Monday, December 31, 2012

Let's End the Year with Some Laughs and Blog #100

I have a friend who told me last week that I was close and that I needed just a few more writings to get to 100 blogs this year. I hadn't realized this but it motivated me to take the time and compose some more pieces. With this blog I have officially reached number one hundred for 2012.

I'm going to cheat a little and share a website for some fun. Many people know that I am a stickler when it comes to grammar and spelling. That's not to say that I don't make my share of errors. I do. (Don't start searching through my blogs now either) I do not however, make many basic, obvious or stupid mistakes.

I confess that I'm dismayed when I read a newspaper and find ridiculous errors which have not been caught. What ever happened to editors? Where are the proof readers?  I have often been tempted to walk into a news office and offer my services. Why is it that papers require their writers to have journalism degrees, but not a good working knowledge of English sentence structure, grammar or spelling?

I came across an amusing newspaper headline on facebook recently and I wanted to read the entire article. I "googled" it. What I found instead was this site. Hilarious. Enjoy and Happy New Year everyone.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Les Misérables & As the Gut Churns

Director Tom Hooper has done it again. Surely he is poised to take over James Cameron's title of  "king of the world". Never, in my career as a movie goer have I experienced over two hours of such intensity. My neck ached, my body quivered and my stomach heaved by the end of the movie "Les Misérables.

The story, by Victor Hugo of Hunchback of Notre-Dame fame, takes place in France during the early 1800's. Life was difficult during that time. It was just after the French Revolution and people were either very wealthy or destitute. There was not much middle ground. The protaganist, Jean Valjean, was a petty thief who was released after almost twenty years of hard labour.

The opening scene is magnificent and all consuming. It sets the stage for the rest of the movie. Hundreds of prisoners, some waist deep in water are pulling on ropes, hauling in a massive ship and singing "Look Down , Look Down". It gave me goosebumps.

After Valjean is released, his life takes a new direction when he has an encounter with a benevolent priest. Valjean changes his name, eventually opens a factory and becomes mayor. Circumstances cause him to make a promise to a young woman, Fantine that he would always look after her daughter Cosette. He is hounded throughout the film by his relentless enemy Inspector Javert.

There is some comic relief provided by the innkeeper and his wife. There are scenes of violence during the student riot. There are scenes which are shocking, scenes that are disturbing, and scenes which will make you cry. The experience is an emotional roller coaster.

This movie combines big name actors with some new, talented, unknown faces. Nevertheless, there is no one, outstanding individual in this film. I think this is a prime example of teamwork, of an ensemble cast that deserves as much recognition as can be given. The vocals are adequate. The singing is of secondary importance. Hooper's idea of having the performers sing "live" as they acted the scenes helps to give the production authenticity. The cinematography is excellent. In the close up shots, the pain, anguish and raw emotion of the characters is obvious. In my opinion, the producer, Tom Hooper is a genius and is academy award bound.

I have never been fortunate enough to see the stage version of the musical "Les Misérables". I'm fairly confident that now, I'll never need to. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Technology, Pins, Usernames, Passwords and When Did I Get So Old?

I'm almost ready to throw in the towel. This is exhausting. I have expressed my thoughts about technology innumerable times.  I've attempted to keep up with the latest and I've been hanging on by a thread. My brain is currently on overload. I think life would be much less stressful if I just quit trying.

I know of people in their forties and fifties who have given up. They don't own a computer and some don't even bother with cell phones. I've seen older people at banks trying to use interac and being taught by bank personnel. Technology comes easily and seems commonplace to the young, as it once did for us. As everything becomes more complex, it is increasingly challenging to keep up. I'm currently being challenged.

From what I can see, my new, larger cell phone performs the tasks of my old one, only less efficiently. The "apps" have not yet endeared themselves to me. I have not had a sudden urge to google, look up my hotmail, investigate facebook, do my banking, or watch a movie on a teeny tiny screen. Nor do I feel compelled to use this device at church, in a restaurant, while visiting friends or in the WC. On a recent car trip, I fiddled with the phone until I located traffic reports. By then, hubby had already heard them on the radio.

Everything nowadays needs to be done online. Not that I have a problem with using a computer, but on the rare occasion when you need an actual person, it's impossible to speak with one. Example, I recently discovered that there are government offices which have been closed except for the one employee hired to sit at a desk in front of an elevator and inform people that the office is closed. "Do it online".

I also found out that there's some magical mystery way of emailing money. Note to self...go to the bank, find a person (I know for a fact they still have some) and learn out about this. How does one email money? How does aforementioned emailed money know into which account to deposit itself ? Is this anything like the emails I get from countries far abroad saying that I have received a gift of a million dollars? Another senior mystery. I'll report back.

Every time I turn around, it's necessary to have a new pin, username or password. Get a cell phone, need a password. Try to retrieve voicemail, need a password. Get an email account or try to register for anything online, need a username and password. Get a satellite dish, need a password. Open a bank account, need a pin number. Three bank accounts? Don't even get me started. What about those credit cards that get mailed along with a secret number in a separate envelope? Don't write it down. It's not safe. Shred it, or better still, eat this paper after memorizing your four digit code. Oh, by the way, you can change the code anytime you another pin. Do not use, 1234. Do not use your birth or other significant date and definitely, do not use your telephone number! Experts warn that you shouldn't use the same pin for all your accounts and credit cards. Your identity could get stolen along with your many dollars. Most likely the ones that have been sent in your email.

"It's no problem retrieving passwords either is it?" I ask sarcastically

It's not as simple anymore as "what was your mother's maiden name?" You have the option of making up your own question, or responding to one of a myriad of potential offerings designed to keep potential crooks baffled. How would a thief ever know what your first car was? I don't even know what my first car was...a question clearly designed by the male of the species for the male of the species. My first school? Well, let's see. Should I select the first one I attended? The first one I attended in Toronto? The first one in which I taught? It doesn't matter. No matter which one I pick, it'll be the wrong one when it comes time to retrieve my password. What about ridiculous choices of questions like "What's your pet's name?" Yeah, right. Like that's top secret information. And of course, it is always recommended that you combine upper and lower case and at least one numeral. Good luck with that.

I never thought I'd be the kind of person who would reminisce about "the good old days". There's a lot to be said for technology. I admit, however, that I do sometimes long for a time when one gadget performed one function, when there were no passwords, usernames or pin numbers and when people were not at the beck and call of their electronic devices. Life was simpler then.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I have to laugh. People are totally getting to know me. I can tell by their gift giving. This just goes to show that it's not true what they say about seniors. We don't have everything and need nothing. I can honestly say that prior to this year, I did not own any of these items. Not only that, I am using or will use every last one. As one of my friends said, "old people don't only need items that have medicinal properties."  How true.

A gift from hubby. This bug is a garden ornament but is so great that I couldn't wait until spring. It now adorns one of my houseplants.

A sleep mask and handwarmers that look like pigs. Who doesn't need these wonderful and unique items? My friend presented them to me. Then we tried to think of as many pig expressions we could..."when pigs fly", "pig in a poke", and "this little piggy..."

I love the socks from my stepdaughter. In fact, they match my favourite nutcracker earrings. I have to ask though, "Do these socks make my dog look fat?"

My son knows that I'm an English language stickler. He got me this book full of amusing photos with captions demonstrating the correct and incorrect use of "quotations". Funny, entertaining, and yet, sad.



And now for the more elegant items. This is a great Terry's boutique string scarf. It has several uses and can be worn many ways. Besides converting to a belt, it can hang down, be tied loosely, knotted tightly and more. The strings contain my favourite colours. It has sparkle and sheen. I've already had compliments on it and I will be wearing it often.

This table cloth and a matching runner came from another friend. Lovely and seasonal.

I hope that everyone has been as blessed as I to have such wonderful friends and family that know me so well. Continued happy holidays to all.

Monday, December 24, 2012

What Do You Want for Christmas?

As I go about what appears to be an unusually hectic schedule of late, the words "What do you want for Christmas?" are a recurring theme. I went to the mall where people were asking their friends, "What did you ask for? What do you want?" At my hair appointment, I overheard "What do you hope to get for Christmas?" I noticed that the response was never anything intangible.
I am not being judgmental or critical. I am not being anti-consumer. I like presents too. They don't have to be huge. One or several small tokens of people's admiration and affection are certainly sufficient for me. After all, we're all kids at heart. Who doesn't love gifts, giving or receiving?
I have a friend who prefers to give gifts. As she says, she doesn't need presents to store away in her cupboards. She buys whatever she needs and wants for herself. She doesn't support causes or want donations on her behalf. Instead, she enjoys giving and making others happy. She likes cooking and baking and sharing her goodies. She loves seeing children's faces during the holidays and witnessing their enthusiasm and excitement. She feels blessed to be in a career where this can happen.
Some couples purchase a common gift, for their home, for example, a shared item which can also be useful for both.
I met a woman in town recently, a bit older, who also said she doesn't need or want anything. She and her friend were giving each other opera tickets, so that they might attend experience enjoyed with a friend.
I suppose as we age, so does our idea of gift giving. I remember when my son was five. He received a snowsuit from his grandparents. He immediately voiced his disapproval, "That's not a present!" he announced loudly. A child's idea of a gift is of course, a toy. Now that he's twenty eight, he had no problem accepting the gift of a vacation from mom, even if it meant going with mom.
Naturally, hearing all these conversations and thoughts have made me think. What do I want for Christmas? It didn't take me long to decide.
I want the gift of time. I want time to spend with my husband and with my family. I want time to spend with my good, loyal and patient friends. I want time to pursue hobbies and do things that I like to do. I want time to enjoy so many more experiences. At this stage of my life, this would be the best gift.
So, what's your answer? What do you want for Christmas?
Wishing all my wonderful friends and family a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year.
And remember these words. "He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree."

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Was Published

Hubby suggested I send my "thief" blog (November 24th), to the newspaper. He said, "It's current and it's timely."

It was published in the November 30th newspaper, a fitting ending to November's blog a day month. Since a large picture of me showed up under my article along with the words "thief", I hope that residents of my town read the whole article and don't just think it was a mugshot.

I've had a few comments about it...all positive.

NorthumberlandNews Article: A thief by any other name is still a thief

I mentioned to a friend today that the last time I won a prize was in January. I was published then too. She assured me there was no correlation between my recent Christmas tree win and the article in the paper. I suppose that's true. Nonetheless, it's an interesting coincidence.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Computer Chaos, Gmail , Blogs and Obsolete Junk

For various reasons which shall remain semi new cell phone...picassa photos...and more, I was forced to create a Gmail account. This account has now taken over my life. In fact, it's a miracle that I was able to get into my blog page at all. Well, actually, not much of a miracle. I used a different computer and was very sneaky. Computers know. Computers communicate with each other. Computers try to get you.

Just to clarify, I'm not paranoid. I am just realizing how many connections are missing...not from the computer but from my brain. So why does my trusty laptop now think I'm a totally different person wanting to create a brand new blog? I don't know. I don't want to try to find out. Basically, it won't let me back into my three year old blog. I might have to start over someplace else soon.

I have developed an old person's perspective. I am entitled. I've seen technology come and go and come and go. Can you say slides, 8 mm, super 8 film, betamax....? The list goes on and I have previously written about much of it.

Hubby recently told me that I'd better get my blogs printed off before they disappear. The thing is, I could save them on a stick, I could save them in a cloud, I could save them....on paper! Paper, what a novel idea. With all this technology changing daily, who's going to bother with other methods? To me, if it's tangible, it exists. If it's on little gadgets, cartridges, sticks or lost in space somewhere, who knows?

Yesterday, my daughter and boyfriend came over. We watched video cassettes of when she was a baby. Video cassettes...something else that will soon create more landfill junk as the capability to view them will no longer exist. Fortunately, we still have a player. Unfortunately, the picture was blurry and distorted on our high def t.v.

So, I shall spend some time printing my old blogs and placing them in a binder. It's not that they're of any huge value to anyone once I'm gone. But the thing is, I might want to amuse myself by reading about my escapades when I'm in "the home". By then, I surely won't have the capability or the opportunity to locate them through some future electronic method.

Friday, November 30, 2012

I Did It !

Today's the last day. Phew. It's been a tough go, but I managed to do a blog a day for one full month as per NaBloPoMo. During this past week, circumstances made my blogs a bit late. For one thing, I haven't figured out what happened to my ability to post pictures on here. I had some frustrations and some delays.

I learned what I already knew. Writing is not easy. Knowing that I had to write each day, I planned ahead. I often had ideas which I roughed out, adding some distant date in November for completion. I also learned that I like to work a little more slowly. I prefer quality to quantity. So that's it. I'm done.

There will still be blogs, just not every day. Having said that, I've already almost completed tomorrow's. Off to a good start in December. Now I just need to get those pictures added!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Turkey Time

On Wednesday, June 30, 2010, I wrote a blog that contained a partial bucket list. The fourth item on my list was to line up at Honest Ed's and take advantage of their annual free turkey giveaway. They have been giving away turkeys in December for twenty five years. This activity has always fascinated me and I have no idea why. I suppose that it's not much different from wanting to line up for bargains on Black Friday or Boxing Day, although I've never had a desire to do either of those. Perhaps it's because I grew up blocks from Honest Ed's and loved going there as a youngster. It's just another experience. When I mentioned it to a bank employee recently, her face lit up with excitement as she told me she'd always wanted to do that too. Perhaps I'm not so strange.

I first paid attention to this giveaway when my life was a little less than comfortable. My children were too young for me to either leave them alone, or to venture out with them to line up for a turkey. We certainly could have used anything free at that time and in fact, often took advantage of local "free sample" opportunities.

Later, I decided I would go once I retired. I haven't made it. I moved farther away from the city and weather does not always make one eager to travel.

This Sunday is Honest Ed's turkey giveaway. I've heard that the weather is going to be spectacular. Perhaps this will be the year for the trek in to the city.

Holiday traditions continue at Honest Ed's: 12,000 lbs of free turkeys - 680News

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ohhhhh Tannenbaum - Part 2

 So my prized tree (Ohhhhh Tannenbaum - Part 1) was going to be revised and personalized. I hauled bins from the downstairs and turned my small living room into a disaster area. I hung some of our own ornaments on the tree and it looked wrong. It became obvious that I needed to remove more "stuff". Off came the huge top of the tree, then the rest of the ribbons. Soon I had stripped all but the lights off the tree. Tired, I decided to clear my mind and try to figure out how to proceed. What better way to clear the mind and think, but to have a cup of tea....with a drop or three of rum in it.

Since giant bows rather than stars, angels or other tree toppers are the style these days, I created my own. It was gorgeous. I rethreaded some ribbon into a bow. This included the colours in our ornaments...not bad so far. Time for bed.

This morning, I walked into the living room and was aghast. I had forgotten about the mess! I wasted no time adding ornaments to the tree. I soon realized that not only did it look bad, but the giant bow at the top, was causing the tree to tilt. Definitely a problem. Annoyed, I once again removed everything from the tree. My living room was a sea of ribbon, sinamay, sparkly picks, leafy branches, boxes of designer ornaments, bins of family decorations, tinsel, hooks, tissue paper and more. Besides that, the carpet was covered in glitter.

Working on two theories...less is more and third time's a charm, I was determined to complete the tree. I sorted and organized ornaments and decided on no ribbon. I sorted the balls, eliminated reds and greens, keeping only my gold and cream ones. To these, I added some of the designer decorations until the tree looked acceptable. My time saving  "designer tree" had now cost me several Christmases in effort.

How did I get my final inspiration? It came part way through the second dismantling. I located a very old, golden, glass, German tree topper. Eine "spitz". It required a ladder, some tin snips and some stuffing to install it correctly atop the tree. The tree is now simple, pretty and full of personal ornaments. There's no tinsel, no garland, no ribbon.

The tree is meaningful. What's particularly symbolic is the inside of the tree topper. It contains a nativity scene.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ohhhhh Tannenbaum - Part 1

On the weekend, my friend and I went to a wonderful store in Port Hope called Acanthus Interiors. It is housed in a building which was once the famous author Farley Mowat's home.


The owners were celebrating the store's twentieth anniversary with an open house. There were hors d'oevres, cupcakes, punch and prizes. Visitors had the opportunity to select one of a number of home furnishing items and gift baskets, deposit a ballot and hopefully win. The decor, as always was gorgeous, with wonderful Christmas displays.

For anyone who happened to read my blog, "My Christmas Tree" (December 16, 2011), you know that hubby and I were desperately in need of a tree. I had hoped, no, I had expected to win one last year and I didn't. Yesterday, we broke down and purchased a tree. As we walked through the door, new tree in tow, the phone rang. I answered. "This is Acanthus Interiors. Congratulations, you won the designer tree!".

One of the prizes available in the store, was a fully decorated  Christmas tree and I had won! It was valued over $1900. Hubby who was of course thrilled at the savings, immediately ran out to return our newly purchased tree. I was glad that for this year at least, no tree decorating would be required.

When we went back to Acanthus, I took a few photos in order to recreate the tree once I got it home.  I removed and bubble wrapped the fragile ornaments. The tree was in three pieces but we only separated the tip. That part contained an ornate bow and giant, heavy, brushed gold balls. Hubby then carefully carried the lower portions and placed them gently into the van. Several trips later, all boxes, ornaments and tree parts were ready for transport.

I was thrilled that no tree decorating work would be required this year. After all, we now had a designer tree. Slap it together in the front window and voilà. Oohhhh....ahhhhhhh.....oooohhhh from all our neighbours and friends.

Once home, I eagerly assembled the tree. I began to hang the ornaments and stepped back to admire my prize. Hubby suggested we should personalize the tree by adding some of our own decorations. Hmmm...I wasn't certain. I didn't really want to rummage in my newly organized Christmas bins. "Sure", I answered hesitantly. My "no work" vision fluttered out the large windows behind my new tree.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Poor Manners or Just Fun?

On Sunday, I watched the Grey Cup game between the Toronto Argos and the Calgary Stampeders. It was part of Canada's annual football weekend. Clearly, here's another example of "you know you're getting old when", but I was apalled. No, it wasn't the game that offended me. It was the crowd. I think that during parts of the event, they were an embarassment to our citizens and a bad example to children.

It's not that difficult to teach children manners and respect. Setting a good example is one way. Explaining to them what is rude is another. I always taught children that even if you don't like something, you applaud politely. After all, how would you feel if you were on stage making an effort, and throngs of people were booing? You don't need to applaud or cheer as loudly as for something you enjoy more, but nonetheless, no booing. I think that booing has become a part of our culture, more often our sports culture.

On Sunday, the members of the opposing Calgary Stampeders were introduced. There was booing for every single individual...not necessary. They hadn't even played yet. There should have been an appreciation of how far this team had come. They were in the playoffs.

The half time show had an array of Canadian talent. It was a well thought out, well put together effort with both individual and group superstars.

Justin Bieber performed and there was booing. I was shocked. It should have been a source of pride for people to see that despite his fame, he continues to embrace being a Canadian by being willing to perform at the Grey Cup. There are those who say, "What were they thinking having him sing for a crowd of football fans."

I'm not certain what that's supposed to mean. If the Superbowl in the U.S. had the opportunity to have this Canadian star, they'd jump at the chance. Sure, he appeals to the younger crowd, but perhaps it's time to increase the dwindling pool of CFL supporters, by trying to reach a younger fan base. This was a great idea and gave the show a broader spectrum of Canadian talent...from the very young Bieber, to the very old Gordon Lightfoot.

Of course, fans might insist, "We were just having fun, booing is part of the experience." I can buy that to a point. Sure, if there are questionable calls during a game, I have no issue with booing as a means to express disatisfaction. I admit, I have even been guilty of booing a performance enhancing, steroid using, "has been" who shall remain nameless.

Booing prior to the beginning of a game, booing a performer who has done nothing wrong but in fact promotes our country and at his young age, "gives back" by helping charitable organizations is just wrong and offensive.

Think before you "boo". That's my opinion and anyone who disagrees is wrong. After all, I'm old now.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared

I was in a bookstore last month when I picked up this novel. The cover was bright orange, the pages looked rough and recycled, the jacket cover described an adventure. I hadn't heard of the book, despite its claim as an "international bestselling sensation". It appealed to me I decided to get it. 

I have not read many books written by Swedish authors. Apart from the Stieg Larsson series, "The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared" is only the second. In fact, it was published in Sweden in 2009 and has only recently become available in English.

I admit, I left in on my bedside table for awhile. Then one day, I was in a mall food court and as I looked around, I saw what appeared to be a sea of familiar orange books. When I got home that night, I began to read.

The main character Allan Karls­son is in a seniors' home and is about to turn one hundred years old. He doesn't want any part of the big party that's planned, so he climbs out his first floor window and heads for the bus station where he buys a ticket with all his money. As Allan waits for his bus, a young man asks him to watch his suitcase so that he might visit the WC.  Allan's bus arrives, the man has not yet returned, so Allan gets on...with the suitcase in tow.

As the story continues, Allan and the suitcase have many unusual encounters, difficulties and misadventures including a run in with gangsters. There flashback chapters which add details about Allan's background and the many years leading up to his 100th birthday. It turns out, as is the case with many elderly people, that he has quite the tale to tell. His influence in world history and politics is undeniable.

This is much more than a simple plot with a few twists. It's a cleverly written, well executed piece of fun...not award winning literature, just a fun adventure. The author does a wonderful job showing the reaction or lack thereof of a 100 year old to events. Allan had seen it all, done it all and not much phased him. What was important to him at this stage of his life was comfort, properly cooked food and the occasional drink of vodka.

I laughed out loud at some of the humorous descriptions in the book. For example, Allan escaped in what were called his "pee slippers'. Enough said. Also, when the girlfriend of a motorcycle gang member was left with the task of sewing the group's name "The Violence" on the back of their jackets, her poor spelling resulted in "The Violins". This ended in some interesting issues and misunderstandings.

The contrasts, the comparisons, the history and the view of the world through 100 year old eyes makes for a good read. I will certainly pay more attention to Swedish authors in the future.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Thief By Any Other Name Is Still A Thief

All too often, we hear about people stealing from charitable organizations. Recently, the big news was about theft and a huge loss of toys from the Salvation Army. Some of us say "What kind of person would steal from a charity"? A thief, that's what kind of person. It's what a thief does. A thief steals.

There is no thought to whether it's a charity, whether it's an affluent organization, whether it's an individual or whether it's his/her parent. Obviously the person is lacking in conscience and morality. A thief does not distinguish. In fact, some steal for the adrenaline rush they get just from taking what isn't theirs. Perhaps it's the challenge of trying get away with it. Maybe they think they're getting something for nothing. They don't realize that there's no such thing as something for nothing.

There is an annual event in our town "The Giving Tree" where needy children's names are submitted by various organizations. People can then go to the shopping mall and select one or more names and purchase gifts for specific ages of children, so that they might receive something at Christmas. There are 1500 youngsters on this year's list.

One of my friends selected an eighteen month old. His card said that he wanted a hockey stick and some winter boots. She searched and she searched for a small hockey stick and was overjoyed to find the only one in town. It was not an easy task and she was thrilled that it even had a ball with it. Then she located some cute size six boots in the child's favourite colours, assembled her gift bag and headed for the bank. While she was there, the bag disappeared out of her car. Someone had stolen a tiny hockey stick and a little pair of boots meant for a needy child.

It makes me angry. It makes me frustrated. It makes me disgusted that things like this happen.

So who suffers in all of this? Not my friend. It wasn't about the money. She now had less time to replace the items. She went back out, bought a bigger, not as nice hockey stick and another pair of boots, which were not as carefully and lovingly selected.

Who suffers in all of this? It's an eighteen month old, needy boy, part of a list of fifteen hundred. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday, Frenzy, Friends

Something has ventured across the border. I'm not certain whether it had proper documentation, but it showed up nonetheless. Today we had what I believe was our first Black Friday.

"Black Friday" is a term used for the day after the American Thanksgiving. It's traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. According to Wikipedia, its origins go back to the 70's. On this date, retailers are said to start turning a profit and be "in the black", hence the term. Some stores in the U.S. open as early as 4 a.m.

As hubby and I pored over our Black Friday flyers, we wondered what would possess someone to head out, only to save ten percent. Sure, there were offers of coupons and gift cards. Those came with fine print and were going to be useful if you made a purchase over a certain amount. Many of our stores opened at 7 a.m. On the news, there were images of a mad rush and a shopping frenzy south of the border. Then came the shots of a few people trickling into malls in Canada. Oh sure, some of the electronics stores had short lineups, but then they often have those, usually when a new model of cell phone is offered.

When interviewed about the best part of the Black Friday lineup and shopping experience, one woman said, "I made a new friend." She put her arm around the woman in line waiting behind her and they both smiled.

So while some people rush out in pursuit of a bargain, others go to participate in the experience.

Hubby and I did actually go to get one sale item this afternoon. It was something we had thought about for awhile. The price was right today. The item was available at a local store. There was no lineup and no crowd.     

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Vegetarians, Anchovies and Other Fairly Odd Creatures...

I like spending time visiting with my son and daughter. We sometimes get together and gab over lunch. This requires that the menu have some form of meatless offering. They are indeed vegetarians.

I don't remember the precise moment of my daughter's decision. Perhaps it wasn't a conscious choice and she was born with this preference. When she was about three, "the girl" as I fondly call her, used to avoid and sometimes hide meat in the far recesses of her mouth. One day, we came home after enjoying a fine meal at grandma and grandpa's. At bedtime, I noticed an odd looking bulge on her cheek. I asked her to say "ahhhh" while I removed a wad of what appeared to be chicken from inside her jaw. It had been there for several hours. Jokingly, I asked her if she was pretending to be a chipmunk. She answered, "No, I'm just saving it".

Around the age of 12, "the girl" announced that she was now a vegetarian. At first, her pubescent decision did not include the anchovies on her Caesar salad, because as she said "obviously, anchovies are vegetables." Apparently, as long as our human brains are not developed enough to have a clear mental image to accompany some words, those words can be whatever we decide to make them. Even at my mature age, I still have no idea what an anchovy actually looks like, although I am comfortable with the fact that it's some kind of salty little fish whose existence on earth is essential for use in fine dining establishments and all pizza parlours. After all, how else could people order their pizza without anchovies?

Some time later, I heard the criteria for vegetarianism. It involved giggling and guffawing, spitting and chortling. Although he denied it, this was probably the original reason my son, "the boy" joined "the girl" in her choice.

Apparently, in order to be a vegetarian, one needs to follow the two "F's" of vegetarianism.

Their greatest pleasure was derived when a forgetful grandpa would ask why they weren't eating some of their Mennonite grandma's wonderful cooking, specifically the capon. "Grandpa, we don't eat things that have a face or fart", they'd repeat in unison. Then, as always, they'd laugh and laugh at grandpa's expression of shock as if he'd heard this for the first time.

Accommodating the grass eaters was more than a little challenging. As a single parent, I already had enough on my plate so to speak and sometimes, we didn't have nearly enough on our plates. I wanted to ensure that they were properly nourished so I sought out meals that were quick and would take care of their basic needs. Kraft dinner and a side of vegetables became a staple. Omelettes, cauliflower pancakes, pizza without anchovies and beans were easy choices. Fortunately, the teens hadn't become vegan extremists.

I turned into the queen of tofu. I often made tofu chili, tofu tacos, tofu shepherd's pie, tofu tortes and tofu tarts. It's amazing what you can create with that brown tofu ground round.

Eventually, as they became older and reached their bottomless pit years, I gave up cooking and let them fend for themselves. They seemed fine with a freezer full of tv dinners and veggie wieners and a cupboard containing vats of peanut butter, assorted breads, nuts, snacks and plenty of vitamins.

Thanksgiving meals included Tofurkey. Costly, odd, but manageable once in awhile. In more recent years, I've been making their favourite tofu tourtière instead. I even found a way to amuse myself when creating the upper pie crust. The truth is, I take evil joy in doing this, kind of my pathetic effort at exacting some form of revenge or making a statement of my own.

So what is it that I do? I always fashion a small turkey from the leftover dough and plunk it smack dab into the centre of their tofu meat pie, making certain that it has a cute little face.

***Author note - Some of this may be exaggerated for effect. The youngin's version of why they became vegetarians is because they saw a documentary on t.v. about chicken farming. Same result. Oddly enough, my daughter has recently taken to eating fish once again. Do fish not satisfy the double F criteria?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Googling Yourself Isn't As Rude As It Sounds

I admit it, every now and again I google myself. It's not that I'm particularly vain. It's not even that I'm that infamous. It's just that I want to see what weird and wonderful, or not so great thing may have appeared on the internet about me. If there's nothing, fantastic. If there is, I try to delete it or find out more about where it originated.

Lest there be a single person out there who doesn't know, "Google" is a computer search engine.

I have in fact located forms of my name a few times. In one particular unsanctioned and anonymous site which rates teachers, I actually saw a few comments. Special thanks to whoever posted this and no, I didn't write it myself as hubby suggested.
                                 " she was the absolute best kindergarten teacher ever! she was so nice and such a great teacher! its a shame I'm not in kindergarten and she retired. heck, its still a shame that kids in this generation wont be able to be taught by her anymore."
There are a number of sites that are helpful for those who feel the need to clean up their image. Here's an example. . The problem is that you can't always remove what someone else has posted. I'm just glad I'm not that interesting!

It is most odd to find other people with the same name as me, particulary since my moniker is on the slightly unusual side. Here are a couple of newspaper clippings I discovered during one of my recent urges to disrespect intended to the individuals in question.

I must at this point quote Mark Twain, just to clarify. "Recent reports of my demise have been highly exaggerated."

from Südwest Presse Online


So, have you googled yourself lately? If you haven't, then give it a try. You might be surprised at what you find.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It's Mid Movember

Each year in November, men grow moustaches to raise money for male issues like prostate cancer and men's mental health. Their motto is "change the face of men's health".

The race to create the the most unique, the scariest, or even the most ornate "mo" begins on the first day of the month and ends on the first of the following month. Celebrities, athletes, politicians and everyday people participate in this event. Movember has snowballed over the last few years and the moustache race goes on in many parts of the world. Individuals can get together with friends and colleagues and form teams, getting sponsorship for their entire group.

There are rules.

This fund raiser has also become a booming business. Stores carry shirts, stickers, art, jewellery and other paraphernalia featuring a variety of mo's. Even little guys whose parents prefer they not yet
grow facial hair, are included.

I first became aware of Movember a few years ago, when one of my favourite people participated in fund raising. Unfortunately, he's forgotten to shave ever since.

Some of our more well known political figures have also done their part. In this case, he did opt to shave afterward. (pictures from MacLean's Magazine)


I've heard that women are joining some of the fund raising teams by making November a non shaving month. That will certainly help keep their socks up in the colder weather.

This fund raiser has done a lot of good since its inception. It seems to be gaining in popularity, not only raising funds, but awareness of this cause.

Without taking away from the serious issue of men's health,  I would like to share this amusing post I saw on Facebook today.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lost in the Galaxy - Part Three

My old phone was compact, indestructible and had a lid. My new phone is bigger, sleeker and has extraordinary albeit undiscovered features. I'm getting there.

Since my new cell phone is totally exposed so to speak, it was necessary to get a case to protect it. Hubby was kind enough to purchase the best, state of the art, protective shell for my new phone. This cover is said to withstand everything, including water and oil. Truly amazing.

I immediately, and easily slid off the belt clip...not something I would use. Then, after several attempts, I still could not get the case open. It's childproof. I'm fairly certain that a child could open this before a senior could figure it out. I resorted to youtube. You can learn anything on youtube including how a young man with agile fingers opens this case without showing you the exact details of how he did it.

Since I didn't want to break anything, I decided to go back to the store and have an employee show me how the cover opens and the phone fits inside. Then hubby suggested putting the belt clip on the phone face when I use it to protect it further. Ummm...I think not.

I don't wear belts, a uniform or anything else that would make it feasible to hang a phone from any of my body parts. Imagine this entire contraption in a woman's purse. Pull out the phone complete with all the paraphernalia which would hook on the belt clip...keys, tissues, pens, wallets, lint and possibly even more embarassing items. Some of these things might even drop off the belt hook and onto the floor. Besides that, try to get it apart to use the phone before it stops ringing. Even now, I rarely get my phone out of my purse in time to answer. The additional weight would be almost like trying to carry around a cordless phone.

I love my new  cell phone. It's pretty, it's sleek, it's hip. It can do so many things that I haven't even discovered yet. I'll keep experimenting and learning. Perhaps one day I'll even discover that it has a housecleaning app.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lost in the Galaxy - Part Two

I feel much more successful today. I have been able to add more telephone numbers to my new cell phone without actually ***dialing anyone. I have even found the "x" key which allows me to repair any errors caused by my fat fingers. Friends' names are now recognizable. As for the phone numbers, I think there's an easier way to acquire and store these. I remember when my children got new phones, they asked their friends to call or text them. I think there's some magical method to save this information. To me, this whole technology is magical.

I have also managed to send a few text messages. Unfortunately, I had a little problem after messaging my son. He promptly ignored me. Thanks son. You knew I could figure it out, right?

Again, there is probably an easier way. I located a little curly "back" arrow and voilà, I got out of the page.

I find that I learn best in small doses with time to absorb information in between. I think I'm almost ready to tackle some apps. That'll be a new experience since the most exciting thing I used on my old phone was the alarm wakeup feature and a Bon Jovi ringtone.

Now if only I knew how to answer my new phone when it rings.

***I have learned some new language along the way including the phrase "pocket dialing".I found this little article to be amusing. 

Car thief pocket-dials 911 on himself not once, but FOUR times! | Sync™ Blog

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lost in the Galaxy - Part One

There's nothing more enjoyable than trying to figure out a new cell phone. The learning curve gets slightly larger as one gets ever so slightly older. And even though it's hard to believe, I'm ever so slightly older.

First, I felt soooo successful just having found the "on" switch without the instructions. I located the "contacts" icon and I entered and saved a few telephone numbers, not all, just some. It was tedious work trying to copy them from my old phone. When I made errors touching the new screen with my giant fingers, I tried to find a delete button or trash can. Not much luck with that yet. My phone list currently looks something like this...under the "A's"... ADmam, AgNufs, IIIIIIAi, AaVrrll, and so on.

Oh, by the way, if you were one of the many people who got a hang up phone call today, it wasn't me. Ok, it was, but it was an accident. Well, not exactly an accident. I was trying to input telephone numbers but the phone thought I was trying to call people. Ummm...sorry. No doubt there's a better way. I'm determined. I'll find it.

Also, anyone who received a picture from me on their cell phone, please ignore that as well. I was unaware that I sent it anyplace. I was playing with the camera feature. My daughter recognized my body parts and was kind enough to send me a text. "Is that your new phone number mom? I can show you how to send pictures so it doesn't cost you anything."  Uh oh...did anyone else get a picture of my socked feet today?

When the screen went black, I panicked. Actually, I was kind of relieved. Did I wreck my new phone already or was it telling me I needed a rest? Fortunately, this phone is so clever that it messaged me to plug it in. A bit of rummaging in the box revealed a cord and eventually, a plug. It is now happily charging for more of my experimenting tomorrow. BTW...I know it works while plugged in, but I'm pretending I don't.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cellular Technology Amidst Cellular Degeneration

As a part of my first blog ever, December 2009, I wrote that eventually "technological advances will surpass my ability to comprehend them". Despite having had another birthday, I am not yet ready to succumb.

The 70's were the days of LCD watches, laser printers, the walkman and of course, early computers. I took classes in the use of the Commodore PET. The instructor told us everything except how to turn the contraption on. After each session, I lugged home giant computer parts and reassembled them in an attempt to figure out this new technology. It included a cassette tape player of some description, and lots of games. The games were fun. The rest was not. This for me, was the beginning of years of bigger albeit simpler challenges.

At the very end of that same decade came something new, something revolutionary...the mobile phone. At first, it was the size of Maxwell Smart's shoe phone and the cost was somewhat prohibitive. Later, this type of device became smaller, and gadgets were added. The 90's, were rife with technology and cell phones were commonplace.
I always tried to keep up with the latest. That didn't mean I had to own everything. It meant, I knew how to use computers, I had a digital camera, a nintendo gaming console and, I owned a cell phone. Above all, I knew how to send text messages. At the time, my children's friends were amazed and impressed.
  This, the latest of several phone blogs will start with a confession. I've become lazy. By that I mean I have a cell phone that's a dinosaur. I have seen the hype and the annual lineups for games, for iphones and other newer, more state of the art pretigious electronic devices and somehow, I haven't paid attention. I have now, fallen behind.
 Let's see if I can catch up.
Whereas I would have been perfectly happy not to replace my current model of phone, I felt I needed to do so. This week, I bought myself a gift. The instruction manual is miniature and in a font size that I haven't been able to read for the last ten years. Good thing I have a magnifying glass. I hope that by the time I learn to use this, neither of us will be obsolete.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Secrets of An Eighth Grade Nothing

I spent my teen years living in a subdivision. In fact, it was considered the first real subdivision in Ontario. With a $500 down payment on a bungalow, and a developer's promise of a soon to be built high school, my parents left our three room flat in Toronto and made the big move to the 'burb. I was sent on a bus to complete 8th grade in a school built in 1888. It had a girls' entrance and a boys' entrance and by the time I attended, almost 80 years later, the "powers that be" still abided by this tradition of sex segregation. Of course, once inside the building, it was a free for all.

The classroom numbers were huge, over forty eighth graders by the time I arrived. The walls were thin. The radiators leaked and hissed. Plaster chunks dropped randomly from the ceiling. When the third floor teacher practiced his trumpet during the noon hour, every student in the school was motivated to eat lunch more quickly and get outside. The storage area was like the magic porridge pot, spewing not porridge, but additional lift top desks each day, as new subdivision students continued to appear.

Despite its historical interest, the building was eventually condemned. I found this photo of Church Street Public School from the early 1900's in the PADA archives.

I remember the girls' door was on the right, near the massive elm tree. The elm tree still existed when I attended the school, although it was infested with disease carrying beetles by then.

"Someone" used to collect the bugs and "innocently" deposit them into the desks of squeamish and annoying girls. I can't recall who actually did that, but I can personally guarantee that this individual would never have been a suspect.

The school had some wonderful ornamental cement edging and the less sophisticated of the eighth graders enjoyed playing "ledgers" with tennis balls on these outdoor shelves. The rest of the students found hiding places around the building to get into other sorts of mischief. This was our class  photo taken at the back of the building.

My teacher was young, handsome and patient. During an parent-teacher interview, he told my folks how quiet I was and how it was hard to discern what my interests were. He told them I appeared to be interested in nothing.

He also predicted to our huge class that only about four or five students would eventually make it to university. He was pretty accurate.

 In later years, he was a principal and eventually hired one of those students. Now, fifty two years later, I still occasionally see the eighth grade teacher who once hired me. I wonder whether he ever figured out who put all those bugs into people's desks.
September 2013 Update
Wish I'd known about this. I might have joined them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Some Assembly Required

I was overjoyed with my most recent bargain from the hospital thrift shop. For about one sixth of the price to purchase a floor steamer new, I purchased a new floor steamer. Wow! What a find! Why would anyone have brought this to the store in this fantastic unused condition? All the parts were still in their original packaging. I noted that the only well worn portion of the steamer was the instruction booklet. Hmmmm...

I decided that today and tomorrow, would be house cleaning days and I was so eager to get started that I even finished half a bathroom before procrastinating and heading to the gym. When I returned, I took apart the box containing my new treasure. Uh oh. It sure had a lot of pieces.

At this point, I wondered, "What would a man do?" So I took a break, went and had a leisurely lunch.

When I returned, I decided it might be a good idea to open the instruction manual. I hate instructions. They are difficult to decipher and often misleading. In this case, they looked easy enough and even included illustrations. I can do this, I decided.

I scratched my head and wrinkled my brow. I flicked through the French instructions to see if they looked any easier. A short time later, I yelled for hubby. Fortunately, he didn't hear me. I took a deep breath and began.

Step One - Assemble. I looked at a picture which showed putting handle into body of steamer. Makes sense I thought. After some wiggling and jiggling (the handle, not me) I did it. I was feeling extremely pleased with myself. Wow, my steamer looked almost ready for use.

Step Two - Select mop head and attach cleaning pad. Through my endless hours of experience with kindergarten matching activities, I was not only able to identify, but could select and put together all three. I figured I might as well do this now, while my head was clear and the task was so obvious to me. I opted to attach to the machine the recommended wedge for small spaces and corners.


Step Three - Lay mop on the floor and remove water tank cap. Somewhat confusing, but not too bad. Then use flask to add water and reattach cap. Plug in, wait 30 seconds and begin to mop. Simple.

As I mopped, I was feeling the love for my new toy. My floor was spotless in seconds. This was soooooo easy and I didn't even need rubber gloves. The ick factor would not come into play until I had to remove and wash the cleaning pad.

I had no idea why I initially panicked about assembling something so easy, and was thankful that someone else had done the same. After all, how else would I have acquired this bargain?

After completing the bathroom, I decided to do the kitchen floor with one of the larger attachments. What fun!

Then, looking at all the extra pieces, I made a disturbing discovery. I wonder what these leftover things are for?  Oh well, they don't look like anything important do they?


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When You Think You've Seen It All...A Retired Teacher's Rant

This morning there was a piece on the radio about a mother who wants four oak trees chopped down near a school yard because her children are allergic to nuts. Hubby said, "Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous?" He has no idea!

In my career, every time I thought I had seen it all, heard it all, or experienced it all, I'd encounter another jaw dropping moment. I believe I have experienced things beyond a mere mortal's comprehension. OK, I exaggerate slightly for effect.

One incident that comes to mind occurred during my retirement year. About a half a dozen parents were very late picking up their kindergarten aged children. By very late, I'm not just talking about a few minutes. As everyone knows, teachers don't ever have to pee, so it was no problem standing there, waiting with the bundled up crew. I was glad I had worn a track suit and old shoes on that, not for the aforementioned reason, but because one of my youngsters had decided to pick that moment to vomit. Her clothing, although not completely spared, was relatively unscathed. Unfortunately, mine was not. Most distressing was the fact that this was an activity which clearly should have been saved for home, but alas, she wasn't picked up on time....

A couple of adults appeared and tried to help me mop up to the chants of "Ewwwwwwwwwww" by the other remaining, some gagging youngsters.  I headed for the intercom where the most treasured of school commodities, the secretary, responded sympathetically. She tried to locate a custodian and attempted to call the child's parents. There was no response from home.

I felt sorry for the little girl as the other children were gradually picked up by apologetic parents and sitters. She was still sitting, waiting, and now, sick.

At this point, the four year old child's backpack began ringing. "What is that?" I asked.

"My phone", she responded through her sobs.

"A real one?" I asked in disbelief, imagining some kind of Fisher-Price toy.

"Yes", she responded.

"Do you have your mom's phone number on there?" I asked.

"Yes," she said and pushed the appropriate keys.

She gave me the phone and someone picked up at the other end with these words. "What do you want now?" Startled,  I explained who I was and why I had called on the child's phone.

How ridiculous was this? It was right up there with the fake nails and the hair extensions donned by some of the kindergarten aged youngsters. Have education, commitment, promptness, courtesy, common sense, integrity and honesty have lost their importance only to be replaced by technology, looks and "toys"?

Do people think they're being good parents by giving children ridiculous "stuff"? Good parents spend time, real time. They listen, they talk, they encourage, they help, they co-operate, they set disciplinary boundaries and they love. Good parents don't need money or use bribes.

Good parents, parent.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Today Is The First Day of What's Left of My Life

Today, is my birthday. I recently took an online survey which takes into account my fatness, physical features and other factors. It said I would live to be 88 years 2 months and 45 minutes old and die on January 29th, 2038. Sounds ok to me. I wonder if there's any recourse if the site isn't accurate and I die sooner.

My day was relatively uneventful. It began quite early and was full of travel and appointments. I did manage to have some fun and a few chuckles along the way. There were chats, body pains, memories and a meal. Here are some details.

At the breakfast table, hubby asked, "What time of day were you born?"

I answered, "I don't remember."  We laughed.

As I moaned about my aching kindergarten teacher knees, I remembered the words of my Scottish friend, "Pain is the price you pay for not dying young." I love quotes about old age.

For a landmark birthday a couple of years ago, another friend gave me a book by my favourite author Robert Fulghum. The book, "What On Earth Have I Done?" is full of comments which she added just for me. It described some of my better character traits (with emphasis on the word "character") and several of my escapades over the years. It was a wonderful, memorable and amazingly thoughtful present. I can't believe all that she remembered. I look through the book often and did so again on this birthday. It makes me feel as though I have actually accomplished a few things in my life.

This evening, hubby and I had dinner in jail. Yes indeed. My birthday dinner was at a historic building, in MacAllister's pub, at an old jail in town. The food was abundant, delicious, unpretentious, and in my case, free.





So, I shall end my birthday blog with a few fitting quotes by unknown authors, "We are only young once, after that, we need some other excuse."

And here's a really good one. "You can't hide your true colours as you approach the autumn of your life."

It's certainly nice to reach an age when we no longer feel the need to please anyone but ourselves...unless we want to that is.