Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Weekends

My favorite thing about summer is that there are so many places to go and things to do, and most of it is free.
This weekend we were out looking for another art show but stopped to explore the Stewart Park Festival in Perth.  There were two stages with musical performances going on at the same time, plus other assorted things to amuse young and old alike. 

The weather was fantastic, so families were also enjoying the stream that runs through the park.  We never did find the art show we were looking for, but we've already been to a couple this summer, so we'll try for that one again next year.
Then, of course, there are the farmer's markets. Kemptville has eliminated the competition by holding theirs on Sunday afternoons, instead of using the usual Saturday morning time slot.  One of the great things about that is that our favorite vendor is now available much closer to home. I'm sure we will both gain some weight by the end of the summer because Frank's Buttermilk Pie is entirely too good to resist!  It is available with or without various berries in it, and only costs $8.50 per pie.  You won't get a better deal for anything so delicious anywhere else. I guarantee it.

Today we brought home some scones from another vendor, as we can eat them in on sitting, and not be tempted to get carried away.  I do need to fit into that new bathing suit, you know.  Scrummy Scones have some interesting varieties, and are available for taste testing first, as are Grammie's Jams.  Actually they go very well together. 

Now that I've had a perfect weekend, my garden can stand a bit of rain. I'm so glad it didn't come in time to spoil our fun.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Favorite Department Store is Headed for Disaster!

Who ever is running Sears these days isn't doing it any favours.

For at least 45 years, every time I needed an appliance, big or small, I bought it from Sears. Even all our outdoor equipment also came from there, as did much of our furnishings.  There were two reasons for that. They used to deliver for free, and they always stood behind what they sold. There was even a guarantee that if a part became unavailable within 10 years for any appliance that broke down within that time, they would replace that appliance for free.

I had one of the early microwaves that used to have a rubber seal around the door.  The seal developed a crack, and while I expected them to repair the door on the microwave by replacing the seal, they replaced the whole door instead.  The following year it became necessary to do that again, and they did. By the time it happened again, they were no longer making microwaves with rubber seals on the door, so they couldn't find us a new door. Then they called back and said they had found one. My hubby asked what they were going to do the next time, and when they realized this was an ongoing problem, they replace the entire microwave, with a new, more modern model. No hassle and no charge. 

The company has stopped delivering for free, and I have stopped ordering things from the catalog. I don't want to pay shipping charges for the privilege of trying something on. It may not fit, so I usually decide to wait until I get to the store.  Of course, if I do get to the malls where the stores are, there is a lot of competition for my money, and I'm likely to buy something someplace else.  They lost a frequent customer for their mail order business when they eliminated the free shipping.

And now, they have closed their service department, so if I need something fixed, where do I go?  Actually, they will eventually have authorized repair people scattered about the country, but if something needs a part right now, things get a little difficult.  If you ask them about the warrantee these days, for a new appliance you may be interested in, you get a lot of hemming and hawing. It would have been good if Sears had managed to establish where and how things would be repaired before eliminating the existing service department.

Recently our lawn mower decided not to start.  Luckily I have a husband who is mechanically inclined, so he took it apart and was able to determine what it needed. Then he set out to find it.  Well, it would have been easy if the repair depots were still in operation, but now you have to go to a Sears store, where the clerks are not repair people.  If you know what part you need, you have to order it, as they don't stock anything in the store.  If you don't know what you need, you are going to be in trouble. 

As it is, hubby was able to order the part he needed.  He was told it would come by mail and that he would get an e-mail with a tracking number so that he could see where it was on route to us.  He never got the e-mail so after a couple of days he tried to phone.  The line was busy all day long.  He eventually got someone who said the part had been shipped and was on it's way to Toronto.  I don't know where it was coming from, but we still had no e-mail to follow it's path.  The week went by and it wasn't here, so hubby phoned again, and was told it was on back order until the end of the month.  How can that be, if it was supposedly shipped earlier in the week?  Of course the number you call these days is just a call centre someplace, and not Sears at all.  The information you get depends entirely on who answers the phone at the other end, and how interested they are in their job.

Our grass could not wait a month to be mowed. We would have a hayfield by then. My clever hubby got online and searched out a cross reference chart to find out what the manufacturer's part number would be. That's right. Sears gives everything their own part numbers just so you will have to go through them to get things fixed.  He found the chart and got the number and bought the needed part from a local repair shop.....not even one that would be listed as a Sears repair depot when the time comes.  The lawnmower was then fixed and the lawn was mowed.

The next trick was to cancel the part ordered though Sears.  Apparently that could not be done over the phone for some reason. So, on Sunday, when we were in the vicinity of the Sears store where the order was placed, hubby tried to get them to cancel the order.  They said they couldn't do that.  They seemed to think it was necessary to hand over the ordered part, even if it took a month to get here, in order to credit the account.   Personally I would not expect the account to be charged until the order was shipped.

Today is Tuesday, and the part has just arrived.  It didn't come by mail after all. It came by UPS, and the packaging is not in very good shape. Just a thought, but why didn't they just send it with other Sears orders to the local pick up spot, instead of shipping it separately?

I don't know if there is a difference in price between what Sears charged, and what it cost us to get the part elsewhere, but gas to get to the city store doesn't come cheap these days and it took two trips so far, with another one lined up to return the part that we were told was back ordered.

It used to be so simple to get something fixed if you bought it from Sears.  Now, apparently it's not. 

Sears, get your act together.  Bring back the service department, and do it fast.  Oh, and I'd still appreciate free delivery too, but I guess that's out of the question.


Friday, July 11, 2014

The Unfinished Work

I recently saw a picture of a lovely vase online that really got me thinking.  It had graceful lines but the potter had taken it a step further and made marks in the clay to enhance it.  I took a pottery course way back, and looking at that picture I couldn't help thinking that I would have been afraid to wreck such a perfect piece by intentionally making marks on it.  Why take the chance of ruining something that has worked out so well? Yet, those marks were exactly what made the vase special.

I've been told, on several occasions, that I'm brave to attempt some of the things I do, whether it be by writing for publication or simply trying to paint something I've never tried before.  There always seems to come a point when I stop fiddling with what I'm working on. I become afraid that I will destroy what I have already created. That's when I usually decide something is finished and move on to something else.

I do, however, have a painting underway that I put aside and have not worked on for more than a year. I liked how it was going, but felt it needed something in the lower right hand corner. I don't know what that something is, as there is nothing there in the photo I took. I just know it will not be finished until I do something with that corner.  I have been afraid I will ruin what I've done so far by adding the wrong thing.  I have never stepped away from a painting this long before. At this point, I'm even afraid my style will be so different after all this time that whatever I do add will be entirely too noticeable.

I like what I've done so far.  Instead of adding something that doesn't exist, maybe I just need to make some marks.  Soon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Christmas in the June Heat

As the heat shimmers off the pavement, and people are all finally happily wearing shorts and sandals, my hubby got to use his Christmas present for the first time.

I had found it difficult trying to find a present for him this past Christmas as he had more clothes than ever, and didn't need anything else either. Men aren't like women as they prefer things that are useful.  Women, on the other hand, are happy to receive nice things they would never buy for themselves.  And, as men do, he tends to buy what he needs or wants, when the thought occurs, even if it is just a couple of weeks before Christmas. That makes things even more difficult.

Then, online I discovered I could order packages of tickets to the theatre at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque well before they went on sale individually to the general public.  I remembered that he had mentioned we should go to a play several times over the past year or two. We used to go fairly often, but had not been for a while.  I thought this would be a great gift for him.

I discovered that instead of season's tickets there was also a package called the Flex 6 that sounded perfect.  I could buy these six tickets, and he could apply them to any play he chose at either of the two theaters, using as many as he cared to for any performance.  And, since I was buying them early, they would throw in an extra ticket.  He could use that to take his sister, or another family member or friend of his choice along with us. Or, as he chose to do, we could simply purchase another ticket after Christmas to pair with that one, and we would see four plays this coming year. He wisely decided to pick matinee performances so we could also enjoy Gananoque while we're in the area for the day. The bonus being that we don't have that long drive home late at night.

It seemed like a great gift, but thinking about it now, I realized that he never actually got anything until this past weekend.  After Christmas, he chose the four plays from the seven choices in the brochure I wrapped up, and picked the dates. By chance, the choices were all at the Springer Theatre anyway.  This weekend was the first time he ever got to see any of them.  We went to a musical romantic comedy called She Loves Me about two coworkers in a 1930's parfumerie who don't get along with one another. They each are secretly writing letters to a lonely hearts penpal they had never met. You can guess the rest.  It was a lively, fun loving show, with a lot of exaggerated but hysterical acting.  A few of the characters will be remembered forever in my mind, even though they were not the stars of the show.

Though I found myself recently feeling sorry for my hubby not actually getting the benefit of his Christmas present until six months later, I must say, I certainly can't complain about my choice.  Every time he gets to use this gift, I get to go along, not only to the play, but also to enjoy a meal out.  We had a lovely day and are already looking forward to the next outing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Need Help From Revenue Canada? Forget It!

Have you ever tried to reach Revenue Canada?  They provide a phone number for you to call if you have questions. The problem is they don't provide enough people to answer it, or sufficient lines to handle the incoming calls.

Recently they sent out a mailing saying that an additional amount was owed, but the reason why made no sense at all.  The phone call was made, to 1-800-959-8281 and made and made, more times than I can remember, but the line was always busy. Always.

I know tax season is a busy time of year, but last year I had another question that wasn't so urgent, so I waited until summer to contact them. Then, instead of a busy signal, the line just rang and rang. I tried at different times of day for several days and never did get anyone to answer that darn phone.

It's bad enough to be put on hold for extended periods of time, but it's far worse not to be able to connect at all. There is a definite flaw in this system, and I have not even found a way to let them know about it.

I looked online for an alternative way to reach these people. Believe me, even finding that is not easy. The Canadian Revenue Agency has every roadblock covered, so they can protect themselves from irate people who may try to interrupt their workday with their questions.  The phone number they give is useless.  Actually, the number is listed as being available from mid-Feb to April 30,  But when they send you the tax assessment papers, the same number is listed on those, and "available" is not a word I'd use

 Altenate ways, such as e-mail and call back services, are listed as having not enough interest to warrant their existence. How do they know that when the only people they ever hear from are the ones lucky enough to win the phone number lottery and actually get through to them.  There are a great number of people, like me, who simply cannot make contact with them at all. It's like they are saying, "Just shut up and pay me!"  In the end, that's basically what we did, but only because we know that they will add interest to the unexplained charge, much like adding an insult to injury.

This is not the first year this problem has existed, and I doubt it will be the last. For Revenue Canada, this system is working just fine. The complainers can't get through.


Friday, June 6, 2014

De-clutter Week 23 - Hidden Clutter

I keep hearing that computers save trees since so many things can now be stored electronically. I don't know about you, but I seem to have more paper than ever.  I do not find the few bills and other records that are now totally computerized to be as handy to reach for, so in the end, I often find myself printing them anyway.  That and the fact that you can't access your records at all if your computer is down, or the power is out, makes me want to keep as many things on paper as possible.

Even though I have a filing system, paper can still easily get out of control around here.  I have folders that hold certain types of records. Before those papers get into the folders, they get put into a specific drawer. The idea is to take those papers out of that drawer and file them on a regular basis. That regular basis seems to be when the drawer gets so full I can't put anymore into it.  Mind you, that can happen several times a year, but really, I should do it at least quarterly. 

This kind of clutter is hidden from the general public, but it still exists. The drawer overflows, and the folders fill up.  This time, I actually went through the folders too, and eliminated a LOT that I decided I no longer needed to keep. 

Now I have a bunch of shredding to do.  That's another chore, for another day.

This week I also went through some old e-mail and eliminated a lot of that too.  Next it will be the photographs taken since the beginning of this year. There is a lot of garbage in those files, especially since I started this de-cluttering project.

I'm not sure anyone but me would notice that these areas have been cleaned up this week, but I do feel like I've accomplished something that needed to be done.

We won't mention the multitude of recipes now available, that I also print off.  After all, my computer isn't in the kitchen where I can read the recipe off the screen.  I suppose, now that I have a tablet, I won't have that excuse.  I will still want a paper copy after I've made the dish, and had it family approved, just so I can find it again more easily the next time I want to make it. 

I have not been as good at weeding out the recipes as I had hoped to be by now.  In fact, I'd call that my one major failure in this de-cluttering project so far this year.  If I'd even given it that 15 minutes a day as originally planned, I might be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel by now.  Perhaps sorting paper this week was a wake up call to get back to that. 

If we ever get some nice weather though, you can forget I said that!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

De-Clutter Project - Week 22 - More Ways to Win Than One

"If what you own makes your life tougher - why do it? Think about your relationship to your assets and possessions. Do you own them or do they own you? Many of you are collectors. Is your collection a dusty albatross around your neck? What can you do to improve how you handle your stuff?"

Georgia Nichols wrote that in my horoscope for this week.

I had just been searching for something on a crowded bathroom shelf, making a mess in the process. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I'm sure it's there. I decided this collection of stuff just might be the albatross mentioned above. Since I have just won a basket full of new products, I thought this might be a good time to clear off that shelf, display the new products, and only replace the other things I find myself reaching for over the next month or so.

The basket came from a draw at a local Home Show, and contained a wide variety of Arbonne products. If it's used on your hair, face of body, it is probably in that basket somewhere. There are even a few dietary products, that I'll test out next week.

The left hand side of the cupboard is always used for bandages, and cold or allergy products. The right hand side has bath products. Other odds and ends went into a low box to contain them, with my every day stuff right in front of that. That left the centre open for the new products. I want to use them all during the month of June so this seems like a good place to store them for now.  I left them in the cases they arrived in, but will likely take them out as I work my way through them.

I threw away a lot of old products and put the rest in to a bin, which will be in the (where else?) spare room next to the bathroom until the end of June.  Then I'll deal with whatever is left in there that hasn't made it's way back to the cupboard with use during that time.

During this de-cluttering process I did find a couple of things that I had duplicates of.  That most likely happened because I couldn't see what I had, or couldn't find it when I needed it in the past.  Not only did I win a basket full of new products to try, I think I won in another way too.  I now have this terribly cluttered shelf, where I couldn't find what I was looking for, all cleaned up.