Mr. Noodle

Mr. Noodle
Mr. Noodle

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sushi in the South

Oh dear.

Dan had warned me not to have too high expectations about Asian cuisine. Having both lived a few years in Asia, and having been surrounded by an excellent array of good quality Asian restaurants in Victoria and Vancouver (there is a huge Asian population there, so much so that Vancouver is often referred to as "Wangcouver"), we have an appreciation for Asian done well.

I'm sure it is true of every cuisine that gets exported and adulterated. The new cuisine gets blended with the tastes and cooking styles of the local environment.

When Dan asked me what I wanted for dinner on Wednesday night, I said "sushi". Having tried Kinston's offerings, Dan decided we would be better off trying Greenville instead. A place called Wasabi 88 was recommended, so we went there.

The parking lot was full, so that was a good sign. When we walked in we were told there would be about a 30 minute wait. Was it worth it?

It turned out to be only a 20 minute wait, and we sat down to look at a very confusing menu. They call themselves an "Asian Bistro", so they had a blend of Thai, Chinese, and other Asian-sounding dishes on the menu. The only drink menu was for cocktails and sake (there is a great tradition of having beer in Japanese restaurants, but there was no beer here). We asked for green tea.

The tea came in a traditional pot with two small drinking bowls that felt like they were made of metal, which made the tea too hot to even pick up at first, but really that was the best part of the whole experience. Then our server came by and asked if we wanted sugar for our tea. I could not help the look of horror on my face and said NO!, and I think our poor guy was taken aback at my emphatic reaction. I tweeted this exchange and a number of Southerners responded strongly, defending 'sweet tea' (It's a thing around here).

There was a deal on at this restaurant for buy one sushi roll, get one free. When our server was explaining to us which menu items were applicable, he offered to split the bill for us. (Why would he offer that? Could he not tell we were married?) We said no thanks, that won't be necessary. We puzzled over why there would be catfish and tilapia (the crappiest of crappy fish) in sushi.

The hot and sour soup came. It wasn't bad, maybe a bit too gelatinous, and with button mushrooms. My friend Jeni makes a far better hot & sour soup (I miss you Jeni!)

Now when you order a sushi roll that costs $14, you expect it to be big, right? We were used to small rolls in Japan and Canada, but for the fancy ones with lots of stuff, those rolls are usually big. This is what came out.

I think this was the first time I had ever been served sushi on a round plate. It was beautifully displayed to be sure, it looked wonderful. The taste however was disappointing. A gal came by and asked us if we wanted soy sauce. Of course! The wasabi was quite wimpy, it was no wonder they gave such a big portion of it.

Thus, before we were halfway done our meal, we cheerfully declared to each other that we would never need to eat here again. Our server came by and once again offered to split the check. What? Maybe that's what the rest of their clientele does but dude, we even have matching wedding rings. Perhaps he was just young.

I think we will, however, investigate and sample all the Asian restaurants in the area over time. We are both quite proficient in cooking Asian cuisine if we can find the right ingredients, so I expect we'll be doing some entertaining on this front.

This one is for John

Look what we found at Harris Teeter in Greenville

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

personhood in the USA: a funny story

I entered the United States on February 4th, 2013. Our good friend, Agent W-- said I should have my green card within two weeks.

Somewhere along the way we read/were told conflicting information about when we could apply for my Social Security card. As in we can apply before I get my visa. Or by entering the US and launching my green card, one will be issued automatically. Or that I need to apply for that separately.

Last week I received notices in the mail basically saying that my green card was on the way and here is the tracking number. Great. It's on its way. Knowing this, we made our third attempt today to go to the Social Security office to go sign me up for my card. I say third attempt because we went at 4:00 one day, not knowing they close at 3:30, and then on Monday it was closed for President's Day. Today we were lucky to get in at 11:18 as they close at noon on Wednesdays. (I want that job!).

Talked to the lovely agent, who was herself an immigrant from eastern Europe or Russia, I'm guessing. She said she could try to sign me up for a SoSec card but I really do have to wait until I have my green card. I gave her my passport/visa & driver's license.

Suddenly she was absolutely perplexed. There was a memo saying my SoSec card was issued on February 7th, 2013, and I should have it within two weeks.


To verify, she asked me half a dozen security questions, mother's maiden name, etc. and was still puzzled at this development. She went away, maybe to do some looking up or something, then came back and confirmed that yes, it's on its way and if it doesn't get to me by the end of the week to come back to this office and file for a replacement. Then she wrote down my SoSec number.

I have a number! I am a person in this country!

Then we checked the mail and there was my green card. So that's good!

The first thing I did? Apply for a job as ASSISTANT PROFESSOR. I don't expect to be short-listed - they want a PhD and I just have a measly Master's, not to mention no academic teaching experience, but I thought I would try anyway. You never know, right?

All I need to do now is get my North Carolina Driver's License and then I'm in. That will increase my employment chances too, as a number of the positions I am looking at call for a NCDL.

an update with photos

I had a post written that I was going to post on Monday, but it seems somehow obsolete now. Instead, I'll just show you a bunch of photos and insert commentary.

Dan and I don't usually do anything special on Valentine's Day. We figure we have so much love in our life every day that to devote only one day to it seemed silly. We don't need commercial excuses to go out for dinner or do nice things for each other. So what ended up happening is that Dan picked me up and brought me back to the tap room while he did some stuff. I hung out, knitting (an easy project) while Sean the tap room manager poured me beer.  Oatmeal Porter, in particular. It was good. I had great conversations with a number of people about knitting, gardening, food, and pouring concrete.

Later Dan took me to one of Kinston's three Mexican restaurants for dinner. I am still not accustomed to the volume of food they give you in restaurants here.

Earlier in the day I had decided to make a little Valentine's decoration. I happened to have some love-colored card stock from when I was sending out heart butterflies last year, strung the hearts together with some yarn, and voila! A romantic gesture. Dan thought it was sweet.
 Dan recently acquired a musical saw. Did you know that there was such a thing? As in a saw made by Stradivarius and other makers of fine instruments? Well, Dan is one of those people who can just pick up an instrument and figure it out. He can play any sort of wind instrument (he played low brass in high school and university), and has been earnestly playing his banjo since he's been in North Carolina. He even built a canjo (banjo made from a can) and put up a YouTube video (flounderguts). Back to the saw, Dan was finding it a bit hard to handle at the end so, you know, he just whipped one up. He had a bit of mahogany laying around, zip zip on the bandsaw, a turn of the lathe, then attach it to the saw. As he was doing this, I tweeted it. It got noticed by Natalia Paruz, The Saw Lady. (Seriously, go check out her story, it's so inspirational!) 

(I am still trying to convince Dan that we should go to New York in June. I think that would be awesome. I have never been to New York).

In other news, I mentioned previously that we'll be having a St. Patrick's Day party. Dan's plan for the event is to make Corned Beef and Cabbage, one of the meals he prepares that are my favorite. On Saturday, we drove out to New Bern to meet a new friend and to do a bit of exploring. We had lunch at Spunky McDoogle's. 

 Yeah it was a bit kitschy but who doesn't love kitsch? It was on our way back that it started snowing, as I mentioned in my last post, so we headed back to Kinston.

The next day, since Dan couldn't go outside and work on the Dodge (cold, wet), we decided to take a trip to Goldsboro, about 35 miles from here. Since we had been expecting to move into our house by now (I mean come on, what is taking so long?), we hadn't unpacked our boxes of books from the truck. Dan wrapped each box in saran wrap before we left Canada. Dan covered the truck with a tarp the night it snowed but even with that, some of the boxes were wet. WE PANICKED.

 We brought all the books to the storage area at the brewery and unpacked/checked for damage. It wasn't as bad as we thought. It would really have sucked to have been carrying these books around all these years and then 3,600 miles only to lose them to a night of water damage. A few of the paperbacks were wrinkled but it was mostly the boxes that took the hit.

  I should add too that it was late Saturday night/Sunday morning that I got the message that my mum's aunt Mid passed away. She was 86 I think, had lost her husband (Unc) of 63 years in 2010 and immediately fell into dementia when he passed. She had a fall last year sometime and was put into a care home, but the stubborn old gal hung on I guess, until these last few weeks when she decided to leave. Mid and Unc were surrogate grandparents for me and my sister, since my mum's mom died when I was in grade 5 (1984?) and Grandpa died in 1992. Mid was the record keeper of the family, the one who kept in touch with everyone and always remembered every birthday. Her passing was not a sad one, but one of joy, since she can finally be together with her beloved. I can't help but think she was waiting for me to move to the US and get settled here so I wouldn't feel obliged to attend her funeral, as I have no doubt that the family shit will start flying soon. What better time to open old wounds and fling accusations than when a family matriarch has died? Yup, I'll be happy to avoid all that. My mum and sister will go to the funeral this Saturday in Kelowna, BC. I'll wait for news.

Right. On to happier things. Below is a photo of a chandelier that Dan built for the distillery. I don't think it is rigged up with lights just yet, but I believe it will have LEDs in it. The ceiling is made of recycled barrel staves and the wall made of recycled pallets.

This is the entrance/exit to Dan's office. Up by steep ladder/stair, down via slide.

Now that Dan and I are back together, we can eat meals together again. He's a great cook, did I tell you? Dan makes the best salads.

Monday, February 18, 2013

unexpected snow

I was going to give you a proper blog post but I'm just too tired today - I think I must have had coffee too late in the day yesterday and couldn't sleep last night. We tried to get me a Social Security card today but, wouldn't you know it, they were closed today for President's Day. I have spent the last few hours staring at my screen looking for jobs in east North Carolina and am now going cross-eyed, so I'll show you some photos from the weekend.

 Snow was in the forecast but we didn't believe it. This is on our way back from New Bern on Saturday.

 Driving by our house (moving in next week sometime).

The view from the farmhouse. Some snow was still on the ground this morning, two days later. I expect it's gone now, but we are still expecting below freezing temperatures in the next week.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

a few days in

I've been here for four days now and it's still a bit surreal.  The day we arrived, we were invited to a party at the home of the owners of  Chef and The Farmer the next day. There were a number of us going so Dan suggested we drive the brewery bus. There was a PBS film crew there when we arrived, and it would almost have been impressive with this van full of people - except that there were only five of us pouring out of the van.

 This was an Oyster Bake or BBQ or something. I don't even know how to describe it. They washed the oysters, laid them on a bit of tin roof, then placed the tin on an open fire. There were LOTS of oysters. Dan had a few dozen. I had one! That was enough.

 The gal doing the filming had her lens trained on Dan as he expertly shucked oyster after oyster, shuck, add cocktail sauce (what's that?), slurp, flip the shell, repeat. He was also good at commentary so when we had the big pot of fish stew with instructions on how to eat it (make sure you get an egg, have it with bread, etc.), Dan had lots to say about the tastes and sensations of the soup. (I wished I could have given the fish scales to Sam, but she wasn't with us!)

 And if you are going to go to the house of a celebrated chef, you want to know what cookbooks are on their shelf, right? It went like this: Southern, Southern, Southern, Argentinian, Southern, Southern, Jewish, etc. I haven't heard of any of these cookbooks but I am really excited about learning Southern cooking!

So in this photo I am standing on top of the brewery. That blue house is the one we'll be moving into sometime this month. We went by there on Monday and there is still at least a week's worth of work left on it before we can move in, alas. We are, however, doing okay at the farmhouse that Dan has been living in all this time.

It has felt kind of funny though, like moving into my boyfriend's house for the first time, except that I recognize some of the kitchen tools (where are the rest of them?). Dan started packing up the house before he came to get me, so most everything is in boxes. We were sort of expecting to move into the blue house right away but since we are not, we have had to go grocery shopping. That was an interesting experience. There are three options for groceries: Piggly Wiggly, Food Lion, and WalMart. There is an unbelievable amount of packaged food with lots of sugar in them. Is it the same in Canada and it just wasn't on my radar? I don't know. The prices on the whole are significantly cheaper, though some things are comparable to Vancouver Island.

There are no coffee shops in Kinston, I'm sad to say. We'll be taking a trip down to New Bern on Saturday to meet a new friend and do a bit of exploring. I've done my homework: three coffee shops, one yarn shop, an art supply store and three thrift stores. My new friend suggested we check out the farmer's market as well.

The weather here has been interesting, ranging from colder than I'm used to to warm and humid like Asia. I still don't know where all my clothes are (especially my socks!) so I'm really limited in my wardrobe is. I don't want to unpack all my boxes just to pack them up again next week.

At the party on Sunday, there was a fly hovering above the food on the table, and when the woman I was standing next to learned I was from Canada, she asked if we had flies, what with it being so cold and all. I did my best not to be incredulous, but said yes of course, and that right now Kinston is colder than Victoria.

I love languages and can pick up pronunciation very easily. After talking to a few people from around here, I can't help but affect the accent - it is totally unconscious. Two minutes after meeting Dan's boss he said "you're already starting to talk like a Southerner". I don't know quite what to make of this - do I just go with it? That seems to be the easiest thing.

We don't have Internet at the farmhouse, as I mentioned, and the cell phone reception there is terrible, so I have been largely incommunicado. I also haven't figured out how to get my email to show up automatically on my new iPhone - it's a bit complicated transferring accounts from Canada to the US, and I haven't taken the time to sort that out yet.

Hopefully my green card will arrive this week or next, and I don't recall if we were able to apply for a social security card. Without the SoSec card, I can't start work. That's good and bad. I mean, I'm still unsettled being in a temporary location, so starting a job would really complicate things. It also means I get to do a fair amount of knitting and getting in some much-needed relaxation. It also means I'm still without an income, but I trust that everything will happen as it needs to in good time.

Knitting, how I miss you! I haven't been too motivated to knit much these past months, and was hoping to get more done on our trip, but with the driving at night and the kitty roaming around, I only managed to finish one project and put a few rows on another one. Part of it is not having all my knitting kit in one place, so when I finally do unpack I'll be able to see all my yarn in one place. Since I've had a bit of time to relax and catch my breath, I am now chomping at the bit to get knitting and I have lots of ideas. I'll check out the yarn store in New Bern on Saturday and see what they have, but I'm anxious to knit more with locally produced fibers. The Carolina Fiber Festival is just seven weeks away and I'm looking forward to going!

Monday, February 11, 2013

some photos from our trip

We drove 12 states in five days, stopping only for sleep, gas, and biological functions. Here are a few photos.

 Eastern Washington.

 Kind of a funny joke between me and Dan's father. When we discovered that we both like Baroque music, Paul took me to a few concerts at the Conservatory in Victoria over the winter. Because we were there for quiet a long time with no refreshment, we smuggled in some contraband - these chocolate-covered cookies. When I told Dan's father that I *love* these cookies and that my sister used them for cheater s'mores, it became a fun thing we shared. Just before Dan and I left for our trip, Paul came by with a gift-wrapped box that said "Do not open until you cross the border", which of course I could not do, as they at the border frown on bringing in boxes of unknown contents. Luckily I had peeked before we left to confirm that there was something chocolatey in there. Sure enough, they were these cookies. They sustained me for our whole trip!

 This is Mr. Cupcake in Montana. My friend Irene in Connecticut had made this little guy for me sometime last year when it seemed like we would be making this trip a lot sooner than when it really happened. Most of the following photos were taken for the tweets I posted during our trip, thus I don't have the metadata to indicate where they were taken unless I was taking a photo of a welcome sign. 

 Sam was such a good kitty on our trip. Above she is trying to reach between the seat and the console to - what? I don't know. But she was really persistent.

 It was nice when she settled in. Then I could knit.

 This is a chicken toaster cosy that I knit for Dan's mum for Christmas several years ago. The chicken lives in the family condo in Missoula, Montana, and Mr. Cupcake was happy to see the chicken!


 A train, in Nebraska I think.


Mr. Cupcake longing for good coffee. So was I. Dan bought me this excellent travel mug at Canadian Tire the day we left. 

 Massive breakfast at The Egg & I. Nebraska still, I think. Nebraska as HUGE. I ate half, took the rest and ate the other half yesterday.

 This is the market bag I had been working on for a few months, my first time knitting with linen yarn. I really liked the project, though it was a bit fussy in the beginning because the linen yarn is so slippy off my Addi turbos. I'll make this again.

 I think this is the Missouri River.

 The exit signs in Missouri were very confusing. They had letters on them which seemed to allude to nothing. We drove all the way from Kansas City to St. Louis and could not detect a pattern in the letters. Finally, when we stopped at the Motel 6 just outside of St. Louis, Dan asked about the letters on the signs. The gal said they didn't know either, but they get asked about it a lot. Well played, MoDOT.

The Mississippi River? 
 Sam and Mr. Cupcake.

Mr. Cupcake got in the way of the Welcome to Kentucky sign. 

 The Beer Trappe is a great beer store in Knoxville Tennessee where Dan walked out with four boxes after spending 45 minutes in the shop.

 It's hard to get a good photo of a sign when you are driving by at night at 70mph. We entered North Carolina around 9pm on Friday, February 8th.

I was pleased to see so many trees! As you can see, we had excellent weather the whole way and somehow managed to avoid the cold and stormy weather that the rest of the continent experienced.

We rolled in to Kinston two days ago and it still doesn't feel real. I mean, in some ways, I have basically been camping for a year and a half, and I still can't unpack. We are now staying at the place where Dan has been living all this time, and the house we'll be moving into isn't quite ready yet, just a week or two more. I've met about 50 people, been hugged by a few dozen, have already been to the tap room, a bar, two restaurants, and the best party of the year. I have also sustained, ahem, two hangovers. So I'm tired and still a bit unsettled, and I'm really anxious to move in to our house and get busy with that but I also need to start looking for work. What kind of work? It's hard to know. I have a lot of interests and a lot of skills, but I expect things will work themselves out.

I will say, though, that it has been great to be with Dan with our stress load significantly reduced, and for us to stay put and not have to get up and drive away in the morning. I've been told that Dan is a lot more relaxed with having me around. It's good. We are both pretty happy right now. He's back at work already, of course, and at the moment I'm in his office writing this post, since we have no Internet and crappy cell phone reception at the house. But good things will come to those who wait, as they say, and I have developed excellent skills in being patient during this time apart.