Monday, July 24, 2017

Someone's nose is out of joint



Hi there. The other day Holly had her say and today it’s my turn. My name is Mickey and as you can see, I’m a tuxedo cat.

Holly’s nose is still a little out of joint because she wasn’t allowed out on the balcony to (possibly) catch one of the baby finches. In the meantime, the situation hasn’t improved. All five finches are gone and she didn’t get any of them.

For a while she had high hopes. Around 6:00 p.m. the parent finches were twittering up a storm. They didn’t just chirp, they sang and made one hell of a noise. It got so loud they actually woke me up, so I went to take a look.

Mama and papa finch were sitting on the balcony netting, but instead of flying in to feed the remaining two babies, they stayed there. I didn’t understand a word they were saying, but it sounded like they were encouraging the babies to come out of the nest.

Sure enough, one of them popped its head out, hopped on the rim of the nest, spread its wings and … flew right smack into the netting. He fell into the petunias and sat there, dazed, no doubt wondering what the hell happened.
So Dieter went out and talked to the little one. 

At this point Holly joined me by the netting of the balcony door and I knew what she was thinking … he’s gonna catch that bird for me. Yes, yes, yes, oh thank you, thank you, thank you!

Dieter indeed caught the little one, but instead of presenting it to Holly to eat, he set it free. Holly watched the scene with growing alarm … what is he doing? He wouldn’t! He couldn’t! No, no, no, no, no!!! Oh no, there goes my dinner.

Calm down, I told her, it’s after six, in a little while we’ll get our food and from what I’ve seen we’re getting chicken in gravy. Why do you want a bird anyway? You have to catch it, kill it, and before you get to the meat you have to get through the feathers and it’s hell to get those out of your teeth.

How would you know, Holly snapped, you’ve never caught a bird in your life. She had me there. It’s true, I’ve never caught a bird, or anything else for that matter, not even a fly. I’ve been told that I talk too much. You know, that chattering sound cats make when they see something. That’s me, mister chatterbox.

Anyway, after Dieter had released the first baby bird, the second one was gonna give it a go. That one didn’t do much better. He too flew from the nest and landed in the petunias. As Dieter tried to catch him, he fluttered away, only to land in the basil plant. Dieter eventually did catch him and in cupped hands showed the bird to Conny.

That’s where things went wrong. She wanted to take a picture (she wants to take a picture of everything). Not that there was much to see, just a little feathered head poking out of two hands. As she was getting ready to snap the shot, the bird wriggled his way out of Dieter’s hands and escaped. Now the catching could start all over again.

To cut a long story short, Dieter caught the little bugger and set that one free too. Now all the finches were gone. Holly was none too pleased but I’m sure she’ll get over it.




Friday, July 21, 2017

Oh, this blows!!!


Hi, my name is Holly, and I’ll be your guest blogger for today. Unlike other bloggers who have humans write a guest post for them, I am a cat. So, whatever comes next is from a cats’ perspective. I thought I should share the following with you because I’m really, really upset.

It’s a beautiful sunny day here in Toronto and I’m not allowed to go out on the balcony. Why? One word … birds.

It all started about three months ago. A pair of finches came to check out the balcony and apparently liked what they saw because soon after they started building a nest. One of them deposited six eggs in the nest and shortly afterward six chicks were born. I didn’t care much about them because I couldn’t get to them anyway, but I could wait. 


Those chicks would grow, in due time they would leave their nest and when they did I would be ready. I’ve never caught a bird before, but come on, with six birds to choose from, I was bound to catch one.

As it turned out, I didn’t get any of the little suckers. They flew the nest while I was still sleeping. I didn’t know this at first, but during the course of the day I didn’t see the parents fly in and out anymore, nor did I hear the little ones chirping. I had missed my chance and let me tell you, I was disappointed.

As luck would have it, two or three weeks later the two finches came back. This time they didn’t have to build a nest, they used the old one, and before long there were five eggs in it.

As soon as the chicks hatched I resolved that this time I would catch one. If I had to sit on the balcony day and night, eat and sleep there, this time they wouldn’t pull a fast one on me. So I waited, and waited, and waited.


The parent finches flew to and fro, bringing food for the babies and day by day they grew. Yesterday I noticed that the babies were getting ready to fly off. They were getting too big, the nest was getting too small, and they were getting restless. Yes, soon I would have a bird for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If they weren't quite a meal, then an appetizer. 

And would you believe it, while I used the litter box today, one of those babies flew away. I could have kicked myself. All that time waiting, and now that I had turned my back for two minutes, I missed one. Never mind though, there were four more.

Unfortunately, Conny (my owner), had noticed too that the babies were getting ready to fly off, so what did she do … she closed the balcony door. Not the glass door as such, but the netting. Now I couldn’t get out!!!

I had to do something. I had to come up with a plan. Clever me, I didn’t have to think long, I would turn on the charm. I positioned myself by the balcony door and sat there for, I don’t know, five, ten, fifteen minutes. When she didn’t come to open the door for me, I looked over my shoulder and gave a soft meow. Usually, that does the trick, but not this time. She either ignored me or she wouldn’t let me out. So I meowed a little louder, with more feeling, but still nothing. When I meowed again, she said “No Holly, you can’t go out today. The birds are about to fly away.”

But that’s the whole point, I tried to say. I have to be out there so when they fly I can catch one. She shook her head and walked away. Oh for the love of all that’s good and decent, why was she doing this to me? Oh, this blows!!!





Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hanging on or letting go



I watched a presentation the other day entitled ‘How heavy is your glass of water?’ The presentation went as follows:

A psychologist hosted a well-attended workshop about stress management. At one point, she raised a glass of water. The audience assumed that she would ask them the well-known question: ‘Is the glass half full or half empty?’ Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired ‘How heavy is this glass of water?’ The audience called out a range of numbers from 8 ounces to 20 ounces. They were eager to discover why they were asked this question. But to their surprise, the psychologist responded ‘The weight of the glass does not matter. What does, however, is how long you hold it. If I hold the glass for one minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, my arm will ache. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. Your stresses and worries in life are like this glass of water. If you think about them for a while, nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer, and they begin to hurt. But if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed and incapable of doing anything. It’s important to let go of your stresses, your fears, and worries. Early in the evening, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them into the night. Always remember to put that glass down and give yourself a rest.’

When I read stuff like this, I can help but roll my eyes and wonder what people who have lost a parent, a spouse, a child or a pet would say to this psychologist. My guess is that they would say her theory is beautiful but naïve.

I’m sure that a great number of people would like nothing better than to put their burdens down, but it’s not that easy. Any kind of burden is not like a glass of water that you can put down, you carry it with you all the time. Work, sports, and entertainment might give you a break from time to time, but eventually, the burdens come back.

The same for people who have medical problems and had tests done. You tell those people to stop worrying and they might sneer and say ‘That’s easier said than done.’

And what about people who have experienced trauma. I’ll bet it’s not as easy to just forget what they have seen, heard, and experienced. During the day they might find distractions, but the nights … the nights are the worst.

If just forgetting was this easy, people would not be on a variety of medications, wouldn’t be in therapy or wouldn’t seek the company of a self-help group.

Psychologists … most of them don’t have a clue about real life. They don’t seem to know that experiences lead to memories and we might not be able to ever escape from them.







Friday, July 14, 2017

Is the grass really greener on the other side?



Whether it’s a house, a car, jewelry or something else, just about everyone is familiar with the saying … what I like I can’t afford, what I can afford I don’t like. I find this particularly true in my search for a new home.

I’ve seen about 100 condos online and have visited 3. To say that it’s not going very well is putting it mildly.

Last week I saw a very nice place. The condo had a luxurious white kitchen, a modern bathroom, beautiful wooden floors and big walls. I called the agent, but by the time an appointment could be made for a viewing, the unit was sold. I could have kicked myself. Such a beautiful place, for such a good price and reasonable maintenance fees. I was so angry, I could have scared a snake.

As luck would have it though, three days later another unit became available in the same building. The unit was not as nice, but for the asking price we could easily install a new kitchen, bathroom, and floors and make it to our liking. I called the agent and arrangements were made to visit the building the next day.

The first disappointment was the location. The intersection was Jane and Finch, an area known for its high crime rate. The second disappointment was the building. OMG I looked up at the façade I thought … I can’t possibly live here. As for the unit … I was quicker out than in. It was just terrible.

Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad about missing the first unit in that same building, just one floor below.

The second unit that I visited was in a rundown building, but the unit itself was beautiful, completely redone and modernized. I loved it, but unfortunately, it was too small.

The third I saw online yesterday, loved it on sight, called the agent and an appointment was made for 5:00 p.m. This time, I hit the jackpot. The neighborhood was nice, the building was nice with a charming garden, and the unit itself … hmmm, very, very nice. But, you might think … yeah, there was a but. Again, the place was too small. 

When pictures of properties are taken to publish online, they are taken with a fisheye lens. While they give a nice view of the various rooms, the view is distorted and makes the rooms appear bigger as what they actually are.

Other than too small, the place was also rather dark. The windows weren’t big enough to light up the living room. So it was a no go.

This morning I came across another nice unit. A stacked condo of 1200 square feet for a very good price. Too good to be true actually. As I clicked through the pictures I couldn’t find fault though. The kitchen had nice white cabinets, stainless steel appliances, a renovated bathroom, good floors, large walls and a large balcony.

Before requesting a viewing I did some research online and found out that no less than 17 units were sold in that building in 2016 and 7 units were sold between January and June 2017.  For a building with under 50 units, those numbers were alarming high.

I soon found out why. Several units had reported bedbugs. Well, that’s all I needed to know. No matter how cheap or how beautiful a unit is if there’s mention of bedbugs I run like hell.

I'll keep on looking, but I very much fear that I won’t find anything. None of the units are as big as where I live now, none of the balconies are as big, none of them have the view my unit has, and none of them are in a location where a supermarket, a bowling alley, and public transportation are within walking distance.

So perhaps the grass isn’t greener on the other side.





Saturday, July 1, 2017

Looking for a new home


Let me give it to you in a nutshell. After living 17 years in a condominium in a suburb of Toronto, we’ve decided to move. The reason ... I’m no longer willing to put up with our corrupt Board of Directors. One member of the board had herself fraudulently elected and twice re-elected, and deceitfully had candidates of her choice elected to 'serve' with her on the board.

I ran for a board position too, with the specific intent of exposing the fraudulent actions of this board member but she railroaded me with a string of false rumors and downright lies. The result, two candidates she supported got elected and she can continue cheating the condominium corporation out of thousands of dollars.

Even though the corporation is $500,000 in debt, she got it into her head – and got the rest of the board to agree with her – that the building’s parking garage needs a complete overhaul. Cost of this project … $2,5 million.
In addition, she’s planning on cladding the building. Cost of that project … $400,000.

To cover the total cost of $2,9 million the corporation can either apply for a loan, and stretch the down payments over 10 or 15 years, or the residents of this building will see a massive increase in their maintenance fees, along with a special assessment that could amount to several thousand dollars.

So, to avoid all this, we’ve decided to sell our condo and move. I went online, started looking for properties for sale, and got in touch with two realtors. One of them sent me a link to a house.

So far, I hadn’t considered a house, because houses are much more expensive than condos, but this house was extraordinarily reasonable priced, just $159,000. See for yourself. The outside may not look like much, but inside it’s exquisite.







 

We jumped at the opportunity and asked the realtor to arrange a viewing. We couldn't believe our luck, such a beautiful house for such a low price! 

Today the realtor emailed me some bad news. Whoever had typed up the specifications for the house had made a mistake. The price was not $159,000 but $1,590,000. He asked if we wanted to proceed with the viewing, or if this new price was a bit out of our budget. A bit out of our budget? It was WAY out of our budget.


So, we’re back to square one with looking for properties. I image that in the days, weeks or even months to come, you’ll get regular updates of our experiences.


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.

Before
After
 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). 

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