by Angela Lovell

Dec 29, 2011

Once A Fortnight's 2011 Top Ten

In case you missed them here are the ten, most viewed posts at Once A Fortnight for 2011:

Happy New Year.


2. An old one from May 20, 2009 - still popular it seems - The Sperm Diet.
4. Another oldie from May 17, 2009: Road Kill Cook-Off.
6. December 2, 2011: The Morning Routine.
7. October 27, 2010: A one-way ticket to Mars.


Dec 24, 2011

Merry Christmas From Once A Fortnight

This will be my final post before the Christmas Holidays and firstly, I want to thank my readers and followers for taking the time to listen to my varied ramblings over the past year and apologies for the times when I have neglected my blog for other things that seemed to command my attention more.

This is my kind of Christmas weather - it's above freezing today (currently 2 degrees C) and it's forecast to be 3 degrees for Christmas Day (tomorrow). For the first time in my 25 years in Manitoba we will be BBQ'ing on Christmas Eve! I can still see the grass (which is green in patches) and the pavement of the road. The sprinkling of snow we have had so far is a little like icing sugar on a cookie - usually it's half way up the hedge by now. So far I have no complaints about this winter at all. Just hope it holds until the end of January.

I do, however, have one concern this Christmas Eve and that's in connection with the jolly fat fella who's supposed to visit tonight and bring lots of pressies. We have a bit of a dilemma because, as you can see from this picture, our chimney is in serious disrepair. So I am understandably concerned that Santa might dislodge a few bricks as he tries to stuff his ample behind down the aperture of said chimney and possibly brain one or two of the neighbourhood cats if they happen to be passing through the yard.


There have been various solutions proffered. He could break with tradition and use the front door. Except that it creaks really badly and will wake the whole household, so not the first choice.

He could just skip our house this year - this solution was of course brought forward by Scrooge Dad - wasn't popular with the rest of the assembled company.

Santa could go on a crash diet so he could slip easily into the chimney opening. This solution, though most favoured by the family, might be somewhat hampered by the amount of milk and cookies he is likely to consume at other households prior to arriving at ours.

It seems that we may just have to take our chances (or at least the cats will) and hope Santa is careful and keeps the ho ho ho'ing to a minimum - it's anybody's guess what too much vibration might do to the mortar.
We'll just attach a liability waiver to the top of the chimney for Santa to sign and hopefully all will be well.

A very Merry Christmas to you all and all the best for 2012!

Dec 21, 2011

Tips for Pet Safety During the Holidays

In all the excitement surrounding preparations for the Christmas season it's easy to overlook the members of the household that don't necessarily understand what all the fuss is about and why there's suddenly a tree in the middle of the living room with a bunch of good smelling treats under it.

For pets Christmas can be downright confusing - and worse - dangerous.

A recent survey by CSA International found that nearly a quarter of Canadians have taken their pet - or know someone else who has taken their pet - to the vet during the holidays. One in ten pet owners have experienced an accident with their pet and holiday decorations. 

"The holiday season can be a busy time at veterinary clinics," says Dr. Ian Sandler, a veterinary member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. "Pets aren't aware of the consequences of their actions as their home is decorated for the holiday season, and malfunctioning lights, plants and candles are just a few of the items that can wreak havoc. Family pets rely on their owners to look out for their welfare by ensuring their home is pet-proof, safe and secure."
To try and avoid accidents and keep your pets and family safe this Christmas, maybe follow these tips from CSA International: 

  • Cords are not chew toys: Inspect and discard holiday light strings with frayed cords. Holiday decorations in proper working order and fully insulated can help avoid electrical and fire hazards and keep pets safe while you're away.
  • Up and away: When decorating a tree or indoor space, place breakable ornaments and electrical decorations out of reach of children and pets. Potential eatables, such as chocolate, poinsettias, tinsel and colourful ornaments should also be placed out of reach.
  • Safe storage: After the holidays, wrap and store lights and decorations in their original packaging which contains manufacturer's instructions on replacement bulbs and details on proper use. Keep pets away from packages and your gift wrapping area. Ingested string, plastic and wrapping paper can lead to intestinal blockage and a trip to the vet.
  • No sparks for Sparky: Protect family and pets from electric shock by connecting all outdoor lighting into receptacles protected by waterproof ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI).
  • Cat and canine candle concerns: Don't leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or spark a fire if they knock candles over. Use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. Extinguish the candle before leaving the room.
  • Spot the mark to help keep Spot safe: When purchasing light strings, extension cords or electrical decorations, look for a certification mark such as one from CSA International. This provides assurance that products are tested and certified to applicable standards for safety and performance.
  • Fresh or fake, be safe: If you buy a real tree, make sure it's fresh. Fresh trees are less likely to dry out and become a fire hazard. Artificial trees with electrical lights should have a certification mark on them and should be made of fire-resistant materials. Pet owners should take the time to tether their Christmas tree to a wall or the ceiling to avoid tipping by a pet or child.
You can take the CSA Holiday safety quiz at www.csaholiday.com and discover more safety tips.

©2011, Angela Lovell.


Dec 17, 2011

Six Online Shopping Tips

1. Don't be tempted to buy stuff you don't need.
Picture credit
    Internet marketing is the ultimate in temptation. 
    Nowhere else can companies and/or marketing
    organisations spy on potential shoppers in real time
    to assess their interests and purchasing
    habits. You are being targeted by marketers every
    time you use the Internet. Google AdSense for
    example is a program that allows anyone publishing
    websites using the Google network to automatically
    add advertisements to their site which the program
    targets to the particular site's content and its
    audience. In the first quarter of 2011 Google 
    earned $(US) 2.43 billion from AdSense, and it
    didn't do that without being very successful at
    providing a platform where a lot of savvy people could persuade a lot more less savvy people to buy lots
    of things they didn't really need.

2. Shop local
    Even though you are shopping online, do some searching to see if there are local businesses that offer the
    same or a similar product. Where possible try to choose a comparable product that is produced locally
    by local people and with local materials. If you need a pair of mitts I am sure there is probably someone
    close by knitting or sewing them rather than purchasing a pair produced using child slave-labour in a
    filthy sweatshop thousands of miles away. Even if they don't have an online outlet they may be listed in a
    local products directory or on a community websit. Take the time to seek them out and pay a visit. Then
    be sure to recommend them to others if you are happy with their product.

3. Shop ethically

Image: Ten Thousand Villages
    Try to shop with the intention of purchsing products that
     have been made ethically, so with minimal negative
     impacts upon the environment, people or animals. There are
     many Fair Trade sites such as Ten Thousand Villages on the
     internet that sell products and services which do not have
     exploitation as an input. To find out more about Fair Trade
     and the kinds of products being suported visit
     Fair Trade Canada. For a list of more Fair Trade retail
     outlets in North America and worldwide see
     PlanetFriendly.net



4. Make a difference with your online purchases.
    Not everything you need will be available locally (unfortunately) so if you do need to make a purchase
    from a non-local company why not do it through a site like Shop and Share.ca, which makes a monetary
    donation to a charity of your choice for each purchase you make through its website. See the
    video for more information.

5. Make sure the site is legitimate and secure.
    You can try to check a website's legitimacy through the Better Business Bureau.
    Remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true it probably is. Also be wary of sites that
    are recommended through e-mails from someone you don't know. If a site has reviews from other people
    who have bought their product that often indicates that they are probably legitimate, but not always.

    If you are making an online transaction and paying with a credit card make sure that the site is encrypted
    (which basically means there is a secure connection to the website's server that can not easily be
    intercepted by a third party). The url address (in the address bar at the top left of your browser screen)
    should begin with htpps://  not htpp:// and there should be a little padlock symbol either in the top right
    corner of the address bar. This area in Internet Explorer may also be a different colour - red, yellow, white
    or green which indicates how secure the website is (see the Internet Explorer security tips below) . Newer
    versions of the Firefox web browser no longer shows the padlock symbol, but it does have a Site Identity
    Button at the beginning of the url address that is a different colour - often blue or green. If you hold your
    cursor over this coloured area a small box should appear which will give you details of the security level for
    that site (see Site Identity Button Firefox below). Many browsers also have a function built in that will pop
    up a warning if the site is not secure.

    When in doubt, just don't give your credit card details to that site. These basic tips do not absolutely
    guarantee security - only common sense and caution can do that. For more tips see the following links:

    Security tips if using Internet Explorer
    Security tips if using Firefox
    Site Identity Button Firefox
    Security tips if using Google Chrome
    Some general online shopping tips from the Better Business Bureau
    From Microsoft: When to trust a website

6. Make sure the product is safe and worth your hard earned dollars.
    This is especially important when buying food items, products that may contain harmful chemicals (like
     household cleaners or beauty products), health care items or anything for children. Check sites like the
     United States Consumer Product Safety Commission or Health Canada's Consumer Product Recalls
     which list any product recalls.

     Reviews of products at sites like Consumer Search, Consmr and Which? may also be useful to make sure
     you are not buying a "lemon" and will help you shop around for what really is the best product to meet
     your needs and at the best price. Remember though to add any applicable taxes and shipping charges to
     the price - that can sometimes mean that pounding the pavement off to a local store is really the better
     deal.

Picture from Public Domain Pictures.net
©2011, Angela Lovell.

Dec 13, 2011

How Many Ways Can You Find to Spend?

I tend to think of shopping pre-Christmas as a particularly insidious form of germ warfare perpetrated, no doubt by the makers of cold and flu remedies.

But take heart - HMV Canada is teaming up with Master Card Canada to help save you from the long line ups of nose-blowing shoppers this Christmas season. They have just launched PayPass® in 116 HMV stores nation-wide, a 'tap and go' contactless technology that helps Canadians save time at check-out.


"Our research shows that Canadians prefer a faster checkout, and that's the value of MasterCard's PayPass, our 'tap and go' technology that allows cardholders to make payments in seconds," said David E. Orzel, Head of Market Development, MasterCard Canada. "MasterCard is a leader in innovative payment technologies and now HMV customers will benefit from using PayPass this season when saving time is so important."

If I just had an HMV store within 200 kms of my home I might even apply for a MasterCard just so that I could use this wonderful service. (No, I wouldn't). Nice try though.


But I keep coming back to the idea of online shopping, which does have a certain appeal. No more squeezing myself down cramped aisles past sneezing and coughing shoppers, intent on handling every single item in the store's inventory. The US is welcome to keep its Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays as far as I am concerned. A recent press release from Price Waterhouse suggests more and more people are thinking the same way. Online activity during the recent Cyber Monday sales blitz created US$1.25 billion of business, up 22% from 2010.

Let's face it retailers are making it easier and easier for everyone to shop from their living rooms. And it does have the advantages of no pushy store salesmen, being able to easily compare prices without having to wear out two pairs of shoes and carefully assessing the features of products that you are looking at buying. It's also a lot harder to impulse shop online, which is a good thing. Not that I ever do of course!

In fact, so concerned is one bank about your online shopping experience it has introduced GiftFinder, a service delivered through Facebook by TD Canada Trust to "help Canadians stay on budget and find the perfect gift this holiday season."


It's supposed to suggest gift ideas based on your budget and some simple questions. So I decided to give it a try. It worked really well for me - when I searched for a gift for my youngest (13 year old) son with a budget of $10 the first two choices were the History of Western Philosophy and Peter Pan. Sure he'd be thrilled with either of those.

It got worse when I decided to give it a hint or two and set it on fashion - apparel. It suggested a Snuggie or Muppets animal pyjama pants.

Which goes to prove that you can't leave it up to Facebook algorithms to figure out your likes and dislikes (imagine anyone looking for a date using this technology - it doesn't bear thinking about).

Notice that both of these enterprising ideas to encourage more mass consumerism have financial institutions standing firmly behind them. Must be that they need to encourage people to spend more money so they can make more.

After all they only earned $22.4 billion in profits this year - hardly enough to buy a lump of coal.

©2011, Angela Lovell.

Dec 10, 2011

Christmas Cards Are Not Dead Yet

In this era of iPhones and social media you would imagine that most young people would prefer e-cards or a quick text message to convey or receive holiday greetings from friends and family. Not so.

A new survey on behalf of Canada Post shows that 9 out of 10 young Canadians prefer holiday cards in the mail.

Well it is a very time honoured tradition. The very first Christmas greeting card caused quite a stir. Produced in 1843 by John Calcott Horsley for Sir Henry Cole, it depicted a family enjoying Christmas celebrations and lifting their glasses (presumably full of Christmas cheer) in a toast. "The scene greatly shocked temperance workers who quickly denounced it," says the Canadian Heritage Information Network.

Check out this interesting You Tube video about one of the few copies preserved at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas. 


Talking of famous Christmas cards.

A painting by Joseph Farquharson, the image of which was one of the most popular Christmas card pictures used by Hallmark Cards, sold for £145,000 ($230,000 $CDN) by Lyon & Turnbull Auctions in their Fine Paintings auction on 3rd December 2008. The painting entitled ‘Beneath the Snow Encumbered Branches’ was sold to a private Scottish buyer. He said “It is one of the most beautiful paintings I have seen.”

My Christmas cards cost considerably less and, the frugality continues as I always save previous cards received to reuse as Christmas gift tags. You can make a whole bunch of really neat things from old greeting cards. This great post at Squidoo has some great ideas (my favourite is the little basket - really cool).

Overall, 75% of Canadians are planning to send an average of 20 cards this year, compared to 80% sending 19 cards in 2010. The majority (87%)of young Canadians (between 18 and 24) indicated they preferred receiving holiday cards in the mail with two thirds suggesting it had much stronger meaning than an electronic alternative. Three quarters of them were planning to send cards in the mail. Comparatively, Canadians between 35 and 44 admitted that they would most likely send cards electronically, mainly due to lack of time.

Those who received greeting cards admitted that they either displayed them (32%) then recycled them (25%), saved them as keepsakes (25%), use them for crafts (8%)or tree ornaments/gift tags (6%). 14% of Canadians said that in the past two years they sent holiday greeting cards to someone only after they received one.


Nevertheless there are oodles free of e-card sites out there and they are particularly useful for relatives and friends who live overseas (as long as they have Internet access of course). I find that I tend to send e-cards only to people who send them to me and still write plenty of real ones too. Although they have occasionally been known to show up in mailboxes a few days after Christmas - oops!

But if e-card it must be, one of my personal favourite sites is Care2com, which gives a donation to charity for e-cards sent. You can personalize them too - this year I put my head on scrooge and sent them to people who would absolutely believe that this is my true persona.

©2011, Angela Lovell.

Dec 9, 2011

Making Life Easier for Gamers

Continuing with Anti-Consumerist month at Once A Fortnight, let's explore some of the latest goods and services for the electronic consumers amongst us. Don't forget to fill out the special Christmas poll.

Did you know that some seriously addicted gamblers will wear incontinence pads to the casino so they don't have to leave their slots if they're on a winning streak?

That's pretty sad, but competing for a similar ranking on the "lameness" scale are the products and services  which encourage another segment of addicted individuals to remain plugged into their video and computer games. "Gamers" are a serious elite. According to wikipedia:

"While the term nominally includes those who do not necessarily consider themselves to be gamers (i.e., casual gamers, it is commonly used to identify those who spend much of their leisure time playing or learning about games."

Which means there is limited time left over for more trivial distractions, such as eating, drinking and dating.
Never fear, there is always some enterprising entrepreneur somewhere ready to help.
Picture from Gamer Grub

Let's start with Gamer Grub:


A convenient meal in a pouch - so no greasy fingers to soil those precious game controllers. Just "Tear N Tilt" into a pack of Gamer Grub® to multi-task and game." What could be easier? It comes in four yummy flavours and is chock full of vitamins and minerals and various other performance-enhancing ingredients designed to fire up those neurotransmitters and keep you shooting up aliens and sundry other creatures around the clock.





Just hang on all you hardcore guys - Game Fuel is coming back:


In 2007, Pepsico introduced a version of Mountain Dew especially for gamer to co-incide with the release of the XBox 360 gaming system and the game, Halo 3. Now it has just launched another version to mark the release of the game, Modern Warfare 3. It even has its own Facebook page. And a nifty You Tube commercial (see below).

Wow, don't you just want to jump in your Humvee, grab your assault weapons and head for the  nearest 7-Eleven? No, me neither!

And, admittedly finding that "special" person isn't easy for anyone, but is especially challenging when tethered to a small black box by less than 20 feet of cable or restricted to an area delineated by the reach of your wireless device. But, love knows no barriers - and for the truly committed gamer there is always Game Crush, an online dating site it offers "thousands of real gamers" that you can game and chat with online. And guaranteed every one of them will be wearing a skimpy tank top and short shorts like the extremely attractive young lady on the website's front page. Funny I don't see her controller.

Copyright2011, Angela Lovell.

Dec 7, 2011

A Greener Christmas for Canadians.

Anti-consumerist month continues at Once A Fortnight with results of a CIBC poll that says the average Canadian is planning to spend, on average, $628 on gifts this holiday season and another $335 on holiday expenses, including travel, with 87% planning to keep their expenditures the same or lower than last year.



The good news is that many of them will be considering a "green" gift. Another poll says the environment is an important factor which Canadians consider when giving gifts. Canadian adults are more likely than their U.S. counterparts to prefer giving (73 per cent Canada versus 68 per cent U.S.) and receiving (74 per cent Canada versus 69 per cent U.S.) gifts that benefit the environment.



Conducted annually on behalf of World Vision, the charitable giving study explores how Canadians define an environmentally friendly gift:
  • 80 per cent of Canadian adults agree that an environmentally friendly gift consists of recycled or recyclable materials (versus 70 per cent in the U.S.)
  • 72 per cent of Canadian adults view a gift that enables the recipient to reduce their environmental impact to be environmentally friendly (versus 62 per cent in the U.S.)
  • 70 per cent in Canada say that locally made or locally grown makes a gift environmentally friendly (versus 63 per cent in the U.S.)

Lots of environmental gift options can be found at www.worldvision.ca/gifts.

 But going back to the CIBC poll, let's see how will be spending what.


Quebecers are the biggest scrooges and plan to spend only $482 apiece on gifts, whilst in Atlantic Canada they plan to go hog wild and spend, on average, $996. (Maybe it's just that everything costs 50% more in Atlantic Canada than it does in Quebec). Manitobans are middle of the pack at $538, which is about $533 more than I plan to spend).

When it comes to other holiday expenses like food and travel, however, Manitobans must all be on a diet and have abandoned all plans to go anywhere over the holidays because they know, from prior experience, that it will probably be  minus 47 and the car won't start anyway. They plan to spend only $205 each on these expenditures.


KEY POLL FINDINGS

Average amount Canadians plan to spend on gifts this holiday season, by region:


Atlantic Canada
Quebec
Ontario
Manitoba/Saskatchewan
Alberta
British Columbia
                    $996
$482
$664
$538
$810
$503
Average amount Canadians plan to spend on other holiday expenses this year (including travel, decorations, food etc.)


Atlantic Canada
Quebec
Ontario
Manitoba/Saskatchewan
Alberta
British Columbia
                    $313
$306
$333
$205
$517
$349

Picture credit:
Shopping Mall by Peter Griffin















Don't forget to fill out the special Christmas poll.



















©2011, Angela Lovell.

Dec 5, 2011

Is a Voucher Really a Gift?

A perplexing question for many die-hard gift-givers is "Is a voucher really a gift?" Yep, rates right up there with "What is the meaning of life?" and "How many beans make five?" doesn't it?

http://www.hellasmultimedia.
com/webimages/
Apparently there are now sites all over the internet that offer discount vouchers for everything from "high adrenaline xorb rides" to dental work. (Wow have I been living in a cave!) Sign up with sites like Groupon and Dealfind and you can have daily deals and special offers from local businesses delivered to you by e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. Whatever happened to cutting coupons out of the local newspaper?

Anyway this is all well and good, but then along comes Christmas and you want to give that special someone a voucher for 60% off a much-needed tummy tuck, but all you have is this lousy, garish voucher. Not very holiday-ish really is it?

That's where a group of entrepreneurs have come to the rescue with Presentify.me
Created by Alex Vander Hoeven, Bob Pluss and Chan Yin, Presentify.me is a free website that lets you essentially gift wrap those dull old vouchers into "certificate-esque vouchers" so you can, unabashed, give them as a present.

You simply enter the details of a voucher you have purchased or you can go to the site and choose deals in your area that are featured on affiliated voucher sites like Groupon.Then you choose which pretty wrapping theme (complete with bow and ribbon) that you want and your voucher-gift is ready to be printed and shared.

What's really interesting is that this daily deal voucher-wrapping site managed to raise $400,000 in seed funding within two weeks of its launch. The creators also own Dealzingers, an online Canadian deal aggregator."Dealzinga made the daily deal world easier to navigate. And now, with Presentify.me, those daily deals can be gifted," says Alex, the Company's CEO. "There are so many good deals out there that I'm sure people would love to give as gifts, but no one wants to give a standard voucher as a present - Presentify.me solves this problem."

Right now the site only has Christmas adornments but is hoping to add new designs soon for other special occasions like birthdays, Valentine's Day and Easter.

Personally I am going to cut out the coupon for 50 cents off the antacid tablets, stick on a nice big bow and give one to everyone in the family in anticipation of my homemade Christmas dinner. Anyone who has ever tasted my cooking will know it's the most thoughtful gift I could give.

Don't forget to take the special Christmas poll!

©2011, Angela Lovell.

Dec 3, 2011

Six Gifts That Matter

Anti-consumerist month at Once A Fortnight continues with some shopping choices that really make a difference.


Six Ideas For Gifts That Matter.


With gifts including peanut butter and piglets, bamboo and bees, heifers and hampers, seeds and clean water, CHF's fantastic Gifts That Matter make meaningful gifts for friends, family and colleagues.


The Canadian Hunger Foundation (CHF), one of Canada's longest standing international development organizations, runs the Gifts That Matter campaign in order to help transform the lives of people living in poverty, struggling with drought and famine, or rebuilding their lives following disaster. Canadians can make charitable gifts online for friends, family or colleagues. Best of all, the value of every gift donated is matched at least 3 to 1 by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)!

"Gifts That Matter are life-changing for families in developing countries," says Brodie Bazinet, Manager of Annual Giving at CHF. "Gifts like goats, seeds, clean water, or training can transform how people live, and bring hope and opportunity to families struggling with poverty. This campaign is about empowering Canadians to make a real difference in the life of someone who needs it most, and then about sharing the warmth of that experience with others."



2. Donate Blood to the Canadian Blood Services.

 Over 101,000 donations of blood will be needed to help hospital patients this holiday season. Canadian Blood Services is asking eligible Canadians to take one hour of their busy schedule to give the gift that will make a difference to hospital patients this season.
Between November 21 and January 2, Canadian Blood Services is asking Canadians to give the "perfect gift" this holiday season - give blood.  Over 101,000 life-saving "gifts" are needed for hospital patients from coast to coast.
The average Canadian will send out 50 holiday cards this season to friends and family. If that many people gave blood, one car accident victim could be saved.  

Someone like twenty-three year old Malorie Butler from Halifax, Nova Scotia.



3. Empower women worldwide through the Canadian Women's Foundation.

This holiday season, YOU can combine your passion for social change with your charitable giving.
The Canadian Women’s Foundation is challenging women to embrace a new holiday gift idea; one of empowerment for women and girls.


Studies show that finding the right charitable match is especially important for women.  More and more, women are taking a pivotal role in strategic philanthropy that benefits women and girls — not just during the holiday season, but all year long. Today, women have more financial freedom than at any time in history. They are earning and inheriting more money and are deciding for themselves how to spend that money.


“Women have a different approach to philanthropy,” says Bev Wybrow, CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “Women want their giving to address the root causes of society’s issues. They aren’t especially motivated by seeing their name on a plaque, but they do care about using their philanthropy to join with others who share their values. They also want their giving to benefit other women and girls, because they believe that creates a ripple effect that benefits whole families and entire communities.”


 

2011 marks the 120th anniversary of The Salvation Army's Christmas Kettle Campaign and there has never been a more crucial time than now to give. With one in 11 Canadians, or three million people, living in poverty today, this year's annual Christmas Campaign is more important than ever.


The "Fill the Kettle" program, introduced last Christmas, will once again be used for fundraising efforts during this year's campaign. By visiting www.FilltheKettle.com, donors will be able to locate one or more of the 2,000 kettle locations across the country using Google Maps technology, and make a secure online donation to individual kettles in their community. The Salvation Army will continue its iKettle campaign at www.FilltheKettle.com/iKettle this year - an easy-to-use online tool that allows participants to customize their own virtual kettle and invite others via e-mail to donate to The Salvation Army. Last year, more than $19 million was raised in the Christmas kettles nationwide.


Angels in the Night is a community effort that delivers newly-purchased coats, blankets, gloves, toiletries, and other essentials to homeless shelters across Canada. 

Every year in mid-December, hundreds of volunteers from Invis and Mortgage Intelligence along with their business and lending partners, hit the streets in cities across Canada to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate. 

After fundraising throughout the year, organizers in each participating city work with a number of established shelters to ensure that the goods purchased are needed, and that funds are spent wisely and with greatest impact. Across Canada, the recipient shelters serve a wide range of clients from mothers with infants and small children, to street youth, adults and the elderly. 

Nationally, 15 per cent of the goods purchased by Angels in the Night are for children and youth, and another third going to women.



About Angels In The Night from Mortgage Intelligence on Vimeo.


Climate change is melting the North Pole and it's no longer safe for Santa and his Workshop. So our dear old friend is packing up the sleigh to find somewhere else to live.
You can help! Move your mouse over this website to find gifts you can buy Santa to help him set up a temporary Workshop and protect the North Pole for his return.
Of course, you're savvy enough to know we won't be sending actual gifts to Santa. You will receive a tax receipt for 100% of your purchase and proceeds will be used by the David Suzuki Foundation to support our critical work to protect nature and the environment from threats like climate change.

Buying these green gifts and personalized ecards on behalf of hard-to-buy-for friends or relatives on your holiday list is a great way to show you're thinking of them — and the planet!

©2011, Angela Lovell.

Dec 2, 2011

The Morning Routine

Do your mornings go anything like mine?

The morning generally starts around 7:00 a.m., when I try to prolong my only “me” time – shame I miss most of it sleeping – by trying to get dressed inside the bed with my eyes closed. This is especially useful for thawing out my clothes when they’ve spent the night on the bedroom floor in winter.

If I plan with military-style precision, I can often manage a quiet cup of tea before the herd awakens. But, once astir, they thunder down the stairs like an approaching tsunami and burst forth into the kitchen ravenously hungry and full of proclamations about their needs for the day ahead.

Obviously preparation and pre-planning are not high on the agenda for most of my family. Son number one needs an empty milk carton for a school project, which brings protestations from son number two, who now has three quarters of a litre of milk dumped on his cereal.

Son number two needs two dollars for hot dog day. Money? In this house? Are you kidding me? So it’s a co-ordinated effort, as son number one searches behind the sofa cushions, Dad raids the floor registers and I check empty grocery bags for errant spare change. Success – we manage to raise $1.95 and I tell son number two to ask the hot dog lady to spot him for the rest – another important lesson in economics learned the hard way.

As the herd migrates back up the stairs to fight over the bathroom, it’s time to make lunches. I gather up the bread slices from the various baseboard heaters where I put them to thaw – it seems that taking a loaf from the freezer last night was a task way beyond the capabilities of a household of four – and dig in the fridge for something to put between them. There’s a couple of bologna slices wearing fur and something else wrapped in wax paper that I think may once have been salami – it’s hard to tell under all that mould. So it’s cheese slice sandwiches (again), with a couple of baby carrots thrown in as the token "healthy" snack.

Suddenly the kitchen has contracted to half its usual size as everyone re-converges, intent on eating again – after all it’s been at least ten minutes since breakfast. Son number one steals son number two’s hockey tape to hold down the toaster buttons, which have long ago relinquished to the daily onslaught of hungry toast-makers. Son number two is confounded by the new cheerio package that is not yielding to his frantic attempts to open it, until, with gritted teeth, it finally succumbs and cheerios shoot in every direction and roll gracefully into the hardest to reach crevices of the room. What idiot ever created a cereal that is round? Dad, meanwhile, is pathetically trying to bob and weave around the assembled company to reach the teapot for another cup – just give it up won’t you?

Finally that hallowed moment has arrived. It’s time to load up the car and head off to school and work. On average there are three false starts to the daily commute. I listen for the slam of three car doors, followed by one more. Back in comes son number one to take the stairs three at a time to retrieve his USB stick with a project overdue this morning. Slam. Slam. Back comes son number two who has forgotten the $1.95 we all worked so hard for. Slam. Slam. Back comes Dad, who has sat out in the cold for way too long, and needs to finally use the bathroom that he hasn’t been able to access all morning. Slam.

Ah, peace at last. But wait, there’s still the “to do” list on the fridge, that has mysteriously grown since I got up. Sharpen skates, buy more milk, iron dress shirt for school party tonight, achieve world peace, all before 3:30 p.m.

But before I tackle all that it’s time for a second cup and a cinnamon/raisin bagel. Where’s the hockey tape?

Picture from www.publicdomainpictures.net

©2011, Angela Lovell.

Dec 1, 2011

December is Anti-Consumerist Month

Or at least it is at Once A Fortnight.
So all my posts this month will be about some aspect of consumerism or anti-consumerism as the case may be. Don't forget to fill out the special Christmas poll to the right and I'll have the results for you before Christmas.

And what more appropriate month than December, in all its over-hyped, rack-up-the-credit-card, consumerist glory on the run up to another holiday season full of good-will and gluttony.

OK cynicism aside - I do actually love Christmas and always reflect on some cherished memories (and some not so cherished - I have lost two family members on Christmas Eve's past). But this year my determination to make Christmas mean something other than distracting cheapness and a huge spike in my community's re-cycling volume has been greatly assisted by a badly twisted ankle which should keep me out of the stores for quite a few days. Might hamper my ability to make oodles of fresh baked goodies for general distribution to my relatives, however - time will tell.

I have already decided that any gifts bought (that I am unable to make myself) will be purchased based on true need rather than want. Fads will not be catered to and local products purchased in local stores will be a priority. I am very impressed with the local drugstore, which is offering a tax free shopping evening this week to encourage people to stay home and shop. Not everything is made locally but at least if I am going to spend dollars on imported goods they may as well be spent helping to keep local people employed in my own community. I can also be smug in the knowledge that I am burning no additional fossil fuels or adding to GHG emissions by walking (or possibly hopping depending on the ankle) down to the store with my super "green" reusable shopping bag. And there's always a little extra perverse pleasure in not handing an extra 13% over the government - at least for one day of the year.

Best of all the crowds will be minimal and the atmosphere hopefully a lot more genteel than this uncouth herd of bargain hunters.......




©2011, Angela Lovell.

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