Monday, April 16, 2018

The Ice Storm

 Were any of you affected by the Colorado low that came through my region (SW Ontario) all day Saturday and Sunday spewing freezing rain and ice pellets "the likes of which we've never seen before?"      

(Eek, who do I sound like?)

The upside, it you can call it that, is that I stuck a really good book in front of my face for hours and hours on end so I wouldn't have to look outside! My author of choice at the moment:
...if you haven't read any of her books you might be familiar with her main character: Inspector Lynley on PBS Masterpiece Mystery!

Other than a couple of very careful trips taking out garbage and recycling and throwing seeds to the poor birds and squirrels,  I've been stuck inside. BUT, I didn't fall on the ice and break my hip!! See, there's always a silver lining :)

Knowing that we were in for the "storm of the century" I headed to Kilally Meadows for a couple of hours on Friday before all HELL broke loose! Things are "greening up" with signs of wild flowers to come:
Mystery Plant


Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

Marsh Marigold

Marsh Marigold

                If you look hard enough there are all sorts of treasures quietly growing...of course, after all the rain you might need a snorkel!

Monday, April 9, 2018

I've Got Gas!...

....or maybe I should say my car has been gassed up :)

I managed to hang in there until gas went down at 3 or 4 stations in London on Friday.  As someone who shops around for the best gas price Fridays seem to be a good day to top up the tank. I was on my last "bar" of gas in the tank so things were getting a little desperate but this past Friday I wasn't disappointed. Prices dropped briefly from weeks of $1.26 per litre to $1.17 per litre saving me a couple of bucks.

$45.00 filled up the Honda's tank and should last me into the month of May. Lowering my gas budget line from $60 per month to $45 per month seems completely doable.
This photo does not reflect today's prices.
BUT...I have a question. A reader who lives north of me, but still in Ontario, says their gas prices have been around $1.18 most of the time.  Why is there such variance in the price of gas? Why isn't gas the same price everywhere in Ontario or anywhere else for that matter? I do understand different places have different taxes applied to gasoline but that wouldn't affect sellers in the same province...would it?

*($1.18 per litre = $4.46 per gallon for those in the U.S. as there are 3.78 litres in a liquid gallon.)

With warmer weather hopefully making an appearance soon I won't worry about the price of gas as much, as I'll use my bicycle at lot, though of course summer activities like beach days will require more gas. 

There is a movement here in Canada pushing for people NOT to buy any gas on April 15th. This has been done before, quite successfully, with gas prices dropping for a period of time after the boycott. I hope it's successful again this year.

**On a more sombre note - I'm sure most of you have heard about the Junior Hockey team in Humboldt, Saskatchewan that occurred this past Friday. It was a horrific accident involving the team bus and a transport truck with 15 players, coaches, media being killed and the other 14 injured, some seriously. The outpouring of support from around the world has been incredible with $4.4 million dollars raised for families through a GoFundMe page. More than 60,000 people representing almost 60 countries around the world have donated.  It's not the dollar amount that is so amazing as it is how many people worldwide have shown how much they care. I feel very humbled by this and it gives me faith that the majority of people in this tiny world of ours are truly decent, kind and caring. 

Solidarity in the hockey world was also shown by NHL teams (Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets shown above) with players wearing the Junior Team's team name (Broncos) instead of their own names. 

In the words of our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
Tonight we pay tribute. To the team, to the families, to the community: The whole country is behind you. You are loved, and you will be remembered.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

All Gassed Up

Two challenges I have been working on in 2018 are 1) use as little gas as possible and 2) eat as little refined sugar as I can. So far I'm doing pretty good, especially where gas is concerned.

Since replacing my truck with a Honda Civic at the end of Sept. 2017 I have been lowering my monthly gas budget line - from a high of $200.00 (when I was driving Dougie the Dodge truck) to $60 now (driving the Honda).  A nifty savings of $140.00 per month! Yahoo!

AND... for the past 4 months I've only been filling the Honda once a month at a cost of $45.00 so I think it's time to reduce the budget line for gas even further - from $60.00 to $45.00 a month. Since buying the Honda the monthly amount I spend on gas has decreased by $155.00/month ($200 - $45). My car insurance and house insurance amount to $156.00 ($124 + $32)!! So by switching from a V8 truck to the Honda I am saving enough in gas to pay for car and house insurance!! That's amazing and has put a big smile on my face!! 

As most of you know I was thinking about going car-free so by driving something a lot more economical and lot more "green" than the truck goes a long ways to making me feel better about still driving.

Once it warms up a little (right now IT IS FREAKING SNOWING!!!) then I won't even be spending $45.00 per month on gas because I'll be biking most places within the city. I have met Goal #1 👍

GOAL #2 - the struggle continues...
I would estimate that I have decreased the amount of refined white sugar in my diet by about 75% (or more).  Which is great! I no longer spend time browsing the candy aisles at Dollarama (there are TWO Dollaramas within a block or two of my house though with me not shopping there as much as I used to I'm sure one of them will have to shut down due to poor returns!!) Since the beginning of January I have intentionally made purchases at Dollarama twice. Once was to buy a little somethin somethin for Valentine's Day which I shared with Kazi. And then one other time when I had a craving for chocolate covered almonds.

Zero Easter eggs consumed this year though I noticed a chocolate bunny on the kitchen counter :) and yes, I had a nibble. But the rest I'll take up to Kazi's room where I won't see it. I'm on the See Food diet, I'm sure you've heard of it - "if I see food, I eat it!"

It's not that I have stopped eating snacks - I have had a few bags of salt and vinegar chips and I have been baking oat scones on a regular basis. In addition, when I have a craving, I eat a few raw nuts which of course are high in fat and calories. BUT, the fat is good fat so they say. We've also turned to avocados (again good fat) and very satisfying. I tried (and failed) to eat one or two squares of dark chocolate a day as there are many health benefits but I couldn't stop at one or two so have had to give that up.

But I'm not giving up wine and beer - you have to draw the line somewhere! Besides...both have health benefits if they are consumed in reasonable amounts!

I've had to face the fact that I can't control myself around sweets. So I try to provide myself with sweet stuff that is somewhat healthier. My scone recipe spreads 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar throughout a yield of 12 scones. I use whole wheat flour instead of refined white flour, large oats, soy milk, butter, one egg and a half cup of currants. They are delicious and filling and use mostly healthy ingredients.

This isn't a diet about losing weight though I have lost 5 pounds over 3 months. It's more about trying to make healthier choices. It's hard though, I admit it. Menopause means I have to eat a lot less to maintain my weight as opposed to when I was a teenager and could eat as much as I wanted without gaining an ounce! NOT FAIR! 

I found a site that calculates your BMI but uses your age as well as gender, height and weight in their calculation. Yippee - on their site I am within the "normal range" - the loss of just 5 pounds and inputting my age (61) and gender has moved me from straddling the line between normal and borderline over-weight. I am going to save the results and look at them everyday for the rest of my life!!!

If you want to check your BMI go to

Monday, April 2, 2018


My vigil for the arrival of the Kilally Meadows osprey couple has ended. On Saturday
their nest in centre field was empty...

But when I went back on Sunday (no fooling :) I could see their little heads poking up on the light standard in centre field!

They must be hardy birds - a nest of sturdy sticks just screams for a warm duvet!!

But they don't seem to mind...and imagine the COLD! My fingers were numb in the -7c temperatures with a strong wind. When they spread their wings they were really buffeted about.

The male was trying to woo his partner by performing his mating dance...

So far, she doesn't look very impressed! (she's on the right)

But surely this breakdancing move will melt her heart :)  It sure put a smile on MY face!

I recently read that although the Mr. and Mrs. stay together year after year it's more a marriage
of convenience as they have a strong instinct to return to the same location and the same nest. In a couple of weeks they should produce from 2 to 5 eggs and then Mr. will be responsible for ALL of the fishing!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Photo Phails

Happy April Fool's Day!!
I post a lot of photos on my blog and some of them are pretty good.
But obviously I don't post the failures
which a LOT of them are. 
I usually delete the blurry, distant photos
of questionable subjects.
I noticed I had quite a few that SHOULD
be deleted...and I will delete them after I share a few with you.
Just for phun :)

The photo below is an example of the many bad photos I have been taking while sitting in my car or hiking along the river trying to spot the osprey couple who annually take up residence in the ball  park near where I hike.  I thought this might be an osprey due to the shape of the wings but I'll never know for sure as the bird is too small. I did try to get a closer-up photo but the bird (probably a gull) disappeared behind the tree.

The photo of the cardinal below isn't terrible except that the bird's head is turned slightly away and it's a bit small. I took a bunch more and got bigger and better focussed photos where he was looking my way. Practise makes perfect.

I actually like the photo below although I didn't get the photo I was after. Back in university days when I was taking photography we called these "happy accidents." There was something over by the trees I was interested in but the camera focussed on the dried plants in the foreground and blurred the background...but I quite like it.

Sometimes I include my "shadow" in a photo but I didn't mean to in the photo below. I wasn't
paying very good attention I guess. When I do include my shadow it's usually the subject of the
photo, not some little object in the lower corner!

Timing is everything when taking photos of wildlife. I did eventually get a few
photos of these Canada geese where heads weren't blocked by twigs.

If I didn't have more photos of this I would have no idea what I was trying
to take a picture of! I saw this black shape far away across a field and wondered what it was.
It was just large black plastic bags which were being used to kill invasive species but had been displaced during the flooding. Definitely not photo-worthy!

The two photos below show me trying to get a picture of the downy woodpecker that was pecking away in its quest for doesn't stay still long enough for me to focus and shoot!

Same with the hawk below. Trying to track it with my camera
isn't something I'm very good at!

The photo below was very disappointing to me - it was my first white-tail deer sighting this spring and I totally fluffed it! Blurry due to the camera focussing on the dried plant (lower right) and just too much crap (trees, underbrush etc) between me and the deer. They knew I was there and were on high alert. You can see one white deer tail almost dead centre and another close to the left side of 
the photo. They had just started to run away when I snapped this blurry mess.

Photography 101: get yer durn fingers outa the way!

Get the whole bird in the photo!

Below: While not the best photo ever taken it is the only "Cooper's" Hawk I have ever seen! I took this photo through my patio doors while it sat on a branch in my maple tree. I was sitting by the window, reading, when movement in the tree made me take notice. Then I had to find my camera, sneak up on the window to get this photo - a second later he flew away.  His head is turned slightly toward the tree so it isn't the best of shots but I was thrilled he hung about munching on a mouse (or some little rodent) til I got this photo. They don't usually come into an urban environment so it was quite exciting.

And there you have it - I'll keep this photo and the "happy accident" photo but will delete the rest.

I hope you are having a lovely Easter Sunday - I'm heading out after the laundry is done to see if the ospreys have arrived - I just can't stay in while the sun is shining! I hope it is shining on YOU!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Marching along....

From the serious to the mundane...

March for our lives - London, Ontario
 Wow - that crowd in Washington D.C. was HUGE...might I say even bigger than someone's "inauguration" last year?!? I was proud to join with fellow members of "People for Peace" and the "Council of Canadians" here in London, ON. on Saturday, March 24th in support of proposed new gun legislation driven by the youth of America, especially those who have experienced gun violence first hand in their schools and communities. I couldn't be any prouder of those kids than if they were my own.

Here, in Canada, we are faced with rather less serious issues but issues that still relate to the leader of our country - Justin Trudeau. We are floundering with the issue (and I do mean FLOUNDERING!!) of gender language, yes, that's right - our headlines and political cartoons provide some comic relief which I suppose is dearly needed these days...

Perhaps you heard about this one...Justin ending "mankind" as we know it...interrupting a woman who used the word "mankind" during one of his cross country town hall meetings...

...and my personal favourite...Service Canada employees told not to use the terms "father" and "mother" anymore but the more gender neutral (and CONFUSING) terms "Parent 1" and "Parent 2"... I guess in my case as a single parent my Service Canada rep should call me "Parent 1 AND Parent 2!"

Or people can choose a term they feel most comfortable with.....

Not satisfied with the neutralization of our language Justin is well on his way to permanent ridicule by some of his outfit choices...causing his constituents great embarrassment!

During a failed trip to India... no government officials showed up to formally greet him and his poor one except a soberly dressed Bollywood star!

A future trip to Germany?

It's not all bad however; Justin is very sincere in his fight for equality - for women, for people of all ethnic groups, religions and sexual orientations...just reign in the ridiculousness a notch or two...PLEASE!!

He does enjoy a good party...seen here at a PRIDE parade...and I admire him for that - no other Prime Minister has gotten past the awkwardness so joyfully as Justin has...(just put away that Miley Cyrus tongue!!)

And no other Prime Minister has done THIS!!

So, as always with our leaders, we have to accept the bad with the good....or do we??? I think the next generation of voters is going to have a BIG SAY about that!!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Mid-March Madness

Money-wise this has been a March like no other. Thankfully in a good way (mostly....) Somewhere along the way I made a $300 mistake in my my favour!! How often does that happen? Usually never right? Occasionally I make an error in adding or subtracting on my budget sheet and of those errors about 98% of them are NOT in my favour! Most times the mistake is under $50, usually less than that. Am I looking to figure out how I made the $300 mistake? Ummmmm NO! - I'm crossing my fingers I can get to the end of March with that error intact! Counting the days....

Between that $300 and my misc budget line I have almost enough to pay for 3 weeks of airbnbs in Scotland! No money taken out of savings! My goal was to spend no more than $1,000 (Cdn) for the 21 nights with my brother contributing the same amount. The final tally came to $818 (Cdn) each - EXCELLENT! (Works out to just under $40/night/person!!) I'd call that "extra spending money" except that the British pound is going up up up while the Cdn dollar is going down down down. The savings on accommodations will hopefully cover the extra we'll have to pay to buy British pounds (or poonds as the Scottish say...)

So all is booked and confirmed. Though I had mega-problems with my President's Choice Mastercard. After booking several airbnbs my mastercard was frozen due to my making transactions out of my usual pattern. Okay then, I let them know I had a few more to book so this wouldn't happen again. Well, it did, after one more successful booking my account was frozen once again. Another lengthy ordeal on the phone..."there are 23 people on hold ahead of you....." all I can say is thank goodness for Paypal which I used instead! Sorted once again I assumed my problems were over. I filled in a "travel alert" so they would know when I was travelling and act accordingly.

On Thursday I met with my brother once again as we needed to book a night near Stirling and 3 nights in Glasgow. Guess what? You guessed it! Account froze again. Well when I finally got a REAL person I went up one side of them and down the other. I'm usually very mild-mannered but this was just TOO MUCH!! After getting sorted for the 3rd time they apologized and offered me 20 President's Choice points to make me feel better - I don't think he liked it when I laughed loudly and said "don't bother - you know that's only 20 cents right??"

So here's the thing - I think I need to switch to another credit card. I received NO notifications by phone, email or text about so-called suspicious activity. (You know the messages I mean - an unusual charge just happened with your credit card - if it was you please ignore this message, if it wasn't you please call immediately!) He couldn't believe that I hadn't received any such contact and did a search only to find I was right.  Stupid stupid man...

Have you ever encountered this problem? What am I doing wrong? Any recommended credit cards (remembering I live in Canad...) Grrrrrrrrr! The thought of having to switch cards irks me to no end!

Strange growths in Kilally Meadows!

After my daffodils popped up their heads we had a fair bit of snow and it got very cold again. I think they died as I don't see them now that the snow melted. Rats...

I've been checking almost daily but no activity in the nest yet. I thought I saw an osprey flying very high yesterday (I could see the wing shape) but it didn't go near the nest while I was looking. Soon!