Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

All About Cotton

I've noticed lately that a lot of my blog traffic is coming via searches for Cotton Dogs.  Granted, My Cotton is a Maltese and not a Coton de TulĂ©ar (the breed that I suspect people are looking for), but that doesn't mean that that he doesn't have a following, all of his own.

Here's proof, in the form a screen shot that I grabbed from my blog stats:

So, if you want to know all about Cotton Dog, here's the pertinent information:

  • Being cute is his thing.  Some dogs have jobs or specific skills.  Cotton gets by on his looks alone.

  • His head is perfectly round, and fits exactly into the palm of my hand.  It's made for scratching, which is strongly encouraged.  You know you're getting the scratches right when Cotton smacks his lips.  
  • Frozen peas are his favourite food.  Steamed broccoli comes in as a close second.
  • Cotton likes to run.  Lately, he doesn't get much further than a lap or two around the easy chair, but he does it every night before we go for our walk.
  • He's a fair weather dog and does not go on leash between November and May.  Instead, he's carried around in his sling.  
Lately he's been known to multitask, and work in a nap during walks when he can..
  • Cotton's cognitive functions may not be running at full capacity anymore, but we love him anyway.  Even if he is a stoner.

  • He's the bestest little white dog in the world.

Friday, February 24, 2012

It Pays to Ask

Every year, I go visit the lady at my bank who arranged my mortgage.  I don't invest with my bank, but I have my mortgage and line of credit with them, as well as a savings and chequing account.   With even that little bit, we review the "service" I get with them, and look for ways to save me money.  Every year, we've found a small way.  Last year, I agreed to cut down my ATM transactions in exchange for a $5/month discount on my bank charges.  This year, they knocked my interest rate down by 1/2 a percent.

About 3-4 months ago, I called the cable/internet/phone company and said that I needed to cut back on my expenses.  I was thinking of moving over to their competitor, but wondered if they could match or beat the competitor's prices.  I got a deal that saves me $40/month, but after a week or so, I realized that I missed some of the channels that I'd lost with the new package.  I called again, was told that I could have them back on a trial basis for 3 months, and then would have to pay $10/month to keep them.  Last week, the 3 months was up, and I reluctantly called to tell them that I wasn't going to pay to keep them.  I liked these channels, but it wasn't worth the extra $10/month.  Instead, the cable company agreed to let me keep them and knocked an additional $15/month off my bill.  They said that they'd reworked their cable packages shortly after my last call to meet the market demands.

The moral of these stories?  It's pays to ask for these things.  Neither the bank nor the cable company volunteered these discounts, until I asked for them.  It's admittedly a little hard on the ego to call companies out of the blue and ask for discounts - it kind of makes me feel like a pauper.  But, I've got an extra $55/month in my pocket, just from the cable company.  And 1/2% might not seem like much, but over the next couple of years, I have no doubt that it'll add up.  That's worth a little embarrassment in my book any day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Blood Stains

Tallulah had a large cyst on her hip until it broke last night.  It bled right through my comforter before I discovered it, so I got to do a load of laundry at 10pm, and then sleep under a pile of old blankets.

Today, she kept licking and licking, so the blood kept oozing.  Everywhere she went, she left blood stains, so I had to cover everything with sheets.  I've done four loads of laundry today, including my comforter, which she bled on again, almost as soon as it was dry from last night's washing.

The cone of shame didn't work, so desperate times called for desperate measures.

Sure am glad I never got around to throwing out those granny panties that I bought for the surgery last year.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Banging My Head Upon the Wall

Letter #1, from me

Please find receipts for my next submission for my insurance claim XXXXXXX. I bought a bigger armoire, which is intended to replace both the old armoire and the old storage cart on wheels
I underlined that last bit to emphasize it for you, but not in the original email.  

Response to Letter #1, from the insurance company
Please refer to the Schedule of Loss attached for the difference amount paid on each item.
(The attached schedule of loss showed that they refunded me for the replacement of the armoire, but not the storage cart on wheels.)

Letter #2, from me

I would appreciate an explanation for why I did not get a full refund for the new armoire that I purchased.  It is a large storage cabinet to replace both a medium storage cabinet and a small storage cabinet.  I'm not sure why only the replacement cost of the armoire was considered, and the cost to replace the smaller piece (the storage cart) wasn't considered at all.
Response to Letter #2, from the insurance company

The replacement items are assessed based on your Schedule of Loss. We would reimburse you up to the maximum replacement cost of the wardrobe as indicated in the Schedule. If you replace with similar items but the cost exceeds the maximum, then you would receive the maximum amount.
Letter #3, from me

I'm looking at the schedule of loss that you sent me.  On line 13, it says that I can have up to $$$ to replace the armoire that was damaged.  On line 25, it says that I can have up to $$$ to replace the storage cart on wheels.  The new armoire that I purchased was intended to replace both the old armoire and the storage cart, and so it was my understanding that I could spend up to $$$$.

The old armoire had two doors.  It was about 3' wide and was used to hold clothes.  The old storage cart had three shelves, two of them behind doors (and it was on wheels).  Although technically it was a microwave cart, it was never used as such - Originally, I used it to hold my printer and office-type items, and later on I  used it to hold my photography gear.   
The new armoire has two sections.  One section has two doors, is about 3' across and will be used to hold out of season clothes. The other side has one door and three shelves and will be used to hold photography gear.  As far as I can tell, the only issue here is that the two parts are attached, and I would hope that you can see past that.  
Response to Letter #3, from the insurance company.
I will reimburse you an additional $$$ from the allowance for the cabinet on wheels.


Sadly, this has been a very typical interaction with the insurance company.  Every step forward requires three steps back.... so much so, that I wonder if they do this to discourage people from filing claims.

Please take a moment to knock on wood, in the hopes that you never need to go through this yourself.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Observations and such

  • I went out for dinner at a restaurant with friends on Saturday.  I made a crack to one friend about her not ordering the seafood platter special, unless she sits at another table.  (They're all aware of my allergies.)  The waitress overheard, and came back later to confirm what, exactly, I am allergic to.  Then she came back again because the chef wanted to know if I had my epi-pen with me.  I'm glad I did, because if I didn't, I got the distinct impression that they would have asked me to leave.

  • I don't understand why basic cheeses like mozza, cheddar and american cheese is stored in the dairy section of grocery stores, and other cheeses are stored in the deli section.  I never manage to remember which cheeses are stored where, and end up running back and forth - because dairy is always on one side of the store and the deli is always way the heck on the other side.   I think I walked a good 5km this morning, while looking for ricotta. 

  • My neighbourhood is full of lemmings.  Any (every) time that I go outside to shovel, even if I'm the only person outside on the whole block, it takes less than 5 minutes before one of my neighbours comes out to shovel their walk too.  Then another one comes out and then another.  I do the same thing too - I don't want to be the only one with the uncleared sidewalk, so I generally get out there myself whenever I hear one of my neighbours shovelling.  

  • My most recent submission for insurance included a large wardrobe to replace a medium sized wardrobe and a smaller storage container on wheels.  I explained in my email that I'd purchased one item to replace the two that had been lost.  I made note of it in the spreadsheet that I filled out for them.  They just contacted me to say that my cheque was in the mail - they only refunded me for the price of the medium wardrobe and ignored the cost of the smaller container.  In my experience, neither communication nor attention to detail are requirements to work as an insurance adjuster.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Beam Me Up

I'm sorting through past paperwork and shredding copious amounts of old files today.

Cotton is chasing beams.

I'd rather do what he's doing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Hangup

I was in two special classes in Junior High.  For one, I was taken out of half of my Language Arts classes so that I could sit in the special needs classroom and draw words with my finger in a box of sand.  The school did this because my spelling didn't progress beyond that of a kid in grade five, and they didn't realize at the time that autocorrect would be here to save the day.

In a fit or irony that the school never clued into, I was also taken out of the remaining Language Arts and some History classes to attend a class called "Challenge".  I was enrolled in that class because apparently my IQ was too high and they needed way to keep me.... well, challenged.  (I can say this without bragging because a later knock on the head divested me of any surplus brain cells that I might have had, and left me struggling to maintain an average IQ.)  Each year for Challenge, I was assigned to whatever teacher happened to have a free period during my language arts and history classes.  They gave me tasks   to keep me occupied during this time so that I'd then have to work harder - on my own time - to keep up with the classes that I'd be removed from.

In grade 8, I was assigned to the high school biology teacher.   The projects that he gave me were to dissect things - I started small with squids and frogs, and moved up to a shark and a pig.  Being the daughter of a physician, I was OK with the dissection.  What I wasn't OK with was that following the dissection, the teacher fired up the bunsen burners, and expected me to cook and eat the remains of some of the animals.

I'll pause here to let you think about that a little bit and let it sink in.

It's probably enough said on the subject, and sufficent explanation about why I am so selective when I eat meat.

I don't eat anything in it's original form, so roasted chicken or turkey is out, as would be most seafood if I wasn't already allergic to it.  I don't eat anything that has bones, skin, visible blood vessels, fat or grissel.   And because I've got a vivid imagination, don't eat anything like hot dogs or processed meats that are likely to contain any of the above.  When I cook with meat, I almost always start with it frozen, because otherwise the texture of it grosses me out.

Most days, I find it easier to skip the meat than not.  When I do eat it, I limit myself to boneless, skinless chicken breasts or cuts of bison.  The meat that I buy comes from a store that  specializes in organic meat from animals who have been raised humanely.  He doesn't sell anything that can't be cut up with a sharp knife (ie - no hidden gross parts), and he's willing to let me pick out a roast that he'll grind while I wait so that I know exactly what I'm eating.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I have a hangup when it comes to meat, so I'm pretty selective when I try new recipes.  Last night, I tried something that I had found a few weeks ago, and had really ben looking forward to it.  It's coconut chicken, which I thought had a lot of promise.

You cut chicken breasts into strips, dredge them in flour, then dip them in a mixture of coconut milk and eggs before dredging them again in a mix of panko crumbs and shredded coconut.  The whole mess is pan fried, and then dipped in a sweet thai chili sauce.  I thought it was going to be great.

It looked good, right up until  I took the first bite.  Then, I realized that the coconut milk and egg mixture was still a little gooey, and the coconut/panko mixture (which burned really easily) gave the whole thing a texture as though I was chewing through gristle.  It made me gag.  Thinking about it makes me gag.

The recipe called for 2 pounds of chicken.  Thank goodness I didn't have that much, and that I cooked things in batches, so I only wasted two chicken breasts.  I hate to say it, but there's no way I can eat what I did cook.  Dinner last night ended up to be a PBJ sandwich, and I seriously think it might be another month before I attempt to eat meat again.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

This is going to hurt

I crunched numbers last week - a lot of numbers.  I realized that I haven't been making any progress on getting rid of my debt because I keep borrowing money for repairs to this poorly built house.    So, I decided that, short of structural or safety-related issues, I'm not going to do anything to the house until the debt is gone.  Furthermore, I want the debt gone sooner rather than later.

After putting together a very strict budget, I went to the bank to arrange to have weekly payments applied to the line of credit.  If I can stick with this, I'll have the debt paid off in just over two years.    As wonderful as that will be, I'ma gonna be broker than broke for the next couple of years.

The bank tried to have me roll the debt into my mortgage and spread the payments out, but I didn't want to do that.  Although the payments would be lower, taking longer to pay things off would almost double the interest I'd have to pay in the long run.

So, I made a counter offer.  We kept the debt separate from the mortgage for now.  Every week, two mortgage-payment sized payments will come out of my bank - one will go to the house, and the other will go to the line of credit.  I'll be left with a bare minimum to pay for everything else.  But, if I can make it work for two years, I'll be consumer debt free.   If I can keep the same payments up for another 5 years after that, I'll have the house paid off too.

It's a scary thought, but at the same time, it's pretty great to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, February 6, 2012

For lack of anything else to say...

There's been a lot of Blogging Blockage lately.  I think its safe to say I'm not the only one, because blog traffic seems to be at an all time low lately.  In an effort to end all that from my direction anyway, I'm going to expose you to some teenage I'm too old for this sh!t angst.

A few weeks ago, I asked a guy out.  Kind of.   He's somebody that I've known for quite a few years.  He worked with some friends of mine about 10 years or so ago.  A group of us used to meet  occasionally for dinner back then, and have met a few times since to catch up.  I can't say that the two of us have ever been close, but we used to hang in the same circles and I've always thought he was the kind of guy that I could see myself with.  Plus, he kind of looks like a blond Chris Noth to me, and I can't say that I'd object to having my very own Mr Big.  (I'm going to shorten that to B to simplify things moving on.)

B and I have been friends on Facebook for a while.  We comment on each other's status, and support each other in our fitness goals but don't get into anything too personal.  I think he was surprised when I sent him a private message that said I'd be in Edmonton and wondered if he wanted to meet for lunch... but he said yes.

Tangent for an awkward, funny story...   Another friend of mine, also from the Edmonton area, was in town here with his family over New Years and we went for lunch.  He brought up B, and I casually mentioned that we had lunch plans coming up.  The other guy invited himself along!   
I managed to skirt that - promised that we'd organize a group dinner sometime soon but didn't give him any details.  I thought it worked because I found myself at the lunch without a chaperone... only to learn that he'd called B and tried to get an invite from him too.  Luckily, B also managed to come without a chaperone as well by also promising to arrange a group dinner soon too.

Lunch went well.  B picked the restaurant and was there when I arrived.  Food was good.  Conversation flowed - we were there for two and a half hours.  We laughed, we caught up and we talked easily.  The time flew.

As we got up to leave the restaurant, I sucked up my nerve and said that I'd had a great time and that we should do it again sometime.  He responded we a perfect Neanderthal-esq "HUH?"

This guy is smart and well spoken.  In the two and a half hours we'd been together, he hadn't had any difficulty hearing me.  If he had, I'm sure I'd have gotten a "sorry?  or at least a "pardon me?".  What I didn't expect was a "Huh?", like the idea of going out with me had never crossed his mind, and the thought of it shocked him.  So, I wimped out and I said "I had a great time today - thanks."

Then we left the restaurant, stood outside on the sidewalk for another 20 minutes talking and got ready to go our separate ways... but not before B said that if we wanted to do the group dinner, he'd be happy to organize things.  Sounds good.

'Cept he hasn't done anything.  I waited three weeks, before sending out a mass email about the group dinner.  We'll be going next week. B will be there.  I'm tempted to sit across from him and play footsies under the table, but I suspect that I'll forget all about it and pretend like our lunch never happened.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cheaper than a new door

The tieback cost $1.  The hook cost $2.49 (for two).  It's not very pretty, but it's only used behind a (mostly) closed door.

While I could make the door poodle proof, Cotton can still get in so I raised the food a bit.  I figure this small table is easier to jump up on than a counter.  Once Cotton gets used to the idea of not going in the room (which isn't too hard - he's not very adventurous) I'll put the bowls on the floor.

I haven't moved the litter box into the tub yet - I want to make sure I can keep the poodle out of the room before I do that.   (I'll spare you the picture of that when the time comes.)