Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bloggeriety & Stuff I'm Doing

I have but a few friends who read my blog. That's fine. Mostly, I write this all for myself so I've incorporated a variety of topics.... news, controversial, opinion, fun and nonsense, memories, travelogues, and so on. I'm fairly scatterbrained for the most part, so I also usually write whatever pops into my head.

I know people who have a preference for each type of writing.

If I have completed a travelogue about a place, and I think I might want to go back there, or someone asks me about it, I can simply refresh my memory by looking at an old blog. I can even print it off if they prefer. I try to add helpful travel hints.

When I have expressed an opinion, usually unpopular, I can go back and decide whether I still feel that way years later. Perhaps my perspective has changed. Usually it hasn't.

When I have a memory, it's nice to share that too.

Of late, I have been writing, although not always in this format. I have completed a number of projects including letters of complaint. For a variety of reasons, most of them airborne, I have been housebound and have kept busy indoors. My captivity has forced me to further downsize and clean things that I've always wanted to. For example, I've finally been working on the dreaded boxes of photos that I've been threatening to organize for years. As I do that, I can't help but think that we might be among the last generation of people to have actual physical photos. I find that sad.

I've been completing a chapter by chapter summary of a book and sharing thoughts about it with a friend who is reading the same grouping of short stories. It's called "60 Things to Do When You Turn Sixty." I don't recommend the book, although working through it with a friend has been rewarding.

Another one of my efforts has been some upholstered chairs. I have re-covered two of four of my dining room chairs. I think I might need a whole blog just for that topic. At the moment, I'm taking a break from the chairs, remembering why I gave up on an upholstery course many years ago. They will be completed but not necessarily before November. We will be having company during September and October, so I don't want deconstructed chair guts lying around.

Currently, I am editing a book...a challenge which I greatly enjoy.  It's not an easy task. The most important thing is to retain the person's "voice".  Resisting temptations to change words and structure to something that sounds like it's written by me and not by them is tough. If it's not part of the person's normal vocabulary, I can't use it. Similarly, if it's not an idiom they're familiar with, I can't add it.

 I have read a few books for pleasure lately. I like a good mystery and have been fortunate to come across  some that have been well constructed surprises. At the same time, I cannot tell you how often I've started on a novel, gotten through a chapter or two, and hoisted it unceremoniously across my bedroom in frustration. I've probably written that before. Are New York Times best selling authors all writing in the style of fifth grade girls?  Perhaps fifth grade girls are the editors of some of those books.

So that's it. My current status. Tomorrow, I get a lung function test which I know will now go well. Depending on the results, I should be off to new adventures by next week. Will report back.

Monday, July 31, 2017

I Want Change !

Some would call it   *** "cutting off your nose to spite your face". Perhaps that's the case. I did act out of anger and a degree of frustration. I'm a Scorpio after all, and I have a short fuse when, in my perception, I've been wronged. What 's happened you ask?  Well,  I have decided never to set foot downtown again, and not only have I let some of the businesses, the chamber of commerce, and the by-law enforcement office know, but I'm planning to write a letter to the newspaper. After all, why go only half way?
                     (Note to self - Look into changing name after all this. Good thing I have options...three                         other seasons and a spouse's name.)

Without going into great detail, here are the facts as I see them.

Ok, so maybe I was two minutes late for a parking meter, into which I had inserted $1.10 for 70ish minutes. However, there are several extenuating circumstances. For one thing, I'm asthmatic, have been housebound, and despite my excitement at getting out, was moving slowly. Secondly, I was having coffee with a friend. It has to cool off before drinking after all. Idle chatter will produce this desired result. Finally, on my way out of the coffee shop, I had to pant and trudge my way across the street in multi vehicle traffic, a detour as it were, to take the following photo before returning to my car. Is it my fault the town has placed these visible distractions everywhere? Should I be punished for that?
There are those who ask, "Did you see the meter reader?"

Of course not. I wasn't looking for a meter reader. I was looking at a giant polar bear with a piano keyboard across its abdomen, a log stump in front, and a chain connecting him to a park bench. To that I say, "Abuse. Free the animals!"

I got into my car and was half way home before a saw a small receipt under my windshield wiper...a receipt no less. As if I'd already paid. Of course I had no idea what it really was until I pulled over, my interest piqued. I lifted it gingerly out of its hiding spot between the wiper and the crack that accumulates layers of ice and snow in the winter.

"What? How dare they?" I yelled at absolutely nobody. "$20.00? $20.00? For what?"

I noted the time on the ticket 11:47 a.m. It was now 11:49 and I was half way home. How was this even possible? I had put enough money in the meter to last until 11:45 I thought. When the meters were first installed, the newspaper reported the following.

"Those who put $1 into the meter will receive 60 minutes plus an additional 15 minutes at the end of their paid time."  Northumberland News Feb. 6, 2015
Nope. Didn't happen. I was now expected to pay $21.10 for an hour and ten minutes of parking. At least I should get back my original meter donation don't you think? Besides, what about all the times I overpaid and left large amounts of time on the meter? Do I get change? Do I get credit?

The way I see it is that the meter reader was at the infamous meter #59 a minute or two before the time ended and rubbed his/her hands together in glee. The receipt maker was programmed and ready to print. With one fell swoop, his/her hourly wage would be covered and the town would have a profit of six or seven dollars.  
I won't go into detail about my tirade after I returned to the town hall over this outrage. However, I did threaten to come back and picket the building with a huge sign. I told them I'd have to sit outside with a hat and beg for pennies because I am a senior on pension. I wheezed as I spoke and flailed my arms around, needlessly elevating my blood pressure. My performance was oscar worthy. All the while, the clerk nodded. I could see his wheels turning..."another crazy old lady."  
I have since thought it over. As I understood it, the original town plan for the meters was to recoup funds so that the park and beach could be cleaned up after "tourists" came and made a mess. Why then, are citizens of the town, who already pay exorbitant taxes being punished? I parked at a meter because the closest free lot was full and I couldn't walk and breathe at the same time. It was a weekday morning. I paid. Why do we even have functional meters on weekdays?  They aren't anything special like these beauties either...just the old, gray, manual, corroding kind.        

Shouldn't the meters be reserved for weekends when visitors park everywhere and sully our pristine park, sand, and water? Besides, why is this town so technologically challenged that they don't have the phone app to view and add time to a meter?
It's been a summer of air quality captivity for me. I think I've had too much time on my hands. Besides that, I think I'm becoming agoraphobic, but that's a topic for another blog. 
 So? What do you think? Once I'm done my letter writing campaign, should I run for town council? I just might...after I change my name that is.         
 ***"Cutting off the nose to spite the face" is an expression used to describe a needlessly self-destructive over-reaction to a problem: "Don't cut off your nose to spite your face" is a warning against acting out of pique, or against pursuing revenge in a way that would damage oneself more than the object of one's anger.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Saga of Motor Vehicle Licensing

Nothing is ever easy is it? Everyone suggested my daughter acquire Georgia license plates on her car in order to be less conspicuous in her new circumstance. It seemed like a tedious process, but doable.

She got a drivers' permit first to make certain that everything would be copacetic. A quick written test gave her a learner's, even though she already had an Ontario permanent license. Her "road test" and I use the term lightly, came a few weeks later. It consisted of driving around some pylons in a parking lot, because if any attempts were made for a real road test in her current city, the examiner would be out all day with one testee. (Yes, that's the correct term. I checked, then laughed). She would then earn her driver's license which sported her face beside a giant peach.

Next, she sought information on how to get a license plate. Apparently, only one on the back of the vehicle is necessary. It was a several step process requiring many days of driving to different locations.  First, she needed to visit a Cobb County tag office where they told her that she needed to deal with several other issues first. Much like here, an emissions test was biggie although there was payment required. Next, she had to visit  a police station to have her Hyundai checked...for what? Undetermined. I shudder to think as I wonder whether they routinely look in people's trunks. Finally, she went back to the tag office. It was then that the other shoe dropped and everything almost came to a grinding halt.

"You need to go to customs", she was told. she needed to pay duty on a seven year old car. Seven percent of market value was considerably less than an auto purchase would have been. At this point, and well into her birth month, (the definitive deadline for all things legal), she found out she couldn't get plates. You require either a permanent resident status or a green card she was informed.

Panic ensued. She sent us all her info, emissions test, driver's licenses, U.S. car insurance info and more. After a trip to Service Canada and innumerable phone calls with "busier than usual wait times", I found out that we could renew her Ontario plates for six months only. All it required was a letter of explanation, all the aforementioned documents, a credit card number, and a fax machine. Then the sticker would be mailed within twenty days. Oh...and the renewal date would forever after no longer be her birthday. The car would have to come back within six months for the emissions test (Georgia test no good here), and sticker renewal. Phew...dodged another bullet. Or did we?

Tomorrow, is the twenty day deadline. Next week, her birthday month ends. As of today, the issues were not yet resolved. You can't get provincial license plate renewal without Canadian insurance. You can't get Canadian car insurance if you're living abroad.

My daughter is somewhat of a genius. With genius comes a degree of deviousness. She clearly takes after her mother. Until such time as this problem is resolved, she will remove the rear license plate and replace it with the front one. It has no date sticker. She doesn't require the front plate in Georgia.

Hopefully, all will be taken care of sooner rather than later and we can all carry on without any further stress.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Home Again, Home Again Jiggedy Jig

I had a planned list of sites I wanted to see on the way home from Atlanta...Pigeon  Forge, the Cincinnati mushroom house, the Bible wax museum, and more. Because of time constraints, I was forced to narrow them down to just a couple. I decided that the Ark Encounter in Kentucky and the Christmas Story House in Cleveland were most essential.

That didn't stop me from taking advantage of a roadside stop along the way. After all, what says Georgia better than peaches, pecans, and peanuts?

I also made a brief  stop in Williamstown, Kentucky to mail a letter, only to discover that they were having their annual Derby Day celebrations. Small towns are always fun. Then I was on to the main event...The Ark Encounter.

The Ark Encounter is not visible from the main street...a wise decision on the part of the developers. There would be no freebie photos or traffic jams at the side of the road. My decision to go at opening time, 9 a.m. was a good one. I was able to get a prime parking spot in front of admissions. I purchased my ticket and parking pass, and hopped on the bus which was to take visitors to the attraction. As we approached the ark, everyone on the bus was in awe. There it was, massive, sprawled before us, the largest timber frame structure in the U.S. I noted that wifi and a zipline had been added. Obviously not available in Noah's day. I also wondered briefly whose arm they had used to measure the cubits. All answered in the wikipedia site-

The interior was even more amazing, overwhelming, and magnificent than the exterior. So many details were included. I had seen a t.v. programme about the building of the ark and the fundamentalist interpretation of this Bible story. Now, many of my preconceived notions of how this would be presented were dashed.

The entire structure was three stories high with ramps leading to each floor. There were urns, jugs, bags of grain, gardens, animal models in cages, dioramas, living and working spaces, and some interesting accompanying descriptions and explanations.

Noah and the dove
I don't know what else to say apart from the photos don't begin to do it justice. Despite the admission price and parking...somewhere around $50 U.S., I would absolutely go back and would recommend this to roadside attraction to anyone, no matter what their beliefs.

I stayed longer than I had planned and when I checked the hours for the Christmas Story House, I panicked. Garmin told me I wouldn't arrive there until 4:30 and it was scheduled to close at 5. Since I was travelling to Cleveland, Ohio from Williamstown, Kentucky, I had to plan for only one simultaneous bathroom/food/gas break of no more than ten minutes. Somehow, I knew I could make up that time with my style. As long as there were no major delays, construction, or other road foul ups, I'd make it. I had to make it!

I resisted all temptation along the way. Grabbed a quick break between Cincinnati and Columbus,
looked longingly across the street and moved on.
I just knew that anything I missed along the way now, would be worth missing for me to finally see Ralphie's house.
The trip was relatively smooth. In fact, even with the stop, I arrived in Cleveland, at 4:10, ecstatic about what immediately caught my eye. There it stood...exactly as in the movie but without the snow, almost at the corner of W.11th and Rowley, (Cleveland St. in the movie) was the house. It had been purchased by a developer and restored in 2004. The furnishings were original.

 In true tourist fashion, there was also a museum and a huge gift shop where one could purchase all "Christmas Story" souvenir essentials. Several enterprising neighbours were more than happy to provide parking on their lawns for a nominal fee of $5.  As it turned out, there was lots of street parking, but I had no time to lose. I parked, ran and bought my ticket, and headed for the house. The last tour was beginning. It didn't include all the earlier tour details about the house but was more of a question and answer, then wander around on your own session. I actually preferred that.

With my eye on my watch, I thoroughly explored the house, the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room, and the infamous leg lamp. How thrilled I was to get there on time to see it all.

I had time to spare for a quick trip through both the museum and the gift shop  to see the displays, costumes, news clippings, and some props from the movie. I enjoyed the window displays from Higbee's Dept. Store, the hats, and of course, dad's 1937 Oldsmobile.

You look like a pink nightmare

I read that for between $400 and $2000 a night (seasonal) it's possible to spend the night in the Christmas Story house and use all the facilities. I guess I'm not that much of a fanatic. Apparently, the night starts once the tours end, then morning checkout is prior to tours starting. Odd deal.

I made a small souvenir purchase (it's a secret), plus the Jean Shepherd book, "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash", on which the movie was based. Then I spent my last night at a hotel outside Cleveland. There were Canada geese in the parking lot.  It was rainy and cool. I realized I was close to home. I was able to relax and reflect on the crazy week that had passed...packing, driving, finding rental accommodation, unloading two vehicles, shopping for furniture, connecting utilities, acquiring insurances, visiting the social security office and much, much more. Then I thought about my additional adventures enroute. I wondered whether the next week could possibly be as chaotic.

Interesting article -

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Moving Adventure

At the end of April, we loaded up two cars, my daughter's and mine, and off we went. Destination, Atlanta. She was moving. I packed a small overnight bag as that's all I had room for in my overstuffed vehicle. Her extra, very limited remaining car space was taken up by her small Chihuahua dog.
That's not the dog, it's a stuffed toy. Dog was in front seat.
We spent the first night in a dog friendly motel in Sarnia. We opted for an early morning border crossing at Port Huron, hoping it would be easier than the very busy Detroit border. This worked very well. My daughter was detained for about 15 minutes, while getting her student visa, and I was whisked through, and told to wait for her at the rest area a mile ahead. Fortunately, she had all her documents highlighted and readily accessible...very organized.

I planned our stops and meeting points around rest areas and Cracker Barrel Country stores. They were frequent, and allowed for a relaxed trek south. We then also had meeting places should we get separated along this route.

Next stop was a cute motel in Kentucky, selected because of location and pet friendliness. We received a  lovely greeting card from the owners including waters, snacks, a welcome letter, and a dog toy. It was clean and had a lovely kitchen. Since we were in Kentucky, we had KFC for dinner. Truth is, it was the closest fast food we could find.      
Cute decor
North Star Inn

We met some interesting people along the way. When we stopped at an automotive parts store, similar to Canadian Tire, we met a salesman from North York. He was helpful, installed better windshield wipers on one of our vehicles, and told us that in view of current house prices, he regretted selling his home in Toronto a few years ago. At a gas station stop, we encountered a friendly man who told us he was a former BC Lions football player and he loved Canada. Since he was speaking to my daughter before I showed up, we were unclear about whether this was a pick up line.

We arrived in Atlanta according to schedule after driving through an unpleasant rain storm. The city boasts a population of approx. 400,000. After a day of attempting to do errands, we determined that vehicles on the roads must be more like 2 million. Where did they all come from? Crazy. A ten minute trip took an hour. We tried to make lists. Ten things a day were impossible to accomplish. We were lucky to manage 3 errands a day.
Carmen enjoyed her bubble bath
The following week consisted of, acquiring an apartment, unloading cars, shopping at Walmart and thrift shops for basic furniture, assembling some of aforementioned furnishings, groceries,
getting power and gas connected, finding apartment and car insurance, getting an opt out letter at the social security office, applying for a Georgia learners' license (with final test in a month), searching out a cell phone provider, and much, much more. It's amazing what can be accomplished in a week.
We've seen roof mattresses before, but now....
Ms. Muscles, pushing a futon
By the time a week had gone by, I was ready to head north in my now empty car. I had my own impressions during my stay in Atlanta. Despite the insane traffic jams, the people in Georgia were the friendliest, most helpful, I've encountered anywhere. A few had laughingly asked me to take the cool weather back with me. Apparently, I obliged because it's been up to 30C in Atlanta ever since.

I was on my own now, as was my daughter. I thought about our adventures, amazed at what we'd accomplished, and was excited to see some planned tourist sites as I travelled home. I turned on my audiobook and headed for the I-75.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Basement Dwellers and Other Alien Life Forms

Let's face it. Many of us have had them, or are familiar with someone who does. I know at least three people besides myself with this recurring affliction. I'm sensing it as a generational problem.

When I was young, I couldn't wait to leave home. I was seventeen when I selected a university which was far enough away that I wouldn't be tempted to travel back too often. It was lovely to see my parents if they came for a Saturday visit. It was nice to go home for special occasions.  As I recall, I only moved back briefly during the summer after I graduated. I awaited a call for the job I knew I'd get. Then, I was off to another city.

Nowadays, things are different, very different. It was over ten...perhaps even fifteen years ago when I sent my young'uns off to Hamilton. One went to McMaster, the other to some college whose name escapes me because I'm old and it seems like at least a decade ago. Oh wait. It was.

I was all set, looking toward the future, my future. I would be a single, carefree adult at last. My exhausting single mom job was mostly done.

I imagined all sorts of scenarios. They included my eventual retirement, seeing the world, possibly trying a new career or going back to school, and most importantly, quiet times. All I would do was read, write, paint, sing, travel, and perhaps work from time to time. I would live in a small, minimal maintenance loft someplace and wear loose, floor length, floral dresses and whatever other bizarre clothing appealed to me. There would be huge open work areas, wooden floors, tables, easels, and big bright windows spewing lots of much needed light. Music would play softly, as I sang, had uninterrupted bubble baths, or created. It would be my personal Shangri La.

My children would be off on their own, successful, and invite me to their lovely homes for special occasions. In fact, a psychic had even once predicted my ideal scenario, complete with living in another country...a hot one I presume, although he didn't specify. At no time did my vision include to day drudgery and aggravation, with bodies and pets underfoot. Nor did I anticipate the return of one or both of my now adult offspring which seems to have become a cyclical event.

During this past year, we have helped my son move into his father's house after the homeowner where he lived decided that the profit from the sale of his house far outweighed the rental income. Recently, he has decided to return to school...yet again. For the past two years, my daughter had been a squatter in our basement. It began as only a few months of studies, which then escalated. She recently moved on. After several 5 hour tests, one eight hour marathon exam, a vacation to Mexico, acquisition of assorted documentation, dog vaccinations, insurance, lines of credit, and more, the packing and moving happened. We loaded up two cars, and headed south to Atlanta. ***

As I drove back alone, I savoured the peace, the leisurely pace, the relaxation which eased the tightness in my shoulders, the time to think. I listened to audiobooks as I drank in the scenery and let my mind wander. I visited a few sites which interested me. ***

It's not that we don't love our children, and of course we miss and worry about them, but really? What has caused this "Failure to Launch" generation? Why are some doing in their thirties what we did in our teens and twenties?  Why is it that not every family has this issue? There are multitudinous successful and established young people, athletes, entrepreneurs, professionals, blue collar workers, and so on.  There are also far too many more that haven't managed to reach this stage.
Although it's cute, I am not certain I agree with the movie clip. On the contrary. I feel that young people nowadays have much more self esteem than many of us did. Yes, we are having tough economic times and good jobs are difficult to find. This has always been the case in one form or another. I think it's more complex than that. So what is it? I have my theories, although I don't want to expound or generalize at this time.

Having said all that, there are the later years. One of our neighbours just announced that her son is separating, selling his house, and hopefully will not be moving in since her grown daughter is already living in the house with them. A thought that never occurred to me during my earlier status as a single parent was to take my kids and head for mom and dad's. It just was not an option.

So there it is. Hubby and I are yet again, empty nesters.

As for me, although life has steered me in a slightly different direction, I still want to read, write, paint, sing, travel. And now, over a decade later, I'll just add, watch Netflix.


*** More on this later

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, 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 -

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 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 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 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 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.