Sunday, 4 December 2016

Weekend wrap-up

Hooray, I made it through another work week!  Seriously, I'm finding it more and more difficult to go to work in the morning.  IF I could just win the lottery....  Well, since that doesn't seem to be happening, I've taken to arranging meetings/appointments every day, so I tell myself I have a reason to go to work each morning. Otherwise I think I might use up some of that sick leave* I've accumulated over the past 19 years.  Sigh, if I weren't so damned responsible.  On a happier note I took another marble out of the jar last week.  I've finally reached the jail sentence....two years less a day!

Things are going much better at home. Last weekend was Grey Cup weekend - the final game of the Canadian football league championship.  Our Roughriders had a pitiful season this year; they didn't even make it to the playoffs.  The two teams that played for the Cup were the Ottawa Red Blacks (guess what color their uniforms are...) and the Calgary Stampeders (whose uniforms are also the same colors).  It really didn't matter to me who won, though I cheered a little louder for Ottawa because they were predicted not to win. In fact, many sportscasters and fans suggested Calgary would run over them.  Ha!  Shows what they know...instead Ottawa came out strong and by mid-game the Stampeders QB appeared shell-shocked.  Calgary came back but in the end, Ottawa won the game in overtime.

While the game was on, I brought up the Christmas decorations and started on the tree.  I say start because it takes me a few days to be satisfied with the ornament placement.  It all depends on where I sit in the living room.  I think, a week later, I'm pretty happy with it.  Though Saku just knocked one off the lower branches so that has to be moved....this was one of the approximately 90% of the ornaments that are shatterproof.

Since I wanted the tree in front of the window, I moved the cat tree to the side.  Saku still uses it though he can't see out the window.

There are some new ornaments on the tree this year, including the little stuffed animals that I found at Costco in October (!).  There are also a few large green balls and snowflakes that were on sale at Canadian Tire for $1.43 an $0.73 each....I couldn't resits.

The china cabinet has been dressed as well.  It is as close as I come to having a mantel.  I haven't hung stockings for years and when I did, they were tacked up on the wall.


The living room gets most of the attention, though I do have a vase of artificial flowers on the windowsill by the sink along with a ceramic snowman.  The table will eventually be decorated, however since Saku tends to like to hang out there I don't put out anything that he might be able to knock on the floor.  The light about the table is fair game.

The past few years I've hung the crystal icicles (plastic) from the light fixture.  After Christmas I found these plastic snowflakes and added them this year. I love how they catch the light and I leave them up all winter.

These week I also finished a sweater I started shortly before I left on my cruise.  Obviously it is for my grandson, and I expect it won't fit him until he's 6-9 months old.

It is knit from the neck down in one piece to the underarm, then the sleeve stitches are set on holders while the rest of the body is knitted.  With a pick of a few stitches the sleeves are finished.  I really prefer to knit this way as it means I don't have to sew any seams!

I found the pattern on the internet though, and the instructions were a little lacking  There were no lengths provided so I made an educated guess (using other patterns).  The boy's version is rather plain so I decided to add a couple of appliques.  Pinterest is great!  I  found these little cars to crochet.  The pattern had little black crocheted wheels but I din't have any black wool so I added buttons instead.  When I appliqued the cars to the sweater I left the windows open so they are little pockets too!

There is one big mistake that is visible - I miscounted on the rows for the buttonholes.  So I have one more button than I ought to have and the top two buttons are further apart than the rest.  Regardless, as I said when I posted the photo on Facebook, it may not be factory quality but it was certainly made with love.

This weekend has been busy with the usual household chores, some grocery shopping, and...clearing the driveway of snow.  We had some flurries on Saturday morning and while it wasn't much, it needed to be cleared or it simply packs on the driveway.  Besides we're going to get cold weather next week; the forecast is for minus 16-18C (0-3F) daytime highs and colder still at night.  I plan on staying indoors where it is warm as much as possible. (Except when I have to force myself out the door to go to work.)

On that note, I'll close this post, wishing you all a good week ahead!

*I'm fortunate to work where we are able to accrue sick leave.  I have used some over the years, but have built up a bank of nearly 6 months.  It's nice to know it is there, just in case.  When I do retire, it will simply expire - it does not get paid out as some people think.



Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Regina Short Term Forecast
Translated to Fahrenheit - that's 23F in the morning, 26F in the afternoon.  With the windchill it feels about 10 degrees cooler.  We've been lucky though...not a lot of snow, some places near us got close to 6 inches or more.  


Sunday, 27 November 2016

It's that time of the year

And I'm not just talking about Christmas. No, this is the time of the year that I present the performance reviews to my staff, discuss the current year's expectations and their career goals.  These conversations can be enjoyable or frustrating, but the one thing they are not is boring.  I always give the employee my write-up ahead of the meeting so they have a chance to read it.  At our last group meeting I gave them the expectations (since they are the same for everyone) and addressed some questions at that time.

Even so, the meetings generally last from 45 minutes to an hour.  While there are certain things we cover off, I tend to let the conversation free flow so that the individual can address any questions or bring up any work-related issue.  As a result I often hear things I wouldn't otherwise and I generally feel I have a better understanding of the individual.

I normally wouldn't share this stuff, but I'm still shaking my head about what I heard (and the likelihood of either individual reading my blog is slim to none*).  Both conversations were with individuals who are not meeting expectations.  The first individual is quite capable, and when that person chooses to, the work performed is good.  It would be very good except that grammar, spelling and punctuation are not this individual's strong suit. In addition, I have to literally nag this person to get the work done. During our discussion, I told the employee that from my perspective, it appeared he/she didn't care about the work and it appeared he/she was only there for the paycheque. I asked if that was a fair assessment, and was told "yes".  I appreciate the honesty but it does not to improve the performance so this person is now tasked with self-identifying two areas that need improvement and come up with the steps to achieve the expectations.

The second individual was a lot less honest with me and with him/herself.  I've spoken to this person several times this year about their attendance, and given a written warning about making/receiving multiple personal telephone calls during the day.  This person is disorganized and can't meet deadlines.  During our discussion, he/she insisted that "I'm always at work, at my desk, and I frequently don't take breaks".  I disagreed and pointed out, as an example, the schedule for that week (a medical appointment on Monday morning, vacation on Wednesday to pick up the son's car from the repair shop, and vacation on Thursday to attend an event with the father) and recommended that this person keep track for the next week to see what might be distracting from the work.  Later I reviewed the time sheet data and determined that he/she has only attended work for an entire week less than 20% of the time since January.  What that means is that at least one day of the week there is some form of leave taken.  While it is all within the provisions of our contract, it obviously has a detrimental impact on the work performance.  This person has also been given the same task as the first employee, but I suspect with the lack of self-awareness it is likely the response will focus on what I should do, rather than what the employee will do.

Those follow-up conversations will take place next week to discuss the action items, and I anticipate there will be follow-up meetings every week thereafter until the performance improves or until some other action is taken.  Those actions can include demotion, transfer to a less challenging workload, or termination.  The most serious action is a rare occurrence but it does happen.

*******
On a far happier note - don't hate me, but I'm done my Christmas shopping!  I really lucked out this year: I made a list and in the first two shopping trips last weekend I found 90% of what I was looking for.  I finished picking up the last few items this weekend.  I must admit my shopping list is not long.  I have my son and daughter, my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew, my best friend and her husband, and my nine staff.

My gifts for my adult children are generally practical.  This year they are getting bed sheets, pajamas, and skincare products.  My son will get a gift certificate to Mark's Workwearhouse and my daughter has already received her gift of crib bedding.  Gone are the days of toys and small electronics.  They both work and generally buy their desired wanted items.

My nephew and niece gave me a bit of an issue this year.  They are both teenagers now and everything they would want is beyond my budget.  I talked to my brother and he recommended Chapter's gift cards since they both love to read.  I found a book for my brother there as well, and had found a scarf for my sister-in-law on my cruise.

Also, while on the cruise, I found a t-shirt for my friend's husband at St. Maarten.  If you recall I spent a lot of time on the beach taking photos of the aircraft.  He's a WestJet pilot and Maho Beach is on his bucket list.  Along with the t-shirt I got some information an all-inclusive, adult only resort nearby.  Perhaps he'll be able to convince my friend C to visit the island someday.  For C, I found Santa snow globe inset into a sleigh.  I love it!  I certainly hope she does too...I think she will as I know no one else who enjoys Christmas as much as she does.

For my staff, I always try to find them something fun that they can use at the office.  One year it was colored rubber bands - at the time I had a group of guys working for me who liked to stand up every so often and shoot rubber bands at each other.  A couple of years ago, it was containers of paper clips and pins in various colors....no one threw those around.  This year, I found nine different, small wooden puzzles, that looked like fun to me.  Of course, if someone doesn't like it, they can always re-gift it to someone who will.

******
That pretty much covers the past week.  The weekend has been a flurry of housework, grocery shopping and cooking since today is our Grey Cup Sunday (football).  Our Saskatchewan Roughriders had a rotten season and didn't make the playoffs.  I'm not certain who to cheer for, as I don't like either team who are playing for the Cup, the Ottawa Red Blacks and the Calgary Stampeders, the former because of their quarterback, and the latter for the western rivalry.  I'll still be an interested spectator though as it marks the end of this season.

Have a great week everyone!

*I know neither will read this as they've both told me they read for pleasure.  Can you imagine?  I certainly can't.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Balcony views (Nov 4-6)

I bet when you saw the title of the post, you thought this would be a sea view.  I certainly have several of those shots as well to share.

This is the Seawalk.  It extends over the ocean on the 17th deck.  It is entirely enclosed but offers the opportunity to look down to the ocean through the glass floor.

According to Princess, it is 60 feet long and 128 feet above the ocean.  I've walked it despite being absolutely terrified of the height!

It was directly overhead our balcony and I get thinking I might get a photo of someone walking it but never did. :)

On our final sea day I spent some time out on the balcony, simply enjoying the sunshine and the peace and quiet.  I spotted this ship in the distance, so J and I spent some time trying to zoom in enough to read the name.
We needed have bothered as our ship quickly overtook the smaller ship.  (When I say quickly I mean within an hour or so).

At this point, we could see the name of the company Fathom.  K did some research on J's IPad, and discovered this ship, the MV Adonia is part of the Carnival fleet, sailing out of Miami to the Dominican Republic or Cuba.


The company offers seven day cruises; the impact travel to Dominican Republic where passengers volunteer their time, or cultural exchanges to Cuba.

Taking the cruise to DR is quite inexpensive, around $600 for a interior or outside cabin $1200 for a balcony or $2100 for suite.  On the other hand, travelling to Cuba is very expensive, the inside cabin for one week is close to $4400.*

I'm not certain I'd be ready to take a cruise to volunteer, but perhaps I should add it to the list.

This was the early morning sky on our last sea day.  To be honest I initially thought it was a sunset since I was so rarely up early enough but I checked the properties...it was taken about 7 a.m. on November 5.

The waters were calm and the weather quite warm as we made our way to our final port in Fort Lauderdale.  I spent the day with my camera capturing some of the activities around the ship.  Those were part of my first post.

I woke up the next morning to find we had docked in Fort Lauderdale next to a Carnival ship.

The port was busy! I can't recall how many ships were in port that day, 6 or 9 seems to ring a bell.  In any event, the place was hopping by 7 a.m.

We were docked at Pier 2 which meant we weren't far from the airport.  With so many passengers disembarking, that was a bit of a blessing.

These little trucks and carts were scurrying back and forth between the ship and warehouse taking the luggage to the claims area.

Since we had a late flight, we had a late disembarkation time at about 9:40 a.m.  We were supposed to be out of our cabin by 8 but our steward Henry, told us to leave our carry-on items until we had our breakfast.  He was such a great guy!



We waited in the Explorers Lounge until our group was called, walked down the gang plank, claimed our luggage, and got in the line for Customs.  For the most part it is pretty cursory, at least for non-Americans, we were through and out to the taxi stand in less a half hour.  From there it was short ride to the airport.  We all were selected for TSA pre-check so getting through security was a breeze.  We had plenty of time to browse the shops, grab a magazine and settle down to wait for our flight to be called.

We flew from Fort Lauderdale to Toronto, where we went through Canadian customs, security and into the terminal to have lunch and wait for our next flight.  This is the part I call "hurry up and wait"as we had a seven hour layover in TO...yuck!  I did lots of reading, J played on his IPad and K walked, so we passed the time fairly easily.

The flight home was uneventful; we arrived shortly after 1 a.m., picked up our luggage and took the cab to K&J's.  I'd left my car there so it was a quick turn around and I was home and getting ready for bed before 2 a.m. The best part about getting home is sleeping in my own bed...with the cats of course!

Just one last sea view from the balcony.  I know of people who cannot abide the thought of being out of sight of land.  It never bothers me at all, I just feel the calm and relaxed.  (Now if I think about what might be under the sea, that's another story altogether...so I just don't think about it.)

And so ends my travels for a little while since the next great adventure will be the birth of my grandson due in February.  That will be a trip of a different kind!

Have a great week everyone!

*Prices are in US$ and based on one person occupancy.  Double occupancy was slightly higher, but of course would be divided by the two passengers.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Bonaire (November 3)

We sailed into Bonaire between 6;30 and 7:00 a.m. and for the first and only time, I was actually awake!

We were at dock when I went out to the balcony and spotted the Norwegian Dawn sailing into the bay.  We had company!

Bonaire is one of the ABC* islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). It, along with Curacao is part of the Netherlands.  The Dutch influence is very evident.

It was a beautiful start to an absolutely gorgeous day weather wise.  It was the first day we had no rain at all, and it was the warmest temperature at 28C (82F).

I loved it!  We were told that Bonaire is the driest of the ABC islands, and as a result is quite arid so it isn't quite as lush and green as some of the islands we've visited.

We docked in the terminal in the capital city of Kralendijk and had no excursion booked so spent a good of the part of the day off ship walking around the town.

There were a lot of one-way streets. with parking on either side  We walked through the craft sale booths to the central shopping area and visited a few of the shops.

From there, after a few wrong turns we made our way to the Post Office where K bought stamps and mailed a few postcards.







Bonaire is known for it's pink flamingos.  Had we taken one of the ship's excursion we might have seen them in person, but instead I snapped this photo of the flamingos in a shop window.

From the post office we made our way down to the harbour.  OMG the water is soooo beautiful.

We considered finding a restaurant to have a bite to eat before making our way back to the ship, but we didn't find anything along the harbour.  I was surprised as this would have made a stunning view.




We stopped in at the fort; I looked into the interior but it didn't appear there were any steps to climb.  I suspect there were at some time and it seemed obvious this would have been the place where the inhabitants kept on eye on the bay watching for both welcome and unwelcome company.

Speaking of company, the tourists and crew from the ship swelled the population of Bonaire that day.  It is a small country with approximately 19,000 inhabitants.  According to CruiseTimeTables.com, between the two ships, they carry about 5,800 and 6,000 passengers with about 2,300 crew.  While not everyone would have left the ships, I suspect we added another 30% to the total population that day!

On our way to the ship, J noticed that several of the rocks along the waterfront appeared to have the imprint of fossils.  While I took several photos, this is the only one that turned out well enough to clearly show the imprints.




Sail away was early that day; we left Bonaire between 5 and 5:30 p.m.  We ought to have left earlier, but one of the excursions appeared to return late.  I was out on the aft deck when it came down the hill to the ship.  Since dinner was at 5:30 I didn't get any photos of sail away, as I needed to head back to the cabin to clean up and change clothes.
I took advantage of the waiting time to get some photos of the community from the ship.  Obviously this is the fort on the harbour front, with walled in buildings (perhaps a jail?) and the soccer/football field in the background.

The construction of the building are reminiscent of the Dutch influence and the colors are those of the Caribbean.


I was particularly curious about this development.  I even tried to find whether the units are for sale, searching the internet, but wasn't able to locate these particular buildings.  In the background is the airport and beyond that you can see how dry the island appears.

This is another shot of the harbour front and downtown of Kralendijk.  This is where I would have expected to find restaurants and bars.  There was an gelato shop on the corner....thinking back I wish we'd stopped!

I did stay out on deck long enough to see some of the lines let off.  This little boat brought the worker over to the where the ships lines were tied.

Only one of the workers stayed behind while the boat took the other to another set of lines.

I'd taken some other photos and turned back to see what was happening once the lines were released.  I laughed when I saw what the worker was doing.

Now there's a guy who knows how to relax!

These young men were having fun too.  At one point all three had "popped a wheelie".

It was fun ending to a great day in Kralendijk. One of the reasons I love cruising is that I get to experience a little bit of the island and its culture.  I hope that someday I'll get back to Bonaire so I can see the pink flamingos and spend more time in the community.


I do have a few more photos to share from the last couple of sea days, so will share those in my next post.

Have a great weekend everyone!

*The very first cruise I took visited both Aruba and Curacao...so now I can say I've visited all of the ABC islands.