Guitar Lessons Part 7

Aug 8: Very Good Day

I passed the melody I was working on yesterday, after several attempts.

Then I moved on to a pinky finger exercise. It was fun and easy.

And then!!

I got to play a song I recognized!

Ode to Joy!

Omg you have no idea how excited I was too not only get to play this, but I got to hear myself play it properly!? I passed it on the second try and then I played it two more times just because I could. So cool!

I played my song too, again without listening to the recording first. My daughter sang along with me. Super cool that she knows most of the lyrics to a song that I wrote.

I got the F chord today! Slowly on the changes, but I got it!

Aug 9: Melody Challenge

I played Ode to Joy again, just because I could. I did well on it, although not as well as after 4x yesterday.

Then I moved on to the next melody. It has FIVE parts! I passed according to the app, but I have not gotten 3 stars on all 5 parts yet, so I’m going to keep going with it tomorrow.

I played my song again. The chord changes are getting faster, which is very encouraging!

I’m still feeling weird about the timing on the verses. I might have to do a video call with my music mentor again this weekend.

Aug 10: Gah

The lesson through the app went really well. I passed the song I was working on yesterday on the first try and then again on the second.

The next song was difficult at first, but I’m feeling confident I’ll get it tomorrow.

Then I played my song. It sounded okay, but I could hear the dull notes, so I tried to play each chord individually.

Apparently I cannot play the F chord today. Like, at all. 4th string, fine. 3rd string, fine. 2nd and 1st? Dull, no matter how I move my hand.

I am incredibly frustrated today.

I stopped playing because I felt like smashing something and I thought it would be smart to just leave it alone for now.

Aug 11: Not Bad

I passed the melody I was working on yesterday. It took several tries, but I managed it.

The next melody has barely any pauses in it. If I mess up, I have a really hard time finding the notes again. I passed it once before my time ran out for the day.

My song went well. I added an E chord, for “colour” as my music mentor says. I’m not sure if I’ll keep it, but I liked how it sounded today.

And that F chord… I managed it correctly about a quarter of the time, if I’m being generous.

Aug 12: That F-ing Chord

I completed the melody lessons for level 3 in my app. I only needed to play that one melody from yesterday once more to pass it.

Then I learned a new chord! D chord. I’ve been practicing it with the other chords for about a month, so I was able to get it right away. There was another chord challenge where I had to play as many chords as possible in a set time frame. I did that a bunch of times and managed to get 19 chords to give me three gold stars. Woo!

The first chord song in the app ended up required down strumming AND up strumming. I haven’t been practicing the up strumming, so I didn’t do very well. Something to work on for tomorrow.

Then I played my song.

That F-ing F chord. I couldn’t get it even once. Not even outside the song. I’m seriously considering transposing the entire song so that I don’t have to play the F chord.

So frustrated today.

Aug 13: Chords

The app I use is EXTREMELY picky (pun not intended) about chords. It’s exhausting.

I passed the chord song I was working on yesterday… Barely. I wouldn’t really say I passed, but I was tired of playing it. It kept not hearing me properly.

So I skipped on to the next one. I only played it once, but it didn’t hear a single C chord. Very frustrating.

I told my music mentor about my frustrations yesterday, and he suggested I play Fmaj7 instead of F. Omg what a difference! I’m very happy with the switch. I know I’ll have to learn F someday, but that day is not this day.

I played my song several times. It’s coming along well, I think.

Oh, and we ordered a soprano ukelele that came in today. Our daughter is EXTREMELY excited about it.

Our little soprano ukulele!

So it looks like I’ll be learning uke as well as guitar.

Change to 2021 JenEric Schedule

Hello JenEric Fans,

With Dragon doing full digital school, we’ve decided to move things around a little. Here’s the schedule for the foreseeable future.


Éric Desmarais will randomly write things like an unspecified number of monkeys with typewriters… which is totally not how he writes his posts… *Shifty Eyes* EDIT: Please send bananas.


Guitar Lessons Jen is learning guitar and her journey is quite a lot of fun to follow. Certainly a Major Scaled accomplishment.


The Travelling TARDIS will continue it’s adventures in space, time, and backlogs.


JenEric Movie Reviews continues to watch movies, over-analyse them, and tell you all about it.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is logo.png

The monkeys Éric returns with serial stories, regular stories, rants, coffee info, and really whatever comes out of the typewriters… uhm mind, his mind.

Saturday & Sunday

Unless 2021 ends up being as movie watching heavy as 2020, these will be left blank and let the monkeys, time machine, and musicians rest.

Hope you enjoy it!

JenEric Designs Management

Guitar Lessons Part 6

Aug 2: Scales!

I finished this set of chord lessons. I think I’m getting the hang of up strumming. Sort of.

The next set of lessons is knowledge stuff. So I’m learning how to do scales! They’re starting off with a simple scales with no sharps or flats. They didn’t give it a name, but I start on an open E, so I guess it’s an E major?

I guess the guitar isn’t in the same key as a flute, because E major for a flute has flats, if I’m remembering correctly from twenty years ago. (??)

Oh, and big news for my song! I sent the recording I made (and the lyrics) to a very talented guitarist friend of mine and he sent me back some chords!!

So I have music for my song now! (Note to self, remember to credit him for the music!)

And he gave me chords I already know, which is so very sweet of him to think of. Thankfully I have a capo.

They’re very basic chords, which is perfect for a beginner like me: C, Am, and F (which I’m cheating on and only playing the bottom two strings).

Now I have to get used to singing the melody while I play a harmony. That’s going to take a lot of time and practice.

I tried it today and my voice automatically dropped into the harmony. Sigh.

Practice makes perfect, right?

Aug 3: What a difference!

I played the scale again today. It took a couple attempts, but I was able to play it.

Then I moved on to playing arpeggios. It took some time, but I got them today too. I think I’m a little lazy with my finger placement, not using the tips of my fingers. I’ll have to pay more attention to that tomorrow.

The last thing I did was a song with whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes. It had a couple string and finger changes that I struggled with in the first go-through and then my time was up for the day.

Then I got to play my song!

I decided to put the recording I had made on the Google mini while I played the chords to keep my voice on track and IT WORKED!! The chorus is so good I’m ridiculously excited about it. The verses need work, but I have a month to practice before I’m going to play for people.

Omg I’m so hyped from my practice session today!!

Aug 4: Challenges

I passed the knowledge section. I don’t really have anything more to say about that.

Now I’m on to level 3!!

It starts with melody lessons; adding the fourth finger! I did very well with the first two training songs. They were both on the bottom string (1st) only, so very simple.

The next song in the lesson was on the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings and used the first four frets.

Apparently I have no idea which string I’m on with either hand. I think this song is going to take more than a couple days to master.

It’s a good challenge.

My song. Omg my song.

I played my recording once, singing along with it. Then I played it twice more, singing and playing the chords. And then! I turned off the recording.

And I was able to sing it properly!

I’m still so in love with the chorus.

I think I really need to master the F chord because the cheat I’ve been using feels very unfinished. So I’m going to work on that.

I still awkward with the verses. I’ll get there.

And the bridge is slightly uncomfortable, but I think that’s because there are F chords in it, so hopefully it will get more comfortable as I get better with that chord.

A good day.

Aug 5: Well then

You know that melody I said was going to take days to master?

I passed it today. And passed it well. I played it four times, and got three stars on all of them except the first (only two stars). So yay?

However! This next melody is actually going to take me days. I’m playing it at 75% speed and barely managing a third of the notes. So yeah. DAYS. That’s ok. I feel like I’m learning.

I played my song again. Once with the recording, several times without. Still in love with the chorus. Still fighting with the F chord.

It’s ok. I’m getting there. It’s nice to make progress.

Aug 6: Accomplishments

I worked on the melody from yesterday today for the entire half hour. I played it at 80% speed several times, sped it up to 85%, sped it up to 90%, and then played it at full speed.

And you know what?

It wasn’t as difficult as it was yesterday.

It was still really hard, but I came really close to passing. (3,3,2,2 and then 2,3,3,2 stars on each part of the song – I have decided that I need 3 stars on each part of a song in order to consider it passed. According to the app, I have passed.)

I played my song again. I’m still having trouble with that pesky little F chord. (my nemesis!!)

Keep on practicing.

Aug 7: Playing with a Headache

I completed the melody I’ve been working on for the past couple days. I’m honestly kinda surprised. Even though it was very challenging for me to start with, I felt competent while playing it today.

Shows the value of practice, I guess!

Then I played a new melody. I got three stars on all three parts the second time I played it, but then every time I played afterwards, I got worse and worse! It was kinda funny, looking back on it, but very frustrating in the moment.

I played my song without listening to the recording first. It went very well! I’m very pleased with my vocal training. Making the recording was definitely the right thing for me to do.


F chord, you will not defeat me!!!

Cinderella III: A Twist in Time – JenEric Movie Review

How This WorksRead Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2007 film Cinderella III: A Twist in Time.


Interesting, if overdone, idea of using time travel and magic to alter what originally happened in the first movie. It’s endearing for nostalgia and because the prince, still unnamed, is the nicest person alive.

Score: 0


The characters are all played by different actors than the original and they do a wonderful job. The king gets a little more character development, as do the stepsisters.

The prince again is absolutely the nicest person and really rolls with the ridiculousness of the plot.

Score: 1


Some of the dialogue is quite clever and some was intentionally funny. Overall, it wasn’t great.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

The art was pretty, especially when it borrowed from the original, but not the best quality for Disney. They definitely took some shortcuts and it shows that this was straight to video release.

The music is pretty good and really takes inspiration from the original.

Score: 0.5


The first time I saw the movie I liked it, the second it was okay. It doesn’t have the narrative or humour levels that many Disney movies have that make it re-watchable. It’s better than the second one, but no where near the original.

All that said, it is watchable.

Score: 0.5


This is a cute straight to video Disney sequel that is fun to watch but utterly forgettable.

Final Score: 2.5 Stars out of 5

Dragon’s School Year 2021-2022

Hello readers!

Last year, for Dragon’s first school year, we decided to do a combination homeschool/virtual school. Her teachers were really accommodating and understanding.

However, after looking back on the year, despite Dragon learning a LOT and having a lot of fun, there were several aspects that she clearly missed.

The major one being French. She resisted learning French and, well, I am NOT a French teacher, or a kindergarten teacher.

She also missed seeing her classmates.

So after several discussions with Dragon, she has suggested (after leading questions from us) that she attend virtual school full-time this Fall.

I discovered that the reason she was hesitating to suggest this was because she was afraid of hurting my feelings. Once I reassured her that I thought virtual school was a good idea, she was very happy with the idea.

I also told her that we could do the big activities on the weekend, if she wanted.

Considering I told her the same thing about this summer and she has yet to suggest we do one, I’m not sure if she’ll take me up on that offer.

The biggest change that her attending virtual school full time will cause is a change in the kids’ bedtime routines. In order for Dragon to get a full night’s sleep, we’re going to have to put her to bed an hour or two earlier than we have been. One day up early wasn’t hurting her, but a full week of it would definitely be a problem.

And since it seems silly to put Pegasus to bed after we finish putting Dragon to bed, we’ll be adjusting his sleep schedule as well.

So much for sleeping in on the weekends.

On the selfish plus side, Dragon attending virtual school means I have an awful lot of writing time. I also don’t have to do all the school prep (lesson plans, worksheets, activity planning, etc) I did last year.

Let’s hope this plan goes well!

Guitar Lessons Part 5

July 26: Ugh

I passed the Am/C chord lesson once. I didn’t pass a second time, so I’ll be trying it again tomorrow.

The lines on my fingers from pressing on the strings were turning purple, so I stopped for the day.

Then I tried to play the melody line I had written out yesterday and it sounded all wrong.


I had (mostly) forgotten that I have an annoying little problem with my ear.

Any note I sing will change to the note I play.

This makes writing a melody incredibly difficult.

I tried to avoid this problem yesterday. Apparently it didn’t work.

I need to figure out a different way of doing this.

July 27: Not much

I didn’t play much today.

I completed the Am/C chord song, somehow.

Then I moved onto the next Am/C chord song. I got 3 stars on the first part of it, and then only 1 on the next two parts. Sigh.

I know that Am and C are super easy to switch between, but I’m looking forward to the difficulty of switching between chords that require me to move all my fingers around so that I’m not digging gauges in my fingers every time I play.

I tried out a new app to translate my song into guitar chords. It’s called MyChord. I’m not sure how pleased I am with it. It definitely records, and it definitely gives me chords (most of the time), but I feel like it picked the most complicated chords imaginable! I need to figure out how to transpose them to chords I can actually play, or maybe just cut out half of them.

It’s probably that my voice isn’t perfect. I know it isn’t. I have choral training from high school and that’s it, no private lessons.

Anyways, I’ll muddle along. At least this gives me something to start off with!

July 28: Ups and downs

I had a really hard time getting my fingers to cooperate holding down the strings today.

I gave up on the Am/C chord lesson after five attempts and practiced the chords I knew, plucking each string individually to make sure I had no dull notes.

Which I did.

On many chords.

Like I said, my fingers were not cooperating today.

Then I tried the lesson one last time.

And I passed with only one mistake!

I’m going to play it again tomorrow to make sure I do have it down, but yay for only one mistake!

I sang my song once.

I talked with a musician friend last night about guiding me on how to write the music. First step is to record me singing it. So I guess I’m doing that at some point this week.

Did you want to hear it?

Bear in mind, I’m not a professional singer by any stretch of the imagination and that this was “written by a 14yo boy” as his coming out love song to the guy he likes (I am not 14yo, gay, or a boy).

July 29: One Whole Month!

It has been a month since I officially picked up a guitar!

I am very happy with my progress, even though it feels slow at times.

I passed the Am/C chord song and moved on to learning G.

One of the major benefits of getting this Fender; the neck is narrower and G is easier to reach. The only trouble I’m having with it is switching in and out of it.

I passed the chord player, where the app gave me a series of chords that I had to play in a certain amount of time. I played 14 on the first try. I’ll probably play it again tomorrow.

Then I played the first G chord song.


This song had G/C/Em/Am!

My fingers are still feeling cramped from playing. It’ll get easier though.

I didn’t pass the lesson, but I’m really excited to be moving onto a more complicated song!

I tried to find a simple app that would tell me what notes I was singing for my song. All I learned is that my voice is wildly out of tune.


Maybe I shouldn’t try to write the song.

July 30: Fun!

I had a lot of fun playing today.

I played the G/C/Em/Am song multiple times. Haven’t passed it yet, but it felt really good to play something that required a lot of brain power.

I even played it for an audience! And the toddler didn’t attack the guitar!

I sang my song a few times.

I’m supposed to record it for my friend to help me and I keep putting it off because a) we’ve been busy, and b) I’m nervous.

July 31: Moving right along

I passed the G/C/Em/Am chord song twice today. I’m very proud of myself.

Then I moved on to the next song, Em/G/C chords. I passed it on the first attempt, and then had trouble the next two times.


I’ll get it tomorrow, I think.

I sang my song once and then I recorded it to send to my friend who’s guiding me.

Good day today!

Aug 1: Progress

I passed the Em/G/C chord song today.

Then I learned about up strumming. That was… Interesting.

Then I played a G/Em chord song that was all about switching between down and up strumming.

I did not pass it, but I feel pretty good about my progress on it.

I put on my recording of my song and sang along with it multiple times.

I need to work on my confidence.

Process of writing

Kennedy and Jason, in their first iterations, appeared in our D&D game in 2010. Kennedy Fairfield was Kennedy Lake, and she was a kindergarten teacher who had an affinity for guns. Jason Johnson was Giles Momoa, and he was a Mafia leader that the player characters had to interrogate. Kennedy rolled a natural 20 and did something fancy, getting his attention, and they flirted and eventually became romantically involved. The other players liked him too, and he kept coming back into the game. When that game ended, we played a superhero game, and Jen played Giles’s niece, a 6 year old water creator named Chelsea who couldn’t control her creation. She appears in our book as Brooke, Jason’s niece. After that game ended, that was it; we put them all aside.

Fast forward ten years, and we didn’t really remember the storylines from the game, but the characters really stuck in our heads (although we had forgotten most of their names, other than Kennedy’s first name). And then we started discussing potentially writing a book about them, together.

We started off by talking about it A LOT in Fall 2020. Then on Jan 1, 2021, we sat down and wrote jot notes for the first Act. We split the book between us by main character and alternated chapters (minus a couple places in Act 2). When we finished the first Act, we made jot notes for the second. And again for the third.

We have a separate document for the cast of characters and important locations, with descriptions about each so we could stay consistent.

We wrote in Google docs. After each chapter, the other person edited, and then Jen read it aloud to Keladry (4.5yo). She picked up on a lot of repetitive words and typos that way…

It worked really well for us, but we understand why it wouldn’t work for everyone.

We finished the first draft on March 14, 2021.

More than half of the words Jen wrote were written on her phone while nursing Adrien (18-20mo) to sleep!

Lots of writing late at night happened. Éric would bring his laptop to bed and write while Jen was nursing Adrien (when it was his turn to write). Occasionally, we’d get a nice chunk of time in the middle of the day when the kids were playing well together, and we could write.

One memorable occasion, Jen wrote 4k words during our daughter’s virtual school day while she (Dragon) was paying attention to the teachers. :O

Guitar Lessons Part 4

July 18: woo!

I used up all my practice time on the app today!

I started off by playing the melody from yesterday. I wasn’t satisfied by the first couple times, so I played it a third time and got four x three stars, two of which were gold.

Then I moved on to the next melody. This one had a variety of rhythms, switching strings and switching frets. It was hard.

I slowed down in practice mode and played it at 75%, 85%, and 95%. I didn’t get a chance to perform because my practice time was used up. (I get half an hour in the free app.)

Then I sang my song again, no guitar. I’m still liking it.

I practiced all the chords I know. I had fewer dull notes on the first strum, which was nice. Still having trouble with G. My fingers may be long, but wow by third and fourth finger do not like being separated that far.

On a positive note (pun intended), my fingers didn’t hurt until I started playing the chords!

July 19: Look at the pretty!

I didn’t think I was going to get to practice today (although I did play through yesterday’s song once through) because…

Dun dun dun!!

I bought a guitar!

(I just realized I’m wearing the same shirt as the last guitar pic. Oops. I swear I have more shirts!)

It’s a Fender ¾ and it’s red and it’s so pretty!

There’s going to be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to the higher strings because my new guitar has metal strings and wow they’re thin! The highest is practically a garrote!

I’m looking forward to practicing on my new guitar tomorrow!

July 20: Chords really hurt

I passed the melody line that I’d been working on the past two days after playing it twice today. I ended up with 2x three gold stars and 2x three stars. I’m very pleased with that result.

Then I moved on to the C chord.

My new guitar has a much thinner neck than my dad’s, so the reach isn’t as painful. However! The metal strings (bronze) really hurt and I have to get right up on my fingertips so as to not touch the strings on either side.

So I had a lot of trouble getting past the chord review. E, Em Am, and C. I had to play 9 in a set amount of time. The best I did today was 7. And then 6. And then 5. And then my fingers hurt too much to continue.

I’ll get callouses eventually and then it won’t hurt anymore, right?

I practiced singing my song, no guitar.

July 21: Passed the chords!

I figured out that I had to strum more than once in order for the app to pick up the sound. So after I had done a few tries and only succeeded at getting 1-5 right, I figured out the strumming thing and I got 14 right! I only needed 9 to move on.

Rather than moving on with the chord lessons, I went back and re-did a whole bunch of the melody songs. I was very pleased at how well my fingers responded to them. I did a couple twice because I stumbled on them the first time.

My fingers hurt from the chords, but the melodies didn’t make them hurt worse, so I’m calling that a win.

I also was able to play through the entire half hour of free play time. Woo!

I am loving my new guitar. I’m definitely finding it easier to reach the chords like G (not that I’ve learned that one in the app yet).

I didn’t sing today during practice, but I promise I will later.

July 22: Bad day

Today was a difficult lesson day. I tried the next chord lesson, which was a song with C and Em chords, and it did not go well.

Just switching between them is hard enough, but I keep being slightly off the strings and that messes up the chord. So I didn’t pass the lesson at all. It was very disheartening. And my fingers hurt.

To try to cheer myself up, I tried to do one of the melodies, and I kept messing up on it, too.

I did sing my song though, so at least one thing went well in my music lesson today.

July 23: Boo

I still have not passed the C/Em chord lesson. I have a feeling I’ll be stuck here for a while.

Plus side?

I’m finding it easier to switch between them. I just need to be more precise with where I’m pressing on the strings so that I don’t make a dull note. Because this app? It picks up EVERYTHING.

I’m rather frustrated.

I did play 3 of the melodies from the previous set of lessons and did pretty well on them.

I sang my song again. Still happy with it. Still not ready to try to put music to it.

July 24: Success!

I passed the C/Em chord lesson!! I played it about ten times today, and finally got three stars in both sections (two times). I’m very proud of myself for sticking with this.

Then the next lesson was Em/C chords. I’m very proud to say that it only took me four tries to get three stars in all three sections (twice).

My fingers were very sore by the end of these two lessons, but I wanted to check out the next lesson, so I gave it a shot. It is Am/C, and I did not do very well, despite it being incredibly easy to switch between these two chords (only one finger needs to move). It’s probably because my fingers were tired.

I sang my song at the beginning of the lesson. I still love it.

I think I’ve figured out how to write out the music. I’m going to print out the song and figure out which notes belong with each syllable, writing them down with a pencil. Then I’ll figure out the chord progression from there.

We’ll see how that goes.

Anyways, positive lesson today, despite the fact that my fingers are still tingling.

July 25: Bruises or callouses?

Yesterday, I was all excited because I thought I was developing callouses.

Today, I realized they’re bruises.

It really hurt to play today.

I played the Am/C chord song a few times today. I did not pass. I kept making mistakes like shifting my fingers too far or not pressing hard enough on the string.

I printed out the song and wrote out the melody for the first line of the first verse.

It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. I used to be able to do this sort of thing easily when I was in high school. Funny how skills vanish after twenty years of not using them. (Twenty?? 😱)

If I figure out one line a day, I’ll finish the song in 11 days (because the verses are practically the same and the chorus will only need a minor tweak at the very end of the third chorus because of a difference in syllable count). Fingers crossed?

Girl Vs. Monster – JenEric Movie Review

How This WorksRead Other Reviews

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2012 film Girl Vs. Monster.


This is a fairly simple story about facing your fears. It’s surprisingly well thought out with lots of fun throughout. It has aged much better than I expected.

Score: 1


When I first watched it I really liked the assistant and the main character. Watching it now, the best friend is seriously the most awesome character. The parents are annoying but understandable and most of the characters are good but a little shallow. The movie could have done with less secondary charters.

Score: 0.5


The dialogue is often a little bit too much on point and is interestingly already dated. It has some nice layers but its mostly just okay.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The movie uses its sets, cinematography, and special effects very well. The special effects are cheesy, but the sets are well done and I was impressed with the camera work.

The music was good. It was obvious that they had 2 songs and a small score, but it worked and helped move the plot forward instead of just taking time.

Score: 0.5


I liked this movie the first time I saw it and still liked it this time. I had both kids snuggling into me during the scary parts and both really liked it. They both got really excited at the big music scene. It also kept both of them interested the whole time without snacks. The day after, the 2 year old asked, “Watch Scary Movie?” which is super cute.

Score: 1


A good intro to horror adventure movies for kids, few scares but no trauma. With it’s strong message and wonderful soundtrack it’s a great cheesy Disney scary movie.

Final Score: 4 Stars out of 5

Location and Time

Why Westmeath?

It’s set in the city of Westmeath, Ontario, which is a real place, but in real life is a small farming area. In our book, something significant was discovered there and a very large city popped up very quickly (think 3/4 the size of Montreal, about 1.1 million people) in the 1970s. The sister city is Demers, Quebec, which is about the same size. There are about 60 high schools in Westmeath.

We wanted a fictional city so that we could add areas, streets, and stores without worrying about real locations. There are certain areas that are based off of real-life locations (Kennedy’s apartment is based on the apartments at Lees in Ottawa, for example).

The characters were originally from a table top role playing game we played in 2010 and at the time, Éric wanted to have a city that could be a pastiche of Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, and Gotham.

Why 2002?

The book is set in 2002 to avoid conflicting or crossing over with too many elements of the rest of the Aetherverse, specifically events that will happen in summer of 2016 in book 7 of Elizabeth Investigates Her Last Bow.

Beyond wanting to avoid giving away the series ending (not to mention not wanting to deal with the pandemic) we also were in late high school and early university at the time and have some fond memories.