A Twistedly Funny Visitor

(Post 66 of 233. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

I had a laugh today. The doorbell rang late morning. I thought that maybe Walmart was super early for once. Nope.

It was a woman selling prepaid funeral packages. 😂 It must be the current context that makes her visit so funny!

I later learned that Walmart will no longer surprise me because they now send an email letting me know my order has gone out. The timing ended up being perfect for me to have a beer with dinner. We have strict alcohol sale restrictions right now, like having to have it delivered, so I haven’t had a beer in weeks because I don’t need beer badly enough to order it by itself. I was waiting until I could add it to another order. When I got a call this morning that they were out of XX, I was a bit bummed, but gave them permission to sub whatever else they had except Corona. So I was delighted that, somehow, they got XX by the time the order went out, and that it even arrived cold-ish!

A long-time reader and online friend arrived from Saskatchewan recently. I put off us meeting until I felt comfortable that he hadn’t picked up anything during his long layover in CDMX. Last night, I had him over for tacos. I texted my favourite taco place up the street at 6:15 to get in line for a 7:30 delivery. I wanted fixings for 12 tacos, plus 1 litre of horchata. They told me it would be better value to get a half kilo of al pastor meat with all the fixings, so I told them to go ahead. There ended up being enough meat, tortillas, and fixings for 15 tacos, and there were beans (frijoles charros) and totopos! We got through the meat and tortillas, but I still had a ton of salsas, chopped onion and cilantro, beans, and totopos left.

I’m on a soft/easy to chew diet this month due to my braces, so I can’t eat crunchy totopos. But I can eat them soft in nachos… I happened to catch the cheese guy this morning, so I had fresh Oaxaca cheese. So for dinner, I blitzed the beans/peppers/bacon almost smooth and soaked the totopos in them for a few minutes, then added cheese and heated the whole thing through.

Then, I added generous ladles of liquid fire (salsa verde and salsa de chipotle) and creamy garlic sauce, as well as a good sprinkle of fresh onions and cilantro.

My improvised nachos turned out very close to what you can get in restaurants here (my beans were much soupier, though) and were super tasty and braces-friendly. I only wish I’d remembered I have pickled jalapeños in the pantry! It was an excellent use of leftovers.

Bonita would like me to add that she loves Oaxaca cheese. I gave her a nice chunk with her dinner and as I was chopping up my portion, she came into the kitchen, sat at my feet, and looked at me with the most forlorn look that I had to give her more. 🦊🥰

Crêpes!

(Post 65 of 233. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

Yes, eggs have officially taken over my life. 😆 I have a long list of foods to rediscover! Today, I decided to try my hand at making crêpes, my mother’s speciality. Whether I get off a plane late or it’s the first morning of a visit, there will be crêpes waiting. They always give me a stomach ache, but they’re worth it. Well, behold crêpes that don’t hurt! 😋

The recipe I found called for four eggs and I had one really large duck egg in my last delivery. I decided to halve the recipe and use just the single large duck egg in it, then adjust the quantity of milk. Look at that pretty yolk! You’ll notice a lot more yolk than white. So you can’t just substitute duck eggs for chicken eggs without making other adjustments to the recipe. The rule of thumb is one duck egg for two medium chicken eggs, and that might work for something like crêpes, but not necessarily in a fancy cake. I have a lot of experimenting to do!

Can you spot a bit of shell on the yolk? Duck eggs are very difficult to crack!

I can’t do real milk anymore, so I just added almond milk until I got the consistency I wanted:

“They” say the first crêpe or pancake is always the worst, but my first turned out to be the best one!

My non-stick pan is way too big, so I ended up with three giant crêpes. I might have ran off to Amazon after brunch to order myself a proper crêpe pan. 😇

My mother usually makes her crêpes with buckwheat. My favourite addition to those are stewed prunes (🤷‍♀️), but I like maple syrup on regular crêpes. I treated myself to a container of it last time I was at Costco. I have not had maple syrup in eons. It’s one of those things that flows through my veins that’s a bit dangerous to have in the fridge. But boy was I glad to have it today!

I cannot believe how perfect these crêpes were. Excellent first effort. I’m such an amazing cook to be doing so well with difficult things like poached eggs and crêpes on the first effort! 😆

A New Culinary Adventure

(Post 64 of 233. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

Since eating my first egg, I’ve been obsessed with eggs. I’ve been watching YouTube videos to learn various cooking techniques and trolling the web for recipes. I just know that I’m going to find the perfect way for me to prepare them and then I’m going to want them as part of my regular diet, not just in baked goods.

Egg #2 was scrambled:

I wasn’t a fan. It should have been delicious with the butter, crème fraîche, and cheese in there, but I did not like the texture at all.

Egg #3 went into banana bread:

I usually make banana bread with a “chia egg.” I did not notice a taste difference making my usual recipe with an egg, but the texture was so much nicer, less gummy and more crumbly, and I got more of a rise.

Egg #4 was a cloud egg:

A friend thought a cloud egg, where you whip the white into a meringue and add ingredients, partially cook it, and then add the yolk to cook to desired doneness, might solve my problem of not being a fan of egg white but loving a runny yolk. She was right! However, separating a duck egg is very difficult, even for experienced duck egg preparers, and the whites don’t whip up as nicely as do chicken eggs. So while this was really delicious (the meringue had chorizo, sharp cheddar, and yellow onion in it and the yolk was runny in the middle of this), it was a lot of work for an okay result.

Always one who wants to run before I walk, I tried to poach egg #5 for lunch today!

Really, for a first effort, I’d give this a 7/10. I failed at coating the yolk in the white, but the yolk was perfect. I added a little A1 sauce to the white and it was lovely, better than how the fried egg white turned out (I’ve since learned that duck egg whites get rubbery when overcooked, so I’m going to try fried again but take it off the heat sooner). I think that this was tied to the cloud egg in terms of how much I enjoyed it and being so much less work, will probably be my method of choice for a quick egg meal.

I don’t think I’m at the point of saying I love eggs but I’m really enjoying this new culinary journey I am on. I put in an order for more eggs and whenever they get here, I am going to be making fresh pasta with them!

I Ate an Egg!

(Post 63 of 233. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

As many of my long-time readers know, I have an intolerance to chicken eggs. Meaning eating a chicken egg won’t kill me, but it does make me feel ill. Chicken eggs smell rotten to me, which the allergist told me is a defence mechanism and proof that my body doesn’t tolerate eggs. A slice of cake made with two or three eggs is fine, mayonnaise or flan is not. I have completely cut out eggs at home, going to vegan blogs to find egg-free recipes for cakes, pancakes, pasta, and even things like frittatas and omelettes (hint: besan). But there is always a natural curiosity when you can’t have something.

Well, a few months ago, I was transcribing an interview with a famous Australian actress when she revealed that she had to eat an egg for a scene in her movie and that they had to use a duck egg because she is allergic to chicken eggs.

I immediately got on Google. Yep, people can be allergic to a chicken egg but be fine with a duck egg (and vice-versa) because they have different types of proteins in them! I got obsessed with the idea of trying a duck egg, especially fried and with a runny yolk to dip toast into. I thought duck eggs would be easy to find here. Jajaja! I struck out with all my contacts and finally went to the local food hunt group. Patricia at L’épicure gourmet, a treasure of a fine grocery store, said she had some!

I headed there this morning. This store is super expensive and you have to know what items are true treasures that are worth any amount of money and what are things you could find cheaper in a supermarket. So that’s why I spent $300 (about $18CAD) on two tins of UK Heinz beans… 😀

The eggs were very affordable, $4.5 each (about $0.27CAD). I also loaded up on yellow onions (so glad I have room to freeze them now!), Heinz chili sauce (apparently a very Canadian product), A1 steak sauce, and the last of their pastrami.

I came in and put together a proper fry-up. The duck egg was very hard to crack, kind of plasticky, and I got a couple of bits of shell in my pan.

Research told me to fry the egg in a generous amount of butter and then cover it with a lid to let it steam a little. I was surprised when I took the lid off that the beautiful yellow yolk now had a white film over it. Yes, that’s pastrami. I would not be so pedestrian as to have bacon with duck eggs. 😀

The first thing I noticed was that I knew I was cooking eggs, there was a distinctive “egg smell,” but it was not nasty. It didn’t have the rotten component to it. Fascinating.

First bite!

I liked the yolk on toast. There wasn’t much flavour, but it was creamy and rich and I knew it was very nutritious, high in the B12 and iron that I have a hard time getting naturally.

The white tasted vaguely like egg, but not repulsively like chicken eggs. I liked the crispy buttery bits the best. I think a fried egg might be a nice addition to a breakfast sandwich with the yolk running over everything. But I’m not particularly excited to try other methods of making eggs, like scrambled or poached, the experience was that underwhelming. But so far, I feel fine, so if I can actually digest my lunch without regretting it, I’ll be able to make my “famous” onion quiche again with those yellow onions!

And I’ll have to go back to La épicure for some 00 flour because I want to make myself some homemade fresh pasta, which, let me tell you, tastes like cooked glue if you don’t have egg in it!

I think my culinary life has changed. Giving it a few more hours before I celebrate, but the last time I had something super eggy, I knew almost immediately that I’d made a huge mistake, so I’m very optimistic!

Back to School (Yep, Again)

(Post 62 of 233. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

I am so sorry for those who are having such a difficult time during the pandemic. It feels almost cruel to be talking about how well things are going for me, but perhaps there are lessons in resilience to be learned from my experience. This pandemic was not the first time in my life that I woke up to the world as I knew it having ended and I’m sure it won’t be the last. You can’t grieve and/or be numb forever. There comes a point where you have to sift through the ashes, salvage what you can, and figure out how to keep moving forward.

But how can you do that when the future is so uncertain? How can you move forward when you can’t make any plans? Well, that’s the thing. No, we can’t plan on anything that involves travel or socialising with people. But you can perhaps focus on work or school or a hobby or relationships with people you live with, whatever  you still have that the pandemic cannot take away from you. In my case, that’s work. I work in an industry that had to find a way to push forward and keep moving. There might not be as much work as there was, that work might take a different form, but for someone who is adaptable, there is plenty of opportunity out there. I was concerned about work in April, but by mid May I knew I was going to be fine as I saw the U.S. legal system starting to come to grips with the idea of having to operate remotely.

So I’ve been working. And working. And working. I love the transcript proofreading work that I started doing at the end of last year. I keep getting more clients for that and dropping transcription clients. When I am completely done with transcription, I will have a lot to unload about that industry. But the years in it were not wasted as they have provided me with foundational skills that I can add on to. When I started proofreading transcripts, I don’t know how people told me that I wouldn’t last a year before setting that aside and studying to be a scopist instead, as that’s where the real money and interesting work is, but I had a lot of reasons to confidently say that that would not happen.

Scopist, you ask? Think about the general publishing business. You have a writer who creates a manuscript. That manuscript is then sent to an editor who fixes issues with content, syntax, grammar. The writer then produces a final draft, or proof, that is sent to the proofreader to look for any egregious errors that were missed — typos, formatting problems, issues with punctuation. Then, the manuscript goes to print.

It’s the same thing in the legal transcript world. The court reporter is the writer, who produces a stenographic record of the proceeding. The stenographic record is then machine-translated into English and sent to the editor, but in this world, the editor is called a scopist. The scopist makes sure that the steno was correctly translated and that the transcript is accurate and formatted properly. Then, the transcript is sent to the proofreader for a final glance before being returned to the court reporter who will apply any finishing touches and send it on to the ordering attorney.

With my experience in transcription, scoping is something that I have been doing for years, just not in the specialized software used by court reporters. It didn’t take me many jobs with my proofreading clients to start getting comments like, “You should be scoping,” “You’re wasted as a proofreader,” “Don’t settle for proofreading,” “There is a huge demand for scopists with your skills.” It also didn’t take long for some unethical reporters to try to pull a fast one on me and send me work that wasn’t scoped and try to pass it off as a particularly difficult proofreading job. Thankfully, with all of my experience in general proofreading, I know where the line is between editing and proofreading. So when court reporters start to cross the line, I have resources to give them that support my saying, “That’s not what you’re paying me to do.”

So why was I so resistant to scoping, a job that I knew I would excel at and that would very likely double my income in the first year or two? And what’s changed since the pandemic?

1) Wanting More Mobility

I’m rather tired of being chained to a desk. I think back to my time in Europe and how much of it I spent in makeshift offices transcribing. The idea of being able to work from an iPad was so alluring. I worked almost a full week while I was in Oaxaca, but at cafés, parks, and restaurants. The idea of being able to travel and still work at something that doesn’t feel like work without having to carry a ton of equipment was worth the economic sacrifice of continuing to settle for less money than my real earning potential.

Well…

With the pandemic, who knows when travel is going to start up again as something that we do easily, if ever. I can’t even think too hard about never being able to travel again because I’ll probably have a meltdown. So I’m instead, I’m focused on other goals that I always put as second to travel and mobility — buying a home, paying off debt, buying a car. Instead of proofreading on my iPad from my living room and bemoaning the fact that I’m not in Morelia or Paris, I can be in my office working at getting those other things so that they’ll be set in place by the time I can start travelling again. And when I can start travelling again, I should be making enough money to be able to tell scoping clients, “I’m off for two weeks at the end of September and won’t have my laptop, but feel free to send me some pages to proofread since I’ll have my iPad.” And on weeks when I’m feeling blah and like I don’t want to work too hard, I can still proofread. So I will have the best of both worlds!

2) Not Having the Money or Energy to Study Scoping

My proofreading course took ages because I was so tired at the end of the day. I certainly couldn’t afford to cut back on my hours to study either. The course itself was quite expensive, over $1,000USD, but doable, especially as a tax deduction. Scoping school, however, was $2,500USD + about $2,000 in software + a way more rigorous curriculum.

Well…

The proofreading course opened me up to the industry and I quickly figured out that I don’t need to go to scoping school; I just need a couple of continuing education classes to learn how to read stenography and how to use the software. So I contacted a few scoping schools to see if I could just take the modules I needed. The school I ended up going with reached out to me first from a Facebook post (!), was my second choice, and made me a great deal of $500 to access just the modules I’m missing. They also said they would try to get me a discount on the scoping software, which alone is $1,600USD, but I need other software too (more on that below). Even if I don’t get the discount, I’m looking at about half of what the full cost would have been a couple of years ago.

Moreover, now, I am well-enough buffered that as soon as I sent the payment to the scoping school, I dropped one of my transcription clients to free myself up some time to work on the course. I know that as soon as I get the software, even if I don’t feel comfortable scoping in it just yet (the software is super complex), I should at least be able to proofread in it. So I’m going to start getting a return on my investment pretty fast.

3) Lack of Ambition/Laziness/Misanthropy

I don’t know how much of this is just my personality and how much of it is this Canadian mentality of settling for good enough and not asking for too much out of life, but I’m not very ambitious and I’m pretty lazy. I do want work that is challenging and that pays well, but I don’t want the responsibilities or effort that go with that, so I’m happy to settle on work that is not challenging and pays just okay. I also don’t want anyone making demands on my time that I can’t control. The more I advance in my freelancing career, there is more expected of me and the less control I have over my time — I have client meetings regularly, taxes and bookkeeping are more difficult, I’m mentoring, and I’m now the final eyes on a transcript instead of the first so I can’t just dial it in. I can’t be an office drone anymore; I’m a professional and I need to start acting like one or scale way back.

Well…

I’m over that Canadian mentality of settling for good enough and not asking for too much out of life. I snapped at the last person who talked about my house buying plans and said, “Of course, you don’t need anything as big or nice as what you have now.” You know what? I might not need it, but do want it. I want a big house on a lovely lot with a pool. I want nice car in the driveway. When I leave the house, I want to be in clothes that come from a department, not thrift, store. I want someone to do my hair and nails every month. I want to sometimes go out for a meal that costs me a thousand pesos. I want to fly first class. I want a full-time housekeeper and maintenance person. And I want a job I love and that I’m excited to get out of bed for that will let me have all that in a number of working hours a week that gives me plenty of time to enjoy everything I’m working for. Living out this pandemic in my current house has made me realise just how important it is to live in a place that you love and that nourishes your soul and lets you explore your full potential.

4) Loathing of Windows

And now we come to the crux of the matter. I loathe Windows. I have refused to work in a Windows environment for years. I have turned down so many potentially great and lucrative contracts because I would have needed to work in Windows-only software. I hadn’t found a job or a situation that could make me envision going back to Windows from MacOS. I joked that I would do it when the apocalypse came.

Well…

The apocalypse came. And I found the job and am in the situation where working in Windows makes sense. It helps that there are now a lot more people in my situation than there were just a few years ago. I’ve found a whole support community of Windows-loathing Mac users who make it work. Most importantly, there is now software that would let me run Windows and the scoping software as essentially an application on my Mac. I wouldn’t actually be working in Windows. I would have Windows and the scoping software open alongside my Mac applications and would not use Windows for anything else. That was a game-changer, especially since I had the foresight to really over spec my Mac mini when I bought it two years ago, so I can effectively run both operating systems simultaneously.

So on top of the scoping software, I need a Windows license and a license for the software I will use to run Windows on my Mac (probably Parallels). I know it’s going to be a mess, but having like-minded people who are in the same situation to go to with questions eases my anxiety a little.

That’s the latest scoop. Soon, I will have reached the top of the transcription food chain, short of being a court reporter, all in time for my 10th anniversary of going into business for myself, which happens July of next year! I’m not settling just for that, though. Oh, no. I’m done settling! I joined a professional organization for editors and those in related fields, so I’m taking classes through them to brush up on my Chicago Manual of Style skills, which I used in that proofreader contract that paid for my European adventures. So I definitely want to continue doing general proofreading as well. I’m no longer a transcriptionist. I’m an editor and proofreader. It’s what I always wanted, but I just didn’t know how to get there. Somehow, against all odds, I made it!

Before I sign off, I promised pictures with these sponsored posts, so here are a few things from the last month.

Braces are going GREAT. They’re almost all straight now. In two weeks, I will get the elastics put in that will bring them back and correct my overbite. My dentist says I should be done by the end of the year! (No, that’s not a booger in my nose — it’s the “screw” for my nose stud!)

This house is in my neighbourhood. It does not look like it belongs in Mexico! I stumbled upon it on Google Maps and didn’t believe it was real, so I went out in search of it. It is real. Very odd!

I can imagine having an entrance like this in my own house, instead of painting the whole wall pink. 🙂

My favourite supermarket, Superama, now carries vegan mayonnaise. I’ve been on mayonnaise overdose, trying out all the things I’ve been missing out on, like creamy coleslaw, tartar sauce, and, of course, tomato sandwiches with mayo!

Speaking of Superama, they get butternut squash about once a year. I bought nearly 1,000 pesos’ worth of it (five small) and roasted them to enjoy over the next few months. Here, it is served with just butter and some freshly grated nutmeg. The pork chop is from my rancher friends, and, yes, B was sitting patiently waiting to get that gristle!

B was having some trouble with her teeth. That’s now resolved and she can eat her favourite treat again!

I adopted three plants last September. They are still alive and looking great. Go me!

My friend Jan and I see each other about every 10 days, alternating hosting. The minute I got B’s leash off at his house, she jumped on the couch. It’s wonderful to see my anxious, timid girl so comfortable in other surroundings.

Jan was hosting this week. We are in dry law for the foreseeable future, so I haven’t had beer in ages. He had a few left and pulled one out to toast my move into scoping! He provides food and I “cook” (he doesn’t have a stove). I made tasty potato wedges on a hot plate and these microwaveable ribs were so tender and better than most I’ve had at a rib house! Great treat of a meal. 🙂

B doesn’t tolerate cats on the property here, but had no problem sharing the couch with Dodger. Dodger is a bit savage, but this time, she let me pet her!