Monday, October 30, 2017

A Useful Site

 I once told you about the difficulty I find when face to face with all the product choices available these days. In recent years I have been testing a multitude of samples through such programs as BzzAgent, Influenster, Shopper Army, Chick Advisor and Sample Source.  Even Proctor & Gamble sends out a box of their products from time to time.

I've tried new products in categories from dried pasta to electric toothbrushes. There were many shampoos, face creams and even makeup items like lipstick and mascara. I've been introduced to so many products I might never have discovered otherwise and some of them have become family favourites.

I've discovered that in some cases you really do get what you pay for. John Frieda and Vichy are two companies that I likely never would have gambled my money on. Their products are quiet pricey, but now that I've had samples to try first, I know they are well worth the money. I now have favorite products amoung these brands.

Still, there are new products introduced everyday and the choices are still hard to make in many cases.

In another blog I mentioned the Oral B toothbrush I received from BzzAgent. That post was spotted by a member of the staff at Reviews.com and she reached out to me to see if I would include a mention of their site in that post or some future one. Well, that's an old post and I doubted many people would find it (or would have if I had not mentioned it here) so I didn't really see the point of adding anything there until now.

The thing is, I have now explored their site and decided it might be helpful to some of you in sorting though products to find one that's right for you. It may even help you with your upcoming Christmas purchases. They do extensive research on a wide range of products and name what they feel are the best. They tell you how they reached those conclusions and realize everyone likes different things for their own reasons. They even welcome your input.

The first review I found, of course, was about the electric toothbrushes. The amount of research and effort put into this one review is so extensive it boggled my mind. But it proved to me that this is not just some lone person, like me, with an opinion. Looking further I discovered there is a team of at least 50 people in this company and they really do look into not only products but services as well, before giving an unbiased review.

It is an American company so some of the things just don't apply up here. On the other hand, a great deal of it does and is very helpful. The only thing I can compare this site to is Consumer Reports but the lists of things they review don't often overlap. I suggest you go to https://www.reviews.com/ and check it out for yourself. Decide what type of product you would like to see their top choice for and put it in the search box. Play with it a bit. Decide for yourself if this site will be useful to you in helping you make difficult product choices in the future. I think it is at least a site worth knowing about.



Thursday, October 5, 2017

Sugar Celebrations

Well, I did it. I survived 30 days without sugar. That means I had no cookies, cakes, muffins, squares or pie; no ketchup, pizza or barbeque sauce; no soft drinks or specialty coffees; no potato salad, pasta salad or even a typical salad dressing on a veggie salad. And most important, no ice cream during all that hot weather even though one of my sponsors offered to buy me some.

I was one of 6,529 people who took part in this challenge. Together we raised $122,145 for the Canadian Cancer Society so far. People are still free to donate, so if you were putting it off until you knew I'd stay the course, you still have time to add to the total.  Personally, I managed to gather $287.28, and I'm thankful to everyone who donated to my campaign. I'd love to get over that $300 mark though.

As a bonus, along the way, I managed to lose 6 or 8 pounds, but one day of celebrating when it was over likely put half of that back on. It's okay. That wasn't the goal anyway, and I'm sure it will drop back down again over the coming week.

Saturday was the last day to pick up our annual Buttermilk pie from the North Gower Farmers' Market. Even if I couldn't eat it that day, we had to go get it. Franks makes the best baked goods anywhere, and at a more reasonable price than most. I would never consider drinking buttermilk like my Mom did, but it sure makes a great pie. This year I chose one with raspberries in it.

As if that wasn't enough of a reward, my sweet husband thought I deserved to celebrate the end of these self-imposed restrictions. He was impressed with what a good job I did of sticking to my promise to avoid sugar for the month. What better place to indulge in whatever caught my fancy than at Rideau Carleton Raceway. They have a buffet that has something for everyone. It was so nice just to choose to eat whatever I wanted without having to stop and think about how it was made and if any of the ingredients contained sugar when we went out on Sunday, Oct 1st.

My first plateful was from the salad bar, as usual, so I got my potato salad, pasta salad, seafood salad, and a veggie salad with a real creamy dressing. I don't know if it was Ranch or Caesar but I really enjoyed it, sugar and all. I also had some egg rolls with a chicken stir-fry later. Plum sauce definitely has sugar, even if they do call it something else in commercial versions. The third plate was probably safe as it was surf and turf. But of course one never has just one dessert at a buffet. I had four. The butter tart that I'd looked forward to all evening was less interesting than the trifle, blueberry mousse cake or the coffee cheesecake. I'm sure I got a month's worth of sugar all in one meal. And I finally got a butter tart worthy of my craving on Wednesday at Treats in Ottawa. I'll be good for the rest of this week and eat pie with my Thanksgiving dinner. I still have not had any ice cream yet. I will do that soon, before it gets too cold. Really though, I'm likely not to go back to eating quite as much sugar in the future as I have in the past. I didn't miss it as much as I thought I would. I just found I wasn't as hungry as often as usual. Unfortunately, the experiment didn't do anything for my sore joints though.


Near the end, I found a totally sugar free muffin recipe.It was so easy I will definitely make it again. I only wish I'd found it sooner. I didn't even have to share them with my son as he thought they looked funny and was afraid to taste them. They look different because there is no flour in them. They are not only a quick snack but also nice at breakfast time. Here's the recipe:

1 cup mashed bananas
1 cup oatmeal
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup of blueberries
I added 1 tsp cinnamon
You can also add nuts if you like, or any other berries

Bake for 5 minutes at 425F and then decrease the temperature to 375F and continue to bake for another 12 minutes.
This makes about 8 muffins. If you only have tins that hold 12, put water in the empty ones.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did, but since it was the first baked goods I'd had all month, I highly doubt it.





Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Little Enlightenment

Jim Carey is not who he used to be. In fact, if you listen to him now you will hear him claim that Jim Carey does not exist. He has never existed. Jim Carey is just a character he plays, just like he plays all his other characters.

From an early age, he says, we are often urged to be a certain way, act a certain way and believe in the things that others around us believe in. Doing so may cover up our real selves. The person we become would be nothing more than a character we create while trying to fit in.

He found acceptance by making people laugh from a very early age and continued to do so and had a very successful career. Then he made a movie in which he portrayed Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon.  He got so deeply into that persona that when it was over he had trouble getting back to being Jim Carey. That's when he realized that Jim Carey, as we all knew him, never existed and was just an act.

People started saying Jim was depressed and he was for a while. After all, his off and on girlfriend of three years died of an apparent suicide. And as if that wasn't bad enough he then had to face a wrongful death lawsuit from her mother. That's enough to depress anyone. Jim says though, that sadness and depression are two different things. Sadness is a reaction to things that happen. Being depressed, according to his doctor, is you body saying it needs a Deep Rest from trying to be the persona you have created for yourself. You are tired of pretending all the time and you just want to stop.  That's what happened to Jim.

Forget about the  existential and the tetrahedrons and any other thing he's said that sounds crazy to you. The things I've mentioned in the preceding paragraphs hit home with me, just as his playing Andy managed to touch him.

I have never felt that I fit in and have often joked about being from another planet or at least having been dropped off on the wrong one.  If he's right and he and most other people invent themselves as they go along in order to fit in, I missed out on doing that and just always wondered where I belonged. Apparently instead of sitting on the sidelines and wondering why I was different I should have made changes in my thoughts and behaviours to become part of a group. While Jim Carey and others  are busy playing the part of being who others around them expect them to be, I have always been just me. It wasn't the easy route to take, but perhaps it was the best one after all.

As I've aged I have come to accept my own uniqueness and am now comfortable with myself. I no longer worry about whether you like me or not. It took me a long time to get to this place. Somewhere along the way I learned from Dr Wayne Dyer that differences are not necessarily a bad thing and that some of us are just more highly evolved.  Jim Carey just had to evolve the hard way. How are you doing with your journey through life?


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Three Down and One to Go!

Three weeks with no sugar.  I think that's quite an accomplishment. Especially since one of my sponsors forgot and actually offered to buy me ice cream!  I resisted. The Sugar-Free September people on Facebook saw a post where I mentioned that and commented on how strong I was. I'm pretty proud, I can tell you that.

I felt like I was missing out on some things just because I like them with mayonnaise. There are nice fresh tomatoes at this time of year and they make wonderful sandwiches, with a dab of mayo on the bread. I usually use Miracle Whip, but it has sugar in the ingredient list, so I found a recipe and made some of my own.

Pat Trew was a local food columnist for many years, and she put out a couple of cookbooks along the way. I happen to have one that I picked up at a yard sale a few years back. I've never really paid much attention to it before, I just wanted it because I knew her. The one I have is called It Doesn't Have to be Gourmet to be Good, and is listed as a Canadian Best Seller. One of my friends wanted to make some squares that were a favorite in her youth and her cookbooks were all packed away so she asked her Facebook friends if they had the recipe. She said it was one of Pat Trew's. Sure enough one of them had, not this, but the other book and it was in there. Meanwhile, I had pulled out my book to look too, and though I didn't find the requested recipe, I did find one for mayonnaise and one for spaghetti sauce, both with no sugar.

I have now made, and enjoyed both and will be checking to see what else I can make from this book. It's heavily sprinkled with desserts though, so I'll have to wait until next month if I want to try those.
The spaghetti sauce is made with tomato soup instead of tomato sauce. Surprisingly there is no sugar in the soup. The sauce came out a slightly different colour but was very tasty.

Breakfast has generally been eggs or oatmeal with strawberries. I have found that no sugar is needed as the natural sweetness of the berries works well.

The rules actually say I can have chocolate as long as it's not milk chocolate. 85% dark chocolate may be too bitter for many of you, but I've enjoyed it for several years now. This month I have not even been tempted.

As I've mentioned before, I don't find I'm as hungry as I usually am, but I did get nibbly one evening as I was reading. As I was wondering what I could have, my son decided to make himself some popcorn. I collected a bowlful for myself. It was perfect. I've always preferred salty over sweet anyway.

During this process of avoiding sugar, I have discovered Andy De Santis and subscribed to his newsletter. I will definitely be making some of the recipes I found on his blog, starting with one of carmelized brussel sprouts with chestnuts and cranberries, right in time for Thanksgiving! Another great bonus for getting involved with Sugar-Free September.

I can say at this point that I'm sure I will break the $200 mark as far as donations go towards raising funds for the Canadian Cancer Society. Feel free to add to the total, either by getting in touch with me or leaving a donation online at https://www.sugarfreeseptember.ca/users/karen-wattie I'll even pass along the recipes I mentioned if you ask for them.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

My Sugar Substitute is Fat

I have now completed two weeks of the Sugar-Free September campaign for the Canadian Cancer Society and have managed to avoid a great deal of sugar in the process. One thing I have noticed is that I'm not nearly as hungry as I normally am. They say sugar is addictive, but I thought that meant you go looking for more sugary things. I'm not even looking for regular food, and occasionally have to remind myself to eat something before I wait too late and find myself not hungry enough for the big meal I make for the menfolk at the end of the day. Normally I would be looking for something to munch on about every two hours! That's just not happening.

I'm not going to tell you about all the horrible things cancer can do to you. Everybody already knows that.  My blog posts on this sugar-free campaign will be more about my thoughts and discoveries while taking this journey.  Some of it is still muddled in my mind, as you will see, but I hope to sort it out as I go along.

I'd like to report that I'm lost even more weight, and one would think that would happen when you don't eat as much, and all the added sugars have been eliminated. But it's just not so.

For many years we've been told that fat is not good for us, and while the population now eats 10% less fat than it did 30 years ago, obesity has doubled. When you take fat out of your diet, you are bound to add foods that have more sugar. Sugar is now very hard to avoid as manufacturers added it to things to make them taste better when they cut back on the fat content. Sugar, not fat, causes weight gain. Calories are not the same across the board. I learned that way back when I did Weight Watchers years ago. We had a calculator that let us keep track of points, based not only on calories in any given food but also the fibre and fat content as well. We counted points, not calories and I found I could actually eat more and still lose weight easily. So, here I am, trying to avoid sugar, but have not been avoiding carbohydrates at the same time.

These days I seem to be doing the reverse of what used to be recommended. If I can't have sugar, then something with more fat tends to be my first choice. Recently we had a fast food meal. I often have a salad. The dressing would have contained sugar, so I decided I'd have an order of fries instead.  So now, as my sugar consumption goes down, my fat consumption has gone up. That's not necessarily a good thing either.

I'm thinking I'll see how many carbohydrates I can eliminate soon. Then, not only won't I be eating things with added sugar, I'll be eliminating things that turn into sugar after I eat them. I always feel good when I get rid of the carbohydrates, though I find two weeks is my limit. Even if I add them in again every second day, I suddenly want more, and more often. I've never had a sweet tooth, so my body doesn't crave sweet things. It does, however, react to carbs as if I'm addicted to them.

I've been to a couple of nice outings with various groups now. I passed up all the lovely cookies, squares and apple crisp and even refused the sandwiches at these affairs, not knowing for sure what was in them. I took a big Greek pasta salad to a potluck, just to make sure I had something to eat. I was lucky that there were several sugar-free dishes available and nobody had to question why my plate was empty. I did identify the problem dishes as I walked down the length of the table though. Someone commented that I was very knowledgeable about the ingredients.  I told them what I was doing and that I was getting rather good at reading labels and identifying the pitfalls.  Luckily for me, there were even fruit platters at these events so I was able to have dessert too.  Yes, I know there is sugar in fruit, but it's not added sugar and is allowed.

I think I'm doing well. People have told me they could never do what I'm doing. It's not that hard really. It just takes a little thought and commitment. I am, however, looking forward to a nice big piece of pie at Thanksgiving. September will be over by then.

I am disappointed at the lack of response to my fundraising page but my local friends have been quite supportive. I'm grateful for that as it encourages me to continue to stay away from the sugar and I get to do my part for the Cancer Society. I'm so glad to have found a way to help. If you want to help too, the fundraising page is still at https://www.sugarfreeseptember.ca/users/karen-wattie

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Doing Battle with Sugar

I am nearing the end of my first week on the Sugar-Free September campaign for the Canadian Cancer Society. Nobody said it would be easy, but I'm finding that it's not just about skipping the treats and watching out for sugar laden condiments. There is sugar everywhere!

The week before I started this I made a cake and went out with friends a couple of times to places where I could get a nice treat to go with my tea. The day before I began my hubby wanted to know if I wanted to go to Rideau Carleton for the buffet. We had been there not long ago so I didn't think that necessary. I realized he was just trying to give me a last chance to pig out without having to totally analyze everything I ate.

I eat eggs for breakfast most days, so there's no problem there. For lunch on the first day, I thought I'd make myself a mini pizza on a pita with lots of fresh veggies. Too late I realized there was sugar in the pizza sauce. Oh well, the rules say to start slow and not beat yourself up about every little infraction. This was already proving to be a learning experience.

Before someone tries to tell me there is sugar in bread I will mention that the Cancer Society has kindly provided sample meals and recipes and they do seem to include pitas, tortillas and crackers and such, so I'm not totally eliminating that kind of thing yet. I may go totally carb free near the end but I know as much as I enjoy how that makes me feel, my body can't handle it for more than 14 days before I start to get dizzy.

On the second day, I had some leftover sloppy burgers. There's sugar in there too (besides the buns) but only one tablespoon of brown sugar in the whole pot so at least the amount that got into me was minuscule.

Then came the time when my hubby wanted to take me to McDonald's. As we walked through the door he asked what I wanted. Well, I knew they dress everything with a mayo type sauce and even the dip for the chicken nuggets would be full of sugar. Luckily I like their tea so I'm no longer forced to drink soft drinks. I just shook my head and said, "I can't do this!"  It was then that I realized that my being sugar-free is going to affect others around me.  The adventure had just begun.

I made spagetti sauce and two days later I realized there was sugar in the tomato sauce. I guess I'll have to buy some tomatoes and make my own now as we use a fair bit of that around here.  My only other failure was when I polished off a couple of spoonfuls of brown beans that were in the fridge. Once again that was more of a habit. I was cleaning out the fridge before garbage day and it was either eat them or throw them out. There was no can at hand to remind me of the probable sugar content. Beans are something else I'll be making my own of, much to the delight of my hubby, I'm sure.

Lesson number one: Step away from anything that comes in cans!

So, here I was feeling like a failure with so many infractions in less than a week. But I really have cut down on the sugar intake and the scale proves it. I'm down 4 pounds already! That's an added bonus I wasn't looking for.

At six days in I have twenty-four more days to go. I'm doing battle with sugar for those who are doing battle with cancer. Please support the cause if you can.   https://www.sugarfreeseptember.ca/users/karen-wattie



 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Whatever It Is, Just Do It

I'm almost finished my urban sketching course. I have definitely fulfilled my New Years resolution to take my art more seriously, and I'm sure I've improved at least my drawing a lot this year. It hasn't really given me much time to paint very often but I did learn to use watercolour in a looser style.


Back in February, I tried to draw the house across the street. I used a method called contour drawing, where you follow the outside lines and then fill in the middle with details. I found that method works pretty well for some things but it wasn't working at all well for that house. 


A couple of weeks ago, during this Urban Sketching course, I learned a new method called spiraling, where you pick a starting point and draw outward from that in an ever increasing
spiral. I was interrupted by a major downpour but as you can see, my drawing of that same house improved greatly over just a few months.

This course often had you drawing in public too, as I mentioned a month ago.What I've learned at this point is that that's not nearly as scary as it sounds. People either ignore you completely or stand inside your picture frame and teasingly wonder out loud if you are going to include them. I even had one guy offer to park his snazzy car where it could be added to the picture. I actually thought that would be a good idea, but he didn't do it.

All during these warmer months while I've been out of my house drawing in various place only two people have actually come right over to have a look, and both of them were very kind and complimentary.

I joined a group of local sketchers that met once a week this summer and even they don't really make a point of checking out what the others were doing very often. Everyone was busy doing their own thing. I'd like to get that point across as the group actually had 60 members, but very few of them could get themselves to come out and draw with us. The others obviously wanted to or they wouldn't have joined the group in the first place. They were too shy, or perhaps felt they weren't good enough. Hey, I certainly don't have a natural talent for this stuff either, but it was just plain fun.  You can't get better at something if you don't at least try to do it more often. I hope some of those people see this and understand that they won't embarrass themselves as they won't be attracting nearly as much attention as they imagine.

There are a lot of things many of us would like to do and don't because we're afraid of looking foolish. I know I've said this before, but other people really don't pay that much attention to you at exercise classes, dance groups, drawing classes or anything else. If they are there, they are busy learning or exercising just like you are. They don't have time to look around and make notes on who is screwing up. And, as I found, when I sat and drew all by myself in public places, most people are too polite to just barge into your space and check out what you are up to. I'm not actually getting braver, I've just found out there is nothing to fear.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Sugar Free for September

Everyone has  has been touched by cancer. If they haven't had it yet themselves, they know someone who has, or perhaps a family that has suffered through it along with their loved ones. Right now, I personally know of a few people fighting this disease in one form or another.

I have friends and family who take part in runs, walks and biking events to raise money every year to fight this disease, or help fund a cure. I don't have cancer but I do have arthritis in my hips, knees and feet, so I can't take part in such worthy events. I did, however, just come across something I can do.  It seems the Canadian Cancer Society has created an event that's made for people like me. I've signed up to participate in a Sugar Free September.

I have a friend who has been fighting arthritis for years and she tells me the best thing I could do to reduce the inflammation in my joints would to be to get off sugar.  I'm not sure there is any scientific proof of that working, but I'm about to give it a good test run. I may kill two birds with one stone, and perhaps help save somebody's life at the same time. You can help me by leaving a donation online at https://www.sugarfreeseptember.ca/users/karen-wattie

I have at least six social events already lined up for September, so this isn't going to be easy. Maybe some nice person will supply me with a Golden Ticket if they care to donate $20 to this cause. That would give me a day off to just eat normally, treats and all. But any donation would be gratefully received, no matter how small. It would encourage me along the way while a Golden Ticket would actually give me something to look forward to. In the meantime, I'm now going to search out recipes for homemade salad dressings and other things that are sugar free. I expect this to be a real challenge, especially since, as soon as I told my hubby what I was up to, he took me out for ice cream.

This could get interesting.  I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Getting My Greek On

Greek Fest is going on in Ottawa. In case you didn't know, Greeks are all about food and music. That's what you will find at Greek Fest. Darn good food, and hopefully music, if you happen to land there at the right time. Oh, and if there's music, there is bound to be dancing. It's really hard to keep your feet still when you hear Greek music and Greeks love to dance.There is also some art, and a few vendors, but that really seems to come across as something to look at while you wait for more music, or while you wait for your full tummy to make room for some of those honey balls!

It may not be the most exciting festival you will attend this year, but you aren't going to get a better meal anywhere. Admission is free and so is the parking. There is parking on site, and along Prince of Wales between Baseline and Meadowlands Drive. There is also parking on a few of the back streets too If you go looking for it, watch out for signs that tell you not to park certain places during special events. They really enforce those.


There is a free shuttle service to and from St Pius High School (1481 Fisher Ave) about every 10 minutes. Free parking will also be available (without shuttle service) at the St. John the Baptist Shrine (952 Green Valley Cres.) and the Temple of Israel (1301 Prince of Wales Drive). Please note on August 11th & 18th parking will only be available after 6:30pm.

So why am I telling you about this?  Well, my paternal grandfather came to Canada from Greece.  My Dad may have been half Scottish, and my mother was Scottish from both sides of her family, but that bit of Greek blood I inherited runs deep in my veins, and that's what I identify with. I will tell you I'm Greek and only mention the Scots as an afterthought.

Go get your Greek on. Have a great feed, and get your toes atapping. The festival continues until Sunday. You'll find it at 1315 Prince of Wales Drive.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Week one of Urban Sketching

As I mentioned last week, I have just started taking a course on Urban Sketching. One of the things we were supposed to do this week was to go out where there are some people, like an event perhaps, and sketch what we saw. We were to include the people in the drawings, even if they did move a lot. Sometimes they would even leave the scene before you were finished. Like most people, I'm not used to drawing in public. I guess that was the point, as I don't feel the need to hide anymore, even if what I produce isn't fantastic art. Anybody who came to see what I was doing seemed to understand that it's more about the process than the result. It was all a learning exercise, and I really enjoyed my week.

We did some rambling this weekend. Saturday, at one point, we were in the St Laurent Shopping Centre in Ottawa. While I was waiting for my hubby to get his glasses adjusted at Lenscrafters, I had a few moments to do a trial run on my homework. I say trial run as we were supposed to spend more time than I actually had there.

Then, while having lunch at the food court, where I resisted trying to draw, we heard music coming from downstairs. I looked over the rail and discovered that the Ottawa auditions Canadian Idol were underway. After lunch we went down and watched that for a while, and I did a bit more practice sketching.

On Sunday I had the morning to myself and Canalfest was happening down at the Blockhouse Park. I decided that would give me the time and opportunity to do my homework properly.  I sat in the middle seat of the front row and concentrated on the musicians. They could see that I was trying to draw them but it was the wife of one of them that actually came over to see what I was up to. She seemed to like it and wanted to show her friends. That's a bit embarassing but one of them even suggested I send it into the local paper. That's not going to happen! (except my blog gets reposted at Hometown TV12 in Brockville  LOL).

Sunday afternoon I wanted to go check out a Sunflower festival at Krinklewood Farm near Frankville. I expected to get a lot of pictures of fields full of sunflowers, but even though such fields were indicated on the map, there was no sign of them. There were lots of venders though.  The only sunflowers I found were those on the pottery of one of the venders, and in a few vases.

It was a good weekend, and while my Urban Sketches may not be great art, they do represent the things I saw, and I am definitely more comfortable making marks in public.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Art Taught Me a Life Lesson

Urban sketchers are people who draw on location, wherever they happen to be. They document the real world as they find it. Nothing is arranged. This has become such a trend that there is an actual organization for urban sketchers. Their motto is to meet, sketch and share.

Photo by Leyna Sanger
Saturday, 29 July, 2017 was the 56th World Wide Sketch Crawl. People all over the world were taking part in this event. In Ottawa there were three locations listed and times to go there, but I couldn't get there so I took part by going to one of my favorite local spots and trying to capture what I saw. I found two other members of the local Sketch Night in Merrickville group drawing in the same area that day. Actually, the spot was prearranged and it was hoped more of the current 59 members would take part.

I'm finding people are intimidated by drawing where others can see, and even more intimidated by the idea of posting their work online. I frequently post my urban sketches to that group, and others, in hopes that they will see that such sketches don't have to be photo realistic in order to capture the spirit of the place. Many members of this group are very  artistically talented, while I am still struggling to learn. Or, as my grandson said recently, "You can't draw, Nana, but you can sketch."  It is my hope that by sharing my less than perfect renderings some of the others will think, "if she can do it, so can I," and start sharing what they draw too. I know it would only give them more confidence as that's what is happening with me. More confidence means I am likely to draw more often, and the more often I draw, the better I'll get....or so I'm told.

Sketch Night in Merrickville is a new group that formed about a month ago. They gather every Tuesday evening between 7 and 9 pm, usually in the Blockhouse Park. I never would have had the nerve to even think about joining such a group before this year so I'm definitely moving forward.

I first learned about Urban Sketching while taking the online Exploring course through Sketchbook Skool earlier this year. After completing my first assignment along those lines, I was totally hooked. It's very relaxing to just sit somewhere and make my  marks try to line up with what is in front of you. I've learned it's important not to stress over perfection and now I always use a pen to draw with and then I add colour to hopefully distract the eye from my mistakes.  I have recently signed up for another five week course at Sketchbook Skool. This time it's entirely on Urban Sketching. Since I'm having so much fun I want to learn more about the process.

The first lesson was posted Monday morning and one of the points made was that we should find things we don't do well and just get out there and do them anyway. It isn't important if you aren't good at it. It's more important that you are doing it. So many people stop themselves from doing things they believe they aren't good at, even if they really wish they could do them. They will never learn to do those things that interest them if they don't get out there and try. What do you want to do that you have been holding back on.  Go do it! Have some fun!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Sundae Sunday

There were so many things available to do this past weekend but the weatherman was threatening rain again. We decided to choose an activity we wouldn't have to pay for, just in case. We spend the day in the country and were highly rewarded in the process.  We discovered something called Sundae Sunday. 

Two family farms, the Avonmore Berry Farm and Kemmatten Dairy Farm, opened their doors to the public this past weekend to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday and Canadian Agriculture.

Our first stop was at the berry farm. They are actually much more than that as they also have an apple orchard and fields full of a wide variety of different vegetables. Besides visiting their lovely shop where produce and baked goods are sold, on this day you could take a guided walking tour of the fields. There are play areas for the kids too, including a hay mow with ropes set up for them to swing and hang from. Great fun, I'm sure! The main event this day was the strawberry sundaes.  For just $5 you received a large bowl of ice cream covered with an equally generous portion of fresh strawberries grown right there on the property. 
 
While eating this heavenly treat we were entertained by two McDonald brothers. Hamish, the young fiddle player, is only 13 years old but already an accomplished musician. His brother, Alec, who didn't appear to be more than a couple of years older, had a surprisingly rich and mature voice. They said they were normally part of a four-member band called the County Lads, but they were fantastic all on their own and I  expect them to go far in the music business.

While they were playing some of the red-shirted volunteers for the day gathered in front and gave us a little demonstration of their Scottish dancing abilities. One girl, after some coaxing, proved the Irish can dance too. Once she got started she had a wonderful time.

When the musical entertainment was over we moved on to the dairy farm. Everyone was issued blue booties to prevent tracking disease into the barn. The cows were housed in a nice clean modern barn with mechanized back scratchers, manure scrapers and a hay pusher that travelled back and forth pushing the hay the cows scattered into the aisles back where they could reach it. 

Out back there was a large assortment of very large John Deere equipment, all nicely cleaned up for viewing. The milking parlour was unfortunately empty at the time we were there. But we were all treated to a pint of milk (chocolate, in my case) and a good serving of St Albert curds. Oh, they were so good! 

We had a lovely day that didn't cost anything except for the gas to get there and the $5 each for the sundaes. We also went home with a pad and some new pens, plus a couple of large shopping bags.  It was a great way to spend the day and we definitely got more than our money's worth. All the money raised from the sale of the sundaes went to the local 4-H, Junior Farmers and Lions Clubs.




Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mid Year Report

Happy Canada Day Everyone!

Here we are at mid-year and I have to wonder how you are all doing at keeping your New Year's resolutions. I called them New Beginnings this year and had three of them on my list. I'm not doing so well with the weight loss and tidying but I'm certainly having a great time keeping the third one. That's all about furthering my art.

I have gone out of my way to make sure I learn new things this year. As I've told you I took a course through Sketchbook Skool called Drawing Without Talent and really enjoyed it. I was so pleased to see a definite improvement in just a month's time.
Then I got involved with a group that met at our local library once a month. I was introduced to a lot of new mediums while we set about creating an art project for Canada's sesquicentennial. The work was all photographed and printed on shipping labels that were then stuck onto a map of Canada in a way that corresponded to the regions. The map was unveiled this past weekend with just some of us in attendance.

In the meantime, I took on a five-week course at Sketchbook Skool that, among other things, had me go sit in a public place and draw what was in front of me. I had never done that before and I thought it was great fun. It will be my new summer pastime. In fact, I just got invited to join a local group that would be doing just that each and every week throughout the summer months. A year ago I never would have considered accepting such an invitation but the Sketchbook Skool courses have given me the confidence to jump in with both feet.

I stopped by the Sketchbook Skool closed Facebook page to tell them about it. I was excited by this new opportunity and wanted to thank them.  They put out a weekly bulletin in video format for the students and they even mentioned me in that (from about the 1:20 to the 2-minute mark). While Dean of Students, Morgan Green, managed to put her own spin on things what she said rang truer after I actually experienced my first session with this group.

We met in a local park where there are all sorts of sights worth drawing. I expected everyone to gravitate toward something of interest to them, but they all clustered around two picnic tables. I stayed close to them but sat off to the side where I had a better view of a suitable subject.
I like to draw in pen and then apply a watercolour wash. I forgot my watercolours at home but did have my watercolour pencils with me, and a water brush, so I used those. One young gentleman was interested in this process so I showed him how it worked. Me! Not only was I exposing my scribbles to a known artist, but actually showing him how to do something! I'd certainly call that progress, wouldn't you?

Now, if I could just do so well with the tidying and weight loss...... Maybe another new beginning is needed for the second half of this year.

What have you accomplished so far this year? Or do you need to begin again too?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Making My Mark

I don't seem to be painting much recently.  I'm busy learning how to draw. Or perhaps I'm learning I always could draw and I'm learning that perfection isn't that important.

I previously told you about a little course I took called Drawing Without Talent through Sketchbook Skool. I was delighted with the results and wanted to learn more.  Danny Gregory had taught me that drawing with a pen would make me commit to my lines and I would, therefore, be more careful about where I placed them.  But that little course did not teach me how to shade with a pen.

Sketchbook Skool offers a variety of multi-week courses that have as many different teachers as they have weeks. I enjoyed the Drawing without Talent class so much I wanted to learn more.  Just as I was struggling to choose which course to take next they came up with a brand new one called Exploring. They claim they will only offer it once. It's a five-week course with five different teachers, and the very first one was Danny Gregory, teaching hatching and cross hatching.  Just what I needed!



Shortly after I signed up for the course I noticed an old friend on the Sketchbook Skool Facebook page. I mentioned that I'd just signed up for Exploring and she told me she had taken a course through Sketchbook Skool once but was very disappointed. She said there was "too much teacher info and not enough teaching."

I quickly discovered she was right.  Danny didn't break down the hatching process into daily lessons as he had done with the previous course.  He showed a lot of his own work, did one little demo and then gave us homework. That was not at all what I expected, and I told them so when I was offered a chance to give feedback.  I made a similar complaint at the end of the second week.  But then something magical happened.

I really enjoyed doing the homework for the second class, which basically involved drawing outside. I'm now looking forward to doing a lot of that this summer. I made some major mistakes on that homework assignment, but I like the overall idea so much I'm planning to rework it and use the image on a t-shirt or something. The next teacher actually reinforced that idea and showed us images could look whimsical and unreal and still be effective.

The fourth instructor gave us homework that sent me into a tailspin as it was a long, involved process of creating a concertina style sketchbook and then filling it with a particular theme.  I turned to the Facebook page and confessed that I was procrastinating because the mission seemed impossible to me. The monkey had me firmly in his grip.

The monkey refers to the little voice inside your head that tells you that you can't do something, or if you do, it's just not good enough.  (Check  out Danny Gregory's book Shut Your Monkey).

The Facebook gang encouraged me, shot the monkey and told me to put pen to paper and get on with it.  I did and felt a great sense of accomplishment when I was done.  Once again I discovered I really enjoyed the process.  I'm learning I can draw for the sheer joy of it and it doesn't have to be perfect. When I draw with a
pen I may make a few mislines but they are not mistakes.  They are simply part of the process and I can find ways to incorporate them.  I've also discovered that a bit of colour goes a long way to distract the eye away from these spots otherwise previously thought of as errors.

So while the Exploring course was not at all what I was expecting, What I got out of it was far more valuable than techniques on how to draw well. I gained confidence and the ability to accept whatever I create as just part of the learning process. No matter how good you are at something, there is always more to learn. I learned to play and regained the joy of making marks on paper. I had that in my youth before some high school teacher found a way to spoil it for me. Somebody should have shot......er, shut that monkey!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Thanking my Lucky Stars!

Some people are lucky, and some people are not. I spent the majority of my life never winning anything. Well, that's not quite true as I did win a record album from a radio station once when I was a teenager. That got me all excited, but I never did get it. I expected it to arrive in the mail, but perhaps I was supposed to somehow make my way across the city to fetch it. No such luck. I ended up more disappointed than if I had never won it at all.

My youngest son won a Mickey Mouse phone from an Ottawa TV show when he was about 8, and he managed to win a couple of summer camp trips too. I thought he had way more luck than I'd ever had. Perhaps it had just skipped a generation or something.

Things changed for me about 5 years ago when I suddenly had a winning streak. I enter contests on line and was doing rather well.  Then it petered out again and I was actually having bad luck for a while.

This year has been extremely lucky for me so far, though I expect that luck just has to run out any day now.

In February I told you about winning a big basket of goods from the merchants of Almonte. Since then the BzzAgent people sent me an Oral B Genius 8000 electric toothbrush to test. The thing is amazing as it works with my phone's blue tooth and actually teaches me how to do a better job of brushing while it gets my teeth dentist clean. It was worth about $200 but all I had to do was write a review.  I did that but it was nothing compared to the extensive review on electric toothbrushes I later discovered posted on https://www.reviews.com/





 
Of course I managed to score a box of goodies from Sample Source too. That also takes luck and timing. I always count myself lucky when I manage to get one.

Then recently I went to the Shop Local Showcase in Kemptville and, as usual, filled out slips for various draws I found there. I was present when I won one of the hourly prizes. I got a $25 gift card for Hard Stones Grill. Later in the week I got a phone call and found out I had also another basket full of stuff from the Royal LePage realestate booth.  That's almost embarrassing as that's the booth I went to first, when I was trying to discover who had called my name. And before I could even get into Kemptville to pick that up, a new friend, Gary Blake,  presented me with a lovely painting he had done out of appreciation for some little thing that required no reward. Lucky is one thing, but who can believe there would ever be so much of it all at once! It's been an amazing week!

I picked up the basket this past weekend, and it contained two bottles of Wayne Gretsky wine (one red, one white), four jars of Mrs McGarrigle's mustard, a $50 gift card for Heather's Healthy Harvest, another $50 gift certificate for the Brigadoon, and also one for a car wash. The rest of the stuff in the basket had to do with rolling your own sushi. That's not something that is likely to happen in this house, but I'll find someone who will appreciate it.  Maybe it's even you, if you tell me a story about how you do such things at your house or what on earth got you started.  I've had such great luck lately, I think it's time I gave something away.  You deserve a reward for reading this far, or for answering my question on Facebook. Only a couple of my facebook friends have done that so far, so this is your chance to see how I actually win things. I pick contests like this, where the odds are really good as there won't be a huge number entering. I'll pick the winner on June 5, 2017.  I'm sorry, but you will have to be living in Canada to win though I'd love to hear stories from the rest of you too..




Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Be Careful What You Ask For

For the second time this weekend someone has asked for my opinion and then likely not been pleased when they got it.

Are you one of those people who, when asked how you like someone's new outfit or hairstyle, tell them it looks great while internally you are cringing and wondering what on earth they were thinking when they spent that money?  Well, I'm not.  I assume that if you ask me such a question you really want to know.  Why would you go fishing for compliments? Getting them that way would always leave you wondering if you were getting a truthful answer.  After all you've just put someone on the spot and some people would feel it was impolite the tell the truth and possibly hurt your feelings. I, on the other hand figure you wouldn't ask if you didn't want to know. I'm doing you a service by giving you an honest answer.  You do have to keep in mind that it's just my opinion, and opinions vary from one person to another.  Mine is in no way special other than that you specifically asked for it.

I do a lot of surveys and reviews for new products. This not only makes me a bit of spending money but is also a safe, healthy way for me to express my opinions.  I even have it listed on one of those sites that if you ask for my opinion, you will get it.

Please, do be careful not to ask me how old I think you are, as someone did this weekend.  Before answering, I did say that it was a rather embarrassing question since I might get the answer wrong. I qualified my answer by first stating my own age, and then saying that I figured she was maybe just a couple of years older.  "Older?" she shrieked, as her hands flew to her face in shock.  I knew immediately that she was probably at least 5 years younger to be as upset as that.  But hey, I was faced with a lady selling skin care products that were supposedly anti-aging, and she thought they worked miracles. I thought she looked good for the age I gave her. On the other hand, if she's younger than I am, I have no use for those products as she had a lot more wrinkles than I do. Let's just say it's a good thing I'm not writing a review on that product line.  I was treading carefully by the time she asked if I'd be interested in purchasing any of them. I just told her I had a large supply of creams and gels at home and quickly wandered off.  I do hope she has at least learned not to ask that age question ever again......or any of the other ones she might not be happy with answers to.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Learn to Play the Game of Life

There is something called the game of life. I'm sure you've heard of it. Most of you play it well without actually thinking about it. But what is it?

Like any other game, it has rules. You have to follow certain rules to play any game, especially if you are playing with other people. If you don't they will tell you that you cheat. If you play by your own rules you are just messing things up and the game won't go well. Either way, others won't want to play with you anymore.

Society has set up rules of etiquette which are meant to make people comfortable with one another and other rules called laws, to keep people safe. People who get caught breaking the laws are punished for doing so. People who don't follow the rules of etiquette are simply not pleasant to be around and are often shunned.

Some people don't do well in life and wonder why. They simply have not learned to play the game. If for instance, you hate your job, not because you don't like what you do, but more because you think your boss is stupid, then you have not learned that it does not matter if the boss is wrong. It only matters that you do the job he or she expects you to, in the manner they request. Your job is, in effect, to make your boss happy. That's called playing the game. If you cannot, in good conscience, do what is asked of you, find another job, or do that one so well that you get promoted to being the boss yourself.  A little warning here. There will always be another boss over you unless you own the business. Even then you have to follow the rules set out by the government or the business society. There is always a game to play. Only the players and the rules change.

Marriage is another game. You have to work together to make it work. The rules require that you do not insist on putting yourself first all the time. As in most situations, the happier you make the other person, the happier they are willing to make you.

These days a lot of technology has come into our lives and suddenly we are forced to learn new games. I don't mean video games here. All sorts of things we used to do every day are now done with this technology. Simple things like banking, check-out counters in some stores, and paying at the gas pumps have all become computerized. Some people aren't comfortable with these new technologies and refuse to play those games. They insist on doing things the old way. That can complicate life somewhat as time goes by and they fall further behind in what has now become standard technology.

The government has been trying to get us all to do our taxes online for several years, and since some of us don't want to play that game they have now made it harder to find the correct address to mail our forms to. They are also insisting that they should be able to automatically deposit all payments from them, rather than send out individual cheques. They are busy changing the rules we have grown up with. Not everyone is willing to accept these bullying techniques, and some people, can you imagine, are just not equipped for this sort of technology. Of course, that would make it more difficult to play that sort of game without actually hiring someone to do your taxes, etc.

But I digress.

If things are not going well for you, stop and consider just what area of life you are having trouble with. A life lived by one's own rules very seldom goes smoothly. Stop trying to play the game by your own rules and many of your problems will disappear. What are others doing that makes that life work well for them? Take time to learn some rules that will make your life easier to live and enjoy. Life is just a game. Learn to play it well.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Adventures in Flooring

When a man has time on his hands and you aren't watching him, he will create a project that you are not necessarily ready for. That's basically what happened here.

We have lived in this house for forty years now, and the old carpet had seen better days. Actually, it had some sun faded spots when we moved in, but those were only noticeable if you moved the furniture. Underneath it, the carpet was as good as new.  A year or so ago, the carpet decided to buckle, but only during certain kinds of weather. We knew we were going to have to do something soon. Then last fall it developed a hole. Just a
small one, but a hole just the same.  I turned my back and the carpet was torn out.

We've been living with plywood in the living room ever since. Normally one decides what they are replacing a carpet with before removing it. One of the main problems was that the existing coat cupboard had been added after the carpet had been laid, and was built right on top of it. How does one get a new carpet to fit under there?  We did look at carpeting but eventually decided to go with a hardwood floor instead. When we were in the market for a house, I knew only that I didn't want any wall to wall carpeting and I didn't want a dining room. Well, I have no dining room, and only the living room had the carpet. Now, after forty years, I get the house I went shopping for.

But what did we know about wood floors? Did we want hardwood, engineered hardwood, or laminate?  While we had already decided that my office will someday have laminate flooring, I didn't really think it was suitable for the living room. Apparently, it's been greatly improved over the years though, and we did consider it for a while. We had no idea what engineered hardwood was and had to look into that too. Hubby probably drove our flooring guy a little crazy with all his questions. Me, I was only interested in the colour. I grew up in houses with hardwood floors and wanted it to have the look I  was accustomed to. I understand hardwood is a lot easier to care for these days, which is good, considering I'm now too old to be down on my hands and knees waxing floors like my mother used to.

The question we were frequently asked was what kind of wood do you want. But I don't know anything about woods real or fabricated. We were presented with a few samples, which were not what I had in mind. They were either too light in colour, too textured, or too dull. We decided to take ourselves to the supplier and look at what was available. There were certainly a lot of choices, but my hubby and I both went immediately to the same one. That made it an easy choice. Red Oak. Of course, it came in three different grades, but if I'm going to invest in a hardwood floor, I want the best.  The rustic stuff would have been pretty, but not in my living room. The other one had boards with too much variance in colour and when we had a sample of that, it almost looked like stripes in places. We picked the top grade because it had a more even tone. Watching it being laid, I knew we made the right choice.

But first, we had to clear all but the three large piece of furniture out of that room. That certainly made a mess out of two other rooms for a day or so. The job got done, and we are pleased with the results. I may get an area rug, just to anchor the furniture. My 43-year-old tables will be replaced too. You know the kind.....boxy with cupboard doors....  I want something smaller, that I can just dust mop underneath.  

My hubby caused this project to happen, so now he will have to put up with a bit of redecorating.  That's only fair, eh.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dishing It Up

Back in the days when I wrote a weekly column for one newspaper or another, I used to say that it gave me something to think about besides what to have for supper. That's a big decision, you know. Planning meals and cooking them so that everything is ready at the same time is hard enough, but making sure there is at least something everyone at the table will like is no easy chore.

The column had a deadline so I had to be constantly thinking of new things to write about, and how to get the information needed to make sure I was being accurate.

I don't have a column anymore. I just have this blog. While some blogs do have a strict schedule as to when they are published, mine is more of a hobby, so I just write whatever comes to mind at whatever point in time that happens. I no longer hand off one column, give a big sigh of relief, only to .....just seconds later..... find myself under pressure to come up with a new idea.  In other words, I'm back to sometimes finding that the biggest decision of the day is figuring out what to feed my guys.  Even once I make that decision, I might discover that I would have been better off not to have made the choice I did.  Let's look at two recent examples.

My grandsons were coming for the weekend. They were to arrive on Friday evening, and I wasn't going to be home at the time of arrival, so I thought I'd make it easier for their dad to feed them. I made Sloppy Burgers.  The weather didn't cooperate, and by the time they did get here, it was 8 pm and they had already eaten. No problem. They could have the burgers the next night. But the next day they were invited to a friend's place for dinner, so the Sloppy Burgers that were meant for Friday night got pushed to Sunday. Well, then the freezing rain started, and since they don't live anywhere near here, the time to head home was just after lunch, instead of after supper. We had a hospital visit to make, so I left them knowing that they wouldn't starve.  Their dad made them Nachos for lunch instead and my hubby and I were left to eat as many Sloppy Burgers as we could hold for supper Sunday night just so I wouldn't have to throw them out.

Monday I decided to take a chicken out of the freezer so it could thaw and be roasted on Tuesday.  Tuesday I discovered my hubby was planning to go work out with one of his black belts, so I figured a lighter supper would be better. I had some chicken burgers in the freezer, and there were still some buns left from the weekend. Just before we ate the call came though that the other person had to work late, so they rescheduled the workout for Wednesday.  Lovely. So I'd cook the thawed bird on Wednesday and he could eat as little or as much of it as he wanted, and the rest could be for the next night. Then a good friend calls and wanted me to go with her to the Brockville Aquatarium Wednesday afternoon. She had free passes from the library. Well, I wasn't about to turn that down!  We had a good time and got home later than expected, and I knew I couldn't get that chicken to cook in time for supper, so we had Fish and Chips along with some cold slaw. Quick, easy and satisfying. Along comes Thursday and hubby suddenly decided to take the afternoon off, and run me into Ottawa to see if I can get my camera fixed (that's a whole different story). We didn't dally, but I arrived home even later than the night before. That darn bird had to go in the oven or I was going to have to throw it out! So, dinner was an hour late that night but it tasted good. Anything served that late is bound to.

I'm always hearing how important it is to plan your meals ahead of time so you can buy what you need to make them. I usually buy what I'm out of, and whatever is on special that I know we could eat, and then decide day by day what to pull out and cook. This past week of good planning only ran me into trouble and frustration so I'm issuing a warning to my guys......I'm going to cook the way I write my blog.  What ever comes to mind is what will be served up.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

More Than a Band-aid Solution Needed

For most of my life, I have been glad that I lived in a country where I knew the medical system would be able to take good care of me in my old age. Well, I'm getting there, but now I'm afraid. I'm very afraid. Under the current system, I'd probably just die waiting to get looked at.  That might even be preferable to the suffering some patients have to go through while waiting for treatment.
Within the past month there have been two trips to the emergency room at two different hospitals, and honestly, I'm just glad I wasn't the patient either time.

Patient One at Hospital A presented with a bad back. It was not a new problem but it was a crisis situation and getting worse. The patient got to the hospital okay, but was left to sit for so long that the pain was getting unbearable. I suggested, by text, he go back to the desk and tell them. He said he could no longer make it to the desk. We decided to go to the hospital to see if we could help. By the time we arrive Patient One had finally been moved to the treatment area where he suffered some difficulties getting on and off of the bed. The nurse stood back and only offered to put the side of the bed up for something to haul himself around on......as if someone with a bad back could do that. He was left alone for some time back there too, with no call button, if he'd needed help. After finally getting to see the doctor, and getting a shot for the pain, it was time to go. Patient One indicated that he could not just walk out of there. A wheelchair was found and brought to the doorway. Apparently, even though that part of Hospital A is new, wheelchairs do not fit through the doorways of the treatment rooms.  He then had to make his way to it under his own power, and then the nurse just walked away.  So, still under his own power, he slowly, and painfully managed to wheel himself out towards the lobby. We spotted him and took over. I don't know what they thought he would do with the wheelchair once he reached his vehicle, but it would have been just left in the parking lot if I had not been there to take it back in.

Patient Two had a knee replaced at a different hospital last Monday and was sent home on Wednesday.  She lives alone but the health system doesn't care about that. She managed to line up some friends and family to help her as much as possible for the first week. She had supper Wednesday night but by morning she was nauseous. Since then she had not been able to keep anything down by the time we saw her on Saturday.

We were to take her to get her dressing changed but found her freezing, nauseous, and her nose had gone numb and the numbness was spreading.  Not good. She called the clinic where we were supposed to take her and they told her to call an ambulance to ER instead.

ER is the pits these days.

The ambulance took Patient Two to Hospital B, but when they arrived the paramedics took her off the gurney and put her in a wheelchair.  Her leg isn't supposed to hang for long, and it was an hour before she even got seen by triage. In the meantime, she kept getting worse. First, the numbness spread to her arms and legs. The knee was not supported properly so it became very painful, and she was in obvious distress.  I asked whoever I could catch if there was not a wheelchair with a leg support that she could be moved to instead, and they said they didn't have any.  I know they exist over on the surgical side of the hospital. Why didn't they call for one?

Then her mouth started to bleed.  This is all while still sitting in the hallway, with the paramedics, who were sorry, but eventually had to leave as they were getting calls. The triage nurse was sitting in her little room, fully aware that things were going downhill, and still insisted that she had to see some others first.

So when Patient Two finally got moved into the Emergency room, her brother was expected to move her from the chair to the bed, and I was left to change her into a gown. She apologized for that, but shouldn't have been made to feel that anyone other than hospital staff was responsible for her. I mean, they are the ones trained to move people about, right?  We, on the other hand, are senior citizens, with no such training, and could have dropped her, or hurt ourselves doing what trained professionals should have been doing. She was left alone with no call button, just like Patient One, even though she had this strange numbness spreading throughout her body.

She said she felt like she had a dead animal in her mouth, because of the blood. Nobody ever looked to see why she was bleeding, or where the blood was actually coming from.  They just said they couldn't let her eat or drink anything until they knew what was going on.  They didn't even offer to let her rinse her mouth out.

So then it took another hour for a doctor to show up to look at her. She kept mentioning that she was nauseous right from the moment the Paramedics arrived until the doctor finally saw her,  but nobody ever gave her anything to catch whatever might decide to come up.  After I got her into the gown, all that extra moving around made things worse. She said she was going to be sick, and I ran to find something to catch it in. Luckily I found something just in time.  And still, there was no way to rinse out her mouth. A nurse spotted me running around the empty hallway, and later came with a clear plastic bag with a cardboard funnel on it, saying that was better than what I'd brought. She never took the other away, or even looked to see what was in it.

We knew by then Patient Two was badly dehydrated, which the doctor confirmed when he finally showed up.  He treated her for that, and the nausea, got her dressing changed and ordered bloodwork.

The bloodwork showed she was low on potassium.  That's no surprise either as they had her on potassium while she was in for surgery, but never sent her home with a prescription.  So they put her on a potassium drip and then told her she could leave.  And of course, then the nurse just walked away.

I stuffed her back into her clothes and we could hear them down the way saying she was gone now. There was no way she could be gone without a wheelchair. I went out and let them know we needed one just to get her to the car. This was at least the third time I had to try and find someone. A call button would have been a great solution.

I'm disgusted with the entire process.  How does anyone cope with an emergency situation if they are on their own?  Not even coming in by ambulance helped.  Not everyone has someone who can come to do the things the medical staff used to do. Not all of us who do come are capable of all the duties now heaped on us.  I no longer feel as though our health system is set up to care for us properly even in an emergency situation. Our system is definitely broken.

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Prescription For More Tax Deductions

Every year I find all kinds of people who have been routinely missing out on some major medical expenses. I tell them about that and they say they never knew they could claim such things. Well, I've decided to tell all of you, so listen up.

When I mention claiming medical expenses I often hear, "but we don't ever have enough to claim." Of course, you have to have expenses over 3% of your income in expenses to be able to claim.  It's often best to let the lower income earner claim the family medical expenses for that reason. Then if you claim what you paid for health insurance, the rest is often gravy. What?  You didn't know you could claim your health insurance?  Sure you can. The thing is, in most instances, you have to ask your payroll clerk to give you the numbers for the amount you paid, separated from whatever life insurance may be connected to that payroll deduction. Only once has my hubby ever worked for an employer that had that figure right on the T4's where it belongs.  I told him to make sure he thanked the person responsible for that.  The rest of the time I get him to ask for the correct amount for me to fill in.  This year, when I had my son ask for his, he got some kind of argument about how that wasn't deductible. I told him to inform that clerk that obviously she had been missing out on her own deduction every year. Once she decided she didn't want to continue like that, she got them both the numbers to put on the forms.

The other medical deduction people seem unaware of is that they can claim their travel expenses to go to medical appointments that are more than 40km from home.  If I have to travel to one of the cities for a medical appointment, I just go to Mapquest and put in my address and the address of where I have to go, and it gives me a legitimate distance between the two places. I then multiply that by two, as it is, after all, a return trip. The total distance is then multiply it by the rate the government gives us each year. This year, for instance, in Ontario, it's 54 cents per kilometre. If your appointment is more than 80 kilometres you get a bonus. You can also claim a meal if you have to go that far. There is a flat rate of $17 per meal, to a maximum of $51 per day (sales tax included) per person.  Parking fees are also considered an expense (if you have a receipt), as is overnight accommodation if it's actually necessary for the treatment you are traveling for.

So, have you missed out on these deductions in the past?  Don't let it happen again. You have now been informed.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Almonte Won Me Over With a Contest

It's been a long time since I visited Almonte, Ontario, but the merchants found a way to coax me to come, and now it is inevitable that I will return every chance I get.

I had never entered a contest on Instagram before, but when I saw all the loot the Almonte stores were offering as a prize for their Valentine contest, I just had to give it a try. It was a Loop contest, which means I had to go from one merchant to another, online, and follow directions to win. It was very confusing as there were a lot of merchants, and, as I said, I'd never tried to do this sort of thing on Instagram before. I thought, while I was doing it, that if I succeeded in entering properly, the odds would be better than in a lot of other contests one finds online. Apparently, I was right, as I won about $450 worth of goods that were collected up and waiting for me at one of the shops.  I couldn't have been more excited, and though I don't drive, I managed to get there in less than a week from when I was declared the winner.

Parking was easier to find than I expected, and we only had a short walk to Cheerfully Made, where my prize basket (or bag, in this case) was being held. What an interesting store! There are so many fascinating things in there, that I even stayed and looked around longer while my hubby ran the heavy prize bag back to the car. I saw things I have never seen anywhere else, and I know I'll be going back there every chance I get. It will be my go-to store when I need a special gift. I probably would have bought something then and there, if it had not been the first store we stopped into. I wanted to see what else the town had to offer before choosing what to spend my money on.

There was some artwork in there that really captured my attention. If I had any wall space at home, I doubt I'd have been able to resist bringing some home. I do wish the artist would make cards of her work as I'd likely have to collect the entire set. Sarah Janes of Mississippi North does line drawings of animals that are much more impressive in person than how they appear on her Etsy page.  I found that but no cards were available there either.

Speaking of art, we stopped into an establishment called General Fine Craft, Art & Design. There we discovered that though we go to a lot of art shows, and studio tours, there are even greater artists loose in Ontario than I ever imagined. The talent gathered in this shop is phenomenal!  They not only have wall art, they have pottery, glass, sculptures, jewellery and textiles. I was ready to entirely redecorate my home!

And then there is The Tin Barn Market. Now, this store doesn't grab you the second you come through the door, as the goods are more rustic and not as colourful as what we had seen in the other shops. Upon closer inspection, though, there are many interesting things to be found there. My favourites were the large salvaged metal letters and some picture frames that appeared to be painted with chalk paint. I tried to convince the hubby to purchase a letter to hang on our garage.  He doesn't always listen well. As for the frames, well, one of the things I won was a can of chalk paint, so I'll practice on frames first.  I did see that they hold chalk paint workshops there so if I don't succeed on the frames, I might just have to go back and take a class.  The other side of the shop had marvellous things to eat. There were pizza buns and huge pretzels, as well as date squares, cinnamon buns and irresistible looking cheese danishes. I noticed there were pies and other larger things under the counter, but there were too many people lined up at that time, and we had just eaten anyway.

Later we hunted down the flower shop, and I collected a beautiful bouquet which was assembled within minutes while I watched. There was a good assortment of live plants, there too, and I discovered something called a heart hoya. I've had a regular hoya for a long time, and it's always been my favourite plant. I asked about these little hearts in pots, and was told that they grow vines just like my hoya, except the leaves are heart shaped. Of course, I had to have one!  Then I realized that with fresh flowers in hand, I really had to go home.

The village has really changed since last time we were there. We heard that a number of young women had opened up businesses and brought the town back to life. The contest was a great way to introduce the public to many of the shops, and while I may have won the prize, I'm sure the merchants have won a good many new clients and will continue to find ways to coax more people to visit their village. The people in the shops were all so friendly and helpful, it made shopping there a real treat.

I'm already marking May 6 and 7 in my calendar to remind me when they will be holding their Spring Market in the Agricultural Hall.  I certainly hope to get to visit that!





The following is a list of merchants and the prizes they contributed to the contest. Many thanks to each and every one of you!

Kentfield Kids         Tutu + Pink Bunny
Doree's Habit           Floral Wallet & Bracelet
Tin Barn Market     Annie Sloan Chalkpaint
Blush and Black     Apricot Body Oil &    Strawberry Lip Gloss  
                                      
Acanthus Floral      Valentine's bouquet
Crush Marketplace  Jon Clar Earrings
Hummingbird Chocolate  Chocolate Tasting Kit Plus Four Chocolate Bars
Heirloom                 $30 gift certificate for a meal & gourmet Canned Goods
General Fine Craft   Two Glass Sweethearts
North Market           Gift certificate for 2 take away items
Cheerfully Made      Love Story Candle, Brass Heart Studs & Gum               

I'm not finished collecting prizes in Almonte yet. I still have two gift certificates involving meals, and I will be going back to collect on them and visit some more stores (and revisiting those mentioned above). You will have to excuse me now, while I go test some chocolate......