Sunday, June 18, 2017

Butterfly Cat Toy

Over the years, I’ve brought plenty of toys home for my cats. Some were played with, others entertained them for a while, while others still were ignored or even frightened them.

The butterfly cat toy is a hit though. If you want a closer look, the toy can find it on Amazon.

When the toy arrived, my cats’ reaction varied. From the moment I switched the butterfly cat toy on, Charlotte was all over it, circling the toy and grabbing for the butterfly. 

Mickey and Holly initially kept their distance, but when they saw how much fun Charlotte was having, they too gave it a go. Now the three of them were chasing the butterfly, occasionally getting hold of it with their paws or mouth.

Gabriel was actually frightened of it and ran away whenever the butterfly cat toy was switched on. He wanted nothing to do with it. But in due time, this too changed. I’m not sure if his curiosity got the better of him, or if Mickey, Charlotte, and Holly had a word with him, but one day he too started chasing the butterfly.

While the toy was entertainment for the cats, it was exercise for me. Because of the small size of the toy, the cats easily tipped it over. In that case, I had to get up to put the toy back on its base. Doing this once or twice was okay, but when you have to do this seven or eight times in the course of fifteen minutes, it does get a bit tiring.

This was easily fixed though, the butterfly cat toy was glued to heavy duty cardboard and voila, now the cats can’t tip it over anymore.

If I had known that my lot would like this toy so much, I would have gone for a more sturdier model such as the pet zone fly spinner. As you can see, the toy is bigger and the base is broader.

As I mentioned earlier though, with my cats it’s a crapshoot. Some toys they like, some toys they ignore. There’s only sure thing, and I’m sure many cat owners will agree … if the toy comes in a reasonable size box, THAT gets their attention.

Monday, June 12, 2017

How to effectively get rid of weeds

Summer has arrived in Toronto. Finally. There is some confusion about the temperatures though. While the weather channel on TV predicts 34 degrees C (93.2 degrees F), according to my phone, the maximum temperature for today will be 30 degrees. Either way, it’s hot.

The 2016/2017 winter wasn’t a bad one. It was cold, but the temperature rarely dipped below -15 degrees C, (5 degrees F), and we only had a couple of inches of snow. All in all, a nice, mild winter.

Nevertheless, Torontonians were happy when spring arrived, looking forward to green grass, leafy trees, and colorful flowers.

It was a cool spring though. While other years we moan and groan about the heat by the third week of May, and can’t wait for the air-conditioning to be switched on in our condo building, this year we needed heating rather than cooling.

If you think I’m kidding … I’m not. Last week it was 9 degrees C, (48.2 degrees F). Does that seem like spring to you?

From what I heard Calgary had 30 degrees C, (86 degrees F), so did New York and Chicago. A friend in Chicago was actually complaining about the heat. I wasn’t sure if I should pity or envy her.

To make matters worse, it was overcast in Toronto and raining. Not buckets of water, but a steady drizzle. Combine the cold with the wet and you get miserable days.

While I like dark, rainy days, I wasn’t in my element last week. My hands were cold, my nose and ears were cold, I was wearing a woolen jacket, and my legs and feet were covered with a blanket. If anyone had seen me, they would have thought it was February instead of June.

The flowers on my balcony looked equally miserable, but now, after just one weekend of sunshine and a bit of heat, they seem happier.

The petunias especially seem to thrive. In previous years, I had them up on the ledge, where they got full sun, but they didn’t seem to like that. Now that they are on the floor, where they get no sun at all they seem to do better.

In addition to flowers, I also bought a basil plant. I love basil, but the local supermarket constantly is sold out of this herb. So I got my own. Now when I make a salad I can just step outside, snip some leaves off the plant and I’m all set.

(Basil plant in background)

I was just thinking yesterday how wonderful it would be if I could grow other things like potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, strawberries, etc. Unfortunately, living in a condo with just a balcony, that’s not possible.

Many years ago, we moved into a house with a rather large garden. The garden was overrun with weeds though. My dad told me there were two ways to effectively get rid of weeds … plant potatoes or plant green string beans. We opted for string beans.

Before long it was time to harvest. I filled a few buckets with beans, blanched them and put them in the freezer. After 50 packets I was done, but my string beans were not, they kept on producing and producing. After harvesting some more I gave string beans to my family, friends, and neighbors.

When they too let me know that they had enough string beans in their freezer I put the veggies out in buckets on the street with a sign “FREE – PLEASE TAKE”.

I can’t remember just how many families I fed that year but eventually, the string beans stopped producing and when the plants were removed there’s wasn’t a weed in sight.

So if your garden is plagued with weeds, plants some potatoes or string beans. After the final harvest not only will your garden be weed-free, you’ll have food in your freezer (and in that of your family, friends, neighbors and who knows who else) in the process.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Into the Water – Paula Hawkins promotes pet cruelty

Just about every pet lover has heard of the spay/neuter program to control the pet population. Not Paula Hawkins though, she thinks it better to kill the poor animal.

In her latest book ‘Into the Water’, Paula Hawkins mentions a pregnant tabby cat. A man who sees the cat thinks (and I quote Paula Hawkins) … ‘I’ll have to do something about that’.

He doesn’t wait for the cat to give birth and then take her to the vet to be spayed though, no he kills her. For cat lovers everywhere I’ll spare you the details.

This is very upsetting. Whether you have a cat, a dog, a bunny or another animal, killing an animal because of a pregnancy can never be justified. Every country has veterinarians and several governments sponsor the spay/neuter program.

Paula Hawkins is no doubt an educated woman, who has enjoyed success with her published books, but apparently, she has not heard of the spay/neuter program. In 'Into the Water' she has a cat killed in a barbaric way?

Why bring a cat into the story in the first place? It has nothing to do with it.

The New York Times gives this book a good review, but read the reviews of readers and the picture changes.
21% of readers on Amazon give ‘Into the Water’ a 1-star review. This is what readers have to say.

This book defies all the intuitiveness of a good mystery. The characters and timelines are so confusing that any mounting suspense from a clearer, more linear narrative is lost. I had to constantly re-think who was who and when was when. I am not sure that the lack of clarity was not an attempt to try to make the storyline more interesting. At any rate, I rarely feel moved to write a review but this book was a waste of time and money. I started skimming as best I could in hopes that it would improve but it never got better.

I had really high hopes for this book since I've been seeing it raved about all over the internet lately. I did like Girl on the Train, so I decided to give this a try. I'm not sure if my expectations were too high, but I did NOT like this book. I've read a lot of books that are narrated by alternating characters, but this was ridiculous. At least 10 different characters back and forth back and forth, hard to keep up with. The entire book was just all over the place. The big "twist' of the book wasn't very shocking. Just overall disappointing.

Unfortunately this book had me rolling my eyes, cringing and laughing out loud in places. I'm surprised it made it to print in this state. Told from ten perspectives, all two dimensional, unlikeable and identical (except for the odd bit of swearing from a couple of characters), countless pages which should have been cut and clunky narrative devices. A huge disappointment.

Where is the real Paula Hawkins. this is a lot of gibberish. confusing characters and totally plodding.

Sorry, looked forward to this, but quit halfway due to too many characters, no guide to who they are or who they're talking about (coz they're not engaged in any actions), it's a struggle to follow which timeframe each chapter is in.

As for me, I’ll never read another book by Paula Hawkins again. Any author who promotes pet cruelty doesn’t deserve to be selling books.

Monday, June 5, 2017

If the rich were forced to share, how many would benefit?

As a rule, I avoid social media like Facebook, Twitter, and others for the simple reason that some of those posts annoy me. But every now and then I still get confronted with articles or news headlines and they do more than annoy me, they make me bloody angry.

First, there was the news that America’s First Lady bought a $51,000 jacket. In my opinion, it’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen and they Dolce & Gabbana would have to pay me $51,000 to wear it, but that’s beside the point. The point it, how can anyone spend that kind of money on a jacket they will wear only once?

If it was up to me, I would enforce a rule that if people spent that kind of money on frivolities, they should be forced to donate an equal amount of money to a worthy cause. For a lot of people, $51,000 is equal to five years or more of rent. So why not give five hard-working families $10,000 each? Or ten families $5,000. Not folks who receive welfare, but people with jobs who genuinely do their best but still find it hard to make ends meet.

A few days later another outrages purchase caused me more aggravation. This time it was David Beckham who bought his wife a $379,261 purse.

Now wouldn’t it have been nice if Beckham would have been forced to donate an equal amount of money to the victims and families of the recent London terror attacks? That would have been money well spent.

Another worthy cause would have been to donate $379,261 to various animal shelters to supply food and medical services (such as spaying and neutering) to cats, dogs, etc.?
Or his money could have helped quite a few people who needed help with their mortgage. Or a particular city could have used the funds to subsidize public transportation.

And this is just the beginning. Middle Eastern sheiks buy diamond encrusted cars and paintings for hundreds of millions of dollars. They should be forced to help others with an equal amount. Not only would this help out deserving families, but they might think twice before flaunting their wealth.

If the rich were forced to share, just how many would benefit?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kitchen project - before and after

Plenty of people have lots of money and can buy anything their heart desires. Other have to make do with less and have to get creative when they want something. If you fall into the latter category, I’ll let you in on a little secret.

A while ago I wanted to change the kitchen countertop. I had a look at this item in home improvement stores and was in for a surprise. A granite countertop cost between $700 and $1,200 for the size that I needed, plus $100 to cut the shape of the sink in the countertop, plus $100 to have the granite slab delivered to my home.

This was ‘a little’ out of my budget. So, I went looking for an alternative.

The home improvement store also had faux granite countertops, made from chipboard and topped with some kind of plastic. I looked at a few slabs but found them still rather expensive. Between $200 and $300 to fit my kitchen.
And then, quite by accident, I came across vinyl. This vinyl gets smoothed over any existing countertop and gives a kitchen a whole new look. As for the cost $20 (two rolls of $10 each).

And the beauty is, if I want to change the look of my kitchen in a few years, the vinyl is easy to remove and replace with another design.

 I didn’t stop there though. I also installed a faux window in my kitchen.

I had first seen a virtual window at the Princess Margaret Hospital. With its LED light and the sound of birdsongs, it was so lifelike that I immediately went looking for a window of my own.

Unfortunately, such a window was not in my budget. The price of a small window was in the region of $6,000 and the bigger size was priced about $10,000. Ouch.

Never mind though, I am creative, so I went looking for an alternative. Before long I found a window that I liked, it wasn’t as nice as the virtual light box I had seen in the hospital, but it would have to do. Price … $23.

When the window arrived, it was put in the kitchen, and while nice, it was lacking something. The background was wrong. So, the background was changed from paint to bricks (wallpaper, not real bricks). 

So, for all of you who don’t have pots of money … with a little creativity, you can get what you want.

Dealing with anxiety

My blog updates have been on hold for a while. I was in the middle of a freelance writing project and other than writing for that project there was no time to do anything else. In fact, I had to call on a friend in Australia to help me out to make my deadline. (Many thanks to LH).

It was a good thing that the work was finished because yesterday I had to attend an anxiety class. The class ran for 8 weeks and today was our second gathering.

It didn’t go too well for me. In fact, I got kicked out of the class.

A bit of background first.

A few months ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with palpitations. My heart was pounding; I couldn’t breathe and I was shaking like a leaf. Not trembling, but violently shaking. It took over half an hour but finally, I was able to go back to sleep.

When I mentioned this to my doctor a few weeks later, she believed I should attend an anxiety class, also known as ’Face your Fears’.

Initially, I thought that we (the attendees) would be confronted with spiders (as lots of people fear spiders) but that was not the case. The fear we would be dealing with were fears that influence our lives.

I had high hopes, but already from the first session, I had my doubts if this class would be beneficial for me. One person feared going outside, another feared inadequacy, another yet feared performance issues.

So yesterday was our second session and the instructor gave as an example a woman who had been robbed and as a result didn’t dare to go outside anymore. She asked the group for our reaction.

Most of the people sympathized and felt sorry for her. I didn’t. For a while, I managed to keep my mouth shut, but when the instructor asked me directly what I thought, I gave her my opinion with no holding back.

I told her that sympathizing with the woman and pitying her didn’t help. What she needed was some tough love. She was robbed … she wasn’t beaten, she wasn’t raped, she wasn’t murdered.

As an example I told the group that I had been robbed too (at an ATM machine), my house was burgled a year later (they stole everything they could carry), and I had witnessed the aftermath of a bomb explosion. That was far worse than being robbed. So, she was lifted of twenty or forty dollars, big deal, she should just get over it.

Well, that did it. I got kicked out. At break time the instructor told me that this group wasn’t for me. I can’t say that I disagreed. I thought the group a bunch of whiners.

When a woman said that she felt perfectly fine until she became a mother and now fears that she’s going to make mistakes, I had the urge to roll my eyes. I wanted to tell her … "You’re gonna make mistakes. I did, my friends did, everybody does."

Another complained that his friends bring him down. That sometimes he feels good about himself, but then someone will say something and he will feel inadequate. More baloney. If someone was to say something hurtful to me I would respond with … "Who are you to judge me? Are you perfect, no? … well neither am I."

A third one felt too stressed at work and is now on long-term disability. There’s a simple solution for that … take away his disability money and he’ll be back at work in no time. So, he felt stressed, who doesn’t at times? But we go home, we get a good night sleep and the next day we show up at work again.

I was stressed at my writing job too. I had so much work that I knew I wouldn’t be able to cope. So, I contacted LH in Australia with the faint hope that she would agree to help. I feared the worst but hoped for the best. And guess what … she agreed.

I dare say that my Australian friend and I are similar creatures. We both faced difficult situations in the past, but we dealt with them and it turned us into strong women. 

Instead of attending an anxiety class, we could lead a class and you’d better believe that we could teach those whiners a thing or two.  

Monday, May 8, 2017

Fighting for space - finches update

Those who have been following my blog for a while know that a couple of finches made a nest on my 11th-floor balcony. At the time I wrote that I wondered about the intelligence of birds since I have four cats.

A few days later I called those finches feathered engineers because the way they constructed the nest was nothing short of amazing. Every day they flew to and from with building materials and using just their beak they build a pine cone shaped nest.

Today I feel slightly different about them. Yes, the nest the finches built is remarkable, but if you ask me, those birds should have taken proper measurements.

As long as it was just eggs, the nest seemed big enough, but now that the birds have hatched it seems a little crowded. See for yourself …

Did you see the little guy on top? He’s about to fall out. That’s why I said that the finches should have taken proper measurements. Surely Mrs. Bird must have known that this nest would be too small for six little birds.

Another thing I wonder about is how these little birds can breathe. It’s all good and well for those on top, but the nest is cone shaped, which means that one of those birds is in the tip of the nest. How does he breathe with five of his siblings piled on top of him?

On the other hand, the one on the bottom is probably nice and warm, while those on top must be shivering. As you could see, the little birds have hardly any feathers, so they must be cold.

I wonder how this is all going to end. I hope none of them fall out because I would hate to see that.