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.