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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Day 69: Christmas gifts to avoid

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 69: Christmas gifts to avoid

The number one Christmas gift to avoid is a pet.
Kittens and puppies may look adorable in the store or shelter, but they are not ideal gifts.
Kittens and puppies tend to grow up and then what?  Will the gift receiver commit to love and care for them for their entire life span?  Do they have the time and life style to care for a pet?
Many people travel for work and are often away for days or even weeks.  These people generally do not have pets as leaving them creates a problem.  Who will feed them?

Giving a bird, a fish or any other life animal is an equally bad idea.  They too need care on a daily basis and presenting someone with such a gift is thoughtless. 
Should you want to rescue an animal from a shelter and present it to someone make sure that the animal is welcome.

Another gift to avoid is fragrance.  Unless you are familiar with the fragrance the lady in your life uses, stay away from the cute little bottles.  Something may smell nice to you, but that does not necessarily mean that she will share your opinion. 

Come to think of it, stay away from the personal care isle altogether. Ladies are fussy which creams and lotions they use. Unless you are familiar with her preferences, do not take chances.

Ladies, the same goes for you. You may like a certain cologne, but does he?  The time that men had only a handful of colognes to choose from are long gone. These days the display cabinet of men’s fragrances is almost as extensive as the one for ladies.

Chocolates or other candy may seem like a good idea, but is it?  Perhaps the lady in your life is trying to lose a few pounds. Perhaps a certain type of chocolate makes her face break out in spots. She might even be diabetic.

Giving a woman who is a bit overweight a book on dieting, or giving a woman who does not like to cook a cookbook is an equally bad idea. You may think you are helping her, but she might just chuck it at you. If you want to give her a book, familiarize yourself with her preferred authors.

Do not give her clothes, unless you are certain of her size. If the garment is too small she will be disappointed; if it is too big she might be insulted. And even if the item is the right size, will she like the color or texture?

Knock-offs are best to be avoided too. Whether it is a Guess handbag, or a Gucci watch, if you cannot afford the real thing, stay away from it. Far better to buy something cheaper, but for it to be the real thing.
Before setting off for your Christmas shopping, listen to the receiver of your gift, she might just drop a hint.

Or, if you are totally clueless, ask her to draw up a wish list. Whatever you decide to buy, play it safe and keep the receipt.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Day 68: Christmas gift ideas for your girlfriend

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 68: Christmas gift ideas for your girlfriend

Gentlemen, have you been wandering the town or mall, wrecking your brain for the perfect Christmas gift for your girlfriend?  If your budget is limitless the choice is easy, as diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but something tell me you are not as fortunate. 

The Christmas gift you will present your girlfriend with will largely depend on the length of time you have been dating.  If you have been going out for months the type of gift you give will obviously be different than if the relationship is fairly new.

Whatever the case may be, there is no need to panic or rush to the bank for a loan, the following are Christmas gift ideas for your girlfriend that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.


If you cannot afford real diamonds consider the next best thing ... Swarovski crystals.  The Swarovski collection holds a number of jewelry items, ranging from necklaces to bracelets and rings to pretty ornamental pieces for her room.  They are not cheap, but they do fit a man on a budget.

If Swarovski crystal is still too much for you, have a look at custom jewelry in sterling silver, electroplated gold or pearls.  You may find some beautiful items for a fraction of the price.


Unless your girlfriend suffers from asthma, consider a nice bottle of perfume or au de toilette.  The pretty bottles come in all kinds of scents and price ranges and will be welcomed with a smile.

Should perfume or au de toilette be out of your price range, have a look at body lotion, bath pearls or scented candles.  They cost next to nothing and will still make for a very nice gift.


Does your girlfriend like to write?  If she does, surprise her with a laptop.  If this is a bit much, I’m sure she will be tickled pink with a beautiful journal to capture her ideas and thoughts.  Journals come in all kinds of sizes and price ranges, from expensive leather-bound books to economically priced hard cover ones.
While you’re at it, you might as wells spring for a nice pen too.

If your girlfriend loves to read, you can’t go wrong with a book. Before making a selection in the bookstore, discretely find out what she likes to read, does she like murder mysteries, biographies, vampire stories or romance novels?


Should you wish to give your girlfriend a clothing item, stick to a warm scarf, gloves or anything else that doesn’t require knowing her size.  
Steer clear of lingerie.  Unless your relationship has reached an intimate stage and you are very sure such an item will be welcomed, give it a miss as this type of gift is presumptuous and might backfire.

If you are still at a loss as to what to get, talk to your mother, your sister or a female colleague.  Girls know what girls like.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Day 67: Christmas Shopping

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 67: Christmas Shopping

I met one of my neighbors yesterday who bitterly complained ...

How I wish that there was indeed such a man as Father Christmas. Someone who would bring the perfect presents to our house in exchange for some milk and cookies. Gosh, I would gladly make him coffee and a sandwich or even cook him dinner for saving me a trip to the mall.

Every year I suggest that instead of giving presents at Christmas, we move exchanging presents to New Years. I mean, what is the big deal? So, we wait a week, so what?  Is one week going to kill us? And think of all the benefits: no crowds; reduced prices; plenty of items to chose from; and no Christmas music.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas carols as much as the next person, but after hearing ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ ten or fifteen times, those jingle bells start to give me a headache!  Then I wonder why nobody gets Rudolph inside so he can warm his nose. 

One year, in the third week of December I went in search of presents. And, just like other years, it was a battle and a struggle. The otherwise relatively quiet mall was packed with people. Some were milling around, not quite knowing where to go, while others were purposefully striding, knowing exactly what to get, where to go, and loosing no time getting there. I got a bump here, a shove there and must have heard “I’m sorry”, “Excuse me”, and “Pardon me” at least fifteen times. I had to ask myself, was this shopping or polite wrestling?

In good time, I found what I was looking for and was quickly weighed down by boxes and rolls of wrapping paper. I became a bit more sympathetic towards the pushers and the shovers as I was now one of them, occasionally uttering the words “I’m sorry”, “Excuse me” and “Pardon me.”

I dragged more than I carried my purchases in large plastic bags and heavy cardboard boxes across the mall, all the while perspiring in my heavy winter coat. My feet were killing me; my back was in urgent need of a soft comfy chair, my legs agreed with my back and to make matters worse I was getting hungry.  What might people think if they thought they heard a loud rumbling noise?

By the time I got home, my bank account and I felt the same way --- exhausted.

Still, mall shopping is a vast improvement over street shopping. Back then it was so cold Santa could have tagged me to replace Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer within the first five minutes. The wind tugged at my coat and scarf as I trudged through inches of snow. Fun it was not, and it got even worse when I was laden with a few packages. I slipped and I skidded, and quite a few times I ultimately ended up on my not well padded behind!

At least now, when I shop in a mall, I keep my balance and my dignity. It’s even worth listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks singing ‘Jingle Bells’.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Day 66: Rest in peace Mickey – (2007 – 2017)

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 66: Rest in peace Mickey – (2007 – 2017)

Today’s post is dedicated to Mickey, whom we lost yesterday December 6th.

Mickey came to live with us after mom passed away and dad decided to move to a retirement home. A new home had to be found for Mickey. I didn’t even bother looking for a home for him, because I knew right away that Mickey would come to live with me. Not only would he receive all the love and attention he deserved, my dad would have peace of mind that Mickey would be well looked after.

A cat carrier and a plane ticket was bought, and when I returned from Belgium to Canada, Mickey came with me. He handled the trip like a pro. But that was Mickey alright, he was a relaxed cat, nothing bothered him.

Upon arrival in Toronto, he was welcomed by Dieter and once home he immediately got along with the other cats. He went from being an only child to having brothers and sisters and he loved it.

After exploring his new home, he took up residence in an armchair, and that for years to come was his favorite spot. Not that he didn’t try other places, he sampled the coffee table, the side table, the top of the armoire, the sideboard and of course, Dieter and my bed.

When we adopted Gabriel a few weeks after Mickey’s arrival, Mick was there to welcome the little one and he became daddy. Gabriel thought Mickey was his mommy and occasionally sucked the nipples on Mickey’s belly. Mick probably thought ... what a confused little kitten this is, but good old Mick took it in his stride.

Mickey was not a very active cat or even playful cat. He did like to chase a laser light, but other than that he preferred watching the others play with a ball or a mouse rather than taking part in the game.

Neither was Mickey a very vocal cat. Not once did we hear him meow, the most that ever came out of his mouth was a high pitched “E”. He could carry a conversation though. When we mimicked his little “e” sound, he would reply, over and over again.

Mickey loved attention though. At least once a day he would come and sit next to me or Dieter and start headbutting us. This was our cue to stroke his back and rub his head and cheeks. Oh how he loved to have his cheeks rubbed. I didn’t actually have to move my hand, he twisted his head this way and that way so that the top of his head, his cheeks and under his chin all got attention. It carried on for so long that eventually we had to say “Okay Mick, that’s enough.”

Another thing he loved was going to the bathroom with us. Every time, every single time, one of us got up to use the bathroom and Mickey heard the door closing, he would go running to join whoever used the room. He could be fast asleep, but when he heard the light switched on and the door closing, he was wide awake and went running. Eventually, it turned into a bit of a joke. When one of us had to go, we would say “Mick, are you coming?” and he did.

Mickey also like to watch certain activities such as dish washing and window washing. I called him inspector Mickey. Or when potatoes were peeled and resting in cold water, he would come and have a look, even touching the water.

One of his habits was ‘washing’ his paws after he had used the litter box. He did it every single time. He would use his box, step out of it, go to the nearest wall and make a scratching movement (presumably to get the sand off his paws).

All in all he was a healthy cat who never saw the inside of a vet’s office. My folks took his to their local vet of course for his shots and to have him neutered, but here in Canada, he was never sick. As it turned out, his first visit to our local vet was also his last. Two days ago I noticed that Mickey a trouble breathing. I suspected that he had a cold and took him to the vet for an exam and medication. X-rays revealed that Mickey’s chest was full of fluids and he had an irregular heartbeat. An operation, after care and medication would not only have cost thousands of dollars, but would bring Mickey great discomfort as the fluid would most certainly return. So I made the decision to let Mick go in peace.

Now that he’s gone he is missed. I woke up this morning and he wasn’t there at the footend of my bed. I went to the bathroom to shower and he didn’t follow me. His armchair is empty.

I hereby would like to thank everybody who responded to today’s earlier announcement of Mickey’s passing. The messages of condolences haven’t stopped. That’s one thing of Facebook friends, when something happens, they are there to comfort and support. I guess everybody knows what it’s like to lose a loved one.

Below a selection of Mickey’s greatest hits ...


Rest in peace Mickey

Flowers from Birchmount Veterinary Clinic

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Day 65: The Weather - According to my Son

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 65: The Weather - According to my Son

A few days ago, I had to go out. Even though it was December and presumably cold, before going out I asked my son “Is it cold out there?”

Heaven knows why I asked because I never get an accurate response. Dieter is one of those people who is completely unaffected by the cold. It must be pretty bad before he wears a coat and he never ever wears a hat or a scarf. So really, I don’t know why I bothered checking with him.

When Dieter says it’s nice, that means that I need a light sweater. When he says it’s a little chilly, a warmer sweater is needed. When he says it’s cold, I better bundle up in a coat, scarf, hat, and gloves. And when he says that it’s very cold, that means it’s freezing the balls off a brass monkey.

In summer, his temperature assessment is equally deceiving. When he says that it’s a little chilly, it’s actually quite nice. The kind of day that I can go out in a short-sleeved shirt. When he says it’s warm, that’s my cue to reach for something sleeveless. When he says it’s very warm, that means it’s hot. I can handle the heat up to 28 degrees C (86 degrees F) comfortably, but anything above that is too hot. So, when Dieter says it’s hot, that means outside the birds are falling out of the trees.

I’ll bet now you’re wondering how he describes wind and rain. So, I’ll tell you. When Dieter says, it’s okay, that means there’s a bit of a breeze. When he says there a bit of a breeze, it’s actually quite windy. And when he says it’s windy, there’s a storm going on. Now when he says that it’s very windy ... well, wherever you’re going you’re in danger of being airborne.

As for rain, he certainly can’t be trusted. It’s misty means it’s drizzling. It’s drizzling means it’s raining. It’s raining means it’s pouring. And when he says it’s raining hard there’s practically a hurricane going on.

My weather app on my phone is equally unreliable.
For instance. For today my phone said that it was 12 deg C (54 deg F). I’m sure it was 12/54 degrees somewhere, but it wasn’t in Toronto.

There have been days that the app says that 75% chance of rain is expected and there’s not a drop of water to be seen. Last winter the app predicted 6 cm of snow (a little more than 2 inches) and we got nothing than a light dusting.

Fortunately, even though my son fails to give me an accurate description of the weather and my phone app is frequently wrong, I can always rely on my cats.

When they groom themselves and they wipe a paw behind their ears ... it’s gonna rain. When the wiping involves a triple action, it’s gonna come down in buckets.
On the other hand, if they claw at the furniture or carpets, wind is expected. And believe me, it never fails.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Day 64: It was an accident – Decorating for Christmas

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 64: It was an accident – Decorating for Christmas

There’s been an accident at our house. Something gruesome really ... St. Joseph got decapitated.

It happened last Friday. Being December 1st, we thought the time had come to bring out the Christmas tree and decorate the house. Don’t imagine this as easy, because it’s a huge job.

First of all, Dieter had to get the tree out of the storage cabinet which is a job in itself. The cabinet is stuffed to the gills with ... stuff. In addition to boxes with Easter decorations and boxes with Halloween decorations, there is stuff such as a fan, a heater, crutches, old curtains, lamps, blankets, cat carriers, etc. To get to the Christmas tree and decorations, all this had to come out.

Once the Christmas tree was out of its box, the branches needed unfolding. Another big job that kept us busy for at least half an hour.

Then, while Dieter decorated the living room, I put the balls in the tree. This under close inspection of our four cats: Mickey, Charlotte, Gabriel, and Holly who couldn’t wait to get their paws on the balls.

While decorating the tree, I suddenly heard a crash followed by “Oh shit.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“St. Joseph got decapitated,” Dieter said.
I rushed over and sure enough, there was St. Joseph, on the floor and his head was nowhere to be found. Oh well, I was sure it would turn up and if it didn’t I could just buy another St. Joseph.

While looking at the Christmas stable, I noticed something very strange. There was something profoundly wrong with our nativity scene. The stable had a St. Joseph (minus his head), a virgin Mary, three kings, three shepherds, an ox and a sheep, but ... there were two mangers in front of Mary and Joseph.

“Two mangers?” I turned to Dieter. “Since when did the virgin Mary have twins?
“I was at the store,” Dieter said. “I couldn’t remember whether we had a manger or not, so I bought one. Seems a shame to let the extra manger go to waste.”
I had no comeback for this. So, the extra manger stayed and apparently, in our house baby Jesus now has a little brother or sister. (No disrespect intended, I assure you.)

With the tree set up and the house decorated, Dieter decided to put lights in the annex of the living room and lights on the balcony. He was about to start with the lights for the annex when I looked at the string, mentally measured the walls of the annex and ... the string seemed too long.

“I don’t think that is the right string,” I said. “I think the string that you’re holding with the blue, green and purple lights is for the balcony and the string over there with blue, green, orange and red lights is for the annex.”
“No,” Dieter said. “This is the string for the annex and that string is for the balcony. Look, there’s a tiny bit of white paint on this light, meaning it’s from the balcony.” And off he went.

Putting up the lights went accompanied by a whole lot of sighing, moaning and occasional swearing when the hammer missed the nail and knocked a finger instead.
When the string of lights indeed proved to be too long, Dieter got creative and worked a design into the display. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. Oh well, it would have to do.

Next Dieter put on a jacket and was now going to string the lights along the balcony. Within minutes he came back inside with the announcement ... “The string is too short. You were right, the annex string is for outside and this string is for inside.” Hm, tell me something I didn’t know. But you know men ... they don’t want to hear “I told you so.”

Then again, I made a mistake of my own. I placed an angel on top of the lamp lighting the nativity scene.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Dieter said. “That angel is gonna fall.”
“We’ll see,” I said. “It seems pretty sturdy to me.”
I was wrong. Last night when I went to unplug the balcony lights, I suddenly felt a profound thump on my head. After having rubbed the sore spot I looked and there she was ... the angel smiling up at me from the floor. Her face almost said “Gotcha.”

On Sunday morning, we woke up to the sound of something falling and rolling. Even before I came into the living room I knew what it was and who the culprit was ... Holly had knocked a ball off the Christmas tree and was now batting it around in a way that would have made David Beckham jealous.

Charlotte was also playing with something. Batting it, chasing it, and batting it some more. She had such fun that, at first, I let her play, but when I saw what she was playing with, I had to put a stop to it ... St. Joseph’s head. Don’t worry, doctor Dieter and superglue remedied the situation and all is well with the holy family.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Day 63: How to fix the economy

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 63: How to fix the economy

Over the past few days, I’ve been spending time with the rich and famous, the very rich. Well, not actually spending time ‘with’ time as much as helping them decide which yacht to rent or buy by way of describing these superyachts. It was an eye-opener, to say the least.

Usually, I’m not interested in yachts. If I can’t afford them, why go to exhibitions where these ships are on display or watch TV shows that feature these things. However, on this occasion a number of writers were required to give a detailed description of several yachts and since the job paid well I decided to join the team.

I just about fell in love with the first ship I did, the Northern Star. On the outside, she’s just about like any other ship, but on the inside ... OMG like I said, it was love at first sight. It didn’t even look like a ship, it looked like a home. A beautiful, tastefully decorated home. Writing about it was a breeze.

The Northern Star

One of the dining rooms

One of the sitting rooms

One of the bedrooms

One of the decks

Unfortunately, I will never have the pleasure of vacationing on such a ship because, while I have no idea how much the Northern Star costs to purchase, even renting her for a week is way out of my budget. Just in case you’re interested, renting the Northern Star will cost you $768,000 per week. Per week!!!
Following the Northern Star, I wrote about several other ships. Also beautifully decorated, but not quite too my taste. Too modern.

And then I came across the Al Salamah, a mega yacht previously owned by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. If you’re interested in buying this ship you better come up with $300 million. For this price, you and 39 of your friends can revel in the lap of luxury and be waited on hand and foot by a crew of 92. 

And then this morning I came across a plea for a donation from a man whose daughter has blood cancer. He is working, but he can’t afford the treatment for his daughter on his salary.

Now isn’t this ironic? On the one hand, there is a man who can spend $300 million dollars on a ship, and several more millionaires who can fork out over $500,000 to spend one week on a yacht. Yet here is a man who can’t afford to keep his daughter alive.
And he is, no doubt, not the only one.

My guess is that there are tons of people who can’t afford the medical care they need. And I’m not just talking about cancer treatment. Here in Canada for instance, medical care is free, but dental, eye care, hearing, and medication must be paid. Thus, lots of people forego going to the dentist, do without glasses, without hearing aids or without medication.
Others have it even worse. The can’t afford housing, warm clothing, or even decent food.

Where it comes to money distribution, the folks who waste their money on million dollar homes, luxury cars, yachts and other outrages expenses should be forced to share their wealth with the less fortunate. And I’m not talking about the poor people in Africa (although they too can do with some help) or those on welfare. I’m talking about the average working class. Folks who go to work every day and still struggle to make ends meet or who barely get by.

Wouldn’t it be nice if those rich wasters were forced to donate an equal amount of money to what they spent on frivolities? If they pay $300 million for a yacht, they should be forced to donate $300 million. If another waste $40 million on a house, he should contribute $40 million to the people fund. If another still spends $2.2 million on a car, $2.2 million should be donated, etc.

Not only would the rich think twice before wasting their money, the economy would benefit from their donations. Do you know how many people live in million dollar mansions, drive luxury cars, and vacation on superyachts ... tons of them. 
With more money to spend, the working class would be able to afford a house/condo, a car, furniture, clothes, groceries, and anything else they might want or need. With more items needed production the economy would go up and unemployment down. Even the crime rate might go down.

Then again, who would oversee such a donation fund? Charitable organizations have notoriously sticky fingers and with millions coming in it’s only a matter of time before someone or several someones would nibble on the fund for their own gain.

Still, fixing the economy this way is a nice thought, isn’t it?