Taking the Heat

Looking out my window as I write, I can see a haze has started to fall over Vancouver.  It’s reached that peak in the current heat wave where, although the sky is still technically cloudless, it’s no longer exactly clear.  It’s turned a milky blue.  I think that means the pollution is beginning to build up and hover?  Smog? Is that what you Torontonians would call it?  This is a rare feat for Vancouver – we rarely sustain these temperatures for long.  And when I say “these temperatures” let me be clear that I am in no way saying that it’s hot in general – I’m saying it’s hot for Vancouver.  We’re still not breaking 30° in the shade, more like, say 27°, but still, for Vancouver that’s pretty warm.

We’ve got our apartment shut tight against the sun.  We live in what turned out to be basically a big greenhouse when it’s sunny  – one side of our apartment is entirely windows from floor to ceiling.  Only three tiny squares of all that glass actually open to let in air, with the exception of our balcony doors.  So we’ve got the shades all drawn, the lights off, and an upright air conditioner (kindly provided by our landlord after last summer’s experience) chugging away to keep the temperature in here from rising above 27°.  Without this set up, Piper and I might literally cook in here.  As it is, we spent an hour and  a half playing in the creek near our place yesterday, because I figured a wet dog would be happier when I returned to work in the afternoon and expected her to sleep for the rest of the day.

The creek has been one of our major keep cool strategies this week, and talking to other dog owners with similar ideas at the park has been refreshing too.  I’ve been so impressed with how little people are complaining about this heat wave.  Because this is the first significant warmth we’ve had this year, it’s like we all made an unwritten vow not to besmirch its good name.  I even heard a radio announcer say the other day, “Man I am just sweating buckets in this heat – but I’m not complaining!”  This is huge, because there’s nothing Vancouverites like more than to complain about extremes in weather.

Instead, there’s been a nice sort of refocus on ways to live in harmony with the heat.  Short of standing in front of the refrigerator a smidge too long when getting out the milk, here are some ideas we’ve been putting into practice this week:

1. Popsicles and Ice Cream

Duh.  USE THE EXCUSE.  For the goody-two-shoes among us, grab frozen yogurt – in tub or bar form – fruit puree popsicles with no fat or reduced sugar.  For the rest of us, Rocky Mountain Chocolate makes really nice pistachio ice cream, President’s Choice is a solid grocery store choice, and hey – remember creamsicles? Yeah.  Also, Dairy Queen – don’t try to fight it.  Rumour has it that the best Blizzard combo is Reese peanut butter cups and Skor.

Recipe tip: If you’ve got a popsicle mold, try mixing plain yogurt with pink lemonade concentrate (to taste – don’t make it too sweet) and freezing the mixture into popsicles.  This was my mom’s secret weapon in the summer – unlike home made apple juice popsicles, when you suck on them you don’t remove all the flavour.

2. Watermelon

Or melon of any kind, whatever.  On Monday the Superstore near us was giving away watermelons for free with your purchase.  I know – awesome right?  The only requirement I have for this one is a location of some elevation from which you can spit the seeds.  This is an obvious must.

3. Don’t turn on your stove

A tuna salad sandwich is a perfectly acceptable dinner option – even for an entire family.  Skip the added heat, especially if you live in a small space like we do.  Yesterday I made a giant batch of pulled pork in our slow cooker, so tonight, and possibly tomorrow as well, we won’t be doing any cooking – and that’s not just a break from the heat!

4. Rub a dub dub

Don’t forget your tub.  It’s your very own cool, clothing-optional plunge pool.  Embrace it.  Fun fact about my dog? She is equally happy if I take her all the way down to the creek, or run her a bath.  She will splish-splash either way.  Admittedly this is a little more do-able if you’ve got two bathrooms.

5. Keep the blinds closed and only open the windows at night

Let the cool night air in, keep the warm daytime air out, and if you can, create a cross-breeze by opening windows/doors at the opposite sides of your home.  A less effective cross breeze can be created by leaving your bathroom fan on.  Anything to keep the air moving.

6. Take in a show

Even if you don’t have air conditioning, you know the movie theatre does!  Escape into the cool dark recesses of the cinema for an hour when your internal engine overheats.

Any other cool ideas? I’d love to hear’em.

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June Bugs in July (my new thing learned)

These charming little guys keep showing up in our guest bedroom/my office/the Phibersmith studio.  What a versatile room!  I’m actually not sure I’ve ever seen an uglier bug, except maybe the so called “ghetto” bugs that are known to inhabit the student rental houses where Thomas and I went to school.  Those are uglier.  And faster.  And if you have the stomach for it, Thomas will tell you a story about how this one time he caught a ghetto bug, and it freaked out, spontaneously popped off one of its many legs and began to eat it WHILE STARING THOMAS IN THE EYE.  The impression he does of this exchange is quite chilling.

We keep on having to evict these interlocutors because the dog keeps trying to eat them.  I myself have been quite fascinated by them – not quite fascinated enough to try and eat them, but fascinated enough to visit the June Bug Wikipedia disambiguation page.  Turns out “June Bug” can mean any of a number of little beetly things, a plane, a cartoon character, or this movie from 2005 which I’ve actually seen a couple of times and highly recommend you do too, if you haven’t already (which if you’re reading this, I’m gonna go ahead and guess you have).  Isn’t Amy Adams just too cute?

Anyway, inquiring minds and all that – what new thing did you learn today?

P.S. the notebook he’s trapped with is a charming little thing that my friend Zhaleh gave me from delphine.  Probably she bought it in New York, because she’s cool that way.

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Home, for a rest.

I just dropped off some lovely house guests at the airport and drove home along a highly congested Marine Drive, because I’m not good at navigating in Vancouver and missed the exit for the highway.  Never mind.  The point is, that the airport drop-off officially concluded our travel-guest-wedding-hosting duties for the past 2.5 weeks.  While it was all great fun, and it’s always nice to have a change of pace from the usual routine, I am just so TI-RED.  While I’ve been aching to get back to my online activities, right now all I have the energy or the inclination to do is sit in front of my spinning wheel with 100 grams of deep turquoise merino.

Spinning Wheel

Before I get into anything news-wise, can I just say: Why is there no “spinning wheel channel” on cable?  There’s a fireplace channel, and an aquarium channel, and a sunset channel – all these things that are supposed to be tranquil and meditative that you can tune into for a few minutes to clear your mind – but no spinning wheel channel!  Don’t get me wrong, fish are fantastic, but if you want to get mesmerized by something, just trust me, there’s nothing like watching a spinning wheel draw out fibers into yarn – even if you’re not the one doing the drafting.  Maybe I should make a video and put it on loop here – that would get me TONS of traffic, don’t you think?

In other less nerdy news, my eye surgery has been a HUGE success and I am officially a proponent of getting it done if you have the wherewithal.  Actually, maybe that news is MORE nerdy, or just AS nerdy.  Wait, am I just nerdy period? Yep, that’s okay.

We’ve been to two fantastic weddings over the last two weekends, which I’m offering up as an excuse for my silence of late.  Summer weddings seem to just knock us right out of comm-range these days.  If everyone would just stop getting married, or work together to get married within a few days of each other, I’d really appreciate it.  Thanks.  I don’t know what Katherine Heigl is making such a big deal about – going to two weddings in one day would totally rock efficiency-wise.  Also, I pretty much loved 27 Dresses. More nerdiness – or is that geekiness?  Is it nerdy or geeky to be overly invested in fictional stories?  Would someone please update me on the semantics.  Thank you.

Speaking of weddings, Daily Worth is featuring an article on wedding navigation which I want to high-five them for.  It’s SO hard to work out the money part of being a wedding guest – so much so that I’m sometimes tempted to include the breakdown of our gift/travel reckoning in the card we give to the couple (e.g., “Our gift is probably smaller than some other guests’, but please take in to consideration that we flew here and spent two nights in a hotel, so we care JUST AS MUCH.  Oh, and congratulations!”).  I haven’t actually done this.  I’m not THAT tacky.  Instead I try really hard to go for the touching/thoughtful gift, and hope they understand.

And with that disjointedness, I am off to spend some quality time with my Ashford Traveler, and Modern Family.

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At the juncture between hindsight and foresight

When I was in grade 3, I poked myself in the eye with a pencil.  The blunt end thankfully.  I had dropped the pencil under my desk, and my desk being against a wall I had to crawl underneath my desk to retrieve it.  As I was emerging from under the desk, I put my hands on my chair (holding the pencil in one) to pull myself out, and rocked forward onto the pencil – eye first.

I was taken to the office, and sat on the plastic chairs outside while the school’s secretary phoned a parent.  Actually for some reason I feel like it was my grandmother who came to get me, but I don’t remember exactly, perhaps my mom had a supply teaching gig that day.  What I do remember is sitting in those plastic chairs and having classmates walk by and ask me what was wrong – because you only sat in those chairs outside the office if you were hurt, sick, or in BIG trouble.  Then those same classmates watched fascinated as a dark purple bruise – about the size and shape of a pencil end – emerged on the white of my eye.  Oh, gross!

The upshot of that bruise was that I was taken to an eye doctor to make sure I hadn’t done any serious damage.  The eye doctor pronounced my eyes perfectly healthy, but also shed some light on the possible cause of my having jabbed myself in the first place.

The way my mother tells it, the doctor was succinct, if a little contradictory: “Well, her eye is fine,” he said. “But this kid can’t see.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, and so didn’t think to complain, but did you know that when you’re in school you’re actually supposed to be able to SEE the chalkboard from your seat?  I know, right?

Now there’s no blame here – how was anyone supposed to know I had no idea what was going on around me if I didn’t know that I didn’t know?  But teachers, take note, the next time you see a kid bent over her test sheet, with a mere inch and a half between her nose and the table, don’t immediately assume she’s overzealously guarding her answers from cheating eyes…

I got my first pair of glasses in a shopping mall in the States.  I put them on and spent the next two days staring at floor tiles as they rose up crazily to greet me.  My feet were suddenly very small, and a very long way down. Until I took a step forward that is;  then I was sure I would kick myself in the face.  Surely, I thought, this is NOT the way the world is supposed to look.

But then my eyes got used to the world through my glasses, and I forgot what it was like to see without them – if I ever really knew.  I got used, too, to my face with glasses on it, and so did everybody else, so that when I came to school in 12th grade with contact lenses, it took some people a really long time to put a finger on why I looked so different.

When I moved to Vancouver and started working full time in buildings with ghastly air conditioning, I stopped wearing my contacts because my eyes got too dry.  Oh yeah, and for those of you who picture Southern British Columbia as some temperate rain forest redolent with moisture, know this: WET and HUMID are not the same thing.  Yes it rains almost constantly, but the air here could dry out sand.  My contacts, these days, are for special occasions only, and not for more than 5 or 6 hours at a time.

At the same time – I don’t see as well with my glasses as with contacts.  For those of you who are blessed with good vision (damn you), this will make sense if you imagine having a constant halo of blur around your field of vision beyond the borders of your lenses.  This doesn’t happen with contacts because they’re right up there against your eyes and effectively cover your whole field.

Still though, not as good as just SEEING.  Or so I hear.  Not as good as waking up in the morning and not having to squint to bring the GIANT numbers of your alarm clock, positioned a foot away from your head, into enough focus to read the time.  Not as good as never having to poke yourself in the eye to realign a toric lens.

And so, instead of getting new glasses this year, or battling to keep my contacts moist, I’m going to get new eyes.  Tomorrow in fact, a surgeon is going to use a laser to reshape my corneas, and (fingers crossed) I’m finally going to find out what it’s like to see – with my own two eyes.

I’m pretty excited about this concept.  Is it weird that I feel more like a cyborg at the thought of the lasers, than I did having little plastic discs floating on my eyeballs? Wait, don’t bother answering that.

I’m going to have a couple days of recovery where I won’t be able to engage in my usual stint of screen-staring, but stay tuned next week for the surgery follow up.

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Phibersmith out on the town

embroidered collar 3 on

Well hey there.  Our iMac is indisposed at the moment, having its hard drive reformatted.  It’s very embarrassing as a Mac user to admit to having cpu issues, but there you have it – our constant companion is having its brains unscrambled.

In the meantime I’m relegated to activities I can complete with my antiquated little iBook (which unlike its larger cousin has never been anything but stalwart), or with my own two hands (gasp! even more antiquated).  So I’m catching up on my accounting (ugh), cleaning house (double ugh), and tending to some little crafty projects I’ve had on my mind for a while.

My Big News from yesterday though, is that Phibersmith Designs has found its first retail home!  A selection of my designs will be available, for the summer at least, at dream in Vancouver – which has locations both in Gastown and on Granville Island. My new series of collars will be available there, in addition to headbands, and some smaller embroidered/crocheted necklaces.

Granted, I have no idea as of yet how anything will do in this setting; but for now I’m allowing myself a little champagne-bubble excitement that I’ve got actual pieces available for sale in two of the most touristy areas of the city.  A little conditional pat on the back – go team! – while keeping fingers crossed that they’re well received.


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Grocery Shopping, MMX

A: What about these?

T: You better make sure those are the honey mustard pretzel pieces that weren’t recalled for containing hydrolized vegetable protein.

A: I do wish you would unsubscribe from that particular RSS feed, dear.

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Because clearly we needed another hobby

I’m in the process of changing work states – which is not unlike changing from liquid to gas, it takes a lot of energy.  This happens every few weeks when I need to shift focus drastically from one of my pursuits to another, and it can take me a couple of days to get out of one headspace and into another.  Hence the lack of T-Lex action this week.  BUT I did get some finished pieces back from our pottery studio this weekend, and THEN Thomas cleaned the window ledges, so I had a perfectly coincidental photo opp.

Blue pottery form side view

This is my very first attempt at throwing pottery on the wheel.  You can tell because it’s wobbly and uneven, and doesn’t actually resemble anything more useful than “vessel, unspecified.”  That is what its museum name will be 1000 years from now when they find it encased in a layer of silt during an archaeological dig.  I don’t know anything about archaeology clearly.  I fired the thing for posterity.  Thank goodness the glaze turned out so pretty.

Frilled pottery vase

This is a subsequent attempt.  Once again I am grateful to the glaze-mixing gods, otherwise known as the ceramics instructors, for the piece’s ultimate redemption.  It is more recognizably a vase.  At least I hope those archaeologists recognize it.  They will if they’re worth their salt.  What they WON’T be able to tell is that this vase started out life as a mug, and then died half way through the throwing of it, and was REBORN! with a little handbuilding help…

Pottery jug

And my jug.  My jug that was almost a mug, but got a weird flippy lip thing at the very end that I conveniently transformed into a spout.  As long as people believe that my pottery pieces are entirely intentional, then I’m a WHIZ.

Pottery bowl

And finally, my bowl.  I am absurdly proud of this bowl.  It’s even, and round, and you could put things in it.  Its glazing turned out phenomenally, even though I was sure I had it on so thick that they’d have to crack it out of the kiln with an ice pick… or similar… they don’t let me near the firing, because they are wise, wise people – so I don’t know what they’d have used.  ANYWAY, they didn’t need to, because it WORKED!

Given this humble little collection of things, you may be flabbergasted to discover that this weekend when we go to class, I will be putting the finishing touches on building a teapot.  I know!  A teapot which I fully expect will pour tea! From a spout! Although it is just as likely to also pour from the lid… We shall see!

Thomas’s pieces have unfortunately not made it into the kilns yet, but when they do, man, you can count on their being disseminated here at length.

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Embroidered Collar Series Preview

I’ve been working this week on a new series of embroidered collars for Phibersmith, and I’m so excited about them I just had to share a little peek at them with you.  They’ll be available publicly in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy!

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a-puttering, a-pottering

Pottery Class from Alexis Hoy on Vimeo.

I mentioned before that we are taking a ceramics class at Place des arts in Coquitlam.  On Sunday I finally remembered to bring our little Sony camera with us (I was afraid of getting clay all over the big one) and take some shots and video of Thomas in action.  In a couple of weeks we should have some pieces all glazed, finished and photographed to post here.  We’re getting pretty hooked on it!

Right at the end of the video you can hear one of our classmates say “Oh, YouTube!” when she sees me shooting.  There is a ton of pottery-how-to vids on YouTube, which is what she’s referring to.  I neglected to correct her – we like Vimeo better! It’s so pretty.

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As Requested: My Pre-Plunge Reading List

My good friend Nora asked me to share the things that I read to prepare myself for going it alone, so I went back through the notes I made when I was first setting up Phibersmith and came up with a short list of the resources I used to make me feel like I wasn’t blundering around in the dark.  Without further ado:

1. Craft Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco – in an entirely characteristic gesture of insight, my friend Zhaleh gave me this book for my birthday, at least a year before I started thinking that Phibersmith might be an actual possibility.  This book freaking rocks.  You should read it.  That is all.

2. Etsy’s Quit Your Day Job features – I became obsessed by reading the stories of other people who were doing what I wanted to do.  Not that my experience has been anything like anything I read, but there’s a lot to be said for daily reminders of “If they can do it, I can do it.”

3.  Small Business BC – This is a government funded agency that supports small business owners and entrepreneurs in BC, and the website is a pretty good font of basic info about how to go about things at the beginning.  Probably there are equivalents in other provinces – google to the rescue!

4.  Industry Canada: Business Tools and Resources – Never a bad idea to see how the Federal Government is supporting businesses either.

5.  Canada Revenue Agency – One of my biggest concerns was how I (or, um, Thomas) was going to manage my taxes when that time rolled around.  I spent a lot of time on the CRA website reading about what I could and couldn’t claim as a business expense – this can be particularly confusing for a home-based business, since you have to partition your rent, electricity and other expenses proportionately to the space you use for business purposes.

6.  Small Business Accounting Simplified – Along with the tax issue, I needed to set up and manipulate a good set of records.  I got audited once in university and let me tell you it was not a great experience.  That’s a story for another time, but suffice it to say I am now super squirrelly about keeping everything straight and organized (not that I wasn’t before, but I won’t get into the bitter details).  This book, although it’s geared towards the US, spells out the basics pretty nicely, and although I’m not using the system laid out here in its entirety, I at least know what people mean when they talk about “cost of goods sold.”  I stayed far away from high school accounting classes… who knew?

7.  BizPal – When you’re ready to set up your business, check to see if BizPal is set up for your area.  It’s an online application that will guide you through all the bureaucratic crap that you need to file in order to be legit, and for a government run program, it’s surprisingly straightforward.

8.  OneStop Business Registry – In BC, you also have access to the OneStop Business Registry, which you can use to register your business name – if you’re not going to operate under your own name (e.g. “Alexis Hoy” – if I had wanted to be “Alexis Hoy Designs” I would have had to register that).

And there you go!  If anyone else has any helpful resources I’d love to check them out.

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