Thursday, February 28, 2013

Challenge #1 Wrap-Up: NaBloPoMo

I'll reflect upon my successes (and setbacks - not ready to call them failures just yet) of Frugal February tomorrow, but for today I just wanted to give myself a little virtual- (cyber?) pat on the back for doing a darn good job at NaBloPoMo. Even though February was a short month, posting 26/28 days is still better odds than last time's record of 18/30. I think. Math?

And no, it wasn't perfect, but it was darn close and I'm pleased. Next time? I think we could go all the way, team. Make regionals, show those kids at St. Mary's we ain't scared of them- whole nine yards.

It's been fun, making myself sit down and write something personal every day. It really did help get me through the arduous clusterfuck that has been our plumbing drama, for one, and it provided a nice change of pace, writing creatively and self-editing as a contrast to my day job where my writing is more perfunctory and goes through several approval stages before seeing the light of day. Plus, it didn't hurt that I saw my largest number of hits this month, either. Oh, don't pretend you don't peek at your stats like a crazy person, too.

I don't think I'll be able to keep up the one-a-day formula for a bit - my work life is going to get a little hectic until Easter - but I'll try my best to come here as often as I can. The competitive cheerleader in me (she's buried way deep down, under mini-hot-dogs and Passion Flakies) won't stop doing this until I can achieve a perfect score. But really, it has been a great stress release to talk about life instead of politics or logistics or travel documents. You'd be surprised what little room there is for poop jokes in talking points.

I know I was.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wiggin' Out 'Bout it Wednesday: Laundry Edition


Let's get honest with each other, shall we?

I would like to believe 1950s hygiene ads that state the fragrance of a female is as fresh field full of freesia (alliteration!) but the fact of the matter is - sometimes, I smell.

If my sister is reading this, no I don't. You do.

But for the rest of you: yes. It happens.

More specifically, the things whose stank bugs me the most are blazers. Blazers=wardrobe staples but Blazers also = dry clean only. Which meant for years I was wearing them a dozen times or so then taking them to the dry cleaners to get the stains and stale smell out of them.

Except, y'know, they didn't.

Everything would be hunky-dory until about the second re-wearing, then the smell of sweat and the smell of dry cleaning chemicals blend together into one nose-scrunching funk. Frankly, I kind of hate the smell of things coming back from the dry cleaner anyway - but what's a professional girl to do?

I tried Febreeze, I tried Dryel - nothing worked. One of my blazers won't even be cleaned by dry cleaners because it has some leather on it (I'm a badass) and when I tried to get it and a partially-leather skirt cleaned they quoted me $63 to do it.


No. Just no.

Just when I was about to break out the precious Grey Goose to solve my problems, in comes my lifesaver. Soak wash.

Soak bills itself as a "premium wash for all delicate items" that's biodegradable, phosphate-free and eco-friendly. As an added bonus, it's a Canadian company, and you know we don't make anything bad.

Proof.

I bought my bottle at Fresh Collective in Toronto on a whim and honestly? Best. Whim. Ever. I bought it in Lacey, but it comes in a few other scents as well as in a scent-free formula. Soak's gotta lot of good going for it but by far my favourite part is its ease of use. I put enough cool water in my bathtub to cover three blazers and gave a couple of squeezes of the bottle into the liquid. Out of force of habit I rubbed the stains/smelly areas a little, though you don't have to. I left them in the water for 15-20 minutes and then gently squeezed out the water. Then I hung up the jackets to dry (I'd probably recommend laying them flat but I just didn't have the space that week- the place was a disaster, and flat surfaces were at a premium).

That was it. No rinsing necessary. No putting them in the dryer, no fuss, no muss. I was in love. And the verdict? They smell awesome. Very light scent, slightly feminine and a million times nicer than when they came back from the dry cleaner. And the leather on the blazer looks fine. I have no idea if it's real leather or not but if its real enough to charge $63 to clean it, I'll believe it.

Again, like all "Wiggin' Out 'Bout it Wednesday"s I receive no endorsement to gush about this - I'm just that relieved to find something that a) works b) doesn't bankrupt me in the process c) doesn't make me get high off dry cleaning fumes at work (I do that on my own time now, thankyouverymuch).

Viva la soak.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Snapshots of Today

This Tuesday has been all about making hay while the sun shines, making a silk purse out of sow's ear and probably a bunch of other sayings that don't get nearly enough use, in my opinion.
The crown jewel of the neighbourhood, we are.
*bats eyelashes*

The workers finished day 2 and all seems right with the world (or at least with our sewer pipes). The City is coming back tomorrow to fill in our front "yard" (such as it is) but the inspector's been by, the hole in my basement got filled and everything's on schedule to be finished very soon. Which is an incredible relief. The guys have been great so far - my only gripe was today when they were explaining all that they'd done and they called TB down but not me. Fair enough, they probably didn't know I was home. But once I came down, I was basically ignored in favour of the "Man of the House" and all further commentary was directed at him. Except to scoff when I asked a question. Weak. I mean, it's not that I'm saying I'm such an expert on foundation and plumbing and such, it's just that TB isn't much more knowledgeable than me, so you might as well tell both the paying customers what's what. That being said, that was mostly an eye-roll moment rather than a real complaint, and I was comforted knowing at some point they most surely had to fish feminine products out of our drains. It's all about the small victories.

"Ladies, don't worry your pretty little heads about plumbing,
we gotcha covered! *wink*"
As a treat after they left for the day, we took a walk to one of the places we'd visited during the Dishcrawl. We're addicted to exploding boba (like cock-a-leekie and spotted dick, tastes better than it sounds) and the bubble tea place in our neighbourhood does 'em right.





Before we went out tonight, TB hugged me and said "Thank you for going through this ordeal with me." And yeah, okay, I don't have much of a choice, but it was still a nice sentiment, and I think these shenanigans have made our team stronger.

Fruity Drink Squad - Activate!
If there's something pink on the menu, he'll order it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Weekend Roundup

So as I said in my last post, I was mightily distracted by the doings a-transpirin' in my basement money pit this weekend. I did manage to drag myself out of my pity party long enough to make it to an actual party - a goodbye fete for my good friend, C, who'll be in Russia for over a month in language immersion before she moves there for a few years. Melancholy and purveyors of beverages are an excellent combination (or a terrible combination, depending on your take on these things) so I was looking forward to it. It started out shakily though - I don't go out to bars very much, and certainly not to clubs. I'm old, I deal. So when I was packing my clutch I only did my cursory checklist - key, credit card, cash, lip goo, bus pass, cell phone. Some younger clubgoers might realize what I was forgetting but I certainly didn't catch it.

The Sister and I head out to the bus stop for a short trip further downtown, her tottering in her heeled boots, me sliding in my wedges. We endure 5 seconds of a gaggle of teenage girls warbling Macklemore, again reminding me why I used to hate riding public transit on a Saturday night and why I am not, however from-American-Apparel my shirt might be, 20.


Once we get there, there's a bit of confusion since the place we're looking for is part of a larger cluster of clubs, all completely surrounded by college students - my first hint that I probably should have just grabbed my shizz and headed out. But we persevere, heading into the first one that answers in the affirmative when we mention the name of the club. Once inside, I realize what I'd forgotten. The bouncer turns to my sister and, wordlessly and seamlessly, she paws through her bag looking for her ID.

ID.

Fuck.

I smile my second-least-convincing smile, square my shoulders and thrust the girls out.

"I don't have my ID.. I'm sorry. I know I should but.. well. I didn't. I don't - I'm old enough. I'm just old, actually," I say, more than a little pathetically.
"Stand outside, please."

Sighing, I jostle my way back outside, only to be told to come back in again.

"Talk to my friend over there."

Dutifully, I walk to the back of the entrance where an identically-dressed man, at least 4 years my junior looks at me reproachfully.

"You understand why we have to do this, right? If you get hurt or something goes wrong in there and we have to call the cops, we'll both get in trouble."
"Yes, totally. I get it. I understand."
"I'm her younger sister!" TS pipes up at this point.
"You don't have anything on you at all that says your age? Nothing?"

I rifle through my tiny clutch, coming up with only my bus pass and my Visa.

"Sorry, no. This bus pass says I work for the Government? Not too many 18-year-olds there!" I lamely grin at him in what I hope is an endearing move.

No reaction.

I make motions to leave, but the bouncer waves me back.

"I will make an exception for you - but just for you, and just this once, okay?"
"Thank you. I appreciate that," I nod, chastised and head into the murky depths of the club, an odd combination of relief, displeasure and self-satisfaction settling over me. Still got it! A young waif with a cash box asks me who I'm here to see.

"Um, no one. I mean, my friends. Not, like, a show or anything."

She grimaces slightly but jerks her head back towards the club, indicating we can go in.

"I feel like a rock star!" I giggle-whisper to TS. I have had quite a lot of rum at this point.

We descend the stairs into... nothingness.

Well, not nothingness exactly, but a sporadically-attended bar.  First of all, it's very clear that our friend is not here, despite the fact that C said she was at the bar a half-hour prior. A quick glance at the posters on the wall and a look at the clientele help us to unravel a mystery that would make Benedict Cumberbatch gasp - we are in the wrong club.

Just goes to show, you can't always trust random strangers outside a loud bar to help you find your way. Shame, that.

We sneak back outside (so as not to be embarrassed by the sartorially-twinned bouncers) and stand once again, staring at the street. The crowd parts slightly and now we can easily see our mistake and slip into the bar/club that we were supposed to be at.

"Yay! You made it! We thought you were dead!... The band's about to start..."

Oh yes, there was a band.

If I had been in my teen years, this would have been a fine way to spend my evening. In high school, I dated an audiophile who was heavily involved with the punk scene, and my friends embraced the pop-punk stylings of the 90s, including all One-hundred-and-eighty-two Blinks. But 15 years later, it's too loud, I'm too old, let's get drunk.

Honestly, the group was pretty good, but the place is so tiny and the goal of the event (to say goodbye to a friend) was completely hampered by the issue their performance presented (nobody could hear anybody say anything to anyone) that no one in our group was really feeling them. Plus one of them took his shirt off. And it was the death-scream kind of punk. And it was only 10 o'clock. So, obviously our good friend alcohol decides to liven things up. I manage to order the most complicated drink on the menu because I'm a girl-drink drunk.

Basically my life.

Once I see this drink comes with not one but TWO sticks of fruit, I'm sold. It takes 13 minutes to make it, costs $11 and necessitates me writing down its name ("The Red Riding Hood") on a piece of paper to be understood over the din, but it is Totally worth it. I love drinks that can give you a buzz and an ice cream headache all at once. Y'know, people were mocking me silently (or loudly, again, can't tell) as they watched the grizzled Russian bartender put together my witch's brew but I swear, every girl's eyes for three barstools on either side of me glazed over with delight when I was presented my prize.
Sparkles may have been added for effect.
Or a unicorn pissed in this. Either way- magical!
I sip, then gulp the concoction as the rest of the crew begin putting on their coats to move on to another location. The walk over is a little more treacherous this time around, but I'm pretty sure that has more to do with the slush accumulation on the ground, and not that in my martini glass. As we stand outside the bar I realized, belatedly, that I STILL did not have my ID on me.

I looked up pitifully into the eyes of yet another bouncer, sighed and laid it out.

"Look, I don't have my ID. Nothing at all. I'm sorry. I'm lame and don't do this very often, obviously, okay?"

He smiled at me "What's your birthdate?"

I told him.

"What star sign does that make you?"

"A Cancer."

"Good enough for me."

This? Is why bars are better than clubs. Fact.

The place was still loud but talkable-loud and we had a lovely time, throwing back drinks until any talk of foundations, basements, water leakage, and sewage were far far behind me, replaced by vodka-cranberries and Rhianna assuring me she continues to find love in a hopeless place.

I said goodbye to C (though we have yoga tonight so no big goodbyes or anything yet) and TS and I collapsed into the nearest cab.

The next day was spent sprawled out on the couch, watching DVDs of Happy Endings and eating, literally, the biggest breakfast I have ever cooked myself. I felt like a snake.

And now the clock's struck midnight and I'm back to being a Cinderella, dealing with debt and eating frozen pizza for dinner. But good weekend, kids. Good weekend.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Watch this Space

I won't lie to y'all, once someone lays down some serious damage on your bank account, it basically ruins any other thoughts you planned on having that weekend. I want to say I took it in stride and moved on with grace and elegance, but the near-empty bottle of rum and overturned Coke Zero bottles on my dining room table are a living testament to the opposite.

I'll tell you about my (somewhat) embarrassing (pretty darn) fun weekend tomorrow. But for now, I'm just a bundle of stomach-tightening, hand-wringing, worst-case-scenario-imagining nerves. I have a rough idea of how much this misery is going to cost us but I'm worried it could balloon to somewhere massively uncomfortable. I also have no idea how long it'll take - and let me tell you, a bunch of blue-collar workers sticking around your house to root around in your pipes is a sexy concept that is born of and exists only in pornography.

I've been being very even about this whole affair but I'm getting that nervous and nauseous feeling that comes whenever I feel like I'm just "playing" at being a grown-up. Why did I think I could handle this? We were cleaning out the basement in preparation for the workers tomorrow and my face must have been a mask of stress. TB came up behind me and put his arms around my waist. I leaned back into him just a little.

"Are we going to be okay?"
"Yeah."
"Promise?"
"Yeah. Of course."
"You can't know, you know. We might not be."
"I know. But we will."

So I'll trust in that tonight and hope it gets me through tomorrow, and beyond. Sleep well.



Friday, February 22, 2013

A Reassessment of Yesterday's Post: Balls.


Sing it, Eddy Arnold.

Ugh. Let's go back to those blissfully ignorant times known as "Wednesday" when the world was fresh and our belief that our plumbing issues would be affordable were still beautiful pipe dreams.

Must... pun.. even in.... hard times.

Usually having a myriad of men traipse through my home would leave me positively dizzy with delight but not when they're actually, y'know, doing their job. I'll spare you the gory (read: boring) details but it's both more than we thought it would be and better than we predicted. Drank a little too much, grumped a little too hard and now I just want to solve all my problems by knocking off a pastor's wife, collecting the insurance money and hiding her body in the lake.

Sorry, we've been watching Dateline.

Honestly, TB's been in a totally depressive mood about it and though I've tried really hard to stay positive all day, I think it's finally rubbed off on me so now I'm deadfaced and miserable, too. I like you guys and all, but if you're not Honey the Pug or Sea World doing the Harlem Shake, I think I'm going to have to ask you to go.

Oh all right. You can stay.


You too, I guess.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The utter delights of homeownership

There is no nice way to spin the inspiration for this post: sometimes buying a house is an exercise in  teeth-grinding.

I went to my parent's house for dinner last night and called TB about 7:30 to ask him if he could pull my old desk out of our basement in order to give it to my dad/sister when they dropped me off back home. About a half-hour later, he gives my sister a call (my cell phone was dead). Her side of the conversation was basically as follows:

"No, I don't. My dad might. What's wrong? ...  Is that bad? How much water? Dad, do you know a plumber? <to me> He wants to talk to you."

The even, casual tone TB struck with my sister was in sharp contrast to the strained, irritated and defeated voice that greeted me as soon as I picked up.

"What's up?"
"That open pipe in the basement is spilling water all around it. It got through most of a cardboard box of stuff before I discovered it."
"Oh... Well... I guess we'll need a plumber?"
"Probably. <Swearing> <hang up>"

My dad followed up the call with some talk about valves and caps and, I dunno, flux capacitors - I fully admit my eyes glaze over at any talk of home reno projects, direly needed though they might be. We decided to head home to survey the damage. Full confession: I have yet to survey the damage. I like to live in blissful ignorance when toilet water's part of the gameplan. Frankly, my take away from all of this is that my nagging requests to bring things up from the basement are to be lauded as they led to the discovery of the plumbing issue in the first place. Go me.

Anywho, I arrived home to my little stress ball and used my soothing words and calming voice to assure TB that everything would be all right and that we could get through anything that was handed to us as long as we did it together. I believe my exact words were "So... are we not watching Mad Men, then? Because I want to open that package of beef jerky and watch Betty eat like me." I'm basically the Anthony Robbins of motivational relationship speeches.

I'm not saying I wasn't sympathetic, but at this point I've basically accepted that humans were not meant to live in buildings and all homes are lemons. I've heard the horror stories of new homes that went up too fast, condos that open for the first time with water in the walls and sweating windows, turn of the century homes that have massive cracks in their foundations, post-war houses whose roofs basically fly off - nothing surprises me at this point. We've been in our place just over 5 months and we've replaced the furnace and the stove as well as had an electrician in. Sure, the final two were voluntary and largely cosmetic but the fact remains: they needed to be replaced, even if it wasn't dangerous to keep them the way they were. Before we leave this place there will probably be a dozen other things we need to fix.

And I'm okay with that. I kind of dig the way our house is telling us what needs to be done, just by being its demanding, cranky self. On my best days, I actually think it's kind of hilarious. TB is not ready to guffaw over it just yet but he's slowly learning to accept that 100-year-old houses come with their own little foibles - such is the price you pay for charm. But so far they're all affordable things, the replacing of which increase the value of the house. And they were things we knew we'd need to fix eventually anyway. For example, we have no drain in our basement and we knew one of the pipes in the bathroom was ready to be replaced so it's no surprise this is happening, really. It's just annoying that it's happening now. But what can ya do? We'll deal with it and hope doesn't cost us a fortune.

But for all the potential issues with our little home, I'm still curmudgeon-ly happy to be here. Renting definitely has its benefits, what with the superintendents and the trouble-free leaving and the cost savings, and I can absolutely see the reasons why people would choose it over buying but for me, I'm still giddy that we were able to get this place. I like that we can throw parties and play Rock Band until 4am without worrying about disturbing our neighbours. I like that I can paint or hammer or plant anything I want without having to worry about restoring it to its move-in state. I like that I have an outdoor area (paved though it may be) in which to hang out with a drink this summer. I like that it's all ours.

And I will try my best to remember all of this when I'm handing over yet another cheque from the line of credit to some head-shaking, wincing tradesperson who's muttering into his chest that "this won't be cheap." Of course it won't, of course it won't.




Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Power of "Soon"

Just a drive-by post tonight - I am absolutely beat. There's been a huge amount of snow today and, coupled with a bomb threat aimed at public transport, today's commute home was a sluggish, chilly nightmare. A 25 minute commute took more than an hour. Ribs for dinner helped (a little) but right now a hot shower and an early night sound boringly appealing.

The snow was actually beautiful tonight - not too cold, no wind, just gently falling flakes, making everything a little softer and a little slower. But we're rapidly getting to the point where I am just *done* with winter. It usually happens about this time of year. I really start to feel it in March - all the stores are selling Spring skirts and open-toed shoes, Easter baskets are filled with bright green, fake grass and yet we're still pulling on our Sorels and giving the blowing sleet the finger through two pairs of mittens. I can handle winter right now but we're close to the breaking point. So very close.

And when things get to this point I know exactly what I need - a distraction. Usually that comes in the form of online window shopping but when the going gets really tough, the tough get trip planning. The Boy and I are half-assedly planning a vacation for this Fall and I'm trying to get a work trip approved for April, but even those weren't enough of a certainty to keep me sufficiently distracted. So, on a whim we bought tickets to The Book of Mormon* in Toronto and will head down there in May. We'll plan a little mid-week escape around the visit - maybe meet up with some friends, have a few drinks and some meals. It's not exotic but it's something to smile about and it made this blustery evening a little brighter.

I know I'm privileged to be able to do stuff like that - enough disposable income, no real obligations, a partner to do it with me. I feel very lucky. Though as I was typing that last sentence I discovered that two pieces of bacon had somehow been compressed into my sweater folds. So, y'know, it probably all evens out in the end.

*TB and I are so into this musical. When we went to New York last year, we decided to do the lottery just in case we might win. The last ticket called was a single ticket and when the guy announced "okay, our last winner is from Canada!" we both looked at each other with faces that could only be described as "feral". Luckily the winner turned out to be some woman from Barrie so we didn't have to Hunger Games each other.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mail Call!

Is it hipster to really like mail?

No?

How about mommy/lifestyle blogger?

I just feel like it's probably been said a million times by people much twee-er than me, but eff it - I love getting me some damn mail. I almost feel bad when days like today happen because the wonderful onslaught of happiness that greeted me when I arrived home was practically too much to bear. And the lack of mail tomorrow will make me all Snoopysad. Anyway, let's focus on today, yes?

First off there was this awesome valentine from my friend, Apes.
This is literally the most romantic thing ever said to me.
Isn't it awesome?

I will admit, maybe I should have opened this "filled with sparkles" package a liiiittle further away from where The Boy had just vacuumed but other than that - utterly charmed. If anyone ever tells you a 30-year-old doesn't want stickers, mad libs, erasers and a whoopie cushion in the mail - you just send 'em my way, bub. We'll set 'em straight.

Secondly, a little cluster of envelopes revealed a freebie coupon for frozen dinners (mama's no Betty Crocker) and the tax receipt for my student loan that I paid off this year so I can now stumble through my taxes. Hooray for the boring life of an adult!

And finally.. oh babies- I got my Ebay order! I waffled back and forth on getting this with Frugal February on and all, but I'd been looking for it for absolutely ages, couldn't find one anywhere else, and was totally enamored with it. There was only one on Ebay and, damnit, it was going to be mine.


Perfection! I'm fascinated by Hugo Chavez merchandise and this rounds out my collection pretty well. Dolls of world leaders in general is a pretty smashing idea but my job involves working on Venezuela so, yes, there's a personal affinity there. He talks, apparently, but I think the battery may have been drained on its way to his new home so I'll have to get him all fixed up at some point.

I still send out Christmas cards and postcards and the occasional note, because I know how much fun it is to open something besides an attachment. It's a big part of the reason I subscribed to two "beauty boxes" (soon to be one - cutbacks, y'know) because the giddy little thrill of getting mail that isn't advertising 2 pizzas for $15.99 is memorable and grin-inducing.

I love mail so much just call me Mr. McFeely.

Yeah, I went there.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Valentine's Day is Dead - Long Live Galentine's Day!

The astute among you may have noticed that yesterday came without a post - but with good reason, my friends. This weekend has been spent with the ones I love, and yesterday the ones I love were a) shopping with me and then b) taking me out for a meal that may only be described as schmancy.

The sister and I decided to start a tradition this year and treat ourselves to a girls' day on this most sacred of couples day. Because honestly, statistically speaking, when I'm 90 and drooling down my microsuede cardigan, the most likely person to be wheeled next to me, laughing their fool head off at me is not The Boy, but  my sister. 

Sorry, TB,but if you really wanted to be there, you'd insist your gender live longer. 

Anywho, we got some logistical stuff out of the way at first and then set out for a facial, our first, which was divine. We always keep coming back to this one "spa" in an office building but we're never sure why. The first time I was there, my pedicure was a 1/2 hour late so they gave me a free manicure. One time the Brazillian waxing burned me so bad I peeled for 3 straight days (I'll give you a moment to process that). This time, we waited a 1/2 hour for our facials and then were told we had to be in the same room.  It turned out to be okay as there was much giggling between us (and not just because we had to keep saying the word "facial" - we're 14) and the proximity helped encourage this. Maybe it's the discounts, maybe it's the kindness of the staff or the quality of the procedures, maybe it's the way the owner has no filter and gabs about other clients while we sip green tea, but we always return. Professionalism Shmo-shmessionalism. My skin feels like a baby's bottom and smells twice as good!

Then we went to the mall to try to find Valentine's Day candy but were thwarted. I swear, either stores are shipping shit back now or people are just getting out of bed way earlier because there is no excuse for the lack of candy I've found both at Christmas and Valentine's. No excuse, people. None.

A little shopping and then lunch (with drinks! ooh la la!) and we were back home. Ordered in Indian food, caught up with Happy Endings (this show is seriously growing on me) and gabbed past midnight. So so fabulous. 

Yesterday came with a little more shopping, then a sad parting of ways as Galentine's Day came to a close. I seriously can't wait to do this again next year. Chicks rule.

The following day we paid lip service to the day of the heart, though in actually it was a lot of fart jokes and laziness. The Boy and I caught up with Mad Men (we bought a loooot of DVDs at Amazon's Black Friday sale) then went out for the aforementioned fancy dins. To the dismay of myself (but to the delight of you lot and no doubt the rest of the restaurant's clientele) my phone died as our first course arrived so there's no photo evidence of the amazing food we ate but it was kind of nice to turn off the Instagram filter in my mind once in a while. We did the tasting menu and so were brought sashimi and foie gras, ravioli and duck breast, and finished off with 6 kinds of cheese in lieu of dessert. I thought The Boy was going to siss out when they pointed to the most pungent of the cheeses (TB has a serious aversion to what he calls "poofoot cheese") but when he heard it was called "Dragon's Breath" he was sold. It was seriously delicious. I always feel like a bit of a fraud at these places. My clothes aren't expensive, my hair and makeup were done in a rush and I don't really like any kind of wine .. except sparkling. Which seems like a cop out. When the server came by to let me taste a bit of it before I drank it I tried to look like I knew what I was talking about when I nodded and murmured "yes, excellent". I am so full of it my eyes are brown. The best part was we were 6 minutes from home when we finally stopped eating around 11:30 or so. I don't know how regular people eat at these hours. When I realized at 5:00 that I wouldn't be eating for 4 more hours I pretty much pulled a no-bones in the middle of the mall.

And for those of you who are worried about how this affected Frugal February - well, you're right I was no angel. But the lunch was mostly paid by a gift card, the shopping was all 30%-50% off and prices had been monitored for weeks, the dinner was my V-Day gift from The Boy and the facial was paid by a Groupon a year ago. So not bad for a weekend of hedonism with my favourite folk. Not bad at all.




Friday, February 15, 2013

Frugal February: Halfway to Heaven

Oy. We're at the halfway point of Frugal February and well... it's kind of apt, because I'm half-impressed with my mostly half-assed behaviour so far. It's been a challenge, no doubt about it, but a welcome one; I like thinking before I hand money over, and I'm extra chuffed if I have a no-spend day. In my post about my goals for the month I outlined 5 areas I wanted to improve upon. Come, friends, and let's see how I'm doing.


1.Taxis

I took 12 taxis in January, and wanted to quarter that number down to 3. Yeeah.. might have been a bit ambitious there. Especially since I've been working late this past week and a coworker has offered to split a cab with me a few times. All told, I've taken 6 cabs so far which is twice what I wanted to take but half of what I did last month. There's still time to turn this around and come under what I did last year but we are gonna put this in the "defeat" column for now.

2. Coupons

I have an overflowing envelope of coupons and I always forget to use them until they expire. The process of ordering, clipping, filing and tossing them is soothing but essentially useless. I've made a pact to use at least 6 this month and I'm not that far in - I've only used 1. But it was $1 off something we actually needed (detergent) and it was already 50% off to begin with so I was definitely cock of the walk (read: annoying, strutting person in that supermarket) that day. I've been using other types of discounts (more on that in a later post) but I could be doing more to use up the product coupons I already have. In my defense, the reason we haven't used a lot of coupons is that we haven't gone grocery shopping very much. Just twice since we've started the month and mostly for fresh foods and produce (for which coupons are sorely lacking). But still, I'll work on it.


3. Pretty frock purchases

This was tough because on day 3, my favourite pair of pants started to wear away in the leg and I was devastated and yet, determined to not buy a replacement. I have to admit, I lost the battle today and replaced them. But at least I got 30% off- right? RIGHT?

Today's little shopping outing for Galentine's Day was the first I've had this month and I'm pretty proud of that. Normally, I'd be popping into stores every few days, but I've been making a conscious effort to not even tempt myself. This has been an enormous issue, especially with the proliferation of online sales as of late, but I've avoided almost all of them. The two things I bought today were less than $100 - still not ideal but good for me. This one's a "not bad" so far.

4. Eating Out

This is definitely where I thought I'd fail the most but, honestly - I've been pleasantly surprised by how well I've done. I ate out 12 times last month and limited myself to 6 this month. So far I'm at two eat outs (one with a coupon from my sister, one coffee date with a friend) and two eat-ins (one pizza order when The Boy was too sick to move and Indian food I literally just finished eating before I typed this sentence). This is amazing, you guys. I'll try to keep it up (we haven't done V-day dining yet) but I'm pretty impressed with how well I've done on this so far, frankly. Call it a "success".

5. No "Lazy" Fines

So far so good on this one, too. No library fines (because I've decided to stop reading- gives you wrinkles) (okay, fine, kidding), no unnecessary bank fees, I even paid back some debts here and there. I've paid in cash where I can and have made my own breakfast (thus saving me cafeteria fees) all but two days this month. I'm doing really well on this front. I'm going to eat a brownie to celebrate. Success.

So, not bad so far. Just having the constant drumbeat in the back of my head to save money has helped me put more money on my credit card and more money against my debts. I'm still cringing occasionally but all in all, go me. Until March. Then hold on to your fucking hat. (okay, fine, kidding) (maybe)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is

My three step process for a solid Valentine's day. 1) buy them beer 2) get them to cook you lobster 3) eat brownie sundaes and watch Mad Men.

If you're not taking the train to love town after that... well, I don't know what to tell you, sweetheart.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What I've Learned: Cohabitation

There was a blog entry today on Apartment Therapy asking for advice about moving in with a boyfriend. It got me thinking on what has been the most important set of lessons-learned in our short time here. The Boy and I are coming up on 6 months in our place and, while I'm nowhere near an expert, I think I can offer up a few tips to those of you who might be considering a similar move. So, without further ado, here's what (nearly) 6 months of cohabitated bliss (mostly) has taught me:

The beginnings of our "art wall" - the pictures are straight,
it's me who's crooked.
1) Our house didn't feel like a home until we had art on the walls. It was seriously the one single thing that made us love our place and made it feel like "ours". Since most of the furniture was mine, it was nice to have something we shared equally. The Boy (who hadn't hung most of his art before we got the house) was so excited to see the things he had loved all laid out on the walls and I saw my art in a new way as it intersected with his. 

2) Make a big deal out of a first meal. Our first meal was Indian takeout because the idea of cooking after moving was near impossible. However, one of our favourite meals those first few weeks was a combination of sorts. We each made one thing we're good at - coleslaw (me), cherry pie (him), and each made one thing we'd never made before meatloaf (him) macaroni and cheese from scratch (me). The meatloaf was my mom's recipe and the macaroni and cheese was his mom's. It was kind of corny, but we loved the idea of bringing together our strengths, our mothers' strengths and making new traditions, all in one meal. Plus, if we totally screwed up, at least we had coleslaw and pie to rely on. Which, y'know, is not a bad way to pass an evening.

3) Give each other space. We have a very small second bedroom that I wanted to use as a guest room. In addition, I had a longish desk to put in that room. The bf has a gaming desktop and wanted a place to play his games where he could remain undisturbed and not disturb others. We ended up compromising and putting a double bed against one wall and his small, corner desk against another. Now the room looks kind of cramped but so what? It's clean, it's fairly tidy, and he's happy having a place to do his thing. My desk is currently in the basement, awaiting its new home in my sister's room. At first I was annoyed at having to give it up but you know what? I don't really use a desk. It was a bulky storage system for pens and old textbooks. Him having his own space when everything else is shared matters to him, so I was happy to do it. Me using every square inch of shelf space for cosmetics and samples matters to me, so I got that. It works out.

Similarly, for the first 2 months our socks, underwear, my tights, and my bras all lived in the same small 4-drawer dresser (and a few cardboard boxes to share the overflow). It made mornings incredibly aggravating and made me mutter some unkind words under my breath on more than one occasion. Once we found a wonderful old chest of drawers for him off kijiji, occupying the same bedroom became easy. It's funny how one simple piece of furniture killed almost all our morning bad moods.

4) Make your bedroom an oasis. Cheesy? Maybe. But who doesn't love cheese? Liars, that's who. Our bedroom is one of the rooms I'm the happiest with. It has sloped ceilings with exposed beams, which makes it feel like a quiet little cabin. Even though it's very tiny, it's cozy, and it's a perfect respite at the end of long day. It's where we chat and plan our day and laugh about stupid jokes - I really try to take any arguments we have out of that space because it's usually such a chill location. We bought the bed together, which was a good call, and splurge on good quality sheets (thank god for sneaky sisters who work at HomeSense). We tried to bring no boxes in there when we moved so that it could be a place of (somewhat) serenity when everything else looked like hell. And I'm proud to say it's fairly gender-neutral not some pink-splashed squint-fest (*cough* mom and dad *cough*)

5. Choose your battles. Yeah, sometimes I'll still get annoyed at water glasses left everywhere or 3 or 4 pairs of socks discarded all over the living room. But before I bellow for him to clean it up - I think: how much do I care about this? Often, the answer is close to nil, especially when I consider the stuff he does without me asking. I've accepted we just see mess differently. It doesn't mean he won't do something if I ask him to - he's good about putting stuff away when I can't reach it (shut up) and vacuuming etc. - but he won't necessarily think to do it himself. Yes, I clean the kitchen more than he does but he always packages up and takes out the garbage and recycling even in -40 degree weather. I go through the mail and pick up clothes off the floor, but he fills and empties the dishwasher more, and doesn't complain at the huge amount of hair i leave behind when I straighten it in the morning. Decide what's a dealbreaker and needs to be addressed, but don't harp on everything, and don't accept him doing the same. Separate the wheat from the chaff and you'll be happier for it.

6. Don't become tied to your house. One of the hardest things about having a built-in buddy as a roommate is that the urge to leave the house becomes smaller and smaller. Home now has food and movies and Rock Band (if it's any kind of house worth living in ) AND it has someone to hang out with! Who wouldn't want to stay home?? But fight that urge. Go out for dinner with separate friends, go to a movie together with your siblings, get those after-work drinks with coworkers. The best advice I ever heard about doing stuff when you're lazy is "never spend two weekends in a row at home". This gives you enough time to hang out and do house stuff and watch Modern Family but also to be social and engaged. After all, there's only so many times you can say "no" to someone's invitation before they just stop inviting you. And life gets really boring if every conversation you have involves the phrase "I know. I was there." Trust me.

7. Be kind to each other. I'm not saying you have a terrible relationship, really, I'm not, but kind acts are different when you live together. My heart melts quicker for a hot meal when I come home or an emptied dishwasher than it does for a box of chocolate. When it comes to gifts for your new roommate, it really is the thought that counts, not the cost.  Having someone make you a lunch or replace the toilet paper might seem mundane but trust me when I say they can be bone-jumping hot or rom-com sweet if you're just too tired to cook because you got out of work an hour late and you are just at the end of your rope with this fucking day...

.. *ahem*

So, yes. Be kind.

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

I know it's only been a short while but so far, things have been surprisingly good. One kind of weepy fight in the last 5 months but other than that, we've managed to face a broken stove, a busted furnace, neighbour garbage can shenanigans, a house party, two dogsittings, 3 trips to IKEA and a family dinner party with a fair amount of grace and aplomb. Here's to the next six months, and beyond. May there be more cherry pie and less trips to IKEA for all.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Riddle Me This

I have this love/hate relationship with riddles. I'm a born know-it-all so getting the answer to something is immensely satisfying, but I'm also easily frustrated, so if there's an answer sheet, I'm peeking at it. But I enjoy seeing the answer almost as much as I enjoy figuring things out on my own. I'm always impressed by the work involved in something complicated and sometimes a hint helps push me closer to that place of appreciation and away from the place where i fume and swear and yell that I don't care if I get the answer, I just want to get out of this neverending hellhole I've dragged myself into!

Right. Calm now.

I only bring this up because today, in between doing somewhat productive things, I went back to some extensive, impressive online riddles that I'd tooled with in the past, as well as one new one. I actually like having the attention span of a goldfish. It makes re-doing things like this all the more fun because I don't remember them from the first time! I also like gentle clues but the internet is all about "cheats" and "walkthroughs" and very light on "hints" so it makes doing these somewhat difficult, too. I thought I'd share some of these hurtyourbrain puzzles in case you, like me, are cursed with a brain that repels work and a desire to cry more on a daily basis.

1. Neutral Riddle

This is the new-to-me one I discovered and it's a little easier (so far) than others I've tried - which of course, for my impatient brain means it's almost impossible. The clues and hints they offer for the first few puzzles are great, because they get you into the right mindset for this kind of teaser while at the same time making you believe you could almost do this. Almost.

2. Funny Farm

Good lord - I started this one in 2009 on the advice of a colleague and am *still* not finished it. We were in French training together and on our breaks we needed to do something that didn't involve conjugating - enter Funny Farm. You start with what looks like one of the old "brainstorming" sheets I used to have to complete before writing a short story in middle school. "On the farm" in the centre, with blocks coming out of it, indicating words that relate to said farm. You use the box on the left-hand side to type in an answer you think might be in that puzzle, then click enter to see if you're right. Easy as pie. Sure, you can guess "cow" and "horse" - those are probably there, but when you realize the puzzle is made up of 24 more squares exactly like that one, and that the highlighted words you come across are again connected well... let's just say it took me two tries to pass my French oral exam. I may not have used all my free time effectively.

3. This is Not Tom

The last and hardest of the bunch, this was a puzzle started in 2009 and it is both hard an awesome. It starts with a picture of a man in a robe and the simple words "this is not tom." What follows is a series of maddening clues bringing you pieces of a somewhat disturbing novella written by John Green (who is a great and well-know Young Adult writer and you should read his stuff). There was some discomfort at the time over whether this was real or not and I leave it to you to see how convinced you are by the tale (which, I believe, remains unfinished). I remember being into this around the time it was released, so I don't know if all the clues work as well as they once did (YouTube comments feature at some point), but it is brilliant. And crazy. And will require you to "crowdsource" at some point (cheat) because it is meant to be solved as a group. Sometimes there's a box to fill in the answer, sometimes you change a URL but there is a lot of material here. And it is SO rewarding when you get one.

To get you started on the first riddle, so you don't feel insane: the sentence is missing something. That something is also a homonym. That homonym is on that page. Click on it, and begin.

I hope you enjoy the madness of your own brain matter here - and feel free to consult. I'm generous in my hintage.

Monday, February 11, 2013

NaBloPoMo: Feb 11: A Perfect Valentine's Day

Okay, full honesty time here: I'm running out of steam on topics so I'm using a prompt.

I have this bad habit of talking at people when I'm overloaded. My brain is often going a mile a minute and I'll be halfway through a descriptor for my week before I turn to whomever I'm talking to and say "I'm sorry. I'm using you as a planner."

I don't want to use you all as a planner. So I'm using a prompt.

What is Your Ideal Valentine's Day Celebration?

Huh. Bohkay.

I'm not a big fan of Valentine's day. It seems like a really good way to sell candy between Christmas and Easter and for restaurants to get twice as many people inside twice as quickly for prix fixe chateaubriand for two. But I also don't hate Valentine's Day. It may be de rigeur to dump on couple appreciation day (to which everyone is entitled to scream "EVERYDAY IS COUPLE APPRECIATION DAY!!) but I don't mind it. Your mom gets kind of misty if you call her, lobster tails go on sale, which is good news for everyone, and February 15th is circled in my calendar as "Discount candy day", my favourite unofficial holiday of the year.

That being said, I have never really spent a Valentine's Day alone so I am sensitive that others may justifiably dread the red-dyed shitstorm that comes rolling in this time of year.

If it were up to me, my Valentine's Day would start with brunch. I'm 30, white, with no kids, in a somewhat-urban centre, so obviously brunch is my religion. There are some amazing spots for it in the city but Pressed and Murray Street are two of my favourites. I would eat with reckless abandon, and would snack off The Boy's plate whenever his guard was down. LOVE DOES NOT JUDGE.

There would be a lot of walking - downtown is very walkable and I love those winter days where it's hovering around 0 degrees and the sun is shining and you almost open your coat but don't because that's when the hypothermia will sneak up on you and hit you in the solar plexus. I'm not a huge handholder because I have very little legs and The Boy is 6'1" or something so basically we look like this when he tries to walk slow enough that we can hold hands


But I do like hooking my arm into his elbow because then I can surreptitiously lean on him a bit while he's walking until I can drag my feet and he ends up doing the lion's share of the work of forward motion. Because even when it looks like I'm being cute, I'm just hiding how duplicitously lazy I am.

Anyway, so where were we? Right - brunch, walking. I would probably try to work in some shopping there because I am such a girl, right? I know! But it would probably be at our favourite thrift shop (and obscure treasure trove). It's our first stop for just about any costume need or piece of charming vintage flair and with stuff literally packed to the rafters, it's a super fun place to play treasure hunter. The Boy's gotten a couple of sweet hats from them and I've picked up a fascinator, some jewellery and some great clutches there as well. One day we'll buy that giant sombrero that hangs from the ceiling. We got big dreams.

I'd try to fit in some time for sneaky make-outs. When we were first dating we were fond of the area behind some of the more prestigiously historic buildings in town (and there are a LOT of them) - though I do remember we were once embarrassingly interrupted to be informed that we were about to become part of the "Winter Light and Sound Show" so maybe somewhere a little more out of the way?

Dinner would be at one of our other favourite haunts. There's a tapas place very near to us that we went to in December and immediately loved. Our favourite restaurant in town is the Fraser Cafe though it's a bit far. I'd probably push for Beckta - because I am a fancy fucking bitch, natch. And also because it's very close to home (see above- so fat, so lazy). I would wear a magical dress that made me look awesome but also felt like sweatpants*

Dinner would be fantastic, we would ignore the wine list as per usual, order girl drinks and drunkenly flirt our way through a tasting menu until I burst my shapewear. 

At this point I'd want to chill at home for a bit. We love home. We're working our way through several tv series right now so I'd probably want to become better acquainted with my good friend "couch" (everyone's true valentine) as we cuddled to some kind of ghastly, yet wryly hilarious, murder on Sherlock.

And then we would bone.

Okay, okay, you didn't need that last part, but I couldn't resist.

No flowers, no perfume, no jewellery, just good food, fun talks and a day spent doing a whole lot of nothing. But you know what? I'll probably be doing something very similar on the 15th with my sister for Galentine's Day. Dinner, shopping, walking, the whole enchilada.

Except for the sexy bits, natch. Grody.

But my point is, Valentine's Day doesn't have to be about trading presents for vag or spending all your pennies on overpriced roses or trying to overcompensate for every bad V-Day you've had prior to this. It's a meaningless nothing day if you want it to be or just an excuse to tell people you love them. And who couldn't use an extra moment or two, in the middle of a frosty winter, to bring a little warmth to people you love? And hey, if you hate it all that much, there's always the 15th. Or, actually, hate on the 15th, too- leaves more Reese's peanut butter-filled hearts for me.



*I just Googled "bedazzled onesie" and "fancy Snuggie" to no avail so I think I'm out of luck here.

  



Sunday, February 10, 2013

Grin and Bear it*



I live in a city (indeed, a country) that defines itself by its winters. Winters are a family member, a core belief, a religion. And like any of those things, we grumble and kvetch about them but if anyone from the outside should dare say a negative word about them we'll turn on you faster than Snowmaggedon buries an outhouse.

We are a city that largely embraces winter; we have to - it makes its home here for about 5 months a year. The meteorologists predicted that this year would bring a particularly nasty one, and they were right. The Boy bought a shovel at the end of November in a flurry of panic and it hasn't made its way back to the shed since. The snow pile at the front of our house has reached our living room window, and there's still at least 6 weeks of winter left (Wiarton Willie is a liar and a ne'erdowell).

You also haven't really eaten a Beavertail until you get at
least one mouthful that's half-napkin.
So what do you do when the temperatures are chillier than Obama's reception at a FreeRepublic barbecue? You throw a party.  Skate on the world's longest ice rink, have your picture taken with an Ice Hog (not sexual, I promise), eat a beavertail (vegetarian), and marvel at the beauty before you as ice forms on the surface of your eyeballs, and you drift into a beautiful, slumberous death in the nearest snowbank. Fun!

I haven't been to Winterlude as part of a family in some time but with the temperature a balmy -10 degrees today, we decided to make a day of it. Or 2 hours of it. Which is about my breaking point for whimsy. There a few key elements for a successful Winterlude. 1) Taffy on snow 2) Beavertails. That should do it. 

Also, if you can photobomb a family picture or shove a kid out of the way to get your face in one of those "wacky cut out" photo opportunities, bonus points.

Yeah, those are ice bubbles on a sculpture
of a swimmer coming out of the water.
I don't even know how.
It was actually a really lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon, even though it did get too frosty for comfort by about 4:30 and The Boy's not so good with crowds. We saw some amazing scultpures (that hadn't melted yet - bonus!), ate both of the aforementioned "musts" and saw 3 dogs and 2 fallies!

Finally, the cold penetrated through our tshirt-sweater-coat top layer and our longjohns-pants-2-pairs-of-socks bottom layer and we participated in another fine tradition - a visit to the pub.

I try not to complain about winter if I can help it because, really, I love living in a country where the seasons are so clearly defined. I mean, sure, I wish autumn lasted about 3 weeks longer than it does, but I love the crisp feeling of winter air in your lungs, the smell of stick-to-your-ribs cooking in the oven and the complete silence that falls over the city when the snow rolls in.

I'm not going to marry winter or anything, but I'm okay with gviing it the occasional game of grabass outside the dog park, y'know? Y'know.

Between trivia night on Friday, a productive day and a fun night out with friends yesterday and today's tomfoolery, I'm going to try and keep weekends like this in mind when I think about winter. It'll be a cheery memory when we're shoveling for the 3rd time in a day and wondering if we can live off of a can of bamboo shoots and half a lemon instead of putting our boots on to walk to the store.



*Ugh. It hasn't happened to me in a while, but I wrote this blog entry and then it disappeared. I tried to get the last saved version but Blogger decided to autosave for me every 4.2 seconds, so i justmissed getting my old entry back. So helpful. Anyway, imagine this entry being longer and better written. Okay? Okay. 


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Dishcrawl? More like Delish-crawl!

I don't even know what to say about that blog title. They just get worse, you know? I don't even feel in control of it any longer.

It's no secret that I love food. And with Frugal February in full effect here my restaurant trips have been cut dramatically.

Gross.

Luckily for me, I'd paid for a Dishcrawl in advance, so this outing didn't technically count - in fact to NOT go would have been a waste of money. So, armed with the smugness that only loophole-finding can bring, I headed out into the frigid night to eat my face off.

For those who don't know, a Dishcrawl is like a pubcrawl except without all that troublesome beer getting in the way (Full confession: I gave up pretending I liked beer shortly after university - about the same time I stopped pretending I liked black coffee). You sign up, pay your money (usually $40-$65, depending on the restaurants involved) and are given an email 48 hours in advance, revealing the first restaurant's location. You show up there at the appointed time, and join a group of like-minded strangers (in our case, about 40 total) in a meal. After about 30 minutes, give or take, you move on to the next restaurant, within walking distance, and have another small-plate meal. You do this 3 or 4 times until the Dishcrawl ends or you can no longer move under your own weight - whichever comes first.

I brought The Boy, The Sister, and my dad along for the ride because there's nothing better than showing the people you love exactly how much food you can fit down your gullet. Our first stop was La Favorita, a large and comfortable spot in Little Italy with a wood-fired oven and an industrial-looking interior. We were given a little speech by the owner on the history of the place accompanied by little appetizers of goat's cheese and cream cheese on thinly-sliced baguette with smoked salmon and shrimp on top (as well as a $10 gift certificate should we want to return). Then we were given a small salad, a piece of walnut-pesto 5-cheese pizza and a piece of garlicky bruschetta. The pizza was definitely my favourite but my dad was all over the simply-dressed salad and the sister was jonesin' for more bruschetta so there was lots of good to go around. Frankly, at this point, I was already starting to get worried about how I was going to do this 3 more times. The majority of the places we were eating at that night were Italian - a country not exactly known for its light meals - and we were starting pretty carb heavy. To say nothing of the alcohol we'd consumed (pro tip: don't do alcohol at every place - and if you do, do a mixed drink or small glass of wine. You can drink a beer every 35 minutes but it's not really something that makes you want to walk afterwards).

The next restaurant was only a 2 minute walk away and was much more cozy than the first. At Il Primo we munched on another salad, this time with warm goat's cheese, red peppers and chickpeas in a maple-dijon vinaigrette served alongside some of the best butternut squash soup I've ever tasted. My palate is an idiot so I have no idea what the underlying flavour was, but I suspect some kind of roasted curry was at play. It was so perfect on a -14 degree night.

The next place was a bit farther away but it was worth it. La Dolce Vita may have hosted my favourite dishes of the night, which is saying something when you've already eaten as much as we had. It was a cramped place to dine, however. Bench-like seating had been set up, but with as many of us as there were, it required a certain "comfort" with the person sitting next to you. And I'm talking very comfortable. I'm pretty sure there were two extra people wearing my scarf at one point. Anywho, more good food abounded here. The pizza, one of three different kinds served, was good but, for my money, not as good as the first location. The spaghetti bolognese, on the other hand, was freaking great. My grandmother used to make homemade spaghetti sauce and she'd add some sugar to it while it was all-day boiling. This had that same kind of sweetness, alongside a savoury meatiness that had me drawing up a tenant's agreement to move in. There was a stuffed mushroom cap that was pretty heavenly, too and, lucky for me, The Boy was getting over an illness that made him unable to finish his and The Sister just straight-up hates mushrooms so mama cleaned up in the fungi department.

After this we squeezed out of our family-style seating and put on our coats for the last time (pro tip: try this again in the summer) to take a fortifying 10 minute walk to our final destination in Chinatown. When we arrived at My Sweet Tea we were pleased to find a pretty darn adorable bubble tea joint that serves just that as well as coffee, smoothies and brick toast. The brick toast was a mystery to us all but ended up being pretty awesome (sweetened condensed milk, thick, sweet white bread, even sweeter toppings - seriously, how can you go wrong?). The standout, however was when the lovely co-owner leaned over and said "do you want a gusher?"

Um.

Obviously.

The Sister burst out with "OH MY GOD I LOVE GUSHERS!! Seriously, I have a pack pretty much every day for lunch". This is true. So, he brought us a cup of them. And then for the table next to us. And then I asked La Dolce Vita for my tenant's agreement back so I could move in here instead. Oh man, they're awesome- basically I got to live my 7-year-old-self's dream and eat a bath bead. That's seriously their texture. Inside it's a burst of slightly-sour fruit flavouring. For someone who finds more than 10 tapioca pearls a bit much to handle, these little guys are the perfect substitute. Once I found out this place was only a 12 minute walk from my house, I was sold. We took our time enjoying our drinks (the raspberry/tea smoothie my dad got was a real standout) and then spent 20 minutes trying to remember where we'd parked. Great night.

I'd never been to any of these restaurants before so this was a great way to get an idea of what they do. It's also a good social outing, if you're into that kind of thing. As a group my family is totally insular so we're not the best indicator but we met some nice people -including a chatty guy at Il Primo who was a bigger foodie than I am and totally sold me on a place that I'd been going back and forth on for a while, so I was super happy to have another food lover recommend it to me. I think it's awesome when people go on outings on their own -whether to the theatre, movies or dinner- and I was happy to chat with him while we went about our meal. Scarfing 'za is a great way to meet people.

Our first Dishcrawl was very much a success - though I'd be keen to try a different area next time. The walking was nice, even in frozen temperatures, the food was warm and good and the atmosphere was excited and open. Two thumbs up for Dishcrawl, overall. And two Tums up before bed. *burp*

Friday, February 8, 2013

White out

Just a drive by post as we collapse on the couch after walking home from trivia night (we did okay but are a bit rusty. Got all the sex questions right so bully for us! *self high five*)

An 18 minute walk turned into half an hour but it was a small price to pay to feel like you're the only people on the planet.

Safe travels everyone.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Frugal February Day 7: Clothes Culling or How Not to End up Buried Under a Pile of Your Own Diapers on Hoarders

One of my biggest expenditures, other than eating out, is on clothing. Sometimes accessories, sometimes shoes, often lately dresses, the idea of something new as a "pick me up" is hard to resist. Moving from my apartment, where I had a decent-sized closet, under-bed storage and two chests of drawers, to our house where I have a dress rack but no closet, small under-bed storage and only one chest of drawers, was an adjustment. But it's been a good one. A smaller space means that I have to make do with less and it's helping to ensure that I get rid of things in a timely manner.

I'm no expert but I have been experimenting with different strategies to avoid a) buying stuff I'll regret and b) keeping stuff I no longer enjoy. I basically try to adhere to the following guidelines (rules sounds too harsh- unless you like the naughtiness of being a rule-breaker, in which case, call them rules and go on with your bad self)

1. My sister and I made a pact last year to stop buying "disposable clothing". Disposable clothing is categorized by us as a) pieces that cost less than $10 (usually with good reason) and b) things that are "nice enough" that you'll invariably hate a year from now.

 I recognize that for a more "daring" piece, disposability can be an asset- you're okay buying something trendy if it's also cheap enough to risk it- but normally, if it won't become a favourite, we talk each other out of buying it. We know each other well enough and have gone through each other's closets enough times to know what styles end up getting the sack year after year. For her it's thin sweaters with ties and generic "chino-style" pants. For me it's usually wide-legged dress pants and cable-knits. We are drawn to them only to hate them months (or even weeks, if we're being honest) later.

Even though we try to cull regularly, the 80/20 rule definitely applies to our closets. I'm making a conscious effort to change that but for now, I really do wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time. The question we always ask the other when they're hemming and hawing over something in the changeroom is: do you want to wear it tomorrow? If the answer is no when it's brand new and shiny, you're never going to want to pull it out of the closet when it's a few months old.

2. Same goes for size/fit. If it doesn't make you look amazing right now, it's not worth it. You may lose those 10 pounds, you may get a curvier butt, you may sign up for some sort of scientific trial that leaves you with a tiny waist and the ability to shoot lasers out of your mouth but if it isn't something you want to put on your current body, it's just a scrap of fabric taking up room and making you feel inadequate. If you must have a "goal outfit" make it just that - A goal outfit. If you love it to death and feel that will be a motivator then hang on to it, but a second wardrobe of clothes is impractical, space-wasting and, frankly, depressing.  You should be able to look at your closet and be delighted by choice - not overwhelmed by the daily search-and-sort you have to do to find something appropriate.

3. Don't buy two of something - it makes it less special. This one is weird, and, of course, your mileage may vary, but for me, buying two of something is a recipe for a quick trip to the local donation bin. I remember when I was in high school, an American Eagle opened up for the first time and oh, but I was eager to shop there. I bought a pair of men's shorts (such a bad-ass) and two of these bright tank tops, one in yellow/blue, one in green/white. I loved the hell out of both of those tank tops.. for about six weeks. Then I started ignoring them whenever my fingers passed over them in my closet. Eventually, I just tossed both of them at once, after realizing they'd been in my closet for four years and I hadn't worn them in two.

The secret there is that I'd really only loved the green one. I bought the yellow one two days later when I was making my way through the sales rack and decided I might as well buy another. That was my mistake - now that "have-to-have-it shirt" became the "been-there-done-that-bought-the-t-shirt". It was immediately made "old" by the presence of another. I've since learned that even if I love a shirt, I shouldn't buy it in several colours - just last month I threw out two shirts that I loved when I got them but were too similar to styles or colours I already owned. Ugh - my loss, your gain, Canadian Diabetes Association.

The one exception I'm willing to make here is if you find something you love that's a classic (think dark blue, straight-leg jeans, great fitting plain white blouse, favourite t-shirt in a discontinued style), then I'd recommend buying two of them - but storing one (if you have the space) until the first wears out. I once had a fabulous pair of dark blue denim pants (yes, a pedant might call them "jeans" but they were thinner than jeans, with a good amount of stretch.. was I wearing jeggings? Oh god. They were probably jeggings) and I loved the hell out of them. They made my butt look great and they were comfy as all get out. When the inside leg of one side wore right through, I was devastated, despondent. I was more upset than I had any right to be, really. I sincerely wish I had bought two pairs because now they're long gone and I didn't even have the sense to read the tag so I could track them down again. And I haven't found a pair of pants like them since.

Another example, The Boy has a dark blue military-style button-up shirt in a timeless style that both he and I adore. He bought two of them and put the other away in a drawer. Now if the first wears out or fades dramatically, he can just switch it out for the other.

But I have accepted I just can't buy two of anything similar at the same time. The "fun" of owning the item is immediately cut in half by its twin. Like I said, it may be different for you, but I just can't fool myself any longer.

4. Take it out of your closet. When I'm unsure of whether to toss a piece or keep it, I take it off its hanger, fold it, and put it someplace out of the way for a day or two. I don't know why my brain thinks this way, but once it's out of my closet (or dress rack, in my case), it stops being "my clothing" and I can think more objectively about it. Often times that's all it takes for me to decide that a skirt or dress isn't worth my time any longer.

5. Consign it. I'm a recent convert to consigning but I was amazed that I made some actual money off of doing this. I had a few small bags of clothes I was going to give away anyway, and I took the best of the bunch to a consignment shop near my parent's place. I had to make a meeting in advance but the whole process was fairly painless. It's a little humbling to have someone paw through your clothing with a discerning eye but if you can get past the feeling of rejection, it's a great way to pick up a little cash. The place I went to charts your purchases online so you can see what's sold, how much it's going for, and how much you'll make off the deal. The place I went with also donates all the stuff it doesn't sell to local women's shelters. All told, I made about $35 off of my batch of about 10 items. Not everything sold but at least it ceased to be my problem the minute I stepped out their door. Great experience - I'm going back again in another week.

6. Have an honest friend. My sister and I are brutal on each other's wardrobes but it's necessary. Growing up, we'd try to get rid of things in our closet with our mom's help but every time we'd discard an item she particularly liked she'd moon "oh.. that was such a pretty piece. I always thought you looked so nice in it" and then she'd sigh like she was Catherine, pining for Heathcliff on the moors or something. We'd guiltily ask for the piece back and then hang it up, never wear it, and wait until she wasn't looking to throw it out.

Now we're wiser. We buy our own clothes so mom's not in the picture anymore, and occasionally we'll get together on the Straight Talk Express and hammer at each other's egos for a bit. It's all done out of love, of course, and we're only doing it out of a desire for the other one to look amazing. If we're being particularly kind we'll scrunch up our noses and mutter "not your best". If we're at the end of a particularly gruelling session we're more likely to yell "are you kidding me with this shit?! What are all the other hobbits wearing this year?" and then grab the clothing out of the other's hand and cram it in a grocery bag.

We usually do this twice a year - once in the spring and once in the fall. I go through my clothes first and remove whatever doesn't fit, has holes, or doesn't suit me for whatever reason. I take the "maybes" off their hangers and fold them (see guideline #4). Then I do an impromptu fashion show for my sister and she hurls abuse at me until we both just want the day to be over with our mouths full of pizza. We've got it down to a science now so it doesn't take more than an hour or two (often depending on how nimble the clothes-tryer-oner is feeling that day). It's a great feeling when it's over because you have tangible proof of your success and you feel you can justify bringing a few more "have to have it"s into your life.


So, that's it - those are all the tips I got for ya. Do you have any surefire ways to make sure your closet stays manageable? With the state of mine lately I'm starting to think "controlled fire" has its perks...




 * Note: not necessarily are you going to wear it tomorrow. Otherwise I don't think us Canadians would ever buy a pair of shorts


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wiggin' Out 'Bout it Wednesday: Best buys of 2012

Ooh.. I can feel it now.. We're on Day 6 here of Frugal February and I'm getting eager to recklessly spend. I've had two spend-free days since February started (which, for me, really ain't bad), but the fact that those days didn't happen organically shows me that I was frittering away more money than I originally thought.

And, like any addict, once you take my source  away, I start daydreaming about what I'd do if I had it back. I don't even physically go near stores right now because the temptation is still too great. I still online window-shop (Windows-shop?) but, I'm proud to say, the only online transactions I've performed in the last week have been three returns. *pumps fist*

I'll go into my not-even-remotely-an-expert tips for clothes-buying tomorrow, but for today I'd like to sit and dream in the wonderland that is a world with disposable cash. My sister and I have made a concerted effort to start buying more "enduring" things, whether it be home decor, kitchen gear or clothing, and that effort resulted in 2012 being full of really lovely things. Now that I've owned some of these pieces for 6 months to a year, I thought I'd highlight some of the ones that have become staples for me. And none of this is sponsored - I'm not nearly popular enough for any of that.

1. Rare Specimen Earrings in Pyrite


I am in love with these beauties. I wear them almost every day and I love that each earring is a slightly different size and shape. Each pair of Rare Specimens earrings is unique and has a "raw" look to them which makes them kind of a cool conversation piece. I got my sister the quartz ones and she wears them all the time as well. I love the pyrite ones because they're not quite gold and not quite silver so they go with anything. She loves the quartz because clear isn't a colour so bam- always a go-to accessory.I  really can't say enough about these guys. The store appears to be empty right now but they're available in shops around North America.

2. Coach Tour Dress in Rouge

Full confession: I'm wearing this dress right now. I have a dinner thing to go to tonight but I also had a meeting this morning and this is one of those wonderful dresses that I can do both in and still feel like I'm wearing my pyjamas. Seriously, it is *that* comfortable. I wore it on Christmas, I wore it on Boxing Day - and not just because I'd forgotten to bring a change of clothes to my parents' house - I wear it on weekends and to the office. Admittedly, if I keep wearing it this often it will probably start to pill a bit (it's that kind of material) but for right now, it's lovely. I typically pair it with a thick belt, thicker leggings (I have enough junk in my trunk to host a rummage sale so it comes up a bit in the back on me) and knee-high boots but I've worn it with heels as well. It comes in a bunch of colours if red ain't your thing. However, I thought red wasn't my thing but it turns out? Red is kind of my thing. I got mega-into Modcloth this year and I'd say probably 70% of what I've bought have become wardrobe staples. And when I have needed to return something (or in the case of a recent "final sale" item that arrived defective), their customer service has been beyond. If their Canadian shipping was cheaper, I wouldn't be able to pay my mortgage.

3. Minnetonka "Kilty" Grey Suede Moccasins

I got these at DSW but Canadians can find them at Soft Moc (or a variety of other retailers, I'd imagine). I'd never owned a pair on Minnetonka's before, but I'd bought a pair of moccasins last year and OhMyGodILivedInThem. They've sort of become a "go into the scary basement only" pair of shoes due to a few too many poor decisions to wear them in the rain (the "common sense" part of brain is woefully underdeveloped) so I had to get them replaced. I wore these basically all summer and now they're sitting on the shoe rack in my office (where i hide 15 pairs of shoes from The Boy so he won't complain about how many shoes I have), taunting me, mocking me, moccasin-ing me. They're comfortable, not wearing out despite near constant wear, wide enough to allow for an insole or a hot summer foot swell (delightful!) and a cute change from ballet flats (and they "air out" better too, ladies). They make me ache for spring.

And for something non-clothing related, but something I love nonetheless:

The Boy bought me this for Christmas to put on our "art wall" and I think it's great. We both brought a lot of posters to the relationship when we moved in together but once you get to be a certain age it's hard to incorporate posters into an aesthetic (except for our Lady Gaga poster - paws up, monsters). I read the Hunger Games Trilogy to The Boy in 2010/2011 and we saw the movie together, too. My fondness for the story became our fondness for the story and Katniss definitely now holds a place in both our hearts. We're like her Peeta. Or her Gale. I'm not choosing sides here - one love.

So what do you get the grownup nerd who likes young adult fiction? You get them this. I love this artist's portfolio - she does incredible work, often based around videogames- and I love how this print illustrates our affection for this book without actually being, y'know, a picture of The Hunger Games movie poster ou quelconque. I also love her Bioshock luggage tag. Frankly, I could quite happily hand over most of my paycheque to her and not feel badly.

Did I buy a heck of a lot more this year? Natch. But many things were either "found" (and I feel like a tool saying "here's something awesome- I can't imagine where *you'd* buy it though") or repetitive (my Modcloth bills, let me show them to you). But these are a few of the things that I've been happiest with.

Now back to dreaming while eating a homemade muffin. Sigh.