Category Archives: Life

The Puppy

It feels like things are just starting to get back to normal since we brought the puppy home just over two months ago. Pepper turns 18 weeks old today and I’m just now able to keep up on orders, make new designs for the shop and create content for the blog like I did before, all while giving her the care and attention she needs. I’ve typed a lot of weird, desperate and frantic questions into google these past two months but the one I searched for the most, and never really found an answer to, was, when do puppies learn to chill.

The Puppy | Sophster-Toaster Blog

I knew bringing a puppy home, especially when I work full time from home, would be a lot of hard work. I did plenty of research leading up to the day – and I’ve raised one puppy and one difficult rescue dog before with my family – but I was not prepared for just how physically and emotionally taxing the first couple of weeks and months can be when you are the adult in charge. I felt like I’d given up my entire life to care for this rambunctious puppy that did nothing but pee on the floor and bite me. I could feel myself falling in love with her, and her bonding with me too, but the emotional strain of working doubly hard all day to get half as much work done and then not being able to relax and unwind at the end of it because she’s still here and still needs me was overwhelming at times. Add to that the constant fear that I’m doing everything wrong and will raise a bad dog and you can see why I really needed to know when this puppy would learn to sit still long enough for me to catch my breath.

I read many discouraging non-answers to this important question, most being:

  1. Small dogs mature more quickly than big dogs. – ok, thanks
  2. The puppy phase generally lasts one year but can vary by size and breed, lasting anywhere from around eight months, to two years. – surely, there has to be some difference between a ten weeks old and ten months old!
  3. Dogs don’t “chill out” until they are one year old; three years old; seven years old; some never do. – I don’t expect a stuffed animal, I just need to know when I can have a second to myself

These answers were very unreassuring to the new owners of an Australian Shepherd, a breed known to be difficult due to it’s high intelligence and high energy levels. I understand where they are coming from, it’s a hard question to answer when every breed, even every dog, is going to be different and you want people to be prepared for the realities of dog ownership before they take it on, but come on! Giving these types of non-answers to such a frantic question can make a person in a normal situation feel hopeless. I desperately needed to know when I would have time to sit down again. I just wanted to know when this puppy would stop needing 100% of me, 100% of the time. When she would sit on the floor and calmly chew a toy instead of trying to bite me all the time. When she could go for a walk without going crazy and having a meltdown in the middle of the street. When she would stop tearing across the yard just to rip my clothes. When my husband could greet her after being at work all day and not have her demand a blood sacrifice. Most importantly, when would life with a dog be at least a little more joyful than it was miserable.

So here’s my answer.

For my dog, who is a medium sized herding breed, spends nap times behind a baby gate but has at least one owner at home 90% of the time, takes three walks a day, and has had consistent, positive reinforcement, “tough love” style training since day one, she has just started to “chill” at four and a half months. What I mean by this is, she still needs constant supervision but is now able to entertain herself with an appropriate activity for a few minutes at a time, she can cuddle on the couch without immediately getting mouthy and we are able to control and deescalate her meltdowns when they happen. She is still very much a puppy and her training is nowhere near over, but she is now a silly, polite and charming puppy more often than she is mean, frustrating and destructive hell-beast. She still has bratty moments and can struggle to control her emotions when she’s tired, but she is starting to become a good dog.

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Adventures in Analogue

Adventures in Analogue | Sophster-Toaster Blog

I visited Panama for a week with my mother last year. In addition to my fancy DSLR camera, I also picked up and packed a disposable, waterproof film camera on a whim. I carried the disposable camera around me for a bit most days and just took quick pictures of anything I found interesting. It was fun and relaxing to not be constantly adjusting the camera and lens settings or checking the screen to see if I got the shot. Not every photo came out the way I had envisioned it – going back to a set ASA (ISO) and static focal length forces you to put your photography knowledge to work – but the ones that did have that special quality to them that digital photography just can’t replicate.

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Getting my film developed was quite the process. First I had to find a shop/store that would do it. I settled on the Shopper’s Drug Mart across town (the only one that offered the service) after my mom assured me that the Shopper’s she works for, in a different town, does good work. I could have taken the film to a fancy camera shop but I figured I would keep the cheap train rolling and get my disposable camera developed on the cheap. This was probably a mistake. Once I finally found a store that would do it and found the convenient reason to drive across town, I was met by a young person who didn’t know what I was asking for. After showing him my camera and asking for my film to be developed, he continued to ask me if I wanted my passport photo taken. After my 6’4″ burly bearded husband stepped in, we discovered that this youth did not know what film was. Eventually, another employee came to help and knew exactly what we wanted and how to do it. My film was successfully sent away! I go home and eagerly await the phone call to tell me I can come pick it up. Two weeks pass and I get nervous. A month passes and I start to fear the worse. After several more weeks of preparing myself for the inevitability that my precious vacation photos are lost and trying to find another convenient time to drive across town, I go to inquire about my film. Luckily they have it! It is one of two packages waiting to be picked up. The same helpful employee who came to my rescue last time apologizes for the lack of a phone call and assures me that they usually call.

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Even after the ordeal of getting my photos back, shooting several days of my vacation on film was worth it. There is something special that happens when you return to the old technology. Even a year after my vacation, I remember the days I carried only my little disposable camera around so vividly. I was present in the moment and committing every sight, sound, smell and feeling to memory because I couldn’t rely on my camera to do it for me. The days I carried my DSLR are a little fuzzier, even though the photos are so much clearer. I spent more time looking down at the camera or through the lens, perfectly lining and timing my shots than I did experiencing the beauty around me. This was definitely a fun little experiment worth making a tradition out of. Maybe next time I’ll get a roll or two of film for my old camera and really test myself.

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All photos by me, shot on a Fujifilm QuickSnap Waterproof Single Use Camera (ASA 800, 32mm, f/10).

Dirty Hair: Four Days, Four Ways

Dirty Hair: Four Days, Four Ways | Sophster-Toaster Blog

About two years ago, I switched from washing my hair everyday to every-other-day. I made the change for a few reason but primarily with the hope that my hair would look better between washes when I’m travelling. The first few months were rough but, over time, my hair eventually adjusted to the new routine. Now I can go one or two days without braving the small, spidery cottage shower with its terrifyingly unpredictable water pressure and temperature changes.

During my most recent trip to the cottage, I decide to try something different. This time, I didn’t pack any shampoo, conditioner or dry shampoo for the four day trip. I did bring a small bottle of lightweight argan oil that I like to use as a detangler on wet hair, which I applied it once after my last wash at home and once after a swim in the lake.

Now don’t get me wrong, my hair still gets super greasy between washes. To pull off a three day stretch, I needed to plan a few easy hairstyles. Specifically ones that would hide how sleek and straight the top half of my hair would become while the bottom held on to my natural beachy waves. I packed hair elastics, a few bobby pins, a cute hair clip, two ribbons and a wire headband. With only these few supplies, I can do just about any of my go-to hairstyles.

Day One

Dirty Hair: Four Days, Four Ways | Sophster-Toaster Blog

I washed my hair in the morning with shampoo and condition and applied some argan oil before combing. I braided my hair into a pair of two braids for comfort in the car and containment on the boat.

Day Two

Dirty Hair: Four Days, Four Ways | Sophster-Toaster Blog

I took my braids out before bed and brushed my hair thoroughly with a boar hair brush. I then slept with it down like I always do. The next morning, I brushed it again and loosely braided a small section to give my roots some visual volume. I secured it with an elastic. and put it in a ponytail along with the rest of my hair. Once it was all tightly secured, I removed the elastic on the braided section and let it fall apart, blending into the rest of my hair.

Day Three

Dirty Hair: Four Days, Four Ways | Sophster-Toaster Blog

After a swim that probably made my hair dirtier, I applied some argan oil again and combed out the tangles. Then using only two hair elastics and two ribbons, I put my hair into milkmaid braids. (You can find my tutorial for No Pin Milkmaid Braids here)

Day Four

Dirty Hair: Four Days, Four Ways | Sophster-Toaster Blog

On day four I was heading home. I put my hair up into a messy bun and used a colourful wire headband to cover up my greasy hair and give my roots a bit of support so they didn’t sit as flatly.

That warm shower when I got home was amazing but I love doing this to my hair every now and then. It’s worth it for how soft and moisturized it feels for days afterwards. It’s like getting a fancy moisture treatment except all I did was not wash my hair for a few days and let it moisturize itself.

All photos by me.

Winter Mood

Winter Mood | Sophster-Toaster Blog

Winter will be here soon. Although I’m excited to experience the first winter in our first house, I’m also a little worried about how my mood and emotions will fare once the Christmas magic and anticipation have passed. I used to have a really rough time staying upbeat, happy, optimistic and hopeful during the long and cold Canadian winters but I’ve been doing a little better every year since deciding to take preventative action. I’ve developed a few strategies I find helpful for avoiding or coping with winter sadness that I would like to share with you today in hope that you can find something that might work for you.

Winter Mood | Sophster-Toaster Blog

The first big change I made since growing up and not being too cool to wear and hat, scarf and proper boots, was to invest in good, cute and warm outwear. Over the years, I’ve collected a few different high quality coats, boots and accessories so I always have something the works. I have a cute toque for everyday, a gorgeous hand knit headband for when my hair just isn’t right for my tuque, light mittens, warm mittens, a scarves in different colours and styles, a fun coat, a more practical coat, and warm, waterproof boots. Being able to build up layers suitable for any weather, and actually being comfortably warm outside, has made all the difference. It’s no wonder I hated winter when I was standing outsize, freezing in just a coat, mittens and the wrong shoes.

Another important thing I now do during the winter is to go outside and appreciate the sunny, slightly warmer days. Hiding inside all winter just makes me more miserable. Now I try to get out and good for walks, making sure to visit the spots that were summer favourites. I’m always amazed by how beautiful and serene the forest can be on a winter day. Going out and seeing how much activity is still going on in nature, even though all the people have cowered away, can really change the way you think about the season that is supposedly dormant.

Winter Mood | Sophster-Toaster Blog

This time of year can feel like a losing battle when the days are getting shorter by minutes everyday. When all I want to do is put on my pajamas and watch tv from sunset (4:49 pm on the day I am writing this) to bedtime every night, I find it helpful to pick up a hobby to occupy those dark hours. This year I’ve been trying to make fun, healthy, homemade dinners with my husband at least five nights a week. When we put so much focus into preparing a proper meal, it’s easy to forget it’s been dark for two hours before we start eating.

On that note, something I’ve just started doing this year, is trying to keep the kitchen stocked with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I try to focus on the vegetables that are still in season locally while also mixing in some tropical fruit that is coming into season elsewhere. I ate grapefruit for the first time last week and really enjoyed it! (I know, I assumed I would hate it because I hate grapefruit juice.) I hope to make a habit of grapefruit breakfasts throughout the winter to bring a little bit of summer sunshine to those cold and gloomy days. I hope striving to eat a healthy and colourful diet, while everything outside the dining room window is drab and bleak, will help me stay happy and energetic during the winter.

My last tip seems so simple, but can be one of the hardest to achieve. I find it so crucial to my happiness in the cold months to ignore that desire to hibernate every night and try to get out with friends, family or my husband at least once a week. Just getting out of the house to go huddle with them in theirs – especially if they have a fireplace – and doing the same for them, can make a huge difference to the way I feel. Every year when it starts to get really cold, my husband and I go out to a great, a-little-fancier-than-usual restaurant, just to enjoy the intimate dining room with the huge, beautifully decorated wood-burning fireplace. We look forward to it all year. It gives something special back to the season where it feels like nothing happens after New Year’s Day.

Winter Mood | Sophster-Toaster Blog

Between bundling up properly, and getting excited about it too, getting out to be social or stay active, taking up a hobby, and eating healthy (yay grapefruit!), I hope you can take at least one tip from me and work it into your winter self-care routine!

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Winter Mood | Sophster-Toaster Blog

All photos by me.