Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Garden Adventures

I gave up trying to grow vegetables several years back because the deer were getting more of them than I was. But I have not seen any sign of deer here for over a year, so this year I decided to plant a few things.  I put in an assortment of lettuce, an assortment of tomatoes, and a few pumpkins.

The lettuce was nice and I learned I like more than just the usual iceberg and romaine that I tend to buy.  I'll likely try that again next year, but I bet something comes along and eats it. I can't be this lucky two years in a row, surely.

With this year's drought conditions, the pumpkins didn't get enough water so, while they produced lots of flowers, I don't see any actual pumpkins on the vines.  It may be just as well as I had no idea that they would climb everything in sight.  They went into my bushes, up the tomato cages, and even climbed up my rose bush.  Bright orange flowers in unusual places have amused me all summer, so I don't really feel like that idea failed. I'd try that again too, but since I already placed the plants at the edge of the garden thinking I could coax the vines out onto the grass, I'm not really sure how to keep them from climbing all over what ever other crop I choose to plant next time.

I just heard from some friends recently that they have so many tomatoes that they are busy making one thing after another out of them.  Here's where I feel that I really succeeded.  At Canadian Tire I bought a pack that contained a variety of tomatoes, including a cherry tomato. We like those so I also purchased another variety of cherry tomatoes as well. One grew upright, and the other sent vines all over the ground. I don't see the tags so I'm still not sure which one is which.   One of the other plants in the pack is also a cherry sized species, but they are yellow and pear shaped. Nice and mild.

The nice thing about this variety pack is that the various tomatoes all have different maturity dates.  So far I have had some Old Time Tasty tomatoes, some Early Girl, and some Better Boy.  The Old Time ones are indeed tasty, but more acidic and a bit bigger than the other two. They are short and squat, while the Early Girl have an almost pointed bottom.  The Better Boy may be considered better because it seems to be more prolific than the others.  If I ever do have trouble keeping up with the crop, that's the one that may produce more than one ripe tomato at a time.  Yet to come is the beefsteak.  I'm not fond of big tomatoes, but I only see a few on that plant so far, so things are working out quite well.  Every day for a while now, we have fresh tomatoes of some variety.  There is usually a little bowl full of the cherry sized ones, and there may be one or two of the others waiting to be eaten also.  They are the perfect size to be eaten at one meal, so none of them have yet landed in my fridge.  I definitely hope Canadian Tire decides to offer this variety pack again next year.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

To Market, To Market

As I've mentioned before, I really like going to the Kemptville Farmers Market.  This time of year there are a lot of excellent stalls with wonderful veggies to choose from. We got there earlier than usual and found some stalls have become very popular. I really don't want to have to stand in a long line only to discover the thing that caught my eye in the first place has been sold off by the time I get to the front of that line. I did came home with a couple heads of really nice lettuce though.  I'll definitely be eating a wonderful salad for supper tonight. 

There are always several bakers there too, and one of those also had a long line up.  I peeked to see what they were selling and things really did look delicious, but once again, I opted for a less crowed booth and got some very delicious brownies. They were large enough to share, and only 50 cents each.  Beaconholme Farm.  I'll remember that name.

Speaking of names, look also for the Dippy Darlings.  Do stop and chat with them.  They are delightful.  Their maiden name was Darling and they sell dip.

Kemptville Market is open on Sundays from 2pm to 4pm, and is well worth the visit.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Government Forms Are Designed to Discourage

Last year I reached an age when I could apply for my Canada Pension Plan. Have you ever tried to fill out a government form?  I ended up having to phone them to find out what they wanted me to do. 

The first problem was that the form stated that if I had not lived in Canada my entire life, I needed to provide documentation.  I lived in England as a small child and had no idea where, or how to to get my hands on that sort of thing.  When I phoned they informed me that just applied to people who had lived outside of Canada from the age of 16 onward.  I read them the form where it clearly said "ENTIRE LIFE" and once again they said that if I was here all of my adult life not to just ignore that.  Then I read them the line at the bottom about making false or misleading statements.  I didn't want to be charged with an offence.  I see that entire portion of the form has now been eliminated and they just have a question about the possibility of qualifying for benefits in another country if you lived or worked there during your adult life.  I must hot have been the only one that called about that.

Then there is the section where you apply for the child rearing provision.  If a parent was at home during any part of the first 7 years so a chile's life, the Canada Pension might be increased to reflect that.  They give you plenty of room to list your children, but only one place to answer yes or no as to whether or not you were at home with them.  Well, ummmm.... I was at home with one of them right from birth though to the age of 7, but I was only home with my oldest from the time he turned 6 onward. There is no room to express that.  I was told to write it in the margin.  I'm sure I'm not the only one that's asked about that and I'm surprised that has not been fixed yet. 

The whole wording of  the child rearing provision portion of the form is also very confusing, and I think that is so people will give up trying to figure out what they are saying and just not apply for it.  That's pretty standard practice, I believe.

More recently I needed to renew my passport. There are portions of the simplified renewal form that also confused me.  I tried to phone the number given and got a lot of automated choices to choose from, but not one of them had anything to do with answering a question about the form, and there was no option to speak to a live person.  Instead of mailing this form in and getting it rejected, we decided to take it into the Canada Services office in Brockville.  It's a good thing too, as the lady had me change a few things, and initial the changes.  I told her there was one section of the form that confused me, but that was not where the changes had to be made.  She asked which section confused me, and when I told her she said that people were always putting strange answers in there.  Some of them were very creative, she said.  I hope that indicates to someone that this is another form that is not well designed.

Honestly, I do think the government designs forms to discourage people from filling them out.  Every time someone gives up and doesn't complete a form, the government likely saves money.  Well, it's not going to work on us now that I've discovered the Canada Services Office.  The lady there was very friendly and helpful.  I'll be sure to send my hubby there to get his Canada Pension Plan papers filled out correctly.  He doesn't like forms and I personally do not want to have to go through that form filling process again.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Deal or No Deal

Have you ever bought one of those online deals?  You know the kind, where you sign up for an e-mail about deals in the area where you live or plan to visit.  I've tried three different deal companies so far.

Living Social is a good one.  I paid $15 for $30 worth of fare at a local restaurant I had never tried before.  When I got there I made a point of asking it it was good towards anything on the menu, or if there were only certain things it could be used for.  The waiter said these deals were all different, but when he saw which one I had, he said, "Oh, that's just like cash.  You have $30 there to spend on anything you want."  We had a lovely meal, but likely didn't save as much as we might have, since we decided to spurge on dessert too.  We almost never do that. 

The second deal I purchased was from Groupon.  Once again I spent $15 but this time it was for a play, and it was a two for one deal.  The play was in a church in Kingston and mentioned that outting in a previous blog post.  It wasn't a wise choice if I really wanted to save money, as we had to travel to Kingston. Since the play was at night, we decided, in advance, to stay the night and go to the Sheep Dog Trials the next day.  It was a nice weekend, for sure, but certainly not the bargain it could have been if we had lived in that area.

The third deal I bought was from WagJag. They were offering $20 credit certificates for $10 at one of my favorite restaurants.  I bought two of them. The thing was that although this is a restaurant chain the certificates are only good for lunch, and only at one particular location.  Though that end of Ottawa is someplace we only go to now and then, it was really no problem as I had until November to use the coupons.  We went today.  Once again, the credit certificate is used just like cash.  Our remaining bill came to $2.23 plus the tip.  I'm glad I bought two as I know we will enjoy doing this again sometime this fall.

I do have one problem with WagJag. It seems my account and someone else's have somehow merged together. I've only purchased this one deal from them but my account shows several other purchases in the past.  You can be sure I quickly changed my password and printed off my certificates right away.  I e-mailed WagJag to tell them what was going on, and they would like me to phone them to straighten this out.  I hate the phone but I guess I will have to do that as I definitely want to feel free to purchase other good deals from them in the future.

So, if you have thought about getting in on some of these deals, don't be afraid to do so.  They are well worth it if you pick something you know you will enjoy, or if you just want to try someplace new without paying full price. 

I think I may have to watch for a nice overnight stay somewhere now.  :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Some Treasures Don't Fit in Cache Containers

It seemed like a good day to go geocaching, so we headed out with no particular goal in mind, but with the GPS loaded with a whole slew of caches off to the east of us.  We approached the first one from the wrong direction, which made it next to impossible to reach without a lot of backtracking, so after determining where it was located, decided to leave it for another day and moved on.  The second one was really not hard to find because it was in a distinctive container.  The instructions were not to photograph it, and after seeing it, I understood exactly why.  It would make it entirely too easy for anyone who ever saw that picture to find it and that would take the fun out of the process.

Then we went to Hallville.  There is a cache there, that is supposed to be at eye level, but even though I stood at ground zero, that one eluded me. I'll put a watch on it and see if I can get some clues as to where to look.  We found better treasure at this location though. The General Store has a little cafe at the back. Besides subs and other lunch items, you can get home made tarts and other goodies.  We chose the last cherry tart and a scrumptious butter tart.  We were delighted with the floor show that took place while we sat and ate these treats. A young girl was in the process of mixing up some more pastry dough.

When we were finished there we drove off down some back roads, but one cache had been discontinued while another was simply not on the road we were following, and we came to a dead end. There was a really interesting house at the end of that road though, and we never would have seen it if we had not been out looking for treasure.

A look at the gas gauge reminded us that we really shouldn't venture any further without getting some gas, but as we headed toward Kemptville my hubby spotted someone he had not seen in many years.  She was out in her garden watering plants.  He pulled in to say hello, and we not only stayed to have a little visit, we took her for a ride to show her how to look for geocaches herself.  While chatting we discovered we have a lot of things in common.

This might not sound like a very successful day. Though geocaching may be about hunting down caches, the best treasures we find are often not those that are hidden in the cache containers.  We saw wild turkeys in someone's driveway. We had wonderful tarts and got to see them being made. We spotted an interesting house in an out of the way place.  We spent some time in the company of a lovely lady. The best treasure of all for this day is that I may have made a  new friend.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Picking Up An Old Hobby

There was a time when I was heavily into photography.  I took the course from the New York Institute of Photography back in the mid 80's and got involved in online photography forums.  The people there helped me along quite a bit, but I don't think I was progressing as quickly as they wanted me to, and I just felt that the time had come when they had basically given up on me.  It was a hobby for me, you see, while most of those folks took it very seriously. 

Still, I had some success without actually trying.  I joined The North Grenville Arts Guild and took part in some art shows and made a few sales right from the start.  I've had photos published both in local and national newspapers, and on the covers of two books. I currently have a long term contract with a developer so he can use my photos in his brochures and on his web page. I have framed photos for sale and hanging in a local business at the owners request.  Last year a lady from California tracked me down and asked me to take some pictures of something local for a book she was writing.  She seemed thrilled with the pictures I sent her.  Yet some how, like the pros on the forums, I never felt that I lived up to the title of Photographer, with a capital P and have drifted away from that pursuit.
Recently I made a new friend who has a strong interest in photography. He talks to me about it all the time, and convinced me to get a Flikr account, not only to share my own photos, but so I can more easily see his.  The two of us gather with another lady once a week for a sort of show and tell where we all tend to learn things from one another, not just about photography, but about painting as well. We seem to have inspired my new friend to take up painting again after so many years, and he has inspired and encouraged  me to pick up the camera again as well.

On Friday the three of us went on a little photo shoot.  We drove down some back roads to see what we could find.  Though we were all taking pictures in the same area, we naturally came up with different shots. It was great fun and I do hope we do it again soon.  It was a good reminder that I don't have to be one of the best in order to enjoy something.  I'm thankful to my friend for rekindling an interest in this particular hobby.