Wednesday, August 26, 2015

10 Tips on how to save money

In today’s world it’s all about going green, eating organic and saving money. Just this morning I came across an article that promised all kinds of money saving tips, along with tips for a healthier lifestyle. Not all the tips were helpful though.

Tip 1: Put plants in your bedroom

This might not be such a good idea. While some plants might be air purifying and give off oxygen, others give off carbon dioxide at night. The last time I was in hospital the nurses removed all plants from the rooms and put them in the corridor.

Tip 2: Install a low flow shower head

Sorry but not on your life. I lived in a condo a while back where the bathroom had a low flow shower head and I put up with it for exactly three days. After that I called the management office and the superintendent and demanded a regular shower head. Have you ever tried to get shampoo and conditioner out of your hair with a low flow shower head … it takes forever.

Tip 3: Clean with vinegar

While vinegar might work for same purposes, in general it doesn’t do the trick. For instance, I tried to clean the inside glass of the oven door. I tried vinegar, I tried baking soda, I tried the two combined with quite a bit of elbow grease and nothing worked. Only when I switched to Cif, steel wool and elbow grease did the glass get clean.

Tip 4: Unplug the TV when not in use

A fine idea but impossible to execute in my place. My TV sits in a wall unit. In order for me to unplug the appliance I would have to move the nine foot cabinet or squeeze through the gap between the cabinet and the wall (which is about 4 inches). I’m slender, but I’m not that thin.

Tip 5: Invite friends in winter

Instead of turning on the heat, the article suggests that I throw a party and cuddle up with my friends to keep warm. My friends are spread over the four corners of the earth so that’s not going to work. And even if they could come over at a moment’s notice, and I would want to snuffle up with them, I’ll bet they would say … “Hey, don’t get fresh”, or “Sorry, I’m married”.

The writer also recommend snuggling up with a cat, a dog, or another animal. Well yeah, that can work, but eventually the animal will move.

Tip 6: Use a microwave vs. a conventional oven

Sorry but in my case that is not going to happen. You can’t roast a chicken in a microwave; you can’t make a pizza in the microwave; and you certainly can’t make roast potatoes in the microwave. Not to mention the amount of radiation the food gets exposed to. In another article, another writer cautioned consumers about over using a microwave.

Tip 7: Sleep on organic sheets

You know, I’d love to sleep on organic sheets, unfortunately I can’t afford them. A quick price check revealed the following … set of white sheets in Walmart $14, set of organic white sheets in Pottery Barn $50.

Tip 8: Wool not polyester

The writer recommends switching from polyester sweaters and blankets to woolen ones. Again, I’d love to, but my bank account is going to protest. Real wool sweaters and blankets cost about four times more than polyester ones. Plus, cleaning them is a nightmare. I remember washing a cashmere sweater ones and after drying it was the size of a handkerchief.

Tip 9: Go for a mattress that is not treated with chemicals

I did some comparing here too and I was rather shocked. A regular mattress at JC penny $399, at Sears $359, at Mattress Firm $599. A mattress not treated with chemicals at Austin Natural Mattress between $1,299 and $3,500 (on sale mind you).

Tip 10: Shop at a farmers market

Not too long ago I was at a farmers market and walked away empty handed. The fruits and vegetables were beautiful and much bigger than in the supermarket, unfortunately they were also much more expensive.

Bell peppers in supermarket - $0.60

Bell pepper at farmers market - $1.50

Strawberries in supermarket - $2.99

Strawberries at farmers market - $5.99

Zucchini in supermarket - $1.20

Zucchini at farmers market - $3.00

You get the idea.

I’m sure that many of us would like to go organic, but it’s just too darn expensive.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday is Cat Dat - Sink Appeal

Most cats are afraid of water, 
yet the kitchen or bathroom sink holds a magical appeal.

Charlotte ... 
Tap water is so much better from the tap than from a bowl.

Gabriel ... 
the dishes will have to wait.

Mickey ...
Unidentified stationary objects

Mickey ... 
Don't even think of opening that tap

Chanel ...
I don't care for sinks, I prefer the top of the fridge

Holly ...
I don't care for sinks either, I prefer the inside of the fridge. 
But where did all the food go?

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Eye Emporium vs. LensCrafters

On May 22nd I went for an eye exam. I remember it so precisely because it was my birthday.

As it turned out, my current glasses weren’t strong enough and the optometrist upgraded my prescription.

On two previous occasions, I had been a customer of LensCrafters, but a neighbor advised me to try Eye Emporium, they were much cheaper he said.

Three weeks after handing in my prescription, someone from Eye Emporium called me that my glasses were ready for pickup.

That very same day I made my way to the store. But it was not the happy occasion I expected. When I put my new glasses on, I couldn’t see with them. I couldn’t see far, I couldn’t see near, I couldn’t see anything.

I went back to the doctor, with my new glasses, and as it turned out, Eye Emporium got my prescription wrong. I was given a new prescription and went back to the store.

This time I had to wait over three weeks because my glasses to be recut and when I was notified that they were ready, I felt somewhat hesitant. Was everything going to be alright this time?
“Don’t worry if the glasses don’t feel right,” I was told at Eye Emporium. “It takes about a week to get used to progressive lenses.”

Once home I put them on, and … OMG what the heck was this? Whether I looked left or right, up or down, everything was fuzzy.

To cut a long story short, I went to see the optometrist yet again and took my new glasses with me. Rather than examining my eyes, he examined my glasses and told me that, in the left lens, the focal point was 4mm off. 
“Does that matter?” I asked him. 
According to the doctor it mattered very much.

Eye Emporium didn’t agree. I was told that the focal point being 4mm off didn’t matter at all. Personally I was more inclined to believe a doctor than a sales clerk, but as things were they were totally uncooperative.

Back to the optometrist again, who this time send me off with a personal note that a 4mm difference in focal point most definitely mattered and Eye Emporium had to see to my needs.

I was seriously considering chucking Eye Emporium and going to Lenscrafters for new glasses, but Eye Emporium wouldn’t give me my money back and I wasn’t prepared to fork out extra money to have the lenses recut from scratch. So off again I went.

At this point, I think they were as fed up with me as I was with them. But we had to give it one more shot.

They made me wait this time. I was obviously their least favorite customer and everybody else was going to be served first before they got to me.

Last Monday they finally called me. My glasses were ready for pickup, again. And this time they did their job right. As soon as I put the progressive lenses on, I knew everything was fine. I didn’t have to get used to them, I could see fine, right away.

Will I go back to Eye Emporium if I need new glasses in the future? Not a chance. 
I would go back to LensCrafters. Yes, they are more expensive, but their service is impeccable.

Would I recommend Eye Emporium to anyone? Absolutely not.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Stuffed Zucchini

I don’t know about you, but every now and then I get fed up with cooking the same thing over and over again. I want something new, something I’ve never eaten before.

As such I subscribed to “Daily Recipes” and every day I get something new emailed to me. Most of the time I delete these messages, because a) the recipe doesn’t appeal to me, b) there are far too many ingredients, c) it’s a meat I don’t eat.

Mention deer, duck, goose, rabbit, crab, lobster, etc. to me and I’ve lost interest within seconds.

Last Thursday, that changed. I noticed a recipe for “Stuffed Zucchini”. Hello, that sounded interesting. Since I had zucchini in the fridge I decided to give it a go.

I had all the ingredients except for spaghetti sauce. So Dieter was sent to the grocery store while I busied myself with the preparation of the zucchini and the potatoes.

An hour or so later the zucchini was ready and … well, for starters the dish didn’t look like it did in the picture.

What it was supposed to look like

What it really looekd like

Dieter came to take a look and asked if he should call 911. Just in case …

Hoping for the best I dished up and … yack, this was awful. The zucchini and the sauce tasted fine, but the mince tasted like slimy cardboard.

Right away I knew what the problem was … a cup of bread crumbs was way too much. A tablespoon would have been sufficient.

In case you want to try the ingredients were:
3 zucchini
1 pound pork sausage
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (32 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

The preparation read as follows:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. Trim stems from zucchini and slice lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and put in bowl. Mix seeds with sausage, garlic, bread crumbs, and parmesan cheese. Stuff squash with sausage mixture and place in 9x13 inch baking pan. Pour sauce over squash and cover pan with foil.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until sausage is cooked. Remove foil and cover with mozzarella cheese. Cook until cheese is melted.

Just remember, if you’re considering preparing this dish, replace a cup of bread crumbs with a tablespoon of crumbs. To give the mince added texture, add an egg. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Do some “authors” have no shame?

An “author” with the initials SY contacted me on Facebook today asking to post a review for his book on and give it a 5-star rating. In return, he would do the same for me.

When I looked up his book, I noticed that it has 51 reviews, which makes me wonder how many of those reviews are legitimate. Were they posted by readers, or were they posted by people who – like me – were asked to post a review?

The 55% 5-star ratings and the 40% 4-star rating don’t carry much weight either. If SY asked me to give his book a 5-star rating, how many others did he ask to do the same thing?

And then I noticed something else … SY has other books, either written by him or co-authored with someone else. I looked up the reviewers for those books and guess what … the same names kept popping up again and again.

Several people who gave a 5-star review to one book also gave a 5-star review to his other books.

In a blog post that SY wrote, he encourages self-published authors to give away copies of their books to various organizations to generate sales. 

Judging by his sales figures his strategy isn’t exactly working. His books are rated between #6,233,900 to #3,489,600. Not exactly best-sellers.

Now wouldn't you think that a book with dozens of reviews would be rated higher in the best-selling list?

By sheer coincidence, I came across another Facebook member who was approached by SY. She said she reported him to Amazon for unethical behaviour and that I should do the same. If enough people make Amazon aware of his review deceit, something will be done about it.

So I did. I sent Amazon a message that SY approached me to post a 5-star review and much to my surprise they responded within the hour. Apparently they are aware of SY’s methods as several people have filed a complaint against him. They assured me that steps will be taken.

My point … if you feel something is wrong or something bothers you, report it. If you take steps and someone else takes steps, something will be done. But if you keep quiet and others stay quiet, then dishonest individuals such as SY will continue to exploit other for their own gain.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Are we allowed to discriminate

Yesterday I was presented with an official document. In addition to the usual questions (name, address, phone number, email address), I was asked to specify a few details. Was I any of the following:

An aboriginal person

A person of color

A francophone

A person with a disability

Male or female



And I wondered, if discrimination is against the law, are they allowed to ask these questions?

If sex discrimination is against the law, what does it matter whether I’m male or female?

If racial discrimination is against the law are they allowed to ask if I’m aboriginal, a francophone, a person of color or just a plain Caucasian?

Is it a good thing or a bad thing to have a disability? Does having a disability gain you point over being in perfect health?

Does a blind aboriginal male stand a better chance at getting accepted than an aboriginal female with 20/20 vision?

Does a person of color have an advantage over a francophone or the other way around?

If all people are equal on God’s green earth, why are they asking all these questions? The way I see it, this is discrimination.

As for age discrimination, there those asking the questions have come up with a loophole to find out how old someone is.

Since they are not allowed to ask “How old are you?” or “In what year were you born?” they’ve come up with the question “In what year did you graduate high school?” 

Now unless someone graduated from continued education, the cat is pretty much out of the bag. 

We as individuals are not allowed to discriminate, but it seems that organizations are.