Thursday, July 25, 2013

life's a beach

so i spent last weekend at a cottage on lake erie with five of my best friends.



two things i didn't have much of growing up: cottage time (my family never owned one; i always thought owning two houses was a bit indulgent and silly, anyway), and girlfriends. i don't mean to be all emo and :( about that second point, but yeah, i never really had a lot of female friends. even in my late teens and early twenties, i didn't much trust other girls, and so i mostly stayed away from them. too many bad experiences as a kid and young adult led me to believe that the politics of being friends with my fellow ladies was too complex and too frustrating, and ultimately not worth my time. (to this point, i literally have no close friends who've known me for more than about eight years. there are a few acquaintances from high school, yes, and some casual friends, but i haven't maintained any close connections with anyone from my teen years.)

it's funny how life works, though -- without even really knowing it, i slowly began to gather a close circle of girlfriends in my early/mid twenties. this social circle sort of came together like a katamari of fun times, brought together by mutual connections and shared loves of things like music, drinking, and travel. and though some of us are closer than others, it's remained the same circle of about 10 girls, and in this case, six of us - plus one dog - decided to pool our money and resources to rent a cottage in turkey point for a weekend.





of course, it wouldn't be a cottage weekend without stocking up on provisions:



this was actually the first of two separate liquor store runs, and this cart only encompassed the purchases of three of the six girls. and it doesn't count any of the liquor we all brought from home. and yes, it's pretty embarrassing that it's all light beer, cider, coolers, red wine and vodka. girly boozers.



glorious weekend home! it really was a neat little place, set just enough off the main roads that it was quiet, and far enough away from the crowds that we basically had our own private beach out back. so perfect.



jenna gives the hammock a test drive.



beers, snacks and cigarettes. that poor table only got messier from here.





unfortunately for us, a nasty storm was headed our way. we decided the best course of action would be to hunker down with many bottles of wine and a few inaugural rounds of cards against humanity (officially the best drunken party game):





oh, and birthday cake for soon-to-be birthday girl amanda l. (i baked up this banana walnut cake with caramel frosting) provided at least a bit of light while the electricity was flickering:





then the power fully cut out and, combined with the apocalyptic thunder, lightning and downpour outside, shit got really horror-movie atmosphere in our little cabin. literally, although there was no air conditioning because of the power outage, i refused to sleep with the main door open because i was convinced an axe-wielding psycho murderer would see me (sleeping in the classic female-horror-movie-victim outfit of a t-shirt and panties) through the screen door and come slaughter me.

oh yeah, and i was also coping with what was probably the worst indigestion of my life. i would like to blame this on something in the lake water, but honestly, eating a whole mess of snacks and drinking an entire bottle of red wine probably didn't do any miracles. force-puking and pepto-bismol tablets probably saved me enough to get at least a couple hours of sleep.

after a rather sweaty night (although we had no a/c, there was an external generator that thankfully provided us with water), we still didn't have any power in the morning, but amanda h. and jenna made the best of it by cooking our entire breakfast - bacon, toast, hash browns, and scrambled eggs - on the barbeque.



even the water for the french-press coffee was boiled in a pot on the barbie.



then, luck turned in our favour -- after walking to the boardwalk to get absolutely fucking hosed on supplies (i'm not even joking when i say it was $17.50 for a roll of tin foil, two rolls of bargain-brand paper towel, and three cans of soda), the weather straightened up enough for us to all hit the beach in the sunshine.









when you're at the beach as a kid, you spend your time splashing around and building sand castles. when you're at the beach as an adult, you spend all afternoon lazily wading in the water, slowly getting drunk and trying not to get your beer wet.



oh yeah, and lightning as many citronella candles as possible in order to ward off the hordes of bloodsucking bugs. mosquito bites er'rywhere.

fortunately, the power came back on a couple hours afterwards, so not only could we breathe a bit easier with the a/c back on in the cottage, but we were able to play a second round of cards against humanity later that night!



this is my card, forever. ("Poor life choices.")

by then it was far past dark, so a few of us enterprising souls doused ourselves in bug spray and headed down to the moonlit beach -- fully equipped with head lanterns:



sunday, our final day of cottage-going, was punctuated by a walk to the boardwalk and finding out that penny is actually a secret dj...



...checking out some weird trees with faces...



...and grilling delicious things for our last meal in turkey point.



by the time we all piled into our cars to head back to the big city late sunday afternoon, even pajamas was feeling a little tuckered out:



then i came home to a lovely little etsy package and a pack of parliament lights from a coworker who'd just been in america. most excellent.

oh and i brought a sunburned back & shoulders home as well:



yeeeeesh.

sure, there were a few things we didn't get to do - tour the nearby winery; hit up the boardwalk bars after dark; make a bonfire on the beach and roast marshmallows - but the cottage was so affordable and in such a great location that i think we've all earmarked it for accommodation every summer from now on. new summer tradition? i really had forgotten how much i missed the water. (i spent a lot of time in lakes and oceans as a kid; we had family friends in nova scotia, plus my parents were always taking my sister and i to whatever parks and beaches were nearby for a swim)

also, it was just nice to get outside of myself, if that makes any sense. i'm thinking this is a topic to muse on for a whole blog post of its own, but in the meantime, i can just say that i tend to lock myself into familiar places and routines, and sometimes i need to be reminded that getting shifted out of those boxes is good for fresher perspectives. especially when there's a whole group of long-needed ladyfriends around.

speaking of ladyfriends, i'm currently housesitting/catsitting for one of them til sunday, so now it's time to spend the rest of my evening giving belly rubs to a sweet sucky-baby kitty. mwah!

[ music | none ]

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

moneymaker

so when i haven't been preoccupied with deep thoughts lately (like watching the sun set from my balcony and wondering what would happen if the sun just went out, or lying in bed at 3 a.m. and contemplating how i'm basically just a meat sack), i've been slightly obsessing over my financial situation and my continually slipping control.


an example of an ill-advised purchase. but hey, i'm not a girl who can pass up garter belts when they're on sale for $3 each.

this isn't to say that i'm not financially responsible; i'm actually very good at managing my money. i have an a1 credit rating, and my rent and bills have always been paid on time and in full. when it comes to living within my means, though...yeah, i haven't been very good with my budgeting as of late. i don't live extravagantly, but i do live reasonably well, which is something i unfortunately picked up over the last few years of 1) making more money than i ever had before and 2) splitting the rent and bills with my then-partner. those two things in combination led me to be a little more, er, free with my money than i ever had been. and while i may be very good at "money math" and budgeting (which i get from my mother), i was pretty shitty at saving money as a kid, and that impulse still returns to haunt me.

basically, i was never reckless with my spending in the last 4-5 years, but i did get used to having nice things and being able to buy nice things whenever i wanted. as dumb examples, i used to be okay with cheap shampoo and $8 bottles of wine; once i started making good coin, i upgraded to $20 shampoo and $15-20 wine. and it's actually been embarrassingly hard for me to scale back once i got used to the good stuff. i feel entitled to it now, i guess. blarf.

and it's all kind of been crashing down on me and my conscience lately. i've found myself dipping into my savings more than i'd initially expected (and my savings account still hasn't fully recovered after i had to use up more than half of it moving into/furnishing a new apartment last summer) and charging way too much stuff to my credit card. sure, my student debt is thisclose to being paid off, but it feels like a hollow victory when your personal debt is eclipsing it (and with no end in sight to that one). so when you're struggling to pay off your multiple debts and you keep using your savings and your expenses keep piling up out of nowhere, you start to assess where your money's leaking from. and for me, it's the extraneous little purchases that deviate from my budget.

why do any of us make random spontaneous purchases, though? because they're unplanned, and they make us happy. true, i get a little bit of happiness every time i cheat on my budget, because undermining my good intentions is what i do and it fucking sucks, guy. now it's time to make do with what i have, and what i've budgeted out for. because i am old and boring.

things i'm going to try and cut out in order to save $$$:

- buying coffee on the way to work every morning (will save me around $10-12 per week)
- picking up fruit after lunch (buying cut fruit from salad bars is a crazy waste of money but have you ever tried to slice a mango? worst experience)
- random alcohol purchases (because holy shit i have more than enough booze in my possession already)
- unnecessary grocery purchases (probably my achilles heel, thanks a lot whole foods)
- jam-making (until peach season in august, but for now i'm done with berry jams -- it's super fun to make and a nice little pastime, but the cost of organic fruit adds up)
- baking (see above comments about fun-but-expensive pastimes, plus it's too damn hot to bake in my apartment anyway)
- getting my hair cut (might as well grow it out a bit for the summer anyway, because it's easier to put up or pull back when the weather gets super gross and muggy -- also, i can save money by not having to buy all the expensive hairstyling goop i need to maintain my short hair)
- tattoos (until october, because next ink will be birthday ink)
- perrier (i am an addict and that bubbly water ain't cheap)

little splurges that i want to maintain:

- days/nights out with friends (because spending time with the people i like is absolutely a priority to me, and bonding experiences are good times to remember)
- health & beauty products i've become accustomed to (within reason; i keep a keen eye out for sales)
- dry cleaning (i absolutely hate paying so much to have my stupid clothes cleaned, but really, i've conceded that hand-washing just doesn't cut it for most of my dresses and jackets)
- a pack of cigarettes every two weeks (because i am a gross human being)

i've also been taking a hard look at the money i spend on gym memberships. i have two (both a standard gym and a crossfit gym -- i split my exercise between them throughout the week); i'm aware that this is something of an indulgence, as healthy a luxury as it may be. in the hierarchy of what i spend the most money on per month, it basically goes rent - rogers bill for combined cable/internet/phone - gym memberships. so yeah, it's a splurge, and sometimes it feels a little too indulgent to have two at the same time. but i'm sorting that out.

in the meantime, hook a girl up if you have any freelance writing jobs that i can do on the side. i will write things! for you! (my father thinks i should supplement my income by writing a book. fat chance.)

[ music | clinic, "the equaliser" ]

Thursday, July 4, 2013

the knot your heart gets in

it is july now! hello, summer.



so i've been spending my sunny weekend afternoons with vodka cocktails and cigarettes and reading this on my balcony in my underwear, for only the second time (i got it for christmas, then lent it to a friend and just got it back the other week):



...and man, if you want to feel humble and underachieved, just read about the life of leonard cohen. it's no surprise that i love the man and am a huge fan of his work - uh, if getting two lines of his poems tattooed on me is any testament to that fact - but reading about his driving ambition, his achievements and his life in general is enough to get me feeling disappointed in myself, but also fired up creatively.

feeling unfulfilled is nothing new to me, really; i've routinely kept company with people much older than me since i was a teenager, and so i'm used to feeling like the one who hasn't quite lived enough -- in comparison to these people who have a good 10+ years of life on me, that is. still, it never fails to dishearten me when i consider all the things that people i know have done with their lives so far. i mean, i know the onus is on me to make something of my life; if i want to start living, i need to get out there and do it, and so on, and so forth. but sometimes i just feel...limited, i guess, in my options. sometimes i get worried that i've boxed myself too far in with my life choices thus far.

so, i made the decision a couple weeks ago to attempt to get back into music journalism. but seriously this time, and for better reasons than before.

it's no surprise that i've been pretty off the grid when it comes to music and pop culture writing. sure, i dipped my toes back in it when i covered nxne last year for the national post (though it all ended up serving as a reminder that whenever i step back into the Alternate Universe, however briefly, i have to be prepared for what follows) -- but really, i just fell out of it once i started working in public relations back in 2010. i just don't have the time for it anymore, i told myself.

but is that true? i mean, really -- is it?

to an extent, yeah, it was. freelance journalism is good because you can make it fit around your schedule to a point - it was fine when i was in school, because i could just skip classes, and i could make it work semi-easily when i was working part-time joe jobs - but you still need to have reasonably flexible availability so you can do interviews at times that work for the bands/musicians. not so easy when you're occupied from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. monday through friday. plus i could never guarantee i wouldn't be busy with client services in odd hours either, so it was just all over the place.

going deeper:

i try to reach back to figure out what my motivation was all along to being so involved with the music scene, and of course it was to meet boys in bands. of course it was. i was a young girl, finally getting to hang out with and talk to these beyond-cool guys, and it was kinda sorta my job! i actually had a reason to be there beyond just hanging out awkwardly at the bar. i had a purpose, and it was a damn cool purpose that i was proud of. and yeah, if it garnered me additional, er, attention because i was a cute young thing in little skirts and fishnets, then more the better. in the meantime, i relished having my words in print, because it gave me something to offer them beyond, well, myself.

but then when i reached the crossroads of having a "real" job as i mentioned above, i also happened to finally be in a relationship, and it was with a boy in a band. so to some extent, i think i kind of stopped because i'd attained the position i wanted: i was a musician's girlfriend, so what more did i need? i didn't need their attention anymore, or their company. i had one of my own at last.

now, six years later, i don't.



(and there was a boy so many years ago who looked at me with bright eyes and said of course, you're my girl and i laughed at him and shot back fuck you, i'm nobody's girl -- but that was a scrappy 22-year-old's boldfaced lie, because i unequivocally was their girl, and i have always been their girl.)

i'd be remiss if i didn't note that as of late, i've been struggling with that shitty existential question, hitting me as i watch concerts in crowded clubs and smoke cigarettes in the dark on my balcony and lie awake at 3 a.m. telling myself everything's okay you're doing okay and walk these city's streets aimlessly for hours alone:

what am i, if i'm not a musician's girl?

because right now, i am my own girl alone, and i'm a bit ashamed to admit that it's been a hard adjustment over the last twelve months.

and it's funny to realize that that's not the impetus behind me wanting to get back into music journalism. it's not that i want to get back into it to go find my next boyfriend, because no, no, fuck that. like i said, i want to do it for better reasons, for myself. because i'm my own girl now, and i have to reestablish my value, my identity. i'm not exactly starting from scratch, but even as a reclaiming of who i used to be, it probably won't be easy. but at the very least, i'm aware of the amount of freedom i have in my life right now. i don't live with anybody, i don't have to answer to anybody, and i can do what i want without having to justify it to anybody. so, this is something i actually have the option to do, and i want to see if i still have the ability to make a name for myself (and not entirely in infamy).

for me, being a music journalist was never about the money or the perks. it was the status, and whatever small power i could attain for myself through my skills. it was about me being somebody myself. not just a groupie. not just a musician's girl.

so i guess now i go get my power back.

[ music | she wants revenge, "take the world" ]