Super Easy Lawn Mowing

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We broke down and finally bought a lawn mower. This is it. $50 on Amazon, and then I just used the pressure sprayer to clean it afterward. No gas. Low maintenance.

Why exactly did we stop using these?

Now for a large yard, I guess I would understand – under the tree it wasn’t great at going over sticks either (is that an issue with power mowers? This is the first time in my life to have mowed a lawn!)

Interesting sometimes what we think we need……

Quebec: Where are the Americans?

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There is Notre Dame of Montreal, the beautiful cafe culture and gorgeous green countryside – Quebec is an amazing province. Despite French being the native tongue here, English is used widely. While I have recognized a lot of long forgotten French, most people have spoken English.

Getting around here is easier than in most cities in the US due to the convenient public transit.

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The cafe culture is enchanting and while not France, it has a certain romantic element.

Which had led to interesting conversations – why don’t more Americans – meaning from the US – travel here?

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It surprised me. As close as it is, I had expected to run into a lot of people from the US. Yet, walking through the streets of Montreal, the only English we heard had the tell-tale accent of Canada (or British, and a Kiwi or two).

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There is a certain Romance of Europe yet, the comfortable ease of familiarity in North American culture – such a unique place. So it surprised me how few Americans were here. Especially during the summer time, which I thought would be high season.

It’s not that expensive. Given the US fascination with travel to Europe – especially France, I guess I expected a lot of Americans.

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I wonder why. It seems like a cheaper alternative to Europe. Close, and picturesque.

I learned that the friendliness is something new – even to other Canadians, Quebec has been notoriously separatist, and mildly rude to Anglophones over the years. Yet much as France has been trying to clean up its image in the last few years, so has Quebec. Other than one waitress (who I am not certain whether she was actually being rude, she could very well just not understood the question we asked her) everyone so far has been very friendly.

In fact, I almost think they are working hard to overcome their long reputation of standoffishness.

If that is the case, this could very well be the best chance in decades to see Quebec and experience friendly service. Because right now the people are making a honest effort to be more welcoming, the timing is great. For the record, Americans – Montreal and Quebec City are well worth the journey!

Modern Toys Creativity and the Parent’s Dilemma

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The majority of toys today are plastic, light up, ding, are related to movies and TV shows or are in some other way connected with technology.

I have mixed feelings about this. I’m not against technology, I use it and enjoy the benefits. Like it or not, we weren’t born in the 1800’s and can’t go back in time. Incidentally, I think much of the romanticizing about the past is largely just that – romantic – but not based in reality. Times before modern technology and science were hard – if we just look at the life expectancy in that time, we can see that – as people rarely lived to forty as recently as the 1800’s.

Scientists discovered that brain growth is the greatest between 0-4 years of age. The scientists who conducted the study hoped that the results would encourage better preschool investment – instead they said that it spawned a new niche in toys, parents trying to make their children into baby Einstein’s. But that’s another issue in and of itself.

Now it’s hard to know what to believe. Advertisers are rarely held accountable for their claims.

Children are naturally very curious. J plays with the remote control for the TV and stacks blocks and stacking rings. He wants to know how things work.

We limit the number of electronic toys to the ones his grandparents/other family members give him. The same thing with movie and TV character toys. Since studies say that generic toys promote the most creativity and imagination, I’d rather that be the majority of what J has.

However – we live in a modern world. Technology is everywhere. We can’t really escape that. J grabs for my iPad and iPhone, and rearranges the apps (he’s deleted a few too). I monitor him and direct him to kid friendly apps. He usually loses interests after a few minutes and goes and plays with his blocks.

He watches an episode of Curious George now and then. I let him. But just one. Most of his day he spends playing. The majority of the time it’s with generic toys – a ball or a boat in the pool, or blocks. But he likes his Elmo from his grandparents too – though he hasn’t seen Sesame Street yet, so I doubt he has made the connection of who it is supposed to be.

So where is the middle? For us I feel like this works well enough. I know it’ll change and be modified as he gets older. As our culture swings from one extreme to another, forging the way to a happy medium is always a challenge.

Modern Toys Creativity and the Parent’s Dilemma

20140721-165542-60942592.jpg

The majority of toys today are plastic, light up, ding, are related to movies and TV shows or are in some other way connected with technology.

I have mixed feelings about this. I’m not against technology, I use it and enjoy the benefits. Like it or not, we weren’t born in the 1800’s and can’t go back in time. Incidentally, I think much of the romanticizing about the past is largely just that – romantic – but not based in reality. Times before modern technology and science were hard – if we just look at the life expectancy in that time, we can see that – as people rarely lived to forty as recently as the 1800’s.

Scientists discovered that brain growth is the greatest between 0-4 years of age. The scientists who conducted the study hoped that the results would encourage better preschool investment – instead they said that it spawned a new niche in toys, parents trying to make their children into baby Einstein’s. But that’s another issue in and of itself.

Now it’s hard to know what to believe. Advertisers are rarely held accountable for their claims.

Children are naturally very curious. J plays with the remote control for the TV and stacks blocks and stacking rings. He wants to know how things work.

We limit the number of electronic toys to the ones his grandparents/other family members give him. The same thing with movie and TV character toys. Since studies say that generic toys promote the most creativity and imagination, I’d rather that be the majority of what J has.

However – we live in a modern world. Technology is everywhere. We can’t really escape that. J grabs for my iPad and iPhone, and rearranges the apps (he’s deleted a few too). I monitor him and direct him to kid friendly apps. He usually loses interests after a few minutes and goes and plays with his blocks.

He watches an episode of Curious George now and then. I let him. But just one. Most of his day he spends playing. The majority of the time it’s with generic toys – a ball or a boat in the pool, or blocks. But he likes his Elmo from his grandparents too – though he hasn’t seen Sesame Street yet, so I doubt he has made the connection of who it is supposed to be.

So where is the middle? For us I feel like this works well enough. I know it’ll change and be modified as he gets older. As our culture swings from one extreme to another, forging the way to a happy medium is always a challenge.

Things Forgotten

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My son thinks that TV’s are touchscreen.

I had to think hard a few days ago to remember how to mail a form. Like with the stamp – does it attach to the mailbox? How do I send this?

There are times when I forget that you don’t have to wait three days toilet paper and cleaning supplies to come in the mail. I could go buy them at the store. But I don’t.

I could go to the bank – but I don’t.

My mom got out a phone book to look up the address of a business while I was at her house recently. I’d forgotten you could do that.

My uncle printed out directions from mapquest. I’d forgotten you could do that.

Technology changes quickly. Sometimes we get so used to it that we forget that we used to manage just fine doing it another way.

Life creeps in and the changes sometimes we barely notice. When did I start looking places up online anyway? I don’t remember.

Most of those changes are pretty neutral in and of themselves. Yet the affects are far reaching. The internet. The car. The smart phone.

What is something you have forgotten?

Aguas Calientes

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At the base of the mountains to go up to Machu Picchu is a small town called Aguas Calientes – hot water in English, so named because of the natural hot springs that flow in the village.

It’s an interesting little town in many ways one of the fascinating things about it is the complete lack of motor infrastructure.

There is a bus stop and two train stations. Otherwise, the town is completely inaccessible to vehicles.

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The streets are narrow and built into the sides of the mountain. Some of the streets are staircases – especially when you walk away from the tourist district and get to the regular neighborhood areas.

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Two rivers meet at the edge of the town, and footbridges span the rivers. There is a bridge for the trains, but not for the buses, so about half of the town has no vehicle in it whatsoever.

And this, from what I was able to understand is how the people want to keep it.

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There is a lot of concern with the number of tourists at Machu Picchu. While tourism accounts for much of Aguas Calientes economy, the people are also very aware of the encroaching damage to their national treasure. Development is purposefully limited.

It was refreshing to walk through the high mountain town, and explore the streets and markets. The air is clean and jungle is lush. And the Peruvians would prefer to keep it that way.

World Wednesdays

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I often run across articles throughout the week that amaze, encourage or disturb me in one way or another. I’m planning to start posting these regularly. If you have one that should be included, please link it in the comment section!

The picture above is from Feng Huang, Hunan PRC about nine years ago. Feng Huang is a beautiful city in southern China that is currently flooding. It is awful to follow the news and see the damage in a town that I enjoyed so much several times over. Thinking of and praying for the people there in one of the friendliest places I have ever been.

In better news, it appears that the US is trying to start new and better relations with China. This is encouraging as diplomatic relations with each other are vital for the future and prosperity of both countries.

Also on China, the WTO has stated that tariffs on Chinese Solar panels may be illegal. Thoughts?

The Panama Canal expansion project is taking longer than expected due to delays because of funding.

Japan, still trying to answer demand in after the 2011 earthquake put nuclear power on hold just upped their investment in solar again.

Finland wants to make cars in Helsinki obsolete in ten years. Meanwhile Sweden and Denmark are considering adding bike infrastructure across Europe’s second largest bridge.

At the end of this, I realize that these are mostly places I have been and know well. Um……that probably going to be a trend. I’ll try and include info from places I haven’t been as much as I can as well though!