VIA… Deliciosa!

I was recently given a sample of Starbucks’ revolutionary new instant coffee, VIA, by an eager barista. I told him there was no way he could sell me on any instant coffee, but asked him for some information, anyway. I ended up going home with a sample, but didn’t have the guts to break it out until this morning.

Well (insert drum roll here), I like it!

To quote from the website,

And they’re actually right!

They also have some really cool gear to transport your extra VIA packets:

Could it be? An instant coffee that could revolutionize the world of instant gratification caffeine fixes?

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If I Had a Million Dollars…

…I’d buy your lo-o-ove!

Not really.

Off the top of my head, I think I might:

  • Pay for my entire education
  • Put my sister through school to be a Registered Massage Therapist
  • Go back to visit Hawaii and Mexico and Norway, etc., and maybe take my family to one of those places
  • Travel to the UK and Australia and New Zealand and Italy and France and Greece (you get the picture)
  • Buy some stocks
  • The wise thing to do would be to put it in the bank first and start letting it earn interest, and then pay for all of the above things out of the interest, but the wise thing wasn’t the first thing that came to my mind.
  • Buy a house, fix it up, and perhaps rent part of it out to pay the mortgage payments
  • Is there any left?
  • If so, I’d start an authentic Mexican-food restaurant somewhere along Lake Huron and maybe bring in one of my Mexican friends to guarantee that it’s authentic! And, of course, to stay and make tortillas.
  • Not gonna lie, I’d buy some brown leather “riding” boots
  • And I wouldn’t wait for my BlackBerry contract to expire before getting the biggest and prettiest iPhone there is
  • I’d hire someone to review and delete all the spam comments that are in the “comments waiting to be moderated” section of this website. Blech.
  • Is there still some left?
  • I’d buy one of those sweet mesh ergonomic office chairs that you could just live in, or at least they look like you could!
  • I’d buy a newer Toyota 4Runner, one without cracks in the dashboard or worn spots in the paint or dents in the bumper from where my little brother backed into a post. The only flaw I’d accept would be coffee pre-staining under the cupholder, because heaven knows I’m only going to add to them!
  • Oh yeah, and buy a lifetime subscription to SIRIUS satellite radio so that I can listen to the CBC wherever, whenever, forever!

Glamparella

Glamping. Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of it. It’s all the rage among the fashion-forward, upwardly-mobile, and comfort-inclined, ie; Me.

For the ignorant:

Glamping: (n.) Glamorous Camping. (adj.) A form of camping in which the participants enjoy amenities usually associated with five-star accommodations.

Having decided that I should become a Glamper, I did a little preliminary research, and was not disappointed. I found that Glamping, despite it’s very “now” moniker, is actually a throw-back to those African safari camps of the early 1920’s.

Picture large white canvas tents with wide awnings, Persian carpets, king-size beds, dressing and wash rooms, antique furniture, china dishes, oil lanterns casting a warm glow everywhere, and perhaps a tame tiger cub on a fluffy mat in the corner.

Now add colour to the tent, electrical outlets to supply those “oil” lanterns (not to mention our espresso makers, margarita blenders, flat-irons, and iPod docks), and trade the tiger cub for a mini-bar, and you’ve got modern Glamping!

Some people are Glam-purists: they refuse to take any electronics with them, and instead plan to observe the beauty of nature from their comfortable oases. Others consider their Glamp-site to be a Four Seasons without walls and expect every possible convenience, including spa treatments, baby- and dog-sitting services, and gourmet chefs. I’d consider myself in the first group, with the addition of a FEW electronics, namely an espresso maker, a coffee-grinder, a cell-phone charger (I’d keep it on vibrate and in my tent), and my laptop on which to write and maybe watch movies.

It seems that the rich and famous have a natural head start on us regular folk, but I hope to find some fellow Glamparellas who are willing to pay a little more for equipment, haul a little more weight to the site, and scorn, just a tiny bit, the tradition of “hard-core” camping (read: canned food, instant coffee, damp bedding, flimsy mattresses that allow you to get familiar with every bump and crevice of the forest floor, etc.) in favour of comfort, good food, a bottle of wine or two, and hours spent with our feet up with a good book, in the open air and sunshine.

Tell me that doesn’t sound heavenly!

A Day in My Life, June 2008

I had a sudden desire today to chronicle and compare the different stages of my life, as I look back and notice that my life in June 2008 is remarkable different from that of June 2007, June 2006, June 2005, and so on.

I invite you to be a witness on this journey.

June 2008 finds me 27 years old, living in a two-bedroom second-floor apartment in the only apartment building in a tiny town in East Huron County called Brucefield. This town is known for it’s flashing light, yellow if you’re driving between Clinton and Exeter on Highway 4, or red if you’re coming from either Seaforth or Bayfield. There is one elementary school, one church, one drive-in restaurant, two mechanic shops, one Asian/Home Decor/B&B/Lunch Room location, and one fire station.

My apartment overlooks a cornfield, the view of which is mostly obstructed by a lovely birch tree. Said tree helps me feel more confident walking around in my apartment in less-than-decent clothing on summer nights. After all, who would be driving by slowly enough whose gaze could penetrate the birch branches in the split second I happen to be passing through my dining room, several feet from my beautiful picture window?

I enjoy living alone, though sometimes I do wish someone was there to care whether I came in or not, or to wonder where I was, or to motivate me to do dishes, finally! My neighbours are understanding and quiet, the area is safe, and I actually have a place to call home. MY home. I’ve immensely enjoyed painting and decorating my apartment, putting all of my good taste to good use in a place where I’m the boss, now and forever.

Another addition to my life is that of Trixie the Toyota, a pretty, dark-green 1997 4Runner who goes with me everywhere I go. She hauls the accoutrements of my life and hobbies without complaint. She has survived being rolled over in the ditch after skidding out on an icy country road, being hit-and-run by some unknown person, a not-so-successful attempt at backing up a trailer, and carrying some of my more treasured furniture.

Not so enjoyable are the bills that go with being established and mobile, namely cell phone, rent, insurance, hydro, phone/internet, groceries, gas, repairs, etc. I can’t say as I ever yearned for that part of nesting, but I take it in stride, usually. I’ll be much happier when I can finally get my tax returns done (for the past 2 years), pay off my credit card, and have money set aside for winter tires.

I have spent more than a year at the same job, as a server at The Brew’n Arms English pub and restaurant in Bayfield, Ontario. Earlier this year, I graduated to keyholder and Dining Room Manager, as well as Kitchen Painter and Orchid-Caretaker extraordinaire. My bosses are wonderful people who have become friends and family, as well as the most understanding and flexible supervisors anyone could ask for. They make me want to stay and do my best for them, for their business, for their town.

Last year at this time, I was also working as a drywaller, and, shocker! I don’t miss it a tiny bit. I do enjoy my refined house-painting skills, which I have recently put to good use in a “cottage” in Bayfield, and hope to expand as a second job. If you hear of someone looking to hire a house painter, give them my number!

I’m not attending church because I couldn’t handle the one I had called “home” for years. I’m generally fed up with the institution that is what church has become, with all its expectations and traditions and legalism. I would enjoy a faith-based community of believers that is honest and open, a group that can laugh and be reverent in an informal way. I really could expand this paragraph to a whole essay, but suffice it to say that I have not encountered such a community, but I still seek to hold onto my beliefs. I am discovering more of what life is like on “the other side” (outside the Christian bubble), and it’s very educational, despite occasionally dangerous.

If it were possible to live on coffee, I’d do it.

I’ve joined the wonderful realm of BlackBerry, as I once dreamed of doing. And I’m paying for it, too.

Writing is still my best communication method.

I rarely see earlier than 10 AM, or close my eyes earlier than 1 or 2 AM. I’d like to change that.

The music in my life has developed over the past year as well. I am the youngest voice of the all-female cover band, Cactus Jam, and I love it, despite playing mostly Legions. I was also privileged enough to be part of Noted!, a project sponsored by the United Way in my county, which is helping to boost the music careers of the 17 women chosen to participate. We got to record 14 tracks in a professional studio, and a great-sounding CD is the result. This past winter I also ventured out to sing a few times at Open Mic nights at a local pub, and have been the featured soloist at two church events.

This year finds me recently motherless, a drastic blight on anyone’s life, and definitely on mine. It has changed so many things and finally propelled me into nesting in the first place. It also made my brother and I guardians of our youngest brother and launched me further into the land of disabled children in Ontario. I now have a lawyer, communicate regularly with several case workers, get all kinds of official mail, and have to return junk mail still addressed to Mom.

June 2008 also finds me blonde, and with an even greater fashion sense. I love that about growing older! I predict I’ll still be stylish in my 80s. If I’m not, remind me of now.

I’ve discovered I love flowers and plants, doing the Toronto Saturday Star crossword, Pinot Grigio and Shiraz, premium beer, CBC Radio, brie on melba rounds with semi-dried tomatoes in duck confit, Dollarama’s plain candles, serving dessert, mom’s old couch and armchair (with my apartment’s decor built around them), C&E used furniture in Goderich, Americanos from The Bean, and living in Huron County!!! (Sorry, but that deserved more than three exclamation points)
Being Sarah Elizabeth takes different shapes all the time, and I’m enjoying the process. Here’s to another year!

How to Force a Reno

Today was a great day. Even though it started early (I had to be somewhere by 9:00 am), I loved that I had a reason to get up. The day continued to be great, even though I did a few hours of dirty work (pulling old nails out of two-by-fours at a kitchen renovation project), enhanced by some scrumptious raspberry turnovers and delectable coffee (thanks to the newly re-opened Art See Cafe on Main Street in Bayfield for the complimentary coffee on this, their first day of business!). Even when I pinched my left index finger between a crowbar and a plank, it continued to be a good day.

My day got better when I (finally) had the chance to stop at the shops in the little town that I drive through on my way home to Brucefield. I am usually either in a rush or driving passing at midnight, so I’ve never been able to check them out. Until today. One of them was great! An interior decorating shop, it was full of furniture, antiques, candles, wall-hangings, drapes, centerpieces, and much more. And a new friend, Debbie, who I now feel like I’ve known for a while.

It didn’t take long for me to share the pertinent details of my small-town Huron County life with Debbie and her elderly parents, and soon she started apologizing for her almost-baldness, citing chemotherapy as its cause. I started asking her questions, and was delighted to discover that my new friend is a breast cancer survivor! I shook her hand and explained my interest.

A couple hours later, after lunch and a shower (and an episode of The Office), I returned to Debbie’s store, this time with paraphernalia from my apartment in tow, to seek her help picking paint and drapery colours. Together we picked out a lovely deep blue-grey called Distant Thunder for my bathroom.

Skipping forward a few more hours, I spent the evening singing with the Noted! ladies, practicing our group songs for the CD Launch next week (if you don’t have your tickets yet or your CDs pre-ordered, what the heck are you waiting for?!). Gosh-darn it, we are talented!

Finally arriving home, I made use of both arms and toted my purse, papers, a shopping bag, my new gallon of paint, a jug of laundry soap, the items I took to help decide on a paint colour, and a McFlurry all up to my second floor apartment in one fell swoop.

All was well, til I set the can of paint down at the top of the stairs and started fishing for my keys. I somehow knocked the can over, and it started a fateful course down the carpeted stairs. Who knew the lids to paint cans would fall off of their own accord? Not I! Granted, it had some helpful momentum. Nervously, I turned around. And started to swear. My lovely Distant Thunder was all down the stairs, pooled on the floor at the bottom, flung onto the walls, and even splotched onto the ceiling of the entryway.
(Insert more swearing here)

 

The hideous evidence:

Paint can covered in paint
This can was brand new 30 minutes ago…

 

A wiped-up puddle of blue-grey paint
What was left after scooping up the majority of the paint puddle

 

Carpeted stairs dripped with paint
The view from the bottom

 

Paint drips on a wall
Water birds on a wall?
Paint smeared above a door
A little here and a little there…
Paint down carpeted steps
After cleaning up… luckily no one cares about this carpet!

A Short Post

Simply because I haven’t posted for a while, and now that I have high-speed, I really don’t have an excuse not to!

I’m currently sitting at Coffee Culture, my town’s newest addition… a place that’s downtown, is open later than 5:00 pm, and has free wireless! Now if only it actually had decent coffee, I’d be pleased as punch. Still, I’m kinda glad to have a very valid reason to keep frequenting my regular cafe, The Bean, which is conveniently just a few doors down from here, for what is, in my opinion, the best coffee in town: a double Americano.

I think it’s time for an update on my NBS (Numb Bum Syndrome) condition… been a while since I wrote about that. It continues. I gave up on taking Advil all the time and sitting on my donut cushion. I probably should go back to the Advil to fight the inflammation. I’ll start now. There. Two regular strength pills. We’ll see what that does. Let me just say, I’m glad that my job keeps me mostly on my feet, and that my vehicle has great lumbar-supportive seats.

I’ve become even more addicted to Facebook, if that’s possible, what with Facebook mobile and recently having posted lots of pictures. 118 comments later, which all came to my phone… I’m regretting the mobile notifications, haha.

Okay, now I’m just rambling. It’s time for me to go, anyway, and help K and A have a very happy birthday!

Ciao for now.

A Few Days of Soul-Feeding

My entire being smiles at the thought. Three nights away, in a beautiful town where no one is expecting anything of me. In a room that’s not quite beautiful, but it’s clean, peaceful, in some ways rustic and hospitable, and it’s mine. For a price, sure, but still mine.

The next three nights and two days are mine, to spend as I wish. No one knows where I am. I’ll keep my phone on vibrate. I’ve got a fat novel, two bottles of wine, music, brie, comfy clothes, and my computer upon which to (finally) take some time to give voice to my soul through writing.

So my entire being says “Ahh!”


Looking out my 3rd floor window through the streetlight-illuminated darkness at a very snowy, busy street, I thrill that no one knows me. No one knows whom resides in room 311 tonight, or which car in the small parking lot is mine. The pregnant waitress that served me dinner will likely never see me again, neither will the young curly-haired attendant at the desk downstairs.

An envelope on the well-used desk says my room was prepared by Betty. Betty didn’t notice that one side of the bedskirt was tucked up under the mattress, but she’s forgiven because of the fact that there is a bedskirt, and because all of the furniture is made of real, solid wood. The light in the bathroom isn’t flattering, but it gets overshadowed by the presence of five lamps in the sitting/bedroom.

Tomorrow will bring a good coffee (deserving of an “ahh!” all of its own), accompanied perhaps by some writing and an earful of good tunes. I also hope to peruse the wares of some shops on the quaint main street, in search of a new every-day bag, before its would-be predecessor gives up the ghost. Who knows what treasures I might find or what delectable eateries I’ll stumble across?


Meanwhile, I’ll work at ignoring my tasks and feeding my heart and soul. Just for a few days.

Life In The H.C., Part One

My family has claimed residence in the H.C. (Huron County, for all you uninitiated) for over 20 years. The H.C. extends from–well, the left side is Lake Huron, and Goderich is somewhere in it, and so is the first town we lived in when we moved to the county, Dashwood, and a bunch of other towns that I’ve never been to.

I’ve known for years that the H.C. is famous for a few things, namely drunk driving, drunk driving accidents, divorce, and domestic violence. Some legacy, huh?!

But now that I’m out and about this small portion of the County, I’m slowly picking up on a few other things that I somehow missed before joining the “real” work force. Oh, the culture that I never realized I had foregone by not going to bush parties or gravel running, and avoiding Buck ‘N’ Does (or Stag ‘N’ Does, etc.).

I never heard about the insanity of teenagers working in the barn and the fields till 10:00 pm, then picking up a 40-ouncer (that would be alcohol, ladies and gents) and a couple of girls, “touring” till the booze was gone, getting a couple hours of sleep, then hitting the barn again at 5:30 am. Day in and day out!

Who knew that entire towns were rife with gossip about who is building something on their property, who is moving in with whom, whose business has gone bankrupt, who hasn’t shown up to the coffee shop in a couple of weeks?!

There’s actually a whole other accent I’ve stumbled upon, too: a nearby town I’ve always known as Clinton (CLIN-ton) is pronounced by some Huronites as Clinton (CLA-n).

But my absolute personal favourite is this: 3:00 means coffee break. For everyone, duh! My boss will venture to ask somewhere in the vicinity of the hour if I feel like coffee. Usually, I’ve had at least two cups by then, and, in favour of my body’s general health, I reply that I’m fine. The response, “Oh, well, it’s about 3:00 so I was just thinkin’ you might want coffee.” How is it possible that 3:00 has come and gone every day for 20 years here in the H.C. and I am only now learning that it is an hour synonymous with coffee?! Help a girl out!

With Christ, Against the Grain

As I sit in the quiet bookstore, reading a magazine article called, “Liquidating Your Life”(1), I find my eyes welling up with tears. The author is recalling the choice of one of her sisters to become a cloistered nun. It’s not a sad story, yet I weep.

A few pages earlier, I was reminded of the thing we call Lent and how its purpose is to point us toward Easter. This article’s author encouraged his readers to give up something they’d miss, such as their Blackberry or coffee, to “identify, if only slightly and with great humility, with Christ’s denial of Himself as He went to the cross.”

Perhaps the root of my tears was the segue from the thought that, this Lenten season, I didn’t feel convicted to give up anything, to the idea that a vibrant, university-educated young woman would reduce her worldly possessions to underwear and glasses.

During the weeks before she made her vows, friends who came to say good-bye left with something of hers. Her clothes went to one sister, her books to another. The author drew her sister’s name at Christmas and chose to purchase a sapling to plant as a family so they’d have a reminder of Heather when they would gather without her for future holidays.

It’s not so much the thought that I couldn’t live without coffee or blogging, but more that I feel I’m missing something that goes much deeper. I’m longing for a soul depth similar to the one that inspired Heather to sacrifice her future for the sake of others, in order to pray for them for the rest of her life. I’ve felt it before when doing things much less sacrificial than becoming a nun, and once again I’m humbled by the feeling.

There are days when I can’t imagine how I lived without wireless Internet and a laptop glued to my hip, or before the days of cell phones. Normally, I would cringe at the thought of living without a car to get around in or a choice of shoes or my skinny jeans or new music every week. Today, however, I’m longing. Longing for a reason to give it all up for the sake of Christ, for the sake of others.

I’d like to be able to truly say:

Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands. (hear it) (2)
Even as I copy and paste these lyrics, I can feel the reluctance returning, the hesitation that comes with knowing I’ve sung these words flippantly before and I’ll probably do it again; the reluctance to give up all for the sake of King and Kingdom. Yet part of me remains desperate for a reason to do just that, a reason to discover what Much-Afraid did on the altar as the High Priest cut the “root of human love” out of her heart(3) so she could live in true grace and freedom.

I hope that someday I’ll be challenged to give up most of my “creature comforts” and make my heart at home in the simple and functional rather than the sophisticated and fashionable. I suspect I’ll find more joy and peace when I do, because I’ll know that every day I’m choosing Christ likeness.

Heather chose not to remain a cloistered nun for the rest of her life, but the stories of men and women who have similarly set aside their lives of convenience will continue to astound and inspire me. Perhaps I’ll do a Lenten fast next year, even if I don’t feel “convicted”.

(1) “Liquidating Your Life”, Holly Rankin Zaher. (Relevant Magazine, Mar-Apr 2007, p.46) (2) Robin Mark, 1990 Word Music. (3) Hind’s Feet on High Places, Hannah Hurnard.

Celebrating Winter in Style

1. Wireless internet. What a wonderful invention!! The most marvelous part of it all is that I finally got it to work with my laptop at my mom’s house, after having the router for 4 months! Even though I get kicked off wireless every time someone uses one of our three 2.4 GHZ cordless phones (I bought a 5.8 GHZ phone today to compensate), I still am overjoyed to be able to maintain my addictive cyber-world without cables and cords!! Technology rocks!

2. My new winter coat. From Le Chateau, it’s black and wool and comes to my mid-thigh. It’s got a nice collar and big black buttons. It looks GREAT with all of my clothes (well, okay, all except my jogging pants) and shoes and gives me wicked winter style. I wanted a red one, but seeing as how I had NO winter coats and I have no idea how long I can expect to live in a place where I’ll always need one, I thought I should stick to black, so I can wear it with everything and for years to come. Practicality and responsibility win again.

3. Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce latte. Need I say more, coffee lovers? This is a smooth, sweet, creamy, beautiful taste of caffeine heaven, topped with delectable whipped cream. It goes down easy, even for those non-coffee drinkers out there…DON’T MISS OUT! You’ll regret it later, I promise you.