Saturday, March 31, 2012

protect me from what i want

hang on a second, i want to write a letter to my 20-year-old self here.



(ahem.)

hey kiddo. i'm looking at the date right now and it's...end of march. for you, that'd be spring 2004 (and yes, yes, you're almost twenty-one years old, but whatevs). wait a second, i'm gonna go back and find some stuff you're writing right now in your private diaries, just so i've got an idea of what's happening with you at the moment. alright, got it - you're busy with school, you're worried about your figure (what else is new), and you're - as always - happily obsessing over the rockstar boys. any little individual scrap of attention that they're giving you, be it an email or instant message or whatever, you're gleefully pouncing on and analyzing and giggling over like the starstruck schoolgirl that you are. they like me, they really like me!

...okay, so your future self (aka me) is a cynical asshole. but bear with me here.

your love for these bands, the music and the guys behind it - it takes up a shit ton of your life, your energy, your waking hours. it defines you right now, more or less, and you're okay with that because the thrill of it makes you happy. these glorious figures who make the music you love are not only acknowledging you, but making you feel like you're a part of their inner circle. holy shit, what music fangirl wouldn't be stoked? especially you, given how you've spent the last three years wishing that they would know who you are.

but look - before you keep on this path (which, i hate to say it, is going to lead to much darker days - but i won't go into that now), i want to let you know that you need to start focusing more on what you're getting out of it, as opposed to what you're putting into it. remember how you once told your dad about all the little gifts and road trips and fansites and 7 a.m. postering sessions, and he replied, "and what do they do for you?" i don't remember what you said in return, but i think you laughed or something and replied with some bullshit about the power of music and giving you a place to belong. yeah, okay.

here's the thing: dad's right. you really do need to think about that. years and years from now, you're finally going to get to the point where you realize hey, well, fuck - if i'm not getting anything out of this, i shouldn't be putting so much into something that has an emotional return on investment of, like, zero. i know it sounds so simple, yet i know you're going to disagree completely - you are getting something out of it, right? right? - because at twenty-one, you're not there yet. i know that, too. but see, i was in your shoes once (for reals!), and i know there's a tiny part of you that's rational and conscious and pretty pissed off, because you know that you're worth more than this. you know that they're all idiots and that you're being taken advantage of, and that you're an idiot for knowingly going along with this. you're going to fill pages and pages of private diaries with ruminations on this. but for now, you'd rather pretend to be blissfully ignorant rather than self-aware. it's their approval of you that matters, not your approval of you, which is wrong and crappy and it sucks.

eight years from now, steve - who has a lovely daughter himself - is going to say, "i'm totally going to be the guy who goes to shows with a sign that says: "GIRLS! ROCK STARS ARE DUMB JERKS. THIS IS NOT A SAFE PLACE.""



i'm pretty sure this advice is going to fall on deaf ears. maybe that's for the best. maybe you do need to go through all those years of having your affection taken advantage of, in order for you to finally realize your true worth - and that it doesn't lie with people who don't reciprocate your feelings. i'm not even being snarky about this; i probably wouldn't be the person i am today if it wasn't for the mistakes and fuckups and heartbreak that you're going to go through in the next few years. sorry that you're going to have to take one for the team here, dude, but it's gotta be done.

listen up, though: it'll get better. really. i can promise you that what you're searching for now - and what you think you have - is nothing but a pale imitation of what love and mutual respect and reciprocated affection actually is. that's all. it's like a shitty scribbled drawing done by someone who thought they were in love once. you know how your lit crit prof (yes, i know, you fucking hate that class) keeps going on about plato and the parable of the cave? think of it like that. you feel like you'll be happy just sitting around in the cave, watching the shadows on the wall and believing them to be real - it keeps you content, and right now you feel like you don't have to search for anything more. you're happy right where you are. but in reality, there's an actual world of actual people out there who can offer you friendships and relationships that are based around things other than stupid illusion. there are people out there who are willing to be your honest friends and lovers, without looking at you with your big "please love me!" doe eyes and worshipful face and deciding "eh, well, she's here, might as well take advantage of it".

because you're doing a disservice to yourself. and you know that, and i know you know that. it's a 50/50 split for the blame here, because it's not like you're not putting yourself in the position to be taken for granted, but...fuck, really, these guys should know better than to do this shit to you. they should. they ought to know that you're young and impressionable and basically desperate for their affection, and they shouldn't be encouraging it.

and then there's going to come a moment, eight years later, when you're going to make the stunningly sad realization that, for all your effort and adoration and hero worship of these guys, it ultimately comes out to nothing in the end. nothing. nada. zero. you were a blip on their radar, someone who was putting themselves out there to be used. you certainly weren't a girlfriend, and you probably weren't even considered a friend to many of these people. you were a fan, and that was all. you were an ego boost dressed up in fishnets and stilettos. you were gullible, but you were also vulnerable, and that's kind of the worst part of all of this.

so eight years from now, you're going to be lying awake in bed at night, staring at the ceiling and thinking, wow, all that love and time and effort was for nothing. wow.

but i guess, in the end, that these are the things that we must learn, and that we can only learn over time and through experience. it takes falling a few times before you learn how to get back up - and, more importantly, that there's nothing they can do to keep you down for long.

so if there's anything i want to impart on you most of all, 20-year-old self, it's this: you can love them, but you need to love yourself more. in the end, you are worth it. they are not.

in june 2007, you're going to write a private blog post and the last line of it will be this:

"And maybe, I think, I ought to stop giving away so much of myself to the wrong people."

take that lesson to heart now, and for the rest of these turbulent years.



[ music | justice, "civilization" ]

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

come on home

signs of spring around the city:









in another life, i wanted to be a botanist when i grew up. when i was a kid living out in the country, my favourite book was the secret garden, and there was no lack of gardens or secret places on our family property. i also inherited my mother's love of plants and growing things, and i read a lot of gardening catalogs at a young age. i even re-purposed our huge old aquarium - empty since my sister's and my two goldfish died after maybe two weeks - to be a covered terrarium, with heat lamps and everything.

so, the natural next step was to assume that i might be able to make a career out of this interest as i got older. and it seemed to make sense; i aced plant biology courses in high school. but looking at any sort of botany program (at york university, for example) revealed a knowledge of science and math beyond anything my brain was capable of, especially given i'd flunked out of math in grade 10. so, sure, when it came time to take the science-prerequisite course in university that i needed to get my arts degree, i went for the plant biology class. beyond that, though, my education in growing things never exceeded beyond my balcony garden last year and the oversized christmas cactus & aloe vera plants i have hanging around.

anyway. there is my abridged explanation for all the photos of pretty flowers. they still fascinate me and make me happy.

also makes me happy:



sad dean is sad because of empty pint glass.



happy dean can haz beer! my boyfriend is awesome.

of course, there is always time for random baking:



lemon rosemary olive oil cake, in loaf form, for the rosemary-loving not-so-sweet-tooth boy. i could definitely do without herbs in my baked goods, but the boy absolutely adores it, especially if it's rosemary. predictably, this one was a hit.

not so predictably (tenuous segueway ahead!), i'm becoming more like my parents in that i'm gradually becoming interested in real estate.

maybe it comes with the territory of getting older - when you almost automatically start thinking about "grown-up things" like marriage, children and house-buying - but lately i've been torturing myself with toronto life's real estate photo slideshows and the globe and mail's done deals section, and choking back laughter/outrage at fml listings.

also, i realized i don't really want to be a home owner. like, ever. there are a whole lot of factors that went into this eventual decision, but the big ones were 1) i want to stay in toronto, and homes in toronto are a ridiculous amount of money, and 2) i've seen the work it takes to own a home, and i'm basically too lazy/poor/inept for that. it would also require taking out a mortgage, and i'm thisclose to getting out of debt, so i'd rather not toss another one on the heap.

dean and i talked about it briefly, and he's of the same opinion i am -- while i'm sure he'd love to own a big house in the country, he knows there's no way we could afford a house in toronto (where we both want to stay for the time being). moreover, we're both pretty okay with the apartment we're living in now. ("pretty okay" is kind of an understatement -- it's more like we're both so insanely thankful we lucked out with a place this great. sure, it may be small, but i have a friggin' love affair with this apartment.)

if anything, what i would really like is a beautiful loft apartment, or a crazyass expensive condo. like, something that costs at least half a million dollars. looking at photo slideshows of the most recent buzz condo is the kind of thing that makes my stomach hurt with condo envy. give me the choice between a house and a condo in toronto, and i'll pick the condo in a heartbeat. there's just something much more urban and cool about it, and "urban cool" is kind of what my heart's wanted ever since i was a dumb kid growing up in the sticks.

i'm pretty happy with not having to live in shitty underground basement apartments, essentially.

but yeah, it's weird to notice the little things that signify being an adult. now that i'm creeping up on the big, terrifying 30, with no desire for children and no marriage in sight, i guess it's natural that attentions would turn towards possible home-owning. it makes me wonder how i'll feel this time next year, though; i've already predicted that 2013 is going to be a year where i have to stop fucking around and make some big decisions. i'll be out of debt, i'll have a large chunk of savings in the bank, and i'll probably be at the point where i have to make some choices about where i want my life to be going (career-wise especially). i'm not so clueless that i would ruminate on this publicly, but i've got some vague ideas.

and that's all for now.

[ music | rangers vs. jets on the tv ]

Sunday, March 18, 2012

where the heart is

it's not unusual for me to feel homesick at this time of year. it is unusual that this time, it's for vancouver.



(i actually spent a good amount of time on google maps, retracing my old path from home to work on the bus. i know, i know. but it really was a gorgeous route.)

yeah, i don't really get it either. i mean, i barely considered vancouver my home, mostly because i wasn't even there a full year. but i suppose it might be because this time of year when i was there - spring 2008 - was basically one of the most beautiful times of my life in recent memory. it had a lot to do with the environment there; march is when the cherry blossoms come out, and for me - someone who grew up in the country and loves nature, especially the kind that isn't common to me - it was basically the most fascinating and gorgeous sight ever. so, that definitely made my typical hour-long walks even more memorable. i'm a botany nerd, what can i say.



but also, you know, i was kind of in long-distance love with a dude in toronto.



there's a lot to be said for the rose-coloured glasses of romance, particularly when it's something as angst-ridden and lonely as a first "real" love conducted over long distance. for me, a die-hard romantic who absolutely loves to wallow in love-fueled sadness, this whole situation completely heightened all my senses. by march 2008, i had pretty well established that i wasn't going to stay in vancouver much longer, since i had a boy waiting for me back in toronto and, you know, vancouver was kind of sucking for me. and it was in march 2008 that i made the decision to go home.

so for me, the rest of springtime in vancouver was coloured by the knowledge that not only were those my last few months in the city (and so i should enjoy it), but also the fact that i was only a few months away from being back in toronto with my new boyfriend. as i mentioned, the whole romance thing - the happy rush whenever i got a new text message, the late-night phone calls that would go on for hours, the walking around vancouver on a delighted, daydreamy cloud of hearts - made that time of year stick out much more for me in retrospect. i mentioned it towards the end of this blog post, but vancouver was the city where i fell in love (albeit from a distance), and i'm sure that's partly to blame for the nostalgic feelings i have.

i wish i'd blogged more while i lived there, though. as it is, i mostly have my memories to go by, since - like with this blog - i would go through periods of time when i just felt like there was nothing to write about. i would literally sit at my laptop and want to write, but nothing would come out. i just didn't have the right words to express what i was feeling (which is still a problem for me a lot of the time).

but as i've learned over many (many!) years of keeping personal blogs, they're invaluable resources to remind you of certain times and places in your life. i really have gone back and read old blog posts, just to remember past times. i don't do it too often - nor do i go back too far, since oh man hello embarrassing juvenile writing - but it's still out there, because blogging is the medium in which i digitally preserve my history. other people use blogs for topical things -- sports, politics, cooking, activism. i just use them as a personal chronicle. whether or not people are even remotely interested in reading is just a side bonus.

anyway, i digress. thinking on this whole vancouver-nostalgia thing, i believe it's more that i miss a certain time in my life, not necessarily the place itself -- which is pretty annoying, since we haven't exactly invented time travel yet. but then again, it'd be hard to imagine going back to those days, considering how bummed-out and angst-ridden i was feeling then (and all i wanted was exactly what i have now: the boyfriend, a good job, an apartment in downtown toronto).

but maybe it does all come back to that "finding satisfaction in not being satisfied" thing that an ex-boyfriend once told me. how emotionally masochistic.

i'm going to go back to browsing the straight while the rest of you wake up from your st. paddy's hangovers.

[ music | none ]

Thursday, March 15, 2012

fall apart start again

spring: it has sprung.



i'm starting to wonder if the simple act of turning the clocks forward an hour was to blame for royally fucking up my sleep schedule this week; seriously, i've spent every morning struggling to get out of bed. also, does nothing for the perpetual dark circles under my eyes (which i'm starting to suspect are hereditary or something).

or maybe i should just cut down on the caffeinated beverages. (i'm up to two coffees in the morning plus one tea and one coffee in the afternoon.)

since the majority of my readership is here in toronto, i won't bore you all with details about how nice it's been outside - because i'm sure you've all been taking advantage of it - but holy shit, does it ever feel good to have the balcony doors open and air out our apartment after a long stuffy winter. it's also putting me in the mood to clean things, and organize things, and generally act like a weirdo housewife when it comes to maintaining our apartment (maybe because it's actually our apartment now).

for some reason, this year i'm much more driven to start taking stock of my stuff - clothes and shoes, mostly - and either throw out or donate things i don't wear/need anymore. of course, this pulls me into a vicious cycle because now i must acquire new things to replace the old things, or else i basically won't have anything to wear. so, i have a ridiculous list of "what i need to buy this spring" and it looks like this:

- ankle boots
- knee-high boots? (if on sale)
- new chucks
- flats
- heels?
- tops x 3-4
- pants x 2 (incl. jeans -- 1 black pair)
- skirts x 2?
- dresses?

i guess it's worth mentioning here that i generally despise shopping for clothes and shoes and basically put it off for as long as i possibly can. sure, there'll be times when i'm really into the idea -- and those are the optimal moments for me to go out and try stuff on. otherwise, i'll feel like i'm basically forcing myself to shop, which usually ends with me buying dumb shit that i never wear because i felt like i had to buy something. (i'm trying to trace my hatred of shopping to childhood, when my mother would drag me from store to store, desperately attempting to find things i'd like while i stewed about how i'd rather be playing video games instead.)

also, i'm hesitant to spend a lot of money on clothes (which is dumb considering that i'm not at a lack of money to buy clothes, like i've been in the past), so i generally force myself to wait for sales. since i keep a close eye on red flag deals, i'm able to jump on nearby sales -- like last week, when i managed to procure a long black blazer, a wrap cardigan and a long-sleeved shirt for $50. fifty friggin' dollars altogether. that is the kind of shopping that i find worthwhile.

going back to the money thing for a second -- i'm not sure if i mentioned this before, but i did the calculations, and i'll be out of debt this time next year. for real, my student debt will at last be paid off. i always carry a bit of credit card debt too, but it's nothing i can't pay off easily, so that won't be an issue. also, this time next year, i'll have a fairly substantial nest egg of savings. these two things combined make me feel like i'll have a little more freedom to think about what i actually want to do with my life and career, since i won't have the scary burden of student debt hanging over me. (i mean, yeah, putting aside money for an rsp is up next, but, you know...freedom!)

aside from the material goods and the money, right now is also a time of reflection:

i got a whole lot of shit done last year. no, really, i've been thinking on it, and i completed a whole bunch of home and life projects in my life in 2011:

- i planted and grew a vegetable and herb garden on my balcony.
- i canned my own jam and preserves.
- i started doing a lot more d.i.y. food projects (making my own hummus, protein bars, mayonnaise, chicken stock, beef jerky, pickles, maraschino cherries, flavoured vodka, etc)
- i traveled to chicago, moncton, halifax, montreal, and san francisco.
- i maintained a solid gym schedule, even when out of town (on business trips or in kingston with family).
- i took a japanese class.
- i participated in a community bake sale.
- i held a dinner party for friends.

there's others in there, but those are the ones that stand out when i think on what i accomplished last year in terms of things that 1) i'd never tried before and 2) i'd always wanted to try doing. while it wasn't a year of radically stepping out of my bubble, it was a good twelve months for crossing things off my to-do/to-try list.

what does that mean for 2012?

honestly -- no idea. while i'd love to be in the same spot in 2013 and reflecting on all the projects and accomplishments i finished this year, i didn't really set out to accomplish a bunch of things in 2011. i didn't have a checklist, and i really hate deadlines. so i'd rather not put the onus on myself to do this, that and the other thing by the time this year's done. i prefer it to be a happy surprise realization, like it is right now.

oh man, i'm getting old.

[ music | amy winehouse, "you know i'm no good" ]

Friday, March 2, 2012

into the clouds

hah. hasn't been a very good year so far for proficient blogging, eh? oh, well.

anyway, quick recap of tuesday's trip to chicago...

admitting it right now: this was the first time i ever took a plane to chicago. really. up until now, i always took the bus. yes, i would choose a 12-hour bus ride over a plane ride that was maybe a little over one hour. that is how much i hate flying. it just feels like a cloud of doom and dread hanging over me for weeks in advance.

however, as i mentioned in the last post, it was the easiest option this time around (since it would just be an overnight trip), plus i was able to snag tickets for half off from porter, which is my airline of choice when i actually have the stones to fly. i mostly enjoy porter for their free(!) onboard wine in the cute little glasses:



there's also free snacks and little boxed meals, which basically win me over every time. yay porter!

so, tuesday - after spending the entirety of the previous seven days nervously watching planes land and take off from the island airport (my 23rd-floor apartment has a good view), i took a deep breath and headed to the airport alone. but since i'm so used to having to take hours and hours to get out to toronto's main airport, pearson, i ended up being there three hours early. whee, three hours of muted panic (and pre-drinking).

but then, you know, the plane went up, i had my usual breathing problems and muttered swear words and moments of terror, then the plane leveled off and got up above the clouds, and i was fine. seriously, this always happens, and i know it's the weirdest thing -- for all the fear i have of flying, once takeoff is over with, i'm absolutely fine. i don't have panic attacks midair. i don't lose my mind. i don't cry or puke. hell, i don't even shy away from looking out the window (though i can't have the blind open at all during takeoff). in fact, if there were to be anything i find beautiful about flying, it'd be watching the city below out the window as the plane comes in to land. really, it's magic. and yes, it makes me wish so hard i didn't have this stupid fear of flying and could be more like all those chill professional motherfuckers i see on airplanes and in airports.

i'm starting to think a lot of this phobia stems from too many rereads of flight 116 is down! as a child. really, what the fuck? (spoiler: one of the viewpoints in the book is of a girl who's afraid of flying, then the plane crashes and she gets trapped, and eventually dies while waiting to be rescued. i repeat: what the fuck??)

anyway, some wine and many rounds of tetris later, we landed in chicago - mercifully early in the evening. two more firsts for me: i took the chicago metro for the first time, and i had a hotel room to myself (and not part of a business trip). said hotel in the north shore was also 1) across the street from a fire station (booooo) and 2) down the street from my favourite mexican breakfast place, xoco (yaaaaay!).

the band's final gig at debonair was fun, loud, and altogether good times -- so awesome to see the guys again, and just as fun to put my pvc back on and (wo)man the merch booth. i ducked out earlier than i would have due to fatigue - terror-fueled adrenaline makes for a hell of a crash - but it was super friggin' awesome to have a hotel room to pass out in after peeling off the vinyl military coat. not to mention the hotel's location was perfect for running errands and picking up america-only foodstuffs the next morning (ahem, trader joe's run). you know it's a successful trip when you're forced to pack your clothes in your carry-on bag because your checked suitcase is full of groceries and booze.



my particular alcoholic prizes: cinnamon spice kahlua, which we don't have in canada (not yet, anyway), and van gogh dutch chocolate vodka, probably my favourite flavoured vodka for straight sipping (i already have an open bottle in the freezer from my earlier chicago trip, so this would be my backup bottle). my fascination with american liquor stores and not-available-in-canada booze is all-encompassing. (i'm even the foursquare mayor of binny's beverage depot in downtown chicago. yes, i'm the mayor of a liquor store that's not even in my country.)

after hotel checkout (which was thankfully at noon), i headed back along my old walking route to adam's apartment, where i got a lift to airport with james. again, i was more than a few hours early for my flight, but i actually sort of enjoy airports, and midway had a lot of pretty fun stuff to see. i also appreciated the multiple bars available, and the fact that you're allowed to take drinks "to go" into the terminals(!).

as i somewhat expected, i wasn't nearly so worried about my flight home -- after all, i'd just flown less than 24 hours previously and not died in a fiery crash, so it'd be fine, right? even though there was a "travel advisory" in toronto due to shitty weather, i'd been neurotically checking the weather network all day, and it seemed like the weather would be at least a bit improved by 10 p.m., which is when my flight was scheduled to land. so even though takeoff was a little bumpy due to high winds in chicago (who'd have expected that, eh?), the plane ride was fairly smooth - and again, came in early - as well as being my first time flying in fog. the thought of our tiny-ass plane landing on a tiny-ass toronto island at nighttime in rain and thick fog was not the most heartening thought, but i was three airport beers and a glass of onboard wine in at this point, and i just wanted to be home.

not so fast -- we landed safe and sound, but i was rerouted during customs because i'd brought back two bottles of liquor when you're only allowed one. (turns out the only reason i'd been getting away with this in the past is because i'd been in america for more than 48 hours. god damn it.) and that's how i ended up paying just as much in duty fees as i paid for the booze itself. well, fuck.

but then i got home and unpacked and de-stressed and snuggled up to my boyfriend, and all was well.  at least until next time i book a flight.  ugh.  (as i said to my mother, "i just have to accept the fact that i'm never going to go to australia.  i'll probably never go to japan.  i'm just not going to travel anywhere in my life.")



final bonus for making it this far!:

like the recipe for mint chocolate squares that i posted a couple weeks ago, here's another family recipe -- and this one couldn't be easier to throw together. literally, i've loved this cheese ball for so many years but i had no idea how hilariously white-trash it actually is.  anyway, i made this thing for a friend's party last month, and it went over quite well.  here's the deets:

---------------------------



MOM'S NUT CHEESE BALL

2 packages cream cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (or whatever other kind you have on hold - i used a cup of soft bavarian blue but it came out a little too strong)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
Chopped walnuts (or almonds, or any kind of chopped nuts - walnuts are the best though

In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, grated cheese, Worcestershire sauce and onion with a hand beater. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour until firmed up. Roll in chopped walnuts and chill. Serve with crackers and crudite.

---------------------------

...and with that, i'm off to get ready for a late-night house party tonight. yes, a house party. i'm basically a university freshman all over again.

[ music | blackhawks vs. senators on tv ]