Wednesday, 28 November 2007

I'm Siiiiiiiiiiiick! Waaaaaaaah!

Last week, I could feel the bit of a scratchy throat starting. I got through the weekend and my MILs 90th birthday party OK and don't think I infected anyone. However on our shopping trip and particularly last night, my throat was quite sore and I was beginning to get laryngitis. I'm not convinced I have a cold but I do have irritated sinuses (moisturizing nasal spray is keeping my nose pretty clear), my throat is still sore and my voice is shot. Waaaah!

I made an appointment with a doctor for tomorrow. I will also inquire about being scheduled for a screening colonoscopy and this thing on my face. It looks like a burn - raised and red. It hasn't really changed in a couple of weeks. I will also mention my sore hip and see if she agrees with my lay diagnosis of arthritis. I also can't find my ventalin inhaler - which may have bounced out of my backpack this morning when I picked it up before I had it all zipped up. The cartridge in it was dated 2005 and was almost empty so I was due for a new one. Sheesh!! This aging stuff is not for sissies!

We had a lot of fun shopping in Buffalo these past three days. I got lots of nice loot including a ball of Mega Sock Stretch yarn at Elmwood Yarn Shop on Hertel Ave. There was a nice assortment of yarn but not very conveniently labelled. The proprietor needs to put signs up rather than hang several descriptive tags from a hook. She also was quite taciturn. She looked like she had a bad headache. Anne-Marie tried to engage her in conversation and was just given abrupt answers that did not lead to further discussion. Another customer was in the store seeking information about knitting a particular sweater. Any skilled salesperson would have run around suggesting all kinds of appropriate yarns that could be used. This gal sat on her behind and pointed to general areas where one kind of yarn might be found. I certainly did not get a 'warm, fuzzy' feeling in there and don't feel the need to return.

I did find a wonderful Nordic 100% wool sweater at Marshalls for $30. Not only would I probably never knit one myself, I couldn't buy the wool for that. It is white with various shades of blue in the design. It looks fabulous with any colour jeans. I also found a pair of Clark's open- back, black shoes with 2" heels for $30 as well. They are very comfy and look smashing with the dark blue jeans I bought at one of my favourite clothiers, Christopher and Banks.

The border crossings both ways were uneventful and the lineups not long at all. Today's drive was precipitation-free and due to taking the toll road - the 407 - practically traffic free. I was home by 1pm. Next week, I'm off again to my sister's for a quick visit with her and I also hope to have breakfast on Friday with the retired ladies from the school I taught at many years ago.

Sunday, 25 November 2007


We have a wonderful cat, Ollie, who is 8 1/2 years old. He is very affectionate and at times, demanding - particularly around feeding time. Ollie spends a lot of time sleeping in particular spots around the house. This is his favourite daytime sleeping spot:

in the crack of the sofa.

He also likes to sleep on the carpeted landing of our house so he can keep an eye on what is going on:

When we go away, the neighbour comes in and feeds him. However, the last couple of times we've been away for a week, Ollie has gotten kind of stressed out and we've discovered that he gnaws the fur off the backs of his front legs. Skip and I are going away for about a month in the spring. I've been trying to find someone who would look after him in their home the entire time we're away. I've asked practically everyone I've run into. Today at my mother-in-law's 90th birthday festivities, I asked Skip's niece, Michelle, if she would like to be a foster parent for Ollie and she said yes!!!! Yay!!! I'm so relieved. I sure hope he behaves himself at her house.

Friday, 23 November 2007

I Love A Parade

Today I got to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV for the first time ever!!!! I've been in school for the past 47 years (either as a student or a teacher) and have never had the day off before! Except for the two years we got American Thanksgiving off when I attended an American school when my family lived in Tampico, México. But we didn't have US television channels there to see the parade. We in Canada celebrate Thanksgiving the 2nd Sunday in October and only get a 3-day weekend and there aren't any big parades. Our Thanksgiving tradition is more of a harvest festival and although turkey is the traditional fowl consumed, there certainly aren't any pilgrims involved. We were settled by French explorers. Anyway, I REALLY enjoyed watching the parade this morning. I particularly liked the drum and bagpipe band that played Queen's "We Will Rock You". You've gotta love those bagpipes.

Skip and I finally made our 'romantic trip to the dump'. Let me explain... We've had two computer monitors in the garage between our two cars for about 3 months. Skip has been hinting that we've needed to take them to the dump (he wanted me to help him heave the stuff into and out of the car). To make it more enticing to me he began referring to the activity as the 'romantic trip' to the dump. Well today was the day. We got our courage and made the trip. WELL were we ever surprised at how easy it was! When we drove up, a woman at a booth asked what we had to unload. She told us where each item should go and then weighed the car. We then drove to the appropriate places and unloaded. We got rid of the two computer monitors, an old CPU, a dot matrix printer (my first one that dates from 1989), a REALLY old TV that showed everything in 'greenscale' (kinda like greyscale you'd get on your computer printouts but green), a broken growlight and 4 cans of paint. Then we drove up to the exit booth where the car was weighed again and were levied a $12 fee. We then gleefully drove off high-fiving each other feeling lighter than air. Holy crap! If we'd known it was going to be THAT easy, we'd have done this months ago. Now we're walking around the house looking at stuff to take to the dump. It wasn't that romantic but it sure felt good to get rid of that stuff.

I had a lovely dinner this evening with a former colleague, Suzanne. We went to Lake Grill in Whitby, just south of Victoria/Bayly/Baseline (or whatever it's called). I had yummy veal piccata in a white wine sauce with a simple potato and lovely broccoli. Suzanne enjoyed her stuffed salmon. The presentation was exquisite and the food delicious. After dinner I drove northward to Kniterary for the weekly Sit 'n Knit. A few of us brought stuff to show off. I call it 'Bring and Brag'. It's interesting to see what everyone is working on and hear about what challenges they've encountered with their projects. We also discussed possible 'field trips' we may take in the spring as there are several yarn destinations in southwestern Ontario that would be interesting to explore.

I do also want to remember to join the local knitting guild which meets the second Wednesday of the month. The Downtown Knit Collective (DKC) meets the 3rd Wednesday of the month in The Big City as well. I hope to get there sometime, too.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Giving Thanks à la USA

I just now read reading the blog of my friend, MaryAnne, who lives in Georgia in a town which she refers to as 'Hooterville'. At her reading group this week, with Thanksgiving as the theme, they discussed the 10 things they were most thankful for other than the usual husbands, kids, homes, friends, etc.

Here is my top 10 of 'things' I am thankful for: (sorry to be such a copy-cat MaryAnne)
1. My computer (PC) and laptop
2. Central vacuuming system
3. Online banking, shopping and msn messaging
4. My medical plan which allows for $400 of massages and chiropractic yearly
5. Bathroom cleaner with bleach and 'scrubbing bubbles'
6. Miller Chill beer (Miller Light with lime and salt - available only in the US)
7. Austermann Step sock yarn
8. Addi Turbo circular knitting needles
9. My passport
10. My iPod and all the gadgets that go with it

I guess it's fitting to publish my list today as it was also the airing of Oprah's 'favourite things' for Christmas show from Macon, GA.

Today I had my bi-annual mammogram - woo hoo! Skip was very sweet to come with me and wait in the waiting room. I only got a couple of rows of knitting done before I got called in and finished in 10 minutes. We then went shopping for some necessities for my MIL who resides in a nursing home - socks, slacks, coat, etc. We then went for dinner at Durham Region's only Mexican food emporium, Mexico Lindo in Ajax. On the way home we stopped in at A & P. I had espied some large print copies of the Reader's Digest there a while back and hoped one would still be there to get for my MIL. Let me digress for a moment...

I ordered the large print edition of Reader's Digest for my MIL back in August. The first copy was to arrive in 4 - 6 weeks. I received a bill in the mail but still had not received the first copy. I noticed the wrong postal code was on the bill. I corrected it online and was advised that a copy of the magazine would be shipped. Now, a month later, there has still been no delivery. I didn't buy the magazine at the A & P when I first saw it because I thought it would come in the mail. It didn't so today I did.

We then stopped in at the liquor store to pick up some wine for our neighbours who looked after Ollie while we've been away. I saw a New Zealand white wine called "Cat Pee on a Gooseberry Bush" and a NZ red called "Sally Cat" and thought those would be good selections for thanking people who had looked after our cat. We hope to deliver the wine tomorrow.

It felt good to get several errands done in 'one swell foop'.

I then began composing our annual Christmas newsletter and got most of the text done. I just have to insert some photos and I'll be ready to start my Christmas cards.

Monday, 19 November 2007

I Found It!

Last June, Skip and I went to Erie, PA on a shopping trip. We went to Millcreek Mall in Erie and also drove down to the factory outlet mall at Grove City. Whilst in Erie, I visited Cultured Purl and bought a skein of Cherry Tree Hill Supersock merino yarn and a ball of Trekking XXL yarn in a nice multicouloured green tweed colourway (298). I also bought a nice navy leather purse at a factory outlet store.

Back in the summer I went looking for the Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn and couldn't find it anywhere. I hunted high and low. I ended up buying some more of the yarn on eBay. I always wondered what happened to that yarn I had bought in Erie.

Yesterday, I went looking for the new leather purse that I had not used yet, and found it where I thought I had stashed it and what do you know? When I opened it up, there was the sock yarn! I guess I had cleverly stuffed the sock yarn in the purse in an effort to compact my purchases. Sheesh! I had also forgotten I had even bought the Trekking XXL yarn.

I love it when I find something I have misplaced. It is especially like it when I find something I didn't even remember I had lost (like the Trekking XXL yarn - hee hee).

It seems the Christmas season is galloping closer. This would be a good week to get the tree up and get the house organized for all the decorations. I have all kinds of grandiose plans to do some baking and a bit of shopping. This year, Skip and I are going to buy a big-ass LCD TV and home theatre system so we'll be paring back the gifts. We don't do a lot of gift buying for others and I have already obtained the gifts for my friends so we're going to blow the whole wad on the new TV. I hope I can get the home theatre system set up without a lot of muss or fuss. I guess we'll also have to investigate getting HD satellite service as well.

I am going cross-border shopping with my fellow retiree, Anne Marie, next Monday - Wednesday so hope to get a lot of things done this week. I'll have to fit these activities in between my mammogram at 7pm tomorrow, Scooter's festival piano competition on Wednesday afternoon, a baby shower on Friday afternoon and a social outing on Friday night. Saturday, we'll be in and out of The Big City with Scooter's hockey game and his piano scholarship competition in the evening. Sunday we're having a little celebration for my MIL's 90th birthday at the nursing home in the 'Gathering Room'. And what am I doing now (instead of getting my extra activities scheduled in)? Blogging while watching "The View", updating my flickr pictures, updating my Ravelry photos of my stash and moving paper around in my office/guest room. I think I'll go have lunch. :-)

Sunday, 18 November 2007

More about Cuba

My visit to Havana, Cuba last week really left an impression on me. I feel so sad for the wonderful citizens of Cuba who barely get by - barely get enough food to eat.

I checked a couple of sources and got more specifics about the food rationing system each person lives under.

From wikipedia:

"The vast majority of Cuban families rely, for their food intake, on the Libreta de Abastecimiento (literally, "Supplies booklet") distribution system, instated on March 12, 1962. The system establishes the rations each person is allowed to buy and the frequency of supplies. Most of these products are distributed at the local bodega (convenience store specialized in distributing these rations), and in the case of meat, poultry or fish, at the local carnicería (meat store). Other industrial products are also included in the libreta, such as cigarettes, cigars, matches and cooking fuels (liquefied gas, acohol, kerosene or even charcoal, depending on each person’s means for cooking). Other products can also be distributed through this method, such as light bulbs and other home supplies.

Products vary according to age for example, children up to the age of 7, the ill, elderly and pregnant women also get 1 litre of milk per day.

Here is a listing of the rationed goods, the weights allowed per person per month and the cost in pesos (25Pesos = approx. $1 USD):
Rice 6 lb 0.70 / lb
Beans 20 oz. 0.32 / lb
White (refined) sugar 3 lb 0.15 / lb
Dark (unrefined) sugar 3 lb 0.10 / lb
Milk (only children under 7 years) 1 lt / day 0.25 / each
Eggs (September to December)
12 0.15 each
Potatoes/bananas 15 lb

Meat (each portion is per person every 15 days):
Beef 0.5 lb 0.70/lb
Chicken 1 lb 0.70/lb
Sausages 225 gr 1.70/225 gr
Ham 0.5 lb 3.00/lb
Ground beef 0.75 lb 0.60/lb
Fish 1 can/425 gr/month

Citizens are issued the ration book each year. This booklet contains pages indicating the exact number and age groups of persons composing the family nucleus (typically, one booklet is released per family nucleus), as well as eventual dietary indications. Persons can only get goods from the bodega in their area, which in Havana would be a few city blocks in area. Meat is distributed every 15 days. Allocations are 1/2lb. of beef per person every 15 days, 1lb. of chicken per person every 15 days. "

The prices are very low for these goods as they are subsidized by the government however, the system was imposed in 1962 as a "temporary palliative to a crisis" and has lasted over 45 years. The government is also capable of preventing and punishing dissidents by resorting to the fear of being suspended from the distribution of rations. The government claims humanitarian aid is distributed to the people but there is no evidence that this is true.

We walked by a bodega when we were in Havana and the shelves were virtually empty.

Here is an interesting article a writer from the Boston Globe wrote about trying to live on Cuban food rations: Living On Cuban Food Ration Isn't Easy.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Highlights of My Cuba Trip

I have a lot to catch up on so will try to do this chronologically. This will be fairly long.

On Tuesday, Nov. 6 Skip and I packed like fiends and did all the things necessary to prepare for out trip to Cuba the next day.

The next day we attended the afternoon matinee of "Sweeney Todd" at the Princess of Wales Theatre. It was well staged although a very strange musical. I was most impressed with the actors who also performed all the music and did the singing. Wow! I can't even imagine how challenging it was to find instrumentalists that also could act and sing that were suited to the respective parts.

After the show we went for dinner at "Nawlins" a restaurant and jazz bar on King St. Then we took the subway up to Yorkdale where we had parked the car. Then we drove to the EconoLodge on Airport Rd. Our flight to Varadero was scheduled to leave at 6:30 the next morning so we were supposed to be at the airport three hours ahead - at 3:30!!! We went to bed as early as we could and set the alarm and asked for a wakeup call at 2:30. Of course, no one was at the counter when we arrived but there was already a lineup. Things went very smoothly checking in and getting through security. Since we didn't have to clear US Customs, we were through to the gate fairly quickly.

The flight was delayed a bit but we arrived pretty much on schedule. Sunwing had buses waiting to take us to our hotels. We were the last ones to be dropped off as our resort is almost the very last one on the Varadero Peninsula.

The Paradisus Princesa del Mar used to be a Sandals resort but was bought by the Sol Meliá group last December. It is an adult-only all-inclusive 5-star resort. We had been advised to go for as many stars as possible to ensure the best quality of food. It was good advice.

Most of our days were spent relaxing by the pool,

or on the beach,

(did I mention I did some knitting?),

having meals, resting in the afternoon and going for dinner. We went booked a tour to the Varadero Tropicana on Saturday and to Havana on Monday.

The Tropicana show was very good except for the emcee who would have fit in well in the 60s. He sang a version of Patsy Cline's "Crazy" and a Neil Diamond tune. He did about a 20 minute set - very cheezy. Then came the dancers. They were excellent and had very colourful and elaborate costumes. The show was very well done. We were seated at a table with 6 Russians who smoked like fiends and drank like fish. We got a complimentary 'cuba libre' (rum and Coke with lemon) and a cigar for the gentlemen and a carnation for the ladies. Supposedly it's very similar to the Tropicana show in Havana.

On Monday, we got up early and boarded the bus to head to Havana for the day. It's about 140km to Havana but a 3 hour drive. The paved roads are very bumpy in a lot of places. We stopped for a washroom break about 40 min. out of Havana and I had a great pina colada. It was the first of several bathroom visits I had where there was no t.p. or a seat on the toilet. Can you say 'helicopter'? Fortunately, I had brought my own supply. Heh, heh, heh.

Once through the tunnel into Havana, we were driven to the square by the San Francisco de Assisi church.

This area of 'Habana Vieja' dates back to the 16th century. Old Havana is a UNESCO historic sight and is partially funding restoration projects in that area. Havana is a beautiful city that is crumbling. Time seems to have stopped almost 50 years ago with the US sanctions against Cuba after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. There are still many, many cars from the 50s on the roads. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of the Eastern Bloc, Russia ceased to support Cuba. Things got very bad then. Cuba has very few trading partners. In 1992, they even ran out of oil. There was nothing to generate electricity and there was no power for a couple of weeks. Each Cuban has a ration book issued every year. They get 6 lb. of rice, 900g of beans and 12 eggs a month as well as some other basics. Children up to the age of 7 also get 1 litre of milk a day. Basically, the people of Cuba are starving. I lived in Mexico and saw poor people there but this is a different kind of poverty. Anyway...

We saw several interesting sights: the Ambos Mundos Hotel where Ernest Hemingway lived for a time (the room on the top floor in the corner)

We had mojitos in the lobby bar.

We saw lots of old cars.

We went to Revolution Square where Fidel Castro once gave a 5 hour speech without any notes.

The building facing the square is the Department of the Interior and has an iron outline of Che Guevara on the facade.

"Hasta la victoria siempre" (Always until victory).

It is a lovely, sad, old, crumbling city. Fidel's brother, Raúl has basically taken over and will stay in power when Fidel dies. It is after Raúl dies that things will change for Cuba and probably not for the better initially.

Not having a computer, I had lots of time to knit and read. I read "The Birth House" by Ami McKay which had been recommended to me by a couple of the ladies with whom I knit on Thursday nights. I also finished Mark's socks (one is pictured here with a rum punch):

I didn't have a needle to graft the toe (Kitchener stitch) so just put the stitches on matches to hold them.
I didn't have much left yarn left on the first sock as you can see from this picture.

Our trip home was fairly uneventful. I did a mammoth laundry yesterday and some food shopping. Skip picked up Scooter and I had a baked chicken dinner with broccoli and sweet potatoes ready for them when they got home.

I was really fading after supper and ended up going to bed at 9. I got up at 9 this morning. Wow! I haven't slept that long in ages. I guess the trip back took the stuffing out of me.

I met Nancy, Lorna and Sue for lunch today. We are sorority sisters from university (University of Western Ontario - the 'centre of all learning in the universe') and we try to get together for lunch a couple of times per year. It is always a good time and we get caught up on all the 'dirt'. It is good to spend time with long-time friends. We all have 'stuff' in our lives and it feels good to share it. We know each other's 'history' and just pick up where we left off. It's good for all of us.

Skip had a delicious dinner waiting when I got home - pork roast with roasted veggies and broccoli. He and Scooter had to head off at about 6:30pm to go to Scooter's hockey game.

While we were in Cuba, we watched an HBO special on the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State football teams. They have an annual grudge match the third Saturday of November every year. The special was very good. Sadly, because of our lunch I missed the entire game but Skip said it wasn't that exciting and Michigan lost - as predicted. Oh well, there's always next year.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Baa Baa Oink Moo

Yesterday was a fairly lazy day. I knit a bunch on the clapotis and then frogged it when I realized it was too narrow and I thought I had enough yarn to make it one repeat (12 rows) wider. I have almost knit all that I ripped out yesterday. I'm liking the look of it, but will have to weigh the remaining yarn to see if I indeed will have enough to finish it. Skip's friend, Bob, called to see if Skip was going to be watching the Patriots/Colts game. He came over to watch it and we had yummy Pesto Amore Pizza Pizza pizza and Miller Chills.

Today we got up bright and early and headed to the GO train to head into The Big City to go to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair at the Exhibition Fairgrounds. We got there by about 11 and had a good 3.5 hours to scope out the place. I found the Belle Vallee Wool people who had lovely tartan blankets on display. I also spoke to some ladies who sell alpaca yarn but I don't remember the name of their shop or even where it is. Skip left at about 2:30 to go get Scooter. I watched the Iams SuperDog show. The dogs are very well trained and some of them are REALLY wired. After the SuperDog show, I wandered around a bit more and then sat down to do some knitting on my clapotis. Skip and Scooter showed up at 4:20 and we went for something to eat. Scooter had St. Louis chicken wings and fries. Skip and I had snack plates of samosas, pakora, and chick peas with tamarind sauce.

After eating we wandered around some more and got a look at a Toyota Tundra truck, took a look at the 4 and 5 day old piglets, looked at the cattle, horses and sheep, watched horses getting bathed in a special washing bay in the horse building and generally looked at everything we could in the remaining 2 hours of our time there. When we decided to leave and take the Bathurst streetcar, we had a hell of a time finding the streetcar/bus stop. We wandered back and forth a couple of times in the cold and rain. Finally after about 1/2 hour in the dark, wet and cold, we found the bus stop that would take us to the Bathurst streetcar. YAY! We rode to Runnymede station and Skip walked Scooter up to Scooter's mom's. I waited at the subway stop and knit some more on the clapotis. I kinda looked like a homeless person sitting on the floor with really nice yarn. Skip returned and we headed back, missing the 8:13 GO train and finally got the 9:13 train. I had lots of time to knit so it wasn't a total lost cause. We finally got in the door at 10:15.

Tomorrow I have TONS of errands to run and then need to pack for our trip to Cuba. I put a bunch of my summer clothes away last week and just realized last night I have to haul a bunch of them out to pack for the sunny south.

I also checked out the airfares to Atlanta for after Christmas and was shocked at how expensive it was going to be. I had to e-mail Francey and MaryAnne and tell them we won't be able to make the trip. What a bummer.

And now... to bed.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Clapotis, How I love Thee

Yesterday I ran some errands. I got my flu shot at the free flu shot clinic at the Oshawa Centre. I also bought a pair of comfy, yet somewhat dorky, shoes than I can wear my hand knitted socks with. I then headed up to Myrtle Station to Ferguson's to find some yarn for the three projects I want to work on. I'm not sure which projects I'm going to take to Cuba. I bought a really funky shiny yarn for a fancy mini clapotis (pronounced cla-po-tee). It's Austermann Castell 75% acrylic/25% nylon. I tried to look it up on Ravelry but no one had heard of it. I bought some yummy purple tweed Drops alpaca yarn to make the Lacy Diamonds Scarf from the "Odd Ball Knitting" book. I'm using two strands to get the desired gauge and scarf width. I also bought some Soffice yarn which is 50/50 merino/acrylic for the Cece lacy cardigan. I started the Lacy Diamonds scarf and the clapotis. After yarn shopping I met some former colleagues for a drink.

Today Skip and I went into The Big City to run a couple of errands. We went to the Open Air Books on Toronto St. (just next door to Conrad Black's former place of 'business'). Open Air has an astounding number of travel and ecology books. The salesperson instantly directed us to the Cuban birdwatching books. We also bought a travel guide to Cuba. We also went to McTamney's (a high-end pawn shop) to check out their jewelry. I have recently misplaced/lost a favourite pair of earrings and a favourite bracelet. I thought I'd check out what McTamney's had that might replace my missing pieces. Lo and behold they had the exact earrings AND bracelet I was looking for so I got them. I will have to get the bracelet shortened by a half inch or so but it's really pretty and exactly what I was looking for.

After that we drove east on Queen St. to The Beach in search of a yarn shop I had yet to investigate - The Naked Sheep. Once there, Sarah showed me several yarns I could use for a clapotis. In fact she was knitting one herself when I walked in. I decided to purchase a skein of wonderful Handmaiden Lady Godiva yarn.

We then went for lunch at a Thai place and then strolled back to the car. I really like that area of The Big City. It is congested but has a really nice feel to it. It's also very accessible by street car if we decide to get there by public transit.

On the way back home, we dropped in to visit my MIL in the nursing home. Skip found her knitting bag at her house so I donated one of my Stitch 'n Pitch bags to put it in. I also printed the picture of her 3 sons that I took at the wedding we went to at Thanksgiving and matted and framed it for her room. She has been reading John Grisham's 'The Painted House' in large print and enjoying it. Hopefully the large print Reader's Digests will start arriving.

I've wound the skein into a ball and have cast on the second clapotis - thank goodness I have lots of needles kicking around - and I'm liking it very much. The mini clapotis (called 'Drop Scarf' by a gal who modified the Kate Gilbert clapotis) is an easy, quick project. It is very cool dropping the stitch and creating a 'run' in the project.

Tomorrow we're going to my MIL's house and my sister-in-law is meeting us there. We're going to do some sorting of stuff in preparation for clearing the place out.