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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Life in the time of COVID

Okay kids, I know things seem scary. I know that governments calling for "social distancing" and "self-quarantine" give us the heebie-jeebies, but it's going to be okay. Humans aren't good at change, especially change forced upon us. We don't do well with authority, generally speaking.

So general truths: 

Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to battle the virus. I know, it seems too simple, but it's our best defense. Sing 'Twinkle Twinkle" or "Happy Birthday"...there's even an app to figure out how to use your favourite song to hit the required 20 seconds.

Social distancing works. It really does, but before it gets better, it will get worse. You'll hear about increases in hospitalizations and deaths, but staying apart will reduce "the curve" over the long haul. Don't despair. Being "in house" won't kill you, it might even be good for your relationships. It's better for the environment and your wallet.

We really need a time out. All the hatred, prejudice and malaise (thanks Rod for that particular word as a reminder) could use a reset.

Please keep in mind that this is a virus, no matter how nasty. It will come and it will go, (and come back again, heaven help us) but we will persevere. 

You don't need to horde toilet paper (or really anything, for that matter) just don't. Even if there isn't any on the shelf right now, there will be more.This virus doesn't have symptoms that would require a lot of toilet paper.

Think of others, especially those that are living off of CPP and OAS or other government benefits. They get paid once a month (March 27th, this month) and may not have the financial resources to shop before then, nor run around trying to find a store that has something they need on their shelves. 

Here's a handy-dandy interactive questionnaire to determine if you possibly have COVID-19: For the love of God, don't wander over to the local emergency only call the 811 lines if you are actually sick. Some reports say it starts with the "sniffles" and progresses very rapidly into a sore throat and coughing. ("Rapid" meaning in under a day.) 

It's going to get weird, things are going to feel completely abnormal, but it's going to be okay. Let's take care of each other. This is a huge social experiment where sacrifice of the individual (self-distancing, reduced income, change of lifestyle) comes at the greater good for the whole of humanity. We're good at this folks. We're good at working together. If we weren't we wouldn't be here. Give us a chance and just stay home. Mother Nature will thank you, your fellow humans will thank you and we will shine.

Don't forget to wash your hands and stay safe!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

A Call to Action!

I've had enough. The world is getting crazy and priorities are getting all whacky and I've had enough. Money has become more important than people and it's not bloody right.

Today, I'm focused on the insurance industry. I can think of only TWO times that I've ever been glad to have taken out insurance/extended warranty. I might be luckier than most to have that. Outside of those two specific incidents, trying to process an insurance claim has been a headache. Even registering for insurance is becoming a huge hassle.(Don't even get me started on extended health insurance providers!)

So now, insurance companies are jacking up their rates or refusing to cover buildings that they've covered for years. Why? Because they failed to plan for bad years. When the going was good, their shareholders made out like bandits, but the companies never thought that it might not last. There was nothing purposefully put aside to protect against years when claims went up. These are industries that are based on risk and they failed to do the simplest thing to mitigate it. So now, we're on the hook for their oversight. Heaven forbid that the shareholders don't get their dividends. What does it matter that a loyal customer now has a major hurdle to overcome, be it a large premium increase or looking for another insurer.

This has far reaching consequences. Condo and apartment buildings are losing their coverage, which means that they aren't habitable, legally. Tenants must then be evicted and the pressure on communities in a housing crisis inflates to irreparable levels. Condo owners lose their investment and home. In many cities this is their only asset. You can't sell a condo or building that isn't insurable. 

Worse yet, income from premiums goes down for the insurance companies and they have to make up for it somewhere...yup, your car/life/loan/pet insurance is next. 

So, where is our government in all of this? How are they going to ensure that their citizens are protected from incompetence and greed? 

This cannot stand. People are losing everything because insurance companies miscalculated payouts and it's not right. If we, as responsible people are expected to have at least 6 months wages saved up to prevent against catastrophe, this should also be an expectation of business. (Particularly those in the business of RISK management.) Call your MLA, call your municipal government and ask them what they're doing to help the 1,000s of people that are (or are going to be) affected by this.

The Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators
Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada
Links to Provincial and Territorial Regulators

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

What's Afoot?

Walking is a good thing. I think most people can agree on that, even though the idea that we don't own a car seems impossible to comprehend for some folks out there. As we came home from the grocery store today, we couldn't help but discuss the benefits of being on foot. (Hence the blog title, please forgive the pun.) 
As we stroll through our neighbourhood, we get to meet the denizens, have a quick chat and get to know people, at least visually. We experienced the same when abroad, that flash of recognition from strangers that have seen us passing several times, the quick nod of camaraderie of fellow pedestrians. It's actually very pleasant. We're also pretty sure that if we disappear there will be plenty of people to track our whereabouts, should it become necessary. (Too many episodes of Forensic Files feeding my already grisly imagination, I'm sure.) You don't get that in a car, at least that we recall. Sure, you still get to talk with the store clerks and cashiers, but there's something a little special about being recognised, even so superficially, when you're out and about on the streets.
I guess we shouldn't downplay the health benefits of walking, but there's so much more to enjoy, when you get used to the process. It's a habit, really. We've gotten to the point where the thought of taking a vehicle seems inconvenient for most tasks: too costly, to time consuming, for the most part. And yes, we're still walking to do groceries, even in the dead of winter. Thankfully, we can pick and choose our day...the joy of retirement.
When was the last time you went out and roamed your neighbourhood, took the time to toddle over to a local business, or enjoy something new in the vicinity? It has helped us meet our neighbours and increase our social group, increases security in the 'hood and helps us get to know what's going on around town.
Having a car is a great benefit, you can go to far flung places easily, but, I guess what I'm trying to get at is at what cost? What are you missing on your "secret back road route" to get to point B? I know not everyone will embrace the no car culture, but maybe, once in a while, you might discover a gem nearby, if you take a wander around. 

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Little Blog that Could...part two

It's crazy days. There doesn't seem to be much to celebrate, at least on the world stage front. It kind of makes me just want to check out from cyberspace, find a cabin somewhere, well off the grid, and hunker down for the apocalypse. (Not that I'm anywhere near to being one of those "fire and brimstone end of the world" folks.)

But the times, being as they are, a little good news can go a long way. I'm happy to say that the little blog that you're reading right now, has passed a pretty good milestone...100,000 page views. Okay, it's not the Times or CBC, but for something that started out as a way to keep friends and family up to date on our progress, that's no small feat. 
 So here's to the Gentle Island or Bust blog...that went further than its title would suggest. Thanks for stopping by, maybe placing a comment and just checking in. Without you, well, we just wouldn't be here, would we?

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Culinary Adventures

Cravings...they suck on so many levels. It's almost always something you don't have and require getting out of comfy clothes and "peopling". Ugh.

I was minding my own business, cruising through my Pinterest feed. (If you don't have Pinterest, just don''s a chronic time wasters, almost as bad as TikTok.) Anyhow, I digress. I'm scrolling through make-up tutorials, knitting patterns, cute animals and exotic travel locales, when I scroll to a post about gyoza. Yes, those delicious Japanese dumplings, with a tangy dipping sauce that is always so satisfying.  
Happy little dumplings just waiting for the fry pan
I'd already scoured the stores for pre-made gyoza, something we used to buy in Vancouver with some regularity and that I was excited to have available again. Alas, nothing. There's a few pot stickers and various dumplings, but no gyoza, specifically. Then comes that little post and it planted the craving in my little pea brain. A few days pass and I'm still thinking about them and I do a quick search to find a recipe. The ingredients are pretty basic and I decide to make some. Why not a restaurant? Peopling and budget. As I still don't have a rolling pin, I decided to try and buy pre-made dumpling wrappers. (Aka: skins, as I've discovered.) The two big grocery stores had nothing, nor did our beautiful little local grocer. Long story short, I found some skins at a Korean specialty store. (Phew...didn't want to make my own on my first go.)
Browning two sides with a steam in between
They really aren't that tricky, except the folding. There are tons of videos showing various techniques, but it is a learning process. (It also helps if you wrappers aren't too dry.)
The final result

Anyhow, I pulled it off and they were delicious - even if I do say so, myself. Not every dumpling was perfectly folded. In truth, many looked like Franken-dumplings, but they tasted good. (Yay!) It was worth it and now I'm excited to try more types of dumplings like Korean steamed veggie dumplings and maybe a quick foray into some dim sum. Perhaps it's the lunar new year, but last night I made Vietnamese salad rolls with peanut dipping sauce. Gung hai (hay) fat choi!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

This Old House - Part II The Fireplace

Time and tide wait for no man, I've been told. With the winter weather swirling around, threatening to chill us - should we dare to venture outside - indoor projects become more interesting.

Ron has been wanting to "zoosh" up the fireplace since I offered up an off-hand question about it possibly looking better painted white. He's generally not one to let moss grow on him and we went on a jaunt to our local Kent store to see what could be done. An hour later, we left with trim, paint and a couple of odds and sods. (Side note: we love Kent. The staff are always helpful, they've given us tons of advice (and parts - but that's a whole other story) for free! Use them, if they're in your 'hood. It's a good Canadian company.)
Original fireplace
Probably the funniest thing about this endeavour is that we don't have a car. Add to that the fact that lunch had long passed and we hadn't eaten...well, you have the makings for odd circumstances. We marched (dubiously, I confess) into a local restaurant called Kelsey's Roadhouse. (It's a chain, not surprisingly, but we weren't convinced, just by the clientele seated in the reminded us of the mushy-vegetable restaurant in Courtenay, in the Comox Valley.) Be that as it may, we ventured in, and were met by very friendly staff. No one seemed non-plussed about our 8 foot lengths of trim and other accoutrements. They treated us very well and made sure that everything was top notch. We were pleased with the service and the food, no mushy vegetables to be found.
Some of the lumber in question
The bus driver was more dubious, as we boarded the #51 Greenline to head home. Of course we promised not to accost anyone with our decorative trim and behaved like this happened all the time. The trip was unremarkable, no heads were coshed.

Anyhow, a few days after Christmas, Ron decided it was time to tackle our next improvement project.
Chair rail molding
He added trim around the upper mantle, columns and medallions and then sanded the wood. I tack ragged, filled nail holes and helped to paint. 
Embellishments are important
Of course, we're quite pleased with the result. We feel that it just looks more finished and like is was meant to be there, instead of added as an afterthought. Some people might be horrified that we covered up the natural wood, but with so much wood floor, we figured it wasn't an unpardonable sin.
Almost finished product
A bit of the details

What's next? Maybe painting the kitchen, or our master bedroom, or even the guest bedroom. There should be enough to keep us busy over the winter.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

This Old House

I gotta tell you...Ron gets a bee in his bonnet quite frequently. He's a bit like a British Bulldog that's bitten something and doesn't want to let go. He did it with the paneling on the sun porch, he's done it with numerous other things in the past.

I'll give him his due: it almost always pans out. The paneling came off the sun porch fairly easily and only a small part of the wood siding underneath needed repair. The porch looks so much better now that it's the same colour as the exterior of the house.

His newest "project" was to strip off the paint from the hinges, door knobs and locks that we have in the house. We noticed that they seem to be engraved or had some sort of filigree, but the detail was buried under 100 years of paint. He found a video that said all we really had to do was simmer the pieces in hot water and baking soda to get the majority of the paint off.

It can't be that simple, right? Well, actually it was. Sure we needed to pick out some tight spots and brush and scrub a bit, but the majority of the paint lifted right off. We're left with some pretty amazing hinges that strangely don't side has one style and the other side has another. Quirky.

The set on our dining room door is stamped April 3 1877, Pat B. (Patent reference, or manufacturer? Not clear, but patents usually have a number assigned, no?) So, a bit of scrubbing with steel wool, sanding and rubbing with alcohol, some goo gone and a bit of mineral oil later and we have clean hinges of indeterminate metal type. We're pleased, and really, that's the payoff, right?

It's been a pretty cool exercise and no one else might notice, but we love the hardware!