Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thanksgiving Pilgrimage

I like to spend Thanksgiving by celebrating Mother Nature's last hoorah, wandering around some forest trail, looking at the pretty leaves. I didn't think I was going to get to do that this year, but we did go off towards Mayberly to check out part of the Perth Autumn Studio Tour. We only had time to do a few studios this year as we were due at a dinner later in the afternoon.

 We could have done some of the studios closer to Perth, but opted to go to the far end of the tour, so that we could, once again, visit Fieldworks, an art installation we found when we did this tour last year.

All three of the studios we visited were actually barns with several artists represented in each one.  There was glass work, and pottery, woodwork and weaving,  and purses and even garden elements, as well as the usual paintings.

Though no one mentioned The Fieldwork Project this year, it was indicated on the map, and we remembered it from last year, so we stopped by to see what was new there.  Not too much has changed, and some of the older stuff is getting a bit bedraggled, but the area is still fun to wander around, and we did find a few new things.
 The first new thing we spotted was this jumble of plastic tile drainage pipe. It's called the Knot, and is meant to represent the tangle of inter connectivity that is so prevalent in our world today.

While the knot is rather an ugly thing to see in the wilderness, a Mayfly seemed to fit right in.
 This giant bird, perched on some suitcases was here last year, and seems to have stood up well to the weather.
The biggest surprise, was finding this stack of books in the woods. It's called "Speaking Volumes - In Memory of a Book" It makes me a bit sad to know that 1500 books are being sacrificed to the elements.  The idea is that they will slowly return to their source as they disintegrate and fade away.

This was the most colourful of the displays, and just like the autumn leaves, they deserve one last look, before they are gone .......

I hope you all had a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Finding the Silver Lining

One day last week I planned to take the senior's shopping bus into Ottawa for the day.  I got dressed and walked the half mile to where I would catch the bus. I chatted with a friend for a little while, before being left alone to wait. Then I waited and waited, and waited some more. It was strange that the bus wasn't coming. It was even stranger that the others who normally catch this bus were not there either. I decided that they had changed the pick up point once again, and that I just had not heard about it. This bus only runs once a month, and I don't often take it.  Obviously I wasn't going to be able to take it that day either. I wandered over to the local Drop In centre, and joined the gang there for some treats and a cup of tea.

Someone said, "I thought you were going into Ottawa today."

I admitted that had been the plan and that they must have moved the pick up point as the bus never came. They asked what time the bus comes to pick us up, and that's when I realized my mistake. I had gone to wait for the bus a full hour late. Most everything else I tend to do starts at 10am, while the bus leaves here at 9am.  I was ready on time, but I was on auto pilot, and didn't leave the house until I normally would if I was going to go somewhere. I started wondering if I was going senile or something.

This week I attended a function in a nearby village, where a lady who sometimes rides that bus into Ottawa asked me if I had gone last week. I told her I had intended to, but somehow managed to miss the ride. She told me that the bus had broken down on the way, and everyone had to sit on it for a couple of hours while they got a replacement bus to pick them up and continue the trip. They didn't get to Ottawa until noon. I'm so glad I missed the bus as it would have been lunch time when we got there and after eating (which I'm sure I would have done) there wouldn't have been a lot of time to shop before the bus was ready to take us home again at 2pm.  I would have felt I'd spent too much on the trip for the amount of time I would have had in the mall.

Sometimes it pays to be absent minded.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Autumn in Ontario

Three of us went on a little photo expedition last Friday. The weather couldn't have been more perfect, and one of my friends knew of the perfect spot for us to wander around. This week, I think I'll just share what nature had to offer.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Product Trial - Shirriff Pie Crust

I've found another way to get good free products through the mail.  The BrandSpark people have recruited a Shopper Army, which is designed to use regular people test new products.  The item I was offered was the new Shirriff Pie Crust Mix.  The instructions were to use the product to bake a pie within a week and complete a brief 10 minute survey about the experience.

There was a little glitch though, as I received a message on Friday saying that I needed to bake the pie that weekend, and I had not yet received the pie crust package.  I sent off an e-mail to let them know. I was so disappointed as I was afraid that if I didn't get this mission accomplished, I might get knocked off the list for future products.  The response I got was friendly and positive, and it told me the deadline was not until Wednesday and if the package didn't get to me in time, to just enjoy the product and not worry about it. 

The package arrived on Tuesday, and I had plans for Wednesday, so I decided to get busy and bake a pie.  The next question was what did I have on hand to put in one, as there was no time to go shopping.  I had just barely enough raisins, and not enough of anything else, so raisin pie it was.  There was a difference between the temperature the recipe said to bake it at, and what the pastry package said, but since I was testing the pastry, I decided to go with their instructions.

The package was meant to make a double crust for a 9 inch pie. I rolled the dough as thinly as I dared, but I wasn't convinced there was enough to make a top crust with. It would be just my luck that I would roll it either too small, or place it on so that it didn't cover the whole pie on the first try. As the raisin filling would then make the pastry too sticky to deal with, I decided to not try to make a proper top crust. I cut out a shape instead. Then I used the scraps to make cinnamon and sugar cookies. Looking at the results carefully, I guess there was enough pastry to make a top crust, but I'd like a little extra just to cover my bases, and of course, the pie.

The pastry rolled out more easily than my standard homemade one, but there were little flecks of stuff still visible in the dough. The instructions said to "mix slowly to  make a dough that clings together and cleans easily from the bowl."  That's what I did. I didn't feel that I could work it further, and possibly make it tough. The little flecks didn't hurt the taste of the final product, but the pastry didn't look as smooth as mine would have.

The biggest disappointment was when I cut the pie and tried to lift the pieces from the plate. The pastry stubbornly clung to the glass dish and had to be forcibly scrapped off. I was glad I wasn't serving this pie to a guest, but my hubby and I certainly enjoyed it.

The survey asked for ways the manufacturer could improve the product, and so, hopefully these problems will be straightened out. Though I normally make my own pastry, I tend to do it with a whole pound of Tenderflake, so I have enough to make as many as 7 crusts at one time.  When I just want one or two, I tend to buy the frozen Tenderflake ones, but then I have to juggle the contents of my small freezer, and hope that I don't break them before they are used up. I think I would prefer to buy this new Shirrif Pie Crust in the future. It could be handy to have in my cupboard.

Get to work Dr Oetker, and make Shirriff Pie Crust Mix one of my favorite products of the year. And Shopper Army, I'm so glad to have been recruited. I'm already looking forward to my next mission.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Seniors Become Sitting Ducks

I told you recently about an enjoyable visit to the Fifty-Five Lifestyle Show. I mentioned at the time that I had filled out a number of contest forms and expected that I would get a lot of calls that would nor necessarily be about things I had won.  Well, let me tell you about some of them.

First I had a call about the 3 course dinner that everyone who filled in a ballot was entitled to.  A chef would prepare it, using the Cuisine Sante International cookware I saw at the show, to demonstrate how easy it would be to cook healthy meals without fats or oils. I was naturally busy on the dates he had available within the next week or so, and he will call back in October, when the chef would be available for the next round of meals.  I likely won't answer the phone now that I know what name will appear on the screen.  I have now had time to look up the company, and the "deal" along with the comments from other people who either loved the cookware or found the trip that came with it to be a scam.  I'm certainly not interested in paying exorbitant prices for pots and pans, or any of the other kitchen equipment they may try to foist on me after I've eaten a meal they invited me to.  If you want to know how these people operate, check this website and investigate further for yourself.

The second call came from  Arbor Memorial Inc.  I was walking by there, thinking it wasn't anything I'd be interested in, when I was called over to fill out a ballot for .... well I couldn't imagine what. I asked him if it was a cemetery plot or a funeral or what, and I'm not sure I got an answer to that, but just for filling out the form, I was going to get a free book where I could record where everything was, so others could find things if something ever happened to me.  Well, we really all need one of those, as I realized recently, and this one looked like a decent book that was well laid out.  But suddenly, he couldn't find one to give me, and seemed, after rummaging around in the booth, to only have the sample copy left.  However, he now had my address and he would  make sure I got one.  Ya, well, with the phone call, it was clear that it wasn't coming by mail, and would be delivered along with a sales pitch on future funeral arrangements or something. I just told him I'd just pass on the book thanks. He had time to say, "Are you sure?" before I said, "Yes," and hung up.

The third call was from a company I didn't even remember seeing there. The lady said, "Well, you filled out a form for a $20,000 draw. Do you remember that?"  I laughed and replied that I had filled out a lot of contest forms that day. I had a good time, actually.  She said that, though I was still in the running for the $20,000 there were also daily draw and I had won one of those.  She said there were three choices.  One was a 3 day, 2 night stay at a quality hotel, from a large list that covered all of North America. The second was something that sounded rather like CAA coverage, with towing and battery boosting, etc. and the third choice was a 50 foot PVC garden hose.  I had to laugh at that, as there is such a large difference between a trip and a hose, but she said that as some people can't travel, and some people don't own a car, they had to provide something for everyone. (Well, I could argue that some people may not live in they type of housing where a hose would be useful, but I was still being good at that point).

I, like many others, chose the hotel room (or, as they hoped you believed, the trip).  Then she wanted my physical address.  I asked why, and she said so they could deliver the "travel package".  I asked, "When that gets delivered here, then what happens?" I have to wonder how many people never think to ask that.  She said that they would want feedback on their air filtering system.  I said, "So someone will want to come in here and show me your product?" and she said yes, as they wanted feedback.

At this point I told her I thought I'd pass on the whole thing as I had played this game before, and really wasn't interested in doing it again. I then quickly said, "Thanks anyway," and hung up.  For any of you who don't know, falling for a demonstration of an "air filtering system" is really just allowing a vacuum cleaner salesman into your home.  I had a really great time confounding one of these fellows before, but once was enough.  You see, my first job was in door to door sales. I was trained in how not to take "No" for an answer. This makes it easier for me to see how these people try to maneuver their customers into making a purchase.  Guilt and embarrassment often work well.  The time the last vacuum cleaner salesman got to practice on me (and I actually told him that was all he was going to do), I had him convinced that I didn't care how dirty or germ infested my house was. Since he couldn't convince me how badly I needed his product, he couldn't sell it to me. He did have a quick mind though, and I asked him if he was doing this to put himself through university. He said he was. I told him he would do well in life.

Most recently I have been getting a number of phone calls from Breath EZ Homes.  I have not answered that call.  I know they will just have me do a survey, and then call back in a couple of days to tell me I've won a prize.  Then, of course, they will want to come and deliver it and do a product demonstration.... oh yes, it's another vacuum cleaner sales pitch.

At this point I'm starting to think that the whole Fifty-Five Plus LifeStyle show was a way to put the scammers in touch with the vulnerable senior citizens, and I think they should find a way to screen their exibitors better next year.

If you attended this show and had similar experiences, I'd be very happy to hear from you as I think I may try to find a way to alert the promoters before this sort of thing happens again. The more people I hear from, the more convincing this complaint will become.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Banking In the Digital Age

For 25 years I had two bank accounts for our karate club, but I never had a bank card. When bank cards first came out, one of the tellers told me not to get one as it would just be too much trouble. I thought she meant for me, not her. But eventually the bank, in it's wisdom, decided to charge $2 to anyone they had to send a statement to.  I decided it was time to get a bank card, so I could just check out the statements online.

When I first requested the bank card, I was met with a quick, "I don't know if we can do that!"  I just shook my head and said, "I'll leave it with you for a couple of hours as I have somewhere to go."  When I came back in, they were quite pleased with themselves. "We did it!" they declared, and handed me a card.  I still wasn't sure what all the fuss was about.

When I got home, I used the new card to access my accounts online.  But I only found one, not two. I returned to the bank the next day, and the very second I stepped through the door, I heard, "Oh, oh."

Yes, it's true, they could not put both accounts on that one card.  Don't ask me why. Both accounts were opened for the same business at the same branch of this bank, but for some unexplained reason, they couldn't marry those two accounts.

I had a meeting with the accounts manager to do some other business, and explained the problem to him. Once again, I was told to leave it with him, and he'd get it fixed.  But he couldn't, and the powers higher up apparently couldn't either. And nobody ever told me why this was so.  Eventually, more than a year after all this began, it was decided that the only way to fix this problem was to close the savings account, and open another one.  That sounded like it would solve the problem.  Instead, it created a new one.

When the first statement for this new account arrived, instead of the $2 statement charge I had been trying to avoid, there was a fee of well over $16.  I trotted into the bank and slapped a copy of the statement onto the desk of the highest ranking official I could find. She said, that apparently someone had not explained this account to me properly, and refunded the service charge. I stated that the person who set up this account knew the whole reason for it was for me to avoid that little $2 fee, so giving me an account that was naturally going to generate even bigger fees every time I used it, was certainly not my idea of how to solve the problem.

I ended up with another $11 charge for the following month too, for transactions that had already gone through by the time I was refunded the previous month's fees. I have not touched that account since, but if I do, I'll just make one online transfer, once in a while, and never deposit cheques, or (god forbid) cash in the darn thing ever again. Do you know that they actually charge you to deposit cash in a business account?  After 25 years of never being charged such fees with my previous account, this was a shock to me!

For the past couple of months I have been having difficulty signing into my online business account. Last month I had to reset the password.  This week it wouldn't let me do that, as the security questions now ask for a credit card number.  I don't have a credit card for the business. I have been pre-approved for one, but I don't feel the need to have it, so I've never applied for it.  The online system wouldn't let me reset the password without it though.  I thought I'd try the current password one more time. Then the system told me it was having trouble identifying me.  It didn't even recognize the card number anymore.

So, once again, I had to physically go to the bank, where they gave me the phone number for the online banking office, so I could fix such problems. I must have stared at the teller in a certain way, as she picked up the phone and made the call herself.  We worked through it together.  At one point she wanted me to insert the current password.  I told her I was there because that didn't work.  But she insisted, so I tried it.  No luck. Of course. So she got me a temporary password, after which I had to change that to a new one. I picked something that I knew I could remember until I got home.

Once at home, I tried to get in, and once again the system wouldn't recognize the password I had just set up. I dug out the phone number that the teller had given me, and called the online banking office.  I had to go through all the steps with the temporary password then change it to the new one all over again. The trip to the bank had been a total waste of time.

I finally got to see my statement.  But I can't help but wonder what will happen next month!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Aging Has Some Benefits

As many of you know, I don't often turn down things that are offered for free.  Earlier this year I saw a post online that offered free tickets to the Fifty-Five Plus Lifestyle Show in Ottawa.  I decided to print them off, just in case I had a chance to go when the time came.  The tickets indicated that they were worth $10 each, but I managed to print off one for both my hubby and myself.  On Saturday, we got to use them.

The first thing that happened as we entered the premises was that we were each handed a reusable shopping bag with a few brochures inside. This is the first such bag I've ever had that actually has an outside pocket. I can just imagine how handy that's going to be. The bags were a great idea since they publicize the event so others who see them in use would think about attending next year. They definitely came in handy throughout our visit, since there was so much to pick up at the various booths.  After getting home, I discovered a tag attached, that made it clear that the bag also publicized the company that printed them. I could, for instance, get the Merrickville Karate Club logo printed on some, with more appropriate colours for our club.

Here are some of the things I came home with:
- A magnifying ruler from Phonak
- A shortbread cookie shaped like a wrench, from G.V. Renovations
- A little truck from the Got Junk people
- A notebook and pen from Davidson Hearing Aid Centres and also a package of batteries from them after they cleaned my hearing aid for me.
- A small sylus for using with my tablet, that is also a pen and a flashlight!
- Four assorted pens, and two other notepads.
- Plus the usual assortment of fridge magnets and candy and little chocolate bars.
- And of course, the multitude of brochures, coupons and other reading material I stuffed into the bag they provided.

While there, besides getting my hearing aid cleaned, I got my spine scanned by a chiropractor, to find out some areas of my neck were disintegrating (but I knew that). I also had a good talk with a renovator about my bathroom, and other things that might need doing around my house. I entered a myriad of contests too. Of course that likely means I'll have a few follow up phone calls to deal with. I'm very good at "no" so that's fine.  One will be for a date and time when we can actually go have a free meal somewhere in the east end of Ottawa. It will be cooked on special cookware, that requires no fats or oils. That's supposed to make the food healthier, they say.  Of course then the sales tactics will come into play, but as I said, I have no problem leaving afterwards without committing to anything. It's a little late in life to be investing in new cookware.

While waiting for my hearing aid to be cleaned, we helped ourselves to nice large cups of coffee and tea, and watched part of a performance by a lady dressed if a gold dress, split down the front to the waist.  She was impersonating Marilyn Monroe and even came off the stage for a while to flirt with some of the men in the audience. They did seem to enjoy that. 

Later on we sat though a performance by Wayne Rostad. (I've discovered so many ways to spell his last name that I've settled for the one in the brochure). He managed to get us all to sing somehow, though he did warn us that would happen.  This was the first time I've seen him perform in person, and it was really quite enjoyable.

We were at the Lifestyles show for over 3 hours, and the only cost to us, for all the entertainment, treats and goodies was the $7 parking fee at the Ernst & Young Centre.

That's quite a bargain for such a nice outing.  If you missed it, they have started referring to this as The First Annual Lifestyle Show, and plans for next year are already in the works.  I wouldn't  hesitate to go back.