Wednesday, 30 November 2011

All-Inclusive resorts

I can't stop thinking about this article I read last saturday, (yes I know my brain works in mysterious ways) I had to post a comment at the end of it of course.

This is the article The rebirth of All-Inclusive Resorts

I just want to say to anyone who has not been to an all inclusive resort that this article is so misleading. The Author admits to never having been to an all inclusive but yet writes a 2 page article about how they have improved? As in everything in life, there are the good and the bad (writers and resorts).

I have been to many all- inclusive's ( I am not expert but compared to the Author above, I am close)

  • You get what you pay for,  The Grand Velas resort mentioned in the article above, is very expensive and therefore will have better food, brands of alcohol, better wine, better service......compared to a 3 star resort that you can get a 7 day deal for $699.00.  You have to lower your expectations if you want the deal.  
  • For example:  I have stayed at the Riu Sante Fe in Cabo twice (some sites rate it 4* sometimes it shows as 5*) both times we paid aprox $1000. pp, then the next year we paid an extra $200 and stayed at the sister hotel, Riu Palace Cabo.....there was a big improvement, even though I liked the Riu Sante Fe, the food was just that much better at the Palace.  More variety, better tasting drinks, wine, nicer rooms, and less children, although not adults only.  So that extra $200 spread over 7 days, works out to about $28.50 per day, totally work it!
  • I have also stayed at some Iberostar All-inclusives, some have extra charges for a fancy restaurant, or to buy a better bottle of wine.  It's not like a cruise ship where you have no choice but to pay for the extras, there are many choices at All inclusives, most of them included in the cost of your holiday.
  • It is also your choice whether you want to tip or not, but most people find they get better service at the 3 or 4 star resort if they tip.  Funny thing don't need to do that at the 5* resort, there you would tip because they gave you good service all the time.
  • I have never seen a charge for a exercise class, most activities are free and most resorts have lots of to choose from, all listed as free. The only things that have extra charges are motorized water sports, or off site excursions.  This is also listed when you book your vacation.
Now if only I could get the free Trip to the Grand Velas for writing this article!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Final Building Permit Nov 25/11 Yippee!!

For months now I have wanted to write about The power of a City Building Inspector.  I have put it off because we still do not have our final building permit for our new house that we have been living in for the past 8 months.  If you have ever built a home you know that the worst thing you could ever do is make a building inspector mad, or even dislike you in any way.  They have more power than god!

We do believe we will get our Final Permit today, but I won't publish this until I have that little card in my hand.

When we started building our house in 2010 there was building inspector named V (not real name of course).  He had been around for years and made his requirements quite clear either in writing or verbally.   We learned quickly to give him certain level of respect.  In return we could rely on him to answer questions, or provide clarification.   There was one incident when V lost all of our truss drawings, or maybe someone at city hall misfiled them?  Anyway I had to go pick up another copy of the 2" stack of drawings and deliver it personally to the building department at City hall.  BUT the real problems started when V retired in June 2011.

Apparently building inspectors don't write down anything, unless it is on a card they give you.  Not only that, V didn't give us copies of all the cards.

So the new building inspector comes along we will call him E.  We called him for the final permit on the back garage and the house in June 2011, just after V retired (which was a surprise to us)
He kindly sat down in our kitchen and went thru a list of things he was missing, like a card showing our insulation had passed and where are the Truss drawings?  (see do you lose that huge stack of paper twice?)  We were able to explain alot of it, and E called into his assistant at the city and she found alot of the missing stuff in our file.  Some of it was found the next day and E called us to tell us not to worry about the truss drawings, the smoke detectors, we ticked them off the lists he had left and went on to worry about the bigger things.

  • V had told us to drywall our unfinished area above the back garage to a height of 4 feet.  E didn't like it, we had no proof V said that and it wasn't to code.  E wanted it done to the ceiling height.  This is a place we are using as storage, so we don't see the point.
  • then there is our beautiful stair railing in the house.  Hand made hammered rod iron, the craftsman who made it assured us it was to code.  E says it is climbable, he will have to ask his boss for another opinion.

5 months of going back and forth, between bosses, (there are many managerial layers) none will make a decision without talking to the other.  Or maybe E was just not allowed to make a decision on his own??There were many excuses or miscommunications:

  • We will have to wait till C comes back from his month vacation in Europe, he is the expert on code.  
  • C comes back and says I already told you and E my decision before I to us of course.  
  • We go to see the top boss, he is very nice and promises to get us a decision within a week.  
  • On and on......finally they decide it is not climable but there are openings at the bottom edges that are larger than 4 inches, which means a small child's head could fit in there.  
  • So how do we fix that?  A question we have been asking them for 5 months, can we use plexiglass? "that's not code" but I'll check with C.........

We called for a final inspection on the back garage, we had fixed the drywall to the level E requested.  We figured while he was here he could give us some direction of what we could do to get the stair railing to pass.

  • the back garage didn't pass because the truss drawings are missing  (No, I cannot believe my ears, and I may have gotten angry! I am only human I lost my patience) and he says "you need to drywall the whole room including the ceiling" I reminded him that he was the one who told us to drywall to the ceiling and he reluctantly agreed, but of course he had not written that down so he didn't remember.
  • As for the advise on the stair railings, he had none, whatever we do has to be permanently attached.  

My handy spouse came up with a creative idea to make wood triangles to fill in the 4" spaces, it looked OK and cost about $400 to get the matching wood.  Also we had to put a 2nd handrail on the other side of the stairway, as the width of the stairs called for 2 rails.  (It all looked kinda ugly but it was to code)

Yesterday E was here for the final inspection again, I handled him the 3rd copy of the truss drawings, he said "what are these? we already talked about this didn't we?"  (what now you don't need them? ) He couldn't remember, and of course he has nothing written down.   Not to mention he wasn't here for a final inspection on the back garage as we had only called in the permit number for the house.

He agreed to pass the stair railing but don't celebrate too soon.......what about those smoke detectors still on his list(again see above, we have more than we need and he already told us they were fine as is)  He has no record of that.  (Grrrr  don't get angry, ten calming deep breathes)  He left saying he will go back to his office today and look through the file again, but we need to call in both permit numbers again so he can issue the final permits if applicable.  ( I assume this is a billing thing for his employer).  He will call and tell us when he approves the final permit....But I need that card, no way we are going to trust him without something in writing.  (Oh and the City is holding a $10,000.00 bond for trees that we took down and replaced, but we can't have that back until we have the final permit.)

We called the City on Nov 25th and confirmed the Final Permits were issued and we could go pick up the written cards.  Yippee!!

Building a house has many challenges, all the people at City Hall are very helpful, kind and informative if they choose, but few really have the authority to make a decision on their own, and this can add months to the process of building.  I am so glad it is over, Thank you for allowing me to vent!

We do love our new house. (and our stair railing is beautiful)

Wheat free update

It has been 10 days of wheat free, can't say I am feeling better or even different yet.

  • I gained back the 2 lbs I lost (story of my life lately, I gain and lose 2 lbs every other week).  I still feel bloated most afternoons, so it must be more than wheat that bothers me. 
  •  I am thinking mandarin oranges, or maybe just fruit in general, or maybe my afternoon snack of nuts??  
  • A friend also warned me that rice flour causes bloating, and almost all bread, muffins and pasta sold at choices is made from rice flour......that is where I first stocked up on wheat free products, so I will avoid those this week as well.
  • my shoulder aches and pains have not changed

On the positive side, My appetite is less, I don't snack as why did I gain weight? well I never used to eat handfuls of nuts in unlimited quantities, or carbs like rice and potatoes at every dinner, it is bad to tell me that I can have unlimited quantities of anything I guess!  (Oh yeah, I did find really good cookies too)

I am not giving up, I said I would try 30 days so I will, but I am going to write down everything I eat this week and see when the bloating shows up, and maybe watch my portions sizes as it would be nice to loose weight while I am doing this.

There is a good web site called  it is free.  Enter the food you ate, (or are thinking of eating) it has most brands, and gives you calories, protein, sugars, carbs etc.  Also recommends the correct daily amounts for you.  

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Life without wheat

So it's been a whole week since I decided to try this wheat free diet, and just to be clear, it is not a "counting calories/lose weight" kind of diet, more of a "change your eating habits" type of diet.  (Although I have lost 2 lbs and I am eating everything I want to)  This is not like the Aitkens diet where you have to give up all carbs, I can still have rice, potatoes or bread made from wheat free products.

I have found some really yucky bread and muffins, crackers that taste like old cigars, and ones that have way too much salt, but also on the positive side I don't really miss bread????
Months ago when I talked myself out of trying this wheat free idea, I was sure I would miss my whole wheat english muffin and peanut butter each morning, and for sure there was no way I could live without my daily bowl of high fibre cereal and berries.....but I was wrong.  (notice how small the print is here, I pretty much like to be right all the time)

Now the book "Wheat Belly" that I am reading, wants you to give up anything with wheat in it, even traces of wheat, so read labels and go cold turkey, no gradual reduction in wheat products.  The author warns there may be withdrawal symptoms after 3 -5 days, I haven't really noticed that, but I am having a constipation (shh) problem that is really getting on my nerves and causing tummy aches.  I am trying to eat more fruit and prunes now.

The really good news, ......Red wine and Chocolate are still good for you!! limited quantities of course and the author prefers 70-80% pure dark chocolate...(funny I don't so there may be some compromise here.)

The big thing that bugs me about books like this is that they want you to go to such extremes!

The author recommends avoiding not only wheat, but:

  • gluten free foods, sugary snacks, candy, ice cream, fruit rollups, honey, high fructose anything, dried fruit, 
  • limit your quantities of dairy, all fruit, corn, fruit juice, rice, oats beans, potatoes, soy products.  (note that was just a summary)  

Unlimited food you can eat:

  •  meat, eggs, cheese, good oils ( Olive, avocado coconut, walnut, sesame, flax seed), non sugary condiments, (mayo, mustard, salsa, tapenades etc), Raw nuts and seeds (as many as you like) and lots of vegetables......

Yesterday my Mom gave me a loaf of bread, and some buns made at a bakery in Ladner, they use spelt flour, the loaves are really small and you keep them in the freezer as their shelf life is short (probably because there is no preservatives).....but I had peanut butter toast this morning and it was Yummy!  So there is hope for bread and maybe a good sandwich again.  I have also found some really tasty extreme chocolate cookies!

I am hoping next week my tummy will be feeling even better and I will see more positives to this experiment.  I'll keep ya posted

Thursday, 17 November 2011

There can't be Wheat in Everything!

So today I am feeling kind round, I had 2 birthday lunches and 2 birthday dinners, in the last week and then there is all that Halloween candy that I am trying to get rid of........I know I don't have to eat it but I bought the ones I like.  (thankfully my daughter took the whole bag with her after her last visit)

I did go to the gym today, and while I was running up and down stairs my trainer was reading a newspaper article to me, about a wheat free diet.  She does this to distract me from the task at hand.  I did come home and look up that article, it did sound interesting.  My trainer also believes that we can all live without wheat, she has been wheat free for years. (I do listen to her but it sounded too extreme for me)

Here's the link to the article in the vancouver sun, about a new book called  WHEAT BELLY: Lose the wheat, lose the weight, and find your path back to health (by William Davis, MD)
New book on wheat goes against the grain

Read more:

There are several reasons for me to try this 30 day wheat free diet but it seems so difficult to give up my high fiber cereal every morning, or the toast and peanut butter, a really good sandwich.....but I have been hearing hints for years that changing your diet can help.

  • I have a nagging shoulder injury that I cannot seem to rehab properly, that happened Sept 2008.  One yoga teacher said that she suffered from a similar rotator cuff injury and it took a change in her diet to correct it.  (I wrote that off...too extreme for me, I am the everything in moderation girl)
  • I have had months on prescription antacids, I was told the digestion problems are related to menopause.  I am not on them any more, but have rotating bouts of constipation, bloating and gas.
  • Menopause causes round belly, which is a fight all on it's own
  • I could stand to lose 5-8 lbs
I also read a book this summer called "Gluten free girl" about a girl who learned she had celiac disease, it was interesting, but again I thought that was too extreme for me.

So I am starting by putting this in writing, I am going to try a wheat free diet for 30 days!  
Beyond the obvious, No Bread or High Fiber cereal (that I love), No chocolate bars, pure chocolate has no wheat, so I will have to read labels.
Darn I just had a bowl of Tomato soup, the label says it has wheat flour .......this is gonna be a challenge!

I will be following the blog on, let me know if you have any other advice.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Another year older

Yes, I am another year older today, 49 (the 4th), I could go on about how aging sucks, but I think I'll stick to the positives today!   I don't feel older, and there is nothing I cannot do!
  • My new favorite saying is "Smile, wrinkles are just part of the whole sexy package"
  • Yes, Leopard spot is still one of my favorite colors, favorite neutral actually, some people prefer beige, I prefer leopard!  I have been told that wearing animal print can really age a person but that leads to the other thing I believe,
  • Everything in wine, chocolate, exercise, leopard print.....

Too bad Cher had to have all that plastic surgery, I am sure she would have aged very gracefully without it

Thanks to all my friends, for being my friends, and for all the Happy Birthday wishes, have a great day everyone!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

What is your earliest childhood memory?

My memory was sparked last night when I read a friends post on Facebook, she was asking about a Thomas the tank engine train table and why does it have to cost so much.   One comment posted said "You have to get it! I never had one and resent my parents to this day"   

I have to wonder how old the author of that comment was when he didn't get that gift.  I also remember  the disappointment of not being allowed to have gogo boots, although that wasn't Christmas.

Try and think back to the first good memory you have from your childhood and how old were you?  I find it sad that the disappointments stick out more than the good things.  
  • I do remember having a cat that had kittens, I was 5
  • having pet turtles that we took out to the back yard for a walk and forgot about them, I was 3 or 4?
  • my first friend was my neighbor Cindy, I was 3 or 4
  • my first trip to Disneyland, we drove for days and stayed in Motel 6's, I was 10ish?
  • Memorable christmas gifts from my childhood.........I remember Barbies, barbie fashion show stage, and a doll house my grandpa made......again I would have been 9 or 10 what happened before that?
What is the earliest Christmas gift you remember?

I am just asking this because I do remember very well the year my son asked Santa for a "Cool Tools Tow Truck"  I think he was 3 or 4, he didn't like the experience of sitting on Santa's knee, so I put it off til a couple weeks before Christmas.  (lesson #1)
I knew what my son and daughter wanted for Christmas, and I had all my shopping done, or so I thought!
I did not know my son would ask Santa for a "Cool Tools Tow Truck", oh well I will just go get one.  
Of course you know where this is going, there were no "Cool Tools Tow Trucks" to be found anywhere in the lower mainland.  We tried everywhere, it was such a stressful time, worrying that my son had to believe that Santa would bring that one thing he asked for.  Luckily a friend did finally find the "Cool Tools Tow Truck"in the small town of Walla Walla Washington, we paid to have it shipped here in time for Christmas.  Big Sigh of relief!  

I think my son played with it for 2 minutes.  I wonder if he even remembers getting it?    

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Christmas 2011--Birth of a New Tradition

I received this email today, I am not sure who wrote it, so I did a google search to find the author.....Wow this message is posted everywhere, on blogs, facebook etc.  I didn't find the author.
So you may have already read it, but just in case you missed it here it is again.

Christmas 2011 -- Birth of a New Tradition

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Canadians
with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods -- merchandise that has been produced at the expense of Canadian labor. 
This year will be different. 
This year Canadians will give the gift of genuine concern for other Canadians. 
There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by Canadian hands. Yes there is! 
It's time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?
  • Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. 
  • How about gift certificates from your local hair salon or barber?
  • Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.
  • Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, Canadian owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.
  • Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamines on a Chinese made flat-screen? 
  • Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.
  • There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn't about big National chains -- this is about supporting your home town Canadians with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.
  • How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the working guy?
  • Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.
  • My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.
  • OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.
  • Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.
  • Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.
  • Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.
You see, Christmas is no longer about draining Canadian pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Canadians, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine. THIS is the new Canadian Christmas tradition.
Forward this to everyone on your mailing list -- post it to discussion groups -- throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in your city -- send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations, and TV news departments. This is a revolution of caring about each other, and isn't that what Christmas is about?

I like most of these ideas, it reminds me of my youth when I used to make gifts for my family, or give my parents a coupon to clean their car.  I have been trying to avoid giving gift cards at christmas as they often do not get used, and the big companies are just keeping our money.  But I would be OK with giving or getting a gift certificate to a local restaurant, or my hairdresser cause I really will use that, and if for some reason I don't, they can use the money.  I would feel so much better about that, than I do owning the 5 unused gift certificates from Cineplex Odeon that expired Oct 31.  (p.s.note to self: don't buy gift cards with expiry dates)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Are you paying too much for Shaw Cable?

Has any one noticed the changes dealing with Shaw lately?  I have always told everyone how impressed I was with their service, you could always call them with a problem and they had a solution.

Now it takes 4 hours to get thru to ask a question, they will do a call back but, where will you be in 4 hours?  While you are on hold you will hear a recorded message offering great career opportunities at Shaw.  So we get it, they are understaffed!
It took a month for me to get thru to a person who could fix the settings on my email.....mostly cause I could never wait the 4 hours or I missed the call back, and then I left it for a few days, anyway when you do get thru they have an answer.

  • Last week we wanted to watch a canucks hockey game, 
  • Last year we got the games on HD  (love HD the picture is so much clearer, nicer to watch)
  • This year the games are on Sportsnet pacific, channel # 23 we get this channel but the HD version #218, we do not get!
  • At some point this year, Shaw changed the whole channel line up, we lost all those time shift channels # 70's thru 80's and a bunch of other stuff.  Apparently that was around March 2011 when they switched to this new Shaw Plan Personalizer.
  • Am I the only one who didn't know it would be cheaper to change to this personalizer??
I played with the online Shaw Plan Personalizer on the weekend, trying to figure out how much more it would cost me to get Sportsnet Pacific, it was very confusing, .... all the channels come in packages that are cheaper than buying just one looked like it was going to cost me a lot more money and my shaw bill is already $180+ per month ( I have phone and internet in there as well).

Anyway I picked some stuff and hit the button to "Order Now"  This gives you a message that a customer service agent will call you the next business day.  It took 3 days, but at least I did not have to wait on hold.

The agent spent a long time trying to explain all these channel combos to me, It just did not make sense....basically she could change my plan to include #218 sportsnet pacific along with about 70 other channels for $5.00 more than I was paying now????    Well I don't really need all those channels there is nothing usually on them anyway, I rather pay less and have just what I have now plus the sports net pacific......guess what, it would be more expensive to do it that way???

So I stopped trying to understand and now have the 70 extra channels, it quite nice so far, cause you no longer get that blank screen when you select a channel that you don't subscribe to.

But now I wonder

  • how much I really should have been paying for the lesser channels I had since March 2011?  
OMG I get it now, they had to make it more expensive to keep it as is, and add one channel, that way I can't complain about being charged too much since the change in March!

  • But why did they take all those channels away in the first place? Why not just send me a letter saying "for $5 extra you can have this channel line up" ?????
If I am not making sense to you, don't worry......just call Shaw or email make sure you are getting your money's worth.