Monday, November 28, 2011

too much with me

...and back to square one.

i was doing okay -- really, i was.  but with pms looming, it was only a matter of time before something small tipped me back over, and today, it was a combination of apartment hunting (always a depressing activity, but far more so when it's a post-breakup apartment hunt for your first place alone in years) and making the first attempt at sorting out the housing/moving situation (which sounds like it's going to be a gigantic mess).  it was through that combination that i got hit with the this is it realization, and the knowledge that we're fast approaching the no-going-back point.

so that's why i'm sitting at home right now, intermittently crying my eyes out and sucking back vodka martinis as i write blog posts instead of being out with friends or working out at the gym or doing something productive to get my mind off of miserable things.

here's the heart of it: this feels like a failure to me.  i know, i know, it's absolutely ridiculous to feel like i've failed at being a girlfriend (because i am a fucking awesome girlfriend, thank you very much) -- but i'd wanted this so bad.  i'd wanted a picturesque romantic relationship with a hot rock star boy in the big city so bad, i was willing to do anything to make it happen -- including ignoring all the warning signs that um, it wasn't working.  the foundation it was built on was a faulty one, for reasons that likely lie with both of us evenly (he wasn't ready for a relationship; i was overly ready for a relationship).

and so the word "failure" is apt to me; to me, it means that although i tried and tried for so long to keep this relationship afloat, the boat eventually sank.  the maintenance and upkeep of a relationship can't be left to one person alone. (and i have accused him many times - many times - of not caring about me as much as i cared about him.  the jury's still out on that one; he's right in claiming that he shows affection differently than i do, but it's a hard thing to digest when your significant other knows the things that would make you happy, but refuses to do them anyway, for whatever reason.)

also, it feels like a...sham, i guess you'd say.  all my life, as a starry-eyed romantic, i'd believed wholeheartedly that love conquers all.  if you love someone enough, everything works out.

well, the boy and i love each other, still.  but it's not enough.

and part of me hates myself for that.  part of me thinks i'm a fucking idiot for not just realizing the "simple truth" that is you both love each other, isn't that enough to make it work? part of me thinks i'm insane for rocking the boat, so to speak, and being the catalyst for a move-out that's going to be a pain in the ass for a bunch of people.  that part of me has been playing garbage's song "stupid girl" on a repeated loop in my head.  "all you had, you wasted..."

somewhat on that topic -- as dumb as it sounds, part of me is totally grieving the loss of this apartment.  really, we were so fucking lucky to get this place.  it's everything i've wanted in a "grown-up" apartment at a fantastic price, complete with beautiful furniture and all the amenities.  (i'm actually trying to find a different unit in the same building, but that will require some luck.)  beyond the superficial, this was supposed to be our home, you know?  this was the lovely little dwelling that my boyfriend and i, as adult working professionals, deserved -- no more smelly basements or shared units with friends.  we were going to have a real life together in this apartment.  so i guess this place represents the relationship to me, in a way -- i'm losing both a home and a sense of home.  and there's so much i don't want to leave behind when i go.

i came back from vancouver for this guy.  my entire life in toronto after moving back from the west coast has been with this guy.  i came back from my self-induced exile because i wanted to give this relationship a full chance -- because i sensed that this was different, and that this would be worth it.

worth it enough for me to ignore all the warning signs along the way, and instead believe that if i loved him enough and did enough things for him and gave away enough of myself, everything would work out and i'd have the loving romantic relationship i'd always wanted.

...yeah, you can see how the feminist in me eventually gave up in disgust.

so, that's where i am right now.  i think tonight i need to talk to him -- we haven't talked about the breakup since the night i told him i was done.  we've made small talk a couple of times about new apartments and discussed plans around moving/divvying up possessions/etc, but now that the move-out has to be planned, that means the ball will start rolling tonight once we send off the fated email.  and, as "the one who leaves", i'm still partially terrified that i'm making the wrong choice, here.

(though this is where a bunch of you will chime in to tell me that no, i'm making the right choice, and i have to keep pressing forward because eventually things will get better and this is for the best.  and i know, i know you're all correct.  it just doesn't make it any easier, at all.)

realizing that love does not, in fact, conquer all is by far the hardest lesson i've learned in my adult life so far.

thanks for still being out there.

[ music | none ]

Sunday, November 27, 2011

let's end it here

walking through the annex in the dark, mostly drunk, sucking on a cigarette, focusing on the way the wet streets reflect the lights, and i remember. for better or for worse, i remember all their faces and their touches and their kisses, and i remember being that poor young girl who had no idea what she was getting into, even though she thought she did, gods help her.

fuck you all.

i remember.

[ music | none ]

Saturday, November 26, 2011

devil by my side

hey, here's a great little previously-unpublished scribble from a private diary -- dated december 17, 2005 (a different boy here, but one who would go on to break my heart harder than it ever had been at that point in my young life), reprint inspired by me passing that corner yesterday and smiling to myself:


"...And this is why you're dangerous," he said to me as we slowly broke off the kiss. We stared into each others' eyes for a bit, and I only had a moment to grin before our lips met again, and the rest went unspoken on a snow-covered street corner at Bloor and Bathurst.


i thought about that as i walked past bloor & bathurst, and how in 2005, i was a reckless, impulsive, chain-smoking emotional hurricane of a goth-punk girl, all tattoos and facial piercings and internal angst. it really has been a long time since i've been considered a dangerous girl.

and truthfully? i've missed it.

[ music | the kills, "goodnight bad morning" ]

Thursday, November 24, 2011

harmonies for the haunted

let's talk about other, nicer things for a while:

- happy awesome friend times: it seems that four years locked away with a boy hasn't made me into the total social pariah i thought i was, because i'm currently busy filling up my calendar with evenings out and afternoons drinking and catch-up dinners. and for the first time in the last little while, i'm not finding the urge to flake out and cancel so i can sit at home and play on the internet all night. my friends are offering up their love and support, and i'd be a fucking idiot if i refused it at this point in time. i need them, and i'll keep on needing them. (i was never a popular kid when i was younger, so i absolutely don't take actually having friends for granted. i used to have nobody, after all.)

if you want to hang out with me sometime soon, don't worry: i promise i'm past the point where i'm crying at the drop of a hat, and the breakup is not the only thing i'll talk about for hours.

- winter christmas is coming!: look people, i'm an unabashed holiday nerd, and i really love christmastime in the city. it's especially festive in my neighbourhood with all the lights and pretty decorations (out already...yeah, i know, i know), and i've got all my accoutrements ready for the first real snowfall of the year in toronto. (to me, that's when it really starts feeling like the holiday season.) my christmas shopping has begun - i really do love buying presents for family - and i'm already puzzling out what to get for the people on my list. (on my own list is, simply, gift cards for various home-furnishing stores -- i don't even have a bed, for god's sake.) i'm bracing myself for the cold with sweaters, blankets and lots of coffee. dark hair, pale skin -- i'm a winter girl to the core.

- my daddy: he's coming to toronto on saturday to take me out to lunch. (well, okay, that's not the only reason - he's visiting a friend - but he's making sure he's coming to the city with enough time to see me too.) my father and i are both writers, so we are very similar in that we're both better at expressing ourselves through writing rather than speech; as such, even though he's so-so when it comes to finding the right words to say to comfort his youngest daughter, i know he cares. as i mentioned before, he and my mother went through a shitty breakup of the same kind (wasn't acrimonious, remained on good terms, just realized that it wasn't meant to keep going), so both of my parents know where i'm coming from, on both sides. and that's nice.

- planning for next year's travel: i'm actually so excited about all the possibilities that i'm bummed about how the majority of my desired locations to visit (chicago, new york city, vancouver, montreal -- yes, treading familiar ground, but i love it so) aren't temperate until springtime. but once we roll into the next calendar year, i'll have a whole whack of vacation days at my disposal again, and i'm really stoked to use them. i definitely want to take one of those "finding myself" sorts of trips; preferably after i move out, but like i said, it sucks because everywhere i want to go is shitty in the wintertime. vancouver's not so bad then, but much preferable in the spring/summer. i guess we'll see how much money/ambition i have.

- deciding on my next body mod: it's going to be a doozy. again, one of those things i'm going to do post-february, as a way of leaving a mark and a reminder in my flesh. more details later, if i decide to talk about them. har har. (for the very curious - and don't say i didn't warn you - consult this list and note the top-righthand choice, second selection)

- happy pretty underthings: ...which i talked about a while ago, and yes, i do plan on going back for more in a few weeks. i'm ashamed to say that i've grown sort of afraid of that push-up bra, though -- i've only worn it once. i feel like the boob monster.

- good music, albeit sad and depressing: in case you ever find yourself in need of a mopey-as-fuck breakup playlist, here are my recommendations:

florence + the machine - "heavy in your arms"
florence + the machine - "shake it out"
florence + the machine - "no light, no light"
adele - "rolling in the deep"
the kills - "black balloon"
the national - "anyone's ghost"
the chameleons uk - "swamp thing"
the sisterhood - "giving ground"
pearl jam - "black"
matthew good - "avalanche"
matthew good band - "strange days"
placebo - "running up that hill"
portishead - "roads"
the sisters of mercy - "nine while nine"

and then, to make yourself feel better:

babe, you're something like a phenomena.

[ music | ladytron, "international dateline" ]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

tell me what to say

and then there was this: It’s Harder To Be The One Who Leaves

i didn't write that, but given my state of mind lately, i probably could have. it's strange, because i - like many people - have been on both ends of breakups, and i think they're equally hard. i absolutely understand the "appeal" (for lack of a better word) of being the one who gets dumped; there's something of a relief when you have someone else to blame your pain on. there's also the sympathy, which is a nice thing to have when you're crying your eyes out constantly, and eventually, there's the comfort that comes when you realize/accept that there's nothing you could have done. you can't change how someone else feels. you can't change their mind from ending things with you. these are all things that have comforted me in the past, when i've been the one who gets left behind.

but there's not so much to comfort me now. even before reading that essay, the phrase "you made your bed, now you lie in it" has been popping up in my head a lot lately.

because in the end, the one who leaves has to be the strong one. you have to be the one who urges things forward and refuses to let things move backward. you have to insist on carrying it out, even when a part of you is freaking out and pleading with the rest of you to reconsider. you have to knuckle down and suck it up and be as fucking strong as you can, and not relent to your emotions or anything else. the only thing you have to cling to is your belief that i am doing the right thing even if it doesn't feel like it now, and that can get so difficult.

(prescient: this post was written during, i think, maybe the third or fourth time i considered breaking up with him. i didn't pull the trigger then, but the words i wrote absolutely make sense now that i finally have.)

late nights and early mornings are the worst for me. i have a hard time getting to sleep in an empty bed, and when i get up in the morning i can almost fool myself into thinking everything's okay. but then i see the temporary bed on the couch and it hits me like a sack of really painful bricks. (i also suspected that we'd both been delaying the task that would truly set everything in motion - giving our two months' notice - but i finally nudged it forward on monday. i don't think he took me seriously until i did so; fair enough, given how many times i'd tried to leave in the past.)

it's also still inconceivable to some part of my brain, though; i mean, for fuck's sake, i still love the man. i do, and it sucks. as early as a few weeks ago, it was a small thrill to see him sleeping next to me, i loved seeing his fingers intertwine with mine as he held my hand, and i've always been weirdly delighted to see his possessions co-mingling with mine in our shared apartment. one text message from him is still enough to get me smiling so hard it hurts my face. and a part of me keeps pleading, isn't that enough? can't that be enough for you? isn't that all proof enough that you love him and should stay with him?

but i'm not twenty-five anymore, and i can't keep fooling myself with that argument. as a strong, capable feminist woman, it does me such a fucking disservice.

i look okay during the day, though -- at least, i think i do. as i've been noting to everyone with a sad smile, "everyday life moves on regardless, so what can i do to stop it?" and that in itself is something of a comfort, i suppose -- the notion that the world isn't going to stop turning just because you, along with countless others at this very moment, are separating from your significant other. i have more than enough evidence that "time heals all wounds" definitely holds true; in fact, i've also been getting comfort from reading my old blog, and remembering the girl i used to be. she went through a lot of shit too, but she dealt with it. she knew what she wanted, and she wasn't going to let anything or anyone stop her. she, too, made some seriously hard decisions -- and lived through them. at the end of the day, she was okay.

right now, the other hard part for me is the thought of the day when we finally move out and separate. my friends and family are all telling me that that's the day when it'll most seem real to me, because so long as we're living together now, my brain isn't really fully comprehending what's going on. once the moment comes when he walks away and i'm standing alone in a different apartment with all my things in boxes, that's when it'll hit me. i'm fully expecting to have a breakdown. (though again, more perspective: after my parents got separated, my dad lived in our house for five months before moving out. that would absolutely be worse.)

yet i'd be remiss if i didn't mention how awesome my friends - longtime ones in the real world and internet acquaintances both - have been. within seconds of publishing the original blog post about how i was ending things, i was receiving tons of @replies and direct messages, emails and facebook messages and text messages, all from people offering words of encouragement and comfort and invitations to go drinking. and oh my god, have i ever appreciated all of that, even if i'm not exactly in a super-talkative mood in person (mostly because i'm still trying not to burst into tears). but once i get a better handle on things, i know i'll have people there for me, and that in itself is so awesome. (i was saying to my best friend that i'm going to be a mess once i move out on my own, and she firmly replied, "no you're not, because we're going to be taking you out and making you have fun!" awwww)

also: thank you to all of you reading these blog posts. it's horrible yet hilarious that breakups seem to make for great web traffic; i've had higher readership in the last seven days than i've had in years. (my klout score even went up a point!) but a lot of you - a lot of you! - seem to have been through the same sort of experience in your own lives, and so it's nice to have sympathy from those who've been there. because i certainly haven't (this is my first "real" breakup, since this was my first actual long-term relationship), so advice on how to navigate these waters is absolutely needed.

so this is my thanks to all of you who've reached out to me, and who continue to reach out to see how i'm doing. i'm not 100% okay yet; i thought the tears were mostly drying, but then i cried myself to sleep again last night, and now i don't know. as i said before, i keep trying to imagine my everyday life without him there beside me, and man, it fucking hurts so much.

i have my friends, though, and i have supportive parents who love me (and who, to be quite honest, were not surprised when i told them that i was ending this relationship), and i have this outlet for writing and all of you i'll make it through to the other side. i'll be past all this some day, and hopefully a better, stronger person for it.

adam told me, "the next five years of your life are some of the most important." late twenties, early thirties -- i know he's right. and i go into them alone, as the one who left.

(march 2008; three months into our relationship)

eventually, i'll be alright with that.

[ music | m83, "midnight city" ]

Sunday, November 20, 2011

too many hours from this hour

so...that happened.

it's been hard. of course it hasn't been easy, but i'd been building it up in my mind so much for the past couple of months that i didn't realize how utterly awful i'd feel after the words came out. also, i didn't know that a part of me was going to start clinging and screaming and not wanting to let it go. four years, man. my mother (who divorced my father after 19 years of marriage) may have tried to console me by saying that "in the grand scheme of relationships, four years is still relatively young" -- but it's still been the longest relationship both the boy and i have ever had, and it's hard to let it go.

(i already gave him forewarning that i'd be blogging about all this because, as joan didion put it, writing is how i think. and there's nothing here that i didn't already tell him.)

look, here's the thing -- as my close friends and family could tell you, this was never the perfect relationship. i once said on my old blog that i "never tell the whole story," and that's been very true. it takes a lot of caution to weed out the good from the not-so-good, and so many people might be surprised that our relationship failed -- and really, had been failing quietly for a while now. but i never wanted to put my doubts or disappointments out there publicly, because i wasn't ready to admit openly that things weren't what i wanted them to be. that would be inviting questions and opinions that i didn't want to face. (not to say that i hadn't spent many times in the last few years weakly defending my relationship to well-meaning but overly opinionated friends who believed, rightly, that for all the time and effort i put into this relationship, i deserved better than him.)

one of the main catalysts of my decision was, simply, the fact that we were getting charged more money for our apartment, and we were considering getting a new place. but the more i thought about it, the more i realized that i wasn't entirely confident we'd make another year (or however long our next cohabitation lease would be) together. what would happen if we were to break up in the middle of our rental period?

but on a wider scale, the bigger question was: why wasn't i confident that our relationship would last?

here's the thing: i've been growing complacent in my last four years -- far more than anyone should be in their late twenties. i'm well aware that these are supposed to be years of personal growth and discovery and adventure, and yet...i've spent a lot of this time being comfortably ensconced in a relationship. it's all been so safe. and when things get safe and comfortable like that, it's becomes harder - and more scary - to force yourself out of your little bubble and try new things. i think about when i moved to vancouver in 2007, and how determined i'd been to take my mindset into a new place, alone. i grew up a lot in those eight months, and discovered a lot of things about myself in the process. then i came back to toronto - came back because of him, because all i wanted was to be with him - and i don't know if i regressed per se, but it just got to the point that i stopped moving. and one day, i realized that i can't stop moving. i'm too young, but i'm not getting any younger. i have too much ahead of me, too many possibilities, too much i still want to do with my life.

too much that i would cut myself off from, if i were to stay in my relationship. because the idea of moving on with my life without him has been holding me back.

this is, i think, an inherent problem in dating someone who's that much older than you (thirteen years, in this case -- he's 41, i'm 28): they've already discovered themselves. they already know who they are. the boy even pointed out to me that i've changed a lot in four years, and he's basically stayed the same. he also refused to change - not for me, or anyone - because he's happy with who he is, where he is. if i wanted to go somewhere else and try something new, he would not come with me. and it got to the point that, no matter how much i loved him with all my heart, i could not see myself staying with him. there was no future, and even when he said as much to me during one notable argument ("i don't think about our future"), i'd refused to believe it -- until it got to the point where i couldn't deny it anymore. it was a black hole. it would end in us breaking up eventually, someday. and i didn't want to sit around and wait for that to happen.

in the end, i guess i finally realized that i was doing myself such a disservice by staying in this. i have so much to offer. i deserve so much more than this. i should not settle if this isn't what i truly want -- and what i want, what i have always wanted, is a companion who wants to do things with me and experience things with me and eventually make a life with me. it might be a tall order in this day and age, but i'm tired of settling for less and telling myself that i'll get used it. i was able to fool myself with that - and the notion that if i tried really hard to make it work, i could overlook the times when it wasn't - when i was younger. not anymore.

as i said to him, accurately, "i don't think that i - or this relationship - has ever really been your priority. and i want to be someone's priority." (to his credit, he agreed.)

...i read this quote from the almighty andrew w.k. in sofi's blog, and it rings as true for me now as i did when i first read it:

"Any time you find your girlfriend, or your boyfriend, or your wife, or your husband, or the person that you’re committed to, your fiancée – anytime you find them standing in the way, jeopardizing your destiny, you have to say ‘fuck you’ and you leave them on the wayside. It’s not what they’re meant to do; it’s not what you’re meant to do. It’s time wasted – cut to the chase and move on. Any time a relationship is sapping your power or your strength: do not give in to those vampires. A real soulmate is a person that gives you even more fuel, more strength and more ammunition. Any relationship is either a real relationship or a piece of shit."

harsh, maybe, but accurate.

i didn't say "fuck you", though. it wasn't angry. but it was very sad, and there were tears (a few from him and a lot from me) and admitting that although things weren't always perfect, we still had a hell of a great four years together. we are still each other's best friend. i still consider him to be a admirable, wonderful person, and i was very lucky and proud to have been his girlfriend for the last four years. we still have to deal with the cohabitation situation, and since we unfortunately have to deal with the whole two months' notice thing, we have to stick it out here until the end of january (switching off who sleeps on the couch depending on who's getting up earlier in the morning). then we go our separate ways.

and i'm not going to lie -- the thought of that hurts more than just about anything right now. the thought that after four years together, his laid-back, cheerful, loving presence won't be around in my everyday life is just the fucking worst.

if i needed any indication that this is the right thing, though -- a few weeks ago, i read this, and it summed up everything for me. see, i've always attempted to live my life like it's a story -- like it'll be the best story to tell people someday. and really, this relationship itself was part of that awesome life story -- because come on, after so many years of bullshit and heartache, i'd finally gotten my rock star boyfriend, and was finally content. the groupie grows up and lives happily ever after. that was how it was supposed to work out for me, right?

but after i read that article, i absolutely understood this:

"We were a good story. Nothing more. He is what I would have chosen when I thought I could choose. So, I suppose that’s the point: Love chooses us."

maybe at the end of the day, it's about being with the person who's best for you, not the person who makes for the best story.

[ music | florence + the machine, "no light, no light" ]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

the heart in your heartbreak

at approximately 7:16 p.m. eastern standard time on november 16th, 2011, i ended my relationship of almost four years.

i don't know where we go from here, but fuck, this hurts.  and all i can do is listen to florence + the machine:

"it's a fine romance, but it's left me so undone..."


[ music | florence + the machine, "shake it out" ]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

act on impulse

what i buy when i win $250 in american express gift cards (which i received through a work contest to name the new team newsletter -- thanks, colleagues!):

- tokyomilk dark "tainted love" perfume (indulging my love of fragrances at lsst -- i've always adored colognes on men but never had the money to buy perfume for myself, and now, finally...!)
- two packs of razor blades (for me, wintertime does not mean neglecting the shaving of my sasquatch-like legs)
- a bottle of vanilla dee-lite body cream from lush (my favourite moisturizer to go along with the above leg-upkeep routine)
- new mascara and a grey eyeshadow compact (because the option for smoky eyes is always necessary)
- two pairs of american apparel boy briefs (the best underwear ever, but the price tag makes me cringe -- $15 for underwear??)
- one victoria's secret "miraculous push-up" bra (see above note, but omg i have boobs now!)
- pinstripe pants (a must for the corp goth look)
- dark blue jeans (forever enjoying the fact that my favourite brand of jeans is never more than $20 a pair)

i guess the above list testifies that i do, in fact, enjoy material things, but only when i have "free" money to waste on them. (as i mentioned in the last entry, i tend to spend a majority of my extra budget on specialty food items. for example, i've spent a portion of the last couple of weeks debating whether or not i'm willing to spend $30 on a tiny jar of truffle salt.)

okay, but yes. victoria's secret. (warning: girly stuff ahead, or stuff that might make you uncomfortable if you are a member of my family who forever thinks of me as a cute li'l relative and not a woman.) this was a store i mostly tried to stay away from, due to the fact that 1) i consider dropping upwards of $50 on a bra to be rather dumb (especially since la senza frequently has 2-bras-for-$30 sales and whatnot) and 2) i know my weaknesses, and one of my major weaknesses is pretty underwear. seriously, one-half of my top dresser drawer is taken up by cute, colourful panties. it's bad, people, really bad. thus, i know better than to set foot in victoria's secret, where my brain would undoubtedly go into overload and i would black out and find myself hours later lying in a pile of underthings. the aftermath of a raging panty bender.

anyway, with that horrid mental image aside, i finally made the plunge on the weekend when my gift cards were on their last legs and i wanted to spend them on something that i knew i couldn't ask my parents for when christmas rolls around. (the original plan was for me to buy a sweater or two, but then i saw those familiar neon pink bags and thought naw, fuck it, i wanna buy me some fake boobs) so i headed into victoria's secret and got one of their bras that were purported to add "2 cup sizes!" -- and holy shit, this is not an unfounded claim. look, i'll admit my bra size - i'm a 34A - mostly to prove my point that i'm small-chested. i've been this way my entire life, due to goddamn genetics. and though i've never really been too disappointed about it - i kind of relish the fact that i can go braless if i want, i won't sag when i get older, "more than a handful's wasted", etc. etc. - i've never experienced life with a decent pair of cleavage. so, i figured, since i've got the money to burn, go big or go home.

...and now i'm probably going back to get another one next month. i'm starting to worry this will be an illusion i'll have to maintain, much like the old days when i wore high heels so often that people began to assume that i'm naturally 6'2". no, sorry, i'm not actually a glamazon with towering height and a huge rack.

fake it til you make it? sigh. (i suppose i should be glad i haven't started buying spanx.)

in the meantime, it's been all quiet on the eastern front. my november moodiness waxes and wanes; i've been getting a lot more exhausted in the evenings (though i think that's due to caffeine overloading during the day) and i've been going through a lot more booze than usual, but it's been nothing crippling. the usual emotional ennui, yes - which a number of friends have picked up on through my twitter feed, good god you people are perceptive - but it's all stuff i can't really talk about. not at this point in time, anyway. i know i'm being intentionally vague, but that's what you get. dealwithit.gif, and so on.

but! all this moping about makes for plenty of time spent on the internets, so i'm at least well caught up with everybody, doing plenty of engaging and the like. it's an important means of communication, this series of tubes, and it's through it that i don't feel so alone, even as i sequester myself at home for the evening/weekend/whatever. although i mourn the loss of my love of nightlife (and sometimes spend time trying to figure out how i can get it back, because i'm not dead yet, for christ's sake), i can at least keep in touch with my friends. also, get-togethers in the daylight (daylight? what's that?). memo to self: self needs more brunch dates with friends.

but thanks for being here, and reading this. if i didn't have an outlet for writing, i'd be a lost soul. an audience has always been a nice bonus.

now, for alcohol, and more private scribblings. it's all about balance.

[ music | florence + the machine, "shake it out" ]

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

punk rock betty crocker

so i don't know if it was klout saying i was influential about food, or rachel introducing me as "the master chef", but i've only recently(!) realized that i've become way more of a cook than i thought i'd turn out. it's one of those surprising personal facts that's more or less crept up on me in the past few years.

given that home ec was one of my best (and most favourite) classes in high school, i probably should have seen it coming. back in grade 10, i would frequently skip out early on the class in the time block beforehand (woodworking, which i wasn't particularly good at and was filled with douchebag jocks besides) so i could get an head start on whatever cooking projects were happening that day. i specifically remember making a batch of mini cinnamon rolls that turned out amazing, and for a girl with a serious sweet tooth, the idea that i could bake delicious goodies whenever i wanted to was absolutely appealing. (and unfortunately still is - i think i'm making up for lost time)

but then my university years, due to financial constraints and general laziness, were super typical and didn't hint at any gastronomic creativity at all: when i wasn't starving myself, i was relying on a steady diet of cereal, soup, yogurt, rice cakes and baby carrots. even after i graduated and moved to vancouver, those meals pretty much remained the same, mostly because 1) i still didn't have a whole lot of money for a food budget and 2) i didn't have a stove or proper fridge. (literally, my tiny bachelor apartment came equipped with a bar fridge and hot plate. i ate a lot of soup and oatmeal.)

it was basically only after i moved back to toronto (and got a decent-paying job) that i was inspired to branch out and start making better, more elaborate meals. now that i had the money to afford ingredients and keep pantry staples stocked, cooking became a seriously encompassing hobby for me. it was also something that could reconnect me to food, and give me better control over what i was putting in my body. (i was just coming off an ill-decided stint of vegetarianism at the time) so i started writing out (yes, really - by hand and everything) recipes in a notebook and kept an eye on magazines and food blogs for things that would strike my fancy. as most of you know, i ended up gravitating more towards the baking side of things, mostly because of my earlier fat-kid-loves-cake epiphany, but also because it appealed more to my control-freak side. cooking is more free form and experimentation; i like things uniform and organized with a clearly defined result.

examples of my own baking creations:

so i went from making home dinners to baking treats for coworkers (and myself, obvs) to putting together elaborate gift baskets of treats as presents. all of this gradually bloomed into the thought of making things from scratch as a fun challenge, and i've since made my own beef jerky, protein bars, fruit jams, infused vodka, nut butters and more. i usually have at least one food "project" on the go every weekend, and often something stupidly complex that takes 2-3 hours to complete (like a chicken molé or coq au vin).

i made a hell of a lot of jam this past summer. oy.

when i was eight or nine years old, i announced to my parents that i wanted to be a chef one day, but i've since let that slide. no matter how many times people tell me i should go into the business, i know for sure that i enjoy it more as a casual hobby that something i'd want to make a career around. it would absolutely stress me out too much to do anything in the culinary world as my job; i can't even watch cooking shows, they make me so anxious. so, for now i definitely enjoy it more as a personal hobby, not a career path or bankable talent.  (also, i tend to spend more money on gourmet foodstuffs than, say, clothing or shoes.  that says a lot.)

it's funny, though, how i think of cooking the same way i think of writing (my only truly bankable talent) -- can't everybody do it? and the answer is the same in both cases: well, yes, but they can't necessarily do it well. also, many people tend to look at cooking and/or baking as stressful, annoying tasks, whereas i see them as an ideal way to spend a weekend. (also, it's totally cost-effective for me, since i can make larger - and healthier - batches of things at a cheaper cost than a restaurant would charge.) literally, when i'm at home, you'll find me puttering around in the kitchen for 80% of the time.

anyway, it came to my attention that a lot of people probably don't have the same resources i do, so i wanted to use this blog post to share 'em with you all. hopefully you'll come to the same conclusion i have: that cooking and baking for yourself is cheaper, healthier, and a hell of a lot more fun than getting crappy takeout.

with that said, here are some of the resources i rely on daily (all content pictured in the screencaps below property of the respective websites, etc. etc.):

serious eats
serious eats compiles tons of food articles, columns and taste tests from all corners of the globe. of course, though, there's also tons of recipes, and delicious visuals to boot. i've always done well by the crisper whisperer, healthy and delicious and edible diy columns for recipes.

i'm a strong visual person when it comes to deciding what i want to attempt to make -- if the recipe doesn't have a picture next to it, i likely won't try it out. thankfully there's photograzing, an offshoot from serious eats, where food bloggers submit photos of their kitchen endeavours -- and a link to the blog posts where you can find step-by-step recipes. absolutely a lifesaver whether i'm looking for something specific or just want to browse.

like photograzing on steroids. love the search feature here, as well as the option to search by category (at the bottom of the page). half the time, if i'm looking for a specific recipe or craving something or have an ingredient i need to use up, i'll just type it in the search box and away we go.

the kitchn
like the sophisticated older sibling of serious eats, the kitchn features not only great recipes but solid articles about food news, kitchen designs and fun discoveries. i've found plenty of inspiration here as well (though not so much for kitchen renos, since i'm not into the homeowner part of my life yet).

mark's daily apple
yay mark! this site may be a total guide to the primal lifestyle (which i wholeheartedly advocate), but it also features a new awesome primal/paleo recipe every saturday. you can even find them in a big repository right here -- try ctrl+f to find a dish or ingredient you like in the list. i've made the shepherd's pie so many times by now that i've lost count.

cheap healthy good
it's been on hiatus for ages now, but the archives at chg yield some gems. i'm mostly wary of "healthy" or "lite" recipes online these days, but this site makes more of an effort to have the end result be both good for you and tasty, with a minimal amount of egg whites and applesauce. also: amusing stories and entertaining narration. come back, chg!

elana's pantry
i first stumbled upon this site through a link at mark's daily apple, and holy shit, so glad i did -- elana's recipes, particularly the desserts, are a godsend for anyone trying to cut flour, grains and refined sugar out of their lives. everything here is gluten-free and can be easily adapted for paleo/primal needs, and works wonders for the average cavegirl struggling with her damnable sweet tooth. so while i suppose you still can't eat a whole pan of brownies for dinner, you can at least feel less guilty when you do it anyway.

like most people, i started off with the chowhound boards first - toronto restaurant gossip, yay! - then found that chow proper has plenty of awesome recipes and features as well. sure, nothing uber-healthy here - so. many. dessert slideshows. - but the photos are superb food porn.

also, in a non-digital sense, here are my cookbooks of note (alongside my current subscriptions to bon appetit and fine cooking, both of which purchased for me by my enthusiastic-in-supporting-my-interests father):

the primal blueprint cookbook / the primal blueprint quick & easy meals
of course mark's daily apple would inevitably spin off into primal-focused cookbooks -- and these two are totally fantastic. everything i've made from both cookbooks has turned out well, and many are mainstays in my current meal rotation. all meat, all vegetables, all the time. mmmmm.

the gluten-free almond flour cookbook
same drill as above, but with elana's gluten-free goodies instead. i've made the vegetable quiche a few times and it's blown my mind:

booze cakes
when it comes to searching for something to bake coworkers, i tend to gravitate towards booze cakes first and foremost -- because what isn't awesome about a cake baked with liberal amounts of alcohol? i've cooked two cakes from this book as blog features (plus a batch of cupcakes for a baking competition at work), and though some of the ingredient measurements are, er, questionable, i've thoroughly enjoyed myself both times (and the results were devoured).

the joy of cooking
- because basically, everyone has a copy of this thing. however, mine's got extra cred -- it's my mother's dog-eared hand-me-down copy, printed in 1973. there's still recipes for things like scrambled brains with eggs. but while i'll pass on the offal, the rest of it is an amazingly comprehensive resource for all things cooking, baking and everything in between -- and a lot of it still holds true in 2011. i haven't seen any of the new versions, but i like my old stained copy just fine.

so! that about covers my story as a foodie, so far. though i definitely don't profess to be an expert or anything, i've picked up numerous things from both trial & error and my incredibly-skilled-in-the-kitchen mother, so if you have any cooking or baking questions, give me a yell. i can't guarantee i'll salvage your disasters - and trust me, i've had many of my own - but i can pass along whatever i know. i'm already the go-to girl for baking q's from coworkers, which is a far cry from that teenager who made cinnamon rolls, but i guess we all start somewhere.

[ music | caesars, "it's not the fall that hurts" ]

Monday, November 7, 2011

deserts of sound

it's been a slower start to the month than i thought.

november has traditionally been a shitty month for me; although i have christmas to look forward to, my sads hits me in november more than any other months, probably due to the whole dead leaves/cold weather/general greyness of these four weeks. november is one of my yearly low points, and though i don't go into it feeling that way - believing it makes it happen, etc. - it seems to inevitably happen anyway. sigh.

also, all of what i just mentioned means that motivation hasn't been too high lately. and who wants to read half-assed blurbs about the fact that nothing's going on in my life besides battling the sads monster? nobody, that's who. (see also: gimmicky posts. i love a good list or survey as much as the next former diaryland-er, but when you can't even find the inspiration to dig up one of those, you know you're in dire straits.)

here's the thing: a dose of seasonal ennui is also good to get me thinking about my life and where i'm heading. sure, it's probably not the best idea to think too deeply on this while looking through the glasses of mild depression, but sometimes i find it gives an interesting (or at least different) perspective.

i know i've talked about it before, but i feel like my life is stalled somehow right now. i guess plateaus are expected in everyone's life -- unless you're, say, richard bronson, one's life can't be non-stop excitement and adventure. i get that. but for me, it's sort of hard to quantify given that once upon a time, my life was crazy exciting and full of potential and possibilities. i don't know if that was a reflection of foolish youth, but these days, it feels like a lot of my possible paths have been walled off and no longer accessible. i'm at that point in my life where i've learned that you need to sacrifice some things in order to attain others - you can't have your cake and eat it too, and so on - but i'm still young enough that i do want to have it all, without giving up anything.

or maybe i just don't know what i want anymore. and that more or less drives me crazy.

i'm an impatient person. i like to know where my life is going. i like to make plans. and at some point, these "like"s spill over into "need"s and i find myself getting increasing antsy with my life. i mean, i get it -- i'm two years away from the big, horrific 3-0. not exactly a place i want to be without a life plan, or during another one of these plateau periods. i absolutely can't get to thirty years of age without at least some idea of what i'm actually doing with my life. i just can't.

to be fair, i don't know if i ever had a plan at any point in my life. it wasn't that i was winging it or anything, but i really had no idea what i wanted to be when i "grew up" and just assumed i'd figure it out as i went along. when i discovered the combination of one of my only bankable talents (writing) plus one of my passions (music/bands/musicians), i decided okay, there it was -- i'd be a music journalist. that would be my ultimate life goal. forward five years, and "music journalist" as a money-making occupation barely exists any more. i've written about this already, so i won't go over that again, but it is incredibly hard to realize that what you've been working for just isn't feasible. sure, there are other avenues i could take - online stuff and blogging, mostly - but none of it pays nearly what i need to dig myself out of my massive student debts.

what i'm doing right now is doing me fine for the moment, though. going back to my only worthwhile skill set (writing), i'm pretty sure editing jobs are on the table (and will be on the table for as long as i want them to do), and those do make decent money. still, i'm not entirely sure that it's something i'd want to do for the rest of my life. and thus, we get back to the age-old question: do i want to do what makes me money, or do i want to do what makes me happy?

and what exactly is it that would make me happy?

maybe i need to take a page from joni mitchell's book.

seriously though, what i will say is that i'm starting to gather plans. the events of the last month or so have illuminated a lot of things for me, to the point where i basically saw my path done up in lights, as it were. i'm not talking about it now or here, but trust me, i've been doing a lot of thinking and some preliminary planning and i think i know what i'm going to do, when the time comes.

in the meantime, there's been a lot of sleeping, cravings for soup, and drinking vodka, so that's also more or less right on schedule for this time of year. (also, i'm more or less surviving on the part in the sisters of mercy's "black planet" demo - the one with the "dance on glass" lyrics - where eldritch practically pleads, "for the love of god, my dreams look dim." so, so, so good.)

100% more notable is that allegra has a new blog! a publicly readable one! go enjoy her writings. we're going to go see like crazy tomorrow and i'm going to cry my fucking face off, for reals.

[ music | cut copy, "hanging onto every heartbeat" ]