Saturday, December 31, 2011

What I Did on my Christmas Vacation

I was back in Saskatchewan for Christmas. It was lots of fun, even if my niece wouldn't let me bring her dog back to Ottawa with me. (She's mean like that.)

It was a good trip - Christmas shopping with my niece, laser tag with the extended family, mini-golf, hanging out with the dog, making my niece watch The Muppets, building a treasure box, seeing friends and family, and eating my year's allotment of cookies.

(As an aside, taking a dog for a walk makes you realize how incredibly interesting the world smells.)

Boxing Day
Boxing Day

On Thursday, my mom had to take her car in. Since we'd otherwise be marooned at home, my sister left her Prius for us.

My mom went to the dealership and said she'd call if she needed a ride. Half an hour later she called, so I got the key fob and put on my coat. Kasey the dog wanted to come too, so I grabbed her seatbelt and we went out to the garage.

That's when I realized the Prius was on the driveway. I closed the garage door and we got in. I buckled Kasey in the passenger seat and put the key fob into its slot. I pressed the "Power" button and the radio started playing.

Kasey Girl
So far, so good.

I put the car into "R". Nothing happened.

I pressed the emergency brake. Nothing happened.

I pressed it again. Still nothing.

I pressed "Power" again. This time, the dashboard lights came on. Back into "R", still nothing.

The dog was staring at me by this point, wondering why we were in the car if we weren't going anywhere.

I called my mom's cell. She didn't answer.

I started looking through the owner's manual. The answer was on page one hundred and something - you need to have your foot on the brake when you press "Power". This time it worked. Finally, we were on our way, Kasey standing on the seat beside me despite repeated suggestions to sit down.

The roads weren't great, so I took it easy, but at one point, I had to hit the brakes. Kasey slid off the seat. I reached down and picked her up by her harness, but I was losing speed fast and didn't know why. I found the hazard lights and turned them on and then put the car back into gear. Luckily, that worked and I was able to get back on my way.

We got to the dealership where mom was waiting, which Kasey explained was the most exciting day ever. (To dogs, every day is the most exciting day ever.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas To-Do List

  • Decorate tree ✔
  • Last Spark meeting of 2011 ✔
  • Buy gifts ✔
  • Last boxing class of 2011 ✔
  • Make gifts for coworkers ✔
  • Plan Boxing Day laser tag ✔
  • Prepare appropriate food & attend potlucks ✔
  • Make chocolates ✔
  • Arrange for coverage at work ✔
  • Get that cold that's been hovering since October ✔


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Losing my marbles

This year, I'm making marble magnets for my coworkers. I got the idea here. It seemed like the perfect idea - inexpensive, yet something I could customize for each person.

I started by picking up the basic supplies - marbles (small and large), magnets, and glue. I got two sizes of marbles simply because I wasn't sure how well the small marbles would work. I needn't have worried - there were plenty of pictures that worked at that size.

Most of my generic pictures (such as the stripes you see in the above picture) came from flyers and magazines around the house. Since I wanted to customize the magnets, I also printed out clip art from the internet - wine glasses, tents, running shoes, stacks of books, etc. to match my coworkers' interests.

As you can see by the above picture, I'm not great at cutting circles. That didn't really cause me any problems - unless the picture was really off, adding the magnet to the back covered any flaws. Since the marbles (purchased at the dollar store) are not uniform, I cut the picture to match the specific marble it was going to end up on.

Once the picture was cut, I brushed on some silicon glue, put the marble on top, then pressed the center of the marble down to work out any bubbles. (A few especially flimsy pictures got glued to some thicker paper, but most of the time I didn't bother.)

As a note, I tried the Mod Podge but found it left the picture too shiny, so silicon glue it was.

The next step was the hardest - waiting until the glue dried. Once it did, I used a glue gun to glue the magnet to the back, then used nail polish remover to clean any misplaced glue off the marble.

I tried two different kinds of magnets - from Michael's and from the dollar store. Interestingly, the dollar store magnets were cheaper and stronger. However, they were a smaller diameter than the marbles, and they're a little rougher. (I can hear scratching when I move the magnet on the fridge.) I definitely recommend the more expensive magnets.

In the end, I only made one of the bigger marbles, but if I were making these with children, I'd definitely use the bigger size.

I packaged the magnets (in groups of six) into baby snack containers and tied a ribbon around them, ready to take into work on Tuesday.

There were a few that didn't turn out - not centered properly, too many flaws in the marble, etc. When that happened, I simply removed the picture from the marble using the nail polish remover.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Spoke too soon

Remember a few weeks ago when I was quitting boxing?

I'm moving up to level five. As soon as I heard that, all the bitterness and resentment disappeared. It started to be fun again.

This week, I got a plaque for finishing level four and a trophy for showing up for five years. It was a really good class - so insanely hard that at times I wasn't sure I'd be able to lift my arms again.

And now I'm registered for the next session - even though the only available class is on Saturdays.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Last night, I took eleven 5 & 6-year-olds to the grocery store.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

You see, my Sparks group couldn't meet at our usual meeting place, and our other ideas for field trips (fire station, Home Depot, Humane Society) didn't pan out. We've been talking about healthy food choices, so I said, "Let's go to the grocery store and let each girl choose $5 worth of healthy food for the food bank."

It probably would have gone more smoothly if one of my fellow leaders hadn't gotten stuck in traffic. If she'd been there, we would have divided into 3 group instead of 2. That would have made it easier - because, you see, kids that age look with their hands, not their eyes. If you have one or two, it's not bad. Three is manageable. Six is crazy-making.

Having said that, they were quite good (within the bounds of what is age-appropriate). Several parents stayed, so we had multiple adults with each group. The girls excitedly picked out canned fruits and vegetables, rice, pasta, tuna, juice boxes, rice crackers, and beans. They passed up cookies (albeit reluctantly). Each girl could point to the items in the cart and tell me exactly what she had chosen. And our total came to less than $47, so we didn't spend the camp money.

I didn't even see any other customers run screaming from the store.

Well, not personally.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Wanda!

It's Wanda's birthday, which means it's time for another mysterious project of mystery. As usual, I was more excited than she was.

This year, it was the skirt above - three layer of material (pink, blue sequins, blue pattern) with pointy ends.

Unfortunately, I left it far too late - I started Sunday night. Luckily, it wasn't too complicated, but still, it would have been nice to have a bit more time.

She liked it, though, so I guess all is well.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

And it was

I did a first aid course on the weekend. Wanda, on the other hand, did hers yesterday and today.

Since her course was near where I work, I dropped her off. We both brought our gym stuff so that if she was done when I was, we could both go to the gym for the 5:30 class.

She was done on time, so I went to pick her up. Traffic was ... pretty much stopped. It took me a half an hour to get there.

As we sat on the Queensway, we had this conversation:
Me: Wouldn't it be sad if we didn't make it to the gym and just went to Quizno's instead?
Wanda: No, it would not be sad. It would be tasty and delicious.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My "s" key doesn't work consistently. Let's talk about now.

It snowed last night. I know a lot of place have already had snow this year, but this was our first snowfall of the winter.

(Naturally, the zipper on my new winter coat broke last night, but that is a different story.)

The forecast had been for rain, freezing rain, or snow, which seemed to cover the bases. When I woke up way too early for physio, I looked out the window and was tentatively glad to see snow.

Of course, that didn't mean there wasn't freezing rain under the snow, so at 6:30 I went outside, shoveled the walk, and cleaned off the car. Luckily, the freezing rain hadn't happened. My appointment wasn't at 7, so I came back inside and got ready (brushed my teeth, turned on my work laptop so it would be ready for my 8:00 conference call, etc.).

At 6:45, I went out and cleaned off the car.

Physio went well, and at 7:45 I was done. I went outside, cleaned off the car, and drove home.

It's going to be a long winter.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Procrastination at its finest

A couple of years ago, I complained that my foot wasn't going in the same direction as the rest of me. It wasn't until a month or two ago that I realized the the result of that injury was that I have no balance when I try to stand on that foot.

I started physio yesterday.

You know you've done a good job when the physiotherapist repeatedly says, "This is really interesting." Apparently, my joint was really stiff and my ankle wasn't bending properly. She worked her magic and gave me some exercises to do at home.

The interesting part to me is that my foot didn't hurt until I started physio. After physio, it hurt - well, more of an ache, actually. The exercises also make it ache.

But I can balance on that foot again.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Doctor Is Trying To Kill Me

Last Wednesday, I had a checkup. I also had bloodwork done. Nothing unusual there.

So Tuesday when Wanda texted me to tell me to call my doctor's office, I knew they had the results in.

The thing is, my doctor only calls if something is wrong. If you don't hear from them, everything is fine. I immediately tried to call the office.

The line was busy.

I waited a couple of minutes and tried again.

Still busy.

I waited even longer and tried again. I got the standard greeting and listened until I was told to press 0 to speak to someone.

I pressed 0. It rang.

And rang.

And rang.

After a minute or so, I ended up back at the greeting. I pressed 0 again. It rang.

And rang.

And rang.

Greeting. Press 0. Ringing. Repeat about another three times.

By the time I got to talk to someone, I had come up with about 5 different things that could be wrong. I had mentally rearranged my week to accommodate a doctor's appointment (because they don't give you bad news over the phone).

The results? My iron is a little low (which I told the doctor, hence the blood test in the first place) but within normal range.

My imagination is also fine, apparently.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Goodbye, My Love

I think this will be my last session of boxing.

As anyone who's ever made the mistake of asking me "How's boxing going" knows, I used to love it. It was the event I worked my schedule around. Boxing was the reason I went to the gym the rest of the week. It was the way I dealt with stress and the reason I was in such a good mood the day after class.

I'm in level four. I've been in level four for about a year and a half.

After the May/June session, my coach K offered me a choice - move up to level 5 or stay in level 4 one more time. I chose to stay - I didn't feel ready to move up.

I did the summer session. No one moves up in the summer, so I did level 4 again in September/October. I had a different coach, C, and with him it was a straight "not ready to move up yet, you need more intensity".

Up to that point, I had been going in and working as hard as I could. Once I found out I was not moving up, I stopped. I still showed up, but I just didn't try as hard. Now he says things like "good intensity" when in my mind I'm only working hard enough to stay awake.

Yes, I know I'm sulking. I'm also bored, and I'm not getting a good workout.

It's time for something else.

I'm picky, though. It has to be an intense workout. Classes work better for me than doing something on my own.

Roller derby still appeals to me, so that's a possibility (if you can start in January), but I'm not sure what else is out there.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to Survive a Layoff (Even If You Lose Your Job)

Understand that it can happen to you.

You're not indispensable. If you don't own the company, you could be one of the ones shown the door. Plan accordingly. This means knowing what skills you have that you can apply to other jobs (or at least recognizing that you have skills that would apply to other jobs).

It also means knowing what your monthly expenses are, as well as having an emergency fund that will carry you for several months while you look. (You may not find a job in two weeks - and that's good, if it gives you time to figure out what you want to do.) Knowing what you actually spend also tells you if you can take a pay cut for a new job - and it shows you where you can cut if you need to. Cable? Not essential. Food? Essential.

If it happens to you, it's not personal.

Well, OK, maybe it is, but most likely you are a dedicated, productive employee who was in the wrong place at the right time. (And if it is personal, do you really want to work there anyway?)

If it doesn't happen to you, it's still not personal.
Keep that in mind. Wish the newly unemployed good luck, and help them if you can. Layoffs are not contagious.

If you're employed, understand that your former co-workers don't owe you anything.
Yes, they were the only one who knew how to make widgets. The company obviously decided that widgets weren't important any longer. Wish them well and let them go - their focus needs to be on what comes next.

You don't get to hold a grudge.
Grudges hurt you, not the company.

If you've been laid off, resenting the company that let you go will just hold you back. It's giving your past power over your future.

If you haven't been laid off, resenting your company for letting other people go will poison your work. It's OK to be sad. It's OK to disagree. But when it comes right down to it, it was a business decision, and the people who made it did the best they could with the information they had. There's no guarantee you would have made a better choice.

Open your eyes.
One of the fascinating things about job hunting is finding out what kinds of companies are out there. There are companies in Ottawa that make barcode readers, and interactive voice response systems, and electronic clipboards for doctors' offices, and HR software, and video production equipment. What have you missed while you were doing your job?

Connect with people.
Your neighbour, your former co-worker, a friend of a friend. Linked-In is a great resource for tracking down people you worked with years ago (as well as people you worked with days ago). Find out what they do and what the company they work for does. You're not asking for a job, you're asking for a their perspective. Maybe you'll end up employed, maybe you'll just end up knowing where you want to go.

And if you're still employed, this is one of the ways you can help people who aren't so lucky - "Sure, I know someone at company X, let me put you in touch with them".

Listen to advice (and then do what feels right to you).
Get someone you trust to look over your resume and give you feedback. Obviously, it would be good if that person were someone who has hired people before, but anyone with a good grasp of the English language can at least point out typos.

You don't have any perspective on your own resume, so consider any changes they suggest - but it's your document, so ultimately it's your decision.

Know yourself.
What will make you happy in a job? You can find a lot of information on the company's website before you even apply for the job.

All things being equal, if I have to pick between two jobs to apply to, I'll apply for the job closer to my house. I don't want to spend a couple of hours a day commuting and I would not be happy in a job that was on the other side of town.

Know yourself (part 2).
What are you good at? What have you done that was a huge success?

Now ... what skills did you use? And what jobs use those skills?

Exercise every day.
It's good for you, it helps you cope with stress, and it gives you a reason to shower and put on pants. (Sure, you should be networking and working on getting a job, but that may not be an every day thing.)

Tell people what you need (but understand if they can't provide it).
An introduction to someone who works at the widget factory? Meeting at a coffee shop instead of a restaurant? Proof-reading your resume? Most people want to be helpful, give them a chance.

Be thankful.
Sure, you don't have a job, but lots of other things are going right for you. Potable running water. Safe neighbourhoods. Lights that come on when you flick the switch. Friends. Family. Focus on what you do have instead of what you don't. No one likes to spend time with someone who's constantly telling you how hard life is.

(I'm still employed. How was your day?)

Friday, November 4, 2011

How I Failed Online Shopping

A couple of weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Air Miles Shops. Now, normally I ignore marketing e-mails, but this one offered a 5% -20% discount and bonus Air Miles at Chapters. I had been planning to buy a few things at Chapter, so I figured this was a good opportunity. The discount was available until Monday.

On the weekend, I went through the site and accumulated a shopping cart full of stuff - a Kobo cover, a DVD set, and some kids' books for Christmas gifts. I followed the instructions, put in the promo code, entered a gift card number and a credit card number for the balance, and got the message that the promo code wasn't valid on that order.

I went back to Air Miles Shops and checked the offer. There were no restrictions.

I sent off two e-mails - one to Air Miles Shops and one to Chapters. In both cases, I gave them the promo code and explained what I was trying to do. I asked how I could get the discount.

Both promised a response within 24 hours.

Chapters responded first - on Monday (the last day of the offer). Here's part of their answer: "If you were unable to redeem your coupon at the time you placed your order, we can certainly help. ... we can only adjust your order after it has shipped. Once you receive your shipping confirmation email, please let us know and we will apply the coupon to your order at that time. ... Please note: If the items on your order do not qualify for the discount, we will not be able to process the coupon to your order."

That was nice, but didn't actually help because I still didn't know what items on my order were disqualifying me for the discount. (In fact, I didn't know that it was an item on my order - it could have been the total cost of the order or my mailing address or the zodiac sign I was born under.)

Air Miles Shops took longer to get back to me - five business days, in fact - but they did have the answer. They gave me some Air Miles and blamed the restriction on Chapters, saying that Chapters didn't allow the discount to be applied to electronics and accessories. That's right, it was the Kobo cover that was disqualifying me. However, it was 4 days too late for me to get the discount anyway.

I gave up.

Fast forward to tonight, when I decided to go through the accumulated mail. As is usual for this time of year, I received a Lego catalog. This was on the cover. It was expensive - $79.99 - but I really liked it.

I started checking out that site. I picked a few specific bricks I know my niece will enjoy, then I added that set to my cart.

I wasn't planning to buy today, but before I left the site I decided to see what the price on that set was in US dollars. The answer? $59.99.

I checked out the current exchange rate. $79.99 CDN is $78.58 US.

I walked away.

And that's how I failed at online shopping.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Last week was busy. I had my usual activities, of course, but that wasn't it.

Part of it was Halloween - we had our party at Sparks on Tuesday, then I brought the first load of Halloween stuff to work on Wednesday.

Wednesday was Diwali, and my group covered for our colleagues in India by answering the phones all day. We had been afraid that it would be crazy, but it actually wasn't bad.

Adding to the busy-ness, I went to a career fair on Wednesday night.

Thursday was basically just a chance to catch my breath before Friday.

To start with, Friday was a scheduled fire drill at work. Normally, that wouldn't be a cause for concern, but I had a job interview scheduled that morning. Since I park under the building, I was afraid that if the fire alarm went off at the wrong time, I wouldn't be able to leave.

I worked from home instead.

The interview went well, I think - in the sense that I think they got a good view of what I've done. I didn't get as good a view simply because they have a long screening process, so they aren't really hiring for a specific job so much as a pool to fill jobs from.

Of course, Friday was also our Halloween party at work.

My group was doing Hansel & Gretel. We had a cardboard house that we put up over the door to a conference room, a dog cage in the corner, a fireplace in the corner, and a table full of goodies. I was the witch. (A friendly witch - I got to invite people in to have goodies and check out the cage.) This meant I had to bring my costume, some goodies, and a few other things that didn't make it in on Wednesday - as well as my work bag with my laptop and lunch and my briefcase for the interview.

We didn't win - apparently, we came in second - but the finger cookies got rave reviews.

By the time I got home again, I was exhausted. You know that kind of exhaustion you feel after you've been far too busy (even if you weren't doing anything strenuous)? I was that kind of exhausted.

Even I'm surprised I followed that by shopping for five hours on Saturday. I'm still not sure how that happened.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I haven't taken a single nap all weekend

I've done a lot of baking in the last couple of weeks. It started last weekend, when I made two cakes for a friend's birthday party.

There was one minor mishap when one of the two layers for the black forest cake slid off the counter and landed on the floor. Luckily, the recipe specified cutting the layers in half horizontally and only using three of the four halves.

This weekend, it was time for Halloween baking.

Now, I normally don't do a lot of baking for Halloween, but we're having a party at work on Friday and I said I'd make cookies. My group is decorating a conference room as the witch's house from Hansel & Gretel, so I decided to make two types. Yesterday, I made gingerbread cookies. Today, it was finger cookies. They turned out well. (Wanda shuddered every time she went into the kitchen.)

(Yes, some of the food colouring ended up on the finger part instead of the nail part. The same thing happens when I paint my actual nails - which is one of the reasons why I rarely do.)

I'm supposed to be the witch on Friday. (Co-workers are being Hansel, Gretel, and the woodcutter.) That was a good plan until I scheduled a job interview for Friday morning.

Maybe I'll wait to paint my face green until after the interview.

Monday, October 17, 2011

If you need anything from me, you'll have to wake me up first

For the last month or so, I've been really sleepy. I could sleep 16 hours a day - except, of course, I have other things to do.

My assumption has been that I'm getting a cold - but that usually doesn't take a month.

I'm not sure whether to wish my immune system were weaker (so that I'd get sick & get it over with) or stronger (so that I just could avoid the sick thing altogether).

Tonight, I debated whether I should go to the gym or not. Normally, I'd skip the gym if I were sick, but:
a) I'm more sleepy than sick, and
b) following that rule, I wouldn't have been to the gym in weeks.

I went, and I survived most of the class (although I pretty much just sat there during the ab track).

I feel like I should sum this up somehow, but mostly I just want a nap.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Reasons To Cook A Turkey (Even Though You're Feeling Too Anti-Social To Invite Anyone Over):

  1. Turkey
  2. Just because Grandma's not here doesn't mean we can't have turkey
  3. Turkey sandwiches (with homemade buns and, if I'm feeling exceptionally ambitions, homemade mayonnaise)
  4. Turkey salad (turkey, green onions, grapes, celery, & apples in a mayo/honey mustard/lemon juice dressing)
  5. Turkey tetrazzini
  6. Did I mention turkey sandwiches?
  7. Turkey soup
  8. Let's face it, there's not much that's easier to cook than a turkey.
Working from home tomorrow might be tricky if I'm in a turkey-induced coma which I will almost certainly be).

Friday, September 30, 2011

And that's the most I've ever spent on groceries at one time

I mentioned a while ago that I had decided to wait two weeks between trips to the grocery store. It was a success, so I did it again.

(Admittedly, there was a minor incident last weekend where I ended up at the grocery store, but that was due to a clogged sink, not for groceries.)

Overall, it's working well. It takes a bit more planning, but that's not necessarily bad. We're certainly not starving, but impulse meals are a bit more of a problem. And snacks become increasingly scarce the farther we get from grocery day. By last night, there was no snack food left - someone had even eaten all of the chocolate chips.

One of the other side effects is that each time I go shopping costs me much more than usual - which makes sense, because I should theoretically be buying twice as much. This week, though, I hit a new record. I was out of expensive things (flour, dishwasher detergent, cheese) and I was stocking up for Thanksgiving (which is an off week, grocery-wise).

Technically, I've spent more on groceries than I did today, but that was buying food for a large group camping trip, not buying enough groceries so that two people don't starve in the next two weeks.

On the other hand, I've never bought two turkeys for a camping trip.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


The Ontario Girl Guides have several camps that groups can use. In the Ottawa area, it's Camp Woolsey.

The camp is an amazing place. It's on the Ottawa River and has 6 separate cabin sites as well as quite a few tenting sites. It's beautiful and peaceful, and it's a fabulous place to camp - not just because of the site itself, but because there are always multiple groups camping, which gives everyone a chance to interact with other levels of Guiding.

A few weeks ago, an e-mail went around asking for help cleaning up from storm damage and preparing for winter. There were three weekends to choose from.

I didn't want to help. I hate giving up my weekends, and I just didn't want to do it.

But ... the camp is wonderful, and the land is probably worth a fortune. If we don't care for it, we'll lose it. I said I'd go up for Saturday morning.

Once I'd committed to going, it wasn't so bad. I didn't have to pack much - I grabbed some tools and threw them in the car, and off I went.

(Usually it takes me about 10 trips to get everything to the car when I'm going to Woolsey, so that was a treat in itself.)

I got there a little before 9 and we got started. I walked down to check out the fire pits on the sites and immediately ran into my neighbour, who was there were her Guides. After I figured out what needed to be done there, I went back to the parking lot and met up with the others ... and promptly ran into someone I used to take Irish Dancing with.

We moved furniture out of one cabin, fixed rails, and moved logs cut to sit on.

Before I knew it, it was noon. I would have considered staying longer, but I had a meeting to get to, so that was it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I write a lot of blog posts that you never see - and by "write" I mean "compose in my head while nowhere near a computer".

This is probably good as it avoids this blog becoming focused on rants about terrible drivers and construction. (Are Ottawa construction workers paid bonuses if they disrupt traffic longer, in stranger ways, and at weirder hours than ever before? Because I've been caught in traffic jams at 9 p.m. the last two Wednesdays.)

That's not all that hasn't made it to a computer though.

There was the story of the only marginally responsive guy passed out on York St. at 7 in the evening, and the picture of the chair I painted on the weekend that I never quite got around to taking. There's the story of apple picking and the news that my contract at work was extended. I didn't talk about the first meeting for Sparks or the community corn roast.

I didn't even talk about how I spent three evenings last week reading the Hunger Games series (which I loved and highly recommend, by the way, even though the concept sounds terrible).

I didn't even rant about how I don't mind so much when racoons/chipmunks/groundhogs/etc. eat my tomatoes, but it's adding insult to injury when they climb up on the patio furniture and leave the tomato skins there.

Maybe next time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Going in circles

The more I do, the more I have to do.

It started in July when I noticed some siding on the house needed painting. I spent an evening painting, and noticed that the windows needed to be re-caulked.

I spent the last two weekends re-caulking the windows. While I was doing that, I noticed that the metal posts under the overhang (you can see them in the far right of the picture below) needed to be painted. Yesterday, I sanded them and put on a coat of primer.

While I was doing that, I noticed some siding that needed painting.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Paper or plastic?

I mentioned a while ago that I got a Kobo e-reader, and I thought I'd share some thoughts now that I've had a chance to get used to it. Keep in mind that I have the wireless version that pre-dated the touch, so some of this might be different on the touch.

It's been a few months, and I still have not bought a single ebook. I have bought two paper books. One of them will be passed around a group of friends, but mostly it feels strange to spend money on an ebook. (Yes, I have worked in high tech since 1995. And yes, I do occasionally buy music online. I don't really know why it feels different with a book.)

Having said that, I've never bought many books. I read a lot - if I bought every book I read for $10, I could easily spend $160 - $200 a month on books. And I wouldn't be able to walk in my house. Since I'll read almost anything, I borrow books from the library, friends, and family.

It's definitely not the same experience as a paper book - there are pros and cons to each. Here's what I've found so far.

Paper or plastic?

  • Borrowing library books - Plastic. Much easier, faster, and it can be done from the couch.
  • Returning library books - Plastic. It took me a while to figure out how to do this, but now I love it - especially since Ottawa Public Library only lets you have 10 ebooks out at once.
  • Storage - Plastic. No piles of books around, just one little device. Well, OK, fewer piles of books around.
  • Killing spiders - Paper. Plastic might work for killing spiders, but I suspect it wouldn't work for anything else afterwards.
  • Going back a few pages to reread something - Paper. There's no concept of "It was on the bottom quarter of a left-hand page" with an ereader. And I find turning multiple pages at once really slow.
  • Skipping ahead to make sure an enjoyable character survives the book - Paper. Um, not that I do that.
  • Borrowing books someone else has bought - Paper. If anyone knows how to do this (legally) on an ereader, let me know.
Some books (and again, keep in mind that these are borrowed books, not purchased books) are better formatted than other, and a lot of them are a little too close to the physical book. For example, a lot of ebooks have as their second page an excerpt from the book or some quotes about the author. In a physical book, that gives you some information about whether you'd like the book. In an ebook, it's too late - you already have the book.

I'm really enjoying the Kobo - I'm reading a lot more (even by my standards), but I'm also reading things I might never have come across in a paper book world. I'm also considering figuring out how to make PDFs that work with it so that so that I can move my recipe book onto the Kobo.

Of course, given how splattered some pages in my recipe book are, maybe that's not such a good idea.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Remember when I used to do new things? By the end of the year, I was all "oh, it's so much easier to do new things now".

Then I stopped.

This week (last week? Sometime recently) I heard about a roller derby open house. I've always thought roller derby looked like fun, but I didn't want to buy all the gear, and I was afraid I'd hurt myself.

When I found out I could rent shoes, I was in. After all, I didn't think I'd get terribly badly hurt the first time.

Today I left work, promised I'd be back on Monday if I didn't kill myself at roller derby, and promptly picked the worst possible route home. (Stupid construction.)

When I got home, I just had time to change before Wanda and I were back in the car. It was good to have someone along to keep me from chickening out.

We got there, paid our $15 for the time & the shoes, and started getting ready while the people who knew what they were doing did some sort of loaves and fishes thing with the other gear. ("We're out of knee pads ... oh wait, here's some more.)

I got gear before Wanda and went for a lap around the rink.

Have you ever taken someone who has never seen snow ice skating? You know how they kind of shuffle along as steadily as a boulder balanced on a stack of tea cups? That was me.

I eventually made it around the rink and back to where Wanda was still getting ready. By that time, I was tired and would have happily gone home. That seemed kind of pathetic, though, so I talked myself into staying.

I got a few tips from people and tried it a few more times. I had conversations with other new people about how much harder it was than it looked, and how none of us knew how to stop. Wanda finished getting ready and joined us and we skated around again.

Eventually, we broke up into groups - people who had been there before went off to do something involving exotic skills like stopping while the rest of us learned how to fall, stop, and, eventually, skate.

After a while, the entire group came back together and did some things in groups of five. One of them involved 5 people in a train with only the middle person skating. Another was "pass the gross thing". I'd explain, but I'm sure you can imagine how that worked.

By the end of the night, I wasn't good, but I was a lot better than at the beginning.

It was a lot of fun.

Despite my fears, I never felt like I was in danger of hurting myself. Between the knee pads, the elbow pads, and the wrist guards, I felt pretty secure.

But I'm pretty sure I'm going to be sore tomorrow.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What to eat

I usually go grocery shopping after work on Friday. The sales start on Friday (so they're not usually sold out), plus it gives me one less reason to leave the house on Saturday.

I shop with a list, but when something's a really good deal, I'll buy it even when it's not on the list. This works well - until the cupboards and freezer are full.

Last Friday, I bought two weeks worth of milk. I don't plan to buy groceries again until the first weekend in September. Maybe even later.

It's been three days and we're out of snack-type food. Also, the potatoes that are left are rather more squishy than I'd like, and I fully expect we'll run out of cheese.

I suspect I'll be at the grocery store before the cupboards and freezer are totally empty, but it will b e a good exercise in using up some of the food on hand before it goes bad.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Customer Service?

When I'm at work, I keep my cell phone on my desk. This isn't so much because I want to be instantly accessible as it is because if I lock it up with my purse, it doesn't get any service and the battery goes dead fast.

It hardly ever rings - I'd say in the past 18 months, I've received maybe 8 calls at work. I keep the volume loud (so that I have some hope of hearing it in the car), so when it does ring, I jump out of my skin.

When it rang today, it was a robo-caller from Bell Solo (my cell phone provider) telling me that because they value my business, they're giving me extra minutes every month. I have 100 peak minutes included in my plan, and based on the past 6 months, the most I've ever used was 25. That was much higher than the other months. I don't have long conversations on my cell phone. Extra minutes are of absolutely no value to me.

I signed up for this plan three years ago. It's a three year plan, and when I signed up, I was offered a year of voicemail & caller ID.

I didn't get it.

I called them, they said that wasn't an offer. I called again, they again said I couldn't have been offered that because it didn't exist.

I wrote to Bell executive customer service, who routed me to a supervisor at Solo, who -that's right - had no interest in honouring what I'd been promised. They couldn't possibly do it.

My contract expires on September 12.

Do you think the useless minutes will convince me to stay?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer's still here, but it seems to have one foot out the door.

It's still hot during the day, but it cools off at night. It's getting dark earlier - it's not even 8:30 and it's pretty dark out there.

It doesn't feel like fall yet - we haven't had one of those days where the air is crisp and you know summer is over - but we're getting there.

I've enjoyed my summer. I got sunburned more times than is healthy. I went camping (sunburn #2). I wrestled with the half-dead tree. I visited with friends and family. I watched baby rabbits on the lawn. I worked from the patio. I dug out that annoying thorned vine that grows by my compost bin.

I ate ice cream in Old Montreal. I made (and ate) orange-yogurt popsicles. I ate tomatoes still warm from the sun. I BBQed - steak, pork chops, chicken, salmon.

I went to Italian Week on Preston. I canoed on Dows Lake. I went to the Carp Farmer's Market (sunburn #1). I sat in the courtyard at work and read a book in the sun. I figured out how to rid the kitchen of fruit flies (a glass with a little apple cider vinegar and a splash of dish soap). I went to Calypso (sunburn #2). I slept with the fan on and didn't get cold.

School supplies are on sale. (I love school supplies, even though I haven't been in school since 1994).

Soon it will be time to get back into a routine. Boxing's first - I have just over two weeks until the fall session starts. A few weeks later, Sparks will start and I'll be back in my normal routine.

And that's OK.

Some years I don't want fall to start because it doesn't feel like I've had a summer. (2008, I am looking at you.) This year, I'm ready.

Monday, August 8, 2011


I've been having lots of fun with my niece - a trip to Montreal on the train, visiting relatives (who have a pool), the Lion King, Mario Kart, etc.

Today, though, we went to Calypso.

There had been some debate as to whether this was a good idea - after all, B has been scared of water slides for years. She's a good swimmer, she just was too scared to go down a slide. In the end, we decided to go (after extracting a promise that she wouldn't try to spend all day in the wave pool).

We got there around noon and the first place we found was the wave pool. Now, I've only been to a wave pool once before, but it was nothing like this. These waves were 2 - 3 feet high. It was easy to end up with a face full of water. (Um, not that I did.)

After a while, though, it was time to get out and try other options. We found the jungle run - a river ride where you let the current carry you along as you float on a flutter board.

Next, we checked out the slides. We agreed that the Canyon Rafting (which allowed 4-6 people to ride together on a raft) looked OK. We started climbing the stairs. We were one flight from the top when my niece started crying. It was too high and she was too scared.

We managed to talk her into the raft.

As we careened down the ride, everyone got wet - even Grandma. We got to the bottom and she wanted to go again.

We did that ride several more times (along with the wave pool and the jungle run), then I wanted to try some other slides.

My niece refused. She liked the blue slide and there was no reason to try another one.

I offered to buy ice cream. She still refused. (At one point, she told me she was cutting me out of her family tree.)

Grandma and I went down the slide (Black Hole, one that is almost totally dark), and while we did, she and Wanda went to Pirate's Aquaplay. Somehow, Wanda talked her into trying those small slides. When they got done one of them, Wanda said, "Did you like the one in the dark?" B said she did, and they were off to the Black Hole.

The first words out of her mouth when she got down was "Can we go again?"

She's not afraid of water slides anymore.

And I'm back in the family tree.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My mom and my niece arrived yesterday. They got in around 1 and I didn't really have much planned for the rest of the day. They had lots of energy, though, so we went to the dinosaur museum - a.k.a. the Museum of Nature. The dinosaurs were popular, as was the wild bird clinic.

Today was a pretty quiet day, but we did go to Dows lake and rent a canoe for an hour. (I wanted a paddleboat, but I was overruled.)

We saw ducks, seagulls, and lots of seaweed. It was a beautiful sunny day - a little too much, after a while. By the time we finished canoeing, we were pretty thirsty. Still, it was a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Warning: I'm about to babble about boxing again

Tonight was week four of the five-week summer boxing schedule.

This is only the second time I've done a full summer session. Normally, a session is 8 weeks long, so for a 5-week session, they just cut out most of the easy weeks.

(The first week, we had 15 people in the class instead of 12, so they had to add three stations. I suggested chair massage, manicure, and pedicure, but they went with shadow boxing and two extra skipping stations instead.)

This week was the boxathon - i.e. 24 stations instead of 12.

For the first couple of years, I'd hit a wall at station 4 of the boxathon. I'd just be tired and wondering if it would ever be over, even though on a regular week I'd still have 8 stations to go.

For the last year, I wouldn't hit that point until station 14 or so.

Tonight, I never got there. I'm not sure whether I did better, or whether I just wasn't working as hard.

It's possible I wasn't working as hard. Over the past 4 weeks, I've bought new gloves, new hand wraps, and knuckle guards. Knuckle guards are basically these heavy foam pads that go under your hand wraps (and hopefully result in a lack of x-rays). Watching me try to wrap over them is ... kind of comical. They move, they bulge out in odd places, and when I finally get them on, my hands are a lot bigger than usual.

That works well on the heavy bag stations (once I struggle into my gloves), but less well on the speed bag.

I have to assume it'll get easier eventually, but I'm sure not there yet.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Let's call it a draw

There are three evergreen trees in my yard - one on each end of the lot by the street, and one in the backyard. They all could use trimming, but one in particular needed work.

The problem tree is right beside my neighbour's driveway. When I moved in, there were Christmas lights woven around the tree.

There's no outdoor plug end on that end of the house. I have no idea who put the lights on the tree or how they turned them on. (Did I mention I moved in in June?)

Anyway, the lower four feet of that tree were dead on my neighbour's side. One of my other neighbours had volunteered to trim the lower four feet of the tree last summer, but it didn't happen, so today I went out with my awesome hand trimmer from Lee Valley.

I trimmed for a while, then, Wanda was kind enough to join me. She trimmed while I worked on bundling the cut branches.

We worked until I ran out of string. There's still some work to do, but it looks a million times better already.

My arms and legs are covered in scratches and a rash (guess I am allergic to that tree after all), but I'm glad I got it started.

Like other projects I've procrastinated on for years, it look about an hour.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


As I mentioned, I went camping last weekend. There were 10 of us in total - 6 adults, 4 kids.

There were a few mishaps (a downpour on Friday night, a child who woke up with the sun at 5:30), but everyone had a good time.

On Friday night, I noticed a trail to the Lusk caves, 3.5 km away. Saturday morning, some of us decided to go for a hike. We didn't plan to make it all the way to the cave and figured we'd turn around whenever we got tired.

Now, when I picture a hiking trail, I think of a path that goes up and down, one that curves and meanders through the woods.

That was not this path.

This path went up, then curved, then went up, then flattened out for a few feet, then went up ... it was basically 45 minutes of walking up a hill. (We didn't make it to the caves, we just turned around after 45 minutes.)

Do you know what comes after 45 minutes of walking up a hill? That's right, 45 minutes of walking down the hill.

Now, I'm in pretty good shape, but by the time I got to the bottom of the hill, my legs shook when I tried to stand still.

I joked that my legs would be so sore by Sunday that I wouldn't be able to help pack up, but that wasn't the case. I was fine while we packed up.

Getting out of the car when I got home was another story. My calf muscles were stiff. So stiff, in fact, that every step hurt.

I didn't walk much on Sunday.

Monday was a bit better, but my legs were still sore. By the time I got to boxing on Tuesday, I was fine.

Tonight, I tried a spinning class for the first time.

It was an excellent workout, but I'm going to be sore tomorrow.

I guess I never learn.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blog out loud

When I looked at my schedule for this week, there were a lot of things that
needed to happen. I'm camping tonight, so which meant I had to pull all of the
camping equipment out of storage and go through it to make sure there were, for
example, enough plates. I had to pack my personal gear. I had to take the car
in for an oil change so that they could figure out why the brakes sometimes
sound like metal scarping on concrete.

Of course, there was the usual life stuff as well. I had to clean the house.
Since I'm gone for the weekend, I had to buy groceries - there's no way I'll
want to do it when I get back on Sunday. I had to fight the jungle of weeks in
the yard. While I was out there, I noticed the tomatoes needed staking (which
somehow makes them sound like vampires, which they are not).

And, of course, Thursday night was BOLO - Blog Out Loud Ottawa. I wanted to go,
but I wasn't sure it would work amidst everything else that had to happen.

Spoiler alert: I went.

It was a good time. Like last year, I had to duck out early (due to the
aforementioned packing). Also like last year, I wasn't reading, just sitting
around and listening, but somehow I was more relaxed - in part because I
recognized more people. I also recognized more people's name tags.

(No one's delusional enough to think I'm going to link to last year's post,

I met people I've only know through the internet. I chatted with people I'd
never heard of before. I listened to people who brave enough to read - they did
a great job. I wish I had been able to stay until the end.

Maybe next year.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Timeline of a Bike Ride

4:45 I know, instead of going to the gym, I'll go for a bike ride
5:00 Sitting on the couch checking twitter
5:10 Clean dust of bike helmet
5:11 Locate appropriate footwear (well, sports sandals, not really appropriate footwear)
5:12 Wrangle bike from the basement to the backyard
5:14 Pump up front tire
5:15 Fill water bottle; place on bike
5:15 Put on bike helmet; notice it is far too tight
5:16 Deduce helmet problem is caused by ponytail; change to low ponytail
5:17 Notice front tire is flat. Crap.
5:17 Take off bike helmet, grab keys
5:25 Purchase new tire tube
5:26 Stupid traffic
5:38 Take of front tire; pull out old tube
5:38 Read size of old tire tube; note it is 2 inches bigger than the newly-purchased tire
5:43 Back at Canadian Tire
5:45 Correct size tire located; waiting in line at customer service
5:55 Tire successfully exchanged
5:58 Traffic successfully avoided
6:05 Tube replaced
6:05 Notice part of mechanism that attaches the tire to the bike is missing in the lawn
6:06 Found! Attach tire to bike
6:07 Put on bike helmet
6:07 Get on bike
6:12 Adjust seat
6:15 Hmm, the seat is slipping
6:15 Ignore moving seat
6:23 Why is everything uphill?
6:40 Home at last
6:41 How does this bike fit into the shed again?
6:42 Hey, I didn't have any water! *inadvertantly pulls the entire lid off and spills it*

Monday, July 4, 2011

Colette's Exercise Tips

1. Figure out what activities you like.
If you don't know, try lots of things. Personally, I've tried step aerobics, low impact aerobics, water aerobics, archery, boxing, strength training, cycling, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, Irish dancing, belly dancing, ballroom dancing, yoga, zumba, gliding ... there are probably more. Sometime this summer, I'm going to try spinning (*cough*).

2. Figure out why you like them.
I like boxing and strength training because they make me feel strong. Everything else I do is to support those activities, because that's what motivates me. Maybe your thing is yoga because you like feeling flexible. Maybe you like biking, because you like the wind in your face. Figure out why you like what you like and you'll know what motivates you.

3. Figure out when (and how) you like to do them.

Are you a person who is fine with exercise first thing in the morning before you're fully awake? Do you like doing 10 minutes here and there? Are you the kind of person who needs to exercise on the way home from work? Do you need a class because, like me, it's too easy to make excuses to stop or work less hard if you're on your own? Do you like the freedom of being able to start and stop on your own schedule?

4. Put it together and come up with a plan.
Maybe you're going to swim at lunch 3 days a week. Maybe you are going to get up 1/2 an hour early and spend 20 minutes on the elliptical. Decide what you're going to do and commit to it - maybe to someone else, but mostly to yourself.

5. Follow your plan.
If your plan is to swim 3 days a week, pack your swimming stuff the night before so that you're ready. Change your alarm clock so that you get up 1/2 an hour earlier. You've committed to exercise, and it's as important as any of the other day to day things you have to do, so treat it accordingly.

6. Stuff happens.
Yes, exercise is as important as the other day to day things, but sometimes it's not the most important thing. People get sick. Cars break down. Sometimes there are urgent things that derail the plan. That's OK - start again the next day.

7. The Yoga Corollary
If stuff always happens at the same time, you need to rethink the plan. Either you didn't pick the right time, or you didn't pick the right activity. Personally, I dropped yoga after I noticed that days I had yoga were always the days I had to work late. Work wasn't the problem - the problem was that I was doing yoga because I thought I should, not because I liked it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

I took today off.

I can't remember the last time I took a day off for no particular reason - no guests, no travel plans, just a day spent at home. Sure, I've been unemployed, but that's not the same thing.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. Since it's Monday (BodyPump day), I looked for classes earlier than my usual 5:30 class. (Let's face it, if I had waited, there was no way I would have made it.) I'd expected there to be a 9:30 class, but they appear to have moved to 10:30.

Before the class, I loaded up the car with various clothes & household objects to give away. I dropped off the old computer at BestBuy for recycling, then went to the gym.

After the gym, I dragged Wanda along to drop off the rest of the stuff, then we went for lunch.

Lunch was good, but I may never eat again. It's five hours later and I'm still full.

This afternoon was a mixture of lying outside reading a book, taking a nap, and playing wii. It was lovely.

I even got motivated to do some gardening this evening, which resulted in the discovery that I'm allergic to more than one type of evergreen in my yard. Somehow, my hands reacted even though I was wearing gardening gloves the whole time. Luckily, thoroughly washing my hands and arms with soap and water stops the reaction.

Still, it was a really nice day ... even if I have to go back to work tomorrow.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The ides of June?

Boxing was great this week. It was week 8 - last week of the session -and we did a ridiculous class of 8 stations followed by 8 punch outs. I was hitting hard, and I left feeling fantastic.

Before I went to sleep, I turned off my laptop. I don't do that every day - usually it's once or twice a week - but it seemed like time.

Little did I know that things would take a turn for the worse on Thursday.

I woke up and went to read my e-mail, and ... my laptop was installing update 15 of 19. That's right, it hadn't finished turning itself off.

I left it alone and went to work. It was annoying, but I could deal with a computer problem since I was in such a good mood from boxing.

I went to leave work and discovered that it hurt when I separated two of the fingers on my right hand.

As I often do when I discover I've hurt myself, I went to the gym. It didn't make it worse, but it didn't make it better.

I got home, and my laptop had turned itself off. I turned it on, and discovered it would no longer connect to the internet. I fiddled around with it a while and then gave up. (That's right, I went an entire day without Facebook or Twitter.)

When I woke up this morning, I had forgotten all about my hand hurting. I got in the car to drive to work and discovered it hadn't gone away. (Apparently, I like to drive with 2 fingers on top of the steering wheel and two fingers curled underneath.)

I got to work, and it hurt to use the mouse, so I moved it to the left side. I called my doctor - it turns off she was off today.

All day I debated whether to go to Emergency at the hospital or to a walk-in clinic. I decided to go to Emergency. I got to the Queensway-Carleton at 5:15. I checked in with the desk and sat down to wait. After 5 or 10 minutes, the triage nurse called me up and did her thing.

I sat down to wait again.

After another 5 minutes or so, I got called up to registration.

The Queensway-Carleton has a FastTrack program. I don't know the official details, but it seems to be a program for people who need (or might need) x-rays. I ended up in that program and was sent down to that waiting room.

Again, I sat around for 10 minutes or so, then they sent me to get an x-ray.

By now, I'm sure you know the drill - 5 or 10 minutes of waiting, then the three x-rays. After that, it was back to the FastTrack waiting room.

There were several other people making the same journey through the hospital, and we chatted about the experience (all of us agreeing that it's a great program). This time, I think I had to wait 15 minutes. The doctor did a physical exam of my arm, checked my x-rays (which didn't show a fracture), and I was on my way. I was out of the hospital at 7.

When I turned on my cell phone again, I got a text from Wanda telling me she had managed to get on the internet on my laptop.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Yup, still alive

I'm not going to talk about Sparks camp (last weekend, Fairy Tales & Monsters theme, big success, very tiring, forgot stuff at the camp & had to go back to get it).

I'm not going to talk about the bird whose nest is in my cedar bush (and thus who eyes me suspiciously every time I walk to my front door).

I'm not going to talk about boxing (had the option of moving to level 5 but opted to stay in level 4, signed up for the summer session).

Instead, I'm going to tell you about my Air Miles card.

A few weeks ago, I noticed it was missing. I didn't think too much of it - I just figured it fell out of my card-carrying wallet and into my purse.

After a couple of weeks, I actually cleaned out my purse. No luck. I vaguely thought "I should call and get a new one", and then I ... didn't.

Today I dropped something down the side of my comfy living room chair. I reached down to get it, and my first thought was "hey, there's a card down here!" My second thought was "Ew!!!"

I dug around and discovered three cards that had fallen out of my card wallet (including my Rogers card that I haven't used since the year 2000).

When I'd retrieved all the cards, I went and got the vacuum and started vacuuming.

Despite the fact that I vacuumed last night, I saw a few other places that needed vacuuming and went to work and ... somehow I managed to vacuum up a Subway bag.

Naturally, it got stuck in the vacuum hose.

I detached the metal end of the hose and looked through it. It wasn't stuck there.

I detached both ends of the flexible part of the hose. Now, I couldn't just look through this part of the hose because both ends have a hard plastic angled piece.

Not only could I not see through the hose, I also couldn't use a broom to dislodge the bag because the hard plastic pieces were angled just enough to prevent it.

I needed something that was heavy and small. I found a battery and tried that.

It got stuck in the plastic bag.

Great. Obviously, I needed something both heavy and and flexible.

I went down to the furnace room in the basement and found a chain hanging on the wall. It's one of those things that was here when I moved in, and I just never got rid of it. I threaded the chain into the vacuum hose (which made the hose heavy) and ... it got stuck.

Luckily, gravity is my friend. I jiggled the hose until I could feel the chain move down to the bottom. By that point, I could see the bag, so I used a pliers to pull it out.

The chain was stuck, but a little more jiggling made it slither out onto the floor.

And that's how I found my Air Miles card.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Goldilocks of Cross-Trainers

I mentioned a while ago that I was going to need new cross-trainers for boxing soon.

That day has arrived.

Well, actually, it arrived 5 weeks ago on week 1 of the current boxing session. (Tonight was week 6.)

Before week 2, I went and tried on a bunch of shoes and bought a pair. I wore them for week 2. By the end of the night, my feet were fiery bricks at the end of my legs.

Those shoes went back and I bought another pair. I wore them for week 3. They were OK. I wore them again week 4 and decided they didn't fit quite right. Back they went.

That weekend, I bought 2 pairs of shoes. I wore the first one to the gym ... not quite right. I wore the second one to boxing week 5 and ... they weren't too bad.

I wore them again today, and I think they'll do. It's an incredibly enthusiastic endorsement, I know.

I really should have bought 2 pairs of the style I had last time.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My pharmacy offers a prescription refill service. You call in, enter a code on the prescription, confirm with your birth date, and they'll fill your prescription so that it's waiting for you when you get there.

It's theoretically a great idea - I hate standing around waiting for the prescription to be ready, and this way they can fill them when business is otherwise slow.

There's one major drawback, though. If I go in, the refill is ready in 20 minutes or so. If I call in, it takes one business day. Since they were closed today, the refills I called in this morning will be ready Wednesday morning.

That delay makes a service that should be great pretty much useless (unless you are the kind of person who plans ahead more than I do).

Now, I understand that a prescription called in should take longer than one that someone is waiting for in the store - after all, one of the benefits of this idea is that they can take care of the phone orders when there's no one waiting - but shouldn't they be able to fit these ones in in four hours? How about 8? If I call in a prescription before I leave for work, is picking it up on my way home too much to ask?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I got a pedicure on Friday night. My toes are purple and sparkly. Not that you can see them - it rained all day yesterday and, according to the forecast, it rained all day today.

Of course, according to the world outside my window, it hasn't rained today at all, but the hourly forecast of rain every hour was enough to make me dry my clothes inside and put off planting the garden.

I did get the garden dug, but it perpetually seemed like if I went to the store to buy tomato plants, it would be raining by the time I got home.

In retrospect, that was not true.

On the bright side, yesterday's day of rain did wonders for the dandelions. They are out in full force.

The forecast for this week involves lots more rain. Hopefully, we'll get a little sun somewhere in there. It's time to break out the sandals.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Because I don't have enough electronic devices

I was initially hesitant to move to an e-reader, mostly because I don't really buy books. I do buy some books, but mostly I borrow them from friends, family, or the library.

That was before I realized that you can borrow library books electronically. That's right, you can borrow library books without having to take them back after you've read them.

I don't mind going to get books, but I hate having to return them.

This week, I used some birthday money from my mom to buy myself a Kobo. I've read two books since I got it on Thursday.

Luckily for me, Wanda has had a Kobo since last fall, so she's been able to fill me in on how to use it.

It's a bit of an adjustment - I still turn the page too quickly sometimes, and it takes a while to power on. On the other hand, I never have to worry about losing my page, and traveling will no longer involve me cramming books into an overstuffed suitcase.

Friday, April 29, 2011

My shoe is back!

When I dropped off my shoe, I asked how long it would take to get fixed. The answer was two weeks - it would be sent out the next Thursday and back the following Thursday. (The store that came through for me was The Shoe Company, by the way.)

That ended up being accurate - they called yesterday and said it was ready for pickup.

It's great to have those shoes back, although after wearing a different pair for 2 weeks, they feel loose. I'm sure I'll adjust.

Now if only my runners didn't need replacing ....

Monday, April 25, 2011

How the Girl Guides Won the War

I spent much of this weekend (outside of boxing and the Easter Vigil and making croissants and hosting Easter dinner) reading How the Girl Guides Won the War.

It talks about the Girl Guide movement in the context of World War II, when girls used the skills they'd learned in Guides to raise money for the war effort, provide first aid, and help refugees. It talks about girls who went to an international conference, not knowing whether war would break out before they got back. (I can't imagine what that permission slip looked like.)

I've mentioned before that I'm a leader with Sparks, which is the branch of Girl Guides of Canada for 5 & 6 year olds.

We don't pull people out of bombed houses or guide people through the sewers to avoid the Nazis. In fact, if you asked me what we do at Sparks, I'd probably say something like "games, songs, and crafts".

It's true. That's what we do at Sparks.

We also learn how to put on bandaids. My girls know that if you're building a fire, you start with the small sticks and put the big logs on the outside. If there is a fire, you get outside through whatever door is closest and run to the basketball hoop. In an earthquake, you hide under a solid table.

The Spark promise is "I promise to share and be a friend", so we collect money every week for Girl Guides around the world. It's used when there are earthquakes and floods. It's used to build wells. It brings girls to Canada and sends girls from Canada around the world. We talk about what it's like to live in other places - what is the same, what is different.

At camp in June, we'll talk about fire safety as we cook our lunch over the campfire. We'll make pizza dough from scratch for supper. We'll go on treasure hunts and hikes and talk about what to do if you're lost in the woods. They'll ask what will happen if we see a bear.

We won't see a bear.

It's not about saving people from life and death situations. It's about keeping your eyes open and being prepared.

That hasn't changed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Yup, still talking about shoes

Friday I wore heels to work.

It's not like I had a lot of choice - after all, my go-to shoes were broken. I guess I could have worn sneakers or crocks, but I went with heels.

It turns out I've hurt myself far too many times to wear heels all day. (Saturday I wore crocs.)

Friday night I went back to the store where I'd bought the shoes and said, "I bought these in the fall. I realize that's outside of your return period, but these are clearly defective and I'm hoping there's something you can do."

If they'd said there was nothing they could do, I would have gone home and approached the manufacturer. I didn't need to - they took the shoe and sent it away to have the soul re-glued.

Now, it's not back yet, so it could still be a problem, but I'm cautiously optimistic.

(And I bought another pair of shoes on Saturday.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My feet are revolting

A few years ago, I bought a pack of 6 pairs of gym socks. I don't remember how many years ago it was, but it has to be at least 3 or four. They were short socks that didn't go up much past my ankles.

Last year, those socks started springing holes, so I bought another pack of the same socks.

The new socks made it obvious how ... deformed the original socks were getting. Somehow, the ones that didn't get holes got bigger.

A lot bigger.

Today I put on a pair of them and the heel was high enough that it didn't fit in my shoe. I feel weird throwing out perfectly good socks, but it's getting a little ridiculous.

My runners are two years old (which is almost unheard of, since I usually need new ones every year) and are still OK. I'm sure I will have to replace them soon, but I haven't gotten there yet.

On the other hand, last fall I bought a pair of black shoes. I loved them. They quickly became my default pair of shoes.

Of course, then it was winter, so I didn't wear them much. I started wearing them again a few weeks ago.

Today the sole started to come off.

So ... do I take them back to the store or contact the manufacturer? They're obviously used, but I would expect a pair of shoes to last longer than 6 months.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I've mentioned before that I'm a contractor in my current job. I was originally there for six months, then two, then two, then two again.

I've been watching the Ottawa job postings - not terribly regularly, but I have been keeping my eyes open.

More accurately, I let Peter's New Jobs e-mails pile up in my inbox for a couple of weeks, then read them all at once and open tabs for the relevant jobs.

That's where the system falls apart. After about a week, I give up and close the browser, usually without actually applying for the jobs.

It's so hard to look for a job when you have a job.

Anyway, last month my contract was extended until September. I immediately made a resolution - not to even think about applying for a job unless it looked like a perfect fit.

I then proceeded to ignore the e-mails for 2.5 weeks. (Some things never change.)

Tonight I went through them and found one job that looks worth applying for. It's open in my browser as we speak.

No, I haven't applied for it. Some things never change.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Another conversation with my niece

B: ROAR!!!
Me: Ah!
B: I know you're not really scared. I read your blog.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Why yes, I have pretty much given up on titles

So the whole veggie experiment is over.

It took a long time, but I eventually started remembering that I was trying to eat more vegetables.

The big winner was salad - it turns out I like salad more than I like cleaning vegetables. The key ingredient is tomatoes.

(This is not a shock - 75% of my diet is tomatoes in August.)

The other big discovery - fried onions (found in the crouton section of your grocery store). Very tasty. (Not healthy, but tasty.)

We're four days into April and I'm still pretty consistent with the veggies, so that's good. Plus, I still have fried onions. Can't let those go to waste.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Yesterday at boxing we were doing two head-body-head combinations. The first one was fake the jab, right to the body, hook to the head. The second one was fake the right, hook to the body, uppercut.

My coach is a former olympic boxer, and he asked if anyone had see The Fighter. Now, he's been talking about that movie since it came out, but I hadn't seen it yet. Anyway, in the movie, they use head-body-head a lot, and he started talking about how he used to do that when he fought, and "if you break the ribs, you can hit them however you want".

You know how someone lights up when talking about something they really love?

Anyway, today I went to see The Fighter. It's about a boxer named Micky Ward, and it's based on a true story.

If you're intending to see the movie and you don't want to know anything that happens, now would be a good time to stop reading.

At one point, one of Micky's opponents is being asked who he would like to fight. His answer is Gatti, and I was proud that I had heard of Gatti before. His poster is in the gym - you know, the Gatti vs. Ward poster ... oh.

Apparently, I'd heard of Micky Ward before, too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I've been writing a lot of blog posts lately, but they haven't made it out of my head and onto the computer.

I've had a horrible cough for a couple of weeks, and I went to the doctor on Monday morning. The appointment was made before I got the cough, but the subject of the cough did come up.

(To be clear, this cough sounds horrible, but isn't contagious.)

I got the proper medication, and the cough was getting better.

You see, I apparently have mild asthma, which tends to get worse when I exercise.

This annoys me. (Nothing is allowed to interfere with boxing, you know.) Anyway, since my problem is mostly with exercise, my doctor changed one of my inhalers. I picked it up on Monday, and the pharmacist explained how to use it and explained that it can result in a little coughing.

Tuesdays I don't usually go to the gym, so today was my first chance to use it.

I used the inhaler, and after a few minutes all was well. I got on the bike.

About ten minutes later, I started coughing.

And coughing.

And coughing.

People started looking at me in concern - not for me so much as concern that they might get whatever I had.

And I coughed.

Eventually I finished my workout and left (still coughing). It's four hours later and I still feel more congested than I did before I went to the gym.

Apparently, when a pharmacist warns you there might be a little coughing, you should believe her.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ides of March Update

Wanda's wallet has been found.

Someone found it and got one of his employees to track her down. I picked it up at lunch today.

Apparently, it was hard to find her because there's nothing in the wallet with her address & phone number. Of course, if her wallet had had her driver's license in it, it would have been easier.

It's intact, although she said some bus tickets were missing. (The cash was still there.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beware the Ides of March

Wikipedia tells me that the ides was a day in the Roman calendar that marked the approximate middle of the month. (Good thing it's approximate, because the middle of March is the 16th). Personally, April 15th has been a worse day for me than March 15, but it doesn't have a catchy saying.

I started the day as usual - shower & breakfast-while-checking-twitter - and was still eating when Wanda got home from the gym.

She was having a bad day.

She had been in a (minor) car accident on the way home. She stopped (of course) to exchange insurance information. After they had done that, she pulled into a parking lot to put her driver's license away, and couldn't find her wallet.

She walked back to where they'd been - no wallet.

That's right, she'd worked until 6 a.m., went to the gym, got in a car accident, and lost her wallet. I hadn't even brushed my teeth yet.

She was pretty shaken, but had recovered somewhat by the time I went to work.

Before 9, she texted me - she'd also fallen down the stairs.

When I called her, I was literally laughing so hard I couldn't talk. Then she told me it was the ides of March.

She can't say she wasn't warned.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A handful of spinach counts as raw vegetables, right?

So the "eating raw vegetables every day" plan is still in effect ... if barely.

I have discovered that I don't mind spinach salads. I'm not a big fan of lettuce, but spinach is OK.

To be clear, if there's a salad bar, I'm there - it's just that my options are a lot more limited and thus boring at home.

Some days, working raw veggies into my diet is no problem at all. Other days, I completely forget until after I've already eaten.

Today would be one of those days - but a handful of spinach eaten directly from the fridge counts, so all is well.

Tomorrow night I will have to actually clean some additional veggies so that they're ready to go. That's half my problem.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Conversations with my niece

After my niece was born, she was in the hospital for a few days. On one of those days, she threw a temper tantrum. The nurse looked at my sister and said, "You're going to have fun with that one."

It didn't take long before she learned to communicate a little better, mastering the art of pointing.

Eventually, she learned that if she went and got her shoes and then went and got my shoes, we'd go for a walk. From there, it was a short step to leading us to the playground.

When she was first born, I called her "Squirmy" - for obvious reasons - but after her mom objected, I started calling her Monkey instead.

She insisted she was not a monkey.

Just before she turned two, we went out to the farm. There were a bunch of us in my mom's minivan, and we stopped for ice cream on the way back. My mom sat beside the monkey and fed her ice cream. I was in the front, and all I could hear was "num num num". I turned to my sister and said, "I think we have an ice cream monster."

It was quiet for a second, then I heard a very quiet "roar".

From then on, she'd roar at me on the phone. I, of course, had to say "Ah!".

Once I made the mistake of saying "Eek!", and was promptly told, "No, you not say eek. You say ah!"

When she was two, I was at my parents' house. We were eating fruit salad.
B: Auntie Colette, can I have your bananas?
Me: OK. *gives her my bananas*
B: Poppa, can I have your bananas?
Dad: OK.
B: Gramma, can I have your bananas?
Mom: OK.
B: Mommy, can I have your bananas?
K: OK.
B: (big grin) Only monkeys eat bananas.

Lying down to take a nap, B looks at her hand.
B: I can see my bones.
Me: Yup.
B: I don't like bones.
Me: Bones are important. They help you grow big and strong.
*silence for a minute, then*
Me: Why don't you like bones?
B: Because when the dog carries a bone in his mouth and then I carry it in my mouth, it's all stinky and slimy.

Me: "Hey, B, who's your favourite auntie?"
B: "Auntie Michelle and Auntie Camille and Auntie Wanda. Not you."

Today, she turns seven. (Seven! How did that happen?)

Happy birthday, monkey.

Love, your favourite auntie.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wanda had a belly dance workshop this weekend. It was in a awkward spot to bus to, so she took the car.

That meant I was at home by myself.

It was one of my most productive weekends in recent memory. I made the quilt (above). I made barbie doll clothes for my friend's daughter. I made myself a flannel nightgown for my "nightwear that lives in the drawer while I wear the same pair of pajamas" collection. I sanded down the hole in the bathroom wall (but didn't get around to painting). I even cleaned the fridge.

There were a few things I didn't get to, one of which was cleaning vegetables. You see, I've decided on another challenge. Every day in March, I'm going to eat raw vegetables. I do eat vegetables normally, but they are usually cooked vegetables. It's time to stop being lazy get motivated and clean/eat raw veggies regularly.

Wish me luck ....

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thoughts while cleaning the fridge

  1. Don't store a pickle jar on its side. Really. Don't do it.
  2. Sure, it's an easy slide shelf for easier cleaning, but you must be able to remove it ... right? What if I ... how about ... never mind, I'll clean it while it's in the fridge.
  3. What is that white stuff on top of the Italian dressing? It's not that old, it only expired in ... crap, 2009.
  4. Is that strawberry jam left from a canoe trip in 2002? I think that's strawberry jam from that canoe trip in 2002.
  5. Hmm. The vegetable crisper is dirtier than the fruit crisper. That can only be attributed to apples going bad, forcing more frequent cleaning of the fruit crisper.
  6. Ew.
  7. No one is ever going to drink that mango juice. *puts it back*

Monday, February 21, 2011

If my head weren't attached...

Back in November, I bought some fabric. I went to use it this weekend, and I have no idea where it is. I've looked everywhere (except wherever it actually is, of course).

Also back in November, I bought some badges for Sparks. They have also disappeared off the planet.

Every once in a while, I still look for the black sweater that I last saw in 2009.

This house is finite. How can things just disappear? I'm starting to think I'm the victim of a very specific burglar.

On the other hand, I have a collection of socks I never wear.

I could lose a few pig figurines and it would take months for me to notice.

I have light bulbs for a lamp that hasn't worked in over a year. Heck, I still have the lamp.

Why can't I lose that stuff?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Two weeks ago was "Team Week".

You see, most of my department is in Ottawa, but we have three colleagues in various places around the world. They all came to Ottawa for team week, and we spent the week in meetings sharing information and getting to know each other.

Unfortunately, one of my team mates had a cold. Because it was team week, she continued to come to work anyway.

Last Sunday, I woke up with a sore throat. As the day went on, I didn't get better, but I didn't get worse.

Monday morning was the same, so I packed my gym clothes and went to work.

I came home at noon, worked from home all afternoon, then fell asleep at 5.

I would have taken Tuesday off, but we had three people out of the office and three sick, so that wasn't really an option.

Again, I worked during the day and then fell asleep ridiculously early. Wednesday was the same.

Thursday was a bit better, and by Friday I was really feeling better.

I've never had a cold hit me so hard, so fast. I'm very glad it didn't last terribly long.

Since I'm now feeling better (and I did nothing constructive last week), it was a busy weekend. I got together with a friend yesterday. I finished my niece's birthday present. I did laundry (including things I don't wash every week, like the shower curtain). I started making a pinata for Sparks.

I even patched up the hole that has been in the bathroom wall since Thanksgiving.

There's only one thing I didn't do - register for boxing.

Looks like I'll be boxing on Saturdays again next session.