Monday, 26 January 2009

Giant Bucket of Slime

So I tried something really cool on the weekend. (Being bored and having no friends at least means I have lots of time to mess around in the kitchen and such). I read a couple of articles about making your own laundry detergent, and it sounded easy and kind of fun. So I gave it a try! I used a combination of this recipe because it was the easiest to follow, and this one, where I first saw it. (The description of making your own giant bucket of slime totally hooked me!)

I ended up sort of combining the recipes, while simultaneously getting a bit confused about the amount of water to use (silly Americans - they have these weird things called gallons that are basically 3.8 litres, but they also switch to cups occasionally. Confusing!)

So basically I used Ivory soap, washing soda and Borax. I used the cheese grater to grate the soap - it was way easier than I expected. Then melted it on the stove on low heat in about 8 cups of water (because I meant to use four cups except forgot my measuring cup actually holds two cups of liquid). Then I dumped in half a cup of Borax and about 3/4 of a cup of washing soda and stirred it. Dumped the whole works into a giant bucket and added an indeterminate amount of water - this is where I got confused about the whole gallons and cups thing. I think it ended up being about 6.5L. Stirred it really well and let it cool with the lid off, so some of the (possibly) excess water would evaporate.

The hardest part was waiting all night for it to cool, but this morning I had my promised giant bucket of slime! It's white and sort of gelatinous, but a bit liquidy. I did some laundry with it this morning and it seemed to work fine, except that the things don't smell perfume-y like they do with regular detergent. Which is fine with me. So now I have a big old bucket of detergent, plus enough to make at least three more vats of it. It was about $6 each for the washing soda and Borax, and $2 for three bars of Ivory (you're not supposed to use anything with too much colour or perfume or additives). Which is a pretty good deal for enough soap to last me for at least a year, plus the amusement of making it.

While I was hauling home my giant bucket from Home Bargains to make my detergent in, I saw the neighbour next door and said hi. He seemed very pleased to see me and invited me over to their house later. I said sure, but I don't think he believed me, because he turned up at the door an hour later and got my mobile number to go out later on. I really didn't feel like braving a bunch of new people, but sucked it up and went over and was SO glad I did. We went to a hippie bar called the Cornerstone to see live music, and then went out dancing. And it was FUN! Met tons of new people (though no contact info) and got free cake and a couple of free beers. Heck yes! Also, it is nice to know the neighbours. The one who talked to me seems to only live there part-time, but there are a bunch more of them - some combination of students and just-done-being-students, I think. Feeling much better just for having been out to socialize, and not feeling so much like a recluse.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

I am taking a break from marking! I'm not taking any classes this semester (only a required seminar where I just have to turn up and listen) but I have a sinking feeling that I'm going to be learning a huge pile of stuff per week in order to be able to mark for two classes. One's a 4th-year neurobiology seminar dealing with learning and memory (haven't done any of that since undergrad) and one's stats (UGH). However, the nice thing is I can mark from home in my PJs. Can't argue with that.

Although still a pretty empty house, it is starting to look reasonably home-like around here. The landlady left me a bunch of student-grade furniture she didn't want anymore (for which I will be forever grateful) and I bought a bunch of stuff from the dollar store, a few pans and a cheap futon to use as a couch. You would not believe the number of people who seem to think their old crappy futon is worth $200. Good lord. Mine is not the loveliest thing in the universe (and it required extensive cat-hair removal), but it was cheap and delivery was included! And now I have somewhere to sit. And a spare bed, when you all come for a visit!

Here is a post I started last week but was too lazy to finish then:

Canadians are so cute. Today waiting for the bus they formed an orderly queue as a woman in a wheelchair slowly descended the ramp. But then after she left, nobody wanted to be the first to move. Eventually the bus driver said, "C'mon you guys, it's too cold to stand around out there! Get on the bus!" and there was a minor stampede. Brits are champion queuers, but they are DEFINITELY NOT SHY about moving forward if they are first in the queue, or even if the first person is showing no signs of going anywhere. Also, the first thing I noticed starting school here was the sheer number of people holding doors for me. They will even hold a door if you are five or ten metres away, necessitating a bit of a sprint to get to the door if you don't want to make them wait forever. Which Canadians generally don't.

Anyway, it's less cold here (or less consistently cold) but way more snowy. Perhaps a house with a lease saying I have to shovel it was a bad call! But the bus system is pretty good and goes right past my house. I have found bus routes to a grocery store and a Zellers, so that should hold me for now. I think when the snow goes away I should be able to walk to work with relative ease, as well. The bus is free, but it would be nice to have the daily exercise.

Here are some pictures of a snowman I made at the bus stop. And a buried bicycle.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

book spree

I went on a book-buying spree at Chapters today. THANK YOU, Grandma and Tim! So exciting to be able to actually buy stuff for once.

Also checked out the Farmers' Market, which seems to be a good one. Only problem is that Farmers' Markets make me nervous. Always so crowded and shovey, you can't really see the prices, everyone wants to TALK to you all the time... makes me very uncomfortable. Silly but true!

I tried buying some shampoo bars at Lush today too. They are expensive, but I was told by girls I did my Masters with that they last forever. Seems a weird concept but worth a try! Also apparently they travel really well, which makes sense. Definitely smaller and more compact than liquid shampoo.

Okay, off to read my new books...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

house drama

OH, the drama!

Right, so I was staying in a B&B/lady's house where students rented out rooms, and I wanted out. For one thing, she needed the room back, so I would have been on an air mattress in the living room. For another, I felt uncomfortable. She kept doing things like not telling me a time for breakfast, so I just wandered down whenever I felt like it (it was not cooked, just cereal and make-yer-own toast). The last day I was there, she told me pointedly when I came down (at 9 am) that she "usually stops breakfast at 9..." making me feel totally guilty, even though there was no indication of this earlier. Argh!

So in my haste to get out, I decided to go with the dingy basement suite, having negotiated a shorter lease. I dumped my stuff into a cab and moved over there. But once in, I discovered it was FREEZING... and once all the lights were on, you could see the filth of the place. The floor was disgusting, the walls were dirty, there were cobwebs everywhere and dust on everything. To top it all off, the fridge wasn't working. I found the latter out AFTER I had put my milk into it.

I had another house to look at that night, mostly because I forgot to cancel the appointment and would have felt guilty cancelling right before I was supposed to arrive. So I went to the house, and it was an older house with two apartments in it. Both had separate doors and separate access to the basement for laundry and that. Wood floors, lots of windows, BATHTUB... it was pretty nice. (At least in comparison). I wished I hadn't seen it because it was so much nicer. I fretted all the way back to horrible basement suite of filth, and spent a freezing and uncomfortable night there. And I called the landlady of the other place and asked if I could move in right away. She said not only could I, but she would throw in a bed and some other furniture if I wanted.

I hadn't signed anything at the basement suite or paid any money yet. So I went and hid at school (had lots to do!) and waited for the landlady of the new place to call and say I could move in (she was checking references and all that good stuff). It was a horrible day - basement suite landlord doesn't really speak English and I wasn't looking forward to a scene. Plus, there was no guarantee that new landlady would get all the references and that before the basement suite guy was pressuring me to sign something. So stressful. Stomach hurt all day.

FINALLY, around 6.30 pm, she called. I grabbed a cab from uni, went to the basement, grabbed my stuff, left a note, the keys and some money, dumped my stuff into the cab, and legged it for the new place. Having seen the suite, the cab driver said there's no way SHE would have stayed there and it was a good idea to get out.

New landlady is very helpful, new house is above ground with windows galore and an ENORMOUS yard, and I have been given a queen-sized bed and a bunch of furniture! I feel sort of bad about the whole fiasco, but am so happy to be somewhere nice. It is a bit further away, but quite possibly still walking distance.

So now only the small matter of a PhD to sort out...

Monday, 5 January 2009

busy day

Just a quick one because I am exhausted (from not being able to sleep last night, and having pigs texting me at midnight did not help!)

I looked at one more place today, which was super nice (still a basement suite, but enormous windows and loads of light) but far away from uni and expensive, relatively speaking. It was not that big but had loads of storage. But no furniture. And no taps in the bathroom, but apparently that was being fixed as we spoke!

On the way back I miscalculated the bus and stood in the freezing wind for half an hour, and 20 min more when I had to change busses at the university. This did not help convince me that moving way up there was a good idea.

Also today I met the wonderful Graduate Secretary, got a mailbox and an office and keys for both, found out my TA assignments, found out I didn't KNOW about my TA assignments because there is yet another mysterious email address that has been set up for me that I'm supposed to have a password for but was never given, went to visit IT about this and made friends with them, explored a tiny bit of campus, and got my student card and bus pass.

Tomorrow I meet my supervisor. But the grad secretary said you can tell when he's in because music is playing, which seems like a good sign.

And finally, I think I will just take the first place I looked at. I bargained him down to an 8-month lease, which will take me to Sept when there should be a lot available. I hope this is a good idea. I just want to have somewhere to put my stuff, and the thought of having a mattress already is an alluring one. A mattress that I then do not have to move!

whether this is a good call or a rash move remains to be seen.

In other hilarious news, the girls who are staying in this house invited me for a (secret) glass of wine (the landlady doesn't let them take glasses upstairs, apparenty). Anastasia the Russian girl told me she was going to move out four months ago, and had a place set up in a bachelor suite with an older woman in the rest of the house. This woman was really bossy and kept trying to dictate her every move, and then got really upset when Anastasia said she did not want to hand over the money order for the rent until she could move her stuff in. The lady told Anastasia that she should give her (the lady) more respect because she was a retired professor, and kicked her out of the car (the lady had insisted on giving her a lift). This was all starting to sound oddly familiar...

I asked the lady's name, and it was indeed my friend from yesterday's kidnapping and tea adventures. Good lord. Anastasia thought it was hilarious that she apparently has still not let her "apartment" (apparently it didn't even have a stove). Narrow escape!

Oh, and I agreed to go to Toronto with the girls on the weekend. Couch-surfing. What the heck, it's not like I was doing much else... or know anyone else in town!

I have to say, I am finding it strange not being the international student of the bunch. When Anastasia asked where I was from, I automatically said "Canada", until she patiently asked me which province.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

kidnapped by a helpful lady

Well, I feel like I've explored Guelph fairly thoroughly! I waited till noon to call about houses, which was probably silly but I don't want to piss off potential landlords. So I called the overly friendly lady that I spoke to last week and she said she would come pick me up. And she did, and had a chat with the overly friendly lady I am staying with temporarily, which let me off the hook for once. Once I was in the car, the lady said that she didn't have the one-bedroom available any more... but she decided to take me on a driving tour of the university anyway. !!

By then it was too late to escape (plus it was a nice thought, if strange not to tell me the place wasn't available BEFORE she picked me up). She then added that her friend Jocelyn had a room and she was taking me to see her. !!! So off we drove to Jocelyn's. I actually really liked Jocelyn - she reminded me of Auntie Barb, which can only be a good thing - but rather than a self-contained suite like I was looking for, she had a room with a pull-out bed. We had tea with Jocelyn, which I found quite surreal since I had basically just been adopted by this lady out of the blue! Good tea, though.

Then Lady 1 had to go to the mall, so I caught a ride out there and thanked her profusely for her "help", and scampered off. So a bit of a strange experience, but clearly well meant and anyway, I did get to see a good portion of Guelph.

At the mall I bought a mobile (email me for the number!) and, after going round the mall three times because people cannot seem to give good directions, found the bus stop. However, I misread the signs and ended up on the right bus going the entirely wrong direction. (Steph, sound familiar? but the 9 and not the 6 this time). I was on my way to see another house, but took 45 minutes to get there in the end because of going along the ENTIRE bus round. Hi Guelph! You're looking awfully familiar by now!

The house was actually a basement suite. So here's the deal:

- dingy, kinda ugly
- not a whole ton of light
-shower but no bath
- landlord doesn't speak English so much
- separate entrance, but steep and narrow/scary stairs

- big for a basement suite
- quite liked the landlord, although he barely speaks English so communication was difficult
- landlord says I can paint away the dinginess if I want
- laundry and utils included in rent (which isn't bad, $675)
- biggest pro is it come more-or-less furnished - couple of couches and chairs and a BED! That would save a lot of trouble in the mattress department.

So? What do you think? I have one more to look at tomorrow or Tues, but really need to decide fast because I can only stay here till Tuesday morning...

I will be so glad, by the way, when I have my own place. Two days of being uber-polite at all times is starting to wear! Every time I go downstairs it's a half-hour chat, which is fine, but bring on a solitary lair...

Thursday, 1 January 2009


Happy new year! I am stressed. How come two weeks in Alberta seemed like such a long time when I planned it? Now it is nearly gone and by this time next week, everything will have changed.

However, I have a flight booked, a ride to Guelph, a B&B to stay at for the first few days, and a few houses to look at on Sunday and Monday. And the promise of a TA-ship that only involves marking - hoorah! Marking, I don't mind. (Teaching = scary). So really I'm as sorted as I can be, considering. Except that there's a lot more work to do before I'm really properly sorted (as in, have a home and an internet connection).

Oh well, I have had a great time at home. Lots of sitting around reading (yay!), some skating, some cooking, lots of sorting boxes (less yay). Lots of family. Lots of Corner Gas. It was fun.

So I don't really do resolutions, but I do try to reflect on things I've learned/new places I've been in the past year, because it makes me feel less pathetic. So:

New places:

- Prague
- New bit of Germany
- Cornwall (definitely have to go back)
- the Cotswolds
- Liverpool
- ermmmmm... Banbury? Okay fine, not too much travelling this year...

BUT I did get my masters, learn how to fence epee and sabre (kinda), learn some E-Prime (useful for programming experiments), try kick-aerobics, crash a lot of parties and convince some hapless university to let me into their PhD program. I've had worse years.

I'd say bring on 2009, but that would work better if I weren't dreading the next week. Hmmmm. Well, it can't fail to be interesting!

Happy New Year, everyone.