Friday, December 28, 2012

Resolutions and Goals

This picture is one Mother Nature painted on my kitchen window.
Yes, it's frost.

 I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, or whatever holiday season you celebrate.  I certainly did.
I got a very interesting gift this year. It's called a Buddha Board.  I had never heard of one of these before, but it is a flat panel that you paint on with plain water. The picture vanishes as it dries.  It's a fascinating thing, as sometimes, while it's drying, the wet bits suggest a different picture, and then you can connect the dots and come up with a new painting you had not originally planned on.  And as that one dries, it can happen again.  You have to work quickly as there really isn't any time to stop and think. It's really freeing, and already I'm learning that art does not have to be perfect to be interesting.  This may take me in entirely new directions.

The new year is fast approaching and some people like to make New Years Resolutions.  I used to do that, but usually, after getting off to a great start, the whole idea would just fade away. Last year, I thought of my resolution as more of a goal.  I had decided I wanted to advance my art.  I have succeeded in that.

First I started an art journal, where I could try out things, without worrying about how they turned out.  Nobody ever had to see what I'd done in there.  Amazingly, I've dug it out and shown all kinds of people various attempts throughout the year.  I tried a few different mediums, some with texture, some without. I saw progress as the book went on, and I have now bought a new one for next year. 

Then I started gathering with a couple of friends once a week. This was a good move as it forced us to have something new to show and discuss. None of us are the sort that would ever just say, "That's lovely."  While we do encourage each other, we all know we want to hear the truth, so nobody ever hesitates to make constructive suggestions.  We all appreciate that, and move forward in the directions we have been pointed in.

Recently I was in my first art show as a painter (I've been in several as a photographer before).  While I didn't have as much confidence this time, the hardest part was figuring out the pricing.  I had a great time at the show though, and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again.  I even made a couple of new artist type friends that day.  One of them, Jayne Couch,  has since shown me a much better way to draw faces, and I truly appreciate that.  That may also take me in some new directions as time goes on.

Finally, over the past week, I got a phone call  from someone in BC who saw a photo taken on the day of the art show. She was all excited about my hibiscus my paintings and wants to buy it.  The deal has been struck and now I just have to get it shipped out to her.  I've had two other artists suggest I take my painting right to the UPS store, and have them package it up for me there.  As I don't have a clue how to do it properly, I will be following that advise.

So, now that I've succeeded in following that goal this past year, I think I will work a little harder at it this year.  I have a perfectly good spot designated to work on my art. The original idea was to be able to attack it anytime, without having to set up first. Over time that area has accumulated piles of stuff, both art related and not, and it is anything but a workable space at the moment.  I'll fix that, even if I have to reorganize a couple of rooms, to get the everything into a more logical and permanent spot. Then I'll try to divert some of my wasted computer time into doing something a bit more creative. That may be necessary anyway as the paint class I have been attending the past couple of years may be folding for the time being.  I have a couple of paintings underway at the moment, and several more in my head so I'll have to set aside some time to work on them at home.  Hopefully that will become more of a habit once I get my space cleaned up.

I want to put some of my paintings on an online shop this year too. Oh, I know that was one of my resolutions last year. At least I have a couple of places picked out, and will decide soon, which to pursue first. I think I know, but need to read all the fine print first. 

And on the blog, I think I may attempt something a bit new here too. I get lots of free things, and I'm thinking of adding Freebie Friday to tell you about those things.  I'll tell you what came in the mail through the week, and do a bit of a review on some of it.  We'll see how that goes. 

So, my usual New Years Resolution is to lose the Christmas weight gain, as always. With a few new art related goals in mind, I have more hope of moving forward in the coming year, just as I did in the past one.  I'd love to hear what you have planned for your coming year too.  Please share.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Refrigerator Cookies

I see an unusual number of people are coming to my page looking for Refrigerator Cookies for Christmas.  That may be because I once tested some for Chatelaine, and you can find that recipe if you go to their site and search for it there.  However, my family still prefers the ones I've always made, so, since so many people are looking for recipes, I guess I'll take a moment and share that with you.

Refrigerator Christmas Cookies

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
 2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup chopped candied fruit or glace cherries

Mix the ingredients together and chill for 1/2 hour.
Shape dough into 2 smooth rolls about 1 1/2 inch in diameter.
Wrap in wax paper and chill overnight or until firm.  (can also be frozen at this point)
Slice into 1/8 inch slices.

Bake on an ungreased sheet at 375F for 8-10 minutes

Makes about 10 dozen

Note:  These are actually easier to slice if frozen.

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Some people do things just because they love them.  It's really not important to make a lot of money or become famous if you are doing something you enjoy.  We enjoy running a small karate club, and the students there seem to enjoy being part of it. They come for various reasons.  Some come for the exercise, some for the discipline and others come for the social aspects. Of course, there are some who become dedicated martial artists, who dream of someday becoming Black Belts themselves.

 Friday, December 14, two long time members, David Valcour (57) and David Burns (66),  were promoted to Sho-dan (first degree Black Belt).  That makes a total of 14 Black Belts for this club, promoted under Chief Instructor, Sensei Ron Wattie. (centre)

Merrickville Karate Club will soon be 29 years old, and has had a waiting list for well over 20 years. People have traveled from as far away as Nepean to take classes as they say they like the family atmosphere. It is, indeed, a family club, with both children and parents attending the same classes together. There have been as many as 5 members from the same family enrolled in this club, and that's possible because of the club does everything it can to keep the rates as low as possible, and had family rates for 3 or more from any one family unit. If everyone on the Spring session waiting list turns up for class this coming February, there is already no room for more, and the September list has already been established. 

Maybe you would like to do something you love too.  Nobody says you have to be the very best at what you choose to do, but until you try, you just never know how much success you will have, or if that even matters.  Maybe you'll just love the experience.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The First Christmas Card

Every year, for as far back as I care to remember, the first Christmas card to arrive in my mail box has come from an old highschool friend.  For those of you who don't know, highschool was darn near 50 years ago.  Last year, just before Christmas,  I lost my lifelong friend and that was a very sad thing.

I have just received the first Christmas card of this season.  Instead of my the usual one from my old friend, with her lengthy letter to tell me all about her life and that of her family, I got one that was simply signed, along with a Merry Christmas greeting that the makers no longer see fit to imprint on the card itself.  It was an instant reminder of my loss, and instead of the excitement a first card usually brings, it has just brought sadness.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Newest Family Member

I've had a new grand-dog for a week now. I was holding off so I could post a picture of him, but my son brought him to visit with me today, and I forgot all about taking a picture.  He's really cute and for now you will just have to take my word for it. I'll post pictures when I get some.
........I just hope he's still a puppy when that happens! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Garden Surprise - Mystery Solved

As I mentioned in my Garden Adventure post earlier this year, I had no deer for a while so I decided to plant a garden. One of the things I planted was an assortment of lettuces.  Everything was going fine until one day I noticed something strange.  There was this white thing sticking up out of the ground.  As far as I knew, lettuce didn't grow big thick roots like that, so I took a picture and put it on Facebook, asking my friends if they could identify this plant.

I got all kinds of responses, running from white carrot and parsnip to horseradish.  After checking out those plants online, I knew it wasn't any of them.  I still had a mystery on my hands.  And for some reason, I stopped eating the leaves.  I mean, I had planted lettuce, and this sure wasn't a lettuce, so I wasn't eating it until I knew more.

A friend of ours, Brian Henderson,  used to be the horticultural professor at Algonquin.  He's now the head gardener at Upper Canada Village.  While out prowling the countryside one day, we stopped in for a visit.  As we were about to leave, I mentioned this strange plant and he said it sounded like a Daikon Radish.  I had never heard of such a thing, but I must have described it really well because, when I looked it up online, that's certainly what I had. 

I read that they don't mind a hard frost, so I left it in the ground until this week when morning temperatures were often around minus 7C. Then I dug it up, washed it off, removed and stored the leaves and wondered what to do with the thing.  The younger leaves can be used in salads, as I had been doing in the beginning.  The bigger leaves can apparently be cooked like spinach, or used in recipes calling for spinach or kale.  The root itself, I figured could be grated and used in salads too.

A friend came for tea yesterday, and I showed her what I had accidentally grown.  She knew what it was right away, and said she always had to get hers at a farmer's market!  I asked her what she did with them, and she told me they were good in stir fries and stew.  I was planning on having a meal of pork shoulder chops, with onions, potatoes and carrots all cooked in the same pan.  I decided this was a good time to try cooking some of my Daikon radish too.  It was actually very good, and now I'm planning on creating a stir fry soon.

Like my friend,  I will be looking for these daikon radishes at farmer's markets in the future. I can't imagine growing a whole row of these things as one is good for several meals!  One or two a year will make a nice change of pace though, so I will be looking forward to finding them.

Finding this new vegetable growing in my garden was a much better surprise than finding that the deer had eaten all my hostas, as they had for the past couple of years.  That's for sure!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lessons for Today

Today I learned that when you iron 7 pairs of pants and stack them to put away when you are done, the pairs on the bottom of the stack could end up with more pronounced wrinkles than when you started.

Iron?  Oh, I forgot. Some of you have never touched one of those and don't know what they are for.  An iron is a hot instrument meant to flatten the wrinkles out of clothing.

Shoot. I did it again, didn't I?

Wrinkle?  Those are unsightly creases in clothing. Those of us born before a certain year feel our clothing looks neater with out them.

You might not understand why anyone would bother to remove those wrinkles, but then, those of us who do might not understand why you would willingly let someone stick inked needles into your skin to leave a permanent stain there either.  

Times change.  People's ideas of fashion change with them.

This post has been a little look back in time, to see how some of your ancestors used to waste their time trying to remove something that just comes back anyway.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Graduation Day

I have been busy getting ready for an art show I had agreed to be in.  Originally I thought it was just the members of our art class but later found out there were many more established artists in the show. That kind of made me nervous.  I mean, while I have shown my photographs before, this was the first time my painting would be on public display.  I always say I'm painter, not an artist, but will admit I've been working on the transition and had hopes to move on up the ladder.

About 23 of us took part in That Art Thing and it was a wonderful event.  It got it's name because, when ever we referred to it, the questions and statements always came out like, "What day is that art thing?"  "How many paintings can we bring to that art thing?"  Or, "I just finished a new painting for that art thing."  That's what we knew it by, so the rest of the world might as well too. 

The day before That Art Thing was beautiful. The weather was perfect for cleaning up the garden and doing other necessary outdoor chores before the cold weather arrives. Luckily for us, the day of the event was a little wetter and cooler.  Not so bad though, that people decided to stay home, but just bad enough that they could not do other things around the house.  It was just perfect for visiting That Art Thing.  And visiting was what they did.

At other art shows people tend to come in, look at the art, maybe talk to the artist for a moment, and then wander back out, with or without a purchase.  That Art Thing was located in a tiny village and many of the people who came in found other people they had not seen for quite a while, and not only did they look at the art, but they stayed for a visit.  It was a very happy, friendly crowd, and a really fun day.  Most of us, in fact, actually made a new friend or two. 

If I had known earlier that it wasn't going to just be our paint class showing off what we had accomplished, I probably would have shown photographs, or maybe even digital art instead.  I have more confidence with those.  But my paintings were well accepted by both the public and the other artists, so I think I just graduated. I'm not just a painter any more.  Now, I'm an artist.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Grandma By Any Other Name ....

I raised an autistic child and was well aware that he often took the things I said literally.  I guess I forgot that other small children can be equally confused by our choice of words.
My oldest grandson will soon be eight years old.  He came to visit, and after spending some time playing with his Grandfather, he sat with me for a while.  He asked me, "Nana, why don't I have a Grandmother?" 

I was shocked, but informed him he did, in fact, have two Grandmothers. (well three if we want to get technical, but let's not just now).  He said, "No I don't." And I said, "I'm your Grandmother, and Budda is your other Grandmother."  Instantly I saw the problem.  While the other one was Gramma in the beginning, the wee one couldn't pronounce that and one day it came out as Budda, and that has stuck. Me, I've always been Nana because I had a Nana and a Nanny myself while growing up.  So, while this grandson knew his Mother had both a Grandmother and a Grandfather, known to him as GG and GGPaw, he though he just had a Grandfather and no Grandmothers.

After being straightened out on this matter, he sat quietly for a while thinking about it. I guess he got it straight because when he spoke again, he said, "So, my mommy had me and my brother, and you had Daddy and Uncle Steve, right?"  I assured him that this was so.  I think he was relieved to discover that he did actually have Grandmothers, even if he calls us something else.  He wasn't so deprived after all.  Grandmothers are special people you know.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Produce From the Medical Centre

Our local medical centre has created a new program aimed at helping us eat healthier.  They call it the Good Food Box.  Once a month orders can be placed for a box or bag of fresh fruits and/or vegetables.  The price is basically by the pound, I believe. For instance you can pay $5 for 5 pounds of either fruit or vegetables, $10 for 10 pounds of either or a mix of the two, and I think there is a $25 dollar option as well, That's probably of a mixture of both fruit and vegetables and would be suitable for a family. It would include a 10 pound bag of potatoes, from what I saw when  I picked my order up.

There are just two of us here, and I have to walk half a mile each way to both order (and pay for) and pick up my produce. For these reasons I decided to try the $5 bag, and chose vegetables this month.  As I was on my way over there to pick them up, it suddenly dawned on me that, at this time of year, there might be squash and sweet potatoes in the mix. Nobody here cares for either of those.

I notice the medical centre has also created a companion program called Cooking from the Box. That's a community cooking class where you get to make food using the things found in the current months box.  If a sweet potato or squash had shown up there I might have attended, just to see if I could learn a way to make something we would find palatable from these ingredients..

Luckily for us, there were neither  in my bag, and only things I buy regularly anyway.  That's not very exciting, but at today's prices, I think I came out ahead.  What do you think?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Forever Young

Over the years I was told many stories about the village and the folks that lived here even before I arrived.  On many occasions I caught myself holding back giggles as the story teller referred to this or that "young lad" during the telling of his tales.  I was well married and had nearly grown children, and these "young lads" were almost always old enough to have been my father.  Sometimes they were not all that much younger than the story teller.  It seemed funny to hear them described that way at the time.

This week I was setting up an outing and asked if I could invite "the girl next door" to come along.  "The girl next door" is a grown woman with a son in his twenties.  She was living in that house next door when I first moved here, and was still in high school at the time.  I've been here 36 years now but  no matter how grown up, or old she ever lives to be, if I'm still around, she will always be "the girl next door"  to me. 

I guess, as they say, age is all relative.  It's good to know that many of us will always be young in the hearts and minds of those who knew us when we were.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Free Stuff is No Bother

Some days, going to the post office is really worth the walk.  Today I got three pieces of mail with free things in them.  One was a box from Proctor & Gamble.  They send out boxes full of samples at least a couple of times a year. A lady at the post office noticed my parcel and said, "Oh, P&G" and I immediately asked if she get this too.  Her answer was, "I can't be bothered with that." 

That box had samples of Pantene shampoo and conditioner, Bounty paper towels, Tide Pods, Dawn Ultra Concentrated dish detergent and what looks to me like a full size Febreze room freshener.  It's good for 30 days anyway, and came in a lovely Mediterranean Lavender scent.

There were other things available too, but Proctor and Gamble lets you choose the things that would be useful to you. It would be no good, for instance, if I were sent something for a dishwasher, since I don't have one.

The Garnier Intensive 7 Days Body lotion was sent as a consolation as everyone who had entered a contest on Facebook was sent an e-mail to tell us we had won a full bottle, 2 full weeks before the contest was even over.  I still have a chance of winning that, as they sent the samples and a coupon for a dollar off as soon as they realized the here had been an error. 

And yes, you do see a $50 Bon Appetit gift card.   I won $25 worth of credit at Card Swap through a blog I read, and the rest of the money spent to buy this card arrived in my Pay Pal account from having done some surveys.  Card Swap has all kinds of cards available and I picked this one as my hubby is often trying to feed me, so I figured it was my turn and he won't object if it's done card I didn't actually spend my own money on.  Bon Appetit is good for all our favorites....Montana's, Swiss Chalet, Kelsey's, Harvey's, and somewhere else I'm not acquainted with. 

The very notion of someone not wanting to be bothered, when it comes to free stuff, just boggles my mind!

Sept 22 
Correction:  Apparently that little Garnier sample was something I sent for myself, on Sept. 5, not what they are sending because of the contest error. For that I will get a coupon for a free full sized bottle of Intensive 7 Days Body Lotion. I tried my sample this morning and I already know I will enjoy the full sized bottle.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Step Out of the Way

This morning there was an author being interviewed on the CTV Morning Show.  She mentioned that sometimes when the men in our lives try to help, we step in and get in their way by making suggestions on how to do the job.  I'm sure I'm guilty of that sort of thing, but I have learned to step back from certain chores when my man takes a notion to do them.

You can always tell, however, just which of us did certain things.  For instance, when I hang laundry, I hang pants by the waistband, and shirts by their bottom hem.  He hangs pants by the bottom of the legs and shirts by the shoulders.  His way may require a bit of extra ironing on my part, but I think I still come out ahead time wise, when he helps with that chore. When doing dishes, I put the dishes in the drainer facing toward the sink, starting from the front of the drainer. He does just the opposite.  I'm not sure I understand the logic of that, but hey, the dishes still manage to dry just fine, so it's easy to stay quiet about that. And of course, there is always the toilet roll.  The ones I replace roll from the top and down the front of the roll.  His roll from the back, down the wall to the bottom.  Okay, so while I can leave the other differences in how we do things alone, sometimes I really feel the need to FIX this one, but I'm working on it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Budding Artist Goes Touring

As some of you may know, J.J. Clarke is the CTV Ottawa weatherman who often presents the art work of children from around the region.  It seems that my 7 year old grandson's Grade 2 teacher sent in one of his pictures, and it was chosen from among 50 others to appear on TV last week.  Unfortunately I didn't see that broadcast, but my brother did, and so did his other grandmother.  Thanks to social media and a little help from one of my grandson's great aunts, I was able to track down this particular art display.

Sunday was Grandparents Day, or so I learned on the internet.  So, when the above mentioned grandson phoned and wanted to come spend some time with us, it was hard to say no.  We had plans though, to go on an artist studio tour. I told him that, and he informed me, "I like art," so we picked him up on our way through his town. 

At our first stop, he took a good look at some of the watercolours, telling me which ones he liked.  I pointed out a simpler one, with just layers of land and sky and suggested he could try something like that with my watercolours sometime.  He said he didn't like that one.  Didn't "get it at all" was more like the phrase used., which once again proves art appreciation is an individual thing.

He was thrilled to be allowed to enter the draw though, and took the time to fill out the entry form himself. Everyone on the tour could fill out a form at each of the locations they visited, and have a chance for a $50 certificate to buy something from any of the artists along the way.  I think, by the end of the day, he had decided it would be nice to have one of those soft fluffy bears from the Magpie Hill Alpaca farm.  We only found where to fill the entries out at a couple of locations though.  I'm not sure if that cut down on our chances, or increased them. If others had as  much trouble finding the draw slips, there won't be much competition.

I think the highlight of the day, and a big surprise,  was walking through Herman Ruhland's Enchanted Gnome Forest.  The man has gone to a lot of work clearing trails, hanging rocks and sticks from trees, setting up stone mushrooms and gnome homes and populating the forest with hundreds of little gnomes and fairies, and even fish in the "underwater garden in the shade" (which isn't  underwater, but has some mermaids and singing fish). 

Our budding artist had a good day seeing what others do.  He learned you could make statues using wire and t-shirts, that alpaca wool is very soft, and so is deer hide. He saw how moccasins are cut out and stitched together, and how a block of stone can be filed into a bear.  He declared that he'd like to paint but never gets to do that, so I promised that next time he comes to visit, he could. 

To top off the day, we stopped in North Gower at Steven's Creek Country Market and had some absolutely marvelous ice cream.  The lady said it comes from Tracy's Dairy in Renfrew.  While we frequently come to the North Gower Farmer's Market, which is just across the street from this location, we now have another reason to make a little trip out that way.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Calm After the Storm

I see they had a terrific storm in New York. We got off a little luckier here, but our power went off for over 3 hours last night.  Actually, it didn't go off until after this photo was taken, so I'm not sure what happened.  I expected problems earlier in the day as a hydro pole was threatening to fall over onto the highway, and they were diverting traffic until they could get that replaced.  It was only after we thought we were in the clear when the power went off. 
Oh, hey, those solar powered garden stakes put off good light if you bring them in and put them in a vase.  You can take one with you when you leave the room.  They are much safer than candles.  And, if they should happen to run out of light before the power comes back on, I found out, that shining a flashlight on the sensor for a few seconds recharges them for much longer than you would expect.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Garden Adventures

I gave up trying to grow vegetables several years back because the deer were getting more of them than I was. But I have not seen any sign of deer here for over a year, so this year I decided to plant a few things.  I put in an assortment of lettuce, an assortment of tomatoes, and a few pumpkins.

The lettuce was nice and I learned I like more than just the usual iceberg and romaine that I tend to buy.  I'll likely try that again next year, but I bet something comes along and eats it. I can't be this lucky two years in a row, surely.

With this year's drought conditions, the pumpkins didn't get enough water so, while they produced lots of flowers, I don't see any actual pumpkins on the vines.  It may be just as well as I had no idea that they would climb everything in sight.  They went into my bushes, up the tomato cages, and even climbed up my rose bush.  Bright orange flowers in unusual places have amused me all summer, so I don't really feel like that idea failed. I'd try that again too, but since I already placed the plants at the edge of the garden thinking I could coax the vines out onto the grass, I'm not really sure how to keep them from climbing all over what ever other crop I choose to plant next time.

I just heard from some friends recently that they have so many tomatoes that they are busy making one thing after another out of them.  Here's where I feel that I really succeeded.  At Canadian Tire I bought a pack that contained a variety of tomatoes, including a cherry tomato. We like those so I also purchased another variety of cherry tomatoes as well. One grew upright, and the other sent vines all over the ground. I don't see the tags so I'm still not sure which one is which.   One of the other plants in the pack is also a cherry sized species, but they are yellow and pear shaped. Nice and mild.

The nice thing about this variety pack is that the various tomatoes all have different maturity dates.  So far I have had some Old Time Tasty tomatoes, some Early Girl, and some Better Boy.  The Old Time ones are indeed tasty, but more acidic and a bit bigger than the other two. They are short and squat, while the Early Girl have an almost pointed bottom.  The Better Boy may be considered better because it seems to be more prolific than the others.  If I ever do have trouble keeping up with the crop, that's the one that may produce more than one ripe tomato at a time.  Yet to come is the beefsteak.  I'm not fond of big tomatoes, but I only see a few on that plant so far, so things are working out quite well.  Every day for a while now, we have fresh tomatoes of some variety.  There is usually a little bowl full of the cherry sized ones, and there may be one or two of the others waiting to be eaten also.  They are the perfect size to be eaten at one meal, so none of them have yet landed in my fridge.  I definitely hope Canadian Tire decides to offer this variety pack again next year.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

To Market, To Market

As I've mentioned before, I really like going to the Kemptville Farmers Market.  This time of year there are a lot of excellent stalls with wonderful veggies to choose from. We got there earlier than usual and found some stalls have become very popular. I really don't want to have to stand in a long line only to discover the thing that caught my eye in the first place has been sold off by the time I get to the front of that line. I did came home with a couple heads of really nice lettuce though.  I'll definitely be eating a wonderful salad for supper tonight. 

There are always several bakers there too, and one of those also had a long line up.  I peeked to see what they were selling and things really did look delicious, but once again, I opted for a less crowed booth and got some very delicious brownies. They were large enough to share, and only 50 cents each.  Beaconholme Farm.  I'll remember that name.

Speaking of names, look also for the Dippy Darlings.  Do stop and chat with them.  They are delightful.  Their maiden name was Darling and they sell dip.

Kemptville Market is open on Sundays from 2pm to 4pm, and is well worth the visit.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Government Forms Are Designed to Discourage

Last year I reached an age when I could apply for my Canada Pension Plan. Have you ever tried to fill out a government form?  I ended up having to phone them to find out what they wanted me to do. 

The first problem was that the form stated that if I had not lived in Canada my entire life, I needed to provide documentation.  I lived in England as a small child and had no idea where, or how to to get my hands on that sort of thing.  When I phoned they informed me that just applied to people who had lived outside of Canada from the age of 16 onward.  I read them the form where it clearly said "ENTIRE LIFE" and once again they said that if I was here all of my adult life not to just ignore that.  Then I read them the line at the bottom about making false or misleading statements.  I didn't want to be charged with an offence.  I see that entire portion of the form has now been eliminated and they just have a question about the possibility of qualifying for benefits in another country if you lived or worked there during your adult life.  I must hot have been the only one that called about that.

Then there is the section where you apply for the child rearing provision.  If a parent was at home during any part of the first 7 years so a chile's life, the Canada Pension might be increased to reflect that.  They give you plenty of room to list your children, but only one place to answer yes or no as to whether or not you were at home with them.  Well, ummmm.... I was at home with one of them right from birth though to the age of 7, but I was only home with my oldest from the time he turned 6 onward. There is no room to express that.  I was told to write it in the margin.  I'm sure I'm not the only one that's asked about that and I'm surprised that has not been fixed yet. 

The whole wording of  the child rearing provision portion of the form is also very confusing, and I think that is so people will give up trying to figure out what they are saying and just not apply for it.  That's pretty standard practice, I believe.

More recently I needed to renew my passport. There are portions of the simplified renewal form that also confused me.  I tried to phone the number given and got a lot of automated choices to choose from, but not one of them had anything to do with answering a question about the form, and there was no option to speak to a live person.  Instead of mailing this form in and getting it rejected, we decided to take it into the Canada Services office in Brockville.  It's a good thing too, as the lady had me change a few things, and initial the changes.  I told her there was one section of the form that confused me, but that was not where the changes had to be made.  She asked which section confused me, and when I told her she said that people were always putting strange answers in there.  Some of them were very creative, she said.  I hope that indicates to someone that this is another form that is not well designed.

Honestly, I do think the government designs forms to discourage people from filling them out.  Every time someone gives up and doesn't complete a form, the government likely saves money.  Well, it's not going to work on us now that I've discovered the Canada Services Office.  The lady there was very friendly and helpful.  I'll be sure to send my hubby there to get his Canada Pension Plan papers filled out correctly.  He doesn't like forms and I personally do not want to have to go through that form filling process again.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Deal or No Deal

Have you ever bought one of those online deals?  You know the kind, where you sign up for an e-mail about deals in the area where you live or plan to visit.  I've tried three different deal companies so far.

Living Social is a good one.  I paid $15 for $30 worth of fare at a local restaurant I had never tried before.  When I got there I made a point of asking it it was good towards anything on the menu, or if there were only certain things it could be used for.  The waiter said these deals were all different, but when he saw which one I had, he said, "Oh, that's just like cash.  You have $30 there to spend on anything you want."  We had a lovely meal, but likely didn't save as much as we might have, since we decided to spurge on dessert too.  We almost never do that. 

The second deal I purchased was from Groupon.  Once again I spent $15 but this time it was for a play, and it was a two for one deal.  The play was in a church in Kingston and mentioned that outting in a previous blog post.  It wasn't a wise choice if I really wanted to save money, as we had to travel to Kingston. Since the play was at night, we decided, in advance, to stay the night and go to the Sheep Dog Trials the next day.  It was a nice weekend, for sure, but certainly not the bargain it could have been if we had lived in that area.

The third deal I bought was from WagJag. They were offering $20 credit certificates for $10 at one of my favorite restaurants.  I bought two of them. The thing was that although this is a restaurant chain the certificates are only good for lunch, and only at one particular location.  Though that end of Ottawa is someplace we only go to now and then, it was really no problem as I had until November to use the coupons.  We went today.  Once again, the credit certificate is used just like cash.  Our remaining bill came to $2.23 plus the tip.  I'm glad I bought two as I know we will enjoy doing this again sometime this fall.

I do have one problem with WagJag. It seems my account and someone else's have somehow merged together. I've only purchased this one deal from them but my account shows several other purchases in the past.  You can be sure I quickly changed my password and printed off my certificates right away.  I e-mailed WagJag to tell them what was going on, and they would like me to phone them to straighten this out.  I hate the phone but I guess I will have to do that as I definitely want to feel free to purchase other good deals from them in the future.

So, if you have thought about getting in on some of these deals, don't be afraid to do so.  They are well worth it if you pick something you know you will enjoy, or if you just want to try someplace new without paying full price. 

I think I may have to watch for a nice overnight stay somewhere now.  :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Some Treasures Don't Fit in Cache Containers

It seemed like a good day to go geocaching, so we headed out with no particular goal in mind, but with the GPS loaded with a whole slew of caches off to the east of us.  We approached the first one from the wrong direction, which made it next to impossible to reach without a lot of backtracking, so after determining where it was located, decided to leave it for another day and moved on.  The second one was really not hard to find because it was in a distinctive container.  The instructions were not to photograph it, and after seeing it, I understood exactly why.  It would make it entirely too easy for anyone who ever saw that picture to find it and that would take the fun out of the process.

Then we went to Hallville.  There is a cache there, that is supposed to be at eye level, but even though I stood at ground zero, that one eluded me. I'll put a watch on it and see if I can get some clues as to where to look.  We found better treasure at this location though. The General Store has a little cafe at the back. Besides subs and other lunch items, you can get home made tarts and other goodies.  We chose the last cherry tart and a scrumptious butter tart.  We were delighted with the floor show that took place while we sat and ate these treats. A young girl was in the process of mixing up some more pastry dough.

When we were finished there we drove off down some back roads, but one cache had been discontinued while another was simply not on the road we were following, and we came to a dead end. There was a really interesting house at the end of that road though, and we never would have seen it if we had not been out looking for treasure.

A look at the gas gauge reminded us that we really shouldn't venture any further without getting some gas, but as we headed toward Kemptville my hubby spotted someone he had not seen in many years.  She was out in her garden watering plants.  He pulled in to say hello, and we not only stayed to have a little visit, we took her for a ride to show her how to look for geocaches herself.  While chatting we discovered we have a lot of things in common.

This might not sound like a very successful day. Though geocaching may be about hunting down caches, the best treasures we find are often not those that are hidden in the cache containers.  We saw wild turkeys in someone's driveway. We had wonderful tarts and got to see them being made. We spotted an interesting house in an out of the way place.  We spent some time in the company of a lovely lady. The best treasure of all for this day is that I may have made a  new friend.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Picking Up An Old Hobby

There was a time when I was heavily into photography.  I took the course from the New York Institute of Photography back in the mid 80's and got involved in online photography forums.  The people there helped me along quite a bit, but I don't think I was progressing as quickly as they wanted me to, and I just felt that the time had come when they had basically given up on me.  It was a hobby for me, you see, while most of those folks took it very seriously. 

Still, I had some success without actually trying.  I joined The North Grenville Arts Guild and took part in some art shows and made a few sales right from the start.  I've had photos published both in local and national newspapers, and on the covers of two books. I currently have a long term contract with a developer so he can use my photos in his brochures and on his web page. I have framed photos for sale and hanging in a local business at the owners request.  Last year a lady from California tracked me down and asked me to take some pictures of something local for a book she was writing.  She seemed thrilled with the pictures I sent her.  Yet some how, like the pros on the forums, I never felt that I lived up to the title of Photographer, with a capital P and have drifted away from that pursuit.
Recently I made a new friend who has a strong interest in photography. He talks to me about it all the time, and convinced me to get a Flikr account, not only to share my own photos, but so I can more easily see his.  The two of us gather with another lady once a week for a sort of show and tell where we all tend to learn things from one another, not just about photography, but about painting as well. We seem to have inspired my new friend to take up painting again after so many years, and he has inspired and encouraged  me to pick up the camera again as well.

On Friday the three of us went on a little photo shoot.  We drove down some back roads to see what we could find.  Though we were all taking pictures in the same area, we naturally came up with different shots. It was great fun and I do hope we do it again soon.  It was a good reminder that I don't have to be one of the best in order to enjoy something.  I'm thankful to my friend for rekindling an interest in this particular hobby.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Side Tracked

Thar be Pirates in Gananoque. Arrrrrr

Gananoque was holding its annual Pirate Festival, complete with a Captain Jack look alike contest and it just seemed like the perfect day to go spend some time by the water and enjoy all the fun.  I decided, since we were heading to an area that we don't get to all that often, I would download a few geocaches along the way.  It just seemed in keeping with a day with pirates, since pirates and treasures seem to go together.

Off we went and when we got to Crosby we discovered that their flee market was in full swing. Well, hey, treasure can be found at a place like that too, so we stopped and had a look around.  Before we were done, we had purchased three things.  If we had been heading for home, we would likely have left even more money there.  But some things just don't keep well in a hot car all day, so we'll just have to make a point of going back there before the season is over.

From there I noticed that there were some geocaches off to the right, and figured they were at the various locks nearby.  My satelight map somehow did not land on my GPS this time when I downloaded it, and though it showed up on my Base Camp program, the file could not be found even with a computer search, so I could not transfer it.  That meant we were pretty well flying blind.  My GPS has a basic map but if you go off a main highway none of the other roads show up on the screen. 

We followed the road to Davis Locks.  By the time we got there I thought we were actually driving around the lake, as we were driving away from the posted geocaches.  The road turned out to be a dead end when we got to the locks.  Still, it was a lovely spot, and very popular on this beautiful day.

By this time we were well aware that it was too hot to go to Gananoque and walk around all afternoon.  On our journey back to the main road we saw a sign pointing us to Chaffey's Mills. There are locks there too, so we took that road. Once more, I was amazed to discover we were headed away from the geocaches.  By this time we were getting hungry and thirsty so we found a little general store that served sandwiches and burgers. We had the latter along with a bag of chips and some soft drinks.  That helped refuel us for more explorations. 

Once we had thoroughly explored this location we decided to go through Forfar and head over to Athens.  It seems they had a tornado earlier this week.  There was lots of evidence of trees being snapped off and uprooted.  We saw a couple of garages that had definitely been hit by falling trees.  Most of the downed trees had been cleaned up, but not all of them.  There was one still leaning on a house. 

From there we headed for home, stopping to pick up a few groceries and a cooked chicken along the way.  It was not the day we had originally planned. We never did get to Gananoque, see any pirates, or even go looking for geocaching treasures.  Still, it turned out to be a perfect day and the treasures we found were the sights we saw.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Free Time Does Not Equal Boredom

A few days ago I posted this on my facebook page.  While most people seemed to agree with me (it got many likes and was shared several times) someone else suggested that teenagers need entertainment from time to time.  A bored teenager is just trouble waiting to happen, apparently. 

This got me thinking back to my own teen years.  I lived on an air force base, well away from anything resembling a city.  There was a movie theatre there, and we had "Teen Town" dances once a week, but there were no other organized activities for us. Yet somehow, I never suffered from boredom.

My friends basically hung out at my place most evenings. We would listen to AM radio and just talk.  Other than that, we would go for walks and ride our bikes to a nearby beach. We would attend school dances that happened occasionally throughout the year. That was a bigger deal than teen town as we tended to get dressed up for the school dances. We weren't bored. We were enjoying each other's company.

Kids today are over scheduled.  Both parents have to work these days, just to make ends meet, so the kids are commonly shuffled off to day care at a very early age.  Then they find themselves in Kindergarten a few years later.  In my day you were at least 5 before you were in this sort of regimented environment.  Today's kids have scheduled times to do things at a much earlier age, and when they don't have a scheduled activity to take part in, they no longer seem to know what to do with themselves.

I think unscheduled time is extremely good for all of us. It gives us time to dream and experiment and even invent. We're all capable of amusing ourselves if someone doesn't give us the notion, at a very early age, that we have to be entertained by something outside of ourselves.

Things have changed over the past few generations.  There was no TV in my mother's day. I heard stories of her digging her fingers deep into the wool on sheep as she tried to ride on them.  She had a pet crow who could talk, and her dog used to go to school with her, and even lay at her feet in the classroom.  They played Cowboys and Indians with real BB guns.  She even shot her own mother with one once.  My Nana was playing with the kids and they were quiet so long that she thought they were gone and so she stood up from behind the rock where she had been hiding and POW!

In my own childhood we amused ourselves by putting on theatrical productions for my grandmother when she visited.  We even created a Circus a couple of times, complete with a parade, a gypsy fortune teller and games where you dropped pennies into a tub of water. Participants could win candy prizes if they managed to get one into a submerged cup. We were even fortunate enough to have a friend whose father had a cotton candy machine, and he would cooperate with us when we had a circus..  When we were not busy with big productions like that, we created a mail system where we wrote and delivered each other little notes. There was no e-mail or texting back then, of course, but the idea was the same.  We played in the woods and built forts and climbed trees, and if we wanted some extra money we knocked on doors and offered to clean people's basement windows. We played marbles and games like Red Rover and  hopscotch. We played Cowboys and Indians too, but we had cap pistols.  And when we did get a pellet gun, we were told not to shoot at anything live.  TV was something new and there were only a few channels back then. We were outside until the sun when down and we never looked to our parents to find us something to do. They would have found us some chores.

My own kids also spent time outside with their friends. They had a more defined boundary than I did, but they were still out there someplace, out of sight and often in the woods.  They didn't play Cowboys and Indians anymore. It was more like a game of war or something.  They were still shooting at one another, but since not all kids were allowed to have even  toy guns anymore, some of them just picked up a stick and pretended.  There were major arguements about whether the imaginary bullets hit the intended targets or not. This generation grew up with TV so sometimes it was hard to get the cartoons turned off and get them moving on weekends. There was swimming lessons in the summer, and things like soccer, bowling and karate were also available, but not everyone took part, and if they did, they usually only got involved in one or two things.

Today we seldom see a child outdoors, let alone unsupervised.  Not only are children now shepherded to and from school, they are always indoors, or under the watchful eye of some adult. There are all kinds of organized sports and other activities for them to take part in, and most of them know more about how to operate a multitudes of electronic devices that fascinate them to the point that they hardly move at all.  School is out now, and while the streets and woods would have been full of kids in past generations, it is eerily quiet out there now.

I feel sorry for today's children. They don't get the same chance to run and play freely as we did. They don't get to make up games and find innovative ways to amuse themselves. They rely on adults and electronic devices to keep them busy.  I'm thankful my own grandchildren have a cottage to go to, where they can explore nature and daydream from time to time. 

There have been many great inventors in this country. Our modern life would not be what it is if it had not been for them. But if our current crop of children do not get some unscheduled time to explore their world and have time to dream, they will never be able to work out how to do the things they dream of.  These are our future inventors. They need time and freedom to become creative.   I'd like to see today's adults take a step back, and let that happen. 

If kids have a chance to learn to amuse themselves when they are little, they continue to be able to do that throughout their lives.  Intelligent people are not usually bored , but I sure see how that might happen if a mind isn't given the chance to experience some unscheduled time and learn what might be done with it from an early age onward.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Latest Technology

Seven years ago I started to wear a hearing aid.  Even then, it was likely over due. But the darn things don't last as long as you would think, given the price, and though I got a couple more years than expected, the old one finally died just before Christmas.  Oh yes, I have been driving people mad by asking them to repeat things ever since.  As I said, they are not cheap and there were other places to spend the money but since I could no longer stand not to know what the people around me were talking about, I finally went and got a new one this week.

I was told that the technology had changed a lot since I got my last one. In fact I was even warned that the new technology might be too much for me.  So, while I was very excited to be going to get the new assistive device, I was also a bit worried about what they meant by that statement.

My old unit was a good one. It had a wee button on it that let me adjust the sound to get rid of background noise, and it was also supposed to be adjustable so that it would work with the phone. Well, I never did get it to work with the phone, though I had it adjusted a couple of times because of that. I ended up listening on the phone with my right ear, so I had to hold it there with my left hand if I had to write anything down. Awkward, but at least I could still hear on the phone. 

Yes, in case you are wondering, I am supposed to wear two hearing aids, but I guess it's a good thing I only accepted one, or I never would have been able to use the phone at all. 

The old unit also came with a little remote control, so I could adjust the volume.  I only ever used it if I was at a play, or in a restaurant. Then I would get rid of the background noise and boost the volume.  That worked very well for me.  The other setting on that remote put the whole unit into automatic mode. That means it would adjust itself, as needed, as I went from one environment to another.   I found that to be very annoying as it had a slight delay and usually changed as I was leaving the new environment and passing on to another one that it was no longer set up for.  I gave up on that option shortly after I got the first hearing aid.

This new aid has that little button and a remote too, but it has a few interesting differences.  I don't need to set it up to use it on the phone. It changes settings on it's own, both when you start to use the phone and when you stop. It senses that all by itself.  Other than that, there is still a little button on the unit that gets rid of background noises, and has another setting for wind!  That surprised me, as when I got the first hearing aid, I was told these little computers don't like wind.  This new one has a wind shield and with this new setting, I might actually hear people I walk with on windy days. I'll get to test that out this week.  My fingers are crossed for that to work!

The main difference with this unit is that it sends me signals as to what it's doing.  It will play me a little tune when it first turns on, so I know it's up and running. It will tell me in words, what mode I'm in as I change from on to another. Yes, it talks to me!  It will even tell me when the battery is about to die.  If I mess around with the volume control on the remote control to much, and loose track of what setting I have it on, I can reset it by hitting the Home button, but if I still don't think that it's set to the original mode or volume, then I can open and close the battery door three times and it will reset everything, or, if it can't, it will actually tell me, "Make an Appointment!" 

I've been wearing it since Friday morning when I got it.  It doesn't have too much technology for me, and I'm still not sure what they meant by that.  I'm doing fine, and so happy to be back in the world of the living.  I was almost in tears one night last week as I sat in the home of some friends while they had a good visit with my hubby. I couldn't hear my friend, who was sitting right beside me on the left. I couldn't hear my hubby who was sitting on the opposite side of the room. I could only hear the person on my right, and he didn't do much of the talking.  Not being able to hear is not fun!  Last night we were at a little dinner party with two other couples, and even though it was outside on the patio, I had  no trouble hearing at all.  I'll be needing a slight fit adjustment, but otherwise I'm quite happy with this new unit.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Muskoka Geocaching Holiday

We have just come back from our holidays. This year we decided to go on a geocaching adventure so I picked an area that I thought would be nice to explore. Then I downloaded the maps and the geocaches within 5 km of our planned route onto my Garmin Dakota 20 GPS.  That gave me 500 caches to choose from when we hit the area.  The route I chose was between Huntsville and Orillia, Ontario but that doesn't mean we necessarily intended to cover all of it.

We stopped for breakfast at a place called The Cupboard, in Arnprior.  I highly recommend that place. The food was plentiful and tasty, and very reasonably priced. I'm sure we'll go back there again sometime.

We saw two deer on the road before we got to Algonquin Park, but no wildlife as we drove through. I had booked a room at the Comfort Inn at Huntsville before we left home, and it was definitely a good place to land when we finally arrived.  We had only ever  been to Huntsville once before and that had to be about 15 years ago.  It's a pretty little town with lots of hills and a river running through it.  After a bit of a rest, we turned on the GPS and checked to see where the nearest caches were, then off we went.  I wasn't so determined to pick up all the caches as I was to see the sites the listings brought us to, so it didn't bother me that we drove by some and didn't find some of the others.
One of the ones we didn't find was up at the Lion's Club lookout point.  Heck, it was hard enough to just find that!  We had been up there on our previous visit, but the road was much better marked at that time. This time we had to ask numerous people before we found someone who actually knew where we should turn off to get t here.  There was a lady from England up there reading. She was really enjoying our Canadian weather, she said. 

Geocaching helps you find all the interesting spots the locals want to point out that may not be in the tourist brochures. Huntsville  not only has a river, but it also has locks.  A pretty place, much like home.  But unlike at home, there were no boats as the locks had not been opened for the season yet. We found that strange as there are certainly a lot of boats on the Rideau at this time of year.

Then there was the boardwalk over the bay, creating a short cut for the waterside trail.  We never would have found this if it had not been for geocaching.

As we were driving to our next location along highway 11, I noticed there was a clump of geocaches off the main road, near some water. I mentioned that, and my hubby said that here was an exit coming up. I suggested he take that exit, and I'm so glad he did.  That's how we discovered Port Sydney.  Now, if I were to build a cottage somewhere, this would be the perfect spot.  We found caches along a roadside trail, at the beach, and on a woodland trail. We also found kids in a tree near the beach.  We had to be careful that they didn't see us looking for the cache nearby.

We went to the dam to look for another one, but there was too much metal and it kept screwing up the headings on the GPS.  That's okay as the site was the best treasure we found on the entire trip. 

Below the dam we saw some kids climb a pine tree, walk out along the branches while clinging to the branch above them and then plunging into the water below.  After they swam around in the deep water there, they went a bit downstream and used the rushing water to slide over the rocks.  I could have sat there all day and just watched them.

We went on to Gravenhurst for the night.  There we found the docks at one end of town and a beach with a bandstand at the other side of town.  The main problem with Gravenhurst is that it needs more decent places to eat. 

After visiting their farmer's market the next morning, we headed for for Bracebridge.  On our first trip to this area we managed to find a huge rocky lookout that I had seen in a brochure. We had to ask many people where that was, but finally found it. The trail across the rock back then was marked with painted arrows. We had to stand on one to see the next one. We were not sure if that "trail" made a loop, or how far it went. As it was late in the day and very difficult to see the arrows for a reverse trip, since some of them where on the downside of a dip, we decided it was not a good time to venture too far.  I doubt that it would be good to be caught up there at night, or in a storm.

This time I saw at least 4 mentions of Huckleberry Rock in the brochures. I was not sure if it was the same rock, but figured it would at least be similar. Think of the Group of Seven and the paintings or wind blown pines on a rocky surface done by Tom Thomson. I'm sure he sat up there and did those.

It was the same rock. We just came at it from a different angle. There is now a canyon cut through this rock, and you can walk up to the edge of that and look down if you like.  This rock is the oldest on the planet, and absolutely huge.  I'm so glad we were able to find it more easily this time. 

When we were finished walking around on the rock we went back to Bracebridge. There are a number of caches along trails leading to the waterfall in the middle of town.  I know we never saw that last time we were there, so once again, geocaching is a great way to find the local sites. 

If you are looking at a map you may notice we are backtracking. We had decided to go back to Huntsville for another night, before heading home.  While there a waiter asked if we had been up to the Dorset Lookout Tower. We hadn't heard about that, but it was not far off our route on the way home, so we did make the scenic side trip.  This tower is 100 feet tall, and because it stands on another rocky outcrop, it looms 365 feet above the Lake of the Bays.  Not everyone makes it to the very top.  You have to climb the stairs, and while the ones closer to the bottom go up the centre of the tower, the upper flights spiral around the outside of it, which can feel a little spooky. 

It was a long trip home but we did stop in Eganville for our final meal on the road.  It was a  nice trip and we certainly picked a great area to go exploring.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I Might As Well Bang My Head Against the Wall!

You know how sometimes when you are trying to do something by phone, and keep having to deal with a machine at the other end, you think, "If I could just get to talk to a real person, we could sort this out?"  Well don't be too sure about that.

Mind you, I wasn't on the phone, but was trying to sign up for something on the internet. It was one of those sites that don't let you put in a Post Office Box. You need to enter a street address.  I live in a small village and was having trouble because Canada Post does not recognize street addresses here. We have to have the proper box number on our mail or we  may never get it.  I finally wrote the company a message to tell them about this problem. 

I said, "I am trying to sign up, but your form requires a street address and your system sends me to since it cannot verify my address. That's because we have Post Office Box numbers in this village, and Canada Post does not recognize our civic addresses. How can I sign up?"

I got a reply. "Unfortunately we do not accept PO Boxes as valid addresses for registration. This is for security reasons; we require civic addresses."

I tried again.  "But YOUR system will not accept my civic address!  I'm very disappointed."

I thought that must have worked as then she said, "Can you send me your civic address? I’ll see if it works on my end."  I figured she was going to override the system at her end and get me signed up, so I sent her my civic address.

I just got another message from her. It says, "I’m not finding your street listed; I’m sure it exists, but Canada Post does not recognize it because mail is send via PO Box.
I apologize for the inconvenience. "

Duh. That's what I was complaining about in the first place.  I thought I was dealing with a human being at the other end, but perhaps it's some sort of robot after all. 

At this point I can't remember what it was I was trying to sign up for anyway, and now I probably don't want to be bothered.