Saturday, July 26, 2008

Debbie Bliss "Essential Baby" Vest Problem

Ok, so I accidentally got back into knitting. I was at Chapters after work (did I mention I got a full-time position at a place related to both my love of woodworking AND gardening? Yeah -- totally cool!), and I found this absolutely adorable book by Debbie Bliss "Essential Baby". It has some really classic patterns with adorable pictures and clear directions. The only problem is the first project I'm trying to do has some mistakes which aren't posted on the Debbie Bliss Pattern Revision page... REALLY annoying.

The normal pattern is K8, P1, rep. After the armholes are shaped, the back is split into two parts so an opening can be created for the baby's head to fit through the neck. It's secured with a button at the collar which is a K2, P1 pattern.

My problem is that it's telling me to begin K2, P1 immediately after splitting the back. However, the picture clearly shows the original pattern continuing up at least 18 rows.

Ugh... I need a Ben & Jerry break :(


Vermonty Python must've cleared my mind -- It wasn't as bad as I originally thought. I sort forgot that "purl to end" IS the pattern on the wrong side... oops >.< style="font-weight: bold;">Debbie Bliss "Essential Baby" Vest Knitting Pattern Errata
Corrections in bold

(I've combined the official Debbie Bliss revisions with my own purl/pattern correction. There may be more, but I'm not finished yet, and I'm only doing the small size at the moment.)

Back neck opening
1st row: [right side] Patt 22 [24:25:27] sts, turn and work on these sts only for first side of neck shaping, leaving rem sts on a spare needle.
2nd row: Cast on 2 sts, then K2, p to end. 24 [26:27:29] sts.
Next row; Patt to last 2 sts, K2.
Next row: K2, p to end
Repeat the last 2 rows until back measures 7-1/2 [8-3/4: 9-1/2: 10-1/4]in from cast-on edge, ending with a wrong-side row.

Shape neck
Next row: Work 15 [16: 17: 18] sts in PATTERN, turn, leaving rem 9 [10: 10: 11] sts on a safety pin
Next row: P1, p2tog, p to end.
Next row: Patt to last 3 sts, k2tog, K1.
Rep the last 2 rows once more. 11 [12: 13: 14] sts.
Work 3 rows in patt.
Bind off for shoulder.
With right side facing, rejoin yarn to sts on spare needle, K2, patt to end.
Next row: P to last 2 sts, K2.
Next row: K2, patt to end.
Rep the last 2 rows until back measures 7-1/2 [8-3/4: 9-1/2: 10-1/4]in from cast-on edge, ending with a right-side row.

Shape neck
Next row: P12 [13: 14: 15] sts, p2tog, P1, turn, leaving rem 8 [9: 8: 9] sts on a safety pin.
Next row: K1, skpo, patt to end.
Next row: P to last 3 sts, p2tog tbl, P1
Next row: K1, skpo, patt to end. 11 [12: 13: 14] sts.
Work 3 rows in patt.
Bind off for shoulder.

Work as given for Back to **.
Cont in patt until front measures 6 [7: 8: 8-3/4]in from cast-on edge, ending with a wrong-side row.

Shape neck
Next row: work 18 [20: 20: 22] sts in PATTERN, turn and work on these sts only for first side of front neck, leaving rem sts on a spare needle.
Next row: Bind off 2 sts, P to end.
Patt 1 row.
Repeat the last 2 rows once more. 14 [16: 16: 18] sts.
Next row: P1, p2tog, P to end.
Patt 1 row.
Rep the last 2 rows 2 [3: 2: 3] times more. 11 [12: 13: 14] sts.
Work even until front measures same as Back to shoulder, ending with a p row.
Bind off for shoulder.
With right side facing, slip center 9 [9: 10: 10] sts onto a holder, rejoin yarn to rem sts on spare needle, patt to end.
Next row: P.
Next row: Bind off 2 sts, patt to end.
Rep the last 2 rows once mopre. 14 [16: 16: 18] sts.
Next row: P to last 3 sts, p2tog tbl, P1.
Patt 1 row.
Rep the last 2 rows 2 [3: 2: 3] times more. 11 [12: 13: 14] sts.
Work even until front measures same as Back to shoulder, ending with a P row.
Bind off for shoulder.

Sew shoulder seams.
With right side facing and 3mm circular needle, slip 8 [9: 8: 9] sts from left back onto needle, pick up and knit 8 [8: 9: 9] sts up left back neck, 21 sts down left side of front neck, k across 9 [9: 10: 10] sts from front neck holder, pick up and K21 sts up right side of front neck, 8 sts down right back neck, then work K7 [8: 8: 9], P2 from back neck holder. 84 [86: 87: 89] sts.

I'll update this if there are any further errata.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Morning Smoothie 2

I've made a few changes to my morning smoothie. A gentleman at the Natural Food Pantry in Kanata suggested that I try Shelled Hemp Seed (aka hemp hearts, hemp nuts, etc), and Salvia (aka Chia seeds, Salba, etc), to go along with the Flax (which is still important for women). I also thought I'd give Goat's Milk Yogurt a try, since I don't get along very well with cows.

So here's my attempt at a super omega packed smoothie...

1/2 cup Goat's Milk Natural Yogurt
5 Tablespoons Hemp Nuts
2 Tablespoons Salvia
2 Tablespoons Ground Flax Seed
1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Seed Oil
1/2 cup Juice (whatever tickles your fancy)
~1 cup Frozen Fruit (enough to thicken the smoothie)

The end result was very... healthy... tasting, and quite grainy. Without raspberries to add some pizazz, it was a bit like yogurt with a heap of porridge. Not very appetizing. Next time, I'll make sure to add a 1/4 cup of frozen raspberries to pick up the colour, and maybe a touch of honey to sweeten it up. Perhaps Stevia, or Cocoa, or a Banana would help improve the taste.

I'm wondering if it would be easier to just choke down the stuff with a bit of yogurt -- forget trying to make it a smoothie. Spooned over a ripe banana, fresh berries or a baked apple might be a better idea. My gag reflex can't quite adjust to the texture as a "smoothie", but it might be able to overlook it as a "granola-type fruit topping".

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"Diet has nothing to do with IBS"

I should seriously write a book called "'Diet has Nothing to do with IBS'... and other lies Doctors tell you..."

I saw a GI specialist on Tuesday, who tried telling me that IBS is a muscle disorder, and cannot be regulated by what you eat. He did, however, admit that some people find success in avoiding coffee and chocolate, and that Metamucil *might* be beneficial. He said he could prescribe me some medications, but there is limited success with drugs. In essence, IBS is a "Nuisance Disorder" caused by stress, and it's something I'll just have to live with. He added that most people find the symptoms subside as they age, whether that was from reduced symptoms or an increased discomfort tolerance, he couldn't say.

I have a theory... it goes something like these:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a symptom of improper diet (food allergies/intolerances, bacterial growth, too much insoluble fiber, too little soluble fiber, etc), and is compounded by stress. As people get older, they learn (either consciously or subconsciously) which foods trigger GI problems. By avoiding these foods, their symptoms are reduced. For me, these foods would be beef(!), ice cream (*sigh*), granola, dried fruit, etc.. If IBS is not triggered by diet, why is it that I can predict how my body will react to these foods? Why is it that by eliminating these problem foods, my GI problems are likewise eliminated?

Obviously, it has nothing to do with diet... /rollseyes

Honestly, if alternative healers are the only ones who've made the connection between the food you eat and the way your GI tract functions... I seriously have to question what's being taught in medical schools.

Friday, April 04, 2008

WoW is Eating my Husband -- UPDATE

Read the backstory first

I installed a blog logger that shows me all the searches which have lead people to click on this blog. One of the most popular searches was "Husband addicted to WoW". This really doesn't surprise me, since I know first hand how enticing the game is. It really is fun, but it's one enormous time-sink; it's designed to compel you to keep playing. I thought I should post an update to our WoW situation

Last Christmas, after not playing for several months, I was drawn back into WoW when the xpansion came out. Unfortunately, this also encouraged my Husband to begin playing as well. We were doing great... I was studying cabinetmaking at Algonquin, and he was actively looking for better jobs. I thought "I can handle it... I'll just play a couple hours each night instead of browse the internet."

Yeah... right.

Our household is not comprised of casual players. We wanted to experience the end-game, and that meant at least 4 hours every night either raiding or farming for the mats required to upgrade gear, or pay for repairs. We were quickly sucked back into the WoW pit.

I didn't emerge until the following year, when Christmas dinners kept me SO busy I wasn't able to raid. Immediately following Christmas, I had our Guatemala trip to prepare for -- instead of farming online, I was gleaning the internet for all the information I could find on traveling below the equator. I hopped online a total of 3 times to help my Husband and flatmate's raid when they were short healer, but I found myself muting Vent on trash pulls and listening to my Spanish cds. I really didn't care about the success of the raid -- I had bigger things to do.

While we were in Guatemala, I didn't think of WoW once. I could honestly say I had broken the addiction cycle. It was no longer foremost in my mind; I wasn't thinking about the gear I still needed to upgrade my bear tanking gear, or what instances I had to farm for gems to upgrade my Spirit, or the Vent conversation I overheard between Whisperblade and Optics... I was done.

Returning home, I tried convincing my Husband that he, too, was done with WoW. Unfortunately, he hadn't come to the same conclusion, and continued playing for a while. Thankfully, several events worked together to make consistent raiding more difficult, and he finally decided he was bored with WoW. He canceled his subscription, and now only hops on from time to time in order to sort through his mail, sell off his bank, and help our flatmate if the raid is really struggling. His account ends soon (next week, I think), and he's finding more time to play Settlers of Catan with me (fun but non-addicting), apply for jobs, and cook decent meals.

The best advice I can give to those struggling with WoW addiction is to pray -- ask God to help you, your spouse, your child, your parent, your friend -- God really does answer prayers -- and keep busy.

Update Nov/09: It's been over a year since we both quit WoW. Our old flatmate still plays (I had to keep reminding him to not talk to me about WoW), but it's been so much easier since we moved out. DH found a good career, and we moved 2 hours away and bought a house (yay!). I think about WoW every so often -- new XPack times are hard... our old flatmate showed me the new feral skins... *sigh* -- but I remind myself that playing sucks the life right out of me; I'm not a casual player, and I can't try to convince myself otherwise. It's definitely been easier since our contact with our old flatmate has been greatly reduced.Writing this update has required more thoughts about WoW than I've had in the last year combined.

DH still plays other video games -- Warcraft (DotA) & FPSs -- but he has no interest in returning to WoW. I am so thankful for that. As for me... I don't play RPGs anymore -- I can't. Once you know your nature... *shrug* The only online game I play is AsoBrain's Xplorers (Settlers of Catan knockoff), and I usually play against bots (or DH). I knit. I'm working with a career counselor to find a cabinetmaking company willing to take on an apprentice. I'm attending regular bible studies. Most importantly, I'm praying and singing to God more. We've found a good church and we're regularly attending (as regular as possible with DH's schedule). God has been forgiving, kind, generous and patient toward us.

Green Home Building Ideas

I'm back to looking into the cost of building a eco-friendly, low impact, sustainable house. Last year, I was inspired by the book "Building Green: A Complete How-To Guide to Alternative Building Methods Earth Plaster * Straw Bale * Cordwood * Cob , by Clarke Snell

It's a FANTASTIC book with detailed instructions and tonnes of pictures for all 4 building systems. Not only does it include insightful tips based on the author's hands-on experience, but also, it deals with siting, foundation, water run-off, post & beam construction, passive solar heating/cooling, AND living/green roofs.

The biggest problem I have with all the "Natural" home building books out there is that they seem to be designed for California. There's lots of talk about hurricane tie-downs and earthquake safety protocols, but very little about snow. California might be the king-pin of the environmental movement... all those hemp clad, granola crunching, vegan PETA activists... but what about us northern eco-freaks? Igloos might be low-impact and sustainable, but they're really not practical in the summer. Would it really be that difficult to include some information on how to protect plaster walls from snow, or the feasibility of a low-sloping green roof with near-record breaking snowfall *cough*417cm*cough*?

Thankfully, I've found Serious Straw Bale: A Construction Guide for All Climates, by Paul Lacinski. I had to laugh at some of the reviews I've read -- people are complaining that there's too much information about building for wet or snowy weather, and not enough about dry, hot climates... .... Seriously. EVERY OTHER straw bale book is geared towards the southwest. Can't we have ONE book tailored to OUR needs? Anyway, I just ordered this from Chapters, and it should be here in a couple days along with Strawbale Home Plans, by Wayne J. Bingham. My excuse for buying 2 straw bale design books is I needed to go over $39 for free shipping >.>

So here's the plan so far (prior to reading Serious Straw Bale)

- no info yet

Frost Protected Shallow Foundation
- minimal impact
- lower cost than traditional cement footings due to reduced labour and materials
- lower imbued energy due to reduced Portland Cement
- lower heating costs due to insulated foundation

Post & Beam Framing
- I *think* I can cut all the joints myself... we'll see
- fast raising
- might require a crane, or significant help

Straw Bale Insulation
- lower cost than common insulations
- sustainable product (making use of agricultural "waste")
- locally harvested materials
- high insulation factor
- non toxic, biodegradable
- utmost care must be taken to keep bales dry, dry, dry.
- bottom row would have to be sealed in home wrap

Lime Plaster
- sticks to straw bale better than cement stucco (chicken wire not required)
- retards mould growth
- vapour permeable
- lower imbued energy than Portland cement

- Green would be cool, but snow loads are a major concern (more info needed)
- I wonder if thatch would work...
- metal would probably work best in our climate

- solar power would be great, but I don't think we get enough solar hours to make it worth the high cost
- wind power?
- electricity lines are already running to the lot
- signing up for Bullfrog Power, and using energy efficient appliances seems to be the best solution

- I'm pretty sure a well is our only option... really hope the water tastes and smells good

- looking into grey water system (how they work in winter, green house applications)
- looking into sawdust toilets (just received The Humanure Handbook, by Joseph Jenkins)

Furnace / Hot Water Heater
- geothermal heat pump
- renewable energy
- non-polluting
- most efficient heating/cooling system available
- can be combined with well to reduce excavation costs

- radiant floor heating (Warmboard subfloor with 1/2" PEX Aluminum PEX tubing)
- very efficient heating method with great distribution (no cold areas)
- runs at lower temperature than other systems
- less tubing required due to higher heat transfer efficiency (1 ft tubing / sq. ft.)
- higher initial cost than other radiant floor methods, but lower operating costs due to lower temperature
- $8 / sq. ft for Warmboard alone

- large overhanding eaves, good ventilation
- hoping to not need air-conditioning
- save on ducts

- haven't looked too far into this
- Triple-glazed with High-Solar-Gain Low-E, Argon/Krypton Gas, Insulated Vinyl or Fiberglass, (double glazed on south facing wall with large overhang)
- large bank of south facing windows, restricted windows on north face

- Cork: nice, but I've heard it's not durable
- Bamboo: durable, renewable, but the joints make it very busy
- Tile: high cost & labour
- hardwood: look for FSC certified, expensive, but 'softer' than tile
- Wide plank hardwood: beautiful but expensive, old-growth trees or recycled old floors, need care when installed over radiant floor heating
- Linoleum: durable, renewable, available in a multitude of colours... cheap looking?

Green house
- attached to house on south facing wall
- create grey water filtering soil beds
- black lined thermal pond can assist heating in winter

Floor Plan
- still working on this
- large south face
- preferably easily expandable so we can add-on as we get money

Main floor
- master bedroom on main floor
- master bathroom with shower, connecting to entry powder room with sawdust toilet
- walk-in closet or large bank of wardrobes

- kitchen with island bar overlooking large, long harvest table (ie. the Mains')
- induction cooktop
- wall oven
- appliance garage for mixmaster, blender, juicer, etc
- compost bin

- large family room along the south bank of windows

- an "away" room for children to play or adults to escape to, down a hall
- a water play station and train tracks

2nd floor or walk out basement
- extra bedrooms
- full bath

- dormer or clerestory windows

Still working through ideas...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Standing Hair Cut

I felt a wee bit foolish standing in the middle of the salon while the stylist trimmed away a year's growth. When your hair falls past the barber chair's back, however, there's few other options. It didn't help that stylist was rather diminutive herself...

I had forgotten something very important in the year since my last. Since most stylists don't deal with hair past Bra Strap Length (usually just shoulder length), they have to be taught that hair past 12" needs to be combed in sections from the bottom up. I should have detangled it myself, but I didn't want to be rude. Besides, it was done before I thought to say something.

I mentioned I was still growing out my hair, but I wanted to get rid of the damaged ends. She took off a bit less than I had expected, but I had still hoped more could be salvaged. Let this be a lesson to all of you trying to grow out colour damaged hair... if it looks slightly damaged at shoulder length, you can be sure it'll be dry, frazzled, split and unmanageable at waist length.

Cut it off before you try to grow it out!

I'm pleased with the overall shape, and hope that's the last of the damaged hair. If I ever consider colouring my hair again, please remind me that my hair only grows about 6" per year. At the moment, it'll take over 4 years to grow out crown damage.

I guess I'm back to where I started last winter... At least I'll know how long I can expect it to be by this time next year ;)

1 Year No Trim Challenge -- Success!

Last March, in an attempt to figure out how to care for my growing hair, I found the Long Hair Community forums. In addition to extremely helpful advice, anecdotes and all-round lovely people, users posted "challenges" for others to participate in. I signed up for a number, including the "No picking" challenge (which I failed miserably), the "WO for a Month" challenge (which I stuck with for 3 months, and then found out that spraying polyurethane is rather detrimental without the aid of cleansers), and the "No Trim for a Year" challenge.

My last trim was at a small hair salon in Bayshore on Jan 29/07. I documented my hair length on April 25/07, and went a full year without a cut.

As you can see, my hair is now officially past waist length, however, I've discovered that I still have some damage left over from the last time I dyed my hair (semi-permanent drugstore varieties). The ends have developed hundreds of splits over the past year, prompting many search and destroy missions.

I've been itching to chop the dried bits off -- I'm heading back to the salon. The sad part is I'll probably have to lose the 6 inches I've gained over the past year :(

I guess we'll see in a few hours...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jumping on the Facebook Bandwagon

Yeah, so after being told by a dozen different people that I should really get on facebook, I finally did.

So now I'm faced with the daunting task of finding and contacting friends and relatives, and doing the whole "Will you be my friend?" thing. It feels like grade school again... honestly. Anyway, it's been a decade (wow, it really has been a decade) since I last used ICQ, and I didn't "grow up" using Facebook, or MySpace, or anything like that. So I have to figure out the protocol, the code of conduct, the unwritten rules of this ginormous society on the interweb.

Who do you add as friends? Do you poke them? Do you send a message first? Do you wait for word to get around that you finally joined the 21st century, and have them contact you? Or do you just brazenly ask them to be your friend? How well do you have to know someone? Is it weird to message someone out of the blue after a decade? I found people from elementary and high school, university and college... how far back should I go?

Am I getting too freaked out about this? Should I be more laid back, and just assume everyone wants to get in touch with old acquaintances?

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Discovery: Mark Driscoll & Mars Hill Church

Jared sent me a youtube link to snippets of Mark Driscoll's sermons/rants. I had never heard of the guy, nor Mars Hill Church before, but I was so impressed that I watched every youtube video I could find on the guy.

He seemed to preach Biblically, and with care for his audience. He is charismatic, comedic, and maintains a wonderful connection with his listeners. He is oftentimes offensive, and sometimes crude; oftentimes self-deprecating, and sometimes prideful; but no one can deny that he speaks with genuine concern for the souls of the lost, and the sanctification of the saved.

He preaches on hard topics, and is unapologetic about the Truths of the Bible. He knows Christ is the only way to eternal life, abortion is murder, and that men and women were created equal but have different roles. He preaches in jeans and a t-shirt on a black stage and his points are regularly interrupted with laughter and applause.

So far, the only thing I disagree with him on are some of the worship practices he places in his 'open hand' (non-doctrinal things which are open to change). I believe the songs we sing and the instruments we use *are* outlined in the Bible. However, I would hazard a guess that God is pleased with Mark's work, even if they don't sing the Psalms a cappella, you know? There's just so much substance and meat in the Psalms, I can't imagine worshiping using contemporary praise songs alone... they're just so... repetitive... and the really repeat themselves... a lot. If I'm going to study and memorize songs, I would rather they be God's Words.

Ah well... Nathan seemed to really enjoy the Q&A we watched with Jared, so I'll see if we can watch some of his videos together as a devotional type thingy. It would be really great if we could study God's Word in way that was both edifying and amusing :)

On a side note: I'm really awful at Settlers of Catan... I'm constantly cut off right at the beginning (usually by Nathan). If I believed in luck, I'd think I had a streak of the bad kind, but since I don't, I can only assume that the Lord is trying to teach me something about being a good loser... or something...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Camera Equipment -- lenses

Trying to get a handle on my Camera equipment... mostly beloved borrowed handmedowns from my family -- my Mum's Asahi Pentax camera, and my Aunt's lenses (her Pentax body was stolen years ago).


8103015 Asahi Opt. Co., Japan
SMC Takumar 1:2/55
Aperture: 2-16
Meters: 0.45 - 10+

332858 Fuji Photo Film Co.
EBC Fujinon-SW
Aperture: 3.5 - 16
Meters: 0.4 - 5+

Tosner MC Auto 2x Pentax
Toshiba Photo Prod. Co. Japan

Tamron Auto Zoom
Aperture: 3.8 - 22 EE
Meters: 2 - 20+

Tamron Adaptall 2 to attach Zoom lense to Pentax body


Toshiba 49mm SL-1A
Black's UV 49mm
Black's CU+1 49mm
Black's CU+2 49mm
Black's CU+3 49mm
Kenko Close-Up No. 1 55 mm
Kenko Close-Up No. 2 55 mm
Kenko Close-Up No. 3 55 mm
Soligor 55mm K-2
Vivitar 55mm Polarizing
Vivitar 72mm US-Haze

Shade thingies



Light Meter

Zeiss Ikon
Ikophot T
Made in Germany
(missing top metal plate)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

PC Financial is Hassling Newly Married Women - Part 3

Read Part 1 & Part 2

Richard from PC Financial Customer Care just returned my call, and we had a very pleasant conversation. I would first like to congratulate CIBC (owner of PC Financial) for hiring a Customer Care representative with such an incredibly soothing voice. He really is perfect for the job.

Anyway, the actual conversation...

Richard explained to me that since PC Financial is a "Virtual Bank", they don't actually have "Branches". The men and women who help you set up your account at Loblaws are "Customer Service Representatives" and their little nook is simply a "sales centre". There are apparently some regulations which create a distinction between a "Banker" and a "CSR". CSRs, according to anti-terror and anti-money laundering laws, cannot simply change your account info using just a Marriage Certificate.

He spent some time going over the list of acceptable documents, trying to figure out a workaround for me. The biggest problem was A) Ontario doesn't allow Health cards as ID, and B) Ontario doesn't offer a Provincial Identification Card. All other provinces either allow Health cards as ID or offer a Provincial ID card. This means that in Ontario, you must A) Drive, or B) spend $90+ every 5 years renewing your Passport (a VERY long process with long wait times). Thankfully, there is a new Simplified Passport Renewal for adults with a valid passport, so you no longer have to bring supporting documents. You still have to pay the $90 and bring 2 certified photos... >.< Richard really wanted to help me, and sympathized with the lack of options in Ontario for Photo ID. When his Wife updated her Passport years ago, she was able to add her married name to the back page, without paying for a new Passport. I explained that that was no longer possible After exhausting the options, he offered to credit my account with the $87 I would need to update my passport. He reasoned that I'm young, newly married, and probably applying for a mortgage in the near future, so the bank will likely see a return on that money. It was in the bank's best interest to keep me happy. Although I was grateful for the offer, I asked 'what about the other newly married women?' They're going to have to go through the same hassle. He said that the Customer Care centre deals with complaints on a case-by-case basis, so he couldn't give an answer. The core problem is the fact that the CSRs at PC Financial Kiosks are not legally allowed to accept a Marriage Certificate as proof of name change without supporting ID. 'Now', I reasoned, 'I understand that PC Financial is just owned by CIBC, and we're not able to use their Bankers for banking help (deposits, transfers, etc), but would it not be possible to allow newly married women, such as myself, the ability to go to a CIBC branch, show the Bankers our Marriage Certificate, and have them change the information for PC Financial? I mean, as you just said, we're newly married, probably getting a mortgage soon, do you really want to piss us off?' Although Richard said he could not personally change the policy, he said that he would make that recommendation to the powers that be. He said things move very slowly, so don't expect an immediate response, but he did agree to follow up with me. He scheduled himself to call me on June 2nd. I asked Richard if I was the only woman he'd spoken to about this problem, and he said no, it's a very common complaint. At this point I brought up my secondary problem with PC Financial -- the fact that they have to mail off the originals to their central office. Richard immediately corrected me -- that is not company policy. Photocopies of your Marriage Certificate, and 2 supporting IDs are mailed off NOT the originals. He was astounded that someone would give me that information, especially with identity theft being such a large problem. He said as soon as he got off the phone with me, he'd be calling the manager of the Kiosk I had gone to, and correcting their information.

That was a rather large relief -- I'll have to edit my previous posts to make sure people don't get the wrong information....

All in all, I was satisfied with how Richard handled my concern, and pray he'll be able to convince his superiors to allow Name Changes at CIBC branches, or find some other convenient way of allowing women to update their name without requiring an updated Photo ID (particularly in Ontario).

PC Financial is Hassling Newly Married Women - Part 2

Read Part 1 first

Richard from PC Financial's Customer Care called this morning while I was out. I am currently waiting for him to return my call...

After speaking with FCAC, and learning that their requirements only apply to opening a bank account, not changing an existing account, I'm considering alternative possibilities...

My biggest problem with PC Financial requiring an updated photo ID is that it will cost me ~$100 to update my Passport (which is valid for 5 more years), or write my G1 again (yeah, I never did my G2 test, and my G1 has since expired... the bus is my friend). I am not eligible for any other type of Photo ID. Once again, I feel the need to express my annoyance that Ontario does not have a Provincial Identification Card for those who do not drive. I'm also not a fan of mailing off said ID to some office in the middle of whoknowswhere. [Update: PC Financial's Customer Care Representative, Richard, corrected me -- that is not company policy. Photocopies of your Marriage Certificate, and 2 supporting IDs are mailed off NOT the originals.]

PC Financial needs to change their policy.

For those women who are in the same boat as I am, there seems to be only one solution. Lodge a formal complaint to their Customer Care section, and then cancel your account. Maybe PC Financial will get the hit if droves of newly married women take away their money.

The other option (after lodging a formal complaint, of course), is to create a new account. Since, by law, you are not required to show photo ID to open an account, you can use updated ID which is free and easy to change.

SIN Card -- requires your marriage certificate and your birth certificate (both original). If you apply in person at your local Canada Service Centre, you will receive your new card in the mail 5-10 business days later.

Credit Card -- requires a faxed copy of your marriage certificate and a letter outlining your desire to change your name. It could take up to 6 weeks for your request to be processed and a new card mailed to you, so if your want your PC Financial Banking information updated as soon as possible, I would recommend opening a bank account with no monthly charges, such as Laurentian, which you could then use as identification for your application to PC Financial.

Bank Card -- requires your marriage certificate, and 2 pieces of ID from this list, such as your SIN card and a bank/debit card or birth certificate.

So if if my conversation with Richard this afternoon doesn't go well, I'll have to head over to the Service Canada Centre at Lincoln Heights Galleria down the street, and then bus over to 1021 Cyrville Road to open a bank account with Laurentian. From there, I can use my new SIN card (in 5-10 business days) combined with my Laurentian bank account (opened in my Married name) to open a new PC Financial bank account.

This seems like a rather long work-around for something that is so incredibly easy to do at ANY OTHER BANK.

Continued: PC Financial is Hassling Newly Married Women Part 3

Monday, January 07, 2008

Changing my Maiden Name and PC Financial Bank

Three and a half years ago, I was supposed to change my Maiden name to my Married name. I was psyched to do this -- all part of the ritual of marriage, right? I got all the information I needed in order to do so -- which documents I would need for each service. I hit a small snafu, however, in that I was under the impression that the Ontario Government would mail me a copy of my Marriage Certificate. After about 6 months of waiting, I sort of forgot about it until I discovered I had to renew my passport for our trip to Guatemala, and I figured I might as well change my surname as well.

I checked online, and sure enough, I had to pay $15 to get my Marriage Certificate mailed to me (4-6 weeks). Unfortunately, it arrived a few days after I spent $90 renewing my passport (in my Maiden name, due to lack of supporting evidence). We don't have time before our trip to chance trying to get it re-renewed in my Married name, so it'll have to wait.

Anyway, now that I finally have the Marriage Certificate, I can update allt he rest of my cards. The following isn't a complete list of acceptable ID, it's simply the ID I'm choosing to use...

Marriage Certificate
Birth Certificate
School Transcript
Credit Card

Driver's Licence:
Marriage Certificate
OHIP card

Marriage Certificate
Birth Certificate
OHIP card
2 pictures

Credit Card:
Marriage Certificate (copy)
Letter explaining that you would like your name changed

Marriage Certificate
Birth Certificate
SIN card

Now, I would like to point out some similarities between all these Cards... they all require your Marriage Certificate and valid government issued identification. Yeah, I know -- obvious. Apparently, every government agency and financial institution believes that if you have valid identification with your maiden name and it matches the name on the Marriage Certificate you've provided, you are indeed a) who you say you are, and b) married. That is, of course unless you're my bank...

President's Choice Financial, requires a Marriage Certificate as well as 2 pieces of identification (at least one government issued photo ID) with the updated name, which they then mail off to some office in the middle of whoknowswhere... [Update: PC Financial's Customer Care Representative, Richard, corrected me -- that is not company policy. Photocopies of your Marriage Certificate, and 2 supporting IDs are mailed off NOT the originals.]

Why do they require your ID to be updated? Isn't the bank questioning the validity of a legal document (Marriage Certificate) by demanding supporting documentation? If a Marriage Certificate and ID with my Maiden is good enough for ALL other banks, AND government agencies, shouldn't it be good enough for PC Financial?

This concern is not isolated to me alone. When I told the the Customer Service Representative at my local PC Financial branch that I wanted to update my name, he asked if this was my "first or second visit?" Apparently, most women arrive at the branch with their Maiden ID and their Marriage Certificate, believing it to be enough, and are turned away. The agent sympathized with me, expressing annoyance with the situation himself, saying "I feel sorry for you guys..."

Let me point out that Ontario does NOT have a Provincial Identification Card. It took me an hour on Google and various government websites before I discovered that tidbit of information. Also, if you're over 35, LCBO won't issue you an Age of Majority card... not that the bank would take that anyway...

To confirm other institution's policies regarding this, I personally contacted ATB Financial, Bank of Montreal, CIBC, Citizens Bank of Canada, HSBC Bank Canada, ING Direct, Laurentian Bank of Canada, National Bank of Canada, RBC Financial Group, Scotiabank, and TD Canada Trust, as well as Passport Canada, OHIP, Ministry of Transportation, and the Social Insurance Registration Office. Although I had to speak with a Supervisor at CIBC to clarify their policy, every bank I called stated the only document required to update a last name was a Marriage Certificate. They all said that identification could be in a woman's maiden name as long as she had a Marriage Certificate. The ONLY mention of using updated ID was if you did not have your Marriage Certificate. The assumption is that the person who updated your ID must've seen a valid Marriage Certificate...

PC Financial's call-centre had a 25 minute wait, so I decided to contact their parent company to see what was up with their policy. Thankfully, CIBC's call-centre's wait was only a few minutes. When I asked what their policy was, the CIBC CSR read from her "Agent Support Tools" a passage on required ID for name change. It stated something to the effect of 'you need a marriage certificate and 2 supporting pieces of ID such as blah blah". She was under the impression that the supporting ID needed to be updated to your married name. I wanted clarification so I asked to speak with her Supervisor. After going over the company's policies, he agreed that the "supporting documents" could be in a woman's Maiden name, as long as she had a valid Marriage Certificate. I asked Supervisor Shaun (Shawn? Sean?) to put forward a motion or memo or something to his superiors indicating the need for CSRs to be better educated on company policy.

Thinking that the daughter company would have the same policies as the parent, I confidently called up PC Financial (the wait was down to 4 minutes) and spoke with a CSR. Reading from her manual, she stated that in order to change my name I would require a "Marriage Certificate, and 2 pieces of ID supporting name change -- standard ID in the new name." That last little bit left no room for clarification -- they did in fact require updated ID in addition to a Marriage Certificate.

Her Supervisor explained that their small branches "are not trained to determine the validity of a Marriage Certificate", and only one office handles legal name changes. Apparently, their "Risk and Legal" department determined that extra step was necessary. Frankly, this is an unnecessary and cumbersome failsafe and should be removed in order to facilitate the smooth transition of a woman into married life.

For a bank which advertises their "ultimate convenience, 24/7", they are making it extremely difficult for women to assume their Husband's last name. This is especially troubling since no other bank, nor government agency, requires more than a Marriage Certificate as proof of a surname change!

I asked how I could contact their Risk and Legal department, and was curtly told that "they do not deal with the public". So I politely asked "Ok, how would my lawyer get in touch with your Risk and Legal department?" At this point he quickly asked if I would like to "escalate" my complaint to the Customer Care department, which would contact me in a few days. I gladly agreed -- this guy was just towing the company line, after all.

Speaking of lawyers, according to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, which acts as a watchdog over Canadian banks (among other things), there is a rather broad list of identification which can be used to open a bank account. Banks cannot ask for further identification unless they reasonably suspect that the ID provided is fraudulent.

Choice #1 – Show two pieces of I.D. from this box:
• Canadian driver’s license
• Current Canadian passport
• Canadian birth certificate
• Social Insurance Number (SIN) card
• Old Age Security card
• Certificate of Indian Status
• provincial health insurance card (this cannot be used in Ontario, PEI or Manitoba)
• Certificate of Canadian Citizenship or Certification of Naturalization
• Permanent Resident card or a Citizenship and Immigration Canada form IMM 1000 or IMM 1442

Choice #2 – Show one piece of I.D. from Box A and one piece of I.D. from this box:
• employee I.D. card
• debit card or bank card with your name and signature on it
• Canadian credit card with your name and signature on it
• current foreign passport

Choice #3 – Show one piece of I.D. from Box A and have someone the bank knows confirm that you are who you say you are.

As long as you have your Birth Certificate or SIN card, and a bank or credit card with your signature, you do not even have to show photo ID -- I found that particularly interesting. According to the FCAC, however, once you HAVE a bank account, these rules no longer apply -- the bank can request photo ID in order to make changes to your account (such as updating your name).

Therefore, according to these regulations, I should be able to apply for a bank account with my Birth Certificate (which obviously has my Maiden name, since I am assuming my Husband's name, rather than legally changing it), and my SIN card, or a credit card which have been updated -- which name would they put the account under? Would they require further identification?

Just to reinforce the ludicrousness of PC Financial requiring updated ID as well as your Marriage Certificate, here's my call list and responses from all the major banks I could contact:

ATB Financial ( 1-800-332-8383
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name

Bank of Montreal ( 1-800-225-5266
marriage certificate
ID doesn't have to be updated to married name

CIBC ( 1-800-465-2422
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name
Spoke with supervisor Shaun/Shawn/Sean, 9:40 EST Jan 07 to confirm this policy

Citizens Bank of Canada ( 1-888-708-7800
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name

HSBC Bank Canada ( 1-888-310-4722
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name

ING Direct ( 1-800-464-3473
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name

Laurentian Bank of Canada ( 1-877-522-3863
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name

National Bank of Canada ( 1-888-483-5628
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name

President’s Choice Financial ( 1-888-723-8881
Supporting document, including marriage certificate, and 2 pieces of ID supporting name change -- standard ID in the new name

RBC Financial Group ( 1-800-769-2511
marriage certificate
ID doesn't have to be updated to married name

Scotiabank ( 1-800-472-6842
marriage certificate
ID doesn't have to be updated to married name

TD Canada Trust ( 1-866-222-3456
marriage certificate
ID doesn't have to be updated to married name

Continued: PC Financial is Hassling Newly Married Women Part 2 & Part 3

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Butter Chicken #1

My first attempt at Homemade Butter Chicken. I tried following Vijar Bhaardwaj's Makhani Chicken recipe on, but I had to make a couple substitutions. Overall, it was good but I wouldn't call it "Butter Chicken". It was more like... curried chicken. Perhaps less tomato, and use cream like the recipe calls for (I substituted coconut milk).

Update: Nathan really liked this! Justin said it wasn't "Butter chicken" but it was definitely a "Chicken Curry". I was just happy it was edible and tasted remotely Indian-esque. It was even better the next day -- I dipped wholewheat bread in the leftover sauce -- didn't taste tomatoey (like it did when it was cooking), and had a pleasant kick to it (made my nose run, but didn't require gulping down ice-water).

1 3/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 cup yogurt (natural, no sugar added)
2 tablespoons garlic paste
1/2 tablespoon garam masala
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons ginger paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 chopped red chile peppers (about 1 T)
1 can tomato paste (5.5 oz, 100% pure, no salt added)
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cup water
3 tablespoon honey
1 can premium coconut milk (398 mL)

To Marinate: Place chicken in a nonporous glass dish or bowl with lemon juice, 1 tablespoon chili powder and salt. Toss to coat; cover dish and refrigerate to marinate for 1 hour.

Drain yogurt in a cloth for 15 to 20 minutes. Place in a medium bowl; mix in salt, garlic paste, garam masala, butter, chili powder, ginger paste, lemon juice and oil. Pour yogurt mixture over chicken, replace cover and refrigerate to marinate for another 3 to 4 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Place chicken on skewers. Place skewers in a 9x13 inch baking dish and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until almost cooked through. Can also bake without the skewers. Set aside remaining marinade for the sauce.

To Make Sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garam masala. When masala begins to crackle, mix in ginger paste, chopped garlic and chile peppers. Saute until tender, then stir in tomato paste, chili powder, salt, garam masala and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring in honey.

Place chicken and remaining marinade in sauce mixture. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink inside. Stir in coconut milk.

Garam Masala Recipe

In order to make the perfect amount of Garam Masala for the first Butter Chicken recipe, use an 1/8 teaspoon (wiped with a paper towel in between each spice).

Cardamom - 6 parts
Cinnamon - 4 parts
Cloves - 2 parts
Coriander - 6 parts
Cumin - 6 parts
Nutmeg - 2 parts
Pepper (Black) - 6 parts
Saffron - 1 part <-- yes, real saffron threads finely ground.

For best results, you're supposed to have all whole spices, roast them briefly, grind them, then use them immediately. I only had whole cardamom, peppercorns, nutmeg and saffron, so I didn't bother roasting them. Also, the first time I made this, I had a couple unlabeled spices and ended up using turmeric instead of cumin and extra cardamom (I think) instead of coriander. It all tasted Indian-esque to me, so I didn't worry too much. Bay leaves and ginger are also popular additions. Keep in mind that there is no "true" Garam Masala recipe -- you combine the spices your Mum taught you to...