Monday, January 24, 2011

winter's words

When I wake up to days as cold as this one (-23!), even as a lifelong midwestern-winter-survivor, my winter vocabulary fails me. "SO COLD" doesn't really cut it, so I resort to saying things like: it is SO COLD that Toby comes home from walks with icicles on his chin, or: it is SO COLD that there is a very scary breathless pause for a second after I turn the key in the car ignition, but then it reluctantly starts. Begins to sound like a barrage of "your momma's SO FAT..." jokes.

Even though I am well acquainted with winter and her many moods, this slight shift north of the border has also involved some terms I've never heard before, giving names and imagery to even more aspects of winter. Nice to meet you, snow squall! You sound like you belong on some bird's nametag, but instead you are a funny name for a brutal cocktail of wind and snow that makes that stretch of the 401 between London and Sarnia the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Also charmingly deceptive: the Alberta Clipper, named for the province it usually originates in and speedy 19th-century ships. (More cuteness: when it originates elsewhere, it's named Manitoba Mauler or Saskatchewan Screamer.) The most recent one to pass through was a quick introduction, but I don't need to spend any more quality time, if you know what I'm saying. It's a fast-moving storm system characterized by high winds and dramatic drops in temperature: winter's drama queen, apparently.

I don't know if it's our location or if it's just the nature of the season this time around, but I am grateful for shifts and varying weather patterns, at least. We've had no endless stretches of bitter cold (HOW COLD?) or unseasonable warmth. We haven't had to deal with any squalls during long car trips, but have had enough scatterings of snow to keep the winteraholic in me satisfied. People find a lot of ways to complain about this time of year, but you won't hear any griping from me, unless I'm reeling in the wake of of a Clipper.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

We the People...

Our somewhat limited storage space and tricky-shaped entrances have totally dictated what furniture we moved here with, and what was sold in a garage sale in Denver or left in storage in Michigan.

So, when the timing is right, we willingly participate in the friendly neighborhood commerce of the garage (or in our neighborhood, sidewalk) sale. Fortunately for us, the tradition is as equally Canadian as it is American, including low prices just asking to be bartered even lower. Which my husband did in order to snag this dresser for me. Because my clothes are piled in wire crates on the closet floor like a six-year-old.

That'll do.

What's funny is we can't escape how intertwined some of these cultural events are between our north american countries. Check out the drawer liners.

Bryan and my youngest stepbrother took one look and started singing Schoolhouse Rock's song for the Preamble to the Constitution. We are barely 80 km/50 mi from the U.S. border, but somehow it's mysterious and funny to me that this dresser found its way to our Canadian apartment.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

all things moist and muggy

Okay, I can admit it. I took the high, thin, humidity-free atmosphere of Denver for granted. In my mind, summer was still seatbelt-burning hot with or without humidity, and the dry winters left my skin as dry and easily split as onion skins. The house we rented came equipped with a swamp cooler- simultaneously the grossest and most apt name for an appliance I have ever come across. Anyone living in the Midwest (or anywhere less than a mile above sea level, really) could only laugh at the need for a machine that puts cold moisture into the air and shoots it INSIDE your house. Outside of high altitude or desert climates, humanity is engaged in a year-long effort to suck all that moisture out and away from living spaces.

And now that we're back in it, that humidity is undeniable. And it doesn't get much more moisture-prone than our native North American climate, in a basement, with no dehumidifier handy. Doors have swelled in their jambs and won't shut. Baseboards are curving away from walls like a caterpillar in mid-hunch. Glasses bead with sweat the minute they're filled with anything cooler than room temperature. Salt and sugar, even in their snug tins, clump together in chunks. And we have entered the ritual of two cold showers a day- sometimes three. We move the box fan from room to room with us. We find Toby sprawled on the cool slate tile in the dark bathroom. We exert minimal energy. We sweat anyway.

And even when Denver was broiling away during the day (a mile closer to the sun means you are bound to get a wee bit sweatier!), the chill of high-altitude nights was a gift. The worst of the heat always left with the sun, and on the good nights a breeze followed. Sometimes the wet wool blanket of humidity feels like it's trapping the heat and holding it to the ground, wrestler-style, and even after the sun goes down the relief is minimal.

Is it any wonder that after growing up in this sort of environment, autumn is my favorite season (one that is just not the same in the eastern suburbs of Denver- THAT I am not backing down on)?

One thing that has been helping that I've never tried before this summer is watermelon juice, with a splash of gin and a slice of lime (or as my husband has named it, 'watermelgin juice!'). But it is so, so refreshing.
Watermelgin juice and box fans are our best friends these days, when all we can do is lie low and wait it out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In the crazed aftermath of disaster

There was an earthquake today, and I MISSED IT.

A 5.0 earthquake rippled out from an epicenter somewhere north of Ottawa, as far south and east as Quebec City and NYC, and as far west as Milwaukee and Chicago (as confirmed by my dad, who was at work downtown).

How you miss an earthquake, I cannot explain, but everyone upstairs skipped down claiming the building shook and maybe we should check for explosions. Turns out it was just some intraplate action. No big deal.

I stumbled upon this live blog set up at the Globe & Mail website, (at the bottom of the article) and for 2 1/2 hours I found it both fascinating and entertaining. The main first chunk is mostly comments from readers, with some interaction from the facilitator, but eventually they interviewed a couple of geology professors, fielding questions from readers. As one of the commenters put it, "The ability to talk to each other and talk to experts in tandem is exactly what's been missing from real-time coverage."

I don't know if this is a common tool for the media, and it's probably the most useful for extreme weather occurrences like this one, but is live blogging widespread? I'm sure people sit on message boards during World Cup games or red carpet events or political speeches and spout outrageous opinions and pick fights-- but what about events that benefit from the perspective of an expert? And the opportunity to have a question answered by that expert within minutes? I trust that the Globe & Mail is actually speaking to a professor, as opposed to the facilitator of a fan website making nonsense up in their mom's basement somewhere. That's the difference in useful live blogging to me, and I'm curious if it's going on in more places than I think.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

second day of summer

what our summer looks like so far...