm not sure what he's going to end up doing yet. All I know is that I'm quickly growing accustomed to having someone else do the cooking and cleaning!

It feels like he and I have gone through many changes in our work/home dynamic. We started both as coworkers, then to me being the stay-at-home and him working, and now he is the stay-at-home and I'm the worker. And hopefully soon we'll both be working. But we've adapted to these changes so easily and I believe that is because I trust him to do everything he can to take care of me and he trusts me to do everything I can to take care of him. We're a solid team and I am grateful every day to have someone I can depend on absolutely. And who will make me snacks several times daily for two weeks solid when I have an exam to study for.

I found out my work throws a big Halloween party, but I don't think we'll be going because we don't have costumes (because we thought we had nowhere to go). But it does feel nice to be part of a company that does that sort of thing.

That's about it around here. We've been total homebodies. The leaves are just starting to turn and it's quite beautiful. Yesterday it was warm enough that I didn't need a coat, but that has been the exception these past two weeks.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Recap + Our First Turkey Together

I haven't forgotten about you all!

I can't even tell you how much studying I have done this week. It's consumed my entire week. I get up at 7:00am, get ready for work, study until 8:30am and head to work. After work, I go straight to studying. Most nights I take an hour off to watch House or Glee or something, continue studying until 11:00pm, chill for half an hour and go to bed.

I'm not complaining. It's only for two weeks and I'm learning a lot so it's all good. But it does mean that I've had to drop a few of my fun things, one of which was blogging. But here I am at 9:30pm on a Sunday night and I'm finally done my studying for the weekend, so I thought it would be a good time to get caught up.

Last weekend was Thanksgiving and it was the first time I've ever hosted my own turkey dinner. My mom is pretty dependable when it comes to making Thanksgiving dinner, so I've never needed to do it myself.

Well, although I did miss spending Thanksgiving with my family at home, I think John and I made the best of what we have here. We put on an amazing spread and had a wonderful time with friends and our Ontario family.

John and I cooked all day. I made some turkey cupcakes first of all. Here's a picture of them: John actually found two kinds of candy corn for me, orange for the noses and red for the tails. The cupcakes themselves are root beer flavoured! I was so proud of them. I used a combination of root beer flavouring (you can buy it in little bottles, like vanilla) and actual root beer to get the flavour to come through.

I also made pumpkin squares. I don't like to make pies because I have no pastry skills and we were expecting too many people for a pie anyway (there were supposed to be eight of us), so I pulled out my 9" x 13" pan, started with a layer of oatmeal crumble (like the bottom of an apple crisp), topped it with pumpkin pie filling (canned pumpkin, evaporated milk and spices) and threw it in the oven.

John was in charge of the turkey. We got the biggest one we could find, it was 7.5 kg. He had all these secret turkey cooking tricks that I thought he was just making up, but the end result was the juiciest turkey I've ever tasted, so they must have done something!

I wanted stovetop stuffing, but he wanted to make his own so we compromised and made both (although the stovetop had to wait until hot turkey sandwiches the next day). I love any compromise that results in more food. He made a couscous dressing with onion, apple and cranberries. He thought it came out soggy (because couscous takes 5 minutes to cook, not 5 hours) but I thought it was perfect, I loved it.

For veggies we only made broccoli with cheese sauce. John has a no-cheese-whiz rule, so I did a roux-> cream sauce -> cheese sauce sort of thing. It turned out perfect. The secret is I used three cups of cheese to one cup of milk!

For starches we made a huge pot of mashed potatoes and John put together some whiskey sweet potatoes. I don't care for whiskey so I didn't expect to like them, but they were awesome. They were nice and sweet and didn't taste like whiskey at all.

Throw in a couple of cans of cranberry sauce and a couple of bottles of wine and you've got a meal!

Here is our beautiful turkey:
And here are John and Mark during the carving. I meant to take a picture of us all at the table with all of the food, but we were so hungry that we totally forgot!It was me, John, Mark (John's best friend), Mohammed (a friend of John's who just moved to Toronto from Halifax as well), and Judy and Allan (they stayed for the weekend with us). There was another couple that was supposed to join us but they were no call/no show.

It felt wonderful to know that we have friends and family here and that we could all be together and feel at home away from home. And John and I truly love to feed people, and we were thankful for the opportunity to do just that.

Everyone raved about the food. There was lots of everything left over. Most of us were too stuffed for dessert, but for the people who had room, I brought out pumpkin squares with whipped cream and they were very well received. No one had room for cupcakes!

After dinner, we took turns washing dishes. Everyone stuck around because we still had beer to get through. Check out our mini keg:

John wants to make it a Thanksgiving tradition of course!

We sat around with full bellies and played a board game that Allan brought, and then we watched Gladiator which was on TV. Everyone left with a tray of turkey cupcakes and I put together a little snack pack for Mark's fiancee Alisha, since she couldn't make it because she had to work.

It was a fabulous first Thanksgiving in Toronto! Lots of food and lots of friends and I hope to do it again next year!

Sadly it only lasted a day though, and on Sunday I was back to studying. My week was kind of a write off, but John had a productive week. I told him to take a few days to relax, but he just jumped straight into job interviews. I think he had at least three last week and he has another one tomorrow. I'm not sure whether any of those will pan out or not, one was definitely a bust (another one where he got there and found out the job was not as described). But I think there's value just in getting out there and checking out the different types of businesses if for no other reason than to get a feel for what kind of environment you want to work in and what's available.

I really don't want him to rush into any old job just because it's there. This city is big enough and there are so many opportunities here that I know there's a good fit for him out there and it will come along when the time is right. I hope that he is able to find a job for himself as good as the job he helped me find, and I believe he will.

This weekend was really quiet. Mainly studying, and we finally got the curtains up. I had to shorten the curtains from the old apartment, but on the bright side I have enough fabric left over to make pillow covers and curtain ties, although I didn't have time to make them this weekend.

I made some cupcakes to bring to work tomorrow. Cherry cupcakes with almond frosting, one of my favorites. Hopefully they like them! And I found some time yesterday to bake some bread. It's my second batch since we moved here. Slowly we are getting all of our routines back!

So all is well here, I'm just really busy. I'll be studying all this week as well and then my exam is next Monday. I think that if I keep working as hard as I have been, I'll be just fine.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

First Day at my New Job

Today was my first day!

I was up at 6:30am and ready for a work a half an hour before it was time to go. Did I mention that I love not having a commute?

When I got there, I met the other people in my class (my training class is tiny!) and we were welcomed with breakfast! We had a bunch of presentations, took a tour of the area and did some studying. I have to say, the environment felt so positive and welcoming, I really enjoyed myself. And there was a steady supply of green tea.

So much studying though! I spent the last two days studying for about 6 or 7 hours a day. Then again tonight I spent 5 more hours at it. And I feel like I'm barely scratching the surface. We've been assigned about 80 pages of dense reading each night, plus assignments and tests. I try to read through everything twice to really cement it in my head, but with only 24 hours in a day, it's not always possible.

I don't mind though. It's fun to play student again, I get a kick out of being a keener, and it's only for two weeks anyway. After that I write my exam and we start the normal training. And the material is interesting enough, although sometimes after a few pages I find myself reading the same sentence over and over.

The other thing I will mention is that John's last day of work is tomorrow. He decided to leave his job as it wasn't a good fit for him, so he's taking a few weeks to figure out what he wants to do next. We were just waiting to make sure I got this job before that happened. He's not as comfortable putting his life's details on the world wide web for everyone to read as I am, so feel free to give me a call or I can call any of you guys if you would like to hear more.

Ooh, I almost forgot. I think we're doing a turkey dinner this year! I think that's a big milestone for us, we're really grown-ups now! I'm in charge of desserts, I think I'm going to make pumpkin pie squares and turkey cupcakes. Hopefully we have at least five people coming to join us, but not everyone has confirmed yet. I'm really excited!

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Got the Job!!

Yay! The bank called me to day to let me know that I have a job! I have to go in tomorrow to pick up my text books so that I can start studying before my training starts on Thursday. Apparently there are so many of them that the recommend I bring a "sturdy backpack".

So that is good news. And I'm actually genuinely excited to be going back to work. I'm looking forward to this job. I haven't felt this way since I've been unemployed, like I actually want to go back to work. But I feel like this is going to be a really good thing.

The weekend was pretty quiet. It rained Friday night so we didn't end up playing capture the flag. On Saturday we headed down to the St. Lawrence Farmer's market (this time it was open!). We got all kinds of produce, some gorgeous baby back ribs and a pork shoulder. I also picked up a bottle of cherry extract (I had never seen this before!) that I think will be great in frosting. We had lunch there. I had a delicious crepe stuffed with chicken, greens, scallions and hoisin sauce and John had a gigantic sandwich.

We headed back home via Chinatown because I wanted to go hunting for mooncakes. Sadly, however, everywhere we went was sold out as it was the last day of the mooncake festival. Next year I will have to go earlier!

But it wasn't a total waste because we found a fruit stand selling pomegranates 5 for $1. Can you believe that? Twenty cents for a pomegranate! When we got home, I removed all of the seeds while we watched Gladiator on TV. It took ages, but now we have an amazing hoard of pomegranate seeds and it only cost us a dollar.

We were tired from all of the walking, so we stayed home that night. On Sunday, John made raspberry waffles for breakfast. They were to die for!

We only left the apartment once all day, to hit up the grocery store for a few things to make dinner. We cooked up half of the ribs using this recipe from the show Chuck's Day Off. What an amazing way to cook ribs! The short version is that they're seared and then oven braised for 2.5 hours. The long version is a list of a zillion different flavors that are all combined to make the best ribs I've ever tasted. Here's a picture of it before we put it in the oven to braise:

Oh yes, those are apple slices that you see!

We also boiled up some of the corn we got at the market. It was probably the best corn I have ever tasted. And we panko breaded and fried some tomato slices, but they didn't turn out as good as I'd hoped.

And that was the weekend. Just lots of food and relaxation. Works for me!

I also applied for school this weekend, so my application is in for Fall of 2010. Nice and early this time. I hit a bit of a snag though, in that they don't want to transfer over my transcripts to my new application. I spoke to someone today who eventually said her supervisor would transfer it over sometime in the next few days. So I'll keep an eye on it. Hopefully everything will be fine.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Quiet Week and a Disturbing Breakfast

I haven't been posting much because not a whole lot has been going on this week. I'm still waiting to hear back as to whether or not I got that job but my references are reporting that they've been contacted, so I think that is a good sign.

The temperature is starting to drop a bit (it's sweater weather but not quite coat weather) and it's been rainy a few days, so I would say that Fall is underway. Rather than close the windows though, I've been letting the apartment cool down a bit so that I have an excuse to wear socks and sweaters. I've missed them!

It's also been an excuse to use the oven! On Wednesday, I made my first batch of homemade bread since we moved to Ontario. It turned out perfect, I'm actually eating peanut butter toast as I type this. I made chocolate chip cookies yesterday as well but they did not turn out great as I'm still figuring out my oven. Apparently at 325 degrees it's too cold to cook anything but at 350 it bakes cookies too fast. That's as much as I've figured out.

The most traumatic event of the week occurred on Sunday morning as we were making breakfast. John heated up the frying pan for the eggs and when it was nice and hot, cracked them in. One of the eggs contained bloody chicken fetus. Yup, it was fertilized. The image of that bloody mess sizzling on the stove is one I will never forget. I am so fortunate to have a brave man in the house to take care of these types of things while I freak out in another room. It took me five days before I was ready to crack an egg again.

I called the Metro head office (since it was their house brand of eggs) to complain. They were totally nonplussed about it, apparently not concerned about how this has shaken my trust in Ontario bred livestock and the inspection processes they use (apparently ever egg undergoes a light test so that the fertilized ones can be removed). I lived in Nova Scotia for 26 years and in that whole time saw two eggs with the tiniest of blood spots. I've been here not two months and I've already experienced a horrific interruption to breakfast. I don't like those odds.

So they sent us a $5 gift certificate in the mail. And that's how I came to acquire the peanut butter that is on my toast.

That's about it around here. We've stayed in every night this week because John hasn't been feeling well. He caught some sort of bug I think, although I think he's feeling better today. He wants to head downtown tonight because there's a big game of Capture the Flag tonight at King & Bay Street. Apparently thousands of people take part in it and you get a glow stick necklace to show which team you're on. The flags are blocks apart and you can run around by foot, bicycle, skateboard or even take the subway to get the flag back to your base. So I think that's the plan for tonight.