Thursday, 31 July 2014

Dollar Store Bargains

What is it about the dollar store that makes you think you have to buy? I resisted buying paper, said no to a new muffin pan, turned away from the craft supplies. But I can’t resist gadgets and such if I think they’re going to make my life easier.

The other day I found these lavender cakes that hang on the inside of the toilet bowl that are supposed to keep it clean and fresh smelling. And the smell of lavender is supposed to be soothing, right?

I could never use these when I had a cat because it’s a well known fact that cats like to drink from the toilet. Poison alert!

I opened the package and was inundated with the smell of lavender, but figured it would dissipate once out of the package. With the ‘thing’ hanging in the bowl I gave the toilet a flush and figured it was a task well done.

As the evening wore on I could feel my eyes get itchy, my chest feel tight, and I was coughing. My head ached, and I knew, lavender was not the smell for me, at least not that strong.

I had to take it from the bowl and tossed it away. Good thing I didn’t have more than $1:25 invested. A lesson learned. I would have been better off buying the powdered cleanser, at two for a dollar, and clean the toilet myself.

Easy is not always practical, I guess. 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Bugs Be Gone

I wrote before about that pesky fly in my house, that was pestering and playing games with me. I didn’t resort to the sticky fly paper, but I did get a fly swatter, in a bright neon green.

Funny, as I went out the other day, after bringing the fly swatter home, the fly exited the house with me. It made a quick retreat, deciding life would be lived longer and better somewhere else.

And while I’m on the topic of bugs, a frequent topic of summer time conversation, I don’t seem to have any spiders.

I added drops of Peppermint Oil to a spray bottle filled with water, and had the grandkids spray it in the crevices of my patio and around the doors. There had been one big one living near my morning glory, and I haven’t seen him since.

Did you hear about a fly remedy? Put a penny in water, in a clear bag, and hang it near your door. It’s supposed to deter flies from entering. I read about this a few years ago but I’ve never tried it. It was supposed to have worked, even in a horse barn.

Ants. Do you have ants? Baking soda and icing sugar combined to make a paste, put it in a small flat container, the cut off base of a water bottle was suggested, and place where you see ants. The sugar attracts them, but the baking soda apparently kills them.

Here’s something else, not bugs but critters. Apparently they don’t like Irish Spring soap, so add shavings to your garden. I read coffee grounds did the same and added some to my garden, but the squirrels were not deterred.

Now if I could just find a good repellent for mosquitoes.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Love to Write

I love to write. It started out as poetry, stories for the kids, things to make them laugh. But then I tried short stories and gave myself the challenge to try a novel.

That was five years ago and I have been writing ever since. Somehow I got into writing murder stories, not surprising because that’s what I like to read and to watch on television and in movies. I love a mystery.

My first murder story, Death by Drowning was inspired by a real life murder, when a woman from the city was found dead in the lake of our small town. To my knowledge, that murder is still unsolved.

My second murder mystery was inspired by the stories I heard about hoarding. I did a lot of research on that one, hoarding, and the military.

My most recent murder story was inspired by pigeons on a roof. Yep, you read that right. Pigeons.

I can find a story in just about anything; all it takes is some imagination. On the night of the fireworks, I had a front row seat as I live close to the park. But I wasn’t inspired by the colours, the sparkle, it was the noise that intrigued me.

When I heard that one loud bang, a bit different than the other pop, pop, pops, all I could think about was gunfire. And I had the beginning of a story. What if someone was shot at the park, and the sound of the gunfire masked by the noise of the fire works? Now all I need is the who, the why.

Much like the collection of my art pieces that are stored away, I have books and stories saved on Flash Drives. To get a book to the stage where I feel confident to self publish is a lot of work. I edit each book over and over again until I think it’s the best it can be, and then there’s the formatting, a real challenge.

Selling a book is a wonderful feeling, but for me, it’s also the sense of completion I feel in taking that idea through to a completed book, and not just completed, but published.

So, while I’m feeling this high about finishing my pigeon story, I need to get back to the current book in progress. A dead body found in a winter corn field, not once but three times. Serial Killer, yeah, that might be it. But it looks more like a revenge killing, payback.

Better get back to it

The link to the book if anyone wanted to give it a read.


Friday, 25 July 2014

New Book, Almost Live

Almost a year ago, after having lunch with my brother, I was making my way home and stopped at a red light. It was the same route I always took, crossing the south end of the city instead of facing rush hour traffic on the highway. The trip took me longer, but was less stressful.

There I was, sitting at the red light that day, when I looked to my left and saw a pair of bungalows with a shared drive. The roof of the farther house was covered in birds. It took me a few seconds to get the movie Birds out of my head before I realized they were pigeons. As I inched forward I looked up the driveway to the back yard, and saw the ramshackle building I assumed was the pigeon coop.

For years I have taken this same road home from lunch with my brother or my friend from the city, and never before have I noticed these pigeons. It was odd, and I like odd, and the unusual.

All the way home I thought about what I had seen, and how I could use it in a book. The NaNoWriMo Challenge (write a novel in 30 days) was coming up and I needed an idea for my book.

By the time I arrived home I had a vague concept. I decided the first murder victim was going to be an old man who raised pigeons, and that his body would be found in the pigeon coop. The birds on the roof would indicate something was amiss when a family member came by.

I did a lot of research, on raising, housing, and racing pigeons. The birds are banded for identification purposes and I read about how pigeons were used in the war to relay information. That gave me food for thought. What could criminals use the pigeons for? What could the birds carry? After all, they don’t have to pass any check-in to cross the border. It would have to be small, like diamonds, or many a very small Flash Drive. Jewels would be too valuable a loss if the birds didn’t make it back to their home base, so I concentrated on the Flash Drive.

I figured it had to be something that the sender wanted to be untraceable, and I decided it could be something like Child Pornography. I was back to doing research, and let me be very clear here, I researched police and FBI web sites that dealt with how these agencies were trying to stop this terrible offense. I did not actually view any sites.

In doing the research I decided I didn’t want to write that story, not the way it had formed in my head thus far, so I changed it a bit, and took out any reference to actual racing of the pigeons. I had my old man retired and tending to the birds left from his previously active racing team.

I met the criteria for 50,000 words by the end of November, and set the book aside until after Christmas. Sometimes, I think editing is harder than writing the book in the first place, and by the time I’ve gone over and over it, I was so happy to have a final copy. I sent it out to some friends and fellow writers and got some very valuable feedback.

Then it was back to editing again. And then it was formatting. I asked my brother to do a cover and he used some of his many photos to create a very moody cover that supported the title.

I have completed the upload to Amazon and am, right at this moment, waiting for the book to go live. They say it can take about 12 hours, but I’m so excited to see all that work come to completion, I just had to share.

Fly on the Wall

I bet you thought this would be about some gossip I heard, or overheard, given the ‘fly on the wall’ reference, but no, sorry to disappoint. This is about the one damn fly that got in my place and has persisted for 2 days to irritate and annoy. It has tried to show me, and proven, that I am inept with a fly swatter.

I don’t actually have a fly swatter, it’s never been a problem before. But the other day my son and his family were here and we left the door open. You know how it is, kids running in and out, conversations going on between those inside and those out. I’m lucky all I got was one lousy fly.

Last night it sat on my lamp, drawn to the light. I had my rolled up newspaper ready, and struck out again and again, at the lamp, the table, the wall, and missed every time. Finally I gave up, figured I had a room mate, and hoped his lifespan would be short.

I was writing this while waiting for my morning coffee to brew, and realized I hadn’t seen that pesty fly anywhere. No such luck, as I poured my first cup the fly joined me, hanging out on the cupboard doors, like he was my buddy or something.

Maybe I’ll get one of those sticky hanging things. You know the ones I mean, the sticky tape uncoils from a tube and you hang it in the open, to catch flies as they fly by, I guess. But I hate those things. They always have them hung by the hundreds in a room where somebody’s trying to hide a dead body. Hey, I watch Criminal Minds, I saw the movie Seven.

Instead, I think I’ll make a trip to the dollar store and buy myself a flyswatter. It’ll probably cost me, minimum $10. No way can I go to the dollar store and come out with only the one item I went shopping for. You never know what you might find, and at a dollar, it’s hard to resist.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Gum on my Shoe

You know how tight your jeans fit right out of the dryer? Then you must also know how, after a couple of wears, they are stretched and loose.

I had a pair of pants that were like that, a perfect fit, waist and leg length, that first day out of the dryer. After that they tended to ride a little lower, making the leg length a little longer. Long enough that I would catch the back hem under my heel.

So, there I was yesterday, my pants comfortably worn into relaxation mode, standing at the ATM machine.

Somehow, I picked up a wad of thrown away gum that attached itself to the hem of my pants. When I stood at the bank machine my ‘too-long’ pants caught under my heel.

The pressure of standing must have given the gum a chance to adhere to the floor and as I turned to walk away, my foot stayed planted on the floor. My body moved forward, but my leg and foot didn’t.

I was caught by surprise, as was the woman beside me waiting for the machine.

She had her wallet out, ready, and I grabbed for her to maintain my balance and avoid falling to the floor.

We had an anxious moment. I was afraid of ending up in a heap on the floor, and she was thinking I was a thief after her wallet. Come on, if I was really a thief I’d have waited until she made her withdrawal at the machine, but like I said, it was an anxious moment.

When I explained my foot was stuck, she gave me a steady hand as I pulled my foot free and discovered the gum on my pants. We laughed as it was comical, and we were both relieved our worse case scenario had not played out.

A word of advice, apply ice to the gum and scrape it off. It may take a couple of applications but it will come off cleaner than if you try and rub it off at room temperature. That’s my handy household tip of the day.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Gooey Bars

I was checking out the baking sites on Pinterest, because for once it’s cool enough to bake and not heat up the house to where I’m so hot I can’t breathe. In that regard it’s been a great summer so far.

After three years of sweltering hot summers, and after the brutal winter we endured, I think we were owed a season that is pleasurable. I’m speaking for my part of the world, because unfortunately I know the weather, with the floods and tornadoes has not been kind to others.

Back to the baking. I found a recipe that seemed to be similar to a date square…only without the dates and adding melted caramels. Sounds good right?

Anyway I made the base, out of flour, oatmeal and whatever, but didn’t have an 8x8 pan so I used the whole batch and spread it in my oblong pan. Oh, and I didn’t have caramels, but was going to substitute my peanut butter sauce, figured it was close. But by the time I got that all done, I didn’t feel like making the sauce. What to do, what to do.

I found a jar of jam and spread it all over the ‘hot-out-of-the-oven’ base. Now I needed the top layer. I had a mixture of flour, cinnamon, oats and butter, a topping left over from making muffins, and I sprinkled some of that over the jam.

Then I baked it some more. I gave samples to each of the kids, and it was a hit with my daughter’s family. I gave the sample to my son, when he was on his way to work, and he ate the whole thing through the course of his shift. I asked his wife how she liked the squares, and it’s no wonder she didn’t know what I was talking about.

Today I made brownies for my daughter’s birthday, to serve with ice cream and my peanut butter sauce. This is a favourite of hers. I have everything measured out and just need to finish the sauce. I took a break from writing this post for a moment to finish the sauce, it’s after seven in the evening and if I didn’t do it now it wouldn’t get made. So, I’m back and everything is ready for tomorrow.

Check out the original recipe.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Roadside Chip Trucks

I had my first day trip of the summer last week when I drove with my daughter into cottage country to pick up my granddaughter at a friend’s trailer. The countryside was beautiful, the lakes a glistening blue. It was a nice day, going from one small village to the next, enjoying all the scenery in between.

I have a couple of rites of summer, and we enjoyed one that day as we made our way home. French fries from a roadside chip truck.

I don’t know what it is but French fries never taste better than when served hot and crisp in those brown paper bags. I like to spritz them with malt vinegar, and sprinkle them with Cajun salt. The first bite burns your mouth, but it doesn’t matter because the taste is sooooooo good.

My granddaughter had poutine, which I’ve never acquired a taste for, but she liked it. The young lad had a hotdog, while the rest of us had our plain old chips.

Remember that guide book I was going to write? The one telling all the hockey Moms where the best arena food could be found? Well, I should do a summer guide book on chip trucks, after taste testing of course. Just kidding.

Locally, the best chips used to be found out of town, where the county road that ran along the south shore of the lake, intercepted the township road leading from the highway into cottage country. It was a good location, and as he was only open on the weekend, he had a constant crowd with both locals and tourists. He’s moved now and I can’t remember his new location. The summers have been too hot the last few years for me to take any road trips.

Now that I’ve ticked off the first rite of summer, I think I’ll keep the second until a really hot day, and then it’s straight to Dairy Queen and a Skor Blizzard. Good thing I limit these food experiences to the beginning and end of summer, it wouldn’t do to over indulge.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Hurricane Season

Florida may be a warm haven in winter when snow birds leave the cold of the north for its sandy shores, but summer is an entirely different scene. I’ve been in Florida in summer, when it was so hot you could see the heat waves coming off the asphalt. I’ve also been in Florida during a summer storm.

We were driving and the rain came down so heavy the windshield wipers couldn’t clear it and the night sky gave us a frightening fireworks display of thunder and lightening. This was just a storm, scary with the wind and rain; imagine what it must be like during a hurricane?

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean runs June 1st to November 30th.

Last Friday the first hurricane of the season hit North Carolina causing power outages and storm and flooding damage. It hit landfall at Category 2 strength. The hurricane, named Arthur, was downgraded to a post tropical storm on Saturday when it hit the Maritimes, again bringing loss of power and storm damage.

I wondered about the naming of hurricanes, was curious when they didn’t seem to be in real alphabet order. My sister, who lives in Florida, gave me an explanation. Not all storms reach, or maintain, hurricane status. According to the World Meteorological Organization a tropical storm is named if its circulation pattern and wind speeds reach 39 miles/hour. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane if the speeds reach 74 miles/hour.

There are six lists of names that are rotated so each name comes up every six years. The exception to this rule is if a storm is particularly damaging. For legal and historic reasons the name is not repeated. An example of this was in 2005. The name Katrina was retired after the devastation Hurricane Katrina’s impact had on New Orleans.

That summer in Florida began my fascination with Doppler’s, as used in weather reporting. I love to see the storms moving across the map, their colours designating, for summer, rain and thunderstorms, for winter, ice and snow. I find it amazing, the weather where I live might be clear, as the storms, winter or summer, move by us to the north or south. Or the pretty colours on the map are going to go right over us and I need to prepare.

I pay attention to the hurricanes, as I have family living on the coast of Florida. I found a site last year, the National Hurricane Centre, and found it quite interesting. They have Doppler’s showing the hurricane’s projected path, but also show the impact in wind and expected rainfall. At one time there was more than one storm brewing and it was interesting to track them with a view of the entire ocean. I’ve included the link in case you were interested.

So, the names for 2014 are Arthur, Bertha, Cristobel, Dolly and so on. If we next hear of Hurricane Cristobel you’ll know Bertha just couldn’t get up to speed. Let’s hope we don’t make a run of the alphabet this year. Winter was hard enough on the eastern seaboard and everyone could do with a break this summer.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Happy 4th of July

My American roots show on a day like today. I like that the holidays for my birth country and my home country are so close together that I can almost celebrate them as one.

So, to all my family and friends in the U.S., I wish you a Happy 4th of July this holiday weekend. Stay safe everyone.

Here's a great handcrafted wreath to celebrate.

Follow the Leader

I played an interesting game of follow the leader tonight. And guess what? I was the leader.

My granddaughter was to play soccer and for this game they were playing at a little used field that was more often used for baseball. There is a circular driveway leading in from the street, but no real parking area. I could see the soccer nets placed in what I assumed was the outfield, one sitting along the far reaches of the first base line and the other near the edge of the park, in centre field.

I arrived early, wanting to park where I might be able to watch the game from my car. So, I drove across the grass and parked behind the end of the fence that ran parallel to the first base line. From this vantage point I could see the whole field.

Normally, the parents line themselves along the one side of the soccer field, each team choosing an end, a sort of ‘first come, first serve’ kind of deal.

I had my cup of tea and had come early to get this prime parking spot. Shortly after I arrived a car pulled up and parked to my right. Then another car…one space over to my left. A few more cars and suddenly I’m in a line of cars, all neatly parked, sort of, as if the grass were marked with designated white lines.

Look at me, I’m a trend setter.

I’m waiting for my team to arrive. The players in the surrounding cars are wearing red jerseys and from the bits of conversation I can hear, are the visiting team from out of town. A local player wearing blue shows up, but it’s a case of wrong time, wrong place, and he leaves.

Then some yellow jerseys arrive, but not the one belonging to me. Still, I wait. This is where my daughter told me to be. I didn’t call ahead, wasn’t sure I’d make it, but, this is where she said they played.

It’s now 6 P.M.; obviously I got the time wrong. More cars arrive. I recognize one of the arriving yellow team members, so I must be in the right place after all.

My granddaughter is just fashionably late, like her mother. I guess the game is at 6:30, not six. Seven players, usually there’s ten. Do I smell a forfeit in the making?

Finally, there’s my girl, number eleven in a bright yellow jersey. And there’s the rest of my family. Within minutes my car is full of kids all chattering at once, all complaining that they’re starving. Oops, I didn’t bring treats this time. I guess I lost grandma points there, so the promise of ice cream after the game will have to do.

Once the game started I was deserted as the kids found others to play with, and they had a bat and ball. I got to watch a double header, baseball to my left and soccer to the right.

My granddaughter scored a beaut of a goal, and her team won 4-1.

It was ice cream for everybody. I had pralines and cream, a favourite of mine, so it was a good night for us all.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Canada Day Fireworks

I was lying in bed, reading, when the Canada Day fire works began just after 10 P.M. last night.
Pop, pop…pop, pop, pop…bang, bang…bang…BANG.

There must be something very wrong with me, because when I heard that one really big bang, all I could think about was murder.

The sound was similar to that of a gun shot, or so I assume…I do watch television.

Then I lost interest in the book I was reading, thinking who could be murdered in the park, on the holiday, during the fire works display?

I’ll have to think on this story for awhile. I haven’t solved the murder of the Mean Girls in the cornfield. That’s the murder mystery I’m currently working on.

Inspiration for that one began with a phrase from my son…”Where the Forest Meets the Corn”.

You just never know where inspiration will come from. If it takes me the summer to finish the ‘killed in the corn field’ story, I may save the holiday weekend story for the fall. There’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November.

I can change the fireworks from Canada Day to Labour Day. That would work. Fall is as good a time as any to commit a murder.

Visiting Wildlife

I was outside talking to my neighbour this morning when a Mallard duck walked around the corner of the building, venturing close, but not quite joining our group. I scurried inside for some bread, but had to grab a slice out of the freezer. I broke it up into small pieces and figured he didn’t mind it was frozen, since he seemed to swallow it whole.

Apparently the ducks built a nest a short ways away, and Poppa is now out and about, investigating the neighbourhood. It didn’t take long for the sea gulls to arrive, which really shocked me. I know I’m close to the lake, but I had never seen the greedy gulls here before. How is it that they can spot a crust of bread so easily from that height, and in flight? You would think they had enough to keep them busy at the chip truck down on the waterfront.

We have squirrels galore, scampering across the lawn, up and down the trees. There’s also a lone chipmunk, that’s assuming I see the same one speeding by my door, that must live near by. I think it’s interesting how the chipmunk clings to the building, races through the garden and under the bin, only going out in the open to race across to the other building. I suppose that is one of those adaptive behaviours, because chipmunks are smaller and easier prey they protect themselves by hiding close to structures. I think they’re cute, but then I was raised on Chip ‘n Dale.

Saw a fox at the other place, and at the other end of town they’re a regular sighting near my friend’s house. She also has ducks, chipmunks and squirrels. And bluejays. But she feeds them peanuts on her deck, so it’s little wonder.

Out in the country there was a bear sighting. Not something I’d want to come across in my back yard.

My garden is coming together, slower than I would have liked, but getting there. I have my chair painted and sitting in the garden, kind of silly looking I guess, but it will look nice one I get the basket of flowers with trailing ivy to place on it.

Mulch is the next step, I don’t want to have to weed and the heat is bringing them out like mad.

Remember the tree felling? Well I got a new tree, not as close to the house but out in the yard. I like that idea of when one tree is lost, another tree is planted to replace it.