Monday, December 23, 2013

Merryish Christmas

I've been sitting here staring at this empty page a few times now, trying to figure out if I have something to say, and if its worth saying. Until now, I've pressed the "back" button and moved on with my life (read: filled up online shopping carts then left all the items unpurchased), but I feel like unloading. And that's what this place is for, after all (also: dog pictures.)

Christmas is a tricky mistress. I absolutely love this time of year, and pretty much everything that comes with it. With exceptions, of course.

My Christmas Likes
Most of the seasonal music
Shortbread cookies
Most Christmas specials
Turkey dinner
Watching people open their gifts
Christmas Eve
My Christmas Dislikes
"(Simply Having a) Wonderful Christmastime"
Gingerbread houses with wretched royal icing
Snow and Heat Miser
Paying for said gifts well into February
New Year's Eve

But if we're really digging deep here, my favourite and least favourite thing about this time of the year are the same thing: it's a magical, special time of year.

That's confusing, I know.

Basically, the best part of this time of year is that everything seems a little bit brighter. Acts of kindness seem to be shared more often, people go out of their way to be a little nicer, everything sparkles and shines and makes merry. But also, everything that's a little bit sad seems more so because ohmygodit'sChristmas! Tragedies seem all the more cruel and horrific because of the season. Every sad story, every natural disaster, every fire, seems to break me a little bit more than usual.

Videos that don't make even one eyelash moisten in June usually send torrents of tears cascading down my cheeks. Just try to watch me during the last 15 seconds of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" - by the time I get to "we have we", I'm basically the Trevi Fountain wearing a sweater dress.

So, for me at least, this season is filled with emotion. It's a time of reflection, looking at what's changed since last year, who's far away, reflecting on all the new people I've met and experiences I've had, and sometimes those memories and those realizations aren't all positive. This year has been a rollercoaster - I've been incredibly blessed but also had some frustrating setbacks and aggravating fall-outs that have left me with a decidedly bitter aftertaste as 2013 winds down. I know that I'm lucky - I've had the good fortune to be visited by great friends, had one of the best birthday parties I can remember (or mostly remember), I fulfilled a lifelong dream to own a dog, I have a lovely little house in a great neighbourhood with a solid teammate. My family is pretty healthy and my parents have been and continue to be very supportive, lovely folks. But I've also experienced some challenging financial setbacks (mostly resulting from Sewergate), resulting in a lack of funds to fix the things around the house that need fixing. It also influenced our travel budget, and that wanderlust-driven restlessness was hard to quiet. Some family arguments have been especially irritating, I've had more friends move out of the city than ever before, and some recent work-related disappointment has left me reeling and angry. In short, I don't know what to make of this year, but the push to be merry and full of cheer has made me feel by turns spiteful and depressed that I'm not more grateful to be living the life I'm living. I'm the Three Faces of Christmas Eve over here, basically.

And for the first time, I think I'm starting to "get" why this time of year is so contentious for some people. When things aren't perfect, or even positive, it seems more acute at year's end. As recent disappointments become less fresh, I'm able to try to focus on the positive but being *told* to focus on the positive this time of year actually has the opposite effect on me - the stubborn jerk inside me wants to be miserable to prove a point.
I think things will be fine - having a few friends in town has already made things brighter and, honestly, don't underestimate the power of brown sugar shortbread and a very cuddly dog. Things will be OK and I will be OK and Christmas will be OK, etc. etc. I just wanted to shout out to people who are not OK and let them know that... that's okay. And that you're not alone. And that this time of year is a big mixed bag of emotions at the best of times and that if all you can do is survive it, then that's enough. What you have to offer is enough. I'll try to keep that in my head as well, as the year winds down. 

Make merry as you can, everyone. We still have we.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Embrace the old

I've written about guilty pleasures before. Basically, I don't really believe in them- like what you want, for whatever reason you want and hold your head high. Recently, I got to indulge in one of my favourite proud-pleasures- the church Christmas bazaar.

How do I encapsulate my love for these little havens of knick-knackery and home baking? I can't - they are more than words to me. For as long as I can remember, every November my family and I have trundled ourselves off to the local churches for a day-long celebration of all things slightly-musty and homemade. And I honestly wouldn't trade that day for the world. After years of lollygagging and mindless wandering, we've finally developed a system that would make an army general proud.

8:30 - get up, immediately regret early saturday wake-up. Remember delicious chocolate chip cookies from last year. Get out of bed, stagger to bathroom, splash water on face and accidentally put undereye cream on instead of lipbalm.

9:00 - admire wrinkle-less lips, get on bus, head out to suburbs.

9:30 - arrive at suburbs, get picked up by family, who are equally sleep-and-coffee-deprived. Drive to first church.

10:00 - 13:00 - caffeine-less blur of bake tables, knitting projects, used book perusing and sandwich-and-soup-eating.

13:30 - leave suburbs, loaded down with books and "fill this for only a dollar" bags. Eat brownies until even the thought of chocolate brings on a brief weeping spell.

13:12 - begin countdown until next year.

We have it down to a science. Each of the four churches we visit on that frosty November Saturday has its pros and cons, and we don't even have to think about them anymore - we just know. We're the bazaar whisperers. It's common knowledge among us that the Catholics have a decent bake sale (but the prices are too high) and their raffle is worth a look; the Anglicans have a well-organized book room, a great white elephant table, and their cookie selection and pricing can't be beat; the Presbyterians have awful silent auctions but a top-notch tea room and a well-organized knitting selection. And the Unitarians? Damn, people. Just don't even bother trying to compete. They have it all - fabulous ethnic food, quality silent auction, books that are still charting on the bestseller list - seriously. My sister and I have seriously considered converting just to get the early bird deals at the Holly and Lace Bazaar.

As I get older, I try to simplify the holiday season. There were traditions I kept up with only because they were just that - traditions; I didn't want to be the first to break them. But really? I wasn't enjoying a lot of them. I was just saying to TB the other day that I love this season but Christmas day itself I can take or leave. It's full of cooking and schlepping and last minute wrapping (if you're us) and cleaning and tidying and blee blah bloo. But some traditions are just perfect. I love getting out my Playmobil advent calendar, I love sending the world's most annoying Christmas cards (actually putting them together is another thing, but I digress), I love walking through freshly fallen snow and singing along with The Carpenters' Christmas album and eating latkes, and decorating my office and drinking rum-soaked cocktails and hanging out with friends who've come home for the holidays. And damn it, I love me some Christmas bazaars. It's one of the traditions that's worth the fuss and bother of driving all over Hell's acres to get to. Because seriously, 5 cupcakes for $1.25? Suck it, Magnolia, I'll take whatever Ethel and Pearl are serving.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Broketober 2013: The Okay, the Bad, the Depressing


In case it's not clear, that was a raspberry. A big ol' fart noise to represent how Broketober went. Let's be clear: Broketober was not the rollicking, successful hayride I expected it to be. In fact, if Broktober was a hayride it would be one in the middle of the pouring rain, with no scary things jumping out at you, and the wagon would only have one wheel. And the hay would be made of fibreglass insulation. I know we're half-way through November, already, but this delay should tell you how much I like admitting to mistakes.

1. Taxis: 

Rating: Not bad

I thought I'd totally bombed this one but a quick trip through my records shows that I only paid for 15 cabs this month, which is only three over my goal. 8 of those were with debit or credit card and 7 were by cash. Still not great, but every time I thought about calling a cab, I weighed the necessity of it before getting in and I've continued that habit even though the month is over. I was sure I'd take a cab at least twice a week, since Tuesdays and Fridays I have a 2-hour Spanish class after working an 8-hour day, but on Fridays I pretty much skipped that and just bused my way home. Paying for 15 cabs in a month with 31 days isn't exactly something to be proud of, but when you have some late nights and you don't drive, it ain't bad.

2. Write it Down:

Rating: Terrible

I failed outright on this one for two reasons 1) the app I chose to track my spending wasn't recognizing my log-in and therefore, didn't work for me and 2) I accidentally left the notebook I use to track these things at my parents' house on October 20th and didn't get it back until the end of the month. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we'd all have a Merry Christmas, I know. But I get kind of obsessive about my planners and another one just. would not. do. I do want to get back into the swing of writing things down as it is useful (and embarrassing) to see the ways I spend my money (spoiler alert: in dribs and drabs)

3. Let's Cook

Rating: Not bad

I'm giving this a "meh" rating because while I succeeded on one front (trying four new recipes) I didn't do as well on the second part (only eat out 6 times). I think part of the reason it was so hard to stick to this one is that I really opened up the concept of eating out - a cookie at a coffee shop, Chinese take out, toast at the cafeteria at work: they all counted. With all of those taken into account we got take-out twice (pizza and sushi), ate out eight times (small taco place in the market for lunch, a sandwich and coffee with my sister, cafeteria at work once, farmer's market breakfast, waffle brunch and thai food with my pally who's moving to Saskatchewan, and twice TWICE to this. No regrets.), and (I can't believe I'm counting this) I bought and ate some beans at a charity meal thing. So that's 11. Twice as many as I wanted to, but I really did manage to eat at home more than I thought I would, and I curbed my coffee shop habit down to only two visits in a month - which is kind of amazing for me.

The four recipes I tried were:

Kale chips (surprisingly tasty and a new favourite for us)
Slow cooker southwestern beef stew (not bad, but needed a little more oomph for next time)
Easy apple dumplings (holy shit, these are a gift from the clouds themselves)
Cauliflower "mashed potatoes" (okay, Atkins, I hear ya, these were pretty good, but they ain't mashed potatoes)

Two were excellent, and two were only "okay" in my opinion. We've made a commitment to try new recipes throughout the next few months so I hope we'll only build on these. A good thing that came out of Broketober is our realization of how few different meals we actually make. We've got a couple of favourites (I make a mean lasagna) but reaching out of our comfort zone will be necessary if we're going to survive the winter. I've actually got two new recipes planned for this week and I'm hoping they turn out, if only because the institutional cafeteria food at work is as good as you think it is.

4. Pretty Frock Purchases


Oh man.. where to start. I was doing pretty well at the beginning. Bought a scarf I'd had my eye on when it went down to $10. Told myself that was okay. It was not okay. Accessories are a gateway drug, people. Bought a skirt for $20 that same day. Justified it being 50% off. Then I put in an online order. Okay, two of the three things I bought were Christmas presents; different category, we're still fine. But then this happened. Dear God.
But seriously- what was I supposed to do when faced with this?
The sale only happens two times a year and in the last 3 years I don't think I've missed one. So, let's just get this over with: I bought two, I love them, they're each probably 50 years old and they were over $100 each. I fail at not buying, I fail I fail I fail. But I look pretty swish while doing it.

Also I spent $75 at Michael's because I had to make my Halloween present and I'm secretly a crafting mom.

5. Use What I Have

Rating: Not bad, but-  Ah, who the hell even cares anymore?

I didn't excel at this either. Turns out, I didn't want to use my groupon for tapas, I wanted takeout pizza. I didn't want to get $5 off dishwasher detergent, I wanted to by a club pack of it at Costco so I wouldn't have to think about it anymore. And so on. I basically let this goal transform me into this guilt-ridden hedonist who did what I felt like instead of what I should and then felt terrible while doing it. Fun!

Actually, the guilt did help a bit. At the very end of the month, I got off my butt and submitted those medical claims for a nice cheque (which, they tell me, will arrive in the mail any day now...), and used a bunch of my coupons when we went grocery shopping the first week of November. I also put a gift card I'd been hoarding on my Starbucks account so I can use that to fulfill my almost insatiable need for peppermint mocha's from now until January. Guilt - it's not just to make you call your mother anymore!

So: what have we learned. Nothing. Okay, maybe that I might need a shopping intervention. But I'm still glad we tried Broketober. While it may not have been perfection, it did allow me to pay off my credit cards (now with a few hundred dollars on them as I begin that most wonderful time of year "online shopping-mas") and put some money against the line of credit. It made me realize that my transportation needs weren't what I thought they were, and therefore had me put less on my transit card in November rather than buy a monthly pass. I love/hate you, Broketober. At least there's lots of discount miniature chocolate bars at the end of you.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I'm an ugly crier. I'm a full-on sobber, face wet and shoulders shaking, words incomprehensible and face scrunched tight. I watch series finales with a blanket over my head whenever possible, and I like my sad movies 3-D so I can use the glasses to hide my swollen, puffy eyes. I try to keep my crying secret, not only out of a need for privacy, but out of a desire that no one see me fall apart in such a thoroughly unsettling way.

Considering all this, it's not surprising that I've never attended Remembrance Day ceremonies since high school.

And, frankly, it's a terrible reason.

I think we, as humans, try to avoid sadness wherever possible. I mean, real, true, sadness, not Nicholas Sparks, credits-roll-and-it's-over sadness.Sadness can be difficult- what do you say, when someone's hurting? How do you comfort when there's no real comfort to be found? Words seem inefficient, and even the word "hug" seems too plush and squishy for the occasion. We're conditioned to "buck up" to "get on with it", to "look to the bright side", as soon as possible. Not only to better ourselves, it seems, but also to make it less awkward for everyone else.

But what more appropriate occasion for sadness than today? I cannot believe what it must be like to have an entire population pick up and leave, knowing that many will not return, and that those who do will be forever changed, forever marked by things you will never fully understand. I cannot comprehend what it must be like to bury your child, to allow them to leave you for places unsure, craving and dreading phone calls and letters, jumping at every knock at the door. I cannot imagine what it feels like to watch the country you love, the neighbourhood you've lived in all your life, reduced to rubble and bloodstains in the blink of an eye. I cannot believe, comprehend, or imagine. But I can grieve. And I can offer my ugly, sobbing, sadness.

While our nation is far from perfect, I recognize that living where I do, how I do, in the time I do, has afforded me the kind of luxurious safety and freedom that others can only dream of. And I'm aware that that safety and freedom does not come easy, and it does not come cheap. It comes at the expense of young men and women in lands far from home, of social justice defenders and their desire for a better world, of children and families huddled together in fear. I'll keep my feelings on war and the politics therein separate from today, only say that there is space in your heart for the victims of war as well as its soldiers. Our capacity for empathy is infinite, we can mourn and celebrate one thousand things without breaking. Human hearts are like Tardises - they can always store more than it appears they can.

So if you're a fellow ugly crier, go ahead, let it out, today's a perfect day to have a heavy heart and a dripping nose. And I'll do my best to join you next year. Because for all the beauty and talent and laughter we can produce, humans are still capable of incomprehensible evil and today is a grave reminder of that. But also cry for all the good that we can do, because I truly believe the good outnumbers the bad, most days. I have to.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

State of the Dog: Once, Twice, Six Months a Lily

I can't believe it's been six months since we adopted Lily. I mean who would have thought our little girl would have gone from this:

To this:

Huh. Turns out "then and now" photos of adult dogs
aren't nearly as impressive as those of human children.
Lesson learned.

She also lets us dress her in sweater-costumes
with nary a scratch on our arms.
Sometimes I stare at her and say "I can't believe you're our dog, Lily!" and it's cheesy, and it's true. As much as I loved dogs growing up, I couldn't ever imagine owning one myself. They were hard work, they were expensive, they shed, they were sometimes smelly, they were dirty and they had aggravating habits. All those things are true of dogs; they are also true of me. No wonder we get along.

But I've since learned that dogs are also great pick-me-ups, superb eating companions, walk accompaniers, cuddle pals, jokers, weirdos, and manufacturers of cute. Having Lily hasn't been easy every day, sure, but most days it's a simple joy just to be in her company as she chews on something that smells like bacon.

Seriously, look at these dorks. They're practically spooning.
She's so different from the frightened little girl we picked up back in April. She lets dogs sniff her when we go on walks and, on occasion, even deigned to sniff them back; she's become much more used to our family members coming over to visit; she got in her first dog fight*; she even stood up for herself when Suzy, TB's family's dog, came to stay with us. And by "stood up for herself" I mean "barked every 10 minutes at nothing just to show off and then peed on Suzy's bed when we were out of the house". Baby steps. But she'll actually interact with Suzy now, which is remarkable, given her general aversion to other dogs.

No, really, she's super good about the costumes.
Now, this isn't to say she's not skittish- I could (and should) start a Tumblr about all the things that scare her on a daily basis - but, for the most part, she knows we're her people and, if anyone's here to protect her, it's us. Or put her in a stupid outfit. But mostly the protect part.

Her social media scores are through the roof. 
I always kind of scoffed when people said that they can't imagine their lives before they had a pet, but I get it now. When I come home and she's not there, I find my heart sinks a bit when I don't her little wrinkly face or hear her demented little bark. The few times I've been sick this year, Lily's been right there, delighted I'm home, acting as my hot water bottle or shoving herself beside me on the couch. All these things help make it worth it when I take an Alf's worth of fur off my carpet and clothes every week or when she barks incessantly at the woman who cleans our house or when she eats that beef curry wrap I was really looking forward to.

She makes me smile literally every day. She made us a family. And she made herself an Instagram sensation!

Here's to many many more months of happiness and frustration, of snuggles on the couch and treats that smell like meaty death, little girl. We're so glad you're blooming, Lily.

*no worries, she wasn't hurt and, I swear to dog, she windmilled the other pug

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Broketober Progress #1: State of the Bank Account


Well week one of Broketober has come and gone and let me tell you, it's not been particularly stellar. I actually didn't even want to talk about it much, but keeping honest is sort of part of this, so fine. I'll do it. But I hope you can feel my furrowed brow through the monitor.

1. Taxis

Status: Pretty miserable

I've taken Five, count 'em FIVE taxis this month and it's only the 8th. Yeah, I don't know either. But between my inability to leave the house on time and my just-plain-boneweariness, I haven't managed to produce stellar results on this one.

2. Write it Down

Status: Not bad

I've written down everything I've spent this week but was a little lax last week and haven't been using my apps effectively. It really does keep me on track when I see all my spending in front of me. And by "keep me on track" I mean "keep me gasping and sobbing".

3. Let's Cook

Status: Not Bad

We've been doing okay about not eating out, especially given that some commitments were already set in stone before we started (If you think I wasn't going to Ribtoberfest, you're dead wrong.) So far I've gone out for brunch once, eaten at the cafeteria once and Ribtoberfest twice (no shame, no regrets) and I haven't taken in or been to a coffee shop once yet this month. I'm skeptical if I'll actually make it to only six times out this month, especially considering by my rules, I've already used up four of them (though really, why did I let the cafeteria count?? It's more punishment than nutrition). I've also made one recipe that I've never made before (and I'll share it soon), so I'm on track for the second-half of this promise as well, I think.

4. Pretty Frock Purchases

Status: Effin Ace

Haven't bought a single thing that wasn't a cab or a meal, thankyouverymuch. Well done me! *dislocates shoulder patting self on back*

Haven't bought my Halloween costume stuff yet, but I think I can do it pretty cheaply. I was stumped for ideas earlier but I think I'm coming around to something pretty fun... and that's all I'll say.

5. Use What I Have

Status: Nope. Just Nope.

I guess it's technically good news due to the fact that the reason I haven't used any coupons, discounts, etc. is because I haven't really eaten out, gone for coffee, gone shopping, or bought groceries yet this month. That'll change, but for now I'll say "no news is good news" for this one.

So, yeah. Not terrible, but certainly not my best effort. Ah well, we beat on, boats against the current.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Frugal February is Dead; Long Live Broketober

Let's go back in time, children. Back all the way to February, an era when I was wearing fingerless gloves and drinking hot cocoa and reading The Stand. Now we're all the way at the end of September where I'm... doing pretty much the same thing, actually. But in my defense, The Stand is a really long book. And there's creme de menthe in my hot cocoa now. Also it's been unseasonably hot these last few days so I'm wearing footless leggings instead of fingerless gloves. Whatever, moving on.

So back in the winter I participated in a little thing via the SmartCanucks website called "Frugal February". I set financial goals and tried my best to stick to them, occasionally checking in here and on their forums to keep myself semi-honest. Well, looks like it's that time again. After my union went on strike, my paycheques got all confuzzled (technical, economist term), and budgeting became a bit of a nightmare. Well the strike is over, (we won!) and my finances have returned to normal. My spending, however, has not. The lovely lovely Ess, who came from Missouri to grace us with her sunshiny presence is a shopping expert, and I was only too happy to help keep her skills in tip-top shape. And as it's just plain rude to have someone shop alone, I pulled my best Emily Post and happily bought pretty things right along side her. And then TS and I went to Toronto and shopped. And Jax and I shopped when she was here last month. And, hand to God, I just took a pause from writing this blog post because ModCloth sent me a text message that their "Stylish Surprise" sale was on. So I bought stuff. The great thing about Mystery Bags is you don't have to hem and haw over details like fit and colour. You just throw 'em in your bag and press "ship".

I have a problem, I know.

SO. Here are the goals. Feel free to play along, if you're so inclined. I'm not even close to being an extreme couponer, or whathave you (I don't even have a coupon binder which is probably totally gauche in the EC community) but I am always happy to share my experience with someone and offer tips where I can. That being said, I have a lot to learn about impulse control and my goals reflect that. They are shockingly similar to February's but those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, after all.

The Goals

1. Taxis

Only one thing has changed since February with regards to my reliance on cabs - I tend to pay for them now in cold hard cash. Literally cold and hard, because I just fill my pockets with coins from my dinosaur piggy bank* and rush out the door most days. I only know this is true because my bank statements show three measly taxis paid for by card and I know I took at least 4-5 times that. This may not seem like a big deal, but when you're taking a cab 15 times a month, that $1.50 fee for using your card can really make a difference. But I still take a lot of cabs. I'm not exaggerating with that 15/month figure. It might even be more than that, but I stopped writing down my spending long ago. But taxis ain't frugal, so they gotta go. I admit, I could eliminate a lot of them by being more punctual, especially in the mornings. In my defense, in February I didn't have a dog, so now having to feed and walk her first thing in the morning has really eaten up my time. Let's fix that. 12 taxis this month, that's all. While this may seem like a lot (and in fact, is 50% more than I allowed myself in February) I should note, I'm now taking an after-work Spanish class twice a week and I don't drive, which means I'd be taking 2 buses at 7pm after a full-ass day on low blood sugar. Not gonna happen. So eight of those will be taken up by after-class cabs. If I can get by on less, so be it.

2. Write it Down

When I tried to come up with a comprehensive list of how much I'd spent on cabs, clothing, groceries, and eating out for this post I quickly realized I'm kind of a mess when it comes to documenting my spending. I downloaded the Mint App with the hopes that it would help keep me on track, but mostly I just swear and shake my fist at its reminders that I'm spending an "unusual amount at coffee shops". I will use it this month, however, and I will write down every blessed thing I buy.

3. Let's Cook 

Yes, like our good friend Walter White I, too, would like to envision myself as something of a crackerjack chef. Unfortunately, my skills are more Todd than Heisenberg (can you tell I'm getting jittery avoiding spoilers about the BB finale?) but I think I have my eggplant parmegiana recipe up to at least 76.7% purity.

TB and I had been pretty good about eating out lately, but September killed me. To us, friends in town means drinks and food at all our favourite local haunts and that took its toll on our pocketbooks. Between visitors and my long weekend away, I ate out 15 times this month, if you can believe it. Don't think this is just circumstantial, though - in an average month, I probably eat out 10-12 times. For Broketober I want to chop that in half. I will only eat out 6 times this month. No getting other people to pay for me as a loophole. Take out counts. Work cafeteria count (gross). Coffee shop runs don't count (shut up Mint App), unless I buy food, and I'm still allowed only 3 coffee purchases.  Considering I'm already committed to eating out 3 times in the next 4 days, I think this one will be a toughie. I'm also taking this as an opportunity to learn to cook a few new things, as well. I commit to trying four recipes I've never made before.

4. Pretty Frock Purchases

I think I can actually keep to this one. Aforementioned embarrassing Modcloth incident aside, I have high hopes. I've done so much shopping over the past 6 weeks that I'm a little burnt out. Shopping has always been my vice, but lately after I leave the store I find myself vacillating between the joy of having new things and the stress of the clutter and debt that comes with them. I just consigned about a dozen things at a consignment shop near my parents' place and was thrilled at the amount of stuff they took off my hands. It freed up space in my place (and theirs) and has the potential to make me some money down the road. I also joined up with a swap group on Facebook, where I was able to get an awesome sweater dress this past winter and just traded a too-short/young-for-me dress for a tunic I adore. It's a great way to get rid of stuff you don't want for stuff that's new to you. All this to say, I will try my best to buy no new clothing this month. The exception might be stuff for a Halloween costume, but even then I'll try to "shop my closet". And I know there's going to be a vintage dress sale this month at my favourite store but I will try to stay strong. Strong damnit! This also means no frivolous non-clothing purchases. Books, gadgets, DVDs, etc. I'll try to find new ways to have fun.

5. Use What I Have

The weird thing is, I could hold tight to most of these rules and be okay, even cheat a little, if I just used what I had. I have a Groupon for a tapas place around the corner that we love; I have another one for a fish place we've never tried. I can cash in for a gift certificate at a nice-ish chain restaurant for our date night this Wednesday. I have a free Starbucks coupon as recompense for the time they made me a peppermint latte that tasted like Nyquil. I have coupons for free food, I have medical claims to submit that would net me tonnes, and so on and so on. I save all this stuff for some mystical time in the future when I'll need it, ignoring the fact that I could use it right now. If all this is me saving for a rainy day, then October's gonna pour.

So there you have it. Fewer taxis, write down everything, eat out less/cook more, stop frivolous spending, stop hoarding and use what I got.

Bring the pain, Broketober - I'm ready for ya.

 * This is absolutely the truth. He's over 20 years old and wearing a top hat

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Mountain to Mohammed

Back during Sewergate (c) I lamented the fact that this unexpected cost meant I wouldn't be able to take a vacation this year. Now, that's not entirely honest - I did get to do a quick weekend in Syracuse and will be heading to Toronto later this month, but our pie-in-the-sky plans to go to Europe for the first time were resoundingly squashed as soon as we spied the bill from Messrs Rooter. I'll admit - this bummed me out a bit. I genuinely like travelling, and I especially like travelling with TB so having to put any "us" travel on the shelf for the year was a hard prospect.

So, what do you do when you can't travel? You bring the travelling to you!

Okay, that was clearer in my brain. Let me explain.

While I haven't managed to get away this year I have had a bevy of social outings, whether it be people from far away coming to me, or me sending people off to new adventures around the world. The kind of work I do means that this time of year is full of goodbyes (and one day, 'welcome back!'s, but for now, mostly goodbyes). I've sent friends off to India and Russia, old coworkers to Brazil and Washington and will see off another good friend to Saskatchewan before the year is through. I'd be lying if all these goodbye parties didn't make me feel a little bit lonely and a tiny bit sad, but happily, most of those feelings are countered by a sense of excitement for these people and the knowledge that, for most of my close pals at least, our paths will certainly cross again. The friend who went to Russia, C, started this job with me and we've become very close over the last few years. I took her leaving hard and was feeling a bit sorry for myself once she left. I was delighted then, (and immensely lucky) to have two of my favourite people in the whole world come to town, my bestie (if she heard me use that term, she'd pinch me hard enough to bruise), Jax, and my dear S. The former came from Edmonton, the latter from Missouri, and they greatly contributed to fighting back the sense of melancholy that could easily have made its way into my heart these last few weeks. I'll talk about S in a later entry, but for now, let's focus on Jax (she likes it best that way ;) )

I hadn't seen Jax since Christmas 2011, which is the longest I think we've ever been apart. I love those easy-care friendships, the ones you can slip into like a flowered, faded muumuu even after years of separation. Having her around was heavenly - a friend with whom you enjoy an easy shorthand, a girl who is always down for a drink and a snack, a woman who makes your face hurt and your eyes tear with near-constant laughter. We had drinks at the cheap and divey bar around the corner, we went shopping (she bought me a large ceramic goat's head as a late housewarming present. 'Nuff said), we joked and talked and went to a dance party at a war museum. For real.

Yeeeah... it was weird partying in a bunker
...but it didn't stop us from Smizing.
It was wonderful having her back, even for only a few days. I miss her like crazy now that she's gone, of course. I'm hopeful she'll be able to make it back in January, but I know flights are expensive and time-off difficult to obtain so I won't get my hopes up too high yet. Maybe stepladder-high. Two children on top of each other in a trenchcoat so they can sneak into an R-rated movie-high.

TB and I have been thinking a lot about how we'll cope when we leave this city. But in reality, what makes this place home has been leaving us in dribs and drabs. It sounds incredibly cheesy, but it's the people that really do make a place feel like home and our town in particular seems to be this ever-changing port, with people leaving and returning nearly constantly. Of course our families and some of our best friends are here, but seeing how other people have left and thrived and fallen right back in step upon their return makes us just a little less panicked about growing up and moving on. Even our parents did it, back in the day, and I'm at least as adventurous as my dad. Until then, we're happy to have Sparta be the port in a storm (not the sexy meaning), a little place to lay your head while you're stopping by, where there's always chips in the snack drawer and a small, demented pug to greet you with silent, suspicious barks upon your arrival.

Friday, August 23, 2013

One Year In

A year ago yesterday, I took up the virtual pen (stylus, I guess?) and started writing here.

It was a stressful time - I had just bought a house and was preparing to move in with TB - the first time I'd lived with someone who wasn't family. And a year in, well, now we are a family.

I still remember how quickly everything seemed to move. We only had a month to settle everything so our days were filled with lawyer visits, filling out forms, phone calls and emails to utility companies, landlords, bank managers and lots and lots of trips to take out money. So much money. All the money. Before I even had time to process everything, my apartment was rented, our down payment had cleared and we were sitting on our couch (RIP, Sinky Brown), which was now, officially, *our* couch, in *our* house.

It seems like just last week we were hauling our boxes into our little place, trying to find room to store everything. But then I remember all the things that have happened since - Sewergate, Not one, but two great house parties and, of course, our little furry Hoover, Lily, and all the hilarity that's come with having her - and I realize that it's actually been a pretty full year.

I'm really glad I've taken up blogging again, even if I don't do it as often as I thought I would. For me, the best part about keeping a paper diary was looking back over old entries and reliving past events. It's important to me to retain moments' "authenticity" and I'm usually surprised to find that things didn't happen exactly the way I remember them. This blog has been a great snapshot of our first year in our first house and the trials and tribulations (and super fun times!) we've experienced. So thanks to all (7?) of you for reading, and I hope you've enjoyed my first year back behind the keyboard as much as I have.

Now back to poop jokes and fart noises, as per usual.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

God Bless the USA

Hidey-Ho, Readerinos.

I am bloody exhausted and poor as a church mouse (as opposed to those fat cat Temple rodents) so that can only mean one thing - I went cross-border shopping this weekend.

Since I was a teenager, August has always meant "family vacation time" - a tradition we continue to follow despite the fact that we are now all grown-ass adults. This means that, as years go by, we're a little more grumpy towards each other and a little more difficult to pin down, but we're a lot funnier so it evens out mostly. I tell myself it's a positive experience even though by the time we were declaring our haul at the border this year I was practically itching to get back to my house, my partner, my dumb dog. I love my family but it's really strange to realize that your definition of your "family" is shifting slightly. But enough introspection - on to the trip.

I'd like to say I was prudent. I'd like to say I only bought what was strictly necessary and weighed the pros and cons of each item carefully before purchasing them. I'd like to say that I didn't spend $120 here. I'd also like to say I didn't immediately do some online shopping as soon as I got home. I would like all those things very very much. I would also like a pony. Lot of disappointment going on today.

So, yes. Not stellar on the pocketbook or the self-esteem but the pantry and my closet are both looking boss!

We've got a pattern when we go to Syracuse - and woe betide if we don't follow all expected elements once we arrive. There's a trip to Destiny USA (RIP Carousel Centre), a day at the outlet mall, a quick tour around Target and the aforelinked Christmas Tree Store, and then a short pop-in to the liquor and grocery stores. You might think those last two a little odd but let me tell you - when your liquor stores are identical and province-run, the novelty of a rundown store with a hand-lettered "adult juice box!" sign is pretty much the definition of whimsical. And American grocery stores are the stuff of dreams! The frozen aisles, full of tantalizing appetizers and cookie dough, more choice in yogurts than anyone should ever need! It's a magical wonderland for chubby funsters such as myself. I always feel a little weird, flitting from aisle to aisle, oohing and ahhing as we complete our late-night grocery run. Like, my weekend getaway is just somebody else's Thursday night milk-and-eggs run and if they think of me at all, they have to be wondering at the disjointed state of my cart's contents ("sriacha chips, cake mix, dramamine and a hairbrush. Count me out of your weird night, lady."). But I do try to embrace my lameness and this trip was no exception.

Somehow, I didn't manage to gain a pound on this trip which is shocking and bizarre, but I'm chalking it up to my body's innate skill at processing affordable-family-restaurant food and not the 8.5 hours we spent walking the outlet mall (I wish I was joking.) I do, however, have a craving for vegetables that won't quit and I'm pretty sure my sodium levels suggest I've drank more Dead Sea than sweet tea in the last few days. But it was worth it, damn it. Midsized-town America understands me. It understands that I want my skinny jeans high-waisted and my knee-high boots wide-calved. It "please"s and "thank you"s and "sure thing, hon"s me until I glow from the attention. It finds me Birthday Cake-flavoured Oreos and makes sure I'm never more than 5 feet away from an Auntie Anne's Pretzels. I love it, unabashedly, and my visit there is always one of my favourite weekends of the year.

And I will read this the next time I'm in a car with my family, radio always in between two stations, as I bicker with the GPS while sitting in a backseat packed with filled-to-bursting grocery bags. Because I will need the reminder that I chose this. And that I love it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Soak it in

TB and I have been trying to squeeze every drop of fun out of the summer (okay, I've been squeezing drops of fun. He's been splitting his time between fun squeezing and demon slaying in Dead Souls). The idea that summer is over too fast is pretty universal, I'd say, but all the more apparent here, when summer is basically 3 months of nice weather surrounded by long periods of either waiting for snow, shovelling snow, or waiting for the snow to melt. No harm, no foul, I love the changing seasons, but I do love to sit in the sunshine while it lasts.

I've really come to realize something these last few weeks, and I'd like to share it with you. It's a little crazy and maybe too controversial, but I feel I have to say it:

I love weekends.

So glad I got that off my chest. So brave.

We imagined this building was Hogwarts, mostly.

I've had a lot of stellar weekends this summer and I'm pretty much addicted to them. This past weekend we decided to go for a walk sans dog, so we could grab lunch and poke around in shops without worrying about Ms. Scrunchface. TB found a free bench in a park nearby and we just sat there, looking like contented lizards, faces turned up toward the sky.

Our lunch was somewhat lackluster so much so that I DIDN'T EVEN INSTAGRAM IT but the afternoon was lovely, just the same. I hate the idea of jinxing stuff but I gotta say, I'm pretty happy with life right now. I'm a little bit sentimental these days because we're coming up on Labour Day, which, as I'm sure I've mentioned at some point before, is my New Years. I continually divide my year into "school year" and "summer" and it certainly doesn't help that Labour Day weekend is also our 1-year anniversary of moving into the house. Basically, I'm in full reflection-mode, thinking about how much has changed since this time last year. Add to that the fact that it's the time of year when a good percentage of my coworkers and friends are moving on to other positions, or, in some cases, other countries, and I'm basically permanently trapped in a glass case of emotion most days. But between the goodbye parties and the farewell cupcakes, I have birthday gatherings, short getaways planned, and some great friends coming into town, which delights me in a way you might have thought impossible. And in between there are these moments of quiet reflection, making me feel lucky for this little life I've carved out.

Oh, also we saw this on our walk:

I told TB we should leave a "deposit" in it and then scribble on the note "No it doesn't. Wouldn't flush."

We are in our 30s.

Monday, July 22, 2013

At Lease I've Got My Cooking: Fancy-Ass, Grownup-As-Hell Mojito Jello Shots

So as I said in my last entry, it was my birthday at the beginning of this month. And yes, Nosey Parker, I turned 31 years old, which is not the new 21 but is, in fact, still pretty great. As I mentioned, I'm not much bothered by aging, though the esthetician charged with waxing me last week swore that I looked much much younger, which, I'll admit, is a comfort. Thanks, Brittany.

To celebrate, I threw my first birthday party in at least a decade at the delightful casa de Sparta (our humble abode)*. I was reading about tips to make an outdoor party a success and came across a great list of rules that can apply to any party. I regrettably forget the website, but by far my favourite suggestion was to only make what you really love and buy everything else. I'd add to that: buy stuff that requires no prep wherever you can. Last party I made 2 hot dips, 1 cold dip, hot appetizers, cheese plate, punch, the whole deal. I didn't do any prep the day before so I spent the day of the shindig running around crazily, trying to time everything perfectly and ending up incredibly stressed out, to the point that I failed to pay attention while making the guacamole and sliced right through my thumb an hour before everyone arrived. This led to an overly-maddening last minute dash to finish everything without the use of my left hand, as well as the invention of at least 3 new swear words ("fucktumbler" was the stand-out)

This time around I decided to play it cool(er). My sister made posh cucumber sandwiches (which were so good that I instantly gave birth to the Royal Baby) and sangria (she's the sangria whisperer) and I made guacamole (cruelty free, this time) and smoked salmon dip (insanely easy and amazing). I had planned on buying mini cupcakes from one of the stores in town but that turned out to be one of those things I should have done ahead and instead resulted in me taking the bus to three different shops before I said "eff it" and made a dozen cherry chip cupcakes with cream cheese icing an hour before showtime. Faboo! I cut up some cheese, put some veggies on a tray, tossed out some crackers and chips, bought a 2-4, made mojito Jello shots and called it a day.

<record scratch>

Say what? Mojito Jello shots?

Oh yes, son.

I took my recipe from this fabulous website and I have to say - it turned out really well. I kind of want to make this my signature dish. Meatloaf be damned.

How we do?

6 limes
12-15 Mint leaves of average size
6 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 c. of water
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 package of gelatin
1/2 c. of rum (I used a dark rum because it's what I had on hand, but I suspect a light rum would produce a clearer colour of "Jello")
1/2 c. sparkling water or club soda (I used lime Perrier). You could use still water too, in a pinch.

Tips N Tricks:

We began this process the night before the party (starting at 11:30 to be exact. Great time to try new things. Always.), in order to give the gelatin time to set. This isn't a "oh my god, I have to bring something to this bachelorette party and I only have an hour!" kind of thing. A bottle of Skinny Girl margarita mix is probably a better bet in that case.

I put the finished lime halves in an empty egg carton I had reserved for just this task. This way, any spillover was just fine - there was no "drip-through" and we recycled the egg carton when we were done with it. The webpage I linked to above uses a muffin tin with crumpled up foil inside the cups - I suspect that would do just fine as well.

If you're using fresh mint from your garden (this girl was), make sure you don't pick the mint leaves for garnish too early - they'll wilt after a couple of hours. Ask me how I know.

Break it Down:

1. Cut the limes in half lengthwise and scoop out their innards. Reserve the juicy lime innards and liquid in a bowl.

The most time-consuming part of this recipe is hollowing out the limes. We had three people on the task and it probably took 30-45 minutes for 6 limes. Bonus: you find out pretty immediately if you have any existing cuts on your fingers! What fun! I don't own a grapefruit spoon, but I bet it would be an awesome tool to have here. As it was, we used steak knives and soup spoons to do our carving. Flipping the almost-empty lime halves inside-out and scraping them with the spoon seemed to work well to get the last of it out. Don't worry if you can't get every bit out - it's fine. Make sure not to damage the lime peels too much - these are your showstoppers in this recipe, after all.

2. Wash the emptied lime halves and dry them lightly with a paper towel. Place the fruit cut-side up in your 'holder'.

3. In a small saucepan, combine the 12-15 mint leaves and the sugar. Muddle the hell out of it with a wooden spoon (or if you're some kind of domestic god/dess, use your fancy muddler). I used 12 leaves and I thought the end result could've used more mint, so next time I'd use 15 or so.

4. Add the quarter cup of water and the lime juice. I guess you could be fancy about straining out the pulp at this stage, but I just took a couple of spoonfuls from the bowl of lime innards. The shots still came out pretty damn clear.

5. Sprinkle the gelatin package over the top and let it sit there for a minute or so. Turn the stove on low and stir until the gelatin disappears, about 5-10 minutes.

6. Pour the liquid through a strainer into a container with a spout - I used a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup. The strainer will get the lion's share of the mint and lime pulp.

7. Add the rum and sparkling water to the mixture and stir.

8. Pour the finished product into the lime halves, filling them to the top. I had a little more liquid than needed for the 6 limes/12 lime halves.

9. Carefully move your little beauties into the fridge. I left them there overnight so there'd be no last minute freakouts, but my (admittedly limited) experience with gelatin makes me think that 4 hours should be sufficient.

10. Carefully slice the lime wedges in half. I had thought I might do them in thirds but frankly, this size looked better.

11. If you're into garnishing, take the small mint leaves and affix them to the side of each shot.

12. Place on tray, serve, get daintily crunked.

The final result. I realize the plating is somewhat lacking but if you knew how I lived normally,
you'd be mega-impressed right now.

Final tip? Make sure to tell everyone that these are awesome "Jello" shots otherwise everyone will just quietly stare at them, thinking they're just a tray full of lime wedges and judge you for being a citrus-obsessed weirdo.

Enjoy, grown-up-fancy-ass-you!

*One guess which one of us gave it that name. One.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Mature: Started cleaning this bright and early the next day.
Immature: It took me most of a week to bother finishing
and I drank out of my hand in front of the sink when there
were no more clean cups.
The beginning of this month marked another year of  my continued existence, and for the first time since teenagedom, I threw myself a little shindig. It wasn't as big as our Christmas party and didn't require as much prep work, but it was really nice to try out the back"yard" and have some folks over.

Lily surveying the post-get together scene
(read: searching for dropped Doritos)
In the past, when birthdays rolled around, I would make entries about how "old" I felt at 21, 23, 26. I made those posts knowing full well that my life's work would be to build a time machine for the sole purpose of slapping those versions of myself in the face. And y'know, now that I'm in my 30s, I'm more okay about aging than I was then. Not that I'm peachy-keen on the mysterious marks that have shown up on my alabaster skin or the parts of my hair that are more "just for men" than I'd like, but I'm not too perturbed yet. I was never really a raving beauty, y'know? I'm not saying that to fish for compliments, I mean, I do okay with what I was given, but having never had a conventionally-envied face or body, I don't feel as bad as I might about "losing" any of that. Now, we'll talk in my 40s, but for now, the 30s feel pretty good.

And the past year has been kind of a big deal, really. I bought a house, moved in with TB and adopted a Hoover dog. And every one of those decisions gave me at least 2 mini panic attacks, but in retrospect, I'm so glad I went through with all of them. Our place really feels like a home now, and we feel more like a team than ever. Granted, 1/3 of our team doesn't pay a single goddamn bill, but she eats most of the stuff we drop on the ground so it pretty much evens out.

When I was little, I was always torn between this ache to be grownup and this fear that all the fun stuff in my life would disappear once I became an "adult". As the owner of a mortgage and a barbecue, I think I can officially call myself a grownup now, and I have to say, besides the early mornings and the bills, the overtime and the eating vegetables, being an adult is pretty awesome. Here's to another year of cocktails, dirty jokes, board games, Rock Band, pretty frocks, meaningful work, mini-vacations, deep talks, picnics, jello shots, fancy-ass dinners, lovely family, sexy shoes and perfect friends.

Bring it on, 31.

But first, a nap.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Wrinkle in Time: Pugstock 2013

Okay people, I'm ready to talk pugs.

Frankly, I'm always ready to talk pugs.- I'm one of those people now. We pretty much all saw that coming though, so let's get over our shock and onto our genetically questionable little mushfaces, shall we? 

We shall.

This post is going to be light on writing because that's not why you're here. You're here to see pugs. Pugs playing, pugs panting, pugs wagging their little donut tails. And who could blame you? That's why I went to Pugstock, too.

I'll just say this: Pugstock is a great thing. It's a well-organized, well-attended, welcoming event that made me feel like I belonged even though I'm definitely new to this "pet ownership" game. The organization it benefits, "Under My Wing Pug Rescue", is a small, dedicated group of folks who are committed to finding homes for these little morose-faced cuddlebugs and they've been great to us - going so far as to help find Lily when she pulled a runner. They've answered our questions with good-natured patience and even gave us a bed to put her in when we picked her up. If you're looking for a good group of people to donate to, these guys could definitely use the cash. Anyway. Let's get down to brass tacks:

We bought Lily a fancy dress a few days before the event so that she'd look her best for all the 2-legs and 4-legs alike. She took the dress-up, like most of the things we throw at her, with good humour and a little bit of depression.

But then she realized we were taking her in the car, so all was forgiven. We can't tell if she likes the car or if it stresses her out, but she always wags her tail and pants like me during a 5K as soon as the engine turns over so we're going to side with "positive experience" for now.

 When we got there, it was basically my dream come true. Pugs (and pug-friendly people and animals) as far as the eye could see! These little fellows (and ladies) are the pugs that were up for adoption at the time. I fell in love with Shandu - one of the larger pugs in the green harnesses. Lucky is the person who gets to wake up to her insane, smiling mug every morning.

Lily was really well-behaved, especially considering the amount of noise and action that was going on in the community centre. She even made a few friends!*

*sniffed half-heartedly at a few dogs' back ends. But she did seem rather fond of this little guy, who she went over to immediately. ---->

There were competitions for oldest pug, best trick, longest distance travelled, etc. This one was for "cutest wrinkles" - a tough field, to be sure and great contenders, all of them. We considered signing Lily up for "best head tilt" but she really does it best when I sing the first two lines of Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now". It was too loud for her to hear my voice above all the others, so I decided to leave my Peter Cetera impression for another day.

While my unbiased opinion is that our little lady had the cutest attire, I definitely was fond of the "mama's boys" shirts on this dashing duo.

I have nothing of substance to add to this photo of an adorable chubby pug wearing a scarf.

Lily took her first (for charity!) nail clipping like a champ. At first she didn't know what was going on. Then she did. Now I doubt we'll get her to submit to it so easily again.

There were other awesome dogs there, too, including Charger, below on the left, who counts cell phone and remote ingesting among his finest talents. The Great Dane on the right looked like Gulliver among the Lilliputians for most of the day. So great.

But, all good things must come to an end, so after a few hours of sniffing, wagging and petting, we trotted our little Miss back to the car for a well-deserved nap. 

Oh, and apropos of nothing? We also saw this sign that same weekend and it is, by far, my favourite garage sale sign of all time.

It's also printed on the back of a Labatt Blue beer box. Game, set, match.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Everybody's working for the weekend

Whew! Life has been kind of hectic around here and I admit that I haven't spent time stopping to smell the roses*. Almost all the chaos has been positive, though, so I can't complain. I've half-written a couple of posts on my very recent, very stellar weekends but the general fast-pace of life (read: lengthy naps) has kept them from being polished and posted.

Let me take you back, waaay back to the May 2-4 weekend, which was the first of many lovely breaks. I gave it some serious thought while drinking sangria and sniffing lilacs and I think Victoria Day is my favourite long weekend of the entire year. I mean, most holidays there are some spectacular expectations placed upon you: family get-togethers, lavish parties, time-consuming meals - but not Victoria Day. No, no. Queen Vicki asks nothing more of you than to walk down to the liquor store, put a folding chair in your backyard and sit in the sun until you crisp like a Frito.

Well, Ms. V, I like to say I did my part for Queen and Country.

The weather was gorgeous here that weekend. My back area is nothing special to look at (that reads dirtier than it did in my head), so my family very kindly offered to help me tidy it up. My dad and TB put together the remainder of our patio furniture (delightfully called a "chat set"), my mom and I weeded and planted, my sister... well, I'm pretty sure she just bothered the dog, but the company was nice. We added earth to the front yard so that it looked less like it did back in February and more like an actual thing you'd want to look at. I'd insert a picture here but it's still in rough shape and, frankly, I keep forgetting to snap a photo on my way out the door.

In the back we were faced with a plethora of options for planting, but we settled on tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, peppers, lettuce, strawberries, dill, basil, irises, wood violets, and some other plant I've already forgotten the name of; I'm equally excited about all of them. Okay, maybe a bit more excited for carrots because TS has recently gotten into canning and I love pickled carrots more than anyone under the age of 75 should have the right to.

I got a killer sunburn, for which I am entirely and regrettably responsible, and relaxed the days away in asphalt-covered comfort.

They were pretty relaxed, too.
Tune in next time to read about young men selling their youth, a sideways-walking dog, and the glory, the unspeakable happiness that is: Pugstock. Yes, Pugstock. I'm almost moved to tears just thinking about it.

*a lie. I've pretty much only been smelling roses, I just haven't blogged about it, lucky for you.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Changed for Good

This will be my last post about the dog for a little while, I promise, but I just wanted to give y'all an update on how she's doing.

Since her one-night-only performance of "Runaway Bride", Lily has been pretty much amazing. The night after her escape she laid a sweet douce down on the rug, but since then she's been good as gold, no accidents inside, tail curled and wagging, eager to be patted and adored (usually) and fed anything you might want to offer (always). After a slate of difficult days, I was basically praying that Friday would be a good day. "Just one," I pleaded, partly to her, partly to any higher power that covers canine behaviour (Moses?), "Just one good day. That's all I need."

And I got it.

TB went to see Ironman after work so that meant that I was going to be the first one home for a change. As I took the bus home, I cringed, my stomach hardening at the thought of what I'd find when I got there. What I found was a pug. A little pug with her paws and face up against the inner door (we have an "airlock" system in place now to stop her from running), whining and crying to be with me.


I opened the door and petted her as she rubbed her face against me, tail wagging madly, devocalized bark squeaking away. I thought maybe she needed to go outside, so I put on her leash and took her on a quick walk but she was just as happy to be with me when we returned. She went to the bathroom outside (for which she was praised like she'd just cured parvo), was sweet to me all evening and slept most of the day.

By the weekend she was letting us give her a bath and being sociable with visitors. By Monday she was greeting TB the same way she had greeted me on Friday.

Not every day is going to be perfect, I know, and we still need to teach her that 6am is an ungodly time to be up, and that "sit"ing and "stay"ing will result in copious amounts of treats, but... holy crap you guys. Our cowardly pee machine is gradually turning into a goofy cuddlebug and it's remarkable.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Panic! In the Household



As you can see by the recently reposted previous entry, we got a dog. After some confusion over transfer dates, she came to our place on Monday night.

And by Wednesday afternoon, she was gone.

Life hasn't been easy for Lily, either before the adoption or after. I think we see videos and photos of loving animals and it's easy to think they're all these little furry balls of unconditional love. Had a bad day? Dog or cat will take care of that! Bored and want to play? Hey, so do they! But that's not always the case. And with a rescue animal, it's certainly not likely to be the case, especially not right from the start.

I'm learning that. But it's a hard lesson.

Since Lily's had some issues going to the bathroom outside (or at all, really. Little girl has my camel bladder) TB asked if I wanted him to come home at lunch and let her out. I said, sure, if he had time. He did, so he did.

Lily has this thing about people right now. She won't leave our side, but she also cowers when we try to pet her sometimes. Same with the door, she bounds towards it, but then backs away whenever someone enters. I mean, granted, we'd only had a chance to open the door a half-dozen times with her so far, but it pretty much always went the same way: excitement, back away, retreat. Except for this time. As TB gently opened the door, she backed away then darted around his legs and ran out the door. And her stubby little legs might not show it but she is a runner, that one. TB is pretty quick too - he's all leg - so he ran and ran until he had no more breath in him and stopped. She was gone.

And she didn't have tags yet. And she's so small. And she doesn't know how to get home.

TB called me, and it had to be one of the worst calls I've ever received, up there behind the phone call I got when my grandmother died. Even just recalling it now makes my chest tight and painful. He was so upset, and his voice and words were equal parts furious, heartbroken, worried and despondent. I've never wanted to hug a phone receiver harder.

He'd asked a bunch of strangers if they'd seen her but no one had. He went back to the office to make posters while I had to continue working, deadlines looming and a coworker to cover for. I did not produce my finest work that afternoon, let me tell you. In between printing jobs, I emailed the rescue organization and asked for any help they could provide. They Facebooked and Tweeted Lily's information and contacted the Humane Society - they were very quick, it was great. I shared the information on my Facebook wall, all the while letting my mind wander to the terrible things that could happen to her. Balanced with a healthy dose of self-pity for her hating this place so much that she had to run, of course. TB was worse, apoplectic anger at her, teary at the whole situation, blaming himself for the escape. I never blamed him for a second. How could I? She wasn't really "our" dog yet, just a fuzzy roommate, feeling her way. We didn't know how she'd act - and we had no indication that she would make a run for anything that wasn't made of beef. And he'd done everything he could - run after her, asked strangers, made and hung posters - I was so proud of how he launched into action.

Finally, at 3pm I finished what I needed to, peaced out, and took a cab to meet TB and his mom.  A hug never felt so good, or so sad. We put up posters and people wished us luck, asking if we'd contacted the Humane Society, smiling sadly. Friends shared my status on Facebook, coworkers texted me to help look for her - after TB's frustration at the dozens of people who didn't stop her from running, we shared wobbly smiles over the kindness people can show in times of trouble.

I know that in cases like this the first few hours are really critical if you want a happy ending. And as the unseasonably hot sun beat down we started to lose hope. Then, around 4pm, as we reached the end of our poster stash, TB got a call. As soon as I heard the first "Really?!" I felt like all the blood returned to my limbs. Someone had found her.

We started texting and calling people who were on their way to help, letting them know all was well, typing (and talking) in all-caps. And as she came prancing down the street, tongue out and ears flapping, I felt like I was waking up from a terrible nightmare. I've never been so happy to see something I was so irritated with.

It turns out, she'd done this before. In fact, the woman who found her had been her first foster parent and during the transport from Montreal she'd pulled a runner into the woods and was only picked up because two guys on snowmobiles managed to snag her. They said it was like a movie. I kind of wish that this information had been passed onto us, frankly, because I had no idea a) she could run so fast b) this is sort of her M.O.

I mean, it makes sense - if I had been cooped up my whole life then I'd want to run as soon as I got a taste of freedom, too. Well, probably more like a canter. Speed walk at the very least.

We got her home, let her drink all the cold water her smushed face could handle and then pretty much collapsed. We ate our packed lunches for dinner around 9pm and were in bed by 10:30. Somewhere in there she peed on the floor (instead of, y'know, the backyard, where she'd been for an hour with us) but we scolded her like pros and cleaned it up even faster. We're getting the hang of this.

And we told ourselves in sniffly voices, that tomorrow will be better, that things will get easier and that this is the kind of stuff that can happen when you take a chance on a dog with a past. But make no mistake, it is hard. It's hard accepting that some of the stuff you really like will be, if not ruined, then at least negatively affected. It's hard watching a dog shy away from you, when all you do is give it food and attention. It's hard waiting for things to improve.

And I know we have to be patient, and I know she's trying her best, and I know it will get easier and I know it's worth it. But I like things to be good RIGHT NOW and like everything else I've wanted to excel at right from the start, I get super frustrated when things aren't simple and easy.

Basically, I'll be fine if I have kids because my bargaining techniques and attention span mirror that of a 4 year old.

So we keep on keepin' on. I found myself taking my voice to new heights of falsettoness today as Lily dutifully peed outside by herself in the backyard this morning. I even did a little happy dance when her droopy tail curled up into a perfect spiral and then wagged back and forth. And I'm choosing to ignore the peanut butter it took to get it there. One paw in front of the other, little girl. Until you reach the baby gate. Then back the hell up, hound.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The New Arrival

**NOTE: This entry was up (very) briefly yesterday but then I got a heart-stopping call at about 1pm while I was in the middle of editing so I never put it back up. I will now, and everything's fine, but yesterday was kind of insane so reposting it slipped through the cracks. Next entry will deal with that. Just so's ya know.**

I haven't updated lately on purpose. I'm not the best at keeping big news (either happy or sad) to myself and these last few weeks have been no exception. I'm usually annoyed whenever a blogger announces they have a "huge, fun thing that [they] can't talk about!" and then fails to follow up on it -either because it falls through/turns out differently then they'd hoped or because they forget. I didn't want to be that person so I kept waiting until I could absolutely say everything was settled.

So, since everything's been finalized at this point, I feel confident when I say: Welcome home, furry housemate!
She's the canine answer to "Grumpy Cat"
After much agonizing name-yelling back-and-forth (a post for another time) we're calling her Lily, but she came to us as Lin Lin. We got her from the good folk at Under My Wing Pug Rescue, a lovely little organization that is run by 2 (yes, only two) people working with a group of loving foster families to give homes to pugs in our area.

We spotted her about 3 weeks ago on their website and fell in love with her little face. We'd been talking about getting a dog for a while though we hadn't decided on a breed - we just knew we wanted a rescue. Her story won our hearts. She lived her life as a backyard breeder, kept in a cage in an unlit, unheated shed, with other pugs and pomeranians, having litters of puppies that were taken from her and sold once they were 8 weeks old. She's been devocalized which means when she does bark it's the most heartbreaking, high-pitched little whine, barely audible and so adorable you'll wet yourself. She's nervous around people so far (no shaking or nervous peeing or anything but definitely cautious and clingy) but she's apparently come incredibly far from the quivering, hiding mess she started out as, so we're proud of her progress.

When we saw her picture we knew we wanted to meet her. The only way to meet her was to fill out an application. So we did. All 9 pages of it. What followed was weeks of reference checking, cheque writing, nervous pacing, obsessive research, supply-buying and, finally, last week, an approval. 

We drove out to her temporary home and we (okay, I) may have misted up a bit as her temporary keeper said "It's your last car ride, little girl - you're going home!" She was good as gold on the ride home, no carsickness, sat right down even though she was clearly a bit freaked out. Her first night was pretty marvellous, all cuddles and house-exploring, and we were glad to have her.

The next night was a little more challenging as she ended up peeing on the couch (YES THE NEW COUCH FROM IKEA) when a friend's dog came by to say "hi" (ie: jumping up toward her and guiding her into the kitchen with his nose pressed to her butthole). Good news? We're pretty sure we discovered the mess early. Bad news? We caught it early because I sat in it. Sigh. Luckily we'd had the forethought to buy some stain remover "just in case". Thank Jeebus for my pessimism or the whole situation would have been much more annoying.

It's also clear that, like most pugs everywhere, she's a little furry shadow. No bathroom trip or walk to get the mail is complete without the little click click click of her feet (DIRECTLY) behind you.

But I think what's going to prove the greatest challenge is that she's still so nervous. I know, I know, it's only been 2 days, she's doing really well. It's just hard when you're adjusting to a new routine and you have the added stress of an unhappy dog. I mean, have you seen pugs' faces? At their best they're morose-looking. In addition, it looks like she's fonder of me than TB which has been hard on him since he's putting in at least as much work on this as I am, if not more.

We'll survive, and it will get better, it's just a big change, y'know? I mean, in the last 9 months I've gone from living on my own to buying a house with someone else, to being a little family unit of 3. I'd be lying if I said it was all rainbow cupcakes, all the time. But most days, it's at least a rainbow muffin.

She's a good girl, calm, well-behaved (mostly), and through some miracle, barely snores. And I'm convinced that no big decision - moving, new job, new family member- happens without at least a few moments of "WHAT HAVE I DONE??". The good news is, whenever I've been in that situation, I almost always look back a while later and think "Why didn't I do this sooner?"

So that was basically my impetus for keeping my piehole shut. On this, at least. Still running at the mouth on anything else, natch. Any advice on dogs or hilarious stories about pets doing crappy things and you still loving them much appreciated.