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.