All the prep for tonight’s dinner has been done and I’m sitting in front of a cozy fire with Shmoo at my feet and Peaches lying by the front door watching the snow fall. It really DOES feel like Christmas. 

David and Jane are bringing smoked salmon and a christmas pudding made by Jane’s father. I’ve made stuffing and we’ll have that with roast capon and my creamed spinach (JM’s most requested veggie). Then Jane’s pudding and a vanilla/caramel ice cream cake. 

I’m proud of myself for not going nuts and making more dishes, as I was tempted to do. There will be plenty of leftovers as is.  

The snow is now starting to stick. I wonder if it means a real whit Christmas?

As the feeling of peace comes over me, I take this opportunity to wish all good little Possums and those in their kingdoms a very merry Christmas and a joyful, happy and healthy New Year.

Ciao for now.

Randy

‘Tis the Season to go Crazy!

Sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up.

I don’t know how your banks handle online purchases, but our bank instituted a system a couple of years ago where for most stores, they send you an SMS with a code number. You have to type that code into a separate screen to verify your purchase. I understand it and appreciate the added security.

At least I DID. Last summer, for a variety of reasons, including that a slightly deranged person had my mobile number and was sending me kind of disturbed text messages, I canceled my old portable and got a new account with a new, unlisted phone number.

I knew that I needed to let my bank in on this, so went to their website where I duly typed in the new number for the two accounts where I have debit cards. I waited a week or so, then made an online purchase. Except I noticed that the SMS went to my old phone number.

I called the helpline, they explained that my bank had to change the number and diligently set the security clearance to allow me to use some other information as a temporary fix. I called my local branch, gave them the new number and was assured that it would go into my file.

A month or so later, I noticed that I was again getting an SMS to the wrong number. I again called the helpline and was told that the number had not been changed in their system. They reset the temporary fix and I called my bank again.

Two weeks ago I tried to make an online purchase and one of my debit cards was rejected. I checked and there was plenty of money in the account. I went into our local pharmacy and used it with no problem. I was able to get money from the ATM. The only thing I couldn’t do was make an online purchase.

I called the helpline again. They were less helpful. Because I had been using the temporary security for so long, it was no longer valid. No, they couldn’t change the mobile number, only my bank could do that. I called the bank, he looked and said it was changed but would send the info through again.

Now, here we are in the holiday season and I need to make purchases. Only I can’t use my credit card. I spent almost the entire day today calling various “helpless” lines to get it fixed. My banker yelled at me (and he’s an extremely nice man who I didn’t think COULD yell). JM yelled at the customer non-service rep, even though she was very nice and trying her best.

Finally, we went to the bank in Limoux and tried to sort it out while we were there. Both our branch manager and his second in command called the service desk. They were told to do something to a software that they didn’t even know existed! They STILL don’t know how to resolve the problem! All the computers at our bank show the right information; only the computer at the security center are wrong, because their software doesn’t communicate with the normal banking software and they don’t have the power to change it at their end.

My branch manager wanted me to cancel my debit cards and get new ones, except that I have direct debits for various things on those cards, and if we do that, it opens up a whole different can of worms.

I asked if I was the only person in the area who had ever changed her cell number; my branch manager didn’t think so, but had never run across this problem before.

I just love being a trend setter.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Alone

There have been very few times over the last 32 years that JM and I have not been together. This is one of them. He needed to go to Paris to help his parents and there is no way I can now go away and leave my mother.

I took him to the station in Carcassonne on Friday. It actually makes more sense to take the TGV through Montpellier than to fly from Toulouse. The whole voyage is about 5 1/2 hours, there is no security tsuris and you only need to arrive a few minutes ahead of the train. Plus, the drive to Carcassonne is much simpler for me than taking the autoroute to Blagnac. Even for the two of us to go to Paris (if we need to do so), it actually is less expensive to take the train than to drive.

I did a couple of errands, but had to rush home because I tried to call Mom and couldn’t get through. I was relatively sure that she was just having trouble using her phone, but I couldn’t be certain, so canceled half of what I had planned. This pretty much proved my point that I really can’t go away and leave her.

Luckily she was okay, although she had a bit of a crisis and now is really more confused than ever, so needs extra help. I had bought some Chinese takeaway, but was so worried about getting home that I didn’t store it well enough in the car and had quite a mess by the time I got home. Ah well, transporting food 45 kilometers is not without its risks.

My friend, Margaret, came to help me walk the dogs yesterday afternoon, but mostly I’ve been taking them myself. This has proved to be much easier than I feared. The extra training I’ve given Shmoo has really paid off, and he is MUCH better behaved around other dogs now. Peaches is perfect when she’s off leash, but even when we come across a dog while she is on leash, she has also improved. The best thing is that she’s really trustworthy off leash, and as soon as we get to the gardens she can roam so I only have to hold onto Shmoo.

I was mostly concerned about our first walk of the morning, because right now, it’s pitch dark at 7:00. There are benefits to that; such as the fact that on a clear morning you can see a billion stars. Particularly on Sundays, when no one else is up and about, there is dead silence except for the sound of the river, and it’s a rather magical time that I love. I have these little lights that I clip onto Peaches’ harness, so I can see her in the dark, and you can see her little red lights moving through the night, which must look pretty scary to the night creatures.

The worst thing, really, is that the house is so silent. I love quiet, but the presence of another person is very reassuring in a house of this size. I also don’t really feel like cooking just for me, so I haven’t exactly been eating balanced meals, which is bad. And, the dogs, Shmoo in particular, really miss their daddy. Our life is so regular and calm that we forget how small changes can stress the canines. Shmoo is so big that you wouldn’t think he is the big softie that he is; but he takes things much more to heart than most dogs I think.

I can’t really tell them that it will be all right and JM will be back soon. They don’t get the benefit of telephone and text messaging either. But I still think I have the better deal in all this than JM does; at least I am home and not in the hectic buzz of Paris, so I guess I can’t really complain.

Ciao for now,

Randy

Hopelessly behind

Somehow, at this time of year, there is never enough time!  I have meant to come and post here for days and this is the first chance I’ve had. And, in order to do it, it means I can’t actually work on something else. My only consolation is knowing that almost everyone else in the western world is in the same situation.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving, with our friend Diane visiting us from her temporary home in the UK. I make a lot of turkey breast for us on a regular basis, and I told Diane that I just couldn’t stand the thought of MORE turkey for Thanksgiving. So, instead, I made a traditional Thanksgiving pot roast! I discovered that stuffing goes really well with pot roast, so now may have to make it every time.

I found a great recipe for a pumpkin pie cake that was easy to do and actually way better than plain old pumpkin pie. Even JM, who declared that he hates pumpkin pie, liked it. It was really more of a crumble than a pie and I will be doing that again too.

Besides celebrating Thanksgiving, it was also the first annual Peachiversary! We found our darling Miz Peaches LaRoo one year ago on the day after Thanksgiving. And how thankful we have all been for that.

On Saturday was the Foire au Gras in Limoux, which is a food festival mostly devoted to duck. As always we made some excellent discoveries, including some delicious jams for a woman who came from near Perpignan.

Also, we tried out a new restaurant, and what a find! Called TONTON & TONTINE, it looks like nothing special from the outside. But a friend in the village had recommended it. I would have to say it was one of the best restaurant meals I’ve had in a very, very long time and an experience I would be happy to repeat. I have their card and will put the details up on this site soon. I’m just feeling too lazy to go downstairs and get the card.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. I have some new pictures to upload, as we also decorated the tree and wrapped presents. All that without having to go through shopping on Black Friday!

Ciao for now,

Randy