Sunday, November 29, 2015

Elf on a Shelf - Christmas Tradition or Clever Gimmick?

I had to research something I've seen appearing on store shelves around Christmas and have noticed for a number of years now. It hasn't always existed. I know that for a fact because I have pretty much always existed.
On the internet, Elf on a Shelf  is called a "Christmas Tradition". Really? To me, and to Merriam Webster, a tradition is custom or belief handed down from generation to generation. How many generations have there been since 2005? This is when the elf first appeared in a story by Carol Aebersold.

As the story goes, the elf watches children in their home and reports back to Santa each night. Then he flies back and shows up someplace else in the house the next day, creating a game of hide and go seek for the family. Families can also adopt their elf by giving him a name and writing it and the adoption date on the back of the box. The marketing has certainly proved brilliant. There are all kinds of secondary items available for purchase including new outfits for your adopted elf...shades of the old cabbage patch doll.

Over the years, this item has received as many accolades (book of the year, toy of the year) as it has criticisms. It has been suggested that this toy creates a "big brother is watching" type of environment and causes children to become acclimatized to, and unbothered by being spied on.

To me, this is a bit of a ridiculous exaggeration and fear mongering. First of all, how is it different from "He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake"? It certainly is no worse than terrorizing children with Krampus. (more on that in another upcoming blog)

I don't object to new toys or new ideas. I don't even mind if this eventually becomes a tradition in families. Just don't call it a tradition after only ten years in existence. Next thing we know it'll be called an "iconic" toy.


A number of years after the beginnings of the elf on the shelf, came another toy, this time for the Jewish population. It started as a joke between Neal Hoffman (creator) and his wife. It was called "Mensch on a Bench".

Apparently, Mensch stays up to watch over the menorah, but if kids misbehave, he will hold on to the centre candle and not allow them any gifts. I believe this even made an episode of Shark Tank which helped to launch the toy. Who wouldn't want one of these adorable Menschies after seeing it?

There was a humorous editorial cartoon in the Northumberland News about a year ago. It kind of describes the end result of all this extraneous "tradition" perfectly. Kind of makes me glad I'm well beyond these seasonal pressures with my children or am I?
Apologies to the cartoonist. I can't make out the name and have googled until my eyes fell out
but I am unable to locate the original or the owner of this
cartoon in order to give credit.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Senior Tips & Hints Part 1

I recently shared some senior tips on Facebook. Whereas I could save these and add to them, I thought I'd write what I've learned thus far. I'm certain there'll be more. If I can save one person from pain and humiliation, this blog will have done its job.

These tips are mainly for older females. That's because I am one and can speak from experience. Take heed.

Hair Hints

 #1 - If you aren't a big fan of change, do not go to a new hair saloon. Eg. I currently look like I bought a box of brown dye at Walmart and coloured my hair in a sink at a bus terminal. On the bright side, it matches the age spots on my face. ‪#‎bikerchick‬

 #2 - When planning to go out in public on a day when you don't want to first wash your hair, it is essential that you use the correct product. For example, instant spray shampoo is NOT the same as instant spray for shoes. Two helpful hints would be - don't be in such a rush, and put on your glasses. That's all.

Jewellery Issues

 Always use a mirror for activities requiring mild to moderate precision. Two hook type earrings might fit through those donut sized teen ear holes, but if you accidentally put two earrings through one of your 1960's piercings, I guarantee a problem. Looking into the mirror after the fact and trying to remove same only poses additional pain and aggravation.‪#‎advantagedyslexics‬


 As some of us have learned, there are body parts that shift and some that droop as we age. There are even limbs that seem to shrink requiring extra caution lest it result in disaster. For example, when using the Kitchenaid mixer after it has had a long hiatus, do not reach across said machine to plug it in with your now shorter saggier arms. This could be extremely painful, particularly if the beater is in the upright position and you forgot to turn the switch to "off" after your last use. On the bright side, I won't have to shave my right armpit anymore.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Another Birthday and A Weekend Away

I have to say that sometimes, when you least expect it, things happen. I'm talking about a series of events which sometimes fall into place really nicely. So was my last week.

I recently had another birthday. Where do those keep coming from? Of course, for the most part birthdays become increasingly undesirable as we age. This one, was a pleasant surprise.

I awoke to find the kitchen decorated with gifts, balloons, and balloon animals. My daughter had
been busy during the night. Knowing how much hubby likes gifts, she even got a present for him so that he might celebrate his half birthday. Later in the day, we all enjoyed some lovely Greek take-out food, bubbly wine drinks, and a birthday cake...Smurfs.
The next day, my friend and I headed out for Ottawa. I had recently received an email about the Signatures Show, so we decided it would be worth attending.  We arrived at the Novotel in the evening, after cautiously negotiating our way through a rainstorm and the usual construction. We had an unremarkable dinner. (see my Tripadvisor Review of Albion Rooms, Ottawa)

Saturday morning, we left bright and early for the Byward Market. We passed several amusing signs and one that was slightly disturbing....grass fed beef with a picture of a puffin?

We explored, bought some special celebratory Trudeau cookies, and eventually wandered toward the Shaw Centre where the Signature Show was happening. What a treat that was. Admission was a bargain at $6 senior. They were optimistic that we looked like shoppers and we were given a special bag for being one of the first 200 to enter the show on that day. The artisans were amazing. This wasn't one of those, sampling crackers and jam types of shows. There were many creative designers of jewellery, rugs, art, leather, knitwear, and more. There were unique items and best of all, they were totally Canadian. Talented creators had come from Quebec and other parts of the country to show off their work. Not only that, the artisans were willing to chat at length about their skills, talents, and dreams for the future. This wasn't just an exhibit, it was an experience.
By afternoon, we were tired enough for a rest but that didn't deter us from further explorations later in the day. We had seen a store that advertised "no ordinary shoes" and at the time, I hadn't realized that they sold Canadian designer John Fluevog wares. I had seen these shoes before in the Distillery District in Toronto. I often wondered whether they would fit my platypus feet. We had to return to try some, just to say we had. After an hour and a half, and a very helpful and persistent sales girl who was convinced that she could find shoes to fit me, along came a pair of what I like to call, Minnie Mouse/Daisy Duck shoes. They were large, wide, comfortable and most of all, had a heel. It was an interesting heel, but nonetheless, it was a heel. I was ecstatic as I whipped out my birthday money and clung to the shoes as if they were the most beautiful things on earth. Actually, they are...especially when they're on my feet. Now I am the proud owner of "no ordinary shoes". After all, I'm no ordinary person.
Truth be told, we tried every shoe in the store.
Sensible shoes with flare

After an eventful and exhausting day, we collapsed fatigued, woke up early the next day, had breakfast, and began to head home. That's not to say we drove directly home, but we did arrive eventually.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chocolate, Chocolate, Everywhere

Last Sunday's Chocolate Exhibition and Marketplace in Toronto was an experience to be sure. It was the culmination of the Toronto Chocolate Festival, a fundraising event which I didn't even know existed. This year, all proceeds from functions such as The Chocolate Ball and Tea went to Prostate and Breast Cancer groups.

My daughter and I purchased advanced tickets, took GO transit, and walked to the venue...Roy Thomson Hall. This time, we were hoping to see a symphony of a different kind. It was to be a symphony of taste and a rhapsody of chocolate.

Knowing what we do now, we might have approached this day a bit differently, but nonetheless, we did well. I realize that some of what stood out to us as disorganization, might be excused because many of the staff were volunteers. I'm hoping to find out where to give some feedback.

After entering the hall, we saw that the exhibits were "in the round". That is, they were all set up in the hallway of this circular building. Guests were naturally clustered around tables where free samples were available. According to the programme, there were 25 different chocolate makers from different parts of the country exhibiting their wares.

We soon noted that many items were for sale for cash and some displays had signs stating "2 tickets, 3 tickets" and so on. This confused us until we eventually realized that there were sampling tickets for purchase further along the hall...somewhat disappointing after our admission cost. On the other hand, it was also possible to take items home with an appropriate number of tickets. We decided against the ticket purchase as there were enough vendors dispensing free tastes.
We searched for some entertainment, perhaps chocolate sculptures, people dressed in costume, chocolate fountains, and the like but found only this strange item which looked out of place in the middle of the room. It made no sense. I photographed my daughter's hand in the frame which was also not made of chocolate (the hand nor the frame).

One thing we wanted to check out was the wine and chocolate pairing workshop. This was going to cost another $15 and was available at specified times only. We inquired but the people in the vicinity of the signage were unfamiliar with this event. Again, we decided against the expense.

As we shifted our eyes skyward, we saw some people sipping what appeared to be beverages of a certain proof on the upper level. ID's were being checked as patrons ventured up the stairs. We asked and were told anyone could go up there. We were of course disappointed that nobody questioned our ages. Trudging up the steps with my old legs was a challenge, but I thought of it as a way to work off a few of the earlier free samples. After reaching the top, we discovered, that we needed tickets for the samples and the only place to purchase them was downstairs at the one ticket selling location. Told that we'd probably need about 3 tickets per drink sample, we purchased a fist full and headed back up the steps.

The first vendor we saw, was dispensing chocolate raspberry truffle wine. Interesting and a bargain at only one ticket. Chocolate samples were 2 or 3 tickets, but liquor samples were, as we now discovered only one. We set up camp. Not only was the mezzanine level far less crowded, we could see all the events below, everything from chocolate making demos to eating contests and games.

The Girls' Night Out chocolate raspberry truffle wine was delicious. It tasted exactly as the picture would suggest. Note - I wouldn't recommend this as a dinner wine with meat but rather more of a dessert as the label would indicate. After tasting a chocolate vodka mojito or two, followed by some chocolate lager, and some other type of wine, we really began to appreciate the show.
We also found that we had far too many tickets left over. Back we went for another sample of raspberry, chocolate truffle wine. This had now become our favourite by far. A short trip downstairs to one of the chocolate vendors helped to dispose of the rest of our tickets. I would not recommend chocolate covered dates filled with nuts from Dubai after sampling a few liquors.

We were getting hungry and tired of the smell of chocolate so we left and had lunch before negotiating the maze which is the new and impossible \Union Station. 

We also took some samples home for hubby, but if he doesn't soon eat that chocolate mouse sitting on our sideboard, it just might skitter into someone else's mouth.