Sunday, January 31, 2016

31 Days: New Year's Goals

31 Days of Writing Prompts: Looking back at the first month of 2016, how are you doing with the goals you set for yourself?

i don't know if i actually made any concrete goals beyond half-jokingly scribbling a few things in a list in this blog post, but i suppose we could go over those:

floss more: i'm holding steady with this! when you don't have health insurance, that means you don't have dental coverage, which means you ought to take really, really good care of your teeth. so, i always make sure i brush well 2-3 times a day, but i definitely floss pretty much every night (except the couple nights a week i spend at my boyfriend's, because if he has floss, i can't find it and i'm too lazy to ask). i got big on flossing a few years back when i read about how mouth hygiene can play a huge part in your overall health, and let's be honest, it actually doesn't take a lot of time. everyone should do this. think about the bleeding-gums shame you'll save when you visit the dentist!

get passport renewed: (almost) done and dusted. i wasn't quite ready to go through with the gut-punch to my self-esteem that is the terrible, terrible passport photos, but whatever, i sucked it up and did it anyway. (the awful lighting really highlighted my greasy face and developing age lines, but at least i avoided a double-chin) after that, it's been as simple as printing off the forms, collecting my references, and now waiting on my next paycheque so i'll have the $150 in fees. then i'll have to brave the lineups at service canada to go drop it off, but it's right next to my gym, so it'll be an easy trip. it's a process, yeah, but having a valid passport will definitely come in handy at some point. i don't intend on staying in canada for the rest of my life.

i still do miss my first passport photo, though:

i will stab you.

get out of the house more (esp. to see friends): i go through this in fits and spurts, and i'm pretty sure it has something to do with my hormonal cycle, but i think i managed okay this month. since i work from home, it's entirely easy for me to be 100% antisocial and mostly just stay in the nice refuge of my own apartment (only emerging to go to sean's a few times a week), but my moods have been really off lately, and i finally realized it's because i haven't seen my friends in a while. like, well before christmas. i could put up plenty of excuses - too busy, holiday craziness, chicago - but truthfully, i knew i could make the time and that i should. friends are great! they help ground you, and they give you a sounding board, and they listen, and they know you and what you're like. anyway, i'm still failing a little bit on this - i'm busy, the weather sucks, moodiness, etc. etc. - but i did make an appearance at a friend's birthday party last week, so that was something.

adopt a cat: yeah, this ain't gonna happen in a month. i need a little more time to sort out expenses and such. but honest to christ, i saw this big gorgeous dark tabby flopping on the porch for its owner a couple weeks ago, and my heart fluttered. i react to cats the way some women react to babies. ergo, i need one of my own in 2016.

also, the import boy needs one too. it's like his life is lessened without a cat in it:

we nicknamed this neighbourhood friend "cuddlecat".

wash sheets and towels more often: it often takes a few mental reminders, but i have definitely started tossing in my pillowcases and face cloths when i do laundry every week (i've always worried that the dirtiness of those surfaces have a negative effect on my skin), but yeah, sheets? not so much. i am completely gross when it comes to washing my bedsheets and i do need to start doing this more often. because gross.

less junk food: this is an easy one to quash for me: if there isn't any crap in the house, i won't eat it. however, as is typically around the holidays, sweets and goodies just tend to kind of accumulate. it's even worse if you don't work in an office and can't pawn it off on your colleagues. so definitely, by january 1st i was already vowing to get rid of what i had and stop buying more (even if it was on sale after christmas). i faltered only once - buying a terry's dark chocolate orange for $2 - but i've managed to keep healthier habits and focus more on fresh produce, good fats, and protein. in the meantime, i'm finally finishing off what's left of my holiday stash, including these gummies (my favourite kind) that sean put in my stocking:

and this final bag of my imported chicago snacks, the chex mix that i'd saved for eating while watching the royal rumble:

i'm actually weirdly proud of myself for parcelling out goodies over the last month and a half. i used to vacuum up all the sweets in sight within a day or two, so being able to have this stuff in my possession and limit myself to only a couple pieces at a time is a huge thing for me. anyway, once that's all done with, i can get back to keeping my cupboards mostly free of junk (save for the occasional bag of cheddar rice chips or dark chocolate bar). though i did have pizza for dinner last night, so i don't fucking know.

more music: i used to be really in the habit of putting on indie 103.1 while i work or blog, but i'd eased off on it in 2015. for one, my laptop speakers blew out, and music sounded pretty crummy coming from the laptop's tinny speakers. for two, streaming online radio drains a lot of my internet usage, and i'm not in a great position to be paying extra on my bills. for three, i really fell out of the practice of writing with music on, and so i just found it distracting while i was trying to work. (it seems like i mostly rely on it when i work in a loud open-office environment, but not so much when i'm at home.) there's nothing much i can do about that third point, because doing my best work is important, but i've begun putting music on again while i blog in the mornings (but not for too long -- gotta save that internet usage) and i'm slowly getting back into it. after all, this is how i discover new music and remember old favourites, and if i don't have that in my life then i feel a bit out of the loop. indie 103.1 has been a constant in my life since 2006 and i do miss it when i don't listen.

take vitamin b12: done and done. i've been holding myself to two cups of coffee a day, so when i hit the afternoon slump, i take a vitamin b12 rather than drink another caffeinated beverage. i've read that b12 helps with energy and metabolism, plus the bottle says "helps produce red blood cells," which is a bonus when you're as iron-deficient as i am. (to that point, i really ought to have put "take iron pills" on my 2016 goals list, but i'll get around to it)

stop telling baristas my name is "kate": not super applicable because i rarely buy the fancy coffee-based beverages that require you to leave your name (i like plain coffee, it's cheaper and has a stronger caffeine punch). but i still do say my name is kate to salespeople who need it for changerooms etc., just because it's somehow easier than them asking me to spell my name out, disregarding the fact that i hate when people outside of my family and a few longtime friends call me kate/cait. maybe i need to take more of a stand on this with strangers. oh, well.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

31 Days: Dream Vacation

31 Days of Writing Prompts: Where would you go on your perfect dream vacation?

crossing over california en route to los angeles, october 2007.

here's the thing: i don't much care for vacation travelling. i never really have. if i have time off, i would like to be relaxed and comfortable at home, thank you. it's different if i'm travelling for/with a rock band - which i would like to do forever and ever, amen - but when it comes to the "dream vacation destination" question, i always draw a blank. if anything, i'm boring and only really want to go back to places i've been before. what can i say, i like what i know. (i also hate the idea of a vacation where you just lie on some tropical beach and do nothing -- i like getting out and adventuring and doing things)

that said, here are some places i would go if air travel wasn't a factor and i could miraculously teleport there or something:

japan. obviously number one on the list. i've been a japanophile since i was a teen, yet i've never been there, and i mostly just want to go to tashirojima - aka the cat island - and never return. but it would also be cool to go to tokyo, and kyoto, and osaka, and the shibuya and akihabara districts, and a lot more. my father went to japan a few years ago and loved it, and if it weren't for the insanely long plane ride (also $$$$$), i probably would have gone by now.

paris. another one my father speaks strongly about (he loves france and has been like 4-5 times or something) although both my boyfriend and my best friend aren't fans (the latter recommends smaller french towns that aren't overrun with tourists). i'd like to see paris for myself someday, preferably in the springtime, or at least visit nice or one of the other french towns. also: chamonix and mont blanc would be pretty cool, no pun intended, even though i don't ski.

berlin. i really love the idea of germany (i even took german in university) and this seems like one of those cool big-culture cities that a person should visit at least once in their life. no surprise here: my dad enjoyed berlin immensely and recommends it highly. also, i may have only barely passed german class but i still love that wonderfully weird language.

amsterdam. again, more for the nightlife experience and culture rather than the, er, recreational benefits. every photo i've ever seen of amsterdam makes it look absolutely gorgeous, and it would be cool to see it for myself at some point. (one of my friends actually did a "destination birthday trip" here with a group a couple years back, but i was too broke to go, sighhhh)

norway/denmark/sweden/any of the cute scandinavian countries. it's probably taboo that i'm lumping them all together like this, but as with the above, all the photos i've ever seen of norway, denmark, or sweden all make them look so gorgeous and picturesque. cold too, yes, but i like cold places, and i think i would like to see the fjords and all those cute houses at some point in my life.

iceland. hot springs? yes. fermented shark? not so much. still, iceland seems like one of those crazy other-planet types of places, and given how cheap a holiday destination it is, i'd like to go visit someday.

the maldives. i was once pretty intent on going to the maldives, until i learned that you have to take two planes to get there and it's pretty well isolated. but honestly, i just wanted to go so i could see the famous bioluminescent beach for myself. and then i probably would have stayed there forever, just to marvel at it, so maybe it's for the best.

russia. the dark horse on the list! russia may seem forbidding to some, but like germany, i like the idea of russia. the culture sounds interesting, and i don't mind the cold, and i want to see the cool buildings in saint petersburg. i want to see what the cities are like, and i want to drink some authentic 100-proof vodka. i'd probably have to go as part of a group, but man, would it ever be cool to explore russia solo (safely, of course).

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

31 Days: Biggest Guilty Pleasure

31 Days of Writing Prompts: What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

dudes, i don't know. i'm fairly sure i'm one of those people who "doesn't believe" in guilty pleasures, because if it's something you find pleasurable, you shouldn't feel guilty about it. also, categorizing anything as a guilty pleasure means that someone somewhere determined that certain things aren't good for us, therefore we should be made to feel guilty for enjoying them. which is kind of bullshit, right?

but okay, i'll play along -- here are some things i enjoy that conventional society says i shouldn't:
  • drinking half a bottle of wine in one sitting (amazingly, i've only drunk an entire bottle in one go a couple of times, and i felt lousy every time. i routinely make a single bottle of wine last three days)
  • spending quality time doing absolutely nothing instead of keeping myself busy
  • eating lots of fats (albeit healthy ones)
  • sentimental coming-of-age movies
  • supernatural and/or dystopian teen romance movies
  • stretching right out in bed to take it all over myself (my boyfriend would also add that i steal all of his duvet)
  • making baked goods just to eat the unbaked dough
  • skipping a gym day
  • watching trash tv shows on tlc
  • skipping a gym day to watch trash tv shows on tlc
  • occasionally eating dessert at lunch and dinner
  • enjoying the musical stylings of the band live
and lastly, always this:

(i mean, not that i've ever done heroin, but the sheer relief i feel from cancelling plans is probably my biggest guilty pleasure)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

31 Days: Favorite Winter Activity

31 Days of Writing Prompts: Favorite winter activity?

with all the crazy winter weather happening to our neighbours to the south, i figured now was a good time to answer this prompt. (it also reminded me of the time i was in washington for a couple weeks and ended up being delayed further because a monster snowstorm was hitting toronto and my flight got cancelled. i was sitting at the hotel bar and relaying this story to the bartender, who grinned and replied, "yeah, you're not getting out of here any time soon." not great news for an uneasy flier.)

anyway, my favourite winter activity is probably like, walking. really boring, i know, but hear me out on this:

1. my fear of heights acts up when i'm on ski hills. i'm not even joking. i've never been able to do anything like downhill skiing or snowboarding because i can't even go on the fucking t-bar lift without freaking out, and being up on steep hills gives me panic attacks and/or vertigo. if i remember right, we tried to do blue mountain or some other ski hill when i was younger, and i ended up spending the entire time drinking hot chocolate in the chalet. as one should. (cross-country skiing was a thing i did do back when i lived in the country, though. same with tobogganing, because i was indeed a kid once and not always a cranky old woman.)

2. i walk everywhere, all the time, regardless of season. true, i do try to hit that recommended goal of 10,000 steps per day, but more than that, going for a walk is me being in my chill zone. i get to plug in my ipod - never do i ever walk without music on - and just lose myself in the scenery, the destination, and the music. i've always tried to make time every single day to go for even a short walk, because not only do i love it, but i find that it helps clear my brain out and improve my thinking patterns (this is vital especially on a work day -- often i'll finish one assignment then go for a walk before starting the next, and back when i was in the 9-to-5, i rarely skipped a walk on my lunch hour). also, fresh air is lovely.

and you know what? winter is awesome. it is! the cold weather is bracing and wonderful and clear. so long as you keep an eye on the weather forecast, dress appropriately, and don't stay for too long outside when it's at hypothermia levels, it's fine. i always look for excuses to walk somewhere rather than take transit, and that definitely holds true in the wintertime as well (even more so, really, given that transit becomes overrun with people when winter strikes).

a related memory: i grew up out in the deep country, and with seven acres of farmland and very few neighbours, i spent a lot of time playing by myself. when i think about winter days as a kid, i think about endless stretches of time in the afternoons - probably that nebulous time between 3 and 4 p.m., when the sun's going down and it's just starting to get dark - with overcast skies overhead, the smell of our wood-burning fireplace and the pine trees, and a cold that i've basically become inured to, since i've already spent so many hours outside alone making snow forts or whatever. when i remember my childhood, i think about cold air, grey skies, and the kind of silence you only get far away from civilization. i may be a city girl to the core, but i grew up so far away from all this that it's almost strange to remember, now.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

31 Days: I Wish I Knew How

31 Days of Writing Prompts: What is the one thing you wish you knew how to do?

three things, actually, and all things that i once tried when i was younger but gave up on because i was lazy and unmotivated:

1) speak another language fluently. i was so big on linguistics that twice in my life, i almost pursued it seriously: once in elementary school, when i was offered the chance to transfer to a french immersion school, and once in university, when i considered minoring in a language. although i didn't go down either route, i stuck with french all throughout high school, and i took german in university. there's also the fact that i taught myself japanese when i was a teenager, but couldn't continue on in university since it was a super popular course and always at capacity (which actually ended my ambition to minor in japanese studies, because i could never register for one of the fucking required courses). i'd always secretly had the wish that i could fluently speak a language other than english, because it seemed to always open up more opportunities in terms of jobs and travel, but it never came to pass. i can still get by decently with both french and japanese, though.

2) play a musical instrument. as you could probably surmise by how deeply my life is entrenched with music and musicians, i once tried to be one myself (before i learned it was hard, and i have little to no innate talent, and i'd much rather be the muse than the musician). i circled around a bunch of different options, including piano when i was a kid, then vocals when i was a teenager, followed by guitar. (i even spent my senior prom money on an electric guitar instead of a dress and had to borrow one of my friend's outfits.) i was only ever so-so at all of them, and i fell into a predictable pattern: i'd putter along at them during lessons but never actually put in a lot of practice time, then eventually i would get defeated by the fact that i wasn't getting much better (ie. i wasn't a prodigy), and my confidence would cave in to the point that i would start telling myself that i suck and i should quit, so i would. there's little more fragile that a teenage girl's confidence, i can tell you. so i stopped piano when i was young because my teacher was a moron, i quit vocal lessons because i competed in the kiwanis festival and, although i got two a- grades, i still had such bad stage fright that i cried for hours after i finished, and i gave up on guitar when i moved to toronto. i don't really regret it - i now know what musicians go through, and it's not the life for me - but it would be a nice skill to have.

3) fight people. little-known fact about me: i have a green belt in karate. for real, i do. (i mean, it's not great -- it's halfway to black belt, but still.) i also know some rudimentary weapon fighting with tonfa and bo staff. again, this was an interest i had as a teenager, mostly owing to how much i loved fighting games and how much i wished i, too, could fight people. it was never a self-defence thing for me, although it's often preached as such for young women; rather, to me, i just wanted to be able to hold my own in hand-to-hand combat. which is a weird ambition to have, but whatever, i was 15. anyway, i only made it as far as green belt - four belt levels in - before i realized how much i hated physical activity and quit. (also, the same scenario above repeated itself: i took part in a tournament, got stage fright, did terribly, and my confidence nosedived.) not to mention the dojo was full of mirrors, and this was during the worst of my teen years: the baby fat, the awful skin, the greasy hair. also, white gi + not knowing how to handle adolescent menstruation = bad news.

oh, and one more, but it doesn't really count because i don't really wish i knew how to do it: drive a car. i don't have my driver's license and i probably never will, because the very idea of driving scares the crap out of me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

31 Days: Five Style Trends

31 Days of Writing Prompts: 5 style trends you would like to see stick around (or come back) this year.

this may or may not be weirdly disjointed coming from me, generally fashion-blind person (my mother once said to my grandmother that "caitlin's always worn the strangest things"), but i can give it a shot. since i've successfully made it to the third decade of my life, i've actually seen a few trends come and go - as my fashion-forward seamstress mother once said, it's all cyclical - and i think i've got a decent idea of what i like. here are my five:

1. military wear. the military look comes into vogue every couple years or so, and oh my god do i ever love it. i love camo anything, i love tall boots and neckties and sharp collars, i love double-breasted coats with big gold buttons and epaulettes, i love huge sunglasses and gloves. (i'm sure at least some of this can be traced back to the fact that i grew up in a military town, and that i've always had a not-so-secret love for uniforms.) it just looks so badass and femme-fatale to me, and i would dress in military wear every day if i could. as such, i usually express it with my coats - long, dark, tons of buttons (note to self: look to purchase this if it ever goes on sale) - or lace-up boots and leather gloves.

2. grunge. the above was photographed only a week ago, which just goes to show how i'm already treating 2016 like 1994. it's only been in the last year that i've discovered a love for plaid shirts and dark plum lipstick, so i'm pretty stoked that a grunge comeback is or has been predicted by many fashion gurus. it's not so much a chance to look slovenly, but rather a way to look casual and cool and a little more undone. plus, you know, the opportunity to get away with wearing a ton of dark lip and eye makeup is always the way to my heart. now, to find the ideal pair of torn jeans.

3. blazers. i don't know if blazers have ever gone away per se, but i do love them and there's very little i adore more than a perfectly tailored woman's blazer. (back in agency life, i would even pair these with pencil skirts and heels to complete the whole power suit image. this was rare, though.) i'm still of the mind that you can toss a blazer on over a nice t-shirt and jeans and you automatically have a "going-out" outfit. also, i have a lingering fondness for blazers from my days of androgyny when i was an early-twentysomething; back then, i used to constantly wear blazers over dress shirts, sometimes with neckties and fedoras. (and also very short skirts, just so i could mess with people.) that era is where the above photo is from, by the way, in case you're wondering why i have a labret piercing, which i had to remove permanently in 2005 because it was messing up my gums. sigh.

4. slip dresses. i have long been a huge fan of underwear as outerwear (i also count babydoll dresses under this category); it's probably another thing left over from my early twenties, when i was pretty, pretty big on things that showed off my bras or garter belts or fishnet stockings or thong undies. so it's no surprise that i really love slip dresses and how cute they look, not to mention the fact that they're generally short, which is all the better when you're like me and your dumb legs take up 3/4 of your body. (that doesn't sound like a problem, but it makes for weird-fitting clothes when you have a short torso.)

5. capes. fuck you, i love capes. i love the idea of capes. i don't know if i've yet found the ideal cape; i love the one above, but i think i've worn it like once. i chatted briefly with a girl at the kill hannah shows in chicago who was rocking the shit out of a cool black cape, and she mentioned that she'd bought it for cheap at h&m, but i haven't been able to find it here in canada. pity, because it was perfect, and also i always advocate for more people to wear capes. (i may or may not be larry david in seinfeld.)

Monday, January 18, 2016

31 Days: Most Memorable Gift

31 Days of Writing Prompts: What is the most memorable gift you have received?

i feel like this one is supposed to be a setup along the lines of, like, talking about something huge and meaningful or a life lesson you learned that was a "gift"...but for me, nah. my most memorable gift was a playstation.

my parents divorced a week after my 12th birthday, and within the year they'd gone their separate ways. this involved my father moving out, and my sister and i spending (i think) every other weekend with him in kingston. remember what i was saying in the last blog post about never being allowed to have a video game system of my own? whether it was post-divorce guilt or just trying to keep me happy and occupied, two weekend a month, my father would rent me a video game system and two games from blockbuster. yep, just a rental. i'm not sure if maybe my mother told him not to outright buy one for me, or maybe he thought it was more cost-effective to rent one (i barely remember but i think it was like $20 for the weekend and games were $5 each), but either way, having my choice of game system - usually a playstation, sometimes a sega saturn because this was 1996 - made the weekends away in a different household more fun and less awkward.

fast forward to christmas in 2000. a lot has changed -- both my parents are in new relationships and have moved house, my father heading out to his new wife's home in the country and my mother and her boyfriend moving in together in kingston (with all of us kids in tow). i'm seventeen, and doing the usual christmas tradition in our split household: christmas eve dinner and gifts at my dad and stepmom's, christmas morning gifts and brunch/dinner at my mom's. it seemed like a christmas eve not out of the ordinary at my dad's, but after my sister and i were done unwrapping our presents, my dad said to me, "i think there might be one more present upstairs for you."

mystified, i headed upstairs to the rec room and found a playstation of my very own.

honestly, i'm pretty sure i shrieked. i had not been expecting to ever own one myself. not only that, but it was a complete and total surprise, and that's why it's likely my most memorable gift -- because it was a big-ticket item (growing up in a solidly middle-class income family, we could maybe ask for a high-price thing for christmas, but it wasn't a guarantee that we'd get it, and stuff like computers and video games were out of the question) and because i absolutely wasn't expecting it. to this day, it's honestly one of the only christmas gifts i can ever vividly remember.

suffice to say, i loved that goddamn thing. i played it every time i was at my dad's. i put video game stickers all over it. i even paid to get it mod chipped so i could play imported games from japan. but i didn't take it with me to university, because i didn't even own a television at that point, and i think that's where my interest in video games waned. years later, i would bring it back to toronto with me with the intent to play once in a while, and i still have it here, packed away in my closet because i'm not if it works now (it was on the floor during an unfortunate flooding incident back in 2009).

with all that history, it's kind of strange that i'm not super into playing video games any more. i actually own a playstation 3 now - it used to be sean's, but he let me take ownership of it when he upgraded to a playstation 4 last year - but i haven't even touched it. these days, i'm more into watching sean play - another gamer for life, he's very good at them - while i drink wine and occasionally help him solve puzzles. every now and then he'll toss me the controller when he goes to take a bathroom break, and i'll fling it away like it's made out of spiders.

i don't really know what it is; maybe it's because video games were such a huge part of my life for a long time (think fanpages, fanfics, the whole lot) and now they're not that it weirds me out a bit. maybe i have some odd residual shame about it. regardless, when i think back over the many years of birthday gifts and christmas presents and just-because surprises, that playstation is what stands out the most. it's funny.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

31 Days: Childhood Dream Job

31 Days of Writing Prompts: What job did you dream about having when you were a kid?

like a lot of kids, i had a number of weird, hazy ideas at what i wanted to be when i grew up: i wanted to be a mountie (because i liked the uniform), or a chef (because i liked to cook and bake), or - wait for it - a video game designer.

see, i loved video games as a kid. they were my entire world and basically my reason for existing, if you asked child me. however, i came from a family with two feminist intellectuals as parents -- the kind who were very focused on the idea of "creative play" and encouraging things like crafts, make-believe, and reading books. while i loved all of those things, my next-door neighbours - a household of eight kids - had every video game system under the sun at the time, and once i had a taste of video games, i was a goner. i absolutely know how gwyneth paltrow's kids feel when they get to go to chris martin's house and eat junk food instead of macrobiotic greens.

even though my parents were adamant about not getting me a video game system of my very own - a vow they upheld for around 10 years or so, much to my frustration - eventually, i came upon the conclusion that since i loved video games so much, why don't i make them myself? when i'm a grown-up, that is. it could be a cool job! i could be a part of all those fantasy worlds i loved spending my time in!

there was one problem with my aspiration, though: video game designer is essentially a fancy way of saying "programmer," and programmers needed to know math. i was absolutely the kind of person who looked at algebraic equations and immediately got hazy vision. (that said, i am now good at two "useful" kinds of math: money math and cooking math. i can add up dollars and convert measuring cups into tablespoons with the best of 'em.)

in my high school curriculum, it was compulsory that you take math classes up until grade 11; after that, it was optional. so if you were planning on going into a math-heavy university or college program, you still needed to get those advanced math credits from your final years of high school. if you were definitely staying away from math-related things post-secondary, you could fuck off from math classes forever. given that i was always a garbage fire when it came to math class (in grade 11, i think i was regularly pulling 40% on my tests), i was bound and determined to quit math once it became optional.

my parents, however, were wary about this decision, warning me that to not have math credits would be "closing a lot of doors" in post-secondary education. (they probably remembered my childhood dream of becoming a video game designer much better than i did at the time.) but i refuted this, arguing that i had no intentions on going into anything math-related, and i remember very clearly that this was one of the first times i ever made a decision for my own life path and stuck to it. i also remember this conversation taking place over dinner at the lone star cafe in downtown kingston, where i was likely plowing through an entire platter of potato skins before asking for the dessert menu.

so, with my foot firmly down, i dropped math class forever, and thus dedicated myself to a post-secondary career in the arts (which was kind of what i was aiming for all along, even though we had to take one compulsory math or science class at u of t, and i think i took some easy geology course). i'm not exactly sad i didn't follow up on my childhood aspirations (so muc programming math), but i'm glad that someone's doing it, and i'm glad that more and more women are holding their own in the video game industry. do it for me and my semi-useless english degree and my potato skins!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

31 Days: Best Job I Ever Had

31 Days of Writing Prompts: What was the best job you ever had?

after some thought, i'm going to give this strange honour to the cafe i worked at in vancouver, 2007-08. i'm not sure how much of this is the rose-coloured glasses of nostalgia; i'm positive that at the time, i didn't always enjoy it, and if i really think on it, i can probably remember a lot of the things that drove me nuts about that job. but in retrospect - the softest of critics - the job really worked for me, especially once i got into that comfortable groove where you feel completely at ease with what you're doing and your ability to handle anything that came your way (and we had more than a couple disasters that i had to navigate).

i started off as one of the cafe's two baristas (plus the manager, for a grand total of three employees -- it was essentially a kiosk in a large office building), working the opening shift from 7-3:30 p.m., and then the rest of the day was my own. plus, this was one of the holy grails of barista jobs: it was a monday to friday gig. no weekend shifts. it was like having a "normal" job, but it didn't require me to sit at a desk all day! it got even more regular when i was promoted to location manager, which meant i was legitimately working a 9-to-5, monday-to-friday job -- but in a cafe. and it was great. i got to be in charge, i had weekends free, i liked my two baristas, we had some wonderful regular customers, and we all got huge tips.

it may also help to consider where i was at this point in my life.

i had just turned 24, and i was on the precipice between still being a dumb kid and being a fully responsible adult. i had only just graduated university the previous year, and i was still trying to put off joining the grown-up world for a little while longer. so i ran away to vancouver, a city where i knew very few people and only met a few more than that. it rained a lot, but the sunny days were glorious, and i couldn't stop staring up at the mountains. i was alone a lot, just me and my music.

i spent my weekends walking everywhere with my headphones on, and i would spend the evenings playing rock band with leora and her roommates on the east side before we all went out to the cobalt for punk shows. i went to the gym. i went on dates. i went to concerts (notably gallows and iamx) at the plaza club after loading up on cheap martinis at cafe crepe. i was heartbroken, but i also had so much fun, and i discovered a lot about myself -- both good and bad. and this entire time, i could sense the looming spectre of adulthood waiting for me, but i wanted to keep putting it off. i wanted to stay in a job where i wouldn't be chained to a desk or my smartphone or my email inbox. i wanted something that would allow me to have a life, before i had to smarten up and get a decent apartment and start paying off my student debt.

anyway, so this job, i think, was the best i ever had, because it gave me that freedom. it allowed me to develop managerial responsibility and pride in my workplace - which i hadn't really had before, at this point - but it also let me clock out at the end of the day and leave it there til tomorrow. i was always very happy to do my thing, be a great barista, capably handle all the manager duties, and then close up shop at 5 p.m. i'm pretty sure it's because of this job that i was able to enjoy vancouver as much as i did (and didn't at the same time, but that's another story) -- plus i made friends that i'm still close with today, even now that i'm back living in toronto.

the other managers also tended to throw sweet house parties. when you're 24 and mostly alone in a foreign city, that certainly doesn't hurt, either.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

age of the understatement

we interrupt this series of themed blog posts to talk about the importance of social circles, a.k.a. why i think my seasonal affective disorder is compounded by the fact that i miss my friends.

i spent a lot of this month feeling moody and crappy about myself and my life in general. i'd already passed the crimson tide time, so it wasn't that. at first i chalked it up to post-holiday malaise - you know, the kind of downbeat depression people get after the warm sparkly holidays are over - and then i started wondering if it was the return of the sads. it's a very unique black pit of despair you fall into when you're not getting enough sunlight/vitamin d/whatever, and i was really starting to feel it. (my boyfriend and family are always constants, but unfortunately they also have to deal with my shifting moods and general grumpiness.)

then i ran into one of my longtime girlfriends at the gym and had a quick chat, and i was actually amazed at how much happier i felt afterwards. it was only a couple minutes and a promise to get together soon, but it absolutely brightened my mood and made me feel a lot better about stuff. so there will be opportunities this month to see my friends (birthday parties etc.) and i also ought to push myself to make more chances for hangouts. although we're all at the age that we can go months without seeing each other - and it's just understood that we're too busy due to work/kids/life in general - that doesn't mean you should, you know? i'm lucky enough to have a bunch of awesome friends who have been in my life for years now, and it's good to be reminded of that more often than just once in a while.

anyway! how are you enjoying the 31 days blog posts so far? do you like them? do you hate them? do you hate me? sorry not sorry, but there's still a few more to go (i'm not doing all 31, but probably about half). i'm finding that they're actually pretty great as a writing exercise; it's been said that in order to get better as a writer, you need to do two things: read a lot and write a lot. i don't do nearly enough of the former, and while i write a ton for work, i haven't done nearly as much personal writing as i used to. (i have a lot of it saved on my computer, and holy shit, back in my early twenties i was blogging multiple times a day) when it comes to stuff online, i've always felt that the more you put out, the more you receive in return.

one thing that always helps online is cat pictures:

we went to the cat cafe earlier this week, was okay? the concept is something i'm not sure i really get; i mean, yes i understand that getting to pet cute cats while you drink coffee is awesome, but i grew up around cats and i know how they can get if they're overstimulated by too many people coming at them at one time. which is exactly what cat cafes are like. it's really a bit of a crapshoot how the cats will be behaving when you visit, as well as how many people are also in there vying for their attention along with you.

anyway, maybe i was a bit annoyed because the group that was let into the cat room ahead of us was only like, six people, and it felt like they stayed in there playing with the cats forever, and by the time they exited and our group (of about 12 people) was let in, the cats were exhausted and antisocial. there were five young cats, and three were hiding and sleeping, one was grouchy as hell, and one trotted around a bit before also hiding and falling asleep. sean and i ended up feeling really weird and awkward huddling with a group of strangers around a tiny cat house, waiting and hoping for one to come out, so we pack up our egos and left. i'll stick with the undivided attention of my friendly neighbourhood cat friends, thank you.

also, if you're looking for homeless kitty love, go visit the humane society. as someone who used to volunteer in the cat room, there are so many of them in cages that just want a bit of affection. it may be a more depressing setting than a cafe, but i feel like that means the cats deserve some love all the more.

here are a couple more shots i took of the sleepy/grumpy little things at the cafe:

sean took these two, but i love them:

oh, one more thing to mention: the recent deaths of lemmy, david bowie, and alan rickman. because this shit comes in threes, and also, fuck cancer.

(amazing gif art done by british illustrator helen green)

admittedly, i'm not as much of a bowie fanatic as some people i know; i appreciate his genius and his contributions to the world of art, music and fashion, but it was never truly my thing. i liked lemmy a little bit more, especially because i really enjoyed motorhead - they were one of my "fuck the world, drown it out with noise" bands - and he just seemed like a cool fuckin' guy who did things his way. in both cases, though, i had friends who took the deaths hard, and that's what hurts -- knowing that they're feeling that pain of loss.

i haven't yet lost any of my lifelong greats (though when leonard cohen eventually goes, tune in to the livestream of me having a breakdown), but i can definitely understand what it's like when you love an artist so much and then lose them. music fans are my people, and i know very well the type of deep love and connection a person can have to music and a musician, even if they've never met them before and never will. and when that musician goes away forever, it leaves a gaping hole in your world. it's a loss you feel right down to your bones.

as for alan rickman, that one i actually did feel something for. i'm still sort of one of the harry potter generation, but he was also just so great in die hard (my boyfriend is a massive hans gruber fan), and love actually too. such talent, and such a voice. it's one of those things where it's weird to imagine that we can still watch them in their films, but know they're no longer with us. and to be taken away by cancer - in all three cases! - is just fucking cruel, really.

here's the thing, though: when we lose someone we idolized, i find it can be impetus to take stock in our own lives, and really consider if we're living the lives we want. when one of our heroes dies, it really makes us face mortality, and the fact that if they died, then we will too, someday. and then you look at the legacy they left behind, and you think about your own life and what you've accomplished and what you want to accomplish...and you realize that no matter who you are, our time here is finite, and we have to make the most of the time we have. if you're not doing that, it's worth remembering that we only get one shot at this, and if you're spending your days stuck in an unfulfilled existence, maybe you try to get out and do something else. we all owe it to ourselves to figure out just what it is that makes us happy, and work towards that. and if you want to leave a legacy or a body of work, it's never too late to start.

do it for your heroes, and also, for yourself.

[ music | kill hannah, "home" ]

31 Days: Hardest Thing to Wait For

31 Days of Writing Prompts: What is the hardest thing you had to wait for?

my first thought was to pick something from the past year; obviously it was tough to wait for my chicago weekend and kill hannah's final shows, and it also felt like it would be forever until i saw my first wwe house show. and clearly, back in the day it drove me a little nuts when i was 20 and waiting to turn 21, because otherwise i wouldn't be able to get into any band after-parties at american bars. (i got invited to one when i was in chicago but three weeks away from turning 21, and i was so mad at myself and my stupid birthday and come on, mom, you couldn't have given birth to me a month earlier?)

but on a wider scale, i would definitely say that the hardest thing i had to wait for was finishing school.

my alma mater.

i was never a bad student, but by the time i finished high school and got to university, i wasn't the most motivated, either. four years felt like a long-ass time for someone who had just completed five years of high school and nine years of elementary school before that. i was just so done with the concept of being made to sit for hours on end in a classroom, taking notes and studying for exams, when i felt like there was so much more i could be doing with my young life.

fortunately, the opportunity to live in toronto for the first time took some of the sting out of my post-secondary, but even that reward was wearing thin by year 3 of 4. i wanted to go out and be in the real world. i wanted to have a job that would pay me for my time and work. i wanted to be a goddamn adult, not just a student (ie. still a child). sure, i did everything i could in the meantime - skipping classes to go interview bands, spending my time reviewing albums and concerts, working a part-time job when i wasn't in class to make extra cash, disappearing occasionally to go on brief tours with bands - but i was still tied down to university by essay due dates, tests to study for, and exams to write. i couldn't skip everything, though by my third year i was trying my best to.

it was just this weird instinct, you know? i felt like i was missing out on something important, like life was passing me by without waiting up for me. it's funny how now i can look back and realize that school was actually a pretty decent fallback for me; there were a lot of antics i could easily blame on being young and in school, and i could get away with a lot. not so much so when you're gainfully employed and an adult and you've got bills to pay. but man, at the time, i wanted to scream, i was so tiring of waiting to graduate. and i managed to do it, with honours, in 2006.

ew, my face.

it's not like life suddenly became this giant world of opportunities after i graduated, though. instead, i had to scramble to pick up a second part-time job to combine with my other part-time job in order to pay my rent (since i no longer had those comfy student loans backing me up), and i didn't graduate with a degree that guaranteed me a career job right away. it's not to say i was completely wrong about my life finally beginning after i was done school, though: over the following two years, i would get another job, do many more band interviews, go to lollapalooza, go on an extended tour with a band, leave my job, move to vancouver, and move back to toronto again. pretty much all stuff i couldn't have done if i had still been a student, i can tell you that.

so school was a necessary evil, and i absolutely would not go back under any circumstances (although my father would love it if i did, having three post-secondary degrees himself), and man oh man was finishing those four years the longest wait of my life. it didn't go by in a flash; it felt like a slog, but at least it was helped by the amount of the "real world" i injected into those years. sure, i could have been one of those kids who truly lives their university years, joining clubs and making friends and spending time on campus, but not me. i had the outside world waiting for me, and hell yeah, the wait was definitely worth it. but i wouldn't relive it for anything.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

31 Days: Writing Routine

31 Days of Writing Prompts: Tell us about your writing routine.

first and foremost, i'm a morning writer. like, early morning, and i've always been that way. if i'm ever going to write blog posts, it's generally between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., usually before i pack up my stuff and leave for the gym. back in my early twenties, i tended to blog both in the early morning and late night, but these days i've found that my motivation and train of thought tend to leave the station by the time it starts to get dark outside. (also, that is wine time, and i strictly follow the "open bottle, close laptop" rule.) i really do write better if i've got a big mug of coffee next to me, indie 103.1 playing, and something resembling internet silence since nobody's woken up yet.

as for work writing, that can be a little different. for one, i can't write anywhere except my own apartment. i'm aware of how much this sucks, because trust me, i would love to be able to decamp to a coffee shop or the library to get a change of scenery (plus free wifi!). but i tend to write in fits and spurts, and i often need to get up and pace around my apartment for a bit to clear my mind. i wouldn't be able to do that in a public place unless i want to haul my laptop around with me (i'm paranoid about leaving my more costly personal belongings unattended). plus, i really like working in my pajamas, and i definitely can't do that in a cafe. (well, i could, but i refuse to leave the house if i'm not wearing actual clothing.) oh yeah, and unlike blog writing, i need silence for work writing so i can concentrate. you won't exactly get silence in a public place, and i'm too afraid my writing will suffer for the constant distractions.

in 2016, i'd like to try and stretch my comfort boundaries a bit -- say, picking an assignment that i could consider reasonably easy, and using it as a test project for writing in a cafe. see if i can tune out the noise and focus on sitting in one place without having to get up and pace. i'm a big believer in repeated behaviour rewiring the brain to adapt to change and to form good habits, so maybe all i need to do is force myself to do it on a regular basis and i'll get used to it. do you have any tips for me?

also, it would be nice to get in the habit of putting on decent clothes and getting out into the public once in a while. that's a thing i need to work on. (note to self: running errands while wearing your gym gear does not count as decent clothes.)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

31 Days: Top 5 Social Media Tips

31 Days of Writing Prompts: Your top 5 social media tips.

a disclaimer to start: i am most certainly not targeting anyone in particular with the tips below. if you read this and realize that you've done a lot of the things i advise against, please don't think that i had you in mind when i wrote them. a lot of these are mostly general gripes (it actually turned more into a list of things i hate seeing people do rather than outright "tips" but whatevs), so, y'know, try your best not to do this stuff. it sucks.


1. stop vaguebooking. just stop it. i mean, yes, we've all wanted to look ~mysterious~ and ~deep~ on social media sometimes, but posting a vague, nebulous update and then refusing to explain it (because you will get concerned people asking you what's wrong, and the only thing worse than vaguebooking is vague answers or "i'll tell you later") is 110% bullshit. a better alternative is to either say what's bothering you or nothing at all. (i'm convinced that a lot of social media would be much better if people really stopped to think, "do i need to post this?")

2. limit your self-promotion. again, this is something that's fine to a fault -- it's totally cool to promote your newest published piece or most recent blog post! it's just when you keep promoting that same one piece - and promoting it, and promoting it - over multiple days that it gets a little tiring. sure, you'll wring out the last few extra clicks, but it's more likely that everybody's thinking "enough, already" -- especially if you look back over your feed and see nothing but self-promotion. whether you're actually famous or just internet famous, stop this. (somewhat related: contest tweets. a few are okay, but a constant stream of "i wanna win ____!" or "vote for me in _____!" in your social media feed is just too much.)

3. join the conversation, and ask for opinions. positivity!: one of the best things you can do on social media is take part in conversations. it shows that you're willing to be a participant, rather than the centre of attention, and it's a great way to make connections and show that you're part of the community. likewise, it's good to ask people their opinion on something, or ask for a broad recommendation -- everyone loves to make their voices heard, and it makes people feel good to be a part of a conversation, especially if they can be knowledgeable about something. finally, appreciate other people. reply to their tweets or questions. hit like/favourite/heart/whatever on their posts on twitter or facebook or instagram. it's called social media for a reason, so don't make it the you show.

4. don't be overly negative about yourself or others. there's nothing wrong with using social media to vent on occasion -- it's when venting is all you're doing that it becomes a fucking drag. if you're constantly spewing negativity about yourself or directed at others, you come off looking either pathetic or assholish. both cases are emotionally exhausting to deal with. instead, aim for a good balance of realism with more level talk. i'm not saying you have to be super happy upbeat person, but if you're noticing that a lot of your social media output is moody or snappish, then maybe pull back a little bit and even it out with some non-personal retweets or nice replies to someone's tweets or compliments on someone's instagram photos. everyone has a bad day -- just make sure it doesn't look like you're perpetually having one.

5. think before you post, because the internet is forever. it's not just a paranoid warning -- the internet really does archive a lot of the stuff you put out online, and in some cases it can put together a pretty unflattering portrait of you. a sense of self-censorship can be a hard concept to grasp when you're a young idiot online and you think, like, whatever fuck you i can say what i want, but then that stuff can come back to haunt you in later years (and the "i was a young idiot" excuse only goes so far). the rule people always say you should follow is "if you wouldn't say it out loud, you shouldn't post it online" and it's very true. in general, look to the above tip -- keep things mostly positive, don't do too much bitching or complaining, and you should be just fine.

bonus round!
  • always put a "." before "@[name]" on twitter if you want to broadcast the tweet to your entire feed (don't abuse this, though -- sometimes your conversations should stay your conversations)
  • always be a decent human being
  • always check snopes

Saturday, January 9, 2016

31 Days: Top Ten Foods

31 Days of Writing Prompts: Top ten foods you could eat for the rest of your life.

as a creature of habit - i routinely eat the same meals every day, with no trace of boredom - this is an easy one for me, and very likely doable as well:

1. peanut butter. i could clarify this and say "any nut butter," but really, peanut butter is tops for me. i usually buy a big jar of the kraft all-natural crunchy peanut butter (i only buy smooth if i really have to) and dump in a spoonful of salt. salt really does add a new dimension to peanut butter, and it's just the best. i swear a jar of it only lasts me - a person living alone - for a week or less. peanut butter is also my favourite flavouring option for dessert-type things; fuck chocolate and vanilla, i only want peanut butter. yes.

2. chicago mix popcorn. again, clarification: i will eat most any brand of chicago mix popcorn (which is a 50/50 blend of caramel corn and cheddar corn, if you didn't know), but i have a strong preference towards the mariano's house mix from chicago proper. it's only available at the mariano's stores, and i swear to god it's one of the best things i've ever put into my mouth. it doesn't taste as fake or as weak as some of the other pre-packaged chicago mix popcorns out there, but unfortunately i don't get to eat it as often as i'd like. still, it's something to stock up on whenever i'm in chicago. (mariano's > garrett's, yeah i said it)

3. cowgirl creamery's red hawk cheese. once more with the forbidden foods, the ones i can only get in the united states and not here in canada -- unfortunately, a lot of cheese falls under that category, including my favourite cheese ever. as the kitchn explains, red hawk is unique in that it's a triple creme washed rind cheese, kind of like the best runny, funky brie you've ever had in your life. i was lucky enough to buy a half-wheel of it when i was working in washington for two weeks back in 2013, and i had the best-ever solo crackers & cheese party in my hotel room, i can tell you that.

4. guacamole. none of this shit with mashed peas or weird fillers -- i just like the basics. avocado, jalapeno, tomato, onion, lime juice, salt to taste. mash it together. that's it. it doesn't even matter what vehicle i have to get guacamole into my mouth -- i could eat an old tire if you put enough guac on it. (and since the boyfriend hates avocados with a passion, that means i usually get all the buttery green goodness all to myself) but, y'know, tortilla chips are kind of the best.

5. maki rolls. the sheer quantity of maki rolls i'm able to fit into my body is slightly ridiculous. (i have legitimately had sushi eat-offs with friends in the past.) i don't discriminate, but my favourites are salmon skin rolls (as seen above, from one of my favourite places in the city, mazz sushi), spicy tuna or spicy salmon, rainbow rolls, and volcano rolls. basically, if you roll up some delicious raw fish and toppings inside seaweed and rice and allow me to drown them in super-salty soy sauce, i will be the happiest camper alive.

6. gelato. i got into gelato in a big way when i met the import boy. we both kinda sorta enjoyed it in the past, but once we got together - and once we discovered a good gelato place that's only a few doors down from our favourite sushi place - it really became a thing for us in 2015. i've got the stronger sweet tooth of the two of us, so i found plenty of new favourite flavours in the last year, among them birthday cake, apple crumble, and white chocolate with peanut butter & jelly. i'll take a small, flavourful cup of gelato over a ton of boring ice cream any day. (though i do love froyo as well.)

7. bacon. i am pretty specific about which bacon i like best (setting aside the phenomenal candied bacon at honky tonk bbq in chicago), and that would be the bacon pictured above: president's choice's peppercorn-crusted hickory-smoked thick-cut bacon. if you're the kind of person who, like me, loves bacon but hates being disappointed by flimsy thin slices, then the aforementioned bacon is the one for you. it's one of my favourite meats in the world and always welcome at my breakfast table (or lunch, or dinner). protip: cook it in the oven for less mess and more crunch.

8. kale. ugh, i know, i know. i'm sorry. but it is the honest truth -- i love kale. i crave kale. i will eat all the kale that kale haters refuse. i especially love a good hearty kale salad, and i wouldn't want to imagine a life without a delicious kale caesar (see above). even kale chips - if you make them yourself, that is, it's highway robbery if you buy them premade - are a good way to get some of kale's one bazillion vitamins and nutrients into you. if you find kale hard to stomach in a salad, get a good vinaigrette and massage it into the leaves, then let it sit for at least half an hour. it makes it way better, trust me. (but don't eat all the kale because that is my job.)

9. cauliflower. again with the "oh look, she's trying to be healthy" -- but honestly, i love cauliflower. fucking love it. it's generally cheap and widely available, so i eat it raw with garlic hummus, or i roast it with a bit of olive oil and black pepper, or i boil it and puree it into a soup (see the previous healthy dinner recipes blog post for my favourite cauliflower soup recipe), or i shred it up and make the recently-ubiquitous cauliflower rice. cauliflower is the best multi-purpose vegetable out there and it tastes awesome to boot, whether it's cooked or raw. make friends with cauliflower!

10. sea salt dark chocolate. as i mentioned, i may have a sweet tooth, but as i've gotten older it's refined itself from "any sugar possible" to stronger things, like dark chocolate. once i tried dark chocolate with sea salt (lindt makes a bar, and i'm currently hoarding three of trader joe's sea salted caramel dark chocolate bars), i was a goner. thankfully, adding salt to sweet things is a new and rising trend (see: chicago mix, #2) and i'm all for it, especially if it means more chocolate and salt together (which sounds weird on paper, but is the best thing ever in practice). not to mention it's the perfect thing to satiate those nagging pms cravings for both chocolate and salt.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

31 Days: Healthy Dinner Recipes

31 Days of Writing Prompts: Share your best healthy dinner recipe.

i have a bunch of these, and more than a few that are my regular dinner staples, so i'm going to narrow it down to five with reference links (since i created precisely none of these myself, because i don't have that much time or money):

weekend glow salad
back when i worked the 9-to-5, this was frequently my lunchtime staple -- a healthy, hearty salad full of all of my favourite things (though i skipped the raisins because i don't like dried fruit in my salad, and i left out the raw onion because i'm not a fan of tasting red onions for days) that i could prep the night beforehand and just pack and go the next day. in fact, making it the night beforehand is key to letting the dressing soften up the kale -- just be sure to pack a little container of walnuts and hemp seed separately to top it with. also, i would make a huge batch of cooked chicken breasts and just dice one up to toss on top. you can't go wrong with a ton of veggies and protein.

chicken, kale & bacon stew

this one is a favourite of both the import boy's and mine, because it's so simple and fast, but it tastes amazing if you use really good ingredients (i actually take the time to make my own chicken broth, but eh). again with the chicken and kale combination - one of my favourites - but this time with added bacon! the original recipe uses leftover turkey from thanksgiving, but i like to buy a cooked rotisserie chicken from the supermarket and just shred it up. also, flavourings are key here -- check the salt, be sure to use smoked paprika (not the regular kind), and i always toss in a parmesan rind when the broth goes in.

artichoke, kale & ricotta pie

another recipe that ticks off all the boxes for me: healthy, few ingredients, relatively cheap to make, and yes, kale. i have the unfortunate habit of devouring most of this pie as soon as it comes out of the oven, but if you can restrain yourself, it makes a great lunch hot or cold, especially if you top it with a few slices of avocado and eat it with a small side salad. although getting decent parmesan may be the most costly part of the recipe, it's worth it -- i've made this with subpar parm before and it doesn't taste nearly as good. (also, i usually up the eggs from 4 to 6, or even 8, since otherwise it tends to be more like a ton of kale held together by a bit of omelette) oh, and use some butter to grease the hell out of the pan first -- this one sticks.

curried cauliflower soup with honey
if you want to go really minimalist and cheap but with huge flavour, this is the perfect recipe. it's simply roasted cauliflower, onion, curry powder, broth, salt & pepper, and cayenne powder. that's it. boil it together, blend it, and voila, you have curried cauliflower soup. even though topping it with a drizzle of honey might sound weird, trust me -- it's necessary to bring out all the flavour of the curry powder (i always use hot curry powder rather than the mild stuff). whenever i make this recipe, i tend to double it or even quadruple it, and i never skip adding 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne powder at the end. this is also where it's super beneficial to have a stick blender, btw.

buffalo chicken chili
this is a relatively new recipe to my healthy-dinner arsenal, but the boy loves it (he loves anything buffalo-wing flavoured), and i love how cheap it is (ground chicken is almost always on special and way less costly than chicken breasts). i wanted to find a healthier and more filling alternative to wings, and this is a most worthy facsimile. get a bottle of frank's buffalo wing hot sauce and go to town -- sour cream on top is a must, or even blue cheese, if you've got the cash.

here is a bonus, a recipe i actually put together myself!: my favourite green monster smoothie.

i don't drink this for dinner, but it has been my breakfast on more than a few occasions, and here's what's in it: 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk + 1/2 cup water + 1 teaspoon maca powder + 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder + 1 tablespoon almond butter + a couple huge shakes of cinnamon + 2 large handfuls baby spinach + 1/2 frozen chopped banana + 3 ice cubes. put those items in your blender in that order and then mix it up on your highest setting. it may look like something radioactive, but it's surprisingly filling and also a great energy booster first thing in the morning.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

31 Days: Songs on Your Playlist

31 Days of Writing Prompts: What songs are on your playlist?

first, this is actually a good chance to display my top bands and tracks of 2015 according to, although i'm a little skeptical about's accuracy; i use the audioscrobbler plugin with my itunes to track what i've been listening to on my ipod, and sometimes it doesn't scrobble correctly. still, according to my (slightly skewed-looking) profile (which i've had for, geez, twelve years now), here are the bands i listened to most in 2015:

obviously kill hannah would be #1 - i listen to them a lot normally, but i binged extra hard leading up to the final shows - but yeah, everything else looks to be in order. surprised a bit by how much lana del rey i listened to, especially given that i only have three of her songs on my ipod, but i guess i listened to those three songs a lot. (same deal with tv on the radio, really.) and hey, the mission outpaced the sisters of mercy! whoaaaaaa.

also, the top ten songs i listened to in 2015:

ah, so there's lana. (i really like that track, obviously.) also, that stellastarr* track has been consistently in my top three since like, 2005, so that makes sense. plus yeah, holy shit, that presets remix is just unreal in how good it is -- it was the perfect bangin' soundtrack for a lot of extended cardio workouts at the gym in 2015. anyway, obviously i will highly recommend any of the above songs, because clearly i like them a lot.

but back to the question!

i don't have one specific playlist per se - though i do have a bunch catalogued on my ipod from times past, including ones with titles such as "NEW SPRING SHIZZ" and "Awesome Autumn" - but according to my itunes, here are my current top ten most played songs, and why i listen to them all the goddamn time:

1. depeche mode - "enjoy the silence"

this is, in my mind, the most perfect song to ever exist. just listen to it -- the synth, the guitar lines, the vocals. you can brood to it, you can dance to it, you can sing along at the top of your lungs. "enjoy the silence" is legitimately just so fucking great, it's no wonder that there's a crazy number of covers available (see more on that below).

2. depeche mode - "never let me down again"

my top two songs tend to trade positions regularly, so sometimes "never let me down again" ends up in the #1 spot, but regardless, this is likely my favourite song of any band of all time. seriously. i once wrote a tumblr post about why it's my favourite song ever, and i think i managed to sum it up pretty well. for me, this is a song that i never skip over when it comes up on shuffle, no matter how many times i've heard it.

3. stellastarr* - "sweet troubled soul"

geez, this became a favourite song of mine in what, 2005? something like that. i remember blasting the hell out of "sweet troubled soul" right around the time i felt like it was absolutely describing my life -- so probably fall 2005. i vividly recall sitting in my bedroom in the apartment i shared with jenn, the room's walls painted bright green, playing this song over and over again and just revelling in shawn's vocals. the secrets that you know, sweet troubled soul.

4. alkaline trio - "lucretia my reflection" (sisters of mercy cover)

another heavy hitter from summer/fall 2005, this track - featured on the suicide girls black heart retrospective goth rock compilation (which i reviewed that summer for chart magazine, and totally fell in love with) - was a favourite from the very beginning, so much so that i decided i ought to track down the original and see if it was just as good. spoiler alert: it was, and so began my deep dark love affair with the sisters of mercy. and it was all thanks to alkaline trio. (i interviewed them many years later and actually did thank them for this.)

5. the sisters of mercy - "lucretia my reflection"

it's definitely amusing and ironic that the original would come right after the cover version in my list of most-listened to songs, but i still do love the original so, so much. it's sinister and sepulchre and sounds like cold fall days and dark graveyards and dirty factories. it's goth to the core, but you can still dance to it. it is and remains one of the coolest songs i have ever heard.

6. tokyo police club - "bambi"

this song grabbed me right away only two years ago, when i was listening to my beloved indie 103.1 out of los angeles and i caught a snippet that sounded like eight-bit video game music. even better when i found out that the band was canadian, and from near toronto to boot -- cancon represent! i've since grown to like a few other tokyo police club songs, but "bambi" is still the shit to me.

7. the sisters of mercy - "this corrosion"

given the opportunity, i will talk your ear off about "this corrosion." i will gladly explain to you about how it's our generation's finest goth diss track. i will explain about how it was never technically meant to be the resonant goth anthem that it is today, but rather it was created as pure mockery of another band's sound, and unfortunately it ended up being taken seriously. of course, i'm sure von eldritch isn't complaining about its status as a hit for the sisters, but i don't think he plays it live very often, either. ("this corrosion" also got a bit of a pop-culture resurgence due to its key inclusion in the world's end back in 2013)

8. depeche mode - "enjoy the silence 04" (reinterpreted by mike shinoda)

noticing a pattern here? if i love a song, i also usually love covers and/or remix versions of said song. i found the mike shinoda remake of "enjoy the silence" back when i first moved to vancouver, and so i have many fond memories of hiking the giant-ass hill up lonsdale avenue in north vancouver while listening to this song on repeat. sure, it definitely has shinoda's linkin park flavour to it, but i feel like it actually enhances the original sound rather than detracting from it.

9. kill hannah - "kennedy"

this goddamn song. by all accounts, it was the first kill hannah song i ever heard, and it only took once for me to fall head over heels into the fandom. "kennedy" was their big single and is still probably one of their greatest songs, completely anthemic and unapologetically danceable and meant to be screamed along to with a room full of fellow fans (i know, because i've done that many, many times). i played this song for a boyfriend at the time who was a musician, and he listened to the whole thing silently before saying, "that's the kind of song my band wishes it had." and doesn't every band.

10. depeche mode - "never let me down again" (split mix)

again, if i love the original, i'll likely love the remixes -- especially the remixes that clock in at almost ten minutes long. this track - from the remixes 81>04 double album - is exactly what i could have wanted: my favourite song ever, but even longer! this version is also as close to the live version as you'll find, and is just as deep, dark and orchestral as the original -- but somehow turned up even more. it's everything i didn't know i wanted until i heard it.

Monday, January 4, 2016

when you were young

my instagram's top-liked nine posts of 2015. i really went hard into the red lippy, eh?

now that i've finished all of december's madness - what a difference it makes in blog posts to have stuff to do in life, eh? - we're finally into 2016, and onto another year of my weird little life. this is also this blog's eighth year of existence, which seems kind of nuts to me, but then again facebook "memories" did remind me the other day that this picture (of jenna and i back when we lived in vancouver) is also eight years old:

time flies.

incidentally, i think personal blogs ought to make a comeback in 2016. from what i've observed, social media has really suffered for the death of the personal blog. it's all become far less social and more about solipsism. it's supposed to be a dialogue, but so many people are using it as a monologue. this is what blogs are for! your blog is where you can rant and ramble to your heart's content about your own life and your stuff, rather than filtering your every whim into everyone's cooperative news feeds. a little bit is fine, clearly, but when you're going out of your way to write an extra-long self-indulgent twitlonger post or an instagram caption that takes up more space than the photo itself, you really ought to invest in a blog. my two cents. (writing is a blog is fun, trust me!)

anyway, i digress -- back to my me time! (har har.)

when i think back over 2015, a couple of things stand out: for one, the fact that it feels like it went by in a blink (honestly, it freaks me out a little bit to remember how the time sean went to the hospital legit feels like a few weeks ago, but it was almost an entire year ago), and for two, i began to slowly come to the realization that i'm getting older and things are changing -- that some things may not (gasp!) stay the same for me forever.

i lost two big things in 2015 -- the family home from my teenage/twentysomething years, and one of my favourite bands. granted, these aren't huge in the scope of things - like, nobody close to me died in 2015, and i'm really not looking forward to when that eventually happens - but they both served as important reminders that nothing lasts forever, no matter how much you think you're the exception for whom everything they love will stay the same. and up until 2015, i think i kind of had myself fooled that i'd managed to escape that fate, and that i would still have old familiar ground to go back to -- to remind myself that i could always still go backwards instead of forward. but really, it was just luck and good timing in my life so far. it all catches up to you eventually, and you have to keep moving forward.

in my blog post about leaving my family home for the last time, i wrote this, and i think it still sums it up:

i've never gotten over the fact that i'm not an exception. that's why my turning 30 was so tough for me - it was my first realization that life does move forward for me, and that there's no going back, and someday everything i know will be gone. (nobody who i've been close to has died yet, but if they had i would probably be speaking differently, here.) i can't explain how or why i ever thought i'd be able to freeze time, and like, i've never been delusional; i just didn't think it would happen to me, somehow. but all of a sudden i'm noticing my metabolism slowing and small wrinkles around my eyes and a few gray hairs coming in, and my parents sold the family home, and i feel weirdly betrayed by my 22-year-old self, who thought she'd be 22 forever and with a home she would always know. she thought she could make time stay like this forever, somehow -- or, at the very least, oh i know that life will change, but not quite yet, i still have time. but then one day you wake up and realize that that time is now, and a lot of things, as you knew them, are gone.

it's weird to always be thinking and talking so fatalistically about this sort of thing - i'm still only a couple years removed from my twenties, after all - so i can always hope that this is a phase that will pass eventually. maybe in 2016 i'll finally accept the fact that i need to move forward. maybe someday?

in the meantime, i've been trying to sort through a lot of work stuff in 2015, which ties in to one of my bigger conundrums of the last year, and one i hope to at least come closer to solving in 2016: what do i want to do with my life?

if it's as simple as determining "what i don't want to do with my life", then maybe i could get a bit closer to figuring it out, but unfortunately i don't think it's that easy. (and no, i am not going to write down the definitive "what i don't want to do" list, because that's a surefire way to shoot any potential career opportunities in the foot via google.) sadly, what i hear from a lot of people older than me is that it's likely you never find out what you want to do with your life. instead, you just sort of fall in to something and go with it. and man, i don't want that to be my eventual fate. i want to be happy with what i do. but how do i go about finding something like that? and do i need to do something i don't want to do in the meantime?

i guess this means a 2016 goal for me would be to start pitching again, and getting more stuff published professionally (or even just online). i'm getting a bit rusty, and it's never good for a writer to not have up-to-date pieces.

additional 2016 goals:
  • floss more
  • get passport renewed
  • get out of the house more (esp. to see friends)
  • adopt a cat
  • wash sheets and towels more often
  • less junk food
  • more music
  • take vitamin b12
  • stop telling baristas my name is "kate"
lastly, i wanted to note that although it felt like everyone was posting about how 2015 was their best year ever omg #blessed, i had more than a few shitty low points, but the silver lining there is that i really did learn how to pull myself out of mopey crummy moods. so if you're having a bad time or a crappy day, try doing one of these things, they worked for me big time in 2015:
  • go to the gym for a bit (or at least go out and get the recommended 10,000 steps per day -- i only missed this goal a handful of times in 2015)
  • tidy up your place (vacuum, organize your closet, do the dishes, do laundry, whatever)
  • slap on a face mask (i feel like most pampering things under the banner of #selfcare are overblown and ridiculous but this one actually works for me)
if you do at least one of the above, i find that you can at least feel a little accomplished in your day, even if the rest of it sucked and you feel shitty. you can always say "well, at least i went to the gym" or "well, at least i got laundry done" and just that little bit of reassurance helps to negate any bad feelings you have about yourself and your ability to be a functioning adult. trust me, i know.

and you know what? here's the thing: it's okay if it seems like everyone else has a better life than you. it's okay to feel as though your friends get to travel more, or that they have cooler jobs, or that they have nicer homes. it's okay to be scared about where you're at in life and to doubt yourself once in a while. it's all okay, because most things are temporary, and everything works out the way it should, and you're alive, and you'll be okay.

here's to a fucking awesome year for all of us.

p.s. starting tomorrow, i'm going to do some of the sits girls' 31 days of writing prompts; not all of them (some sound a bit dippy, others are clearly aimed towards mommy bloggers), but just enough that i put out plenty of content throughout january. (i'm going to write many of them ahead of time and then just queue them to publish, so they don't interfere with my other work-- y'know, the kind that pays me.) 2016 resolution: more blogging, check.

[ music | the last shadow puppets, "the age of the understatement" ]

Saturday, January 2, 2016

second round down

i'll get to all the inspirational 2015 life-recap/life-lesson business in the next blog post, but first: recapping the wwe live holiday tour show here in toronto on december 30th. wrestling! ding ding ding!

repping my antisocial anti-hero, kevin owens.

once again, the wrestling-fan import boy and i donned our favourite talents' gear and headed down to ricoh coliseum to be with our people (the usual healthy mix of smarks, children covered in john cena merch, tired yet smiling parents, rednecks, and general weirdos). last time we did this - the first live wrestling show for both of us - we were excited. like, we were excited. this time, man, i dunno. it's been a long holiday season. i wasn't in as good a mood as i should have been. although we'd been lucky enough to see all of our favourites at the last house show, pretty much all of them were injured this time around -- or else wrestling in baltimore that same night, since it was a split roster on december 30th. (i'm fairly sure the shortened roster also contributed to the show being shorter than last time, which was also a bit disappointing.)

anyway, i don't want to sound too bummed out, especially when we were lucky enough to get seats with this view:

yep, we were right against the barrier and one row back from the front. the only way we could have done better is if we had forked out twice as much for vip seating. these seats made for great sightlines and interactions - plenty of high fives and fist bumps, and the boy had a brief chat with the big show at one point - but i did sort of miss our smarky section from last time. this time, we were surrounded on all sides by small children and their parents, so we definitely had to watch our language (and limited ourselves to one beer each, not just to keep our rowdiness to a minimum but also to cut down on bathroom trips, since we were pretty fenced in).

still, this little family next to us was pretty cute:

it was actually noooooo problem for us, since we aren't exactly cena superfans. and wrestlers really pay a lot more special attention to the little kids rather than the smarky adults, so we knew our place.

speaking of, here's us, exhausted yet happy:

since we were already outfitted for the occasion, we didn't attempt the merch booths this time, since the lineups were crazy long (christmas money in effect?) and also there wasn't any other merch we wanted at the moment. we both have all our favourite wrestlers' t-shirts (i have two, sean's got four) and nothing else was all that appealing. oh yeah, and i did this to my ipad and its keyboard a few weeks ago:

can you tell i miss seth rollins? i miss him a lot. (sean had to hear me moaning about this quite frequently. if only we'd had this show's seats at the last show...!)

as i mentioned before, though, being right up close meant much better photo ops, even though house lights do no favours when you're shooting with an iphone camera. still, i did my best with what i had (especially since sean's phone mysteriously died and he couldn't take any shots), and here are a few that i managed:

neville was the first one out, and also someone we didn't see at the last show, so this was a treat (especially for sean, who cheers for neville as a fellow representative of england). and man, the kids loved him. just deafening cheers and chants. neville is also, indeed, very small.

...but yeah, like, small with one million muscles. here he is laying the beat down on his opponent, the miz, who obviously took the time to heel it up before the match, mocking toronto and being the smarmiest villain. the miz is so underrated. nuclear heat-getter.

hype bros partnered up with titus o'neil to take on the cosmic wasteland. your usual tale of smiling over-excitable faces versus angry gothy heels, complete with a triumphant finish by the good guys (stardust hissed at the kids sitting in front of us as he left in defeat and it was just so good) and a mini-dance party afterwards. sean spotted mojo rawley taking photos with fans and signing autographs before the show, which was a nice touch. he is, indeed, hype.

kevin owens ever so politely informs dean ambrose that the intercontinental title is his title. you can bet i popped huge for ko, wearing his shirt with pride. love me the angry psychopathic villains. (also, warm fuzzies to the wwe staff member who glanced down at my shirt before the match and said, "your guy's coming up next." my guy! best.)

christmas elf charlotte (who gave her santa hat to the overjoyed kids in front of us) issued an open challenge for her divas championship title, which was answered by a very peppy becky lynch (sean and i got high fives and he delighted noted that she sings her own theme music as she comes down to the ring). solid match, although it'd be nice to see becky win once in a while.

the wyatt family (minus leader bray, who was in baltimore) took on the usos & goldust, the latter of which had half his face paint done up in uso style -- super cool. at one point, braun strowman (the massive dude in the pic above) got thrown out of the ring and he crashed into the barrier right next to me and it was pretty goddamn terrifying to have a man that size barrelling towards you. he almost knocked the entire barrier down, but sean later laughed at my whole "no-selling" of the thing because apparently i had an unconcerned poker face on the whole time. but yeah, geez, up close you can really hear the bodies hitting the floor and it's crazy. what a thing to do for a living.

again, for my own record, here are the card and results for wwe live toronto, december 30 / 2015:
  • neville def. the miz
  • hype bros & titus o'neil def. the ascension & stardust
  • the big show def. mark henry
  • dean ambrose def. kevin owens (intercontinental championship match)
  • charlotte def. becky lynch (divas championship match)
  • goldust & the usos def. luke harper, erick rowan & braun strowman
  • john cena def. alberto del rio
towards the end, they announced that there would be a live network special filmed in toronto in march 2016, but i'm ehhhh on it. as much as i'd love to go, two things: 1) none of my faves are scheduled to be back from injury by then, and 2) i'm broke as fuck now and will very likely be broke as fuck then. those two factors make it not very hard to decide whether or not i'll go. but i definitely do encourage any wwe fans in toronto and the surrounding area to make a grab for tickets; the live shows are generally a blast, and a tv-taped live show would likely be extra awesome. (we haven't seen roman reigns, sheamus, dolph, rusev, and a few others at the last couple shows, so this will likely be your best chance)

alright, time to go bodycheck my way through all the gym newbies. but first, more coffee:

happy 2016!

[ music | wrongchilde, "call me crash" ]