Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas Surprise!

When I went to get the mail today and saw a Christmas stocking hanging on the handle of the drop off box at the post office. "How nice," I thought. "They are actually decorating the post office this year!" As I checked my mail I noticed a note attached to the stocking and stopped to read it on my way out. The note invited me to help myself to an ornament, which I immediately did, thank you. Then it went on to say to move the stocking to another location and to let the Cardinal Youth Centre know where it went.  Fantastic!  I happened to be heading out of town, so I grabbed the stocking and headed for the car.

I'm a geocacher and have done this sort of thing with trackables found hidden in some of the caches I've located.  Normally you take a treasure and replace it with something else, so the cache is never empty. I have a great collection of things I've found over the years. The trackables aren't meant to be kept though. You are supposed to redeposit them somewhere else as quickly as possible and log where you picked them up and where you dropped them off so that the person who originally purchased the thing can keep track of it's travels.  This stocking was just like that only I didn't go looking for it in the first place, I just happened upon it.  This find made my day.

The idea is to leave it somewhere for someone else to find and to do so without letting anyone catch you.  The stocking, when I found it, still had 4 ornaments left inside. They were all hand painted by the kids at the youth group. One had obviously been dipped in shaving cream and acrylic paint. I've done that sort of thing myself in the past, but never with Christmas ornaments (but you can count on that happening sometime in the future!)

On the way to a nearby town to do a wee bit of shopping, I thought over where I could leave this Christmas stocking. I didn't think a store would be a good idea as people would just think it was part of the merchandise, or someone would think it was being stolen if it was seen being carried away. Where could I leave it where it wouldn't get wet and where I knew it would be found quickly. I smiled as I came up with the perfect place. After finishing our shopping we often drop by the local McCafe for refreshments. I could leave it there.  I stuck it someplace where it was likely found even before I left. I didn't see that happen though as I didn't sit where I could keep an eye on it.  I'll find out when I see the find posted online.....hopefully.

While making my choice of ornaments I discovered that one of the others was broken. It was a delicate glass ornament and as I was afraid someone might cut themselves on it, I disposed of it, and all the shards I could find in the stocking. That's when I discovered there was also $4.55 cents tucked down in the toe.  I imagine someone dropped the coins in as a donation to the Cardinal Youth Group but as I doubt anyone will ever even send them back their stocking, I guess the last person will end up with the loot as well as sock.  I bet they will be thinking it's a lump of coal in the toe!

However it works, I think this was a really great idea and I will be putting it forth to some of the groups I'm involved with next winter. Hopefully we can create and track the travels of our own Christmas stockings too. It seems like a great way to spread Christmas cheer.  If all else fails, I may have to enlist my grandchildren to create some Christmas balls for this sort of project.  I can hardly wait!

Note:  I have since learned that the Cardinal group is hoping to hear where the socks end up so they can come and collect the donations. Apparently other socks have money in them too.  Please keep this in mind if you find one. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The New Life

I have had the house to myself for almost 44 years while my hubby has been the sole bread winner. I often laughingly threatened to send him out to be a Walmart greeter when it came time for retirement as I was used to my routine and didn't think I'd want him underfoot all day. He doesn't sit still well and I know he'd have to be doing something. He must have decided he liked the job he had better than the one I was planning to send him off to because he just kept on working right past his 70th birthday.  Two other businesses have already told him, "Don't go to Walmart. Come see us!" I guess that must have sounded like a plan if he decided he was bored at home because he retired soon after those invitations.

People often worry about what they will do with all that extra time once they are out of the workforce. I know the military used to have programs to train you in how to deal with life after retirement. That's not a bad idea. Some transition is definitely needed, not only for the retiree, but for others in the household.  I did hear people ask him what he was going to do.  I quickly mentioned that I had a list.  I figure it's better to steer him towards things I wanted done than to have him dreaming up jobs I'd rather not see started. But I did say that he could just relax for the first couple of weeks, and then we'd be busy with Christmas. In the new year there is some deep cleaning to be done, and anticipating that, he's already started in the basement. It might be that he's just hiding down there, but the work table might actually be useful for something other than storage for the first time in decades.

He has not had time to get bored yet as we have had lots of things to do together. December 1st was the big annual Christmas celebration in this village. There are all kinds of things to do and people come from miles around to take part. The weather was good so we went downtown and wandered around for a while too.

A couple of my friends dropped by on the 4th, and he joined us for coffee and goodies. One of them even brought butter tarts because she knows he likes them. That was the beginning of our busy social events as the next day was the day I go to the Drop In centre, and I took him with me. He got to meet a couple of other men he could enjoy conversation with, so I'm sure that will be a regular event.  I had 2 tickets for the Ottawa Originals craft show for the 6th, so we went and prowled around there and bought a few things. Then we had a meal out before heading for home and attending a local business's 30th anniversary open house that evening. That was definitely a full day, so the next day we just went grocery shopping because the karate class was supposed to be that evening. At the last minute we discovered the school board had cancelled our class though, but a quiet time at home can be enjoyable too.

The next day was Saturday, and while I don't remember too much about that, other than us attending a local craft show in the old United Church that has now become more of an entertainment centre, we had another annual event to attend that evening. One of my old friends holds a big house party every year. And she has a house big enough to handle that. There are always people there we don't see more than once a year so it's nice to be able to gather in this way.  The very next day was the monthly Sharing Table which is something we will start attending more often. They usually just have soup, salad and dessert, but this time they were serving a complete Christmas dinner, with other treats to take home. This event was a complete success and every seat was filled.  Did I mention that it was free?

About this time one of my friends asked when I get my housework done. My answer was that if we aren't there to mess it up, there's not that much to do. The truth is, I have traditionally taken weekends off to spend with my hubby, and with him home, I was in vacation mode too. By now he must be convinced I never do anything around the place!  But he'll find out at the beginning of the new year because, as I said, I have a list.

This brings us up to December 10 and a Pizza Party and Chinese Auction at my arts guild. We were invited to bring our spouses along, so it was another nice evening out. On the 11th we had dental appointments. On the 12th it was time for the Drop In center again, but this time it was Stone Soup day. Everyone brings a vegetable of some sort, and it all gets put into a pot. The most delicious soups have been made each month in this manner. There are always sandwiches and beautiful desserts to be had too. My grocery bill should look good after all this eating out. I'm afraid to get on the scale though!

On December 13th we went to Ottawa again, but this time to do some serious Christmas shopping. Time is quickly running out, after all. We did well and came home with several packages. As seems to be the trend, after a busy day in Ottawa, we had a quieter one the next day. It wasn't idle though, as we had appointments at Robillard's to check up on our hearing aids. That happens every six months. After that we went for lunch and then grocery shopping, and that evening it was karate class. Did I say we had a quiet day? Maybe I should have just said less exciting.

December 15th we popped in to wish a couple well on their 60th wedding anniversary. There was a party being held in the same hall where the Drop In usually is, and since that's where we know this particular couple from, a lot of the usual gang was there too, so we stayed longer than we may have originally intended and quite enjoyed ourselves.

Since then it's been more about getting ready for Christmas around the house. I made meat pies yesterday while hubby created some heart shaped necklaces out of horseshoe nails. He has decided they make good gifts and has been out giving them away. One even seems to have become a window decoration. I can see a craft table of his own in his future, and if I get busy and create some art I can join him on the craft circuit.

Yesterday we put up the tree. Today we started wrapping. For once I don't have to do that all by myself. Yes, I've put that job on the list!  There will be plenty to do getting ready for this coming feast, and I will be glad to have help as really, I feel I'm getting too old for all this.

So, how will it go after the holiday busy time?  I don't know, but already we go for a walk every day. Well, I've always walked for the mail and he likes to walk for exercise, so we start out together and then, because I walk too slow for him to get a cardio workout, we separate at the post office and meet up again at home where we sit and have the hot beverage of our choice.  I expect January and February to be the real test as we both have lots of things we like to do outside and it will be too cold and slippery for me then. That's why I do my spring cleaning as soon as the new year starts. So for a while, he can work for me. And if that doesn't keep him busy enough, there are several single ladies around here that need help too. One has already contacted him about snow removal, and as he has already removed some from her driveway once, I guess he's taken on that job.  He has mentioned that he can't believe more than two weeks have passed already. It's all going to be just fine.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

No Mail Guarantee this Christmas

Canada Post says it can't guarantee your mail will get delivered in time for Christmas this year. We had a postal strike, after all.  Mail had piled sky high at major distributing sites even before people started ordering gifts online or adding to the pile by mailing early cards and long distance parcels.

I seem to have been caught in this mess too as I ordered something from Amazon back in November. It got shipped out on November 27, and I was given a tracking number. I have been able to watch this parcel since it left Amazon.

Even though it said there was a delay in delivery due to weather or natural disaster it got to Ottawa quickly enough. I went to the post office the day after it arrived there, expecting to pick it up. It wasn't there. It didn't come the next day either so I used the tracking number and discovered an amazing thing. My parcel had gone to Winnipeg!

Why would my parcel go to Winnipeg when it got so close to me so quickly?  It had to be a mistake, I thought, and it somehow got into the wrong pile. Then it came back to Ottawa. Each day the message continued to say that there was a delay due to weather or natural disaster, but we all know this was a man made disaster created at the post office due to failed negotiations or poor timing by the government as to when to order the postal workers back to work. True, the postal workers have every right to strike. If the government wanted to mess with that, and put them back to work, they should have done it before the piles became so unmanageable that the postal workers not only didn't get what they were after but also had to work so much overtime to try and clear out the mountains that have accumulated at the busiest time of the year.

The next time I looked, my parcel was in Montreal!  What???  How could that happen?  Why was my parcel getting to Ottawa, and then moving on again?  Could it be the mountains there were already so high the workers just waved at the trucks and said, "No way are you unloading here! We don't have room for any more!"  I don't know but what other reason could there be?

Meanwhile two of my friends ordered something from Amazon and their orders arrived in less than a week. I'm wondering if they have an Amazon Prime membership. It's Christmas and you can have that for free for 30 days, so why didn't I think of that?  It would likely have meant my parcel would have been sent by priority post. Why else would theirs get here before mine?

I just checked again on Tuesday and it's finally gotten closer to me. It actually traveled in the right direction this time! It seems it got stuck again though as it spent 4 days just 12 miles away before
finally showing up here today.  Oh, and look, they did stick a priority post label on it.  Can you imagine how long it would have taken if they had not done that? 

What ever happened to  "Neither rain nor snow nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"?  Oh ya, I forgot, that's the American creed not ours. Ours is simply, “From anywhere … to anyone.”  It doesn't promise a quick delivery, or even a direct route.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Unbidden Memories

For the past couple of weeks there has been a song stuck in my head. It's in a commercial that plays very frequently during a show I watch on  I've heard it so often all I remember is the song and not actually what they are selling.  I'd just as soon forget the song too, as it brings back a memory I think I could live without.

When I was a little girl living in Nova Scotia, we used to come to Ottawa to visit my grandmother and my aunt. I didn't know anyone else in that area, but one summer there was another little girl about my age who was living next door, and someone introduced me to her. I suddenly had a new friend in the city. One day she came up with the idea that we should set up a lemonade stand on the corner. Her mother agreed to make the lemonade for us, and we lugged out a small table and some chairs and made a sign and set ourselves up on the corner of Gilmour and Kent. By then a big jug of lemonade and some glasses were delivered to us and we were in business. A few people stopped by and remarked that it was a perfect day for such a business. They wished us well and sampled our wares. Then my dad came along and told me he was going to a movie and asked if I wanted to come. I really did, because I loved spending time with my dad, and I liked movies but I felt obligated to stay with my new friend. She could see I wanted to go, and told me it was alright, just go and she'd see me later. So I went.

I don't think I enjoyed that movie much. I felt guilty the whole time. I felt even worse when my new friend tried to split the earnings with me when I got back. I couldn't accept, but even her mom wanted her to do that because I was there in the beginning.

I think now that this is the only bad experience I ever had with my dad, and likely the only mistake he ever made while raising me. He shouldn't have put temptation before me like that, or he should have scolded me for accepting it. Meanwhile my friend's mom was teaching her to have a kind and generous spirit. We went home shortly after that and she wasn't there the following summer. I still feel guilty to this day for walking away from a friend.

The song is Que Sera Sera, but when I look up the movie it came from that doesn't seem like the one we saw. It doesn't really matter since it is the one that triggered the memory.  What will be, will be.

Monday, November 26, 2018

You Never Know What Life Brings

A long time ago I learned that every decision you make will affect the rest of your life. Some decisions are difficult, some are easy. Some bring you trouble, some bring you success, and apparently some bring you family you never knew you had.

I don't know what made me decide within the past couple of years to try to draw. My high-school art teacher told me I had no talent for it, so I stopped even trying more than 55 years ago.  A funny thing happens as you age. You no longer care how good you are at something, or what others think of your efforts to do things you enjoy. For instance, I sing when I'm among other seniors. I doubt that I can carry a tune, but seniors don't make fun of each other the way kids do. I'll get up in front of them and talk too. I don't know if I make any sense when I do that as I don't write out a speech first, but for some reason it doesn't make me nervous anymore. And so, now I also draw and post the results on social media for all to see. I did that all through the month of October for Inktober. The rules said to draw something every day in ink and post it online no matter how it turned out.  I got lots of support, in most cases, and it gave me confidence to continue.

This is where the decision to take part had an effect. Someone I didn't even know liked my drawings enough to reach out and ask me if I would draw their dog. I basically said it would depend on the photograph. After a week or so she sent me a few photos to choose from. Most of them had the dog in the distance, and I could have gotten off easily doing one of them, but I wanted her to be able to recognize her pooch. So, I chose a picture that was more of a close up, but it was really hard for me to see certain key parts of it, like the eyes, and the ears. I ran it through my photo editor a few times until I thought I had some idea of how to attack it. Then I told her I'd give it a try.

She had offered to pay me, so this would have been my first commissioned work. But I didn't know how to charge for that. I have sold photographs and paintings in the past, but I figured a commission is likely worth more, since you are trying to make someone else happy, instead of them just finding something you have already done that they would like to take home. I sent out feelers to people who have done commissions and got a lot of advise.  A common theme seemed to be that I should charge by the hour a fee of  at least minimum wage, for however long it would take me to draw the subject and then add on the cost of my supplies. They also insisted that I should get half before I even began. Well, I had no idea how long it would take, and so I didn't know how much half would be either. Worse than that, since I'm new at this, I wasn't even sure I could produce a dog that would be recognizable to the owner.

Coming up with a price and taking anything up front was causing me to stall. I wasn't comfortable with that at all. I asked questions while I was thinking about it. I asked what kind of dog it was as it looked like it might be a poodle cross of some kind. It had the curly hair, but didn't have as pointy a snout as I'd expect a poodle to have. It turned out to be a purebred Parti Poodle. I'd never heard of those before, but it at least gave me something to look up online if I needed to clarify the shape of things. I asked how big she wanted the drawing and she left that up to me, as long as it was at least 5 x 7. I asked which of my Inktober drawings had caught her eye enough to contact me for this job. There were, after all, various styles done with all different kinds of pens. She just said she like my drawings. I decided ballpoint pen would be the best choice, for this particular dog. I told her I had to get some better paper as I didn't want to just do it in my sketchbook. That was really just another stall tactic.  I went off to look for some hot press watercolour paper and had decided I would draw the dog as an 8 x 10 since I knew how to price a photo at that size, so I at least had a base number to work from.  I found a pack of mixed media boards that said they were good for crisp smooth lines. I'd never worked on such a surface before, and they were 9 x 12 but I bought them anyway.  She seemed happy with my size choice.

That's when I made a whole new decision. I had been enjoying the whole process of drawing everyday until someone mentioned a possible payment. As we had not discussed that further and I really didn't want to bring it up again, I decided I would just do the job for the fun and experience and accept whatever I was offered upon delivery. I could have just mailed it, but I wanted to see her face when she saw the drawing as I hoped to be able to tell if she was happy with it or not. We arranged to meet.

When she arrived she was not alone. She had a sister with her.  As I mentioned previously, I had never met this lady before.  I did know that we were related in some way though but I didn't know she had a sister. Automatically, I got another relative!  It seems that while they also knew we were related, they didn't know exactly how. Once I verified who their father was I was able to explain that my uncle was their grandfather, and while we had all met this man at some point in our childhood, none of us ever knew him well. We had a lovely visit, and I do hope to see more of them in the future.

I believe the drawing was somewhat recognizable, and accepted by the new owner. My decisions all worked out in the end. I was rewarded with a bag of expensive goodies, I earned valuable experience, and scored a couple of new cousins.  Not bad for having a bit of fun and learning a lot in the process and all because I made the decision to start drawing again after so many years.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Gift From the Squirrels

Last spring while I was planting my garden I discovered a good looking little plant growing in the grass near the garage. I had no idea what it was but decided to keep my eye on it for a while. When I was watering one of my flower pots a week or so later, I saw another of these interesting plants  It didn't belong in my flower pot, so I dug it out. That's when I discovered a peanut at it's base, so I decided to move it to the edge of the vegetable garden.  One of my neighbours must have been feeding the squirrels peanuts, and the squirrels had apparently planted a couple of peanuts for me. I immediately moved the one from the grass into the garden with the other one.  One of these plants ended up under the canopy of leaves created by the zucchini and tomatoes, but it survived, even if it didn't grow as well as it's neighbour.

It was a long hot, dry summer, but I watered the plants everyday when I watered the rest of the garden, though apparently peanuts don't require a lot of water compared to other nuts.

Peanut plants produce small yellow flowers close to the ground. The flowers send spikes into the ground and the peanuts grow on those. I don't know of anything else that grows in this manner, but if you do, I'd be happy to hear about it.

I looked up when to harvest the peanuts, and it said to wait until the leaves on the plants turned yellow. Well, we had snow before that happened so once that melted away I decided to dig up the plants and see if there were actually any new peanuts in the ground.

Each plant had several new peanuts, though definitely not the 40 my research says they might produce. I shook the dirt off the roots and put the plants in the basement to dry.  After a couple of weeks I removed the peanuts from the roots and put them in a single layer to dry some more. 

I may eat them raw or roast them. I might even replant them next spring. I am thankful to the squirrels for supplying me with these little treats.  I never would have learned so much about peanuts without their help.

Thursday, November 1, 2018


In 2009 a guy named Jake Parker created a challenge for himself to draw something in ink everyday for the entire month of October. He called it Inktober and hoped that it would improve his drawing skills and instill a more positive habit of drawing on a regular basis.  Inktober has since spread throughout the world with thousands of people of all skill levels taking part.  This year I was one of them.  I even enrolled in Jake's course through Sktchy to learn how to handle the pens better.

I've just finished taking part in my first Inktober. It's been quite the experience.  Until recently you would have heard me say, "I can't draw."  Now, though I know I still have a lot to learn, I have gained the confidence to go ahead and at least attempt to draw just about anything.  For the month of October, I pledged to draw something in ink every day, and to post it online, good or bad. Believe me when I tell you there were some really bad ones. I used all sorts of different pens and drew in all kinds of different styles, and not only gained confidence along the way, I also gained a good many Instagram followers from the art community and learned some valuable lessons.

I learned that certain pens don't work well for certain subjects. Though I seem to have accumulated a good number of different types of pens over the past year or two, I have discovered that the plain old ballpoint pen is my best friend. I am totally amazed at what I can accomplish with that one simple tool.

 I also learned that though this was supposed to be an exercise in drawing with ink, I frequently reverted to colour rather than the laborious job of shading with pen. Also, I felt that in many cases, the picture would only satisfy me if it was in colour. People used to ask me what I liked to photograph, and though I know they really wanted to know if I liked landscapes, people or extreme closeups, etc, my standard answer was "colour"  It was always the beautiful colours that caused me to point the camera in any particular direction. Well, apparently the same goes for my art. I just need to add colour or in many cases I just don't find the drawing interesting, or finished. In fact, I find colour helps hide things that I might otherwise consider to be flaws.  I learned that trick while urban sketching last year.

I discovered that I can draw a somewhat recognizable portrait better than just about anything. How that happens is beyond me, but it works well in both pencil and ballpoint pen.

I don't do too badly with food either, though that requires colour and comes off more as an illustration.

A lady I have never met liked something I did so much she actually asked me if I'd draw her dog. I told her that I will attempt that if she comes up with a decent photo I can work from. (This one belongs to my neighbour). I would never have even considered such a thing a year ago!  Friends are commenting on how far I've come in such a short period of time. I can't wait to see where it all leads me.