Friday, July 29, 2016


People often comment how lazy cats are. Never have I heard someone say how patient they can be.
While it’s true that cats sleep a lot, if awake and they’ve spotted a fly (or another bug) I’m amazed at their perseverance to catch the intruder.

Yesterday a fly zipped past my nose, but by the time I swatted at it, it was long gone. The fly kept pestering me again and again, and while at one point one of my fingers did make contact, the fly kept coming back for more.

It didn’t take long for Holly to spot the fly too and she made it her mission to be its terminator. She positioned herself on a side table near the sliding door, ready to attack anything that came in or went out.

At first the fly stayed out of Holly’s way, but eventually his curiosity or foolish playfulness got the better of him and the fly did a fly by right under Holly’s nose.

Holly’s attention which, after half an hour of no action, was slacking, was suddenly on high alert. Her head turned from left to right and up and down, following the fly wherever he went.

A few times, when within reach, Holly made a grab for it, but came up empty handed. Still, she didn’t give up. Again and again and again she tried to catch that buzzer.

At some point, she almost succeeded. She sat on the floor by the door, the fly flew over her head, Holly reached up with both paws and … while failing to catch the fly, she did manage to throw it out.

The fly, clearly knocked senseless and perhaps suffering a headache, sat on the tiles for a few seconds before taking off.

We thought that was the end of it, but we were wrong, today the fly (or another fly) was back. Holly, who so far had slept peacefully, woke up and kept an eye on her fast food (or afternoon snack). She sat on the table, followed the fly with her eyes wherever it went and waited patiently. So patiently in fact that I started to wonder how much longer she was going to sit there, not moving, not even her ears or her tail.

Having practiced her swing the previous day the fly didn’t stand a chance. After having buzzed around the chandelier for a while, it came down for landing and … zap, Holly’s paw shot out, she grabbing it out of the air and smacked the fly on the table, covered it with her other paw and bend down to eat it.

Unfortunately, the fly was no dummy and it played dead under Holly’s paw. The moment Holly bend down and lifted her paw slightly to eat it, the fly flew away.

While I can only imagine that Holly said “STOP THAT FLY!” the fly from his side shouted “SEE YA!” 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Spinach anyone?

After surgery last week, it was up to Dieter to do the cleaning, the shopping, cooking, and dishes. Breakfast and lunch was no problem, as we usually stick to something easy, but since his culinary skills are limited we had to be creative for dinners.

I suggested hash browns with lettuce and tomato and steak; spaghetti; rosti with mixed veggies sausages; and fries with an omelet.

Everything went fine until last Monday when I suggested hash browns with baby spinach leaves and steak. I’d read that the iron in spinach is good for recuperation (providing the spinach is combined with tomatoes), so that’s what we would have.

Dieter went out to the store and came back with a big bag. Considering that he only needed a packet of baby spinach, two tomatoes and a tray of meat, I wondered what was in that bulky bag.

The mystery was soon solved when Dieter pulled out a box of baby spinach leaves that made my jaw drop. Just how much spinach had he bought? The box carried the label “11 ounces/311 grams”.

“Why such a big box?” I asked him.
“A bag of spinach was $2,99,” he explained. “This box was only $4,99. So for $2 more you get way more spinach.”

I couldn’t argue with his reasoning, but who was going to eat all this spinach? It’s just the two of us and we don’t have a rabbit.

Sprinkled with salt and pepper, and drizzled with olive oil (we had to forego lemon juice because of my low blood pressure), the baby spinach was delicious. And because we had so much of it, we had it the next day again.

As much as I enjoyed the meals, two days of baby spinach in a row is enough for me, tonight I would like something different. I was thinking peas or mushrooms, but I’m afraid to send Dieter to the store. Who know what he’s going to come home with.

If you like my blog, maybe you will like my books.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Toronto thunder storm

Just the other day, a friend and I were talking about thunderstorms. She loves them, I’m not keen on them. I don’t mind a gentle rolling thunder, but when it comes crashing down with a bang I’m like a dog who flattens its ears and crawls in a corner. Lightning I find entertaining, but at the same time scary, considering the damage it can cause.

Yesterday night, or shall I say yesterday morning, as it happened around 5:00 a.m., Toronto experienced one of its worst thunderstorms: pelting rain, one thunder bolt after another and lightning that set the sky on fire for close to an hour. And what did I do … I slept right through it.

When asked whether the storm had woken me up, I asked “What storm?” I hadn’t heard or seen a thing.

This was not the first time this happened. Many years ago, while still living in Johannesburg, the city was rocked by a tremendous earthquake. When it hit, the house shuddered on its foundations, chandeliers trembled, and books and ornaments fell off surfaces. Or so I was told. When my friends and neighbors discussed the event the next day, I had nothing to contribute as I never stopped catching zzzzzzzzzs.

I’ve also been known to sleep through a fire alarm. How this is possible is a mystery even to me. The fire alarm in our condo building produces a piercing sound. Every condo is fitted with a unit, with an additional two units in the corridor. It is so loud that I often wonder if it endangers our hearing.

That particular night though I wasn’t bothered at all. When asked later about the alarm, and I stated that I hadn’t heard anything. A building official came to test the alarm to see if it worked. It did indeed. He gave me strange look and commented “You must be a terrific sleeper.”

A terrific sleeper? Not really, in fact I have problems sleeping. Most of the time I only go to bed when I feel dead tired and can hardly keep my eyes open. Once in bed though I’m wide awake. Then I lie there, gazing up at the ceiling, tossing and turning, eventually switching on the light to read a book.

With a book it can go either way. Either the story is boring and after a few pages I feel tired enough to give sleeping another go, or the story is captivating and I keep turning pages.

Once I’m asleep though everything changes. A proverbial cannon can go off next to me and I won’t stir. 

If you like my blog, you might like my books.

Monday, July 4, 2016

My left foot

I was born in Aalst, Belgium where I spent the first 21 years of life. Shortly after I got married I moved to Johannesburg, South Africa where I lived for 15 years. Shortly after I got divorced I decided to come to Canada and have been in Toronto for 18 years. Yet when the 4th of July comes around, I celebrate the American’s independence day.
If I go out, I dress according to the holiday. This year I spent the day at home, but I still “wore” the colors red, white and blue, only not in traditional way.

Here’s what happened …

After Dieter came home from work and we’d had coffee, we went grocery shopping. Halfway through, and this is something I never do, I asked for a can of pineapple. Dieter picked up said can and put it in the trolley.

Once home we did what we always do … I unloaded the shopping bags and Dieter put the stuff away. To save time, I first gave him all the cabinet items, followed by deep freeze items and lastly fridge items.

Dieter opened the fridge, positioned himself in front of the shelves, and I put things on the edge of the door which he took and gave a place.

Things went fine until I placed the can of pineapple on the edge of the door and then it went wrong. The can slipped off, not that I saw it, but I certainly felt it. My left foot exploded with pain.

For minutes I couldn’t move. I stood there, doubled over, groaning with pain, thinking I was going to pass out, and feeling more nauseous by the second.

Eventually, I was able to shuffle to a chair and sat down, my foot throbbing with a nauseating pain.
Of course, this had to be documented, so I took a picture of it. And that’s when I saw it … my foot was white, the bruise was blue, with a nice red stripe in the middle.

Okay, so there were no stars, but one can't have everything.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Should we be allowed to criticize?

Most coloring groups on Facebook have a strict “No criticism” policy. The rules often state “If you don’t have anything good to say, move on.” But is that really such a good idea? If we are not allowed to receive criticism, how will we ever get better?

While I by no means imply that we should be allowed to tear each other’s work apart, constructive criticism might turn an enthusiastic artist into a good artist, and a good artist into a great one.

Most people know their own limitations. By looking at other’s work they know that their work is not up to par. They can see that others are better and often wonder ... how did they do that?

This is where constructive criticism might be helpful. Mentioning where the coloring artist went wrong, or what could be improved upon, might not only be well received but appreciated.

For instance. Some two weeks or three weeks ago I noticed a particularly striking image of blue flowers in this group. The coloring brought about a string of likes and comments of people falling over themselves to express how extraordinary this coloring was. 
My first reaction was ... I might as well give up. The artist, Pris David, commented “No, don’t do that. Keep practicing and you’ll be able to do this too.” Yeah right, like that was gonna happen.

So I emailed Pris and she started giving me some tips. I tried what she explained and ... it didn’t work. I tried again and again, but no, no luck.

Next Pris provided, in addition to more advice, a picture of what to do and what not to do. I tried again and ... hm, while I could see a tiny bit of improvement, my efforts still didn’t even come close to what she was showing me.
So Pris took it one step further and sent me a video.
I must have watched that video ten times, and not just looked at it, but studied it, along with the pictures she provided. And yes, eventually what she had explained, showed me with drawings and now with this video started to make sense.

So I tried again, sent her the result of my work, she delivered feedback and I tried again, and again, and again.

Today I’m happy to say that I’m getting there. I’m still nowhere near as good as Pris is, but if I can improve this much in two weeks, the future looks promising.

The blue flowers I colored earlier this year, the blue and pink ones were done last week.
Better, right?
JUNE 2016

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Can cats tell time

If you’ve ever wondered if cats can tell time, I can tell you with absolute certainty that they can.

Some cat owners will agree, knowing that their cat greets them by the front door as they come home from work. But it goes further than that.

Take Mickey for instance. Mickey can be in a deep sleep, but come 6:15 p.m., he wakes up and moves to the kitchen. He knows that around that time I start dinner, and he gets his food. He doesn’t say anything, he merely sits there, looking at me. If he were able to talk, no doubt he would say “Hu hm, can you feed me?”
But speaking of talking talking ... Mickey never learned how to meow as such, but he’s a great singer.

For instance, last week my son Dieter went to Home Depot after work. Usually Dieter comes home around 4:45 p.m., but on that particular day 4:45 p.m. came and went, there was no sign of Dieter and Mickey got agitated.
He started pacing through the whole condo. First he walked up and down the living room a few times, next he went to check the bedrooms, he even took a look in the bathroom, and when he couldn’t find Dieter he started “singing”.

Yes I call it singing, because what Mickey does you can’t call meowing. He hits a note and holds it. He will hit another note for a few seconds, then go higher or lower for a few second more. All the while walking to and fro.

Each time Dieter announces that he will be late because of a meeting, shopping or a date, I dread it because Mick turns from a regular cat into an opera singer.

Gabriel can also tell time and is an equally great singer. Perhaps even better than Mickey because depending on the sound he sound he produces I know exactly what he wants.
Gabriel knows that, during the week, Dieter wakes up at 6:00 a.m. During the weekend he doesn’t set his alarm because he wants to sleep in, but Gabriel doesn’t know that. So, when Saturday and Sunday morning comes around, and Dieter doesn’t get out of bed around 6:00 a.m., Gabriel reminds him that it’s time to get up. And believe me, he doesn’t meow softly, he has quite a voice on him. A voice that says ... come on, get up, you’re late!

Another reason why he meows (if you can call it that) is when he wants a drink from the sink. He has a full water bowl in the kitchen (I make sure that the bowl is full when I got to bed), but every now and then Gabe wants to drink from the bathroom tab. He meows, or shall he sings, so loud and so persistent until I get out of bed and comply with his request. When I get to the bathroom, I find him sitting on the toilet and then he looks at me and sings in a tone that says ... what took you so long?
Another reason why Gabriel flexes his vocal cord is when he wants to be on top of the cabinet. He has a fondness for high places, but getting there presents a bit of a problem ... he can’t jump. He rather, he sometimes lacks the confidence to jump. 
To get onto the wall unit, he has to jump on the cat tree, and for some reason Gabriel doesn’t trust that thing. He will manage it ones, twice or even three times just fine, and then the fourth time he will doubt himself and doesn’t dare the jump. So I have to lift him up, or at least steady the cat tree for him to get from a to b. To get my attention he produces a sound that almost says ... Help me! Please!!!
Ah cats ... you gotta love 'em

Monday, May 30, 2016

Writers, beware of typos

Bloggers are advised to post a few times a week, or even one post every day. As such some bloggers wonder ... where do I find inspiration? My advice ... spend some time on Facebook, within no time you’ll have inspiration coming out of your ears.

For instance, yesterday I noticed a post “How much should an online article cost”. The writer, let’s call her Ann, gave as an example that a 600 word article should fetch $150. I nearly burst out laughing.

While I fully agree that writers should be paid a decent fee, Ann needs a dose of reality.

I have been a freelance writer for close to ten years and never in all this time have I been able to negotiate a fee. A client will post an assignment, mention a fee, and a writer can take it or leave it.

I’ve also been part of several writing groups and the conditions were the same. The project manager stated the remuneration and I could accept and be part of the project, or refuse.

What bothers me the most about Ann’s post is that she’s like so many other bloggers. She wants attention for her blog, so she directs herself to writers and picks a title that is guaranteed to get their attention ... How much should an online article cost? What writer can resist having a quick peek?

Unfortunately, Ann should read her posts before hitting the publish button. We had a conversation on Facebook about this and some of the things she writes are:

“I average go between $35-75 for 500 words.”
I average go between ... what kind of English is that? I take it she means ... I average between $35-75 for 500 words.

“I have hooked up a couple of people here with descent paying gigs.” Descent? She must mean decent.

“I only submitted 4 names so not to overwhelm the client - your's was, of course, one of them.” Your’s? It’s ‘yours’ Ann, not “your’s”.

That’s three mistakes in one short conversation. And this from a writer who claims to make $35 to $75 per article. If I was a client I wouldn’t pay her $5, more so, I wouldn’t hire her to begin with.

Ann also recommends that writers find their niche. Hm, another one of those overused pieces of advice. If you don’t know what to say to fellow writers, say that they have to find their niche. Personally, I know my niche, but if I had to limit myself to that particular subject, not only would I have very little to write or blog about, my readers might get bored.

For my blog, I write about things I like, funny things, scary things, things that happen in Toronto, or things that annoy me. As a freelance writer on the other hand, I write about all kinds of things. Over the past ten years I have written a variety of articles, guides and product descriptions about:
  • The fall of the Berlin wall
  • How the Eifel Tower was build
  • The best gloves for winter
  • A variety of makeup articles
  • Gardening tips
  • Household appliances
  • Furniture (and most recently)
  • Men’s and women’s sexy lingerie.
While it’s fine to have a niche, a freelance writer should be able to write about anything and everything.

Finally, Vicky (not her real name) put her two cents into the conversation and stated “I have posted plenty of opportunities for this group. I have also reached out to several of you via PM when I have located something that meets your genre or voice.”

Which is true, but then Vicky isn’t just any writer. She has years of experience, is highly skilled, and to tell you the truth ... the things she writes about I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole because I feel I’m not qualified to write to some suggested titles.

My advice to Ann ... if she wants to be considered a serious writer, she should hire an editor. I did. My blog posts I write, proofread and publish myself, but when I write for a client I send my work to Alex.

As my editor, Alex reads my articles with eagle eyes that pick up on even the tiniest of mistakes. Not only does she spot typos, she also improves on my grammar. In short, when I get my work back, I’m confident that it’s the best it can be.

As a final word to Ann ... nothing kills the reputation of a writer faster than typos.