Sunday, February 27, 2011

Yet More Snow . . . Ho Hum

 Well, it's pretty.  I can say that for it.  Started snowing again yesterday . . . or was it the day before yesterday?  It all kind of runs together after awhile . . .

Frustrating trying to catch these amazing fat, fluffy snowflakes with the camera.  They really are rather big snowflakes - look more like clumps gently floating down towards the rapidly-coated-in-white . . . everything!  Well, everything 'cept the roads.  They do not freeze or stay white for very long here, with all the aggressive application of salt and chemical solutions and snowplows in the wee hours.  Strange having this kind of weather, yet never really having to worry much about getting stuck at home.
These are two shots of the view from the front porch of our town home.  Yes, we live across the street from a skyscraper. I'm a hick to find this remarkable, I guess.  :-)

Anyhoo . . . not much to report beyond the belly-button lint minutia of our daily routines at home.  So, I will end with the recurring theme that has characterized our discussions on what to do next for the past several weeks:  In the Spring, once things get warmer, we can . . . 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Niagara Falls! Just a Little Recon Trip.

Yesterday, we took a little hour and a half drive down to Niagara Falls.  I am told that last time I was there, I was in utero.  Alex went with his sister Kate back when they were in their early 20's - mostly on the U.S. side, but they walked across Rainbow Bridge and visited the Canadian side too.

Having forgotten to bring along our passports, we stayed on the Canadian side for this visit.

It was a brisk -3 Celsius, so we bundled up and started out with a visit to The Butterfly Conservatory (indoors and warm!) to wait out the chillier morning hours and save the "standing-outside-for-long-periods-of-time" activity for later in the day - so that the sun could perhaps warm things up a fraction of a degree or two beforehand.  The butterfly  building was quite large and arranged over several levels - a sort of "Hanging Garden of Babylon" style arrangement, with paths winding up and through the tropical plants.  A really pretty multi-level waterfall is visible from outside the entrance.    There were a LOT of butterflies EVERYWHERE.  Either we hit them at exactly the right time, or they're stocking a heck of a lot more chrysalises than they do in Durham.
After we were finished gazing in innocent delight at all the butterflies, we got a chance to say hello to a 12-foot rock python who had been let out for a little meander in the hallway.  And also to a rather laid-back iguana, monitor lizard, and several other reptiles.  I'm telling you, you have not lived until you get the opportunity to stroke a python!  :-)

It wasn't long before we tired of the cozy temps required by our scaley friends (Yes, butterflies have scales too, doncha' know!  You can look it up!), and sought the fresh, cold air of the outdoors and a view to blow our socks off.  It did that - and it also made our clothes rather soggy.  We probably shouldn't have been surprised by this.  I mean, you throw enough water down a long enough way, and it's going to splash.  But, there is this constant rain when you're observing the falls - and you are not that close to 'em; but you're getting sprayed constantly and there's nowhere to go to get out of it - except out of eye-shot.  And you see rainbows right in front of you!

So we were dripping wet in below-freezing temps with a stiff wind blowing.  But you tell me if it was worth it (keeping in mind our little iPhone camera could not do it justice):

Another snowstorm was due to arrive that evening, so we headed home right after lunch, to change into dry clothes and thaw out again.  Think we'll go again - but in the Spring or Summer!  :-)

Ahhhh.  Back home!

Spring? Probably, not yet; but we had fun hoping!

The temperatures last Wednesday afternoon hovered around a balmy (well, comparatively balmy) 3 degrees Celsius (that's 37.4 F, apparently), and there was some sun peeking out here and there.  We were suffering from some serious cabin fever, as you can see by Emily's expression.  So after math, Emily and I decided to walk to the Library.

On the way back home, we stopped to take a few photos of some of the things we have noticed in and around our stomping grounds here in downtown Mississauga; so thought I'd share:

We managed to hang out in the Central Library a good long time, looking up books about bats and some additional good fiction for my voracious little reader (can't get the child to go to sleep at a decent hour anymore because she sits up reading in her bed - she knows I'm pleased as punch anytime she decides to read a book during her leisure time, so I've been letting her get away with this.  One of the nice things about not having to abide by a school's early-morning busing schedule.)

So, we didn't get any photos of the inside of the Library, I'm afraid.  It's pretty cool, though.  One whole floor is devoted to the children's section, with a very large play lighthouse surrounded by beanbags in the center.  Once I get a camera with a flash again, I'll get some shots.

After the library, Emily and I meandered over to the civic center and admired the beautiful lobby.  It made me think of OZ with all that green granite (or marble, possibly?).  There's an antechamber that seems to be devoted to growing large green vines and other plants - a sort of interior garden, in which Emily enjoyed dancing around.


Sort of between the Library and the other government buildings was a walled garden named for Elizabeth II.  Lots and lots of little birds were taking refuge in there.  We are looking forward to coming back when the snow and ice are gone.

And on the other side of the government buildings, we discovered another sort of courtyard, which appears to have structures tailor-made for skateboarding . . . ?  Not sure, but probably we'll find out once it's warmer:

And after that, we turned down Princess Royal Drive and passed the LivingArts Centre where Emily has her drama class every Saturday.  We just had to cross the street and pat the bison again!

And, after dropping into Walmart to find a mop, we paused to admire the Marilyns again.  In this not-so-good shot, they kinda' look like slightly crushed aluminum cans.  I'll work on getting a better angle to really show you why I think they're fantastic.  From right by them, looking up from below, it's like you're approaching a tornado or something.  Really neat feeling.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sandy Chapman July 01, 2000 - February, 12, 2011

She started out as Marzipan, along with her brother Popcorn; and Alex and I brought both kitties home and the era of Zeke and Sandy began  . . .

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mississauga: Can't Help But Notice Things Are More Expensive, Slower, and Harder to Find Here!

"Nice to visit, but I wouldn't want to live (e.g. be a full-time consumer) there."  I think it's a phrase that applies to Mississauga, Ontario, in the great country of Canada.

Sorry to post such a downer of a message today.

I just found out that Alex's application for a very basic credit card here in Canada has been denied 

Grrrrr . . . . A sort of "last straw" moment that leads me to vent via blogging.

Yes, I know that I'm a pampered, white, upper middle-class housewife, who's well-fed (a little too well-fed), surrounded by unbelievable luxury and entertainment sources by the standards of the rest of the world.  I should be gibbering with slack-jawed amazement and joy at every aspect of my daily life here.  But, damn it!  I know how much better things can be . . . and should be . . . for everyone!

As a "homemaker," I spend a lot of time paying bills (am not going there in this posting) and buying things:  food, supplies for the house, etc.

The iron here isn't working, so I go online to see what I can find on, find a great deal on a Black-N-Decker iron with lots of wonderful reviews . . . then I remember that I'm in Canada and have to deal instead with . . . and I find prices are higher by at least a third, the number of choices in stock are much fewer (can't find any of the models I liked on, and there are hardly any reviews of the models they do have.  I've noticed this over and over and over:  I haven't yet found a replacement for my broken computer mouse; I am having Alex bring me my alarm clock from home - last trip, it was our can opener . . .  

Try to shop in Walmart here, and the story is the same.  Back in NC, I could buy a Tracfone at the local Dollar General for about $15; Here, I have to pay at least $50 to get a "pay as you go" cell phone.  So, the things I had grown accustomed to being able to go out and find easily for very little money are way more difficult to find and afford here.

When Grocery shopping, I am finally becoming numb to the sticker shock.  Probably because I'm spending my brain energy trying to find what I need among the unfamiliar packaging and strange terminology (The stores here all sell "extra-old," rather than "aged" cheddar, for example.)  But, considering where things seem to be heading economically back in the states, guess there's a good chance prices will climb as high by the time we're back in November.  So, it's probably good that I'm getting used to the shocking totals at the bottom of my grocery receipts.  Sigh.

I had a conversation with some neighbors I've just met who live across the courtyard from us (Sarah and Ku . . . I'm guessing on the spelling of his name.), and the topic of housing prices here came up.  Houses cost a whole lot here and buying a first home is pretty darn difficult for most families.  I haven't looked up the numbers, but there are a whole lot of factors here that make new housing a great deal scarcer, and so the prices are extremely high.  I haven't really read into it yet, but I'd be willing to bet that some of the culprits are restrictive zoning, higher labor costs (I sure know about the comparative difficulties of hiring and firing and mandatory benefits in Canada that are faced by Alex's company.), higher taxes on materials, various policies and laws that effectively restrict the number of companies that can compete in the businesses of building houses and lending.   

Credit is harder to get here.  Aside from our own first-hand experience with rejection, we're hearing the same story from others here.  OK, one guy who recently brought up his own tribulations in this area is a person whose annual income is way higher than ours (We know, because he is quite a few rungs further up the corporate ladder than where Alex is), but here in Canada, he's only able to qualify for a credit card with a $1,000 limit on it!  Perhaps it's merely because of our lack of credit history in this country, but I get the distinct impression that a lot fewer folks here are able to get credit cards.  Credit is just more expensive in Canada.  Certainly, the advertised rates and the annual fees on credit card advertisements we've seen would raise the eyebrows of most Americans.  So we use our debit card; but with purchasing we wanna' do online or over the phone, we are stuck with using our U.S. cards AND paying those additional transaction fees for currency exchange.

Again, I have a nasty feeling that, in a lot of ways, Canada's just a little further down an economic road onto which the States has been careening for quite a few decades now.      

OK, done griping.  We're fine.  It was sunny today.  Emily wrote two letters, and blew me away with her mastery of pronouns . . . Life is still good.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Various "Artistic" Endeavors While We Wait Out The Snow

 Ho hum!  Well, it's still snowing, after snowing (and something that sounded like sleeting in the wee hours on our skylights) all night; and so Emily and I have been keeping ourselves entertained inside.  Emily caught wind of the other kids in this area being kept home from school; and her sense of justice and "fairness" was immediately awoken . . . so, we're not doing lessons today.

In case you are wondering what this first photo to the left here is, yesterday when Emily and I were exploring our neighborhood on foot, we spotted a sort of ice "stalagmite" about 3 feet high that formed when some good bit of water flowed out of release valve on the side of our building.  So we picked it up and carried it to our backyard area to serve as our own lawn art for the winter!  Emily was delighted and spent some time decorating it with snow.

Today, it is still visible above the snow and we peek out at it from time to time, as we work on our "paper people party" on the kitchen table.  As you can undoubtedly see below, in addition to the dancing princesses and gingerbread boys, there is a gingerbread girl playing an accordion, while a whole fleet of tiny ships sail in the foreground, with their passengers of birds and seals.  Oh, yes.  And not to be forgotten, notice also the frog posing behind his row of tents!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

If Canadians are expecting a "Major Snow Storm" . . . I'm a Little Worried

Well, I'm getting warnings from everyone I talk to here in Mississauga that there is a bad, bad snowstorm coming, and we are possibly going to get as much as 30 cm of snow here in Southern Ontario . . . that's, lemme see . . . that's almost . . . that's 11.8 inches!!!  In short, I'm probably not going to go out on the roads with Emily this week.

Here's the Story about the Coming Storm. 

I wonder if there's any risk of power outages here, as there tend to be with heavy storms in NC?