Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Travel Tuesdays

...is kinda sorta on hiatus.
However...I am headed to Seattle tomorrow to visit my dear friend Pez. It's her birthday, and I'm looking forward to having a sparkling weekend with her!

At some point (after the weekend) I think I am going to have to make this a more interesting place to visit. It's even becoming a bit painful for me. Can't (don't) even want to imagine what it's like for you.
Hope your weekend plans are as good as mine.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Weekend Cat Blogging

It's a sleepy kind of Sunday in the world of cats, and their humans. Weekend Cat Blogging is being held at catsynth this week. Seems like everyone is tired!
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Monday, March 19, 2007

Who's at the Door?

Saturday afternoon, Greg and I were sitting in the living room, enjoying the sunshine when the doorbell rang. At the door was a young woman, perhaps 20 years old, who introduced herself as a neighbour. She said that she was very embarrassed, couldn't believe her situation, but was desperate. You see, her mom was being discharged from the hospital and she had to go and pick her up, and take her home in taxi. She had already bargained a half price deal with the taxi company but the problem was that she had no money as she doesn't get paid until next Friday. Would it be at all possible if she could borrow the money and pay us back on payday? Being the kind man that he is, Greg managed to scrounge up $8 (from MY work bag!) and gave it to her. He even said not to worry about paying it back. She thanked him profusely, promised to pay it back, and then went on to ask the lady next door.
As I was contemplating whether I should drive her to the hospital myself (after all what are good neighbours for?) Greg called me back into the living room and said that he thought we'd just been scammed. What?!?! We live in a house with an excellent vantage point of both ends of a crescent thanks to our bay window. He pointed out a black car that was idling mid-street and said that he had seen the driver moments earlier walking around looking up various driveways. Now he wondered if the woman and driver were together. Just then the woman walked down our neighbour's drive and headed in the opposite direction as the car. At that moment, the car also made it's move and headed away. We wondered if they were going to meet at the bottom of the next street corner. Greg jumped in our car and slowly followed the woman. He was able to stay out of view and sure enough, just when she thought no one had seen her, she jumped into the car! I'm not sure what Greg was thinking because in this day and age when everyone seems to pack a gun, he made his Dukes of Hazzard move and pulled his car in front of theirs so they couldn't move forward! He got out of the car and confronted them. The woman was a very good liar. She said that her friend had just at that moment turned up to give her a ride, how lucky was that?! Greg called them bullshitters, said he had seen the whole thing, how the guy was waiting for her at the corner etc. He said that he knew that they were scamming the neighbourhood, that he had their description and their license plate number. Greg said that they looked very scared at having been caught, and for what it's worth, she did give him our money back. She had at least $40 worth of bills and change, so she'd probably been to quite a few of the neighbours doors.
When he got home, he did make a call to the police with the complaint, their plate number and description but who knows if they were pulled over. I'm sure the police have bigger and better things to worry about than a couple of scammers, but still, they are stealing and should be stopped.
We went over to our next door neighbour and explained what happened. She had given the woman the full $20, but as she handed the money over had said to her "I'm giving you this money in God's name." Bless her. She figured that the woman must have really needed the money, whatever the reason.
This experience has left me with a sour taste in my mouth. How can you trust anybody at the door anymore? When we first moved in, I was dreading having the Jehova's knocking at our door. They came and went and haven't bothered coming around again. But in any given week, there are people coming around canvassing for charity...how do you really know that the money is going to charity, and not directly into the canvassers pocket? I do donate money to a few charities of my choice, mainly homeless shelters, and I donate directly to the shelter. Honestly, after this scam, I don't think I'll be doling out any money at the door anymore. I am definitely not as trusting as I was a week ago.
Any thoughts on this?

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Mr. Mao gets a kiss, even though he's not Irish! Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Don't forget to head on over to I Got Two Shoes to give Kamikaze a kiss!Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Travel Tuesdays #11

...a day late! Last week I promised a quick little visit to Istanbul, Turkey. This has GOT to be one of my all-time favourite places that I have been. The language, the culture, the history is all so incredible. I have been to Turkey a few times and each time I can't wait to arrive in Istanbul. There is something about big, populated cities that I just love to explore. The first time my friend Lisa and I arrived was after our luxury tour through Egypt. We had left it up to our travel agent to find us a room in Istanbul, and once again, blindly trusted him. Being novice travellers we didn't do any research at all, we just kind of flew by the seat of our pants. We arrived in Istanbul in the early evening and made our way to the hotel that had been booked for us. The taxi driver let us out with our two suitcases each, carry-ons, and all the souvenirs we had bought in Egypt, and then promptly drove away. I remember looking at my friend and asking "What have we gotten ourselves into?" If Istanbul has a red-light district, that was where we had landed! Nevertheless, it was getting dark and we needed a place to stay. We entered the red-velvet and mirrored lobby, and of course when we arrived at the check-in desk they did not have our reservation, which we had already pre-paid and our voucher was 'not recognized.' We decided that we would pay again and stay one night, after all, how bad could it be? The bellhop came to take us to our room, and his eyes nearly bugged out when he saw all our baggage! He did not have a luggage trolley, but somehow insisted on carrying our eleven bags by himself. I remember how the three of us crammed into a tiny little elevator that had a grate that needed to be pulled across to close it. We were all literally nose to nose with our bags strategically placed around us. Then the bloody lift wouldn't LIFT! And then the grate wouldn't open! The bellhop, speaking no english, somehow made us understand that on the count of three we were all to jump in the air and land at the same time. Which we did, and thank god the elevator moved. V-e-r--y slowly, but we finally made it to the third floor. Where, there were dirty dinner dishes and dirty laundry littering the hallways! OMG! What a place! But our room was the best. It was a long narrow room, with two twin beds, one in front of the other lined against one side of the room and a small bathroom with a bathtub that was a four foot cube with a seat carved out to plunk your naked ass on. (Bum imprint and all!) The room reeked of insecticide and later that night we discovered why. Cockroaches and bedbugs. Nice.
We got the hell out of there at the crack of dawn and booked ourselves into The Marriot. I always think back on this adventure with fondness because really, in hindsight the whole thing was quite funny. The next time I went to Istanbul, I was much more prepared and in fact, stayed at a B&B right near The Blue Mosque for a fraction of the cost of the Bordello we stayed in that first night.
The Blue Mosque, or Sultan Ahmed Mosque has got to be one of the most beautiful places of worship I have ever laid my eyes on. Living in KSA I would never have dreamed of being allowed inside a mosque, being an Infidel and all. The inside of the Blue Mosque is truly awe-inspiring with it's cobalt blue ceiling tilework.
The Hagia Sophia was once an early Christian Church that back in the 1400's was turned into a Mosque by the Turks. It is now a museum filled with beautiful Christian mosaics and evidence of the transformation into a mosque. It is known to be one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture.
No trip to Istanbul would be complete without a visit to the Grand Bazaar which is a shopping experience and a maze like no other. You can seriously get lost in there for weeks, especially if you have a sense of direction like mine! One of the most friendly customs in Istanbul is tea-drinking. It is the national drink and is served in little tulip shaped glasses with a lump of sugar. I think I was offered tea in every single shop I wandered into! There is regular tea, but also apple tea that the tourists tend to drink. It is basically just very sweet hot apple juice. Who would have know hot apple juice was so tasty! If you have not had enough tea inside the bazaar, there are also Tea Men walking about with huge pots of tea strapped to their backs.
(Click on the pics to enlarge)
Later this year I'll post some more pictures from around Turkey, and I'll conjure up the story of my adventure in the Turkish Bath!
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Saturday, March 10, 2007


Looks like an ordinary living room picture, right?
Look deep into those rays of sunshine...

...and you'll see these two little rays of sunshine!
Now, do yourselves a favour and head on over to the Sher's delicious blog What Did You Eat? to see Upsie and Sundance partaking is some Feline Wrestlemania!Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Travel Tuesdays #10

It's so cold outside tonight that I wanted to think of a warm place.
This week, I'm heading back to the Middle East, or rather North Africa, to Egypt. This trip goes way back to 1991! OMG! Hard to believe that I am still reliving vacations from over 15 years ago. (Seems like yesterday.) When I went to work in KSA, after the initial excitement wore off I became extremely homesick. So homesick that I was pulled into the manager's office and advised to either quit, or go on vacation. Vacation sounded like a great option so I took that one. in the back of my mind figuring that I'd take the vacation and then do a "runner" and buy a one-way ticket home. I talked a British friend of mine into going to Egypt with me as it had always been a dream of mine to go there. Lisa ended up being a great travel buddy. Since neither of us had really travelled before, we naively allowed a travel agent to book us a tour with Abercrombie and Kent ,a luxury travel company. Dare I tell you that a 10 day holiday in Egypt cost $5000.00 (and that was 15 years ago!!!)? OK, I just did. It was the first and last time that I ever travelled this way. In fact these days, I prefer to stay in Budget Hotels or Apartment Rentals.
On this trip, we had only the best. In Cairo, we stayed here: Cairo Marriot. For 5 days we cruised down, or rather, UP the Nile on a Sheraton Cruise barge. We were the youngest amongst a tour that had just arrived from Tel Aviv. Needless to say, the Captain took a shining to my friend and I (Ok, mostly I!) and wined and dined us on board at night with salmon canapes and caviar. This was all very nice, especially with the silent Nile as a backdrop, however I think he was disappointed when I didn't go back to his cabin to watch videos. The cruise was a busy one. The wake up call would be 5:30 am to be ready for breakfast and off board early to go to tour the temples. The temples were awesome, but overwhelming.
At tour end, we stayed in Aswan at The Old Cataract Hotel, the place that inspired Agatha Christie to write Death on the Nile. From there we flew to Abu Simbel which was for me one of the most memorable sites that we saw. The sheer size of these figures were astounding!

We ended our tour back in Cairo, and opted to do some cheesy touristy stuff that was a lot of fun.

Hello from Cairo!

Next week, I'll tell you about Istanbul, and how I ended up back in KSA.
For some fabulous travel pics from Moscow, head on over to the Beeshive !
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Saturday, March 03, 2007

WCB...Pieces of Mao

With this crazy weather we've been having, all Mr. Mao is interested in is eating and sleeping with the occasional bath thrown in for good measure. When the pics were taken of him sleeping, apparently his feet were hot!
For more kitty pics, head on over to Champaign Taste who is hosting this week. Thankfully, Louis decided to come home just in time for Weekend Cat Blogging!
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Crystal Wonderland

I'm very glad that this week has ended, it was a long one! Yesterday's shift seemed to last forever, of course it doesn't help when you are looking at the clock every 5 minutes.
Thursday we had another winter storm. The blizzard that started at noon, and made the drive home quite treacherous. It took me an hour and a half to drive a route that normally takes me 25 minutes. Thankfully I have new snow tires so I was able to make it up all the hills. There were a few poor souls who must have had bald tires and they were spinning out of control making the drive that much worse for everyone else. Nevertheless, I got home safe and a lovely bottle of red wine was waiting for me which I thoroughly enjoyed.
At around 11pm the freezing rain started, so we were treated to a symphony smashing against our bedroom window, courtesy of nature herself. In the morning we awoke to a crystal wonderland, which was absolutely gorgeous! The first picture was taken from our bedroom door, looking into the backyard. The second picture I trudged though the snow drifts to get a photo lengthwise along the fence of the same bushes. I really like how this turned out.