Friday, August 22, 2014

State of the Summer: The Season So Far

Permit me a moment to embrace my inner old person and talk about the weather here, won't you? Thanks, dearie. Pour yourself some Pimm's.

To say the summers are short here is a ridiculous understatement. If the year was measured in the heights of Hollywood actors, summer would be Danny DeVito*. This summer in particular has been an especially weird one. We've had some real downpours, as well as the normal week or so of unbearably hot weather, a couple of great swimming days and then... bam. Fall. Like, I've worn tights to work twice this week without feeling like I'm crawling out of my skin. I wore a sweater to a going-away party... and it was being held in a sweaty bar. The dog doesn't bite us when we put her in a shirt. Even for Canada, this is weird.

Ours is a city that clings to summer like a static-y sock to a slip, however, so even though the nights are cooling off and the stores are full of pea coats, it ain't over till it's over. We will gather on patios and shiver in tents and eat frozen novelties while rocking a cable knit until at least Thanksgiving.

When the summer started, I made an informal list of things I wanted to do before its untimely end. Now, technically I have until September 21 to say I got 'er did, but I've actually made amazing headway on it already. Which is maybe why, though everyone from the trained meteorologists to my notoriously fickle sister has said it's been a crappy summer, it really hasn't felt that way to me. Anyway, here's what this summer has held so far:

Summer 2014 Bucket List

#1 Fact: California Barbie UNO is the greatest invention the gaming
world has ever known. Even if it's a bit racist.
1.  Have a picnic

Last year, during our city's biggest garage sale, I managed to score me a picnic basket. All wicker and retro, with cutlery inside, it was a hipster's wet dream and only $5 (because some ne'erdowell had already made of with the blanket). "But will you use it?" my sister asked, to which I replied "um, obviously!"

It then spent 14 months collecting dust in our basement, kept warm by its brethren, beanbag chair and full-length mirror.

Driven by a desire to enjoy one of the warmest days of the year (and also to prove my lousy sister wrong), I finally dusted off the old girl a few weeks back.

Spite never felt so good. Found a shady spot under a for-real willow tree, kicked off our shoes and supped upon cheese, artisnal meats, olive and rosemary bread, two kinds of salad, lemonade, and brownies. I made the MVP decision to buy a bottle of water on the way down, which ensured only one of us got heat stroke. We learned that the California Barbie UNO game I picked up for free in my old apartment's laundry room is, in fact, amazing, and that I can only eat two Reese Peanut Butter brownies before I want to throw up. I'm still hoping we'll get another picnic in before it turns cold (or maybe even after? Fall picnics sound like something twee people do - probably already a wedding theme on Pinterest?). But either way, consider this one crossed off.

2. Find a couple of good pairs of shorts

This might not seem like much of a "goal" for you kids, but trust me - for me, shorts shopping is only slightly above bra and bathing suit shopping in the circles of clothes-shopping hell. Luckily for me, I managed to snag not one, but TWO pairs of shorts I enjoy this year, as well as two pairs of capris. I also got rid of two pairs that were just not going to happen for me, ever. Painful, but freeing.

3. Wear a bikini

Remember what I said about short shopping? I would do it every day until I retire if it meant I didn't have to go bathing suit shopping. This year, however, in anticipation of a warm-weather vacation, I decided one bathing suit wasn't going to cut it, so I bought two more - this one and, more scandalously (for me), this one. Surprisingly, it's the latter that's seen the most action this summer. I wore it for the first time in Mexico (where I comforted myself that I would see none of these people again) and have worn it in the pool a few times since. Not brave enough around anyone but strangers and family at the moment but y'never know...

4. Go swimming a 1/2 dozen times

Like I said, since I bought the bathing suits, I've been all about perfecting my butterfly stroke game.

5. Wear more dresses

Okay, last fashion-related item. I'm usually a dress gal, but as a woman-of-heft, often times, wearing a dress in the summer is downright unbearable. Enter Bandelettes. I never thought a pair of lace bands could be such a game changer, but here we are. Finally, I can wear a dress all day, and most of the night, without being uncomfortable. They're not perfect - they can roll up a tiny bit if you don't get them just right, the silicone can be a bit irritating to the skin after 10+ hours, and one pair got a hole along the inside seam very early on (though they were replaced free of charge!) - but they have allowed me to go through most of this glorious season without wearing tights or shapewear or shorts (though, again, now I'm wearing tights... lousy Smarch weather)

This new discovery allowed me to wear the following new dresses with delight:
Photo credit:

I may or may not have a problem. 

I choose "may not".

6. Host a Clothing Swap

Just in case I do have a problem, however, I really need to host a clothing swap. Every weekend without plans, every online grazing born out of boredom ends up testing the tensile strength of my closet bar. I still have a month left to get rid of stuff before summer's over, if not by a swap, then on Facebook or drop the load at the consignment store/charity depot. My bedroom clothing rack is looking less "New Girl" and more "Hoarders: Buried Alive"

7.  Go to the independent movie house more often

Since the only first-run movie theatre moved out of our downtown core (Don't even start, it's ridiculous), I made a pact to support our city's independent theatres more frequently. It's been a rollicking success so far. I even bought a membership to one of them and have already made my money back on it, seeing Chef, The Grand Seduction, and this little gem, all of which were delightful:
#7 If you liked The Room, but felt its production values were too high,
and its plot too plausible, you'll love Fateful Findings.
We've got a couple more lined up for the next few weeks as well, and I'm hoping this is a trend that continues into the Winter.

8. Go to the free outdoor movie screenings near our house

#8: Over 500 people agreed: everything is cool
when you're part of a team
When we were first looking at moving into our house back in the summer of 2012, one of the things that struck us as being particularly awesome about the neighbourhood was that the park across the street showed movies projected on a giant screen during the summer weekends. I swore then that we'd take advantage of that the following summer, but we never did. This year, however, we made a pact to attend at least one - and we did! We went on opening weekend to see The Lego Movie (which is just perfection, AFAIC). It was such a cool experience to have a bunch of people - families, singles, hipsters, middle-aged hippies, etc. just hanging around, eating indian food (food truck sponsorship is a beautiful thing) and drinking from smuggled thermoses of wine, laughing and enjoying themselves. Also, a month later, I'm still laughing at this, the finest scene in cinema history as well as the greatest use of "Jock Jams" to date:

Hoping to go back to see Singing in the Rain this weekend, if it isn't rained out again. (irony! coincidence!)

9. Get a pedicure

Preemptively crossing this off as it's booked for next Friday, along with a facial - apologies in advance to whatever pour soul is tasked with my pores/soles.

10. Eat on patios

I'm leaving this one uncrossed, because even though I've eaten al fresco at least 4 times this year, I'm an Ottawan, so that's not even close to enough. Gonna need to at least 2 more patio dineages to this list before I'm even close to satisfied.
I've also eaten enough of these suckers this year to make it
on the Greenpeace watchlist.

11. Throw a party

Turned 32, invited some pals to our place, made all the food, lit sambuca on fire, dressed the dog in a tshirt, used my outdoor voice past 3am. Done.

#11: I even had it catered!

#12: The only thing greener than these babies is my thumb.
12. Build a better vegetable garden

I am so damn proud of my garden this year. We've had some issues (Squirrel Green Bean Massacre 2014: we shall not forget ye), but so far we've had two dinners worth of green beans and four delicious tomatoes (with a tonne more coming, it seems). Possibly my proudest produce is my cucumbers. Little Lebanese-ish guys, we've had two great looking (and tasting) ones already, with another 5 (!) starting to grow. I have an absurdly strong love for how they wrap around our wooden posts, sometimes securing themselves over the course of only a day. I've almost started personifying them, which is super weird, because then I eat them.

13. Pickle some of summer's bounty

Shut up. You'll be the nerd once I'm eating princess-worthy spicy garlic pickled beans and you're crunching on your pedestrian Bicks like a garbage person.

14. Build a "container" garden

Anyone who's ever been to my house knows that our backyard is not a thing of beauty. It's all cracked asphalt and pine needles and one scary-ass shed that probably has some horrific tales to tell*, but it's large, especially for downtown, and it's ours. Last year we got a patio set and a barbecue, and this year we added a bird bath, picnic table (thanks, neighbours who sold it to us for $40!) and a hammock. Oh god yes, a hammock that doesn't need trees. But what I really wanted to add was some colour. One side of our backyard has a walled area against the fence and there we were able to grow rhubarb as well as whatever lilies the squirrels didn't eat, some tulips and, of course, 8 metric tonnes of mint. But the rest of the area was rather unused. We had one large, rickety wooden container garden that we filled with the aforementioned cucumbers, beans, green onions and tomatoes but I wanted flowers, damnit. So enter the hipster's workhorse: the pallet.
#14: Please note the bedraggled Canada flag, trampled in the dirt,
 as physical proof of #11
This isn't even a picture of the flowers at their best but I'm terrible at remembering to take pictures of these sorts of things. We've been able to keep pansies, celosia, roses, gerbera daisies, calla lilies and other assorted pieces of awesome going since June. I'm inordinately proud of my little guys, and having this burst of colour has really improved both the backyard and my mood. I kind of can't wait to get started on next year's. Because I'm 50.

15. Get my driver's license

#15 Suck a butt, multiple choice
Yes, yes, it's true. I'm in my 30s and I never learned to drive. I did have a driver's permit once, when I was 26, but as I only used it as ID it wasn't detrimental when I let it expire. I made a commitment to get the damn thing back this year, and TB agreed to do it, too. I kind of miss his old license, however, because he hadn't updated it since he was 16, and he had this cute, pouty thing going on in his photo (quiet, that's not creepy)

16. Eat on every food truck in town

Two years back, the city loosened its restrictions on the sizes and requirements for food carts, with the idea of revitalizing the downtown area with mobile urban goodness. This is one of my favourite decisions that our municipal government has made. I have tried, very gamely, to visit all of the food trucks our city has to offer, but the fact of the matter is, some of them are in places where I just don't go very often, so it's been a bit of a challenge. But, that's essentially what this list is, so I rolled with it. Here's where I've been so far:

Relish Truck  - Had a really tasty mac n cheese here, tasty, spicy condiment known as "red sauce", quality chunky bacon, good, stringy cheese. Was jonesing for a sandwich, though, but all they were serving that day was fancy KD, so I'll have to go back.

Dosa - Never had a Dosa before, which is ludicrous, because these guys are literally a 2 minute walk from my house. Two friends and I sampled three of these, and I have to say, I was mostly "meh" about them. I think I should've the more traditional dosa, not filled with much, rather than the ones we had, filled with (underripe) avocadoes, or cheese and onions. That being said, I'd go again, if only for their insanely good soup and solid plantain chips.

Angry Dragonz  - This one would have been an instant favourite if not for the ridiculous amount of cilantro (the devil's own son) in their layered bowls. It basically made it so I couldn't eat any of it. However, that white-kid staple of thai cuisine, pad thai, was really solid and that, along with some of their fantastic skewers is enough for two people to share for lunch. I'll remember to ask that satan's bouquet not kiss my meal.

Still a couple of food trucks to go, but I think I made great headway this year.

17. See More Live Performances 

#17 If you think we didn't spend a great deal of our time remarking how
it was "Almost a triple rainbow!" you really don't know us.
I don't know what we did to deserve it, but the God of Rock was very spiteful towards us this year. The only day we managed to make it to Bluesfest, it poured like I've never seen it pour before. At the last second before I left the house, I grabbed a couple of "novelty ponchos" that TB's mom had given me as part of my birthday present. My sister scoffed at first, worried that we'd look like idiots, but when the rain poured so hard that they suspended the concerts for 1/2 an hour, she put that bad boy on with all the enthusiasm her gangly body could muster. Every once in a while, we'd see some young girl or guy, tank top plastered to their skin, mud caked down their legs, shivering around a beer coozie of Molson Canadian and we'd look at each other's ponchos and yell "MVPs!". We remained warm and dry through the torrential rain, but our backs were killing us after 5 hours of nothing but standing. And also because we're 50. Still, glad we managed to squeeze it in.

Thinking of going to Folk Fest next month, too, although that's mostly just to prove to myself that Blues Traveller is still alive.

We also took the family to see The Book of Mormon (fantastic, yet again), did 11 Fringe Plays (tied for our best year ever), snuck near the grounds to watch Lady Gaga for free, went with a friend to Glengarry Glenross at The Gladstone - I've done just fine this summer, I think, especially considering I'm such a hermit I might as well be a throw pillow.

18. Visit a Farmer's Market

Um, I'm white. Duh.

18. Go to a fair

This one kills me, but I don't think it's going to happen. The local fair was cancelled when they started redeveloping the land it was on. I tried to get the family excited about the New York State Fair, which is my fatty happy place, but no one else was feeling it. My mom, especially, was all "noooo. I want to have foot surgery. And I don't want to walk on my caaaaast" like a total baby. Whatever, her pills make her feel like she's at the fair all the time - lucky baby. Still, late summer fairs are a thing. Let's see if life will still hand me an actual rollercoaster instead of a metaphorical one.

19. Go to a cottage/go glamping

Another one that's probably a no-go this year. At first, we thought it might because TB had been holding out on me and confessed his family had a cottage. Cue outrage. But it turned out the only weekend it was free was when we were already seeing Book of Mormon. I tried really hard to reserve something else but everything that was reasonably priced/not the set of Cabin in the Woods was taken or really far away. I honestly had no idea that so many people were hurting for a yurt-ing. Next year, I'll try to get in there before all the city folks with boners for a dock take all the prime real estate.

20. Find a new summer drink

You know I got this one in the bag. Much like I find myself.

Non alcoholic


So, now that I lay it out before myself (and really, let's face it, myself is the only one still reading at this point), I actually have had kind of a lovely summer. And I'm really going to try to hang on to these memories when i'm buried beneath 14 lbs of freshly fallen sadness. Hope you're all having a good one, too. Wear sunscreen. Or don't, I'm not your mother.

And now, my summer jam:

*winter would be Brad Garrett
*we're scared to knock it down in case it releases its evil upon us