Canadian content

Hey beauty cats.

So I realized (aka it was pointed out to me) that I never revealed what it was I bought M for his birthday – especially after all that badgering he managed to withstand leading up to the day.

We ended up having a rocking shindig for him on Sunday night, filled with food, friends, drink, games and general merriment.

(If ever in the future you attend a party at our place I can promise you two things: 1. there will be a TON of tasty eats to be had, because we have the  most fab, most culinary bad-ass friends you can imagine and 2. you will be forced to play the Name Game, because, well, that’s what we do at parties, okay?)

Earlier on in the day, I presented him with this:

The flowers, I should point out, were given to him by our brilliant friend Ms. M, whom, I am so excited to say, has just returned to the West Coast after spending a year and a half in Australia on a working holiday.

She is pretty much the best ever folks.

EVER.

Anywho, Mr. M loves Canadian history – Farley Mowatt, White Fang, North of 60, Pierre Burton – you name it.

So when I saw this hand written, hand illustrated book, I knew I needed to get it for him.

I also fell head over heels in love with his card.

It’s a mouse! Dressed in Elizabethan garb! HOLY MOLY!

Love it.

It’s funny, I don’t think I subscribe to a specific form of nationalism (goodness, I have a hard time using that word in a non-pejorative sense), but sometimes I dig being Canadian so much I feel a little funny.

(Which only serves to make me feel ever MORE Canadian because I understand this as me feeling bad for being too “into” my country. Someone get me a double-double and some timbits STAT.)

I mean, I’ve read enough literature on the invention of borders and passports, and the evolution of national languages and mythology to be wary of buying too much into these institutions and systems.

Heck, I wrote my master’s thesis on Canadian and British immigration policies post-1945.

However, I feel as though this perspective gives me enough wiggle room to take to heart some quintessential Canadiana, while still remaining critical of these norms on a larger scale.

It’s all about balance right?

When we were living in the UK, our flatmate S (we lived in an absolutely bat crap CRAZY old mansion that had been converted into nine apartments and we were living in 300 square feet of madness) asked if we could put together a slide show of some Canadian vistas, because he had always been attracted to our country’s wildnerness.

So over dinner the next night (we had a sweet system in place where one out of three couples that made up our group would cook, so all six of us could rotate cooking and washing duties) M and I shared as many photos of our travels across Canada as possible.

Here are three snaps from the original presentation:

Lunenberg, Nova Scotia.

While I may live on the West Coast (and love it here), much of my heart belongs in the East.

The Maritimes are so beautiful I do not know where to begin to describe them.

Nova Scotia’s beauty is stark, cut out of wild, tempestuous seas, multi-coloured fishing villages, fiddle-driven ceilidhs, and the effervescent, endearing (and enduring) spirit of some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Lunenberg is situated on the province’s South Shore (seriously, GO THERE) and is located on a peninsula at the western side of Mahone Bay (again, GO THERE). The town is approximately 90 kilometres southwest of Halifax (when you go to Lunenberg, you will fly into this city. STAY THERE for a few days at the very least.)

No more caps, I promise.

North Vancouver/Pender Harbour, BC.

M and I do quite a bit of hiking.

Seriously, in the summer months, gives us our hikers, a mountain, some food and water (and also sunscreen because goodness knows if you’ve seen my skin you’ll understand that I am in fact a vampire) and we are happy.

Two gorgeous trails for views of a lifetime are Mt. Daniel on the Sunshine Coast (GO THERE NOW – sorry!) and Lighthouse park on the North Shore.

Soon, my darlings, it will also be camping weather, and you know what that means…

Onwards!

Whistler, BC.

M is a journeyman carpenter. Five years ago he worked on the Olympic ski jump in the Callaghan Valley (GO THERE) and he took this pic just as the weather began to turn, heading in the tail end of autumn.

All of the pictures he took from his time on the job site are pretty darn spectacular, however there is something about this one that just leaves me with goosebumps, all up and down my arms.

He did also manage to take a few snaps of bears.

And boy do I ever love me a pic of a black bear scouring the grass for some tasty wild flowers to munch, munch away on.

And speaking of which, I’m off to procure some grub myself.

So I ask you friends, what places would you like to share with the world from your own backyard? I’d love to know, even if it’s thousands of miles away from your actual home.

Girls on film

Hey friends,

Up here in the Great White North (GWN) it’s the Victoria day long-weekend. You see, us Canadians have never been able to fully quit the British monarchy, and as such, the Queen’s mug is plastered all over our currency, we get to compete in the Commonwealth games, and we are gifted an extra day off every year, always around this time.

I’m no fan of the English royal family by any stretch, but when it comes to statutory holidays, I’ll take it.

Tomorrow is Mr. M’s birthday and we will be up to many a shenanigan to celebrate this auspicious occasion.

I am so excited to give him his gift, I’ve been asking him almost everyday for a week if he wants to open it early.

(I’m really crap at waiting for others to open their presents. Usually I try to coerce them into doing so immediately after I have purchased the gift. Seriously I am the absolute worst. I don’t know how many times I’ve bullied M into opening things before the actual occasion. In my defense, I’m just going to state that can get really excited, okay?)

This time however, he’s fought back hard, so it will be tomorrow morning that he’ll finally get to see what I got him.

In the meantime, we’ve been out and about all day soaking up the sunshine.

This morning after we completed our compulsory tough mudder training, we glammed ourselves up and walked down to the quay for some brunch time crepes.

Here are a few snaps from the weekend so far:

Late night walks and coffee runs on Friday night.

Latte for M. London fog for me.

Trees outside our house.

One of my favourite colours in the world.

Brunch time dress.

Lady bug dress.

Brunch time crepes.

Beauty tree.

So gorgeous.

GIANT marshmallows.

Holy frick.

Our plans for the rest of the night.

Love, love, love.

Happy weekend you beauty cats!

I hope you’re smiling wherever you are.

Gifts that keeps on giving

For my birthday, I received a number of fabitty fab birthday presents (from a number of fabitty fab individuals.)

In preparation for my first marathon, I was gifted a belt to store gel packs, and a beautiful, (but more important breathable) zip-up running shirt. Mr. M gave me a pair of lovely earrings that have little cameos of ravens on them (because this way I can pretend that I’m Odin, and that my little feathered friends are whispering the world’s secrets into my ears as I go about my daily business.)

I also received another Murakami book from my good friend A that I devoured on my way home from her house on skytrain.

An absolutely scrumptious lunch Ms. A treated me to, at Cafe Medina. GO THERE.

Such a strange sensation to be reading a book about a very early Tokyo morning, when you yourself feel as though you are operating out of a parallel, late-night dreamland. I was so tired that I could hardly keep my eyes open, and yet at the same time, too engrossed in Murkami’s prose to actually allow my body to let go, and crumple under the weight of my end-of-week exhaustion and post-hang out daze.

What a strange tug-of-war we mortals can play, between need and desire, consciousness and sleep.

Two other gifts that provide me with a huge amount of happiness (on a daily basis at that) are the gorgeous prints my sister in-law V made for me.

They are currently hanging in my office and I cannot even begin to describe what a difference they have made in my day-to-day work regime.

The power of art is strong, my friends – very strong.

Is your office green with ivy? I mean, envy?

Plus, the prints, combined with a few other touches of beauty and comfort (I also have nice black and white photo of SFU hanging on the opposite wall, and I finally managed to finagle someone to come in and mount my “to-do” cork board) ensure my office no longer looks like the place you go where you find out that you have a terminal illness.

Because that folks, is pretty darn bleak.

Just looking at this photo puts a smile on my face!

Seriously.

Today the sky is blue, and the trees are sun-drenched (and not rain-drenched) for the first time in what seems like ages.

Over my lunch break I hopped, skipped, and jumped my way out of the office, and around my downtown neighbourhood in an effort to procure everything that was populating my (ever-growing) “NEED TO GET” list.

It is always so pleasant doing these kinds of things in the glorious sunshine, rather than scurrying about like a drowned rat, trying to stay one step ahead of the looming fog and drizzle.

Is it springtime yet, Ms. Nature?

I picked up the usual suspect at Shoppers Drug Mart: make-up remover, cotton pads (to be used with said remover), body wash, and face cleanser.

I had a mild flashback to high school when I approached one of the clerks to ask if she knew where the Neutrogena products were, and she briskly responded:

You mean the acne products?

Umm, I wasn’t sure, actually. “It’s very orange and has a pump on the top?” I said, a little nervous all of a sudden.

Yes. You want the acne face washes, upstairs in the acne solutions section – aisle four.

I know this might seem a little silly, but I totally felt as though I was being shamed. Like I was in a one of those horrible sitcoms playing the nerdy high school kid who tries to purchase condoms, or tampons – or the young girl stuck buying Vagisil, or Imodium, or Exlax or whatever.

(Also, super hilarious that the spell check wants to change Vagisil to valise. That would require a majorly daft pharmacist to make that mix-up.)

Now, I’m sure the only reason I actually felt this way is because in high school I actually did have bad acne, and I spent so much time, energy and money trying not to have bad acne.  Now that I’m finally living a life of clear skin (as an easy, breezy, covergirl – or, you know, whatever) it’s hard for me not to get my back up in those kind of situations.

It’s like the horribly embarrassed fourteen year-old girl inside starts yelling: “I’m beautiful now! Why can’t you just leave me alone!”

LEAVE ETHEL ALONE!

Okay, so I’m over dramatizing this for the sake of humour and readability, but the sentiment is the same. Even though I was over the whole thing in about 2.7 seconds, I guess it’s true what they say:

Some (acne) scars just take longer to heal.

NOMNOMNOM. Sip.

To speed up the process I bought (and thoroughly enjoyed) a large package of peanut butter M&M’s (seriously I’d fight to the death to prove, and/or, to defend my stance that they are in fact, the best M&M product – or at least to a missing handful of hair) and an ice cold diet Pepsi.

I also managed to get a hold of a pair of sweatpants that I can wear on my way home from the gym for only sixteen dollars!

You have no idea how happy this makes me. Seriously.

Money-wise aside, this is also fantastic news because I normally go to the gym straight after work, and I really don’t like walking home in my workout clothes with just my big winter coat as my only over layer.

It kind of makes me feel like a super-harlot, because my shorts are shorter than my (rather long) coat, and this may or may not contribute to the illusion that makes it look as though I’m not wearing anything underneath my jacket.

And that’s not a look I’m ever striving for.

EVER.

My final purchase was a new pair of work shoes (nine dollars! Thank you bargain barrel pricing and size ten feet!) and two lipsticks (two for twelve bucks! I’m almost, almost afraid to know what they’re made out of, because they’re so cheap. Probably the other bargain barrel size tens that were never sold.)

It’s easy to forget about that though, because they’re so, so pretty.

Sparkly toes and red lips. Watch out world!

With all this talk of TREAT YOU SELF and the weather being as fabulous and fine, it was the perfect day to go out and do something nice for myself.

(It is also heart warming to know that I will once again be able to properly remove my mascara, and not wake up with crazy black muck that has sealed my eyelids shut whilst I slept. Side note: I was going to write “sleep-cum-makeup muck” but thought it might give some people the wrong idea.)

Okay, I definitely don’t need any more proof about how immature I can be, because just writing that out has given a case of the giggles I just may never get over.

Heeheeheeheehee.

Sunny days! Chasing the - clouds away! On my way...

OKAY.

Enough now.

I hope every single one of you had a beautiful day, were fortunate to feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and did something lovely in celebration of you, and just you.

Or at the very least, had a good giggle.

I’m perfectly calm dude

Today is my birthday.

According to http://www.thisdayinmusic.com the #1 song on my day of birth was “I wanna know what love is” by Foreigner.

Classic.

This year the theme for the day is “no muss, no fuss.” For the last four years I’ve partaken in some pretty wild festivities, so I’m a little relieved that this year’s agenda is defined by two words:

Low key.

Tomorrow M and I are heading up to the cabin for a couple of days – we’ll run, read, rest and relax. (Probably catch some Superbowl action too.)

Two years ago, to celebrate the fact that I’d spent a quarter of a century alive and kicking on this big old ball of green and blue, M and I hosted a James Bond dress-up soirée. We instructed our guests to come costumed as their favourite bond villain, bond girl, or well, you know, bond bond, and then proceeded to get smashed on martinis (shaken, etc., etc.,) play poker and black-jack, and engage is some high-profile, high-hilarity espionage.

I think I ate more olives that night then I could have if I lived an entire year on the island of Crete. (And believe you me, that place is chock-a-block FULL of olives. I spend the majority of my time there marveling at how anyone could ever fathom picking them all – much to M’s equal parts amusement and chagrin.)

What was so great about the evening was how everyone really went whole hog when it came to their preparations for the night. We had many Bonds, a couple of Qs and one Rosa Klebb who completely stole the show.

I dressed as Vesper Lynd, while M decided on Gobinda, the evil henchman from Octopussy. (FULL DISCLOSURE: M is half-Indian so don’t start getting any crazy ideas here).

He looked so fabulous it was unreal. Plus he carried around a set of dice and kept pretending to crush them in his death grip – bloody hilarious and seriously flash. For more info please see:

The party took place just as I was beginning to buckle down and write my graduate thesis, and I told myself that after the night’s shenanigans were through, I wasn’t going to have any fun until after I rocked out on my defence, and finished my master’s.

It was a tremendous “last big bash” – a good lead in to three months of thirteen hour days in self-imposed isolation, spent hunched at my computer, writing about immigration policy and refugee integration schemes.

I’m happy to say that I was successful in both of the before mentioned endeavours, although in hindsight I am pretty sure that those months of suffering would have passed in a much less painful manner had I actually engaged in some light-hearted social fare every now and then.

But alas, as they say, live and learn.

Birthdays are a great opportunity to sit and (subjectively) contemplate where you are in life, where you’ve come from, and where you would like to go.

This week I’ve reflected quite a bit along these lines – trying to figure out the things I am happy with, the things I still have to work on, and the things I have overcome in the past year.

People keep asking me if I am alright, or if something is wrong, particularly when I tell them that this year I’m not interested in doing anything big for my birthday.

While I may not be contemplating my life in this exact spot (I wish!), I am contemplating nevertheless.

I’m guessing that this muted (and therefore I’m apt to guess out of character) demeanour of mine  has led many to believe that I’m either down in the dumps (I get this quite a bit when I’m not my normally boisterous, extroverted self), or sweating over the fact somehow, despite my best efforts, I have managed to age yet another year.

This is not the case.

In fact, I’m having a hard time convincing people that I am downright a-okay. I’m just meditating on the past, and mulling over my future.

Which, at least to me, is a positive endeavor.

One thing I am working on is giving myself credit for the things that, well, deserve credit.

Seriously, it’s a chronic behavioural problem of mine. I am almost pathologically incapable of giving myself a pat on the back.

And although this problem used to be much worse than it currently is, the fact of the matter remains: I have tremendous difficulty truly taking pride in my triumphs, for fear that in doing so, I will come off as a big-headed, conceited jerk.

I’ve learned that the easier way to to combat this fright (and avoid that outcome) is to to ignore my successes, and instead immediately soldier on to my next goal, or activity, without so much as a second glance back.

I’ve been wondering about this quite a bit, and asking myself why I, like so many young people I know, are quick to downplay their accomplishments, almost to the point of parody?

Why do we squirm at the idea of complimenting ourselves, or accepting recognition from others?

Growing up I had a very real, very tangible belief that if I ever dwelled on that which I did well, people would right me off as self-righteous and self-involved. Being labelled “stuck-up” was second only to “slut” when it came to my biggest fears in terms of my (real or perceived) social identity (that second moniker is fodder for another topic, on another day.)

So I never took the time to congratulate myself, or accept the compliments of others (and if I did, it was always handled with a heavy dose of self-deprecation, or an attempt downplay what it was I had achieved), and I pushed to take on more activities, which in turn saw me place endless pressure on myself to excel– only to once again, ignore my successes.

This created an incredibly negative feed-back loop, defined by stress, insecurity, fear, and pressure. That my mental and physical health deteriorated because of this problem is an understatement – this warped, chronic need to over-achieve (but never acknowledge it) took over my life, manifesting itself in eating disorders, compulsive exercising, and long stretches of insomnia.

While I would like to say that I am completely over this affliction, I would be lying if I did. I can say however, that the  place I am today, is almost completely unrecognizable from where I was ten years ago.

I am no longer sick, I am much less stressed out, and I am always working on putting less pressure on myself.

I am still committing myself to numerous engagements, because they make me happy, while at the same time trying to make sure that I can self-validate through this process.

I am learning how to say “good job”, and “thank-you” (with no self-deprecating follow-up).

So while this year, I may not be throwing a grand bash to celebrate my birth, rest assured that I am celebrating.

Early birthday card, delicious birthday cookie.

I’m just doing it a little quieter, that’s all.

And that is definitely a-okay.