Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Apartment hunting tips

Apartment hunting can be a headache if you hop in your car without a plan.  Doing your homework before you decide to drive around aimlessly can make the process less of a frustration.  Apartment living has some benefits over home ownership like never having to worry about a flooded basement or a leaky roof.   An apartment also offers security, safety and the company of other residents.
When looking for a place of your own, the following apartment hunting tips might come in handy.

Do Your Research

If there is an address in an apartment rental ad, research the address with a web browser.  Through pictures and satellite images you will see the property and surrounding area.  You can also find out the location of any nearby shops, schools and churches.  A visual might save you a disappointing trip.
If you do like the property and neighborhood, take a walk and get the feel of the area.  Does it offer you everything you are looking for in terms of shopping, transportation, and entertainment?

Get a Second Opinion

When going apartment hunting, it’s a good idea to bring a family member or friend along.  Two pairs of eyes see more than one.  A companion can function as a sounding board and can help prevent you from “settling” on an unsuitable apartment just because you are frustrated.

Is the Apartment Right for You?

If you have lived in a house all your life, living in an apartment will be quite a change.  Not only are the living quarters much smaller, but you won’t have a backyard anymore. 

Will your furniture fit into a smaller space?  Do you have pets?  Many apartment buildings will not allow pets, or if they do, they will charge a higher monthly rent and will ask for a larger deposit.

Can you Afford It?

Before you start apartment hunting, look at you budget and hunt within your price range.  When talking to a prospective landlord, ask about extra costs such as parking and utilities.  Also check the fine print of your lease for specifics about the conditions under which your deposit will be returned when you leave.

Pay Attention to Details

When hunting for a place, you might see ads such as “cozy apartment” or “newly renovated” apartment for rent.  Cozy usually means small, while renovated might be nothing more than a thin coat of paint on the walls.

When visiting an apartment, be on the lookout for mouse and cockroach droppings.  Check not only the walls and floor, but the kitchen cabinets and drawers.
Test if all the windows and doors open smoothly and can be locked. 

See if the toilet flushes properly, and if you’re not a fan of low flow, turn on the shower to test the strength of the water.  Look at the ceiling for water stains.  If there are marks this could mean that the apartment above you has leaky pipes and mold could be present in the apartment.

If you like a particular apartment and you’re thinking about signing the lease, make note of any damages and have the landlord sign the document.  You don’t want to be held responsible for existing damages before you move in.

Talk to Other Tenants

If you are lucky enough to find tenants in the apartment you’re thinking of renting, talk to them privately.  They might be able to warn you of possible flaws or disturbing noises in the building, and whether or not management responds quickly when there are problems.

These are just a few apartment hunting tips.  By doing your homework and paying attention to important details, it is possible to find the apartment of your dreams. 

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Monday, June 29, 2015

How to train your cat to use the litter box in 3 simple steps

Did you adopt a cat or kitten? Has this sweet addition to the family had an accident on the floor or carpet? Not to worry, cats are among the cleanest animals and in most cases training them to use the litter box is fairly easy. Cats are like people, they like a clean place to their business and they like it private.

Litter box location

When you try to pick a location for your cat’s litter box, think like a cat – where would you like the box to be? Not somewhere with lots of foot traffic or loud background noise as this will frighten kitty. Not somewhere where she eats, sleeps or plays. By way of eliminating, what is left? The bathroom is an obvious choice, so is the laundry room, the garage (if she has easy access to it) and even the balcony (weather permitting).

Take the cat’s age into consideration and make the litter box easily accessible. An older cat might have arthritis and might have troubles climbing a staircase or climbing over furniture to get to her box.

While some cats like the privacy of an enclosed litter box, the majority likes their box open. Use unscented litter and place an old carpet or towel in front of the box so that kitty isn’t left with litter on her paws or between her toes.

An appropriate litter box

Litter boxes available in pet stores are generally suitable for most cats. As a rule of thumb a litter box should be the length of a cat’s body. Kittens do not need a small box, but extra large cats might need an extra large box.
If you’re not in favor of emptying the litter box, you have options. You can make use of cat litter liners, which you can just tie up and disposed of, or you can buy disposable cat litter trays. Disposable trays are a little more expensive than regular trays that have to be filled with litter, but super easy to use.

The litter

There are many types of cat litter available. There’s the regular sandy type, but there also clay, shredded paper and wood pellets. Try to avoid litter with anti-bacterial elements or strong perfumes. A fresh scent might seem attractive to you, but might be too much for your cat. Remember, a cat’s sense of smell is much more advanced than yours.

How to train your cat

Step 1 – Show her where to go

When you bring a new cat or kitten into your home, show her where her litter box is and put her in the box. Cats might be smart, but they’re not that smart that they instinctively know where to go. Either pick her up and show her her private little bathroom, or encourage her to follow you.

Step 2 - After meals

Few cats use their litter box right after a meal but you could try to put her in her litter box after she’s eaten or had a drink. This might lead her to associate food with poop and water with pee. Don’t force her to stay in her box though. Forcing her will create fear. Simply put her in the box, talk to her in a soft tone of voice what the box is for and leave it at that. Kitty will probably have a look, sniff around and jump out of the box. Leave it up to her.

Step 3 – Praise her

If you notice that kitty has used her litter box, lavish her with praise. While petting her say “Good kitty” or “Smart kitty” or anything else that makes it clear how pleased you are.

Accidents happen

Should your cat or kitten have an accident, don’t punish her. Never yell or spank her. Cats don’t understand negative enforcement and yelling or any other type of punishment will only frighten her. Should you find a poopie on the floor or a wet spot on the carpet, show her the accident and then put her in her box.

When you clean up the mess, place the damp tissue or the poopie in the box. The scent will lure her to use this place for future relief.

To discourage her from using the wrong place again, thoroughly clean the accident spot. Soak up most of the urine with tissue paper, sprinkle with plain baking soda (no cleaning agents added), and vacuum. Repeat if necessary.

Litter box maintenance

Once your cat uses her litter box on a regular basis, keep the box as clean as possible. Scoop out poopies on a regular basis and wash the box at least once a week. Just like you prefer a clean toilet, so does your cat.

Cats are naturally clean and smart, and training should require little or no effort.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday is cat day - Life in a box

Most cat owners spent a significant amount of money on toys and soft bedding, while all it takes is a box.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Memory Man by David Baldacci

I like a good murder now and then. So while I mainly read novels of a romantic nature, when I need a break from lovesick men and women and their antics, I go looking for a mystery novel.

Having read a “The Hit” and “The Innocent” by David Baldacci’s, I returned to the mystery writer and selected “Memory Man”.

Where it comes to novels, I’m quite demanding. The story has to grab me from the first page, even from the first paragraph. And “Memory Man” did just that.

Synopsis - Amazon

Amos Decker's life changed forever--twice.

The first time was on the gridiron. A big, towering athlete, he was the only person from his hometown of Burlington ever to go pro. But his career ended before it had a chance to begin. On his very first play, a violent helmet-to-helmet collision knocked him off the field for good, and left him with an improbable side effect--he can never forget anything.

The second time was at home nearly two decades later. Now a police detective, Decker returned from a stakeout one evening and entered a nightmare--his wife, young daughter, and brother-in-law had been murdered.
His family destroyed, their killer's identity as mysterious as the motive behind the crime, and unable to forget a single detail from that horrible night, Decker finds his world collapsing around him. He leaves the police force, loses his home, and winds up on the street, taking piecemeal jobs as a private investigator when he can.

But over a year later, a man turns himself in to the police and confesses to the murders. At the same time a horrific event nearly brings Burlington to its knees, and Decker is called back in to help with this investigation. Decker also seizes his chance to learn what really happened to his family that night. To uncover the stunning truth, he must use his remarkable gifts and confront the burdens that go along with them. He must endure the memories he would much rather forget. And he may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.

On Amazon.com, “Memory Man” counts 3,958 reviews, of which 63% give the book five stars.
I tend to agree with them. As soon as I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Computer work was forgotten, even going to bed was forgotten and when I eventually did go to bed, I took “Memory Man” with me.

What I particularly like about the hero of this story, is that he’s not the typical tall, dark and handsome man. On the contrary, he’s an older man and he’s fat. He’s has one distinctive quality though … an extraordinary memory. Hence the name … Memory Man.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day Around the World

Father’s Day celebrates fatherhood.  Not just biological fathers, but grandfathers, foster fathers, stepfathers or any other father figures.  While the majority of the world celebrates dads on the third Sunday of June, Father’s Day around the world is also celebrated in other months as well.

History of Father’s Day

Father’s Day was first celebrated in Spokane, Washington and was the brainchild of Sonara Smart Dodd in 1910.  A year earlier she had suggested that mothers should have a day of celebration.  When her idea proved a success, she felt it was only fair that father’s should have a special day too.

Father’s Day in America

Although every country honors their fathers in a different way, cards, thoughtful gifts, candy and even flowers are the order of the day.  In the absence of a gift, spending time with your dad and doing something he enjoys is perhaps the most appreciated gift of all.

Father’s Day in Australia

Down under, Father’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of September.  While children surprise their dad with a thoughtful gift, clubs and societies honor the day too.  Breakfast meetings for fathers, a fun sports event or a program that brings families together are all popular in Australia.

Father’s Day in South Africa

In South Africa, people like to barbeque, or as they call it “braai”.  Father’s Day, or “Vader dag” in South African, is the perfect opportunity to get together with family and friends and gather around the “burner” to cook dad’s favorite meal.  Taking into account that June in South Africa is a winter month, the temperature can be a gamble for an outside celebration.

Father’s Day in Germany

In Germany Father’s Day, or “Vadertag” as the Germans say, is celebrated slightly differently.  For starters the day is always celebrated 40 days after Easter on Ascension Day.  In addition to presenting fathers with presents, some men and boys go on a hiking trip, dragging a wagon of beer or wine along with them.

Father’s Day in Poland

In Poland, Father’s Day (Dzień Ojca), is celebrated on June 23.  While children spoil their fathers, mothers are hard at work in the kitchen preparing one or several of dad’s favorite foods.  Dishes such as sauerkraut with sausage (known as bigos), stuffed dumplings (pierogi), stuffed cabbage rolls (golabki) and sweet noodle pudding (kufel) are eaten with gusto.

Father’s Day in France

French fathers get the royal treatment on Father’s Day (Fête des Pères).  It’s not unusual for a French dad to wake up on the third Sunday in June and get his breakfast of coffee and croissants in bed.  Wine or fashion items are preferred gifts, but something handmade will do just as well.  Some French fathers also like to treat their families to a restaurant meal on Father’s Day.

Father’s Day in Italy

Father’s Day (Festa del Papa) is celebrated in Italy on March 19, the day of the St. Joseph Feast.  Italian households are abuzz with activity on this day, cooking dad’s favorite meal served with wine or “grappa”, along with cookies and breads.  Gifts often include a card with St. Joseph or a key ring or pendant with a picture of the saint.

Except for the dates, Father’s Day around the world isn’t all that different.  Fathers and father figures are honored by those who love them.

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Fun ideas for Father's Day

Ever since Sonora Smart Dodd came up with the idea of Father’s Day in 1909, children have celebrated their father in a variety of ways.  Store-bought or home-made cards are popular along with a gift that matches his hobbies or interests.  Too often, the best gift that fathers value the most is overlooked—spending time with their children.  If you want to do something special for your father this year, following are some fun ideas for Father’s Day.

Play some games

Whether you play tennis on the Wii®, bowling on Playstation® or prefer a good old fashion board game such as Monopoly® or Scrabble®, you’re bound to have fun.  If your dad is not familiar with any of these games, maybe it’s time to introduce him or let him introduce you to the games of his childhood.

Get out into the sunshine for a little one on one on the basketball or tennis court, or involve the rest of the family for a game of volley ball or badminton.  The fresh air will do the family good, and you may get to see a competitive side of your dad you’ve never seen before. 

In case it’s too windy or rainy on Father’s Day, go bowling instead.  If you’re both experienced bowlers, turn the game into a fun, mini competition.  If you’ve never played before, prepare to laugh yourself silly.

Alternatively, you can attend a ball game, visit the racetrack or some other sporting event.  Whether you’re watching relaxed in your seat, or you both spend half the time on your feet screaming, you’re bound to remember this special time together for years to come. 

Tackle chores together

You’d be surprised how much fun washing the car together can be.  Going to the car wash is quick and easy, but tackling the job together with dad in his driveway makes for great bonding time. Just be sure to approach the task “his way” without any arguments. After the washing and polishing is done, take your dad on a car trip for lunch or just for a scenic spin to his favorite spot.

Join him by the barbeque

If your dad is like many men, they enjoy cooking anything over a barbeque.  On Father’s Day, give him the day off from the chore, but do make sure he’s with you to offer his best tips and tricks.  While you wait for the meat to sizzle, talk to your dad about whatever comes to mind.  Fathers are full of knowledge and are usually eager to share their experiences with their children.

Go shopping with him

Even though some men hate shopping for clothes and household items, the mention of a trip to the hardware store may be enough for him to reach for his car keys.  Whether he’s crazy about power tools, automotive items or home improvement ideas, the prospect of spending time among his favorite “toys” is sure to put a big smile on his face.

Spend some quiet time

After a fun filled Father’s Day, finish off the day with some quiet time at home.  Let dad pick a television show or movie, pop a big bowl of popcorn and watch something together.  Even though the show may not be your cup of tea, remember how many times your dad was a good sport and sat through your suggestions.

It doesn’t matter how you interpret fun ideas for Father’s Day.  The point is to spend quality time together.  Work and play together for a change instead of going in separate directions.  In the process you might begin a tradition that you both want to continue every year.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday is cat day - Can you guess their profession?

Other than eating, sleeping and napping, 
with some cats you can see
 - if they were human -
what their profession would be






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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Do men and women shop differently?

I noticed an image on Facebook the other day that compares how men vs. women shop.

According to the image, when a man needs something from the Gap, he heads straight over there, makes his purchase and returns home. It takes him all of 6 minutes and $33.

When a woman needs something from the Gap, she traipses all over the mall, it takes her 3 hours and 26 minutes and she spends $876.

In case you’re wondering who made this comparison … a man, there’s no doubt about it. A man who doesn’t know anything about shopping I might add.

Have you ever been to the Gap? If you have, you’ll know that the Gap isn’t exactly cheap and finding men’s pants at $33 is highly unlikely.

As for the whole trip taking 6 minutes … I can only laugh at that. Again, have you been to a mall lately? There are hundreds of people who walk at a snail pace, they stop on a dime, and those with prams seem to make it their business to be in your way as much as possible. If a man can get to the Gap in 6 minutes … he must be able to fly.

If it takes a woman 3,5 hours to get to the Gap, you can bet on it that she shops for more than her husband’s pants. Chances are he’ll need shirts and ties, sweaters if it’s winter, golf shirts if it’s summer, shower gel, razor blades, aftershave, and who know what else.

If there’s a social gathering on her agenda, she’ll shop for a suitable outfit for herself, along with accessories and makeup. Being a smart woman, she won’t buy at the first store she enters. She’ll have a look around, try on different outfits, then go to two or three other stores and compare prices.

As a caring mother, she’ll pick something up for the kids too. After all, if dad gets new pants and other things, and she gets a new outfit and accessories, it’s only fair that the kids get something too.

While shopping, she’ll probably remember a few household items. Milk, bread, juice, bathroom items, laundry detergent, cat/dog food, etc.

After 3,5 hours of shopping, her feet are burning, her legs feel like lead, her back is breaking, and her throat is parched. She no longer walks, but staggers, laden with bags and bags of shopping.

Back home her husband shows her the imagine of a male and a female’s ways of shopping … 6 minutes vs. 3,5 hours. Absentminded she glances at the image and asks …

“Did you get the wine for the party, the steaks for the barbeque, and the screws to fix the bench?”

No, he didn’t get any of that. He went shopping for his pants and forgot about all the rest.

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday is cat day - week two

It's Friday and with it the second installment of Friday is Cat Day. Today's images are themed ... Thank God it Friday or TGIF. They kitties are relaxing after a hard week of sleeping, snoozing, napping and catching the occasional fly or moth.

                                                      Is that a fly I see? Do I have to get up to catch it? Pfft, let it fly.

                                                    If you want to dust this table, you'll have to go through me first.


                                                                                  At last, I can put my feet up.

I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Visiting Australia

One of the perks of having friends all over the world is, should I ever decide to travel, I won’t need hotel accommodation.

Just the other day, I received a message from a friend in Melbourne, Australia. She told me that, should I ever want to come for a visit, she has a spare bedroom in her house.

The first thing I did was Google Melbourne. I admit, I don’t know much about Australia. I know the Opera House in Sidney and the outback where one can go for a walkabout, but other than that, the land down under is pretty much a mystery to me.

The second thing I did was look up flights from Toronto to Melbourne and, well, the chances of me going to Australia are slim to none. Toronto to Los Angeles – 5 hours, Los Angeles to Melbourne – 15 hours … can you imagine, being cooped up in a plane for 20 hours!

And then there’s another little problem with Australia … apparently it is home to some of the biggest spiders.

Some of you may know that I spent fifteen years in Africa, which also houses some large spiders, but in all my time there I never saw one. Correction, I did see some large spiders, but they were dead ones, framed behind glass.

According to my friend, in Australia they are very much alive. In fact, she keeps a can of fast kill insect spray (also lethal for spiders) in every room of her house.

That’s all I needed to hear. The chance of encountering a spider in any room at any given time; the chance of such a creep walking over my bed at night; or worse, a spider taking a stroll along the ceiling and losing its footing … no, thank you.

It’s a shame really because I wouldn’t mind seeing Australia. In particular the many kangaroos, wallabies, koala bears, parrots and all the places I read about in books.

Speaking of which … in the latest book I read, it took the main character three months to get from England to New Zealand. Compared to that, what I am moaning about having to fly 20 hours from Toronto to Australia.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why do so many writers give up

I recently found out that writers who want to be published need more than a finished manuscript. They need a cover letter, a pitch and a synopsis of their story.

When I approached a group of writers to evaluate my pitch for a manuscript, it turned out that what I had compiled was too long to be a pitch, too short to be a synopsis and not informative enough to be a query letter.

Of these three, a query letter is perhaps the most important. After all, most literary agents ask for a query letter, or a query letter and part of the manuscript. Very seldom do they ask for a pitch or a synopsis.

I do wonder though how important a well written query letter is. I mean, what did the query letter to “Fifty Shades of Grey” looked like …

Dear agent,

I’ve written a book about sex, sex and more sex. No ordinary sex, but kinky sex. Interested to see the manuscript?

The query letter might have had bad grammar and a few typos, but which agent would turn down a manuscript like that?

Was the book any good? The general consensus is that it’s a bad, and not just bad, laughable. One reader was convinced a 16-year-old had written this. Yet this manuscript was picked up by a publisher, sold a few million copies and was turned into a movie.

Let’s look at the most accurate review …

Thanks to my ever-useful Kindle search function, I have discovered that Ana says "Jeez" 81 times and "oh my" 72 times. She "blushes" or "flushes" 125 times, including 13 that are "scarlet," 6 that are "crimson," and one that is "stars and stripes red." (I can't even imagine.) Ana "peeks up" at Christian 13 times, and there are 9 references to Christian's "hooded eyes," 7 to his "long index finger," and 25 to how "hot" he is (including four recurrences of the epic declarative sentence "He's so freaking hot."). Christian's "mouth presses into a hard line" 10 times. Characters "murmur" 199 times, "mutter" 49 times, and "whisper" 195 times (doesn't anyone just talk?), "clamber" on/in/out of things 21 times, and "smirk" 34 times. Christian and Ana also "gasp" 46 times and experience 18 "breath hitches," suggesting a need for prompt intervention by paramedics. Finally, in a remarkable bit of symmetry, our hero and heroine exchange 124 "grins" and 124 "frowns"... which, by the way, seems an awful lot of frowning for a woman who experiences "intense," "body-shattering," "delicious," "violent," "all-consuming," "turbulent," "agonizing" and "exhausting" orgasms on just about every page.
One reviewer wondered how many talented authors’ work was turned down in favor of this trash. Is it any wonder that so many writers give up?