My Art Gallery…

Have you spent a lot of time looking for artwork for your home?  Much like filling a home with furniture, whether redecorating or updating your old home or decorating a new one, unique and inexpensive artwork is hard to find.  If you read my previous post about the furniture I found/purchased last winter http://lorieb.com/2013/12/12/impulse-shopper you will know how particular I am when it comes to shopping.

This winter artwork for my living room was on my to do list.  I searched through most of the stores in the Ottawa area, as well as on the internet, looking for the perfect picture to be hung above my new sofa.  Even though I had a vision in my head of what I wanted, I could not find it anywhere.  I love a large picture of Monet’s waterlilies on stretched canvas I found years ago for over the bed in our master bedroom, so thought I could find something similar for the living room.  No luck.  What I did find however, are many websites that can turn your JPEGs into artwork.  You can choose from many varieties, including the unframed stretched canvas look I was envisioning.  I found some pictures I had taken in my garden last summer, touched them up with Adobe photoshop, and sent them electronically to Posterjack, one of the companies mentioned earlier.  Within 5 days, I received my new artwork.  My only complaint is that I wish I had ordered larger sizes; they are gorgeous!  I could be talked into selling these and re-ordering larger ones for myself if anyone is interested…

 

A few years ago I also made customized artwork from an old book of botanicals that my grandmother gave me when she moved out of her home.  The book is so old that the pages are coming loose from the binding.  I copied and enlarged the pictures using a colored copier at Staples, then chose mats and frames to compliment the colors and the decor of my family room…

 

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For a third, customized artwork project I used JPEGs of pictures I had taken in Hawaii years ago, enlarged them at Costco,  chose a different mat color to compliment each scene from Wallack’s art supplies store, then framed them and hung them up in my home…

 

If you are looking for new artwork or to update the existing artwork in your home, give it a try.  It is an inexpensive and easy way to use all those pictures you have stored in a shoe box somewhere to make yourself custom-made, unique and memorable pieces of art…

Palmerston Lake

 

We won’t be swimming anytime soon in Palmerston Lake.  This past Sunday we drove up to our family cottage on Palmerston Lake at Ompah, Ontario to check on the cottage and to see how much snow is left up there…

The lake is still ice and snow-covered; not very inviting.  The top of a birch tree on our property had snapped and fallen onto our wood shed; fortunately its fall was broken by two small deciduous trees, so there was no damage to the roof of the shed.

Like my gardening season,  cottage season (at least the swimming part of it) may be delayed a bit this year thanks to the long, cold winter we have endured here in eastern Ontario…

 

 

 

 

 

Have you Seen your latest Hydro Bill?

hydro

 

Have you looked at your hydro bill lately?  I mean really looked?  Do you have a hard time understanding the bills you pay?  It makes me wonder if they purposely make the bills confusing so that people will not look carefully and just pay what is requested without thinking about it. I have to admit that until I heard recently about the  drastically increasing  hydro costs, I did not pay enough attention to them.  It does not help when bills are automatically paid through paperless bank accounts.  These technological advances in banking and bill paying are very convenient, but can lead to consumer oblivion.

HydroOttawa provides the electricity to our home in Kanata, Ontario. After looking at our most recent bill very closely, I have a lot of questions…

Recently they have switched us from equalized payments to monthly billing.  I am not sure why, but somehow I do not feel it is to our advantage.    I heard recently of many complaints from rural residences that were charged exorbitant rates from HydroOne (one report was $12,000) through their pre-authorized automatic payment plan, then offered a credit to correct the mistake instead of a refund.  In other words, Hydro keeps the money and the customer is left with $12,000 less in their account. What would happen if you didn’t have that kind of money in your account (I’m sure you would still be stuck with a large interest charge for overdrawing on the account even though the mistake was not yours) or were counting on it for something else? (like food maybe)

Our consumption of electricity is categorized into off peak, mid peak and on peak periods of each day.  Reasonable, I guess, if nothing else to convince you to use less electricity during the on peak (more expensive) hours.  See the chart below for peak and non peak hours. What I do not understand is why there are two charges for each of these categories on my list of charges?

 

 

Demand
Periods
 Time-of-
Use Prices

 On-Peak 12.9 ¢ / kWh  Weekdays
 7 am - 11 am
5 pm - 7 pm                       
     
 Mid-Peak 10.9 ¢ / kWh  Weekdays
 11 am - 5 pm 
 Off-Peak 7.2 ¢ / kWh  Weekdays
 7 pm – 7 am
 Weekends
 All Day

 

also on the list of charges to be paid:

-HST (harmonized sales tax)

-Regulatory charges; they do attempt to explain what that entails on the back of the bill, but basically it means us funding the Ministry of Energy for the never ending scandals and inefficient, ineffective, billion dollar programs they come up with.

-A debt retirement charge to pay off the debt accumulated by Ontario hydro, which by the way, was paid off in 2011.  Instead of removing the debt retirement charge from our bills,  more money was borrowed to fund other Liberal  blunders.  So, on our bills it appears like the original debt wasn’t yet paid off, and we continue to pay.  To add insult to injury, top Ontario Hydro executives, probably the ones responsible for this massive debt in the first place, recently received bonuses to their salaries and extra padding to their already luxurious pension plans.

-and then a nice big delivery charge on top of our usage charges, which you get whether you use the electricity or not.  This we found out on a similarly confusing hydro bill from Hydro One who services our cottage in rural Ontario.  As our cottage is used only in the summer months (and even then mostly just on weekends) and not at all in the winter, you would think the delivery fee of approximately $80 per month would not apply off season.  No such reasoning, we pay the delivery fee every month, even though there is no electricity being used between October and May!

At the end of the list of charges, it shows a clean energy benefit credit!  This comes from the Ministry of Energy, currently run by the Liberal government, whose scandals (the cancelled gas plants saga that cost us $1.1 billion for example) we are paying for with the regulatory charge mentioned above.  Are you confused yet?  Why not just waste less money on the scandals and non-efficient, non-viable programs like another windmill farm that is slated for construction in Chatham, Ontario and charge us less upfront?

If I am complaining about the fees we pay for our home and cottage, what about the companies and organizations whose consumption would be much greater?  In comparison, their bills must be staggering!  I heard of one curling club that had to close its doors because it could not cover the increased cost of hydro with its membership dues; I have no doubt many other such organizations will be doing the same.

I also feel bad for the many pensioners in Ontario who are living on a fixed income.  Should they have to choose between paying for electricity and buying groceries?  I am not far from the fixed income days myself; what was supposed to be a comfortable, relaxing, well-deserved retirement may be a little more stressful than planned…

SIMPLE STEPS TO LOSE WEIGHT

 

 

Fat storage is directly linked to two hormones; insulin and cortisol.  Insulin is controlled by the food you eat, and cortisol is controlled by the amount of stress in your life.  Increases in either or both of these hormones causes your body to store fat. Unfortunately, poor food choices and stress often occur together, and like the chicken and the egg story, which one comes first is debatable….

Eating the wrong carbohydrates  (sugar, bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, processed snacks etc) causes increases of insulin in your body.  Eating good carbohydrates (quinoa, fruit, vegetables, bread with sprouted grains) controls your blood sugar and insulin levels.

To help keep your insulin level in check and keep your body in a fat burning zone, follow these simple steps:

Read labels:  avoid -processed and packaged foods like cereals, muffins, chips, crackers, genetically modified corn, soy and wheat, hydrogenated oils, canola oil, corn syrup, margarine, sugar and artificial sweeteners.

These products not only increase your blood sugar and insulin levels, they are treated as foreign toxins in your body, causing inflammation in many organs.  Avoiding these products will not only make you lose weight, but other health issues such as eczema, asthma, arthritis, will improve too.

Stick to the outer aisles in the grocery stores; they contain the fresh produce, meat, dairy etc, while the inner aisles typically hold the bad stuff.

Clean out your kitchen pantry, getting rid of any of the above items.

To control cortisol levels, try to reduce the stresses in your life by following these steps:

-Get enough  sleep.  Sleep deprivation stresses your body.  If you cannot get enough at night, try to sneak in a nap during the day, since even a short 30 minute nap is beneficial for you.

-Get some, but not too much  exercise.  An exercise regime that is too strenuous will temporarily stress your body, causing a spike in your cortisol level.  Your exercise regime does not have to be complicated or expensive.  Go for a brisk walk every day, or at least every second day.

-Surround yourself with positive people.  Negative people are stressors you do not need.

-Spend more time doing the things you like to do.  Take up a new hobby or rediscover an old one.

Other points to remember:

Good fats burn body fat:  Avoid  margarine, canola and hydrogenated oils.  Choose eggs, olive oil, avocado, almonds, coconut oil and cold water fish.

Stay hydrated:  Drink lots of water.  Carry a water bottle around with you while running errands, chauffeuring your kids, and especially while exercising.   Add a splash of lemon juice to your water to liven up the taste.

 

Good luck!

Snow, snow and more snow…

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I have been using snow shoveling as my main form of exercise this winter, but the snow banks are now so high I cannot risk injuring my 53+ year old back by throwing the newly accumulated snow to the tops of the banks.  So today I shoveled the snow to the sides of my driveway and tried to start our snow blower to blow the piled snow over the banks.  Unfortunately i could not get the darned snow blower started (as is often the case with this beast) so left the snow piles along the edges of my driveway for one of my sons or husband to finish off when they return from work.

Imagine my surprise when, coming out of the shower, I heard a noise much like that of a snow blower outside my house.  I looked out the window to see my neighbor from a few doors down blowing the snow piles over the banks with his snow blower.  He must have heard my futile attempts at starting our snow blower.

We have a few recently retired gentlemen on our street that have been wonderful at helping their neighbors blow out their driveways this winter.  It is especially heart warming and greatly appreciated after the snow plough has gone by and left a huge pile of snow chunks at the bottom of the driveways.

Reconnecting on Facebook

Although I have only recently joined Facebook, I must say it is great for looking up and reconnecting with old friends.  In the past few weeks I have reconnected with two such friends…

I was quite a tomboy growing up in Cornwall, much preferring games of football, road and ice hockey to playing with Barbie dolls and fussing over my clothes.  It didn’t help that there were mostly boys living on our street and that I was closer in age to my three brothers than my two sisters.  I do not remember exactly when it was, but I know I was younger than ten years old, when a new family moved in to the home across the street from us.  I was excited that there was a girl my age in this family, and I know my mother was hoping I would lose some of my tomboy personality with a new girl friend on the street.

This new family was french speaking; the children spoke some english, but the parents very little.  It was my first introduction to french immersion, and in retrospect I learned more french from them than I ever did in school.  I am sure it worked both ways, as the children and their parents had no choice but to learn english as they were the only french speaking family in the neighborhood.

The girl in this family quickly became my best friend, and although we went to different schools, we spent most of our free time together, each learning the rules of the other’s mother language.  She learned that “beurre d’arachide” was not called “butter peanut”, but “peanut butter” in english.  I learned which french words were preceded with “la” as opposed to “le” (most important things have “la” by the way) along with many common household phrases.  I even learned to play cards in french, as most friday or saturday nights the grandmother would come over to visit their family and the cards would come out. Her favorite phrase (at least this is how I remember it) was “je tu avec mon ace”  which translates (loosely) to “i beat you with my ace”   I also remember learning a few french swear words from the father, but those are probably best left unsaid…

Unfortunately, this friend and I drifted apart in our later teen-aged years, and lost contact completely when I went off to school in Kingston and later moved to Ottawa.  We have both since married and have children of our own.  My parents have both passed away, I know her mom died suddenly years ago, but I am not sure if she is fortunate enough to have her dad with her still.

The other friend I have recently reconnected with on Facebook is my  “little sister”.  In my family I have two older sisters, two older brothers and one younger brother, but not a little sister.  Years ago, before I had children of my own, I applied to the “Big Brothers/Big Sisters” association to become a big sister.  This was something I had always wanted to do, since the program was familiar to me in Cornwall where my cousin was the first executive director and co-founder of Big Brothers.  I was matched up with my little sister, an eight year old girl who lived close to my home in Kanata with her mom and younger twin sisters.  My little sister and I spent many hours together over the next eight years; talking, laughing, crying, celebrating and growing up.  Officially our relationship as big and little sister ended when she turned 16, but we remained close for a few more years until life got too hectic for both of us and we drifted apart…

I am grateful to Facebook for the chance to reconnect with these two important women in my life.  I hope to get to know both of them once again!

 

Another Blizzard in Ottawa

Just what we need (NOT); another blizzard in Ottawa!  This kind of weather is acceptable, even kind of nice, in December so we have a picturesque white Christmas.  In mid March, not so much!

I have been waiting patiently for the snow to disappear, so I can get gardening for the season.  I have lots of gardens waiting for me to visit.  Unfortunately, as you can see from the picture, my Gardens4U van (my son and his friends call it the gardenmobile) is almost covered in snow.  Again!

If I wanted a blizzard, I would have gone to Dairy Queen!