Saturday, 21 May 2022

Oh To Be Five Again - The Best of Both Worlds in Kindergarten

 When I accept occasional teaching jobs (substitute teaching), I often choose kindergarten classes. Here in Ontario, if it is a JK/SK (junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten in one class), there is an ECE person (early childhood education) who is basically like a second teacher, who knows the routine and is a great partner to work with in a class you are not familiar with. There are also SK / 1 classes (senior kindergarten and grade one in one class), but they don't qualify for an ECE. 

One class that I go to fairly often is at my previous school and it is a JK / SK class. Often it is only for a half day (a teacher may have an appointment, for example and only requires part of a day off). I am familiar with the students in that room and I have experienced it when I was masked and they had to sit in separate desks and play individually, rather than together (a wholly unnatural thing for little ones), to how it is now, where they can be seated in little groups and can interact with each other. 

Students in JK must be four years old by the end of December of their school year (which means some are only three years old when they begin in September), so at this time of the year the students in that class would be four, or five, or even six, depending on when their birthdays are. 

When I say that this class is the best of both worlds, they have traditional in class learning combined with "play" where they learn those all important social skills and fine motor skills, but they also have a wonderful opportunity to be immersed in nature for part of every day. 

 The school used to be a high school, then morphed into an elementary school. It is located in a small town, but in a very rural setting. In fact, the high school had a wonderful programme where grade 11 or 12 students could learn about agriculture combined with science. There is a small barn (which would have animals like cattle, pigs, chickens, and rabbits starting in the spring), a greenhouse, and a garden, and a small "forest" where they tapped maple trees and made syrup. In addition to the "maple forest", there is also a mixed small woodlot that can be accessed via a gate from the main playground. The kindergarten classes, as well as the grade one class, use both of these wooded areas. Wonderful rough trails have been created, bird feeders are hung, logs are strategically placed, picnic tables have been set in clearings, water runs through in a small stream, and it is a most wonderful programme. The parents are requested to provide good outdoor clothing and rubber boots for their children, as they go out to the "forest" in all kinds of weather. In the winter time, they have even managed to get to the point where students hold very still and quiet with bird feed in their hands and chickadees land to feed on their hands!

I had the chance to be with this class for the afternoon, just the other day and we spent some time in the maple "forest". The students are good bunch, who know the rules, know where they can and cannot go (for example, beyond the trees to a parking area), and play and create and use their imaginations freely. They take basic toys with them like plastic rakes, big tin cans, some little toy vehicles, etc., things that won't be damaged by water or dirt or snow. They mix up pretend soup in their cans using wood chips, water from the stream and a stick for stirring. They play tag in amongst the trees. They play the regular imaginary games that all children play, but in a wonderful setting. There are paths laid with wood chips, logs and boards to sit on, slopes to climb up and down. 

I took some pictures to give you an idea of what it looks like. It was a little tough making sure none of the students were captured in the shots.








I know that I would have loved something like this when I was that age. I spent a lot of time outside anyway, sitting in a willow tree, watching animals, collecting chestnuts, or just playing. I think absolutely every child would benefit from an outdoor classroom, but I know it's simply not possible everywhere. When I attended it was only one year of kindergarten, no junior and senior business. My older sister, who is five years older than me didn't even have the option of kindergarten. School began at grade one. What was your kindergarten like, if indeed you even had kindergarten?

Monday, 16 May 2022

Catching Up - Mon. May 16

 Things have been quite busy lately. I did a lot of supply (substitute) teaching these past couple of weeks - all good experiences. The rip-apart-the-house-and-live-once-again-in-a-state-of-chaos insulation project continues. 

When I retired last year, my co-workers gave me a much appreciated gift certificate to a local green house / garden centre. I decided on Mother's Day to go with my two offspring and purchase two fruit trees. I bought a pear tree and an apple tree. They are both a decent size and already budding out into little leaves. Son helped me plant both of them this weekend. One hole with "easy" to dig (that was for the pear), and the other hole with not so fun. The ground was very hard and dry, so we put the hose to it and let it soak for a while so it would be easier to dig out. Son encountered many stones (anywhere from bigger than your head to bigger than your fist). I put lots of lovely compost in the hole and the apple tree got planted. It isn't staked yet, but we will do that later today, hopefully. Both trees have had a steady rain falling on them since last night.

I had cleaned out the chicken coop and spread the contents over my vegetable garden. I rototilled in two different directions, pulled out the loosened weeds, then sprinkled granular fertilizer over the whole lot and raked that in. I want a productive garden this summer. The price of groceries is ridiculous.

On Friday, I drove to a city about 2 1/2 hours away, same one where my siblings all live now, and attended a funeral for a cousin of mine. All my cousins are older than me. She was ill with cancer and made the decision to have an assisted death when the time was right for her. I was able to see three of her four siblings, cousins I haven't seen in about three years or more (we don't regularly get together). Everyone has aged tremendously and are in various states of turmoil in their lives. I came away from the day feeling very normal. 

Husband is in the process of just starting the proceedings of "opening up the pool" in addition to continuing the insulation project. We will be cleaning out our old yucky basement (our house is about 120 years old so perhaps you can imagine) this week so that those proceedings (part of the insulation project) can also begin. 

This week I will be taking our Scooter cat to a pet place to get him "groomed". If Joanne is reading this, she may be able to relate. Scooter is a long-haired cat and this year, for some reason, he has become incredibly matted about his hind quarters. He's never been like this before. He's a skittish, squirmy fellow and I hope / pray that the lady is able to perform the task of an over all trim and then a severe buzzing down to the skin on his matted areas. He is going to look atrocious but at least the weather is warm now, so I don't have to worry about him being too cold without all his long fur. If I can take a picture, I'll post is later. Poor guy.

Murphy continues to be himself, hanging out with the hens (I think they have deemed him an honorary chicken), leaning against things, and lord help me, bringing a small snake into the house which I had to transport outside, as I was the only one home at the time. 

The rain is falling outside still this morning, giving me and my back a reprieve from gardening and yard tasks for now. I hope you all have a contented week this week. It is the "long weekend" in May here in Canada coming up (also known as the Victoria Day weekend, and for some of a certain age, the "May Two-Four Weekend). We will be having a giant outdoor / car port sale of husband's various British car parts. He has decided that he is done with that side hustle and has advertised the sale for a couple of weeks now. I hope many people show up and take as many things away with them as possible!

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Junk drawer overload

 Today one task on my list was to do a deep purge of the all mighty junk drawer in the kitchen. I threw out the multiples of restaurant menus, tested every single one of the double A batteries that were floating around without a home, threw out the handful of various screws, nails, and other fasteners ( trust me when I say there are plenty more in the garage), and gathered all the tape in one location. 

But then there were these:


Can anyone else relate???

Monday, 25 April 2022

Monday, April 25, 2022

 Time marches on. The temperature yesterday was 24 degrees celsius. Glorious. However, as I was doing some yard work, I realized my body is not used to this. I changed into lighter clothing and still had to take multiple sit down breaks. Not to worry, it's going to snow on Wednesday, so I won't have to concern myself with over heating. 

Husband continues to plug away at the "insulation / reduce the bleeding of money to heat this old house" project. Here is a new picture to show the next stage:


Framing and insulation has occurred. (Ceiling and floor will also be happening, this is a multi-multi-multi-step endevour).

Regarding the foxes, I have not seen mom or babies for a few days now. I read that mother foxes sometimes move their young two or three times, so perhaps that is what has happened. 

I went for my first bone density scan the other day. My previous, now retired doctor never ordered one for me, regardless of my lower back issues and diagnosis of osteoarthritis in my lower back. When the nurse practitioner took over patients for a six month period, she ordered a whole bunch of routine tests, including this bone scan (for which I waited four months, I think). I got my results this morning. Yes indeed I have osteoarthritis in my lower back and also in the "neck" of my femur (looked it up, it's at the top, where it connects to the hip). Well, that would explain all of my pain and problems. So now I increase my calcium and vitamin D intake, even though I've always been a regular consumer of calcium and have taken vitamin D pretty consistently over the last several years. Also, this is hereditary and I recall my mother taking calcium in her later years. Menopausal women also basically leach calcium as estrogen subsides. Yay, us!!

Our daughter finally, finally, finally gets to walk across a stage at university and celebrate her well earned graduation with a degree in Communications. She's already been employed full time in her field for over a year now, but of course with the whole pandemic thing, she, along with many others, never got to graduate in person with her course mates. She only gets to have two extra guests. Her long time boyfriend is writing an exam for a course he has been taking this same day, so husband and I get to go and watch this event. 

Son is now done his college course and we will be helping him move home this coming weekend. He has a big pickup truck and we have an SUV, so hopefully we will manage this all in one trip, as it is about three hours away. It will be odd having a "child" at home again, but I'm happy that he will be able to save some money and try to do some earning before striking out on his own. He's twenty-two years old. When I was that age, I was still in university. Of course, I had grade 13, which doesn't exist now. As well, I and most of my peers thought getting a university degree was the necessary next step after high school. I did a four year combined honours BA, followed by a year of teacher's college to get my B. Ed. But that was thirty years ago. Our son saw how many people were going to university only to not get jobs, or to then turn around and go to college AFTER university to get some sort of employable skill. He had no desire to become a doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc. which all require degrees, but instead wanted to get out there and make money. We have a huge nuclear power plant relatively close by and he found out what he needed to do to get a future job there and did it. He still has some steps to take in order to fulfill his final career choice, but he's on his way. And if he is successful, he may earn more than husband or I ever could have imagined as teachers. I wish him all the success and he's never been one to be afraid of hard work, so I have a lot of confidence that he will be fine in this world.

On a final note, our strange little cat Murphy has decided that he enjoys hanging out with the chickens from time to time. They don't even seem to care! 



Oh, also, has anyone noticed that things look different when you try to leave a comment on someone's blog? Ughhh, Blogger, just leave things alone. Anyway, have a lovely day. Let me know how your bone density is and if you are also having sun / snow /sun / snow. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Easter and the Deconstruction 2022

 Good morning. Our Easter celebrations will be our little group again - myself, husband, daughter and boyfriend, son, and mother-in-law. Sometimes we do extended family, but this year, my sister is trying to keep covid-free for upcoming leg surgery (which has been postponed countless times due to fabulous health care), and one brother and his wife and daughter all caught covid recently. They are all fine for the most part. 

I have a pre-stuffed cook-from-frozen turkey, which is, in my opinion, the best and easiest way to make a roast turkey. Daughter is bringing a carrot cake. I said I wouldn't be doing Easter treats because 25 and 22 year-olds do not need chocolate bunnies and an Easter egg hunt. However, I ended up caving because it's Easter, so there are a few little treats! 

Yesterday I ventured into Walmart and it was un flipping real!! Keep in mind, Friday was a holiday where stores were closed. Today is a holiday where stores are closed. So Saturday was that day sandwiched in between where everyone is running out getting what they need for their kids' Easter or for a holiday meal, or whatever other incredibly necessary items that need to be procured from Walmart. (Yes, that includes me, but in my defense I did substitute teaching on Wednesday and Thursday this week, so was somewhat busy). I have NEVER seen it that busy, ever! Just navigating through the isles was a lesson in patience and the line for the check-outs went past the front of the women's clothes, past the front of the produce area and down into housewares! But I got those gold-wrapped Lindt chocolate Easter bunnies on sale!!

I've been continuing to rake and pick up the many spruce cones and other branches that have come down from the many wind storms this winter in our yard. I'm pacing myself so as not to wreck my back. Alas, we had wind warnings and extremely high winds just two days ago and now the front lawn and flower beds are strewn with spruce cones again and more branches have come down. Oh well, keeps me limber. 

We have something exciting/worrying in our little neighbourhood. In the last couple of weeks we have seen a fox in the "field" next to our property, as well as running through the neighbour's yard and along a line of downed trees and rocks. It is exciting to see such a beautiful, wild creature and I know that "urban" foxes are not rare (although I would hesitate to call our end of this tiny village urban). I researched to see if it would be a problem for our cats and no, usually foxes don't bother with cats or in rare instances will take a kitten or an old, weakened cat. The issue is of course, my chickens. In all the years that I have kept chickens I have never had a fox take a hen. Their chicken run is fenced , but not covered. As well, during one of our many wind storms, a big tree came down (Manitoba maples, grrrr!) and partially crushed part of the fence. The chickens still stay inside the enclosure, but it would be nothing for a fox to climb over (even without it being crushed). The fox has seen us and usually starts to run away, so it knows we humans are here. 

However, yesterday, as we were on our upstairs landing, looking out the windows (more on that later!!!), I saw the fox and watched it for a while. On the neighbouring property, there is a very small, very old barn. There is nobody living there now. The fox was behind that barn, and has been seen there before. Low and behold, I saw young ones! At first I thought there were three, but then noticed a fourth. The fox is a female and they were playing around her and stopping to nurse now and then. Oh boy! It's going to be an interesting rest of the spring and summer!

Now, onto the deconstruction. Our house is old. Not old by European standards but old, around 130 years old. It is double brick construction. Some parts have been renovated and some parts haven't. With the price of heating going up and up and up, as well as the price of everything else, we decided we had to act this year on doing some serious insulating in key parts of the house. Our old basement will be tackled in about a month's time. Right now, husband has been working on the upstairs landing. It has always been a cold part of the house. He has now ripped out all the lathe and plaster from the walls. Here are some pictures of what has been happening.




In the above picture, you can see the little old barn in the neighbouring yard. There is where the fox has her den. 


In this picture, above, the lathe and plaster is now gone and you can see the inside layer of brick in some areas. There are a couple spots where you can see daylight! No insulation here!


This picture gives you an idea of the "front landing" It juts out a bit from the house (same configuration on the first floor) with two windows facing front and a window on each side. The hideous blue carpeting will be ripped up later for in-floor heating, so it doesn't matter how dirty it gets. 


These neat old square nails were used in the bigger vertical boards. 


I'm no stranger to renovation and dust and chaos. This is a multi-step, multi-project endeavour with husband doing most or all of the work. I'll keep you posted on the progress. 

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Noon Walkabout - April 5th

 Today is pleasantly sunny and mild. It is currently 8 degrees celsius (46 fahrenheit) and I was doing a bit of raking. I am trying not to be foolish and do too much at once, so I don't end up in lower back pain world, but it doesn't take much for me to feel it again. I am getting terribly lazy with keeping up with my physio exercises at home. Note to self: don't be a fool.

After raking, I thought I'd talk a walk around with my phone (i.e. camera) and show you some signs of Spring here in Ontario.

In the first pictures, you will see "snow crocus" in pretty yellow and purple colours. They are usually ahead of all others.



Next are the first little nubs of rhubarb. This plant is years and years old and always produces well. It's silly really because I still have bags and bags of frozen rhubarb and I only make a couple of different rhubarb desserts, but it's a shame to waste it. Now that I'm not working full time, I can't even bring in bundles for other people. 



This next picture is one of my two tiny cluster of snowdrops. I used to have more, but over the years they have diminished and pushed back under the tree line. I never planted them, they are remnants of previous owners.




I have purple crocus in other flower beds. They too probably need replenishing. Almost every year they get snowed on. We shall see for this year.


My tulips are pushing their way up. Daughter's birthday is May 3 and when she was little we always associated tulips with her birthday.


Finally, it wouldn't be Spring without raking. We have a very old, very large Norway Spruce on one side of our house and a very old, very large Blue Spruce on the other side. They always drop cones (the Norway Spruce much more and bigger cones) and with the many high winds we have had, countless branches from other trees have come down as well. I rake into piles and then go around and load them up in the Gorilla Cart. Rakings get burned in the burn barrel (which is actually half of an old oil tank from the basement so it holds much more). I started raking a few weeks ago in a mild spell, but of course, we have windy storms since then, so I need to rake again and add to the piles.



Here is another view of the same part of the property. Notice the scary lean on that arbour! It is also years and years old and has rotted at the bottom and parts have come away, so it is on the list of outdoor projects. It will be ripped down completely and we will just have the rail fence. I will cut back the trumpet vine that currently crawls up the arbour. The arbour may get replaced, it may not. There are always projects to be done at this old house. 


And finally, it wouldn't be an outdoor moment without Murphy. Here he is enjoying the sunshine on the back porch with me. He is adorable, but also a royal pain when I'm trying to rake. Everything is a toy!


I hope you are having a sunshiny day wherever you are. 

Saturday, 2 April 2022

April 2, 2022

 I thought perhaps it was time for a new header photo, so I turned and took a picture of Murphy stretched out, upside down on the bed beside me. 

What have I been up to? Yesterday I finished my sixth day of supply teaching in a row. I was filling in for a sweet previous co-worker who was away for six days, so I worked Friday to Friday in her grade 4/5 class. 

I am completely wiped. I was going to do a blog post on the destruction of innocence where I was going to bemoan the need of cell phones for ten-year-olds, sexualization of young girls with their midriff baring tops, and complete and utter lack of respect toward adults. I was going to write about entitlement and the need to always question and negotiate. I was going to write about the lack of wanting to please, or take pride or even be present. 

I realized that that would only be focusing on some of the students, but I would be leaving out the good ones, the sweet ones, the funny ones, the ones who are self-conscious or shy or kind or confident. Those kids still exist, but honestly are becoming the minority. None of the previous issues mentioned is any fault of the regular teacher. This group has always been like this. I know, I've seen them go through the grades over the past six years or so (kindergarten and up).

My messages to the world would be these: Parents, please stop dragging your children into your adult problems.   Parents, please be their parents and not their friends.    And finally, parents, "no" is a perfectly acceptable answer and you do not have to cave after any amount of sulking or whining or temper tantrums.


On a completely different note, if you ever notice the unmistakable and ever growing smell of decomposing mouse in your house and it is in an area where you have a chest freezer, there is a good possibility that a mouse has crawled into the recess at the back of the freezer where the motor is housed and where there is a small vent at the side and you will need to use a long grabber tool to extract said mouse whilst trying hard not to gag on the stench and at the same time cursing putting in a cat flap. Just saying.


Because one must discuss weather, we have had everything from warm sun, to dangerously high winds, to snow flurries, to diagonal rain, to freezing rain in the past week. Half expected to wake up to either hail or a double rainbow this morning.


Finally, this weekend I do not have lofty goals. I will change out the chicken water (still using their heated water bucket just in case), I will read, and I really have a hankering for fish and chips because Joanne wrote about eating it in her blog and that planted the idea in my head. I will add to this if this happens this weekend.

Sunday, 27 March 2022

Late March in Ontario

 Last night the wind blew and the snow came in diagonally. Prior to that most of our snow was gone and I was noticing the little red nubs of the peonies pushing through the earth. This morning the snow has covered everything and there is more coming. 

None of this is surprising. Here is the weather in the days to come this week, just to see how crazy and varied it can be at this time of year:


This is tomorrow's and Tuesday's forecast. Nothing above zero (celsius) . Please note the "feels like" temperatures as well. I have no idea if other parts of the world include "feels like".



Hope abounds as we look at Wednesday and Thursday. Why, it's practically shorts weather at a high of 15 (feels like 13) on Thursday. Mind you, it plummets to zero over night. 



Ha, ha, more fool you, as we approach Friday with snowfall and below zero temperatures again, to wake up to a "feels like -9" on Saturday morning. 


And this is why Canadians tend to talk about the weather a lot. 

Monday, 21 March 2022

Mundane Monday - What is your Most Commonly Used Spice(s) or Herb(s)?




Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme... Today I was putting a small chicken in the oven and was just going over the process with our son who was home from college for a short while, trying to do my motherly bit by giving him a basic idea of how I do it. I brushed the bird with oil and then grabbed my little jar of Herbes de Provence and shook it liberally over the chicken. He then looked at the jar to see what it was composed of: things like rosemary, thyme, savory, basil, marjoram, even lavender. 

I was thinking it was time for a Mundane Monday, so here is my question: in your day to day cooking and food prep, what would you say are the seasonings you reach for the most? I think I would say, apart from salt and pepper, garlic powder, herbes de Provence, and perhaps oregano are my most commonly used seasonings. I also tend to use Montreal Steak Spice for beef. Also, in the colder months (and around Christmas), my cinnamon jar often needs refilling.

I imagine I will get different responses from people in different parts of the world and I'm looking forward to hearing from you! 



Tuesday, 15 March 2022

I'm Back

 I have not written any posts for more than a month and haven't really been commenting a whole lot either. Bunch of reasons come into play, doing a lot more supply teaching being one of them. As well, husband and I made a rather quick decision to go away for a week some place warm when the requirement for PCR tests was finally dropped in order to return to our own country. 

We made the decision to go to Puerto Plata (Dominican Republic) because it is always less expensive than other places, including Punta Cana in the same country. We have been to this area four other times, always during the March Break because that was when we were able to travel due to our professions. This time it was the week before March Break. 

We flew out of Toronto with Sunwing airlines. I was more than stressed at the beginning trying to make sure I had dotted every i and crossed every t in terms of all the necessary "paper work" and other things to remember when travelling in this day and age. I say paperwork, but honestly, it is all done on your phone. Heaven help anybody who is not comfortable with cell phones and apps and downloads, etc. We had to create a QR coded document to enter the Dominican Republic (shown at the Toronto airport). We printed it out at home, as well as saved it on our phones. We downloaded the ArriveCan app and started the proceedings of putting in our information before leaving. It was stressed over and over how important it was to use this app and how it would be necessary to return to Canada. Because we are old school, we also printed out our "tickets" which of course are not tickets at all, but pages upon pages of itinerary (which I don't think we showed at all). When we attempted to use the kiosk at the airport in which you slide your passport (honestly, still can't spatially understand how they want you to hold it), it wasn't working properly and did not send the confirmation to my email but a lovely woman helped us and told us to just go stand in line anyway and she helped countless other people as none of the bloody kiosks were working properly. I hope she is paid well. Those small details cause me disproportionate anxiety but we managed to get through and on the plane, not seated together, by the way. 

Do you remember when you got food on a plane in return for the huge amount of money you spent to ride the plane? We received a complementary plastic cup of the beverage of our choice (nonalcoholic). Not even a package of cookies, or pretzels. I know I sound (and I am) whiney. Nor were we on a plane which had little screens on which to watch a movie to pass the time. I chewed two chewable gravols and closed my eyes all the while trying not to make physical contact with the "spready outy" man who was sitting beside me. Honestly, just close your legs a tiny bit. One positive was it was an incredibly windy day and the tail winds (I presume??) made for a quicker flight, for which I was very grateful.

Our airport experience in the Dominican was smooth as silk, no problem at all. We boarded the bus to the resort with other travellers, many of whom were dropped off at other resorts close by. The warmth when you enter the airport and walk to your bus is so welcome after being cold for months and months. 

When we got to the resort, our check in was also quite effortless and because it was a small resort, we were walked to our little four-storey building which was touted as adults-only. The accommodations were what we expected, having looked online at pictures. The room was smaller than we thought, but perfectly fine for just the two of us. However, it was disconcerting having this stare at us for seven days:


Yup, giant lady in sunglasses. She is placed over a huge thick glass panel which separates the bathroom from the bedroom. Other people also had giant women. One couple we spoke to said their giant lady was holding an apple. 

Moving on, the thing that struck me the most in the first couple of days of being there, was how empty the resort was. We have always been used to the great battle over the lounge chairs in the shade, the waking up at 6:00 a.m. to scout out a good seat and stake your claim with a towel, then return to bed for a couple more hours. But here, you could have played "switch your seat" all day long, the choices were endless. Our adults-only section had its own smaller pool with a little bar. I took pictures to send back to our kids to show them how empty it was. 


We were the ONLY guests at the pool, and one very bored bartender. 

The first full day, we spent time at the main pool. Besides us, there was a young family with children enjoying the water. Here is a picture of more empty lounge chairs. 


I just couldn't get over it! However, later in the week, starting on Thursday, more guests arrived and things started to fill up. Due to the lack of guests, and as well as probably just getting back on their feet after Covid pulling the rug out from under them, the resort did not offer any activities or evening shows or exciting food options. We felt a bit bamboozled by the reviews we had read online. I suspect they were written by staff to promote the resort in the hopes of getting more guests. I can say this was the first time that tripe was on offer in the buffet. Tripe. Who the hell eats tripe on their vacation??

The beach was very nice. Much seaweed had been churned up by recent storms, but that wasn't the resort's fault. As well, you could sit anywhere you could choose. Beach vendors (and they are allowed by law) were thick and persistent. We generally never purchase vacation jewelry or have people give us foot massages, so there was a whole lot of "no thank you". Regardless, the wonderful hot breeze at the beach, and being able to look at up this:


was worth it. 

In order to return to our homeland, we had to have a rapid antigen test done the day before we left. We were able to have this done in a little ambulance parked outside the resort by a sweet girl who spoke no English. Each test cost $35.00 American. This is an immense savings compared to the close to hundred dollar each PCR tests previously required. Thankfully, there was someone who spoke Spanish in the line behind us. It was done quickly and not altogether accurately (one nostril, barely felt it), but we knew we were going to test negative because we brought rapid tests with us and tested ourselves the night before. I wrote out not one, but two, email addresses to send the results to (again, god help you if you don't have a cell phone) which was good, because they only sent successfully to one of the email addresses. 

On the final day (Sunday), we were packed and ready and discovered our flight was delayed by four hours, and then by another chunk of time, until finally we decided, with two other Canadians on the same flight that we would not board the bus to the airport, but would split the cost of a taxi so we wouldn't have to sit for an extended period of time in the airport. I think that was a good idea. It never fails to amaze us, the driving practices of the Dominican people. They are fearless. I witnessed a family of four aboard a small motorcycle (and helmets are few and far between). Lanes on the "highway" are optional and fluid. 

At the Dominican airport, we were asked to show our negative test results (on my phone) and pay our $20 American each departure tax (in cash, hmmmm). We boarded the plane home, again not seated together (guess I should have arranged that ahead of time) and I was seated in the very last row next to an incredibly enjoyable person who described himself as a non-binary unicorn and his husband. He made the flight home so interesting and so much fun and I thanked him for it. We enjoyed our complimentary orange juice / tomato juice and told each other our life stories. 

Finally, upon landing at midnight? One a.m.? Who knows because it was also the weekend of daylight savings time change, we went through the process of re-entering our country. Apart from showing our passports a couple of times and successfully, for the most part, but it wouldn't take an image of me, leading me to believe I am a vampire, using the kiosk, we never one, NOT ONCE, had to show anything on the ArriveCan app or the leaving the Dominican documentation complete with QR codes, over which I had stressed on our second last day. Both husband and I said, "Are we done?" "Is that it?" "We're through?" So prepared were we to show every declaration and result and address of where we had stayed and plan of action for possible quarantine, and randomly chosen surprise test at the airport that we were shocked.

Finally reunited with our vehicle, we drove the 2 1/2 to 3 hours home, meeting up with dense fog at the end to be greeted by our two cats who had been checked in on by our lovely daughter for the week while we had been away. I think Murphy is even fatter than when we left. 

It was a very different holiday than any other that we have taken. I won't go into the whole Covid safety thing, but suffice it to say, the resort did its utmost best to have their staff masked and to clean and sanitize. I was never concerned about their practices. It was lovely to feel warm and to walk about not ensconced in layers and boots. The people who worked there were gracious and kind and Roberto who brought coffee to our table had to be one of the hardest working older gentlemen I've met (and yes, we tipped him well). The bed was king size (bigger than ours at home) and perfectly comfortable. The pina coladas were delicious and their local beer was perfectly acceptable. Being able to eat at a table while looking out to the water and hearing the surf was heavenly. 

We are now home, there is still open luggage sitting in the front hall, laundry being done. I still feel "swimmy" as I call it, that sensation of floating, or walking on a boat after the flight home. That always happens. I need to do a grocery run today, sometime. I am glad to be back. It is March Break here, so no supply teaching this week. The cats are very pleased we are back and the chickens too, if chickens are capable of such emotions. To any fellow Canadians who may be thinking of doing any similar travelling, be ready for a lot of time spent on your phone. Happy Tuesday, all.


Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Thankful Thursday

 I am thinking of beginning a Thursday post called "Thankful Thursday" where I think back to people in my past that I would like to thank, for one reason or another. 

Today, if I could, I would thank my uncle. He was an unmarried dairy farmer with wiry muscles and big tough hands with cracks in the skin and at least one blackened fingernail. He brylcreemed his hair back and once a week, he would tidy himself up and go to the local town for a few drinks with his friends.

I would thank him because he always seemed to have time for me, a little timid girl who tagged along, watched him work, asked him questions, and road on the fender of the tractor when he took loads of fresh cut grass for the cows. He took the time to show me a new batch of kittens and patiently let me give buckets of powdered calf starter to the calves. He showed me how to get the calves to suck on my fingers and then lower my hand into the bucket, so they could learn to drink from the bucket. 

He listened to me practise my speech for school over the sound of the milking equipment. He used the green hose in the milk house to wash off my rubber boots with hot water. He let me make what was probably the worst cup of instant coffee for him when he popped into the house for a moment before heading back out to the barn.

I had parents who loved me and took care of me. But a great deal of my childhood was spent at the farm where my grandmother and uncle lived. I loved the animals, the repetition and predictability of the daily chores, the changes of the season on the farm. I even loved the smells. I loved the river that ran through the farm and fishing with bamboo poles and pieces of summer sausage as bait, waiting for the cork to be pulled down from the surface of the water. I remember walking up from the river, fish swinging from the hook, holding the pole and looking around to find my uncle so he could take the fish off the hook for me!

He took me with him in the farm truck to pick up what was needed from the feed store. Sometimes he stopped in at the very tiny, like-you-stepped-back-in-time general store in an even smaller hamlet and let me choose a treat - pixie stix, or shoe string licorice, or bubble gum. 

No doubt my uncle was busy most of the time. He prided himself on the neatness of his entire operation and rarely sat idle. Yet, he made time for me and never made me feel like I was annoying him (although I likely was) or taking up his valuable time. I was not the only niece of his. He had other nieces and nephews. I was the youngest of all of them, so I assume he made the same time for any and all of them when they came to the farm. 

And so for all of that, Uncle Boyd, I thank you.


Sunday, 6 February 2022

Sunday, February 6, 2022 - What's Goin' On

 "What's Goin' On", I'm tellin' you what's goin' on. Do you have Marvin Gaye in your head yet? I am sitting here, propped up on pillows on my bed, waiting for one hour to be up. 

For those of you who have been with me for a while, you may recall that at a very late age in life, I decided to get Invisaligns (like braces for your teeth, but plastic trays that you change every week that gradually straighten your teeth). I wore those buggers for more than two years, driving back and forth to the orthodontist every few weeks rain, or shine, snow storm or calm, forty-five minutes from home, or rushing from work to catch the last appointment. The trays are kept in place with buttons or attachments glued onto the fronts of your teeth, strategically. Also you may enjoy the placement of a small metal (again glued in place) post around which a tiny elastic band is wrapped, hooked onto your tray in order to pull things in a general direction. 

About a week ago, I was on my last tray and decided I'd had just about enough, regardless of how much my orthodontist coerced me into yet another twelve weeks (the whole thing has already been paid for, so it's not like he's trying to get extra money, just perfection). I did my drive in blowing snow and had my little "buttons" or attachments ground off my teeth (an interesting odor is created as this happens, hot chemical mixed with bone????). It didn't hurt, but she really had to reef on that little metal post to pry it off! My final trays, or retainers were waiting for me, but alas, they just didn't fit well, in fact I couldn't even get the bottom ones on. So the lovely lady scanned my teeth and ordered a new set (again, this is already all paid for, didn't cost me more). 

I waited about a week, and then my new retainers were available for pick up. I also mentioned to the lovely lady that I wanted to make a dentist appointment so that I could get my teeth really cleaned well and stains removed (the attachments which are super hard glue like substances stain as well as around the attachments), and she informed me that they had a product that I could just put inside my retainers that would take any remaining stains away for only $20.00. Well, hey! That sounds better than an almost $200 cost of going to the dentist (now that we are both retired we are trying to see if we can manage without paying for dental insurance - we shall see). 

And that brings us around to me sitting propped up by pillows on my bed, creating a blog post, waiting for the one hour to be up as I passively whiten my teeth. 

As well, after I picked up my retainers, I decided to continue on my journey to a nearby city to go to Winners (a discount clothing store here in Canada). I have been doing some supply teaching recently and I wanted to find maybe another couple of nice tops that I could wear for supplying at a good price. I haven't purchased clothes for myself for quite a while. 

Sometimes it's a "good Winner's day|" and sometimes it's a "bad Winner's day". Yesterday was a good one. I had time to myself to look through the racks and gather up a bunch of clothes to try on at leisure. I did NOT find any wintery tops that suited me, but I am completely prepared for warm weather now! For a subtotal of $178.93 I found six articles of clothing and one pair of shoes. Because I live in Canada, tax must be paid, so with the 13% HST (harmonized sales tax, a blend of GST, which is the goods and services tax, and the provincial sales tax). If you don't enjoy paying taxes, it's best you don't live in Canada. The tax came to $23.26, so the whole thing came to $202.19. I am well aware that there are women out there who wouldn't bat an eye at paying that entire amount for just one dress, but I have never been able to be one of those women. I felt good about what I was able to come away with.

Because I have nothing better to do, here are pictures of what I purchased:


These are both light weight and flowy. You can't tell, but the shirt pictured on the right has gold bits in amongst the flowery design. I love gold, but not too flashy. 



I also love green - many shades of green, and that sleeveless top is a sagey green colour and is also a nice weight and flows. The "dress" on the right is not photographing well, it looks more red in the picture than it is , it's in fact a deeper pink. This would be a great cover-up at the pool, or I would wear stretchy black or white shorts underneath as it is cut up the sides quite a bit.



The dress on the left looks a lot cuter worn, than it does laying on that blanket. It ties around the waist, and is again, that nice flowy polyester / spandex blend that hangs well and doesn't wrinkle. This is a pretty bold choice for me, I don't normally wear this much colour - I'm a neutrals kind of gal, but it's fun for summer and was less than $20.  The shirt on the right is more of a rich coral colour than it looks in the picture. The buttons are gold coloured. Love gold. I'd choose gold over silver every time.


Lastly, shoes. To begin with, I am a very difficult fit. I try and try and try shoes until I find something that will fit perfectly. I am a size 9 and rather narrow, but I also have to have at least a wee bit of a heel because perfectly flat messes with my knee (long story, doesn't matter). I also have to have a sturdy, hard heel under me, not these new squishy, sink-down-into-it foot beds that you seem to find on so many slippers and shoes nowadays. Immediate knee pain if I have that under foot. So, I was very surprised that these Sketchers sandals were perfect. Normally Sketchers have that squishy foot bed and I know they will be a disaster. However, these are hard, not too high, and the straps are soft and ever so slightly stretchy. I have to had something that will grip onto my narrowish foot to prevent it from sliding around, yet can't rub or I turn into an old woman with multiple band aids in strategic spots on my foot. Always an attractive look.

I have always envied women who could just slip on a pair of shoes and they fit them well, never blistering, never sliding around, just happy in their shoes. These little sandals will be great with a dress, shorts, capris...

My back is now 96% better and a huge shout out to all the professionals who manipulated, pushed, prodded, squished, and punctured my body. It's been a long haul (15 weeks, or almost 4 months for anyone who ever has a similar mishap with their body), but I can gladly say I feel so much better. There were times when I was angry at the world, or felt like this "would be my life forever", but perseverance paid off.

I am almost at my allotted stain removal hour, so I shall bid you adieu for now.

Monday, 24 January 2022

What to listen to While Walking on the Treadmill

 Now that my back is starting to feel better, I am trying to walk every day. When I first started, I literally could do about ten to fifteen minutes on the treadmill and I had to stop because of the pain in my S.I. joint, etc. , but little by little and with tons of stretches and exercises and acupuncture and massage, I have been increasing my walking, sometimes just by one more minute a day. 

Walking on the treadmill is incredibly boring, even for just fifteen or twenty minutes, so I have been listening to music that I have gathered on playlists. I do this on Spotify for which I pay about ten dollars a month so I can listen without advertisements popping in every couple of songs. I am picky about my songs. I don't like playlists that a suggested to me. However I am now getting quite tired of my playlists, too. 

I am not a podcast person. I don't like suggested podcasts. I don't need podcasts to listen to during the day just to fill the void, nor do I need them while driving somewhere (because let's face it, where am I driving besides the grocery store and the physiotherapist?). I do, however, need something to listen to while walking on the treadmill. 

I remembered how much I love the shows (do you call them shows? ) that Terry O'Reilly did on CBC radio called, "Under the Influence". Here's the link to where you can find them. O'Reilly was an advertising copywriter and had his own advertising company. He puts out the most amazingly interesting podcasts / radio shows about marketing and advertising, including information about well known ad campaigns, or products, or people who promoted products. I have never been bored with any of the ones I have heard on the radio. They are just filled with neat facts that you never knew before.

Tonight I listened to one about products that were named after the people who invented them. It was called Brands are People Too.  It was so interesting! O'Reilly has a great delivery too. 

Each podcast is about 27 minutes long which is just about the most I can walk right now, so it's perfect. Now, honestly, when people recommend something to me that I "just have to listen to" or "just have to read", I almost never do. I like to decide for myself, or discover for myself. I don't even like it when husband reads some bit of news that he's discovered. I usually reply, "Yes, I know. I have the same news feed that you do." So obviously, it's up to you. Listen, or don't, but I'm glad I now have oodles of interesting things to listen to that I won't likely become bored with any time soon.









Sunday, 16 January 2022

Sunshine and Wordle



 Today it is sunny and although it is still very cold, if you are outside, you can feel the warmth of the sun.


I always like shadows on the snow. At this time of year in the countryside, things are very mono chromatic ( well maybe dual chromatic) with white and variations on brown dominating. 

I am enjoying the new internet game, Wordle. It took a bit of doing to find the original game as there are lots of apps and imitations out there ( at least, I think I’m playing the original one). This is a game where you must guess a five letter word and have only a few chances to guess it correctly. It indicates if you have guessed a letter correctly and if that letter is in the correct spot or not. I love word games and this one really appeals to me. You also get a summary of how you’ve done so far. Here’s mine. 

Friday, 14 January 2022

Cold, Hopeful, Bored

 Just throwing together a quick post. It’s Friday night and holy cow it’s cold. It’s currently-16 degrees Celsius and it will be -22 tomorrow. Yikes! I might make a fire later just to make me feel cozier. 

The “hopeful “ part of the title of this post refers to me being invited to go for a walk with a friend. I warned her I probably wouldn’t be able to walk as far as she would like with this S. I. joint issue and other pain but she said that was fine. So we walked ( in a town close by) and I did great! It was the longest walk I’ve done in three months. Why? I attribute it to the acupuncture treatment I got at the physiotherapists. I only had the one treatment but obviously it made a difference. She also did a type of adjustment too. It was like a tiny miracle had occurred. I go for five more acupuncture sessions. Yay!!

I know I have no right to be bored, but I am. There’s really nothing on tv that I want to watch. I just finished a book ( the latest Janet Evanovich, if you know her) and don’t really feel like getting into another book, of course we are currently in a “lock down “ situation, and cleaning or organizing something doesn’t hold the kind of joy one might anticipate. Ha ha. So… here I am writing a post. 

I made beef stew for supper with enough for tomorrow night and more to freeze for another time. On that thrilling note, I bid you adieu. 

Monday, 10 January 2022

January 10, 2022

 Well, that was interesting. I am referring to the traffic that my most recent post, lamenting the state of health care and the present restrictions (again) in Ontario. I appreciated all the comments. We are now done with that, so things don't start to go in a direction that I never ever intended. Enough said. 

Shall we get back to our regular programming? Today I drove to a town about forty-five minutes from my home for an orthodontist appointment. Remember? I still have Invisaligns on my teeth after about two years or so and I am FINALLY able to see the end is near. At the next appointment, all the little knobs and bumps (attachments) will be ground off my teeth and the tiny metal post which anchors a tiny elastic band will also be removed. Yeehaw! Of course, nobody will see my nice straight teeth except my immediate family, as half of my face is always enclosed by a mask. Some day...

However, the other part of this tale is WINTER IS BACK !!!  Good old snow squalls and white outs. It was manageable when driving north / south, but driving east / west was a bit "knuckly" at times. I put the four way flashers on a few times, just to be even more visible. We've been lucky up until now with weather, so grinning and bearing it!

Here are some "snaps" as my grandmother used to call them of our regular life over the "holidays" (can you call them holidays when you are retired?).



We played a game at Christmas and Murphy chose the best seat in the house.



We discovered that Murphy also watches tv. He's actually quite engaged, for long periods of time. He's not picky about what he watches and got pretty involved in the series, "Narcos". 


We celebrated son's twenty-second birthday recently. This is the standard chocolate layer cake that I make for everyone's birthday. I'm not a big decorator, but it's always good. Yes, he's about to touch the flame. That's likely just to annoy me. 


We played the same game at son's birthday. Murphy adapted his use of the box. 



We had take-out Chinese food for his birthday. A few days later, the bag is still being put to good use. 

Saturday, 8 January 2022

What I Know FOR CERTAIN

 I have avoided this particular post up until now. But alas, I just have to get it out of my system. I will try to keep my points to what I know for certain, and what I have experienced myself. If you don't agree, that's fine, but as I said, it's my blog and my experiences and my take on things.

source

This is how I feel, living in Ontario right now. The perpetual pulling away of the football by Lucy for poor old gullible, trusting Charlie Brown who ends up disappointed once again. 

I'm going to start by saying I am NOT an anti-vaxxer. I have had, in fact, three doses now. But that doesn't seem to matter. The hint of a fourth dose is enough to make me scream. When, please give me an actual time line, when will it be enough? When will we get back to "normal" and what will normal look like?

If you are not familiar, in Ontario we are under some version of a revised stage two something or other. I've given up keeping track of what our premier calls it because it's just semantics. We cannot sit inside a restaurant, regardless of how many covid shots we've had. We cannot go to a gym, a movie theatre or a casino or a strip club if that's your thing, retail places are 50 % capacity, and if you are gathering in your own home you can have no more than five people. If you are gathering outdoors (and might I add it is currently -9 degrees Celsius, feels like -17) you can't have more than ten (I don't know if you could even find ten people who want to gather outdoors with you anyway!) If you live in Quebec, you are under a curfew between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. As well, schools are back to being virtual instead of in class for two weeks (at this moment, but who knows how much more it will be extended). There is also talk of what "fully vaccinated" might mean. Two doses now, will it be three, four, five?? We already have to show proof on paper or on our cell phones of our vaccination status for various "priviledges", but currently most of those priviledges have been taken away.

Of course, all the usual practices are still happening: masking, distancing, self-assessing before going to an appointment... 

Yes, I realize Omicron is highly transmissible. I also realize that even if you have had one, two, or three doses of the vaccine you can still get it. I also realize that if you have had the doses, you probably won't get terribly ill. But I also know, if the articles that I am reading are correct, that people are still going to the hospital even if they are only a little bit sick because they don't know what to do. They don't know if they can take something for it, don't know if they are going to get sicker, or if that's just what they are supposed to do. And what I do know FOR CERTAIN, is that our hospital system is the thing that is broken. 

Here's why I know this. I know this because back when I had a family physician (primary care doctor), if I needed to see him, he was often booked up solid for three weeks. Usually the thing I needed to see him for could not wait for three weeks, so I would then have to go to the emergency department at a local hospital. That really is NOT what emergency departments are for, but there was no other choice. I know for certain that there isn't a "medical clinic" in which one can walk and see one of a collection of doctors who all work for that clinic. That is not what is available for me where I live. Now that my doctor has retired, I know FOR CERTAIN that the doctor who was supposed to replace him backed out and now I have no doctor. I know I can "see" a nurse practitioner until the end of February (that's if you can get an appointment because she is also booked up two to three weeks ahead). After February, I am up the creek (as is my husband and both of my adult children) and if we need anything at all, medically, we go see a random doctor in the emergency department. There will be no continuity of care.  I also know FOR CERTAIN that no other medical groups in our "area" (an hour's drive) are taking new patients. I know because I have personally called and spoken to people. We have registered on something called "Health Care Connect" which is supposed to help you find a doctor in your area, but I also know, having spoken to the people at these other medical groups, that people sometimes are on the list for two years or more. Just to add to the mix, if I were to, I don't know, accidentally slice myself making a late supper or evening snack, I could not go to the little hospital emergency department about ten minutes from my home, because their emergency department is CLOSED after 7:00 p.m. Why? There aren't enough nurses to staff it. And if my daughter were to do the same? She would not be able to go to the emergency department at the hospital in her own town because it too, is closed after 7:00 p.m. Why? A nursing shortage.

Yes, we have "free" health care in Canada, but we have LONG wait times. My sister, who has been hobbling about on a wonky leg for a couple of years, was scheduled to have surgery on the 21st of this month. Guess what? Her surgery is now postponed due to the fear of Omicron patients flooding the hospitals and there not being enough people (not just nurses, but doctors, orderlies, cleaning people, lab techs, etc. etc.) to give enough proper care. Again... this isn't a rant about people not being vaccinated and therefore taking up hospital space, because anyone can get Omicron and people go to the hospital regardless of symptoms. 

I also know FOR CERTAIN from my own teaching experience that most kids (in my neck of the woods) want to be in school. I know FOR CERTAIN that most parents want their kids there and do not enjoy having to guide them in their online learning or simply can't because they work and I know that child care is hugely difficult for many families and when the Ontario government announces that school will be delayed by two days and then within that time pulls the football away again and says, no, actually it will be two weeks, and now parents are bracing for the next announcement. I also know FOR CERTAIN that teachers don't want to teach online anymore. For elementary education (can't speak for secondary or post-secondary), it is ineffective and there are some students who just never really attend and it is a nightmare to assess. I know for certain that I am sick and tired of seeing the government commercial on tv encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated so they can get back to normal and see their friends and do activities, because even though a lot of them have got their vaccines (and I know this FOR CERTAIN because my friend is a local pharmacist who gives them their shots!), it still doesn't matter because they still can't go to school with their friends. 

We have been told over and over and over that in a few months, after we flatten the curve, things will improve. How many footballs need to pulled out before we just stop trying? What about the next variant, and the next, and the next? Viruses mutate. I DON'T know this for certain, but I think they eventually get weaker and weaker. The British Columbia Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry feels that this surge could lead to an endemic. I'm wary of that football, too. 

An excellent article, written by Rex Murphy really struck home with me. Murphy is a Canadian political commentator and someone who was a regular fixture in my house as a child, hosting "Cross Country Check Up" on CBC radio. He shoots straight from the hip and has a life time of experience in Canadian politics. 

In my opinion, this is all about our health care. We've needed more doctors and nurses for ages. We should pay our hospital employees well. In my opinion, we should change the type of shift work that nurses and other hospital employees are expected to do. I personally wouldn't be on top of my game near the end of a twelve hour shift, although I'm sure I would do my best to not make any errors and put on a happy face for people who are in pain or scared. But I know FOR CERTAIN that medical errors do happen, being at the receiving end of one many years ago. Humans make mistakes. Other humans pay the price. We need to value our nurses (doctors too, but nurses are the ones in the trenches, I believe). We need to make nursing a career that people WANT and want to stick with because it pays well, has good benefits, has good intrinsic rewards, not one where burnout is real and resentment abounds. In my opinion, Omicron could have been handled differently (in Ontario, can't speak for the rest of the world), if our health care system wasn't already circling the drain.

"People" say we need to get to the point where we learn to live with Covid, and I wholeheartedly agree. I can say that because I am not immuno-compromised, I'm not in a high risk category. Others might have their reasons to disagree. But I honestly don't think we will reach that point (football) until things get fixed in our hospitals, big city ones, and little local, rural hospitals as well. Will that cost money? Undoubtedly. Where will the money come from? Well, I know I already pay a ton of taxes... surely some of that could be used even more for far-sighted health care changes. I have read, but don't know for certain, that there are lots of nurses from other countries who are waiting and waiting to be licensed here. 

I'm not really a political person, so I know this isn't my usual type of post as it doesn't feature chickens or cats or baking or reading, but it's been two long years and we are right back to where we were. I know FOR CERTAIN that I am just sick and tired. So very, very tired. And I'm tired of being Charlie Brown.