Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fall is All Around

These are current scenes of Fall/Autumn where I live. 
The first set of photos were snapped early evening just as sun was setting today on Tuesday .

You can see the sky is very dark and cloudy.  But we've had lovely sunshine and warmish temperatures for several weeks, interspersed with light rain for a day or two before the rain started this week.

I haven't done any gardening since about the middle of August. 

I need to make time to clean it up a bit before the winter comes around.

Many of the trees have lost their leaves due to wind and rain but there are still some lovely colours all around.

I snapped the next few photos when I went out for errands today.

It was quite wet!

These next shots will show October in a small Kenyan town in the highlands and were sent to me by a Kenyan friend there.
 My friends in the highlands have already started experiencing heavy rains.
It is expected to go on until December.

Residents in different parts of Kenya are being warned to evacuate but many have stayed put saying they have no where to go and no money to get there.

Besides being bad for people, especially the very poor, the bad weather makes it difficult for me to finalize travel plans to Kenya.

The wettest months are usually April and May.
The second rainiest season is October and November.
I would like to see or hear of a break in the expected El Nino rains and to determine how bad things are going to get weather-wise in the next month or so before I plan travels.

Nairobi (where I would spend considerable time) has already had very heavy rains and flash floods over the past several months. It has led to loss of buildings and even loss of life. Narok which is very close to Maasai Mara, one of the premier safari parks has also experienced flash flooding.

County governments have been clamoring for funds from the Treasury.  They need to prepare for the expected bad weather and potential dangers to people and property, especially in the low lying areas of Kenya. I don't know if they were successful in getting the needed funds.

I do know there is a lot of pressure on the national treasury at the moment.   Teachers have just ended a strike and medical personnel are constantly threatening to strike or are on strike.

The government says it has no money to pay the teachers.  To the governments credit, they have been doing some very good things which also cost a lot of money.  For example, these are the initiatives that come to mind: free education for many who used to pay; new hospitals; better equipping hospitals, digitizing a lot of government services and making them accessible on line; giving youth employment; improving highways; reducing cost of electricity hookup for those that live off the grid & expanding National Health Insurance at much reduced rates. Perhaps there is more they have done but this is the list that easily comes to mind.

Given all these good things, it is hard to stretch the national budget further.  Especially when so much is lost to corrupt practices.
Who can blame teachers and doctors for going on strike when corruption reaches the highest levels in the country and appears to be rampant amongst high ranking  politicians, business people and public officials.
Corruption is something thing that Kenyans want their government to end pronto.
I suspect that if they could really stop the corruption there would be a lot more money in the coffers to pay the teachers.

Kenyans have a lot to bear.
Life is not easy there at all for those that are trying to make an honest living.
It is a pity because the country has a lot to offer and the people are some of the most hospitable people I have met.


My thoughts right now are with a friend's relative and their family. A man named Edmond has a form of terminal cancer called Myelofibrosis. It is an uncommon cancer which affects the ability of the bone marrow to make red blood cells. He has had this cancer for long and is currently suffering much more than ever before.

Please pray for  him and his family.  They are of very humble means and the emotional, spiritual, physical and financial stresses are overwhelming not to mention how the family will survive when the head of the household is gone.

In African cultures and for sure in Kenya, they do not like to speak of death and so it is difficult to know how much longer this man has left to live. For now he is in hospital and requires copious blood transfusions daily.

As I mentioned he appears to be suffering worse than ever before.
Pray too that the hospital will be able to provide the blood and medicines needed to keep him comfortable.
Kenyans lack so much of what we take for granted in health care.
Every week I read of drugs supplies that have run out or basic equipment that is not available.
Even though the government is doing a lot, there is still a long way to go to meet the needs.

Linking up with Skywatch Friday this week.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Night of Music

On Saturday evening I attended a concert of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

There were two guest artists, Tianwa Yang, a brilliant, young violinist from Germany.

Photo Credit: VSO website

 The other was the dashing and expressive conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto of Mexico.

Photo Credit: VSO website

The repertoire consisted of :

Passacaglia & Fugue in C minor
Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor*
Symphony No. 8 in F Major

I opted to get to the concert early so I could hear a presentation.  The speaker gave an overview of the concert pieces and a little history on each of the composers who wrote them.

Pre-concert presentation and explanation of the night's program.

 People relax in the lobby before the concert.

Small audience at the pre-concert presentation.
   I personally found it quite chilly in the venue.  I am recovering from a chest and ear infection so the slight breeze coming in through the open entrances to the outdoors, was enough to make me shiver.  Concert doors (to the outdoors) in the city are usually kept open until just before the concerts are about to begin.  I guess this helps make the flow of people into the building go much faster.

I only had a thin sweater over an equally thin top as I'd forgotten to take a wrap with me in my haste to get to the presentation on time.

I bought a coffee to warm up but finished that before the 20 minutes presentation was finished. I was still getting chilled from the breeze so  purchased a glass of wine.  I was surprised to learn that the venue now permits drinks in the concert theater (thank God for that).  The only stipulation is that the beverages cannot be in a glass container.
It took the entire concert to finish the small glass of wine.  It did in fact help to keep me warm. Each time I felt a chill taking hold, I had a small sip of wine. These small sips were plenty for me as it had been hours since eating a  late lunch.
Some of the VSO members practicing.

 Beautiful architectural details of the Orpheum Theater

The performance was very well attended.

 I was very pleased to attend this concert especially since I received a complimentary ticket.
I  enjoyed the concert so much and I'm now thinking I might attend the New Year's Day program.

What about you dear reader?
Do you attend the symphony or do you prefer other forms of music and the arts?

Joining with Our World Tuesday

Saturday, October 3, 2015

October Sky

I've enrolled in a short Spanish course.

On my first day of class, I captured the scene above while I was having a quick lunch purchased from one of the food trucks in the photo.

The weather was beautiful and you can see that the sky was such a lovely clear blue.  Also you can see that the leaves are turning golden and red.

I hope the weather is lovely wherever you are.

I am late adding my photo link to Skywatch but have been under the weather this week.

Am now taking medicine and should be feeling better in a few days.
It is Super Moon edition at Skywatch Friday.
I don't have a zoom lens or an expensive camera so my Super Moon looks so far away and small.

I had to cut out the the trees and buildings from my photo because the city lights made the moon photos too blurry.

Perhaps I can borrow a zoom lens before the next Super Moon and see if my photos are any better.

I'm on my way to an evening with  the Symphony.

I hope you are doing something you enjoy this weekend.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Checking In

Hi friends,

Happy Friday to you all. I hope your week went well and that you have some rest or relaxation planned for the weekend.

Today I'm linking up with


I don't have a lot of exciting things to share today (I have some photos to share at the end of the post). That's because I've been busy the whole week long still trying to get my little home organized.

My organizing tasks mushroomed from doing my dresser drawers (only half way completed) and 3 closet shelves to organizing things in the entire condo.  Yes!

I've been bouncing from here to there. Doing this and then doing that. In between is a little shopping to try and find the right aids to getting things organized. I'm not obsessive about organizing or I would have already been organized. I just like to have a place for everything and everything in it's place. I also don't like clutter but have plenty of it. It is easy to end up with clutter if you don't keep up to purging on a daily or weekly basis. With my fluctuating energy levels, busy schedule and role as a caregiver  my time for taking care of more than the daily tasks is somewhat limited.  I do the best I can and every now and then, energy permitting, I am able to do more. That's why right now, my organizing and cleaning is priority. Not blogging, not taking photos, not reading or doing crafts or even socializing. I am taking advantage of the rare motivation to get some of the big tasks out of the way while I am up to it and before the cold weather arrives. Truth be told, I'm only half way through the things I want to get done and my energy levels are beginning to wane a bit.

Anyway I am happy to report that I'm making good progress.  This kind of most may not be all that interesting to many of you but it helps me to write down what I've done so I can remember later where I've spent my time!

Bedroom:  I have organized about half of my closet space and half of the dresser drawers.  There are far too many t-shirts, shoes and miscellaneous so a purge is underway. I put together 2 large bags of clothing and miscellaneous linens for giveaway.  I've also sorted through about 5 bags of mom's clothing and discarded some.  There is still a large bag of nice items for giveaway.

It was tricky to find the right size of plastic transparent containers for my closet shelves.  The photo shows one I found at Jysk. They are a bit smaller than I would like but they will do since the next size up is too large.The plastic covers will be stored under the tubs until they are needed as I'm leaving the tubs open on my closet shelves for easier access.

Out of season shoes have been stored under the bed but the fabric boxes are not the right size. I need to find an inexpensive shoe container and have been looking in the stores each time I visit them. Oddly enough I usually see a lot of this item in the stores but right now it seems they only have the ones that hang in the closet. There is no room to hang shoes or handbags in my closet.

Living Room:  I keep yarns for multiple projects in beautiful woven baskets in my living room.  I've emptied some of the yarns I've been keeping in them as they were looking a bit too full.  The overflow yarn has been placed in  rubber baskets from Dollarama and stored in the closet space formerly occupied by shoes. Some formerly too small storage containers in a storage cabinet in the living room have been replaced with larger ones that fit perfectly into the space and the space (2 interior shelves) is being reorganized for maximum storage use.  Many craft and sewing items are stored in this cabinet as well as things like heating pads and other items that are needed on a regular basis in the living area.  A large number of reusable shopping bags were also stored in there to get them out of the way but they will now be moved or given away so the best use can be made of this precious space.

Bathroom:  The main objective in the bathroom is to corral the clutter on the counter top and to have easy access to products.  If products are visible it is easier to see what is there and use it up rather than buy duplicate items because you can't see what is there.  The other objective is to find a way to store all bathroom related items, in the bathroom.

A chrome toilet paper holder, a few small, wooden spice racks from IKEA, and a towel shelf have been purchased.  These items will help free up counter space and make everything a look more tidy. It will also mean towels can come out of the master closet and be stored in the bathroom. 

The IKEA spice rack idea came from the internet.  There are many photos on the internet showing how people have creatively used these spice racks in a variety of ways.  Here is just one example. In this case, the homeowner turned the spice rack upside down and made a towel holder too.

Photo Credit: Photo from Wedding Bee

Kitchen:  I've cleared out the shelf above the microwave where the cookbooks were stored.  In it's place are all linens and dishcloths in baskets.  Half of the cookbooks have been purged and are being given away.  The ones I want to keep have been placed into magazine holders because there are a lot of small, unique cookbooks I have. Really they are more like pamphlets and they need to be contained.

I've also reorganized the kitchen counter space. My kitchen is very small and storage is very limited. I have no pantry and it is always a challenge to keep the counter functioning as it should. That means I reorganize my kitchen counter tops at least once or twice a year. Since I now have a powerful Vitamix Blender, the blender I used before will be given away. It is still a good blender but I know it will give out long before the Vitamix does. It also doesn't grind grains into flour.

Paperwork:  All old mail has been opened and excess paper recycled.  I always get behind in this task though the bill payments are automated to ensure timely payments are made. I am a visual and tactile person so I like to handle the papers as opposed to have everything on line.  I just find it easier to review information in a paper format and to have it handy when I need to follow up on items by phone. I also make notes directly on the bills when I need too so I can keep track of who I spoke to and what was agreed upon.  This week I also caught up to organizing the bills by bill type (Hydro power, telephone, credit cards, etc.) in reverse chronological order. I like to keep them this way until I'm ready to discard them. I save discarding for when I have a lot of time because each paper needs to be shredded or burned to ensure no personal information is mislaid.  I also save all paper  receipts until I've had a chance to compare them with bank and credit card statements. This week I got rid of numerous receipts but have a few more to go through. Any receipts that are needed for warranty purposes are kept in a special file folder in the file cabinet.

Dining Room:  My dining room table is usually where all the sewing and organizing of things takes place. I have no other place to do the sewing but it is easy to get in the habit of leaving the sewing machine and other items out on the table.  I don't like all the visual clutter so I found a trolley that I will use to store everything but have it all to hand.  The trolley is from IKEA and I purchased 2 of them in black though they also come in turquoise and beige.

One trolley will be for my sewing machine and current projects.  The other trolley will be used to store books and office supplies near my desk, canned goods in the kitchen or possibly will be loaned to my mom so she can store her CD player and music on it.  The trolley is very compact so doesn't take much space.  Again, there are countless photos on the internet as to how creative people have used these trolleys. It will be so nice to have my dining room table back.  The only downside is that if you live in the USA these trolleys only cost $29.99, whereas in Canada they are $69.99 each. That is a huge difference and much more than the difference in currency exchange would rationalize. (If you are a Canadian and would like these trolleys but don't mind them in black/gray, you can buy them at Home Depot for $39.99. That is a much better price than IKEA).

Other:  In addition to all my shopping, cleaning and organizing I've been turning my mind to Christmas which will be here soon enough. While I was out shopping for my needs, I was also looking for what I could find for gift ideas for family and friends. I've purchased some small items like tea towels, calendars and different items specific to each friend or family member. So I've got a good start on what I need for Christmas though of course there is more to be done to be thoroughly ready.

After all my hard work, I realize I am only really half way through this project. I thought I was farther along but each time I do something I think of another thing to do.

Some of these  organizing ideas and tasks have been on my mind for years so I am glad to finally be doing them.

It should take another week or two to get the household in good order and as organized as I am likely to get it before Christmas.  Eliminating all excess paperwork and paring my books back to bare essentials will be another major project which will take more time. I likely won't be posting about much of this for various reasons.

I only wanted to capture some of my organizing efforts here on the blog so I can look back and have something to reference later.  It is also for those of you who are used to reading a post from me on a regular basis.  That way you will know I haven't dropped off the face of the earth and I haven't forgotten about blogging.  I've just been occupied.

In a few weeks I should have more interesting things to post about.

I already feel so much better after clearing out  bags of giveaways and more bags of trash.

Tomorrow the utility carts can be put together.  After that the bathroom items will be put up on the wall and things can be nicely put away. It will be wonderful when things are contained.

 I leave you now with some pretty photos.

Poppy Macro

Sky watch in Vancouver

Vase of  long stemmed blooms

Rocky Mountains, Alberta Canada

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Bit of This and That

Hi folks,

I hope you are all doing fine.

I've been doing a little of this and that over the past 5 days or so.

First, I've been busy "window shopping" for various home decor accents, mainly throw cushions. Covers for throw cushions to be exact. I couldn't find what I want and certainly not at the prices I want to pay. Most cushion covers are priced at anywhere from $7.99 for a small lumber pillow to about $89 or so for a nicely patterned cover with cushion inside.   

Instead I decided to make cushion covers using some of my Japanese indigo fabric purchased over the summer at a sale price of $12. Canadian.  The remaining cushion covers will be made using some inexpensive solid burgundy pillow cases and burgundy/beige/white pillow cases with elephant pattern.  Both sets were purchased earlier in the week at $1.99 (+ tax) Canadian for each set.  Now I just need to find some deep gold coloured fabric (cost unknown) to make a few lumbar support cushions.  For closures, I will use buttons I have on hand instead of zippers. All cushions are for a friend who doesn't read this blog.  Grand total cost for 8 cushion covers will be around $20 (including tax) Canadian.  The cushion inserts will cost extra.

An idea of what the cushion covers will look like when done. I need to find fabric in gold/mustard colour.

This is the Persian inspired carpet in the living area. Current sofa and chair are a mustard colour.

At home I've started on another major decluttering exercise which usually gets combined with home organization.  Each time I get rid of a lot of things, I also end up moving things,  storing them in different locations and sometimes buying more storage containers.  Those of you who purge and organize on a regular basis know that the task is never really done.  I try to implement a major declutter once or twice each year.  But it has probably been a bit longer than that since I last tackled this task.  In this go around, I've decided one of my key tasks will be to organize my dresser drawers (and closet shelves) better so clothing is visible to the wearer.  I also plan to empty all the bags I've been storing under my dining table. Bags of fabric and clothing that need to find a home, go to the thrift or get thrown out.  I also have bags in my bedroom that need sorting. I am still trying to pare down what I inherited from my sister and my mother (mostly my mother). The storage room is filled to capacity so whatever I have in my home needs to be pared down. The kitchen will also be given a once over. I have at least one appliance to give away and a lot of cookbooks I need to pare down. Ideally I'd like to get rid of al cookbooks since I basically only use online recipes. But that is a pipe dream. I love books too much.

So to help with getting my dresser organized, I stopped at a Japanese variety store earlier this week.  The store is sort of like a dollar store though most goods cost at least $2.00 and go marginally upward in price.  I was looking for drawer dividers.  Not the basket or container type, but the kind that partitions the drawers.

I found two types of dividers to try and have since organized the small dresser drawers where socks and undergarments are kept.  The total cost was $10. but I need to buy one more sock container at another $2. for a grand total of $12. Canadian. Perhaps I will upload a photo or two when done with this project.

I also need to purchase some inexpensive fabric or plastic boxes suitable for larger clothing items.  These are for the larger dresser drawers and for the open grid shelves in my closets. For the moment, I've used several shoe boxes and a cardboard box in one large drawer. I've rolled up the t-shirts and put them side by side so they are clearly identifiable when the drawer is opened. If I had more boxes I would simply use them instead.

There are fabric boxes and various kinds of plastic storage containers widely available in my city and in a very wide range of prices.  I live in a large city but if you live in a smaller city or town, the best place to check for organizational items would be the local dollar store. If you don't have one of these, then Amazon is a good place to buy them and Wal-Mart also has these kinds of items.  Personally, I prefer to buy these types of items in a brick and mortar store so I can examine them and buy them on the spot if they will suit the purpose.

Dollarama and the Dollar Tree are the next stores I will check out.  I never get to the latter but will make a point of going there soon to check out what they have since all items are priced at no more than $1.25 Canadian whereas items at Dollarama can go up to $3.00 and the Japanese variety store prices are also $2. or more.

None of these prices sound so expensive.  But when you are purchasing a lot of items it is best to spend the least amount possible on each item.  The total can really add up even at small prices per item.  For example, to separate socks and undergarments the spend is a  grand total of $12 (+ tax ) Canadian.  But there are still 3 large dresser drawers (estimated cost to organize each drawer is at least 3 times more for each drawer ($36 each or subtotal $108  + tax).  There are also up to 8 closet shelves to organize.  Depending on what kind of containers one buys it can be anywhere from $6 to $20 per shelf (estimated subtotal $ 48 to - $160 total for the shelves). That means I potentially have another $158 to $268  (+ tax) total Canadian to spend on organizers dresser drawers and closet shelves.  This is still a high cost when you consider that all items are going to be purchased in dollar stores or inexpensive variety stores rather than the high end container stores.

There is no way I am going to spend this amount to organize clothing.  

I simply cannot fathom spending that kind of money when there are so many needs in Kenya and here at home.

  Now you see why I haven't already organized these spaces. 

In the past I've just folded everything nicely and tried to keep it organized as best I can by colour and garment type.  But my system just hasn't been working too well.  It is also  too much work to keep clothing from getting all jumbled and messy because my closet shelves are open grid.  I need an economical way to organize the clothing.

Perhaps the solution is to make my own out of foam board. Here is a good YouTube tutorial if any of you are also interested. You could even cover cardboard pieces with Mac Tac contact paper or wrapping paper. Personally this is too much work for me.  But it might work for you if you have time and especially if you already have all the required items around your home. Foam boards are available at Staples for about $14. (+ tax) for 3 sheets. I will need at least 9 sheets for a total of $42 (+ tax). I already have the cutter. Wal-mart Canada also sells the foam board in store at 2 sheets for about $6 (+ tax) so this is a better deal. Perhaps they also sell it at the dollar stores for even less. I also like the idea of just using boxes so you can use different size boxes that will fit into your space. If you don't like the look of boxes you can cover them with wall paper, Mac Tac, wrapping paper or colourful tape from the dollar store.  I'm not 100 percent sure yet what solution I will use but I will do what is quickest and cheapest for me to get the job done soon.

While I was out looking for organizing aids I was also finally able to find a suitable phone for my mother.  My brother and I have both been looking for a set for over a month both on line and in store.  He was even going to go across the border to buy the phone we need.  But on Thursday evening I found a suitable phone on a sale price of $69.99 (+ tax) marked down from $99.99 (+ tax).  I was happy.

Some time ago I started reading a biography on Charles Dickens and while I have been enjoying it I simply haven't had too much time for reading. I've renewed the book several times already and it can't be renewed any more so I've decided I'm prepared to pay a small over due find of about $1.50 for one week so I can finish the book.  After posting about this, I called the library and was able to get an extension to the loan period for one additional week. That's great and a savings of $1.50.

Besides shopping and organizing, I've been knitting a stash of dishcloths for home use and for small gifts. I've also been giving some thought to what to get for Christmas gifts this year and have a lot of ideas for economical and sentimental gifts that will be suitable for my family members.

In progress
This is a beautiful buck from the land of Kenya.

And here are two beautiful exotic birds living at the Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver.

Pied Imperial Pigeon

An Electus Parrot. I think his name is Kiwi.

I hope your week has been a good one.

Joining with our host Eileen at Saturday's Critters.

Enjoy the weekend and the week ahead!

African Music & Happenings