Thursday, April 30, 2009

where I think about my tax return

It has been over 15 years since I worked in an office, or had a regular 9-5 job.

Which suits me just fine.
Though, I could probably use a bit more structure in my life.
(ya think?!)

And ever since I went back to school, then started working on my own, I have used someone had an accountant to help with my accounting and - most importantly - do my taxes.
I have had a few different people in this capacity. The last guy I had came by on April 30 (the last day to file your income taxes) and waltzed into my place, opened up his laptop and immediately started inputting figures. Then says, triumphantly, you owe $XXX.


(I didn't bat my eyelashes - I blinked, I doubt he would have noticed anyway as he never once made eye contact and barely looked up from his precious laptop.)

"No, I shouldn't owe anything. I should be getting a refund."

My mind frantically searching for ... something.
I was so incredibly tired as I'd been up all night working and spent the previous day organizing and adding and re-adding all my receipts and info.

Then, I remembered a few facts he hadn't asked, since he hadn't asked anything. What about my car? my massage table? and and and

"Oh, you have a massage table?"


How does he think I do my massages??

Finally, we get it sorted and I get my refund amount, and he leaves.

All in all it took about 15 minutes of his precious time.
Then, last year, I found a new 'tax person'. She came by my place, opened up a notepad and immediately started writing stuff down and asked for the previous years' return. She made some strangled noises while reading it.

Several sighs later and many, many questions later, she left armed with figures and I was given instructions to add to those figures. Days later, when we met again, I was severely admonished for not taking advantage of the many write-offs I was entitled. "Didn't you buy lightbulbs?" "Where are your receipts for toilet paper?"
"I forgot....."

"You won't forget next year, will you?"

Since I was a little behind, she was actually working on '06 (I was so not interested in getting that other guy back....) and we both knew she wouldn't have time to get to '07 before April 30th.

Then she drops this bombshell.

"It doesn't matter, because you don't actually have to file until September, since you are self-employed."


Why did nobody ever tell me this?

So for over a dozen years, I have fretted and gotten headaches and stomachaches and crawled under the covers in fear and loathing every April 30th and I didn't even need to file yet?!

I'm heading for my local public house for a drink. It'll probably be quiet in there tonight.

And I'll save the receipt.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

where I use up the leftovers

My family is not one of those to over gorge themselves with food.

I am still eating leftovers from Sunday's dinner. I tried to give away as much as they could carry, but it was a struggle at times as I pointed to my freezer, "do you see the immense smallness of that thing?" after protestations of keep it, you can always freeze it y'know. Yes, I could make soup, I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks in between. But, I don't want to. I will be sick of it long before the week is out, then it will be bad by the time I remember it sometime next month. The times I have bought fresh produce, with all the greatest of intentions, only to bung it in the non-clear crisper bins and promptly forget about it. Or use a small portion, then ... end up throwing it out days weeks later after it has sat forgotten decomposing, because, really, just how much parsley does one person need?

Of course, part of this week's particular problem involves the vast amount of food I bought because feeding six is a lot more food than for one. With the help of my friend (yes, the one who likes to help - though at least this time it did not involve travel plans). He has access to the "market" that is actually the Ontario Food Terminal. That massive swath of land under the highway in west end Toronto where growers and wholesalers of all things vegetable, fruit and plant sell their wares to retailers of all manner of grocery stores. The general public is not invited. I love going there. The shear size of the market, and the quantities of food, blows me away every time. Watching the guys zip along on their motorized forklifts and scooter type things is fun, too. (click on photos to embiggen)
The thing is, you can't just buy one or three cauliflower. You must buy the whole flat or box. As in 15. I split it with my friend, then gave away some to the family and to a neighbour. I still have four. But, the price of this stuff makes it worthwhile, and now I know how much of a mark-up some of these grocers take to their advantage. Pusateris and Longos and the Asian shop on the corner all shop at the same food terminal. My cauliflower was much less than a dollar each.
Oh right, and I thought I had problems using up a bag of parsley...
I have some spinach and caulifower soup to make. A modified recipe involving:
  • a head of cauliflower cut into florets and 2 shallots chopped up and sauteed in a pan with lots of butter, then add some vegetable broth and simmer covered for about 10 minutes
  • top it off with couple hundred grams several handsful of baby spinach and let it wilt in the heat, add lots of nutmeg, and a bit of salt and pepper, stir it all up, then let it cool before blending
  • when ready to eat, stir in the creme fraiche you bought but forgot to use, and garnish with some fontina or gruyere or other melty creamy cheese, and maybe the rest of the walnuts just for some crunch

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday AMuse

I hosted a dinner party yesterday.
That meant a good week of cleaning and tidying and sorting and buying stuff....

I've never had 6 people for dinner in this place - and I know, they all came to see me (and to eat) not to critique my home. Still. Went to an awful lot of effort and was exhausted by the time they showed up. Now, I'll spend this week finding all the little bits and pieces that got shoved in drawers, and baskets and closets "out of the way".

Go on, tell me you haven't done that, too.

So, as I take a deep breath, I offer you this little gem I found on a blog from a new SundayStills contributer who calls herself the crazy sheep lady

More cute photos of this little guy can be found here, oh and here with his story, and several posts of daily cuteness in between.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

SundayStills - barns

I knew BARNS were going to come up as a challenge soon. For those of you who aren't in on this weekly photo challenge, it is worth noting that many of the contributers seem to live on ranches and have animals that are bigger than my cat and turtle. I live in (sortof) the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) where such things as barns and farm animals are in short supply.
However - as luck would have it, while I was taking photos of the chapel at Appleby College (which is on an old lakefront estate in Oakville) for last week's challenge, I found this:

right across from the stained glass windows of the chapel
with the tennis courts attached

looking a little different from the usual barn

It is the fancy stonework that fascinates me

for more barn views see SundayStills

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

where I think about spring cleaning

I was sitting in what my cousin calls her lounge and what I would call her living room one day last summer. I was quietly reading my book, drinking my coffee, absentmindedly flipping through the endless channels of nothing worth watching on the telly, when I suddenly realized there was a person standing outside the windows, looking up and down and at all corners, waving frantically.

My first impulse was to shriek, E, there's a man outside with a squeegee! Oh yes, says she, and then launches into a long tale about the window cleaners who have been coming to her for yonks and how this, the son, has taken over from the father who is getting on, and what a good job they do and they didn't even charge her extra when they put the extension on and therefore added four extra windows.....

My cousin gesticulates wildly when she talks, so she kept waving her arm towards the window where this guy was squeegeeing the supposed dirt and grime of what turned out to be 6 weeks accumulation. So he must have known he was being talked about. I kept watching his smooth sweeps of the squeegee (I like that word, sounds so silly and fun to say) as she prattled on, feeling rather, erm, exposed, sitting there in full view, in my pyjamas.

So, what does one do when the window cleaner comes by? I don't get to experience that much. Actually, not at all. Because in my world, it is me who is the designated window cleaner and I don't dedicate myself to that task very often. But really, isn't it a little weird having someone come by at irregular intervals who can see into your daily activities as you watch tv, eat dinner, dust, play the piano...

Then again, isn't it nice to be able to see into the outside world as the birds fly about, the clouds move, the sun shines, the mail carrier comes with another postcard from Finland.

Gotta go, more sprung cleaning to do!

Spring is sprung
the grass is ris
my how noisy
the birdies is

but first some entertainment by George Formby


George Formby - When i'm cleaning windows

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

SundayStills - religion

The vines have been around this bell tower a very long time, by the looks of them. Actually, most of the chapel is covered in them. (click on photos to embiggen)

The John Bell Memorial Chapel at Appleby College.

It took 7 years to build this Anglican chapel and was finally dedicated in 1929

There are so many beautiful temples, churches and mosques in every style imaginable - from simple, to elegant, to ornate, to ostentacious.

I come from a tradition of the plain church which has made it difficult for me to relate to the grand, excessively ornate style of cathedrals or large churches as a place of worship. The history and architecture may be fascinating and jaw-dropping, but as a place of commune or a spiritual base, for me, some intimacy is lacking within.

Or maybe I just need fewer distractions. Our church had coloured glass panes, which pleased me no end as a child. Until I experienced stained glass gothic windows. Now, there was a distraction.

An example of a modern stained glass window on right

with a more traditional one below it

In 2004, the chapel commissioned the first ever
Inuit designed stained glass window by Kenojuak Ashevak.

for more photo takes on this theme see SundayStills

Saturday, April 18, 2009

PhotoHunt - purple

a frosty sunrise through the window of the pool house.

see PhotoHunt for
more purple

and just in case you didn't know that deep purple, or aubergine, is my favourite colour.

Friday, April 17, 2009

where I impart some history

My photo for SkyWatchFriday includes a light standard. An historic reproduction light standard. One that anyone who travelled the QEW regularly would recognize. They used to be much more numerous, but most had disappeared over the last 40 years in favour of bland truss style lamp posts. That one isn't taken from the QEW, as that would have been unsafe, but I found it at a seniors community centre in Oakville and I took advantage of the parking lot to capture the image. There was some thought that maybe the last of these artistic light standards would disappear, but instead, more of them are appearing on the new bridges as a nod to the historical significance of the Queen Elizabeth Way. Two such examples are at the new Bronte Creek Bridge and Sixteen Mile Creek Bridge.

photo: pquan flikr
I came across a letter in a local paper from an idiot someone who is "saddened and disappointed" that we are using such "outdated symbols from a different time" and suggests that we should stop "perpetuating historical symbols". In his letter he says that he is "not particularly “anti” the Queen or the colonial era, but I am an immigrant and, while I accept these things as part of Canada's past, suggest that we should move on."


He is very much misinformed, and misguided, if he thinks that a) "those who identify with [the ER symbol] will be few in number", b) this ER is about the Queen, and c) the highway is of a colonial era.

A flurry of letters responded to this anarchist. Well, as much a flurry as any wrong-headed letter-writer in a small local paper might receive. Some of them were almost as misinformed, but every one disagreed with him about erasing our past. And many felt a small wave of nostalgia when the lamp posts were erected.

Such displays of symbols are a good way to learn a bit of the history of where you live (or are visiting).

So, very briefly (I don't want to bore you, dear readers!) neither the highway, nor the Queen, is of a colonial era. That ended in 1867 with Confederation. And, the Queen Elizabeth in the ER, is not Queen Elizabeth II, but the wife and consort of King George, Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, affectionately called [the] Queen Mum. It was on their visit to Canada in 1939 to commemorate the coronation of King George that the highway was officially named. Eventually linking the western edge of Toronto with Hamilton, Niagara Falls and Fort Erie, and to the USA, The Queen Elizabeth Way is the only highway without any numbered designation. A lot of the vintage architecture is slowly being dismantled as the highway (note not freeway, that's American usage), is being upgraded and widened, but those iconic ER light standards are slowly being reintroduced as a nod to the historical significance of this major travel route.
Oh, and the ER stands for Elizabeth Regina. That's latin for Queen Elizabeth, the one who was neither the I or the II.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

where I disappear into a book

Our high school librarian was a charm. We were in admiration of her skills. Not only was she young and very personable, she knew everybody by name. She also somehow knew which class you were skipping if you turned up at an 'odd' hour, or lingered too long. This was not a small school, we were over 2,000 students. But if you asked her about a book for a class, she could probably remember who had it and when it was due back. She was our Katharine Hepburn of Desk Set.

I am reminded of her, and many independent booksellers, when I ask for a book in Chapters or Indigo. Where the staff will immediately walk to a computer terminal to look up the title/author and if you don't remember it, well, it could be a fruitless search with you being ultimately led in the general direction of where you might find your request. My favourite booksellers are the ones who can decipher a "I read a review in the Globe about something about (insert semi-remembered description)" or "I heard a book review on CBC on Sunday..." and they know what you are talking about. These people love books. They breathe books.

I used to buy a lot of books. The cost has made buying sprees a bit more prohibitive than in the past. And I've never bought anything from Amazon. I'm more of a browser. Put me in a room with shelves of books, and I can't help myself. I twist my head to read the spines, I pull interesting book titles down, I fondle covers, I flip pages. I sniff books. There is something about the musty smell of old books that is comforting. And also the still strong ink and paper smells of newly printed pages. To be the first to open a book and begin reading... and to open an old book, especially one of prose or poetry, and have it fall open at a favourite passage of the previous owner, is a silent thrill of discovery. I have discovered great new reads that would never have occurred to me just by being attracted to a title, the first paragraph, a description on the cover flap. And I've even judged a book by its cover. I have not bought books that didn't feel right. I used to have small collections of books that had different covers, because the idea intrigued me of other artists renderings of the tale. If I start a series, I have to buy the rest in the series until it is complete, or it will irritate me, even if I didn't particularly like the third book, or whatever. A teeny, tiny bit of OCD.
A friend and I share books regularly, she more than me, because, I couldn't tell you the last time I read a book in its entirety. I have piles of them gathering dust by my bed. The cat uses them as a stepping stool to get herself up on the mattress (she's a bit lazy, why jump when you can risk falling by climbing). Still, I went to the library last week and came home with several books to rekindle my reading habits.
Which is why I haven't been around as much, or posting as much.
And from the book store, a new release, Sandra Gulland and her tale of 'Louise de la Valliere, the young equestrienne who won the heart of France's charismatic Sun King'.

I have coffee waiting at my favourite coffee house and my book to read so, later......

in honour of National Library Week.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday AMuse

last week we had album covers
this week we have cassette innards

Sunday, April 12, 2009

SundayStills - red

Our story today is about RED.
Above, we have my planter. I was hoping the tulips would be red, but apart from not being ready for this week's challenge, they will be yellow. There were yellow and purple crocuses on the other side, yellow daffodils and purple muscari on this side. After the yellow tulips will be the iris - any guesses on their colour?

The silly grinning gnome with the red cap is Jimmy. He's so named because I just can't seem to take anyone seriously who is named Jimmy (no offense to any Jimmy's out there, but really, James is a great sounding name. how did it ever become Jimmy out of James, anyway?).

While admiring my wee garden I had breakfast

the last hot cross bun with a cherry on top.

then off for a walk

red fire hydrants on lawns

red Muskoka chairs on porches

and even red balloons on trees

until I reach my destination

which even has a triangle I could have used yesterday!
For more RED things in the yard and beyond, see SundayStills.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

PhotoHunt - triangle

This weeks theme for PhotoHunt is triangles.

Here I present the penultimate Canadian triangle.

The Centennial symbol.
Who else remembers getting the rulers out and the protractor and trying to make the perfect triangle? Then colouring in each one? Eleven times. One for each province and one for the territories. Or so the story goes - but, since there were, at the time, 2 territories, this theory is debatable.

This was designed as a stylized maple leaf (after the Maple Leaf became our official flag in 1965), and was reproduced everywhere during that heady, exciting year, 1967, celebrating 100 years of Confederation.

Even on the sidewalks.

click on PhotoHunt for more interesting triangles

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday AMuse

Record covers come to life via

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Stills - animal husbandry

I was feeling a little doubtful about finding any farm animals to photograph for this week's challenge.

However, on a venture to some greenhouses and vineyards last week, we had to stop suddenly.

Then, a little further down caught sight of a horse standing in a shelter. Not a great photo (rather upset at chopping his ears off), but he came out to pose for me.
Not very inspiring pictures, but I was truly excited that I could participate this week without travelling too far into unknown territory.
for more photos of farm animals, from real farms and elsewhere, see SundayStills

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Photo Hunt - stripes

More flowers - and look: they're pink! (not my favourite colour, remember?), but they are stripey, in a broken stripe sort of way.

Or, have a gander at this wall mural I found in a part of Toronto called The Beaches.
I'd like to say, any day now we can get out our striped t-shirts and head out to the water...

but at the moment it is cold and rainy and very, very windy.
We had a dry March - not a flake of snow during the whole month (for the first time in 50 years since records have been kept), but the rain is making up for it this weekend.

to see what other stripes were found from around the world, check out PhotoHunt

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

a blooming fine day

If you are not interested in flowers, then you may want to just scroll down to the end.
But you'll be sorry for what you missed.

click on any picture to embiggen

This Garden Centre grows all their own plants and flowers

and for a view into where your flowershop or grocery or corner store gets their flowering plants,
a view into a wholesale greenhouse

as we were leaving the Garden Centre we spotted a Red Tail Hawk.

all in all a lovely day.
Oh, yeah - and this is my 1st blogiversary!