Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chic customer service?

If only all service industry men could like like this?
But who am I to complain?

Yesterday I woke up to a chilly house and one dead furnace. This is winter, while albeit a very unusually warm winter for Toronto, it is still February, and I need a working furnace.  I got on the phone to my local gas service provider and was given a four hour window when I would have a service technician arrive within. Thank goodness I  purchased that extra heat protection plan just last year.

Within my four hour window, I was greeted by your stereotypical "Ralph Kramden type" service guy, hiking up his pants as I opened the front door.
"Hi, I'm with Direct Energy," as he was holding two tool bags, a knee pad and little slippers to cover his shoes.
"Come on in."

As I directed him down to the furnace room, I asked a few basic questions,
"Is it really dead?" and "Is this going to be a big bill?"
I was pleasantly surprised by his quick testing, knowledge of my unit, over all health of my unit, and prognosis of my unit. It seems a sensor was misfiring, causing the furnace to shut off, and that that was unusual for this make and model of furnace. He phoned a buddy, ordered a part, which was not standard issue, as this sensor is not common to break down, and a new one was delivered to my house, promptly. Because I had the heat protection plan, the visit cost my nada. Phew.

Between the time I phoned and the time he arrived, I had envisioned purchasing a new furnace, an expense I wasn't counting on this year.

I was thoroughly impressed with the customer service I received both on the phone and in person by Direct Energy. Now, I have had my issues with them in the past, but this time, I was smiling when my technician left. Who cared if he looked like Ralph Kramden?

Ah, to have heat in my house once again.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What I did on Family Day

I did something that has been on my "to do" list for a very long time, and can now check it off. I went through my Dad's family slide collection. I have been the custodian of it since his death, and it has nagged me that I should do something with it, before they fade away.

My Dad was a camera buff, both movie and still, and had hundreds of those little yellow boxes from Kodak stored away, with an index as to what was in each box, in the basement rec room. Today, I finally went through them. Now I'm not saying I went through them all, but picked a smattering of pre-me era photos, while my parents were even dating era photos, up until just before his death.

Where to start? How to edit out? Unfortunately a lot of the editng had been done for me, as many had faded to clear, or black, depending on the colour fixative that was used at the time.

I got very nostalgic. It was neat to see my parents so young, wide eyed, and very innocent. I enjoyed seeing my grandparents, younger than I remember them and many of my cousins when they were just toddlers. I saw the infamous crab apple tree in front of my house grow over the years, plus the birch tree my Dad insisted we, my brother and I, pose in front of each year. I noticed how there were oodles of boxes of baby Leo, and less of baby Kathi. I guess the excitement of the second child, and recording her every movement wore off when I came along.

While I was going through the photos I phoned my Mom and asked her if she wore a green dress, as her "going away" dress at her wedding, because I saw a lovely photo of my parents with confetti all over them, and my Mom in this lovely dress. I had to describe the neckline to her and the colour, and she said it was her wedding shower dress, and that she had had it made for the occasion. I found pictures of  my brother and I in front of many family Christmas trees, along with family landmark occasions, trips to Niagara Falls, family vacations and just every day things, like cutting the lawn in front of the house. These seemingly innocent pictures, in a way, captured my interest more. I love to look at all the details — the cars everyone was driving, the lack of trees on the boulevards, the clothes, the hairstyles and the expressions on faces. I was reminded of my first red CCM two wheeler, how little girls dressed up for parties, how adults dressed up for house parties and how this bygone time should be cherished & family should not be taken for granted.

Sadly I have no children to pass these on to, but perhaps one day, my nephews may be interested in what went on before them.

Me ice skating at our local rink circa 1968

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The best laid plans...

Have you ever had one of those days, when everything you started, ended not at all how you thought it would? Yesterday was one of those days for me.

I was to meet the über runners for a walk in High Park, and join them at runner Mary Ellen's house for a pot-luck brunch post walk/run. I had made my contribution the night before, four mason jars full of yummy strawberry/banana smoothies made with my Manitoba clover honey. They were delish. I had heard snow was in the forecast overnight for Friday, but, when I opened my living room shutters yesterday at 6:30, to discover a heavy wet blanket of snow, my enthusiasm for meeting everyone waned very quickly. I didn't feel like getting soaking wet feet trudging through un-shoveled sidewalks. As I've gotten older, I've turned into a weather wussy, particularly when I'm not training for anything, and don't have that same motivation to push me out the door — even though I knew a marvelous brunch would be involved. Whenever the running ladies have gathered for dinners/lunches and brunches, the generosity and quality of food has always been top notch. We love our good food. Ok, so, my first plan of the day was nixed.

Well, I decided to at least be productive and finish braiding a bracelet I started the night before, only, I didn't like it so much the next day, and ended up pulling it all a part. Why waste good material? Second plan foiled.

I knew I had to go into the office at some point, so that I could utilize my jumbo tron monitor, while I put together a story/photo book to order on line. Before Christmas I had taken advantage of a "travelzoo deal" which was going to expire yesterday. It was for the cost of the story/photo book at 60% off — so totally worth me going into the office, on our long weekend, to get it done, and take advantage of the savings. After four and a half hours of plugging in photos and copy, I was checking  out and typing in my voucher code, only to have it red flagged, and told I couldn't use it. What? All this work, on my long weekend, and I can't get my savings? I was exhausted and frustrated. Of course the people I had to phone only worked Monday to Friday, 9-5, so was out of luck for any answers yesterday. I proceeded to check out, paying the full price, knowing, both phone calls and emails were in my future for queries as to what happened.

Once home I decided to make a lush and thick royal aubergine  necklace adorned with a pretty oval purple agate pendant. Again, the best laid plans — the necklace is now a double wrap bracelet with a focal toggle. Alas, the braiding was too lush and thick, to pass through the pendant's bail. Glad I thought how else I could use the braiding, and not have to take that piece a part too.

At that  point, I thought it was best I just read the paper and relax, as everything I started, was not meant to be — at least not yesterday.

Double wrap braided bracelet tossed a top my earring tray in frustration.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cross border beading

"And what is the purpose of your visit to the U.S.?"
"I'm taking a beading course."
"A what?"
"I'm taking a beading course — jewellery making course."
"Oh, go on through."

And with those few words, armed with my google map instructions, I was driving on the 190 towards Tonowanda New York, to Toronto Bead Society member Sue Wise's Bead Gallery, to take a class taught by fellow bead society member Cindy Goldrick.

The day started with great deliberation, as snow was predicted, our first real snow for the winter — finally. Knowing how Buffalo gets walloped by snow, I was checking all the weather reports from Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara Falls and in to Buffalo, looking to see when the snow was to hit. Well, as good as they could predict it would hit. I gave Sue a call to get her take on the weather there, and she said if worse came to worse, she had an extra room in her house I could use. Armed with that information, I thought I could squeak through the imminent storm,  and decided to go.

I left work and drove straight down, as the traffic was light, I think due to the snow predictions, and made good time to the border and on through. I even had enough time to hit a Targé before the class. Bonus.

The class was filled with locals, mostly rookies, but all very keen and enthusiastic about their new found addiction. Though I had not taken a  course with Cindy before, I had an inkling she would be a good instructor, and I was not let down. It was a simple project — a beaded bangle. Something that could look very delicate and perfect for those type A's, or something more organic and lush, for my type — I could see the future possibilities.

Sue was just back from the Tucson gem show and I was chomping to see what she had brought back with her. While she was still processing most of it, I did manage to snag some lovely sterling cones that she brought out, after I made an inquiry.

"You want all of them?," asked the sales girl.
"Yes, why, is that unusual?"
"Yeah, nobody buys bags of them."

Looking outside and seeing a dusting of snow on my car, I knew I had to make a dash, to beat the storm. It was snowing as I left, dry on Grand Island, and snowing as I approached the Queenston-Lewiston border.

Again, the traffic was very light on the QEW. I made it home, before the big snow, to admire my new bangle and start to make more.

Thank you Cindy and Sue for a fun afternoon.

The first of many bangles, I'm sure.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Dentist and Miss Lily

Ok, maybe I mean the vet and the cat, my cat, Lily. Lily had a broken tooth that had to come out. Where I don't think it was really bothering her, my vet lead me to believe that it was. I'm no cat dentist, so I listened.

"That tooth needs to come out, and soon."
"Really? How much is that going to cost?"

Well, my jaw hit the stainless steel examining table Lily was sitting on, while I did nothing to hide my udder shock at the cost.

"But I just had a crown done, and it only cost me $800, and my dentist gave me a 10% discount, plus I left with a beautiful new porcelain tooth!"

Unbelievable what my vet was asking. Being a good cat Mom, we did the initial blood work up to make sure she was healthy in every other way, and planned for extraction. But first, I was going to shop around. I suspected I was paying a bit of a premium at my vet's, because the office edges a tony neighborhood. The care there has been excellent, but would it be any less, somewhere else, maybe somewhere less tony?

My Mom's vet is a one man shop plus techies, and is a mere 20 minute drive due south, and $400-$500 cheaper. Lily had a wonderful new doctor, for her dental work. He was caring, wondered if her broken tooth was tied in to my initial reason for my taking Lily in to the tony vet in the first place. Hmm. It was a good theory, and time will tell.

Lesson learned. Yes, I want my darling kitties to have good health care, but, I don't want to feel fleeced in the process.

Lily is freshly home from the vet, with a bandage around one leg from her IV drip, with a cross between a cranky and a dopey disposition, and she is nursing her wounds. Oh, and the pheromone spray was used in bulk, again.

Dental surgery patient, Lily, recovering.