Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Self-Improvement World Tour - January check-in

A certain malaise always settles into my bones in January. This winter has been particularly hard on me for some reason, and while the New Year is all about hope and promise and self-actualization, in reality I spend as much of the month eating Bagel Bites as I do on self-improvement. That being said, my year-end post always seems to invigorate me to try to Do Better, at least for a little while.

The incomparable Meg Zandi mentioned that she'd been working away at her resolutions and that reminded me that I had once had goals too. And a tan. And I used to wear fabrics other than polar fleece. I digress.

As I have basically become a hermit due to this terrible-even-for-a-Canadian winter, her post was a good reminder to get off my butt and get some of those indoors activities going.

If you'll recall, my resolutions were as follows:
  • Read 12 books
  • Visit 12 new restaurants
  • Make 12 new dishes 
  • Do that hanger trick once in the winter, once in the summer, to try and downsize my closet
  • Make a list of things the house needs done and complete at least half of them
I've read my first book of the year, one of the treasures I picked up at the annual Family Christmas Bazaar Extravaganza, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I really liked it, but that's another post. I made butternut squash soup last night for the first time which was very hearty and tasty (okay, full confession, it was a pre-chopped vegetable mix that I added broth, brown sugar, S&P and curry powder to, stuck in the slow cooker, then immersion blended. For shame.) I haven't gone to any new restaurants this month, which I hope to remedy this weekend. Hint, TB. HINT. We tried to go to a few this past weekend but literally every one we walked to was closed for lunch on Saturday. BECAUSE NO REASON.

I've started the hanger trick and, let me tell you, it works. If by works you mean "makes me feel guilty about the clothes I'm not loving enough which I then wear out of sadness". And I know that's what you meant. 

It's a great exercise, actually, because it forces me to realize that a) I really do wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time and b) there are combinations of clothes that I have not even begun to imagine, child.  Granted, some of these should not be imagined outside of a dress-up box but it's made me see where the gaps in my wardrobe exist and what items I have too many of (*cough* black dresses *cough*)

I also made a list of things that needed doing around the house over the next little bit. Nothing too big (roof replacement, redoing porch) but nothing so small that it could easily be "undone" (tidying up flyers, cleaning floor). If there's anything more satisfying than crossing something off a list... well, it's probably a deftly performed flash mob, but to-do lists are right up there. Right now I'm working on my spare room, which is kind of the forgotten child of the house. I put up an awesome poster the kickass Meaghan designed, and I am* putting up a picture rail so I can put some more art up on that. I'm searching for rugs and putting frames on things and it's actually making me feel accomplished at something more than heating up soup and putting on socks.

And today, as I was getting ready to go home, I saw something I haven't seen at work in ages. The sunset. And it'll be a little earlier tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. And then I will wear flats again. And then we shall be free.

*Boyfriend is

Friday, January 10, 2014

2013: The Wig that Was

I took one for the team this year and only took the 27th and the 3rd off, so my Christmas break was cut quite short, thrusting me back into the land of the working quicker than I might have liked. What better way to unwind than with a little self-reflection? Oh, right. Rum. I could have unwound with rum. Ah well.

2013 Year in Review

1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?

Owned a dog. Made a Jello shot. Carried a picket sign. Visited a native reservation. Planted a garden.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Yes and no. My New Year's Resolutions were:

"I want to read a book a month. I want to learn to make 13 new dishes I've never attempted before. I want to go to 13 new restaurants. I will try to stop filling the worry spots inside me with endless shopping. I will attempt better to myself and to others."

I read a grand total of 3.5 books.

I made (or attempted to make): kale chips, mashed cauliflower, apple turnovers, southwestern beef stew, brown sugar shortbreads, earl grey and lemon cookies, slow cooker ribs, mojito jello shots, puff pastry apple dessert, eggplant parmigiana, lobster bisque, smoked salmon dip, quinoa with almonds and raisins, peanut butter pie. That's fourteen! Though, to be fair, the majority of these are not meals I can actually subsist on. The bolded ones are the ones I liked the best.

I definitely went to 13 new restaurants. I'll keep a list this year but off the top of my head the local standouts were: Atelier, El Camino, and Supply and Demand. Add in all four places we went during the Dishcrawl, plus a few during two trips to Toronto, and I'm sure we hit this number and then some this year.

I shopped so much my credit card practically disintegrated. Fail on that one.

I think I'm learning to be a better listener, and I'm definitely trying to be better to others but I haven't been that good to myself this year, honestly.

I know resolutions don't work for everyone but they keep me honest. In January, I made a list of 45 things that I think the house needed. 20 of them have been completed and the joy of crossing them off the list cannot be measured. So I'm keeping many of my resolutions from last year:
  • Read 12 books
  • Visit 12 new restaurants
  • Make 12 new dishes 
  • Do that hanger trick once in the winter, once in the summer, to try and downsize my closet
  • Make a list of things the house needs done and complete at least half of them
3.  Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not close, but a bunch of coworkers and acquaintances did. My friend and I were discussing this the other day, and I think maybe the reason my close friends and I became close in the first place is that we weren't the marrying-young-and-having-kids types, and we knew that even as girls. I think there might be something to that.

4.  Did anyone close to you die?

No, thank god. This year was rotten enough as it was.

5.  What countries did you visit?

None, sadly. Just a few trips to Toronto and Kingston. The sewer crack in February effectively squashed all travel plans. Hoping our house doesn't spontaneously combust in 2014 so we might actually go somewhere.

6.  What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

A position abroad. A more abundant garden. And a carryover from last year: an inbox that's manageable.

7.  What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 29th: the day Miss Lily became one of the family. Also May 1st. When she decided she didn't want to become part of the family and ran away. Rotten dog.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I'm not sure, really. Lately I feel like kind of a fuck-up so it's hard to really focus on what I did well. But I did a really solid job organizing the visit of a human rights defender from South America this year, I can tell you basic things about myself in Spanish, and my dog's still alive, so ... go me? Compared to last year where I organized a big trip, was a bridesmaid and found and bought a house, this year was kind of a letdown in the "personal growth" category.

9.  What was your biggest failure?

Ugh. Let's not get started down this path right now. Suffice it to say, this year was also a letdown in the "professional growth" category.

10.  Did you suffer illness or injury?

I cut through my thumb pretty badly (not stitches-badly but bad enough that it took 6 weeks to heal). Boy that really boiled my potatoes. Maybe a bad headcold in March. 'tis all.

11.  What was the best thing you bought?

Ooh... my couch is a treasure. And, I know we can't technically "buy" people, but hiring a cleaning person changed my life in a big way. So the services and time of our lovely helper was a godsend.

12.  Whose behavior merited celebration?

I was even more grateful than usual to have my friends around me this year. Looking around at my parties and realizing what a swell bunch of people have (foolishly) decided to hang out with me really made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

13.  Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The sister and I had a blowout this summer that made me more angry and hurt than I thought possible, and while we've made up, I think it did put a bit of awkwardness there that may not go away so easily. That being said, we're still close it's just... different now, you know?

Ugh. will life ever not be about adjusting to new normals? Probably not.

Also, Rob Ford.

14.  Where did most of your money go?

Besides the obvious answer of our basement sewer pipes, I spent the most on: eating out, taxis, Modcloth, vet bills (this dog will not let us cut her nails!!). Striving to do better on all of them (I will cut this dog's nails!!)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My friends Sarah and Jackie coming to visit, going to Toronto to see Sarah Silverman and Janeane Garofalo.

16.  What song(s) will always remind you of 2013?

Thrift Shop - Macklemore
The Ballad of Hugo Chavez - the Arkells
I Knew You Were Trouble - Taylor Swift (Goat Edition)

17.  Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. Happier or sadder?
ii. Thinner or fatter?
iii. Richer or poorer?

Sadder, fatter, poorer. Soak it in! Moving on!

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Walking, travelling, reading, keeping up with out-of-town friends.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Candy Crush (sorry, not sorry) spending frivolously, eating junk.

20.  How did you spend Christmas?

On Christmas eve, me and my sis bought semi-matching pjs and wore them while eating awesome food from this place and then guacamole. And then smoked salmon dip. And then Christmas oranges. And then tums. On Christmas, opened presents, had a family friend over for cinnamon buns in the morning and my grandfather and uncle over for dinner that night. Boxing Day went shopping with my sister and dad (read: dad held bags, kept in good humour while we shopped) then went to TB`s parents` to be reunited with my puppy! Oh, and to have dinner with them. Lovely.

21.  How did you spend New Years?

For the first time in years I didn't go anywhere. Stayed at home with TB and Lily until about 11:30 then walked over to the local dive bar for drinks with TB's sister and her friends. Forgot to countdown until midnight. Drank out of a communal champagne bottle. Half-stumbled, half-ran home at around 2:30 or so. It was -30 out that night so while I wish I`d done more, I don't really regret not losing fingers.

22.  Did you fall in love in 2012?

A little more each day. (aww.)

23.  How many one night stands?

I could use a new night stand actually.

24.  What were your favorite TV programs?

Modern Family, Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad (started and finished the show this year. Good. God.), Split Second, Happy Endings, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and oh man, I'm old- Poirot. Good TV saved me this year.

25.  Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Nah. I don't really "hate" anyone, I don't think. There are some people I don't care for at this point, but it would be going too far to say "hate".

26.  What was the best book you read?

As I said, didn't read much. Maybe starting the year by attempting to read "The Stand" was too ambitious - though I'm 800 pages in now! I'd say "Push" by Sapphire was my favourite. Devoured it in an evening and, while depressing, it was really well done and moving as well. And, weirdly, more uplifting and not as soul-wrenching as I thought it would be. Solid solid read.

27.  What was your greatest musical discovery?

Pretty much the only new music I listened to this year was Young Galaxy. Thanks, CBC radio.

28.  What did you want and get?

A Dyson vacuum! (gamechanger) A puppy! A (mostly happy) end to our strike!

29.  What did you want and not get?

A posting abroad. A vacation. A blog redesign. Motivation. Sheets that won't mysteriously come untucked in the middle of the night, strangling us both.

30.  What was your favorite film of this year?

Oh probably either Despicable Me 2 or Catching Fire. I'm 14.

31.  What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Decided to throw myself a birthday/Canada Day party at my place and it was a total blast. Jello shots, tequila shots, flaming towers of drinks, people getting into the "dress-up" box, my dog in a bandana, cherry cupcakes, singing of the national anthem, sparklers, sheriff's badges, tumbling into bed at 4 in the morning. And then I was 31.

32.  What would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Better job prospects. A dog who consistently remembers to do her business outside. For all my friends to stay in the city instead of moving away.

33.  How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

"Twee with an edge." It's like last year's "Real-World Vintage" but with a mustard cardigan and colourful tights.

34.  What kept you sane?

If I thought last year's answer of "Online shopping" was cringe-worthy, I don't know quite what to do with this year's answer of "Candy Crush and The Simpsons: Tapped Out". What can I say, mindless entertainment soothes the savage beast.

35.  Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Ty Burrell makes me giddyhappy. And of course, for the 13th year in a row: Paul Rudd.

36.  What political issue stirred you the most?

Quite a year. The Rob Ford thing was annoying, if only because it detracted from the Senate Scandal which I think is more important than an incompetent mayor who can't hold his tongue. The death of Hugo Chavez  and its aftermath was big for me professionally, and fascinating personally. The public service union strikes obviously held my attention for personal reasons, but it really was an interesting time to see what this government thinks of its public servants. And looking to our neighbours below, the "rape culture" stories (Steubenville, etc.) were grotequely, sadly, engrossing. Interesting times, y'all.

37.  Who did you miss?

Jeezum Crow, where do I start? A handful of great colleagues went on language training this year. A friend left for Saskatchewan, one for Russia, one for India. My brunch crew was pretty much decimated this year and I had a rough time with it sometimes. Even having some awesome people come into town was hard because their absence was keenly felt once they were gone.

Bah, next question please.

38.  Who was the best new person you met?

Our neighbours invited us over for dinner the other night and they turned out to be some fine, fine folk. Looking forward to getting to know them better this year.

39.  Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

"There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate."

-Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Really trying to make this a mantra.

40.  Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

And sometimes when you're on, you're really fucking on,
And your friends they sing along and they love you
But the lows are so extreme that the good seems fucking cheap,
And it teases you for weeks in its absence

But you'll fight and you'll make it through,
You'll fake it, if you have to
And you'll show up for work with a smile

You'll be better, you'll be smarter,
More grown up and a better daughter,
Or son and  a real good friend.

-Rilo Kiley "A Better Son/Daughter"