Curious kitty

{Cheers!} Thanks for the company, Sophie!

(You may or may not have noticed that my Sunday series is no longer called Celebration but Cheers! There was something about Celebration that was a bit cheesy. Sorry about that. I still want to celebrate things… things that make me want to raise my proverbial glass. Cheers!)

 

Sophie is the cutest, cuddliest house guest a girl could ever ask for.

She has striking greenish gold eyes, loves to play, gets a little crazy every morning and evening, and leaves tiny soft hairs everywhere she goes.

Curious kitty
Curious kitty

Yes, Sophie is a cat.

For the second year in a row, I got to cat-sit Miss Sophie while Johnathan’s parents went away over March Break. Last year, since Johnathan was away for three months, they let me keep Soph for several weeks! They kinda like me.

Who, me?
Who, me?

She was only with me for two weeks this year, but it was fun. There’s really nothing like having a creature follow you around, looking for opportunities for some lovin’. Her favourite spot was the bathroom. Every time I’d sit on the toilet, she’d pad her way to the toilet to nuzzle my leg until I’d pet her. If I didn’t, she’d lift her front two paws to my thigh and come close to digging in her claws. Until I gave her the look.

I spotted movement!
I spotted movement!

She has spent enough time with me to know the look. It’s the signal for “You’re digging into my leg!” and “Stop scratching up that good piece of furniture!” and “What are you doing on my dresser?” Usually, it’s accompanied with a “HEY!” and a clap. If she’s done something sufficiently naughty, the water spritzer comes out. That’s when she knows she’s in BIG trouble.

Multi-tasking: cat-cuddling and studying
Multi-tasking: cat-cuddling and studying

My feline house guest went home yesterday. No doubt “mommy” and “daddy” missed her. I know I will. She caught flies. She broke the silence of long hours of studying. She cozied up behind my knees when I slept, or right up beside my pillow.

If only...
If only...

Someday, I’ll get my own cat… a grey tabby just like Sophie.

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Winter, Where Art Thou? I want you for your Hoary Frost.

It’s Groundhog Day. Wiarton Willy, the official local groundhog, will tell us whether or not we will have 6 more weeks of winter, based on whether or not he sees his shadow.

Of course, this is all a bunch of nonsense because even Wiarton Willy can’t control whether it will be a sunny day on February 2nd or not… but personally I do hope for 6 more weeks of winter.

This winter hasn’t really even started yet. It’s a pseudo-winter: snow for 3 days, rain for 4, snow for one day, rain for 2. No sooner do we get used to sweeping off our car and bundling up than it’s time for Wellies and umbrellas again. Every day, I have to check the weather to find out whether it’s a rubber boot day or a winter boot day.

I know there is a large camp that is thrilled with the spring-like spells and lack of icy roads and snow drifts. It means little shoveling, salting, and bundling. But it also means endless brown muck, dried salt stains, barren landscapes, and, worst of all, no snow days!

One of my favourite things about winter is hoar frost. It only happens on certain mornings, when the temperature and moisture is just right. When the sun gets high enough, it melts away, so you have to get out to capture it in the morning.

Here are some pictures that I took on a hoar frost morning about two years ago:

everything is white
I love when everything is white like this!
hoar frost on branch
Beautiful grainy build-up
frosty blades of grass
Frosty blades of grass peeking through a blanket of white.
Over the river and through the woods...
Over the river and through the woods...
A beautiful contrast between the blue sky and the orange leaves and the white snow
A beautiful contrast between the blue sky and the orange leaves and the white snow
Frost-encrusted grasses
Frost-encrusted grasses
Maple leaves in winter
Maple leaves in winter
A tree's white fingers
A tree's white fingers

Accidentally Green: how a wonky shower head is good for the environment.

I have a wonky shower head.

It’s one of those hand-held ones that you can move around, in case you want to thoroughly rinse a body part that is a bit lower down. Or perhaps use it to wash your mats, like I do (I don’t have a washing machine – I have to be resourceful).

But that’s not why it’s wonky. It’s wonky because it’s full of mineral build-up from the water. Its holes are clogged with rusty-looking stuff.

wonky shower head

The rusty build-up forces the same amount of water out of fewer and smaller holes, which increases the pressure of the shower and causes jets of water to shoot out in unexpected directions. Currently, there’s one little jet that is determined to flood my bathroom: if I don’t have my shower curtain sealed just right, a puddle spreads on the floor.

shower head

At Christmas, one of my brothers stayed over. As he walked to the bathroom, towel in hand, he asked, “Does your shower still have that pressure problem?”

“Yes,” I sighed, thinking it was once again time to dig out the potent chemical I use to remove rusty-looking stains from my toilet, and soak the shower head in it.

Then, using the shower not long after that, a light bulb went on in my head.

I was turning the water down in an effort to counteract the high pressure. Consistently, once the water is hot enough, I find myself turning the hot water tap almost closed, so that my poor skin doesn’t take a beating.

It hit me: I was saving water!! My wonky shower head had turned me into an accidental water-conservator.

I think I’ll leave the chemicals in the cupboard and continue to carefully seal the shower curtain.

That is, until there is so much build-up that no water comes out. Then perhaps I will have to become an anti-environmentalist to clean out enough holes so I can clean myself.

Interrupting This Study Session to Bring you… Aurora Borealis

I am studying for an exam on Sunday. The course is called The Meaning of Technology, and this study session has me trying to dig deeply into topics like cyberspace and nanotechnology and what it means to be a cyborg–fascinating yet somewhat frightening topics.

As I study, TweetDeck brings me a steady stream of tweets about Canadian news, Canadian politics, American politics, what Ellen DeGeneres is up to, Kanye West‘s latest whacky thought, and the once-in-a-lifetime award my school (University of Western Ontario) has just received: we are fourth on Playboy’s list of top ten party schools in North America. Wa-freakin’-hoo.

My eyes stray back and forth from my notes to the TweetDeck notifications, hoping for something juicy, funny, thought-provoking, some worthy distraction (who are we kidding–they’re ALL worthy distractions when you’re studying!). Then, one Huffington Post tweet catches my eye, and my interest.

It’s a “Green” blog article, one of the few HuffPost pages I don’t follow… yet. The blog post isn’t so much a blog post as a collection of videos of the amazing natural phenomenon Aurora Borealis, also called the Northern Lights.

The video wouldn’t show on Firefox, and, so fascinated was I about the prospect of seeing a video of the famed but elusive Northern Lights, that I even lowered myself to opening Safari, which, of course, complied with my command to “Play!” the video.

Sometimes, nature is worth checking out of “reality” for. Sometimes, sacrificing some time from all of our responsibilities and duties and busyness to marvel at how these phenomena come to be is worth it.

Presenting: Aurora Borealis (turn up the volume)

(and you’ll need a browser other than Firefox, it seems. sorry. :s)

To see the rest of the Huffington Post’s choices: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/13/aurora-borealis-2011-northern-lights-video_n_848638.html#s264018

Spring has Sprung 2011! – a set on Flickr

 

 

This past weekend I had the pleasure of walking around the bed and breakfast/inn where I work and marveling at the spring flowers popping out everywhere. Aren’t they amazing?!

 

Spring has Sprung2011! – a set on Flickr.

Bottled Water: Why are we so lazy?

I have to apologize ahead of time, because I haven’t officially started my research yet, but I am starting to work on a short research paper about water, specifically drinking water that gets stored, transported, and sold in plastic bottles.

I have realized that we are lazy. Yeah, that’s the truth of it. We’re damn lazy! We are so used to having the convenience of everything we want, anytime, anywhere, and we often don’t have a clue about how we will end up paying for it with our bodies and our environment, let alone wasting our money on it now.

Bottled water. Why are we so obsessed? We want clean and safe water, yeah, I get it… but why do we (here in most of Canada and the US) distrust our (treated and safe) tap water so much?

The argument about bottled water tasting better might be a good one… if there wasn’t such a thing as a water filter that you can attach to your tap while filling your glass or reusable hard plastic (BPA-free, etc.) or stainless steel bottle. I completely get the issue of the taste of the water–I am a self-declared water snob, after all.

However, when you dig a little deeper into the issue, you will discover that, a) bottled water is simply glorified tap water; b) it takes SO much fuel to transport water around, when almost everyone has perfectly good water coming out of their tap; c) bottled water is basically a money-making gimmick, a commodity invented not with the goal of getting clean water where there is none, but with the goal of making a profit; d) the plastic bottles leech chemicals (BPA, antimony and others) into your drinking water, making it less healthy for you than your tap water. Really. True, some companies have eliminated tap water from their individual-sized bottles, but not from their big ones (the big blue ones that you refill and use with a dispenser at home or in the office); e) not only does it take a lot of fuel to truck bottles of water everywhere, but you know those little plastic bottles? They’re made with oil! That’s right, they’re a petroleum product–there goes even MORE of our non-renewable resources!

I am on a bit of a mission to educate myself and in turn rant and rave a bit to those who will listen that it pays to buy a bottle, one reusable bottle (okay, maybe more than one), and refill it. Plan ahead. You can do it, I believe in you! It pays in many ways: your wallet will be heavier, your body will be healthier, and the environment will benefit from having less plastic products tossed into its backyard and be able to hold onto more of one of its essential fluids, oil.

If you MUST buy a bottle of water (let’s face it, every now and then, you’re desperate and you forgot to bring a bottle and you don’t trust that homeless guy’s cup), FOR GOD’S SAKE RECYCLE IT!!

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!

Life in the H.C., Part 2

I went on a sorely needed long walk this evening, and I started to remember how much I love summer in Huron County. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the feel of it. It’s unique, and I miss it when I’m gone.

As I walked briskly along the soft shoulder of the county road I live on, outside of the blinking-yellow-lighted hamlet in which I reside, I began to smile to myself. I found myself recognizing red-winged blackbirds and killdeer; identifying corn, bean, and winter wheat crops; picking out honeysuckle and milkweed.

The long-lasting sunset and the familiar pinky-oranges of it, behind the occasional lazy clouds, seemed perfect, and the freshly sweet fragrance of the cut grasses on the roadside the icing on the cake. I took the time to gaze into the roadside ditch and stoop down at the edge of a bean field to admire the tiny plants just popping out and shedding their seed shells.

The chattering of the birds as they dived into the ditch for their supper, crickets hiding somewhere close by, the humming of electricity through the hydro wires overhead.

Everything seemed familiar yet mysterious, and so, delightful.

I can’t necessarily describe what makes Huron County different from other parts of rural Ontario, or rural areas anywhere in the North-Western Hemisphere, but I sure can feel it. Perhaps the surrounding counties share similar characteristics, but venture much further and something, however slight, changes, and the sights, sounds, and smells are different. Less familiar. Less enjoyable.

One can’t help but take deep breaths of the fresh air around here, especially in the cool summer evenings. A simple whiff of it should be enough to make you smile, provided you aren’t doing it on a manure-spreading day!

Even the sound of cars driving by on the road in front of my apartment building is nice and homey. Could it be something about the pavement they use here? Oxygen molecules and how sound travels through them? I’m making stuff up now, but my point is clear, I would think: the familiarity of this area is fascinating to me.

You can take the girl out of the county, but you can’t take the county out of the girl. Apparently.

Landing in Winter Wonder

Very unsafely on my way to work a few days ago, with my delectable new BlackBerry, I took these winter scenery photos.




Don’t they give you a sense of something impending? A bit of a pregnant tingle that at first glance looks bleak but keeps you coming back for another view.

Those trees are deep, their stories not fully told. The snow resting upon them is both a weight and a comfort. A hush is the only sound you expect, till a weak branch suddenly snaps under its glistening burden. The sky is bearing in on the trees, but still they stand.

Me, too.