Friday, May 25, 2012

Into the light

Yesterday was memorable. Many days aren't because no matter what you're doing, it's mostly more of the same, where you're not making memories, and just going through your regular tasks or doing things you always do. But occasionally you have a day that stands out. I'll do this chronologically.

I gave blood for the first time yesterday. It was easy, it was like getting a quick check-up, and apparently it burns 500 calories, which was news to me and made me fantasize about what I was going to eat for lunch. I felt no dizziness, no weakness, had healthy hemoglobin and got a little pin to commemorate my first time. I'll receive a blood donor card in the mail in several weeks with my blood type and I was told one donation saved the lives of three people.

And I had always heard "blood saves lives" before and thought somehow that it was extreme. But I guess you don't receive blood unless you need it to live. There are no frivolous blood transfusions. Needing blood or plasma is not take-it-or-leave-it. So that was pleasing. I saw people coming in the whole time, a steady stream filling the chairs and it was nice to see that. I think I'll do it again.

I had a hair appointment afterwards, transforming my scraggled ends and long roots into something beautiful and suitable for the wedding I'll be attending this Saturday. I always have fun at the salon. It's a nice group of women I enjoy talking to.

I made my way home slowly, stopping for a pita, for a gelato. When I got home I did a reverse lookup on a phone number that had called my cell early that morning. The voicemail was garbled and I couldn't make it out, though the number was familiar and from my hometown. And it was my buddy's parents' number. And it was my buddy's sister who called. And there were two messages on my home phone from them. And I realized something must be wrong.

It was my buddy who relayed the news on my voicemail telling me his father died suddenly of a heart attack. It was the sort of news you instantly don't believe and in the next instant realize is true. And my buddy delivered this news in a confused and foggy haze, probably because it was so hard to understand. When your father leaves the house and he's fine, he's supposed to come home. Sudden deaths are more than rattling, they can shake you out of reality.

His dad was a really great guy, too. I keep thinking about him and I can't really believe that just like that he's gone. He was a good father. You could see that in the way he spoke to his kids. He loved them and was proud of them, and truly enjoyed them as people. And he was loving and considerate of his wife and they built a new house together for their retirement years. Their marriage was enviable. Not everybody gets to find that kind of happiness.

I spent so many evenings at buddy's house with his family. We ate many meals, watched movies, had so many conversations. When Buddy and I went to college together they drove us back and forth between our college town and our hometown. When my dad threw me out, I had sanctuary at their place. They looked after Smokey and Jerry when they had nowhere else to go. This was a household that was open and full of love, and Buddy's dad was half the equation. He loved a good joke and enjoyed laughing. He smiled easily and had a swift mind. His company was easy and relaxing. I remember each evening hearing him offer to fix his wife a drink. Small sorts of chivalry and thoughtfulness peppered their routine.

And he was only in his 60s. There is no real fairness in the world when it comes to who dies. Some people try to make sense or order, but in the end, life is fragile and people who are loved and valued and needed die and leave a hole in people's lives. It's a simple truth I learned a long time ago, but it aches to think about it. And I know they're suffering and I so much want to comfort them and be there and do whatever is in my power to do. And in there needs to be consideration for not intruding too much in the delicate days of making arrangements and fielding phone calls and visits.

There's a certain helplessness. Not because I don't know what to say, but because I wish I could make the grief ache less, because it's really a shock to the system. Losing a good parent is awful. Losing one of the people in this world who loves you unconditionally is a painful milestone. I wish there was something I could do; I would do it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Urban Farming, Modern Life

The garden, she's growing! Growing! I posted a wee while ago about the garden and photographed the work we did planting it. Here be the update, yo.

The flowers are growing nicely!

The tomato plant is sprouting up. 
The bell pepper plant is growing taller and more robust.

The beans have sprouted!
We're going to lace them up the metal.

The initial leaves on this zucchini plant died and these larger ones grew instead.

The strawberry plants are now growing 17 strawberries.

Flowers have blossomed!

The Dude gave me a rosebush.
You can't see in this photo, but buds have formed.

We're pretty much in love with this garden. I spend the most amount of time on it, being the one who's home the most. It's relaxing, the plucking out of weeds, watering, and eventually harvesting. We planted garlic last spring that didn't grow and didn't die. It did develop tiny bulbs, which in my ignorance I never separated. So I gentled wrenched them away from each other and dispersed them around the soil and so maybe we'll also have home-grown garlic.

Speaking of gardens, two of our friends just moved into this lovely house on the east end, a stone's throw from McPal and his fiance, and their backyard was recently landscaped, something the McPal house is planning on as well. There's something magical about a private outdoor space in the city. You take it for granted in the burbs or in smaller municipalities, but in Toronto, it's rather rare and special. Now the six of us, in three households, have backyards for gardening, barbecues and general glee. Though of course we're not going to be doing any landscaping. This is, after all, a rental.

We all had a barbecue together at the new house. Two dogs were playing, meat was grilling, beer was being consumed and homemade cream soda was being concocted. Some of us are in our 30s already, and others are approaching it quickly (Me. ME!) and it was sort of wild to speculate that we were all adults, moving forward. Though in my mind I was also gently noticing some key differences. I'm a renter, not a home owner. A cat(s) owner, not a dog owner. A west-ender, not an east-ender. And funnily, three of the four all work at the same company. It was a strange sensation of feeling sort of out of the loop. Not sad or negative in any way, just a tickling in my mind, noticing these details.

We've been spending less and less time with our friends. This is mostly due to the Dude. His work schedule is crazy. He works 60 hours many weeks. Overnight trips are not infrequent. Weekend work happens. The money is nice, though sometimes those long nights are just par for the course on photo shoots and don't actually translate into more cash, only less energy. He'll come home exhausted, occasionally cranky, unwilling or unable to consider a social life. Sometimes I'll have one without him, other times I've missed him and I'll take his lethargic couch hugging over more time apart spent with others.

I'd say we're weathering some challenges. It's not the first time. After he graduated, the Dude took awhile to find steady work and that was also hard. He and I are communicating and doing our best, handling crankiness, trying to carve out room for each other, managing our obligations and still trying to have a social life. We're figuring it out and I think it's making us a stronger couple. I have one week left of vacation. I wish he was off too.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Groupon Relaxation Staycation: Voucher 2

I have redeemed voucher numero two at The Happy Foot Spa. What a... happy experience.

I started my lovely vacation day with lunch with McPal. We hit this truly amazing crepe joint in Yorkville. It had smoked salmon. Anything with smoked salmon is delightful.

The second part of today was a trip to the AGO to see the Picasso exhibit. This was also sort of a Groupon, as the Dude and I bought a dual membership last year for $60. We've seen two special exhibits a piece, thus justifying the cost.

It was kinda wild. These weren't his famous works, but his own personal collection. Some of them were incredibly vivid. Others were sort of... meh. Rather than a view of the works that sold or made an impact, these were like his journal, this was his idea of his own progress and journey. I read that he was a genius and he knew it. I wonder what it would be like to be a genius. I think plenty of people think they are and live with that belief, but to actually be one coupled with that kind of confidence would be crazy.

I spent about an hour in there. I'm not one for lingering in art galleries. I view, I read, I do a little sitting, and then I hit the road. Some people like to hang about and, I suppose, try to get their money's worth. But as much as I enjoy viewing fine art, I get antsy. When I'm done, I'm done. And being alone, I could leave at my leisure.

En route to Happy Foot, I spontaneously decided to make an appointment to donate blood. Hell, why not! I'm on vacation! Heh. I've always wanted to, but I never seem to be able to make the time. So that's tomorrow, and afterwards I'll enjoy a guilt-free cupcake to get my blood sugar up. Hee! And before my workout. I hope that exercising a few hours after donating blood isn't a stupid thing to do.

And finally, the foot reflexology. Goodness me. Now that was relaxing. Foot soak, shoulder massage, and total foot and leg attention. I could easily see myself going back. I felt like jelly, nearly feel asleep in the chair. I love spas. I heart indulging myself. The woman at the blood clinic asked me if I was 17 so I could donate. I had the joy of telling her I was turning 30 this year. I sometimes fancy I've held off the clock on aging with all the skincare and soothing things I've done over the years. I got my first facial when I was 20.

But really, I think I just have a baby face. Hopefully some day there won't be a reckoning. Like when I have kids, maybe then suddenly and terribly I'll look my age and more.

I can't believe tomorrow is Friday. Vacation always flies by. This year, frankly, is tumbling past me. But that is a subject for another post.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Groupon Relaxation Staycation: Voucher 1

My Groupon Relaxation Staycation has arrived! Including the weekend, I've been off a total of four days. I've redeemed one of my Groupons thus far. I got a facial and hair treatment at The Andrea Olivera Centre for Ayurveda Rituals. Price: $49.

I've had facials before, but this was a different sort of experience. It was sort of ritualistic, with scents representing different spiritual feelings or ideas. It's based on a practice that's thousands of years old from India. I'm pretty game to try things, particularly if it'll be relaxing and will make me pretty.

Funny thing, was it was located within a condo. This didn't bother me; it was a relaxing spot, but I wondered if that broke any zoning laws. The practitioner was a lovely man and I felt at ease. I got this nice-smelling oil rubbed through my hair and my scalp got some attention. The facial was similar to regular treatments elsewhere, though with maybe some more attention to my relaxation, which I liked.

When I left the place, I was red and splotchy. This often happens after a skin treatment, but in combination with my oil-slicked hair, I was pretty scary looking. Frankly, I looked liked a leper. I quickly abandoned my idea of grabbing some lunch in the area. I don't know why I even considered it. It's never been a good idea.

Now, if I were a shampooer, my hair would be oil-free right now. However, I'm committed to "no poo", so I washed it with water only. I got out the comb, the boar brush, and I scrubbed. In the morning, I was still slicked, so I scrubbed again, using my Priya cleanser on the strands.

And now? Well, it's still a little oily. But! It's soft. It's so very, very soft. And the oil is nothing one more blitz with water won't take care of. My skin is also quite soft as well. Over all, I'd say it was a good experience. I'm in better condition than how I went in.

12 more days off, 3 more vouchers, 1 happy lady.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Staycation Plans

Three days of work until my Groupon Relaxation Staycation™. I have the following things planned via Groupon:
A facial and scalp treatment at The Andrea Olivera Centre for Ayurveda Rituals.
Foot reflexology at Happy Foot Spa
A manicure and pedicure at Lux-Spa
A five course dinner for two at Rosewater.

In addition, the Dude and I are going antiquing at Aberfoyle Antique Market in Guelph, I'm going on a shopping trip with my best friend in Syracuse, and I'll be seeing the Picasso exhibit at the AGO.

I've signed up for six months of training at The Motion Room (yet another Groupon deal. I initially got 12 sessions for $40), so I'll also be working out, plus gardening, plus seeing the Dude's parents when they visit and going to a friend's wedding.

Now, I've talked about what a hermit I am, and looking at my vacation schedule there will be all of one day where nothing is planned. This should be an interesting couple of weeks. I think it'll be re-energizing. I so often feel like I don't get out enough or do anything. I'm tired or lethargic a lot. The Dude and I often talk about how old we are. We went out last week and realized it was Friday night and people were actually out doing stuff. We normally stay in, order food and watch a movie.

If entering your 30s means you tend to slow down a bit, I'm already there, man. I was born 30. But I need to get out more and enjoy the city I live in and get jazzed about life in new ways. This time off will be packed full of enjoyable things that should get me excited about starting my day.

I am also acutely aware of the fact my childless days are numbered. No, I'm not pregnant. But when my period was two days late, I considered perhaps I was. And then when it came, I actually felt a little disappointed. Which is how I know I'm ready. I want to save up more money first and make the most of the last year in my 20s, hopefully go on a trip with the Dude and all that good stuff. But seriously... if things came ahead of schedule, I'd embrace it.

All the more reason to take pleasure in me time while I've still got it, free and clear. I'm really feeling 29. I've started writing my novel, I'm getting in shape and finally taking some time off so I can have some fun. Rock on.

Monday, May 7, 2012


The Dude and I got a head start on the gardening this year, opting to begin two weeks ahead of schedule because of the crazy weather. There was some freak snow in April, but I think we're safe. Or are we? No, I think we're good. Crazy climate change.

Anyhoo, last year we were very ambitious. This year we're taking it down a few notches. Our peppers never really flourished last year and we're sure it's because we had too many in the soil, alongside other vegetables. This year? One. One bell pepper plant. One tomato plant.
Red bell pepper
Tomato plant
The pumpkin and zucchini did battle last year for dominance over the yard and the zucchini won. So this year, one zucchini plant. No lettuce, no carrots. And we've planted the green beans somewhere intelligent this time, so they'll have the right sort of space to grow.

We also planted some flowers, some for the shade, some for the sun, plus some herbs. Last year they were  put way in the back of the yard, but this year, they're nicely situated in the front.

Basil, rosemary and thyme
Perennials for the sun...
And perennials for the shade.
There's some crazy lilies in the back there, planted by who knows who.

Last year we planted some strawberries and this year they're flush and happy. So we'll see what happens with that.

I love this time of year. Growing food is really rewarding. It'd take something really important or special to get me to give up having a yard.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mad Men Woman

I'm on a dress roll. I got my income tax return and after throwing 2/3 of it in savings, I bought some dress fun. I think I may be somewhat Mad Men inspired lately. Observe!

This one came in the mail today. It is a dream.
It's slimming and total '60s charming.

This is what I ordered with my tax refund.
Again, '50-'60s awesomeness and yes, that is a lock and key charm on the belt!

But below I digress in maturity and dive into sweetness with these baby blue dreams of picnics and sock hops. Seriously, how did I spend most of my 20s in jeans pinching my tummy and shirts I got 2 for $20 that were merely okay? Just look at these little numbers:

Buying shoes online can be touchy and reviews are so important for sizing,
but I could be persuaded to do it again for these ladies. Cute!

This is so adorable it breaks my heart.
And if I don't buy it now, I'll be too old tomorrow.

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