My Final Say for 2011

2011 is on it’s last legs. Not a bad, bad year per se, but we had our ups and downs. We at least managed to get our new deck built and hopefully in 2012 we’ll get some of our windows replaced. The living room transom window is dripping like a fountain – the seal is broken – and the office window certainly needs changing too. Dampness has been a dirty word in this household and we’d really like to replace all of the windows, but will have to do so in instalments.

We also finally received and got hooked-up the new Airport Express. So far we’re not having any trouble getting the internet, but just our dumb luck, the Apple TV is now lighting up every once in awhile. A white light will come on and stay for about 10 seconds and then turn off and not necessarily in any time pattern. I’ve put it into sleep mode, I’ve checked and rechecked the settings and I’ve downloaded the latest update. Now I’m in the throws of more online research to see what the heck is going on. Technology really does make your life a lot easier, but jeez Louise, it can be a living hell whenever it acts up. As much as I love Apple products, there are times when I think Steve Jobs felt there were only geeks wandering this planet!

As Nat and I wanted to see our best friends before the end of the year, we took a drive into St. Catharines on Friday. We decided to make a good day of it, so on our way we stopped in Niagara Falls at The Mandarin for a nice lunch. We then continued on our way into St. Catharines, loaded up on Kaisers at our favourite bakery, and then drove over to Floris and Cecil’s for a really nice visit, got caught up on some news and enjoyed tea and biscuits before heading back home.

New Year’s Eve day saw the two of us getting ready for the rest of the week as usual. With groceries and other errands done in the morning, we then returned home, had a bite to eat and then started a little light house cleaning and completed a couple loads of laundry. The kids will be coming over tomorrow just before noon, so I wanted to get one day ahead. As I was on the last stages of my jigsaw puzzle I sat in the dining room afterward trying to get it completed so I could free up the table for Sunday lunch. It wasn’t long after Nat finished watching a football (soccer) game on telly, when he stuck his head through the door and asked if it was finished yet. “Almost”, I replied, “but with your help it’ll go a lot quicker”. So he joined in and by 3:30 pm we had finished. “Have one last long look, dear”, he said, “it’s gotta get torn up soon!” After our supper I broke up the pieces and popped them in the little ziploc bag. I’ll keep it until I get a chance to send it on to Jenny. Being the City of Calgary, Alberta, I think she’ll get a kick out of it.

The 2nd of January Nat will celebrate another birth year – very, very much to his chagrin. With Susan, Tom, Laura and the grandkids coming over tomorrow we’ll have a small lunch of cold cuts, roasted chicken pieces, salads and potato chips before Nat opens up his gifts. I found him a gorgeous blue sweater at Gary Water’s Store when shopping with Bonnie and I know he’ll love it. He loves the clothing at Gary Water’s but feels it may be a bit too “high end” for him. Personally, I think it’s not. He’s a “high end” kind of guy and looks fabulous in the sweaters I’ve bought in the past.

We’re looking forward to Sunday and seeing the kids, as we don’t see them that often anymore. So we’ll enjoy the first day of 2012 with family and hope the good times continue throughout the year.

Happy New Year to everyone and hope 2012 is successful for all.

Yes, We’re Still Here

Neither one of us can believe how idle we’ve become these past few weeks. The odd day or so we’ll drive down the road on a couple of errands. It’s usually WalMart for some doodad (much to my chagrin) or Canadian Tire or for groceries. The other odd days I’ve been doing Christmas baking, and I’m really on a roll in this department. As my hip hasn’t been bothering me since our return from Britain, I’m taking advantage of how good I’m feeling and heading down the road like a steam-roller.

For excitement, Nat and I have been watching the PVC guys come by now and again to do their markings for utilities, etc. all along Dominion Road. Apparently we’ll be getting house number poles for the emergency response people. These poles will be lined up in the front of each home that have the individual house numbers on them. Nat and I have seen them mostly in rural areas where it’s completely impossible to read house numbers in the dark. This way the emergency response folks can find any particular house without any hassles, as the numbers are on blue background and are visible at night. It’s a good thing and no complaints from our perspective – except for one more thing Nat has to mow around in the summer!

For excitement I’ve also decided to rework some of our pictures in the bedroom, dining room and office. Every now and again I have this need to re-organize something, and this time it’s pictures. Nat and I were very pleased with some of the photos we took on our trip to Britain, so we had some enlarged and framed and I’ve been hanging them up in groupings. The dining room is now done and I’m now trying to figure out the bedroom. Being the impatient one that I am, I managed to take some of the paint away on one bedroom wall while taking down the old pictures I wanted to replace. As careful as I think I’m being, I never manage to do a good job, but Nat’s assures me we can fix the two little patches and we’ll be good to go. Naturally, the new picture arrangement I want to hang won’t cover those two little spots. Figures!!

The Christmas cards are also done, thanks to a pair of idle hands. It’s nice to get them done early, especially the international ones. As we won’t really be celebrating Christmas ourselves, we won’t be putting up a tree. We did plan, however, to at least decorate the fireplace mantel and a table or two. At least now we’ll look as if we’re in the Christmas spirit. In the past few years Nat and I have bought one larger item and have called that our Christmas gift to each other. It’s usually something for the house that we can both use – one year it was a big screen TV (which has since been replaced due to a blown tube) and last year it was the Apple TV which we both enjoy watching movies via the internet and iTunes. This year Nat’s found a golf club he likes and is now asking what I’d like to get. To be honest I have no “blinking” idea. I’ve searched the cobwebs of my brain, rattled and browsed a few weekend flyers and even spent a couple hours on Amazon.ca, but to no avail. I know I want lots of things, like more clothes, shoes, handbags, the latest and greatest Apple product, etc. but let’s face it – when in hell am I going to wear or use it all!!

In an effort to solve our Christmas gift problems we wandered into St. Catharines this afternoon. Nat decided to hit Golf Town and see if he could tryout that new driver he’s been looking at. His success was kind of a failure, as he had bad luck getting distance from this new club. With some disappointment showing in his face, and after talking to the sales person, we left the store empty-handed. He’s now leaning towards maybe getting some refresher lessons and maybe work out a few kinks and bad habits he’s developed over the past couple of years. We then headed over to Best Buy to look at printers. Another disappointment, I’m afraid, as this big box store didn’t sell what I was looking for – the Epson series which I really love. So we picked up a Christmas gift for someone on our list and headed for home. On the way, we stopped in at Future Shop and as it happens found what I was looking for, only a newer model. Not knowing whether I’ll use the little extra doodads on this newer model, we again walked out of the store empty-handed. I’ll do some research online and see what I can come up with – if I do end up actually deciding on a new printer. It’s starting to look like another bit of a disappointing Christmas. Much like last year, things aren’t going exactly the way I wish they would, but then I’m getting older now and have to face a personal and financial reality. I suppose I can always ask Nat to just give me a few dozen chocolates from Nigh’s and I can drown my sorrows in wonderful dark chocolate with creamy centres!!

How Much Rain Can Anyone Take?

Waking up this morning I was somewhat hopeful. Looking out the bedroom window everything looked dry – no rain. After getting dressed, Nat and I sat down for a little while before heading into Niagara Falls to visit Karly and Lucas. The two kids were going to be around so we could pop in to give them their belated Easter gifts.

Upon arrival we discovered the two kids had slept in. Who could blame them, a long weekend, no homework and time on their hands. The four of us sat down in the living room and had a great visit. They were pleased with their chocolate rabbit and iTunes cards and while Lucas continued to wake up we got caught up on what Karly has been doing lately. She enjoyed her job at the Veterinarian Hospital, but realized it wasn’t going to be quite as fulfilling as she had hoped. She’s now decided to continue with a veterinary education but branch out into a more challenging position. After her Grade 12 graduation in June, she’s going to repeat Grade 12 for one more year and then head up north to a college that will give her the courses she needs. Karly has always been a huge animal lover and now wants to pursue a career in saving and preserving wildlife of any size, shape or species. An admirable profession, I’d say!

Lucas by now was starting to show signs of life and after inquiring what his summer plans were, he replied “Still looking for a job”. “Any ideas as to what or with whom?”, we inquired. “Probably KFC”, he replied jokingly. Nat and I are pretty sure this young man has no idea of what he wants to do or where he wants to go. For now he’s loving his baseball games, his time off and his bed. This is one little saga we’ll have to sit and watch to unfold.

With our visit over and allowing the two kids to get back to their day off, we grabbed a bite to eat at Tim Horton’s, and continued home to vote early. This election has been tough for Nat and I, as we’ve struggled to decide which way to go. Who was going to be the lesser of three or four evils. As we had now finally made up our minds we decided to vote early and it would be done. Naturally, once we arrived at Tim Horton’s, the rain drops began. They continued on when we were finished, once we had voted and on the way home. Nat was disappointed, as he was hoping it would have stayed off long enough for him to get the lawn mowed. With the amount of rain we’ve had this past month the lawn has been having a great old time growing more and more.

The rain continued all afternoon and into the evening. We even understand it’s going to be on for the rest of the week and we’re now officially depressed. If nothing else it’s been an exacerbating month not being able to get out much. If we had been more clever, I suppose we should have tackled some of those indoor jobs that need doing. Not knowing at the time, however, that the whole month of April was going to be a wet one we sloughed off a bit and am now in a slump unable to muster up any ambition to do anything. Lacking sunshine and natural Vitamin C can eventually make anyone depressed. We’ll continue to keep the good thoughts and hope like hell the sun shines in May!!

By way of a P.S. – Nat and I watched The King’s Speech last night via our Apple TV. What a fabulous movie and certainly deserving of every Oscar award it received. The storyline was absolutely enlightening – little bits of background information not necessarily known to the general public – along with great cinema photography. I’m thinking this is one movie that I’d probably run out and buy to have in my collection. If you’re thinking about it, run, don’t walk, to your movie rental place and pick it up. It’s well worth the money and more!!

Another Day, Another Bloody Sump Pump And A Handbrake

So!! How’s your new year so far? If someone were to ask hubby and myself right now we’d respond “Crappy, thank-you”. At first we thought it was going pretty good. Our New Year’s day was quiet and nice. Nat’s birthday was nice. This morning started off nice. Our plumber called while Nat was out clearing the driveway of the snow that had fallen overnight, and wanted to know if we’d be available within the next hour. He was going to drop by and install that new sump pump that arrived prior to Christmas and we’d have a new back-up ready to go again. Nat was thrilled. He was finally going to get this whole affair finalized.

As soon as Bart arrived, the two men trotted downstairs and got to work immediately. Within twenty minutes or so, Bart was trotting back upstairs – guess he needed something from his truck. Back down he went and within another twenty minutes he was back up again. Believing very faithfully that things were going okay, I started to fix lunch for Nat and myself. No sooner had I finished and was in the office waiting for the final word “Your bill is in the mail”, Nat was soon pacing back and forth behind my chair. “What are you looking for?”, I asked. “The serial number for that new sump pump”, he replied. Not wanting to actually say those words “Yeah, I’ve got it right here“, knowing Nat was obviously not in the joking mood, I went for the “Major Receipts” box where I store all of those papers, receipts, etc. that contain vital information should it ever be needed. I grabbed the “Heating, Air-Conditioning & Sump Pump” file (having added the words “Sump Pump” after that last episode). I found the receipt and shipping information from the latest sump pump that was shipped to us in December. No serial number. “Why do you need the serial number?”, I asked (knowing full well what was coming). “That new sump pump isn’t working”, replied Nat. Those infamous words that come back to bite us. We knew the events that happened in December – wherein the Ridgid folks sent us a new sump pump instead of a possible broken switch – were too good to be true. Apparently once installed Bart couldn’t get the new pump to work; it could only drain the water very slowly and was starting to get warm. Not a good sign, apparently. He was asking if we could get in touch with the Ridgid people again to see how we could resolve this whole affair.

What were the odds that getting in touch with Ridgid again would be easy. Well, it wasn’t. We called the toll-free number and it rang, and it rang, and it rang. Thinking it was lunch time and the boys broke to grab a bite, we tried again later. Same result – continuous ringing or a message that put us on hold for an eternity. At this point I told Nat to give up. I’m now thinking they weren’t open and that we’d have to try again tomorrow. In the meantime, I had managed to find this company’s web site and left a message on the “Contact Us” portion hoping that we’d get a response.

While all of this was going on, Bart was on his way out the door to see about other jobs, but took the old switch with him from the original sump pump that broke. He knew of a plumbing guy that stored parts and was going to check to see if he had some sort of replacement. When we called Bart to let him know that we weren’t having any luck getting a hold of the boys in Ohio, he returned with a replacement switch and repaired and re-installed the previous sump pump. Now thinking that we’d be home free for a day or two, we soon settled in for what was left of our afternoon. Nat worked on some crosswords and I hung out in the office playing with a program I knew about and finally had the chance to try – Handbrake. My success in that department is noted below.

With supper over and Nat now settling in to watch the news, he was listening for any noises coming from the sump pump room. This has become a habit of his ever since moving into this old house. It will come to no surprise when I tell you he’s a bit of a worry-wart. I can’t blame him, actually, with what’s gone on in this house, and the troubles we’ve had!! I’m not sure what made him very aware of something, but suddenly he’s running back down to the sump pump room and within several minutes was back upstairs explaining that the pump with the replacement switch wasn’t working very efficiently. He managed to make an adjustment to at least get it running a little better. It was very evident by the look of his new sweater and now dirt-covered blue jeans, that he was mucking about in that bloody sump pump hole! Guess who’s coming to our house tomorrow, again!!!! This is getting to be one saga I wish would just end!!!

As for my day – well it was going pretty good, despite what was happening downstairs. A long time ago I had heard about Handbrake but have never had a chance to try it out, until today. Since there was nothing else for me to do upstairs while the men were down, and since I’m having such success with Apple TV I thought this would be a good time to convert some of our home movies. I had already converted them from VHS format to DVD – using our VHS/DVD player/recorder – but thought to myself “Hmmmm, why not put them onto the computer where we could watch them through Apple TV??” You may ask “Why not just play them through your DVD player”?  Well, I might replay “What’s the fun in that? With the touch of a couple of buttons we can watch our home movies without leaving our chairs to put the DVD disc into the DVD player”. Besides I’m looking for any excuse to use this program wherein it converts any video format to any Windows or Mac format. If you care to know the technical lingo – it’s an open source, multiplatform, multithread video transcoder for MAC OS X, Linux and Windows.

Once downloaded, along with the VLC program, I popped in our home movie DVD, launched the program, selected the DVD, pressed “Start” and voila, I was on my way to having our movies converted to the MAC OS X format, wherein it would be played through iTunes and then I could pick it up on the Apple TV. It was pretty simple and ran like a charm. I ran to the living room, turned on the Apple TV and there it was “On The Road …” (the title I gave it) and within loading time Nat and I were going down memory lane while watching the videos we took on our Scotland trip in 2001, and our cross Canada trip in 2002. What a treat. Now, the old brain is wondering what else it can get it’s grubby little hands on to convert!!

This Was Not A Dream, But My Reality

With Christmas over (thank-you very much!!) New Year’s Eve was upon us. Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah!!! Not exactly an evening that Nat and I have ever celebrated. Too old, too tired, too expensive. Could we be more boring!!! We did, however, sit in our nice warm cozy easy chairs and watch the movie “Inception” via the Apple TV, and what a treat that was! The movie, too, I might add! We had downloaded 3 movies earlier in the day, knowing that New Year’s Rocking Eve and the festivities from Niagara Falls now bore us completely (not knowing any one of the celebrities or singers). We both thought this was going to be the right time to try out our little Christmas present and were both pleased with the results.

The movie, Inception, was brilliant. A great story line, a great cast and lots of good special effects. It was fascinating to watch how dreaming was interpreted and incorporated into an actual espionage-style story. Unusual but equally intriguing. We also rented Forget Paris and Gosford Park, a couple of older movies, which we’ll save for a later date, as we have 30 days within to watch both. I was so pleased with the way the Apple TV worked and had to keep telling myself that we were streaming this via the internet from our computer to our television. We didn’t have to run down to our local video store, where that particular movie may not have been available, and then run back in the morning to return the DVD. Easy, peasie! We both enjoyed our New Year’s Eve and finished off counting down to midnight before retiring for the night.

Sunday morning saw me up earlier than usual. The kids were all coming over for Sunday lunch to celebrate Nat’s birthday. It’s becoming a tradition now to have everyone over for cold cuts, kaisers, salads, muffins and ice cream cake, which everyone enjoys and which is certainly easy to fix up. No major cooking, no fuss and no muss. As Nat’s sister’s birthday was coming up I thought it would be a nice idea to line everyone up in front of the fireplace and take a group photo. Jenny, living in Britain, doesn’t get to see her nieces and nephews at all and I like to keep her up-to-date with recent photos. I also had everyone sign the card for her and after snapping a couple of pictures, I’d take them to Wal-Mart in the morning to get them printed. I’m sure Jenny will enjoy the special treat this time around. Plus the kids got a kick out of participating in the whole process. The snow was now falling pretty good and the festivities broke up earlier than usual. Everyone wanted to get home before the roads got too slippery and we couldn’t blame them. Naturally by mid-afternoon the snow had dissipated and the roads were clear.

As for presents received by my dear hubby – the girls gave him a couple of Keg gift cards and I gave him a new iPod Nano. The old one of mine he’s been using is now beginning to act up – it won’t turn off sometimes – and I thought Nat would enjoy having a new one for when he goes walking. The new little Nanos can be clipped anywhere on your person, have a touch screen and have a couple extra features I knew Nat would enjoy. As I had purchased the same on Apple’s website I was able to get the special “Red” Nano and do our part for Bono’s cause for stamping out World Aids (a portion of your purchase goes towards that cause), plus I was also able to get it engraved with Nat’s name and a special note on the back. He played with his new little gadget for the rest of the afternoon!

 

Photo Taken for Jenny's Birthday Card
Nat and The Gang

Monday morning saw Nat and I running down to Wal-Mart to get the photos printed, along with running a couple of other errands. The store was practically empty but the check-out clerk assured us that there was a major run on groceries New Year’s Eve day. He said a worm couldn’t have crawled through the whole store! The prints turned out great and we were soon home getting Jenny’s card ready for the post, and then after lunch it was time to take down all of those Christmas decorations!! Another yearly chore I’m glad to get over. By this time I want “our” house back. I was actually ready to take down all of the decorations on Boxing Day, but thought I’d leave them up for the kids when they came over for their Dad’s birthday. At least now everything was back in its box or crate and stashed away in its corner of the basement for another year. Hopefully everything will be right with ‘my’ world now and Nat and I can get back into our routine. Ahhh, the beauty of getting older – one thing a day, one thought a day and pretty much one decision a day!!

I Love This So Much, They Should Pay Me!!

The one bright spot in my self-pitying holidays has been the Apple TV Nat and I bought for ourselves this year. A little black box, connected to any television, that allows you to view (stream via Wi-Fi) anything you want from iTunes or the Internet on your computer to the television set sitting in your living/family room. With the hustle and bustle of Christmas now over (except for New Year’s which has never been a holiday to me) it was now time to play with our little toy.  I suppose I should say it’s “my” little toy, as I’m the one that talked Nat into going along with this idea of mine!! After all he didn’t even know this little black box existed until I started to extol its virtues.

I had heard from tech podcasts it was easy to set up, and they were right. It took all of 30 seconds to plug in the electrical and then hook up the HDMI cable to the TV and the Apple TV. I then ran into the office and turned on the home sharing in iTunes, returned to the living room and immediately began the set-up to receive the Wi-Fi stream from our computer. After entering in your Apple ID and password the rest was a no brainer. The only time-consuming part in this whole process was scrolling through the alphabetical letters and numbers to actually enter in your ID, as there was no keyboard to use. What the hell, if that was worst part, we were laughing. But along with the included remote control, I’ve also got the App “Remote” for my iPad.

Within ten minutes I was razzle-dazzling Nat with everything we could watch or listen to whenever we wanted. We could now:  buy or rent Movies – buy TV shows or watch what freebies are available – listen to or watch any audio or video podcast we chose to download – listen to or watch the podcasts I’ve already downloaded – watch home videos and photos from iPhoto – listen to Nat’s Playlists – listen to my Playlists or any song we wanted – listen to our music while watching our home photos go streaming by – listen to a gazillion radio stations – watch as much YouTube as we can take – sign up and watch NetFlicks – or view upcoming movie previews – all on the 40″ screen TV in our living room. I’m sure there’s so much more, but I’ve not had a chance to check everything out yet, but give me time! The upcoming movie previews was a real bonus and I had no idea that extra feature was available. It was soon after completing the set-up and discovering this little goodie, that Nat and I sat and watched a bunch of those Previews. We both felt this was a great feature and would now have a good idea of what was playing in the theatres and would probably soon be available on iTunes. The other bonus was, we can view all of our home photos and videos on the living room TV. A great feature should anyone ask “So, how was your vacation?” Be forewarned people!!!

I’m a huge Apple fan – the iMac in the office, the iPad that never leaves my side, the iPod Classic I listen to while cycling, and Nat is even enjoying my old iPod Nano. The Wi-Fi streaming works like a charm (through Airport Express), any service I’ve required has been great and so far I’ve never had a problem with any of these products (except the odd freezing of the iPod, but I’m not alone in that department). I’d recommend any of these products should anyone ask and I’m looking forward to any new product that Apple releases and hoping like hell it’s something I can use and afford!!