Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

For those who want to feel a bit better about their day...

I’m going to preface this with saying this story is only for those of you comfortable with the real life sides of dealing w animals ;).  You know who you are.   The rest of you - you have been warned.

An expert multitasker,
she is both our story's protagonist and antagonist ;).

So if you’re on my FB there’s pretty much no way you could’ve missed that we now have a feline addition to our house.

She’s an older kitten but still a kitten, and so much fun :)

As w most critters I encounter, I figured we should do some basic training.  Sit, high five, and “in the crate” are solid - so long as there are treats involved.  Recalls non-existent - pretty standard for a cat.   Getting much better about not scratching things and knowing which surfaces she’s not allowed to be on.  So all good - close to a solid family companion.

Life skills

Thanks to the internet, I also stumbled upon the idea that it’s possible to toilet train a cat.  Not litter - she came w that.  But actual toilet. 

Game on ;)

And until today, so far, so good.   We’re at the point now where her litter is essentially just under the seat - so she has to jump on the toilet to use the litter box, but otherwise it’s still a litter box (albeit a shallow one).  And it’s been pretty much no issue except that it requires more frequent cleaning that normal litter, and when she buries it, the litter flies a lot farther.  Short term pain for long term gain.

Today I had to go to the office.  We’ve been having issues w Tucker peeing when we both go out (behavioural not needs based) and because I just really didn’t want to deal w that, I left him w a good treat when we left (Sasha was w me - she spent the day w Bailey).  I swear this is related.

So back to Nola - in the entire time she’s been with us, there’s only ever been one accident and it was the night after we moved her box.  She’d been shown the box, but I think maybe lost it….  Before and since, no problem.   Her litter was spotless when I left, so I really didn’t stress about her.

Fast forward to when I got home.  Shortly after walking in the house all I could smell was excrement.  This is not good.   Took a quick look around the ground floor and nothing.  Smell gets significantly worse going upstairs.  Checked all the open rooms - nothing obvious. Looked at her hiding spots.   Still nothing.

It couldn’t possibly be in the litter bin and that foul could it?

Well no.  Not quite.  Went in the washroom and not only was the litter untouched, it was protected!   Oh fuck.   Pardon my language but you will understand shortly.  Somehow, the lid was down.  So Enola could NOT access her litter if she wanted to.   And where was the stench?!?!   

The tub.  I mean, credit to her to pick the best possible place.  But….  Remember Tucker’s super treat???    I’m guessing Enola had her share.   Sasha doesn’t get those treats because it gives her diarrhea.   Suffice to say the volume of fecal matter in the tub outweighed the cat :(.  In multiple deposits, most of which didn’t resemble solid.  And one tiny cat paw print.   It looks like self preservation cleanliness kicked in after the first effort and she balanced on the end of the tub.   But oh my god.  Explosive diarrhea on the day she was locked out of her litter and I wasn’t home to fix it.  This did not end well.   

For the record: I have looked after many tiny people, cleaned more stalls than anybody ever wants to count, had my arm all the way to my shoulder shoved up a horse’s ass (if you’re not a horse person that’s a literal statement - done while wearing a long glove) and cared for multiple pets of many species. This was among the worst I’ve dealt with. 

So lesson learned.  Tub is cleaned.  Multiple times.  Toilet lid is tied open.   I just really hope it didn’t scare her!   She hurt herself playing w a feather toy the other day and now she’s terrified of it.   That would put a significant complication in things.  So we shall see.

This is now a daemon-spawn toy, to be avoided at all costs.

And yes - she seems totally fine since I’ve been home :).  We’ll see over the next few days if it did irreparable damage to our training.

New year, new hobby?

lol okay so this has nothing to do with the new year.  As some of you may know, I continue my search for something new to do to replace the void left by the lack of eventing.  Fitness, goal setting, friends, stress relief (although admittedly also stress causing!)...  so much that I never really clued into was all tied to that.   And I've tried a wide variety of ridiculousness over the last few years.  Spanish and Piano both seem to stick, but neither of them address the fitness or the social aspects.  Sooo...


I'm not even kidding, although I probably should be.

I've always thought ballroom dance might be fun, and at one point (possibly while slightly intoxicated ;)) Chris agreed to go along with this idea.  Except...   We don't exactly live near options for learning anything.  I searched.  A lot.  And failed time after time.  One school I found but they were taking a term off.  lol that kind of thing.

But targeted ads remember...

So while there was nothing last year while I was looking, apparently a whole bunch start in Jan/Feb.  Random, but okay?!?!   Alas, while I now have a variety of options, none of them worked particularly well with our schedule (did you hear C's sigh of relief from there?).

The ad that started it all

BUT those same targeted ads also told me about a "ladies night" teaching beginner latin dance.   Now *that* could be fun.   I had some real hesitations though.   Let's start with my dance experience:

  • I have vague memories of a pink tutu when I was a tiny little person...  Maybe 6?   Idk, don't really remember.  I liked the tutu, I did not like the class.   I finished the term and that was the end of dance at an age when one can learn to dance ;-P
  • I signed up for beginner adult ballet in uni.  I was SO excited.  It was heartbreakingly awful.  I lasted exactly 2 classes.  I have vivid memories at being singled out and yelled at for not pointing my toes correctly (they were pointed, but not right).  No explanation of what right might be or how I should do it differently, just that it was wrong.  The rest of the class was no better.  In retrospect, that was definitely not an appropriate teacher for beginners, but at the time, it was just an all-round negative experience.
  • My sense of rhythm is questionable at best.  I'm really good when partnered with a horse.  With a person?  Not so much ;-P.  My piano adventures have highlighted this challenge.  It IS, thanks to said piano, improving.  But still pretty interpretive ;-P
  • I *cannot* dance.  I have never been able to dance.  I both feel and look incredibly, painfully, awkward.  I remember various friends over the years trying to teach me - from friends' basements as teenagers to at the club as a young adult.  No success.  Ever.   Even in VR it's pretty horrible.  I remember C walking in on my VR dance one day: "are you...  dancing?" lol.  It was a legitimate and valid question.  
  • My balance is excellent and coordination is usually pretty solid (yeah dressage!) - the problem is, my whole life has been targeting very subtle coordination and movement.  Dance is...  The opposite of that ;).    Also, I can work my feet, or I can work my arms but rarely both.  And if I try to actually move my body?  Well I have to make sure nobody calls the paramedics for some sort of medical emergency ;). 
  • And, sub-point, even if the coordination all aligns and all the body parts go where they're supposed to, it's the opposite of smooth and graceful.  Lol more like a slightly rusty robot is following poorly coded instructions.
So yeah, set up for success is not high.   However, I tagged a friend who is generally game for most adventures and convinced her to join me.  She loves to dance, but rates her skills about the same as mine ;).  

Reached out to the school and got very quick response with a positive approach and what seemed like a reasonable sense of humour so okay...   Age range 30-60, 20ish people in the class, complete beginners encouraged.  That means enough people to hide if needed, we won't be youngest or oldest, and hopefully our hopelessness wouldn't hold others back.

And today we went.  It's definitely in a not-great area of town, but the studio itself was a good size.  Looks like a repurposed church, but mirrors all lining one side like you'd find in most studios and lots of space for sure.

It was So. Much. Fun.  lol way better than I'd expected.   We learned the 101-very-basic-level intro of three dances: the merengue, bachata, and salsa.   The instructor is awesome.  Super welcoming, encouraging, and open.  And also breaks it down and simplifies things clearly.  Willing to repeat herself and demonstrate.  Answering all questions, seemed to be having a fun time, just all-round great instructor for beginner adults.  

AND...  We're not the worst ;-P.  lol we're pretty strongly right in the middle of the group.  Which, to me, in this case, means we're in exactly the right group ;).   In riding I always like to be at the bottom and scrap my way up cause I learn so much more so much faster.  But in riding, I don't feel like I borrowed someone else's legs for the day lol.

But yeah, I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected and the time flew.  She kept it moving and didn't focus on any particular thing too long -- great intro class.  I definitely enjoy the more complicated / less reasonable parts more; I think because they take more of my attention and force me to completely check in to what I'm doing.  That and horrible failures make for better stories and the only way for truly horrible failures is to attempt the slightly insane ;-P.  Which, in my case, might be as simple as a spin ;)

Anyways - it's only Tuesday, yet somehow has already been a very long week, and I did not sleep well last night.  So this was a really lovely shift of both mood and enthusiasm.  Excited for next week.  Also, unlike Arial Silks, which I also loved but got super frustrated with, this one I CAN practice at home if I'm so inclined.  So the whole having to start over every week shouldn't be an issue.   So yeah, accidental targeted advertising win ;)

This month's completely random adventure

Okay so this post is a few weeks late, but hey - it's December, time and calories don't count ;)

So a while back I saw a stunning stained glass dragon.  I don't even usually really like stained glass, but it was just so awesome.  And even though I *knew* there was no way I could afford it, I clicked through to find the price.  Only to find...  the pattern?   Wait, what?

IME, if people are selling patterns, that means it's a craft that other people can do.   Idk where my little brain thought stained glass came from but I definitely didn't think it was an "in your living room" activity. So I googled...

And...  while it *can* be an in your living room activity, it seems some actual knowledge and skill might be required ;).  And tools.   Cost falls somewhere between embroidery and sailing as a hobby ;).   More than string, less than a boat.

Okay, so maybe there's a middle ground?   Went looking for lessons.  Local lessons.  Surprisingly, I found them?  And multiple options?  Like more options to learn stained glass making than piano?   The ? stands cause I'm still not convinced I'm not living in an alternate reality here, but such is life.  

So I picked the one I liked based mostly off completely arbitrary things on their websites AND availability of upcoming beginner lessons and signed myself up.  Two Friday mornings in a row.  Usually this would be a problem but it's December which means A: I have a fair bit of vacation time to use up, and B: so does everybody else I work with so my workload is comparatively light.

Away I went...  Home based studio, but nicely laid out, clean and tidy.   Instructor told me I'd have the choice of two pieces (beginner friendly - I knew before ever reaching out that the dragon of my dreams would be in no way accessible for a beginner).   By the end of the second day, I'd have it completed.  Sweet.

So it starts with pick the glass.   She had a ton of different options and walked me through different types and things to consider.  This was definitely the most stressful part of the whole adventure for me.  I do NOT have a good eye for colour and am very aware of that fact.  I've been taught, over time, some basic colour combos that work well together (working at OD provided me with more useful lifeskills than I realised at the time -- although they'd be completely appalled and horrified to see that knowledge applied to PPT presentations on a daily basis ;-P), however I acknowledge I have no eye for what might look good.  Even in stabbing things, 90% of the time when I go off-script and pick colours I like, I don't love the end result :(.  And glass is significantly more expensive than thread.

But one was SO pretty.  lol so then I just needed to find another one to compliment it and away we went...

I started by learning how to cut and break glass.  This is actually so much fun ;).  Got to practice on "throwaway" material first so as to not waste my pretty glass, but it turns out I'm not half bad at breaking stuff ;-P.  

So then we traced the pattern onto cardboard and cut it out (remembering to number all the pieces -- so one numbered picture and one set of numbered pieces).   Then trace pattern onto the glass and start cutting.  This was mostly okay.  Some learning curve in that if the pressure wasn't right (too soft or too hard) it didn't break well, and at least one piece the instructor rescued for me.   But all but that one were deemed acceptable ;)

Next up was grinding all the edges to take the rough bits off and make sure everything was the right shape.  We placed it all on a cork-board to check that the pieces worked together and that was the end of Day 1.

End of Day 1

So came back next week, we had to pick what colour soldering we'd use (I went with silver) because it would impact which foil we used.  Black is traditional, but I went with silver.

Next up was to clean each piece and then line every side with copper foil.  Think of when you have to put a screen protector on your phone and envision doing that on every single edge.   Once I got the hang of it, it was actually fairly satisfying to get it perfectly straight and bubble-free on the first go ;).  The perfectionist in me was pleased.  This would not last long ;)

So then we re-aligned everything and put all the pieces together.  We filled in some extra copper in a couple spaces and then I got to play with a heat gun.   Apparently I have a knack for this?   Lol I did it the way she showed me for a bit but then I found a better (for me) way that was much easier and much faster.  When instructor looked over my shoulder she told me it was excellent.  Apparently that was a more advanced technique *shrug*.  Idk, but to me it was easier to make it look good.

About that -- you could spend your whole life fixing "just one more part" with a soldering iron.   The perfectionist side of me did NOT enjoy this part.   I would still be there today if I hadn't had a meeting that afternoon I'd had to get back for ;)

Anyways - we did this around all the joints on both sides.   It was definitely my favourite part of the adventure, even if it could've been an endless adventure.   We then finished it off with a frame and a hanging chain (both of which are apparently optional, but I liked the finished look) and then just a quick wash and done!

I made a thing!

So overall I am pleased with it, it was an interesting experience and I'm glad I did it, but overall, I don't see it as something I need to do again ;).  Certainly not something I need to do often enough to become good enough to create my magic dragon.

And the search for the next hobby continues...

Next step in the piano journey

So since starting piano lessons I've actually been playing way LESS than before.  This is... Not exactly the desired result :(  The issue isn't lessons themselves, so much as fit between the teacher and myself.  In this case, I think the biggest challenge for me is the lack of plan.  He asks me what I want to do each week and we do that.  Like, great for flexibility but...  I don't know what I should do?  I'm a real beginner, I don't know what I don't know.  I raised that point, but nothing really changed.  And we have yet to do anything to completion.   We did one scale once - never any follow up.   We've done a ton of songs either in the book or that I brought music in, and he'll give me the 101 on parts of them but never actually get to the point of being able to play them.  In the entire time I've been taking lessons, I haven't learned a single piece well enough to play it through (seriously - my YouTube has died a sad death).   I even tried bringing a lesson book and he just kind of flipped through it and picked some random songs, we'd work through the fingering and any interesting timing etc, but again - just enough to get the concept, never enough to play it well.  So suffice to say, when lessons end at end of Jan, I won't be continuing them.

Nola walks across my keyboard occasionally,
but it's less dramatic with a digital piano ;)

At some point, I will prob start a search for another teacher.  But...  Options are not great where I live these days (ironically there are a ton where I used to live...  you know, when I didn't have a piano ;-P)

So things I know:

- I still really enjoy playing and would like to improve

- I am completely stalled in improving my skills without help

- I absolutely need a program and/or direction of some sort

- Depending on what definition is used, I'm either "high beginner" or "low intermediate" lol - whatever that means  

- I am, historically, very good at following structured programs and self-learning 

So...  I once again consulted my friend Google.   It's been a year - what might have changed?   The app I've been using (Flowkey) still ranks as basically the top for what I need, but I was super frustrated with their lessons which had a wicked combination of: no plan or structure to them AND depending on the course, if you couldn't play a particular piece well enough you couldn't progress, which would be okay except their course software doesn't let you slow songs down in short sections to learn like their song software does.   So I was REALLY struggling and super-frustrated with the lessons.

However, there are a couple this time around that I didn't try before.  Of those, after more research than is reasonable to do for such a thing, I narrowed it down to PianoNote (live instructors) and Playground Sessions (another app).   PS I originally dismissed last year because their whole selling feature was big names attached to it, except that the names mean very little to me and I don't need superstars, I need people who can teach.  However, the reviews this year suggested they've thoroughly revamped their classes and their software and so it was back in the running.  PN...  Idk, it has fabulous reviews, but I was really turned off by their website.  I couldn't tell whether it came with an app, how you access their live teachers, etc etc.  Too much advertising w too little info for me.

And then I found out that PS has BootCamp and a dashboard of stats.  Lol sold.  Anybody who's actually met me has probably realised boot camps are pretty much my thing.   Go super hard on something for a condensed period of time and see what happens?  I'm in!   (remember P90X3 days???)  And I love my data.  Even if it has no practical purpose whatsoever.   So the dashboard was an extra win.

So I now have both Flowkey (from last year) and Playground Sessions.  And I can say song selection and song-learning software is definitely better in Flowkey (although PS still has tons of songs I want to learn, so no lack).  However, the lessons are WAY better in PS.   Three levels: Rookie, Intermediate, and Advanced.   I'm doing Intermediate, and it's legitimately the right level for me -- I'm learning something new in almost every class and the lessons are challenging but achievable.  Win.  They absolutely build on one another in a structured manner and use a combination of video lessons and practical application which is great.  Also, the issue I ran into with FK about not being able to learn a section fast enough to survive a lesson is a non issue here -- you can slow down the track to whatever speed you can play and still get "full credit" for it.   Although I'm determined enough that I keep at it till I can get 100% at full speed -- at least with this app I have a chance to get there.   It also tracks every note red or green (as does FK) but also shows what I actually played if it's not green.  Was I too early?  Too late?  Wrong note?   Now I know...  Super helpful.   It's also much pickier about timing that FK, which while brutal at first, has been super helpful to my learning.   And it has background tracks which make it feel like you're playing something interesting even when you're doing very basic whole note cords ;).  So yeah, the app for learning random songs - not nearly as good as FK's, but the instructional portion?  WAY better.  Which is awesome.

Maybe between the two of them my piano skills will continue to improve this year :).  Wish me luck!

Cat Tree Construction Adventures

So Enola’s been here a week.  Clearly she’s staying :).  And clearly she needs a tree so she doesn’t climb everything else in our house.   Chris cannot handle the ugliness of the tree (fair - they really are hideous) so it will live in my office.   We won’t mention that Enola is still too scared to come upstairs lol.  Someday she’ll appreciate it.  When Sherlock was her size I had an apartment the size of our master bedroom.  Lol my comparison for how cats settle is a little off ;)

Anyways this is my “live blog” thoughts on the cat tree adventure - wrote as I went along, sharing now, unedited.  Consider yourself forwarded ;)

First: this box isn’t supposed to arrive for 2-3 weeks.  And it’s way too small; maybe I ordered something else and forgot?  Not like me, but it’s Xmas so it’s possible.

Hmmm box is heavy.  Probably the tree.

Oh good - instructions are IKEA style and only tool is an Allan key.   I have a shot :).  I’m the queen of ikea furniture ;)

Instructions do not require two people.  Win.  They do require you read the instructions lol.   Ironically you would only discover that if you actually opened said instructions ;-P

Off to a strong start ;)

Have you ever tried to put together a puzzle with no picture on the box?   This is similar.  Most ikea furniture you have some idea what the assembled product should look like.  I have only the vaguest recollection of what this will be.  The picture on the cover isn’t as helpful as you’d think.

Step one: accomplished.

Step two: repeat step one with a bigger box.  There is no logical reason this should be so much more challenging.  Yet here we are.

Step three: it’s time to adopt a passion for wine (I do live in wine country after all).  I’m sure wine would help this situation.

The box on the left was exponentially harder to assemble

Where did I leave the key?   I haven’t moved.  Logically it must be in arm’s reach.  Logic has left the building.

This was not an expensive cat tree.  I am covered in cat tree fluff and wishing I’d gone up a level or two in price point.

I’m also puzzled as to the physics of it, as several of the pieces are bigger than the footprint.  Hmmm this could be a challenge as small footprint was critical for the space…

Where is that key….?   I swear it’s like scissors while wrapping Xmas gifts.

At least Alexa is doing a good job w the music for this adventure ;)

Thank the cat god that the instructions are clear.   Although I’m only on step 4.  I may take those words back later ;)

Hmmmm the screw won’t pierce the fabric like they did earlier.  Scissors it is.  Oh wait - they weren’t supposed to pierce the fabric.  🤦‍♀️  Maybe that’s why.  This one is a win for the cheap fluffy fabric.  My mutilation of it is unnoticeable.  Win.

Definitely the first time I've assembled anything with a ramp

This is the most random IKEA furniture I’ve ever assembled.  Cat designers, shockingly, do not follow human standards for construction design.   Apologies to IKEA as this is definitely not actually from there; it just feels like it is ;)

My wine is empty.  Where did the wine go?  Probably w the key.

Alright.  Step five only requires one tool.  How hard can it be?   Why do I feel this is about to be the furniture equivalent of when your jump coach makes all the fences *really* low?

Why was this step *more* concerning than the ones with dozens of pieces?

Side note - I’m pretty appalled that the top shelf appears to have cat ears?!?!   Fortunately it was mailed in a flat pack.  Maybe I can just not unflatten them.

Not even kidding.

No I’m not stalling.

So it turns out that piece 16 upside down is not, in fact, piece 19.  Fortunately the instructions are excellent and the diagram made it v obvious there was a flaw in my interpretation even *before* I put it together.

Building upward

Hey!  It’s starting to look like a tree.  Also - the binder-twine type parts for them to scratch on are horrible to touch.  I truly hope she enjoys shredding them.  Ugh.

I didn’t need the key for a couple steps.  It has now gone on break.

Also - there’s a strap to affix this to the wall.  Clearly the makers of this product think I’m a more responsible human than I was intending to be. 

Top platform is like spinning a pizza to add :).  Definitely the most fun part of this.  I’m also rethinking where said tree is going to live. 

There’s a bell on this too?!?!  Why do all cat toys come with bells?!?!

Ugh.  Not one bell: TWO

So it is done.  And tbh was actually really simple to put together- but that doesn’t make for a fun story ;).  Where I want it to go is unfortunately right next to the piano and I’m not convinced that’ll end well so temporary home till I sort it out.  We’ll see.


Also - Enola came upstairs of her own volition for the first time shortly after I finished this.  She went about exploring the tree even before I laced it with catnip (I wasn't expecting her to come upstairs, so said catnip was still in the kitchen - also, the SPCA said her name was Catnip.  Enola definitely suits her better; she's too dignified to be Catnip!)

Looking down on the world with appropriate feline disdain

Introducing Enola

So, Sasha has a spiky ball that she loves.  Unfortunately it has exceeded its lifespan -- the plastic spikes have been coming off, so I discretely, when she wasn't looking, deposited it in the trash.  I intended to replace it right away, but it turned out to be harder to find than I'd expected.   Then suddenly she had one that she was happily parading around the living room...  ummm, what?

Well it turns out it's Chris' massage ball.  It looks almost identical to Sasha's favourite ball, although it's significantly harder so I wasn't sure I wanted her playing with it and I *was* sure Chris wouldn't want her playing with it lol.   So with renewed interest, I went looking to replace her ball.  The magic that is the internet, told me Petsmart had them.  Excellent.  Petsmart also sells the food they eat.  AND it's right next door to Staples, where C had to go.

Right - so we go to Staples, accomplish item one.  We walk over to Petsmart... Where the local SPCA is having an adoptathon.   Now some of you may remember that once upon a time, several lifetimes ago, when I moved into my first apartment, I adopted a kitten, who turned into a really really cool cat.

I got Sherlock in 2000, so there are limited online photos ;)

Sherlock unfortunately passed on shortly after Chris and I got married and I found myself cat-less.   However, C is mildly allergic, doesn't *like* cats, and we had Tucker.  Tucker has many feline traits, so he is kinda like having a cat.  Kinda, but not really.  Also though, he has a fairly strong hunting instinct that can end poorly for cats.  A cat who will stand up to him and swat him, will do fine and be left alone, but one that runs away is subjected to an endless opposite-of-fun game of chase.  So when one combines all those things, I resigned myself to not having another cat.

So I get my cat fix by playing w friends' cats or visiting animals up for adoption in pet stores.   So when the adoptathon was on immediately upon entering the store, of *course* I went to visit.   And since I only ever get short cat visits, I tend to go to the ones with significant personality (lol, I know - you're shocked). So I was playing with an older kitten and sort of figured Chris would wander off and find the food and ball we were there to purchase.  But instead he says "that one can come home with us if you want."  Wait, what?!?!  On second thought, there are times you just don't ask questions ;).  

But... Tucker.  Hmmmm.  So checked with the SPCA rep who told us we could do a one week trial to make sure they did okay.  This kitten was known to be good w other cats but hadn't been tested with dogs. And Tucker, well we know Tucker.

Run around the store to get basic supplies for a cat who might not be with us more than a couple days.  Her carrying case was a cardboard box, food was included in the adoption purchase, we picked the cheapest litter box (it's disposable?) and some litter.  Really, that's all you need right?   Also, dog treats (new pets should always bring treats!) and the stuff we originally came for.

No, you're not new here.  Lol Winners next door provides at least a couple basic cat toys ;) 

Her first few minutes at home.  She has some great markings.

Got home, put her - still in her box - in the living room while we set up "her" room (aka powder room).   The dogs sniffed the box but didn't seem to care.  There was a grand total of zero drama with her in the room and the dogs out of the room.   Went to get groceries - and cat treats ;).  Get back, still no drama.  Carried her to the couch where she sat with us most of the evening - even snuggled with Tucker?!?!  Still a little stunned by that but okay.

Not sure he wants to share the couch, but no aggressive behaviour either.

Gave her a name -- Chris suggested sticking with the Sherlock thread.  I didn't love Watson for her so we landed on Enola instead.   Which is often shortened to Nola.

And so it went for the next few days.   She was clearly shell shocked -- she'd be hiding in her box (which we filled with a blanket for her) in her room every morning.  I'd bring her up to my office where she'd stay in her box until I brought her back downstairs.  She'd play a bit a night.  Rinse and repeat.   

She seems pretty relaxed here ;)
She hadn't yet gotten confident enough to move from wherever I left her though.

And then slowly she started coming out all on her own.  Spent a day hiding under the couch, but other than that she started exploring more.  One week later, she went upstairs by herself for the first time.  Tucker completely ignores her - even when she's batting at him or hitting him with her tail.  Sasha is very jealous, so I've been trying as much as possible to make sure she gets extra attention AND that her routine isn't changed (walks at the same time etc) but she's also the most unaggressive dog ever so no risk to Enola, just I don't want my dog to be sad.

Slowly getting closer.  
Also note how quickly the number of cat toys has expanded ;)

So now our trial is over, and we have a new cat :)

1 year of pianoing

So it's a year today since my piano has had a stand and so been a "real" thing :).  On the 11th I got the app to start teaching me things 😂 so not *quite* there yet, but I have time now so thought I'd check in.

I just reread my first ever piano blog post, when I wasn't even sure I'd make it to 30 days, so pleased to say (given the start-up costs) that I'm still enjoying the adventure.   In Sept I started "real" lessons which I am not particularly enjoying and will likely stop at the end of the term.  Suspect it's just that the instructor is not a great fit for me, but there's not a ton of choice out here and I've actually been playing *less*, and significantly so, since starting the lessons.  So that part's not great.  Although he definitely HAS helped me with some pretty critical basics I missed in my self-teaching lol, so I'm half tempted to redo some of the technique programs I worked through before (or try the next step up, which I tried once and failed horribly) while applying what I've learned here and see if it works any better.

My ability to read bass clef is still non-existent.  Like "A is for Apple" level.  I think my goal for next year should be to significantly improve that.  It's a shame flashcard apps are SO phenomenally boring.  You'd think they'd have more gamified versions by now!   I learned treble clef so young I don't remember learning it - it, fortunately, came back reasonably quickly.

Plus side, my ability for my hands to work independently and their understanding of what keys are where has definitely improved significantly (I mean, it would've been hard not to when starting from zero).  So deeming that a win.  That's another course I did right at the beginning that I stopped, more cause SQUIRREL than any real issue, but I'd like to go back and see how I do on the harder aspects of that one.

I still can't play anything from ear, and to be fair, I've put zero effort into developing those skills - despite all the reading saying I should ;)  I can, at least, usually tell if I play the wrong note now.  This is legitimately improvement.  I'm pretty tone deaf.

I'm at the point now where everything I want to play is just slightly beyond my level.  Which is super frustrating because it takes FOREVER to learn to play it not-well.  Song I'm learning now doesn't even look remotely complicated, yet the first 12 bars have taken me 3 or 4 hours to get to being able to play at 50%.  This doesn't bode well for a song that has 5 pages of notes ;-P.  Also, for the first time, I cheated and wrote in the bass chords for the sake of my sanity.   BUT I love that there is obvious, tangible, success metrics pretty much every day.  Yesterday I could only play those bars at 40bpm, and today I can do it at 60.   We won't discuss that the target is 115 ;-P.   Part of me thinks that switching apps so I get a whole new realm of "me-level" songs might be an excellent idea, and part of me doesn't want to lose the songs on the app that I've got.  hmmmm I feel like that's a Future Lauren problem.  Like next week, but still future.

I also can only seem to play at *most* 2 songs at a time.   Everything else I've learned falls right out my brain.  And because my music-reading skills are sub-par, it's that much more painful to get it back.  It does come back reasonably quickly, but still painful.  I can't wait for the day that I can just sit down and PLAY.

Going back through the year's blog posts and came across this from early in: 

It turns out not all songs have all the levels - in fact most don't - but it seems that both my first two have all four.  SO, I've decided that in order to not be totally demoralised by this, I'm going to use it to track my progress.   At some point around the 30 day mark I will record the beginner version of each...   Then go away and learn a bunch of other things and some day when I'm ready for the intermediate version, I'll have a comparison...  Rinse and repeat ;). This is my new plan.

AND - I can tell you with ONE song, I can play beginner, intermediate, and advanced.   With *most* I can do the Intermediate version (that's what I start w now).  But the jump from Int to Adv is significant and generally well beyond my abilities.   The one I can do all three is Game of Thrones:  PlaylistDay 1, Beginner,  Intermediate, and Advanced.   Lessons helped improve the advanced significantly since this recording, but still has a ways to go before I'll be actually happy with it.

Anyways - enough babbling for tonight.   Lessons have definitely improved my understanding and basics, but have hugely detracted my interest in actually playing, so you know, not ideal ;).  But otherwise still a hobby I'm very much enjoying.

Vancouver is the same country, but still feels like visiting elsewhere

I think this was my favourite pic from the trip

So I did this for my FL trip and thought I’d do it here too.  I haven’t even left the country but there are little things that stick out as different between Vancouver and Toronto:

You should be able to see tracks!
  • Trains track that go up and down hills!   Lol I accidentally had a front-row seat to this as I ended up in the front car w a giant window, and it was the slowest roller-coaster ever.   Very disconcerting.  Train tracks in TO are flat ;-P
  • There is no HST here.  For those not in the loop – that means for some things (incl fast food which is pretty much all I bought) there is only 5% tax on stuff rather than 15%.  
  • Conversely, there is a 25c charge for disposable cups.   Environmentally I love this – but ONLY if they also allow you to bring your own (some do for sure, others it seems not so much) 
  • The women’s washroom has free sanitary products (this might only be in the office).  It’s a small thing, but an important one. 
  • Office work time is unofficially shorter.   People are not in as early in the am and they leave earlier in the afternoon.  I’m willing to say while this probably isn’t everywhere, it’s likely most places as the businesses that support said office workers are also open comparatively shorter timeframes.  About an hour on either side I’d say.   Work/life balance for the win.
  • Escalators (at least in the building where my hotel was) slow down when not to use.  This is surprisingly disconcerting the first couple times. 
  • The hotel elevator requires a room badge to operate.  I haven’t seen that before other than office buildings outside of working hours.  No idea if this is a Van normal or just that hotel.
  • So many stores had the clothing sizes they sell listed outside the store; sometimes it was all of them, but at least one didn't have any small enough to fit me.  Eventually clued in that the stores are all custom clothing so that impacts what sizes they have available.
  • Flashing green traffic lights are NOT an advance green!  lol it'd be a not-fun experience to discover that as a driver and not a pedestrian.  They do admittedly flash at a different rate than in Ontario but BOTH lanes have it at the same time.  So if you assume you have left-turn right of way, you will probably have significant issues :(. 
  • There are crosswalks, downtown, painted on the road, without lights, not at intersections, that cars actually respect.   This really freaked me out.
  • The architecture is gorgeous - much more glass-based and curvy than in Toronto.   Takes away the box-city feel.  
  • I could not live in a climate without sun.  Either all darkness or all cloudy would completely do me in.  
  • Significantly more healthy-type people here and infrastructure to support them.  The cycling lanes were amazing.   And tons of people jogging at all times.   This may be partially to do with the lack of significant winter, but TO doesn't even begin to come close.
This just shows the pedestrian side,
but the bikes have equal quality and size on the other side of the trees

TIL: Work Travel Edition

The view from the Vancouver office is lovely...

So I recently went on my first ever business trip out to Vancouver for a few days.  I haven't been there before and definitely had no time for touristing :(.   But my social media was all over telling me the cool things I *should* be doing there if I were not working ;-P

...but some of the interior decor is... moderately terrifying ;)

Anyways, I will preface this with once upon a time I used to travel, while not as often as I’d like, often enough that it was pretty standard. However, I haven’t been anywhere since Feb of 2020 right before the world shut down.

  • Travel pillows now come w a flat side. Finally. Win!   Actually the best pillow ever.
  • When going through security and they tell you to take your laptop out; they consider iPads a laptop.
  • Full body security scanners do not like the random extra metal button sewn inside your blouse.
  • Instead of checking your bag at the edge of the conveyer belt, they now pull it off to another area. This is actually super efficient and a huge improvement *except* I didn’t know about that! So while I’m in full body scanner the bucket w my purse and phone vanished. You cannot see what’s in the “to be searched” area. Slightly terrifying. As I gathered the 2 of 3 bins (one for luggage, one for laptop, one for purse) to come through, no sign of purse. Finally asked lady supervising there and she says “you have to go find it over there” and waved vaguely. Fortunately when I got “over there” I figured out what was going on which staved off the heart attack a bit. Figured I wouldn’t start *really* worrying till everyone before me had been through. Fortunately they were pretty close to in order - only one who arrived after me was seen before me and it was only by a few seconds. The woman checking it told me it was the iPad that triggered it, hence the earlier TIL.
  • Overall the whole security process is SO much more efficient than it used to be.
  • * Chairs in the random main shopping area = super comfy. Chairs in the waiting area? Not so much. Choose your time killing location wisely.
  • I still love people watching and writing while I have nothing else I have to be doing. 
  • Work travel must be scheduled through the online booking system. Says seats can be prebooked but you have to add a comment request in the booking. Done. Only response I get it “comments not fulfilled”. *sigh*.
  • You *can*, in-fact, still travel domestically without a passport. lol, why did I learn this? Because said online booking system has our HR info prepopulated. This info is uneditable. Says “must match passport “. Mine does not. Nobody knows how to address this. Workaround is that EAs can override. I am not important enough to have an EA ;)
  • My tiny wallet that I use instead of a purse is not big enough to have to save receipts for everything lol. 

*Soooo as to why killing time was so important???  Well this is at least in-part because the definition of rush hour has changed since the before times... Join me for some basic math…

My flight is at 10. It’s domestic and I have no luggage to check. Big bold letters about airport delays, be here at least 2h early. Okay that’s 8.

I’m leaving from my parents’ place since they live much closer to the airport. It’s a 20 min drive without traffic or an hour + in rush hour. Hmmm need to be there at 8, an hour before is 7. That’s about the start of rush hour, so me being never late bumps that back to 6:30.

All good. But remember 6:30 is no longer rush hour lol. I was in, upgraded flight, through security and had breakfast all by 7:15 ;). So I settled into the surprisingly comfy non-waiting seats and hung out for a bit.

Today I learned...

For those of you who don't spend half your lives on the Internet (congrats!) "TIL" is an acronym that often follows some short snippet that astounded somebody either cause it's super random and very cool or it's so simple the can't believe they hadn't known all along.   As I discover variants of this irl (generally always of the super random variety, less of the super cool), I mostly just leave them in my notes...   So decided to share some of the recent completely random ones from my notes file - consider yourself forewarned ;)

TIL: the reason they spend all day digging a giant hole only to fill it back up with dirt in the to-be-developed area next to us is because the land is contaminated and they have to essentially replace it.   This is completely unverified but seems plausible in light of the weird hole digging and filling behaviour.

I was today years old when I realized that bubbles in the bath significantly mitigate the amount of fog on the bathroom mirror.  Lol yes this wisdom was granted as I, a generally high functioning adult, both A - take bubble baths on a regular basis and B - rarely takes baths withOUT said bubbles.   Lol so when that rare circumstance occurred today, I was indeed moderately amused at how steamy my room got ;)

There is no angry way to say "Bubbles"

TIL: There is no adjective to go along w ‘solidarity’ in English.   Solidarious?  Solidaric?  Reputable dictionaries don’t like either.  Less reputable ones seem to lean to solidaric.  Came across this because it *does* exist in Spanish and I was struggling to apply it.   I have never missed this word in my life, and tbh I randomly make up words all the time when I need them so wouldn’t have been an issue if I had.  But still amused me.  

TIL:  The people scavenging in the recently shuffled dirt where they will some day be building new houses are looking for meteorites (which apparently pay quite well) and War of 1812 paraphernalia (which apparently does not ;-P).  This all according to one of the people doing said scavenging who was quite happy to tell us all about it and show us the meteorite he'd found.