Tag Archives: how to

Keeping the Christmas Tree Vertical (in the Presence of a Curious Cat)

The first Christmas after Ivy the Wonder Cat joined me, the same jitters that I felt before her adoption were back with a vengeance. This time, I was worried about how she would behave around the artificial Christmas tree.

Five months into our relationship, I already knew she was a good little kitty who didn’t have any predispositions to destructive behaviour. Nonetheless, she still had a strong curious streak which could make the tradition of keeping a Christmas tree upright a challenge. I had heard enough horror stories and seen enough videos to know just exactly what cats are capable of, in the presence of a bright, shiny “play structure” in the middle of the living room.

I turned to my panel of experts at the office who all offered fabulous, practical tips to keeping the tree and the cat safe (thanks again, everyone!) Plus, with experience, I added a few of my own ideas upon realizing that my cat was not only smart but fearless when it came to climbing the tree.

Here are some of the strategies I use to keep my Christmas tree vertical throughout the holiday season:

– For the first Christmas with Ivy, I kept my most cherished (and breakable) ornaments in a box, safely tucked away until I knew how she would behave. This took some of the fear and apprehension out of the experience.

– When I install the tree lights, I try to avoid the branches at the very bottom, within the reach of her paws. By avoiding those branches, not only is it safer for Ivy and the tree, I find that at human eye-level, the overall appearance of the tree is enhanced given the greater concentration of lights higher up. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Christmas

Trimming My Cat’s Nails Without Looking Like I Lost a Fight

As much as I have gushed about all the fun things my cat Ivy has brought into my life, one area that has been a constant learning experience has been the act of trimming her nails.

What is it about my normally cool-as-a-cucumber kitty that the moment I attempt to gently snip 1/16th of an inch off a sharp nail, she can turn on a dime, and a zen moment suddenly becomes a scene from The Exorcist?

Trimming Ivy’s nails has been like a trip to the casino. Most times, I walk away with nothing. On a few occasions, I might get one or two nails done. And on a few rare occasions, I may hit the jackpot and get a whole paw (or even two) done! The trick has been to figure out why I am successful some times and not others, and then to follow the pattern.

It’s pretty easy to check the status of her nails without any intervention on my part. During our daily pets, she lies flat on her blanket and starts moving her little arms back and forth, making that kneading motion with her paws. Her little Wolverine claws pop in and out, giving me a full account of whether her nails are still blunt or if they are sharp or jagged, meaning she is due for a trim.

But if I miss the status check, another sign that a trim is overdue is when she walks around the house, when she doesn’t have her collar on. Usually she can be stealth kitty and sneak up on me at any given moment (which can also be a little creepy, quite frankly). But if I can hear her walking through the kitchen sounding like she is wearing stilettos, those nails are getting long.

The trick is finding the right time to do it. If I say yes to any of the following, chances are, it is not an opportune time: Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, How to, Humour

Only the Finest Ingredients Go Into Every Blog

IngredientsWelcome to my kitchen, or my writing studio, whichever you prefer. When it comes to writing a blog, I find that much like in cooking, using the best ingredients is key to ensuring a quality finished product:

First, I start with the finest quality nouns and adjectives I can find. Descriptive, colourful and meaningful, they serve as a solid foundation for the articles and stories I would like to share with my guests.

Next, I like to use some well-chosen active verbs to help the blog rise and to give it the texture needed to keep guests engaged.

I understand that many of you try to limit your intake of adverbs these days, so let me assure you that my blogs are suitable for adverb-reduced diets.

To help the blog posts achieve their peak of flavour, I highly recommend freshly picked thoughts and perspectives from your own garden. Keep in mind that you can always pull thoughts and perspectives out of the freezer for historical pieces and memorabilia pieces, as long as they were flash frozen and not tainted by years of storage.

For the richest, most flavourful blogs, I prefer story lines started from seedlings and allowed to grow organically until they are ripe for picking even if it takes months or years.

I can’t stress enough that artificial fillers like hyperbole, are kept to a strict minimum to ensure purity in the finished product. Also, metaphors and similes are carefully selected and used in limited quantities, but have been known to add a bit of complexity in flavours.

I also try to limit the use of spicy language to ensure the real flavour and quality of the words come through. If any spicy language is to be added, Continue reading

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Filed under Humour, Inspiring, Misc blogs, Writing

Top 10 Solutions for “Literary Constipation”

When I launched the blog in October 2013, I admit there was a bit of apprehension in terms of putting my works in the public domain. The apprehension did not come from the content itself, I was proud of my work and really looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and starting my work as a blogger. What concerned me was the ability to keep at it and to keep posting consistently without sacrificing quality.

How’s that for a little pressure for a new blogger?

But I was lucky in never really suffering from writer’s block in the 18 months since the launch. The more I wrote for the blog, the more I tapped into the inspiration I drew from the events around me, and in turn, the more I was trying to keep up with the flood of ideas that kept coming to me. And they still do.

However I have been experiencing a little bit of “irregularity” of words: the words are still coming, the ideas for stories keep coming and my inventory of blog posts in “first draft” is still growing. My challenge lately seems to be in taking a post and finding the right words to finish it and nail it like a gymnast dismounting from the balance beam for a “10.0”.

The passion is still there; the fire is still there; I still need to write as much as I need to eat, sleep and breathe. It is perhaps just a minor case of “literary constipation”. I just need to dig into my arsenal of solutions to keep it fresh, keep the momentum going and to keep coming back to my passion for writing with a fresh pair of eyes.

Here are my top 10 solutions for literary constipation:

10. Are you physically comfortable?
Are you hungry? Are you dehydrated? Are you too warm? Are you too cold? Is your chair comfortable? Distractions in our physical world can also create distractions in our creative world. Take a moment to take stock and adjust accordingly.

9. Switch your background music/silence
In some cases, I found that just changing my background music can help bring on a creative spurt. Sometimes, turning the music off and just writing to ambient noises (birds chirping, falling rain) or writing in complete silence can help the creative process. Switch it up. Continue reading

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Filed under Humour, Writing

Preparing for Competition (…Shows)

When watching a reality competition show do you ever find yourself yelling at the screen, “Have you ever watched the show?” I remember a season of the Amazing Race several years ago in which a couple was eliminated in the first few weeks, and their parting words were, “We just didn’t think there would be so much running involved”. Years later, I am still asking myself what part of “Amazing RACE” did they not quite understand?

Checking out the Ice Bar in Stockholm, site of an Amazing Race Season 6 challenge

Checking out the Ice Bar in Stockholm, site of an Amazing Race Season 6 challenge

While I cannot comment on how people get selected for reality shows, there always seems to be that one competitor or team who does not seem as well-prepared as the others, despite their great spirit and enthusiasm for the show. I guess producers must think that this makes for good TV, especially for the loyal viewers who have watched from the beginning.

The recurring saying on the show Big Brother is “expect the unexpected” and the production team does indeed come up with jaw-dropping twists to keep competitors on their toes. But when it comes to competition shows, if someone was serious about applying to be on the show, why wouldn’t they prepare, practice and rehearse as much as they can?

For example, in 2003, I had made a request for tickets to attend a taping of The Price Is Right and in the months that followed, I recorded every episode, watched each episode attentively, wrote down every product and every price, transcribed them to organized lists, and I studied the lists on my bus rides to and from the office. By the end of the first month, I started noticing trends and products reappearing, so I suspect that studying might have helped, if I had been picked for contestants’ row. Unfortunately, on the appointed date, I did not get there early enough to make it into the studio, so that idea went back on the bucket list. If I was to try again, I would have prepared exactly the same way but would plan to arrive in the wee hours of the morning. Live and learn.

But if I applied to be on a show like Survivor or Big Brother (not likely though), given that both shows have been around for many seasons, viewers know what to expect: Continue reading

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Filed under Humour, Inspiring, TV

How I Became a New Opera Fan

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhen my partner John and I met for our very first date, it was clear that we clicked given the easy flow of the conversation around the many interests we had in common. Both of us were huge fans of music, theatre, art, television and movies, among others. However, one area where we were at different places in life, was our appreciation of opera.

John had a clear passion for the art form, while I had never really explored it before. He explained that if I was open to it, opera was really a natural next step, if I already liked music and theatre as much as I did.

As far as I knew, up to that point, my most recent (yet limited) opera experience was Sweden’s pop music competition, Melodifestivalen, in which the song selected to represent Sweden at Eurovision 2009 was “La Voix” composed by Fredrik Kempe, co-written with and performed by Malena Ernman. It was a fun song that blended pop, dance and opera for a very unique and memorable tune. For me, the song’s chorus, sung in opera style to a disco-ish beat, was a great appetizer for the journey ahead.

But when it came to opera, initially, I had a number of apprehensions:

How will I “get it” if they are singing in a foreign language?
Much like foreign movies, in North America, operas are sub-titled, even when you attend in person.

Aren’t operas long?
On average, operas can last three to four hours but there are intermissions (sometimes two). (NOTE: For your first time, you might avoid operas by Wagner that could keep you there for 6 hours).

Won’t it be a stuffy, pretentious event? Will I have to get dressed up?
To go to an opera, you can get dressed up but overall, in Canada, opera does not have to be a black tie affair. People dress smartly for the event. As for pretentious, I’m sure you will find pretentious people at any event, not just at opera. Think about opera much like you would an art gallery or museum. People who attend are fans of the art form. Continue reading

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Filed under How to, Misc blogs, music

The Conquering Clutter Resolution

Spring CleaningIn my journey of exploring life, I have held many interests and tried many hobbies over the years, each attracting its own “stuff”. The problem is that when life gets busy, attention is diverted and in some cases, the passing interest fades but the “stuff” remains and sometimes accumulates into clutter.

I completely sympathize with folks (like those on the television show “Hoarders”) who say that they did not notice it accumulating. (Parenthetically, 5 minutes of watching the show “Hoarders” sends me scrambling to de-clutter something). I admit, there have been moments when I realized I was running out of space and reorganizing the same cupboard or closet for the 20th time when I would stop and wonder: do I have too much stuff?

As a child who frequently misplaced things, the motto “a place for everything and everything in its place” was instilled in me.. um.. well.. at least my parents tried to instill in me to the best of their ability. When I was very young, there was a firm rule that before my birthday and Christmas I had to go through my old toys in the basement and pick some to be donated in order to make some room, otherwise Santa Claus couldn’t deliver new ones.

Similarly, when it came to clothes, every September, we would get a new set of shirts and pants for the new school year. The set from the year before (if they still fit) became my “play clothes”, and the set from the year before would be up for donation.

Unfortunately, there were times in my adult life I didn’t always have time to apply that logic. Chalk it up to Continue reading

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