Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The luxury of full-fat

I have been successfully drinking 2% London Fogs for the past week. I made the decision after a doctor's appointment at which I realized that I was the same weight that I'd been over the winter.

This, despite riding my bike to and from work every day and to wherever else I might head to after work and on the weekends.

Have I really been eating that much? I wondered.

Last summer, I lost quite a bit of weight that I attributed to my bike riding. I was wearing jeans that I hadn't worn in years. I felt good.

This year, nothing. What was the difference? The only change I could think of was my daily London Fog habit. And not just any LF, a venti with full-fat milk. And I thought of what I could do about this. If you read me, um, ever, you probably know that I love the earl grey tea mistos. Very, very much. Would I have to give them up? Blasphemy!

And so I thought, instead, I could try lower-fat milk. (NO, I will not go to a smaller size yet! They already seem not to last long enough.) I've been doing that, as I said, successfully for a week. Quite proud of myself, actually, and not missing the other 2% of fat.

Until today when I forgot the addendum to my Starbucks order.
And I sipped the frothy beverage.

Pure heaven. Like a hot milkshake. Mmmmmmmmm. I closed my eyes and really enjoyed it.

THAT is the difference. THAT is the joy that comes from full-fat milk. But, like every luxury, one only enjoys it when you don't normally have it.

It brought to mind travelling. When I lived with my life on my back for a year. It was amazing how little I really needed to live quite normally for 365 days. And I remember how many little luxuries popped up to elicit a stronger than normal reaction. A deeper enjoyment. Things that I had never really appreciated before.

The lesson? Maybe you need to deprive yourself just a little bit to truly enjoy those amazing things in life.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Reflection: love it or leave it

This weekend, I bought a dress.

I didn't need the dress. I have a closet full of clothes. I bought the dress because, on the day before my birthday, I had a bad day.

I cried because I felt fat and unattractive and disliked and stupid. Now, I'm NOT fat and I'm sure I'm attractive to some people, and there are many people who like me and I'm actually quite smart.

I just FELT all of those things. It was a bad day.

And I didn't write about it. I went and bought a new dress. And I got my nails done. And last night I went out for my friend Tanya's birthday and wore the pretty new dress and some cute shoes and even took a handbag instead of my usual big sporty purse. I did my hair and put on makeup. I felt girly and pretty. And I helped Tanya blow out her birthday candles because I haven't had any. And I helped her eat the cake (both of them!) because I haven't had any of that either.

And this morning, I went to Starbucks and hung out there for the second day in a row, reading. It's amazing that I don't do this more often, considering that it's my favourite thing to do.

Today I read Psychology Today and it made me think about a lot of things and I need to try to capture that to let you know why I'm feeling so... I don't know, reflective, maybe.

I read about why people do personal blogs and the effect that they have. People do it to clear their minds and figure stuff out, but they also do it to be the centre of attention and tell a story to an audience. It's that audience, they caution, that causes the problem. When you blog, you know there are people on the receiving end. And your so-called "self reflection" becomes a piece of entertainment or art or a vehicle for creating a persona that you want to have. You can look as good as you want to look. The bad or guilty things you do can be written in such a way so as to look much more innocent or just funny.

Self-journalling -- the usually paper-based method that is for your eyes only -- is much less edited, more honest, and apparently more helpful for mental well-being.

It reminded me of why I love going to coffee shops and hanging out, reading and writing. I used the time to get new ideas about the world, to think about them, consider how it applies to me and my life, to reflect on what's going on in my brain and how I feel. To get perspective. I would think and I would write it down.

But I did it in conjunction with blogging. I could tell every story, there was no one I was going to hurt or make uncomfortable.

And lately it's been complicated.

I have held back. You may have noticed that I don't write as much as I once did. It's not because I don't like writing. I think it's because I'm afraid of writing. I'm gagged on certain subjects and even though I try to keep my relationship out of it in specific terms, thoughts spill out into my general ideas and of course, these thoughts are applied to my relationship and no one can help drawing conclusions.

Alex doesn't like being a public figure. I understand that. He's a private person to begin with. Very private (I'm not entirely sure why he thinks being a rock star will be a comfortable position for him, but that's his issue and not mine). But I don't know anyone who'd love being discussed in a public forum that is so one-sided and unfair.

So I try to keep him out of it. I don't always succeed.

And I haven't taken the time to sit down at the coffee shop with my journal very often either. When I do, I'm playing catch-up. Trying to get down all the events and the complaints and do I REALLY remember how I felt at that moment? I'm recreating it from my memory and we all know how accurate that is, don't we? (If you don't, then you should read another issue of Psychology Today that talks about how unreliable our emotional memory is.)

I've been wondering if maybe that's been hindering me. I've always been one to write. It really does help me figure things out and be able to look at my life like I'm looking at an object from above. Dissociated from it. It helps me make decisions, maybe not totally objectively, since it is still my life with my biases, but at least more calmly, feeling that I've had enough though about it with less emotion getting in the way.

And so today, after reading and thinking, and after yesterday when I spent a second Starbucks visit actually writing in my journal, I had a burning desire to go home and write in my blog. I have so much that wants to get out. And so much self-editing that's been going on.

I realize that much of this has been leaking out to my friends. Bless them, they've endured much moaning and lashing about the same topics over and over. Inundated with frustrated Cathy. Because, despite a counsellor (with whom I've recently broken up in favour of a new couples therapist that Alex could tolerate), I've not been able to figure stuff out on my own. Instead of dumping online or on paper, I've been dumping on the ears of the people who love me, but probably wish I would shut the hell up or get over my obsession with myself. It's been a selfish time. And don't get me wrong, I think it's important to be that kind of selfish: the kind in which you consider your reactions and life and decisions and emotions. But it should stop when it affects others and becomes an obsession.

So let me obsess here and then at least you can stop reading or skip over or whatever.

I also wonder if perhaps there is a reason that Alex is private and doesn't read my blog. Nor have a journal of his own in which he reflects on life. Sure, there are a lot of guys who don't. I know that. But I don't know if he actually talks to anyone either. About the stuff that matters. And I know he hates it when readers of my blog talk to him about the contents of my blog. He hates people knowing things about him that he doesn't control.

What I wonder is whether he doesn't actually WANT to reflect on his life. Because it might mean that he'd have to grapple with some really uncomfortable facts. And it is certainly his way to ignore difficult things and hope that they'll go away -- as is the wont of many of us.

So there, I've said something specific.

And it may be completely untrue - you are only reading my musing that came out of my reflective period at Starbucks today. And even if it's true, what does it really matter or mean?

Not a whole lot except that it makes me feel better to write it down.
So that maybe I don't need to buy myself another dress.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My birthday

Today's my birthday. And I love my birthday.

I got three somewhat-singing phone messages. I got LOTS of Facebook wall posts. I got four emails. Two snail mail cards. One free birthday Starbucks (and they EVEN remembered my drink!) and one bouquet of yellow and white roses.

I got two presents today, two presents on the weekend. And many birthday wishes from my coworkers.

No birthday cake yet, but my birthday dinner is yet to come on the weekend.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to make me feel remembered!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

YAY day

I spent the day at home in the country yesterday with a migraine and a computer to do my work remotely. It's really quite amazing how much I can do from anywhere in the world as long as I have a computer.

Not necessarily great when you consider that it quite hurt my eyes to look at a computer screen yesterday when my migraine medication wasn't working.

It was probably around 2pm when I realized that I needed to get away from the computer.

So I ventured into town to the local cute coffee shop, GroundSwell. I got a double latte and sat down in the comfy leather couch and read. And read. And read. And savoured that amazing coffee.

Honestly, I don't think I've had a better coffee in... well, a very long time. (I know, I love Balzac's coffee. But I think this might be just as good.) Plus, I just love the place. They're exactly the kind of place that I dream of running one day. Although when I think about it, I always think there should be a web terminal. Yesterday, I was just pleased that there wasn't one.

It was me, my rich frothy coffee, the old lady sipping soup, the girl sweeping the floors, dufflets pastries calling to me from the pastry window, and the local paper's magazine. It was great.

But finally, my coffee drained, the magazines read, it was time to head out to the local massage therapist. Tough life. I had my tense muscles kneaded for an hour. I hoped it might help the migraine, but of course it didn't.

I picked up some of the local pizzareria's panzerottos and drove home to enjoy them with my dad. We sat outside to digest and chat until I had to leave.

It was a nice visit. And by the time I left, my migraine medication had started to work. Yay.

Maybe it was my brain's way of saying: you need a day off.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Birthday wishes

So, obviously my birthday is coming up. I know you knew that. I know you've been counting down the days since Christmas, the last time you were able to buy me a present.

I was just thinking that probably you were wondering what I wanted for my birthday.

Well, you're in luck, because I do have some wishes:

  • Stratford tickets
  • a bike (a used one, which is tough to buy for me, but it's still what I want)
  • a nice dinner
  • a clean house
  • time with my friends and family
  • Dairy Queen
  • cheesecake (like the one Sarah made for me years ago that was probably the best cheesecake I've ever had, but I also like Dufflet's apple caramel cheesecake in case you can't bake)
  • manicure and pedicure
  • massage
  • a new bathtub, or at least access to a really nice bathtub for a nice bath
  • a half-sized dishwasher and someone to install it
  • a handy man to do a few odd jobs
  • a laptop
  • a pretty summer shirt
  • cute jewelry that's tasteful but fun
  • yoga and pilates classes
  • home depot and IKEA gift certificates
  • a good music CD, based on my tastes (see them at Last.fm)
  • Starbucks gift card (or a lot of London Fogs)
  • espresso machine
  • Style at Home subscription (or other Cdn house n home magazine)

So now you know. I might update this list, so you should probably check it often. :)

House update

So, our party was on Saturday night and it was really nice. I got to see a lot of people that I don't get to see much and I also got to show off the news things that have been done to the house.

Friday afternoon, though, I came home from work and the stucco was still on the front of the house, unchanged. I walked into the house, all excited to see the tiles... the counter top was in. But the backsplash was a mess of chewed-up drywall. The faucet was laying on its side. No grouting in the counter.

And reno mess everywhere. I nearly cried.

I get emotional about these things.

Alex had called a plumber to install the sink and faucet and they came the next day. My neighbour came over with a belt sander and suggested we try it. I went and bought belt sanding replacement paper (I don't know what you call that stuff, but you know the actual sand paper that goes on the roller). And I grocery shopped for the party. And cleaned.

Alex went to baseball, I think. And probably worried very much about how upset I was.

Saturday, we woke up and Alex went to baseball. I went to IKEA. I bought our patio chairs. I bought flowers and some more odds and ends at the grocery store and came home.

Alex was busy with the belt sander. But he had to get back to baseball.

The plumber arrived and began installing the sink. I got to work on the sanding.

Alex and I traded off when he got home and I continued with cleaning and assembling our patio table and chopping veggies.

Finally, I jumped in the shower, dressed and then I heard the sander switch off and the power washer come on. Alex cleaned up the brick dust outside. I cleaned up the brick dust inside. It was on every surface. I had just finished washing the floor when Raye arrived.

We opened a bottle of wine and sat out in the back yard to await the others.

Parties are a lot of work.

But it forced us to get a lot done:

  • We have most of the stucco off. YAY! We just need to paint it.
  • We have our landscaping done for this year (more next year).
  • We have our countertop and WILL have our backsplash and basement laundry room tiles by the end of this week, I think.
  • We have our patio set. Which I lounged in yesterday in the afternoon sun, enjoying a frivolous magazine.
  • We have our gorgeous new windows. Which I have to get them back to recaulk at the top, no big deal.
  • We have air conditioning. We just need a little surround for the unit so it looks a little less ugly.

There is still lots to do. Our front deck, for example, needs some work: turn over the boards or maybe replace them altogether. New railing for sure. Our neighbour gave an excellent idea for a bit of storage on the one side...

We still need a cupboard door for the cupboard over the over-the-range microwave.

And I still need to clean up the basement so that I can actually find things. I need some walls in the laundry room and some shelving.

As they all say, it's a never-ending process.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Chez Moi: The Crack House

So this is my kitchen right now.

OK, yes, we have windows. Yes, the stucco removal is almost done.

Slowly, slowly, things are coming together.

But when you're faced with something like this, it seems that it will never end. That will always be living in a crack-house-type-abode.


The tile guy is doing the backsplash and countertop today and tomorrow. Finally, I will have a kitchen.

Unfortunately, we didn't get our act together in time to get any kind of functional corner cupboard unit. You can see it in the right hand corner of the photo. It's pretty much wasted space but I didn't know what was back there -- whether that storage space is recoverable. It IS... it's just complicated.

But by the end of day tomorrow, I will have a new kitchen!

Until then, I will refer to it as the crack-house.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Project management scheduling software

I need some free, possibly online application/tool that will allow me to create REAL schedules for a project I'm working on.

I don't have MS Project. ConceptDraw is garbage. Is there any web-based tool that I can use for this? I'm trying to use basecamp, but it's really quite BASIC... no scheduling really available.


Who's breaking into my house?

This is my kitchen window a couple of minutes ago. Smashed. Yikes. Scary.

They're smashing in all the windows so that they can replace them today. So, yay, new windows but goodness, demolitions seem barbaric.

I can't WAIT until the new windows are in and the stucco project is complete. Alex seems very confident that we'll have the front of the house completed by our party this weekend. I'm not so confident.

He's so confident, in fact, that he's started creating new projects. Like, the porch railing, for example. He just took it down. One minute he's taking off the stucco with a blow torch, and the next minute there's no porch railing. OK. Ya, it's ugly. But I don't need a new project right now, with 4 days to go until the big day.

I'm not saying that it didn't need to be done. I'm not even saying that it can't be done in time. I'm just saying that MAYBE we could wait and focus on our CURRENT huge, horrible project before we start on another huge project.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Culture in TO

The Free Press
Originally uploaded by *Shasha*
Last week, I got to go to the opening of the Soulpepper Theatre show, "The Time of Your Life." I'm lucky that one of the actor's girlfriends likes me!

It was an interesting show. Although, not my favourite -- I enjoyed Our Town more. But I did quite enjoy the music of Denzal Sinclaire very much.

Saturday, I saw The Free Press (pictured here) at the Rivoli. They had a fantastic show. And I got to hang out for a while and get some errands done at IKEA after working on the house all day.

Today, I'm planning a trip to Dream in High Park close to my birthday. I love going. I love theatre. I love the outdoors. And I love friends. Put them all together and it equals a fun bday outing.

Soon, so soon, I will be past my core renovating work and my major unenjoyable project at work and able to enjoy the summer more. I'm thinking of also going to the DimSum festival at Harbourfront and to see another outdoor Shakespeare company.

I can't wait until summer becomes fun!

Turning that frown upside down

Today, my usual starbucks was broken.

Seriously, they couldn't make me a london fog! It was very sad until they mentioned that there was another Starbucks VERY close by. I hadn't even KNOWN about that Starbucks!

So, in the end, a potentially sad day turned into a happy day!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

long days at work

Sometimes you have to do it -- work long hours, that is.

Even in other countries where they're not so career-centric as we North Americans, they still need to do it sometimes.

But it's sad when those long days need to be in the summer. Canadian summers are so preciously short, it's such a shame to waste them in an air conditioned office building, tap-tap-tapping away with not even a window to see what the weather is like outside.

Summer is generally a slow time for many businesses as people are away on vacation. That means it's the perfect time for a website overhaul. In theory.

In practice, it means that your team may be going on vacation and won't be around to fix bugs. In practice, it means that you'd rather be at an outdoor concert or sipping iced lattes on a patio as the sun goes down instead of writing that specifications document or revising your project schedule.

Last night, I tried to enjoy the summer evening. Even at 10pm, there are things to enjoy. The glow of the sky against the financial district highrise lights. The cool breeze, the quiet hum and emptiness of the streets where cars previously bustled and blared. Hearing the squeak of my bicycle wheels as I ride down the middle of a side street lined with great trees, feeling separated from the world outside. My mind wandering to the events of the day, settling on none. And finally arriving home to my dark, quiet house. Moving through it on bare feet, watering my plants as I talk to them about my day and theirs.

Life can be content, even when there is work to do. It just requires mindfulness of the beautiful things.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Had a good weekend.

It all started on Friday. I got home from work and started clearing up the renovation refuse outside my door. Then I met Sara and hung out at Starbucks (you KNOW what I was drinking, although I did THINK about having something different. Couldn't do it) for hours, just talking, catching up.

When Starbucks closed at 10pm, we wandered over to Summer's ice cream shop in Yorkville. It was open of course and there were tonnes of people sitting outside on the steps and benches, licking ice cream cones and listening to the street musician.

I discovered a new favourite flavour: mocha ice cream with chocolate fudge bits and pecans. Yum! Although I have to say that I think I like Gregg's ice cream better (on Bloor near Spadina station). Their flavours are more simple, but very very flavourful.

Anyway, we sat outside and chatted more. Until finally it was time to go and I rode my bike home. I love riding my bike when it's cool and quiet and I'm not trying to go fast. Very relaxing.

Saturday, I went downtown to get my bike fixed (turns out it's not yet broken enough to need fixing, so I can hopefully wait until my bday and just get a new used one that actually fits me). Then I met up with Sarah at the art show in Nathan Phillips Square. Of course, I wanted some Starbucks first (sigh, I'm an addict, I know). And then we walked around, looking at all the interesting stuff.

I'm amazed by artists. I really wish I had such an amazing talent that I could share. But I really couldn't rationalize spending $2000 on some art when I could spend that on a new deck AND finishing my landscaping. And just spend $20 on a cute print at IKEA. Because I can't really say that I truly appreciate the difference. If I did, and if I knew art and had the money, I would love to support the artists.

I did love the jewelry, though, and the one stained glass art. But the price made it too frivolous, considering my upcoming renovation costs.

We ate Japanese food at a place on Dundas that I've never been to and it was super yummy and not super expensive.

We checked out the green street festival on Yonge St. between Queen and Dundas. It was pretty underwhelming. I actually thought the green festival at Nathan Phillips Square a couple of weeks ago was better, although much the same (minus the weird random jewelry vendors).

Then it was back to my house to meet Matt and Kendra. We went to dinner at Lolita's Lust, taking advantage of the Summerlicious menu. It was VERY yummy. I had a nice salad, followed by salmon on exquisite mashed potatoes, followed by tangy lemon tart. Mm!

We followed our gut-busting dinner with a leisurely walk around the neighbourhood, looking nosily into other people's gardens, staring and pointing at their houses and criticizing or applauding their choices. I got some good ideas for sure.

Back home, we tried to wait for the food to dissipate so we could go to Dairy Queen, but we were all tired before the space opened up.

Sunday, I made breakfast for everyone and they took off for a wedding shower nearby. I went to an open house down the street and then to Starbucks where I drank the usual and caught up on my diary-writing. I wrote so much, in fact, that my pen ran out of ink. Boo!

When I got home, Alex was watching more of the Live Earth concert on TV. I watched until he left for the evening and then I got to work on finishing up the final coat of paint in the master bedroom.

And finally, bedtime.

I feel really good about getting in some time with my friends and family and with myself and my writing. I also feel good about finishing the painting. And about the clean-up. (Although I discovered this morning that the garbage men wouldn't take the second garbage can. Wonder why.)

And last night, Monday, I made dinner for Alex and myself, cleaned up while he tried to finish a house project and then we went for a walk in a different part of the neighbourhood.

Those walks are so important. Otherwise, we would never talk about the things that we need to talk about.

Tonight, I'm meeting Sara to go see her boyfriend's play at Soulpepper. Of course, I will stop at Balzac's Coffee in the Distillery to indulge first. At least I can find joys in the little things.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I Keep Dropping Sh*t

I keep dropping sh*t, fringe festival
Saw the Fringe Festival show "I Keep Dropping Sh*t" last night at MaRS.

It was awesome.
Totally funny. Awkward and clever and innovative and quick.

I interviewed the creator, which you can read on the MaRS Blog, but it really didn't prepare me for the type of show.

It made science fun. I loved the stream of consciousness format.

My favourite part was USST: uninterrupted silent supervised thinking. (Which came out of a thought about USSR, or uninterrupted silent supervised reading in grade school, which they also talked about.) While sitting there in the silence, thinking, I wondered if innovative processes actually lead to innovation or at least innovative thinking. And I think I should have written that down on the white board, but I wasn't entirely sure that we were really supposed to participate. Take it from me: you ARE and you SHOULD.

I loved the thought: it's hard to think when people know you're trying to think.

The song I quite loved: The Inertia Song.
"It's hard to start. It's hard to stop."

Made me think about all the possible implications of those words.

You should definitely go.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Rough night

Rough night last night. Not feeling so great lately.

I loved the part of the weekend where my family (yes, Kendra, you are family too!) came over. It was so comforting. I feel such a partnership with them, so safe and secure.

Left to my own devices, I panic about the volume of things to do. I feel overwhelmed.

Yes, we are getting it done. Check out the post about what we did this weekend - seriously, we got a lot accomplished.

And every night I get a little more done. Last night, I returned a rental tool to Home Depot and bought some miracle grow for the garden. My neighbour is so nice, he let me use his car. He is wonderful. And then, when I got home, he had just finished a drawing for our front deck.

Once we're done taking this damn stucco off, we're supposed to pull up the deck boards, turn them over, score them and reattach them with additional screws so they don't curl. Then we should change our railing and build in some privacy/storage space with a built-in flower box.

It will look beautiful, but I have no idea what I'm doing, so it will take some time to get that completed. He's confident that it will just be a weekend of work.

But he's also talking about repairing another part of the fence. And I have other projects that need to be completed, so I wonder how I'll be able to get to that one.

And it's not just the renovations, which are almost fun and at least you can see you made a real difference. But it's the every day things. Putting out the garbage. Doing the dishes. Making meals (so that you don't eat crap). Sweeping the floor. Doing laundry. Watering all the plants and garden. Doing groceries. Cleaning the bathroom and keeping it stocked with toilet paper. When you're the only one doing that for two people, it adds up to an overwhelming load, little by little.

To the point where I just want to stop and have a day, maybe even two or three, spent by myself, not needing to cook or pick up after anyone. Just reading, listening to music and writing. In the sun. Drinking London Fogs.

I want someone to make dinner for ME.
And to clean up afterwards.

I want to live with another ME.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy that:

  • we're getting things accomplished
  • I have an awesome family who helps me
  • I have access to an awesome family who takes care of tiling and flooring
  • I have a talented, awesome neighbour
  • I have the time/money to DO these renovations
  • I'm learning
  • I have a lovely garden
  • My house will one day be gorgeous.

    But right now I'm feeling overwhelmed. This happens. And sometimes I don't even know it's happening, but I just know that I feel horrible.

    This feeling will pass. But for now, it sucks.
  • Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    My gardening weekend

    What did you do this past long weekend?

    Drink some beer out on the patio? Maybe hang out at the cottage?

    Me? I made my family come to my house to work.

    My dad fixed my fence. Kendra, my mom and I cleaned up my yard, plucking all the weeds, raking, and cleaning crap (literally) out of my dysfunctional "water feature".

    And then we:
    - marked out a new garden shape
    - cut up the grass
    - turned over the grass
    - bought plants and soil
    - spread soil
    - planted plants in my new garden
    - moved other plants
    - planted my containers
    - planted over my old "water feature"
    - spread mulch
    - watered the garden.

    Big job. For sure. Thank goodness for family.

    There were no shortage of jobs to do.

    And Alex? He decided to start taking the stucco off the house. Why, you ask? Um, well. He thought it would be easy. And the stucco wasn't doing so well. But he just started doing it. And once you start, you can't stop. I mean, LOOK at it.

    And look at how happy he looks. I don't know why he had to do it. He has three other unfinished jobs around the house. And he wanted another. Sigh. Poor guy. Crappy job for sure.

    But we did get a LOT accomplished this weekend. I painted fences, I velcro'd up my clematis and vines and cleaned and weeded and tried to finish up the master bedroom paint job.

    And I'm paying for it with a VERY sore back. But I'm very happy with my garden. YAY pretty garden!

    Click on the photo for other before and after garden photos on Flickr.