Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Music

I posted a few weeks on Facebook about the new Jeremy Camp Christmas album. Somehow I missed that he had released on this year and when I found it on iTunes I was so excited. It has definitely been my number one played album this Christmas. I usually try to do that, just limit myself to one new album per year so I can really enjoy it but some of them become instant classics. My "must listen to every year" favourites include: Kenny Chesney's "All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan", Brad Paisley's "Christmas" and a Various Artists Canadian Christmas Compilation that I can listen to over and over.

This new album by Jeremy Camp is now part of that group. Someone asked me to describe Jeremy's style of music on Facebook and I didn't respond. Normally I would say he's "Christian Rock" but it's Christmas music. It's not HARD rock by any means but for me, it's still rocky. I love it though. I adore his music and having his touch on Christmas classic is just fabulous. One of my favourite lines on the whole album is during "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" when he changes "Through the years, we all will be together, if the Fates allow" to "if the Lord allows".  For someone who chose to not be with her family for Christmas it give me hope and comfort for future Christmases.

In general this year I was pretty good with Christmas music. There were some songs I just couldn't listen to like "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and "Blue Christmas" but the rest of them were okay. It's funny. I think I underestimated the effect of music and the nostalgia included in Christmas music specifically so it was a separate set of emotions I had to deal with. I think I did pretty well though. And now Christmas is all over and the new year is looming! Wishing all the best to all of you and hoping that in time, we can all be together again, if the Lord allows :) <3 p="p">

Sunday, December 30, 2012


I took my first load of boxes over to my friends house today. They are storing my things for me while I am gone since I am giving up my place. I hope to only have one more car load of stuff to leave there but I'm trying to figure out how I have so much stuff! When I moved to Ontario from BC it all fit in my car. Now that stuff has doubled or even tripled. It's nuts. I got rid of stuff too but I guess I need to pare down even more! Oh well. It can wait until I get back now :P

The hardest part has been packing up my scrapbooking supplies. Knowing I won't be able to use them for another year is sad for me. Scrapbooking is such a defining part of who I am but the way I like to do it (traditional with paper) is not conducive to this nomadic lifestyle I am adopting to this year so I have to let it go for now. Yes there are other ways to record memories (like this blog) but it's not the same as playing with little bits of paper :P

The packing is almost done though. I'll do laundry tomorrow and then most of my clothes will be ready. I also need to pack shoes and boots. I'm dividing them into "take/leave" because I'm only taking one or two pairs of boots. All my warm winter ones are staying in Canada. With average daily temperatures of 15oC I definitely don't need boots in Georgia! Wish me luck as I chip away at this. Only six more sleeps before I leave!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas 2012

This was my first Christmas that I was away from my family. I knew in August when I was in both Alberta and BC for Seth's wedding that I wouldn't be going. I had a few moments where I felt a bit sad but logging onto an airline website and seeing the cost of flying over the holidays cured me of that very fast. A few weeks ago my coworker and I drove another coworker to the airport and I was SO glad it wasn't me getting on that plane. I mean it would have been nice to see my family but I was glad to not do a cross country flight at this time of year. 

I opened on Christmas Eve and then packed up and headed up to my friends home in Mount Forest. It was a wonderful low key Christmas Eve and morning. Brenda and Regan (above) and I played a very close game of Upwords, I convinced everyone (Brenda, Regan, Grace and Esther) to play a Canadian Trivia game that I bought at Value Village (which meant it was 15ish years old, but still fun) and we watched the original Grinch. Along with lots of hanging out and an amazing meal cooked by Esther.

Christmas morning we slept in...well, I was up around 8am which is good considering how much I've been opening (that means 4am wake up calls) and then we opened stockings. I hand't really thought about it so when there was not only a stocking with my name on it, but a VERY generous stocking, I was surprised, touched and very thankful. It was all thoughtful gifts like gum, candy, bath products and an iTunes gift card. Consumables that I don't need to worry about packing. Perfect!

After breakfast (show above) we headed over to Oma's for Christmas dinner. The best part about joining this particular family for Christmas is not only are these four dear friends but the whole extended family is as well. Every one of them is a good friend of mine and it was a pleasure to spend Christmas with them.

The family is Evelyn (Oma) and her four children: Brenda, her husband Regan and three children Grace (left), Esther and Stefan. I have known Stefan's wife Susannah since she was born and her family for many years before that. Margaret was there with her son Adam. Ruth and her boyfriend Jody brought their two adorable children Hope (left) and Jonathan (below). Kids always make Christmas more fun! The youngest is James who is married to my BC friend Sharlaine. They were married just two months before I moved to Ontario and Sharlaine and I have become great friends since we moved here.

So many awesome people made for a great Christmas. It was fun watching everyone open their presents. They draw names so each person got a decent larger gift and then a small gag gift from someone else. Some of them were hilarious, if you know the inside joke. It was a lot of fun. Of course we had a scrumptious Christmas dinner including turkey and all the fixings and then a huge dessert table as well. We finished the evening with various games but I left a bit early because I was fighting sniffles/allergies and I had to open on Boxing Day. 

The whole time I was keeping in touch with all my extended family via text message as well. I have decided that my sister in law Robbie is my favourite because she texts back the fastest ;) All in all it was a good Christmas. My family would have been better but considering this is the choice I made, it turned out just fine. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Secret Santas

My family is kind of past the gift giving stage. At least for us. I definitely don't have money and my brothers make more than they know what to do with so they can buy whatever they want. Instead I participated in a few Secret Santa gift exchanges and that gives me my fill of trying to buy for people. I had three this year. One with the girls from church. It was a generic exchange (no specific names) so I bought one of the awesome gift packs from Starbucks and contributed that. In exchange I got a mini cupcake maker. One of those appliances. I think if I wasn't moving and trying to get rid of stuff I would be more excited because it IS a cool gift. Unfortunately I'm just thinking of what to do with it while I'm gone. Oh well.

The second exchange was with the French Club Executive Members. I got my friend Jenelle who is a history major with a French minor (like me). I had a heck of a time finding something. After visiting Chapters three times I finally went to the little local independent bookseller in town and the owner hooked me up with a great book in about five seconds. It is a book of "Britishisms" and she LOVED it. Turns out she's on a huge British kick right now so it was perfect. In exchange I got a book called "Mugged by a Moose: True Tales to make you Laugh, Chortle, Snicker and Feel Inspired". It will sit prominently on my bookshelf in Georgia :D

The last exchange was with my Starbucks coworkers. I drew Matt who is a newish barista so I had to do some work to figure out what to get him. He and his wife are expecting a daughter in February so I went with that theme and made them this picture for the nursery. It's in the colours he described and he was very happy with it. I also threw in some home made cookies, because who doesn't love cookies?

Josh had my name which made it the easiest gift to buy ever (his words but it's true). He is a music major and he's been teaching me about classical music over the past year or so. He bought me a boxed set of the complete works of Sibelius. He gave it to me at 5am Monday morning when we were just starting our shift and I was SO excited. I've been enjoying it immensely ever since and I keep trying to tell people about it but no one understands how awesome it is...except him. But that's okay.

So there we go, it's a week before Christmas and my giving and receiving is done. I kind of like it this way. Less stress and I still had fun.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas in Toronto

One of the reasons I moved to Ontario was so that I could explore the city of Toronto more. It is Canada's largest city and it has lots to discover but I have been awful at visiting. I'm not really sure why. I used to go into Vancouver all the time and Toronto's not that much further away. I guess I just need a reason. Anyway, Sunday evening Grace, Esther and I packed up our ice skates and headed into the city with the intention of skating at Nathan Phillips Square and then checking out Eaton Centre. We left Grace's car at a shopping mall just off the 401 and then I drove us down towards the city centre.
In typical Heidi fashion I kind of aimed the direction I needed to go and started driving. Initially I knew I was going the wrong way so I just waited until it was convenient to turn left and then drove that way for awhile. The road curved, and split and I turned once and then I was on a major road which I took until I could turn left again. I was reading street signs but I hadn't actually looked at what road I needed to be on. Sure enough, within about five minutes, our EXACT DESTINATION showed up on the left!!! Amazing! I totally just stumbled on it. Yeah me! LOL

So this was our destination. City Hall (above) which I've never been to before but it's pretty distinctive, and the ice rink at Nathan Phillips Square which is right in front of City Hall. Can you see the CN Tower peeking through the buildings?
I haven't been ice skating since I left BC. I bought skates in January when I had time before Ashley's funeral (Collingwood has a Canadian Tire. How convenient.) But last winter was too mild and I never got a chance to use them. It took a bit to get going but I was impressed with how fast I managed to move. The rink is a good size so it didn't feel like you were going in tiny circles and it wasn't very busy which was nice.
The crazy part was the weather. It was WARM. Seven degrees Celsius. You can see from this picture how wet the ice was. It makes for a pretty picture! As long as you didn't fall, the wet ice was actually kind of okay because otherwise it was really chewed up. The wet ice was smoother if that makes sense. I managed to stay upright the whole time as well which is good because otherwise I would have been soaked.
We skated for close to an hour and then changed back into boots and stashed the skates in the car. Then we walked around the outside of Eaton Centre and back through the inside. I posed with a mannequin...
Esther posed with a tree...
And we found the massive Christmas tree and 20 foot tall reindeer inside. The stores in the mall were closing by the time we go there which was fine because we weren't there to spend money anyway. Mostly it was just nice to walk around and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city during the holidays and spend time with each other. I'm going to miss these girls an awful lot while I'm gone!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Friends understand when friends need to stare off into the distance

 I worked over 42 hours this week. I'm exhausted. I didn't have any exams (the last one isn't until Tuesday) so working was my primary focus. Today after work I met up with these three amazing ladies. Kerri, Erin and Heather. We were thinking of watching a movie but instead we just chatted and then made an amazing run to Uptown Waterloo for some treats. We bought pizza, tea from DavidsTea and cupcakes from Honey Bakery. We brought them back to Heather's and proceeded to polish it off. I ate an entire half a pizza plus my cupcake. It was amazing. We're all pretty fried with it being the end of semester and we're trying to not get too depressed with the fact that this is the last time that we'll see each other so we just quietly sat around and visited. It was nice to be able to just be with people who understand how done we are and who didn't mind that we packed up around 6:30 so we could all go home and keep studying. I love these ladies. The next time we see each other will probably be in Europe. That excitement makes parting easier.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

It's amazing what a few hours can do

I kept track of everything I accomplished today. It's a rather impressive list if I do say so myself! It's amazing what actually having time can allow one to do.
- Worked 5-9am
- Attended Meeting
- Attended Christmas party
- Talked to three profs about school work and planning for the future
-Dropped off old laptop for recycling
- Bough travel health insurance
- Picked up guide books and maps
- Bought part of one Secret Santa gift
- Picked up school transcript for France Application
- Confirmed registration for winter semester
- Talked to business office re financing
- Picked up second Secret Santa gift
- Called BC Student Loans, scheduled a call back
- Submitted Certificate of Immunization to GSU and received confirmation of receipt
- Received one of two letters needed for France
- Confirmed accommodation for travel to Georgia
- Called Rogers regarding phone contract
- Posted on Facebook about phone for input
- Spoke with BCSL, confirmed that I don't have any action until January
- Made ginger molasses cookies
- Talked to Mom
- Assembled first Secret Santa gift

I still have lots to do but it sure feels good to have achieve this much and I'm a lot less panicky today. (and yes Karin, the chocolate helped :))

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

So. Much. To. Do.

I had a momentary panic attack tonight. It set in during church when my mind was relaxed but I started going over everything I still have to accomplish in the next just over three weeks. So much paper work and arranging and planning and PACKING and I'm working 40+ hours which is great because I need the money but it's overwhelming. Anyway, I reached out to a few people and they talked me down and I'm okay now (aside from a headache from crying). I sent a few messages when I got home and arranged a few things. I added to my list too. I'll do more tomorrow and I know it will fall into place but man, it sure gets overwhelming!!! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Truths I have learned

Hey blogland. I know I've been totally MIA again, and I truly do miss blogging. I think about it but somehow I never get her to post. Anyway, this is a bit of a vague post because I'm not about to post the gory details of how or why I learned these truths but suffice to say, I have some incredible friends and awesome people in my life and I thank God for them daily.

Recent Truths I Have Learned:

It's good to be human.
It's good to feel.
Things are rarely as big or as important as they seem in your head.
Life is too short to be spent worrying.
It's not what you do, it's how you do it.

This semester has been interesting in it's own special way. A good lesson in patience but also a lot of growth. I have an incredible 2013 lined up and I'm super excited for it, but I'm not quite ready for this year to be over yet either.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Welcome to Year Three

Summer's gone and I hardly blogged at all. It's not even like it was all that busy, I just never got around to it. Anyway, instead of burdening myself with trying to recap it all, I'm going to start with today. My first day back at school. I'm in my "third year" but I'm technically a half credit short of being a "third year" student which is why I titled this "year three". It's confusing. I know. It will get more confusing as time goes on. The bottom line is, after this year, I still have two full more years to go to complete my undergrad. It's all good.

So, first day back. I have four classes again this semester (hence why a four year program is taking me five years, because I'm only doing four classes at a time instead of five). This semester my classes are all on Tuesdays and Thursdays with one tutorial on Friday. I start on Tuesday (today) at 10am with African History. I took this class for two reasons. 1) I know nothing about Africa and I think it will be interesting. 2) I heard the prof speak at a History Students Association conference a few years back and I loved him. After the first class, I still love him and I'm super excited for this class, although not so much the readings that go with it (they look depressing, I'm sure they'll be interesting though).

That class runs for an hour and a half (well, 80 minutes but for arguments sake, 1.5 hours) and then I have a 1.5 hour break. At 1pm I go to my "Canada Before Confederation" history course. Again I took it for two reasons. 1) I love the topic and think I want to pursue this era. 2) I haven't heard great things about the prof and I want to form my own opinions because there is a chance I'd have her for upper level courses in the future.

Then I have a 1.5 hour break (are we seeing a pattern here?) and at 4pm I start what might be my favourite class. It's officially called "War and Memory in North America" but it deals specifically with the War of 1812 followed by World War One. We have some really cool projects to do and we've planned a field trip to the battlefields at Niagara! Oh, and this prof is amazing. I haven't had him but I've heard fantastic things and judging from the first class, they're right.

After that class I have a short 30 minute break and then I head off to Quebec Culture IN FRENCH for three hours. I have been apprehensive about this class, even after talking to the prof. I'm happy to report that I understood a lot more than I had anticipated. After hardly doing any French over the summer I managed to understand the majority of what the prof said tonight. Granted she has a pretty anglicized accent but she still speaks fairly quickly so I was a bit worried. I'm going to have to work hard but I have easily a dozen friends in that class so we're planning weekly study sessions and I think we'll do well.

Thursday is the same as Tuesday minus the three hour class. Also, the middle one (Canadian History) doesn't have a lecture on Thursday's but sometimes there are what she calls "remedial classes" which are essentially tips on how to do the assignments or what to study for the final. So that's what I'm up to! The other day's I have open for working and for my campus club activities. I'm very active in French Club again, a general member in the History Students Association and, most scarily, a Co-President of NASSA (North American Studies Students Association) eek! And speaking of, I have work to do. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Hell Week is Over

I don't guarantee that I'll be posting more but maybe. I call last week Hell Week because I worked roughly 30 hours at Headstart and well over 20 at Starbucks. Headstart is a program on campus for incoming first years. It runs on random days in May, June and July but last week it was five days in a row (I worked four of them). My roll was largely directing traffic and making people parked in the proper lot. I did that morning and afternoon for two-ish hours each time. In between I helped students with online registration for classes and then led tours in the late afternoon. It was exhausting but a lot of fun. It has helped to break up the summer but I am sure glad it's over. Being on your feet for eight hours at a time at Starbucks is one thing because you're generally always moving and doing things. Being outside in the HOT sun and standing mostly in one place is a different kind of exhausting. It it has been HOT. And humid. It makes me question my sanity regarding moving to Georgia. I keep reminding myself that I'm going in January though. Hopefully it won't be too hot.

Anyway, Headstart is done and I'm back to just working my 30ish hours a week at Starbucks. It's almost like being on vacation! LOL

Monday, June 11, 2012

Stoney Creek

A couple of months ago I was hanging out with Heather and Kinsey and we were discussing (among other things) our summer plans. I mentioned that I wanted to take advantage of the activities planned in remembrance of the War of 1812 and Heather informed me that she has a friend who is a War of 1812 reenactor! I went home that night and immediately added Ryan as a friend on Facebook...or maybe he added me. She messaged him to say that we needed to meet. (Can you tell which one is him? LOL) I've been chatting with him infrequently ever since. Picking his brain about reenacting and the upcoming events. 

Sunday, June 3rd I had an evening church service and Ryan was in Hamilton at the first major event of the year. The 199th Anniversary of the Battle of Stoney Creek. Heather had been away for most of May so I talked her into coming to Stoney Creek with me so we could catch up (it wasn't that hard to convince her). It was a grey, overcast day. I had on a hoodie and I wore it all day. At one point it warmed up and I pushed up the sleeves but that was as hot as it got. Still when I got home my nose and cheeks were rosy. Stupid UV rays! Anyway, it was actually good weather for an event like this. Too much hotter and it would have been miserable. 
We arrived just before the memorial service (second picture) and afterwards went up the monument to see the view. After that we wandered around and took in the sites. We tried oat cakes made by someone on site, learned about early 19th century diseases, listened to musical performances and sat for over an hour and listened to "Tecumseh" (left). He was a very passionate speaker and very engaging but I got bored. Heather loved him though.

The main attraction was the battle at 2pm. It was preceded by an artillery demonstration (that's Ryan on the  cannon crew). The battle was fully narrated so that us "civilians" could tell what was happening and why. It was fascinating. There was a small group of Americans portraying the "other side". It ended with a moment of silence for all the fallen.

Renactments are interesting to watch, especially when the British are involved in their red coats. 

Heather and I after the battle.

Ryan and Heather. I can't wait until the next event!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Shallows

A few weeks ago I met up with my friend Steph for drinks at a new cafe in town that I recently discovered. It was a gorgeous day so we sat out on the patio and then went for a walk through Uptown Waterloo and browsed in the shops. We ended up in a bookstore where I picked up a few books from the bargain bin. As I was paying I made a comment about hoping I could concentrate long enough to actually read them. I'm finding that my ability to lose myself in a book for hours on end like I could when I was a kid is gone. I was questioning if it has just been the books I've been reading (are they not that interesting?) or conditioning from working as a receptionist for so many years where you're constantly interrupted. The owner of the book store asked me to wait and he went and pulled a book from the shelf entitled "The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains". I almost never buy full priced books but this one looked so interesting that I just did it. And luckily it was. The book itself is pretty full of stats and results of studies and surveys but the bottom line is that the inability to concentrate that I am feeling isn't unique to me and the culprit is actually the internet!

One passage that really stood out was near the end.

"The influx of competing messages that we receive whenever we go online not only overloads our working memory; it makes it much harder for our frontal lobes to concentrate our attention on any one thing. The process of memory consolidation can't even get started. And, thanks once again to the plasticity of our neuronal pathways, the more we use the Web, the more we train our brain to be distracted - to process information very quickly and very efficiently but without sustained attention. That helps explain why many of us find it hard to concentrate even when we're away from our computers. Our brains become adept at forgetting, inept at remembering. Our growing dependence on the Web's information stores may in fact be the product of a self-perpetuating self-amplifying loop. As our use of the Web makes it harder for us to lock information into our biological memory, w're forced to rely more and more on the Net's capacious and easily searchable artificial memory, even if it makes us shallower thinkers.

The book talks about the lull of electronic stimulation and how our brains have been reshaped and reformed to need it. On one hand it's a bit depressing but on the other, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one feeling like this and it CAN be reversed. It just takes dedicated time to rework those neural pathways. Interesting stuff!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Distillery District

I'm having adventures faster than I can blog about them! Let's see if I can catch up a bit here.

I do realize the irony in following the previous blog post up with this one but I want to stay chronological here. So after posting about how much I like doing things with my friends, Wednesday, May 30th I headed into Toronto by myself. My destination was the First Parliament Interpretive Centre. I need to back up though and give a bit of background. Before I moved to Ontario I was at a ScrapShare Washington Retreat and discussing my plans with my friend Linda. She suggested that I connect with her friend Wendy who is involved in some of the fields I am looking at employment opportunities in. Wendy and I added each other on Facebook and then life got in the way. I moved, settled into school, went to Quebec and took my epic road trip last summer. She moved between Ottawa and Toronto and got divorced. This year when school ended I contacted her again and made plans to come out to visit. Wednesday was that day. 

I was late leaving Waterloo but traffic wasn't too bad so I got to Toronto around 1pm. Wendy was waiting for me and greeted me by name when I walked in. We started chatting and talked for probably two hours straight. It was great. We discussed the exhibit and how it developed, her involvement and the other places she has worked. From what Linda had said I knew Wendy would be a good resource and I was right. We discussed the job market in our field in Ontario, ways to network and a bunch of other things. The exhibit itself is a temporary one so it's mostly just informational panels. I didn't take any pictures but it was interesting to read and a good introduction to the War of 1812 bicentennial events happening in Ontario starting this year.

 The exhibit closed at 4 and I left just before that. Wendy directed me to the nearby historic Distillery District (which is where I had ended up parking my car) and because I wasn't in a rush to get anywhere, I hung around for awhile. I browsed through the shops, ate the lunch I had packed while people watching and treated myself to some fabulous chocolate and a tart from the bakery. In a store called Bergo I found THIS. I first saw it in the MOMA gift shop when Meredith and I were in NYC. I also recently pinned it on Pinterest. I know you can buy it at uncommongoods but I found it for cheaper here. I don't know what I'll use it for. I have no need for a creamer but I've regretted not buying it for two and a half years so I had to get it. Interesting side note. I had a feeling I would find it in that store. All their other stock was similar gadgets and by the same designer so I was working my way through looking closely at each display. Just before I found it I got a call from Meredith. We had been playing telephone tag so I was expecting her call. I also had a pretty good idea of why she was calling. The day before I had learned that one of our elementary school classmates had passed away. I don't even know the last time I saw or spoke to Laura but she used to live across the street from me and we played together a bit. This is really random but one of the clearest memories I have of Laura isn't even about her. It was of Meredith telling me, in maybe grade 3 that Laura had said that her older sister was "bleeding from between her legs". It was the first I had ever really heard of menstruation and I remember Meredith sounding really concerned about Laura's sister and the fact that it could happen to us. I also remember responding in that "I'm-younger-than-you-but-the-oldest-child-in-my-family-calmness" that "There must be an explanation for it. We just don't know what it is yet". Anyway, as I said. Random. The point of that segue was to say that just after I hung up with Mere I found the creamer so in a weird way it felt like she was there with me this time too. Anyway, this has gotten kind of long and rambly. I guess I can finish up by saying it was a nice, relaxing, productive day and I can't wait to get back to the Distillery District and to other parts of Toronto over the summer.

BlackBird Vintage. Another amazing shop that was like having my Pinterest boards come to life. It was everything I could do to hold back and not drop major $$$!

The chocolate shop

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Art of Asking Questions

There is a challenge that floats around that invites you to create a tag line for your life. One quick phrase that summarizes what you are all about. In the past I've considered "A Life with Three Brothers" because being the only girl really does shape your view of the world. Another option is "The Art of Asking Questions". Being able to ask interesting engaging questions is a skill I have honed very specifically and use frequently. Sometimes it's harder than others but usually I can people to open up and share all sorts of information about themselves. I believe it is this skill (and my wonderful personality ;)) that has helped me establish some wonderful friendships. I met up with my friend Laura earlier this week to "plan our summer". She and I have similar interests when it comes to exploring historic sites and we got together to discuss which ones we wanted to visit this summer. You may remember the one adventure we managed to have last summer. I called my parents afterwards because I was so excited and my dad asked "how do you find so many people that you get along with so well?" And so many people that want to do what you want to do. So I told him my secret. I just like to GO. Get out and do as much as possible as often as possible. As you get to know people, and ask questions, you find out what they like to do, and then when you want to do that thing, you call them. I have different friends that I do different things with. If I want to go for a hike our be outside, I call Jess. If I want to go shopping, I call Grace. If it's something to do with food or cooking, Heather and Kinsey are at the top of the list. If I need someone to hang out with or go for coffee or ice cream on the spur of the moment, I can be assured that Steph or Lindsay will be game. And that's just a few people. Yes I make friends easily but I know how to BE with them and to do things that they enjoy. I think that's the key. Get to know them and then meet them on their level. It works great and I'm super excited for what Laura and I have in store!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Grace's Birthday Part 2!

Sunday after church Jerusha had a bunch of us girls over for "Grace's Birthday Part 2". J wasn't able to join us at Niagara but she still wanted to do something to help Grace celebrate so she hosted a lovely luncheon. She had appetizers spread out on the table when we arrived and served a delicious Trinidadian meal. 

After lunch we played "Whoonu" and "Never Have I Ever" and enjoyed this fun cupcake creation. It was a lovely relaxing day. Have I mentioned how much I love all my friends here lately?

Star Wars

My friend Sharlaine moved from BC to Ontario just a few months before I did. She's five years younger than me so we weren't really close in BC but since moving we've developed a deeper friendship. It helps to have someone around who understands what you left behind and knows the same people you do. Sharlaine is a HUGE Star Wars fan. I like Star Wars but I honestly can't remember the last time I actually watched the original three movies. I know I have seen them, probably more than once, but it's easily been ten years or more. Before we moved we made plans to get together to have a Star Wars marathon. On Saturday we finally achieved that.
I worked in the morning and then headed over to Sharlaine's mid-afternoon. I got there around 5pm and we made pizza and settled in to watch the movies. Unfortunately we only made it through the second one (Episode V) before we were both dozing off so we called it a night. Still, it was fun to hang out and remember how much I really do like those movies.

I made little individual coffee flavoured cheese cakes decorated with a Star Wars themed kit from Williams Sonoma for dessert.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Good Timing

(I wrote this post on my Blackberry today while I was killing time. So if it's a bit choppy, that's why. Hopefully it's okay to read because it's about something rather exciting for me.) First a bit of background because I can't remember if I've blogged this before and if I have, I don't expect my readers to remember it. Rewind to first semester of first year. Following the advice of the history undergrad advisor I took a course called "North American Studies 101". The prof and I hit it off extremely well. Out of a class of 200, I participated a lot and often stayed after class to chat. She's also from BC and we found we had a lot in common. As I worked through my first year homesickness, I found I could often turn to her as proof that it would all turn out okay.  Our final exam was on December 22nd. As I was leaving we chatted a bit about our plans for the holidays (both of us were going back to BC) and she asked if I had heard of her NO202 course called "North American Narrative Place and Identity". I was aware of it but, because it was a second year course, I hadn't thought about it much. Well, she invited me to take it with her in the winter semester since the following year (my actual second year) she was scheduled to be on sabbatical and wouldn't be teaching it. It didn't take me long to realize that when a prof invites you to take a course, it's a good thing, so I enrolled. To keep the story short, it was one of my favourite classes ever. The paper I wrote was called "The Representation of the Senorita in Contemporary Country Music" and I got 93% on it (!). I got an A+ overall in that class (the only one I've received so far). So by the end of that year, because of her and how much I enjoyed North American Studies, I declared myself a double major in History and NAS.  So second year goes by. She was on sabbatical and I've taken three other NAS classes (none of which were taught by her anyway). As I was building my third year schedule I realized that the only course that I could take with her is a French course (she's cross listed as a prof in NAS and French). This is a course I was planning on taking for my French minor anyway. It's on Quebec Culture and can be double counted as credits for both French and NAS. But, it's IN FRENCH! I have to admit I was pretty nervous about having to participate and write in French. The content isn't too bad, I mean we study Quebec a lot in NAS, especially in contrast to English Canada and, when I was in Montreal I learned that history really is the same in French as in English (for the most part). Anyway, I talked to a few of my coworkers who have had this prof, in French, and asked what their experience was. In general it was a pretty favourable review but one of them did caution that she seems to pick favourites. This is criticism of her that I've heard before and I admit I laughed it off because we all know where I stand that way ;) the thing that concerned me was possibly losing that status over my less than stellar language skills. Keep in mind that I see her as someone who could be a fourth year seminar advisor and a very good contact for future opportunities so maintaining this status is important to me. I decided to be proactive and go talk to her before classes start in September. Just be really upfront and explain that while I am looking forward to this class, I have some concerns. I figured honesty is the best policy and that way I don't feel like I'm hiding anything and that I can go to her for extra assistance when I need it. Okay, now to the point of our story. So I'm psyching myself up to talk to her in September and guess who comes in to Starbucks on Monday? Just as I'm about to go on my lunch break too. I almost didn't recognize her since it's been a year since I saw her last but I recognized her voice. I said hi, welcome back, etc and we started chatting like no time had passed (except that we had a year of stuff to catch up on!) She ended up staying in the store while I had my lunch and we talked about everything. My experience with Explore and living in Quebec (she did the program 20 years ago), my trip out East, the 2011 playoff run (she's a huge Canucks fan), me going to Georgia, my review of the French profs I've had this year AND the WHOLE structure of this course that I'm taking with her. She was happy to hear that I am going to be in it and I was really upfront with my feelings. I told her why I'm nervous and she told me why, for what I want out of it, I shouldn't be. Apparently when this course was first designed there were only 30 seats. That allowed for a lot of interaction and participation and people wrote papers that were graded with feedback. Now the class has expanded to 80 seats with no marking support. 80 people means there's a wide range of language ability and it makes in class discussion difficult and grading papers a monumental task. She kind of apologized for that and said that from a "French language improvement point of view", the class would be a disappointment. It's mostly listening and reading. There will be weekly readings with short answer "homework" assignments which are mostly completion marks, two multiple choice mid-terms and a final that will require writing but not a lot and it will be graded on content rather than grammar. So for anyone looking to improve their speaking or writing skills (which I am not really) the class wouldn't be good. But for anyone looking to learn about culture (which I am) it will be fine. So there. I was prepared to worry for another three months and now I don't have to! Plus she has emailed me some of our readings so I can get a headstart on the more difficult ones. Talk about good timing and how everything works out for the best. I need to keep believing that!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Port Dover

Monday, May 21st was Victoria Day. I worked a six hour shift at Starbucks (time and a half baby! ;)) but I was done by 1pm so I made plans to meet up with Jess in the little town of Port Dover on Lake Erie. It's about the same distance from my place to Port Dover as it is from hers and there's no real convenient place to meet up so we just met there. It worked well though because Jess had the whole day off so she was able to go out early. I got there around 3pm and joined her on the patch of beach that she had staked out. This picture was taken later in the evening when the beach had cleared off. It was BUSY, which makes sense since it's the "official start of summer" and probably the nicest May Day we've had in a long time.

We both brought snacks but we got fish and chips for dinner anyway. I had the perch and she had halibut. Food eaten outside always tastes better and this was no exception.

The line for food was crazy long. Can you see Jess (in the grey cap) and Chili in line?

We both had books so we just sat and enjoyed the nice weather. We read a bit, chatted and did a lot of people watching. It was a wonderfully relaxing way to welcome summer. I hope we can have a lot more days like this.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Niagara Falls

This is my friend Grace. She turned 25 on Friday. She was having a hard time with that number. I think we all have issues with some number or another. For me it was 23. 25 was actually pretty fun. Anyway, since she needed a distraction, a group of us decided to go to Niagara Falls for the night. There were seven of us total so we got two hotel rooms just a few blocks from the falls. We carpooled down and arrived about an hour and a half before our dinner reservations. I had anticipated the early arrival and packed a selection of cheese and crackers which I served as an appetizer on the slate cheese board that I bought Grace as a present. (I bought the same one for her brother and sister-in-law's wedding last year and she's been coveting it ever since ;))

Grace is a very girly girl so we decided to use her birthday as an opportunity to get dressed up. Our dinner reservations were at the Keg so we all pulled out our fancy dresses and did our hair. We got lots of looks but the "Happy 25th Birthday" balloon that we made Grace carry explained a lot :)
After dinner we changed into more comfortable shoes and then set out on a scavenger hunt that Sharlaine created. (Note the feather boa and blinking crown for Grace ;)) We broke into two teams and had to find 25 things such as: ONE famous person (a picture or a statue), a person with TWO tattoos, THREE people drinking coffee, etc. And of course get a picture of a team member with each person. It was a lot of fun. We only gave ourselves 45 minutes so there was a lot of running involved. My team won but only because we managed to get a group picture with TWENTY people looking at the camera (in Tim Hortons, we just kind of shouted and everyone looked LOL)
Saturday morning we slept in, had our own continental breakfast in the hotel (I brought fruit, one of the other girls brought homemade biscuits, and we had the leftover cheese) and then we headed out to see the falls. Even though Grace was born and raised in Ontario this is the first time she had actually been to the falls (other than crossing the border). She's been lots of other places. England, France, BC and on two cruises but sometimes the things in your own back yard are just as hard to get to.
It was a fabulous day for sightseeing. It was the holiday weekend so it was a little busy but not as bad as it will be later in the summer. It was sunny and warm with a slight breeze so when we did get hit with the spray from the falls it was refreshing more than annoying. The mist at the Canadian Falls was there but it wasn't really all that bad.
The first time I visited Niagara Falls was during my trip to Ontario at Easter in 2000. We drove down on Good Friday and had to be back for an evening church service so we didn't have a lot of time. It was a cold overcast day as well so it wasn't all that enjoyable. Aside from the brief stop I made on the American side of the falls in December 2010 I haven't been back. Maybe it's all in my head but I swear the falls look different from when I was there in 2000. I feel like I can tell that they have receded. It's really interesting to see.
Grace, Sharlaine and I decided to take the Maid of the Mist. Again, I did ride it twelve years ago but this time we were able to go SO much closer! Right up to the base of the Canadian Falls. It was awesome!!! Well worth the money it costs.
These are the American Falls as seen from the Maid of the Mist.
I didn't actually realize the bird was there until I uploaded this picture. I like it. There are tons of birds all around the falls and they are interesting to watch too.
After the boat ride the three of us joined up with the rest of the group and we visited a few of the shops in Niagara. The Hershey and Coke stores were favourites. This picture was taken in a hotel lobby by a friendly guy with an accent. That's me at the bottom, Susannah, Sharlaine, Elizabeth, Grace, Rachel and Esther. Just some of my awesome friends in Ontario :) 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Grandma & Grandpa

Today would have been my maternal grandparents sixtieth wedding anniversary. Unfortunately Grandma passed away just after their 45th and as I mentioned in my last post, Grandpa passed away this last Christmas (December 28th to be specific). They had an incredibly rich life though. They met in Germany where they were both working on a farm after the war. The married on May 18, 1952 at the Lutheran Church in Beedenbostel, Germany which is just outside of Gockenholz where the farm was. In 1953 the emigrated to Canada along with my grandmother's parents, three brothers and sister. The landed at Saint John, New Brunswick and took the train to Raymond, Alberta. There they all worked on a sugar beet farm for a few years to pay back the fees that the Lutheran Church had paid to sponsor them to come to Canada. From there they moved up to just outside of Edmonton and lived on a farm and then in town for the rest of their lives. They had five children. Two boys, two girls and fifteen years later, another boy. My mom was the youngest girl. Because my family moved from Alberta to BC when I was three I didn't have daily contact with my grandparents but we'd visit several times a year and often for a longer stretch during the summer so I did have a good relationship with them. It's hard to believe they're both gone now and that Grandma has been gone for half my life. I still miss her every day. I was given her wedding ring when she passed away. It's just a simple gold band with Grandpa's initials and the date of their wedding engraved inside (HB Mai 52) I wear it every single day and rarely take it off. Today means that it is at least sixty years old as well. It's a reminder of their quiet love and simple endurance. I treasure it more than anything and am honored to wear it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I know a lot of people and I consider a lot of people friends. Some people are particularly special though. One year ago today I met one of those people. One year ago today I arrived in Chicoutimi, Quebec and when I got to my host family's home, I realized that there would be two other students living there with me. What I didn't know was how much and how deeply one of them would impact my life and in how short of a time. I met a lot of people during my time in Quebec but Ashley Gibson and I formed the deepest bond of all. As someone who only had brothers and who hadn't had much success with roommates, I never knew the intimacy that could develop when you live with someone, especially when you are sharing the experience of the Explore Program. It is very intense and without Ashley and the other friends I made, I don't think I would have made it though.

Ashley and I initially connected because we were so close in age (she only had six months on me). Our other housemate, Museb was much younger and good was a good sport about taking on the role of "little brother". In the five weeks that I was in Chicoutimi Ashley and I were pretty much always by each others sides. She was in a different classroom but we often ate lunch together and sought each other out at break times and for group events. Most evenings we either had dinner at the school or with our host family and then she and I (and sometimes Museb) would go out. I spent more time in pubs and bars in that time than all the rest of
my life combined ( felt like it anyway ;)) But really, that's what we did. Ashley drank, I drove, we were a fabulous pair. Then on weekends we'd go exploring. It was generally someone different in the back seat. Victoria joined us a few times, Beth, Vita, Steve, Adam, Connor, the list goes on but it was always, ALWAYS, Ashley and I together in the front. We covered the Saguenay Region in the sun, rain and fog and sampled every cheese curd, ice cream and beer (for her) that we could find. It was around the fourth week that I had to go out quickly. I was driving away from the house when I realized "this is the first time I've been alone in my car since I arrived!!!"

I wouldn't have had it any other way. We shared so much in such a short time

I saw Ashley twice after Quebec. Once on July 8th when I was passing through Toronto and managed to meet up with her for dinner (I met her mom that night too) and once on August 31st when we met up for lunch at a restaurant just down the street from her house. Once school started our lives both got so busy it was hard to coordinate our schedules. Even so we BBM'd frequently and stayed in touch on Facebook. Over Christmas we made plans to get together for her birthday on January 6th. My return was delayed by the death of my grandfather and her party was postponed due to the death of her grandmother. A few days after our last exchange which was "I'll let you know when we reschedule" I received a phone call from Ashley's mother telling me that Ashley had died. As far as I know her death was caused by a bad mix of new prescription drugs and just like that her young life was ended. She had just had her 32nd birthday. I did make it up to Collingwood for the funeral. That was one of the hardest drives I've ever had to make but it was also therapeutic in it's own way. It seemed like a long drive was a good way to pay homage to someone who I got to know so well in my car. I still miss her like crazy and think of her often. I've lost other friends and acquaintances but never one whom I was so close with. Even if she was only in my life for a little over seven months.