Saturday, December 31, 2011

Getting ready

Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton.  This brewhouse's lights change colour.  There are a series of giant, plastic walled "icebergs" for various events prepping for New Year festivities.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a Joyous Christmas and a Happy New Year. May this time be one of peace and happiness, and may 2012 be a year of good health and prosperity.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pretty

I'm not a coffee drinker, but after being up almost all night making tourtiere, I need the caffeine!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The things you see...

My older daughter and I headed to the bookstore this evening to do a bit of shopping. We had split up to look at different things when she suddenly came up to me, grabbed my sleeve and dragged me across the store. There sat a wagon with a bin holding a tortoise, of all things.  She asked somebody about it later. It turns out that there is a regular customer who comes in every Sunday with his tortoise and does his shopping while leaving it in an aisle near the door.
To the guy who takes his tortoise out for walks, thanks for making my day!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Loom

I, for one, welcome our giant glass overlords.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Napping

Yes, I've got more cat pictures.  How can I resist?

Napping

First, the kitten decided to go for a nap on my daughter.  He slowly slide down her neck from this position.  Finally, Philippe came along and rescued her.

Napping

Which did not interrupt his nap in the slightest.

Whoever finally adopts this kitten is going to have a very well socialized cat.





Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cold mornings...

(Philippe)
There was a four or five minute window where the light was hitting things just right, before the sun burned everything away...






Monday, November 14, 2011

Another follow up

Since I've already done one follow up post, I may as well do another.

I wrote some time ago about the stray cats visiting our balcony that we were trying to adopt out.  I did have someone interested in taking the pregnant mama.  Unfortunately, before that could be arranged, she had her kittens.  We had no idea where, so we delayed until we could find out and keep them together.  The papa, whom we call Horatio, was still visiting fairly regularly, but mama's visits were much more sporadic.  When I did see her, I checked and she did seem to be nursing.

With the temperatures dropping, we made a few changes on our balcony.  With a new dining table coming, we took the old table we'd been using and put it on the balcony.  It was a patio table, anyhow. We shoved it against one wall with the cat tower and pet carrier under it, along with plant pots, dirt, and so on, all put away for the winter.  We'd put an old blanket inside pet carrier to make a warmer shelter, but it hadn't been enough for Freya (which is what my younger daughter has named her).   The table has one of those vinyl table clothes on it, which is large enough to hang down and hide most of what is now under it.

I guess that made the difference.

Seeing Freya on the balcony one day, I headed outside to give her some attention.  The food and water was all topped up, so I sat down on the balcony swing to spend some time with her.  She's affectionate but nervous, and constantly dashing around, distracted by noises, in between cuddling.  Then she disappeared.

She hadn't left the balcony, as I was facing the doorway to the stairs and knew she wasn't there.  She wasn't at the food or water bowls.  She wasn't under the swing.  I finally got up to figure out where she'd disappeared to when she dashed out from under the table.

Could it be?

Looking under the table and into the carrier, way in the back, I saw movement.  A single kitten.  It's eyes were open, but from the looks of it, they hadn't been open for long.  I was totally thrilled.

After spending some time with the kitten and mama, who became incredibly calm when in the carrier with her baby, I happily sent off an email to the person who'd said she'd be able to take the mama and kittens and adopt them out through a vet's office.

I never heard back.

So now we're in a pickle.

We'd heard from someone else interested in taking the cats to their farm, but on discovering Horatio was male, they changed their mind.  Now we didn't even have someone taking Freya and her baby.

As long as the weather held, they would be fine.

The weather didn't hold.

Finally, it got to the point we just couldn't let them stay out there.  The kitten was too small to survive the dropping temperatures.  Things have warmed up since then, but I really doubt it would have survived if we hadn't taken steps.

We now have them inside.

We're not allowed to have more than 2 pets, but we've cat-sat before without issue, so for a temporary situation, we can do this, but we can NOT keep them.

Our cats aren't too happy with the situation, either.

The kitten, however, has become well socialized.

Kitten

Just look at those eyes!

My daughter named her (him?) Finnegan.

That, by the way, is my nose.  I lay down on the couch for a nap and Finn joined me.  After thoroughly licking my forehead, s/he grabbed my nose with both paws and started licking it.  Then s/he fell over backwards, got jammed on her back between my hand and my face, and stayed there.

Finn napped with me like that for almost two hours.

The kitten has gone from barely able to crawl out of the cat cave alone, and needing help to get back in, to running around the house and tackling ankles.

Our cats are very unhappy with this situation.

Needless to say, we are still urgently looking for a home for these two.  Taking them to the local humane society is not an option.  For all that they're supposed to be a no-kill facility, they actually euthanize more animals than the pound.  My friend at the pound says we can take them there if we have to, but advices against it.  There are just too many cats at both locations.

Kitten

Here is Freya and Finn.  A fantastic pair of cats.  Freya is still a bundle of nerves.  As affectionate as she is, she clearly had to fight off other cats to survive and is still a bundle of nerves.  Finn is a calming influence on her. 

Anyone up for taking in a lovely stray and her baby? 

(Since taking these two inside, we haven't been seeing Horatio on our balcony, so we don't know what's happened to him. )


Follow up.

No picture again with this post, but I thought I ought to follow up with what was happening in my last post.

After spending almost 8 hours at the dealership garage, I finally brought my van home, and it only cost me a little over $30 for the headlight bulb change, which wasn't covered in our insurance package and hadn't been done the day before for some reason.  Though the previous bulb had not been burned out and the headlight had been working sporadically, if the headlight goes out again, they'll look elsewhere.  So far, I still have two headlights.  It may well have been that something was loose and that, in changing the bulb, they inadvertently fixed it.

The hazard lights thing hasn't changed.  They had installed a new multi-function switch to fix the problem with the signal lights doing weird things (like switching back and forth, or not working at all).  So now when the sliding doors are opened, the hazard lights no longer turn on.  Although I explained that and it was written down very clearly, when I got the van back near the end of the day, one of the things I was told was that the hazard lights are working just fine.  Well, yes, they were.  It wasn't until later that I opened the sliding doors again and saw no lights that I realized that they'd simply tested the hazards.  At this point, I don't care.  The lights turning on when the sliding doors open is not a big deal.  The important thing is that the other light problems were fixed.

The van got moved over to the mechanical department so they could figure out what the grinding noise was.  A mechanic drove it around to hear the noise I was talking about.  After some time, the woman who had been taking care of me all this time went back to get some news for me (her name is Steph, and for all that she was new and didn't know how to do some things, she did take really good care of me and sat down with me several times throughout the day to explain what was going on).  When she came back, she was all but laughing out loud.

It seems that, during the complimentary inspection, they had used twist ties on something.  Those twist ties had not been removed or trimmed.  They were on both sides, but on the right, when I turned the wheel, the tail end of the twist tie made contact with the tire.  The mechanic had showed it to her, and she had been surprised that I could hear something like that at all, but he told her there was no missing it - it was really quite loud. 

Now that was a relief!  No expensive fix there.

That left the brake warning light. 

According to the readout, we do need new brakes.  I got the printout and estimate, and Steph went over it with me.  They are recommending total replacement of the brakes and pads.  We were also due to get all the various fluids changed, including brake and transmission fluids.  This is something we were already planning to have done before winter, however if we did everything on their list as once, we'd be paying almost $1600.  Ouch!  Meanwhile, the break fluid was a little low and that was topped up for me (I'd actually checked that myself recently, but I couldn't see very well.  It looked to be about on the line at the time).  Technically, they shouldn't have done that, but they did and I didn't get charged for it, so I appreciated that.

Now, brakes are not something we want to mess around with, but at the same time, we've been horribly mislead and cheated by garages in the past, and have had no trust built up with this garage yet.  In fact, as I sat there with my crochet, a number of people passed through the waiting area and there were a few times I heard someone sit down with the customers and convincing them to get work done that hadn't been expected.  Even if it was just a change in filters, it had my scam radar going.  Where they scamming?  No, I don't think so.  Where they convincing people to get repairs done that probably weren't as urgent as they  made it seem?  Very likely.  

Anyhow, I finally got the van back and headed home.  That is when I discovered...

They had inadvertently fixed my brake warning light. 

It seems it was letting me know I was low on fluid.  If the fluid levels were so close to the line that I couldn't tell if it was actually low or not, that might explain why the light kept turning on and off.  A dip in the road might have been enough to change the height of the float, or whatever it is that's used to keep tabs on that.

The story doesn't quite end there, though.

I got a phone call from Steph the next morning.  When she had processed my payment the first time I went in, she had been unsure of what the actual amount I was supposed to pay was.  Since they were closed and no one was there who could explain it to her, she charged me the full amount she was sure of, left the file open, and promised to call me back after clearing it up.  She did that and found that I was now owed $50.  Since I had other errands to run, I was able to head back that afternoon.  By the time I got there, she told me that there was more owed and, with tax, I ended up getting a refund of just under $80.

Final verdict?

Well, Steph had gone a long way to repairing any damage done as far as my anger on discovering all those problems after I'd left.  I do hope they are paying her well, because she's earned it.

They did fix the problems I'd brought it in for, eventually, even if some of it was inadvertent.

Would I go back?

Probably not.  We've had a couple of private garages recommended to us and when it comes time to get the big work done, we'll likely go to one of them rather than back to the dealership.  Unless we need more work done that's covered by our insurance package, I just don't see us going back there.

Sorry, Steph.  You weren't quite enough to win me over completely.



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More to the story

No picture with this post, and this is going to have to be a quick one.  I am tethered to my phone for wireless, and that drains the battery like crazy.

I headed to the garage to be there when they opened.  Told them what  happened and they took me in right away.  Got to talk to the same woman who helped me last night.  I hope they are paying her well!!!

It's now past one and I've been here for 4 hours-ish.  The word so far.

The brake light thing is apparently because we actually need new brakes... at an estimated cost of $1600 or so.  After being burned by garages before, I find myself cynical and utterly not surprised.

The headlight thing... the bulb was changed, which apparently should have been done last night.  It's working now,I am told.  Except bulb wasn't burned out in the first place, so I will be checking on that later.

The grinding noise is being checked right now.  They took the tires off for the inspection and I guess that's what they are doing again to find out what happened.  Considering it started after they did their work, the cynical side of me is expecting them to tell me about some new, expensive fix that will be needed, but the hopeful part in me is thinking they will find something had been left loose and they are sheepishly fixing it as I write.  The cynical part of me is winning right now.

As for the hazard lights, I didn't get a definite answer but it looks like it's connected to the multi-function switch they changed up last night.

We shall see what the final verdict is...when?  Dunno.

Steaming mad. The Saga. (updated)

See this picture?  This is the front of our van.

Note that there's only one headlight.

This is *after* I took it to the garage at the dealership we bought our van at 2 years ago.

So why is it still out?

Good question.

We had some weird things showing up with our electrical system involving the lights that goes back a while.  It started shortly after the left headlight burnt out.  We replaced both headlights and it was fine until the right headlight went out.  Strange that a new bulb would burn out so quickly, but we replaced it again.

It wasn't the bulb.  To make a long story (involving changing the bulb 3 times) shorter, the bulb worked fine, but we still didn't have a headlight.

Annoying, but not too big a deal.

Then other things started happening.

The left turn signal started blinking at double time.  Then it would blink normally again.

Then the dashboard brake light would turn on with a ding.  Alarming, since it's supposed to mean that there's a problem with the brakes.  Then it would go out again.  Then start turning on and off (dinging only rarely) continually.


When I took it in for an oil change and they did a quick check, all the lights were working normally, but I asked the mechanic about it.  My main concern was the brake light.  In describing what was happening, he told me it sounded like a bug in the electrical system and that a garage would have to track it down - something that might take a while.  With how much garages charge by the hour, I was not looking forward to getting it checked.

Things worked normally for a while, but then the headlight died and wouldn't turn on again, the left turn signal stayed at double time, while the brake light in the dash kept turning itself off and on.

Then we discovered the rear driver's side light was out.  The whole unit, including tail light, signal/hazard light and reverse light.  Then they all started working again, except the signal/hazard light.  We noticed that when opening the sliding doors one time.  The hazard lights turn on when the sliding doors are opened, but the amber light in rear driver's side wasn't working.  How long this had been going on, I have no idea - I'm usually driving, so I don't get a chance to see the rear lights.

Things got really weird with the signal lights not long ago.  I went to signal right one time and it started blinking normally, then double time,then back again.  My first thought was that the right turn signal was starting to do the same thing as the left, but when it happened again and I was actually able to look at the dash I discovered it was worse.  The light would start signalling right, then switch to left, then back to right again!  Later on, I'd start signalling right but the left signal would start blinking.  Then they would simply stop turning on at all.  I'd turn them off, then on again at the lever and they would work again, but this was not a good sign!

Then it went back the way it was - left signal on double time (not visible in the back, as far as I knew) with the right signal worked normally.

I finally got around to calling our dealership about several things a little while ago.  One of the three things I asked about was whether or not our Ultimate Wrap coverage, the highest level of coverage available that we've been paying on for the last 2 years, would cover such a problem.  They tried addressing the first two concerns, but never the coverage question.  Of course, they did try to get us to trade in the van for a newer one and we were actually going to come in and take a look at that possibility, but things went downhill rather quickly - I won't go into detail here - and we ended up not coming in and being quite unhappy about it.  In an email to the person we were supposed to meet, I explained what happened, why were weren't happy, and asked (for the third time) about the coverage.

He never responded.

I finally called the insurance company directly.  We talked for quite a while and it was very informative.  They couldn't tell me specifically what would be covered - that required a diagnostic - but I was satisfied that the insurance company was at least on the ball.  All the agents are mechanics, which doesn't hurt.  Anyhow, the agent told me they deal with this dealership on pretty much a daily basis, so he suggested I avoid the front end completely and deal directly with the service department and go there (rather than hunting for a garage that would honour our insurance package).  I was looking through the dealership website trying to find a local number for the service department (rather than the toll free number) when someone popped up on the live chat and offered to help.   Before long, I had an appointment for Monday morning. 

So far so good.

The dealership has moved since we bought the van and I was able to get in to their new location (finding them is part of the problem we had when we tried but failed to visit previously) and entrance.  It then drove around in confusion, trying to figure out where I could park near the service area and go in to ask about my appointment, which was was half an hour early for.  I ended up pulling over next to some people talking and asking.  It turns out there is no such thing.  I had to go to one of the service entrance doors and drive in.  Not too happy with driving into the garage when I had no idea if I was in the right place.

Once in, a woman came over with a clip board.  She asked me a bunch of questions and I explained what was going on. She checked the lights, took notes, then I went over to her little island workspace and we talked more while she inputted it all in the computer.  There was a bit of confusion as she was new and used to GM vehicles, but that got cleared up.  It was eventually worked out that I would get a shuttle ride home while they did the diagnostic.  If the problem was found and fell under our coverage, we'd pay the deductible and whatever else wasn't covered (bulbs, switches, some parts, etc. are exempt).  If it wasn't covered, we'd be stuck paying for the diagnostic.  At $140 an hour, with it possibly needing 2 hours to do.

What choice did I have?  Without the diagnostic, we'd never know what was wrong or whether or not the work was covered.  Meanwhile, it turns out our airbag was recalled, so that would be fixed regardless. 

Home I went, and it was a waiting game for the phone call.  Of course they called while I was at my daughter's guitar lesson, but Philippe was there to take the call.  He sent me a text telling me the repair was covered, so we'd only have to pay $50 of the deductible, plus $60 for some bulbs.  They'd recommended other work, but he gave them the okay only for the stuff we'd brought it in for.  We figured we'd end up paying something like $150 by the time they finished tacking who-knows-what on.  Cynical?  Yes.

Then it was again a waiting game to find out when it would be finished and I'd get a shuttle ride over to get the van.  It was starting to get late enough that we weren't sure we'd get the van back the same day at all - an issue since I had to drive my daughter in for her 5am shift this morning.

We got the call and I got the shuttle ride, arriving just as they were shutting up shop for the evening.  The woman who had helped me before stayed late to process my file.

Did I mention she was new?

There were a few things she didn't know how to do and she had to phone someone, but she walked me through the charges as best she could figure out.  The diagnostic and repairs were paid by the insurance company, while I had charges for bulbs, etc.  The $60 in bulbs, plus the deductible, turned out to be about $155 with everything, plus tax.

There's a reason we're cynical.

So I paid the bill, got my key and headed out.  I eventually found the van and could immediately see the plastic cover was still on the seat.  I went to the drivers door but it was parked next to a truck.  I ended up going through the passenger side, removing the plastic seat cover and cardboard from the floor in the process.

The first thing I noticed as I backed the van out was a strange grinding noise.  WTF???  It seemed to go away as I drove out the lot (left turn signal working fine!).  As I got clear of the lot's lights, I found myself thinking that the fixed headlight must be seriously misaligned, because I can't see very well.

*ding*

WTF?!?!

Yup.  The brake light in the dash turned on again, then immediately turned off again.

No.  Way.   This can't be right.

Sure enough, as I drove along, the light kept turning on and off, though it didn't ding anymore.

Then I noticed the grinding noise again.  It only happened when I turned right, then straighted the wheels, but not when I turned left.  It sounds like something is dragging or rubbing somewhere.

Along the way I stop at a grocery store.  As I pull into a parking spot, I come up behind another car and immediately notice...


There's only one headlight reflecting back at me.

Seriously?

So it looks like they changed the bulb (which wasn't burnt out in the first place) and that was it.  The light still doesn't work.

Needless to say, I was seriously pissed off.

When I got home, I took the time to check the lights.  Front headlight is still out.  Rear lights seem to be working except...

On opening the sliding door to see if the hazard light was working, no hazard lights turned on at all.

Nothing.

I checked the hazard lights by pushing the button in the dash and all 4 lights are working fine.  They're just not turning on when the sliding door is opened.

So I had taken in the van to get the signal light, dashboard brake light and front headlight fixed.

I left with a fixed signal light, still no headlight, still a problem with the dashboard brake light, a grinding noise and the hazard lights not turning on at all when the sliding doors are opened.

The van is actually in worse shape now then when we took it in.

I drove my daughter in for her shift this morning.  We were both rather disturbed by that grinding noise.  When we got to her work, I had her look while I tested the rear lights (brake, reverse, signals) and they are working fine.  Only the left rear signal light, which is also the left rear hazard light, had not been working before.  Aside from that one bulb, the hazard lights had been working when the sliding doors were opened, but now there's nothing.

Going back to sleep after dropping her off was not going to happen, so I wrote this instead.

I am now waiting for things to open.  I'm going to call the insurance company first and let them know they're being charged for work that wasn't done, and that the van is in worse shape now than before.

The woman who'd helped me at the dealership is supposed to call me today.  I'll be calling them as soon as they open.

At this point, I am wanting to take the van in and basically stay there until I get it back.  I've got work I can bring me that will easily occupy me for several hours.

I'm sure as heck not going to pay again for work that I already paid for but didn't get done.

I am also spreading the word.

Feel free to do your part and share this post.  Let everyone know how this dealership treats its customers.


Update:  So I've been looking through the paperwork while waiting for the place to open.  I'll be calling the insurance company when I'm done this.  Looking through it, there is nothing written down about changing the front headlight bulb.  In fact, while the front headlight is mentioned under section A, then refers to section B for repairs, section B only talks about the signal lights.  Nothing about the headlight.  It looks like the headlight wasn't touched at all.  There is no mention of the dashboard brakelight (even tough it was written up in the sheet I signed at the garage) at all.  They did replace the upper mount brake light bulb - I vaguely remember that it was noticed as being out when I got my last oil change, but it's not something we see, so I will just assume it was out and needed changing.  There's nothing about them even looking at the problem of the dashboard light problem.  They replaced a multi-function switch and the left signal bulb, which apparently was the fix for all the signal light problems.

So.

Why do the hazard lights no longer turn on when the sliding doors are opened?

Why does my van now make a grinding noise when making a righ turn?

Why was the brake light in the dash never looked at?

Why was my front headlight never fixed?

Time to start making phone calls.





Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Morning Traffc


This is a view I see every morning on my way to work; figured it was about time I tried capturing it :)

P.




Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No spam zone

Folks, we really appreciate it when messages are left in the comments.  Feedback is great and we welcome and appreciate it.

Unfortunately, I've seen an increase in pseudo spam, where people leave messages in the comments that have nothing to do with the post, but are brazen hooks to get people to look at their websites.  To the folks doing this, I don't care how "complimentary" you think you are being.  If you're waxing poetic about how meaningful my post is, and all I did was post a photo of a stick of deodorant on a sign, it's pretty obvious you haven't actually read the post and are just phishing.  I consider these spam and delete them.  Please stop it.  I do not want to have to start moderating comments.

update:  And I immediately get a spam comment.  *sigh*

Switching the comments to moderation.  Sorry, folks.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Morning fog

One of the nice things about morning walks is that I get the opportunity to see things like this. The fog ended up burning off within 20 or so minutes, but I got a few worthwhile shots while it was there :D




Sunday, September 25, 2011

Writers' Corner



Susan Juby at the EPL Writers' Corner.

update:  I sent this photo from my mobile phone with little explanation.  I was more interested in the talk than my phone. ;-)

Our local library branch has started up something called Writer's Corner, with a series of guest authors coming to speak.  When my friend asked me if I was interested in going with her, I really didn't know what to expect.  I'm glad we went.  Susan Juby was a great speaker and had a lot of interesting information to share.  I really enjoyed it.

Now I'm curious about her books, and the other Writer's Corner sessions! :-)



Friday, September 23, 2011

My food is looking at me.





Today the girls and I headed to Kyoto for lunch.  Handily, it's close to my husband's office, so he was able to join us.  This has become one of our new favorite restaurants.  Well, for the food, anyhow. Unfortunately, their service is touch and go.  Today, when the girls and I arrived in advance of my husband at about 11 (we go out of our way to avoid the lunch crowd), we told the hostess there'd be 4 of us, not three.  As we were being seated, we were asked if we could possibly not take too long because they had a lot of reserved tables for noon, and it would be really appreciated if we would be able to finish before then.  Uhm.  Yeah.  An hour is more than enough time to eat there, but still... it was awkward.  Then we sat down to our menus and realized that one had not been left for my husband.  It ended up not mattering, as he ordered his usual (Gyu Don), and it took long enough for him to join us that he could use one of ours, but still...

Yeah.

Anyhow.

My younger daughter and I love their Bento Box D, which has chicken, beef, green salad and their awesome tempura vegetables and seafood.  Their tempura is excellent.  I seriously considered their tempura vegetable lunch as an appetizer, but decided against it.  We wanted to be out by noon, after all....  My older daughter, on the other hand, has discovered their chirashi and LOVES it.



She is much braver than I am, when it comes to food!
You see that battered, spiky thing in the back, with the lettuce leaf behind it?  It's a tempura battered upper body of a prawn. See that dark spot under the piece of crab leg?  

That's an eye.

Yes, her lunch was looking at me as I took this photo.

And then my daughter ate it.





Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cold Night

The nice things about cold night is the fact that the sky is so clear. :)

These two shots are essentially left and right views of the same river bend.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sonic Boom

In between sets at the Sonic Boom music festival.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Strays

We've had a couple of stray cats showing up on our balcony in the last while.  Today was the first time both of them showed up at the same time.

Strays

My younger daughter has named this one Freya.  When we first saw her, she still had an old red collar around her neck.  The first time we saw her without it, you could see a patch of skin where the fur had been rubbed all, and a smaller area where the skin was rubbed raw.

Strays

Clearly, this had been a house pet.  She loves cuddles.  Every time she comes to visit, she's rubbing all around our legs and rolling on the floor of our balcony.  When we sit on the patio swing, she likes to sit beside us for pets.  This time, she was comfortable enough to climb into my daughter's lap and even started to doze.  She doesn't like to be picked up, but if you pick her up and put her down beside you, she immediately starts to purr and snuggle.

Strays

While I was taking pictures of Freya beside me on the swing, we heard some meowing and off Freya went to check it out.  Here, the other stray - my daughter has named her Horatio - is squeezing under the door to the fire escape.  They seem to know each other, and be comfortable with each other.

Strays

As you can see, Horatio is in rougher shape. 

Though more cautious than Freya, Horatio also seems to have been a house pet and is very friendly.  She's constantly on the move, so it was hard to get a good picture in the fading light, even after giving her some food.  She will lie on the seat of the patio swing as well, accepts pets, but is not quite as cuddly.  She's more nervous, and I think she's seen some mistreatment.  That doesn't seem to stop her from seeking out human company!

My daughter is still out on the balcony with both of them, in her glory.

Sadly, we already have 2 cats and that's the limit for pets in our townhouse.  Not that our cats like seeing these two around!  They'll sit in the window and hiss at them.

With winter coming, they are going to need some shelter.  Time to ask a friend at the pound for advice.

UPDATE Sept. 22, 2011:  Well, now.

The first thing my friend suggested was to see if they have microchips, so I took them in to an animal hospital to have them checked.  They were really great about going into the old dog carrier (went in voluntarily) we have.  They were checked thoroughly, but have no microchips.

Horatio, however, was hiding a secret under that long fur.  Testicles.  Yes, Horatio is a male.  No surprise, then, that Freya appears to be pregnant.  I was hoping that belly she was getting was because she was finally getting enough to eat.

There are so many cats at the SPCA and the pound, that we're going to see if we can adopt them out on our own.  The chances that they will be euthanised is too high for our comfort level.  They are such sweet and affectionate cats, but who would be willing to take on a pregnant cat?


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reflections.

They say the best camera is the one you have on you. So here is a cell phone photo of City Hall reflected in the wading pool. Here I sit with my daughter, listening to the strains of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Living Book

Today my older daughter and I headed downtown for a library event. Along with a book sale, entertainment and more, they had several people acting as Living Books. This is my friend Laura. :-)

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She's awesome, has had an amazing life and, from our past conversations, I know she would have been a most interesting Living Book! I look forward to hearing more about how it went from her perspective.

Living Books is a very interesting concept. Volunteers are chosen to represent various groups. People can "check out" their Living Book and ask whatever questions they want about this person's experiences. In Laura's case, she was The Life of a Traveler. Others shared their experiences as a Cree woman, a formerly homeless man, an adoptee, an immigrant, a mom of triplets, and many more. Each person could be "checked out" for 45 minutes and did 3 time slots. Each time slot got reserved weeks ago! This has turned out to be a very popular program, and I am tickled that my friend got to take part. :-D



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Walking

At Churchill Square, swing by from the library to see what's going on. I saw banners reading Celebrate Edmonton, and more BBQ's going than I have ever seen before! Rows and rows and tents full of them, with a cloud of smoke and the delicious smells of charred animal flesh hovering over the square.

Now I'm hungry!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Trying new things.


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Originally uploaded by amkb

The girls and I like to try new foods now and again. My older daughter has particularly adventurous tastes. *L* Today while shopping in a grocery store we don't often visit, she went through the import aisle and found these. Taro flavoured mochi.

How... fascinating. *L*

We had no idea what it was, though after looking it up I realized it was just a matter of forgetting the name. I even have recipes for mochi. We just never had the chance to try it before.

I'm not sure if I like it! The taste is sweet and I like taro, but the texture...


... it's like flesh. That's all I can think to compare it too! When we opened the package, we all just sort of looked at them for a bit. It did not look much like the photo on the package. Then I poked at it.

Gah!!!!!!

So... fleshy.

That didn't stop us from trying it, though.

We've had two each, and I still don't know if I like it or not. That weird, chewy, fleshy texture.

I just asked both girls what they thought. My younger daughter can't get past the texture and has decided she finds it icky. My older just said, "skin!" *L*

Yeah, that about sums it up.

Yet I can picture myself suddenly craving this stuff at some point!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Floating


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Originally uploaded by amkb

A pair of hot air balloons as seen from our balcony. What a view they must have up there!

Click on the image to go to my flickr page and see a few more photos.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wishing I had my real camera

Wishing I had my real camera! Cariwest in Churchill Square.

Friday Night Folk Fest


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Originally uploaded by amkb

My first attempt at time lapse photography. I don't have all the equipment to make this easier - namely, I lack a timer! I spent the evening sitting on the balcony with a tea timer. *L*

I used a Nikon D80 with a Nikkor 70-300mm lens. I had the ISO at 100 and the camera set on Program. To reduce vibrations, I weighted the camera with a bag of lentils. *L* Most of the images were taken at 5 minute intervals, but after it got dark, the timing relied more on whether or not something interesting was going on. I did move the camera every once in a while. At one point, I noticed the crowd seemed to congregate off to the side for a while. Later on, when the shutter was open for several seconds, some bright lights near the tents were overwhelming the shots, so I adjusted to move them out. As the festival wound down at 1 am, I adjusted to better view the people leaving.

The images were put together using Magix Movie Edit Pro15 Plus. Each image is set to 0.15 seconds. The music is called Serious Curious, and is proprietary to the Magix software.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Playing

It's that time of year again. Music from the annual Edmonton Folk Festival is drifting in through our windows, and out our south facing windows we can see the crowds on the hill. Every year I think that maybe this year, I should get tickets and actually go to the festival. I only ever hear rave reviews.

Then I see the crowds on the hill and realize that, as much as I'd love to check it out, I just don't have the temperament for it! *L*

Instead, I enjoy the view and take a few pictures. Once it gets dark, I like to start playing with the camera. For tonight, I'm particularly happy with this one.

2011 Edmonton Folk Festival

There's a bit of noise reduction and local tone mapping done to this, plus it's 50% of the original size. The timing worked out rather well. I started off zoomed in as far as I could, then while the shutter was open, zoomed all the way out again. (Nikkor 70-300mm lens) In the second or so that took, the stage, which faces away from our balcony, suddenly lit up with a bright blue-ish white light, adding an extra element to the photo.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hmm.

Every now and then, you see something that makes you wonder how the heck someone managed to do something. Take this little escapade.

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We came out a couple of mornings ago to find this, which is across the road from our home and part of the housing co-op we live in. If you visit my flickr set, you can see the damage to a willow tree outside of this shot, too.

Now, for someone to jump the curb, run up against a tree and a street sign, through a hedge, then back onto the street it odd enough. It gets more interesting when you see the angle from the other side of the hedge.



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Yes, there's a retaining wall there. You can see the black marks left by the tires as the vehicle, whatever it was, went over it. The tire marks continued down the lane, then went off the road to the other side of a power pole, through some mud and grass, before joining up with the lane again and eventually disappearing onto the road.

Just how, exactly, does one do something like this? And what kind of vehicle was it that could do it? I'm guessing it was something jacked up rather high, as there's no sign that the body of a vehicle scraped anywhere on the tree, sign or retaining wall.

Hmm.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

2011 Taste of Edmonton - part two

Well, our plans to head out early today were ended by the deluge of rain this morning. What a downpour!

By mid afternoon, it was looking safe to head out. My older daughter decided to stay home, but my younger daughter, Danielle, had to go to the library. It's right at the square the festival is being held at, so she decided to take it in after all.

2011 Taste of Edmonton

For our first tastes, we picked up a Hurricane Potato from Korean Village, then went back to Lit - Italian Wine Bar for their Basil stuffed Bocconcini with Prosciutto Wrap.

The Hurricane Potato is a really fun dish! Danielle is not a big potato fan. She likes her mashed potatoes and that's about it. She's the only kid I've know who didn't like french fries. So when she says she found the Hurricane Potato delicious, that's pretty impressive! *L* I found it very tasty as well.

As for the stuffed bocconcini...

Wow. That was SO delicious!!! Danielle didn't know what bocconcini was (I have bought it once before, but we really didn't know what to do with it), so she wasn't sure what to expect. When I asked her what she thought of it, all she could say was "MMMMMmmmm!!!" while savouring every bite. Both this dish and the Ahi tuna salad Nicole and I tried there yesterday took longer to get than at any other booth we tried, but they were well worth it. It was fabulous!

2011 Taste of Edmonton


Next up, we went to The Palace Banquets for their Bacon Wrapped Scallops, then to Kyoto for their Canada Maki and Tempura shrimp. These were all sure things for us. The scallops are a tried and true favorite and one of the things we get as a treat after we've tried all the new stuff we were interested in. I had the maki last year, but Danielle hadn't, so it's a new one for her.

As expected the scallops were wonderful. So much flavour! What a treat.

Of the other two, the tempura shrimp is another treat. The downtown location for Kyoto is near my husband's office, and is among the places on our list of restaurants to go to when we meet him for lunch every now and then. Their service kinda sucks, but the food is always really good. The shrimp did not disappoint. The tempura batter is light and crispy and it's cooked just right. We both liked it.

Danielle is new to enjoying sushi type foods. Last year, she wouldn't even try it, but since then she's developed a taste for the California rolls Nicole and I sometimes get, so she was willing to try it this year. She liked the maki, except she wasn't big on the cucumber. She just doesn't like cucumber much. Still, she found it good. I found the flavours very fresh and light, and really enjoyed it.

2011 Taste of Edmonton

Our next stop, we again went back to booths Nicole and I had gone to yesterday. I knew Danielle would like to try the chocolate shooters from The Sutton Place Hotel (I was right, she loved them), and I wanted to try the Grilled Hungarian Sausage with Potato Salad from Bistro Praha, which is the same place we got the marinated strawberries and vanilla whipped cream from.

Danielle is indifferent to sausage at the best of times. She found it good, but not good enough to actually eat all of her half. She liked the potato salad better - another surprise from her! I, on the other hand, found it amazing. Grilling really took the sausage a step up, and the potato salad had a wonderful lingering flavour. In fact, it was so good, I gave my chocolate shooter to Danielle, because I didn't want to spoil the flavours by eating something sweet. It was just so satisfying - comfort food at its best! In fact, as torn as I am by the prosciutto wrapped bocconcini and the bacon wrapped scallops, I really thing the grilled sausage and potato salad was my favourite dish of all.

2011 Taste of Edmonton

For our last dish, we went for stuff we like, but from places we've never been to before. We got hooked on Taro flavoured bubble tea just a few short weeks ago, but this one was from I Love Bubble Tea, which is new for us (sorry, can't seem to find a link for them). It was delicious. The tapioca balls on the bottom were a different size that we were used to, and the texture was remarkably like a slushie, but these were not negatives, by any means.

I was a bit nervous to try the pad thai. I love pad thai, but have only ever tried it from one place, which allows me to choose the amount of heat I want. Being sensitive to spicy foods, I always picked the least amount. This pad thai was from Numchok Wilai Restaurant (their booth was one of my favourites for their decoration). I was really surprised by the quantity they gave, which barely fit on the plate. It was mildly flavoured, so my concerns about heat were for naught. It was slightly sweet, which is not something I am big on, but quite tasty. The bits of sprouts added a nice crunch. It was one of those things I liked more, the more I ate of it. Danielle, on the other hand, doesn't care for pad thai at all. She took a small taste and that was it. Not her thing.

At this point, we'd used up all the tickets budgeted for this year.

Today we had a lot more hits than misses compared to yesterday, which was strangely disappointing. We've got a couple of new restaurants on our list of places to look for, that's for sure!

I'm already looking forward to trying more new things next year!

Monday, July 25, 2011

2011 Taste of Edmonton - part one

Hello again!

With various goings-on in our home, we've missed out on some of the festivals being held in downtown Edmonton. Taste of Edmonton, however, is one I didn't want to miss!

My younger daughter isn't as interested this year, so it's just my older daughter, Nicole, and I this year. We usually split things between two days, focusing first on trying new stuff before we finish off our tickets on some tried and true favorites.

The festival runs from 11am to 11pm. Usually we go during the day to beat the lunch rush, but with the heat, we tried going in the evening this time. Unfortunately, that meant my pictures sucked. I did manage to fix some to upload to my flickr account, but most weren't worth making the effort. We're planning to go back for 11am tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll get some better shots.

You can see all the photos in the set I made for this year's festival. For now, I've just got the booths we bought from and the dishes we tried.

Here are our first dishes.

2011 Taste of Edmonton

First we checked out Lit - Italian Wine Bar for the Seared Galliano Crusted Ahi Tuna Salad, and Hoang Long Restaurant and Noodle House for Grilled Quail with Pomegranate Sauce.

Nicole was really looking forward to trying the Ahi tuna salad, but I was much more trepidatious. I don't like tuna much, and have a real problem with raw or seared flesh. I like my protein cooked! No surprise that Nicole loved it, but I surprised myself in being able to eat the tuna without shuddering. That's a big accomplishment. *L* As for the rest, it was very tasty, and an interesting combination of flavours and textures. The touch of salt really made a big difference.

We were both looking forward to the quail, which neither of us have had before. We both love pomegranate, so this should have been a shoe-in.

Surprisingly, it wasn't. Nicole's verdict was "not bad." I found it good. We both found it difficult to eat. By the time I finished getting the meat off all those little bones, I felt like I hadn't actually eaten anything. It was tasty but... not as good as we'd hoped.

On to the next two dishes.

2011 Taste of Edmonton

Here we have Teriyaki Salmon on Rice from Zen and Lamb Tostada with Avocado Creme Fraiche from Zinc.

Zinc is a rather new restaurant we've been interested in trying out, so we were pretty happy to see them represented at the festival. I found it very tasty. It had more heat than I expected. I have a very low tolerance for spicy food, but this wasn't too much for me. The tostada on the bottom really added to it. Nicole, on the other hand, found it tasted like a burrito, which was a touch off-putting for her. She didn't find it bad, but it wasn't what she was expecting, and not as good as she'd hoped.

As for the Teriyaki Salmon, we had an interesting diversion of opinions. I don't particularly like salmon. That part was all right, but for me, it was the sauce that made the dish. Nicole, on the other hand, loves salmon, but doesn't care for teriyaki. She found the sauce much too salty for her liking, but really enjoyed the salmon (she is indifferent to rice). There was only one small piece of salmon for us to split, which she found a bit disappointing.

Next up, we went for something sweet.

2011 Taste of Edmonton

The marinaded strawberries were from Praha, and the cappacino chocolate from The Sutton Place Hotel. (Note; I'm using the spelling from their sign.)

The shooter cups were easily the most adorable items being served! At only one ticket each ($1), they were also the best deal. They had a very intense chocolate flavour. In fact, chocolate was pretty much all we could taste. I happen to love chocolate, especially dark chocolate, but Nicole can take it or leave it. She didn't particularly like the texture of the dark chocolate cup, but it was nice. Neither of us could taste the cappacino.

As for the strawberries, they were good. We both love strawberries, and we both like whipped cream. Neither of us could taste the Grand Marni er the strawberries were marinated in, so it basically just came across as ... well, strawberries and whipped cream. We quite enjoyed it, but nothing made it stand out for us.

For our last dishes of the day, we mixed sweet and savory.

2011 Taste of Edmonton

The Mango Lassi was from Khazana Authentic Tandoori Cuisine, while the wasabi beef on a bun was from Hawkeyes Too.

We are not big mango fans, but Nicole wanted to try it out after seeing how good they looked on display. I chose the wasabi beef.

I found the wasabi beef to be delicious and tender. The wasabi wasn't overpowering, but my inability to handle heat did me in. As much as I wanted to, I couldn't finish it off. Nicole enjoyed it as well - more than she expected.

As for the mango lassi, she really enjoyed it and, surprisingly, I did as well. I found it quite sweet, but the smooth creaminess countered the spice from the wasabi very well. The mango flavour was quite intense. We both liked the texture of it.

In the end, we enjoyed all the dishes, but still found it rather disappointing. It was all good, but nothing was really exceptional. We actually both settled on the Ahi tune salad as our favourite (even though I would have preferred it without the tuna, which my daughter finds quite amusing).

What I found strange is that, even after having 8 different items between two of us, we didn't feel like we'd had much at all. Last year, with 3 of us sharing 9 items, we were usually very full by the time we had dessert. This time around, we found ourselves debating going someplace to sit down and eat. The quantities don't seem to have changed from last year, and we're splitting 2 ways instead of three, but it just didn't feel like we ate much at all. Very strange.

In fact, I'm rather hungry right now. Time to find something more substantial to eat...

Road trip 2011, part four

Well, I'm finally back and catching up on the road trip photos. This time, I've uploaded a few taken at my sister's farm.

visiting my sister

My younger daughter and I got a chance to spend the night with my sister and her husband. Of course, what country visit would be it be if we didn't get a chance to check out the garden, barnyard and cows? *L* Their farm is alongside a creek, with some pretty gorgeous views. As we were walking along the shore, their heifers saw us and decided to check us out. The first time, the path took as through a small bunch of trees. Before long, we were completely surrounded by cows! They were curious and willing to come close, but not too close! After a while, we continued on our way and they stopped following us. On the way back, however, they all gathered around us again. The dog kept coming in between us and the cows, barking if he felt they were getting too close. In the above picture, it's the dog they're all staring at.

As you can see, they aren't particularly intimidated!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day Three

Part of my daughter's booth, newly set up for the third day of the Art Walk. It technically doesn't start for another 20 minutes, but just about everyone around us is up and ready to go.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Art Walk

The section of the Art Walk my daughter has a booth in. There is some awesome talent represented here!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Road Trip 2011, part three

I've added a bunch of photos to my flickr set for this trip. While out, we stayed with my parents on the farm I grew up on. One of my brothers has his own place just up the road, a handy little walk away.

A lot of the farm shots have stories behind them, and will probably get posts of their own. Until then, here some others for you to enjoy.


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This is one of several gardens my mother has. The vegetable garden has gotten smaller over the years, though it's still quite large. There are flower gardens, fruit trees and berry bushes as well. This little garden was mostly flowers when I was growing up on the farm. Now it's got more veggies in it - handy to have, closer to the house. With all the rain and cold in MB, the gardens when in a month late and the ground has often been too muddy to tend. It was just starting to dry up a bit during our visit.




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There is a new addition near my parents' big garden - a couple of honey bee hives! My late uncle always kept bees, and he loved tending them. After my uncle died, one of his son in laws took over. Now my cousin in law runs Honeybee Meadows and he and his wife sell their honey as a nice little business. I made a point of picking up a big bucket of honey from them to bring home with me! :-) These are their hives, taking advantage of the many seasonal flowers my mother has, though from here, clover is all you can see. The row of trees behind the hives is mostly lilac, though there is a chokecherry tree in there as well (which my dad has used to make wine in the past). I'm sure there are others my mom has added over the years I don't know the names of! *L*




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The ditch between my parents' place and my brother's was filled with flowers. Mostly Daisies and Wild Roses, but also Black Eyes Susans, creeping Buttercups, and many more I just don't know the names of.

During one of our walks back, however, we spotted this single Lady's Slipper that suddenly appeared. It wasn't blooming when we walked past the day before. It was hard to get a photo with the breeze, but I think this one worked out all right. We had found two more of a different type of Lady's Slipper in the spruce grove near my parents' house that I just wasn't able to get a good shot of.




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It was a beautiful evening when we visited with my brother, so we sat outside to chat - thoroughly covered in bug spray, I might add. It was so nice to sit out there, surrounded by trees and flowers, several cats and the dog, enjoying each other's company. While there, we saw several deer passing through a clearing. They were a bit too fast for me, but I did manage to get a couple of shots.

Gotta love country living!



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This is a neighbour's field we pass when driving from my parents' farm to town. When I was a kid, I loved bison, so I was pretty thrilled when people started to keep them. The babies you can just see over the tall grass are so adorable! They're such fascinating animals to look at.

Tasty, too.