Monday, April 20, 2015

Fairy Gardens R Us

On the weekend, my friend and I went to great class at a nursery, Van Belle's. They offered a course in fairy gardens. I hadn't heard of this new fad until a few months ago when I saw a gorgeous example at a relative's. She had found a lovely container and added a lot of tiny toys with help from her children. What fun. Since then, I've observed these quite often at garden centres.

Anyone can do it. In ye olden days we often turned our terrariums into similar scenes. On this particular Saturday, we were given the following items, along with a $25 gift card to shop for extras as part of the class.  There was a large group of participants...children and adults of all ages.
The instructor gave us a few hints about what fairies like to have as part of their garden....places to hide, glitter to light the path, and so on. The children were particularly enthralled. There were many materials including stones, wood, curly willow branches, moss, crushed brick and sparkly glitter available for our use in order to enhance our gardens.

Being a huge fan of gnomes and not so much of Tinkerbell-like creatures, I decided to create a differnt kind of garden. Similarly, my friend found some hedgehogs and toadstools for hers. Neither of us enjoyed the flower that we were given and sought out a different variety of plant. There were no small grasses so I ended up with a coffee plant. I used my gift card to purchase a house. After all, gnomes need a place to live don't they?
Almost done. The only things missing were the gnomes. As they say in the land of floral arrangements, "group things in odd numbers". I acquired three gnomes and two toadstools and placed them strategically in my garden. The third gnome is out back with the woodpile.
My friend was very creative with her hedgehog garden. I just loved how it looked too.
 We aren't quite ambitious or interested enough to tackle anything massive like the gorgeous fountain fairy garden display at the nursery, but we were proud of our efforts nonetheless.
 Here we are...all done and dehydrated after an hour and a half of creativity inside a greenhouse.
 It's so great to have a friend who is a willing participant in these sorts of adventures. That's truly the best part.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Warning! Scam Alert.

On 9/10/11, I wrote about "Frauds and Scams", specifically a phone call I received where someone wanted to hack into my computer by claiming to be from Microsoft. I wasn't fooled.

Yesterday, I received another much scarier call. These people need to be prosecuted. My heart rate must have skyrocketed and I'm certain that there are many folks who could become quite ill from such an experience. It's not even about the money. It's about the shock and the stress.

I'm not going to write details of what happened although as is my nature, I took copious, detailed notes. The reason is that hubby suggested sending it to the paper and I think that's a good idea. It might help others who could be sucked into this scam. Although I did not follow through with any of the instructions, or lose any money, the first part of the call was extremely convincing. Then it began to unravel.

I posted this on facebook. It's what I'll share for now. Later on, I'll add my newspaper submission as a blog. It will contain all the details.

 It happened today. I got THE phone call. Interestingly enough, they somehow had my phone number and a voice like my son's. "Mom, I'm sorry, I had an accident". Then, "This is officer Patrick Albright (unusual accent for a Patrick, but oh well). We have your son here at the police station...etc.etc." It was frightening. It was convincing. It was scary. My heart is still racing. They work on your emotions, your fear, your eagerness to help your child, and more. Then, the public defender calls you back and he asks you to go to Mr. Convenience in Baltimore and send a money gram to Peru to make it all go away. Really?  

Of course I reported this to the police department where these people claimed to be holding my son. They were very understanding, took down all the info, gave me an incident number and told me to
contact local authorities. The officer also suggested getting unknown numbers blocked by the phone company for a nominal fee. Apparently, the caller can be put through if they are willing to unblock their call. Interesting and a great idea. I also called the local police as was suggested because some
other people in this town might be easy targets. Since I hadn't lost any money, they were unconcerned and said I should phone the anti fraud squad (or whatever they're called). I did. The agents were busy...not higher than usual call volume, just busy. "Call back later" I was told.

So, here are some suggestions based on this experience. Immediately ask the "officer" for your family member's full name, address, birthday, vehicle type, or any other info they should know based on what they have told you. Ask for their phone number so that you might immediately call them back. Both of those should give you enough info. Be forewarned, they are smooth and they move fast. They can bluff their way out of questions and give convoluted answers.

So, the original Microsoft computer scam people called several more times over the years.  My daughter seemed concerned for my well being one day when she heard me yelling into the phone before I slammed down the receiver, "You're a liar and a thief. Your mother must be so proud ."

I just have to say, there's no telling what I'll do if  the latest evil scammers ever call back.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Hands Off!!

Remember this episode of Seinfeld where Jerry sees Poppie, the pizza maker leave the stall and return to the kitchen without washing his hands? With age, I have become much more 'empfindlich' as mom would have said.  Thus, I'm now the queen of hand sanitizer.

I once heard that a very low percentage of people actually wash their hands in public restrooms, especially if they perceive that nobody is watching. To that I say, "Ewwwww".

I used to insist that my small charges scrub up after using the bathroom. That was no mean feat considering it required watching them trek from a coat room where the toilet was, to a sink at the opposite end of the classroom. Although I probably didn't catch them all, I saw most as they exited the facility. My eye corners came in very handy back in those days. Even when I was in the midst of reading a story, a child would return from doing his/her business, eager to sit down. They'd see my raised brow and would follow my pointed finger to the sink as I continued reading aloud the adventures of almost any talking animal or dancing vegetable. I would then jokingly announce to other adults in the room, "You never know. They might be cooking our burgers at the retirement home one day."

Thinking back a number of years, I recall hearing stories of tycoon Howard Hughes and his germaphobia. He actually lay around naked in hotel room beds with kleenex boxes on his feet to keep them from touching anything. Clearly it was fortunate for him that in his day, there were no hotel room grunge expos├ęs as there have been in more recent times. Although Hughes was actually diagnosed with a mental illness, I am beginning to understand how someone can become obsessed with germs.

The Centre for Disease Control gives some interesting facts. Not only do they state that a large percentage of foodborne diseases are spread by contaminated hands, they further state that pinworms, ear infections, trachoma, respiratory infections, and many other illnesses can be traced to improper hygiene. In fact, two million children a year are said to die from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, caused by infections which could be prevented.

Faucets, doorknobs, phones, remote controls, tables, shopping carts, almost all surfaces contain some degree of e-coli bacteria. Hence, the need to wash hands after touching almost anything. I did a bit more research and also discovered that many who wash their hands don't do it properly, long enough, or with sufficient soap. Water alone is not enough. It's even suggested you touch sink handles and door knobs with a paper towel when out in public. Good idea. I usually do that already. Then I go find the public sanitizer container or use my own purse sized dispenser to further kill of bacteria from aforementioned places. Thankfully, the public sanitizers are becoming more commonplace.

So, as I always said to the small children, "Sing Happy Birthday to yourself while you wash your hands." You are finished when the song is done. I on the other hand prefer to hum any Bon Jovi tune.