Thursday, March 30, 2006

birthday fairies

The birthday fairies came and brought me the most gorgeous plant! I love it!

Monday, March 27, 2006

crocus party

The crocus party is well underway in our yard. Adam did a bunch of cleaning up outside today, which is awesome... we brought out the BBQ and I set up some trellises for clematis. And it's supposed to be sunny all week. And our group paper for my course is 99% done. And I should be done everything by next Wednesday. I'm so excited I think I might burst. :)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

amaryllis

It's interesting when you realize that unbeknownst to you, someone else's life is somehow progressing in a similar way. When I was staying with friends over the break, we were chatting and discovered that both of us are changing to a more environmentally friendly way of keeping our living space clean. Using natural products for cleaning and personal care makes sense; it's kind of scary to read labels on commercial cleaning products. As my friend said, "If I have to lock the cupboard to keep my baby out because the products in it are so dangerous, I don't think I want it in the house." I'm currently in the process of using up what I have left of a few cleaners (I think it's probably better than pouring them down the darin) and looking for more natural skin care products. My soap making friend and I have lots of recipes for those types of things, so maybe I'll give some of them a go. I'm very content with my life moving in this direction.

Less is more, more or less

I've decided that I need to pay a great deal more attention to the way I'm living and impacting the world and people around me. I started a new blog to help crystallize my thoughts on the matter, but decided that since that's a part of me, why wouldn't I include it here? (It's easier to keep track of, too.) These are the posts that I had there, minus the pictures, which I will post separately. I'm sure there will be more to come.

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More with less, less is more, more or less... all of the simple blog names were taken (and most of those have never been updated since their inception). Hence the kind of long name. I was given a cook book called "More with Less" by a wonderful friend, and have been thinking about the philosophy behind it over the past few days.

As an educator, I like to think of education as the primary need of people around the globe, but really - if someone doesn't have food, water, shelter, and necessary meds, there isn't going to be much learning taking place. Being responsible about the food I consume may not have an immediate impact on a child's hunger in Banlgladesh, but I think it is certainly important to be a conscious consumer.

This is my journey, trying to figure out how.

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While I want my life to be relatively simple, I take issue with the marketing of simplicity with the goal of enticing people to buy stuff. Real Simple magazine, for example. While I enjoy the magazine, I hate it at the same time. The 'recipes' in it are combinations of prepared foods (for a 'homemade' dessert, take a box of cake mix, a tub of Cool Whip and some strawberry jam, for example) and there are whole sections of the magazine to tell you what to buy (the best pasta sauce, plastic wrap, etc.) While the magazine touts 'simplicity' it really means 'time-savers'. I like magazines in general because you can pick them up whenever and it doesn't generally require much thoughtfulness to read them. And I like ones about home, decorating, cooking, because those are things I enjoy. I would like to find one that actually encourages people to buy and waste less rather than more. Does such a magazine exist? Who would sponsor it?

This whole topic is such a war within myself - while part of me wants so badly to live simply and in an ecologically responsible way with every decision I make, there is another part of me that loves the way advertising presents things, and I think a tiny part of me even believes that if I buy this particular item, that says something about me. This is really scary - that I have been trained to think in this way! How do I undo it?

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This is an amaryllis I have started; it has begun its rapid growth spurt, which will hopefully result in some gorgeous red blooms before too long. I was taking some pictures of things I have growing around the house today, and was thinking about the pleasure that can be taken in them. The growth of them is beyond our capacity to control; we simply provide a conducive environment suited to the plant and hope for the best. Thinking about doing my small part to make the earth a little greener, a lot can be said for growing one's own food. Of course, it's not always possible, and I'm not planning on starting a greenhouse in my living room. But I've been thinking about how to go about growing tomatoes indoors over the winter, after suffering through one too many mealy overpriced ones from the grocery store. Not only will growing my own provide better tasting tomatoes, but that will be one less food item that has gone through who knows what process to arrive here. I'm not sure how well this will work out, since they require so much sun, but I can always give it a go.
Another small yet significant change I made awhile ago that I was thinking about today is switching from using plastic wrap to wax paper when something in the microwave needs to be covered. I always hated throwing the hot, shrinky wrap in the garbage, and I just don't like the idea of melty plastic sticking to my food ("Will you have some carcinogens with that soup, Ma'am?"). The wax paper can also be composted (Nova Scotia has a very good recycling program; they pick up everything, including compostable materials.) One thing at a time.

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A picture I took of the cookbook I mentioned in an earlier post, which has contributed to this whole blog and a new way of thinking about 'stuff'.

A few things have come to my attention over the past week (super busy with work and courses makes for a non-blogging Sherrie) that I'm trying to straighten out in my mind.

1. Wal-mart opened here a few weeks ago. As much as I don't like Wal-Mart for their greediness, treatment of employees, etc. I still have this inclination to go and see what they have (mainly for soap scents and a couple other craft things I can't find at other stores here). I don't want to spend my money supporting the corporation, so I figure the best way is to just avoid going in the first place. But part of me still wants to... here is that war within me thing again.

2. Adam brought a group pf people to my attention earlier this week. A group of people in the San Francisco bay area have decided that they are not going to buy anything new for a year (aside from underwear, groceries, and things related to safety.) It is so true that we don't need more stuff, and why not get it second hand? The Compact is what they're called, and I like a lot of things about their philosophy. Their blog is here.

3. The Freecycle Network is another thing of interest that came to my attention this week. The idea is that people in any particular area get connected online if they have free stuff to give away or if they need something. Everything's free, no payment of any kind. A neat idea, although I do see some potential for problems, like having strangers come to your house to pick things up, or having people who only post things that they want. I guess anything's got potential for problems, though.

4. Conversation cafes - to me, the whole less is more thing kind of means moving away from isolation from other people as well as moving away from our habits of buying buying buying. Maybe because when you're buying from a farmer's market, you actually meet and talk with the person who grew the produce and it seems to go back to the way things were before box stores... anyway. Conversation cafes do seem a little strange (getting together with strangers to discuss issues of importance) - it kind of seems that we should be discussing these things with the people we love. I do understand, though that sometimes that just doesn't work - many people don't want to think beyond their everyday existence, so finding a group of people who do is pretty neat. Socrates cafe is kind of similar - very interesting.

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I'm certainly not an expert on the topic, but it seems that art (in general) has a lot to do with the connectivity of people. Perhaps because it connects people across space and time in a way that nothing else does. It's a way of represting ourselves that encompasses so much of who we are that you can't help but feel connected to someone when you experience their work.

I've been trying to figure out this 'connectivity' and not getting very far with articulating it. But I think that's a good start. On to supper.

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This is the point at which the amaryllis has progressed; no sign of flowerage yet. Kind of like my thoughts about art and connectivity and such - definitely making progress, but no grand finale yet. Which brings me to the book I started today. It's called Socrates Cafe (I think the author is Chris Phillips, I don't have it right here) and is an account of this guy trying to pursue the socratic method of inquiry in our current North American society. Very interesting. I'm eager to get into the book further - I wonder how a Socrates Cafe would fly in Yarmouth? I think some interested people might come out of the woodwork. Could be interesting...
Thoughts I've come to today about my thoughts: as with my possible dud amaryllis, maybe there is no grand finale. Perhaps it's a long series of questions and realizing more and more how little you know while coming to a fuller appreciation of the world and people around you.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

So much to do

Playing catch-up after a week off is busy yet fun. It surprises me how much I miss my students when I don't see them for awhile. So work stuff is fine and going well.

My course and practicum, however, are feeling very overwhelming and stressful at the moment. Perhaps a bit of venting will help. Getting started on some stuff will help, too. Feel free to stop reading. Stress:

"A mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression." (dictionary.com)

Well, things aren't that serious yet... I think it would take a lot to get my blood pressure up, as it's usually below average. Anyhoo, I have a paper to put together, a Nemeth exam, and three more weekly assignments, along with teleconferences and readings. On the bright side, though, the exam is open book and the assignments aren't too bad. But it's officially Spring, and I want to be doing anything else other than coursework in my free time.

Ah, but then - then, I will be DONE. For the first time in my life, I will not be preparing for further schooling. What a wonderful and inspiring thought. If I can just keep focussed on that and all of my thoughts about exciting things coming up in the summer, I just might survive without exploding. Fires on the beach, gardening, reading in the sun, biking, popsicles...

Friday, March 17, 2006

my new favourite...

...person! I had a fabulous March break with wonderful friends and family. Thank you so much for taking me in... it was a really relaxing week. Mostly because I got to play with this phenomenal little person! We had an excellent time together. I do have some more interesting thoughts about children's development, visual and otherwise... but who wants to read about that when you can look at this face?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

snowdrop party

Spring has sprung! It is the most beautiful and incredible morning ever - it's sunny, the birds are singing their heads off, and yesterday I discovered that there are snowdrops popping up all over our yard. This morning when we were out taking pictures (and I did some yard work, yipee!) I discovered some purple crocuses that have made their appearance. I cannot contain my excitement!

Monday, March 06, 2006

talking beasts

After an unfortunate event with our cat missing his litter box, I somehow got around to thinking about animals and the role they play in our lives. There seem to be two extreme types of animal people: those who think that their pets are actually human and fully cognizant of what's going on around them, and those who have no use for animals and think that they are dumb creatures, only useful to supply food, entertainment, whatever. I like to think I'm somewhere in the middle, although Adam might argue that the number of pictures I take of our cat supplies evidence to the contrary.

What got me thinking about animals in the first place a few weeks ago was an article in the Globe that Adam pointed out to me about 'seizure dogs'. These are dogs which help in the case of a human's seizure, and some can predict when a person is about to experience a seizure, and they behave as trained so the person knows that this is about to happen. Fascinating. There seems to be some kind of human / animal connection beyond what seems reasonable to most people, and I think it's very interesting. People have been saying for a long time that spending time with animals will help lower blood pressure and provide other health benefits. This seems like something worth investigating.

In relation to animals, I've also been thinking about books with animal characters and people's reaction to them. Take The Chronicles of Narnia, for example. It's rife with talking beasts (intelligent, thinking (and talking) animals. Hundreds of other books also have this anthropomorphic element to them. Maybe this idea is so popular because it makes it almost plausible that somewhere, there actually could be talking beasts. And even though our experience suggests otherwise, that still doesn't eliminate the possibility that they could exist somewhere. It's the lottery mentality - even though I haven't won, doesn't mean it couldn't happen. And discovering the ways that animals help humans as the seizure dogs do continues the discussion.

hot process soap


I posted awhile ago about making soap with my lovely friend Annie, and I thought I should update everyone with the revolutionary new discovery we've made (which the rest of the soap-making world probably knew about long ago). Rather than stirring forever and doing everything at carefully-regulated cool temperatures, you can actually cook your lye and oil (soap) as you're making it, which finishes up the process much more quickly. Speed isn't always the goal, as it is very relaxing and ritualistic to take turns stirring for several hours, but when you just want some nice soap quickly, this seems to be the way to go. The lye and oil are mixed in a slow cooker (you can also do it in a roasting pan in the oven but we haven't tried that) with a stick blender, and then you literally cook it for about an hour. Without expounding too much, and to sum things up, we can now make a batch of soap in a couple of hours which is ready to use in a couple more hours, after it's cooled. We made some last night during a fabulous visit, and split the batch in half for scents / additions. I made beeswax and honey with oatmeal, and Annie made Mayan Gold with something in it. We both think hers stinks, and the jury's still out on mine - I think after it's dried a bit more, it might be quite lovely.

Friday, March 03, 2006

For you, Jen!

After that gloomy post, I thought I should come up with something a little perkier. Since it's Friday, how about some jokes? These from ajokeaday.com made me giggle.

- Hey buddy. How late does the band play?
About half a beat behind the drummer.

- A man walks into a pub, and approaches the bar. He orders a pint and looks down to see a bowl of peanuts on the counter. He decides to eat one. When he picks it up and goes to put it in his mouth the peanut says "Hello, handsome!" So he puts the peanut down in astonishment.
He decides to try one more time. And yet again the peanut talks: "Ooh, you are gorgeous." Well, as you can imagine, he was really stunned.
He then decides to go over to buy some cigarettes from the dispenser. He drops in a pound and the machine spits it out and tells him to "Go away, ugly!" This really shocked the man so he goes up to the barman and says "Why is it, that when I pick up the peanuts from the bar they are really nice to me, yet when I try to get some cigarettes from the machine it tells me I'm ugly?"
"Ah, well..." the barman replies, "The peanuts are complimentary and the cigarette machine is out of order."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

nightmare

I'm driving up the cemetery section of Forest street, on my way to see a student. It's a cloudy day, mid-afternoon. I slow down as I see a red Corsica pulling straight out of a driveway on the right side of the road. It's the driveway to the shooting range. The Corsica stops and the driver puts it in park. It is blocking the road entirely. I stop, and wait for the driver to move. He is a middle aged man with a swath of dark brown hair falling over his forehead. His window is rolled down, and his left arm is dangling out of it, and in his hand is a revolver. I start to get worried, and reach for my phone. The man's face is red, and ugly as he contorts his face to keep from crying. He has really thick, cartoon-like lips. I cannot stop looking at him. He lifts the revolver to his jaw and pulls the trigger. His head lolls forward onto his chest. I put my car in reverse and back into a driveway as I dial the police. I look up and see that the man has pulled his car into a driveway across the street, and is aiming the gun at me. I crouch down behind the steering wheel. He shoots, and the bullet goes through the wheel well and into my left thigh.

I am at my back door. I run into the house, searching frantically for the phone. I find it, and dial the police. As I'm holding the phone, I see that Buddy, a friend's cat, has walked into the kitchen. This means that the man is in the house. I panic.

I wake up, heart pounding and terrified. This is the first time this has ever happened to me. Adam is sleeping soundly. I put my arm around him and say "I had a bad dream." All I want is for him to hug me. He mumbles something like "I'm sorry you had a bad dream," and is almost immediately back to sleep. But not before he holds my hand.

the last word

Something which I find hilariously funny happened to me again today. I was buying a couple of new pens.

Me (picking up my bag): "Thanks very much,"
Sales associate: "You're welcome,"
Me (walking away): "Have a good day,"
S.A.: "You, too,"
Me: "Thanks, see ya,"
S.A. (as I'm across the store and almost out the door, she's leaning over the counter): "Bye!"

She's one of the 'must have the last word' people who absolutely have to say the last word, and interject extra "Bye"s at the end just to make their point.

It seems like a ridiculously long-winded farewell to share with someone you don't even know. To what lengths will I go to be polite? I want these people to know that I see them as real people, not just robots there to do my bidding, which is why I try to make a point to be polite. Which leads to me trying to get the last word, which draws out these au revoirs to a ridiculous length. Perhaps the real problem is that I'm a must-have-the-last-word-er and it's when I run into another one of my kind that things get really long. Either way, it's funny.