Thursday, February 2, 2017

2016: The Wig That Was

2016 was one of those strange years where I knew it was going to be full from tip to tail in advance; it didn’t disappoint. Almost every aspect of my life changed, and almost all for the better. That doesn’t mean it was easy – god, no – but it was rewarding. And, like my friend Kait asked for after 2008 brought her a marriage, a move, and a new job – I just want a year where nothing changes. Here’s to the year that made me crazy and crazy excited.

2016 Year in Review

1. What did you do in 2016 that you'd never done before?

Wore a wedding ring, spoke on behalf of my country in an international forum, hired a financial planner.

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

I made them, but didn’t really expect to keep them, given the chaos that lay ahead. Some were, as always, more successful than others. I casually kept my classics:

  • Read 6 books
  • Visit 12 new restaurants
  • Make 12 new dishes

And I failed on all but the second one because, fatty.  For the first time in forever I didn’t read a single book last year. Not one. I started some, sure. I half-heartedly picked up a couple and leafed through them and made a pile of “books to bring with me” and “books to store” when the movers came, but nothing came of it. I was disgusted with that revelation so I’m reading a book now and… I’m finding it hard to get back into the habit. I skim too much, get distracted. My smart phone has really eaten my brain, I’m afraid. So the new resolution is one book a quarter, 4 books in all. Just to train myself again. Just to say I can.

New restaurants back in Ottawa didn’t materialize because we wanted so badly to visit old favourites before we moved. We did, however, enjoy the clever, tasty food at MeNa but the portions were laughably small and unsatisfying, even for us and the sister who are used to delightfully whimsical small plates. Like, 6 courses means I should not be craving a McDouble at the end of the meal. Unfortunately, it’s a common complaint, apparently. We went to Heirloom Café in Almonte a few times this year and they are truly wonderful. Local, fresh tasting food; cozy, rustic atmosphere, and a menu that consistently presents too many options. This was the last restaurant I visited as an unmarried gal and it was an excellent choice for a last meal (get it? Because marriage is like a death sentence? So fun. ) Over the holidays we tried Bar Laurel, which replaced our beloved Back Lane Café (will always be the restaurant we went to the night my mom died, but also the restaurant my sister introduced us to for her birthday, so good memories, really). It’s another small plate place but innovative and good quality food. Not cheap but I came away absolutely stuffed and there were tonnes of things we wanted to try on the menu, which is always a nice surprise.

Here in DC we were blown away by fancy-pants Jaleo, whose $25 lunch is a staggeringly good deal. We also fell in love with Mi Cuba Café which is as unpretentious as it is delicious. I have actual deep in my bones cravings for their food from time to time.
Other favourites:

  • Busboys and Poets
  • Tryst
  • The Diner

But honestly? My favourite foodie discoveries (other than being near a Trader Joe’s – thank god!) have been at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market. So much creativity and deliciousness, we can’t get away from there without a full bag of something new for us to make (TB) or eat (me.)
In fact, I think the reason I’ve “failed” at making 12 new dishes this year is because TB is really coming into his own as a cook. And I’m happy to let him, tbh.

2017 feels like a new beginning, like a chance to really settle in so I’m really going to try and make some resolutions:

  1. Take better care of my health. Free access to the American medical system and a new doctor means we are trying to pay more attention to our bodies. TB’s cholesterol /sugar is not good so we’re undertaking to give up pop/juice (harder for him than me, to be sure), eat less sugar in general, and join a gym. I’d also like to be better about flossing. I love that our new doctor didn’t make any comments about weight, just said “try to move 3 times a week, eat less sugar and buy clothes that fit. I’ve been doing this for over 40 years and I’ve never seen anyone  have sustained weight loss. Just keep your numbers decent” I love him.
  2. Eat 12 new ingredients and add 12 new recipes to our arsenal. TB’s been really good about preparing dinners and I’d like to see what we can throw into the weekly mix. Man cannot live by meatloaf alone (though we try)
  3. Go on more social outings. Our social circle here shrunk down to each other and the dog, which has been an adjustment. We’ve been trying to go out to brunch and events and such with folks here, but even if we just go out together among strangers, it’s the being around people that feels social, so I’m going to advocate for more of that.
  4.   Keep up with Spanish. I have accepted that I am just horrible with languages and need more maintenance than most to keep up. I’m going to try and do something Spanishy – whether that’s my weekly hour long Spanish class, listening to news or telenovelas, or practising online – 3 times a week.
  5.    Drink more water. Because why not?
  6. Use up more samples. I have so much makeup and toiletry samples lying about that I really need to start pairing them down. I don’t want to be a stockpiler like on “Extreme Couponing”
  7.  Pay off our American credit card by September (coincidentally enough, when it starts collecting interest)

3.  Did anyone close to you give birth?

My friend Kait, mentioned above, gave birth to her third son, who seems just as adorable and feisty as the first two. A few people I used to work with gave birth. I mean, I’m 34. This is basically just life now.

4.  Did anyone close to you die?

My dad’s sister died, which was weird because no one really knew how to react. I didn’t see my dad cry, he didn’t go to her funeral (it was across the country and 2 weeks before our wedding) and he and his sister had not lived in the same city or been very close in years. She was a loud, bright personality, whose ways often clashed with her clan’s, leading to a lot of extended familial stress. I was able to offer some help to her daughter, my cousin, which made me feel useful, although that girl has her head on better about this stuff then I did 2 years ago, that’s for sure.

Also, I cried when leonard cohen died, which surprised me. I think it was the final straw in what had been a really difficult couple of weeks.

5.  What countries did you visit?

I went to Costa Rica for three weeks in March where I lived with a family which was an introvert’s nightmare but they were kind and giving. We visited Washington DC in June and liked it so much we moved there in August. Well, not exactly, but how cool would we have seemed if that’s how it happened?

6.  What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

A dog without seizures and a bladder stone. Clothes that don’t cling to my ampler-than-usual butt and tummy. A budget. Better sleeping habits.

7.  What date from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

May 21: we done got hitched.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Gosh, there were so many. I think, honestly, the Costa Rica trip feels like it was the least like me. Going to a country where I don’t speak the language well, to live in the house of a family I don’t know, going on trips to beaches and climbing volcanoes and hiking to waterfalls? The most anti-me trip I can think of. But I did it.

Also, sticking to my guns and not inviting people to my wedding that I didn’t want there made me really proud.

9.  What was your biggest failure?
I left Costa Rica early, which I don’t regret but it makes me feel like a bit of a failure. My therapist and I worked on how to silence those voices, but on bad days they still get me. Also, I bombed my Spanish final and that has really affected how I see myself in my job so… I wish I was one of those people who was just good at languages, instead of having to fight for it. I also wish I’d saved our personal inventory before 1am 2 days before we moved when the whole thing fucked up. That was… not my best moment.

10.  Did you suffer illness or injury?

For the first time in forever I was sick over Christmas. Just a cold, but it was a doozy. Couldn’t taste a thing, and didn’t really feel like myself again until the 3rd. Other than that, I was pretty healthy this year.

11.  What was the best thing you bought?

Oh man.. how do you pick? I mean, if a wedding can be “bought” I pick that one- I was literally happy with every vendor and every purchase made. If that doesn’t count, the doggie diapers we bought saved my sanity. Don’t you wish you’d stuck with the wedding answer now?

12.  Whose behavior merited celebration?

We refer to my wedding day as “our” wedding day – i.e. my sisters, Jax, TB and I  - because it felt like that. No matter what I threw at our team- they rallied and made it better than I could have dreamed. I never was made to feel like a burden or a Bridezilla and I was just so amazingly grateful. They made our day so magical. I can’t even answer this question, really, because everyone – our parents, our friends, our coworkers – so many people reached out in love to us and we just felt so lucky to have attracted as many wonderful people as we have.

13.  Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

That being said – I’d be lying if I said my feelings weren’t hurt by a family member who seemed to go out of his way to be annoying and obtuse about the whole affair. But I’m mostly over that now.
Also, the 2016 election was not a highlight for most people’s behaviour.

14.  Where did most of your money go?

Wedding stuff, Clothing, eating out, and taxis. <---  this answer isn’t that far off for this year, either. However, the added expenses of moving house and fixing up a house to rent were far beyond what I was expecting. Especially when you don’t have an SSN and everyone wants money upfront.

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

Aw, come on – I gotta answer wedding for this one! I never once had cold feet about any of it – I’ve never felt so good about a day in my whole life.

 Also seeing a play at Ford’s Theatre, seeing David Cross live, meeting Alex Trebek, and our big move to Washington were highlights.

16.  What song(s) will always remind you of 2016?

Take me Home, Country Roads – John Denver
Africa – Toto
Closer- chainsmokers (I heard this song EVERYWHERE when we first moved to DC)

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

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

i. Happier, absolutely.
ii. I think about the same, which is still the fattest I’ve ever been haha
iii. More in debt, but with more in investments and savings so..maybe even?

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

Reading, studying, knockin’ boots.

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

Ugh, officially addicted to my phone. It’s my number one way to relax and pass the time and I hatelove it.

20.  How did you spend Christmas?

This was my first time “coming home” for Christmas, and I finally get all the clichés. It was really really nice. The aforementioned sickness meant that I was a bit slow and plodding most of the day. However,  that was okay since it was our first ever Christmas with no visitors in the morning, which was actually great. We made devilled eggs and cinnamon buns and smoked salmon dip and gorged while taking our time opening presents. My family was far too generous yet again, and we laughed lots. Due to a last minute change in plans, my cousin was able to make it up for dinner with my uncle so we had dinner together. Still the usual amount of family irritation, but it was made up for by a healthy dose of family gossip, which gave me life. The snow was plentiful, we walked the dog in the snow, the turkey was cooked perfectly for once (since my mom died, my dad has not got the hang of turkey making. This was his first absolute success after two Christmas attempts and a thanksgiving) and everyone liked their gifts. A total success.

21.  How did you spend New Years?

We had rented a hotel room just in case, since TB’s sister had mentioned her friends would be partying together downtown and we were invited. However, the illness that felled me, got all four of us in the end, so I cancelled the room last minute (saving myself a bundle, honestly) and we all hunkered down at my in-laws (I have in-laws!) where we drank cheap sparkling wine, watched the ball drop, played games and nibbled at food. It turned out to be quite nice, even amongst our Kleenex towers.

22.  Did you fall in love in 2016?

Legally, yes.

23.  How many one night stands?

I could use a new night stand actually. <---- Never changing this answer.

24.  What were your favorite TV programs?

Another year for good TV. Bloodline, Stranger Things (which inspired our Christmas card!), Better Call Saul, plus this amazing channel we get with our basic cable that only shows classic game shows from the 80s and earlier. I’m in love.
25.  Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Nah, perpetually annoyed, of course, but no one I really hate. Some of the things said by certain people who will be taking over a certain high-powered position however, pushed me to my limits…

26.  What was the best book you read?

We've talked about this.

27.  What was your greatest musical discovery?

I got the Hamilton LP and that’s been a fun discovery, though we’re only now starting to get into it. We got our record player set up this year so I’m looking forward to actually having to listen to the vinyl we’ve been amassing lately.

28.  What did you want and get?

A beautiful , hilarious, love-filled day with almost all of my favourite people, a house in a lovely neighbourhood in DC, renters for our house back in Canada

29.  What did you want and not get?

The first female president of the United States. All my international folks at the wedding.

30.  What was your favorite film of this year?

Ghostbusters made me cry, because I would have loved it so hard when I was a little girl. Really fun, funny movie. Fantastic Beasts and where to find them I technically saw January 2nd but I loved it, too. Was not expecting much, but was so pleasantly surprised. Totally beautiful, engaging movie.

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

The actual day we had *just* gotten back from Washington hours earlier, so we were basically braindead. My dad and sister came over, they made me a flaming dessert, we put the dog in a Canada onesie-  it was lovely. The next day, we threw a party at the house, and we drank flaming shots and had such a lovely time that I remember nearly none of it. And then I was 34.

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

A bigger kitchen or a basement in this place (our house is bigger and has two washrooms but the downgrades in some respects are irritating), more sleep, if I had the ability to concentrate on anything ever.

33.  How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?

You really have to split the year in two: from January – August (and on weekends now), it was a continuation of what I called “business grunge”. I had to pick it up starting in September so now I’ll call it “professional  funk”. Basically a lot of booties, some sequins, and pants that are probably just leggings with a button.

34.  What kept you sane?

My therapist and I parted ways in August when I moved, but the work we did over those 18 months was some of the hardest, best stuff I’ve done for myself. My wedding party/tribe made me believe everything was possible and had fun while we got it done. They sacrificed time and money to make sure things went smoothly and I love them for it forever.

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

16 years running: Paul Rudd. Also, lame duck Obama is my everything.

36.  What political issue stirred you the most?

It’s hard to pick one aspect of the American election, but it feels incorrect to say the election as a whole was just one issue. I believe in the innate goodness of the American people and I was admittedly shaken by the result. Seeing that 3 million more people did not vote for trump than voted for him made me feel marginally better, but the level of discourse around the whole event… it’s so depressing. I’m still not really over it. And I feel so badly for my American loved ones.

37.  Who did you miss?

My mom and my grandparents until the end of days. <--- why change what’s true?

Time with Jax just made me ache when she left. I love that girl. Having everyone around for the wedding actually made me feel their absence more acutely right after.

38.  Who was the best new person you met?

Probably Jen, a girl I went on training with but then became a friend once we both moved here. My colleagues are really nice people, too. It’s hard making friends as an adult – you feel so vulnerable.

39.  Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.

That you can’t control everything – only your reaction to it.

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

God only knows what I’d be without you