Monday, April 30, 2012

A Question of Cleanliness

I've been working insane hours lately.  For the last couple of weeks, 10-12 hour days have been the easy ones.    So, when a plumber came after two 16 hour days in a row a while back, I just let him in, pointed the way and made no effort to clean up my mess.  I did explain to him that the exceptionally large of dirty pile of dishes was unusual, but that's it.

Today, I called over the lunch hour to report that my hot water tank is still leaking.  I asked that a plumber call me back after 4, because I'd be in meetings all afternoon.  I then promptly forgot all about the plumbing issues and went back to work.  At 4:45pm, the doorbell rang.  I was on the phone with my boss, so I ignored it.  Then it rang again.  And then it rang again.  I put the boss on hold and went to chew out the kid who was trying to sell chocolate bars, ask for bottles or otherwise interrupt and bother me.  It was a plumber.

It took me a few minutes to realize who he was, and during that time I *may* have scared him with my best death stare.  He asked if he could please come in and go down to look at my hot water tank.  I explained that I was on the phone and he'd be on his own.  He tiptoed past me and went to investigate the problem.  I finished my phone call, and started downstairs to apologize for the greeting he'd received at the door, only to pass the kitchen and realize that the pile of dishes - although a different pile of dishes from the ones he'd seen earlier - was as big as or probably larger than the one I'd declared to be unusual earlier.

So after all that, my question to you is: would it be wrong for me manufacture future problems and call him back at least once... maybe twice... in the near future, at a time when I can make sure that the house is clean, the  dishes are done, and I don't look like a complete and total slob?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Another New Old Addition

My parents, who downsized about a year and a half ago, are realizing that they didn't purge enough.  Their little condo (which I'm pretty sure is still bigger than my house) is jam packed full.  So, yesterday I became the proud new owner of this little 100 year old baby.

It was my great grandmother's sewing machine table, back before sewing machines were electric.

The truth is, I'm a little afraid to have it at my place.  It's delicate and breakable.  I'm not so delicate and have been known to do my fair share of damage.    I'm a little torn about keeping it.   I like having the family history, but I'm not so sure about responsibility.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Big Responsibility

My parents, who lived in a wooded (shady) home while I was growing up, aspired to move to a sunny location.  They were not successful.  They bought a condo that has a main road to the south, so most of their windows face north.  This is disappointing, because my mom had hoped that she'd finally be able to grow houseplants.  What's worse is that what little sunlight they do get is filtered by a UV blocking film on their windows.  As a result, even the few shade-tolerant plants that they had are dying.

Specifically, a Christmas cactus that my mom has had as long as I can remember was dying.  It was given to her 30+ years ago, from a family friend who was a huge part of our lives before losing the battle with cancer 6 years ago.  My mom isn't a very sentimental person, but the plant makes her think of Patty - especially when it blooms.  

Sadly, it's only had one pathetic bloom since they moved.  It lost its deep green colour, started to turn yellow and dropped a lot of leaves. It's down to about half the size it used to be, and my mom was feeling as though she was losing a connection to Patty.

I am fortunate to live in a sunny home.  My windows face mostly south or west and don't have any UV Protection films, so I have unfiltered light all day.  So, yesterday the Christmas cactus was moved to my house.  

I sure hope it recovers, because I don't want to be the person that kills Patty's plant.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday crazies

  • Today was one of those days when I wanted to leave my career behind and open a flower shop.  I can't imagine anything going wrong in a flower shop - and even if it did, I don't think I'd care.  I'd be surrounded by flowers.

  • I got my passport today.  I'm legal!

  • It was +26C outside this afternoon, which is pretty amazing.  Looking around the yard (which is a favourite pastime this time of year), I see the strawberries, chives,  phlox and tulips popping out of the ground.  The lilac leaves are thinking about popping out too.  

  • Also, I bought sweet pea seeds tonight.  Sweet peas always make me happier.

  • I'm trying to not eat chocolate anymore.  I love chocolate... too much.  Lately, I've been convinced that having Any chocolate always makes me want More chocolate.  So, I decided to cut it out.  I didn't have any chocolate yesterday.  I did OK this morning until I had to go into the office and then "today" happened.  When I got home,  I decided that eating chocolate isn't a bad thing.  I'm not sure if I feel better or not, since I'm still contemplating the flower shop.  Tomorrow, I'll probably get back on the no-chocolate band wagon.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Random Friday

  • One of my coworkers resigned, and today was his last day.  We have a major project going live in a few weeks, and suddenly I needed to learn a lot of things I didn't know so that I could teach them to a lot of people.  (The coworker was going to do the training.)  This week, I've been starting work at 6:30am and frequently working until 8, 9 and 10pm.  Today, I did the first training session.  There were about 80 people in attendance who listened to me yack for about two hours.  I flubbed my lines a couple of times.  I gave them bad advice at least once (that I caught) and had to go back and correct myself.  When that training session was over, I came home and collapsed.    I have no brain cells left.    

  • This afternoon, a plumber came to replace the hot water tank that his boss had inspected and deemed irreparable on Tuesday morning.  Turns out, the tank wasn't broken - two screws were loose.  I'm not sure if I'm relieved to have saved the $1000 that a new tank costs, or ticked off to have to spend $120 to tighten a couple of screws.

  • I regularly tell people at work how far a little chocolate will get them.  If somebody doesn't meet their deadline, I might let it slide but I tell them they owe me chocolate.  If I do leg work to help somebody get their work done, I tell them they owe me chocolate.  If I fix their mistakes, I tell them they owe me chocolate.  Today, for the first time in six years, I was the recipient of chocolate.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Alberta Election Rant

There's a provincial election in Alberta next week.  This is huge.  Alberta is traditionally a fairly conservative (red neck) population, but it seems to be getting worse.  One of the newer political parties is gaining in popularity, and it scares the snot out of me.

Things to know about the Wild Rose Party:

  • Their official stance on global warming is that they don't believe the science behind it.
  • One of their candidates stated on the radio that he feels he has an advantage in the election because he's white.
  • Another Wild Rose Candidate publicly admitted to believing that homosexuals will spend eternity in a lake of fire once they die.
Amazingly, the Wild Rose party has a chance at winning! 

I believe in equality for gays, straights, men and women - whether they are black, white or brown.  I believe in free healthcare, education at a reasonable price and environmental responsibility over commerce. I am a staunch Liberal. 

Next week, I'll be voting for the Progressive Conservative Party, in the hopes that the Wild Rose doesn't win.

(This video has some language in it.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Nobody Barked

I dropped the dogs off at the groomer's today, and had some things going on at home.  I told my boss I needed to take some personal time and would be offline for some of the afternoon.

When I got home after dropping off the dogs, the cat met me at the door, and followed me to the kitchen.  I made lunch, and didn't trip over anybody.  When I was almost finished eating lunch, the doorbell rang.   Not only was I able to get up and leave my half-eaten lunch on the table with no fear of it being stolen, nobody barked.  I could quietly and calmly walk to the door, open it without having to body block anybody and invite the serviceman in.

We went downstairs to the basement to look around.   When we came back up, nobody barked at the appearance of the strange man who they'd seen only a little while ago.  Then, the service man left with no fear on my part that a tiny white dog might squeeze through if he doesn't close the screen door really fast behind him or a big black poodle might jump all over him.

Shortly after the serviceman left, the water delivery guy arrived.  He loaded up my jugs of water on the front porch, and rang the doorbell.  Nobody Barked.  For the first time ever, I didn't have to tell him to just leave the water on the front porch - that I'd carry it in myself when I had a chance.  There was no fear of anybody squeezing out the door and the jugs were carried in, or of the delivery man being knocked over by an exuberant poodle.  For the first time, I had the water jugs delivered to closet where they are stored until used.

A little while later, somebody very quietly knocked on the front door.  It was the fed-ex guy, delivering my new e-reader.  I wasn't expecting him yet, but that's OK.  Nobody barked.  Nobody had to be locked in a room, and nobody tried to escape.  It wasn't a big deal.  I just opened the door, signed for the package and took it in.

You may have noticed a pattern here.  I'm starting to think that it's not just the dogs who benefit from their spa day.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chips - for the dogs

My dogs have  been eating dehydrated chicken breasts for a few years.    The dogs love them, and they do wonders for their teeth.  Except, I have an issue with them:

These freeze dried chicken breasts seem very similar to the chicken jerky that has been killing dogs.  (See one of many articles on the subject HERE.)  Nobody seems to know how the jerky is killing dogs - they eat them for a while, and then suddenly become deathly ill.  I'm neither a vet nor a nutritionalist, but I personally think that dogs aren't built to consume the salt content and preservatives that go into these things... although, I suspect there's more to the problem than that.  Regardless, everything I've read has said that the problematic chicken jerky is coming from China.  I scoured the packaging for the dehydrated chicken that my dogs eat, and I couldn't find anything.  So, I called the manufacturer.  They said that their products aren't made in China; they're made in Taiwan.  Some people say Taiwan is a stand alone county.  China says it's a Chinese State.  Either way, I don't want to gamble with my dogs' lives over semantics.

In a perfect world, I'd make freeze dried chicken breasts for the dogs myself.  However, at the current price for chicken around here, that's not going to happen.  Looking for other options, I found dehydrated sweet potatoes for dogs in one store.  They peaked my curiosity, but seemed kind of expensive at $6 for a small bag.  Then, while grocery shopping, I found a fairly big bag of sweet potatoes for $2.99.  I bought them and googled to figure out how to dehydrate them.

It's dead easy:

  1.  slice them about 1/4" thick (mandolins are handy for this!)
  2. lay them out on a cookie sheet - no oil necessary 
  3. put into a preheated oven at 250 for two hours
  4. flip them over, then bake for another two hours.

I didn't think to take pics at the start.  This is after the first two hours.

This is after 4 hours

They shrink as they cook.  
I'd suggest doing at least a few cookie sheets' worth if you're going to run the oven for that long.

More importantly,  they passed the test.

Notice the poodle in the background.  
She snarfed her sweet potato chip too quickly for me to get photographic proof, 
and then thought she was entitled to Cotton's chip too.  

I'm not entirely sure if they'll do as good of a job at cleaning the dogs' teeth, but I'm told that much of Cotton's problem is his lack of chewing.  He chewed on these for almost as long as he normally chews on his dehydrated chicken, so hope it works.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Random stuff

  • I got my hair cut today.  They took off about 8", so it's just skimming my shoulders now.  Without the extra weight, I suddenly have curly hair.

  • I recently bought some "Packing cubes" to help organize and contain my stuff inside of my suitcase for the Italy trip.  It kind of seems illogical to add to what you're packing in order to fit more, but they seem to work.  Testing them out, I fit 2 pairs of jeans, 4 shirts and cardigan in the largest one with ample room to spare.  I then pulled out my carry on bag, and estimated that I could fit three of the large packing cubes inside of it.  I think I'm set for my trip.

  • Yesterday, I looked outside and there must have been 30 robins in my back yard.  I've never seen so many in one place, but they were gone fairly quickly.  I guess they must have been migrating home.

  • I've decided to dig up about half of the lawn on the side yard, and turn it into a vegetable and strawberry garden.  That part of the yard has south exposure, and the lawn is starting to burn from all the sun.  I was going to start digging today, but my plans changed.  It's snowing outside, and while I don't expect this to last for long, this weather doesn't seem very cohesive to gardening.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Captain Obvious

This is an excerpt from an article I found online about plants that repel mosquitoes:
Catnip is a natural mosquito repellent. In August 2010, entomologists at Iowa State University  reported to the American Chemical Society that catnip is ten times more effective than DEET, the chemical found in most commercial insect repellents. According to Iowa State researcher Chris Peterson, the reason for its effectiveness is still unknown. “It might simply be acting as an irritant or they don’t like the smell. But nobody really knows why insect repellents work.”

In the laboratory, Peterson put groups of 20 mosquitoes in a two-foot glass tube, half of which was treated with nepetalactone, a biologically active characteristic constituent of catnip. After 10 minutes, only an average of 20 percent – about four mosquitoes – remained on the side of the tube treated with a high dose (1.0%) of the oil. In the low dose test (0.1%) an average of 25% – five mosquitoes – stayed on the treated side. When the same tests were conducted using DEET (diethyl-meta-toluamide), approximately 40 to 45% – eight to nine mosquitoes – remained on the treated side. A ten-fold higher concentration of DEET was required to obtain results similar to those of the Catnip.

Catnip is very easy to grow. This perennial herb is related to mint, and grows readily both as a weed and a commercially cultivated plant in most areas of the US. While catnip will repel mosquitoes in close proximity to the plant, some people apply crushed catnip leaves or catnip oil for more robust protection. Bear in mind, however, that cats will respond to you similarly as they would respond to the plant itself. Cat owners may want to choose an alternative plant for repelling mosquitoes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


  • Why are cats (why is my cat) attracted to anything in a contrasting colour?  I should show you the new red chair.  It's turning white.

  • Is it crazy to spend $240 for a 12 hour market/food tour and cooking class in Italy?  That seems like so much money, but it's a cooking class in Italy

  • I need to add more bookshelves in the "library" to hold paperbacks.  I'm going to buy/stain boards to match and hang them on the wall.  Should I start above my computer desk and work my way up to the ceiling, or below the portraits, to the side of the door and work my way down to the floor?  (If I did it at the desk, I'd either prop the kitty portrait on a shelf, or hang it on the front of one.)

  • How much longer until spring stops teasing, and actually arrives?

Monday, April 9, 2012

In case you were curious

"French Toast Casserole" is pretty much the same as bread pudding. It's got old bread. It's soggy.

I was deceived by some fantastic photography and the promise of homemade strawberry syrup. As a result, I've wasted an entire loaf of French Bread. Please, do yourself a favour and learn from my mistake.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Times like these...

... are when you laugh or you gnaw off an arm.  I'm choosing to laugh.

It's time to get my passport renewal submitted. I got the picture taken and looked at the form online a couple of weeks ago. It seemed simple enough, but for whatever reason I didn't fill it in right away. I knew that when I did finish it, I wanted to bring it right into the office for review there. I’ve known a number of people who have had their applications rejected over silly things like signing them with a red pen, not using the proper paper or their pictures not being perfect; I didn't want to take any chances.

Last week, I set out to get this done on Wednesday. I was going to take it in over my lunch hour, but realized right before lunch that I needed references on the renewal form too. (I thought only new applications required references.) I know a lot of people, but it’s amazing how few people I know well enough to rattle off their middle names, home address, work phone and home number.   I tend to contact friends by email of on Facebook....  I could probably get rid of my phone,  I use it so rarely (outside of work) so I don't have a clue what a lot of my friend's phone numbers are.  So, I had to scramble to get hold of people so that I could get and write down their personal info.

Then I had to go out and buy paper because all my paper is coloured or textured. I have been putting off buying white paper because I have stacks and stacks of non-white paper that I need to use up.  And, to tell you the truth, this still drives me nuts.  What does it hurt if the application is printed on pink paper? Does it make it any less true? And, if I have to use white paper, why can't I buy a few sheets? Why do I have to buy a lifetime supply of it?

I broke down and went to the store over my lunch hour to buy white paper.   Except, while I was at the store, I remembered that my printer leaves smudges down the center of everything it prints. I’m thinking that if applications are rejected because of shiny foreheads in the picture (which happened to a friend), they’re not going to like smudges. So I ended up not buying paper; instead, I went to my dad’s house and printed it there.

By this time, it was too late to stop at the passport office during my lunch hours, so I went home. That's when I signed my name in the signature box  ...and overlapped the line on the box where is says “Void if border is crossed.”

Son of B...

Of course, I couldn’t reprint it, because I still didn’t have any white paper.  My dad lives on the other side of town, so I asked a friend who lives nearby to print it for me in exchange for a stack of some bamboo paper from my stash.  Then I signed the forms with a signature so small that it doesn't resemble my writing at all, but I stayed within the box.  I then tried to run into the passport office, but they close at 4:00. What kind of public service office opens at 9:00 and closes at 4:00??? Clearly, I'm working for the wrong branch of the government.

Thursday, I gathered everything up and went into the passport office over lunch. Walking in the door, something on the handle snagged my finger and left a deep cut. I told the receptionist that I was there for a passport renewal, and she started to take my info as I riffled through my purse for a Kleenex, napkin or anything to staunch the bleeding. True to typical gov’t worker fashion, she ignored the fact that I was bleeding like a stuck pig and focused on collecting my full name, my address, phone number, and life story… all so that I can get into see somebody to simply look at my application and tell me if it's OK.

In the meantime, I was bleeding all over the place. I was trying to hold my finger with my other bare hand, but that didn't help. If I held my hand up, the blood ran down into my sleeve. If I held my hand down, it dripped on the floor. I was starting to think I might need stitches, there was so much blood but the lady at the desk didn't notice. And then she told me to go sit down in the chairs and that somebody will be with me in 25-30 minutes.

I left.  I mailed my application in and will hope for the best.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Or, Maybe...

I was having second thoughts about the new chair, and I'm still bothered by how little space I have to work in at my desk in the spare room.  I've thought about bringing the spare room bed down to the basement because I only tend to have overnight guests a few times a year.  Except, that would involve carrying the bed downstairs, and then bringing it back up anytime that guests came to stay.  Before I did that, I decided to prop the mattresses against the wall and live with them there for a while.

I think that the chair and ottoman look better in this room.  I also think, after working there for the day, that the space problem that I have is with the size of the desk, not the room on the floor.  

A new desk isn't in the budget, and taking the bed to the basement seems like more trouble than it's worth.  I think it's going to be laid flat again and the chair/ottoman will be returned to the library. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

New Seating for the Library

I spent much of Sunday trying to do  power shopping to close out my insurance claim from last summer.  After spending most of the morning doing tactical planning, I spent the afternoon hitting every single furniture or department store in town.   I wanted an ottoman, tuffet or a couple of floor cushions to replace some floor cushions that floated away.  After coming out empty handed that afternoon, I spent much of Sunday evening online, looking for something I could order.  I didn't find anything, so ended up deciding to buy a couple of really good pillows for my bed instead.

Tonight, I went out to replace a purse that was destroyed.  I ended up in a discount department store that I'd been in on Sunday, and didn't have any better luck with their purses today than I did with their ottomans.  Except, today there were new ottomans that caught my eye.  

Even better, those new ottomans reminded me of a clearance chair I'd seen at another furniture store on Sunday.    So, I bought it and crossed my fingers that the chair still hadn't sold (it hadn't).  The colours weren't quite as perfect as I remembered, but they're close enough.  So, I have a new chair and ottoman, curtesy of the insurance company.

Not only does this provide comfortable seating for the library, the style reminds me of my grandparents.  They always had Bergere Chairs in their house, so this reminds me of them.

The red is bold - I'm a little worried that it makes the room look Christmasy with the green dresser and picture mats - but I'll live with it for a while before change anything. I'm hoping that all the different colours of the books will tie things together.   Or, maybe I'll paint the dresser in a robin's egg blue.

And with the bright contrast his white hair, something tells me that Winter has found a new favourite seat.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Random Thoughts

  • When we go to Italy, we plan to get around mostly by train between cities and otherwise by foot.  A friend pointed out that we should be prepared for the cobblestone roads and bumpy sidewalks to destroy the wheels on our luggage.   This also made me realize that we probably don't want to schlep big suitcases around, so I'm already scheming about how little I can get away with.  If my camera, ebook and netbook all go in my nap sac, do you think I can reasonably fit three weeks worth of clothes into a carry-on sized suitcase?

  • I want to close my insurance claim, but I'm annoyed enough with the  Insurance company that I've decided to replace every single item on the list  - at their expense - before I do.  I don't need it all, but not replacing this stuff would mean that I'd be out money if I wanted it later on. And, I don't know how to stick it to them, other than through their pocket book.

  • Along that line, I haven't been able to find the fun & funky tuffet/ottoman that I have in mind. I hope that insurance will pay for the materials to make it.

  • There has been a robin somewhere in the neighbourhood, singing his heart out for a few days.  I hope he stays a long time.

  • Tulips are starting to pop out of the ground.

  • I wanted to try Susan's Orange Julius drink, but I was a little skeptical.  So, I did what any good friend would do.  I invited my neighbour over to be my guinea pig.  We liked them, but we both agreed that the next time we make them, we'll add strawberries.

  • Dawn and Linlah, I think you might know somebody(s) who need this:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Evil Kitty...

... is posing on the shelf where he's not supposed to be.

He flicks his tail to taunt the mama.

Then has a bath to act all cool.

Wait for it...

There it is!  

Lack of reaction on my part results in the baring of the "I Dare You" tummy every time.

PS - This is what he left behind.