I Think I Can… I Think I Can…

The Internet is a Tool

Published December 3, 2015 - 0 Comments

 The Internet is a tool. A tool is neither positive nor negative. A hammer is a tool. In the right hands a hammer can be used to build a home, providing shelter and warmth for a family in need. In the wrong hands a hammer can be used to destroy that same house, tearing down walls and smashing windows. 

Just like a hammer the Internet can be used to build great things. It can bring families together even when they are separated half a world away. It can also be used to destroy, shattering bonds like brittle window panes. 

The Internet is a tool. How it is used it up to you. 

The Schnitzel Parlour – A Sparkling Gem on Fredericton’s North Side

Published November 9, 2015 - 2 Comments

The Schnitzel ParlourJess loves all things German!  There’s no doubt that she was German in a past life. So when I heard about an authentic German restaurant in Fredericton, I knew that I had to surprise her.

I spent a fair amount of time on The Schnitzel Parlour’s website, reading the menu and the owners’ story.  The restaurant is owned by a German couple who came to Canada in 2000, and it truly is a reflection of their culture.

From the decor, to the music, to the authentic meals, it’s easy to imagine yourself transported to a cozy home in a quiet German town.  It really felt like we were visiting friends for supper. Everyone was extremely friendly, and we even got a chance to meet Hansel and Gretel, the family dachshunds!

JessThe food is amazing!  Because they incorporate chocolate into many of their recipes, I’ve decided that I will simply not eat another salad unless it is drizzled with chocolate maple vinaigrette!  As for the main course, my regular-sized schnitzel was very filling, and the double decadent chocolate truffle cake… Well I think that speaks for itself. We left The Schnitzel Parlour feeling very satisfied and promising to return soon.

For people looking to experience an authentic German dining experience, I highly recommend reserving a table at The Schnitzel Parlour.  Space is limited, as are their hours of operation (5pm-8pm Tue-Sat), although they do provide a take out service.

You won’t be disappointed.

An Evening With Whoopi Goldberg… and the Moncton Fire Department

Published October 26, 2015 - 0 Comments

whoopiWhen I saw that Casino NB was bringing Whoopi Goldberg to town, my initial reaction fell somewhere between “meh” and “shit”.  On one hand (we’ll call that the “meh”) Whoopi Goldberg is someone who doesn’t overly excite me as a comedian.  Sure, I’ve seen her in movies and on TV, but if I’m ever asked to name my Top 10 ladies of comedy… she’s not going to be on it.  On the other hand (and we’ll call that one “shit”, I knew for a fact that Jess IS a huge fan of Whoopi (Goldberg, that is) and would absolutely want to see her.  So then the internal struggle began… do I take the chance and hope she doesn’t find out… or do I tell her and try to spin this to make myself out to be the hero who obviously was single-handedly responsible for bringing Whoopi Goldberg to the Casino?  I guess I chose somewhere in the middle.

And while Whoopi Goldberg may not necessarily be my first choice for live comedy, I really have to be honest… that woman is funny!  A lot funnier than I gave her credit for!  She played to the crowd, and she was good!  A little cruder than I imagined, but that doesn’t bother me.  I’ve been known to drop the occasional F-bomb here and there.

So what was originally going to be an evening of somewhere between “meh and shit” was actually turning out to be pretty entertaining!  And then the smell started…

An electrical fire has a very distinctive smell.  There was no smoke in the casino, just an odor.  People were looking around to see where it was coming from, but nothing appeared amiss.  I initially thought maybe someone’s phone or camera had blown a circuit.  Then again, I also took note of the nearest fire escape doors in case I was wrong.  After a very long couple of minutes Security alerted Whoopi to the fact that her tour bus was on fire.  There was no danger to anyone in the casino, but they were stopping the show because of it.  We began to shuffle toward the exits.

Apparently Whoopi was almost done the main part of her show anyway, so we didn’t miss very much.  She apologized as we were leaving, and said that she would be back.  It’s funny… my evening with Whoopi Goldberg was far more memorable than I would have ever imagined!

A Clear Sign That I’m Getting Older

Published October 7, 2015 - 2 Comments

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Apparently it’s been 6 years since I last had my eyes tested!  I really didn’t think that it had been that long, but the optometrist had it on file.  2009.  At that time, I went in because I was having headaches, and thought that my eyesight might be causing them.  I could see very well, but you just never know.  He wrote me a very light prescription, which I never bothered to get it filled, and my headaches went away on their own.  I think part of it was the shift work, but regardless, I’ve been good since.  Well, until now.

I’ve noticed recently that it’s getting harder to focus on things close to me.  Sometimes when I wake up and reach for my phone, I can’t read the text.  It’s just a blur.  After some forced blinking and holding it further away for a few seconds everything comes into focus and it’s all good.  If someone holds something up for me to read, I often have to push it back a little before I can focus clearly on it.  I can go days without noticing any problems, but then something happens and it reminds me that I should really go have my eyes tested.

So that brings us to 2015.  Apparently I am a candidate for bifocals.  Whenever I think of bifocals, I think of old people.  But at 43, I’m no longer a spring chicken.  Still, is 43 old now?  Apparently for my eyes it is!  The optometrist told me that by age 45 I would start to notice a deterioration and by 50 I wouldn’t be able to focus on short range at all without the glasses.  Yeah, something else to look forward to!

So now I have one of these… and I’m not sure what I should do. Prescription - zoomGet it filled?  Wait for my re-check in 2 years?  It’s funny because there was a time that I really wanted to be an optometrist.  I even sent away for the admissions forms from Waterloo… alas it was not in the cards.  Too bad, too.  I think my optometrist is doing pretty well for himself!

First Day of Fall

Published September 21, 2015 - 0 Comments

smbelyea_2015-Sep-21It seems to be a thing for me… I write about fall. It’s my favourite time of the year. It’s not too hot. It’s not too cold. Unfortunately it also doesn’t last very long, and as soon as it’s done… BOOM… I hate what comes next.

This morning I got up and took the dogs out to go pee. There was a certain crispness in the air that hasn’t been there until today. I looked at my phone and asked Siri what the temperature was… 4c.  4 degrees?  That’s almost freezing! And true to that, when I got into the car a little later, there was frost on the windshield. FROST!

Today is supposed to be beautiful. All week is supposed to be beautiful. I’d better enjoy it while it lasts.

It’s Not the End… It’s Only the Beginning

Published August 19, 2015 - 0 Comments

Rachel-designstyle-friday-mOur family unit is about to undergo a significant change.  Jess’ 13 year old daughter will be going with her father to Ontario for a year.  Her almost 17 year old son will be moving in with us full time.  Tonight we had a little celebration in honour of Rachel.  Tomorrow morning she will get in the car… and then the countdown begins until when we see her next.  Ideally it will be during a long weekend or student break, but we won’t really know until she and her other family get settled in.

One thing’s for certain… her Mama is going to have a hard time with this.

Let’s Talk About Money: Tangerine Bank

Published August 16, 2015 - 3 Comments

27c314f8efc62c3b0b12364fe763a234Today I want to talk to you about money.  Chances are, if you’re like me, you like money.  You really like money.  And you probably never seem to have enough of it.  People who say “money can’t buy happiness” probably have too much of it.  For the rest of us, I’m sure we could find a way to be happier if we had a little more money in our bank account.

That brings me to the topic of discussion – Tangerine Bank.  What used to be known as ING Direct Canada became Tangerine in 2012 thanks to Scotia Bank purchasing good ole ING.  At the time Scotia Bank promised not to screw with Tangerine lest they have a massive mutiny of INGers jumping ship.  So other than the stupid name, Tangerine remained essentially ING Direct.

We recently received an email detailing a change that would impact me directly. Goodbye Whoops!  What’s Whoops!?  Whoops! protection is what ING Direct (and later Tangerine) called their version of overdraft protection.  It was an automatic $250 cushion for pre-authorized payments that saved you from those ridiculous $40 NSF charges that the big banks love to smack down when someone’s balance goes into the negative because of a bill payment.  I’ve seen me get dinged $40 for going $2 into the red… AND they deny the payment.  It’s ridiculous, and ING Direct knew that.  The best part about Whoops! is that it was free.  As long as you got your account into the positive within 30 days, Whoops! covered you without any cost.  Not anymore.

tangerine-logoNow we have something called “overdraft protection” (catchy, eh?) which starts at $250 and costs $5 any time you use it.  Well.. almost.  When the change was initially announced it contained few specifics, and I think that the social media backlash might have stung.  I know I was vocal (ie snarky) on Twitter.  Now that the program has been finalized, there is a caveat included that states  if you pay back the overdrawn amount on the same day, no fees or interest charges will kick in.  Call me crazy, but I think social media scored a win with this one.  

I have to be fair in this post though.  There are some benefits of the new program over the old Whoops!  I am pre-approved to a $500 overdraft, so that’s twice as much as before.  Plus it now covers any sort of payment, not only pre-approved bill payments.  No one wants to live on the negative side of their bank account, but it’s nice to know that if I need it, it’s there.  LTOpsO7J

All in all, I think Scotia Bank has done a decent job of incorporating Tangerine into their portfolio without screwing it up.  So far.  I worry about the future, and whether they will eventually just absorb Tangerine clients into the big red S.  But for now it’s pretty much business as usual, and I do appreciate being able to access my Tangerine account through any Scotia Bank ATMs.  I don’t do it often, but there were only 2 ATMs in Saint John that allowed me to withdraw cash from my ING Direct account.  Now I have access to the network of Scotia Bank ATMs, and there are considerably more of them around.

Cautiously optimistic.

Cooking Class at the Real Atlantic Super Store

Published August 14, 2015 - 2 Comments
Southern Fried Chicken, Mac ' Cheese, and Fried Greens

Southern Fried Chicken, Mac ‘ Cheese, and Fried Greens

Last night Jess and I attended a cooking class at the Real Atlantic Super Store in Saint John.  Although I’ve seen them advertised before, it’s the first time that I’ve been to one of these.  She had attended one through work a few weeks ago and loved it so much she insisted that we try it together.  So last night’s theme was Southern Hospitality.

I don’t really know much about southern cooking, and what I think I know is probably wrong.  KFC?  Not southern to southern people!  This was going to be an interesting experience.

The first thing I noticed about cooking class, is that the students don’t do any cooking.  This seemed odd to me at the beginning, but I quickly changed my mind.  We only have 2 hours to prepare a full course meal, and there’s no way that a group of people who had never done that before could pull it off.  It would be a nightmare to try to control a class like that, and I don’t think that we would get anything out of it.  If it was a single dish that was being prepared, maybe.  But not this.

So for $20 per person we got to observe as Chef James Clouthier worked his magic.  Think of it as being in the audience of a cooking show on TV.  He talked us through everything, and we could easily see what he was doing because of the perfectly positioned mirrors above his working area.  It was actually pretty cool to watch!

IMG_0403The meal consisted of Southern Fried Chicken, Mac ‘N Cheese, Fried Greens, and Pecan Pie.  Let me tell you… wow!  Everything was great, but the Mac ‘N Cheese stood out big time for me!  I am definitely going to try making it soon.  My second favourite would be the Pecan Pie… I’m not a huge fan of pecans, but I can work with them.  To say that it was sweet would be an understatement.

Think of it as a night out.  $40 for a couple, and we got to spend a couple of hours watching a live show, learn some neat things for the kitchen, AND get a meal served to us.  I can’t wait to go back!

[For a list of classes at the Real Atlantic Super Store on Rothesay Ave click here.]

Windows 10 is Pretty… but not Pretty Enough to Bring me Back

Published August 3, 2015 - 0 Comments
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Windows 10 is pretty

I swore off buying Microsoft Windows computers a few years ago.  I’d owned many of them over the years… from Windows 3.11 up to Vista.  Then I bought my first Mac, and I’ve never looked back.  I’ve been so happy with my Macs that I even bought one for my sister, rather than continue to live the eternal hell known as being “the computer guy”.  My mission to eradicate Windows from my family was thwarted by my Mother secretly replacing her new Chromebook with a Windows laptop with touch screen.  Shit.  Well.. there’s one in every family.

Then I heard a tale of woe… Jess’ cousin had a Windows 7 laptop that was sick.  Very sick.  Plagued with unwanted pop-ups and chronic pokiness.  Several times she had taken it to a local computer shop, and within days the troubles re-appeared.  It was an endless nightmare.  Or as I like to think of it… just another day with Microsoft Windows!

I couldn’t stand by and allow this to continue.  I had to do something.  But I’m old.  I haven’t had to troubleshoot Windows problems in seemingly forever.  (except at work, but hey.. that’s another story)  Could I even do this anymore?  There was only one way to find out.

“If you want to drop it off to me sometime, I’ll take a look at it for you.”

It was official.  I had come out of retirement.  Me vs Windows in a bloody, take-no-prisoners, bout.  A fight to the finish.  A clash of the titans.  Insert your own hyperbolic statement here.

I’d been out of the game for so long, I had to get myself back into shape.  I trained.  I Googled.  I talked to people who continue to do this for a living.  It was going to be ugly.  I needed the best tools for the job.  File scanners.  Harddrive utilities.  Anti-virus.  Anti-malware.  Anti-spam.  Anti-biotics. Even a bottle of Captain Morgan.  I had my work cut out for me.  And then something happened… a new icon appeared at the bottom of the screen…

Get Windows 10.

Really?  Well shit… that’s convenient!  Yup!  On the very same day that I sat down to try to clean the infected laptop, Microsoft released Windows 10.  After checking with Julie, I backed up her important files and went through the clean installation process.  Microsoft has greatly improved this from the days of old.  It’s very straight forward.  I had a brand new installation of Windows 10 installed in an hour.  It’s pretty.  It’s definitely faster than what she had been using.  Is it perfect?  I doubt that.  I assume there will be a bit of a learning curve to try to figure out where things are, and what they do, but that’s normal with any new software release.  I just need to be clear when I hand the laptop over to her… no support questions!

I’m retired.

I am Not a Blogger

Published July 24, 2015 - 2 Comments

i-am-not-a-blogger-womens-box_largeI am not a blogger.  I’m not.  I thought I was.  I tried to be.  I wanted to be.  I think I still do.  But I’m not.  Not now.  I have this blog.  I have several blogs.  But I’m not a blogger.  I have a car.  I’m not a mechanic.  I have a kitchen.  I am not a chef.  See my point?  A blogger blogs.  They find a niche.  They create.  They nurture an idea.  They build an audience.  They blog.  A blogger blogs.  I am not a blogger.  Not yet.  Someday.