Category Archives: Life & Photography

Favourite Pictures of 2018

I hate looking back at old work. I’m always striving to improve my skills and usually can’t bear to turn around and face my poorly aged practice work. I sometimes can’t believe how many risks, mistakes and stabs in the dark it took to grow and learn and move forward.

Photography’s ability to capture a feeling, memory, light, and moment – and create nostalgia – make it a little easier to reflect back on and feel good about. Looking back at the past year of photos my husband and I have snapped for the blog came with a fair amount of “I can’t believe I was so pleased with this” but it also brought back a lot of happy memories from all the things we did and the time we spent together. Here are some of my favourites.

Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster

I was down in the snow with Matt standing over me, trying not to laugh at him, for a good, long while when we were trying to get this shot on a sunny January afternoon.

Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-ToasterFavourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster

Something about this photo takes me right back to the soft light and sweet scents of warm spring afternoons.

Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster

Playing with bubbles in the backyard on one of the first nights the sun didn’t start to set until after dinner.

Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster

The beginning of Pepper’s hobby of sneaking into frame.

Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster

We got out of the lake, I quickly combed my hair and threw on my new favourite outfit while Matt opened some beers and tossed our dinner on the barbecue. He took this picture while we waited for it to cook with very little instruction or guidance from me. I love the light and how he was able to perfectly capture the feeling of our entire weekend in one image.

Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster

We went to the beach many times over the summer, but this trip was special. The beach was packed so we walked far down to the “dog end” where it’s less crowded and people don’t mind a furry girl just trying to cool off. It was a terribly hot and muggy day and after a few minutes of playing in the water, we saw why. The sun suddenly vanished and big storm clouds started rushing in over the great lake. We stayed while they gathered but hightailed it out of there once the first lightning bolt struck far out on the horizon. The weird weather gave our pictures these amazing colours and made for quite a memorable day at the beach.

Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster

Wanting to practice in a more urban setting, we went down to a scarcely used path downtown, on a lark, and took some of my favourite pictures of the year.

Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster

Needing somewhere dry to take pictures on a cold and rainy day at the cottage, we went down to the boathouse to pass some time. I went in with low exceptions, having tried this dark and difficult place before with nothing to show for it, but we took our time and found the light and turned out some images that really capture the quiet and stillness of the lake on a day like this.

Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster

I plunked a small table down in my overgrown front garden, set my camera up for full, harsh sunlight, said “let’s see if this works” and stunned myself when I saw the images.

Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster

In stark contrast, the images I took this day came so difficultly, I wrote about it.

Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster Favourite Pictures of 2018 | Sophster-Toaster

I was taking test shots while setting the scene and someone burst into frame.

Photos by me and Matt.

Pepper’s 1st Birthday

Pepper's 1st Birthday | Sophster-Toaster

Pepper turned one year old this week! It’s been quite the year with this crazy pup. She’s learned, grown and matured a lot over the past months and now those early, difficult days of puppy teeth nipping, crate training, teething and housebreaking are almost forgotten. She’s changed our lives for the better in so many ways and even though there are still some frustrations with this energetic, adolescent pup, waking up to her smiling face every morning makes me happier than anything in the world.

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Photos by me and Matt Harrison.

Zehrs Online Grocery Shopping Review

I was talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago about how much he hates the process of grocery shopping to the point he’s come to dread the tedious chore. I suggested trying Zehrs’ new online grocery shopping service, knowing very little about how it actually worked. He confided in me that not knowing what to expect from this new way of shopping would make him as uncomfortable as he is doing it the tried and true way. I said I would help him any way I could and we left it at that.

A few hours later, I had the idea to test the service out myself so I could let him know what the procedure was. A day after that, I realized he’s probably not alone in letting his introversion and social anxiety get the best of him when it comes to this sort of thing and that there may be others who are curious about this pre-self-serve-supermarket throwback style of how we do our weekly shop, so I had the idea to try it out and share my experience!

Placing the Order

The process starts out easily enough, you choose a 2 hour time slot for when you would like to pick up your order. You can choose any time, from 9 am – 7 pm, seven days a week, up to two weeks in advance. The pickup fee for 9-5, Monday – Friday is $3, while the fee for after 5 pm and weekends is $5, which seems entirely reasonable. (You can try it out for free for your first month by using coupon code FREEMONTH at checkout.) You can place an order up to two hours before pickup and you can alter your submitted order up to midnight the night before your pickup day. There is a $30 order minimum.

Next, you add items to your order by searching for them or browsing by section. If you are a PC Optimum member and swipe your card every time you shop, you can shop from a special section of your frequently purchased items to speed thing up. I imagine this feature will become even more useful the more you use the online ordering and build a database. It took me much longer to shop online than it does to shop in person but I got really bogged down in just how easy it was to shop the sales and compare prices, nutrition and ingredients of similar items, especially ones that aren’t displayed together in the store. It was so much easier to discover new products when shopping online vs in store. It was easy to say, “oh this looks good,” and add it to your cart with the click of a button, but it was also much easier to change your mind and ditch your impulse items at checkout – and not feel like the monsters who shove their mistaken ground beef in the magazine rack. When you are done shopping, you checkout, mark any items that you will not accept a substitution for if they become out of stock, provide your credit card information and have an option to tick a box if you would like to bring your own bags. I chose to have my groceries bagged before pickup and as far as I can tell, there was no charge for the bags.

After you place your order, you receive a confirmation email. On the morning of your order pickup date, you receive an order update email with pickup information, that looks like this:

It also includes a list of any items that were out of stock that day and had to be substituted. Here’s what my substitutes looked like:

Most of the items that were not substituted were because I asked that they not be. I guess they were out of jalapenos that morning and had no obvious substitute to work with. As you can see, my $0.49 name brand soups were substituted for an $0.89 off-brand soup, which I had an option to decline. I chose to keep them and they came in a separate, colour coded bag for easy subtraction.

Picking Up the Order

About a half hour before our pickup time slot, as we were running other errands, we received an inconvenient phone call detailing all the information that was included in the email and were asked if we would like to pay with the credit card used during online checkout. I assume this call was due to the newness of the program, both for the store and the customer, and hope it can be done without in the future.

When we arrived, we looked for the specially reserved online order pickup parking spots located near the entrance and took the last remaining one as the others were filled by people who were shopping regularly and are, I guess, not great at reading signs. We called the number provided, a general store employee answered and we were transferred to the correct department. A very cheerful woman on the other end of the line then asked us for the parking spot number we were in and told us to sit tight and she would be out with out order in five minutes. After a little more than five minutes, she appeared in a safety vest with our cart of groceries. My husband got out of the car to open the truck for her and help load in the groceries. She thanked him, handed him a bottle of water and a small bag of free snacks with a handwritten thank you note, and told him he could sit and relax in the car. She quickly and carefully placed the groceries in the trunk, closed the door, waved good bye to let us know she had finished, and we drove off. We completed a few more errands and went home to unpack out groceries. We noticed that they were very well packed, with cleaning products separated in their bags, cold things together, pantry items together, etc.

All in all, the whole experience was quite simple and pleasant. I could have done without the phone calls, but I’m sure it’s an improvement that can be made as the store figures things out. I would definitely continue to use this service for my larger, organized grocery shops. Even when the free trail ends, and we have to pay the pickup fee, I think we will still save money when it’s so much easier to shop the sales and compare prices using the online shopping system; the “sort price low – high” button was my best friend. Plus there is the cost of our time saved not trudging around a busy grocery store.

My Everyday Carry

My Everyday Carry | Sophster-Toaster Blog

Here they are: the secret contents of my purse. The things I carry everyday. Depending on the day, the weather, the plan or the purse, I frequently carry more, but never less.

So, what’s always at my side?

( from top, down; left to right)

  • chap stick (Lip Smacker, bubblegum flavour)
  • stitch ripper
  • safety pins
  • handkerchief
  • cleaning cloth for my glasses
  • compact mirror
  • wallet
  • notebook
  • hand lotion
  • gum (the weirder, the better)
  • ruler
  • band-aid
  • pen
  • nail file
  • Tide To Go spot/stain remover
  • lighter
  • business cards

My Everyday Carry | Sophster-Toaster Blog

Some of the things I would be absolutely lost without are my stitch ripper, safety pins, pen, notebook and ruler. As a seamstress, I can’t responsibly leave the house without my stitch ripper and safety pins. They have saved the day on many occasions at weddings, parties and markets. I take a strange joy in asking a man if his suit jacket is new and then helping him remove the temporary stitching on the vents. I use my pen and notebook everyday for lists, ideas, recording or giving out information. I don’t know how others live without them. My ruler is especially handy when shopping or settling those strange arguments that only happen between close friends.

My Everyday Carry | Sophster-Toaster Blog

I don’t get to use my lighter often, but I keep it full and ready for those exciting occasions when someone needs a gentleman to light a candle or cigarette. I delight in being a gentlemanly woman among average men.

Some things you may think are missing from my bag are keys, phone and tampons. I hate carrying keys. I don’t drive often and we installed a fancy, futuristic keypad code lock the first day in our new house, so I don’t have much use for keys and frequently forget to take them when I leave the house. I do usually carry my phone, but not always. It’s far too easy for me to work from my phone, so I leave it behind when I need to force myself to rest, relax and be present. I recently freed myself from the need to carry a clutch of tampons and liners when I switched to a menstrual cup and Thinx period panties backup system (both of which I highly recommend). I don’t leave the house feeling unprepared for life with a uterus anymore, so I don’t usually need to carry any disposable products with me.

My Everyday Carry | Sophster-Toaster Blog

All photos be me.