Posts Tagged With: Shopping

On: Thrill of the First Grill

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved


Well, today at The Gathering Place, we’re cooking. Yes, this post is abut the ‘thrill of the first grill,’ of the season.

Fresh from sleep ( I think the jet lag is over) and fresh with inspiration from our recent travels to Japan and Australia, we’re cooking up a storm!

Let me first explain the word ‘”storm.” It has been literally “storming” here recently. We have had quite a bit of rain and the temperature dropped dramatically. I’m not complaining, just explaining, for up here on the hill, we have fared better than some that have gone through a lot of flooding and damage. “Storm,” “Stormy” and “bad weather,” can be used and are used here, figuratively.

About a week before we left Australia (OZ-tralia), my wife Susan, was suffering from pain in her right leg. We thought it was just muscular or something like that from the much walking we have done these last couple of months. The day after we got home, I drove her to the doctor. A ultrasound revealed that she has a blood clot in her leg. Rather than go into details, let me just say that she is doing better, but has to take it easy. Now “easy” to you might be easy to you, but not to Susan. She has plenty to do that she both wants to do and needs to do. So, it’s not “easy,” it is scary, different, frustrating and kind of stormy here, at the Gathering Place.

There were things, important things we missed while gone. For one, our only granddaughter has a mouthful of teeth, is walking and is keeping up with and will be soon the boss of her two older, fraternal twin brothers. There’s graduations, birthdays and even a wedding coming up. I’ve painting to do, grass to grow, a yard sale to plan and implement so, we can get rid of this huge pod in our driveway and have a full driveway again. And there has been the loss of a dear family member and the daughter of two of our other dear friends.

We’ve gone through all the mail and junk mail. We’ve a lot of catch-up to catch-up on, about many things. You leave for a couple of months and when you get back, everything you left is still here and more and less. Susan is retired. Me? I only know that we were tired while traveling; tired from traveling and when we got home as we still are, we’re re-tired! 🙂

Sometimes, we just don’t realize how good people are at what they do until, we have to step in and try to do, what they do. Susan is the shopper, the meal planner, daily cook and specialty cook too. I could go on and on about what she does, but the point is, for the present and for an indeterminate period of time, I have to step in and step up. Not complaining just explaining.

Me? Oh, I am a trained gourmet chef. I know how to shop for the best and how to prepare the best. Blah, blah, blah, you want to know what I really am, I ‘m just a show-off chef. I’m the guy you want to have prepare feasts, special occasions, holiday meals and fancy dinners for 100’s of guests! I’m not boasting, that’s a fact Jack (or Jill or whatever pray tell, your name is. 🙂

But there is a whole bunch of differences between what I do and what a daily good cook, like my wife Susan, has done for years. Like what, like feeding a family on a budget, coupon collecting, best-deal detective-ing, and with grace under pressure, adding variety and all, with delicious and nutritious food, day in and day out, 450 days a year (extra days for extra people that often show up extra-ordinarily).

Oh sure, I used to know grams and milliliters. I’ve had a lot of experience with healthy food and shopping on a budget. But that was then and this is now. Like the saying goes, “use it or lose it.”

Well, if I am such an experienced chef with all this training, why have you never heard of me? Why am I not a successful chef and restaurateur with a whole bunch of the famed culinary and prestigious, Michelin Stars, associated with my work? The short answer is, I can’t handle the pressure! But also, I cannot stand to cook the same stuff over and over again, day in and day out! Food is either just something I HAVE to eat, when I’m doing something else that I deem more important, but my stomach won’t shut up until I cram something down my throat. Thank God I married Susan because, at least her food is delicious, balanced, and nutritious! If I just had to feed me, I’d either sort-of-starve, which really means, I gain weight or just eat junk which means, I gain weight. PROVE THIS TO YOURSELVES FOLKS! If you, would just eat three balanced meals a day at the same times and you do NOTHING else, I guarantee you will lose weight! You can even eat my food, BUT NOT A LOT OF IT, ALL THE TIME; EVERY DAY!

I love to cook. I love to cook for others. But in the kitchen, I AM INTENSE! I would NOT want to work for me or with me in the kitchen! I don’t know many chefs that I would want to be like. Many of them are just jerks, bossy-expletive-flinging dictators. And this is another reason I do not cook professionally. Not cooking professionally just means, I am not paid. I am a professional in all other senses of the word. I clean as I go. I cannot stand a messy kitchen!!! Besides, in a restaurant, the person that cleans the dishes is called a dishwasher, not the kitchen-washer or the kitchen cleaner. That’s my job and especially here recently. We have a mechanical/digital dishwasher and we have me, the hand dishwasher, while Susan rests, takes it easy and keeps her feet elevated.

My new roles are: nurse, caregiver, cooking, cleaning, shopping and many other things of which Susan, used to do a lot of these and much, much more.

Me shopping? By myself? Even with a list? Whew, what else do I bring home? How much more do I spend? To be fair to me, from my recent shopping trip, I did think in terms of extra stuff to prepare ahead of time, meals were planned and I purchased extra stuff to have on hand (in the refrigerator and freezer, on the shelves and in the pantry), just for you, when you stop by say on a moment’s notice or just to have extra if you stop by unannounced and we were just sitting down to eat. You are always welcome here though, by the way!

But OMG (Oh my God), we are going to eat well, I’m just not sure how well we will be eating or how well we’ll stay. 🙂  Here’s some clues – French, Italian, cream, butter, sugar, and salt and etc.. Am I communicating? Well, have you ever noticed that many of the people from France and Italy are not overweight, seem fit, firm, frisky, and fabulously, full of fun from food? They eat this way and probably, most of the time. Their secrets are balance, variety, the contrasts, lots of food, but smaller portions. As the saying goes, “a little bit goes a long way.” And there are three other secrets. A little wine with your meal is good for the digestion. I do apologize to those that do not partake of alcohol, but this is a proven fact. Wine aide in digestion, has antioxidants and some stuff in it (red wine has more) that has been shown to prolong life at healthier levels.

Many of the French and Italians take their time to prepare and to enjoy their food. This also aides in digestions and if you are really and truly satisfied, you will actually eat less. The last secret is the quality of the food, the fresher the better. In Japan and in Australia, many people shop, every day. In the USA, we often just buy stuff on sale and cram it all in our huge refrigerators, freezers and if we have them, the extra fridges and freezers. In the USA, we have a lot of OVER-processed, over-sugared, fat-stuff that has a lot of empty calories, chemicals and stuff our bodies can’t use much of, get rid of and promote cravings and get stored as fat.  If you think about it, it is very simple to understand. Every calorie gets used, it’s burnt up through exercise or it gets stored as fat. And this is still true, no matter how old I’m getting or how slow my metabolism is becoming. Eat what you love and love what you eat, just so long as what you love to eat does NOT, end up eating up, your life!

I do not like sleeping and I don’t like eating. But when I have to sleep and it’s needed and restful, I sometimes love it and I love eating exciting food! I love to cook. It’s fun! I love to cook for people. But I’m not real good at hosting, or keeping good conversation going, if I’m cooking. Oh, I’m OK if there is just one, two or a few people present. But more than a few, I can be really shy. I’d rather be behind the scenes watching you have a good time, watching and listening to what you have to say. I keep busy in the kitchen and even though I really do want you here, this is the only way I can handle crowds. It’s OK, go see Susan, she’ll talk to you and make you always feel, right at home!

Hey, wait a minute. I thought this post was supposed to be about the, ‘Thrill of the First Grill?’ It is, I’m getting to it!  I have written all of this in the hope that you can relate and or find it helpful, if not now, perhaps sometime in the future. And it is all in keeping with the vision of, The Gathering Place, our home, this post, and this blog, YOUR HOME AWAY FROM HOME! We gather together to share. I’m about to share some more and it’s about food; about the ‘Thrill of the First Grill,’ of the season.

Food is like art to me and well, I am a food artist. Food has to smell incredible, taste fantastic and be presented beautifully. Besides the joy this gives to our palette and how it excites our taste buds, all of this actually, aides in digestion. Why settle for something ordinary when just a little extra, can make it extra-ordinary!

Today, I made some heart shaped ginger sugar cubes, for what I call, Gingepagne (Ginger + Champagne). About three little mini heart sugar cubes into each glass of champagne. Made these to have on hand. Tasted delicious, but no champagne on hand to try, but I’ve had something similar (a taste) while we were in Australia (OZ-tralia) and it is wonderful. While making this, I also made fresh ginger syrup or ginger beer. Stored it in the refrigerator to have on hand for my ginger drinks. I have been working on my recipes for ‘Dark & Stormy’ (with rum), Moscow Mule (with vodka), Gin Gin Mule (with gin), Kentucky Mule (with Bourbon) and Scotch Mule (with Scotch). These all use pretty much the same ingredients (ginger syrup, ginger beer, and lime. The only thing different is pretty much the type of alcohol (spirits), the type of glass they are served in and the way they are garnished. Today, I made Gin Gin Mules for the Mrs. and me. They were incredible, especially since I used the fresh ginger syrup. Tomorrow, I’ll try the Scotch Mule.

Got everything together to make fresh, raw beets and horseradish mix. This is great on kielbasa, sandwiches and salads. You can’t get this any better or fresher than making it yourself. Just remember to peel the root and beets, use a food processor, but especially don’t forget to wear rubber gloves (no purple fingers from the beet juice) and a face mask so you don’t fall over and cry like a baby from the horseradish fumes! Hmm, could I possibly know what I’m talking about?! 🙂

Got everything to make my smoked fish dip. Will finish this tomorrow.

Well, you certainly can’t live off of sugar cubes, ginger juice and drinks! No you can’t, but you can LIVE with them when they are a part of your whole Gathering Together! I’m getting to the meal. Actually, I’ll be closing this out with four pictures. As we’ve heard many times, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Surely I must be over halfway of that in words? So maybe my pictures are only worth around 500 words. Sorry, but I won’t try harder, just to try your patience more. 🙂

With the pictures, I will give you some idea how to make what they show. But for more information, details, ingredients and recipes, you will just have to wait until I finish the cookbook I have been working on for some time. It’s title is:


The Gathering Place

Holidays & Special Occasions Entertaining


When finished, this will be loaded with pictures, recipes cards for handy reference and everything necessary to plan, prepare and present incredible and exciting food for all your special occasions. This will include breakfast, lunch, dinner, deserts, beverages, entrees, soups, sauces, salads, bread, rolls and a fool-proof flaky-tasty every time, yummy pie crust.

it also will include plating, garnish and decorating and anything else I may not have thought of yet. All of the food and everything in it has been tried and trued, tested and proved by many, to be all and more I say it is. Why settle for or take your family, friends and guests to a five star restaurant, when they can experience the intimacy and the personal touch of a ten star restaurant at your home, where the food is all made by you! You know, “there’s no place like home!” Well why not add to this, the best feast that can be had anywhere!!

OK, along with everything else done today, we had to eat. Today it was fish. The name of the fish is simply, Cobia. It was farm raised in Panama. Around $12 dollar for two fresh and more than ample size fillets.

Cobia is also called – black kingfish, black salmon, ling, lemonfish, crabeater, prodigal son and aruan tasek. I like the ‘prodigal son.’ The bible story, from where this comes from in part is, about a man that leaves home with all his inheritance and blows it all. He has no choice, but to come home and even beg to be a servant, just so he can survive. But his father sees him approaching from a distance and prepare a huge feast because, he is so happy that his son has come home. The corbia fish I prepared was so delicious, I have decided to call this meal, ‘The Prodigal Son.’ Why you might ask, because, if you prepare this for those that love fish, they will “return.”

“Cobia is a relatively high priced fish and is sought after,  for its firm texture and excellent flavor. The flesh is usually sold fresh. It is typically served in the form of grilled or poached fillets. Chefs Jamie Oliver and Mario Batali each cooked several dishes made with cobia in the “Battle Cobia” episode of the Food Network program Iron Chef America, which first aired in January, 2008. Thomas Keller’s restaurant, The French Laundry, has offered cobia on its tasting menu.”

 excerpts from:


‘Thrill of the First Grill,’ of the season.


‘The Prodigal Son’

Grilled Cobia


I cleaned our propane gas grill and set the temperature to around medium to low. Garlic and herb basting oil was brushed on top, bottom and all sides of both fillets. Lay fish horizontally on the grill. Cook around 2 minutes, then flip over with a spatula, for another 2 minutes. Recoat fish with the basting oil, each time you turn it over. After both sides have cooked each for two minutes, flip again only this time, turn the fillets vertically so grill marks will show up as a square or diamond pattern when finished. It looks nice! Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, the last two times you grill the fillets. Remember to keep basting. Total cook time is around 8 minutes. We were having rice and if you have a rice cooker, it takes about 15 minutes to cook, so plan accordingly so everything is done at the same time. And while you are waiting…

Thrill of the First Grill

Thrill of the First Grill

…hey, what’s in that glass to the left of the grill by the spatula? By the way, the plate to the right with a fork and the yellow basting brush, started with around 3-4 tablespoons of garlic & herb basting oil. Get from any store or make your own! Anyway, what’s in that glass?

Gin Gin Mule

Gin Gin Mule

Gin, fresh made ginger syrup, ginger beer, lime, and crushed ice in a pretty glass with a lime garnish. It was supposed to have a little muddled fresh mint, garnish of a sprig of fresh mint and a chip of crystallized ginger. OK, I like ginger, alright? Well. I forgot to get the mint at the store and I almost forgot the piece of crystallized ginger for garnish, but it got in there! 🙂

Close up of grill marked fish fillets turned once. Repeat second time, turning fillets, the opposite direction.

Close up of grill marked fish fillets turned once. Repeat second time, turning fillets, the opposite direction.

Prepared a fresh salad with veggies and fresh ripe avocado. Sprinkled with feta cheese. I used light sesame seed and ginger salad dressing because, OK I like ginger. I’m not sure what Susan used?

Rice was just plain white rice. Just Plain white rice can be quite boring. I sprinkled ours with a little Japanese rice seasoning, to really make it pop or as chef Emeril Lagasse says, to make it, “BAM!” Find some seasoning you really like and with even just plain O’ white rice, it will NEVER be, “plain O,” again!

Arrange a couple of fresh raspberries for tartness and color, along with a nice piece of honeydew melon. I cut off about 1/4 of a ripe banana and removed it’s peel. I stuck a chopstick up into the center of the banana (side that was cut from the rest of the banana). I used the chopstick to hold the banana piece in one hand. With my other hand and with a butane, long fire starter, I torched (lightly blackened) the banana to add smokiness and a nice color. By the way, you can grill a whole banana in its peel and these are wonderful. I Removed the chopstick and cut the banana piece lengthwise and put one per plate by the honeydew melon. I sprinkled a little bit of cinnamon on all of the fruit. Next, I squeezed some fresh lime over the fruit. By the way, just honeydew melon with lime juice alone, is like a marriage made in heaven! If you have not tried this, do your ‘buds’ (taste buds) a favor and try it! Last, I squeezed lime over the fish and twisted the peel and laid it over each fillet. Dinner was DELICIOUS!!!

We had some leftover rice so for desert, I made some fresh rice pudding. I added a little bit of coconut milk to the rice, a little cinnamon and maple syrup to taste. I whisked about 3 table spoons of heavy cream with a pinch of Xanthan gum to thicken. Using two small ceramic custard dishes, I spooned the pudding into them and placed two red raspberries for contrast, tartness and color. Last, I added a little dollop of  whipped cream, and we added our lips and gums and then delicious, here it comes! 🙂

Leftover pudding was placed into a covered plastic container in the refrigerator to have again and again until we run out or I make more. Try this meal.You and all that like fish will say, WOW!


Completed Meal – The Prodigal Son (or Daughter) 🙂

Tomorrow (Today), we’re doing: grass seed, taxes, steak au poivre, spaghetti carbonara, grilling ‘white hots’ and corn on the BBQ, making more sugar cubes, making fresh beets and horseradish mix, Scotch Mules, smoked fish dip or whatever my boss Susan, tells me! 🙂

Categories: Beverages, Cooking, Entertainment, Food, Live Laugh Love, Shopping, The Gathering Place | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Katoomba, NSW, Australia

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved

Guhday Mates, from Dahni your Aussie Katoomba travel guide

Guhday Mates, from Donnie your Aussie Katoomba travel guide

On April 11 through the morning of April 14th, 2014, we went to The Blue Mountains and rented a cottage (see last post) in Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia.

Today, I want to share with you some of the flavor of Katoomba. It was a quaint, charming and eclectic community – MY KIND OF PLACE! Besides the fact that it is located in The Blue Mountains and is quite hilly to walk the streets, it reminded me of Telluride, Colorado in the United States. Telluride is a community in the Rocky Mountains where people come to ski in the winter and it is also a hub to get to Aspen or Vale when those areas are closed to airports or other transportation, due to the weather. Although Telluride and Katoomba do not share the same type of weather conditions, it’s their common flavor that is similar to me. Telluride basically started as a ‘hippie communue’ back in the sixities. I suppose as many of them grew up and decided to get jobs and start a ski resort? 🙂

In Katoomba, there are many young people, arts and crafts, just like in Telluride. Our pictorial journey below, begins with an example of some local artwork, a mural painted on a brick wall of an abandoned garage across the road from our cottage. We saw this as we were heading into town.

Mural on wall of abandoned garage

Mural on wall of abandoned garage

In Katoomba, we noted many wonderful and fashionable hats on the heads of many people, young and old, male and female. ‘The Hattery,’ where I found and purchased my Akubra hat you see me wearing in the picture above, is from Katoomba. For more information about my hat in a previous post on this blog see: Hats

But Kotoomba is more than just a young/artistic/eclectic community, it is a travel destination! Katoomba is the city host or gateway to The Blue Mountains and both attract many people from around the world, every year. We noted many differnet people, accents and languages being spoken while we were here. There are several popular and international establishments and connections here. A friend from the United States informed me that soon after we returned from our trip to this area, Prince William & Kate of England were planning on visiting the following week. The English and Australian connection is just one example of many international connections.

Our first night here as we were walking to downtown for some food, some one-hundred (at least) sulfur crested cockatoos flew over our heads. Caitlin stayed at the cottage with baby Felix and she saw them fly right over our deck and into the eucalyptus trees of the Blue Mountains, right around sunset. Even though I did not get a picture of this amazing sight, in a future post, I will share pictures of four of these beautiful birds and sppecifically one that certainly seemed to want to pose for me, from the huge evergreen near the deck of our cottage.

But this night, on recommendation of a local librarian, we went to dinner at an authentic Korean restaurant. Susan and Jonathan ordered each a different entree and I chose one that is supposed to be one of the most popular among street people in Korea. Dduk Bok-ki was so incredible, both Susan and Jonathan wished they had ordered it! It was a sweet rice, shaped like tube pasta, but not hollow. It was made from rice flour and steamed. It was included in this huge plate of steamed vegetables. You could have it mild, medium or hot. I chose medium. It was inexpensive, delicious and so filling and yet, I can’t believe I ate the whole thing, even sharing a lot with Susan and Jonathan, I was stuffed with delight!

Other foods include the best coffee I have either ever had or it’s been so long, I cannot recall any better. This we purchased from a little, almost a hole in the wall, cafe from the Elephant Bean Coffee. Then there was the most incredible fresh-baked croissant from a cute little bakery, I’ve ever eaten and shared the crumbs with a local pigeon. 🙂

In another post in the future, I will share about some Australian beverages, including the chili wine we tasted and bought in Katoomba. Yes, you read that correctly, Chili wine made entirely out of 100% chili. It was sweet and hot. We intended to bring it home, but we opened it as soon as we got back to the cottage and finished it off the next day when we got back home to Camden. It was fantastic with cheese and now that I’ve come to appreciate oysters (at least Australian and Apalachicola, Florida oysters in the US), DEFINITELY WITH OYSTERS!!! I’m almost sorry we drank it with out purchasing another bottle to bring home, but “no worries,” this Australian exclusive product, has a website and this wine can be ordered online and shipped to your door!!!! 🙂

We had dinner and some chocolate at the Paragon restaurant. This place could have a post and then some, all its own. It was a mixture of Greek/Romanesque architecture and art-deco and hand carved reliefs on the walls. It does make me wonder if the garden area behind our cottage might actually be owned by the owners of this restaurant or some related family members?  The food was fabulous and but of course, WE HAD TO TRY THEIR CHOCOLATE! According to their interior signage, it’s the chocolate that made Katoomba famous. I have no way to prove or disprove that statement, but this place has been here since 1921 I believe, has a US connection (the wife of the owner was from the United States), and there are many pictures throughout the place of famous people that have signed their names and have eaten here. So what does that say to you?! Some of the pictures I recognized and some I did not. Art Acord (silent film western star), Clark Gable and Peter O’Toole. So, that’s pretty telling. You can search for the Paragon Cafe online and find many interesting things. They also have a page on Facebook.

There were many unusual and wonderful things to experience in Katoomba, but time and words fail me. The best that I can offer you are some humble pictures. I hope you enjoy them! 🙂

As stated previously, Katoomba is quite hilly and it exercises your heart, lungs and legs to walk here, but well worth the effort! The air was crisp, cool and clear at this time of the year during Australia’s late fall or early winter. Days were nicely pleasant with a couple of layers of long sleeve shirts and the nights build-a-fire cool. The downtown district is home to many cafes, shops and stores from the unusual, the bizarre and the, just lovely. There are examples of fine architecture in beautifully restored or well-maintained hotels and other buildings.

There were many unusual and wonderful things to experience in Katoomba, but time and words fail me. As I said, the best that I can offer you are some humble pictures, my personal recommendation to COME HERE if you ever have the opportunity and a link to some Irish music I recorded live, on my way back to the cottage one day. I hope you enjoy all that follows here! 🙂

Mural on Wall

Mural on wall of the Three  Sisters and etc., of The Blue Mountains at Echo Point

Downtown Katoomba

Downtown Katoomba – sure why not espresso and waffles! 🙂

The Elephant Bean Cafe

The Elephant Bean Cafe (notice anyone familiar?)

The Elephant Bean Cafe (Awesome coffee)

The Elephant Bean Cafe
(awesome coffee)

Bakery with fresh baked almond croissants. YAY! :)

Bakery with fresh baked almond croissants. YAY! 🙂

If you must eat croissants, why not artistically!

If you must eat croissants, why not artistically!

Closeup of our table

Closeup of our table

And the pigeons enjoyed your crumbs :)

And the pigeons enjoyed your crumbs 🙂

My first ever female street performer. She was actually very good.

My first ever female street performer. She was actually very good.

Little Aussie squirrels picture, for  my sister Carol Lee

Little Aussie squirrels picture, for my sister Carol Lee

Ducks or Kiwi birds in boots? I dunno, but they were cute, so I had to take this! :)

Ducks or Kiwi birds in boots? I dunno, but they were cute, so I had to take this! 🙂

Clock bridge over street

Clock bridge over street

Old-time informative bill

Old-time informative bill

Mural of Katoomba Falls I

Mural of Katoomba Falls I

Mural II

Mural of Katoomba Falls II

Hotel Carrington Entrance

Carrington Place (hotel) Entrance

Hand carved wall, Carrington Place Entrance

Hand carved wall, Carrington Place Entrance

Irish connection

Irish connection

Irish connection II

Irish connection II

Want to Wassail me for some mulled wine? :)

Want to Wassail me for some Mulled Wine? 🙂

The circus in town? :)

The circus in town? 🙂

Paragon I

Paragon I

Paragon II

Paragon II

Paragon III

Paragon III

Paragon Chocolate "The chocolate that made Katoomba famous"

Paragon Chocolate
“The chocolate that made Katoomba famous”

Chocolates I

Chocolates I

Chocolates II

Chocolates II

Chocolates III

Chocolates III

Lost Bear Gallery

Lost Bear Gallery (art gallery)

Whale out of wooden sticks

Whale out of wooden sticks in window of Lost Bear Gallery

Oh, there the lost bear is! :)

Oh, there the lost bear is! 🙂

Closeup of found lost bear art

Closeup of found lost bear art

Nice wall

Nice wall

Interesting walk I

Interesting walk I

Interesting Walk II  (same walk, different view)

Interesting Walk II
(same walk, different view)

Can you see the heart shape?

Can you see the heart shape?

Last stop before back to cottage and look what I saw and heard! :

Last stop before  heading back to our cottage and look what you saw and heard! :

Locals, quite possibly of Irish roots, gathered in this pub for grub, beers and cheers and playing some really nice Irish jigs. There were children present and other watchers/listeners like me. Flutes, violins, guitar, banjo, a concertina (similar to an accordion) and one gent (laddie) played the Uilleann pipes. The bar was open and run by another international connection. She was anice lady from Vietnam. It was a gorgeous day and the windows were open in the pub.

Several falutists

Several flutists and violinists and concertina far left

Flute player closest to me

Flute player closest to me

Uilleann Pipe Player

Uilleann Pipe Player

The uilleann pipes are the characteristic national bagpipe of Ireland. Earlier known in English as “union pipes”, their current name is a partial translation of the Irish-language term píobaí uilleann (literally, “pipes of the elbow”), from their method of inflation.There is no historical record of the name or use of the term ‘uilleann pipes’ before the twentieth century. It was an invention of Grattan Flood and the name stuck. People mistook the term ‘union’ to refer to the 1800 Act of Union; this is incorrect as Breandán Breathnach points out that a poem published in 1796 uses the term ‘union.’

The bag of the uilleann pipes is inflated by means of a small set of bellows strapped around the waist and the right arm (in the case of a right-handed player; in the case of a left-handed player the location and orientation of all components are reversed). The bellows not only relieve the player from the effort needed to blow into a bag to maintain pressure, they also allow relatively dry air to power the reeds, reducing the adverse effects of moisture on tuning and longevity. Some pipers can converse or sing while playing.

Source: Wikipedia

And a good time was had be all! :)

And a good time was had by all! 🙂

Please click on the following link to a recording I made of these musicians. It’s only about a minute clip, but I think you will enjoy it.

Categories: Art, Aussie, Australia, Australian Life, Blue Mountains, Chocolate, Coffee, Entertainment, Family & Friends, Food, Fun, Irish, Irish Music, Japan, Katoomba, Music, Photography, The Gathering Place, The Global Village, The Land Down Under, Travel, Uncategorized, Walkabout | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Hats

Guhday Mates, from Dahni your Aussie Hat Guide

Guhday Mates, from Donnie your Aussie Hat Guide

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved

Besides meeting baby Felix for the first time, spending time with family, visiting Australia for the first time, seeing the plants and animals of this wonderful country, I had one thing I wanted to bring back home, a hat.

I love hats of all kinds and always have I guess. But personally, I don’t think I look all that great in them. There is just one exception, in my opinion. Years ago, Susan found a relatively inexpensive black felt hat from J.C. Penny or JCP for short. I love this hat and have received several compliments in wearing it, so I suppose I look OK in it?

My JCP Hat

My JCP Hat

It has been associated with everything from Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, and Indiana Jones from the movie, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ OK, I get those connections, but one person thought it was a cowboy hat, which for the life of me, I do not understand that at all!

I also have a used, but cleaned white canvas hat given to me by a friend for spring and summer wear. I also purchased an inexpensive white panama-like hat. Neither of those two hats has ever received any comments while I’m wearing them so, what does that tell you? 🙂 I do have a baseball type cap which I rarely ever wear and one that has flaps to cover my ears in winter that I use when plowing or shoveling snow. I probably look like a dork wearing it, but my head and ears stay worm. 🙂

It is difficult to find anyone to dry clean hats anymore where we live. Most dry cleaners used to perform this service. I have had it cleaned twice. Once when I worked for Coit Carpet Cleaning in the Rochester, NY area, as their central office in Buffalo, NY. had a large dry cleaning and rug cleaning plant. But I no longer work for Coit and I’m not sure if they perform this service anymore?

The second time I had my hat cleaned was performed by a master hatter, right in Henrietta, NY. A friend told me to check him out. He was close to where we lived in the city until we moved to the country. His name is, Dave Brown. Dave Brown is a master hatter and he makes custom designed hats for many stars on TV and the silver screen. His hats have been featured in many familiar movies and soon to be seen in current projects. One day, I would love to have a hat custom made by him. Dave Brown the Hatter, is located at: 3054 West Henrietta Road, Rochester, NY 14623

You should check out his website, you will be amazed! see:


Rochester, NY

Well anyway, back to my story. I really think hats are sexy and men and women that wear the right one look handsome and gorgeous and children look adorable in them, adults and the elderly look great! Sometimes, even pets look spectacular in hats.

I was walking around Camden, NSW, Austraila just a short time ago, becoming familiar with this great community and yes, always on the look-out for a hat store or place that sells them. I found such a store and actually, I was just looking for a short sleeve shirt. But there they were, hats! 🙂

My search just started off looking for a bushman’s hat, a traditional top wear in Australia. But this store had Akubra.

An Autralian Icon

An Australian Icon

Akubra Hats are an Australian Icon. For 130 years Akubra has been making its famous fur felt hats. The Akubra name is synonymous with the landscape of outback Australia, and our unique hats form an important part of the Australian national uniform. In the modern era Akubra Hats still form an important part of the national culture, being worn by the hard working men and women on the land as well as being presented as national gifts to those visiting dignitaries who want to take a piece of Australia home.”


The store had several styles including the one like Paul Hogan wore as the character, ‘Crocodile Dundee,’ in the series of movies made with this name. It was called, ‘The Croc.’ I really thought the crocodile teeth were fake and made out of plastic. I found out later that my assumption was false.

But I found a style in black that I really liked called, ”The Coolabah,” so named after the tree in the famous Aussie song, ‘Waltzing Matilda.’ But alas, it was more than I wanted to pay and besides that, they did not have my size, which was supposed to be size 57 cm by Australian metric standards. “No worries,” as they say in Australia, we would soon be attending the Camden Show and hats would be sold there.

At the Camden Show, I could not find any hats I liked and there was not a single Akubra sold at the show. Hats for sale were just some inexpensive and poor quality ‘knock-offs,’ mostly made in China. I even tried on a  ‘Croc’ wannabee, but Susan said, “Absolutely NOT!” 🙂 I will say though however, this hat was made in Australia with farm raised crocodile with leather band and teeth. One actually has to have a travel permit to carry this hat or a real Akubra out of the country. “No worries,” the permit is attached to the hats! 🙂

Later in the week, Susan & I returned to the local store. My heart was still fixed on, ”The Coolabah.’ The owner of the shop was away and a clerk promised to see if any were available, anywhere and in my size, even if he could trade one for another. Apparently, size 57 is the most common and ”The Coolabah’ is the most favored among foreigners and in black. Have you ever experienced something similar, you like something, but can’t get it or they stop making it?

Things did not bode well for, but the store took my email and said they would try to find one and promised to send a note as such – “Found Hat – Bring Head!” 🙂 Sadly, I never received such an email and it takes about 3 months for Akubra to make new hats. Once sold out, this is typically how long you need to wait. It looked like I would be leaving Australia in a couple of weeks without an Akubra!? 😦

To give you an idea of how great these hats are, the clerk told us that in 1986, Stetson hats of the United States had an arrangement with Akubra to make their hats in Australia. A Stetson hat is referred to as:  ‘An American Tradition.’

In 1865, with a $100 investment, John B. Stetson rented a small room, bought the tools he needed, bought $10 worth of fur and the Stetson hat company was born. They are still made in the United States. A ‘Stetson’ is considered the most popular ‘cowboy hat in the world.’ Unlike the comment one person made about my black, JCP (J. C. Penny) hat, Stetsons’ are really cowboy hats! But the clerk in Camdem, Australia wanted a Stetson styled cowboy hat, made by Akubra in 1986, He still has this hat and it virtually, still looks brand new, though now, around 28 years old! I believe an Akubra is not a purchase, but an investment which will last for many years in rain, sleet or snow!

For more information on Stetson hats see:

During April 11-14, 2014, we were in the Blue Mountains in the town of Katoomba, NSW, Australia. We walked into a very unusual place that was part hat shop on one side and part cafe on the other, both sharing the same address. I chose the hat side and Susan and I went in for a look.

The Hattery sells all kinds of hats and accessories. They sell more Akubras than any other store in Australia. With this much clout and selling-power, they are allowed to change the bands for custom designing of Akubra hats and they have an exclusive design and color to their store. This hat cannot be purchased anywhere else in the world, but in the Blue Mountains, in Katoombah, Australia and at The Hattery or through their online store!

The Hattery

  • one of Australia’s largest specialist hat shops
  • holds the largest inventories of stock in Australia – so when you order you can be confident the hat is available immediately.
  • is located just west of Sydney, Australia, in the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains at Katoomba.
  • is open 7 days a week, for visitors to our shop and on line customers
  • is a established family owned and financially secure company that has specialized in mail order for international and local customers for over 16 years.
  • we pride ourselves on offering the same level of service to our on line customers as to our in store customers

The Hattery
Shop 2, 197 Katoomba Street, Katoomba, 2780, Australia.
Australia: Phone: 02 4782 5003 – Fax: 02 4782 6265
Local call Australia wide: 1300 302 146
International: Phone: + 61 2 4782 5003 Fax: + 61 2 4782 6265

Hats, Hats, Hats!

Hats, Hats, Hats!

Hats & Cafe (same address and right next to each other)

Hats & Cafe (same address and right next to each other)
















Cafe for while you wait for your hat or wear while you enjoy the Cafe

Cafe for while you wait for your hat or wear while you enjoy the Cafe















Even a formal tophat

Even a formal top hat

For girls of any age

For girls of any age

For Young Ladies

For Young Ladies


For Ladies

For Ladies















Something for Everyone

Something for Everyone

'The Croc'

‘The Croc’

The Croc – Akubra


53-64 cm 

83 mm, Cut Edge

Features a genuine farmed crocodile band with real crocodile teeth and satin lining.




'The Coolabah'

‘The Coolabah’

Coolabah – Akubra

Black, Bran, Regency Fawn, Santone Fawn

53-64 cm 

79mm, Cut Edge

This hat has been a successful addition to the Akubra range and is particularly popular with visitors to Australia.
Features a genuine farmed crocodile band, satin lining and eyelet vents.


The Coolabah in black size 57 is what I was looking for. But my head size was measured at the Hattery and it was a size 58. Guess I have a bigger head than thought. 🙂

Actually, you really cannot go by size necessarily. You really need to try on one, but if you are pretty sure of your size then order it from the Hattery in that size. They can ship it from Australia to the United States, almost faster than it would be to ship something from within the USA! And if it is the wrong size, let them know and another will be quickly sent out, even before you send the other back! They pride themselves in exceptional service, going even beyond Akubra’s suggestions, for the care and instructions for the long-life of your hat.

For myself, I chose ‘The Blue Mountains,’ Akubra, with approval from Susan. 🙂 It is an exclusive hat to The Hattery and the exclusive color is a dark blue (almost black), representing The Blue Mountains. I have had several compliments. I am very happy and more than satisfied! 🙂

Dahni's 'Blue Moutains' Akubra, size 58 color: Loden (dark blue)

Donnie’s ‘Blue Moutains’ – Akubra – ‘Leisure Time’ – size 58 – color: Loden (dark blue)

Oh by the way, my hat cost $40 less than what I was expecting to spend. Gotta love that! Also, after publishing this post, a friend of ours Janet, read it and left a comment on my Facebook page that this week, Prince William and Kate will be visiting The Blue Mountains. Janet wrote, Maybe he (Prince William) will get a hat like yours!!! “

If you would like additional information or to see how these authentic and superior quality hats are made, see videos from the Akubra website to follow here.

Categories: Akubra, Aussie, Australia, Australian busman's hat, Australian Life, Blue Mountains, Family & Friends, Fashion, Hats, Japan, Katoomba, Shopping, The Gathering Place, The Land Down Under, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Trolleys

by Donnie Hayden

© 2014, all rights reserved

Guhday mates from Dahni,  Your Aussie Koala Coles' Trolley Expert

Guhday mates from Donnie, Your Aussie Koala Coles’ Trolley Expert

Well, first off, I do apologize for this post running a little behind. I have been working on several to try and get ahead. We are leaving on Friday, I believe, for the weekend to the Blue Mountains and I’m not sure if I will have Internet/WIFI access until we get back to Camden, Sunday night? So, after today’s post, I will schedule a couple of posts to publish automatically around midnight of Eastern Standard time (EST) in the United States.

For today, On: Trolleys.

I’m not exactly sure, but I think Australians refer to “trolleys” as anything that has wheels and moves including: elevators and escalators, but certainly what we call shopping carts in the United States.

In Camden, New South Wales (NSW), Australia, the two local and frequently visited places by the general public, for grocery shopping are: Woolworth’s (not the familiar past 5 and dime department store) and Coles’. This post is about Coles’ and their trolleys (shopping carts).

Have you ever grabbed a shopping cart at the store and it seems like you always get the one that has a flat spot on one wheel and as it rolls it goes frump, frump, frump, squeaks or just doesn’t roll right? Me too! Problem solved at Coles’!

Coles' Trolleys

Coles’ Trolleys

OMG, these have BIG O’ HUGE wheels and roll so smoothly, you check between the wheels and the floor, just to make sure the trolley (cart) is not actually floating over the floor! As shown above, there is one size for quick shopping of a few items or the average size for more items or say, your weekly grocery shopping. I say “weekly” shopping loosely as, it appears just like in Japan, many people shop daily. Like Japan, Australian refrigerators are smaller than in the U.S.A., which seems to suggest that many Aussies shop frequently. They also, as the Japanese, like their stuff, really fresh!

There are, of course, some other carts with baby seats similar to the car seat or child-restraint seats used in most vehicles. The baby seat carts are attached to the trolley/cart and have seat belts.

There are trolleys/carts for those that are walking impaired or challenged.

Then there is another kind of trolley/cart that I have never seen before!

Jolly Trolleys for Kids

Jolly Trolleys for Kids

These are much more than just adorably cute! They are constructed with the same quality of materials as all the others. The flags attached are not to advertise the name of the store. The flags are so the adults (any responsible adult) can easily find the kids. And the trolleys/carts are for much more than mere amusement, to keep the children occupied. They are important teaching aides. And they help instill in the child the –  “I’m not a little kid, I’m a grown-up,” attitude, most kids desire to embrace. And each child is instructed that if they do not return the cart to the place where they got it at the end of their shopping experience, they will not be allowed to use one next time. That’s a pretty good lesson in personal responsibility, good manners and discipline.

Father and daughter shopping

Father and daughter shopping

Notice how the little girl is in front, leading her father? Oh, and she is taking this so seriously too, just like an adult! 🙂

Oh, I love these trolleys/carts! They are the best made and the easiest to steer and guide and glide that I have ever seen! And yes, just like in the United States, I’ve seen these in and around the neighborhood. I know of no complaints at Coles’ so, I guess these wandered off trolleys/carts, make their way back home, eventually! 🙂

With all this sincere and honest praise about these trolleys/carts, there is just one problem…


…what’s missing in this picture?

Yes, what’s missing in the above picture? Yes, that’s my foot you see. But there is no bottom rail!!! I can neither be pushed nor run fast and jump on and ride this cart through the store and the parking lot! 😦

I suppose these were built this way because, either my wife Susan told them they should or they just knew I was coming! 🙂

Categories: Australia, Australian Life, Entertainment, Family & Friends, Food, Fun, Inspiration, Japan, Shopping, The Gathering Place, The Land Down Under, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On: Cutting Loose the Cable

by Donnie Hayden © 2014, all rights reserved

Cut It Loose!

Cut It Loose!

Coaxial Cable Connector

Coaxial Cable Connector

I’m sure by now, most of you have heard that Comcast Cable has put in an offer to buy Time Warner Cable for the paltry sum of, $45 billion dollars. This comes after Comcast is already the largest cable company in the United States and after it completed its purchase of television network and movie studio NBC Universal, just a few months ago. Geeze, I wonder if the courts will think it already a monopoly? I wonder if this is allowed to go through, what it will mean to all their perspective customers, but first, what will the new company be called?

CastWarn Cable?

CastWarn Cable?

Combining the NBC familiar peacock rainbow colors and the Time Warner logo and part of the name from the present two companies, will the merger make for the new name being, CastWarn Cable? 🙂

I don’t know what cable TV/Internet service provider you presently use, but ours is Time Warner. Our experience has for the most part, been great service.

Each time we have had a service technician come to our home, each have always gone beyond our expectations. Our Internet through Time Warner has been, Road Runner and the speed is lightening fast and rarely has there ever been an interruption of service (down-time) and when this has occurred, it has never been for long.

Just a quick glance at reviews online indicate that we may be only a few with little complaints about Time Warner service? Others say it is terrible and many more believe that Comcast is even worse. But we have severe issues with Time Warner and certainly wonder how much worse it will be, IF this merger between Comcast & Time Warner goes through?

Our issues with Time Warner are three-fold:

1. I believe their equipment – cable modem, DVR (digital video recorder) their tuner box and their remote control are all crap!
2. Their programming sucks (but still better than Dish satellite. Premium channels? Whoopeee, I could care less how many months they give it away for FREE, I don’t like them even at the price of FREE. Why? I don’t like their premium channels primarily because, they keep repeating the same programs and movies over and over and over and over AGAIN & AGAIN!!!
3. Price! Despite the fact that there are no contracts, the prices keep going UP and UP and UP and UP! And they don’t bother to tell you your FREE stuff is up, they just start charging you for it. Now if you collect your equipment and take it back to them, watch how fast they drop the price. Quite frankly, I resent that. Why don’t they give a good deal in the first place?

Yes, it’s time to cut the cable!

Cut the Cable!

Cut the Cable!

Oh NO! Nothing on the screen! What shall we do? How will we live? 🙂

Not to worry! But, YES, the bottom line is, we are looking to cut the cable loose and find some other options. We may have to keep Road Runner for Internet  or whatever it is called if Comcast acquires Time Warner. Maybe they will call it’ Road Eater’ because, Comcast already seems to gobble up everything in its path. But I am looking into other options for our Internet service. Well, that leaves TV. What are we going to do about TV?

This is all kind of exciting. I consider myself a New-O. I like a lot of the New technology and ‘stuff’,’ but I also like a lot of the O (old) ‘stuff’ that is tried and trued. Television was commercially available in the 1920’s, but it really took hold in the 1950’s. WOW, it really has not been around all that long when you think about it! It started out just black and white with round screens and the stations did not broadcast 24 hours a day; 7 days a week. Then, TV evolved to rectangular shapes and added color. Just a few short years ago it evolved again, with the introduction of HD (high definition). Broadcasters started to replace the old analog signals with the new digital signals. This whole explosion to me has been like the change from black and white TV to color AGAIN, in comparison! Now, we are pressing onward with HD 3D TV.

But again, after WWII, TV took hold in this country. It was a common sight to see family and friends gathering together around the television in the evening. TV trays were invented so we could eat and not miss our favorite show. Also common were antennas mounted on our rooftops and even the set-top familiar Rabbit-Ears appeared, to tune in our distant broadcast programs. Well, today, there is the exciting combination of the new technology with the old.



Like in the picture above, it combines black and white (the old) with the new, by way of the colored, flat-screen, HDTV.  But what you do not see in the picture is how the TV gets its signal. Most TV’s now are made with either an internal HD antenna or the ability to receive these signals along with the ‘old’ UHF and VHF signals. More and more stations are broadcasting in digital signals. Soon, analog signals will disappear, new cameras will be used and more and more programs will begin to be broadcast in 3D. So, we return to the past for an old solution, sort of.

If your new wide screen, flat panel, HD or HD 3D TV does not have an internal antenna, the following are just some examples of other options.



The first one might look familiar? It should because, it is like the common-sighted antenna, roof mounted, just like in the past. The second one shown does nearly the same thing, only it is designed for the interior or the inside of your home or business. The third one looks like a modem or a router. It is about the same size as one of those devices, but it is an antenna for the TV. And some even come in several colors. There are a whole bunch of choices, styles, sizes and etc. for HD antennas. There is a downside and an upside to these, however.

On the down-side, these antennas are designed to pickup signals on average, from around 25-70 miles away from the source at the broadcast towers. This means, you will only be able to pick up your local channels. If this is all you want, then this is not a problem. But which device is the best for you will depend on several variables.

a. What channels will you receive? Of those, will that be OK for you?
b. How far are you from the broadcast towers
c. What is the strength of those signals
d. Your TV
e. Your location – do you live on a hill, are there trees all around you, are you in a hollow and perhaps, there are many other factors which could affect the quality of the signal.

The best advice for solving the problems above is, find a professional installer of the equipment in YOUR AREA! Their experience of similar situations of local installations, may prove out to recommend the best antenna for you and your location. The other piece of advice is simply, just trial and error. You keep trying until you get the best outcome for your particular needs and situation.

Obviously, the upside to HD antennas is the cost. Instead of paying monthly bills which amount to 100’s if not thousands of dollar each year, what you see with an HD antenna is, what you get. And what you get is FREE. Yes, FREE TV! No fees and there is nothing to fear as it is all perfectly legal! The broadcasters own the equipment and the towers it is connected to, but they DON’T OWN the air (airwaves) those signals are sent through to you! Cable TV own the cable lines that come to your house and perhaps the equipment in your house that gets it to your TV, but they are charging us for programming and the equipment, because they don’t own the air (airwaves) either! And the the same goes for Dish Network or Direct TV. They may have paid for the satellite orbiting in space (but chances are that WE the People, ALREADY PAID for that. After you have paid for your antenna and perhaps for the installation, all the channels that you receive are all FREE!

If you want anything more than just local channels, there is the possibility of accessing movies and other content through your TV and/or your computer. To do this, you still need to have Internet service and as fast as is available, a cable modem and a router to network your devices and fast processing speeds among all your devices. Cable modem? But I thought this was about cutting the cable?

Technically, we are not actually endeavoring to cut the actual cable (coaxial cable), but sever the out-go of our money to the cable TV service provider. For example, we WERE paying Time Warner $5 per month to RENT their combination modem/router in addition to their high fees monthly for programming. Now five bucks a month may not seem like much, but it adds up. And remember I said previously that in our opinion, Time Warner’s equipment is “crap?” Well their modem/router had a lousy signal, even though we had the fastest Internet speed available from them and in our area. The signal comes into the house through the modem/router and then it goes out to our TV and other devices. It was slow! The TV picture (screen) often seemed to jumped or freeze momentarily, many, many times. So we replaced their modem/router with our own separate modem and router and when their equipment is returned, we will no longer have to rent it for $5 per month for as long as we stay with them. And until we settle on a more permanent solution for a HD antenna and an alternative for internet service this is what we are going to do –

I’m taking back Time Warner’s modem/router, down-grading to basic cable light (just local channels) for around $13 per month and getting rid of their DVR and save another $15 per month or so. All in all, these changes will save us 100’s if not thousands of dollars per year!

Not to worry! When you are here at The Gathering Place, we will have plenty of content, signal and speed for you to enjoy, however it works out!

Unplug or cut the connection between your bank account and Cable or Satellite TV today! It’s your money!

If you need a new TV, HD antenna or other home entertainment ‘stuff,’ click or scan the QR code in the far right lower corner of this page or see:


Categories: Cable TV, Entertainment, Family & Friends, Get Paid to Shop, HD antenna, Ideas, Internet, Saving Money, Shopping, Television, The Gathering Place, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On: Cell Phones

Most of us have a cell phone and many of us have smart phones. If we have had these for awhile, we understand 2 year contracts and upgrades. For example, the approximate cost of a new iPhone 5s is approximately $649.00 for 16GB (gigabyte) of storage for an unlocked phone. So a new contract or an upgrade is about $199.00. The full price of the phone is absorbed over the two years under contract.

I have an iPhone 4s and my wife Susan, HAD another smartphone. She had problems with it shutting down all the time, so she called customer service and they sent her a new phone with a return box for the old phone, which she promptly shipped back. Then she received confirmation that the old phone was received, BUT they said it had water damage, so she would be charged for the new phone. After days and weeks and representative after representative, they would allow her to return the new phone. She then had to purchase an older model ‘dumb’ phone on Ebay and we downgraded her data plan. This was inconvenient, but Susan decided to just deal with it for awhile because, we were eligible for upgrades the 28th of the Month of February, 2014. Then she was notified that they did not receive the new phone back ON TIME. They had the phone, but according to them, it was not sent on time. So, we were billed for the new phone that she no longer had.

After days and weeks and representative after representative, Susan had done everything she was told to do. This person said this, that person said that, this was wrong and that person was not authorised to say/do that or no one ever followed through with what Susan was told. You get the idea, this was a huge mess! FINALLY, the new phone was taken off our bill.

We were told that we could upgrade early (about a week before our contract ended). We are leaving the country on 2-26-14, would not be in this country on our upgrade date and we wanted to take and use our new phones while on our trip.

On 2/13/14, I called a corporate store of our carrier to give them the details of our situation and to set up an appointment so we could upgrade early. As it happened, the person I spoke with on the phone, was the store manager. If anyone was knowledgeable of company policies, surely it would be him! He was, BUT what he told us was not what we were told by corporate customer service. Our only choices were:

1. to get some other phone we did not want, pay $27.00 per month and trade them in later, for what we wanted when we return to the ‘states.’ 
2. keep our existing phones and plan until we return to the ‘states’
3. Pay an early termination fee, for both our phones and switch carriers

By the way, Susan’s early termination fee would not be based on the ‘dumb’ phone she owns and has right now, but on the smart phone she no longer has, because it was returned to the carrier, months ago. Why? Because that is the contract we signed. 

Needless to say, Susan had HAD IT! She was livid! She was so angry when she left the house to go and babysit 3 of the grand kids, I was concerned for others on the road that might cross her path! 😦


Do you ever feel like this?

Susan was definitely ready to go to another carrier! I called one and explained our situation, wants and needs. They would be able to help us with everything we wanted and needed and would even pay us back for any early termination fees, charged to us by our current carrier. First, to change carriers, I needed to find out what our early terminations fees would be.

So I called our carrier and reached an automatic messaging system. I was given several choices to choose from including, ‘other.’ I chose ‘other.’ After to being asked to state my question, I responded with, “Early termination.” I was so quickly connected to a live person, it almost made me dizzy! 🙂

I was connected to a ‘real person’ in the ‘Customer Retention Department.’ And she really spoke my language very clearly. The lady was extremely nice and professional. She pulled up all our files and could see every single note and name of person, the dates and every call made by us or from them to us, about our situation. She apologised profusely, for all the confusion. I will give the carrier this, they certainly did document everything! The problems lie in different policies from the corporate office, from a corporate store and from failure to follow-up by anyone that we had spoken to in customer service previously. Based on perhaps 100’s to 1,000’s of calls each person might make in a given day, it is quite easily to become overwhelmed or to easily forget one call as you move to the next one. And I suppose it is easy to overlook the notes on your screen too.

But, as this all turned out, we were able to upgrade early, get the phones we wanted and needed and are happily signed on, for another 2 year contract with the same carrier we have been loyal to, for years. We had never really had a problem before this. So, we are all happy now and waiting on our new phones to arrive by FedEx around Tuesday next, with a promise call the same day, from the same lady that helped us. Once the phones are in , we will just need to call and activate them and all our data, pictures, apps, contacts and etc. will be instantly transferred to the new devices. We are now, just waiting on fulfillment of these promises, but at this moment, I have no doubt that they will be.

So what is the point of this long post? What could it mean to you? First, I’m not sure how many devices you may or may not own? But for us, we have three. I’m not sure what you pay monthly, for just your one phone, but again, we have 2 smart phones, and a MIFI . A MIFI is a portable WIFI hotspot device so we can use our laptop and un-tethered 1st generation iPad, for Internet access if we are traveling and/or not able to connect to a FREE WIFI hot spot. So, just remember that no matter what you may pay for one device each month, multiply that amount X three for comparison. This amounts to 1,000’s of dollars per year to the carrier.

If you find yourself in a similar situation as we were or if you are having problems with your carrier, call them up and if asked or prompted, tell them you are considering changing carriers and you want to know what your early termination fees would be. If you have not already called ‘Customer Retention,’ I am quite confident that you will quickly be connected!!! They really don’t want to loose your business. Well maybe they might not care if all you mean to them is a few hundred dollars, but our 1,000’s certainly got their attention! I’ll go back to the last statement – “They really don’t want to lose your business!” If not from a monetary value, then at least from a public relations point of view. Sad, but true, complaints sometimes are louder than praise!

Please understand, our motivation was NOT to ‘guilt’ our carrier into giving us what  we wanted/needed. Our motivation was NOT to intimidate our carrier that if they didn’t do what we wanted/needed, we were going to another carrier. Our motivation was NOT to get something for nothing or anything special! All we wanted/needed was, what we want and need. Thankfully, it looks like what we want and need will come from our existing carrier. I just received a text confirmation (while writing this post) on my existing phone, that our new phones have been shipped and are scheduled for delivery on Tuesday, as promised!

The numbers to customer retention may not be published, known to you or readily available from your carrier, BUT THEY HAVE ONE or MORE!!! Just call customer service and tell them you are interested in cancelling your service or you are just wanting to know what your early termination fees would be. Make sure you use or say the words in red, bold italicised text as above. I can almost guarantee you will be, almost instantly connected to a live person in your language, at the corporate office and customer retention.


“Hello, Customer Retention, Where Happy Customers Stay Happy Customers! How May I help you?”

Wouldn't you always rather feel like this?

Wouldn’t you always rather feel like this?

If you need new phones, devices, new plans, or a new carrier, click or scan the QR code in the far right lower corner of this page or see:


Categories: Cell Phones, Family & Friends, Ideas, Inspiration, Saving Money, Shopping, The Gathering Place, Things that really matter, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Dear Family, Friends and Friends we have not met yet,

To those of you you that know Susan and I already, we wanted you to hear this from us first and not somehow find out about it, years later and maybe wonder WHY, we never told you or offered to help You!

Susan and I now have five grandchildren and four sons near and far and two are right now, in two other countries. At this time in our lives, we are thinking about building a legacy, particularly for the kids. We wanted not just to leave them a lump sum, but something that will continue to build for them and their future families and on, year after year.

Along the way, we want to continue to expand ‘The Gathering Place,’ our home, and make it better for all that may come here.

OK, so you now know our WHY, but what does this mean to you? That’s a great question! The answer follows.

Just this last Christmas, with very, very few exceptions, Susan shopped online for everything! This is becoming the norm’ everywhere today. Most of us are connected with multiple devices and on social networks. The weird weather we all seem to be having this winter makes it difficult or undesirable to shop at the brick and mortar stores. Besides that, most of us have little time to shop. Many of us are not particularly fond of shopping and especially when we get there and the store does not have what we are looking for. I do not know about you, but I don’t like waiting in long lines and dealing with stupid, rude, impatient and obnoxious people. What if there was a better way? THERE IS!

Just I-Magine  not only SAVING money, but getting PAID to shop for the the things you are going to purchase anyway. Just I-Magine that not only would you be helping yourself, Susan and I, our children and grandchildren, but many others too! Well, this is exactly what it is and what it can do for you! What’s the catch? NONE!!

So this is all you need to do and all Susan and I are asking you for –  just click on the following link or scan the colored design (the QR code Quick Response code) with your smartphone. Both of these actions will take you to our shopping mall – Dahni’s & Susan’s Mall. Once you are in the Mall, have fun! Look around, just browse or shop from the comfort of your favorite chair in your own home. Use our mall to order for pickup at many of your favorite stores. Just I-Magine walking into a crowded store where the lines are full. Your order has been paid for, pulled, ready and is waiting for you. On your way out, turn around and look at all the faces in those long lines, staring at you! Or, have your orders all shipped directly to your home or business with many things qualifying for FREE shipping. We even offer you many exclusive items that you cannot get anywhere else.

Think of Susan and I as your personal concierges, because we are your personal consultants. We are available to help you, any way that we can. If you cannot find what you are looking for or if you have ANY questions, when you get to your mall just look for my name, Dahni Hayden. Either Susan or I or both of us will help you. That’s it!

We will not bug you or beg you to do anything! You do not have to purchase anything! But do not say we did not tell you what we are doing, WHY we’re doing it and what it could mean to you! It’s up to you to click or scan below. It’s up to you if you ever save money or get paid to buy anything from us! If you have any questions, it’s up to you to get them answered to your satisfaction!

But if you are going to shop anyway, why not save time, get paid to shop, have a personal shopper (or two), help yourself, help us and help others while you shop? Oh, and when your friends and family sign up as customers and list you as the referral, we’ll pay you on their qualified purchases! This all seems like a ‘no-brain-er’ to us! It’s all too good, not to be true!

In the simplest terms this is, what it is:

“We are like a huge product brokerage company. We pool our buying power and buy online through a system that we own. We get discounts on products that we normally buy anyway and commissions on the backside and we all share those commissions with other people,  just like you. Why not you?”

Let’s gather together at Your mall!

Happy Saving-Making-Money-Shopping,

Donnie & Susan Hayden



just scan the QR code Arrow_clr

or click the following link:

Categories: Beauty, Entertainment, Family & Friends, Fun, Get Paid to Shop, Health, Ideas, Inspiration, Saving Money, Shopping, The Gathering Place, Travel, Uncategorized, Wealth Building/ | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Come On In


Yes, we’re open, 24-7 and 365 days a year + leap year. Come on in! It’s your place, wherever You are!  It’s like a a B & B (Bed and Breakfast), only it’s not by reservation, but by INVITATION and it’s not a business, it’s our home. Think of it as Your place, where you can B & B & B (Be Yourself, Be Blessed and Become Better!!)  🙂


Categories: Entertainment, Family & Friends, Fun, Health, Ideas, Inspiration, Shopping, Travel, Wealth Building/ | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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