Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Stocking Traditions

Every family has it's own Christmas traditions. Some of them are quite common and others sometimes surprise me.

I was reading an In R Dream  blog post about Christmas stockings and started to comment on what I had just read.  The comment was getting long, so I decided to make it into a new blog post of my own.  

The blogger mentioned wrapping a stocking. I had never heard of wrapped stockings before. That would just slow poor Santa down on his trip around the world. Kids already wonder how he can get to every house all in one night. I assume that the only reason the stockings mentioned might have been wrapped was because they were for the other adults, and the givers didn't want the surprise to be spoiled before Christmas morning.

We don't give stockings to people over 16 at our house, but while there was a younger child in the house, the older one got what amounted to stocking stuff wrapped up in a box, just to make the gift giving equal.   Hmmm..... maybe we did wrap stockings after all, just without the actual stocking. 

I never thought of it before, but my grandmother always sent us a box full of strange things among the other presents too.  Opening those boxes got everyone's attention because we never knew what to expect.  There would be strange colourful socks, stuffed in a glass with some hotel logo on it, a bar of soap, and other things we figured she got out of her own cupboards.....generally useful things that didn't go together.  It never occurred to me that perhaps she was wrapping stocking stuff too, and just including socks that were too small to stuff.

While stockings are traditionally hung by the chimney with care, or placed under the tree, I was amused while reading the blog mentioned above, to find that others sometimes find their stockings in their rooms or by their bedroom door. I thought I dreamt  that up on my own as a kid. My brother and I used to sneak downstairs to get our stockings, sometimes as early as 4am. Our stockings were wisely stuffed with comic books and tangerines, as well as other little toys to keep us busy and hopefully quiet for a while. The excitement of two little kids pretty well does away with any ideas of parents getting much more sleep though.  I know we would eventually drag our stockings into our parents room, climb up onto their bed and excitedly show them what we got.  

One year, when I was probably about 11,  I suggested that my folks just put the stockings by our doorways so we wouldn't have to go downstairs. They shhhhed me, as my brother was 4 years younger and they didn't want me to spoil the magic of Santa for him. Actually, it was at that moment that I realized that I had just given up that belief myself. It was quite startling really. 

I'm thankful that my own kids tended to sleep until we woke them up on Christmas morning. I don't know how they managed to do that though, as I, even as an adult, had a hard time getting a good sleep on Christmas Eve because of all the excitement.

While there are no longer any filled stockings to be found at our house on Christmas morning, we still have gifts under a now artificial tree, and the same Christmas meal we've always had for the 37 years since I took over from my Mom. I have dared to change something now and then, always to be met with a protest. Traditions are traditions, you see, and not to be messed with. 

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and would love to hear about anything your family does that you may think is a little different.  Perhaps it's not.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Recreating Memories and Creating New Ones

When I was little, I lived in England.  I remember my parents once took me to see a Pantomime of Mother Goose. That has stuck in my mind as a wonderful event.  I was probably just six at the time, but I remember that the leading lady was really a man, the characters wore wonderful costumes, and that at some point the characters came off the stage into the audience.  It was quite the experience, and one that I have been wanting to reproduce for my grandchildren.

Pantomimes have become more popular at this time of year around our area, and I thought I was going to get my chance last year.  I have two grandsons.  Their parents were convinced that the younger one would never sit still for the performance, so we thought we'd take the older one and the little one some other year when he might be more manageable.  We made the mistake of telling the older one what a pantomime was, and he declared that just silly and he didn't want to go.  Luckily, I had not purchased the tickets yet.

These two boys are celebrating their birthdays this week. One is turning 10 and the other is turning six. I decided we were going to take them both to the Pantomime for their birthday this year and I just wouldn't mention where we were going, to either the kids or their parents.  All they knew was that they were spending the day with Nana and Grandpa.  Even their folks seemed happy with that as they had other things to do, just like the rest of us at this time of year.

The day came and we ended up with the boys earlier than originally planned on, so we moved our planned meal with them after the show to lunch time instead. We went to Smiths Falls for the Harvey's Family Meal Deal, where they happily got to choose exactly what they wanted on their burgers.  During lunch I was repeatedly questioned about where we were going. Eventually they managed to pry the fact that we would be staying in Smiths Falls and that where we were going was over near the railway tracks. Of course they immediately thought we were going geocaching and could not imagine what we would be doing when I said we weren't.

We took them to The Station Theatre. The sign instantly had them thinking we were going to a movie, and it took a bit of convincing that other things happened in theatres other than movies. Of course, that's exactly what I wanted them to experience, and what better introduction to live theatre than a pantomime.

Jack and the Beanstalk was presented in a way that only lightly touched on the original story, but the additions of a King and Princess, an Eco Fairy, a cowhand named Simon and the giant's henchman, Slimeball certainly added to the fun. The giant was gigantic, and the cow was adorable. There was a chorus of cockroaches too.....just because.  Jenny Jasiak played the part of Jack, while Mike Adams took on the role of Dame Trot (Jack's mother) with great vigour. For me, it was high school student, Slade Stoodley as Slimeball that really stood out. This young man is extremely talented, and will go far if he pursues an acting career.

My youngest grandson had no trouble sitting through the performance. Though he never did boo the bad guys he laughed a lot and loved the antics of Daisy the cow.  Just as in my memories, the characters did leave the stage, and at one point Dame Trot actually sat on my older grandson's lap.  I'm sure he'll remember that as he ages!

When asked later if they would want to see another play like this, they both gave me a quick Yes!  It might just become a family tradition.  I'm already looking forward to next year, when the Smiths Falls Station Theatre will be presenting Puss in Boots.

I'm grateful to my long time cyber buddy, Tim Bisaillon (in a cockroach selfie pictured here with the king) for helping me get some photos to include with this post. The other photos were taken during a technical rehearsal by theatre volunteer Simon Lunn


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sample Source

Have you signed up for a box full of new products from Sample Source yet?  I eagerly look forward to each and every box, as there is always something in there that I add to my list of favorite products.

Many sample boxes these days seem to contain razors of one type or another. This one contained a Schick Hydro 5. The five blades ensure a close, smooth shave, while the built in nutrient enriched shaving gels do away with any chance of irritation.

The Boire Nose Strip is something I may not understand properly. I've tried nose strips in the past and they always appeared to have dark spots on them when you pulled them off, as if you had pulled the dirt out of your pores. This strip clung tightly to the skin and had to be eased off slowly, but I didn't see any difference on either my nose or the strip once it was removed. However, my nose did feel like the top layer of skin had just been peeled off, and I felt the need to moisturize it very soon afterwards, in an attempt to make it feel better. It just continued to sting for quite some time. I'm pretty sure I won't be buying this product, but others may find it does what they wanted it to do.

Jergens Ultra Care Extra Dry Skin Moisturizer, on the other hand,  was exactly what I needed at this time of year. It's non-greasy, absorbs quickly and left my skin silky smooth.

John Frieda Luxurious Volume Shampoo lived up to it's name.  Even in my hard water, it produced a luxurious lather.  The companion conditioner didn't make my hair feel thin like many do, but rather it seemed to add body without making it too heavy to hold itself up.

Higgins & Burke Green Tea was a pleasant surprise. I'm definitely a tea drinker but I've never been fond of green teas. This one was not bad. In fact, I actually enjoyed it.  That's really saying something. Though I doubt I'll ever replace my Orange Pekoe, I may consider stocking it for guests.

The Ice Breakers Duos are made by the Hershey company. These were a fruity flavour. I had a sample of minty ones in a previous package, and I much preferred those.  In fact, I intend to buy some of the minty ones soon, to keep in my purse.

There was also a Hershey's Whole Almond bar.  I passed that to my hubby as my body doesn't tolerate almonds. He enjoyed it, he said.

Kelloggs Special K Pastry Crisps are a nice light snack. They have real chocolate that melts on your fingers, which, in my books is a good thing. I found they had an interesting flavour and texture, and would be tempted to pick up some more from time to time.

One of the two products that I really liked out of this batch of samples was the Frizz Ease Secret Weapon, also by John Frieda. I tend to wash my hair most days, just to get it to look good, but a little touch of Frizz Ease and my hair not only perks right up and is good for another day, it also shines so beautifully I'm thinking I'd like that look every day!

Brookside Dark Chocolate Acai with Blueberry is another product I really loved.  OMG these are just incredible!  Such flavour!  I fully intend to hunt down a bag of these as soon as possible. When I take a notion to eat chocolate, a few of these glossette type morsels will satisfy my craving, without causing me to feel guilty. I am satisfied so much more quickly by things that have more flavour. These certainly fit that description.

If you have not signed up for Sample Source, go here and do so now, so you will be on the list to get the next box of goodies.  This program is all about letting you try before you buy. It works for me!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Trying to Stand Firmly

Many years ago I had an accident and tore all the soft tissues in my left foot. It was swollen for months and I limped for a very long time after it was healed. I still do in damp weather. In fact these days I seem to be limping on one foot or another all the time.

At the time, I was sent to be fitted with orthotics and was told that the foot I had not injured was in even worse shape. I have no idea when it got that way, but twisting my ankles was a common occurrence in my youth. I thought no more about that, since that wasn't the foot bothering me at that time.

I wore the orthotics successfully for many years, but eventually the lovely lady who did my fittings retired from the business. I had to search for another place to get them.  I was very disappointed with that first set from the new place. They were flimsy looking, had a look of being unfinished, and they tended to tip me backwards. At my age, you don't want your balance thrown off like that. They remade them, but they still had that same problem so I gave up on them.  For the next several years I managed to get around without them, but then I started having a pain in my right heal. I went to see my doctor. She said I had developed plantar fasciitis in my right foot, sent me in for new orthotics.

The new set worked well for about a year. Then I started to develop a pain in the top of my right foot.  Once again, I was told I had plantar fasciitis, even though the pain wasn't in my heal this time.  A new set of orthotics were made, though the other pair were just a year old.

 It didn't take long before I developed a pain in my left knee. Now, I know that new orthotics often shift your weight enough to make your knees sore, and then your hips, before everything settles down, but in this case the knee kept getting worse until I could hardly get around at all.  It even hurt when I wasn't standing.  I started sleeping with a pillow between my knees just to support it so the pain wouldn't wake me up. 

I got some anti inflams but decided that foot pain wasn't as bad as knee pain and then took the orthotics out of my shoes.  That cured the left knee pain, but then I got a heal pain on the right side again. I got some Dr Scholls cushion heal protectors, but they didn't help. I decided that my feet definitely needed proper support, but since I didn't want a sore knee again, I dug out the old orthotics from the previous year, and put those into my shoes. Well,those made me walk on the outside of the left foot, and they have a lump under the right foot that made it feel like I had a big rock in my shoe. Pretty soon my feet were burning and hurting all the time. 

I wore the darn things to exercise class one day and then couldn't walk for 4 or 5 days after that. I have not been able to return to that class since. I have taken the orthotics out of my shoes again but I'm already starting to have that sore heal. I cannot win. 

I decided I needed to report in for some medical help. Today I got the official word that the orthotics didn't seem to be helping me and that we would have to try another route.  I am being sent for lazer treatments, to make the heal feel better. I wonder what good that will do, if we can't deal with the actual cause of that pain. Won't it just come back, time after time, just like it does when I remove the orthotics?

I don't drive, and have always kept healthy by walking everywhere. If I can't find a way to be able to get around, or do my exercises, I'm setting myself up for diabetes or a stroke. Both of those conditions are in my family.  This problem is suddenly aging me quickly, and I don't like it.

What ever you do, keep your feet, knees and legs healthy, for without them, everything else falls apart too, including your way of life.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Flu Shots ... My Theory

It's that time of  year again, when people contemplate whether to get their flu shots or not. 

One of the reasons people give as to why they don't want to get the shot is that they had it once and then got the flu. They are convinced that the shot made them sick. We know that's not technically possible since there is no live virus in the vaccine, but I now think I have a theory on what happened to make them believe that.

Last year I had the Shingles shot, and later the shingles themselves. I didn't get the Shingles from the shot, and I know I had a much milder case than I would have if I had not been inoculated against it.  I also had a flu shot and a pneumonia shot last year. I not only ended up with the Shingles but when the flues came though here, I caught each and every one of them, one after another.  Three different kinds of influenza, even though I had the shot. 

This year they are saying that the inoculation is not for the flu we are expecting to pass this way. People wonder why they should bother to get it.  A nurse once told me that if you have the shot for five years in a row, you are pretty well safe from just about all of them.  And yet, I had three flues all in the same year. What gives?

I'm not a spring chicken anymore and I believe that my body was busy building antibodies for all the things I had shots for, and that's what lowered my resistance. When I caught the first flu, my resistance was down even further, so I quickly caught the second one, and then the third. I have never in my life spent so much time indoors.  With all that illness I had no time to get outside in the fresh air and flush the bugs out of my system. I just kept catching everything that got transported home from the very public places where all of my family work. 

So, am I going to take a chance on the shot this year?  You bet I am.  All I have to do is think how quickly we all turn our heads to see who happens to be coughing when we're in a public place these days.  We never used to pay any attention to that. People coughed and sneezed around us all the time.  The flu shots have eliminated so much sickness in our society, we are quick to notice any sign of it now. That's proof enough for me that the shots are working.  I'll be getting mine later this month. I've got the date posted on my refrigerator already.  I just don't think I'll try for multiple immunizations all within a short period ever again. I'm convinced that's what the problem was.

So, if you are healthy, stay that way and go get your shot. You aren't just protecting yourself, you are protecting those of us whose immune system may not be up to snuff. Stop the spread.  Just do it.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Shopping For Friends

It is often hard to make new friends

In my experience two types of people I can count on to be friendly are Newfoundlanders and people involved in the martial arts.  Newfies are warm and welcoming and martial artists are generally nice people who quickly embrace others in the field as if they were family.  Today we met a man who turned out to be both, and though we met him in a shopping mall, I feel like we have a new friend.

We had gone to a large mall that we had not been to in many years and got confused as to where to find the food court. The signs pointed us in directions that didn't work, and when we back tracked, and tried again, they simply didn't make sense.  My hubby approached a man and woman and asked if they knew where it was, and we were told to follow them as that was where they were going too. The reason we were confused was that you actually had to walk though the middle of a store to access the food court if you were already on that floor. From the floor below, it would have meant a simple ride up the escalator.

During that short walk through the store we discovered the man was the lady's father and that he had come from Newfoundland to visit with her. We also found out he had spent some time as a martial artist in the past and knew someone my hubby also knew. We parted ways and had our lunch.

Later, while shopping and exploring this huge mall we ran across them again, and stopped for another chat. Before parting we had his name and address and an e-mail address and a new friend. It was that easy. 

I wish it always was.

Maybe I should go shopping for friends more often.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Buried Alive.....But What a Way to Go!

When I was growing up, I heard my mother say, more than once, "I'm afraid I'll die before I read all the books." 

Now, that sounds crazy, I know, and I didn't understand what she meant at the time. I'm getting a much clearer picture of it now though. 

My name is Karen and I'm a bookaholic.  I love books, not just to read, but to have and to hold. I like to own them.  I cannot seem to pass up a good book or a good bargain on books.

It used to just be magazines. I would subscribe to as many as 7, maybe 9 different publications all at the same time.  I read them in the order they came in, stacking them on a specific shelf in my office, so I'd know which one to read next.  No cheating allowed.  

I had no time to read real books because if I stopped to read one, (as I did as a treat from time to time) I'd fall behind in the magazines. I hate reading magazines that are a month in arrears, especially if there is a holiday involved.  There would always be some craft or recipe that I would have loved to have made, but found it too late. 

If I bought books, (and I was always buying books), they were non-fiction on the topic of whatever I was interested in at the time. I have a library full of books on Writing,  Photography, Tai Chi, and Painting.  This is fine as it's not necessary to read all of these books from cover to cover. They can be accessed when you want to solve a problem or learn something new. I likely have too many painting books now, but will often put sticky notes as flags on various pages in 3 or 4 at a time, to give me hints on how to handle whatever I'm thinking of trying next. I'm never sorry to have invested in books. 

I promised myself that I would stop subscribing to magazines for a while, as I really do enjoy reading a good story that lasts for a few days....or sometimes weeks, depending on how busy I am.  The library had moved to a new location clear across town, so I started gathering ones I'd like to read at home.  I belonged to a club where they would mail you four new ones each month. Sometimes I wasn't keeping up with those very well, so I'd quit, but they would offer me a "Welcome back" package that I just couldn't resist, so I ended up with a box full that are waiting to be read.

In recent years I've been winning a few books each year from either or the publishers themselves. This year I've been extremely lucky and have won a lot more books than usual. I do get those read as I tend to review books I win. The thing is, in the meantime, I have picked up a few that I wanted to read at yard sales, and then one of the local churches held a huge book sale and I got a whole lot more. Well hey, they were selling them for a dollar or so. How could I pass up a bargain like that?  Books can entertain me for quite a while for that small investment.  Besides, have you seen the price of books in the stores today?  I'd have to mortgage the house to feed my habit!

Then I discovered that Amazon and other sites sometimes offer digital books for free. I downloaded a few of them.  I now have several of those stored too, waiting to be read. Luckily I also discovered that I'd really much rather read books with real pages, so I've pretty well stopped accumulating the digital ones.
Suddenly I realize I have a problem.  I've become a book hoarder.  I have more books now than I can handle, even if I sat and did nothing but read for an entire year. I have not even started these ones I got from the church book sale.

I finally understand how my mother felt.  I'm going to die before I read all the books.....likely even just the ones I've accumulated here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

All A Glow

In August I got an e-mail informing me that I had been chosen to take part in Glow Magazine's November You Tried It program. That meant they would send me a box of products to test and comment on. 

I was expecting samples, but what I got was five full sized items.  I don't know how I got so lucky, but I have to say I was thrilled when I opened the box.  Inside were some things I was very excited about, and other things I had never heard of.

As I only had two weeks to test the products, before submitting my feedback, I was confused about how to test two of the products in particular. One was a day cream and the instructions on the other said to use it day and night. I sent an e-mail to ask for guidance and received a prompt reply, with suggestions on how to solve the problem. I decided to use the L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Cell Renewal  during the day and the StriVectin SD Advanced Intensive Concentrate for Wrinkles & Stretch Mark at night.

At the end of the test period, I filled out the following report and sent it in.

Product #1: NIVEA Crème Care Shower Cream 
My skin is really silky smooth after using NIVEA Crème Care Shower Cream.  I didn’t even have to use any body moisturizer after bathing with this.

Product #2: NIVEA Sensitive 3-in-1 Micellar Cleansing Water 
NIVEA Senstive 3-in-1 Micellar Cleaning Water is capable of removing dirt left behind by normal washing.  No matter how carefully I washed first, it would still manage to find enough dirt to discolour the cotton ball.  I trust it to get my face really clean.
Product #3: L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Cell Renewal
I was very excited to see L’Oreal Paris Age Perfect Cell Renewal in the package. It absorbed well, and left my skin soft, with a fresh dewy look.  It did, however, tend to turn my face red for a while each time I put it on.  I think I’ve gotten used to it now as it doesn’t seem quite so bad anymore. 
Product #4: RapidBrow Eyebrow Enhancing Serum 
RapidBrow Eyebrow Enhancing Serum is a quick easy way to groom my brows.  If it were to make them any more full though, it would be better suited for my mother than more me, as she over plucked hers at an early age and they never really grew back.  I like the controlled look it gives my brows as that helps them  frame my face better.

Product #5: StriVectin SD Advanced Intensive Concentrate for Wrinkles & Stretch Mark 
I had never heard of StriVectin SD Advanced Intensive Concentrate for Wrinkles & Stretch Marks before, and when I first saw the package I thought I’ll test it and then pass it to someone who needs it.  Now that I’ve tried it, I know I will not be passing it on. This stuff is magic. I put it on my face, neck and chest and see an instant transformation.  My skin never looked so good. It actually makes me look several years younger. It has even done wonders for the wrinkles that had appeared on my upper chest in recent years. Of course, that was the one place I always forgot to moisturize, but with this, I know I’ll never pass up a chance to do it.  Amazing!

Now that I've had a couple of months of using these products, I think I'd happily buy the RapidBrow Eyebrown Enhancing Serum. It goes on with a wand, much like mascara, but it's clear and just lets me sweep my eyebrows into place, and then helps make sure they stay there all day. I now feel that it lifts them nicely and gives my face a finished look.

I have had a chance to search for the StriVectin and discovered that this one product alone would cost me $139 to replace the size of tube I was given. That's definitely out of my price range, but this may be one product that proves the theory that you get what you pay for.  I'm wondering if I'll ever be happy with the cheaper products I've always used ever again. As I said in my report, this stuff is pure magic.

Back when I was doing this project, I checked to see if I would be allowed to blog about it, and was asked to wait until after October 20th as the results would be published in the November issue of Glow magazine.  I checked today, and the new issue is out. Upon closer inspection, I found they quoted what I said about the NIVEA Crème Care Shower Cream on page 44.  I'm hoping that might give me a chance to do this sort of thing again sometime.  I really enjoyed getting to try things I might never have thought to buy otherwise.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thanksgiving Pilgrimage

I like to spend Thanksgiving by celebrating Mother Nature's last hoorah, wandering around some forest trail, looking at the pretty leaves. I didn't think I was going to get to do that this year, but we did go off towards Mayberly to check out part of the Perth Autumn Studio Tour. We only had time to do a few studios this year as we were due at a dinner later in the afternoon.

 We could have done some of the studios closer to Perth, but opted to go to the far end of the tour, so that we could, once again, visit Fieldworks, an art installation we found when we did this tour last year.

All three of the studios we visited were actually barns with several artists represented in each one.  There was glass work, and pottery, woodwork and weaving,  and purses and even garden elements, as well as the usual paintings.

Though no one mentioned The Fieldwork Project this year, it was indicated on the map, and we remembered it from last year, so we stopped by to see what was new there.  Not too much has changed, and some of the older stuff is getting a bit bedraggled, but the area is still fun to wander around, and we did find a few new things.
 The first new thing we spotted was this jumble of plastic tile drainage pipe. It's called the Knot, and is meant to represent the tangle of inter connectivity that is so prevalent in our world today.

While the knot is rather an ugly thing to see in the wilderness, a Mayfly seemed to fit right in.
 This giant bird, perched on some suitcases was here last year, and seems to have stood up well to the weather.
The biggest surprise, was finding this stack of books in the woods. It's called "Speaking Volumes - In Memory of a Book" It makes me a bit sad to know that 1500 books are being sacrificed to the elements.  The idea is that they will slowly return to their source as they disintegrate and fade away.

This was the most colourful of the displays, and just like the autumn leaves, they deserve one last look, before they are gone .......

I hope you all had a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Finding the Silver Lining

One day last week I planned to take the senior's shopping bus into Ottawa for the day.  I got dressed and walked the half mile to where I would catch the bus. I chatted with a friend for a little while, before being left alone to wait. Then I waited and waited, and waited some more. It was strange that the bus wasn't coming. It was even stranger that the others who normally catch this bus were not there either. I decided that they had changed the pick up point once again, and that I just had not heard about it. This bus only runs once a month, and I don't often take it.  Obviously I wasn't going to be able to take it that day either. I wandered over to the local Drop In centre, and joined the gang there for some treats and a cup of tea.

Someone said, "I thought you were going into Ottawa today."

I admitted that had been the plan and that they must have moved the pick up point as the bus never came. They asked what time the bus comes to pick us up, and that's when I realized my mistake. I had gone to wait for the bus a full hour late. Most everything else I tend to do starts at 10am, while the bus leaves here at 9am.  I was ready on time, but I was on auto pilot, and didn't leave the house until I normally would if I was going to go somewhere. I started wondering if I was going senile or something.

This week I attended a function in a nearby village, where a lady who sometimes rides that bus into Ottawa asked me if I had gone last week. I told her I had intended to, but somehow managed to miss the ride. She told me that the bus had broken down on the way, and everyone had to sit on it for a couple of hours while they got a replacement bus to pick them up and continue the trip. They didn't get to Ottawa until noon. I'm so glad I missed the bus as it would have been lunch time when we got there and after eating (which I'm sure I would have done) there wouldn't have been a lot of time to shop before the bus was ready to take us home again at 2pm.  I would have felt I'd spent too much on the trip for the amount of time I would have had in the mall.

Sometimes it pays to be absent minded.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Autumn in Ontario

Three of us went on a little photo expedition last Friday. The weather couldn't have been more perfect, and one of my friends knew of the perfect spot for us to wander around. This week, I think I'll just share what nature had to offer.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Product Trial - Shirriff Pie Crust

I've found another way to get good free products through the mail.  The BrandSpark people have recruited a Shopper Army, which is designed to use regular people test new products.  The item I was offered was the new Shirriff Pie Crust Mix.  The instructions were to use the product to bake a pie within a week and complete a brief 10 minute survey about the experience.

There was a little glitch though, as I received a message on Friday saying that I needed to bake the pie that weekend, and I had not yet received the pie crust package.  I sent off an e-mail to let them know. I was so disappointed as I was afraid that if I didn't get this mission accomplished, I might get knocked off the list for future products.  The response I got was friendly and positive, and it told me the deadline was not until Wednesday and if the package didn't get to me in time, to just enjoy the product and not worry about it. 

The package arrived on Tuesday, and I had plans for Wednesday, so I decided to get busy and bake a pie.  The next question was what did I have on hand to put in one, as there was no time to go shopping.  I had just barely enough raisins, and not enough of anything else, so raisin pie it was.  There was a difference between the temperature the recipe said to bake it at, and what the pastry package said, but since I was testing the pastry, I decided to go with their instructions.

The package was meant to make a double crust for a 9 inch pie. I rolled the dough as thinly as I dared, but I wasn't convinced there was enough to make a top crust with. It would be just my luck that I would roll it either too small, or place it on so that it didn't cover the whole pie on the first try. As the raisin filling would then make the pastry too sticky to deal with, I decided to not try to make a proper top crust. I cut out a shape instead. Then I used the scraps to make cinnamon and sugar cookies. Looking at the results carefully, I guess there was enough pastry to make a top crust, but I'd like a little extra just to cover my bases, and of course, the pie.

The pastry rolled out more easily than my standard homemade one, but there were little flecks of stuff still visible in the dough. The instructions said to "mix slowly to  make a dough that clings together and cleans easily from the bowl."  That's what I did. I didn't feel that I could work it further, and possibly make it tough. The little flecks didn't hurt the taste of the final product, but the pastry didn't look as smooth as mine would have.

The biggest disappointment was when I cut the pie and tried to lift the pieces from the plate. The pastry stubbornly clung to the glass dish and had to be forcibly scrapped off. I was glad I wasn't serving this pie to a guest, but my hubby and I certainly enjoyed it.

The survey asked for ways the manufacturer could improve the product, and so, hopefully these problems will be straightened out. Though I normally make my own pastry, I tend to do it with a whole pound of Tenderflake, so I have enough to make as many as 7 crusts at one time.  When I just want one or two, I tend to buy the frozen Tenderflake ones, but then I have to juggle the contents of my small freezer, and hope that I don't break them before they are used up. I think I would prefer to buy this new Shirrif Pie Crust in the future. It could be handy to have in my cupboard.

Get to work Dr Oetker, and make Shirriff Pie Crust Mix one of my favorite products of the year. And Shopper Army, I'm so glad to have been recruited. I'm already looking forward to my next mission.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Seniors Become Sitting Ducks

I told you recently about an enjoyable visit to the Fifty-Five Lifestyle Show. I mentioned at the time that I had filled out a number of contest forms and expected that I would get a lot of calls that would nor necessarily be about things I had won.  Well, let me tell you about some of them.

First I had a call about the 3 course dinner that everyone who filled in a ballot was entitled to.  A chef would prepare it, using the Cuisine Sante International cookware I saw at the show, to demonstrate how easy it would be to cook healthy meals without fats or oils. I was naturally busy on the dates he had available within the next week or so, and he will call back in October, when the chef would be available for the next round of meals.  I likely won't answer the phone now that I know what name will appear on the screen.  I have now had time to look up the company, and the "deal" along with the comments from other people who either loved the cookware or found the trip that came with it to be a scam.  I'm certainly not interested in paying exorbitant prices for pots and pans, or any of the other kitchen equipment they may try to foist on me after I've eaten a meal they invited me to.  If you want to know how these people operate, check this website and investigate further for yourself.

The second call came from  Arbor Memorial Inc.  I was walking by there, thinking it wasn't anything I'd be interested in, when I was called over to fill out a ballot for .... well I couldn't imagine what. I asked him if it was a cemetery plot or a funeral or what, and I'm not sure I got an answer to that, but just for filling out the form, I was going to get a free book where I could record where everything was, so others could find things if something ever happened to me.  Well, we really all need one of those, as I realized recently, and this one looked like a decent book that was well laid out.  But suddenly, he couldn't find one to give me, and seemed, after rummaging around in the booth, to only have the sample copy left.  However, he now had my address and he would  make sure I got one.  Ya, well, with the phone call, it was clear that it wasn't coming by mail, and would be delivered along with a sales pitch on future funeral arrangements or something. I just told him I'd just pass on the book thanks. He had time to say, "Are you sure?" before I said, "Yes," and hung up.

The third call was from a company I didn't even remember seeing there. The lady said, "Well, you filled out a form for a $20,000 draw. Do you remember that?"  I laughed and replied that I had filled out a lot of contest forms that day. I had a good time, actually.  She said that, though I was still in the running for the $20,000 there were also daily draw and I had won one of those.  She said there were three choices.  One was a 3 day, 2 night stay at a quality hotel, from a large list that covered all of North America. The second was something that sounded rather like CAA coverage, with towing and battery boosting, etc. and the third choice was a 50 foot PVC garden hose.  I had to laugh at that, as there is such a large difference between a trip and a hose, but she said that as some people can't travel, and some people don't own a car, they had to provide something for everyone. (Well, I could argue that some people may not live in they type of housing where a hose would be useful, but I was still being good at that point).

I, like many others, chose the hotel room (or, as they hoped you believed, the trip).  Then she wanted my physical address.  I asked why, and she said so they could deliver the "travel package".  I asked, "When that gets delivered here, then what happens?" I have to wonder how many people never think to ask that.  She said that they would want feedback on their air filtering system.  I said, "So someone will want to come in here and show me your product?" and she said yes, as they wanted feedback.

At this point I told her I thought I'd pass on the whole thing as I had played this game before, and really wasn't interested in doing it again. I then quickly said, "Thanks anyway," and hung up.  For any of you who don't know, falling for a demonstration of an "air filtering system" is really just allowing a vacuum cleaner salesman into your home.  I had a really great time confounding one of these fellows before, but once was enough.  You see, my first job was in door to door sales. I was trained in how not to take "No" for an answer. This makes it easier for me to see how these people try to maneuver their customers into making a purchase.  Guilt and embarrassment often work well.  The time the last vacuum cleaner salesman got to practice on me (and I actually told him that was all he was going to do), I had him convinced that I didn't care how dirty or germ infested my house was. Since he couldn't convince me how badly I needed his product, he couldn't sell it to me. He did have a quick mind though, and I asked him if he was doing this to put himself through university. He said he was. I told him he would do well in life.

Most recently I have been getting a number of phone calls from Breath EZ Homes.  I have not answered that call.  I know they will just have me do a survey, and then call back in a couple of days to tell me I've won a prize.  Then, of course, they will want to come and deliver it and do a product demonstration.... oh yes, it's another vacuum cleaner sales pitch.

At this point I'm starting to think that the whole Fifty-Five Plus LifeStyle show was a way to put the scammers in touch with the vulnerable senior citizens, and I think they should find a way to screen their exibitors better next year.

If you attended this show and had similar experiences, I'd be very happy to hear from you as I think I may try to find a way to alert the promoters before this sort of thing happens again. The more people I hear from, the more convincing this complaint will become.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Banking In the Digital Age

For 25 years I had two bank accounts for our karate club, but I never had a bank card. When bank cards first came out, one of the tellers told me not to get one as it would just be too much trouble. I thought she meant for me, not her. But eventually the bank, in it's wisdom, decided to charge $2 to anyone they had to send a statement to.  I decided it was time to get a bank card, so I could just check out the statements online.

When I first requested the bank card, I was met with a quick, "I don't know if we can do that!"  I just shook my head and said, "I'll leave it with you for a couple of hours as I have somewhere to go."  When I came back in, they were quite pleased with themselves. "We did it!" they declared, and handed me a card.  I still wasn't sure what all the fuss was about.

When I got home, I used the new card to access my accounts online.  But I only found one, not two. I returned to the bank the next day, and the very second I stepped through the door, I heard, "Oh, oh."

Yes, it's true, they could not put both accounts on that one card.  Don't ask me why. Both accounts were opened for the same business at the same branch of this bank, but for some unexplained reason, they couldn't marry those two accounts.

I had a meeting with the accounts manager to do some other business, and explained the problem to him. Once again, I was told to leave it with him, and he'd get it fixed.  But he couldn't, and the powers higher up apparently couldn't either. And nobody ever told me why this was so.  Eventually, more than a year after all this began, it was decided that the only way to fix this problem was to close the savings account, and open another one.  That sounded like it would solve the problem.  Instead, it created a new one.

When the first statement for this new account arrived, instead of the $2 statement charge I had been trying to avoid, there was a fee of well over $16.  I trotted into the bank and slapped a copy of the statement onto the desk of the highest ranking official I could find. She said, that apparently someone had not explained this account to me properly, and refunded the service charge. I stated that the person who set up this account knew the whole reason for it was for me to avoid that little $2 fee, so giving me an account that was naturally going to generate even bigger fees every time I used it, was certainly not my idea of how to solve the problem.

I ended up with another $11 charge for the following month too, for transactions that had already gone through by the time I was refunded the previous month's fees. I have not touched that account since, but if I do, I'll just make one online transfer, once in a while, and never deposit cheques, or (god forbid) cash in the darn thing ever again. Do you know that they actually charge you to deposit cash in a business account?  After 25 years of never being charged such fees with my previous account, this was a shock to me!

For the past couple of months I have been having difficulty signing into my online business account. Last month I had to reset the password.  This week it wouldn't let me do that, as the security questions now ask for a credit card number.  I don't have a credit card for the business. I have been pre-approved for one, but I don't feel the need to have it, so I've never applied for it.  The online system wouldn't let me reset the password without it though.  I thought I'd try the current password one more time. Then the system told me it was having trouble identifying me.  It didn't even recognize the card number anymore.

So, once again, I had to physically go to the bank, where they gave me the phone number for the online banking office, so I could fix such problems. I must have stared at the teller in a certain way, as she picked up the phone and made the call herself.  We worked through it together.  At one point she wanted me to insert the current password.  I told her I was there because that didn't work.  But she insisted, so I tried it.  No luck. Of course. So she got me a temporary password, after which I had to change that to a new one. I picked something that I knew I could remember until I got home.

Once at home, I tried to get in, and once again the system wouldn't recognize the password I had just set up. I dug out the phone number that the teller had given me, and called the online banking office.  I had to go through all the steps with the temporary password then change it to the new one all over again. The trip to the bank had been a total waste of time.

I finally got to see my statement.  But I can't help but wonder what will happen next month!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Aging Has Some Benefits

As many of you know, I don't often turn down things that are offered for free.  Earlier this year I saw a post online that offered free tickets to the Fifty-Five Plus Lifestyle Show in Ottawa.  I decided to print them off, just in case I had a chance to go when the time came.  The tickets indicated that they were worth $10 each, but I managed to print off one for both my hubby and myself.  On Saturday, we got to use them.

The first thing that happened as we entered the premises was that we were each handed a reusable shopping bag with a few brochures inside. This is the first such bag I've ever had that actually has an outside pocket. I can just imagine how handy that's going to be. The bags were a great idea since they publicize the event so others who see them in use would think about attending next year. They definitely came in handy throughout our visit, since there was so much to pick up at the various booths.  After getting home, I discovered a tag attached, that made it clear that the bag also publicized the company that printed them. I could, for instance, get the Merrickville Karate Club logo printed on some, with more appropriate colours for our club.

Here are some of the things I came home with:
- A magnifying ruler from Phonak
- A shortbread cookie shaped like a wrench, from G.V. Renovations
- A little truck from the Got Junk people
- A notebook and pen from Davidson Hearing Aid Centres and also a package of batteries from them after they cleaned my hearing aid for me.
- A small sylus for using with my tablet, that is also a pen and a flashlight!
- Four assorted pens, and two other notepads.
- Plus the usual assortment of fridge magnets and candy and little chocolate bars.
- And of course, the multitude of brochures, coupons and other reading material I stuffed into the bag they provided.

While there, besides getting my hearing aid cleaned, I got my spine scanned by a chiropractor, to find out some areas of my neck were disintegrating (but I knew that). I also had a good talk with a renovator about my bathroom, and other things that might need doing around my house. I entered a myriad of contests too. Of course that likely means I'll have a few follow up phone calls to deal with. I'm very good at "no" so that's fine.  One will be for a date and time when we can actually go have a free meal somewhere in the east end of Ottawa. It will be cooked on special cookware, that requires no fats or oils. That's supposed to make the food healthier, they say.  Of course then the sales tactics will come into play, but as I said, I have no problem leaving afterwards without committing to anything. It's a little late in life to be investing in new cookware.

While waiting for my hearing aid to be cleaned, we helped ourselves to nice large cups of coffee and tea, and watched part of a performance by a lady dressed if a gold dress, split down the front to the waist.  She was impersonating Marilyn Monroe and even came off the stage for a while to flirt with some of the men in the audience. They did seem to enjoy that. 

Later on we sat though a performance by Wayne Rostad. (I've discovered so many ways to spell his last name that I've settled for the one in the brochure). He managed to get us all to sing somehow, though he did warn us that would happen.  This was the first time I've seen him perform in person, and it was really quite enjoyable.

We were at the Lifestyles show for over 3 hours, and the only cost to us, for all the entertainment, treats and goodies was the $7 parking fee at the Ernst & Young Centre.

That's quite a bargain for such a nice outing.  If you missed it, they have started referring to this as The First Annual Lifestyle Show, and plans for next year are already in the works.  I wouldn't  hesitate to go back.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Grab the Tiger by the Tail

Last year, for the first time since I started painting, I found myself with no specified day and time to go somewhere to paint each week. I knew that no matter how much I planned to just keep that time period to paint in, I'd probably never get around to it on my own at home, even with the best intentions.  I set myself up with a multitude of projects with deadlines, just to make sure I would continue to paint.

Why that worked so well last year, and not this year, I have no idea.  All I know is I've hardly painted anything in 2014. 

One of the first projects I did last year was sent to a lady with small dogs. It was supposed to be one of hers, and it was followed by several others also given to the owners of the animals. She must have missed seeing me share what I had been painting this year, because back at the beginning of July she posted a photo of a tiger on Facebook, and told me I should paint it. I told her since it was neither her photo, nor mine, I'd have to get permission first.  It was not my intention to paint it, but I didn't mention that. A day or so later, she e-mailed me back with a copy of the permission she had acquired, for me to paint from the photograph. The photo was from the and they said, "Sure, send us a photo of the painting. We would love to see it."  

This past month I started gathering with friends again, to paint one morning each week. I needed a project, and remembered this tiger picture.  I figured, why not?  

 I have been informed that this tiger is one called 
 Shere Khan. He was a big boy (weighing in at about 750lb), and  he loved swimming. He just recently passed away and is greatly missed.You can learn more about him and other beautiful felines at
I'm out of practice, and this picture presented me with a few challenges, which is always good. The final product isn't at the same level I left off at last year, but that's what I get for not practicing. Still,  I think, when my youngest grandson has outgrown the bunny I painted him in the past, he might like this for his room.

 Someone suggested it might be too scary, but I don't think so.  What say you?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Eggs in Tomatoes

Those of us who grow tomatoes know they can get ahead of you if you aren't careful, so we  are always looking for ways to use them up. I tend not to want to can or freeze them as I don't really grow that many anyway.  I know it's best not to put them in the refrigerator, as the flavour is much better if you don't. We really enjoy fresh tomatoes and have had a lot of toasted tomato sandwiches in recent weeks, as well as a good variety of salads and other dishes that contain tomatoes.  This week I found a new way to use them that I just had to try out.

First you need a tomato that is about 3 inches in diameter.  One of my plants grows beefsteak tomatoes, so I was all set.

Then you need to cut the top off, and hollow out the seeds and pulp.  Put the tomato shell into a small bowl.

Break and egg into another small bowl and add an 1/8 of a teaspoon of dried basil, and a pinch of both salt and pepper.  Beat well, and pour this mixture into the tomato.

Sprinkle the egg with up to a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese, if you care to, and replace the lid you cut off the tomato. 

Microwave for 2 minutes on the Roast (7) setting of your microwave. 
In my case, I just sprinkled some Parmesan on to give it the flavour, but used nowhere near the tablespoon full. I might next time, or I might just put some mozzarella on it, as I often do with microwaved scrambled eggs.  I didn't do a good job of cutting the irregular top off, so I simply used a piece of wax paper to cover it while cooking, and that worked just fine.  I know basil and tomatoes go together, but I'm not sure if I'll add that next time, but there definitely will be a next time.  I enjoyed this as a breakfast, but I'm sure it could be part of an interesting lunch.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Preparing for Next Year's Tomato Crop

In 1872,  Lewis Carroll wrote, in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--"

Today I want to talk about saving tomato seeds.

It's easy to go and buy new tomato seeds in the spring and start the plants yourself, or just buy the plants already growing, and ready to pop into your garden. But what if someone gives you a tomato that you can't find seeds for in a regular store, and nobody you know sells the plants?  I had this
happen to me a couple of years ago when I was handed a strange looking tomato to take home, and told that it was a heritage tomato called a Bullsheart.  It wasn't round like most tomatoes I was used to seeing, but more elongated, with a pointy bottom.  Kind of like a Roma, but much bigger.  I found it tasted better than any of the other six varieties that I grew that year, and decided to save the seeds.

Tomato seeds are coated in a gelatinous substance and you have to go through a little procedure before you can dry them out for the
following year.  I cut the tomato in half, around the equator, not end to end, so that it was easy to get at the seeds. I scooped them into a jar, and added an inch of water, then covered the jar, and waited a few days.  The gel dissolved and the good seeds sank to the bottom of the jar. Then I carefully scooped all the stuff that was floating on top out of the jar, and drained what was left through a fine siv. I rinsed the seeds with fresh water until they were nice and clean.  They were then dumped out onto a coffee filter and left to dry several days.

I have planted the seeds I've saved for the past couple of years and am happy to report that this year these plants produced better than any of my other varieties, and I still like their flavour best of all.

Last year I got them planted a bit late, and ended up with a tomato that wasn't ripe by the time the frost came along. I brought it in and kept it until it ripened, holding my breath, afraid it wouldn't or that the seeds would not be viable.  This year I made sure I got them planted in plenty of time, and I'm quite pleased with my self and the results.  I have already started to save the seeds from this years crop, and thought perhaps, even if you didn't get some strange tomato from a friend or a farmer's market, you might like to try it too. of the vendors at a local farmer's market does seem to have a variety of heritage tomatoes.  I should go see if there is something else there I'd like to try this process with.

I may need to dig a large garden next year.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Smaller Is Not Necessarily Better

When I first moved into this house, 38 years ago, there was no wildlife to be seen in this neighbourhood at all. The only evidence of life, other than humans and plants, was the the early morning sound of a rooster crowing about a block away.

Things have changed.

Keep in mind, I do live in a village, and creatures have to cross roads to get to me. They often have to pass houses with dogs too. Heck, I had one myself for 16 years, but that didn't seem to have any effect.

First we got the deer. They ate my tulips, and later much of my vegetable garden, until I finally gave up trying to grow many of the things they seemed particularly fond of. Then the squirrels came along, and not long after that we had a skunk who walked beneath our bedroom window every night about 11PM. One year there was a groundhog in my neighbour's yard, but he never came over here. I did see a family of ducks walk across my front lawn and through my flower garden once, and I found evidence that a bear had come to visit my apple tree, in the back yard, one other time. A beaver came out of the drain pipe at the end of the street, and chopped down my purple sand cherry bush, despite the fact that I'm a good six blocks from the water.  The raccoons arrived last year, but so far they are more interested in my neighbour's house than mine. I hope it stays that way. The creature that we've had to deal with this month is a chipmunk. 

Squirrels are fine. They may take their share of my apples, but that's okay as I always have more than enough of those. Chipmunks, on the other hand, are nervy little devils. They have been known to scoot between my hubby's legs when he's busy welding. That could startle a person at just the wrong moment. They can also do a lot of damage to vehicular wiring, even if you drive that vehicle every day. Their burrowing activity can cause significant structural damage by undermining foundations, concrete patios, steps, and sidewalks. They may also be destructive to gardens when they dig up and eat bulbs and seeds. They are not something I want hanging around here.

Our house has a garage that was built on later, and this year a chipmunk discovered that there was a narrow crack between the two buildings. It then took on the job of excavating a new home underneath garage floor.  The little critter has dug out a great deal of dirt, which is how we knew what was going on.

First we shoved the dirt back into the hole, but that was a waste of time. Then we stuffed the hole with rocks and even steel wool, which works well for mice, but apparently not for chipmunks. Mice use their teeth, of course, while chipmunks use their front feet.  No matter what we put in the hole, it just dug it back out.

We put out a mouse trap, right in front of where he kept making a hole, and he threw a rock at it to disable it. 

Then we tried filling the hole with cement.  The chipmunk dug under that.

That did it.  It was time to get a live trap.  But just for good measure we filled the hole in one more time.  Then, after spending close to $40 on the trap, there was no sign of the darn critter for several days. My hubby thought perhaps he'd trapped it inside the hole the last time he filled it in, but I figure, if the chipmunk can dig inwards, it can dig itself out too.  It certainly had made a big enough cavity by then, if you went by how much dirt had been thrown out of the hole over time.

We had just felt that the chipmunk was finally gone, one way or another, when suddenly there he was, inside the trap.  But not, of course, until he had dug out a lot more dirt. He has been moved to a new neighbourhood, in the countryside, where he will have to work hard to not only build a new home, but also gather a whole new store of food for the winter.

I do hope this is the end of this story.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Vacations Altered, Not Spoiled

My vacation is over, and for the third time our intention to get to Nova Scotia has failed.  Not that we have never been there, but in recent years we just don't seem to make it to our planned destination.

The first time we tried, we thought we'd do the Lighthouse Tour along the Atlantic shore of Nova Scotia. We ended up doing what I like to call the All Saints Tour, along the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy.  (St. Stephens, St Andrews, St. George, St John and St Martins).  That was a lovely trip, but we needed to try again to get to Nova Scotia. 

Last year we decided to take the American Route, which we had never done before. We took our time and enjoyed Vermont and New Hampshire, and then the weatherman mentioned a big storm closing in. We thought we'd best get out of the mountains before that happened, and looked east, only to discover there was going to be a big storm out there too.  We looked back towards home, and the weather was going to be fine, so we headed for home and finished off our vacation doing day trips. That was also a lovely vacation, even if not the one we planned.

The thing is, we are getting older, and we want to do the Lighthouse tour before the lighthouses all disappear. They are no longer needed, now that the ships are equipped with all the modern technology....GPS's and such.  Many of the lighthouses have now been decommissioned, and I don't know how long the public can keep them up. Also, this year we had a reliable vehicle, so it seemed a perfect time to make another stab at it.

We were all packed to go, but once again, the weatherman got in the way. Perhaps if technology didn't allow me to see the day by day forecast anywhere I choose to look, we might have just gone and ended up there in the rain. But that would have cost a lot, and would have been no fun. We don't go somewhere to sit in a hotel and watch the rain. We like to explore....outdoors!

With the trip cancelled, we set about amusing ourselves with one of those Staycations you hear so much about.  First we went to Cornwall, and visited with a relative who has recently taken up residence in a retirement home. On the way ate at a favorite little café in Morrisburg, run by some humorous older ladies. It's aptly named The Basket Case and I highly recommend it. On the way home, we decided to try the new Shirtless Joe's, in Kemptville. That was a long full day away from home and definitely vacation time for me since I didn't have to cook or clean up afterwards.

Then we went in the opposite direction, to Picton, by way of highway 15. It was a beautiful day and we had plenty of time to view the scenery along the way as we found a great deal of this route was under construction. We discovered that it must be part of the job requirements to be a young blonde female if you want to work as a flag person these days.

The annual craft show is held on a Thursday at the Picton Fair grounds, as the venders all head to Barrie for the long weekend. (Mmmm....we haven't been up there for a long time. Maybe next year...if we don't get to go to Nova Scotia for some reason.)

The craft show has 200 vendors, in three buildings and also lots of tents set up outside.  The first time we went it took us a long time to work our way through the offerings as so many of them were new to us. This time it didn't take nearly as long, and we didn't find anything to bring home.  Well, I did see something I would love to have had, but I somehow managed to talk myself out of spending the money for something so purely ornamental.

We took the ferry across when we left, and followed the St Lawrence route back to Kingston. After supper at Montanas,  we looked up a friend who runs a karate dojo, and then another who used to be one of our own students.


On Saturday we took in the Crosby Flea Market. If you ever want to stock up on books, that's the place to go. Many of their other items are also lower in price than you'll find them for anywhere else too. I picked up a few things on this visit, including a lovely tea set for just $5.  As you can see, it goes perfectly with my kitchen.  Who can resist a bargain like that? We tried to eat at the nice restaurant that used to be in Portland, but it's been closed. We settled for some fries from a chip wagon and then spent the afternoon geocaching along the route home.

The next day we went to Rideau Carleton for dinner and the races. This is something we enjoy doing, but it was the first time we were ever unable to get a program for the races.  Somehow we managed to win every race we bet on anyway. The waiter brought us a program that someone else left behind, and we didn't do nearly as well with all that vital information at hand. Once again, too much information managed to spoil things a bit.

Monday the weather was nice so we decided to go off geocaching again, this time along the St Lawrence between Maitland and Brockville, before stopping for supper in at Swiss Chalet in Brockville.

Wednesday we took the 1000 Islands Cruise from Rockport.  This quaint village was once the hub of activity in an era when millionaires made their summer homes amongst the islands. These days it seems to attract artists and tourists.

We had a 2 hour stop over to explore Boldt Castle on Heart Island. Things have sure changed there since the last time we visited.

 Much more restoration work has been done and it's still ongoing.

 You can now go all the way up to the 4th floor, though the top two floors look much like the castle did when we went before.

The bottom two floors are all nicely restored and furnished now.

I was a little disappointed that we could no longer go up into the old "Playhouse" but I think there are likely too many people now to make that possible, traffic wise, on those narrow stairways.

The following day we took our oldest grandson geocaching, as he's been asking to go. We started him on this 6 years ago, when he was only 3. He gets exclusive use of my old GPS now, and really seems to enjoy the experience. We stopped in Manotick for Pizza part way through the day.

We had one day to do our own thing, as my hubby went off golfing with one of his brothers and a friend, while I joined a friend of mine for tea at her home.

 The following day we decided to visit our favorite local Chinese buffet, The King Star, on Hwy 15,  and got home just in time to receive visitors from Cornwall.

We finished off the vacation by going to brunch at a place we had heard about but never been to before. Woody's Place, in North Augusta. There was a wide variety of things to choose from, though you wanted to leave room for some of the very tempting desserts that were on display on the bar. 

I had a great vacation as I hardly ever had to cook, and I certainly didn't do any housework during those two weeks. Of course, I'm scurrying around now trying to put the place back in order. 

As it turned out, the weatherman was wrong. Friends in the east insist the weather was fine and we could have gone after all. But we don't regret our decision. We enjoyed our explorations, our socializing and eating entirely too much food.  Staycations work just fine.