Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Random thoughts and photos

  • I made a pizza last night, based on unrelated leftovers in my fridge: roasted corn, ground bison,  black beans and onions.  I also had a spicy pepper of sorts, which made me realize that I had the makings for a Mexican... whatever... but sadly it was a little too old to use.  I threw it all together (with salsa instead of tomato sauce because I couldn't use the hot pepper).  Honestly, I had really low expectations, but hot damn was it great.  

This is what it looked like before cheese or being baked - kind of gross, if you ask me.  
There's no after pictures... it's gone now.  I might have eaten the leftovers for all three meals today.

  • My mom has agreed to stay at my house next week, and keep care of the pets while I'm away.  My dad has decided to come along with me on my trip to Kelowna.    Honestly, I'm not sure if he really wants to go to Kelowna, or if he's afraid of his directionally challenged daughter driving through the mountains on her own.  

  • There used to be a small crack in the sidewalk in front of my house.  It's gone now... as in, the sidewalk is gone.  They tore it up today, and I'm assuming will put a new one down soon.  The crazy thing is that this is the second time in six years that this sidewalk has been replaced.  When I lived in Edmonton, the sidewalks were like spiderwebs, they had so many cracks.  I tripped on them all the time.  I guess this is a benefit of living in a smallish city, but I'm thinking that our tax dollars could probably be put to better use.

I took this picture for the nephews, who still seem to think that heavy-duty equipment is cool.  
The sidewalk is now gone from the middle of my driveway to about where the tree is.

  • I found jeans that are long enough - which is a miracle in and of itself - for only $19 a pair.  WHOOT!

  • And this one's just because...

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Pet Sitter Jinx

I don't kennel my pets.  When I go away, my preference is to find somebody to come to my house and care for them where they are comfortable.  I used to depend on friends and family, but I've come to realize that that can be an imposition.  In recent years, I've hired two different professional pet sitters.  Even after careful interviews and reference checks, it turned out that both of them were either unable or unwilling to do the job properly.

One remembered the combination to my door, but forgot how to type it in... called a locksmith instead of calling me for help on Christmas day and then lied about it when she presented me with a $300 locksmith bill on top of the $400 I paid her to take care of the pets.

The other didn't return my calls or emails for three days after somebody tried to detonate a bomb in Detroit.   I knew my flights would change - I'd likely get home later than expected - and I needed her confirmation that she could stay an extra night.    Because I couldn't get a hold of her, I ended up paying an extra $200 and making a mad dash across Calgary in the middle of the night, to get home, instead of crashing at a friend's place for the night.  She, at least, had the courtesy not to send me a bill after that mess up.

Regardless, I'm sure  you can understand why I'd be reluctant to hire a pet sitter, having had these experiences.

I'm going to Kelowna next week.  I could probably bring Tallulah, but Winter and Cotton would be miserable.  I needed somebody to take care of the pets, so I ended up asking a friend of some friends to stay at my place.  I don't know him well, but he's part of the crew who often goes out for dinner with us on Wednesdays.  He seems like a good guy.  Corey loves animals, and I've seen how responsible he is when he takes care of my friend Jen's bulldogs.  And, since he seems to be between jobs more often than he's employed, I know he can use the money.

Arrangements were made.  The nephews were informed of my pending visit, which means I can't back out, and I've been psyching myself up to make the 9 hour drive (each way) by myself.  Then my pet sitter jinx kicked in.

Corey has recently started a new job with a road construction company.   He's the flag guy.  He had blocked off a road and was directing traffic to go around when a guy drove up in a truck.  He parked the truck at the side of the road, got out and asked Corey to let him through.  Corey explained that the road was closed and he'd have to go another way.  Then the guy got back into the truck, pointed it at Corey, revved the engine and then drove full speed right into Corey.

Corey was rushed to the hospital.  The police were called, and the driver was caught (charged).  It's been a week or so now, and it's become apparent that Corey's back is all sorts of messed up and is going to need surgery soon.  

Now, in the grand scheme of things, I understand that pet sitting is not and should not be Corey's top priority right now.  I get that, and I feel all sorts of horrible for Corey.  On the selfish side of things, though, I can't help but realize that once again, my plans for the reliable pet sitter have been screwed up.  I'm going to be gone for five days next week, and now I need to find somebody else to take care of the pets.

Friday, August 24, 2012


I have finally reached the point in my weight loss that I could no longer put off acquiring some new clothes.    It was getting embarrassing, my old clothes are so baggy, but at the same time, I really didn't want to spend a lot of money on clothes that I hope won't fit me for much longer.  And, then there's the upcoming Italy trip to consider... I don't want to look like a hobo while I'm over there.

And so, I shopped sales and stretched some dollars.  If you can still find them, leftover fall/winter stuff can be purchased at a great price near the end of the summer... and that's what I did.   I also took advantage of some back to school sales and got a couple pairs of jeans for $20 each.   (And they were a size smaller than I expected them to be thankyouverymuch!)

Then, I hit just about every store in town, looking for shirts that would "do".  I really had very little choice in colour or style at that price.  They aren't fancy, but they were $10 or less and they fit me.

I threw my new favourite necklace on top of the pile because it goes with every single one of those shirts - almost looks like it was made to match each one exactly... except you can't tell that in the picture.  So, take my word for it: the necklace goes with each one of those shirts.  And, it (or maybe a scarf or two) will be worn frequently in Italy, to class up my $10 solid colour t-shirts.

I also got a fleece jacket, which is more for wearing around the house than to take on the trip.  I didn't realize until I got home that the arms are a little longer than usual, and there are slits cut into the cuffs.  

As somebody who grew up being told constantly to pull my hands out of my sleeves, I don't know if I should cheer about this little fashion statement, or begrudge its late arrival.

All in all, though, I think that two pairs of jeans, 5 T-shirts and a hoody's not too shabby for (just under) $100.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Italy Shoes

These are not Italian Shoes - they're shoes for Italy.

I need something comfortable that I can wear while walking around all day on cobblestone and not come away with stumps...  Preferably something that isn't bright white and screams "TOURIST!", or that I won't be embarrassed to wear around here when the trip is over.

Here's the thing... I love shoes.  However, I have never been a person who likes to wear them.   I prefer to go barefoot when possible.  I have narrow feet with a very high instep, which means that a lot of shoes put pressure on the tops of my feet.  Plus, since the whole foot swelling issue prevented me from wearing shoes for almost a year, and then having worked at home since I got better meant not having to wear anything more confining than socks... shoes just seem more uncomfortable than ever before.

Today, after weeks of looking, I think (hope) I managed to find shoes that'll work - they're Josef Seibels, which is a brand that I've always liked.  My plan is to wear them every day until I go, so that they're broken in and comfortable enough to walk around Italy all day.

I did alter them right off the bat, though.  They came with regular (grey) laces, but I have never managed to master the art of tying laces so that they'll stay done up for more than 5 minutes.  So, I stopped at a kids' store and got striped curly laces that don't need to be tied.

I hope these will work.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

In comparrison

I didn't plan to do this, but the day after I took the camouflage picture of Cotton, I took this one of his sleeping between my feet as I work at the desk.

Look at that skinny little tail...

I wasn't very happy to cut off the fluff, but some insect took a couple of bites of Cotton's tummy, and they got infected.   The hair had to go so that the area could be kept clean and dry.... it seems to have worked; the sores look way better already.

I can't say I don't miss the fluff, though.  I used to have a deal with his groomer; instead of going in every 4-5 weeks for a full grooming and cut, he went in once a week for a bath and a comb and we let his hair grow long.  Since it's so much easier to groom a dog that's done every week, she charged me the same per month to bring him in weekly as she did for the one big groom/cut every 4-5 weeks.   It not something that works in the summer, when he's out rolling in the mud but we're almost past that time of year.  Since he's essentially an indoor dog once the temperature drops, I'm thinking that once I come back from my trip this fall, I might start doing that again for the winter.

Friday, August 17, 2012


I've been eating lots of food from the garden and farmers' markets lately.  This week, I've been all about tomato salads.

I managed to track down some fresh (soft) mozza, so I tried to make a caprese salad first.

You may notice in this first salad that the tomato is kind of funky looking.  I accidentally bought a genetically altered  plant for tomatoes without seeds.   They aren't very good - they have less taste than grocery store tomatoes, so I think the rest of them will be saved for a sauce or something.

The basil is also from my garden, and it's so delicious that I can't get enough.  So, I tried again with the wee cherry tomatoes that came from another plant.

They were delicious, but their size prevented the typical look of a caprese salad.  So, instead I added other veggies and drizzled some fresh lime juice and olive oil over them.  YUM.

I suspect I'll have the same for dinner tonight, all over again.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


This is why I shuffle when I walk.  

And why I have no chairs on wheels.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Chin

Stop what you're doing and scratch it now please.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Homemade Enzyme Cleaning Products

I'm going to geek out for a bit... sorry.  I can't help but get excited when I find a way to be more eco conscious and save money at the same time.

I have loved this cleaner for the last 5 years or so, but it's been discontinued in Canada.  I was OK for a while, but eventually my stash dried up.  I've tried other eco friendly cleaning products, but never liked anything as much as TKO.

And, then, I discovered instructions on Pinterest to make it at home.  Because I'm me, I ended up doing something of a blend of a few sets of instructions that I read and then doubling the recipe I came up with.   That was a few weeks ago.  My little experiment was finally done late this week.  I haven't tried it on everything that the claims say it can do, but it's worked well on basic bathroom and kitchen cleaning.  It's particularly good at cutting through grease.

I started with a pineapple and a bag of lemons.  I cut the pineapple according to the instructions found here and saved the peel, the eyes and the bits of pineapple that came with the eyes.  I also threw in some of the core as well.... so basically I used the waste from the pineapple.   The pineapple fruit is still good - I set that aside to eat later.  Then I squeezed the lemons to make fresh lemonade so that I'd have all the rinds for this.

I chopped up the pineapple and lemon waste into pieces small enough to fit through the top of an old 4L (1 gallon)  milk jug, and shoved about 600g or 4 cups of the pieces in.  I added a cup of brown sugar, 2 tsp of yeast and 2 litres ( 8 cups) of water and stirred until the sugar was dissolved, then I poured it all into the milk jug.    I labelled the jug with the date and put it in the fridge.

For two weeks (14 days), I opened the lid to release the gas created by the fermentation and gave the jug a swirl every day.  Two weeks later, I poured the liquid out of the jug, filtered it through a coffee filter to get rid of the bits of fruit or yeast, and poured it into a jar.

(I don't think there's any worry of people drinking it at this stage, but you might want to label it as a science experiment or something if anybody but you goes into the fridge)

That sieve didn't do a good enough job to filter it.  I had to pour it through a coffee filter to get the gunk out later.

I'd label it at this point, so that nobody mistakes it for juice.

So far, I've used it to clean the bathroom and the kitchen.  I tried using a small amount to clear a seriously, seriously clogged drain in the bathroom sink - I think it helped, but I didn't want to use it all up on this one thing so haven't really tested it out thoroughly on that.  Next, I plan to use it in the laundry, and to spray some on the dog pen to help prevent the eau de dog pee smell that crops up on humid days.

Some tips:

  • Don't use a jar with too tight of a lid when you're making it.  I think the milk jug lid was about right, but have read that people who do this in pop bottles have had explosions.  Either way, open it daily to release any gas that builds up from the fermentation.
  • The yeast speeds up the process.  Without it, you need to leave the fruit and sugar 3 months to ferment before it's done.
  • Most of the sites that I found for this recommended only lemons or citrus rinds.  Only one mentioned the pineapple, but it made sense to me and seemed to work.  Mostly, you're looking for acidic fruit.
  • I don't know if the results need to be refrigerated once it's done, nor do I know how long it'll last. I'm keeping it in the fridge for now.

Claimed Uses:

  • mix 1/2 cup of enzyme cleaner with 1 litre (4 cups) of water in a jar for an all purpose spray cleaner.
  • for dishes and laundry (use 1/4 cup of enzyme)
  • for washing bathrooms and toilets. grime comes off easily (1 part enzyme to 10 parts water)
  • for removing stubborn stains and odours (coloured fabrics and floors) (use undiluted)
  • to clean vegetables and fruits (1 part enzyme to 10 parts water)
  • clear blockages in kitchen sinks and drains (use concentrated or blended pulp/sludge of enzyme)
  • as a natural insect repellent (use undiluted) for ants, cockroaches.
  • for mopping floors (1 part enzyme to 20 parts water)
  • as fertilizer for plants (use 1 part enzyme to 20 parts water, or use the leftover mop water)
  • as a skincare product, e.g. facial cleanser or toner (1 part enzyme to 2 parts water)
  • wash cars – cars will look as if they have just been polished! (1 part enzyme to 20 parts water)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Naked Neighbour...

Saturday night last week, at 5:00pm, I stepped out onto my back deck and made the mistake of turning my head to the right.  There, I saw my next door neighbour in all his glory, stepping into his hot tub naked.  This isn't the first time I've seen this, and while I respect his right for comfort, I really have no desire to see his junk.

A few hours later, the doorbell rang and it was the neighbour.  Honestly, I really thought that he was there to apologize and agree to cover up when outside.  He wasn't.  He was there because he has decided that he wants a concrete curb installed along our property line.  Only, he wanted it installed on my property because he's already planted trees on his side of the line that he doesn't want to move, and he wanted me to pay half.  Honestly, I was in such shock that I said "uh.... ok".

I then clued in, gave him all sorts of reasons why I didn't want it - can't afford it, it would interfere with the french drain that runs along my side of the property line and don't really like them.  He came back with more: he'd limit my cost to $250, he doesn't think the french drain works anyway, the river rock on my property spontaneously jumps over to his yard, and the grass that has sprouted up through the river rock is unsightly.  That last one almost got me.  The truth is, I maybe don't do the best job of ripping the grass out because it's along the side of the house where I never go.  So, I decided to pay the $250 in the name of neighbourly relations.

He's never liked the river rock on my property.... tried to claim last year when the house flooded that the rock on one side of the house caused it.  He's expressed a number of complaints about it since as well.  And, I really, really hate conflict.  I figured that maybe it would just be easier to get the curb and I agreed to let him have his way

And then he knocked on my door the next day.  He said he'd do me a solid, and take that $250 I'd previously promised him.  Instead of the concrete curb, he'd rip out the river rocks and replace it with sod.  He got a resounding no to that, but still went away with the idea that he'd not only convinced me to pay $250 for the concrete curb that he wanted, but that it was going on my side of the property line as well.

I stewed about it for almost a week - lost sleep over it in fact.  Finally, I told a friend about it a couple of days ago, who told me to give my head a shake.  She told me to march over there, and tell him to stuff it.

I didn't do that, but I did knock on his door and advise him that I don't care for the concrete curbs, and that I don't wish to fund his little project.  He reminded me of the jumping rocks, and the spreading grass.  I said that grass is there because he threw seed in the rocks when he was seeding his own lawn and overshot the property line.  He tried to deny it, but I've got the same rock on both sides of the driveway and in the back yard, and no problems with grass anywhere else... nor with jumping rocks.  He couldn't really argue that.

Long story short, I don't have to pay $250 for concrete I don't want, and he's gonna get rid of the grass for me.  Now, if I can just convince him to invest in a pair of swim trunks, life will be golden.

Maybe I'll buy him a speedo, and leave it anonymously at his door.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Walking my dogs last night, I encountered a lady with an offleash JRT. I called out to say that my dogs aren't friendly, and ask her to leash hers. She didn't. It charged us. I picked up Cotton, who went Ballistic, and asked her to come get her dog NOW. She wandered my way. I backed away from her dog, the JRT followed and snapped. We were cornered. I yelled out (in maybe not such a nice manner) for her to hurry up. Nothing. So, I turned around, kicked back and booted the dog in the chops. It yipped and ran away. Then she said... wait for it... you shouldn't have such aggressive dogs.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Good-bye

Mayu left today.  She and her class will go to Banff for a day, and fly home to Japan tomorrow.

It's been a great visit, but the truth is that I was a little annoyed yesterday.  I asked her in the morning what she wanted for dinner, and she asked for beef (which is a delicacy in Japan).  I made her a hamburger with all the fixings.  She seemed to enjoy it but after dinner was over, she went into her room and shut the door.  I was on my own for the rest of the night, and feeling frustrated. After the last couple of weeks, I didn't understand why she didn't want to spend time with me.

This morning, we got up and ate a quiet breakfast.  She finished packing, and it was time to go.  I helped her with her luggage and then went to stand in the crowd.    Mayu stood with me, but her friends gathered around and they spoke Japanese.  I'll admit to feeling unappreciated.

When the bus arrived, Ryoko, one of Mayu's friends who had spent a lot of time at my house, came to say goodbye.  Then Nanako, who stayed next door with Jen, came to say her farewells.   Finally, I turned to Mayu.  I told her how great it had been to meet her, that I had had a wonderful time, and that I wished her all the best.  She said a simple thank you, and turned to go.  She took two steps before she crumpled to the ground and started to weep.

My stoic girl who had been so quiet and hard to read all this time couldn't be consoled.  She cried for ten minutes, until they boarded the bus and I waved her off as they drove away...  tears running down my cheeks by then as well.

After I came home, I went into the room where she'd been staying, I discovered that she'd left me a gift and a letter.  Where she only had a vocabulary of about 10-15 English words a few weeks ago, she had worked really hard to write three (short) pages of gratitude, and to tell me what she liked most about our time together.    No doubt, it'd taken her hours to write that.  I realize now that that is what she'd been doing last night.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Today was the day that Mayu and I went to Drumheller.  And, my wonderful dad agreed to tag along as well.  He said he wanted to go and see the sights, but I strongly suspect that he came because he knows that his daughter is directionally challenged incapable.  Which I am.  I thought maybe we could find Drumheller with the assistance of google maps, but realized once we were there that I would have had trouble... we maybe might have ended up in Montana... and I never would have found the little side trips.  I was happy to have him come as navigator.

So, anyway, the three of us went to Drumheller.  I took loads and loads of pictures, because I'm putting together a CD of them to send home with Mayu.  Some of the key ones are below:

(Some of these pictures were taken through the window of a moving car, and may not be entirely focused)

Windfarms, which are popping up across Alberta

Bleriot Ferry, which uses the power of the river's current and some stationary cables to move back and forth and carry up to about 6-8 cars across the river.  

I've decided that I want a career change.  I want to be the guy who rides the ferry back and forth all day and waves the vehicles on and off.

An oil Derrick, because this is Alberta.

We spent about three hours at the Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology, learning about dinosaurs and seeing fossils.  We were able to rent a little machine that had a pre-recorded guided tour in Japanese for Mayu.  At each major exhibit, she put it to her ear and listened to a description of what she was seeing and other related scientific tidbits.

After the museum, we stopped to see the HooDoos.

I realize now that by working so hard to get shots without  tourists in the background, I took away any sense of scale.  Each of these hoodoos are about 10-12 feet tall.

Then we stopped to cross a suspension bridge that crosses the Red Deer River.  It goes over to an abandoned mine, which is closed, so the point is to cross it, get jostled around and not fall on your ass.  It's essentially made of chain link, so it was a wobbly trip.

Really, though, what I liked most was the scenery.  I think I may have scared my dad when I started to point out the houses for sale and talk about the costs/logistics of moving to the area.  

After the suspension bridge, we took a roundabout route home and stopped north of Calgary at the Cross Iron Mills Mall.  (Mayu is a 16 year old girl, after all.)  We managed to track down gifts for each of her parents, and chocolates for her - and I quote - "homies".  I did not teach her that word.

We got home in the early evening, ate some left over pizza for dinner and watched the Mr Bean movie.  (For the record, Mr Bean transcends language barriers, and is apparently laugh out loud funny to Mayu as well.)    It was a good but very long day.  I was (am) absolutely exhausted.  I felt like I needed toothpicks to keep my eyes open to get to the end of the movie, but Mayu was enjoying it and I knew that she'd go to bed if I did.  

When it was finally over,  I went to let the dogs out for their final pee of the day and I realized that tonight is the first night since Mayu arrived that it's been a clear sky.  She had three wishes when she arrived in Canada - see the mountains, taste maple syrup and see the stars.  The stars are the last one on her list to do, so we couldn't pass it up.  We jumped into the car in our sandals, pjs and wet hair  and headed down the road to the edge of town.  There, Mayu got a clearer view of the stars than she's ever seen before.  (Apparently, the cities are so bright in Japan that stars are very dim, as well as few and far between.)  

I don't know the constellations very well, but I showed her the big dipper and the north star.  Then we got back into the car, opened up the sun roof and Mayu rode home with her neck cranked, looking up through the sun roof to watch as many stars for as long as she could.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pizza Night

Tonight I had three Japanese girls and Jen over for pizza.  Jen was running a little late, so the girls and I entertained ourselves by practicing Italian.  I recently bought a phrase book for my visit in Italy.  I'd say a phrase in English, they'd translate to Japanese and then I'd slaughter the otherwise beautiful Italian language.

How sad is it that "I want a kiss" and "are you gay?" are at the front of the  phrase book?  Not far behind it was "leave me alone" and "stop bothering me".  Come to think of it, if I knew that the book contained a section for Romance, I might have chosen another one.

Before I serve the Japanese girls anything, I give them small tastes.  Tonight, I gave them some ground bison that I'd cooked earlier... I didn't think to warn them.  While they were chewing (after they said it was good) I told them it was buffalo.  Mayu choked in her surprise, and then got a case of the giggles that lasted a good ten minutes.  I guess they learned about the wild buffalos that used to roam Canada in school today, but she never guessed that we'd eat it.

Photos were taken of dinner tonight, which I'm learning is a good sign.  One girl, Nanako, took pictures of my kitchen to show her mom... I hope she doesn't think I'm a slob, as I was in the middle of making pizza dough, and had all the toppings chopped up and spread out.  There were also many, many shots of the dogs, and for some reason, the dogs toys.  José (Tallulah's pet rat) seemed to fascinate them, and was featured in many pictures - with and without Tallulah. 

Tomorrow, I get a lesson in cooking Sushi.  I was worried when I heard that, but I've been assured that it can and often is made without fish.  I will have to report back about that, because I thought sushi was a fish dish by definition.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Annoying Canadians

Yesterday we went to a pot luck birthday party for one of the Japanese girls.  Although I saw most of them on the day that we picked up our girls for the first time, this was the first time that I spent any quality time with any of the host Canadians.

This might sound all judge-y and negative, but I didn't like them.  I thought that, as a whole, they made apoor impression and I wasn't happy that they were the people representing our country.  Frankly, they seemed like white trash to me.

For example, the "dishes" that everybody brought to the pot luck consisted of 10 bags of chips or Dorritos, 3 macaroni salads - two pre-made at the grocery store, some beans, three pots of rice and a spinach salad.  Take a wild guess who brought the spinach salad? (Me.)

There was a lady there who had a 2 month old baby.  She waved that baby around like it was an accessory and not a human being.  After a while, I had to get up and move because there was only so many times that I could smile, coo, or say how cute she was.  Except, shortly after I moved, the boyfriend - not the father - took the baby, sat beside me and started to feed her formula.  He then spent the next 10 minutes telling me that even though he'd only known her for a few weeks, he felt like her father.  And look - she had blue eyes, just like him.

I got up again and started to clean up.  We'd been there a half hour... the others, who had arrived about an hour before us, all got up and left and made no move to help with the cleanup.  I spend over an hour cleaning others' messes.  I had to really watch myself at that point, not to be the cranky b!tch I felt like being.

Shortly before bed, Mayu  told me that she'd been invited to go to the house where her friend is staying.  She didn't know where they live, how they'd get there or how she'd get home but I didn't want to say she couldn't go.  This morning, we talked about it again and I told her I'd meet her at school so that I could talk to the other host mom.  If you can believe it, that host mom was a no show - she didn't pick up her girl from school... just left her hanging with no phone call to the school or anything.  In fact, she didn't even pick up her cell when we tried to call.

We stood around and waited for over a 45 minutes before the program director finally decided to take Mayu's friend home (and hope there would be somebody there to let her in).  I do realize that Mayu is 16, relatively independent and intelligent but there's no way I'm letting her go there.  So, instead, I told her friend that she could come to my house for pizza tomorrow.  I'll have to call the other host mom tonight and make arrangements.   I'm a little afraid she won't pick her up then either, but I guess the worst that will happen then is that the girls will have a sleep over.