Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Nutella Plot

Lest there be any question, there are no spoilers for any movies or novels involved in this blog. Nor am I writing about a cemetery location. The title "The Nutella Plot" refers to, among other things, Nutella. You know, that creamy, chocolatey, hazelnut spread that's so popular on crepes, beaver tails, and of course toast. Recently, as you've most likely heard, it has become the target of choice for research studies about palm oil.

I'm not suggesting it's a great substitute for well, almost anything else on bread. After all, the first ingredient is the greatly and deservedly maligned sugar. Sugar...that substance that will give you a flotation device around the centre of your body. Having said that, again, it's like anything else..fine when used occasionally and in moderation. This means, it's not a good option for slathering on and licking off large surfaces. Enough said.

I do think the latest news about Nutella and cancer is a plot. I believe that either the Russians, or Donald Trump, or both are involved. Who knows, it might even have come from a Nutella competitor. There are enough out there, although that's probably less likely than the first two suspects.

Did you know that world Nutella day is coming up on February 5th? I'm not sure what that means exactly, but that's how popular this stuff is. It has its own day.  I have my own day, Hildegard day on September 17th, but I don't suppose anybody really knows, cares, or sees that as much cause for celebration.

Would you believe there was even an Italian stamp sporting a jar of Nutella, issued a few years ago?

Note to self - Check to see if there was ever a Hildegard stamp.

So apparently, according to google, wikipedia, or some other semi reliable source,  Nutella contains 10% palm oil. This is a highly saturated vegetable fat that's potentially cancer causing when oxidized and consumed in massive proportions by rats who are also fed a high fat diet. In other words, it's
lethal for humans who devour daily doses of hamburgers, steaks, and french fries with a Nutella topping. Oh...and too, just to clarify,  it contains 58% sugar. Where's the hysteria about that?

Many processed foods, chocolate bars, ice creams, pizza doughs, cookies and baked goods contain palm oil, as do lipsticks, soaps and shampoos.  So why pick on Nutella?  Palm oil is not a product that has been banned by any food and drug organization.

There's another more relevant palm oil issue here in my opinion. Apparently, its production has caused deforestation and wreaked havoc on animal habitats. It is not produced using sustainable measures particularly in areas such as Malaysia and Indonesia, countries which produce 85% of palm oil. The World Wildlife Fund is certainly concerned, particularly since the equivalent of three hundred football fields of rainforest lands are cleared every hour, thus making way for palm oil production. The orangutan and Sumatran tiger are only two of the species in danger of becoming extinct in the next few years.

So, what to do? Let's stop picking on Nutella for the time being. Rather, let's eliminate use of
palm oil. Let's remove it from products altogether, not for it's "possible" link to cancer, but rather for
the far more reaching consequences. Shouldn't we first be concerned about greenhouse gases and the effects to our environment, deforestation, extinction of animals and rainforests, our climate, and our air?


***Picture of misc. spreads from Google images and the Washington Post

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lost and Found

A couple of years before my father's death, he and his spouse decided to downsize. They were going to sell many of their possessions and move into a condo. My dad was a bit of a collector...technical books, photos/camera equipment, electronics, records and cds, trains, and musical instruments.

I remember dad's excitement many years earlier when he found his father's, (my opa's ) old mandolin while cleaning out the homestead in Germany. I have photos of my opa and the mandolin when he was a member of various music groups in the earlier part of the 1900's. I too was excited by the find.

Dad kept the mandolin safe and sound with his collection of instruments...guitars, keyboards, drums, violin, autoharp, recorders, and whatever else he could get his hands on. He had a music room in the house. Whereas he learned the guitar at a young age and was, as so many young men a member of a band, he later taught himself to play all the rest of the instruments.

I didn't want to appear that I was coveting anything so I didn't really make a big deal out of their belongings. Unlike my much wiser son, who laid claim to several valuable items including a monkey sculpture pondering a human skull, a Sapporo beer can that dad had turned into a lamp and a piece of art sporting an assortment of copper musicians on a black background.

I had however, always said, "I don't really want anything except my grandpa's mandolin."

I somehow had the idea that the mandolin would be in dad's possession despite their move. I discovered one day as they proudly announced that they had a successful house contents sale that the mandolin was gone. I was shocked and saddened particularly since most of the other instruments were still there. Realistically, I had no use for a mandolin. On the other hand, it had history, family history.

After his death, I did acquire a few items that had once been dad's. Among them was a twelve string guitar. I have no idea when or where he purchased it, but research, and ebay helped me determine that its value wasn't huge. It sat on a shelf in the basement for years, until one day, I decided it needed to be dusted off and sold. As I tipped it over, out fell a scrap of paper with a name, telephone number and a cash offer.

I sucked up my "let's phone this stranger and see if he still exists" courage, and made the call, speaking in double time in order to avoid sounding like a telemarketer. The gentleman whose name was on the paper still existed. He didn't hang up on me.

"Yes," said a male voice. "I believe I remember the guitar, the gentleman selling it, and the music room where all the instruments were. I'd be interested in seeing the guitar.  I have a collection In fact, I also purchased a mandolin from him."

"My grandpa's mandolin!" I shouted with excitement, shocked over the coincidence.

"Yes, I was thrilled with it. It's safe and has a prime spot on my wall," he responded. "I'll let you see it if you want", he added.

"That would be amazing," I answered.


A few days later, guitar in tow,  I knocked at the door of a friendly retired man who was eager to share his stories and show me his own "collector" room. He had  milk bottles, posters, and a number of instruments in his collection. It was a wonderful display.

He showed me where the mandolin hung proudly, and explained the origin of many of his other valuables. Then he told me his son was interested and would be inheriting the instruments one day.

Somehow, this all seemed right. I was happy. He allowed me to take photos. I had closure.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Be Aware...More Scams

I've written several posts about scams. I've had calls claiming to be from Microsoft and wanting to access our computers. I've been phoned by someone saying they're from Canada Revenue. Nope, they don't phone people. I have even received a call saying it was the police, my son was in an accident, and I should send money. Disgusting. I have not as yet received the "buy i-tunes gift cards and give us the numbers." I hope it doesn't come, lest I be tempted to use unbecoming language on Mr. Bell's most indispensable invention.

(Previous blogs - There were four. Here are two of them. ( "Frauds and Scams" 9/10/11, "Warning! Scam Alert" 4/18/15)

If only the crooks participating in these activities would spend their time and intelligence on a real job. They clearly have skills.

These frauds are such serious problems affecting far too many vulnerable people. Is there a solution? Who knows? Here's my latest.

I have recently received three emails claiming to be from Bank of Montreal. Let's be clear, banks don't send emails asking for personal information. I even went to the bank website to double check this. Oh, these emails all look very realistic...official BMO looking logo.

The subject line in my most recent email looked like this.
                                      Security Protocol: D83D_01-003.A

The return address was -   em01198@security.bmo.co

Here are examples of  the email contents. Official looking, yes. Fraud, also yes.

#1 Some people might even notice that the language is slightly stilted and unlikely from the suggested source. Eg. " In the date of..."; "a higher layer of security";  "your precious time";  and of course, "security comes in first place".




#2 This one actually came with the option to unsubscribe at the bottom. Unfortunately, clicking on that only took you to an advertisement for dog food. Interesting use of the word "till" in a formal letter, then, later, "until your account will be active". No signature or name at the end makes it look even more suspicious.


#3  Finally, the third is very strange.  "Complete a very easy subscribement". Really? Some crook's google translator has let them down unless this is a new word in the urban dictionary. Perhaps it could become word of the year for 2017. I'm glad to see that my time once again is "precious".

 I realized the possibility of a blog as a service to people who might be wondering if this is legitimate. It isn't. The following is copied from the BMO website.


Report Online Fraud
If you receive a suspicious email from a member of BMO Financial Group, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, report the suspicious email to online.fraud@bmo.com and contact us immediately.

My personal preference would be to telephone or go the the bank. I've become too suspicious. How do I know even the above site and email address are legitimate?



Saturday, January 7, 2017

Happy New Year 2017...This Week

I haven't had much to say for a long time. I think I got tired of writing. Is that even possible? Do real writers ever get tired of writing? I suppose it's like any other job. Sometimes, they just get burned out. My excuse? Who knows?

It's 2017. I can't even believe I'm saying that. Last year was so eventful, and busy right until Christmas, we might end up writing a Happy New Year, rather than a Christmas letter...no cards were sent this past year.

New year's eve was lovely. We had dinner at our favourite local Japanese restaurant. Sadly, it will be closing up at the end of January as they are moving closer to family in Port Dover. Hubby always said, "That restaurant is too good for this town."

The town's First Night activities were a bit of a washout because of heavy showers, so we didn't take a chance standing around and waiting to see if the fireworks might happen. Instead, we spent the latter part of the evening at home.

The year has been wonderful so far...one week in. I'm thankful that I didn't wake up with hives on New Year's Day as I did last year. In fact, I've felt happier and more energetic than I have in awhile. In only one week, I have accomplished much. There are no resolutions except to be more positive and refrain from succumbing to the senior tendency toward negativity and grumpiness.... not always easy to do when you're aging.

January 1st was spent at the Metro Toronto Zoo. The weather was magnificent...clear, sunny, 6C...mild by our January standards. My fitbit says we walked 4.18 miles...that's miles, not kilometres...not bad. We met up with friends who enjoy this activity as an annual New Year's Day event and we all had a fantastic time...no lineups, no crowds.

Later this week, I took the train to Toronto and got my hair cut at Fiorio in Yorkville. Then, wandered and looked in specialty shops and boutiques with my friend. The highlight for me was seeing a Dr. Seuss exhibit at the Liss gallery. The child in me always manages to show. We had a delicious lunch at a pub with New Zealand-esque decor, called Hemingway's. End result, great hair, 12,500 fitbit steps and 43 flights of stairs.Yes, folks, the old buildings in Yorkville have no elevators and are not for the feeble or timid. 















Since the weather has held up and there's been no need to hibernate, there have been several other events and outings already. I suppose I'm especially appreciating that, since January is often touted as the most depressing month, and as we age, we become more conscious of wasting time.

So what does 2017 hold for us? Who knows. Let's just hope it's a great year for all. Let's make the best of it no matter what life holds. Happy New Year.

***Thanks to Adam and Denise for these photos.

Friday, November 18, 2016

"The Goods", The Bads, The Uglies...My Perspective

I had lost my motivation to write further blogs. Despite having travelled to many places, having celebrated another birthday, and having experienced some wonderful things, blogging wasn't happening. A splash of photos and a couple of comments on Facebook were sufficient for me...until this past week that is.

Interesting how one event can inspire, by triggering memories, and invoking feelings.
Historical photo borrowed from:
http://www.fybush.com/site-020905.html

Ye olde channel 6 test pattern
I grew up around the CBC. My dad was a long time employee, so, from a very young age, I was afforded opportunities to see the making of a variety of tv shows. I was a regular audience member at "Razzle Dazzle", and met the likes of Alan Hamel long before there was a Suzanne Somers. I was familiar with announcer Lloyd Robertson, long before there was CTV. At that time, the CBC was on Jarvis St. They had a broadcast tower that resembled a mini Eiffel. At 540 feet it was the tallest free standing structure in Toronto and a source of great pride for the city. Since it was also an easy to locate landmark,  I often met dad there and accompanied him home after work. I was an independent young kid who often explored downtown. Toronto was safe.

The process of creating any kind of broadcast programming still fascinates me. As it turns out, not much has changed. I've seen the occasional production during my adult years. Some have been good (see blog March 31, 2011 "Monday With Mona, Then Marilyn") and some have been bad eg. Caesar's Challenge, a game show produced briefly in Las Vegas in 1993.

Lots of advertising
A friend of mine, who now shares my retirement affliction, and I, are frequently in search of inexpensive yet fulfilling entertainment. I applied to several tv shows at the CBC, CTV, and City. We received a quick response with tickets for the new show "The Goods", at the CBC in downtown Toronto. It has been located at a spectacular new facility on Front St. since 1993. We attended on Monday for an episode to be aired on December 6th.

At the risk of never being allowed to set foot into the building again, I will describe our experience prior to, and during the making of the show. Our 1:45 arrival time was changed to 2:30. No problem. We amused ourselves by taking photos. (In hindsight, their free museum might have been a blast from the past and an entertaining time waster).
We've seen him in Newfoundland.
 He's not that tall.
Oft filmed in Cobourg...ooh...he's apparently
here again on the 21st and 22nd of November.

When the time came, we lined up as suggested along the wall. Although we were near the front, the ticket stated that it was not "first come first served". We wondered what that meant. We also heard people asking aloud whether anyone had ever seen the show. Uh oh.

After standing on our elderly feet for more than forty minutes our curiosity was allayed. The audience manager, organizer type person and her twelve year old sidekick collected all the best looking, youngest people, removed them from the queue, and escorted them to the 6th floor on the first elevator shuttle. Meanwhile, we made friends with a lovely couple from St. Catharines. The gentleman didn't really want to be there, but he bravely accompanied his wife on this expedition. He seemed to appreciate all our clowning and jokes.

When our group's turn finally came, we went up the elevator to the sixth floor into a warehouse type facility. Here, we were herded into a large group and stood for another forty five minutes. We did have a few Steven Sabados sightings but none were long enough to focus a camera in his direction.  My friend suggested that they might be trying to deter seniors from coming to their show with the endless standing, not a chair in sight. Meanwhile, I noted that the first "attractive" group was still segregated into a triangular shaped compound, also waiting. No  special privileges were noted as yet. We continued to joke with our new friends until it was finally time to enter the studio (almost 4 p.m. at this point). At least this long standing time helped us appreciate our seating arrangement.
Lovely audience co-ordinator and assistant
The hosts...Jessi Cruickshank, Steven Sabados, Andrea Bain, Shahir Massoud.
The studio was huge and impressive with laminate flooring, birch tree backgrounds, and three areas of seating. We were asked, "How many?" and immediately changed our answer of two, to four. After all, almost two hours of burning feet, gabbing and laughing with people creates somewhat of a bond. The first group was, as suspected, seated in the front row. We...well, we were hidden in the back but on the end...aisle seats and beside. Perfect for all of us, particularly the gentleman who hoped nobody back home would likely see him.


There's not much to report about the show which, as I mentioned can be seen on t.v. on December 6th. We practiced clapping because nobody had ever applauded before. Smattering of men first, with women joining in to the excitement a few seconds later. The stars came out, shook a few hands and sat on a beige sofa. Several scenes were "cut" and redone because of errors not noticeable to the average human eye. We were given a happiness test part way through the process and were encouraged to wave our papers in the air when asked. I don't remember doing this because by this point, I'm fairly certain I'd dozed off. Speaking of dozing off, there was a segment entitled "Beauty Sleep" were three hosts were in a bed while the fourth slathered the with an assortment of creamy goops. Appropriate daytime programming?
I was70% happy based on some really dumb questions.
I was snoozing during the show. It didn't help.










During commercial breaks we got to play games for fabulous prizes. In fact, the Toronto Star, Oct. 3, 2016 described it perfectly...

 "... between games of musical chairs, balloon toss, Hula Hoop and Who Am I,  you feel you’ve been trapped in Chuck E. Cheese for three hours." 

I know that the CBC has a limited budget, but I'd like to suggest they skip these wonderful opportunities to win one Hershey's kiss, a hair brush, a disposable razor, a cookbook, or a box of condoms. I got the sense that some staff were either cleaning their bathrooms or made a quick trip to the dollar store to provide these remarkable items. I suppose the big prize was the cat toilet trainer which fits atop of your human throne. Or perhaps, it was the one which I got....lucky #38 on the back of my chair...a pizza warmer.

Having said all this, we did have an entertaining day in the city. Lunch at Joe Badali's, the free show, and short armed me...carrying around a giant pizza box toward the GO train at rush hour.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Back to Random Stuff

I haven't been writing again. I'm unsure why. There's always enough time in 24 hours to squeeze in even a bit of production...15 minutes a day is suggested as a minimum for wannabe Hemingways, Twains, Shakespeares, and the like.  I'm fairly certain that these gentlemen dedicated much more than this amount of time to their craft, since they were unlikely to be taking care of much other business. My favourite approach has to be the Hemingway. It involves such activities as travelling to Paris, Africa, Florida, and sitting in Cuban hotel rooms, drinking, writing, wandering, smoking, drinking and writing some more.

I think that perhaps I created a certain amount of pressure for myself in the previous blog when I committed to writing more about Iceland and parts of Europe. I didn't want to continue. The photos alone take forever to insert into blogs. That's time consuming and boring for me, so I thought it time to go back to the basics. It also occurred to me that anything I'd write could be found elsewhere on the internet, so why bother?

Instead, I want to get back to my favourite blather, insights (feeble when compared to the world's great thinkers), nonsense, recipes, book reports, and fun. That's not to say there won't be future travelogs, Galapagos, Bora Bora...maybe even Iceland Part 2...just not right now.

For me, writing can be therapeutic. The pressure to write or produce (especially in retirement) is not.

This week, a woman kept staring and smiling at me. She was a cashier at Canadian Tire where I waited patiently in line. When it was my turn to deposit my monthly purchase of that magical clean-all Lestoil on the counter, she smiled and said, "You're the one."  http://rockinrobinsramblings.blogspot.ca/2015/10/indispensable-products-i-know-and-love.html 

My puzzled look and the fact that I seemed eager to find out whether I'd won a prize, encouraged her to elaborate.

"You're the one who writes the newspaper column aren't you?"

I answered with, "I was. I mean, I am, but I no longer do them." I wondered whether I should elaborate or whether I even owed an explanation for abandoning this activity.

"Oh," she responded looking disappointed.

My point, and there is one, is that even though I was only contributing one column a month for a couple of years, the pressure to produce existed. There was a deadline, and there was the dreaded word count (I always went over and was unceremoniously edited, often turning my words to nonsense). I hate that. I'm not sure whether it reminds me more of school, or work, or school work. It's something I don't want or need in my life now. There's enough stress in just getting basic day to day things done.

So, no pressure. I'll write when I write. I'll write what I want. It will be long, short, ridiculous, interesting, or not. I don't really have followers so it's all about me. That's how it's going to be from here on in.



Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Golden Circle, Iceland - Part 1

I realized after many hours of working on this Golden Circle blog, that it would have to be subdivided into parts, just as my Reykjavik ones were. Here's part one of what might be two or three.

Sadly, we did not have the best of weather when travelling this famed, 300 km route. It was approx. 10-12 C with unusual precipitation. We were told that the rain never comes down so heavily, nor does it come straight down, but rather from the side. On this day, July 25th, 2016, the weather created some new rules. Nonetheless, it was easy to see how spectacular the landscape was. Our host and tour guide, knew the way well. He also took us to off the beaten track points of interest, and a small town where we enjoyed a spectacular lunch.

I noted with interest that the Icelanders are very protective of their environment. For example, the beaches are not to be driven on. In fact, vehicles are only allowed to go where there are tracks. I think there are a lot of rules which tourists need to learn. I recently read that some tourists had to pay 800 Euros for entering a restricted area. I was also surprised to read about the many tourist accidents and fatalities particularly on the roads. Most likely, isolation is a contributing factor. It's not easy to get help when something goes wrong on a deserted road, and cell phone reception is minimal.

 As we left Kopavogur the sense of a barren landscape was obvious. Except for some errant sheep, it was truly eerie and deserted. At one point, hubby announced, "How can there be random wandering sheep without a farm house anywhere in sight?"
Creations made specifically for tourists are for sale
Our host readily responded with, "There are farm houses wayyyyyyy on the other side, away from the road. In the summer, the sheep are allowed to roam free."
We passed one postcard like farm area
As we approached an area that looked particularly scenic, we pulled off the road to marvel at the volcanic black beach sand.












Although it was beginning to rain heavily, we stopped in an area of interest somewhere between Kopavogur and Arborg for a photo op and some bubbling lava. Pictures are limited because of my new camera and unusual precipitation.


 After the lava stop, we approached the Strandarkirkja, in Selvogur. It was a Lutheran Church built in 1888, and facing the sea to protect travellers. The original church was erected on this site in the 12th century when a group of sailors prayed to navigate the rough waters and promised to put a church wherever they landed. It is said that many miracles have been attributed to this church and as a result, the church became quite wealthy from donations. There is a sculpture entitled "Land in Sight". It faces Angel's Bay and commemorates the church's founding. There are also elf houses behind the church and cemetery.  These are an essential consideration in any Icelandic landscape.




It was time for lunch. How fortunate we were to have a host who knew his way around Iceland and also great restaurants. We stopped at a fishing village  (pop. around 600), formerly a major trading port, called Eyrarbakki. It is known for historic buildings, great food, and a prison Litla -Hraun (prisoners are not counted in the population) which is the largest in Iceland. 


One building, now a museum in the village dates back to 1765 and is the oldest timber dwelling in Iceland. It once belonged to a wealthy Danish merchant and his staff. 
We dined at the Rauda Husio (Red House), another historical building. The seafood chowder, the lobster tail appetizers, the breads and the salads were fantastic, 





Thursday, August 25, 2016

Iceland:Impressions, Insights, Incredible. Reyjkavik-Part 2

One of the highlights of visiting Reyjkavik was being able to sit outside in a common area and enjoy a goody from a local bakery prior to going to the famed Hallgrimskirkja. Besides that, it gave us a break from walking uphill toward what was surely one of the most imposing sights we've ever seen.












To me, the building looked a lot like a space shuttle, ready for takeoff. After entering the church, we purchased an admission ticket to go to the top of the observation tower. It cost only a few dollars and was well worth the price.

Statue of Leif Erikson, discoverer of America
in front of church.
The bottom line..not right when money is
 paid for tower admission

From this high vantage point, we could see the surrounding neighbourhood including this interesting grass roofed restaurant, and good view of the city in general.

 As we searched for the downtown city hall area, we walked past many magnificent houses, art installations, a sculpture garden, shops, and restaurants. Everything was different, but not totally unfamiliar. I developed a renewed fascination for Vikings, trolls, and folklore.
Many sculptures appeared burdened...as if carrying heavy weights




Lovely gardens and sculptures all around.
Children in Iceland play. They spend  much time outdoors and
use their imaginations. This is what impressed me most.
Centrally located and a good landmark - Hallgrimskirkja

Hand knitted woollen products abound.


I have been one and I loved it.
Meeting Vikings...dream vacation



In the evening, we attended a show at the famed Harpa, a conference hall and conference centre which opened in 2011. It was a one man comedy performance entitled "How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes." We enjoyed the surroundings of this beautiful building, then laughed heartily at the show presented by Bjarni Haukur Thorsson. We had already had some of the experiences which were described so it became even more amusing. Besides explaining that all Icelandic names end in "son" or "dottir" eg. his name....Thorsson, meaning son of Thor, he gave us many tips. Here are just a few that I remember. To be an Icelander, it's essential to be rude (explains the airline experience). Embrace the smells (sulphur and other things...lots of wind). Know that the Icelandic horses are special and have five walks while Icelandic people have two. Argue - think big-you know you're right (they have 7 political parties and a huge national debt). Give vague directions (had this experience many times). Learn to say the name of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull (he showed a video clip of varied newscasters stumbling over the name).

Here's a similar cute clip I found on youtube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uCKSYTH-4o
Lovely  modern architecture
Street view




We graduated
Back of the Harpa