Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Do not forget to entertain strangers..."

"Do not forget to entertain strangers for in so doing, some people have
entertained angels without knowing it."
Hebrews 13:2

I've made a new friend from Africa who has been living in Canada for a short time.  When I met him he was very surprised that I had been to his country.  I invited him over for dinner with family members to show some hospitality.  

The first dish is antipasto or some before meal nibbles. I included some salami meat rather mortadella on the dish because I wasn't sure how my guest's taste buds would be.  Moses  loved all the vegetables and gamely tried things he didn't know of like the marinated artichokes.  I learned that the eggplant is known in Ghana as "black beauty". I think that is a much nicer name than "eggplant".

I grilled some home made hamburger patties on my indoor grill. These burgers are not burnt, they are just black from the grill.

Another common summer food here is the potato and egg salad. I let this one marinate over night in the refrigerator and added some red onions for colour and extra flavour.

Last, but not least for the main course, we had some baked chicken. I marinated these chicken pieces in lemon grass marinade overnight. Lemon grass is not traditional to Canada but I have grown to love it in Vietnamese cooking.  I thought it would make a good variation on baked chicken which is a good Canadian dinner staple.  It was delicious and not too strong in lemon grass flavour.

Dinner was capped with drinks of ice tea and other beverages brought by our guest. We also had a dessert of fresh blueberries mixed with bananas. I made a biscuit which we cut and put whipped cream mixed with the berries inside the biscuit. Then the biscuit was topped with more berries and cream.

All in all my guest paid the highest compliment by saying he felt right at home and very comfortable. He also ate everything he put on his plate. I appreciated that very much as sometimes I have guests who won't eat this or won't eat that and they leave too much food on the plate. Those of you who entertain know what I'm talking about.

I am glad I was able to entertain a stranger and in doing so have now made a new friend.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Only One Thing Worth Being Concerned About

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Sometimes life gets us distracted. I strive to keep my focus on the one thing worth being concerned about. Sometimes I need to remind myself often. How about you? Are you focussed on the one thing worth being concerned about or do you, like me, need to remind yourself continuously?

  "And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof." Rev. 5:5

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Scenic Sunday & Blue Monday, Play on the Beach ~ July 24, 2010

On Saturday evening a friend from out of town and I decided to treat ourselves to a play under the auspices of Bard on the Beach, an annual Shakespearean Festival held under white tents with red flags set up on Kitsilano Beach.

Both of us like Shakespeare.  But beyond that we were enthralled with the idea of having a barbeque dinner during the intermission.  After that, coffee and dessert and the topping on the cake, a comfortable seat in the beachfront park to watch the annual fireworks competition, "Celebration of Lights". What a fabulous idea all around.
The play was lovely. I was soon stopped from taking photos of the stage but I did manage to get one.

The evening's performance on the mainstage is entitled "Much Ado About Nothing". I've copied this descriptive summary from Wikipedia for you in case you are unfamiliar with it.
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero. Benedick and Beatrice are engaged in a "merry war"; they both talk a mile a minute and proclaim their scorn for love, marriage, and each other. In contrast, Claudio and Hero are sweet young people who are rendered practically speechless by their love for one another. By means of "noting" (which sounds the same as "nothing," and which is gossip, rumor, and overhearing), Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other, and Claudio is tricked into rejecting Hero at the altar. However, Dogberry, a Constable who is a master of malapropisms, discovers—unbeknownst to himself—the evil trickery of the villain, the bastard Don John. In the end, Don John is captured and everyone else joins in a dance celebrating the marriages of the two couples.
Unfortunately, I cannot show you any original photos of the actors but some of you may have seen the film of the same name, directed by Kenneth Branagh. In the movie,the lovestruck Claudio, sings a beautiful called "Sigh No More". I found it on and offer it here for your listening and viewing pleasure.

My friend (and I) awaiting the start of fireworks.

Here is a scene earlier in the evening of all the boats gathering on the water to get a good position for viewing the evening fireworks.

Here is shot taken at the start of fireworks. I'm afraid that is all I have. I did manage to remember to take my digital camera however I forgot to take an empty memory card. It is a pity I am unable to share with you the finale of the show as Spain did a fantastic job of it. Simply beautiful. Wish you were there to see it.  Maybe next year?

Join in here for more Scenic Sundays. Please also join in here for Blue Monday hosted by the lovely Sally. For a delightful new recipe involving strawberries, click here.

Strawberry Biscuits

 love strawberries. Most of what we get here that is affordable is shipped in from California. The sweeter, smaller, redder locally grown berries are an astronomical price.

I did grow a few strawberries myself this year. The operative word is few.  Though they looked good, there were barely enough for a taste. I think I might try growing more strawberries next year as I really like strawberry preserves and fresh or frozen strawberries to use as dessert.

My blogging friend Lynda in Tanzania, East Africa, loves strawberries too  The other day she shared a delicious recipe at her blog for strawberry cookies. I would never think to put strawberries into a cookie myself so I promptly decided to try the recipe out.  Here are my photos of the cookie making process (not every step.  Please click on photos to enlarge.) The recipe follows.

Creaming the butter.
The beaten egg, milk and brown sugar have been added.

Last step is add the wonderful strawberry.

The finished product. Yum!

Now here is Lynda's recipe.

Strawberry Biscuits (Cookies) (Adapted from the ‘Sugar Biscuits’ recipe in ‘Cook and Enjoy It’ by S.J.A. de Villiers)
½ cup Butter
1 cup brown Sugar
1 Egg, beaten
2 tbsp Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
½ tsp Salt
2 ½ cups Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder 

 1 cup fresh Strawberries, cleaned & roughly chopped

Cream the butter & sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg, milk, vanilla essence & salt. Mix well. Sift the flour and baking powder in. Mix. Fold in the chopped strawberries. Knead the dough lightly and roll pieces into walnut sized balls. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, press each ball down lightly with your thumb to flatten. Bake at 190’C/375’F/Gas Mark 5 for around 12 - 15 minutes until done. Makes +- 35 biscuits. 

My tips:

You should measure more carefully than I did. I think I put too much flour in my mixture as I was trying to hurry. My dough ended up being quite dry so I added several spoons of milk. It was still dry so I used my hands to hold the batter together into balls (thereby melting the butter and helping to form the dough balls). 

Also I did not get 35 cookies. I got 15 so I made my cookies on the large side. If you want more cookies, naturally you must watch the size.

The cookies were absolutely delicious! I will most definitely be making them again as I always have strawberries on hand. You can check out more recipes at Lynda's blog and also learn fascinating things about life in Tanzania. Bon appetit!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Simple Joy Saturday ~ July 24, 2010

Giving so children can live.  This is my simple joy. Not just on Saturday but anytime I can and as often as I can. The needs are so great.  Join me  as you are led to help these and other dear ones in Kenya.

In everything I have pointed out to you [by example] that, by working diligently in this manner, we ought to assist the weak, being mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, It is more blessed (makes one happier and more to be envied) to give than to receive.
Acts 20: 35

Come join in at Simple Joy Saturday hosted by the wonderful Jan in Australia.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Skies Over Vancouver

These are the skies I saw on my way to the Diabetes group at my doctor's office yesterday. I thought the cloud formations were lovely. I also like that I captured the plane in the first photo. I hope you can see it as it is just a speck in the sky.

To me the wisps of cloud look like a giant, white dove. If you look at the second and third photos you can see it more clearly in flight. Nature is simply awesome!

Join others from around the world here for more Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


So far my summer has been taken up with non summer activities. It seems I have been busy with all kinds of things related to the Type 2 diabetes diagnosis (pharmacist training on food guide and basic information, training on glucose meter, dietician's workshop on various rices and how to cook them, blood work and blood pressure testing, exercise class, swimming lessons).

At the same time, I have been negotiating a new mortgage and I'm happy to report I got a good deal on the interest rate. I have also been undertaking modest activities (knitting) and discussing plans with my Kenyan partners on the mission field. I am hoping by the late Fall to bring jiko stoves to more of the village women in Chepkerbet.  If any of you would like to know more,  please read here. If you would like to help please contact me.

On a personal front I have been busy as well. My cousin was here just over a week ago for weekend visit. It was also my niece's birthday and though I wasn't there for the party I did have to arrange for a small gift and a card to get to her on time.  I have also been travelling back and forth to visit and help my elderly mom. I will be leaving again in about 1 and half weeks to assist with financial activities like banking and bills, as well as do the shopping, cooking and cleaning. The annual Kamloops Pow-Wow is something we hope to get to for at least one day also if it isn't too hot for mom.  She enjoys this cultural event immensely and if it weren't for her I'd probably stay home with the comfort of the air conditioning as much as I do enjoy the cultural event.

I am also excited to finally get to Bard on the Beach. We will be seeing Much Ado About Nothing.
Celebrating its 21st Season in 2010, Bard on the Beach is one of Canada's largest not-for-profit, professional Shakespeare Festivals. Presented in a magnificent setting on the waterfront in Vancouver's Vanier Park, the Festival offers Shakespeare plays, related dramas, and several special events in two performance tents from June through September.

I'm looking forward to this because I've lived in Vancouver for many years and never have gone to this event though I do love plays. It is just the like amazing Folk Festival we have here every year in the 3rd week of July (just passed) which I never get to either and the growing Jazz Festival which I also miss each year, largely due to the fact that I am away up country.

My friend from Calgary is coming for her annual summer vacation to her childhood home and she arrives tomorrow. We have agreed to forego a "coffee date" on Saturday and instead have a play, dinner on the beach, concluded by fireworks which are part of the annual Celebration of Lights. How awesome is that?!! You can read all about the fireworks I was able to capture last year  here and here.

I feel blessed that this year I am able to squeeze in a few things to savour the summer. I am ENJOYING my summer as I've long wanted to take the swimming lessons, I am getting my diabetes under control and I'm taking an exercise class. I am also getting a chance to take in some the summer festivals which is for me a great summer activity though I don't always get to the ones I've been thinking I'd like to see. Too many logistical issues but in time it will happen. Yeah. I hope your summer is also going well too!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Diabetes Epidemic

Hi friends,

Some of you know that I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes about 5 weeks ago. I had a scare when the doctor told me my blood sugar was at an all time high of 11. The normal range is between 4-7.  I immediately got on Metformin medication to help me process insulin and began to cut out some of my sugary snacks and soda pops like Coca-Cola.  My doctor told me I could drink diet soda but I cannot stand the diet sweeteners. Besides that I've heard for a long time about the dangers of diet sweeteners.

Dr. Janet Hull has this to say about the dangers of one common diet sweetener, Aspartame.
 The dangers of aspartame poisoning have been a well-guarded secret since the 1980s. The research and history of aspartame is conclusive as a cause of illness and toxic reactions in the human body. Aspartame is a dangerous chemical food additive, and its use during pregnancy and by children is one of the greatest modern tragedies of all.

Why haven't you heard about this before? Partly because the diet industry is worth trillions of American dollars to corporations, and they want to protect their profits by keeping the truth behind aspartame's dangers hidden from the public. When NutraSweet® was introduced for the 'second' time in 1981, a diet craze revolutionized America's eating protocols and a well-oiled money machine was set into motion changing modern lifestyles. After more than twenty years of aspartame use, the number of its victims is rapidly piling up, and people are figuring out for themselves that aspartame is at the root of their health problems. Patients are teaching their doctors about this nutritional peril, and they are healing themselves with little to no support from traditional medicine.
You can read more about aspartame and it's effects on the body on Dr. Hull's website here. You can also read about all the other sweeteners here.  There is also a good Australian summary about diet sweeteners and other food additives here. The Australian page made me realize that there is a lot of hidden aspartame in foods we consider healthy. I will have to investigate this further in relation to my own diet. If any of you are interested in how aspartame became legal if it is so bad for you, you can read a time line here.

Anyway, I digress, my issue is not really that I add sugar to my foods. For example, I do not add sugar to my cereal unless it is slow cooked porridge or cream of wheat, nor do I add sugar or honey to tea or coffee.  I also don't add sugar to fruit like freshly cut strawberries even though most strawberries in the store really have little sweetness due to forced growth and shipping before they are ripened.  However, I still had sugar in my diet where it has been added to foods like:
  1. regular soda pop, mostly coca cola and ready sweetened drinks
  2. ice cream
  3. snacks like ready made cakes, cookies and other baked goods
  4. canned foods like beans
  5. ketchup and other condiments.
For some time now, even before the diabetes diagnosis, I have in fact, radically cut back on all processed foods, and also on purchasing the items listed above. I eat more greens like kale, swiss chard, bok choy, broccoli, and multi-coloured vegetables (range of peppers, tomatoes, red and white onions, zucchini, carrots, etc.). I have also added more sweet potatoes to the diet, brown rice instead of white rice, eat only multi-grain bread and sprouted grain breads at home. I bake my own snacks like banana bread and cookies as much as I can and try to limit eating out in restaurants for health and budgetary reasons.

Despite all these changes I had gained quite a lot of weight since the fall due to previous illnesses/disabilities and an inability to move. I was also napping very frequently and for lengthy periods of time as I simply had no energy.  I was extremely fatigued all the time and more than that I felt exceedingly unwell.  I chalked it up to numerous health problems which I was already dealing with.  In desperation I got onto some herbal tinctures made up for me by a naturopathic doctor at the urging of a friend of mine. While these tinctures did work in terms of helping me feel better and less inclined to napping, I was still suffering. Now I am on the Metformin, exercising regularly (it helps that I don't need to nap every day, though some days are better than other days) and still making adjustments to the diet.

For the first two weeks after my diagnosis, I was afraid to eat anything. For the next few weeks, I ate whatever was available and not always what was the healthiest.  I did try very hard (and mostly succeeded) at not drinking coca cola or eating snack foods, sweet or otherwise.  I also cut out Creamo from my coffee. I've mostly stopped drinking coffee as a result or use whitener though if I look up the ingredients in that, I may have to cut it out as well. I have been drinking more milk. I use 1% milk and have been drinking that and using it for my cereals for some years now.  I have also been making my own ice tea drinks using real tea bags and sliced lemons mixed with a small bit of ice tea mix. I tend to like my drinks less sweet side so you can imagine how surprised I was when I learned that I had been drinking coca cola or equivalent soda pop, and that each can has anywhere from 10-12 teaspoons of sugar in it!  In addition to the dietary changes I started with an exercise class and swimming lessons as well as more walking. I would not be able to add this physical activity to my weekly routine if this were last Fall so I am thankful I can do it now.

Yesterday on American television, two shows: The Drs. and Oprah with guest Dr. Oz talked about the epidemic of diabetes in America. 

The 2009 estimated population in the USA is just under 310 million people. There are 24 million diabetics in America and 57 million pre-diabetics.  Dr. Oz said that if the rate of diabetes in USA continues as it is now, it will bankrupt the American medical system. That's right! Bankrupt the system. That is a scary proposition.  Especially since millions more American people are supposed to benefit from recent changes to their health care system.   Doctors there also estimate that about 6 million people are walking around in USA who have diabetes but haven't yet been diagnosed. I think I got that number right, but you will hear it by clicking on the Oprah link above and listening to Dr. Oz.

Canada's estimated population for 2010 is just over 34 million people. I also read today that 1 out of every 10 Canadian people have been diagnosed with diabetes. That is a full 10 percent of us. I wonder how many are walking around without knowing they have this disease which has been dubbed the "silent killer"? The good news is that 90% of diabetes is preventable and reversible.

I didn't realize until I got a diagnosis of diabetes just how much there was to learn about coping with and managing the disease. Part of that is monitoring your blood sugar levels and you do that with a glucose monitor. I got mine today and measured my blood sugar with the assistance of the pharmacist at my doctor's office. It was a 6! That is fully 5 points less than it was a month ago and is now in the normal range.The pharmacist and student pharmacist were very happy and impressed.

I also borrowed this cookbook from the pharmacist to see what new recipes I can learn about that are good for my roommate and I.

If you would like to learn more about diabetes, please watch the videos on the links for The Drs. and Oprah above.

You can also read more
in Canada here.
in USA here.
in Australia here.
in South Africa here.
in Tanzania here.
in Kenya here.
in Norway here.
other EU Nations here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Swimming Bags

My regular readers know I have started swimming lessons and exercise class that is geared for arthritis sufferers.

Swimming lessons started first but are only once a week, while exercise class is twice a week. I'm enjoying the swimming lessons more than the exercise class which is on land not in the water. My knee joint pain flares up with exercise on land and interferes with the walking I ordinarily do. I'm hoping this pain abates with time.  If it doesn't, I will start sitting on the chairs provided to do the exercises.

The swimming lessons seem much better for the joints because of the buoyancy of the water. After swimming lesson I might practice what I have learned before I go and sit in the warm whirlpool for about 20 minutes and soothe stiff neck and back muscles. After I cool off, I might have a quick cold water shower then go into the sauna.

These are two of the "blue" bags I've used to carry my towel and wet things after swimming. Both of them are lined with plastic.

First up is my horse bag. Mom gave this bag to me many years ago and the plastic inside is starting to peel off. I may try to line it myself when the lining is totally gone. I am not really a "horsey" gal but I really love this bag, especially the "blue horse". It has one zippered pocket inside for keys and change and a pocket on the outside for your cell phone.

Next up is my brilliant blue "batik" bag. It isn't really batik but has a batik like pattern on it. It has mesh pockets on both sides for your water bottles and a little zip bag inside to keep your change and keys.

The two bags together. You can see they are almost the same size.

It is amazing who I've been meeting at the swimming pool So far, I've talked to many of the women and in particular three stand out.

One woman is a former refugee from Vietnam. She originally lived in Japan but ended up coming to Canada with her family due to the high cost of living in Japan. She doesn't swim but likes to use the sauna. Then I met Marie, a pensioner who hails from Nova Scotia. She is a black woman and says people always think she came to Canada via the underground railway but she never even heard of the underground railway until people started asking her that! She is as afraid of the water as I am and had some amazing stories of near drownings in Yellowknife and in the Caribbean. She noted my swimming instructor's methods and wants to learn to swim from him also. The third lady is Nala. She came to Canada with her family over 40 years ago from Fiji. She only went to grade 4 and she asked for my help in ensuring her housing application was correctly submitted. I readily agreed. 

Nala was so thankful that she promptly shared her phone number and provided a standing invitation to her home for curry dinner sometime.  Now I really don't like to take payment for a good deed, but I would love to get to know her better so I may take her up on it when I have more time.

As you can see, I am enjoying the swimming lessons for more than the swimming. (I've met some interesting women in the exercise class too but there is less opportunity to talk with them before and after class).

Happy Blue Monday.
Click here for more Blue Monday posts from around the world.

Did you know it's International Mandela Day?

I just learned that it is the first Nelson Mandela International Day. That is simply awesome. I've long admired this great man of dignity and intellect. I hope you have an opportunity today to reflect on his many accomplishments and celebrate his 92nd birthday. Now here is the story I copied from Al Jazeera's news website.

News Africa

World celebrates Mandela Day

The increasingly frail Mandela will spend his birthday with his family
in Johannesburg [AFP]

The world is marking the first Nelson Mandela International Day to commemorate the birthday of South Africa's first black president, who turns 92 on Sunday.

The United Nations had last year agreed to commemorate Mandela's birthday every year to recognise the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's contribution to resolving conflicts and promoting race relations, human rights and reconciliation.

Ninety-two children aged from six to 12 from southern South Africa were flown courtesy of the national carrier to visit the ailing icon at his Johannesburg home on the eve of his birthday. They sang him a birthday song.
In a statement, Mandela's office quotes him as saying, "I like being with young children".

Revered figure

Mandela was jailed for 27 years by the country's white minority government for resisting apartheid rule.

On his release in 1990, he led negotiations with apartheid rulers, a process that culminated in his election as the country's first black president in 1994.

He stepped down as president in 1999, after serving one term in office and is still revered around the world for promoting peace and fighting against racism and HIV/Aids.

South Africa celebrated the 20th anniversary of Mandela's release from prison on February 11, a day credited with shaping the history of the country.

Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, is expected to address thousands of villagers at Mandela's birthplace Mvezo on Sunday.

"Mandela's 67 years of uninterrupted and selfless service to the people of South Africa and the world culminated in the birth of a new South Africa, united in diversity," Zuma said in a statement.

People around the globe have been urged to devote 67 minutes on Sunday to public service, to honour Mandela's 67 years of service.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Frugal Blue Monday & Ruby Tuesday

Well it is officially Monday and I've done it at last!  Made my own laundry detergent that is. I have had the ingredients of which there are few, for some months now but just never felt up to grating the bar soap that goes into. lol

So the other day I finally got a long desired purchase of a 10 cup food processor. I've wanted it to slice and chop vegetables mostly for salads and various things but I also want it for shredding up the bar soap for my detergent.  I got to use the processor today and  boy did it ever do a wonderful job of shredding up the soap for my home made laundry detergent. Sorry I didn't get a photo of it for you. I thought of taking pictures after I was well underway with the soap making exercise.

First off, there are many recipes for making your own laundry detergent on the internet. I used this website.
and this recipe:

 Hot water
1 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
1  bar of Ivory soap
See the "blues" for Blue Monday

Grate the bar soap and add to a large saucepan with hot water. Stir over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted. Most recipes call for FelsNaptha and Zote soap but you can use Ivory soap or Sunlight bar soap if you are in Canada.

Fill a 10 gallon pail half full of hot water. Add the melted soap, Borax and Washing soda, stir well until all powder is dissolved. Top the pail up with more hot water.
I used a  nice ruby red bucket. Check out Ruby Tuesday here.
Use 1 cup per load, stirring soap before each use (will gel).

Total Cost for all the Ingredients:
I bought 2 kg. Washing Soda for $4.99  (Canadian)
One large bar of Ivory soap was $.79 cents (Canadian)
1 2kg. box of Borax is about $5.99 (Canadian).
Total: $11.77 (Canadian)

I used only one cup of washing soda and half a cup of Borax and the entire bar of Ivory soap. There is still enough Washing Soda and Borax for many more batches of soap. As I am not into calculating everything down to a science, I would simply guesstimate about 10-12 more batches of soap can be made with the remaining Washing Soda and probably double that for the Borax.

Approximate cost of making my batch of detergent: 
$.38-49 cents  worth of Washing Soda used
$.79 cents bar soap used
$.23 - $.28 cents worth of  Borax used
Total: $1.40 - $1.56 worth of ingredients for 10 gallons of detergent or
14-16 cents per gallon.
This works out to approximately 160 loads of laundry (16 cups in each gallon x 10 and you use 1 cup of detergent per load) or 1.4 or 1.6 cents per load.

I've filled 6 empty liquid laundry detergent bottles which are just under 2 litres each and still  have half a bucket of detergent.

I didn't calculate the water cost or the electrical cost as that would be next to near impossible for me to determine.  I figure those costs are balanced by the energy savings to me of having to carry home heavy bottles of laundry detergent and the time it takes out of my week.  I hope that not only will making my own laundry detergent be good for the pocket book but also good for the environment. My detergent will sit over night to gel and be ready for use on Tuesday.

Would you be willing to  make home made laundry detergent or bar soap? Perhaps you already are. It seems that many bloggers are making a lot of things from scratch and that is, as Martha Stewart says, " a good thing".

In future I also plan to make bar soap and scented soaps. I met a wonderful blogger named Gerry who has a blog devoted to soap making which you can check out here. I'm hoping to try out her recipes and tips myself.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Keeping Busy

Hi friends,

I have been very busy the past few weeks and lately have slowed down with blogging as a result. I see that a number of you have slowed down with your blogging also. I guess this is all part of the lazy, hazy days of summer, lol.

Last weekend I had a great surprise. A cousin of mine whom I haven't seen for years was here to visit me. This was totally unexpected and she came from very far away with other relatives on a long road trip. Her other relatives were visiting close by to where I live so it was very convenient for her and I to get together and I invited her to stay for a few days. Unfortunately her ride left a day earlier than expected so we didn't get to do everything we wanted but we did get to visit a lot. In fact, we were up to the wee hours of the morning both nights and we were both very tired as result but eager to get caught up on years of living.

In one of our outings we spent a good deal of time watching the small birds and pigeons, and of course, feeding them. One thing that fascinated me is watching the little birds take a bird bath in the dust after they had eaten. Here is a little bird in the hole he/she dug to play around in. You can see the two birds better if you click on the photo to enlarge it.

Another thing we did was hang up some of my pictures and souvenirs that I hadn't had a chance to get around to since moving back into my condo. Now holding pride of place in the front room is the Maasai wedding necklace from Narok, Kenya; an African mask from Mombasa, Kenya and Kisii soapstone bowls from Kisii, Kenya.

I am sorry about the lighting and the resolution for the photos but I guess it is really too dark in my front room at this hour of the night to take good photographs. Hopefully you can see them well enough.

I also had a chance to re-hang my Aboriginal art in the front room. The small piece that is hanging under the wooden carving (on the right of the photo below) is a very unique piece created by Woodlands Cree elder (scroll down to the third biography on the page link), Angelique Merasty, who has now passed. It is called a birch bark biting and I have had it framed. It is a very special piece to me because it is an almost extinct art. You can't see the biting design but I will post a close up of it sometime. For now I simply wanted to show the grouping of pictures. Each of these pieces has it's own story which I may tell sometime. (There are actually two Angelique Merasty's and both of them do birch bark biting. I don't know for sure but I think the younger woman is related to the one who has passed on. In any case they have the same name and the younger one is quite prolific in her work towards cultural preservation.)

In addition to having company, I have enrolled in an Osteofit class for those with joint problems. The first class was a real work out but manageable. Yesterday and today however we are having a heat wave so I opted to stay home from exercise class today. I will return on Monday next week. In the meantime, I have my 3rd swimming lesson tomorrow.

In between these activities I have been super busy with the mortgage renewal process. I use a mortgage broker to shop around for the best deal for me. Due to the fact I am now retired, I have to provide numerous documents to confirm my income so gathering and sending them has been rather time consuming. With the global recession and banking problems in several countries, our banks are now more stringent in all forms of lending. So this time around, I need to get a real estate appraisal done as well. The appraisal was done today and the report should be submitted to the broker tomorrow. I expect to hear about my loan options on Tuesday of next week. This process works so nice and fast and that suits me perfectly!

Once I decide on the lender, I want to get all the legal work completed by the end of the third week of July. This is a little challenging given the classes I'm taking, personal appointments and a diabetes group I will attend that same week. But I push on as I want to get everything done before I visit mom again at the end of the month.

In reviewing the documents required by the broker and the potential lenders, I came across some issues and discrepancies in the mortgage statements provided by my current lender. I spent some time on the phone with them today and they are opening an investigation into my queries. It seems that they may have been applying less of my bi-weekly payments to the principal than I had thought. It also seems that my municipality has taken more in real property taxes than they should have as I am entitled to a homeowner grant on a portion of the taxes. I need to follow up with the City Hall in the next day or two and get this straightened out. Normally, this has never been an issue but I'm finding that it very much depends on the lender. The very first mortgage lender I engaged with was simply the best and they were on top of all their paperwork and in turn, their reporting to me and making sure I was completely in the loop.

Now you may wonder why I didn't find out about these issues earlier. In fact I did, but never had time for everything to "gel" and become clear to me, or the time and motivation to really get to the bottom of it all. It seems the time is now. I am confident it will all be sorted out before I travel again. The travel really does cut into my ability to get things done here at home but I am thankful I can still visit  mom and help her with her daily needs also.

I realize my list of summer activities thus far is probably much different than yours. I tend not to lie on the beach or go camping or picnicking unless I go with a larger group,  visit relatives or go on holiday.  What activities are keeping you busy this summer dear reader? I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Problems with the Comment Section

Hello my lovely readers,

This is a quick note to let you know I am having issues with the comment feature here at Blogger. In particular the problems I am having are in regards to my last posted entry on learning to swim. The problems have occurred over the past few days. Sometimes I will publish your comment and it won't appear! Other times, I publish my response and it won't appear. Most recently I see all approved comments appear but my own response is not in the proper format. For now I will leave it like that. I simply wanted to let you all know that I am not ignoring you or your comments. I appreciate every one of them.

Are any of you having similar issues?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Learning to Swim

I mentioned before that I was going to start swimming lessons. I have now taken my second lesson. I'm enjoying it and since these are private lessons we will be going very slowly through the training.

It isn't the first time I have tried to learn how to swim. In fact I can swim a little but it is deeper water that frightens me. I need to get over my fear and anxiety of deep water before I can truly learn to swim.

My instructor is a young Chinese man who himself learned to swim as an adult. I'm enjoying his approach very much and it is quite different to any lessons I've previously had so I'm feeling optimistic.

How about you my readers? Are any of you unable to swim, have a fear of water or learned rather late in life? I'd love to hear your story.


A Trip to the Garden

Hello friends and fellow bloggers, I finally made it to the community garden plot the other day. It was over due for some weeding. It was al...