Remaking a reader

I woke up this morning to – well, I woke up this morning to the usual screaming cat alarm and subsequent trample over my slumbering body, but after I shut her up satisfied her needs THEN I woke up to declarations of today’s designation. So bizarre, this marketer’s world of #NationalRedBikeDay and Happy International Black (not red!) Peppercorn (not ground!) Day! I’m not complaining because it’s mostly harmless, it’s made mostly fun and I never find it too invasive, though I do roll my eyes sometimes. It’s just strange. But today, TODAY! has a couple of pretty cool designations according to celebrants in my Twitter feed.

National picnic day!

This is not to be confused with INTERNATIONAL Picnic Day which, as we all know, falls on the much more reasonable June 18th. (Seriously, my first thought was that I loved the optimism, but there was no way I’d be able to observe National Picnic Day today! Missed the mark on that one, NPD organizers. Someone had to say it.

But, I mean, let’s be honest. Who doesn’t love a good picnic?

Here’s the DAY that really got my attention:

world book day!

Okay, when I first saw it, it had been a little bit rebranded by a pretty well known and successful book selling chain as CANADA BOOK DAY, but it became clear, and rather quickly, that this was something we Canadians would be sharing with the rest of the world and as we should be.

Books have been on mind a lot lately. I’m just coming out of a period of YEARS when reading was something that I just couldn’t do. I always blamed it on The Hunger Games because the last book I’d read before my inner reader went MIA was the third book. And I hate to shit on something that someone has poured their heart and soul into, but that book was BAAAAAAAD. It broke me. I should never have forced myself to read it to the end, but I did and then there I was: a former bookworm paralyzed by the one thing that used to make me most happy.

This quote spoke to me when I read Big Little Liars (Read it! The book is so much better than
the TV series, though the series really did redeem itself in the final episode.) earlier this year

Now, it’s been five or maybe six years and I’ve only managed to finish about as many books. I started warming up to reading again last year, but now I’m happy to report that I am slowly getting back into my groove again. I set my Goodreads Challenge at reading 18 books this year and am seven so far. (Stats are a bit skewed since I tend to read many books at the same time.) Thing is, I really had to make a conscious effort to bring books back into my life. I understand how people who don’t like to read continue to not be readers – the only things I had going for me were my nostalgic tendencies and my memory of loving to read.

Here are a few of the things I did.

  • Took electronics out of the bedroom. There are a zillion reasons (here are eleven) why you should do this, too, even if you never want to read another book again. But if you do want to become a reader, ditch the phone and tablet before bedtime.
  • Planned to read before bed. I set an alarm on my phone that went off one hour before the ideal time when I wanted to be asleep. This allowed me the time to get changed, brush my teeth, do my whole bedtime ritual and still left me with at least thirty minutes to read.
  • Scheduled reading time. I had a terrible habit of spending my lunch time at my desk, poring over emails while shoving food into my mouth. That’s no break! Instead, I closed my office door, physically moved myself away from my desk, left my phone beside my keyboard, sat at my meeting table or a bench in another room and ate my lunch and read. And you know what? It was a nice little escape from the day. (I made a point of reading fiction in these circumstances.)
  • Develop discerning taste. Don’t try to read everything. Put a book down if you aren’t into it. Take recommendations only from people you trust. (And if those people fail you, remember it for next time!)
  • Take a book everywhere. I don’t generally bring a bag with me when I go out (that’s what pockets are for!) so this was another habit that needed to be changed. If I took a bag, it was usually a backpack so tucking a book in there was never a big deal. When I wasn’t carrying my backpack, I started bringing a reusable shopping bag with me and emptying my pockets into it so the book wasn’t the only thing in there. Having a book with me means I could steal moments to read – during transit, while waiting for an appointment or to meet a friend – you’d be surprised how often you have an extra few minutes to spare!
  • Tried new things. I’ve read a few books lately that I never would have expected to read, let alone enjoy. I also read a book on my iPad, something I never thought I would be able to do, but that I quite enjoyed. (I know it contradicts my first point, but is it ever convenient when you’re out of the house and don’t have a book if you also put the book on your phone!)
  • Rekindled my Goodreads. I’ve had my account for centuries and I’ve burnt it down and built it back up a number of times (seems to be my social media MO.) Getting reconnected there and tracking my reading, exploring others’ bookshelves, reading reviews of books I thought I might be into and getting recommendations really fueled my reading fire.

Here’s the one bonus that I found in going through a reading slump: my attachment to books has waned dramatically. I used to not be able to part with a book – any book. Now I keep very few that I have already read. Technology probably plays a role in that, too, but I am really happy I surrendered my attachment to books.

Here’s a look at my current bedside stack. I’m reading four, writing in one and excited to dive into all the others.

Have you ever gone through a reading slump? How do you make sure to include reading in your life? What are you reading these days? Also, let’s be friends on Goodreads!

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And if neither picnics nor books are your thing, there is still plenty to celebrate and/or observe today!

According to Days of the Year, it’s:

It’s also Vancouver Sun Run day here and, according to National Day Calendar, it’s National Cherry Cheesecake Day. I’m not sure which nation that governs, but, for today, can’t we all just be one? They offer this helpful advice on how to observe: eat cherry cheesecake. (But make sure you leave some room for National Pigs in a Blanket Day tomorrow!)

Here’s another April 23rd day I can really get behind:

I couldn’t resist the urge to look up what is celebrated on my birthday. We have the cruel irony of Bacon Day and Falling Needles Family Fest Day which is “a reminder for those of us who enjoyed a live Christmas tree over the holidays to clean it up and recycle it.” There is also National Bicarbonate of Soda Day and I guess that is probably my most holy since I do actually use the stuff pretty regularly.

What are you celebrating today? What days are celebrated on your birthday?

2017 Stanley Cup – round one – part two

Was last night a crazy hockey night or what?!? Four games, four overtimes. And all but one ended the way I wanted it to, but the one that didn’t was so tragic it was hard to be happy about all the others. I know. Woe is me.

I would happily torch this entire bracket to be wrong about a few things…

Yesterday, I shared my thoughts and feelings on the four NHL playoff match-ups that had already played game three in their best-of-seven first round series. Then I watched hockey all night long so that I could write about the remaining four series that caught up in their own series. Phew.

calgary flames vs anaheim ducks

Anaheim leads 3-0
Who I took: Calgary in 7

Let me start by acknowledging that, yes, I don’t know them off the ice and I would probably think they were perfectly fine if I met them in real life, but boy do I dislike the Ducks. Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Corey Perry and the man who is like sand in a bathing suit to me, Ryan Getzlaf to name just a few. The only Duck I actually like is Antoine Vermette, but that is probably just a hangover from his days in Arizona and will go away sometime very soon (and especially if their playoff run carries on the way it has started…) and John Gibson showed me a side that I actually didn’t mind. I know the CBC crew didn’t like his response to getting chased from the net, but I did.

Let me also say that I have zero tolerance for complaining about refereeing. I think it’s the cheapest and ugliest way to absolve responsibility for losing. Want to beat the referees? Put the puck in the net. If you consistently do that, THEY CAN’T STOP YOU. However, I have seen a few instances in this series when I thought the refs weren’t really living their best ref lives. And it went mostly in the favour of Anaheim. I’m just saying.

And I like the Flames. I really do. I have a soft spot for their young and talented, hard-working group. They seem to find a way to (sometimes) make wine out of water. Just not in the first couple of games of this series. Last night was a different story and they came out firing, but they just couldn’t keep up the pace. The Ducks caught them and then won in OT. I was pretty sad when I saw the post-game commentary because I was feeling pretty proud of this squad. They played their best hockey of the series so far and they came up short.

What I’ve loved: Really physical, bang and crash hockey.

Also, the Flames are saying all the right things.

“Just kind of live in the moment. Don’t think about yesterday or tomorrow. Live for today. Any mentor I’ve had has said the same thing: You can’t control everything. So control what you can, come with a smile on your face and do what you’ve prepared your whole life for.” – Goaltender Brian Elliott

What I’ve not loved: The talk has counted the Flames out since day one. I can’t see this series going much longer and my prediction is still technically possible…

boston bruins VS ottawa senators

Ottawa leads 2-1
Who I took: 
Ottawa in 5

You want to talk about jerky fans? (Okay, maybe YOU don’t, but I did yesterday. Twice.) Bruins fans take the cake. It’s so easy to want them to lose when you listen to the people who want them to not lose. Vancouver is really sensitive about Boston because of the whole 2011 Stanley Cup series. That doesn’t apply to me as a non-Canuck fan, of course, but, boy, do I get it.

I’ve been trying to like Ottawa more. They’ve always been a club that, on paper, I should like. Then they traded for my favourite player. Then they started sitting him. It’s been a roller coaster. In the end, I just don’t really care that much. Other than the wanting the Bruins to lose.

But, let me profess that I like Brad Marchand.

Things I’ve loved: The Clarke MacArthur returns to the game storyline. Tears of joy.

Things I’ve not loved: My indifference to this series.

nashville predators VS chicago blackhawks

Nashville leads 3-0
Who I took: 
Chicago in 6

As you can see on my bracket up top. I expected Chicago to go (almost) all the way. But I support the hockey hero from my hometown (he’s from Port Moody, not Vancouver, thankyouverymuch) and that makes me a Preds semi-fan. I also like the Preds because I think their “Keep the Red Out” campaign from a few years ago is genius. Prompted by this exact playoff match-up, the Predators put a block on out of state credit cards purchasing tickets to their games at Bridgestone Arena. They wanted to Grow the Gold in their home arena and keep people traveling with the visiting team away. I love it. As someone who has seen visiting fans obnoxiously take over a host arena (I see you Leafs fans in Buffalo, Oilers fans in Arizona and pretty much every team that visits Vancouver’s fans) and hated it, I really liked their efforts. Have they worked? I’m not sure. (And my opinion will probably change when I one day try to catch a game there.)

I wasn’t the only person to predict that the Blackhawks would be there. In the weeks leading up to the playoffs, I heard people predict Chicago representing the west in the Stanley Cup more often than I heard any other team. Back in February, they and the Washington Capitals were the favourites.

The Predators shut the Blackhawks out in the first two games. In game three last night, they spotted them two goals and still came out on top in OT.

Things I’ve loved: The underdog story.

Things I’ve not loved: Almost no coverage for this series. I guess that’s what happens when five Canadian teams make the playoffs.

toronto maple leafs VS washington capitals

Toronto leads 2-1
Who I took: Pittsburgh in 7

All of my own feelings about hockey aside, THIS is the series of the season in our house. You see, if you weren’t already aware (and you clearly don’t know Kevin if that’s the case) I am engaged to  and live with a lifelong Maple Leafs fan. And if you weren’t already aware, it’s been a long road for Maple Leafs fans. I’m not a Leafs fan necessarily, but I do have a soft spot for them. (And I’m totally baffled by the west coast OBSESSION with them. Seriously, many Canuck fans are more preoccupied with disliking them than they are with liking their own non-playoff squad – sorry, had to. I can’t believe it took me this long!)

I would like to pause and say this: no matter what happens in this series, this season has been a huge success for these young Leafs. They weren’t even planning on making the playoffs, you guys. Getting there and getting two wins is a huge victory.

Toronto has won the last two games in sudden death OT and it has been incredibly exciting. And totally nerve-wracking. My usually calm and laid back partner has turned into a total stress case.

I was thinking that I don’t really have any feelings about the Capitals, but then I saw an intermission interview and remembered that I LOVE TJ OSHIE. My other feeling for the Capitals is that I hate all the hate they’re getting. Everyone is all, “Haha! Presidents’ Cup trophy winners can’t win in the playoffs AGAIN.” Which is lame. But Don Cherry has a point about Evgeny Kuznetsov. Maybe he’s got some karma to play through.

This series is far from over and could very well go to seven nail-biting games.

Things I’ve loved: The Leafs winning brings a very celebratory tone to our home. I like that.

Things I’ve not loved: Well, nothing really. Go Leafs go!

Some of these series will start wrapping up soon. When they do, I’ll be back with some thoughts on the second round.

What have you thought of round one so far? Is your bracket/prediction still intact?

2017 Stanley Cup – round one – part one

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a sports person. I’m not one who professes to watch any sport because there are sports you couldn’t pay me to watch – golf, soccer, and I am totally not into the Olympics. Hockey and football are mostly my jam – the Atlanta Falcons are my football team and I have a few hockey teams. I know, I know, this bugs the crap out of people, but it’s true. I mostly classify NHL teams into three categories: love/hate/indifferent. Examples: Sharks, Blue Jackets, Predators, Maple Leafs/Canadiens, Bruins, Penguins, Ducks/Canucks, Jets, Lighting, Stars. (There are more in the indifferent category than in either of the other two.)

A collage of Canucks memories from the 2016/17 season

It struck me as kind of funny that I almost never write about sports here since we do spend a significant amount of time watching and keeping up with them. Now that the Stanley Cup playoffs are underway, I’ve had a lot of thoughts and opinions to get out of my head and I couldn’t resist. Here’s my totally unqualified breakdown of four of the eight first round series as teams embark on their road to The Cup. These are the series that are three games in already. Stay tuned for a post about the other four series tomorrow.

Just because it’s my bracket doesn’t mean I have to like it

Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh leads 3-0
Who I took: Pittsburgh in 7

This is a real love/hate series for me in that I love #CBJ and I hate the Pens. Every April, my playoffs are basically hoping and praying that the day comes quickly when we no longer have to listen to constant  and inane commentary on Sid and that it happens before he is hoisting the Cup wearing a totally inappropriate MVP badge. Better luck this year…

I definitely went into this series hoping that the Blue Jackets would win a game or three. They’ve been such a wild card team this year. I was hoping they’d be young and inexperienced enough to come in firing without a care for what the critics were saying. They’ve been playing a very physical game and I like seeing that, but I’ve downgraded my expectations. They have everything to be proud of (a sixteen-game win streak is not too shabby!), but they just don’t have what it would take to get past the champs. (And losing Zach Werenski doesn’t help.) I’m still hoping they can steal a game just because they’ve worked really hard this season and they deserve it.

Things I’ve loved: Watching Tortorella’s dressing room speeches.

“It makes you sick just because you see him try to come back out and his eyes swollen up between the third and overtime and you know he wants to come back out, and what guy comes back out in that situation?” Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. “I said to him, ‘I’m proud to be your teammate.’

Things I’ve not loved: Many Penguins fans have shown that they are less than gracious winners. Nothing turns me off a team more than a fan base composed primarily of jerks.

new york rangers vs montreal canadiens

Montreal leads 2-1
Who I took: New York in 6

As interested as I am in the Columbus-Pittsburgh series, I’m equally disinterested in this series. I don’t like either of these teams so watching them is kind of a snorefest. All that said, one of the few predictions I made prior to the playoffs starting was that this series would be the real championship series. As happens with hockey, you sometimes get match-ups early on that are so gritty and intense, they end up being the kind of battles you’d wish for in the finals. (Think San Jose vs LA in 2014 – or any year, really.) I thought this could be one of those – and I’m not convinced yet that it won’t be. These teams are playing fast and highly skilled hockey that is punctuated by world class goaltending.

I haven’t watched enough to love or not love anything, really. I’ll make a better effort on Tuesday. I promise.

st louis blues VS Minnesota wild

St Louis leads 3-0
Who I took: Minnesota in 6

I’ll level with you: when it came to the playoff race and clinching and match-ups and getting a grip on what the post-season would look like, I didn’t even know that the Blues were in. I’d had high hopes for them to start the season, but every time I heard about them, it seemed they were struggling. Minnesota, on the other hand, they seemed to always exceed expectations

These two teams are quite evenly matched and that should make for a good series. I didn’t foresee it going the way it has with Minnesota still looking for their first postseason win and their backs firmly up against the wall going into game four. I would like to add that the series score betrays the quality of the hockey they are playing and the performance of the Wild.

Things I’ve loved: Joel Edmundson – he had three goals in 69 games this season and now has two in three playoff games including the game winner in OT of game one. Talk about clutch.

Things I’ve not loved: The Wild being down 3-0. I’m not a superfan or anything, but it’s a tough skip of the puck for them to be in in this position. Again, they’re better than that. And poor Devan Dubnyk. He’s had to fight so hard to get where he is. It would be a shame for them to go out quickly.

edmonton oilers VS san jose sharks

Edmonton leads 2-1
Who I took: San Jose in 6

This series. If people had to pick the series that mattered most to me, they would say it was this one. The Sharks are the closest thing to a favourite team that I have, though that is waning somewhat since they traded my favourite player earlier this year. But, I do still like them and they have unfinished business from last year’s Cup finals. Edmonton is not a team I like, though they have risen in my books with the removal of Taylor Hall and the addition of Zach Kassian. Still, their fans aren’t the most fun (MOSTLY. I have a couple of friends who are good, decent hockey supporters) and that makes it easier to cheer against them. Interestingly, while the Sharks are the most promising of the two playoff teams I like the most, I honestly wouldn’t hate it (okay, at first I probably would, but I’d get over it quickly) if the Oilers took it. It wouldn’t be a surprise for this series goes the full seven game distance, but Edmonton does have the momentum with their wins coming in games two and three.

Things I’ve loved: Zach Kassian coming to play. He’s been through a lot these past couple of years and I think he is showing that he has grown from it. Curse the Habs for essentially throwing him away and kudos to the Oilers for giving him another shot.

Things I’ve not loved: Low scoring. There is plenty of firepower on both sides so I’d like see more goals. They’ve combined for eight goals in total and the Sharks haven’t scored since game one.

Tonight, there are four games on the calendar, all game three in their respective series:

  • Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs – series tied 1-1
  • Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins – series tied 1-1
  • Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators – Preds lead 2-0
  • Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames – Ducks lead 2-0

More on hockey and my thoughts on the remaining four match-ups tomorrow.

Who is your favourite NHL team? What are your predictions for the first round?

Old, new, Easter & blue

On Friday, I discovered (rediscovered? I somehow have a feeling that this isn’t the first time I learned it…) that Easter isn’t a big deal in the USA. I mean, I’m sure it’s a big deal for some, but it isn’t a widely observed holiday like it is here in Canada. Here, it’s a holiday on Good Friday AND Easter Monday. For our neighbours to the south, nada. (Sorry for rubbing it in there on Friday, friends! I’d feel bad if you didn’t seem to prioritize holidays like the day after Thanksgiving instead…)

We had a little tea (actually coffee) party-esque Good Friday get together and that was a lot of fun. We bought an amazing loaf from Fratelli Italian Bakery (lemon and raspberry – two of my favourites, but taken to a whole new level!) and got out the good dishes (some – most! – of which had actually already been unpacked a put away) and welcomed our first visitors to the new place. We are far from finished unpacking and settling in,  but we’ve made enough progress that it was good timing. (Also, having just moved lends a certain amount of freedom to be messy that suits me perfectly.)

I was thrilled with this gathering – a lot because I enjoyed spending time with our guests, but also because it was the first significant coming together of something I’d been envisioning for a while. Last year, I started rounding up the vintage dishes that were circulating throughout the homes of family members on both sides. There were plenty in existence, but they were scattered throughout hutches and cupboards of my mom and my aunts. So, I started to ask around and it turned out that it was a common feeling that somebody wished someone would use the stuff, it just wasn’t going to be them.

It’s a funny thing, isn’t it? We all get our hands on these pieces that used to belong to the people who came before us – whether they’re dishes or anything else – and then we just keep them someplace without ever putting them to use. This is, of course, a practice that is becoming more and more antiquated as time passes. We are in a time when people are certainly more motivated to minimize and only keep the things they use or, rather, to use all the things they keep. Like others, I’m working to get better at that. For now, it’s antique dishes. Next, I’m going to get my grandfather’s vintage typewriter refurbished. Yay!

But, back to the dishes. This party was the first time I actually put into practice what I have been dreaming of using old dishes with new accents to create an eclectic feeling when hosting others. This was the first time I remembered my first chance to execute my vision using my great grandmother’s dishes, my grandmother’s tea set and my own silverware plus a few modern pieces that I’ve collected myself. I was so happy!

Today, we spent the day mostly at home until we made a run downtown to pick up dessert for Easter dinner with my family.

I’m going to level with you here: I’m not that into desserts so asking me to be in charge of desserts is not the best idea. It’s probably the worst part of a meal to depend on me for. But we came through after picking up some minis (tiramisu, passionfruit & strawberry cheesecake, macaroon, lemon, salted caramel, london fog) from Trafiq Cafe and Bakery on Main Street.

I also picked up five of the most oddball ingredients – for me – at the grocery store to put together a recipe that is totally out of my wheelhouse, but one that is rich in family history. This was one of only a few things I have memories of my mom’s mom making and it hit my radar because my pal Laura over at Real Momma shared it on her Facebook page earlier in the day: Ambrosia Salad. Five ingredients (only one of them fresh), one action (mixing them all up), a final weird soupy marshmallow concoction that you’ll be forced to admit is delicious in spite of the fact that it is so very, very weird. (70s “cooking” at its finest…)

We aren’t a super conventional family when it comes to holiday meals, though barbecuing has become our own tradition in itself. Be it Christmas, birthdays – summer or winter, Easter and even Thanksgiving once, we light some charcoal and grill. Tonight was no different with beef, fish and plenty of veggies on the menu. If you get the chance to spend time together, does it really matter what you eat?

What are your family’s Easter traditions? What’s your go-to when you’re put in charge of desserts? What family heirlooms do you try to collect? Which ones do you avoid?

Marvelous March in review

Well, March was pretty tied up with two things: wedding cancellation and moving. I know, I know. I feel like a broken record as much as I’m sure I sound like one. You’re thinking, “We get it, Carly, you moved.” But, in just 2.5 short years, I had totally forgotten how all consuming moving can be. Sure, at the start, it’s fun and it’s exciting, but it gets nitpicky and tedious after a while. A short while. Don’t get me wrong, I still like it. I’d just forgotten how much work goes into it.

Things we did this month:

  • sorted through all of our belongings – every last thing
  • packed all of said belongings into boxes
  • transported full boxes between old place and new place
  • found places for full boxes to remain situated

I’ve barely unpacked, but that’s a spoiler for April.

Kishimoto is worth the trip (and the line-up)

Things we were supposed to do…

  • Start tomato seeds – YES! And it isn’t too late for you to do the same. It’s optimal to get them planted by April 15th. Click that link for my tutorial on growing my favourite West Coast Seeds tomato variety.
  • Celebrate St Patrick’s Day – Nah. This ended up being the first night we stayed in the new place so after long days at work, moving the cats and setting up an air mattress in the living room, celebration was limited to take out from Browns (which they got all wrong anyway – grrrrr)
  • Visit the library – Nope.
  • Run 25km – Hahahahahaha.
  • Clear out my remote garden – I believe that this got done, but it wasn’t by me.
  • Order wedding invitations – What’s the opposite of this? I think we did it.
  • Secure wedding photographer – I did! And then I undid.
  • Read two books – Yup.
  • Plan first dinner party in the new place – Not yet…
  • Write! Write! Write! – Yes and no. Yes, I wrote, but not as much as I’d have liked.

It was a tough month for goals because we were working long days and then spending our evenings running back and forth between places. When mornings rolled around, we were too tired to get out and get moving before heading to the office and we were so short on time, we survived on take out mostly. Ugh. March was a bully of a month, but here were some highlights.

What made your March marvelous?

Things we’ll do this month: April

Well, April, we’re holding out some pretty high hopes for you. You should be the long-awaited beginning of spring. You should bring the first signs of hope warmer weather and brighter days. So far, you’ve only brought the famous showers that you are known for, but if we could get an advance on the May flowers they purportedly bring, that would be fantastic.

April is mostly a recovery month for us. Recovery from moving and recovery via unpacking and setting up our new living space. We have a trip planned towards the end of the month, but it is a bit shrouded in uncertainty as we may or may not take it. Originally, it was planned to be a weekend that we spent with my folks and with my matron of honour and her family exploring the details of our wedding plus an overnight in our favourite old west feeling railroad town. Since we cancelled that whole thing, we haven’t really talked about whether we should/will still go. I’m a vote in favour, but I am always a vote in favour for any night away anywhere.

We were supposed to have house guests last weekend, but we didn’t really get everything around the house organized and all (or even most of) the boxes unpacked. (I did find the screws for the guest bed, though, so we made progress this week!) We missed getting to have them stay here (they stayed downtown instead) but we did get a chance to have a quick visit over a Canucks game and dinner.

Goal setting is fun. It’s great motivation to sit down and hash out the things we want to do and fantasize about the roads that will take us there. When we talk about goals, we talk about money and career and real estate and competition, but we rarely talk about good, old-fashioned leisure. Every month, I am going to publish a list of things I would like to do during the month ahead. Of course, this list doesn’t take the place of all of my standard goals related to health, wellness, money and spirituality, but I reserve the right to, in some cases, blur the lines.

In April, we will…

  • Talk about version two of our wedding and *try to* come up with an answer for everyone’s second question: so, what are you going to do now? (Their first is: “is everything okay???”
  • Carve my soapstone bear (Barb, you are on my agenda!)
  • Plan my summer gardens (Three this year – our balcony garden, my remote garden and our garden plot at the apartment!)
  • Plant seeds
  • Hang all of our artwork
  • Fill all of our picture frames (Am I the only one who is terrible at printing photos in this digital age?!?)
  • Host an Easter celebration
  • Plan a trip to watch baseball
  • Meal plan
  • Go hiking

What’s on your calendar for April? What fun adventures will you take this month?

A little thing that is kind of big + my first chowdery

Oh. My. Word. I sat across from a woman using a new rose gold MacBook at Starbucks the other day. So compact. So pretty. I don’t often suffer from electronic envy, but whoa.

***

Yesterday was a pretty good, fun and definitely unhibernated day. We got up and ran some errands (with the move so recently behind us, it seems like we will never be short on errands to run!) then we got ready and headed downtown. We had family & friends in from back east and since we didn’t get it together enough to have overnight guests yet (the screws that hold the guest bed together have got to be around here somewhere…) they got a hotel room in the city instead. We were all heading to the hockey game, but en route to Rogers Arena, Kevin and I decided to take a detour and get something to eat before the game. I love my Maui Fire Veggie Dogs, but I knew they weren’t really jiving with my recent commitment to clean eating. Besides, a new chowder shop had opened up this year in Kevin’s work neighbourhood and he’s been wanting to try it for a while.

We took the four-ish block walk from Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station and found our quaint little Crab Park Chowdery close to the heart of Gastown. It is a cute little restaurant with a lovely warm glow. I opted for vegan chili while Kevin had the clam chowder in a bread bowl. I adore their presentation on wooden board complete with a logo and spoon holder. The chili was good and served with a few small slices of bread on the side. I snuck a taste of Kevin’s chowder, though just enough to determine that it has a unique flavour to it, though not enough to name it. He raved about it. (We only found out later that they have some scrumptious looking desserts. Probably a good thing.) We drank water, but they had craft sodas (including, of course, Dickie’s.) Find Crab Park Chowdery on Facebook or Instagram. Or in real life at 221 Abbott Street.

***

March was a big month for us. A big, long, life-changing month. Sure, we’re mostly over Nick proposing to Vanessa instead of Raven and we’ve managed to move onto bigger and mostly better things. In point form:

  1. We moved into our new place.
  2. We cancelled our wedding.

Point one: this place is bigger, brighter, prettier, higher up and a million times better, but you already know about that.

Point two: from the moment we got engaged, all anyone said was, “do what YOU want to do.” One day, a few weeks back, we reflected on what our wedding was becoming and asked ourselves, “is this what WE want?” and “IS this what we want?” The best we could answer was “sort of?” So, we scrapped it.

I’ve seen four distinct responses so far.

My family: “What? But we wanted to be at your wedding…”

His family: “That’s okay. We get it. Do what you gotta do.”

Others: “What??? I’m so sorry.” And then when I laugh about it, they look like they’re going to cry and then they eventually come around.

Amy: Totally, completely, 100% support in action. (I’m not really sure she even said a word.)

Honestly, we’re good with it. And someday I’ll probably tell you more.

For now, back to the drawing board…

Hibernation

I have just spent a week alone in my apartment in what is best described as total hibernation. It was incredible.

I know that saying that likely conjures an image of me laying in bed all day, watching soap operas or other crappy tv, eating junk food and just generally being lazy. It was actually the total opposite. Okay, I did get more than enough sleep – sleep was, in fact, one of my most focused goals of the week – but it was more closely aligned with circadian rhythm than a party all night, sleep all day kind of pattern.

My other big goal was re-righting my eating habits. We’d thought we’d hit the jackpot with a two week window for moving – and, mostly, we still feel that way – but, it did prolong some of the inevitable and more hairy parts of the . Most notably, that came in the food department. When I told Kevin that for the month of April we would only eat food we made at home, my statement was met with a resounding and enthusiastic “YESSSSSSSSSS.” We’d been relying on restaurant bought food to get us through a schedule of working our day jobs and our side hustles and moving and maintaining all the other parts of our lives and, man, it was getting old. So, I spent the week referencing and channelling Ella Woodward, Angela Liddon and Joy McCarthy because as much as my naturopath might recommend I do something different and as much as I might try to make her happy, vegan is my comfort zone and when I feel my best on the whole.

So, when I wasn’t getting as much sleep as I could and researching, preparing and eating whole, clean foods, I was, of course, tackling the move. The people who lived here before us weren’t what you’d call thorough when it came to cleaning up after themselves so that took some sorting out and, though that is not my forte (seriously!) I did it anyway. I had to sort out all new appliances and I made a conscious effort to take my time in setting everything up in our new space. I wanted to choose the perfect – or at least one of the better – places for our things and decide the most convenient spots to store everything. In our new apartment, we have the luxury of almost twice as much space as we’d grown used to and I wanted to take advantage of that as best we could. Being able to tackle all that at my own pace made it an almost enjoyable undertaking – it was even kind of meditative.

My hibernation (or how a serious introvert vacations): During the mornings, I took long luxurious baths while reading. During the days, I set up our new home with care. During the evenings, I wrote, then read more.

(In case you’re wondering where Kevin fit into all of this, he was away at a conference all week.)

I finally broke my hibernation when I met a friend to watch the Gonzaga game yesterday. And, then today, we woke up and it was like spring!

Here are a few of my favourite things from last week.

I started using this Turmeric Ginger Tea recipe every morning. It’s delicious either way, but I prefer it with a splash of almond milk.

Danielle LaPorte has a new book – White Hot Truth – coming out on May 16th, but I snuck into the Launch Team and got started early. This is a lot of what I read and reread all week. Check this link to download a free chapter, join the free White Hot Truth book club, pre-order the book (and then download the audio book TODAY when you do!) or check out some videos. Like this one.

After the new season of Grace and Frankie was made available on Netflix and my mom and I exchanged all caps text messages confirming that, I swore I wasn’t going to watch it all at once. So, I only watched the first nine out of thirteen episodes. So fantastic.

I read this post by Cait Flanders called A Home is Meant to Be Lived In, Not Looked At and I gave it an internal three cheers. We were moving at the same time and had commiserated about it a little in the thick of it. After the (literal) heavy lifting was done, I was excited to see she’d written about her experience. I’ve never been hung up on having a style of decor and I’ve never been apologetic about that, but it’s nice to hear for once that I’m not alone. It’s a great piece in which she tackles the idea of creating a home, how it is a work in progress and, along the same lines as the title, includes the tweetable, “Your home doesn’t need to be ready to have its picture taken.

So, I’m not going to share pictures of my new home. … But here is what I will share: stories about what happens in this home. The friends who come to visit. The things we do. The memories we make. And the adventures we go on, when we walk out and lock the door behind us. That is what life is all about.

I turned to sleep and clean eating to help me rest after the stress of moving. What do you do to find balance in times of turmoil? What have you read, eaten, made, drank, watched, loved lately?

Try this: listen to a podcast

Trying new things is a great way to feel an invigorating boost in life. Occasionally, on a Monday, I’ll be posting an idea for trying something new with the details on how and why I think you should do it, too. Consider it your mission should you choose to accept it. 😀

For a while now, I’ve been pretty in love with podcasts. Over at the last six months, they are all I’ve listened to on my phone. Music has been relegated to runs and runs only and that is probably only because I haven’t yet found a way to listen to podcasts while I do that, too. I listen to them in the office, while traveling, there are even a few that Kevin and I listen to together in the car.

March is #Trypod month, a campaign which encourages people to share their favourite podcasts and to get their non-podcast-listening friends subscribing as well.

A podcast is an episodic audio series that can address a specific topic or theme, a story or be based on personality of the host and/or guests. They can be fun, humourous, educational, thought-provoking or any combination of those things depending on what you like. There are hundreds of thousands of them out there so there has got to be a few you would be into.

Getting started couldn’t be easier. If you have a mobile device, it’s pretty likely that you have a podcast app at your fingertips. Just open it up, search the name of a podcast and subscribe. (Don’t have any leads? Look below or ask your friends.) You can also look back into the archives to listen to older episodes. I would recommend (from experience) that you download a number of episodes while connected to your home wifi and store them on your device. This will save you risking going over your data plan limitations if you’re streaming them on the go. Your podcast app can likely be set up to delete them once they have been played.

If you find the right podcasts, I guarantee you’ll be hooked. Here are a few that I listen to on the regular.

My favourite podcasts.

  • Happier with Gretchen Rubin & Elizabeth Craft. If I had to pick a favourite podcast, this one would be it. Rubin, the NYC authour of books like The Happiness Project and Better Than Before is joined by her sister, a TV writer in LA, Liz Craft. They talk about creating habits that help make for a happier life with tips and tricks for and from listeners as well as interesting guests who expand the topics to their areas of expertise. Some of my favourite episodes have been about picking a signature colour (episode 75) and picking a Happiness 911 song (episode 87 – more on that below.)
  • Radical Candor. This one is a doozy. This is the one podcast that I only feel comfortable listening to when I can give it my full focus. This is one I listen to alone and at a time when I’m in quiet surroundings. In fact, I want to devote my attention to it so deeply, I often listen to it with ear buds. Radical Candor – Care Personally and Challenge Directly. Episodes include: Ruinous Empathy and Praise, Ruinous Empathy and Criticism, How to Get Feedback from Your Boss, Make Meetings Less Awful, Radically Candid Criticism (<– this episode was my favourite so far.) This podcast is really, really impactful, but it’s a personal challenge at the same time.
  • Note to Self. Host Manoush Zomorodi tackles “essential quandaries for anyone trying to preserve their humanity in the digital age.” Lots of talk about technology and modern living and the mixing of the two. I’m put off by information delivered at a level that is over my head and Note to Self is easily digested and applied to life. Recently, they launched The Privacy Paradox, a project to help listeners/participants better understand how they control their personal information. I was only able to go through a few of the exercises (the others are still waiting in my inbox) but it was definitely eye-opening and worth the effort.
  • Making Oprah. I don’t remember how I ended up listening to this one. I’m not particularly oprah enthusiastic so it seems kind of random, but it was very enjoyable and, in fact, it brought a whole new respect for her. Short and sweet, it’s a six episode series with a bonus Donahue installment at the end. This would be a good starter podcast for a newbie.
  • Serial. Season one or two is a seriously divisive distinction when it comes to Serial listeners. Season one told the story of the death of Hae Min Lee and the subsequent arrest and questionable conviction of her boyfriend Adnan Syed. Season two took a totally different approach and addressed the story of Bowe Bergdahl, a US soldier who abandoned his post in Afghanistan. To me, season one was attractive because it was sensational. Season two, however, that was the season that I enjoyed the most. I recorded countless tidbits of information on little pieces of paper or in the Notes app on my phone and I think of the dynamics of the story often.
  • Anna Faris is Unqualified. “Not-so-great relationship advice from completely unqualified Hollywood types.” Fantastic. And hilarious. They’ll go off on these improv riffs that are just phenomenal. Like, literally laugh out loud while you’re walking down the street phenomenal. It’s the kind of stuff you can’t plan and can’t rehearse and people that are just really damn funny. My favourite: episode #77Milo Ventimiglia.
  • Love Alexi. Alexi Wasser is adorably neurotic and super fun to visit with – at least, that’s the vibe she gives off. Her podcast is set up as interviews with people most of whom are just slightly off my radar. She is so cute and so fun and so completely out there sometimes, but it’s impossible not to love her. Check it out. My favourite discovery via Love Alexi was Dallas Clayton (episode 28 here) and my favourite episode was with Lisa Loeb. (Lisa Loeb! Episode 40!) The only drawback is that some of the episodes are loooooooooooooooong. I don’t love that, but, for Alexi, I’ll do it (sometimes.)

Gretchen Rubin & me at Happier LIVE in Seattle

Have you already curated your own best podcasts list? Are you hooked on your own favourites? Then I have a challenge for you, too!

Try this: go see a live podcast.

Friends of ours went to see the live recording of one of their favourite podcasts last night and seeing their posts reminded me of how much fun we had when we went to see Happier live last October. (This was the Happiness 911 episode I mentioned above.) Also last night, I listened to Happier‘s second anniversary episode when they talked about favourite moments and many listeners wrote in and referred back to that night in Seattle. It sounds silly, but the memory of it, listening to the theme music and hearing others’ recollections of that night brought tears of joy to my eyes. I had a very strong emotional reaction to the memory and it was such a good one. It was definitely an experience that made me happier.

So, tell me: are you a podcast listener? If so, which are your favourites? If not, what’s stopping you?

Monday, monday

Happy Monday, friends!


Pic above from Dallas Clayton whom I adore. He posted it on Instagram.

***

Less than one week until we get the keys to our new place! Excited doesn’t even begin to cover it, but I’m such a bizarre combination or eager to start and not knowing where that I feel a little paralyzed. Sigh…

***

I was thinking about it and it’s a good thing I’m on vacation this week since all my work besties are away. And that’s depressing. Partly because they’re away and, well, I’m not. Partly because I’d be lost there without them. One is in San Diego via Las Vegas, one is in Mexico, one is in Hawaii. Thankfully, one is on maternity leave which means she is nearby and my time off will allow me some quality time with her and her gorgeous little five-month old.

***

I’m on vacation and we were supposed to be away now. This is the second trip we have had to cancel this year – not something I’m comfortable doing. In fact, as I’ve found out, cancelling travel is pretty low down on the list of things I’d like to do. We should be visiting friends and family in Ontario right now. Unfortunately, with planning a move and a wedding within three months of each other, staying home was unavoidable. 🙁

***

It snowed here again yesterday. I think we’ve all lost track of our snowpocalypses. And, though it’s just one particularly bad winter, it’s hard to not wonder if things are changing. We’d feel differently, I’m sure, if we hadn’t been living in this apartment that turns into a prison cell the second the snowflakes start falling. Maybe we’d be less annoyed/tormented/exasperated. I’ve actually been awfully lucky. I’ve had time off booked for almost every workday snowfall all year! So, while it is annoying, I haven’t been overly inconvenienced. This time yesterday, they were predicting about eight snow days out of the next ten. Now, they’ve back it off. Phew!

***

But now I have a week off and all to myself. Kevin is working and my plans are intentionally minimal. I have a few projects that I would like to work on and a few fun things to focus the rest of me time. (This blog probably reads like I write a lot of lists, but I don’t. I swear.)

  • Clean up my Goodreads Currently Reading bookshelf. I have way too many partially finished and even just started titles on that right now.
  • Order wedding invitations. Oh my word. This is turning it the longest, most drawn out ordeal.
  • Choose cakes to taste. This might be my favourite part of wedding planning so far.
  • Watch Big Little Lies. I blasted through the book over the past week and I quite enjoyed it. Now, to put the HBO version to the test…
  • Watch Riverdale. I have to admit, the hype definitely has me intrigued.
  • Cook. Spending time in the kitchen is tough when you’re out of the house 60+ hours a week for work. I need to get reacquainted time food that is made at home.
  • Pack. Of course. This is mandatory.

***

Fun or not, what are you up to this week? What do you hope to accomplish before next weekend?