Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Cautionary Tale

Before I get to today's topic I wanted to say thank you to everyone for your lovely comments on my last post. A special thank you to Julie Dyson, who mentioned a poem called October's Bright Blue Weather. I looked the poem up and it was lovely. And Marie asked about our dogs. She was confused because she thought we only had one. We actually have two dogs, and they are sort of "his and her" pets. I'm the person who belongs to Fergus the Westie, and my husband is the person owned by Jenny the wiener dog. Fergus gets very jealous if I mention Jenny on my blog, so that could be why you hadn't heard about her before.

Now for the serious stuff. If you aren't interested in the details surrounding what happened with the breach of my online banking please feel free to scroll down, and there will be a few pictures that have nothing whatsoever to do with crime.

My online banking was broken into early in August. The bank caught the fraud while it was happening, immediately stopped online access to my accounts, and phoned me. This was all good. They also immediately deposited back the amount that had been stolen. That was also good. But this is where the good stopped and the bad started, at least in terms of the bank and their response.

In that initial phone call alerting me to the fraud I was told my account was accessed on the very first try of the password, and that meant I had to have malware on my computer. They told me I needed to take it in to a professional to have the computer completely wiped. Several phone calls with the fraud department later they reluctantly agreed that it would probably be okay if my son-in-law wiped it rather than someone at a big box store, but they weren't very happy about it. They wanted a receipt proving it had been done. And here's the scary part. I was told that if I didn't wipe my computer and the fraud happened again I would be on the hook for any funds stolen. Gulp.

I took my computer into Anton, and he had a very good look at it. His verdict was there was almost no chance it had malware. Also, he said the malware that would be required to do what the bank claimed had happened would have to be very sophisticated. Probably not the kind of thing you pick up downloading knitting and sewing patterns.

While he had my computer, and about two weeks after the original bank fraud, we got a phone call late one night from an RCMP officer in a nearby community. He had recovered a stolen car that day, and in it was a cell phone. And on the cell phone were pictures of my driver's licence, bank debit card, and my two charge cards. He said the person who stole the car was definitely the person who broke into my car that day back in July when I was at Teapot Hill. It was a drug addict, well known to the police, and it was the second car he had stolen in the past week.

When an addict breaks into your vehicle they are after one thing. Cash. They have two ways of getting that cash. One is taking whatever money you happened to have in your purse. The other is by selling the stuff they find when they break in. And one of the things they sell is your ID. They get a couple hundred dollars, and someone who knows how to use your ID hits the jackpot.

Yes, I had immediately cancelled my bank cards and my driver's licence. But unbeknownst to me, when the bank reissued my client card they gave me a card with the same number. It never occurred to me to check. It never occurred to me they would be stupid enough to do something like that, especially since I told them I needed it replaced because it had been stolen. And here's the thing. That client card number is the user name for signing into online banking at my bank. I might have noticed when I next logged into my account, but I wasn't logging in from my computer since I didn't have it. I had downloaded the banking app onto my phone and since it was new had to enter the number. I didn't have anything to compare it to.

So the thief had my user name for my account. They also had all kinds of information about me. They had my address, birth date, my husband's full name, all from what they stole that day at Teapot. And here's where it gets really icky. Anton told me that what they then do is Google you. And, of course, the first thing that would come up would be my blog. Which meant they also now had my email address. The bank theft was connected to the theft that day at Teapot!

In an attempt to keep this post from becoming book length, I'll shorten the next part and just say this. After multiple calls with the fraud department, and several visits in person to the bank, this is where things stand. It turns out that after reviewing the sequence of events (the bank keeps a record of every call, every time you log in, where you log in from, etc.), what I was told in that very first phone call was not even true. They had not got in on the first attempt. They actually tried to log in eight times, no doubt trying passwords they thought were obvious using information they got off my blog (I'm sure Fergus was one of the tries!). They did not succeed.

Then they phoned the bank. And this is where I get a little mad. Well, actually quite mad. They managed to impersonate me and get the email address to my account changed. Within a minute they then changed the password, and they were into my banking. Seriously. The bank apparently let them change my email address over the phone. Yet they had placed the blame squarely on me and my computer, saying it had to be malware. And told me if I couldn't prove I had dealt with it and my account got hacked again I would be held responsible. Just typing this out makes my blood boil.

I have asked for a written statement from the bank saying it was not my fault. What I would really like is a statement from them saying it was all their fault. They reissued a card with the same client card number. They let someone change my email over the phone, knowing that all one needs is an email address to change a password. They never sent a notification to my old email saying the email address had been changed. And this is from one of Canada's largest banks. Which is why there's no point in asking them to admit wrongdoing. It's a David and Goliath story, only this time I'm afraid there's no way of slaying the giant. I'll be happy just to have something in writing absolving me of any responsibility, so if my account gets broken into again I won't be out the money.

If sharing this story saves even one other person from going through what I have it will have been worth typing it all out. If you have ID or banking cards stolen, don't let your guard down just because you've cancelled them all. And don't expect that a bank will do even the basic steps necessary to protect you, in spite of the fact that they have billions of dollars and a whole team of security experts. I'll let you know if and when I get the letter from them stating that what happened with my account was not my fault. Now, on to more pleasant topics.

Here's Lucy heading off to her first day of preschool. She suddenly looks very grown up.

Here's sweet little Oliver, modelling the Gingersnap sweater I knit for him. Ravelry details can be found here.

And Ella with her Granny's Favourite sweater, which was a late birthday present. I can see why there are over 1200 of these little sweaters posted on Ravelry. It was fast and easy to knit, and looks very cute when worn. Ravelry details here.

I'm headed to Victoria this weekend for a knitting adventure. Details will be in my next post. I'll sign off for now with this picture of the light on a spider's web, taken today on Teapot Hill. Light, nature, crafting, friends and family. These are the things I want to focus on.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A New Season

It's been awhile. So long, in fact, that I'm not even sure where to start or what to say. I think I can best sum up by saying it's a new season. My very favourite season, and I'm looking forward to the crisp, cool days ahead. To me they mean wearing wool socks, having soups simmering on the stove, and enjoying the slower, quieter pace that accompanies the fall.

The light at this time of the year is always a treat.

At times it's a brilliant backdrop to the leaves as they slowly change from a dark green to a bright red.

At other times it's dark and brooding, threatening to rain at any moment.

And after the rains, the sun seems extra bright as it pours into our cottage.

Even the animals seem to enjoy the light at this time of the year.

Some of the most dramatic moments are just as the sun is going down for the night. I came across this scene a few evenings ago as I was walking Fergus. I loved the contrast between the heavy, black clouds and the lights in the nearby cottage window.

I'm very much hoping that this coming season of diminishing light will also be one of great brightness. It's nice to be back...

Monday, August 15, 2016

August Update

Sorry for the blog silence. One of the problems with not having blogged for a whole month is knowing where to even start. It's been quite a month. First the good stuff.

There's been lots of family time, with three weekends in a row of visitors.

Lucy has, unbelievably, turned three. She loved the "egg to owl" toy I made her, and word has it that it has made it into her favoured stuffed animal rotation that she sleeps with every night.

Toasting marshmallows for s'mores was a hit.

And it's always a treat to go to the blueberry farm, especially when Aunt Alex is there to pick with you.

Also unbelievable is the fact that Ella is now a year old. She made her first trip to the blueberry farm and ate the berries as fast as she could pick them.

When you are one things like the grates on the road are endlessly fascinating.

We discovered it is very hard to get a picture of two toddlers and a baby.

Oliver is a delight. He's a very laid back baby, and loves to coo and smile.

I love how his hair sticks straight up.

My mom, brother and niece Danielle came for a visit. Ella had lots of attention while they were here!

We visited the lavender farm.

I took Danielle to the 49th parallel, which is just down the road a few kilometres from where we live. My brother and I had her cross the line and enter the US. It's one of my favourite things to do with unsuspecting American visitors. The joke was on me this time though, as there happened to be a US Border Patrol guy there, and he came over to have a word with us about our illegal entry into the US.

Now for the bad. I'll spare you the full list and just tell you about two of the unfortunate things that have happened since I last blogged. The first is Sono Nis, the publisher of my two books, had their warehouse burn to the ground on August 4th. The news story can be found here. Every book by every author they published has been lost. That includes all the copies of my books. The owner of Sono Nis, Dianne Morriss, is such a lovely person, and I feel sick for her and her husband. I also feel sick for all the authors who have lost their books. At this point I have no idea what will happen. The picture below is a screenshot from their website showing a picture of the gutted warehouse.

The second thing is this past week my online banking was hacked into. It has been a nightmare trying to deal with it. The bank is saying my computer must have malware, and that it needs to be wiped and set back to factory settings. I'm not convinced it's my computer and think it could well be the bank who has a security issue. The two pieces of good news here are that the bank has put back the money that was stolen from me, and I have a son-in-law who is a tech expert. Anton has kindly said he will deal with my computer.

I've actually considered stopping blogging altogether. It really hasn't been the best summer (supreme understatement), and I don't like to blog about negative things. I would much rather talk about things that illuminate the light like family, creative pursuits and nature. But the blogging community and all my readers mean a lot to me, and in the end I have decided I don't want to make a hasty decision that I'm going to end up feeling sorry about. So for now I'm going to be taking a blogging break. I'll be back in September, and in the meantime I will still be popping by your blogs to say hi.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Six

:: Jay was away this week cat sitting for his sister. My viewing on Netflix and Slingplayer is greatly curtailed when he is away because I am a first class coward. The series I am currently watching is The Bridge. I've mastered the art of reading subtitles while knitting, which, if you think about it, is a skill that doesn't really transfer to anything else in life. I'm almost at the end of season one and have come to the conclusion that the female police detective, Saga Noren, is almost as scary as the psychopath they are trying to find.

:: Last week my vehicle was broken into while I was hiking up Teapot Hill. To say this was a low moment would be a gross understatement. I heard my car alarm go off just as I got to the bottom of the hill, and was close enough to catching the thieves in the act that I caught a glimpse of the back of their beat-up old van as it sped out of the parking lot. The back window was bashed in, and my purse, which had been carefully concealed on the floor at the back, had been stolen. They also grabbed my favourite lightweight jacket, which really made me mad. That jacket was perfect for traveling, and had been to China, South Korea, England, Scotland, Shetland, Wales, Ireland and Luxembourg with me. I've since replaced it with a new jacket, but it just isn't the same. Replacing all of my ID and cancelling bank cards has been a major headache, and the whole thing left me feeling quite depressed.

:: The news this past week has also been quite depressing. It feels like the world just keeps tilting a bit more with each new horrific event. I'm trying to find a balance between being well informed and being an ostrich. Right now the ostrich option is looking very appealing. How do you cope with the constant stream of bad news? I would appreciate any tips you might have for maintaining a sense of balance in the midst of current world events.

:: On a brighter note, the blueberry farm is now open. I've picked at least thirty pounds so far, and hope to pick at least that many more before the season ends. I try to put lots in the freezer, I dehydrate some, and best of all we eat tons of them fresh. And I was the lucky winner of a ten pound box of berries in a draw the farm had, which was especially nice because it happened right after my vehicle was broken into and made me feel like the universe was somehow trying to balance things out again.

:: Another bright spot was my visit with Oliver and Lucy last weekend. I couldn't believe how much Oliver had changed since I last saw him. He's smiling and cooing, and I even got him to laugh a couple of times. Although I don't think Karsten and Diana believed me since they didn't hear it themselves. And Lucy had me laughing on more than one occasion! Oh my goodness, the things that come out of the mouth of an almost three year old.

:: And, of course, there has been knitting. I still have shawl fever. It's something I thought I was immune to, but now that I've caught it I can see it might be incurable. This is the Amulet Shawl, which is the second shawl pattern released in Curious Handmade's Shawl Society. It's my first time working with beads, and I'm impressed by the fact they are actually sticking on the shawl. I'm also working on the Montbretia Shawl from The Book of Haps by Kate Davies. My strategy is to work on Montbretia while the dogs are around, and the beaded Amulet after they've gone to bed for the night. Beads and Fergus are not a good mix!

Those are my six things for a summer Sunday. I hope the rest of your weekend is filled with lovely things.

Monday, July 4, 2016

An Idaho Hike

Last week I was in Spokane to visit my mom. She seems to be doing well, and has mostly recovered from the multiple health issues she had faced earlier this year. My visit coincided with a family reunion. It was great visiting with cousins I hadn't seen in years, and in many cases decades. I'm sorry I don't have any pictures. We were having such a good time I didn't get around to taking many pictures, and the few I did take aren't all that great.

I do have pictures from the next day though. My brother and I drove to the Idaho/Montana border and hiked up to the Stevens Lakes. It is quite a steep climb up to the alpine lakes, but worth the effort required. (This was my first time to get 200 flights on my Fitbit before I was at 10,000 steps!)

This area of Northern Idaho is full of many abandoned silver mines, along with many that are still active. Here you can see the old tracks for the mining train.

Never mind silver. The real treasures in the mountains of Northern Idaho are these. Huckleberries! These are my favourite berry, my favourite fruit, and quite possibly my overall favourite food.

This is the first of the lakes. The picture doesn't do it justice.

This white flower is known by several names, the most common being Bear Grass. It was in bloom all along the trail once we reached the higher elevation.

The second lake was a bit smaller than the first, but every bit as beautiful.

This frog (or toad??) was sitting on the path, unnoticed by me since I was busy taking in the view. I don't know who jumped higher, me or the frog. Fortunately it was the only one to land in the water. (No, I'm not afraid of frogs. But I am afraid of snakes, and for just a second that's what I thought it was. And yes, I know snakes don't jump.)

We encountered lots of rocks on the hike. We went through them.

We went over them.

And I even climbed on top of one. Although honesty forces me to admit I was only on top of this rock for a microsecond. Heights and I don't do well together.

I love where I live now, and you often read about my hikes in the beautiful mountains that are near our cottage. But these mountains, well, these are the mountains of my childhood. The wildflowers, the berries, the trees, the smell of the forest, it all brought back a flood of memories from when I was young. And I left guiltily thinking maybe I love them just a little bit more than the ones out my front door.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I'm Still Here

:: When I first took this picture I thought this squirrel was eating a peanut. I later realized that no, it wasn't a peanut. It was a raspberry from my bushes in front of the porch. I guess it was tired of eating the seeds and new plants in my garden and decided to add in a new food group.

:: Garlic scapes might be my very favourite thing to harvest from the garden. (Thankfully the squirrels and birds don't seem to like garlic, so it's left for me to consume.) Between the community garden, and the crop in my own garden boxes, there's been an abundance of scapes. I use them in lots of ways. I throw them in with pea pods and steam them. I put them into omelettes. I make garlic scape pesto. I even roast them in the oven.

:: The community garden is next to the pond, which is home to a pair of swans. They are actually quite nasty birds, and have attacked several residents here. I choose my path carefully when I go down to the garden, making sure I don't get near them. They don't like to be outsmarted though, so often will come sit just outside the gate to the fenced in garden area after they see me enter, making it impossible to leave.

:: Great excitement this week, as my Book of Haps by Kate Davies has arrived. I haven't started knitting a  hap yet, but will be soon. It's going to be hard to decide which one to knit first!

:: Along with garlic scapes, this is also the season for thimbleberries. They grow in abundance in the surrounding forest, and every day I eat handfuls of them.

:: I've done a bit of sewing. This is my denim version of the Willow Tank & Dress. I think it will be great to wear this fall with leggings and a long-sleeved shirt. My original plan had been to distress the denim and do some Sashiko embroidery on it, but now I'm having second thoughts.

:: Last, but not least, there's been some knitting happening. I joined The Shawl Society. It was a rather odd thing to do since I rarely knit shawls, but I really enjoy the Curious Handmade forum on Ravelry, and Helen's Curious Handmade podcast, so I decided to give it a try. There will be one shawl pattern released every month for the next six months. I don't plan to knit every one of them, but I did join in for the first pattern, the Talisman Shawl.

:: Lucy has a birthday coming up next month, so I've been busy making her present. This is Egg to Owl, and once I got the head stabilized (it looked like an owl imitating Nearly Headless Nick until I got it fixed) I was quite pleased with it. I hope Lucy will be too.

:: The world seems to have gone a bit crazy lately. It seems fitting to borrow the closing line my blogging friend at Hostess of the Humble Bungalow uses in each of her posts. Be Well and Be Kind.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Out and About

I have to say I was overwhelmed and touched by your comments and support after my post about Fergus getting attacked by the German shepherd. So many of you have had similar experiences, or know of someone who has. In the end I did file a complaint about the dog, as so many of you had encouraged me to do. Now, on to more pleasant things!

A few weeks ago my brother came up for a quick visit. He's a walker too, so we always manage to get in a hike or two when he is here.

In spite of the fact he had just had shoulder surgery he decided he wanted to attempt to climb up Mt. Cheam with me. You can see Mt. Cheam peaking out in the top right of the picture above. The mountain is accessed by driving up a very rough forestry road. You have to have an off road vehicle to attempt it, which my brother does. We didn't make it to the top due to the amount of snow on the trail, but we did have a great time. I think the ride up that road was almost more of a workout than the hike itself!

Last weekend Rebekah, Ella and I went up to visit Alexandra in Kamloops for the weekend. We also spent time with our friends out in Sorrento, and while we were out walking in the forested area of their property we spotted some wildflowers. Tiger lilies always brighten up the path.

My favourites though are the lady's slippers. You can see how they got their name.

The evening light and the mountain background near our cottage combined to make one of the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen.

I liked how this snail was colour coordinated with the dead leaf next to it.

The salmonberries are ripe. There's a big patch of them I go by when I walk to the lake, so I've been snacking on them on a regular basis.

While walking last week I spotted this lichen. It was hard to miss, as it was practically glowing.

The devil's club is in abundance when I hike up Teapot Hill.

And, of course, there have been more teapots spotted on Teapot Hill. This time it looked like someone was having a tea party.

Balance in life is so important. I'm so very fortunate to live in a place where I'm surrounded by natural beauty. I was so stressed about what happened last week, and it was a gift to be able to walk out my door and be surrounded by nature. There's something very healing about the smell of the forest, the sound of the birds singing in the trees and bushes, the mix of colours and light, and the unexpected beauty of something as simple as a snail or a patch of lichen. Have a great weekend!