Sunday, February 18, 2018

Spending my Prizes

Last year at this time I was telling you about the lovely basket of gifts I won from the merchants of Almonte. The contest was to promote the town, and it worked as I had not been there for many years and was surprised at the amazing changes in the place. It's not just a pretty village anymore. It's well worth the visit now, to shop and eat and spend the day.  We've been back several times since then and I've told lots of people about it.

So, while I had won some amazing prizes by this time last year, worth hundreds of dollars, this year I'm winning on a much smaller scale.  Yesterday I got to go and collect a couple of my freebies.  First, I had a certificate that I got from Kelloggs that I could spend on a $10 toy. I didn't figure I'd get much for that but when I walked into Toys R Us, one of the first things I saw was a game that the grandsons had been asking for just a couple of weeks ago. How could I pass that up? It's not the big board version but a compact one that folds into its own case and is easy to store. Just the thing for Nana's house! And hey, it was $9.99 so I got to spend the whole coupon, which is great as they don't give you change. I expect I'm going to have a break from our ongoing Mille Bornes challenge while I figure out who done it while playing Clue.

After that, I went for lunch and used a gift certificate I won from New York Fries for a free regular poutine. I asked if I could upgrade that to one with the works and was told that the regular, in this case, referred to the size, and I could have anything I wanted on it.




So while I had a calorie-laden lunch for free, my hubby ate more sensibly but it cost him over $10 for his salad.

I still have a $10 Walmart gift card to spend too, but I haven't decided what I want to shop for yet. I won it on Facebook from a page that promotes freebies called Mae-Mae's Freebies. A lot of the offers there are just for people in the United States, but I won it so soon after I joined the page I didn't realize that yet. Occasionally there is something for Canada or other places too though, and the odds are good for the contests as competition isn't all that big yet. But it is growing.

Anyway, I am still having some luck, though nothing like last year. That's fair. It's not good to be greedy. After so many years of never winning anything at all, I'm still quite amazed when I win something and actually thrilled with even these little prizes.

People are still asking me how I win. The only advice I can give is, you can't win if you don't enter.

That goes for life in general. You can't succeed at anything unless you are willing to go do it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentines Day

I've had all kinds of plans running around in my head for Valentines Day this year.  As I have mentioned, I've been making cards for people all over the world. I did not, however, get around to making any for my own special people and I didn't get out shopping either, due to the nasty weather.

Normally what I do is make a special supper with a Valentine type of dessert. I had a really busy day Tuesdsay, and have the same problem today (Valentines Day), so I needed something simple to make. We're going to have a chicken stirfry with rice. I got to go grocery shopping yesterday, but was never alone long enough to sneak even a card into the basket. I got distracted by various sales, and while trying to stay within my budget, I completely forgot the little extras I needed to pull of what I had planned.  My guys are going to think I just don't care about them!

Last night I decided I'd make a Tomato Soup Cake. It's at least red....sort of, and it will be a treat for their lunch as it does pack easily.  I mentioned it on Facebook and was surprised to find someone who didn't have a clue what I was talking about. Perhaps she's just too young as it was a staple when I was growing up and I used to make it for my boys. Well, hey, they are 50 and 41 now, so it is an old recipe. I've decided to share it here, as a special treat to all of you who have not had the pleasure.










Tomato Soup Cake

1/3 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 can Campbell's tomato soup (do not substitute!)
1 1/3 cup flour (scant)
1 tspsoda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 to 1 cup raisins

Cream sugar into shortening. Mix in the beaten egg and the soup.
Add the dry ingredients and mix well.  Stir in the raisins.
Pour into a greased and floured 8 inch pan  and
Bake at 350F for 1 hour.

Happy Valentines Day

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Spreading Peace and Love

I see people checking my page, and I know I haven't posted in a while. The things on my mind lately can't really be posted publically. At least not the full story yet, in any case.

I have been having adventures with printers lately. For the last year, every time Microsoft updated Windows 10 they screwed up my printer. I've had a few words with Microsoft, but that was only because they popped up on my screen one day asking what I thought of Windows 10. They even went so far as to list some possible problems and ask if I was having any of them. Well, yes MS, and I tried really hard to tell you, but there does not seem to be a place to report such things, except to your virtual assistant. The problem with that is that if the problem has not been reported previously (which, as I said, isn't possible) the assistant cannot help either.  But obviously, you are aware that Win10 is capable of making peripherals inoperative since you had that problem on the list. Do something about it, and do it quickly! I have some big print jobs coming up and I don't  trust you not to update at just the wrong moment.

On a more fun note, the Christmas card exchange I got in on was such a success that we have decided to do another exchange for February. I've found it much easier to design cards this time. At Christmas, it felt like it had all been done before, and fresh ideas were hard to come by. February has lots of holidays and even if I just go with hearts and flowers for Valentines Day, I can come up with some cute ideas all on my own. In the process, I've discovered a few great techniques that I'm sure I'll use for years to come.  Part of that is because I have not always been able to simply print designs from my sketchbook as some do, due to the problem mentioned above. I was forced to create all new hand-painted cards, but now I'm actually glad of that.

I'm being asked to share what I'm doing on Facebook, but there are members of the group I'm sharing cards with on there, and the big reveal isn't until the end of February, so I don't want to spoil any surprises. Also, since I expect to reuse some of these ideas over time I don't want my family and friends to end up receiving something they've already seen online either.  I can show you the cards I received for the Christmas exchange though, from others around the world.  There are so many different styles. Some people had their paintings printed as cards while others painted each one individually. One lady even made the paper she painted hers on and another printed her cards but created the linocut for her prints herself.  There are so many talented people out there.
Creating and exchanging cards with people throughout the world is not only fun but a great way to share peace and love.....which is what we are doing for Valentines Day.  I hope this gang continues this practice for a few more holidays.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Invisible vs Practical

I am forever asking my friend if she has her ears on. She's supposed to wear hearing aids but she seldom does, at least when I'm with her. We have weird conversations as I'll say something and she will respond as if I said something else entirely. I've often wondered why she so frequently leaves her hearing aids in the box at home. I wear one too, but for me putting it in is just part of getting dressed. In fact, it may be the first thing I reach for in the morning so that I can understand what my family is saying to me as they get ready to go off to work.

She isn't the only one I know who I often catch without their assistive devices. One won't have hers on if she's at home until I come along and start to talk to her.  Then she will dash off to get it. Another old dear loves to spend time with people but will get upset when they ignore her. She has hearing aids but she doesn't wear them. She's in her 90's and just can't manage to put them in as her hands are rather arthritic. She has the tiny kind that nobody would notice in her ear. I wondered why someone had not taken her back to the audiologist and told him that this style simply is not suitable for her. I know I could have done that whenever I got a new one. She has a valid excuse for not wearing hers, where as I always assumed the others I know that are often running around without their aids in just never bothered to form the habit.

Hearing aids do take a bit of getting used to while you train your brain to distinguish one sound from another all over again. The thing is, if you have a hearing problem not only don't you know what it is you are not hearing, but you are more prone to both dementia and balance problems that could lead to falls. It's important to wear the darn things!

Recently I've had trouble hearing properly and have been making people repeat themselves entirely too often. I decided it was time to go see if it was me or my assistive device that needed help. My husband went so far as to tell the audiologist that this was the worst hearing aid I've ever had (it's my 4th). The audiologist was visibly shaken to hear that and asked me why my hubby would say such a thing. After all, this was a top of the line unit that he fought to get for me when the last one was found to be defective. I told him the truth. I make the poor man repeat everything he says and it's driving him nuts. Him and a lot of other people, I might add. I said that I was sorry to have to come in complaining but he quickly told me that since I'm an experienced user, he trusted that I knew when I was having a problem. He put the aid on a testing machine and looked closely at the results on the screen. He was quick to say there was definitely something wrong and pointed out several numbers that he said were out of line with what they should have been. He wanted to send it in for repairs.

That was December 13th. I had a play to go to that weekend, and my grandsons were coming for their birthdays. I suggested we wait until after Christmas, but he assured me that I'd have my unit back before Christmas and he'd give me a loner.


I have mentioned in a previous post that I don't wear the newfangled invisible style of hearing aid because I want people to have some clue as to the fact that I'm not ignoring them on purpose. If they can see a sign that I have a hearing loss, perhaps they will be more gracious if I don't immediately know what they are saying to me. Most people these days though seem to be a little more vain and don't want people to know they need help to hear. It's like they have to admit to getting old or something. Such nonsense!

Well, the loner was one of those. A little plug fits right into the ear canal, and a clear plastic tube runs to the actual hearing aid hidden behind my ear. I will admit the sound quality was good, but I now understand completely why my friends would rather go deaf and leave their units in the drawer.

It's not easy to insert that plug into my ear. It's not easy to know how to even hold the unit so it's facing the right way. If I had two of them, as most do, I'm sure I'd be doubly confused.  These things are a real pain to put on, even without arthritis crippled hands. I'm so glad I have my large, noticeable unit, and I could hardly wait to get it back.

So, if you, or someone you know is in need of some help to hear properly, unless you or they are extremely vain, you might want to reconsider taking on one of these invisible models. Think ahead and ask yourself how well you expect your hands to work in 5 to 8 years down the road. If you are  young perhaps this might still be the right choice for you. If you are in, or approaching your senior years, you may be better off with the larger unit. I know I am.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Traditions Slipping Away

I think our Traditional Christmas dinner is a thing of the past here.

We have lived in this house for the past 41 years, and as the only family left after my father died this became the place for everyone else to come for Christmas. My mother was a widower, my brother a bachelor, and my aunt referred to herself as a maiden lady. I was the one with two small children, so this was the logical place to do Christmas.

It used to be that my brother would arrive on Christmas Eve. We would have my special meat pies and scalloped potatoes for supper,  and then we would all play board games with the kids. He would sleep over and the next day my Mom and Aunt would arrive.  Christmas is more fun when kids are little as the house if full of excitement.

My traditional Christmas dinner consists of turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, corn salad, and a jellied Waldorf. Of course there would also be a pickle dish, cranberries, buns and gravy.  The food on the plate was a beautiful blend of colours, and looked as good as it tasted.

Once my brother stopped coming for Christmas Eve and my boys were grown, my hubby and I would go out for Chinese food on Christmas Eve. That way I didn't have to worry about left overs in an already over crowded fridge. But the meat pies are a family favourite, and deemed to be part of the celebration. I was somehow convinced that they had to be part of the Christmas meal along with the turkey. This caused a bit of jugging for oven use for several years,

Over the years my Mom and Aunt passed away, and my brother decided it was too far to drive, so then we were back to just our own family, which came to include a daughter-in-law and two grandsons, and sometimes one of my sister-in-laws, who had also become widowed.  Last year it was just myself, my hubby, my two sons and two grandsons. Since we had the grandsons Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, I decided to feed them their birthday tacos that night, since they didn't get them the week before when it was actually their birthdays. We never have to worry about leftovers when there are boys and tacos involved. I did miss my Christmas Eve Chinese food, and as the boys will be here again this year, I'll miss it again. But hey, I made the meat pies so we'll have those like in the old days. 


Nobody but my hubby and myself seem to eat the corn salad anymore. I can make that any time. I hear the odd complaint about there being walnuts in the jelly salad, but hey, that's what makes it a waldorf, so while I've cut back on the nuts, they are still in there.  Last year, I decided to make a simple caesar salad instead since the young ones are particularly fond of that. It's a lot less work and went over well. And while everyone seems to eat the brussels sprouts, there are always a few left over now. That never used to happen! Perhaps I'm just buying too many.

Dessert has always been an apple pie made with apples from my own tree, and a lemon one. And of course there is the big cookie platter so even if you are stuffed you can find some sweet treat on there to finish off with.

Normally I start to bake at the beginning of November, using pumpkin from the Halloween decorations. I add a new batch of baked goods fairly often after that so I always end up with a good variety even after sharing some with friends who drop by through the holiday season. This year I had a surgery that interrupted what would normally be my baking time, and I took a while to get my energy back. The baking didn't get done. I made birthday cakes for last weekend, and attempted to start my Christmas baking this morning. There are certain things I only bake at Christmas time since I like them way too much for my own good. I started with the one I had been looking forward to the most. But I'm tired I guess. I screwed it up. It's supposed to be a cheesecake square that you can pick up with your fingers to eat, but what I've got is a cheesecake with a cookie base as I forgot to divide the cookie dough. It may still taste good but it will now be served like the pie, on a plate with a fork. That's certainly not what I had in mind.   

 As I am now the only female in this family, all the work falls on me, and I feel like I'm getting too old for it. I did visit our local cookie walk, so I have an assortment of interesting looking goodies that were meant to just sort of pretty up my cookie tray. I may now just head over to M&M's to pick up something from there and call an end to this baking chore for this year. I'm sure to hear complaints as everyone, like me, has a favorite they likely look forward to. Maybe next year, if I get to start on time, they will get the cookie that they think of as their Christmas treat. Not this year, I'm afraid. It's just not going to happen.

So as times change, so must our traditions, even if that isn't really what we want. Christmas comes, ready or not. I do hope you all have one that is happy, healthy and safe.




Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Mouse in the House!

Imagine it's 4:30 in the morning and you feel a tickle on your leg. The tickle moves upward and seconds later you feel that same tickle run down your arm. The first sensation groggily has you wondering , "What's that?" and you reach down to brush it away. The second one has you sitting bolt upright in bed declaring, "That felt like a mouse!"

I had thrown back my covers when I got up to make a trip to the bathroom shortly before all this happened.  I figure a mouse climbed the bed-skirt and landed in the warm spot I had just abandoned. When I came back and covered myself up, I covered him up too. I never turn the lights on when I get up in the night so I didn't see him. I chalked the whole thing up to my imagination and went back to sleep. We don't get mice in the house. We've had the occasional one in the basement, but they have never been up running around my house in the 41 years I've lived here.

While reading in bed around 6 AM I saw a good sized mouse wander out from under the bed. He sauntered to the foot of the bed and I followed him, calling out to my hubby, "There's a mouse in the house." I followed him out of the room. He didn't seem to be in any hurry and I was just trying to keep track of him so we could corner him somewhere. But when he left my room he vanished very quickly.

I set about securing any food products he might decide to sample while my hubby set up some traps around the house.

All day I watched for movement out of the corner of my eye. Nothing. That night, within half an hour of taking a leisurely bath I hear my hubby calling, "He's in the bathroom."

Hubby had been doing his exercises in the kitchen when he looked up and discovered he had an audience.The mouse was sitting there watching him. Once noticed he decided to wader off to the bathroom where he hid behind the door. This mouse was in no way skiddish as twice in one day he had revealed himself to us in brightly lit rooms and then just casually wandered off.  Going into the bathroom was a major mistake though. We shut the door.

I suggested hubby fetch a box or a bucket to catch him in. He came back with a box so small it would never serve the purpose. But he also came back with a stick. At this point I must inform you that my husband is a self defence expert and sticks of varying shapes and sizes are his weapon of choice. He went into the bathroom and shut the door.

Now this is when I remembered stories about my paternal grandmother doing the same thing, but with a rat. She lived in a third floor apartment on the corner of Gilmour and Kent in Ottawa. There was a garbage shoot in the bathroom so she didn't have to carry trash all the way down to the bins in the back alley. The rat must have come up through he shoot. My grandmother decided to take care of the problem and shut herself in the bathroom with it with nothing but a broom. This is a very dangerous thing to do with a rat!

Neither my mouse nor my grandmother's rat survived these mighty warriors and their chosen sticks. The stick used here , by the way, was a yard stick frequently used by me with a folded paper towel held on the end with an elastic band. I use it to eliminate spiders. Apparently it works well for mice too, if handled by the right person. The little box ended up being useful after all, for disposing of the body. My spider killer will now be renamed as simply the killing stick and I know I can feel secure, once again, in my bed at night.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Extra Fuel On My Fire

 As if I didn't have enough to do at this time of year, I had to add fuel to the fire by taking a card making course at Sketchbook Skool. No, it's not one of those ones where you cut and paste one piece of paper onto another, or stamp the words. It was a two week course on how to use your own art to design and create greeting cards good enough to send out into the world, not just to your friends and family, but maybe even to the card publishers themselves.

I got one week into it, when, of course, someone decided that it would be great if we held a holiday card exchange. About 150 of us sent off our addresses to someone willing to divide us into groups of six, with people scattered throughout the world. The cards have to be in the mail by December 10th in order to be sure they reach some of those destinations. That meant I had to suspend my class and get to work on the cards for this project. I'm sure they would have turned out a lot better if I had been able to finish the class first, but I'm learning new tricks with each one that arrives in the mail. Oh, this is great fun!  Everyone has their own style and ideas. I can hardly wait to see what a Christmas card from Australia looks like. They are in the midst of summer there and, as I hear it, often go to the beach for Christmas day.  I do hope she doesn't make me one with a snowman on it!

I was also able to rejoin the art explorations with the group at the library this month, after not being able to attend the past couple of months. This time we learned about portraits and drawing faces in general. We did it in stages. First we were to draw a blind contour. That's when you look at the picture you are copying, but are not allowed to look at the marks you are making on the paper. You are also not supposed to lift the pen from the paper. It's easy to get lost and have to backtrack, making all kinds of wonky lines. The results can be rather interesting. After that we had to do a quick sketch, taking just two minutes to get the face onto the paper. Those were our warmup exercises before taking our time to try and draw the face we had chosen. I was introduced to conte pencils and now I want some!

Not long ago this sort of exercise in the presence of others would have had me panicking, but one of the other courses I took this fall had me sit really close to someone and stare at them while drawing a big face and then add a little body on whatever space was left on the paper.  I got my grandson to "help me with my homework" and he liked the results well enough he wanted to take it home. 






Shortly after that I captured the face of a total stranger, at a bit more of a distance. He didn't know about it until I showed him later.













A friend saw these and wanted in on the action, so she posed for me too. None of these faces are realistic, but they are still faces, and they are recognizably human so I'm happy with that. Besides, they were just fun to do.

Maybe I should try to draw Santa's face sometime soon. I really do have to get back to that card making course. I still have a week's worth of lessons to get done. What I've learned so far is that you don't have to be able to draw really well to make beautiful greeting cards. Simple designs and lots of colour work well. I may have to take up calligraphy next though.

Oh, that reminds me. I still have to send cards to the usual people on my Christmas list, and write at least a note to go with several of those. So much to do. So little time. But I'm sure it's the same with you, even if you aren't silly enough to add card making classes and extra projects to your chores at the busiest time of year. Let's take a deep breath and get the work done without adding any more logs to the pile.