Saturday, September 19, 2015

New Job!

Since my last life update post was two and a half months ago, I decided it was time for another...

So, since that last update, a few things have changed. The lady I was replacing at Meals on Wheels finally came back the end of August. I helped out for a week or so in the interim, and then replaced the helper (preparing desserts and salads) for a about a week.

My schedule at the restaurant changed a couple months ago, as well. Instead of working Tuesdays and Thursdays, I began working Friday afternoons (after working the morning at Meals on Wheels), giving me Thursdays off for a while, which was nice.

This past week I started my new position at Community Aid (the organization that runs the Meals on Wheels program) in the office. My title is Office Agent (mostly scheduling and data entry), and they were very kind to organize my hours in order to accommodate my job at the restaurant. So I work in the office every day, but Tuesday and Friday afternoons I go to work at the restaurant. Community Aid offers several different services to seniors, including Meals on Wheels, a weekly foot clinic, monthly blood pressure clinic, Escort Transport (transportation to doctor's appointments, etc), social outings, and friendly visits. My tasks involve preparing route slips for Meals on Wheels, scheduling and confirmation of foot clinic & blood pressure clinic appointments, and finding drivers for escort transport.

So it was a long week! Absorbing so much new information, taking on much longer hours than I've become used to for the past eight months (and then realized that I had put in three hours too many - whoops!), and being pushed out of my comfort zone a little bit. I had hoped to have a productive weekend - maybe do some crafts, work on Christmas gifts, get caught up on some laundry, organize my correspondence... But pretty much none of that has happened so far. Oh well, sometimes Saturdays are just meant for vegging on the Internet.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Postcrossing!

If you're Facebook friends with me, or have been in touch with me within the last couple months, you probably will have heard me mention my adventures with Postcrossing.

Postcrossing is a free website that connects people from around the world via postcards. It's unique in that you do not exchange cards, and every card has an ID number associated with it. So to get started, you have to make an account, of course. :) And then you request an address. You will be given the address and profile of a random person from anywhere in the world, and an ID number - you must write this number somewhere on the card or the system just won't work properly. So, now you send your card off and wait for it to reach its destination. Once the recipient receives your card, they register the ID number on the website, and this now makes yours the next address to be pulled when someone (from anywhere in the world) requests an address! You are guaranteed to receive as many as you send, which makes it a lot of fun. I love sending mail. I always hope I'll get something in return, but it doesn't always happen. Of course I do it because sending mail makes me happy and I don't know of anyone who doesn't like to receive friendly mail,  and I also like making my friends happy. But it makes me really happy to get some in return, so this is a great project for me! It can be a little pricey (International postage is around $2.50, plus have you bought postcards recently? I've found a few that were less than $1 each, but very few. The norm is around $2 each, so....), but hey. It's worthwhile spending for me. :)

So, I thought I would share with you the cards that I have received so far!

From Richard in BC, Canada

From Elke in Germany

From Laura in France, near Paris

From Norma in Sydney, Australia (she sent hers in an envelope and included 4 blank postcards for me to keep/use because she saw I was a newbie, some shaped post-its, and a bag of Twinings Australian Afternoon Tea!)

From Marije in the Netherlands
From Emily in Taipei, Taiwan

From Marta in Poland

From Ciska in the Netherlands

From Irina in Russia (I love, love, love this one!)

From Maggie in Florida, USA
From Tiffany in China

From Olga & Pavel in Illinois, USA

From Chie in the Philippines (I really like this one, too!)

From Varpu in Finland

From Leila in the Philippines (she included her return address and asked me to write back :) )

From Brian in Dublin, Ireland (Probably my favourite so far! It's lenticular and was sent with my birthday in mind)

From Victor in Russia, who shares the same birthday as me!

From Jan in Belgium

From Enja in Germany
I have also received some other correspondence because of this project. Laura from France invited me on her postcard to check out a Facebook group for french-speaking Postcrossing users. Most of the group members are from France, but there are a few from other areas of the world as well. I've exchanged addresses with several of them and have received a few goodies!

From Melanie in France

A birthday card from Stephanie in France

From Christine in Montreal (we actually share the same birthday as well, and she was very sweet and sent me 16 blank postcards for my birthday!!)



A Visit to the Abbey

Abbaye St-Benoit / Saint Benedict Abbey

Another item from my 30 Before 30 bucket list (30 things I'd like to do/see/accomplish by my 30th birthday to help me feel like I'm a little closer to where I should be in life, and give me something to work towards) was visiting the Saint Benedict Abbey...

You know how local attractions are always the ones you never visit, I suppose because they're just too close to home and don't seem all that special? Well the Abbey is one of those attractions for me. I've seen the signs on the highway for years, I've heard about the abbey and sampled their famous cheeses, and then my favourite author (Louise Penny who writes the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series) wrote a book based in an monastery inspired by the Saint Benedict Abbey. Well, that really got me interested in visiting the real place, and so I put it on my bucket list and told my family it was one of the things I thought we should do this summer. It's not far (about 20 minutes from my sister's place, which is an hour from home), and this past Sunday we were supposed to be going to my sister's for supper, so we packed a picnic lunch and made plans to visit the abbey "on our way" (it's actually beyond where they live, but that's beside the point). So that's what we did!

We didn't end up staying very long and didn't take the time to read all the placards, but I got some pretty nice pictures, and we got to visit the store in the basement of the main building and buy some cheese! There is also an orchard at the abbey, so they sell the apples, cider, jams and jellies that they make there, as well as chocolate, wine, and honey from other abbeys in Quebec. They also sell books, postcards, music, and typical Catholic souvenirs (medallions, rosaries, crucifixes, etc). I picked up some curd cheese, maple filled chocolates, vanilla fondant chocolates, and a few additions to my postcard collection! The abbey also welcomes overnight guests. Men stay in the monastery, and there is a separate house (Saint Scholastica's Villa) for the women.

Tour de St-Benoit side view
 
Front of the Tower

The window over the doorway

Stained glass windows on one side

The Virgin Mary and baby Jesus
 The first building we visited is called the Tower of Saint Benedict (Tour de St-Benoit) - it is a "house of prayer." It's just a small brick building on a hill with a gorgeous stone staircase, beautiful stained glass windows depicting various saints, with a prayer bench and altar in the centre. We spent a little time there appreciating the stained glass and reading the little note near the door about the building.
A different angle of the Abbey

The corridor to the church
Then we moved on to the main building. There is a sort of lobby when you come in, and from there you can go downstairs to the store (which we did first), or go off down this long corridor with many placards describing the origins of the abbey, various constructions and the life of the monks there, etc. (The Abbey celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012!) This corridor leads to another lobby and the church sanctuary. There was a musical concert a couple hours before we got there, and we left just a little before Vespers began, so there wasn't much action while we were there, but that's alright.

It was a quick visit, but an interesting one. I'd definitely go back, maybe sometime in the fall to pick apples or something. :)


Celebrating 28 Years...

Yep... Much as I hate to admit it, truth is, I recently celebrated my 28th birthday.

I know, I know, "Only 28? Still so young!" Well, that may be true, but the fact that I'm so much more undeniably close to 30 than I am to 20 makes me sad. Not that I don't think 30+ is a great age, I just don't feel like it should be my age. And thankfully it isn't, but I'm a worrier, and so looking to the future, that's what I see right now. A great big looming 30 and nothing to show for it...

But ok, enough complaining and being all dark and dreary. My birthday, despite being my 28th, was fun. :)

I really wanted to go to the Foresta Lumina spectacle at the Coaticook Gorge last year for my birthday, but things just didn't work out. So this year I REALLY wanted to go (so much so, I added it to my 30 Before 30 list), and so my brother booked tickets for all of us (Mom, Dad, Reuben and myself - my ticket was my gift from him) to go on Saturday night, August 15th.

*SPOILER ALERT: If you are planning to visit the Foresta Lumina and want to be surprised, DO NOT read the rest of this post!*

Our reservation was for 10pm, but the website suggested going half an hour early, which we did. There were lots of people, we had to park a few streets over because the designated parking area was overflowing, but that's alright. I tried to take pictures, but my camera just really doesn't like lights and night-time picture-taking, so none of them turned out. :( But I did pick up some postcards that have very clear pictures of a few of the hot spots, so I'll try to include them.

So when you get to the entrance, there is a big gateway that says Foresta Lumina, all lights and twigs and cool looking. :) Stepping through that, you enter a magical waiting area. There are several picnic tables with little electric lanterns that flicker. There's an adorable little food truck where you can buy snacks and refreshments, before or after your trek through the forest. :) There are string lights hanging through the trees, and you hear wind chimes and trees creaking and the wind blowing, and there's a big lit stand in the middle that has the rules, but is also a big clock that has a little animation showing how much closer the previous group is to finishing. This clock and its animations reminded me a lot of the movie Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. So we sat there and waited for our reservation time. Reservations are every half hour, so since we were there at 9:30, we got to see how it all progressed. Every half hour, the clock strikes and the soundtrack plays wind blowing, and the lanterns go out for a few seconds. :) Then you go and line up with the hundreds of other people with the same reservation time, to get your bracelet and enter the actual forest...

The entrance to Foresta Lumina (I told you - bad pictures!)

The clock/rules

The awesome lanterns on the picnic tables

So, in case you were wondering, the Foresta Lumina is a 2 km lighted night walk through the Gorge park - yes, even across the famous suspension footbridge (which is the longest in North America, if you didn't already know)! There is a bit of a story to the whole  experience, several different characters who are based on local legends and indigenous folklore. So as you walk through the forest, you enter a pathway with twig lanterns overhead, and lit cutout signs describing the various characters you might meet in the forest, and their role. And there is a sort of gramophone where you can tell your wish to the fairies, pick up a stone, and then later on leave it at the riverbank as a gift to the fairies in the hopes that they might grant your wish. :)

Map from the website



As you continue along the path from there, you see and hear fairies giggling and dancing in the trees. Then a twig snaps, and they all disappear! When you get to the top of the steeeeep staircase, there are a couple of benches to catch your breath. ;) Then you continue along a narrow lit path to the bridge! If you've been on a suspension footbridge before, you know how much they sway and move, and it's no different at night. People afraid of heights have a really hard time with that, but I loved it! Partway across the bridge, there is a  lit up, misty gateway that's really cool. At the end of the bridge there is an animation depicting Mary (a young human girl) discovering the fairies, and how the other characters come into play. This is definitely one of the best parts. I believe it was after this that you come to a resting area with a big campfire and benches, more images telling more of the story, and access to toilets. From there, you go down a really steep path and come upon The Tree - a sort of Tree of Life figure. There's an animation projected right onto a real tree, making it seem like the tree has a face and its roots are moving. Going on a little further, there is a sort of electrical storm in the forest - lights on the trees to look light lightning, thunder and rain sounds. Then you keep going down, down, down wide wooden stairs until you get to the riverbank. There are little red, blue, and green lights everywhere - I'm not sure if they were supposed to be more fairies, or the spirit of the forest, or just a magical atmosphere, but it was beautiful. There are rock formations here as well, and this is where you leave your wish stone for the fairies. Then the rest of the walk is lighted paths, standing twig lanterns, and lit bridges, and you end up in the gift shop, of course! :)

The fairies in the forest

The gateway on the bridge
Mary and the fairies

The Tree

The rock formations on the enchanted riverbank
Standing twig lanterns lighting the pathway

It was a truly magical experience. I enjoy all things enchanted, fairies, and Disney-style magic so this was just perfect for me. I'm so, so glad that I got to go this year (another 30 Before 30 list item crossed off!), and I hope to go again next year - maybe make a tradition of it! :D

My actual birthday, on the 16th, was nice. My parents took me out for lunch at East Side Mario's, then we had a somewhat quiet afternoon at home, and then my aunt and my sister and her family came over for supper (we ordered pizza - my favourite). My mom baked a box cake and I decorated it with leftover buttercream and sprinkles from the cake orders I had the week before (a My Little Pony birthday cake and a butterfly decorated anniversary cake). :)


First anniversary cake for some friends

My Little Pony cake for a little girls 5th birthday

Cake to celebrate my 28th and my sister's 35th birthdays!
So it was a good birthday! I got some good gifts too... My entry to the Foresta Lumina, a new key remote for my care, a can of maple syrup, a personalized necklace, a hazelwood bracelet (I read somewhere that hazelwood can help with eczema and psoriasis), 4 books (including the newest release by my favourite author), a CD and a DVD that I've been wanting, and a bunch of other little goodies. :) Oh and one of the volunteers from work gave me a lovely card and a Tim's donut, and the girls in the office sang to me and gave me a card. I also got a few other cards in the mail and lots of Facebook birthday wishes. :) Big thanks to everyone who took the time to send me birthday wishes of any form!