Monday, 31 December 2012

Grateful for ____ in 2012

I love making New Year's Resolutions. I love making resolutions, regardless of the time of year. But what I really love about the end of the year is taking time to reflect on how much I've changed, and all the things I am grateful for. Sometimes they are big, like an opportunity to study abroad, and sometimes they are small, like a movie that inspired me in some way.

This year, I am grateful for these things:

Badlands National Park, SD
1. The opportunity to work out in British Columbia for the summer.

Though this was a fantastic resume builder, the best part of this opportunity was the chance to drive across the continent and then back again. I still can't put into words what a life-changing experience it was to drive through the incredible landscapes that make up Canada and the United States. I developed a deep appreciation for National Parks, learned loads about western expansion, and got to visit some amazing monuments and locations. It has continued to inspire me months after my return.

I had no idea at the beginning of 2012 that I would get to fulfill so many of my dreams: To take an epic road trip across the country, to visit Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone Park, to ride to the top of the Space Needle, try surfing in the Pacific, and cheer on the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

I hope that 2013 gives me the opportunity to take a similar road trip, this time south: through Smoky Mountain National Park, the Carolinas, and Nashville, TN!

2. All of the challenges I've been able to face

There are a lot of painful memories from 2012, but every single one of them taught me something important about myself or gave me the chance to grow in a positive direction. After a particularly harrowing mistake from way back in February, I told myself "Every decision, even wrong ones, bring me one step closer to deciding what I want and who I want to be." I have to remind myself of this constantly, because I can be WAY too hard on myself. All of the times I've been unhappy or stressed have usually resulted in a stronger, more confident me. 

3. My youngest brother

We've gotten so much closer in the last few years, but this year I appreciate him more than ever. He is kind, smart, and funny--all around, just a great kid. He reminds me that I am a good person, and that I can be even better. His dedication to his goals constantly inspire me to push that much harder to reach my own.

4. My car

My life would have been infinitely harder without my Accord. I know I just wrote a post about the dangers of loving things, but I think if my car were a person, I would marry it. 

5. Friday Night Lights

I love this show. If this isn't obvious, it soon will be, because I feel the urge to mention Tami Taylor in just about every post I write. This show inspires me to become a better person, and more than one difficult situation I've been in this year has been resolved by asking the question: "What would Tami Taylor do?" The Coach and Tami have the kind of relationship I aspire to someday, and the quality of the writing and characterization in the show is something I aim for in my own writing. This will probably always top my list of favourite TV shows of all time, even though it's been over for over a year. 

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Greetings from Orlando!


This morning I'm heading to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando with my family. We will be getting up at an ungodly hour to beat the lines, but I don't mind. 

The first time I went to Disney World (that I can remember), I was fifteen. It was the year my Mom passed away, and my Dad spoiled us rotton that year at Christmas in an effort to distract us. I was completely blown away by the park. Everything about it was a million times better than any theme park I had been to before. I abandoned my too-cool-for-school teenager attitude and had a blast meeting Lilo & Stitch, kicking my brother's butts on the Buzz Lightyear ride, and gasping at the Philharmagic. There really is something magical about DisneyWorld. While I never stopped wishing my Mom was there, I have the best memories of being with my family on that trip. 

Nine years later, I know the park will have changed, and so have I. Part of me worries that going back at 24 will take away some of the specialness of that first trip. I hope that I can still feel some of the magic I felt back then. 

Even if I don't, that in no way will stop me from behaving like a 5 year old, I'm sure. 

Friday, 28 December 2012

Dear Diary: I'm a Material Girl

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. I decided to postpone posting by a day to enjoy spending time with my family. Of course, it didn't take long to have enough of that! (Just kidding, of course). Since my family loves shopping, we've been spending a lot of time at the outlets and shopping malls here in Florida, and I thought this would be an appropriate thing to post today, after we're all recovering from our post-consumerist binge.

I have a terrible, self-destructive tendency to go back and re-read old journal entries. It's something I always tell myself is a bad idea, and just like tequila shots and buying wrap dresses, I end up doing it anyway. 

There are a couple of standard reactions to re-reading my adolescent (or collegiate, or yesterday's) thoughts. 

1. Complete and utter self-loathing
2. That's it. 

If I'm not getting angry over how stupid I once was, I'm getting angry about how stupid I still am. Sometimes I'll read an entry and think "Wow. 20 year old me was so wise...why the hell am I still a mess?"

I came across this entry from March of last year:

"I've decided that I'm going to replace my love of boys with my love of stuff. Since only approximately half my love with be going towards things, I won't be entirely evil."

This is something that comes up a LOT in my diary entries. Not the desire to be rid of boy-drama (though it does--that's a post for another day), but my love of stuff, and the guilt that is associated with my love. In my journal entries, I frequently describe what I was wearing that day, or something that I bought, in relation to my mood. It makes me uncomfortable to admit how happy material things actually make me. 


But they do. Who doesn't love that rush when you're wearing a new outfit, or buying something coveted from the store? People who are better than me, probably. I get that rush just from seeing the things I own, even years later. For the longest time, seeing my frosty pink iPod mini (remember those?) would fill me with a rush of endorphins even an hour of cardio can't produce. 

I can't deny that aesthetics are important to me. I need my living space and my clothing to look like a reflection of myself, and my taste. As much as possible, I want to control the things I look at every day, and make sure I'm surrounded by those things that make me happy. I'm not sure if this is a bad thing, or merely a personality trait, but I do worry that my preoccupation with stuff is making me a bad example of a global citizen. I'm increasingly uncomfortable with how much waste our family produces, and the ease at which I can get rid of clothing and accessories I no longer like. A friend of mine directed me towards the Story of Stuff, which hasn't done much to ease my guilt. I completely understand that we are living in a disposable culture, and that's damaging in many ways. But it hasn't changed my buying/consumption patterns very much. 

So, what's the answer? I'm afraid I don't have one. I have a feeling that it is something along the lines of buying products that are higher quality, that will last longer, and are created by companies with more ethical practices. But that's definitely easier to say than to do. Especially as someone who, up until recently has been both a student and unemployed. 

The first step is probably to stop feeling guilty, as that's not going to help anyone. As for the second step? If you have any advice, please let me know! 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my father's 55th birthday. He will be spending the day golfing with my grandfather, brothers, and uncles, while I try and hunt down a last minute birthday gift at the outlet mall. I just wanted to say a few quick words about him. 


My Dad and I fight a lot, probably because we are so alike. We are both opinionated,  quick to anger, and tend to see the worst in people before we see the best. But my Dad is also incredibly kind, selfless, and hilarious once you get to know him. 

He is simply the greatest. Here are few more reasons why:

He raised three kids (practically) on his own

He supports me in everything I do (even when it costs a ton of money, like studying abroad)

He flew to BC to drive back home to Ontario with me. Even though that involved being stuck in a car, with my incessant chatter and country music, for two weeks. 

Usually if I'm thinking it, my Dad will say it. 

He hates talking about emotional stuff, but every once in a while he'll send me an email telling me he's proud of me, or I'll come home and find a new book on my bed. 

When I asked him if my brother or I were "accidents", he told me: "Alexandra, all children are accidents."

When I asked him if I was a cute baby, he said: "Alexandra, all babies are ugly."

He's letting me live at home, and supporting me, until I can get a full time job. 

He has sacrificed so much for my brothers and I. I only hope that one day I can repay him, and at the very least, do the same for my kids. 

Edited to add: We are sharing a hotel room, and he just hit himself in the face with his iPad while trying to read. I just killed myself laughing. 

Monday, 24 December 2012

Luau in December

In general, I prefer classic Christmas songs over modern cover versions, or poppy attempts at "new classics." That being said, my all-time favourite Christmas album is Luau in December by King Kukulele and the Friki Tikis. It's a ukelele/Hawaiian/comedic take on some classic Christmas songs and some new ones as well. I'm a little obsessed with all things Hawaiian/Tiki-themed, and this album is not only super cute, it's also tons of fun to sing along too. 


Unfortunately, there are no YouTube versions of any of the songs, but you can preview them on iTunes. My favourite song is probably "I Work For Santa Claus":

I work for Santa Claus
Don't you understand that I'm on duty and I've got to do my duty
I've got the list, that Santa reads twice, 
to see if you've been naughty or nice. 

Flying through the sky on a mission for Kris Kringle
Miles and miles so high, hear those sleigh bells jingle.

I work for Santa Claus
Don't you understand that I'm on duty and I've got to do my duty
Santa needs his list, the Krampus too
You better be nice or he'll get you.

One reindeer and an elf they flew
To get the list as they were told to do
Till old Blitzen threw a shoe
And closer to a crash they drew



I work for Santa Claus
Don't you understand that I'm on duty and I've got to do my duty
And if you can't fly my home then I'll gotta take a plane or maybe I'll drive.

Just for such contingencies, Santa covers the nominal fees
So flying on a plane is the back up plan, though the list is carried too close to man.


I work for Santa Claus
Don't you understand that I'm on duty and I've got to do my duty



Take me down Blitzen, our trip was short
Drop me off at Los Angeles X Airport

Don't park your deer there or I'm gonna have to tear a ticket from my book
 cause you took a second look
The red zone's for this and the white zone's for that, 
Take off your belt, your shoes and your hat


I work for Santa Claus
Don't you understand that I'm on duty and I've got to do my duty

If you don't let me go to Santa's shop
I'm warning you Christmas will be a flop.

You got a long beard and funny hat
You talk real weird and we don't like that.
You say you've got a list? So do we
We're the Bureau of Homeland Security

The difference is, we check our twice.
Would you like a lump of coal or a block of ice?
This list must get to the North Pole
A Merry Christmas is our goal!

With a magic passport, he got through
But to the shop with work to do
With the naughty and nice list too
And Blitzen got a brand new shoe. 

Sunday, 23 December 2012

FOMO

Well, we are settling into our second day in Florida! We checked into our resort around 3am on Friday night, and yesterday was spent shopping for Christmas presents, eating and drinking and running up a tab in the bar with my family, and taking my cousins on a midnight trip to the beach to play touch football. It's a little chillier (about 12 degrees C, or 54 F) than we would like, but we are hoping it will warm up tomorrow!

One of the things that I've noticed is an acute feeling of FOMO affecting all members of my family. FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, is a term I heard for the first time last year when I was working as an RA. It's the feeling you get when it seems like everyone else is off doing cool things and you're missing out. There are 35 members of my family staying at this resort, and because our Canadian wireless providers charge us an arm and a leg for roaming fees, we're having a hard time tracking where everyone is. Which leads to us all feeling like we are being left out of a potentially awesome activities.

It's so stupid, of course. The same thing happened four years ago, and by the third day, we had all found a rhythm and were able to figure out where most people would be at any given time. And this year, my cousins and I can use iMessage by connecting to the resorts WiFi.

This whole situation reminds me so much of being back in college. I think that the invention of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are partially responsible for this phenomenon, because it's so easy to see what everyone else is doing and feel like whatever you're doing isn't cool/exciting/mature enough. On this trip, I'm trying to remember that the first priority is to spend time with my family, whether that's on the beach, in the bar, or at the mall, and I'm trying to stop worrying if anyone else is off waterskiing or deep sea fishing!


Friday, 21 December 2012

Thoughts from the week: 12/21/12

Some thoughts from this week: 

1.
It's not really that cold here yet--but it is icy as anything! I almost lost my footing a couple of times this week, and was so grateful I decided to pull out the Sorels, (even if they sometimes give me blisters) so I could avoid embarssing myself as I ventured across multiple parking lots/skating rinks.


2.
The other day, as I was scraping ice off my car, I thought to myself: "I hate scraping my car off more than anything else in the world." This is a frequent refrain of mine--the other is "I hate pumping gas in the car more than anything else in the world." But then I realized---I have to scrape my car off because I am so fortunate to have my own car (and I love her more than one should love an inanimate object!). It definitely gave me some perspective, and I wondered: How many other things can I look at in terms of my blessings, rather than my complaints?

3. 
I am loving this Nautical by Nature post which highlights the importance of an emergency kit. There are also great resources with cute printables all over pinterest just for this purpose! It appears by this point that the apocalypse is not happening today, but it never hurts to be prepared :)

4.
The soundtrack for Nashville has been playing in my house nonstop. My favourite is this Hayden Panettiere song: 


5.
I am currently in the process of packing for my trip to Florida. We are supposed to be leaving at 6 tonight, but with this weather (at least a foot of snow), we may be delayed/cancelled. 

The view from my window
6. 
Speaking of packing, I'm super impressed with my organizational skills. Normally I just throw everything into a huge suitcase, but my brothers and Dad are all bringing their golf clubs, which means I had to be super conservative about what I brought. 


7. 
You know how the girls bathroom always has a longer lineup than the guys bathroom? I always thought that they should predict this, and build larger women's bathrooms. Similarly, I think women should be allowed to bring more luggage on airplanes. We have SO many more things to worry about. ESPECIALLY shoes. My family doesn't understand why I need four pairs of shoes to spend a week in Florida, whereas I know that even four will not be enough. Frustrating! 

8. 
I'm seriously considering getting a pair of Jack Rogers sandals while I'm in the States, but I'm really hesitant to spend so much on a pair of flip flops. This is not a problem, but it feels like one! 

9. 
I am so excited for Christmas, the beach, and Disney World! 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

How to Combat Homesickness (especially at the holidays)


I don't think I am at all qualified to give anyone advice, ever, but does that stop me from giving it? Of course not. Sometimes I find blogs with a preachy/advicey tone a little annoying, but I decided to give it a whirl today anyway, mostly because Katy of kaitastrophical asked me!

I get seriously homesick when I am away from home (even if it's just for one night), but I've managed to combat it enough to live in England for a year, Peterborough for another year, and British Columbia for the summer. So maybe I know something about it? We'll see. 

How to Combat Homesickness (especially at the holidays):

1. Try to remember that you are living a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one that you will look back on fondly for many Christmas's to come. 

This really only applies if you are, actually, living a once in a lifetime experience. If you are kidnapped, or in jail, or maybe just can't afford to go home, it doesn't really apply. If it's the first two, you probably aren't reading my blog (if you are, please stop now and get your life together). If it's the last one, maybe you can think about why you're away from home--maybe you are saving to buy a house (or a pony!), or maybe you're working hard at a job that will bring you closer to your dream job. 

If you're like me, though, you're studying or working abroad, and can't justify the thousands of dollars to fly home. If that's the case, remember all the reasons you moved away (for me: adventure! and a chance to prove that I was totally badass). Think about what you've done so far that you could never do at home (adventures! total badassery!)

2. Take advantage of the experiences around you that you can't at home. 

For me, it was visiting the Christmas markets, having a traditional Christmas dinner (complete with mincemeat pies, crackers, and mulled wine--disgusting), and watching British Christmas specials. There is probably something around you that you can't experience at home--go do those things. You will look back on them fondly when you are back home again. I made a habit of buying a Christmas decoration in every city I went to, regardless of the time of year. When I put them on my tree this year, I got to remember all my travels (and talk about them insecently/show off whenever anyone came over). 

3. If you have the means to, travel

If you can't be with the ones you love, go somewhere crazy and awesome so that the ones you love will see your pictures on Facebook and think you are totally badass. 

A friend of mine is spending her Christmas in Dublin while she's on exchange, and I am insanely jealous. No, it won't be the same, and yes, you will probably still feel a little weird and homesick, BUT you will also be doing something amazing and fun and that will make it that much better. 

4. If you don't have the means to travel, at least get out of your house

Whenever I was feeling really homesick, I tended to want to stay in my room, feeling sorry for myself and sending my (long-distance) boyfriend pathetic emails. I always put off going to the grocery store, exploring my town, or just taking a walk. And every time I did it, I felt SO much better. It's kind of like that rule about exercise: When you least feel like doing it is probably when you need it the most. 

That being said,

5. It's okay to wallow (a little bit)

In my first month of my exchange, I managed to get the entire series of the West Wing on DVD for like $50. Some of my best days were spent picking up an order of fish and chips after my Politics of Northern Ireland class and crawling into bed to watch several episodes end to end. The good thing about wallowing is that you have to accept how you're feeling, and by doing that it makes it a little easier to get past it (or book a day trip to Edinburgh!)

Josh Lyman got me through many a dark day

You'll probably notice that I didn't mention calling your friends and family? That's because it's really obvious advice and you really don't me telling you to do so. Then again, all of this might be totally obvious advice, but hopefully it helps a little bit. 

Before I left for England, one of the returning exchange students told me that spending a year abroad has some of the highest highs and lowest lows you'll ever experience in your life. At the time I remember thinking: "No lows for me!" But a few months later, I actually found it comforting to remember that it was part of the experience. And it gets easier. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

No place like home


Four years ago, I was finishing the first term of my exchange year to England. While I loved England, by the end of November I was so so so homesick. I listened to "No Place Like Home" about a thousand and one times a day. I probably drove my flatmates crazy, but they were polite enough not to say anything.

That year, like this year, I will be heading to Florida for Christmas, where I will be staying at a resort with my entire extended family (all 19 grandchildren + 1 fiance, 6 daughters, 7 sons-in-law, and 2 grandparents). It's going to be crazy and awesome and so so much fun.

Last time, all of us remarked how strange it felt to be on the beach Christmas day, instead of sitting in front of a fire, watching the snow fall. It got me thinking about the places we call home, and whether they would have any meaning, were not for the people we share them with. I know that I am certainly attached to sleeping in my own bed and having my own bedroom, but the thing that really keeps me coming back to Ottawa (and the reason I am trying to find a full-time job here) is my family. I know that on Christmas morning, there will be no place I would rather be than on that beach in Florida.

(Okay, that sounds like just about the most obvious statement of life. But you know what I mean!)

Florida is home, in a way. I've been going there literally since I was in the womb. But more importantly, it's where my family goes, it's where they've always gone.

Even though my family can drive me crazy, being around them reminds me of a part of myself that sometimes gets lost in the hectic pace of my day-to-day life. While they aren't always up-to-date on what's going on in my life, they know me in a way that most people will never get a chance to. I feel more "me" around my family (I also feel more aggravated and insecure--but that's a whole other post!). My cousin remembers the time I fell out of bed for apparently no reason. My aunt remembers the phase I went through where I wore all black and was extremely sarcastic. Most importantly, they all have stories to tell about my mother, which I use to discover parts of her (and myself) I either haven't learned or never got the chance to discover. It's a wonderful way to discover the past, but I also know that in learning more about myself, about where I come from, I also am discovering the future, in a way--does that make any sense?

Sometimes I can feel so lost, like I don't even know who I am or what I want out of life. My family can't provide that answer for me, but they can remind me of who I will always be: a part of that family, and their crazy traditions and embarrassing sing-a-longs and an apparently genetic preference for luxury brands and anything in a little blue box. They are a part of me, and I am a part of them. That sense of belonging is so important to me, I don't think I could trade it for anything.

Four years ago on Christmas Eve, we were sitting in church, taking up about four whole pews. My Dad looked at me, then looked at my grandparents, and said: "Think about it. We're all here because of those two people right there. They've created a legacy."

It was a lovely way to describe exactly how I was feeling.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

I didn't know how to post today without saying something about the tragedy in Connecticut yesterday. But then, it's difficult to know what to say.

I'll tell you what I told my brother, who is terrified of school shootings, and almost delayed going to college in part because of this fear:

People are mostly good; mass shootings are rare (though not as rare as they should be); and let's turn off the news and pray, instead.

It's so easy to get overwhelmed by tragedy and either fall into a slump, or else harden yourself to it. It's easier to talk about failures in our system, easier to get angry about gun control (or not enough guns), easier to get angry, period, than it is to confront such a terrible tragedy.

That being said, I believe there is a lot we can learn from this. I believe we can learn to be better.

But I also believe that we need to confront our grief, and accept it. It is normal to feel hopeless, to be listless and angry and numb right after another, or at the same time. It's normal because we are humans and we can't help but feel connected to every member of the community in Newtown, and that, above all, is why I haven't lost faith in humanity.

I'm telling my brother to turn off the news and pray, and when that fails, I'm reading articles like this.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Hide your crazy and start acting like a lady

I have a bit of a fascination with etiquette guides. I think the appeal is that they are guidelines for any number of social situations that could otherwise be overwhelming or intimidating. I have often said that I wish I could go to CAA and get a "trip-tik" for my life. Etiquette guides are a close second.

Do people use TripTiks anymore? 

That being said, there are so, so many of them out there! There is obviously the classic Emily Post's Etiquette.  I've also read Candace Simpson Giles "How to be a Lady", something that my grandmother found hilarious when she discovered (My Nana, of course, was born knowing how to be a lady. It alarmed her to realize her granddaughter was struggling).

I'm also a big fan of the "Rules for the Southern Lady" tumblr. I don't agree with everything she writes, but it is endlessly charming and definitely relevant for the mid-twenties crowd. Last year, I went through a pretty rough patch with school, my relationship, the works. This blog cheered me up immensely and helped me keep my head above water.

There is an argument that etiquette is different than manners. I agree that etiquette can definitely have a classist association, and I would never, ever argue that everyone should have a perfect knowledge of appropriate hostess gifts in order to be classified as having manners. In my mind, manners has a lot to do with consideration. Emily Post says it best: 


But there is something very comforting about having certain rules for every conceivable situation (A Lady at the Gynecologist! A Lady Meets the President!). Maybe I feel like if I can memorize all of the little rules, it won''t matter that I feel anxious or out-of-place in any given situation. 

I was trying to articulate my love of etiquette guides to a friend who didn't really get it. We were speaking about a mutual friend who had missed a funeral because of fear of who she might run into. Without thinking, I said "Etiquette is a guide for acting in a way you won't regret later." I may not feel like being polite to a salesperson when I'm stressed out and running late, but I will definitely regret my rudeness later. As hard as it may be to face certain situations, putting yourself aside for a moment will be something to be so grateful for later. And by putting yourself aside, you can also put your fears and anxieties aside. 

I'm not saying anything new when I say that with the fast pace of our society today, a lot of us have forgotten about little ways to show consideration for those around us. And at it's essence, that's all etiquette is: having respect for the people around you, whether you know them or even like them. 

Here are a couple of quotes/pins I've pinned on Pinterest that expressed this a lot better than I can:




My aunt does this--all of my cousins and I are bad about texting at the dinner table!

The best part about this post was finally learning how to spell "etiquette" 
:)

Compasses

I don't know if it was because my grandfather was in the navy, but I definitely have a love of all things nautical. That includes anchors, but lately I've been really in love with compass roses. I especially fell in love with this Etsy ring I found on Pinterest:


Once I started looking, I found them everywhere

On pillows:


Notebooks:



Wall decals:


and Tattoos:
I love this! Would probably not be an effective directional aid, however.

I'm completely directionally challenged, and so I use the Compass and Maps app on my phone a lot. Even if I'm not the one navigating, isn't there such comfort in knowing where you are, or where you are going?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Posture, darling


What's one of the first things our grandmothers tell us in church? "Stop slouching!" "Sit up straight!"

My seventh grade teacher told us that when you sit up straight, you feel more awake and your brain functions more efficiently  The following 30 minutes were probably the longest I've ever sat up straight in my entire life.

I am definitely a sloucher. More than that, I'm a mover--I absolutely cannot sit still. I twitch, I kneel, I tuck one leg under me, than the other. My favourite position involves being slouched down in an armchair, my computer in my lap, and my legs preferably leaning against some kind of ottoman or table. Obviously this is incredibly elegant, and you would not be at all surprised by how many men I have attracted this way.

I'm paying for it now. I've been having back problems for about two weeks, and obviously the first thing I did was check WebMD which, as everyone knows, is the best for inducing paranoia ("Oh, great, I have cancer."). I wisely decided to follow up my diagnosis with a professional. It's still not really clear what's going on, but my massage therapist suggested stretching and strengthening. Basically, I've probably put too much pressure on my spine with all the slouching and bed-writing I'm doing. (It probably doesn't help that I carry about a million pounds worth of crap around in my Longchamp, either.)

This is a pretty accurate depiction of how I look when I'm writing my blog
So I've been making an effort to sit up straight, and even stand up straight. And after looking into it, I've realized that my seventh grade teacher was onto something. There are numerous advantages to good posture, including:

1. Making you look more confident: Not only does good posture make you look more confident to other people, it makes you feel more confident, too.

2. Making you look (and feel) more put together: How many times have I tried something on in the store and loved it, only to catch a glimpse of myself wearing it later, and wondered why I looked so unkempt? When we try things on in fitting rooms, we stand up straight, sucking in our stomachs and pulling our shoulders back. I almost never do this anywhere else. But if I did, my clothes would probably look a lot better, even out of those deceiving fitting-room lights. It also helps you look slimmer and I would imagine, taller.

3. Helping you breathe better: The more air you can breathe, the better your brain operates. Which is also going to help me feel more confident, so...win-win...win.

4. Good overall health: having good posture helps make you more resistant to future strain and back pain.

I also just like the idea of having good posture  It seems like a lady-like thing, and reminds me of the scene in "A League of Their Own" when all the players have to attend finishing school.

So far, I am spectacularly hating having to keep both my feet planted on the ground. But I've also been really hating being in so much pain, so I'm willing to give this more of a shot.

There are plenty of resources for instructing on good posture. I referred to here, here, and here

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Carried Away


On Saturday night, I went to see Carrie Underwood at Scotiabank Place. I bought the tickets for my little brother's high school graduation, but let's be honest: Those tickets were as much a present to me.

I'm a relatively new country music fan. I think it all really started the summer I broke up with my first boyfriend. I spent a lot of time on my own, taking road trips, learning how to sew, and writing. In a quest for new music, I started requesting music from all of my friends. A good friend of mine refers to herself as a "closet country fan". Once I stole her music, the secret was out, and I'm so glad to have another friend to share the obsession with! I find that country music is one of those things that you always think everyone hates, until you start paying attention. While there are a fair number of country music detractors in Ottawa, it actually has one of the largest country fan-bases in the country. My little brother and I include ourselves proudly in that!

Since becoming a Carrie fan, I don't think there has been a single situation in my life that there hasn't been a song of hers to relate it to (I know some people that feel the same way about Taylor Swift). I'll demonstrate:

Lessons Learned: Great for when I got that speeding ticket, messed up on a major assignment, got caught gossiping about a coworker, and had that really bad hangover.

Wasted: Great for breaking up with (two different) boyfriends, finally deciding to drop that class, and deciding to cut a toxic friendship from my life.

Jesus, Take the Wheel: Any time I've just been completely overwhelmed by life and needed that reminder that it was okay to not control everything.

Starts with Goodbye: Also good for breaking up with boyfriends, and every time I've left home in the last few years (seems to happen a lot!). Perfect for driving away when you're trying not to cry and remembering why you are leaving.

Play On: When you need that extra push to keep going when all you want to do is bury your head in the sand.

(links instead of video because most didn't allow embedding)

Okay, true story: Last spring I was lying on my bed in my dorm room, feeling completely overwhelmed and kind of hating school, and work, and everyone around me. Not a good time. I was scrolling through Tumblr when someone posted something about Carrie's album being released May 1st. I felt like the sun started shining, and I said to myself "You'll be okay. May 1st, you'll be home, and you'll listen to Carrie's new album, and everything bad will be over and gone and you will be okay."

And by the time May 1st came along, I was able to look back on that whole time with fondness, and enjoy the album as an album, but that might give you some idea of how much her music means to me.

The concert yesterday was AMAZING. Kira Isabella opened up. I didn't know much about her, except that she was an Ottawa girl and that a few of her songs had been on Canadian country radio. She was, in a word, incredible. She's got a great voice, and a good personality for stage performing  Her songs are also really fun--I especially liked "A Little More Work to Do". She also got teary eyed when she talked about Ottawa being her home, which was sweet. 

Hunter Hayes is obviously incredibly talented, especially for someone his age. He did a cover of "Keep your Head Up" by Andy Grammar which I loved. 

And Carrie was phenomenal. The whole show was impressive, but I especially loved the tornado theme that came up a few times during the show (I'm fascinated by tornadoes). And she's always a joy to watch. Is it weird if I say I'm positive we would be best friends if we met? Probably.

When I saw her last summer at the Capital Hoedown, I cried a little during one of the songs (I think it was Wasted). Last night, it only took first song before: tears, everywhere. It wasn't even an emotional song! (she opened with Good Girl). But I really think her music just means that much to me. 

I always think I am so much better than people who get obsessed with celebrities (note: I'm not). On the way back home from the concert, I turned to my brother and said, in a dreamy voice "Tell me again how Mike and Carrie met?"

He told me, then asked: "Why don't you just look it up on Youtube?"

"Please," I said. "If I started looking up Carrie Underwood videos, it would become a career."

Keep Calm and Carrie On, y'all! 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Desk organization





After seeing the College Prepster do a post about desk organization, I decided to do one myself (mostly because it was good motivation to actually clean mine). I really hope this doesn't bore anyone to death. As I stated in my last post, I prefer to do most of my writing from bed, but when I'm having trouble focusing, or if I'm going to be accessing a lot of materials at once, I move things to my desk. 

It actually looks more cluttered than it feels. But that's okay. Even though I prefer the aesthetics of minimalist style,  I seem to collect stuff without even trying. And I'm so lazy, I hate having to get up to get anything once I start working, so it's best if everything is within easy reach. I come up with a new organization strategy about once a month, so this set-up probably wont last long.


This is my computer in the rare position of being plugged into my monitor. That's a picture of Old Faithful on the desktop. The mousepad says "Why be difficult when with just a tiny bit of effort, you can be impossible?" I bought it when my ex-boyfriend asked me why I had to make things so difficult. It's great because it's still on my desk and he's long gone. 


I have to have candles burning when I write. These are all holiday scented. I also love my Tervis tumbler, my stack of books for research and inspiration, and my inspiration board. I really only use my iPad as an incredibly overpriced e-reader. When I was still in college, I'd load slides on it while making notes, but now I usually read stuff on it while I'm eating lunch. Or procrastinating.


I got this cowboy hat in West Yellowstone last summer, and I stuck the tiara on it a couple of days ago when I was cleaning out my closet and couldn't figure out what to do with it. It would be cool if I were making some kind of statement, but I'm really just being lazy. The boxes are filled with stationary and magazine cutouts I will probably never organize. 
I don't know how well you can see the magnets on my lamp, but my friend bought them for me, and they are all writing-themed. The one in the middle says "write your own story". 


I got this mug when we were driving through Kansas last summer. It is, surprisingly, the only tornado themed accessory in my room. The metal box is supposed to hold mail until I get a chance to organize it. It's currently filled with guidebooks and souvenirs from my trip. 


My printer malfunctions constantly. The file holder holds documents I use for writing, pads of paper, magazines, and other stuff I haven't organized yet. (Sense a theme?) In the corner is a little "Nancy Drew's Guide to Life" I bought on a trip to New York. It's awesome but not at all helpful at guiding me in life. 


This is from another angle. I just wanted to show off my sparkling pink flamingo, which I love SO much. Under the flamingo is a picture of me with my parents as a baby, and there's also a picture of my mom at her debutante ball in the 70s under the shelf. 

As for organization tips? If I had any, I would probably use them! I always have to have elastic bands in my desk. That's probably number one. Write down everything would be number two. But those are both fairly obvious! 

If you made it this far, thanks! I hope it was interesting, and not completely obvious that I just really wanted to show off my flamingo. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Pajama-like clothing

If it were up to me, I'd spend all day, every day, in my pajamas. 

There are some exceptions to this: I like to dress up as much as the next girl, and I love sequins and blazers, too. But if I have to get up any earlier than 11am, chances are that I wake up calculating how much more time I can sleep before I absolutely have to leave the house. (Shower? Unnecessary. Make-up? Not today) Usually my compromise is wearing my pajamas as long as possible, so I can pretend I am still in bed. 

This rather unattractive trait is unfortunately combined with a tendency to judge people who leave the house in their pajamas  This started after I spent a year studying in Lancaster, England, where I was informed by my flatmates in no uncertain terms that nobody attended lectures in their PJs. At Carleton, by contrast, it was common to see two-thirds of your Intro to Poli Sci class in flannel bottoms (at CU, the campus is connected by a series of tunnels, meaning that it is entirely possible to spend all winter never going outside). 

Anyway. I spend a lot of time trying to find clothes that I can pretend are PJs (and are therefore perfect for spending all day in bed writing) but don't require me to change if I decide I want to actually leave the house, to go get a coffee or something. 

Leggings 
A pretty obvious go-to for days like this. I used to hate leggings, and definitely subscribed to the whole "Leggings aren't pants" philosophy. But I just hadn't found the right pair yet. I still can't wear leggings and, say, a t-shirt, but I will totally wear leggings with a tunic or long sweater.  
I'm currently longing for a pair of fleece-lined tights. Target, I can't wait until you come to Canada. 

Long sweatshirts
I have a great Roots sweatshirt for this purpose. Mine is kind of salmon/coral and hits just past my hips. It covers my butt, but not super well, if that gives you any indication of it's length. I couldn't find it online, but this is a similar one

this girl is a model, therefore I am guessing that she's taller than me. 
My go-to pants on lazy days are yoga pants, but if I need to dress it up a little more, I found the next best thing: 

Gap Really Skinny Pants in Black
How can anything labeled "Really Skinny" possibly be comfortable? They're probably made by demons in a sweatshop in hell, but I don't care, they are the comfiest non-pajama pants I own. I had been looking for a pair of full length pants that could replace my J. Crew Minnie pants for the winter, and tried these on a whim. They stretch--in a good way, and possibly in a not so good way for people who might want their pants to remain skin tight. But they are perfect for writing at home, then grabbing coffee with a friend, then going to a cool indie concert, or something. I even think they would be appropriate for work if your workplace is business causal. Oh, and they are also longer than they look in the picture, with the leg a little wider at the ankle--not flared, but wide enough so it's clear you're not wearing leggings, if that makes sense. 

I bought a second pair yesterday, just in case they decide to discontinue them. 

Long sleeved dresses 
I've always shied away from long-sleeved dresses because I thought they would limit me, in some weird way. Maybe because I didn't think I'd wear them during the summer? No matter. Long sleeved dresses, when they are made from stretchy, soft material, are perfect for pretending I am still in pajamas. 

I have a similar dress from H&M. It is so so easy to throw on a belt and a scarf and look like I actually care. 
As much as I love super classy, structured clothing, the reality is that these are the first things I grab on early mornings. It's pretty much my goal in life (fashion-wise---obviously I have other goals) to maximize how awesome I look and minimize how much effort that takes. I'm still working on it. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Decisions and decorations

It is such a dreary day in Ottawa! Unusually warm, but also dark and damp and rainy. I had such a hard time getting up this morning. I didn't have any appointments, so it made it extra hard to pull myself out of bed. Finally I did, even managing to get dressed in non-yoga pant clothing, and drove to get a coffee. Of course, in usual "me" fashion, I got home and started doing a million things at once, meaning I'm just sitting down with my coffee now! 

Something that is definitely helping with the dreariness is all the Christmas decorations we have around our house. My family spent a lot of the weekend decorating, with my middle brother and father even resorting to using a solder gun to get the Christmas lights on our tree to work. I was pretty convinced that one of them was going to be electrocuted. Fortunately, both are fine and our Christmas tree looks amazing. 

I also love how cozy it is in my room right now. I have lights around my window, and a little aluminium Christmas tree. 

Perfect for procrastinating
I've also been using my last month of unemployment as an excuse to do crafty/creative things. Yesterday I made my brother a pillow (green large-print gingham) and I'm sort of slowly trying to make a quilt. It's a lot of work and I have a feeling I'll get sick of it before I actually finish. I also have a couple of Pinterest crafts I'd like to try, like this lightboard or this magnetic make-up storage board.  

At the same time, I'm trying to sort out my living arrangements for the next six months, and it's seriously stressing me out. I can't afford to live in downtown Toronto, at least not by myself, and my other options are all at least an hour and a half away by Go Train or bus. I'm not complaining, I just have a feeling I'm going to really struggle on those days when I have to be at the office by 6:45. I guess that's what coffee is for! 

On the bright side, I have a friend who lives out in the country and has offered to let me move in. The rent is a little expensive for so far away, but she lives next to a horse farm and near some incredible trails/running paths. I think I could handle the hour and a half commute if I got to live in such a beautiful place. 

So many decisions! But they are decisions I'm grateful to make. After feeling like a bum for the past four months, I'm so happy to know where I'm going to be for the next little while. And I'm really excited for the new opportunities that are coming my way. 

All the Presidents Men style

My favourite Design*Sponge feature is their "Living In" column, where they create beautiful sets of clothing, furniture, and accessories based on the aesthetics of famous films. The first one I ever read was Living In: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and it started a year long obsession with Elizabeth Taylor (I was already infatuated with Paul Newman by that point)

I wanted to do something similar for one of my favourite films, All the President's Men. The movie itself is very visually satisfying, with one of my favourite scenes being in the Library of Congress. I'm really not someone who can analyze films, but this was one of the most powerful parts of the movie for me:
Studying would be so much cooler at this library.   
Watching this movie not long after I watched His Girl Friday (another great one) made me seriously consider abandoning my current career trajectory and taking up journalism, instead.

But what I really love is the early seventies style. I think that all guys should dress like Robert Redford in this movie, all the time. (Or Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor. Or Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Pretty much any R.R. movie, ever). 




Here are a few of my ideas for injecting some Woodward & Bernstein style into my life:


1. Robert Redford could pull off a corduroy jacket like no one else.

2. Ditto a checked shirt

3. A wide patterned tie is a must.

4.  Retro black rotary: telephone of choice for noir-era private eyes, gumshoe detectives, and nosy journalists. I actually really want one of these so I can pretend I'm Phillip Marlowe. 

5. Reporters notebook. Did they have Moleskine's back in the 70s?

6. Library card catalogue. For filing away secrets (would probably be great for storing nail polish, also.)

7. Fast food, for late night stake outs

8. Coffee, for convincing nervous CREEP employees, and inducing feelings of intense paranoia.

9. A good pen, because iPhones weren't as reliable back then.

10. Vintage typewriters had a purpose before they were used to decorate hipster apartments.

11. I can't see Robert Redford wearing anything BUT a leather watch, can you? 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

A purse by any other name


I am a total sucker for good product names. It's 43% of the reason I own so much nail polish (the other 57% is that I have no self-restraint).

I was browsing the L.L. Bean site, looking for a present for my Dad (that's a blantant lie. I was looking for presents for myself) and I love the names they have for their products. 



This is the Buffalo Plaid Town and Field Tote. I have never once seen a plaid buffalo, but I now totally want one. (I got a little obsessed with buffalo when I went to Yellowstone this fall. I was stressing so hard that I wouldn't get to see one, and then I was taking pictures of a hot spring and almost didn't notice that two buffalo were chilling about 20 feet away. It was amazing)



Actually, what I love most  is all of the pockets! I love my Le Pliage, but the lack of pockets drive me crazy. 


I also love the original Town and Field bag, but again, it has a lot to do with the name. It sounds very posh and rustic, two things I am apparently unable to resist.

ModCloth is the worst for having totally cute names. How many times have I been completely charmed by the name of a dress that I forget that I'm semi-unemployed and broke? SO MANY TIMES.

How about the "Pier Into My Dreams" dress? The Window Seat dress? The Safari of Serendipity dress? (I wont add pictures because it's just not fair. I was on the site for two minutes and I feel poorer and less stylish.)

It's aspirational dressing at it's very, very worst. They might as well name them "Getting your dream job" dress, or "Hot cowboy picks you up and carries you into the sunset" dress. 

This dress is actually called "Twinkly Stars"

Actually called "Craft Party in Stone Grey" I think my name is better. 
If I keep buying clothing based on names, I'm going to have a very eclectic wardrobe and a very empty bank account. I should probably stick to buying more nail polish. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

What's adjacent to schadenfreude?

When good things happen, I think it's my tendency to feel guilty about them. Isn't that silly? I think I've grown very accustomed to trying to be humble and reminding myself how lucky I am in comparison to most people. Those aren't bad traits, exactly, but they can really diminish major accomplishments. 

I used to work with this girl who would make snippy comments whenever I took time off work to travel. She didn't have the money or resources to travel (and it's not like have an excess of those things, but I had a lot of good opportunities that year) and I felt terrible every time I asked for the time off. When I was in high school and got an iPod for Christmas, I couldn't tell any of my friends about it. For fear of what? I don't know. It was guilt, I think, that I had something that other people didn't. Finally, I had realize that while I couldn't chalk my opportunities up to my own hard work or intelligence (as it's sometimes easier to justify, than accept, privilege), to deny myself those opportunities just because other people couldn't have them would have been inordinately stupid. 

I think that this theme has continued into my twenties. I really want the very best for the people around me, and when people tell me things like "You should be proud...you've worked so hard!" it's my  impulse to reply with "Well, yes, but other people work hard, too." I know that good things come from timing and luck, as well as hard work, and I also know how hard the people around me work. That's one of the reasons I am friends with them. 

Here's the thing. The job I have waiting for me in January? One of my very best friends interviewed for the same job, and didn't get it. Rationally, I know that it's not my fault that she didn't get the job, but it's still hard not to feel badly about it. And then, while I'm feeling guilty, I'm also realizing how self-absorbed it is to worry about my own feelings while she is the one who is disappointed, not me. Which leads to more guilt. See? It's a terrible cycle. 

I need to remember that my opportunities are good for the people around me, just like their opportunities are good for me. They don't take away from each other, and if something good happens to one of my friends, that doesn't mean that there is less good available for me, and vice versa. 

It's just not easy, is all. And I think it's going to take some time to figure out that while it might soothe the conscience,  feeling bad doesn't do anyone any good.