How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


Xian, Day 8, Part One – Xian: Old City Wall (and more)

Before leaving for the day’s tour, I exchanged $100.00 Canadian to 547 Yuan and paid no commission. A Bank of China specific area was set up at the reception desk. The man was pleased with my brand new polymer bills unlike the machine at the previous hotel.

Our first stop of the day was at the old Xian city wall, which is 12 metres high (13.1234 yards). A lot of stairs had to be climbed to get to the top surface (15 metres or 16.4042 yards wide). We saw pedestrians and bikers, but it wasn’t crowded at all. Due to the short time allocated to look around, we didn’t walk far. There wasn’t much to see on top where we’d entered anyway.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (On top of the wall)

 © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (On top of the wall)

On one side we looked down on modern buildings and the other a market in progress. Buyers and sellers moved in and out at a brisk pace. The location made me think of a wide alley. Old buildings had been removed and continued to be knocked down.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

 © 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


Next was the Shaanxi History Museum. Thousands of artifacts, too many people and stifling.

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

Steve, our tour guide, felt ill and stopped at a pharmacy for something to settle his stomach. Instead of leaving us for the day, as I’m sure he might have preferred, he soldiered on, lime-white faced.

 Our third stop in was the factory where the Terracotta Warriors were made. Reproductions of the originals (we will visit next week) are made by way of molds. No two faces are alike. The dedication to fine detail is incredible.

Warrior Wannabe

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (A warrior wannabe)

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


  • Eggs and tomatoes
  • Beef with onion
  • Rice
  • Vegetable soup with spinach(?)
  • Noodles
  • Spicy chicken with celery and hot peppers
  • Tofu
  • Cubed potatoes with caramel
  • Sweet and sour fish
  • Mystery meat on a stick (delicious)
© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© 2014 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles (Sorry this isn’t clear. Probably too much beer.)



  • Total population of China 1.4 billion
  • 200,000,000 Chinese still living in poverty
  • Floating population, living in country-side live on $2.00 a day and scavenge cardboard, paper etc.
  • Some farmers built rooms out of scrap on their property to accommodate the scavengers
  • Scavengers collectively work together to afford a room like this
  • If you own an apartment, your kids inherit it after you die. Cannot sell for profit.
  • If you are a real estate developer, or magistrate, you’ll manage to sell it
  • $300,000 USD + four-unit apartments were given to farmers moved off their land (so the story goes)
  • Some farmers did so well in new environment (new location), they became millionaires (so the story goes)
  • First day of Sweeping Festival begun (April 5-7)
  • Now more people are cremated
  • Traditionally one day for Sweeping Festival bit extended by government for travel to gravesites of dead relatives and loved ones.
  • Cars with 7 or less passengers go free because of Sweeping Festival
  • Vehicles with more than 7, still have to pay toll
  • 6 billion trips are taken around the country during holidays and New Years
  • Our bus driver’s father is a millionaire farmer. Why is his son driving a bus?

Next on September 19th, Day 8, Part 2 – Xian: Terracotta Warriors at last

For more related posts, click on China tab at the top of the page


100-Word Challenge for Grownups – Week #144

To join the fun, checkout

This week’s prompt is …the black dog walks alongside me… + 100 words



Something scraped against the window. Winston bolted upright, thick Einstein-like hair askew. “Who’s there?” Heart thrashing, he gasped for breath. As crusted eye-lids unglued, he scanned the bedroom. Shadows lurked like black tombstones, details indistinct, even of his virginal bed.

Depressed for months, he’d lost interest in life and slept the indifference of the dead. He grabbed the covers with shaky hands and tossed them. The black dog walks alongside me no more.


In the semi-darkness Winston made his bed, showered and dressed. No need to write a note. Peaceful at last, he progressed down the hallway with purpose. The basement door sighed shut behind him.


100-Word Challenge for Grownups – Week #143

To join the fun, check out

This week’s prompt:  …the parched ground crumbled…+ 100 words



Ivy wrenched the wheel as hard as she could; the car swerved. Angry gravel scattered and pelted the hubcaps. She panted and wheezed, and coasted to a stop. The old red house of her youth had endured. Home at last. Relieved tears obscured her view.

Hands shaking, she heaved her age-worn bones out of the car, grasped her cane and hobbled to the backyard. The parched ground crumbled beneath her feet. Ancient and useless as me, I see.

Cr-r-ruck. A raven carped. Ugly birds endured too.

I’d much rather die here alone than in that stinking nursing home. No-one will think to look here.


Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

A dreaded process lots of us put off or avoid is our last will and testament. Let’s face it, without one, you leave behind turmoil and probate. You don’t want to line lawyers’ pockets and leave your survivors in limbo for an indeterminate length of time.

Get a nice wide binder and a big package of sheet protectors. As you collect and fill out your personal information, you’ll now have a place to keep all your documents properly. A file cabinet with individual and alphabetically filed folders sounds organized, but someone must search through them without a clue about what they need. The other famous solution is the old shoebox under the bed mindset. Be nice. Think twice.

Your bank or financial planner may supply you with a Personal Record Keeper or facsimile. This is a must-have. I love mine. Your financial history will be in one place saving your loved ones tedious hours or days searching for necessary documents. My only complaint is this isn’t electronic. I much rather type and print off a neat and clean record instead of what I have now. My handwriting is sometimes shaky if I write more than my signature. I suppose the reason is too much keyboarding and not enough writing, plus I have arthritic thumbs.

morgueFile free images

morgueFile free images

I spent an hour typing all the information from my booklet, then noticed it is copyrighted material and cannot be reproduced in whole or in part. Instead I will give you what I remember off the top of my head. Do try to obtain a Personal Record Keeper of some kind. Filling one out has been a time-consuming undertaking because I had to dig and search for information as I filled in the blanks, but the effort is worth it. Doing this, I can imagine what a favour this is for any family. If I had to search high and low and I know my house better than anyone, well… I had no idea how interesting I am. A lot of numbers are associated with my name and I’m not talking about dollars either. Bank account numbers, passwords, codes, and on and on. I am truly amazed and a little amused. I look back now and see this all like a movie reel.

You need all your information organized before you prepare your will. If you take the time to plan ahead, you’ll be surprised how much time and money, and going back and forth to the lawyer you’ll save with these documented details at your fingertips.


We’ve all heard of the Will Kit. It is legal here but lawyers will tell you people don’t fill them out properly. If you use a kit, make sure you get it notarised to clear up any doubts now. What will peace of mind cost you? I’ve heard it’s around $50.00 or so.

Some of the details about your life:

  • Family information: all names of members plus individual information
  • Names of providers: heat, hydro internet, papers, etc.
  • What you own (savings, real estate, etc.)
  • Benefit plans and relevant information
  • What you owe
  • Insurance plans (what kind(s) and relevant information
  • All banking formation and relevant information
  • Advisors (financial, etc.)
  • Any businesses owned and relevant information
  • Wills, safety deposit, passport etc.
  • Birth certificates, funeral arrangements, safety codes, passwords
  • Computer passwords

As well, check out something called an Estate Planning Checklist. This if for Canada (but must be similar).

^ _ ^

I’ve had some questions from some of you when I ended the Dust to Dust posts that warmed my heart and made me smile. Nice to hear anyone of you hopes all is well with me. It is.Than YOU. The kick in the pants finally came, to accomplish what I’ve been putting off way too long, because I’m taking a lovely long trip end of next month. I decided this is the time to get my life in order, but that’s another post.

Relevant Links:


Dust to Dust – Part 3

* * *

Part 3

I decided I’m worth it and it’s more for my family’s benefit than for mine. I spent more than originally planned because I hadn’t taken into account certain aspects of my send-off. These are the Services and Supplies Section in Canadian dollars:

Table AB

Additional Services requested and/or Required:

Table C

Only my family will see me prior to cremation. A memorial service will be held instead. Whatever happens I figure I won’t look that great so why take the chance at a bad review? You must always keep them guessing especially if you haven’t seen your friends in a while. I have set aside money for a reception and a balance remain, it will be returned to my family.

As well, should you be a traveler, consider a Worldwide Travel Assistance Plan. I purchased mine for a one-time fee of $525.00 no matter how many trips I take. It can be expensive if a loved one is stuck with this additional cost. In my case, this covers the details of handling all the necessary documents, including consular services if outside Canada. One toll-free call can be made by family or funeral director to begin the process of bringing you home in the event of death. That’s all of it now.

Hope this is helpful when you consider your own prearrangement.


Dust to Dust – Part 2    (previous)


Thursday, December 19, 10:00 a.m.

I’ve thought of nothing else for the past two days and expect to conclude my business at The Funeral Home today. Rick has called after our last meeting and left a message about all the numbers he’d worked out. I’m sure he’s made some horrible mistake and plan to go over the itemized list with care.

I arrive a couple of moments early. This time the parking lot is empty except for two other cars, unlike my last visit when the lot was half-full and an attendant opened the door when I arrived. My guess is no-one is in residence or there are no services this morning. Why am I thinking about these details? Don’t think. Finish your business and get the hell out of here.

I am about to drop into a comfy chair when Rick comes around the corner. “Come in. Come in,” he says as if this is a social visit and we are old friends.

No sooner do I take a seat at the table in the same meeting room as last time when a lady arrives and hands me a steaming cup of coffee. “Thank you.” I’m startled and a little floored by today’s efficiency. I can’t help wonder if today is a busy day and they want to push me through or, and I can’t help myself—that’s the way my brain works—they want to hustle me through before I change my mind. Well, business is business, right? A cartoon cloud hovers overhead of a skillful and seasoned used-car salesman: keep talking and don’t let them think till the dotted line is signed.

We begin with small talk which soon irritates me because we’ve already been there last time. I don’t want to be friends; I have something important on my mind. I’ll never see you again, I hope, and not even then.

morgueFile free photos

morgueFile free photos

“I’d like to see a breakdown of the numbers you quoted over the phone.”

“I haven’t printed up the invoice yet in case you have some adjustments to make.”

I shake my head. “I want the cremation, but don’t understand why the cost is so high for a pine box, a shroud and a small service. I’ve decided I don’t want the DVD, which should cut out another $500.00.”

“That’s been removed. I’ll print out the breakdown. Excuse me a minute. How’s your coffee?”

“Great and I’m fine, thank you.” How I’ve mellowed. This is a business transaction after all. Think numbers and negotiate, accept or reject.

I sit and wait. And wait. What’s taking Rick so long? What’s happened to the ‘Slam- bang-thank-you-ma’am’ service when I arrived?

Good thing I’d brought a book to pass the time. Rick returns. I’m anxious to close this chapter and go home. If I close my eyes I know I’ll slide off the chair and into an exhausted sleep. He’s all business. Is it because my impatience is evident or is it because I look the wreck I feel?

We go over the numbers. I’m flabbergasted. Everything I’d agreed to is in black and white. Each service and every single person has his or hand out for a piece of the pie. I think of vultures.


Next week I’ll go through the breakdown of expenses. I’m told years ago an invoice showed one figure: the total. The breakdown may shake you up somewhat as it did me. As well, funeral expenses have doubled every ten years over the past 30 years. Some points I want to leave with you to ponder:

  1. Should you buy life insurance to cover funeral expenses? Will the payout cover the costs in 20, 30 or more years?
  2. Should you pre-pay your funeral? This is money someone else is benefiting from and earning interest on, not you.
  3. In Canada, pre-payments do not go to the funeral home but to a trust company. This protects clients in the event the funeral home goes bust. Why / how do they go bust? Hanky-panky / mismanagement just as in any other business.
  4. Did you know, depending on your age, you can make payments over many years? Keep in mind, interest is tied to making payments and is over and above your initial contract cost.
  5. Cremation is fast becoming the service of choice. A friend of mine paid for her mother’s funeral a few years ago, nothing fancy, and the cost was $30,000.00
  6. Have you heard of No Frills cremation? I didn’t until after I’d made all my arrangements, but I I’m going ahead with the contract I signed.