Hello

Did you know that today is World Hello Day? Neither did I, until this morning. But after doing a bit of research, I discovered some interesting facts about it.

World Hello Day was originally started in autumn 1973, as a response to the Yom Kippur war happening between Israel and Egypt. It was supposed to send a message to world leaders, encouraging them to use communication and not force, to resolve conflicts. Today, people in 180 countries observe it. By communicating verbally, we can contribute to a landscape for creating peace. To find out more, go here.

So, “Hello” to you, my followers. Or, if you prefer, “Bonjour” (French), “Hola” (Spanish), “Ciao” (Italian), “Nǐ hǎo” (Chinese), or “Halò” (Scottish Gaelic)…because I just had to throw that one in!

… Or in whatever other language you prefer. To participate in World Hello Day, just say “Hello” to 10 individuals, either on social media, in person, by phone, or email. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just say “Hello!” I think it’s especially important this year, because many people are feeling isolated and alone, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. So, go ahead and spread peace and cheer! How many languages can you say “Hello” in?

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A Fishy Tale

I was recently asked to be interviewed online by a tropical fish enthusiast acquaintance of mine, for his Facebook aquarium group. He was doing a collection of group member profiles. I have been in the fish hobby and business since I was 11 or 12 years old, and was happy to participate.

I thought I’d share that interview here today.

Where are you originally from and where are you based now? I was born in Perth, Scotland. Moved to Canada in 1980 at the age of 10 with my family. I returned to Scotland in July 2020, some 40 years later…

How long have you been in the hobby? My dad bought our family a used aquarium when I was 11 or 12. It became a favourite project for my mom and I. Over the years, I have kept & bred a variety of fish, including African cichlids, livebearers, including Goodeids and rare varieties, catfish, plecos and loaches. I adore Neocaridina and Caridina dwarf shrimp. As I have recently just gotten back into the hobby after my move, I only have one 35 gallon community aquarium set up. But that will change! One of my favourite all-time fish is the Rummy-nose tetra. Their little red noses make me think of cute little drunk guys!

Rummynose Tetras

Are you an all-rounder or do you have specific knowledge in some areas over others? As I mentioned previously, I love the livebearers and Goodeids. I have received my Senior Specialist certificate for breeding livebearers. (CAOAC award). I also breed plecos and dwarf shrimp. I have kept lots of varieties of fish; tetras, African cichlids and catfish, a variety of South American catfish, loaches and botias, rainbow fish, bettas and more. I have also had several ponds over the course of my adult life. One of my favourite goldfish is the Shubunkin. No two are alike!

If you were to give any advice to someone starting out in the hobby what would it be? Take it slow. Ask questions! People are willing to help you. Don’t overfeed, and get yourself some healthy, good quality fish from a decent LFS or breeder.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you in the hobby, tell us about it? *Embarrassing moment alert! When I was 19, I worked for the brand new Big Al’s aquarium store in London Ontario. A couple of months in, we had word that Big Al himself was coming to visit the store. We had it in tip top shape. I was working that morning, and doing water changes on a saltwater aquarium. My manager came around the corner to introduce Big Al to me, just as I was sucking water down the siphon hose. Yep, I got a big mouthful of salt water and ended up gagging into the pail. What a first impression!

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you in the hobby? I find it rewarding when my fish are healthy and breed. Watching baby plecos come out of the breeding tube for the first time is great! But I was super excited when my crystal red Caridina shrimps bred. I was looking in as I fed them one day, and there, toddling along the substrate, was a teeny, tiny mini shrimp! That colony bred several generations for me, and are now with a friend of mine in the hobby and still doing amazingly well. Taking my fish to the shows and having them place in the top 3 of their classes is also rewarding. As well as receiving my livebearer specialist and advanced specialist awards.

Tell us a couple of things about you that members would not know and would be interested about? I recently became a best-selling author, thanks to my contributions to a collaborative book project. I am also a photographer and blogger, and working on a couple of new book ideas. I am a photographer also, and am currently awaiting my latest calendar of Scotland photography to be printed. Since coming back to Scotland, I have been active on Band (aquarium forums) and started a group for people in my local area to buy/sell/trade tropical fish and supplies.

I really enjoy keeping tropical fish. I find aquariums to be relaxing and therapeutic, and a great way to introduce youngsters to the natural world. It’s also a great way to make new friendships! Aquarium clubs are a great place to learn and get your hands on some amazing, healthy, and often hard-to-get tropical fish. I have often been heard saying, “Aquariums are like potato chips; you can’t have just one!” You can check out my aquarium YouTube channel here.

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Happy Hallowe’en

Also known as Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve, or All Saints Eve.

It is celebrated on October 31st in many countries around the world. It is associated with pumpkin carving, trick or treating, scary movies and ghost stories. But what is it really? Where did it come from?

The ancient Celts celebrated a Pagan festival they called Samhain, which marked the end to their harvest season and the Celtic New Year (November 1st) which marked the beginning of the long, dark winter. It is known that Celtic days started and ended at sunset, so the celebrations began after sunset on October 31st and ran into November 1st. They gathered en mass, ate huge feasts, and had large bonfires to ward off ghosts and wore disguises to protect themselves from evil spirits.

They also believed that the veil between the world of the living and the Otherworld was thinner at this time of year, as well as the Spring fire festival of Beltaine. Spirits and fairies could travel to our world, and the souls of the dead could visit their homes, so a place was set for them at the table. The Pagan gods were also offered gifts of food and drink, and it is said that sacrifices were made to appease them and bring good fortune for the coming year.

As with many Pagan holidays, the early Christians incorporated it into their own religious beliefs. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III deemed November 1st to be All Saints Day. Over time, this holiday began to include some of the traditions associated with Samhain, and eventually became what we know as Halloween.

One of the pumpkins I carved last year.

In western societies, carving pumpkins, wearing costumes and trick or treating are all standard Hallowe’en activities. But I remember my Hallowe’en evenings living in Scotland. We would have the fireplace going, there would be traditional roasted nuts, and we would “bob” for apples. And we would have a turnip lantern carved by my mum. Pumpkins were not commonplace in the UK back then. “Guisers” (people in disguise) would come to our door, but they had to perform to earn their treat. A song, or a poem. These are just a few of the commonplace traditions in Ireland and Britain. Fortune telling games are also still popular, including “scrying”, or mirror gazing. Gazing into the fires was also a method of divination.

Hallowe’en didn’t reach North America until Colonial times, and it wasn’t well received by the Puritan societies of New England. However, with the immigration of thousands of Irish and Scottish in the late 18th and into the 19th centuries, it became more popular and spread across the country, with peoples of different race, social stature and religions.

Hallowe’en this year is a different beast altogether. Thanks to Coronavirus, trick or treating has been cancelled. Large groups are not allowed to gather, so no parties either. But there are still treats to be eaten, scary movies to watch, and traditions we can still participate in at home. So if you celebrate, grab a blanket and flashlight (torch) and tell ghost stories, cuddle up on the couch with a pet and a good Hallowe’en movie, or read about haunted places. Whatever you do, have a safe and spooky night!

Sources: Wikipedia, history.com

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Friday Funny

Alexa (R), You Crack Me Up!

It’s been awhile since I did one of these. Not that my life doesn’t have humour in it. Living with two kittens provides loads of funny moments. But this morning, it was Amazon’s Alexa that was a source of entertainment for me.

I recently purchased the Echo Dot, after much hemming and hawing about whether or not I wanted a “Smart” device in my home. Like many people, I’ve heard the stories of Alexa knowing about private conversations, or Google targeting ads at people after they’ve only mentioned the item in question. So I was a little wary. Who needs big business spying on us in order to get more or our hard-earned money?

But last week, Amazon had their “Prime Days” sale. The Dot was a really good price, and I had been considering getting some smart plugs or light bulbs to set up with Alexa, since the nights are getting longer. I bit the bullet! My device arrived a few days ago, and I have been getting it set up and connected, playing around with shopping lists and other basic commands.

I discovered that there’s a lot more it can do than I had previously realized. One of the neat things is that you can ask for an inspirational quote. I’ve tried this a couple of times. Today, I changed it up a bit and asked for a love quote. Yes, I’m a romantic! Here was Alexa’s response:

“Roses are edible, violets are too, here are some chocolates; they’re easier to chew.”

Well, I nearly sprayed coffee all over my laptop! Apparently, there are other entertaining things to ask your Alexa device, in order to get a funny reply. I’m going to have to explore this further when I have some free time!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed today’s Friday Funny. If you enjoyed this post, please show it some love by giving it a “Like”, and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog.

Klepto Kitty Strikes Again!

Firstly, I must say, I really DO love my kittens. They are great company and an endless source of entertainment for me. But some days, we have minor disagreements. It’s not easy living with a pair of ninja kleptomaniacs!

This morning, I caught Hamish slinking past me with something brown in his mouth. He had been in the kitchen, and I knew I should have checked to see what he was up to. The brown object in question was an egg shell from my breakfast. For Pete’s sake! 🙀

But what I failed to realize was that he had already stolen one previously, and taken it into the bedroom. When I realized that the cats were in there together, I investigated. And there on top of my yet-unmade bed were two innocent looking kittens among a scattering of broken egg shells.

And they were quite amused as they watched me sweep and pick up all the tiny shatterings they had created. You know what the worst part is?? I had just put fresh bedding on yesterday. Unbelievable!

Like I said at the beginning, it’s a good thing I love the little monsters! But eggshells in my bed? That’s the craziest thing they’ve done so far. I have no idea where they get their ideas from, but life with them around is certainly not dull!

The goofball brothers. Hamish & Pantera

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please show it some love by giving it a “Like”. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog. This story, and similar ones will be included in my new humourous book about cats. Stay tuned for details!

Hamish’s Journey

When I found out I had breast cancer, it was a scary experience. A few years later, when I was told it had returned, was even scarier. But I’m lucky enough to have a great group of friends and family who were there for me, offering support, well wishes and a shoulder to cry on.

One of these people was my aunt’s cousin Joan in Scotland. Joan first met me when I was only days old. When she heard the news of my diagnosis, she was jumped into action.

One day, to my surprise, I received a package from Scotland in the mail. (I was still living in Canada). It was a “Hamish McCoo” poster from the Steven Brown art collection. So colourful and cheery! He’s holding a thistle in his mouth, and has the Scottish saltire flag draped over one horn. If you’ve never heard of Steven Brown Art, I suggest you check him out! I’ll put a link in at the bottom of this post.

Hamish has come home!

I had intended to have my poster framed and hung, but somehow never got around to it. So he sat, rolled up, in a clean safe place for 2 years.

When I decided to move back home to Scotland, I knew I had to bring Hamish with me. So, I popped him into a poster mailer tube and sent him off to Scotland again. But he had to take the slow route. And nearly 2 1/2 moths later, he finally arrived yesterday.

I knew Joan would know of the perfect place to have Hamish framed, and she didn’t disappoint! We were planning on going to Kirkcaldy for lunch, and she knew of a framer not far away. I was so happy to see the finished result, and take Hamish back to his new home. As you can probably tell, I wasn’t long in getting him mounted on my wall!

So, two years and two trips across the ocean later, Hamish’s adventure is over, and he is happily situated in his home. Here, as promised, is the link to Steven Brown Art. He also has a Facebook page.

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A Tale Of Two Spiders

* Warning: If you have arachnophobia, you may want to skip this post! *

As everyone knows, when the weather grows colder, the multi-legged critters like to move indoors. Sure, every house will have the odd spider in it, and don’t get me wrong; they’re good little creatures – They are kind enough to eat the bad bugs that we don’t want around, like termites. But when they decide to get better acquainted with us, sharing private spaces such as bathrooms and bedrooms, well one has to draw the line somewhere, right?

When you get up in the middle of the night to use the loo, and a rather large black spot on your TP scutters away…. creepy! But this is the story of the 2 spiders who decided to reside in my bedroom with me. I named them Hal (short for Halloween), and Charlotte, after the children’s novel character. Hal was the smaller of the two, so I assumed he may be the male. But I’m no spider expert (arachnophile??).

So, a couple of weeks ago, while making my bed, I happened to look up and spot a couple of cobwebs on my ceiling. Hmmm, I thought, I should get rid of those. And as I took a look around the rest of the ceiling, eyeballing for more cobwebs, I discovered Hal hanging out in the corner to the left of my bed. I told him he better not even think of falling (or jumping) on my head in the middle of the night, if he wanted to remain my room-mate. By bedtime, he was at the top of the wall on the opposite side of the bed. I contemplated removing him, but thought better of it. And being the polite spider, he moved off, and was around the corner above my bedroom door when I woke up in the morning.

For the next couple of days, Hal remained between the ceiling above my pillows and the bedroom doorway. We were getting along just fine! But then I looked up for him one evening on my way to bed, and lo and behold, there was a new spider up on the wall in the corner near my bed, and twice his size to boot! Introducing Charlotte… Meanwhile Hal was in his usual spot near the door.

The next morning, Charlotte had moved to within a few feet of Hal. I wondered if they were friends, or more… I watched them for a few days, staying close to each other, but not really together. Sounds like some human relationships lol! Then one day, I went into my room, and there was Hal, demonstrating his dangling from a thread prowess to Charlotte. However, she was facing a different direction and seemed unimpressed. Poor Hal!

The two remained near each other for another few days. And then one morning, doing my housework, I discovered Hal, dangling from a cobweb in the middle of the room, dead. I admit, I was a little sad. I looked around for Charlotte, who seems to have gone into the Witness Protection Program, because she hasn’t been seen since. I still look up occasionally, hoping to see her, wondering what the dynamics were with my two black little arachnids. But I had to tell their story. I hope it is as amusing to read as it was being a first-hand witness to it.

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A Few Things I’ve Learned In Scotland

  • People are friendly and obliging. If you ask for directions, and your destination isn’t too far, don’t be surprised if the person offers you a lift.
  • Roundabouts can be scary! And if you’re taking driving lessons, you can be dang sure your instructor is going to make you drive around at least one of them! I’ve witnessed people in driving school cars gingerly making their way around our little roundabout at the edge of my town. Good luck when you hit the big, multi-lane ones!
  • Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t rain here EVERY day.
  • Train station signs that tell you which station it is, are written in English and Scottish Gaelic.
  • In Scotland whisky is spelled the way I just spelled it. In Ireland and other countries, it’s spelled whiskey.
  • You don’t pet a cat or dog, you clap it. Sounds a little harsh, doesn’t it?
  • We still have pennies and tuppence (2 penny piece) as coins. Then 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, a pound coin and a 2 pound coin. I have to empty my change purse every week lol!
  • If you’re looking for eggs at the grocery store, they are NOT in the chilled dairy section. You’ll find them down some regular aisle, at room temperature.
Words and Phrases

Grilled cheese sandwich = Cheese Toastie

Zucchini = Bourgette (No wonder I couldn’t find them at the grocery store!). Oh, and by the way, grocery shopping = getting the messages.

An oven or stove = cooker. Kitchen appliances as a whole are called “white goods”.

Varieties of milk and cream also have different names. Partly skimmed = semi skim. Creams are single or double, but don’t attempt to put double cream in your coffee! Soured cream (yes, sour cream) comes in the same type of container as pouring or cooking cream. Beware!

Having been here for 2 months now, I’ve come to realize how much of the terminology I’ve forgotten since childhood. I’m a quick learner though, despite saying dollars instead of pounds yesterday, lol!

I hope you enjoyed this little semi-educational post. Please give it a “Like” and don’t forget to follow my blog.

Road Trip Adventures Episode 1: The Surprised Cows

Don’t get me wrong; this wasn’t my first road trip since arriving in Scotland. But it was a bit of an adventure! And it’s all because of lawn bowls… yes you read that correctly! My newest hobby, thanks to my aunt’s cousin, Joan.

Joan was taking me to a town called Denny, just outside Falkirk, to pick up a used set of bowls, so I wouldn’t have to borrow someone else’s. But the closest set in the size and weight to suit me, that were also in good shape, were in Denny. So, on a lovely Monday afternoon, off we traipsed.

Part way along our journey, she punched our destination into her GPS. But for some mysterious reason, at one point it told us to make a left off the road we were using. Ok, sure. When we turned onto a single-lane rural road, we looked at each other and shrugged. Why was it taking us this way, along hilly, windy country roads with barely any room to move over if we met another vehicle? I mean, the scenery, hills and lush fields, was gorgeous! It gave us further instructions to turn at an upcoming junction. Again, another single-lane farm road. But the best part, as we approached the junction, there was a field gate ahead, and several rather surprised looking cows staring at us! I told Joan that they had probably never actually seen a car before, only tractors!

I really wished I had taken a moment to photograph those cows, because I’ll never forget the way they looked, standing there at that gate in the afternoon sun, all confused. It was absolutely priceless!

As for the GPS and our unexpected scenic tour, well, we still can’t explain it. It did seem to cut a corner off our route, but the main road would probably have been quicker. The rest of our journey was uneventful, except getting temporarily lost in a new subdivision where I was to pick up the bowls. I am glad of the little side tour, because it showed us some scenery we would not have otherwise seen, and gave us a memory we will not soon forget!

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I’m Back!

Well, after what seems like a really long wait, I have finally got my internet hooked up. I have a lot of online catching up to do!

So in the next couple of weeks I should be able to write more blog posts, work on my web page, and start some new projects.

I think I have a new writing partner!

Pantera was wanting to snuggle with me today, as I started writing this post. I’m thinking that perhaps he will be my furry little muse!

I’m keeping this short. Just wanted to let everyone to know that you can expect to hear more from me in the near future. Hope everyone is staying safe, and enjoying their summers as much as possible.

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