Saturday, October 11, 2014

Garden surprise

This has to be the weirdest thing but when I was putting away my planters this fall, I had to remove some of the annuals from the pots so I could store them. In one of the big pots that I planted myself in the spring, I saw something just below the surface of the soil that looked like a slightly red light bulb.  I removed some of the soil and what I found astonished me! A giant sweet potato (see below with my fingers on the bottom right of the picture as a reference point). I did not plant the sweet potato nor do I recall seeing it growing in the soil but it must have, because there it was. At first I thought it was some kind of joke that Robin was playing on me but he wasn't home when I was emptying the pots. I then went to another pot and there was a second one - just about the same size. 

Sweet potato

As if that wasn't startling enough, I dug further down into the pot and found two very large yams. I could not fathom what had happened to cause them to grow in the planters but later I surmised that I do buy and use sweet potatoes and yams and we compost just about anything that is compostable so maybe there were some eyes from some of the compostable materials that grew into those veggies. Whatever they were, I was quite thrilled. I later went into the garden and dug up my 10 pounds or so of potatoes that we really did plant. 

All in all, with 60 pounds of tomatoes, my sweet potatoes, yams and potatoes, it was a good harvest after all. And yes, how could I forget my several dozen zucchini? I've shredded a lot of that and put in my freezer for winter baking and soups. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

My first digital story: about my parents' marriage

I developed an interest in digital storytelling a few months ago and found a website that has good instructions on how to create your own digital stories. It's called Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling and it's managed by the University of Houston's Dr. Bernard Robin.

I started reading through the material and by some stroke of luck or serendipity, I was perusing some free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) offered by Coursera in July and came across the Digital Storytelling course to be offered for 5 weeks starting in September. So I enrolled and started on September 8. 

This is the last week of the course and in those 5 weeks, I learned how to identify the story I wanted to tell, my target audience, the learning outcomes, and the theme of the story (know this already from teaching). I also wrote my script for the story and received feedback from other students enrolled in the course (already know how to do this too). I narrated my script using a digital voice recorder (already do this as part of my work), downloaded it to Audacity (free audio editing software which I used once before) and did some edits. I sourced royalty- free music (thanks to many artists for sharing without compensation) from Jamendo (this was new for me) and downloaded wevideo (new for me) which is a free (with major limitations) video editing software.

The learning curve for me was navigating the software and using several value added features to my story e.g. the volume of the music, transitions, timing the images, audio and music, removing background sounds, fading in and out and using what is known as the Ken Burns Effect.

I chose to tell the story of my parents (wedding picture below) and the challenges they faced when wanting to get married over 60 years ago but belonging to two different faiths. The story is still as relevant today as it was in 1952. Here is my story titled: Breaking Down Barriers (update: April 19, 2016 - video not working because I didn't know that the free version had a shelf life. Too bad).

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Fort Whyte: A room with a view

Today was a work day but my workplace was somewhat unusual. It was at Fort Whyte Centre. I decided that since it was a short 10 minute bike ride to the centre, I would ride my bike instead of taking my car. I bundled up since the morning was somewhat cool and left home about 7:35 to arrive at 7:45 - 15 minutes before my appointed meeting time with the rest of the group. 

Luck was not with me because when I arrived at the pedestrian gate which is a short cut from the highway route, the gate was chained shut and would not open for another two hours. I had two choices - bike back home and get my car or bike along a very busy two lane with no paved shoulders. Rather than risking life and/or limb, I took the road less travelled and biked back home. I am frustrated that the city supports and encourages active transportation and has the route on an active transportation map but the gate to the centre is padlocked for many hours so as to make it inaccessible for bikes. 

I managed to make it to the centre for 8:00am anyway and most of us walked to the Siobhan Richardson Research Centre to spend the rest of the day in our workshop. It was a room with a stunning view as can be seen from the pictures below. It would be fantastic to go to work and see this every day instead of ugly concrete walls that I see for most of my day. Fortunately, Fort Whyte is near enough to be so that when the gates are open, I can go biking there in the summer to enjoy watching the bison roam and ducks and geese making good use of the ponds. 

Manitoba really is beautiful in the Fall. 

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Another double digit grandbaby

My grandbaby Sahana celebrated her double digit birthday today. This is grandbaby number 2. She is getting so tall - at 5 ft 1 inch and just 10 -  that she looks like she could easily be 15. She get to choose her cake that I would make and after going back and forth between a chocolate swirl cheesecake and a dobos torte, she chose the dobos torte. That's one of my specialties - only made for special occasions and only for special people. This year I've made 3 so far: one for Sharm for her big day in March, one for Trent for his big day in September and one for Hana for her double digit birthday. 

If you have not ever had a dobos torte, it's a 7 layer sponge cake with 7 layers of chocolate frosting. It's one of the only chocolate cakes I actually like and will eat and enjoy. The cake takes a lot of labour. Frosting has to be made ahead of time and chilled overnight. There are 11 eggs in the sponge layer and each egg has to be separated. The whites have to be be beaten with sugar until stiff. Then the yolks have to be beaten with sugar separately. Then add the two together. Each layer has to be baked separately in 1/4 inch layers. Then it's the assembly of the cake and frosting, alternating each layer. It's very yummy and the eating is inversely proportionate to the amount of time it takes to make it.

I guess at some point I will have to stop referring to my granddaughters as grandbabies but I reserve that privilege until they have children of their own.