Sunday, November 25, 2012

painted soul

and now, for tattoo number eight:

as i mentioned before, this was my original idea for a leonard cohen tattoo before the some girls... line from "teachers" usurped it -- but, as you can see, only temporarily. i ended up following evie, the artist who did my other forearm, to her new tattoo studio of employment (hartless tattoo at dundas & ronces), because for one i trusted her ability, and for two i wanted consistency. also, evie is awesome, and previously agreed with my declaration to totally bang leonard cohen if the opportunity ever presented itself.  these are the people i can get behind.

in case you're completely unfamiliar with the line, it's from the third stanza in "hallelujah", which many of you may know from myriad cover versions -- most famously the jeff buckley version (stanza starts at 2:56):

really is the best line in the entire song/poem. and then me, ruining it for my mother:

i am the worst.

double the cohen, double the inkage. (evie graciously touched up my other arm's tattoo while she was at it.) by now, the only other cohen stanza i'd want to get inked would be my two favourite lines from "first we take manhattan":

you loved me as a loser, but now you're worried that i just might win
you know the way to stop me, but you don't have the discipline

...but i'm not sure where on my body i'd have the real estate for all that.  maybe my upper back?  oh man, i shouldn't even start thinking about it.

anyway, as i mentioned on twitter, it's kind of a bummer that i'm actually out of town for the two dates that monsieur cohen's playing at the air canada centre in december. i mean, i've seen him live before, and i'm pretty sure there would be no way i would ever ever meet him to show off my tattoos (though i'm far from alone), but you know. there can never been too much leonard cohen in my life.

otherwise, i've been keeping it pretty low-key since getting back from chicago, if only to 1) recover and 2) try to budget my money better after blowing a good chunk of it in america. (also, attempting to re-save more money for my return to america in a week.) i mean, clearly the tattoo wasn't free, but i definitely had money put aside for it. and little else, seemingly. sometimes, budgeting is not my strong suit.

yet today was my crossfit gym's "5000 wall balls for charity" fundraiser!

first and foremost, wall balls are the fucking bane of my existence (you hold a 10-20 pound medicine ball, squat, then throw the ball as high against the wall as you can, catch the ball while landing in a squat, repeat ad nauseum), so i was a tiny bit gleeful at having an automatic excuse (fresh arm tattoo, oops sorry) to get out of it. still, i wanted to show my support for the team, so i brought over a donation of money, a loaf of sugar-free banana bread and a crockpot of paleo pumpkin chili.  if i can cook/bake as a manner of support, i am all over that shit.

anyway, apparently they hit the goal of 5000 in just under two hours (i'd already wandered off to go find brunch), and then continued to tack on an extra 2000.  just because.  i work out with some crazy fit people.  (i am not really among them yet, but i've at least noticed slightly more defined muscles on my arms and back, which is something rare and amazing.)

and that's about it, for now -- i'm mostly busy nursing my tattoos and prepping my liver for the sheer number of holiday parties to come.  it all starts this week with both my office's holiday party and the movember-fundraiser edition of karaoke on thursday, then the crossfit holiday party and another friend's party on saturday.  pulling double-duty two days this week?  i may be passed out at this time next week, but hey, 'tis the season.

[ music | grey cup on in the background, canadian football whatevs ]

Saturday, November 17, 2012

the life you make

this is my current bar shelf and wine rack (the latter of which i found for free on the curb the other day), not counting the three bottles of vodka and one bottle of jagermeister in my freezer as well as the homemade limoncello in my fridge. well, my parents always said they wanted me to start a collection of something. cower before my eventual cirrhosis! cowerrrrrr.

i took bar inventory the other day and i realized it's...kind of insane. i was telling my mother about my tears of joy at binny's in chicago (as well as my slavish love of american liquor stores i general), and she said flatly, "you sound like an alcoholic." i meekly corrected her with "i'm more of a collector." and it's true -- i may have all of that liquor listed above, but i really only consistently drink the vodkas. everything else is just on hand as mixers in the event that i have guests, or if i want to try out a new cocktail (or cooking, or baking) recipe. i like to be prepared, and i also like to have a well-rounded liquor cabinet. it's been an aspiration of mine since my early twenties, hilariously enough.

as for resources, i have bar none bookmarked, and i've got at least half a dozen mixology books and e-books (along with the beautiful constitutions of classic cocktails poster from pop chart lab), so i'm at no lack of recipes. yet i'm not really the kind to sit around her apartment alone and make fancy drinks for herself, so yeah, i prefer to have this stuff around for when i've got guests. it's like an emergency kit, but booze.

this is next on the must-buy-when-i'm-in-america list, btw:

bottled horchata with rum. as adam said, "it's like cinnamon toast crunch in a glass." absolutely fantastic. i'm a little obsessed with rumchata right now:

as i said in the tweet above, my next trip to america isn't so far off: i'm going to washington d.c. the first week of december for work. yes, it'll involve a plane ride there and back; however, i've done it on porter before and i'm generally fine. plus, this time i have plenty of advance notice, and i also have colleagues i want to see. and, y'know, just gives me another occasion to stock up on extra trader joe's goods. multiple trips in less than a month? yes please and thank you.

although my bag of american junk food that i can't touch until december keeps, like, whispering at me from my cupboard. argh.

so, yeah -- no-sugar november totals kind of got blown to hell after the chicago weekend, though i'm slightly proud of the fact that it was mostly from booze and bbq rather than, say, cupcakes. (also, i walked 4-6 hours every day i was there, so i hope that mitigated it a bit.) otherwise, it's been pretty tough going; i mostly miss my dear flavoured vodka and other various alcohols, and i still get a bit grouchy whenever there's treats in the office (which is basically every day), but i'm soldiering on. month's half-done anyway, and then it's on to diabetes december!

which is still not totally great when it's girl-guide cookie season. sigh.

well, damn it.

one more bit of news: i just scheduled my next tattoo appointment. (yes, even though i'm barely finished the aftercare on my last tattoo.) a week from today, i'm going to be getting the words love is not a victory march inked down my left forearm -- thus marking a leonard cohen poetry line on each arm. i'd actually wanted that favourite line from "hallelujah" done first - i'd had the idea for it months ago - but then i happened upon the line from "teachers" that i wanted just a bit more. but, y'know -- two arms, two tattoo ideas. how convenient!

why the sudden onslaught of inkage? i dunno, really. it's mostly a combination of having extra money and extra ambition at this point in my life. don't worry, concerned parental-types -- this'll be it for a while, if not altogether. this one will make eight tattoos on me, and it'll finish off my ocd sense of symmetry (unless i decide to get one on the back of my neck). nevertheless, i'm all kinds of excited about completing my arms. it just feels weird to have my right forearm tattooed but not my left.

and finally, before i go out to roam downtown toronto and because i've been in a survey mood lately (hurr hurr let's talk about me some more!), here's a quickie one stolen from alana:

Name: caitlin frances anne h________ (my last name is very googleable, and i also don't like it much)
Height: 5'7"
Eye Color: brown
Birthday: october 9th, 1983
Favourite color: crimson red
Best school subject(s): english, music history, philosophy
Mac or PC: pc, never got on the mac boat
Current shirt color: black, as always
Gamer?: yes, back in the day
Day or night: late nights and early mornings
Celebrity crush: tom hiddleston / emma stone
Coffee: cream but no sugar or i get stabby
Favourite Food: bbq'd meats


[ music | the cinematics, "a strange education" ]

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

windy city homeland

so, i'm back and alive and oh man, for the love of chicago. either the ninth or tenth visit now, i've lost count.

from this entry, as i was getting ready to go there in july:
this city has a large piece of my heart. i've wandered through chicago at 20, 23, 27, and now 28 years of age, through so many phases of my life and personal growth. sometimes things are completely different with me when i'm there. sometimes they aren't. and sometimes i feel like i'm a different person entirely than i was last time i was there. sometimes i can see the ghosts.

this will, most likely, be one of those times.
but then i bailed, for reasons that i still don't regret. (also, that was the first occasion in a long time where i truly paid attention to my intuition, and again -- holy shit, absolutely no regrets there.)

so what was interesting about this replacement trip last weekend was that it felt right this time. it really did feel like i ought to be there, with none of the trepidation or weirdness i'd felt back in july. once i got over my usual anxiety over getting on a plane (i was flying there but taking the bus back) and touched down in chicago, i basically couldn't stop smiling. it felt like home -- doubly so once i got my first hug from adam, my brother from another mother. he's been one of my closest and best dudefriends for almost eight years now, and i don't have the words for how good it was to see him.

now, for the photo essay portion:

binny's beverage depot!  literally my second stop after i got off the train that took me downtown from the airport. (first stop was trader joe's, obvs.)  this chain of liquor stores is like my playground, and a huge reason why i keep coming back to chicago as my booze-shopping destination of choice.  scores this time around: cupcake devil's food vodka (one of my favourite chocolate vodkas), van gogh pb&j vodka (which is incredibly strange-tasting, as expected), and mint chocolate baileys (which has been long since discontinued in canada but is still crazy delicious).

one of my favourite of all beers unavailable in canada -- left hand milk stout.  i grabbed a sixer of this at binny's as well to split with adam, since i wanted to share the wealth (and not totally blow my entire no-sugar november pledge on booze, though ha ha i kind of did that anyway).  there is a dearth of milk stouts in canada, which is a shame.

after dropping off my stuff at adam's, i headed downtown to do some of my usual roaming (aka hit up the north shore binny's + trader joe's, and also buy a pack of my precious parliament lights).  i will never stop being in love with chicago's architecture.  chicago reminds me so much of toronto, except chicago actually preserves its heritage buildings rather than razing them and putting condos on top like stupid toronto does.

black actress opening for electric six on thursday night!  we didn't even stay for electric six, but these guys were a good time.  lots of fun, lots of glammy punk-rock pretty boys.  exactly what i needed on my vacation (or, like, all the time in my life).


in which i questioned whether or not i was "too goth" for double door.  (i mostly just love the lighting contrast in this shot.  peter murphy would be proud, i hope.)

and then on friday, after a morning of exploring downtown chicago on foot (though i swear by now i have the entirety of it mapped out in my head), it was time to go under the needle once again:

the new ink -- right shoulder blade, done to 1) balance out the left shoulder blade's previous tattoo, and 2) juxtapose with the kill hannah logo on my upper arm (more on that below).  as i mentioned in previous blog posts, i'd decided it'd only be appropriate to get the chicago city flag inked while in chicago, and so i put out a call on twitter to see if i could hook up with any chicago-based tattoo shops. code of conduct in south loop was the first one to reply, and so i set up an appointment to get 'er done on friday afternoon.  and there we have it, under my skin forever.  so, so good.

also, i'll forever be annoyed with that stupid mole right in the middle of the tattoo.  dear body marks: you are dumb.

i took this awkward mirror shot later (disembodied haaaaand) to show the intentional juxtaposition of the two tattoos - chicago flag on my right shoulder blade, kill hannah logo on my upper right arm (kh are a very, very chicago band).  kill hannah shows were what drew me to the city in the first place, so many years ago.

so, really: why this?  lots of canadians get the canada flag tattooed, but me, i get the flag of a city where i'm not from and have never lived.  all i can really say to try and explain is that chicago feels like home to me; it's the home of my soul, or something.  i could absolutely feel it when i was walking around on thursday -- that some part of me belongs there.  i may never end up living in chicago (immigrant visas and all), but it's always going to be home to me somehow.  and so i'm happy to carry a symbol of it under my skin forever.

friday evening spent on the balcony in west loop, drinking beer and listening to international goth radio stations with adam. (he convinced me to line up my beer - the interestingly-named chocolate bunny cocoa stout - with the willis tower so it looked gigantic)  best view of the city, for sure.

behold, the newest ad for chicago tourism! (every time i post this photo, i feel the need to state that i am not naked, just bare-shouldered so my fresh tattoo could get some air)

after an awesome thai dinner at opart and vetoing the idea of going out again on friday (we are old and tired, plus i wanted to stay in and take care of my itchy burning tattoo), we instead crashed on the couch, drank beer and watched the crow (which i hadn't seen all of) til after midnight.  a very good way to spend a night in.

onward to saturday, my last full day in the city.  i had two destinations in mind: big star for their legendary tacos, and map room for beer.  fortunately, the two were located within walking distance of each other, so it was a quick subway trip up to damen to get to them both.  (especially important since i wanted to get to big star early -- apparently the lineups are constant)

tacooooooos (pollo and pescado, respectively).  for the torontonians reading -- grand electric was (i think) opened by a big star veteran, so it makes sense that the cuisine's pretty much the same.  and pretty much awesome.  i think the above disappeared within five minutes.

then i got caught in an apocalyptic thunderstorm where i cowered in a doorway as it sounded like transformers were fighting above me.  really not a whole lot of fun.  i ended up half-running to map room and getting soaked, all in the pursuit of a pint of founder's breakfast stout, free pretzels, and a quiet sanctuary to do some writing.  well, yeah, worth it.

heading back downtown on the blue line, photo snapped from damen station.  the dark haze over the city is the thunderstorm moving through.  creepy.

shot of downtown from near the end of navy pier.  i headed down there after the insane storm subsided, and was compelled to walk out to the very end of the pier, sit on one of the benches and have a cigarette.  it was a nice little moment of introspection; after all, i've been to chicago so many times through so many stages of my life, and damn if i couldn't see the ghosts of my past as i walked those streets.

and i thought about what it'd be like to disappear there, in a city full of strangers.

these escapism thoughts are really nothing new to me; they inevitably pop up every time i travel. i think they're residual reminders that i did succeed in that once - tossing everything aside and starting a new life in a city full of people who - but when i take off the rose-tinted glasses, i remember how it didn't make me happy. and i wouldn't be able to fool myself into it again. running away from one's problems doesn't solve a thing, and i know it.

so i finished my cigarette and went home.

i was slightly surprised at how good it felt to come home to toronto -- or rather, to have a nice little home to come back to. this was the first trip i'd taken as a solo girl with a bachelorette pad in, oh man, probably six years, and i hadn't realized how welcoming it feels to have a place of your own waiting for you when you get back. (doubly so when you've done laundry and cleaned your place before you left.) i guess this is what it's like to have distance make you appreciate what you've got. i'd forgotten what that felt like -- funny, since that was my life for so many years. absence making the heart grow fonder. oh, well.

but now i'm back (in black?) and enjoying the fruits of my labour (aka all the booze and groceries i managed to smuggle back, although i can't touch my bag of sugary junk and goodies until december). a successful trip for heart, mind and soul.

november's almost half-over! yesssss. bring on december already.

[ music | the sisters of mercy, "temple of love" ]

Thursday, November 1, 2012

sugar we're going down

and now, for a challenge:

one thing that's always been true about me is that i don't like backing down from a challenge. whether it's an external force challenging me or just me holding myself to something, i'm likely to grit my teeth, dig in my heels and forge ahead. my motivation: i don't like losing, and i don't like giving up (which to me just feels like losing).

to that end, i was quick to sign up for my crossfit gym's "no sugar november" challenge. essentially, the goal is to consume as little sugar as possible throughout the entire month, in pursuit of better health, detoxing after the diabetes bomb that was halloween, leaning out before the holidays, and so on. for every gram of sugar you ingest, you get penalized with one point per gram. when i put my name down, the list was gaining on something like 40 people (including jenna), so i definitely won't be without a communal support system.

as you can see at the source link, it's a pretty sizable list of no-nos for the next thirty days. i've been following the primal blueprint for the last two years now (though i do cheat here and there because i am not a robot), so i'm hoping it won't be a difficult adjustment for me, but not gonna lie -- i have a sweet tooth. like, a killer one. i was able to cut out gluten easily enough, but sugar? oh, man. sure, i try to keep it to quality sweets, like good dark chocolate and baked goods that i make myself, but even those are obviously disallowed in november. sigh. (it also takes away from one of my main joys in life - baking - as i am incapable of baking things and not tasting them myself, as that's how i test my handiwork. i comfort myself in the knowledge that december is basically going to be all diabetes as i make candy and such for christmas presents.)

i figure that the main tripping point for me is going to be chicago next week. i've already sadly determined that i'm going to have to forgo my usual tradition of aztec hot chocolate + fresh churro at xoco (so good though, oh my god), and i'll have to save any sugar-laden trader joe's goodies until december. i am, however, willing to take the penalty for the bbq ribs and candied bacon at honky tonk. those are most absolutely worth it.

also, that means no junk food and strictly vodka sodas for my election-night get-together on tuesday. booooo. i comfort myself with the knowledge that vodka, coffee, peanut butter (the natural kind anyway) and cheese are all still allowed. otherwise, i might actually kill somebody, or possibly myself. bad enough that i'm cutting back on cigarettes, but take away my caffeine and vodka and i could become homicidal. you just don't know these things, man.

so! we'll see how this whole thing goes. there's no way i'm going to make it through november with anything below 100 grams, but if i can stay below, say, 250, i think i'll be pleased with myself. and hopefully be able to at least somewhat break my sugar addiction, for something more than temporarily.

(though none of this will stop me from being crazy excited to get my hands on a bottle of this next week, even if i can't drink any of it until december. ohhhhh man)

but for now: a very full weekend of many good times on the horizon. happy girl right here right now -- even without any raised blood sugar. hurrah!

[ music | dj tiesto ft. emily haines, "knock you out" ]