Monday, April 26, 2010

Planning my week.

I'm continuing to use my daily planner form that I mentioned in my last post, and have added a weekly one to try to identify the key projects I need to focus on. (I'm going to tweak this one to add a couple of things, but you get the idea.)

This week, I need to get some gifts for events this month, two of which happen this weekend.  I'll be heading out to check out a couple of Catholic gift stores to search for a baptism gift for my beautiful niece, and I need to figure out a gift for my pre-teen nephew.  Mother's Day is also fast approaching as well as a couple of other birthdays.

Continuing in the garden this week, I want to start working on the flower beds.  I am intent on actually improving the soil and mulching like crazy this year to try to reduce our weed issue. A trip to Canadian Tire will get me all that, plus allow me to exchange the wrong sized furnace filter I bought last week, and pick up a dryer vent kit for our new washer and dryer that will be installed next week!  I've managed to accumulate a lot of money on my CT card, so it's (kinda) like getting this stuff free.  Last year, I got 2 out of 3 new tires for my Accord in a similar manner.

Tonight is the monthly Toronto Family History Society meeting.  The big Ontario Genealogical Society Conference is in two weeks and I've volunteered to help out in the research room where attendees can access computers with software etc.  I'm looking forward to meeting the volunteer coordinator in person this evening.

Tomorrow, I head down to Kingston to pick up Alex and his stuff.  His last exam is this morning (Physics) and then he'll be packing up his dorm room.  I"m hoping he can move a lot of his stuff to his new house for the summer, and not bring it all back to Toronto as space is limited here.

Wednesday, I hope to get my new curtains hung.  This was supposed to happen on the weekend, but didn't.  Perhaps Alex can help me since he'll be home and (not yet) employed.  I'll also start some work in the garden, weather permitting (and right now, it looks like it'll be cool and bright!)



Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Getting stuff done

It has been very easy for me to fall in to the trap of excessive time online, planning and plotting, thinking about things I'd like to do around the house, reading organizing blogs and decorating blogs and business blogs and minimalism blogs.....and then not actually DO anything.

On top of the mountain of laundry that had piled up, I had a number of nagging tasks that I had been putting off for weeks.  Then I started saying "As soon as we're back from Rome, I'll get right on it."   And then we got back and I got sick.

So now, feeling much better and only slightly bedeviled by allergies, I decided to hit the week running.

The top goals are/were:

Do something about the sorry state of our lawn. There was an article in the Star last last week about how to repair lawns, so I spent a good part of Monday and Tuesday raking the thatch and have started to put down a layer of new soil where the lawn is patchy.  I've got 200 litres of bagged soil in my trunk from my second soil run, and I"ll get that spread tomorrow.  I've also got some good quality grass seed that I'm sowing over the soil.  It looks like we're going to get some rain over the next few days, so that will help. Status:  Half-done. To be finished tomorrow. 

Replace the hideous window coverings in the master bedroom.  They probably weren't hideous when they were first installed, and probably matched the previous owner's decor, but they are faded, dusty, brown-coloured balloon shades.  The strings are broken and the seams are coming apart.  So after doing the measurements,  I headed out to Ikea yesterday and picked up some sheers, some chocolate brown panels, and curtain rods.  We needed a total of six of each panel as we're in a corner room with a double window on one side and a bay window on the other.  I've got some elbow issues right now, so I'll need Z's help to get the rods installed as I don't want to put pressure on my joint with a screwdriver or power driver.  Status:  Measuring and shopping done.  Installation to be done this weekend.

Get a new washer/dryer.  We have the machines that came with the house.  The washing machine is ancient, doesn't spin well, and is leaking oil.  So it's gotta go.  I want a stackable pair as space is at a premium, so I spent some time on Monday researching machines, and whaddya know?  The top rated front-loading washer is on sale at Sears at the moment.  So I plan to order it in the next day or so. The city picks up old appliances free with a phone call in advance, so nothing to be done re disposal. And they offer a $60 rebate when you purchase a high-efficiency washer.  Status:  Research complete.  Rebate form printed.

Taxes:  Canadian taxes are due at the end of April.  Before we went on holidays, I downloaded the current tax software, (electronically) transferred the data from last years returns, and did Alex's (very easy) return.  Today, I did Z's and mine, and e-filed all three of them.  Status:  Done! Done! Done!

Laundry:  I don't know how it happens, but it piles up!  It took me a long time to get all our vacation laundry done because I was sick, But it seems that as soon as I had it all put away, there were overflowing baskets of dirty stuff.  So today I sorted it all and got started.  Status:  Two loads done.  Two loads in progress.  Two loads left to do.

I've had a bunch to mini-tasks to do which I've managed to check off with some ferocity.  Shoes and a watch to their respective repair shops.  Getting some Canada Pension Plan info.  Groceries, shopping, chauffeuring, dog-walking.  You know the drill.  But it's these things above that have made this week seem so productive.  And it's only Wednesday!

I've been using this excellent Daily Docket from Simple Mom to organize my days.  It really helps me stay on track and not get lost in online wanderings or excessive book-reading-napping.  I print one first thing in the morning and fill it out while I'm having coffee.  It also helps that I've started trying to get up a little earlier each morning now that I'm feeling well.  I'm all done breakfast by 8 and have a good start on the day.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Read his blog, and wish him well! #junos

I've blogged before about this fellow, but you really need to listen to me now.  He's started blogging in earnest and his writing is a pleasure to read.

I speak of Rob Teehan, recently nominated for Classical Composition of the Year at the Junos, for his first, ever full orchestral work, Dreams of Flying.  Click on the names of the four other nominees (well, three actually --- one is nominated twice in the category) and then click on Rob's name.  Notice the difference?  Thirty years, maybe?

Tuba was Rob's first musical love, tuba in a classical vein, but he is also a singer and, of course, a composer.  His musical interests have expanded widely, and he now plays in a variety of ensembles, including jazz and rock. Rob became Michael's tuba teacher when his first teacher took a leave of absence.  Michael instantly connected with Rob, and he's been studying with him for almost a year now.  

I encourage anyone studying music, or with children studying music, to read his posts about his musical career to date.  They are very inspiring, and are found here:  Sousaphone:  A Love Story Part 1 and Part 2.  Then read his first Blogging the Junos post, and then the rest.  This young man, not yet thirty, is eking out a life as a full-time musician, teaching, playing, and composing on commission.  He's (obviously) talented, modest, hardworking, as well as a good speaker, writer, and teacher.  

A recent tweet suggests that his parents are stuck in the fog in Halifax, trying to get to St. John's for the dinner and gala, so fingers crossed!  

Best wishes, Rob!  It looks like it's been a great week so far.


Book List - Edition 3

I last posted a book list about a month ago.  

Here are my recent reads, most of which are courtesy of the Toronto Public Library .

Now reading:  Juliet Naked (Nick Hornby) - there's a video of Hornby talking about his book at the link.  He's back to his old High Fidelity stomping ground, talking about music and love, and their intersection!

Read on!

Friday Five

  1. My allergies are killing me.  The week started with me getting over a cold, and then wondering why it was taking so long to feel better, then realizing that there was a big ol' oak tree shooting pollen over my back door and deck.  I have most of my energy back, but the itchy eyes, stuffy nose, and scratchy throat, despite prescription allergy meds, is very annoying.
  2. Alex is coming home for three days to study for his final exams.  I can't believe that he's finishing his first year of university.  He broke a bone in his foot (long-boarding) while we were in Rome, and so we're going to drive to Kingston to pick him up tomorrow morning as he can't manage public transit with his crutches and bags. I"ll drive him back to Kingston on Tuesday so he has a day to prep for an exam on Thursday.
  3. I've been remiss on blogging about our trip.  I had hoped to more-or-less liveblog while we were there, but difficulties with network access through my iPhone were extremely annoying.  Despite a long call with our service provider here in Canada, we were unable to get my phone to do any data transfer, and I didn't feel like paying the exorbitant rates for the hotel access.  So I want to try to post at least some of the highlights over the next week.
  4. Keep Toronto Reading is a wonderful festival happening this month in my beautiful city.  I haven't managed to attend any events yet due to sickness, but I've been participating via Twitter (#ktr2010 and #keeptorontoreading).  Next week there are some author events that I'm planning to attend, including Michael Crumney (Galore) and Linden MacIntyre (The Bishop's Man).  TPL Foundation
  5. Today's to-do list:
    • Make bread
    • Organize Alex's room
    • Pick up prescriptions
    • Go to Service Canada to get CPP info
    • Return library books
    • Pick up a video or two for tonight
    • Tackle some of the ironing pile
    • Tidy main floor
    • Clean Michael's bathroom


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A little (imaginary) stock market success.

I've been participating in the Financial Post Stock Market Challenge, in the training portion of the program.  Today, I made the Top 10 list for players who've made 25 or few trades ("investors"), with a 4.11%  return over the past week.  While I'm 9th in the investor class, I'm 48th out of 7700+ players.

My biggest winners have been Citigroup (C), Apple (AAPL), Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG), Tech Resource (TCK.B), and J Crew Group (CMJ). Canadian Natural Resources (CNR) has also been good.  I took a bath on Dragonwave (DRWI), which I sold, and the big drop in Shopper's Drug Mart (SC) is hurting, but I'm hoping it'll come back.

Z has been encouraging me to put some real money into this, and I'll probably set up a trading account in the near future.  I've been reading Seeking Alpha for advice, as well as the National Post.  It's been kinda fun!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Better Pope?

Go read Ross Douthat's OpEd piece in the NY Times.   I've been waiting for the press to pick this up.  
Here's the beginning.

They will not chant for Benedict XVI. The former Joseph Ratzinger was always going to be a harder pontiff for the world to love: more introverted than his predecessor, less political and peripatetic, with the crags and wrinkles of a sinister great-uncle. While the last pope held court with presidents and rock stars, Cardinal Ratzinger was minding the store in Rome, jousting with liberal theologians and being caricatured as “God’s Rottweiler.” His reward was supposed to be retirement, and a return to scholarly pursuits. Instead, he was summoned to Peter’s chair — and, it seems, to disaster.

The drip, drip, drip of sex abuse cases from Benedict’s past started a month ago with a serious incident: a pedophile priest who was returned to ministry in Munich by then-Archbishop Ratzinger’s subordinates, and perhaps with his knowledge.

The more recent smoking guns, though, offer more smoke than fire. The pope is now being criticized not for enabling crimes or covering them up, but because in the 1980s and 1990s the Vatican’s bureaucracy moved slowly on requests to formally laicize abusive priests after they had already been removed from ministry.

But the smoke is damaging enough. “The Failed Papacy of Benedict XVI,” ran a recent headline in Der Spiegel, the newsmagazine of the pope’s native Germany. If you judge a pontiff on his ability to do outreach, whether to lukewarm believers or the secular world, this is probably accurate. Amid the latest wave of scandal, Catholicism needed the magnetic John Paul, master of bold gestures and moving acts of penance. Instead, the church is stuck with Benedict, bookish and defensive and unequal to the task.

But there’s another story to be told about John Paul II and his besieged successor. The last pope was a great man, but he was also a weak administrator, a poor delegator, and sometimes a dreadful judge of character.

The church’s dilatory response to the sex abuse scandals was a testament to these weaknesses. So was John Paul’s friendship with the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. The last pope loved him and defended him. But we know now that Father Maciel was a sexually voracious sociopath. And thanks to a recent exposé by The National Catholic Reporter’s Jason Berry, we know the secret of Maciel’s Vatican success: He was an extraordinary fund-raiser, and those funds often flowed to members of John Paul’s inner circle.

The rest is here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's listed as a body bag on the Piquadro site (Italian)....


....but I like to call it a man-bag.

Z got one of these when we were in Italy, and I assured him that it will change his life. Every time he leaves the house it's a scramble to assemble all his stuff: glasses (sometimes two pair as he can't seem to get the hang of progressives), cellphone, keys, wallet, ipod, work ID badge, etc. And you don't need to ask where much of this stuff ends up if he's wearing a suit, doesn't want bulges, and is out with me for the evening or whatever.

His new little bag is black, with a strap that can be either worn across the body or just over the shoulder. I picked up a little something similar for myself from Nannini in a nice summery cream leather. Perhaps I need to wait for the 24th of May, or am I horribly outdated?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Funny or sad?


Found these calendars being sold in the newstands that are all over Rome.

Ten things we didn't see in Rome.

In no particular order...
  1. nail salons
  2. heavy makeup
  3. people walking around consuming food or drink
  4. gargantuan portions of food in restaurants
  5. trash on the street
  6. taxes added on to purchases (yes, I know, the VAT is included)
  7. Starbucks
  8. Bluetooth headsets
  9. girls in tights with no skirt over top (only on an american school girl in a group)
  10. much tipping
We did see classy garbage cans...

and Latin on the manhole covers (and pretty much everywhere)...

SPQR is the acronym for Senatus Populusque Romanus (The Senate and the Roman People) and refers to the government of ancient Rome.  It's the official motto of the city of Rome and appears everywhere.

More to come!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Two important pieces in the National Post this morning.

Peggy Noonan's piece The Catholic Church's Catastrophe:  The press and the pope deserve credit for confronting catastrophe, reprinted from the Wall Street Journal, and Fr. Raymond de Souza's piece The Pope and the press are important reads for all people of good will.  I was actually glad of my limited access to the press during Holy Week while we were in Rome...but we could understand the gist of it in each morning's Corriere della Serra.  

Noonan ends her piece thus:

There are three great groups of victims in this story. The first and most obvious, the children who were abused, who trusted, were preyed upon and bear the burden through life. The second group is the good priests and good nuns, the great leaders of the church in the day to day, who save the poor, teach the immigrant, and, literally, save lives. They have been stigmatized when they deserve to be lionized. And the third group is the Catholics in the pews—the heroic Catholics of America and now Europe, the hardy souls who in spite of what has been done to their church are still there, still making parish life possible, who hold high the flag, their faith unshaken. No one thanks those Catholics, sees their heroism, respects their patience and fidelity. The world thinks they're stupid. They are not stupid, and with their prayers they keep the world going, and the old church too.

I certainly don't feel heroic, but I'm sure that many think I'm, if not stupid, deluded.  

So be it.

We're back from Roma!

Rome was wonderful.  For eight days, we walked and ate and drank and wondered at and inhaled this incredible city. I'll be blogging more in the next few days, but life is good and all is well....pretty much.

Alex broke a bone in his foot long-boarding while we were gone and, with great maturity, dealt with it on his own (and with the support of his friends at Queen's), electing not to tell us while we were away. For this we are grateful and confirmed his decision with him.  He told his brother, who told his uncle (where he was staying) and they all agreed that it was the best course of action.  He's feeling fine, has an air cast, and needs to keep weight off it for the next five to six weeks using crutches.  It makes it a bit difficult for him to get to classes and the library, but this is his last week and he's feeling okay about everything.

For the moment, it's back to reality.  Laundry, errands, cooking, parenting and dog-walking lie before me, but I come at them with a renewed sense of purpose and energy, despite the itchy throat and body aches that have followed the 10 hour return flight yesterday.  Z headed back to the office this morning, thankful that there are only two days left in the week.  My mom is in town for a few days, so we'll be seeing her as well as my brother and his family who so graciously hosted Michael while we were gone.

I'll post more soon with some photos and memories.