Sunday, January 30, 2011

meat is murder they say, tasty, tasty murder.

here's the thing: i used to be a vegetarian, but not the good kind. as in, i wasn't a vegetarian for any particular noble reason -- no swearing that i "wouldn't eat anything with a face" or picketing on behalf of peta or throwing paint on rich ladies' fur coats.

no, i went veg for the two worst reasons: to lose weight, and to impress a boy.

this was about 3-4 years ago, and vegetarianism had seemed both cool and a great solution to many things. not only had said boy made it look both easy and sexy, but i was already not eating a whole lot of meat as it was (my budget was pretty tight at this point in my life, and meat seemed insanely expensive to me) so it just seemed natural for me to give it up altogether. plus, like i said, meat was obviously full of evil fat, which would in turn make me fat. because that's totally what naturally fatty food does. (insert retrospective eyeroll here.)

and so i stayed a vegetarian for almost two years, ignoring the fact that my health declined slightly, and my hair started basically falling out. i'm serious -- there was a period of about six months (starting shortly after i moved to vancouver) when my hair started to come out everywhere. i chalked it up to a number of things at the time - stress, a bad dye job that i had done a few months previous - and only vaguely considered my poor diet. but, as i'd always done (and still do with a number of things, sadly), i figured well, it's not killing me, so why not keep up with it? (to think i was surprised when i found a near-bald spot on the back of my head that winter.)

but when i moved back to toronto and entered into a relationship with a carnivore, i had to figure out how to quantify two things: 1) my cheesy-homemaker instinct to make meals for my boyfriend and myself, and 2) my lack of cooking/eating meat. the boy ate some form of meat every day -- sometimes twice. sweet tooth? try meat tooth. and so now i was torn between wanting to make the boy happy with my cooking and, well, going back to eating meat.

then, fortunately for the boy, the tipping point came: i received bloodwork back from the doctor that indicated i was severely anemic -- the level of iron in my blood was 4, when it was supposed to be 80 or something like that. in order to fix this (according to the mayo clinic website, complications from anemia can result in heart arrhythmia, migraines, irritability and general weakness), i had to do two things: start taking iron supplements, and start eating meat again.

i looked at my ill-fated vegetarianism and realized that it wasn't doing me any good -- i was getting sick, and i didn't give a shit about impressing the vegetarian boy anymore. also, current boy was a meatatarian, and more than stoked at the thought that i might join in. so, back into the world of meat-eating i went.

and now i'm seriously glad i did -- although my iron levels still need fixing (i continue to take iron supplements, which i'm not a fan of, but i don't like having an irregular heartbeat either), after finding websites like mark's daily apple and reading/subscribing to the primal lifestyle, i'm more aware of the dangers of a low-fat meat-free lifestyle. if you're a vegetarian reading this, i'm not knocking you -- it's your choice, for whatever reason (animal rights, religion, etc). but me, i'm choosing to believe the age-old science that's covered off in gary taubes's works, where there's ample evidence presented to support the idea that a high-fat, low-carb diet (ie. meat and plants) is the best for optimum human health and longevity.

but then, of course, came the costly conundrum: a meat-heavy diet was best for contemporary cavepeople, yet said meat ought to be organic and grass-fed (and hugely expensive) as opposed to "conventional" (aka the mass-produced feedlot shit they sell for cheap in supermarkets). what's a conflicted/cheapass primal girl to do?

got my answer just after christmas: i came across this article on blog to about west side beef, a new initiative in conjuncture with marben restaurant, allowing people to pay $165 for a 20-pound box of freshly butchered, grass-fed, local beef. i mulled it over, rationalizing that it was actually a bargain (especially when compared to the high prices of other artisan/organic butcher shops around town) -- plus these guys really seemed excited about what they were doing. after one awful experience with stewing beef purchased from (shudder) no frills, i signed up immediately. if i was going to keep on the primal diet and base my diet around meat, i needed it to be the best meat possible.

again, here's what i picked up last wednesday:

when i went to grab my box of meat, it turned out to be a substantially heavy milk crate full of awesome-looking vacuum-sealed cuts, all fresh and squishy and delicious. kurt, one of the co-owners of west side beef, enthusiastically went through the box with me, explaining what each cut was and what the best cooking method would be (extremely helpful especially given my lack of experience/trepidation when it comes to cooking beef). this was a guy who was definitely passionate about bringing real meat to the people, and it made me even more excited to get my bounty home and start cooking. (seriously, all my texts to the boy that evening were in all caps.)

here's a little gallery of what i've used this goldmine for so far:

primal shepherd's pie - followed the recipe to the letter (it's the same as regular shepherd's pie, but with mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes, and no corn because it's an evil, evil grain in disguise), except i chose the option of adding 3 tablespoons of half and half to the cauliflower, used fresh rosemary (but dried thyme), and tossed in 3 teaspoons of worcestershire sauce to the beef mixture. i've made this recipe three times already (always with grass-fed beef) and it's a winner every friggin' time. coworkers routinely freak out over how good it smells when i bring it for lunch.

bolognese sauce - i've made this recipe once before, and it was absolute heaven. then again, you really can't go wrong with any recipe that includes ground beef, bacon, heavy cream and white wine. i pour this over baked and shredded spaghetti squash rather than pasta, and i like it a hell of a lot more than i ever liked any pasta with meat sauce. try it sometime.

rosemary beef sausage (along with my usual breakfast of scrambled eggs with avocado and tomato) - i've never been much of a sausage girl (har har har), but these fat little things were tasty, even if they don't photograph too well. they'd been freshly made last wednesday, too, which made them a nice alternative to the usual bacon. (also, best exchange of the morning - me, while eating: "what are sausage casings made out of?" boy: "intestine." me: "really?? gross!" *nom nom nom*)

seasoning my cast-iron skillet with the melted beef tallow. it's got a fairly high smoke point, which is what you want when it comes to cast iron, and it's definitely healthier than greasing the pan with vegetable oil. processed oils suck.

paleo chili -- not the best shot, i know, but the results were delicious all the same. so. much. meat.

next up: using the chunk of flank steak for carne asada, and cooking up the little roast according to careful instruction. another awesome thing about west side beef: i emailed kurt asking for a repeat of his (very specific) instructions for taking care of this delicate fatless roast, and he replied back right away with the same careful guidelines (season it, sear it quickly, cook it in the oven at 275F until meat thermometer hits 120). now that's great service.

so yes, consider this my official endorsement of west side beef -- i've already coerced a couple of my friends into signing up, and the boy just stated this morning that he'll go half with me on an order next time. (meat envy -- it's the newest thing.) meat like this makes me damn happy i ditched the vegetarianism -- plus i know that my caveman ancestors would be proud. it's not quite woolly mammoth, but it's keeping me happy and healthy and that's what counts.

okay, daily diatribe done -- back to hockey. it's a good life.

[ music | 3 doors down on the nhl all-star game intermission ]

Saturday, January 29, 2011

indie coffee passport series - part 11

the indie coffee passport is a fun initiative invented to get torontonians out to try the city's independent coffee shops. from september 1st, 2010 to march 31, 2011, $20 gets you a little paper pass that lists off 24 participating coffee shops, and allows you to a free coffee up to $5.

i'm not affiliated with the good people behind this idea, but i figured it'd be a blast to get a passport and try to hit up all 24 cafes in the next seven months. (in the interest of fairness, i will get the same thing at every cafe -- a large drip coffee, with cream but no sugar.) i love coffee - it's been flowing through my veins since i was fifteen - and given that i've been a barista, cafe supervisor and cafe manager across toronto and vancouver over the years, i feel like i'm up to the highly-caffeinated task!

eleventh passport stop: rooster coffee house

a day on a weekend when i only have one quick grocery run to make means a lot of free time on my hands, which generally means one thing: making a sporadic pilgrimage to the east end of toronto. i've probably mentioned this before, but the east end (leslieville and the outer beaches in particular) is my old, longtime neighbourhood -- from 2003 to 2004, i lived at dundas east & coxwell; then i moved to the annex with old kingston friend jendra for almost two years before returning to the exact same neighbourhood - just two streets over - from 2006 to 2007. i lived there, i worked there, i hung out there, i was easily recognized (no other girl slunk around the east end with tattoos and bondage jackets, plus i worked at both a supermarket and a coffee shop, which brought me a lot of connections), and it was my home, as somewhat-sketchy and derelict as it could be in some areas. (this was right before the gentrification started, although i recall seeing early signs of it.)

it's funny to me now that i find it a slightly intimidating place to be, especially after dark; there's something still a little run-down and gritty about the east end to me, no matter how many mommy yoga studios and trendy bistros pop up. it was also my toronto
for a number of years -- it was the first area i moved to after leaving university campus, and so i've always had an affection for it. but now, as i've gotten farther away from the east end, i've had fewer occasions to visit, and so my comfort zone has been shifted.

but man, if a place like rooster coffee house had been around back when i lived in the area, i would have been a lot happier to hang around.

i'd been hearing good things about rooster for months now (check out the rave reviews on blog to) it's a cafe on broadview, right overlooking riverdale park, and the view's pretty spectacular. it's a cozy little space with hints of newness - not quite as lived-in as somewhere like linuxcaffe - but there's plenty of quirk, from the handwritten signs for the goodies to the board games stacked on the communal table.

it wasn't super-busy when i stopped in on a saturday afternoon - it was likely the lull in the day, plus most people were more occupied sledding in the park across the street - and i probably would have stayed longer if i'd had the time, since there were plenty of window seats available. but i was doing another in-and-out, though i had enough time to make a bathroom break at rooster, and i can confidently say that they have really cute bathrooms. the entire space itself was lovely though, as i said, and i've since made a mental note to come back in the summertime -- the patio out front looks like it'd be friggin' sweet to hang out on in the warmer months.

bonus points for that pitcher of free cucumber water. class. (though i'm not that hot on the communal-table trend that i'm pretty sure started at dark horse espresso.)

like moonbean, rooster is self-serve when it comes to regular brew, which i generally appreciate -- it means i can choose how much coffee to pour out, and i won't get gypped by a stingy barista. (speaking of baristas, rooster was well-staffed with four on the floor, two of which being cute boys and all four being hipsters. fits, i guess.) out of the two available pots of coffee - beans provided by te aro - i picked (i think) the panama blend, mostly because the other pot didn't have any signage and i was afraid it was decaf of something. also, the panama's sign said something about it being a "small micro batch" and i like limited-edition blends.

and man, was this ever a kicker. definitely a complex blend, i got a lot of citrus-y notes along with a strong aftertaste that had me wishing later that i'd remembered my pack of gum. still, though, i enjoyed the bold taste of the brew, especially because i hadn't had a good strong cup in weeks now. as i've noted in past passport stops, a blend like this might be a little much for people who subsist on timmie's, but it was just right to wake me up on a chilly saturday afternoon spent tromping around the east end.

definitely give this place a shot if you're in the area -- but i'd recommend making a stay of it, if you need to get some work done on your laptop or meet with a friend. a place as cute as rooster coffee house deserves some sit-down time, not just an in-and-out visit. grab a coffee, relax, and take in the east-end vibes -- there's a reason i still miss it, after all.

Rooster Coffeehouse
479 Broadview Ave
Toronto, ON M4K 2N4
(416) 995-1530

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

close cover before striking

to some of you: thanks for the nice words on the last entry i wrote. as i tacked on at the end of the post, things have brightened up significantly (thanks to that good cathartic cry, followed by a generally relaxing weekend and an extra-cuddly boyfriend -- oh, and vodka). i'm going to have to try and work on the things my mom suggested, because i really want to clamp down on the stress this year. too many reasons why it's unhealthy, both immediately and in the long run.

it came a bit late (...that's what she said), but i read the short and sweet guide to being fucking awesome on monday, and it made 100% sense. plus, there was a lot of profanity included to punctuate the point, which i always appreciate.

also, i should note that no matter how bummed out i get, this video is an absolute guarantee to cheer me up (it's going to expand outside of the blog post field here, which looks hideous, but the video's cuteness totally makes up for it):

also, another no-fail way to bring delight is to attend a friend's birthday party, especially when said friend is known for throwing super-fun themed birthday parties every year (this year's had a carnival theme) and 98% of the attendees are your close friend circle. couple shots of goofiness from friend's birthday party:

jenna and i trying out the "fish-eye lens" view on the macbook camera. this photo 1) never fails to make me giggle and 2) reminds me of how much this girl and i have been through/done together. once upon a time, we were sitting in shanghai cowgirl eating salads at 2 a.m., bemoaning what had become of our lives ("why are we fucked?" was a common question between us); a couple of years later would find us in a coffee shop in vancouver, sighing the same question. then i moved back to toronto, and she followed a few months later. we've been friends for six years now and it's been a long, crazy trip.

we party. with hats.

vogueing it up for monique's camera with melissa and her blue-wig extensions. (i'm wearing a frog hat i won as part of a pseudo-carnival party game.)

what else have i got for you...oh, yeah, this:

that there is twenty pounds of locally-raised grass-fed beef. one of my daily reads, blog to, wrote a quick article about west side beef back in december, and i jumped on it. $165 sounded like a fantastic deal to me, plus i'd been getting leery of conventional beef for a while now. (actually, "leery" isn't strong enough..."terrified" is better.) so! here it is, in all its raw bloody glory. speaking of glory, my freezer right now:

i got three packages of freshly made rosemary beef sausages, a package of stewing beef, three packages of ground beef, two ribeyes, a top sirloin steak, a filet(!), a cute little roast, braising ribs, a coil of skirt steak, and a hunk of flank steak along with two canisters of beef stock and a tub of tallow. my text messages to dean for the entire evening have been in all caps due to excitement.

this came at the perfect time, too -- i'm getting back on the primal diet bandwagon, mostly thanks to gary taubes's great new book why we get fat (and what to do about it). i've been slipping heavily for a number of months now, and the scale's been showing it. reading taubes has reaffirmed a lot of things for me - the power of logical science! - so now i'm using my learnings from it to get my (widening) ass back on track.

your nutrionista has a great simplified overview of the main parts in taubes's book, and i hope it'll be intriguing to some of you. yes, the thought of giving up sugar, flour and potatoes for the rest of your life is a terrifying prospect at first, but that's because it's the only lifestyle we've ever known -- and the tradeoff for giving those things up is good health. and, apparently, lack of things like cancer, alzheimer's and other deadly diseases that are symptomatic of the western diet. seriously, just read the book.

will still have to find a way to clamp down on both my sweet tooth and my passion for baking, though :( baking with coconut and almond flours is both difficult and unappealing to me. sigh.

[prime example: chocolate-chunk peanut-butter oatmeal cookies i baked last week. i only had the shame to eat one of them before i left them in the staff room at work, where they apparently disappeared within minutes.]

i've also been dreaming of things to be doing this year; i've started putting together a list of possible cooking classes i'd like to take (among them a holistic cooking class, cooking with coffee, and a sushi-making course) and plotting out possible trips for 2011. as i mentioned before, i missed my yearly pilgrimage to vancouver in 2010, and i'd be pretty happy to make up for that this year (especially now that i have a prescription for ativan on file). alas, as much as i'd love to see the cherry blossoms again, i'm not too in favour of going to vancouver for march/april. perhaps summertime = less rain.

and finally: it seems like all my friends are either getting married, having babies, buying houses or getting pets. i am doing approximately none of these four things (and not in the near future, either). unsure whether to rejoice or mope.

[ music | r.e.m., "losing my religion" ]

Sunday, January 23, 2011

use somebody

sorry for the silence -- it's been a bummer of a couple of weeks.

i don't know, maybe it's january. i'd like to think it isn't, because as i wrote in this entry, i enjoy the wintertime a lot more these days; i get a lot of sunshine and i take a shit-ton of vitamin d every day. maybe it's my cycle and hormones or something (which is finally back to normal and natural after six years spent on the pill -- hallelujah for health). but i've been in a deep funk over the last little while, and it's been hard to pull myself out of it -- especially because i was convinced that there was nobody there to help me, and that all i seemed to be doing (in my personal life, my work life, everything) was helping others but not getting anything back in return. sounds completely spoiled and ridiculous, i know, but there's no arguing with the moods when they're that low.

so it got to the breaking point on friday evening -- i knew i needed to have a good cry and just get it out of my system. (i'm a big believer in therapeutic crying.) however, there was nothing my boyfriend could do for me at this point - he's the kind of guy that sees girl tears and runs in the other direction, as fast as he can, and sometimes i don't blame him because my sobbing is hardcore sobbing - and so after being curled up in the fetal position in the dark for a while, i called my mother. (because literally, my father reacts the same way my boyfriend does to my distress. i don't have a lot of dudes around me who are good verbal-comfort providers; or at least, not as good as my mother.)

it was hard to get it out, though -- at least, it was hard trying to phrase it in a way that didn't seem completely dumb to me. it's hard to feel like you're being a brat for having these feelings in the first place; i mean, i can list off a ton of people i know who have it harder than i do. and if you look at the grand scope of the world in general, i'm certainly not suffering in the least. i'm totally the fucking poster child for first-world white girl problems, right here. but, as i said to my mother, human emotions are universal, and it's hard feeling as though you have to be there for everybody but nobody's there for you in return. it's hard feeling like you have to be everything to everyone.

and my mom, bless her, knew exactly how i felt. she said that i need to incorporate two solutions: for one, i need to try to find self-satisfaction in my life, because i can't expect people to pat me on the back all the time (my words, not hers). it's my opinion of myself that matters, and i can't - and shouldn't - rely on the opinion of others.

for two - on a more materialistic bent - i need to do little things for myself as rewards for getting through tough times. buy a sweater, my mom said, or a book, or something to make myself feel a little better, to remind myself continually that i got through that, i can get through anything. i generally balk at self-rewards because i think they're silly and a waste of money (plus whenever i take that tact, i usually end up buying food or booze), but

finally, my mother said that i should call her more often when i'm feeling down like that, because there's a good chance she knows what i'm going through. i sniffled and replied that i didn't want to still be calling her in tears like i did when i was nineteen, but she said she didn't mind at all. then she said she loved me and was proud of me, and the waterworks started all over again. because really, all i truly wanted was for someone to say that they're proud of me.

so, yeah -- as lame and selfish as it may sound, i think all of us need to be told sometimes that we're valuable, worthwhile and awesome to have around. if you don't hear that when you feel you need to, you start feeling worn down, bitter and depressed -- no matter who you are or what your station is in life. feels like human nature to me.

things are better now, though. thanks, mom.

[ music | ra ra riot, "too dramatic" ]

Sunday, January 16, 2011

indie coffee passport series - part 10

the indie coffee passport is a fun initiative invented to get torontonians out to try the city's independent coffee shops. from september 1st, 2010 to march 31, 2011, $20 gets you a little paper pass that lists off 24 participating coffee shops, and allows you to a free coffee up to $5.

i'm not affiliated with the good people behind this idea, but i figured it'd be a blast to get a passport and try to hit up all 24 cafes in the next seven months. (in the interest of fairness, i will get the same thing at every cafe -- a large drip coffee, with cream but no sugar.) i love coffee - it's been flowing through my veins since i was fifteen - and given that i've been a barista, cafe supervisor and cafe manager across toronto and vancouver over the years, i feel like i'm up to the highly-caffeinated task!

passport stop: linuxcaffe

yeah, i know. 2011 has already begun, and i'm just under halfway through my passport. i blame having a 9-to-5 monday to friday job, which means i have much less time for strolling around town as i'd like (literally, walking this city alone with my ipod is basically my favourite thing to do, ever), which means i'm sort of concerned about how the hell i'll hit up all those far east/west-end cafes by march. however, there are still a few spots scattered closer to the downtown area that i can easily get to, and one of them happened to be the uber-cool looking linux caffe.

i used to live in this little italy/annex area (twice, actually - once by myself at brunswick & harbord when i moved back from vancouver, and once when i was shacking up with the boy at college & clinton), and so i usually went past the linuxcaffe a few times a week while running errands. it's in a pretty prime location - right across from christie pits park - and it's got a fun concept going for it, even if i'm sure they don't only allow linux users to use their laptops there. (growing up in a household with an i.t. expert/tech geek means i've always sort of loved that penguin.)

there's been a no-laptops movement happening at a few cafes city/countrywide, which some people have seen as pretty radical but i don't really care either way. (i prefer to use my coffee-shop visiting time to read a book or catch up with a friend.) but you definitely won't find that going on at linuxcaffe -- it's got no shortage of outlets to plug your trusty laptop into, plus it's got a cool homey atmosphere that makes you feel like you're hanging out at a friend's house. i know i've said this before about previous cafes i've visited on my little tour, but linuxcaffe really does remind me of a vancouver indie coffee shop, probably one that'd be at home on commercial drive. (it's got that semi-rundown grittiness.) and that's not a bad thing at all.

they are also hugely involved in the wider community, even as they foster their own little coffee-shop/computing community themselves. from their website: "[Linuxcaffe] is also the home of Toronto's Open Source software communities, hosting user group meetings, workshops and distributing free software. The space is available for community functions, art openings and private parties. Artist exhibits are changed (sort of) monthly, and there is an open-door policy for live musicians." now that's a good invitation.

stopping in on a chilly sunday afternoon, i found the place almost full -- not just with computer-users but with people-watchers in the window as well. again, this was a full-on flashback of vancouver, with the place looking a little dingy, a little hippie-like, but "liveable" if that's the right term. it was cozy, the kind of place where you could spend the afternoon and not worry about people bugging you to leave. (not to mention all the cool, weird offerings they had by the cash register -- the photo above being case in point)

i had my coffee delivered by your usual coffee-shop slacker hipster type, took a minute to try and find where the condiments bar was amidst all the clutter and knickknacks, and headed out into the cold to drink the hot brew as i made my way to (where else?) the liquor store.

as for the blend itself, it was...well, average. it was coffee, basically. i got a few notes of vanilla and nuttiness, but it was very mild and not entirely memorable otherwise. there was a slight buzz i felt maybe 20 minutes after drinking, and it kept me fueled up for my trip to grab booze, but otherwise it faded from memory. still, though, linuxcaffe would probably be a much cooler place to drink a big cup of tea while pretending you're marx or something.

on a whole, a place like linuxcaffe makes me miss two things that i really shouldn't miss: 1) living near the annex and 2) being a student. if i were to go back in time five years, when i was still desperately seeking coffee shops to sit and study in and spend the day typing away on my most recent essay, this would be my go-to spot. (my go-to cafe at the time ended up being future bakery, and it more or less still is.)

before i go, i wanted to give big ups to nick, who just emailed me to let me know that he's also on a blog journey to hit up all the passport stops by march. go nick go! check out his blog to see how his progress is going.

until next time, caffeinated friends.

326 Harbord Street
Toronto, ON M6G 1H3
(416) 534-2116

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

into the matrix

[image via the future buzz]

look out, everybody -- it's heavy topic day. i want to write about how i miss the real world sometimes.

i think i might have touched on this in the reverb 10 posts, but that was a whole month of writing and i can't exactly remember everything i discussed, so let's start anew. (additional warning: this may come out as total crotchety-old-woman get-off-my-lawn ranting, but whatever, i'm getting old.)

lately i've been doing a lot of pondering over just how integrated digital technology is in my life (and many others'), changing how i look and act in personal relationships. i was discussing this with my mother last month, and she told me that i was lucky enough to be on the precipice: i had experienced life before the internet took everything over. kids these days don't know a world without constant digital plugin and stimulation. but this is kind of a double-edged sword for me, because it gives me just enough awareness to be slightly mournful of the loss of personal face-to-face relationships, and the rise of the dependence on online popularity to make one feel important and self-satisfied.

i'm not innocent of any of this either, and that's what scares me sometimes -- knowing that i sigh and groan and judge people who do the same things i do, who are being sucked into the online world and putting as much importance on it as i do. but still, it's a sad thing to see, whether in myself or others.

i was born in 1983, and though i'd always had a love of gadgets (i was obsessed with video games, and i did spend plenty of time on our crappy old commodore 64), i didn't get vaulted into the just-beginning world of the internet until 1996. my mom's boyfriend (now my stepdad), who worked in i.t. and administration at a college, would bring his laptop - yep, a beat-up old thinkpad with the little red pompom in the middle of the keyboard for a mouse - when he came over, and i would practically drool all over myself in anticipation of getting to play with the thing. even better: being able to access the big world of the "internet" by plugging it into our phone line and listening for that much-beloved screeching as the modem connected. sure, i think it was running on a 28k modem and it took almost an hour to download one jpeg, but holy shit, the concept of it. a virtual world that i could take part in, make something of myself in. my thirteen-year-old mind was blown.

now, if you'd have told me then that fourteen years later, not only would i have unlimited access to the internet but i would be paid to use it, i would have tried to find some way to invent a time machine. really, i spent hours upon hours on the computer as a teenager. it was never enough. i would routinely spend 8-10 hours in chat rooms (remember those?) and instant-messaging with online friends across the country. (this was still during the "all people you know on the internet are axe murderers" time.) i also ran websites (using the basic html knowledge i'd learned at a summer computer camp), wrote fanfiction, moderated/made a huge presence in some message boards, had a few nascent blogs running (one of which my parents found and completely overreacted over), railed against my mother's attempts to put a "time limit" on how much time i could spend on the household computer, and just generally made it my life's mission to spend as much of my life as i could on the wide world of the internets.

of course, i wasn't well off because of this. sitting in the basement all day long made me a pale, paunchy teenager with obvious antisocial tendencies. however, in a sense, i became part of the generation that "grew up" with the internet, sort of -- i mean, look at all the people who are working in the digital and web business these days. they're all mid-to-late twenties, early thirties. this is my generation. this is the world we've inhabited and - to an extent - created since we were essentially kids.

and so the progression into digital living, to me, feels both utterly natural and neuromancer-style creepy. because while i do remember a time before the internet took over everything and became an essential(!) service to everyone, i wouldn't be able to get away from it if i tried. i still love being online. i still love computers and how easy they make it for me to express myself (because the primary mode of expression online is still writing, something which i've always been good at). hell, if it weren't for computers and the internet, i wouldn't have the job i've got right now. but at the same time, i can't help but nostalgically wish that things weren't progressing as quickly and as far as they are. i miss my friends. i miss us not fooling ourselves by saying that we're "in touch" with each other when we're really just checking facebook statuses. (twitter's just as bad with being disingenuous reigning -- how many of your followers do you actually know as friends in real life?)

but at the same time, am i making any moves to change this? no. because i'm too comfortable in my digital bubble, like so many people.

so what do you do when you feel disconnected both online and offline? what exactly do you do when the digital world feels empty to you, but you've divorced yourself so far from the real world that you have a hard time motivating yourself to leave the internet behind (commit facebook suicide or whatever) -- plus it's the only world you and your peers know? are we better or worse off for the digitizing of our world?

i'd be willing to bet i'm not the only person asking that question.

[image via antilogic]

[ music | lady gaga ft. beyonce, "telephone" ]

Sunday, January 9, 2011

cold ode

here's a secret admittance: i've really started to love winter.

i think it began back when i lived my first winter in vancouver, which was unlike any other winter i'd ever experienced. to me, someone who'd grown up exclusively in southern ontario, winter was a tradition of sorts, something familiar to be expected every year. every year, it would get cold around the end of october (sometimes even snowing on halloween, much to the chagrin of us kids), then the snow would hit either in november or december, and it would stay snowy and cold right up until things thawed out in march or even april. that's how my life went.

but when i moved to vancouver in october '07, i had a bit of a shock the first time someone told me that it doesn't snow in the winter in van. i was astounded, at first, and even a little excited to hear it. the previous winter in toronto had been brutal, and the idea of breaking my expectancy of the freezing snow-filled months was delightful.

[photo taken late december, 2007. yes, that's green grass; yes, i'm only wearing a light hoodie.]

and sure enough, it was. apparently it was another rough winter in toronto that year, while i spent january and february sitting on sunny patios in vancouver and teasing my torontonian friends on facebook. however, there was a period of 2-3 days in van that winter - i think it was mid-january - when there was a sudden snowfall, and vancouver natives will know that when that random occurrence happens (basically once or twice every winter, this year being a global-warming anomaly), the entire city more or less freaks out. nobody has snow tires, you see, and so being a pedestrian in vancouver during a snowfall is a life-or-death risk. (one of my housemates actually got clipped by a sliding car at an intersection during those few days.)

but me, i was happy as a fucking clam. until then, i hadn't realized how much snow and cold was a part of me and my regular life. so while everyone else was grumbling and growling not being equipped for the weather, there i was in my only-slightly waterproof boots and long leather coat, excitedly skidding down hills en route to my usual weekend errands, gladly welcoming the chill and the ice and the sight of kids trying to make snowmen out of the thin anemic flakes. i was fucking stoked to have a little bit of my ontario upbringing right there on the west coast. (but having the rest of the winter season be sunny and gorgeous was alright by me, too.)

now that i've been back in toronto for almost three years now, i really do think i've grown to appreciate the predictable weather and seasonal change here, as extreme as it may feel sometimes (though i really do not flannel pajamas. think we have it half as bad as halifax, or even montreal). i love winter. i love the things that come with it. i love big sweaters and stews and soups and cuddling under blankets while the snow falls. i love pots of tea and baking warm things and flannel pajamas. i even love walking through the snow and the cold more than i did when i was younger; it makes me feel more in touch with myself as a canadian. (just last week, during one of the really big cold-snap days, i was out strolling with bare legs -- thank god for my new sorels, though. i'm not that crazy.)

the boy and i are once again yin and yang in this regard; he absolutely reviles the cold and snow, and loves nothing more than an excruciatingly hot summer day. around this time of year, he starts counting down the days until spring. and so that may be one of the only things i dislike winter for; i hate that winter makes my boyfriend miserable. that really bums me out. but it also just gives me more excuse to love this season for the both of us; after all, neither of us are going anywhere anytime soon. we both love this city too much to ever be snowbirds.

so, that's that. you may find me complaining about the cold - i don't necessarily like being cold, especially if i'm inside and not out enjoying the fresh air - but that's all part of the typical torontonian dialogue. (see: bitch about the weather.) really, i have no beef with winter, and i might even miss it once global warming takes it out for good. but then, i guess i'll just have to return to the patios in february like the old days in vancouver, which weren't bad whatsoever.

[ music | chromeo ft. la roux, "hot mess" ]

Thursday, January 6, 2011

with firm resolve

thursday night post during hockey game intermission! holler.

we're now a week into january 2011, and i've been doing alright with my resolutions; i've returned to regular twice-a-week spin classes after all but giving up the ghost last year (pretty counterproductive considering that i'd been attending spin classes twice weekly for the year and a half prior). this was mostly due to the fact that i'm not much of a fan of the goodlife spin classes; compared to the awesome spin classes at my old gym (eclipse), these ones had pretty terrible music and not very challenging exercises. i'm used to be worked like a dog to the sounds of the yeah yeah yeahs or silversun pickups. so it was an adjustment that eventually made me give up on it, but now i'm back, baby. mostly because my thighs decree it so.

also: downsize the amount of calories i take in. given that my lifestyle is semi-sedentary (yes, i get an hour or so of gym cardio 5-6 days a week, but i sit on my ass for eight hours every day), i really don't need to be eating as much as i do. really. it's calories in/calories out, and i can't justify so much snacking and crap when i'm not as mobile as i should be to stay healthy. plus, calorie restriction has been shown to extend lifespans, reduce harmful free-radical production and inflammation, and just generally be better for you. so i figure if i drop the portion sizes and be smarter about whether or not i really need a snack (i've been a boredom eater my entire life), things will even out.

[favourite dinner - roasted cauliflower with lemon-mustard dressing on a bed of spinach and cucumber, topped with a broiled salmon fillet.]

generally, though, i'm trying to improve my healthy habits, mostly using this article as a guideline (yes, yes, it's chatelaine...shut up). daily flossing is definitely something i need to get back into - it'll make my dentist happy, too - and i want to keep up with good sleeping patterns, also using this post for reference and tips. i don't generally have trouble sleeping, but i have been overheating a lot lately (mostly due to the boyfriend snoring away next to me -- he's like a furnace), which is something i'm trying to keep tabs on. random waking up in the middle of the night because i'm too hot and then being unable to get back to sleep = bad times.

...anyway, now i have to consider turning off comments on this post because i know a lot of my (well-meaning) friends will chime in to tell me i don't need to reduce my calories or exercise a lot and all the published studies are wrong and i'm fine just the way i am etc. etc., but man -- sorry guys, but this is my life. this is how i want to live it. i am okay. i am happy.

i'm also not a very good listener.

then again, fish/birds/marine life/bees are dying off en masse and prominent american politicians are apparently being murdered (can we say "cover up"?), so for all i know the world is ending and all the best health/fitness in the world won't save me. i've seen the movies and read the books, i know how this goes. sigh.

okay, it's hockey and tea time.

[ music | fanfarlo, "i'm a pilot" ]

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

back to the past

for old times' sake, here is a link dump of the interwebs things i'm enjoying right now:

when parents text
honest to god, it's been so long since a website has reduced me to tears of hilarity at my work desk. i think my coworkers thought i was going crazy when i discovered this site last month and commenced into hysterics. neither of my parents text me (though my mother's emailed me a few times, and there's a lot of strangely-placed capital letters and multiple exclamation points), and after reading this blog, i'm very glad of this fact.

hungover owls
i found this tumblr on an appropriate occasion - the morning after our office's holiday party - and it's quickly become one of my many reasons to love the internet. it's the thoughts of owls that are hungover. what more do you need to know?

sexy typewriter
old pal sofi navigates the sometimes-sketchy world of online dating for all of us. i've never had to turn to online dating websites - though after reading this blog, i'm pretty glad of this fact - but some of the creepy dudes that show up look all too familiar. i'd request a moratorium on douchebag online behaviour for 2011, but that would mean less hilarious posts from sofi, which would be a significant bummer.

fake fuckery
one mega-plus about my involvement in tumblr is the discovery of the strong feminist community that exists there, and fake fuckery is an absolutely fantastic example. it tears down a lot of popular culture's criticism and destruction of women - especially the frequent, vicious focus on body shape - and manages to both make a girl think and reassure her just a little bit. spot on.

shambled ramblings
yet another random acquaintance who's turned out to be basically my doppleganger -- well, were i a hell of a lot hotter in face and cooler in personality. kris even delves into the world of vlogging, which i've been too scared to touch (well, it might be because i don't have a webcam), and does it well. go watch, read and be astounded!

kagoneko blog (japanese)
i can still make out enough japanese to sort of get the gist of this blog, but it's fairly amusing and strange regardless. cat blogs seem to be pretty popular in japan, and the japanese also have a penchant for picking extremely photogenic and entertaining breeds (see: maru, the world's most famous scottish fold), but kago takes the cake. apparently this cat - and the owner's other felines - is incredibly accommodating in letting his owner balance stuff on him. ("kagoneko"/かご猫 translates to something like "basket cat") think of this as the charming nihon counterpart to stuff on my cat.

the inevitable zombie apocalypse!
those of you that know me probably know that lately i've become an aficionado for zombie tv shows, movies and books. seriously, it's become like a sickness (a...plague, even) -- to the point where i'm even having dreams about zombie invasions. so what better way to prepare for the inevitable (really) than this handy guide to the zombie apocalypse? you'll thank me later -- when your tasty brains are not being gnawed upon.

james van der memes
what else is there to say, really?

[ music | wheel of fortune on in the background ]

Sunday, January 2, 2011

holiday hangover

ugh, yes. so here we are.

christmas is being packed up, new year's eve is over with, i only have the rest of today and tomorrow off before i have to trudge back to work, and the entire world is still shaking off the post-holiday slump/hangover/and so on. as far as resolution-making goes, i'm not so into making resolutions in recent years - i prefer to make my vows at other points throughout the year rather than on one specific resolution-mandated occasion - but i do want to take better care of myself this year, and be more resolute (har har) in this. more frequent/better gym visits, less eating sugar, more initiative taken in doing fun and exciting things outside of work, and so on.

anyway, the boy and i rang in the new year in the best way possible -- at a small party at a friend's apartment, with a group of good friends and lovely new acquaintances and a ridiculous amount of alcohol. we chatted, we laughed, we counted down to midnight and we kissed once the ball dropped, then we stumbled all the way home while i vowed never again to drink an entire bottle of red wine in one night. (to be fair, though, i've made that vow before. argh.)

highlights from the party (i hardly have any photos taken of me, so please humour me):

basically one of my favourite pictures ever. i rock out on a small scale.

with the party's gracious hostess (and one of my best friends for the last six years) jenna. at this point, i couldn't even begin to list how much the two of us have been through together and done together, but we did vancouver together so that more or less covers it.

every year, the boy and i have one really awesomely terrible photo taken of us. this is 2010's version. (we both cringed and groaned in unison when we saw this shot. still, i think it's hilarious.)

so now we're also back to your regularly (non-)scheduled blog posts. i don't totally regret doing reverb 10, though some of the questions got really cheesy at times (very new-age hippie, like: "imagine yourself as a beauuuuutiful butterfly!"). it was a good writing practice for me; i basically decided to do it on the same day that i read a quote from stephen king where he recommended that aspiring writers write at least 2000 words a day. and though i've never actually counted how many words i write per day (i'm assuming that includes emails, twitter, facebook and so on), it's probably close to 2000, but i still wanted to see if i could keep up with an "assigned" blog post every day. lo and behold.

otherwise, i've been spending my last few vacation days doing the things i love: writing, reading, hitting the gym every morning, cuddling with boyfriend, cooking (made a bastard cross between guinness beef stew and beef bourguignon yesterday, and i'm making ropa vieja tomorrow), baking (did a lovely guinness gingerbread cake yesterday), drinking (new year's day mimosas and chocolate-cranberry stout), watching movies, walking around town, and everything else in between. also, many things that need to be done - laundry, cleaning, updating my address with the government for upcoming income tax season, renewing my passport -

in conclusion, i would kind of like to be on vacation forever, but that's also known as being unemployed, and i know from experience that the money eventually runs out. sigh.

i'll leave you all with this for now:

[ music | world juniors - team canada vs. team switzerland on tv ]