Friday, December 31, 2010

My Year in Lists: Favourite Moments of 2010

Happy New Year's Eve! I wish all of you a wonderful new year in 2011.

I should do some sort of 2010 year-in-review, and since I do have sushi-redemption lunch plans with Mathew this afternoon I'm going to make it quick. I call it sushi-redemption because we were supposed to go for sushi last week, and Mathew picked the place. He always likes to talk smack about my favourite sushi place, and he claimed this new place would blow mine out of the water. It's all the way in Little Italy, so we went, and it turned out it was closed for lunch from Monday through Wednesday. Fail, Mathew, fail! We went to a cute little Italian cafe instead, since he'd paid for parking and there were no other sushi places in the area. Anyway, we'll see how this place is today, although I think my place wins by default since it's always open for lunch!

Anyway, here (in no particular order) are some events that were highlights of my 2010.

1) Concerts! (Of course.) I went to 21 shows this year, including one tonight. If I were to pick the top three, I would say they were *finally* seeing Los Campesinos!, the Broken Social Scene show, and Joel Plaskett in Guelph. However, all of the shows were pretty special, and it's hard to compare them.

2) My March Break trip to Europe. It was so great getting to see my dear friend Becca T in her new home environment. We met in Paris, and spent a weekend wandering around and hitting up some great restaurants. We went to a little restaurant in a former stable that I discovered in 2009; we had an awesome meal in the cellar, and it was a miracle that we could leave the cellar without hitting our heads going up the stairs after all of the wine and free bonus drinks that the owner gave us.

After a fabulous weekend in Paris, we went to Nice, where I spent about six days on the Cote d'Azur. I loved spending an afternoon biking along the Promenade d'Anglais, taking a bus to the small towns along the coast, stopping in Monaco for a couple hours, taking the train to Italy for an afternoon, and of course spending lots of time shopping, eating, and drinking with Becca.

After that trip, I'm going to Europe again this March Break. The plan is to meet Becca in Barcelona, and if time permits I might do a weekend in London to meet up with old friends there! Yay!

3) My summer trip to Cape Cod and Boston was pretty excellent too. I loved lounging by the Atlantic ocean, biking along a Cape Cod trail, taking the ferry to Martha's Vineyard, and taking two days to explore Boston by foot. I loved spending the week with Veronica (Go9) and we had so much fun!

4) I bought an iPhone this year. That sucker is life changing! It was a gift from me to me for turning thirty.

5) I have been truly blessed with great classes of students both in semester 2 of last school year and semester 1 of this school year. I can't say enough about these classes. I guess I have to take partial credit, since I am able to create a great learning environment, but my students make my job so easy. It'll be nice to see them on Monday.

6) I have to admit that I did a lot of shopping and bought a lot of clothing and handbags in 2010. I should try and curtail my spending in 2011, and it shouldn't be hard because I seriously should have everything I need. I can't believe I bought myself not one, but two, Maggie bags at Coach. One was for turning thirty, and the other was a complete pick-me-up.

7) I bought a bike this year! FINALLY. After years of saying I was going to do it. I love using it to get around my neighbourhood. It's made Starbucks, the gym, and some friends' places much closer for me. I miss riding it and can't wait until spring.

8) I got a MacBookPro this year, after my trusty old Toshiba bit the bullet. I love it. I'm so part of the Apple cult now.

9) I got to meet a long time blog friend in person this year! My friend Matt from Winnipeg and I have been internet friends for five years and have been trading music, sending each other funny links, dissing Stephen Harper, laughing at juggalos, and just generally being sarcastic for all that time. We got to hang out in both April and October in attempts to see Los Campesinos! So I guess the volcano wasn't totally a bad thing 'cuz we got to hang out twice instead of once. Making sarcastic comments IRL is so much fun!

10) I went hardcore camping this summer. I doubt it's something I'll ever do again but it was a pretty cool experience. The best part of it was seeing all the stars in the sky while being away from civilization; I'd forgotten how many there were. I used to see skies like that every night when I taught in remote NW Ontario for a year. It was also pretty awesome because it corresponded with the Persied meteor shower, and I got to see quite a few shooting stars. Less fun was being scared by large lumbering creatures in the night, but it's pretty hilarious in retrospect.

11) I read 30 books this year. That's about one every two weeks, which I think is very respectable for a busy girl like me. Most of the thirty were excellent too! If I were to pick a top three, I would pick "I Shall Not Hate" by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, "Room" by Emma Donoghue, and "Mr. Shakepeare's Bastard" by Richard B. Wright.

12) Finally, I'm going lump all kinds of favourite moments into one category: time spent with friends. I never get to see *everyone* as much as I'd like but I did spend a lot of time with friends whether it going out for countless, often sushi, meals, spending time relaxing at the spa, various Go9 get-togethers, time being silly with my awesome friends at work, and two weeks of Becca T living on my couch in the summer. I am so blessed to have so many truly awesome close friends, and thank goodness they were there for all of the good times and bad times 2010 had to offer.

And that wraps up my sixth calendar year of blogging and my first year of being in my thirties. 2010 was pretty great, so 2011 - you have a lot to live up to! However, since I am bringing 2011 in with a concert, it's will be off to a great start.

My Year in Lists: 2010 Concerts

  • Jan 19th - Tegan and Sara @ Massey Hall
  • Feb 6th - Great Lake Swimmers @ Trinity-St. Paul's
  • Feb 16th - Dark Night Cabaret @ Berkeley Street Theatre
  • Feb 26th - Jack's Mannequin @ Sound Academy
  • April 8th - Owen Pallett @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre
  • April 20th - Los Campesinos! @ The Phoenix: canceled due to volcano. GAH.
  • April 20th - Kathleen Edwards @ The Drake Hotel
  • April 24th - Hawksley Workman @ Massey Hall
  • May 9th - Broken Social Scene @ Criminal Records
  • May 26th - The Weakerthans @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre
  • June 18th - Sloan @ Yonge-Dundas Square
  • June 22nd - Sarah Harmer @ The Palais Royale
  • July 9th - Metric @ Molson Ampitheatre
  • Oct 8th - Los Campesinos! @ Wrongbar
  • Oct 23rd - Stars @ Massey Hall
  • Oct 26th - CBC Song Quest 2 @ Glen Gould Theatre
  • Oct 28th - Dan Mangan @ Trinity-St. Paul's
  • Nov 5th - Joel Plaskett @ River Run Centre in Guelph
  • Dec 9th - Broken Social Scene @ Sound Academy
  • Dec. 21st - Basement Revue W Jason Collett @ The Dakota Tavern
  • Dec 28th Basement Revue w Buck 65 @ The Dakota Tavern
  • Dec 31th - Elliott Brood @ Lee's Palace

My Year in Lists: Books Read in 2010

  • 30) The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters (gothic, ghostly, great!)
  • 29) The Gentleman Poet: A Novel of Love, Danger, and Shakespeare's The Tempest - Kathryn Johnson (good)
  • 28) Secret Daughter - Shilpi Somaya Gowda (good)
  • 27) American Wife - Curtis Sittenfeld (quite good)
  • 26) I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey - Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish (amazing!)
  • 25) Unbearable Lightness - Portia de Rossi (good)
  • 24) Drinking: A Love Story - Caroline Knapp (good)
  • 23) Little Bee - Chris Cleave (Good)
  • 22) Room - Emma Donoghue (Amazing)
  • 21) The Bishop's Man - Linden MacIntyre (dark)
  • 20) The Postmistress - Sarah Blake (meh)
  • 19) Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinksy - Chris Greenhalgh (okay)
  • 18) Mr. Shakespeare's Bastard - Richard B. Wright (Excellent!)
  • 17) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot (interesting)
  • 16) One Day - David Nicholls (very enjoyable)
  • 15) Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Barbara Kingsolver (Incredible and Inspiring)
  • 14) Girl in a Blue Dress - Gaynor Arnold (fast interesting read)
  • 13) The Castaways - Elin Hilderbrand (good light summer read)
  • 12) Sarah's Key - Tatiana De Rosnay (very good)
  • 11) Sybil - Flora Rheta Schreiber (really good at first, but got too long)
  • 10) Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim - David Sedaris (funny)
  • 9) Drunkard: A Hard-Driking Life - Neil Steinburg (good)
  • 8) The Lady and the Unicorn - Tracey Chevalier (had to re-read it 'cuz now I've seen the tapestries IRL)
  • 7) Shanghai Girls - Lisa See (really good... but harrowing)
  • 6) A Reliable Wife - Robert Goolrick (dark, but quite good)
  • 5) Naked - David Sedaris (hilarious)
  • 4) Too Much Happiness - Alice Munro (awesome writer)
  • 3) Half Broke Horses - Jeannette Walls (fabulous)
  • 2) The Help - Kathryn Stockett (excellent!)
  • 1) Still Alice - Lisa Genova (really good)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Well, I'll write it all down for you.

Right now I'm wondering where my vacation has gone, and even though I've only got four days left until that dreaded Monday, at least I've got a lot of fun stuff in the works.

I was feeling mellow and even stir-crazy on Boxing Day. I had a whole day to myself in Stratford without a lot to do, so I ended up reading a lot and watching a movie with my 'rents. I think that was the slowest pace I've had in awhile.

Since then things picked up. I woke up early and went to the gym on Tuesday, and then ran errands around town all afternoon. In the evening I had Go9 Christmas, which was fun as always, but I think I brought out tired-faded-Christielli to the party, and I'll have to rest up next year so that energetic-Christielli shows to the party.

Yesterday, I packed up all of Rilo's and my accoutrements, and my pal Jolene (Go9) was kind enough to drive us back to Toronto. In return, I was kind enough to book Jolene and I a three-course lunch and massages at my favourite urban spa. It was super relaxing. I also had time to start reading one of my new Christmas books: The Beauty of the Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb. It's been on some top 10 of 2010 lists, and is an interesting story of family in modern day Vietnam. So far the writing in this novel is absolutely stunning; I'm only on page 25 but I'd already recommend it to anyone who likes a good story, or is interested in learning more about Vietnam's history and culture, or might like to reminisce about a trip there.

Anyway, I thought I'd go home from the spa all relaxed and feeling like jelly and go to sleep, but then I got a last-minute invite to another Basement Revue show at the Dakota Tavern, so I figured why not? I must take advantage of all the non-school nights while I've got them. Jason Collett, who usually leads these shows, was in Australia, so Buck 65 took over and it was a fun night. Much better than sleep, I must say.

I thought that I'd have a quiet morning today, but a seemingly simple task, buying tickets for a NYE show, took me out the door a little earlier than I'd planned. I usually really hate New Year's Eve; I think the best NYE I've ever had would qualify as mediocre. I've ended up unwillingly at yucky St. Ratford bars, lame parties where they ring in the New Year five minutes late, and even once knitted as Mathew opened mail. Mathew's like my brother, but that evening we were more like an old married couple. Probably one of my favourite new year's eves ever was when I tried to catch some sleep before I had to catch a 6 am flight to Cuba. That's how bad they've been.

Anyway, so this year, my NYE looks much more promising: I'm going to go a concert! I'm going to see Elliott Brood, whose album Mountain Meadows I love. And I've never seen them before either, which is exciting! My job today was to get tickets for the show, which seemed easy enough, except for the fact that Ticketmaster was sold out of tickets. I was really hoping for a simple on-line transaction. Luckily, they were still available at one record store, but it meant that I had to get to Queen St. W. ASAP and abandon my plans of a lazy morning.

I did manage to get tickets (yay!), and then spent some time wandering around shops. My friend Wendy was in Toronto, and we had plans to meet up, but I didn't think she'd be around until late afternoon. She texted me that she'd arrived while I was running errands, and we ended up having lunch, wandering around stores, and chilling out for a good portion of the day. I didn't get home until 9:30 pm and I'd left the house at 11:30 am. It was a tiring, but fun day. (Did I mention I scored new shoes, a new top, and new tights all on sale?)

Well, that brings us tomorrow, when I'm meeting up with a friend at a French bakery, and then I have plans to see the movie Black Swan in the evening. I've been excited to see that movie since it was at TIFF. Then it's New Year's Eve!

Actually, now that I look at it, I'm sitting here scratching my head and wondering what the eff happened to my vacation when I really should be wondering what the eff happened to the year 2010. Seriously, it was a really crazy roller coaster of a year for me. But that, my friends, is stuff for another post. Hope you all enjoy the last two days of this year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Year in Lists: Favourite Albums of 2010

I hope you all had wonderful Christmases! I had a very relaxing one, and tonight it's the thirteenth annual Group of 9 Christmas gathering which I am very much looking forward to.

Now that the busyness of Christmas is more or less over, I think most people are relaxed and just riding out the year that was. Now is the time of year when we can all reflect on the year that was and start crafting our resolutions for the new year.

I always enjoy making my list of my top ten favourite albums of the year. Note my use of the word favourite. I don’t claim these to be the best albums of 2010, but just the ones that I connected with the most while I listened to them or experienced them live. These are the ten albums that make up a great deal of the soundtrack of my life for 2010, and as usual, I love playing the role of an amateur music critic and posting them on my blog.

10) This is Good - Hannah Georgas

I discovered Hannah Georgas on a CBC Radio 3 Podcast about a year ago, and loved her EP The Beat Stuff. I looked forward to her full-length and it delivers. Most of the songs are fun sing-alongs but “Your Ghost” is hauntingly mournful. Hannah Georgas has a beautiful voice, and is able to create memorable melodies on this album, and yes, it is good.

Top Tracks: Your Ghost and This is Good

9) Lonely Avenue - Ben Folds & Nick Hornby

I’ve read some scathing reviews of this album, and I have to say I completely disagree with them. I think this album, with music by my one of my long-time favourite musicians, and lyrics by novelist Nick Hornby, is full of great songs. All of the songs are stories within themselves and evoke such vivd pictures with their lyrics. I find that Ben Folds has always been able to do this in his songs, but it’s cool that he’s collaborated with another wordsmith on this album. Heck, they’ve make me feel sympathy for Bristol Palin’s baby daddy in the song Levi Johnston’s Blues. That's pretty impressive. Yeah, there are a couple tracks that don’t work (Saskia Hamilton and Practical Amanda), but overall this is a strong album.

Top Tracks: Picture Window and From Above

8) Heartland - Owen Pallett

I never got into Owen Pallett when he was going by the moniker Final Fantasy, probably just based on the fact I didn’t like the name of his last record, He Poos Clouds (yes, I’m superficial). However, as soon as I heard the song Lewis Takes Action from this album, I was intrigued to hear more. The musicianship on Heartland is amazing and really smart; I seriously can feel the neurons in my brain making more connections between each other, and therefore making me smarter, as I listen to album. After seeing Owen Pallett live this spring, I appreciate his talent so much, and I’m just amazed at what he can do with his violin and a computer.

Top Tracks: Lewis Takes Action and Oh Heartland, Up Yours!

7) Sidewalks - Matt & Kim

This NYC duo’s previous album Grand made my top ten list last year, and I daresay they’ve upped their game this year. When I first listened to Sidewalks I thought “Wow! This is just like Grand, but better!” Sidewalks clocks in at under 35 minutes, but it’s 35 minutes filled with crunchy synth and drums that makes you feel like you are walking down the streets of NYC humming along with its catchy melodies. This album makes me want to go back to NYC right now. Well maybe not right now, since all of the flights are canceled 'cuz of the snowstorm...

Top Tracks: Block After Block and Northeast

6) Oh Little Fire - Sarah Harmer

Sarah’s previous album I’m a Mountain came out a long time ago, and I did enjoy its blue-grassy country-twinged songs, but I was psyched that Oh Little Fire goes back to the folk-rock of her other two albums. Sarah Harmer has one of the loveliest voices out there, and she writes incredible songs. One of the most exciting moments of this album is the duet between Sarah and Neko Case on Silverado. The songs on this album range from happy (The Marble in Your Eye) to sad (New Loneliness) and completely span the range of emotions that I experienced during 2010, so this album provides a great soundtrack for an up-and-down year in my life.

Top Tracks: The City and Washington

5) The Five Ghosts - Stars

I know that this album is much beloved by many of my blog friends, and I love it too, although I feel that Set Yourself On Fire is still the best Stars album ever. However, comparing Stars albums is like comparing different varieties of chocolate ice cream: they’re all awesome, aren’t they? I love the gothy theme of this album; I’ll take an album about ghosts and death any day. The first six songs of this album suit my tastes the most; I tend to repeat them over and over again. As usual, Stars delivers wonderful dark and romantic electronic melodies. Seeing them play tracks from this album at Massey Hall this October made this album more special to me.

Top Tracks: I Died So I Could Haunt You and He Dreams He’s Awake

4) The Falcon Lake Incident - Jim Bryson & the Weakerthans

When I heard that the Weakerthans, my favourite band of all time, were the backing band for Jim Bryson’s new album, I wasn’t sure what to expect so I didn’t get the album right away. Then iTunes released Metal Girls as the song of the week and I loved it, which motivated me to get the entire album. It’s great on its first listen, but it gets better as you listen to it more and more and you realize how fun the melodies are, and how great the musicianship is on each and every track. Hearing the Weakerthans play someone else’s songs is a new thing, but there’s something familiar about it, and I like it. This is a little album that will grow on you quickly, and it’s definitely one of my favourite things of 2010. I can’t wait to see the show at Lee’s Palace in 2011.

Top Tracks: Up All Night and Decidedly

3) The Suburbs - The Arcade Fire

The word epic is thrown around a lot these days (I’ll admit that I’m guilty of that), but this album is truly epic. I’m not even a big Arcade Fire fan (please don’t throw rocks at me) and I still love this album. This is one of those albums where each and every song works together very well, and I could seriously listen to it for hours on end. I didn’t grow up in the suburbs; however, my little small town sometimes had a suburban feel to it, and I can relate to the themes on this album. With The Suburbs, The Arcade Fire has completely won me over, and now I need to see them live oh-so-badly. I hope that they play Toronto again in 2011.

Top Tracks: The Suburbs and Ready to Start

2) Forgiveness Rock Record - Broken Social Scene

As I used to be meh about the Arcade Fire, I used to be pretty meh about Broken Social Scene. I guess I’m really late when it comes to falling in the love with the cool indie music collectives that Canada has to offer, and 2010 is the year when I finally got completely won over. I used to like BSS, but now I completely love them. Maybe I’m just that hard to get, ha-ha. Anyway, as anyone who had been ready this blog lately knows, I’ve been obsessively listening to BSS for a few months, and Forgiveness Rock Record played a big part in this obsession. When I first listed to FRR, I thought maybe it won me over because it was more accessible than other BSS stuff, but now that I’m more learned in BSS (again, that’s all I’ve been listening to lately), I’m not so sure. Honestly, I think it’s just been that there’s always been this awesome band in my city, and this was the year I was meant to really get into them with this record and with the film “This Movie is Broken”. And seriously, I really think I needed BSS this year, and it all worked out perfectly.

Top Tracks: Meet Me in the Basement and Sweetest Kill

1) Romance is Boring - Los Campesinos!

This album defined 2010 for me. In fact, it seems like most my year consisted of being excited for the new LC! album, being excited that I was going to see them in April, being sad that the volcano effed with my plans, hoping they’d reschedule, then waiting for their eventual awesome show in October. And now, I just live in the happy afterglow. I would say that Romance is Boring is darker and more cacophonous than previous LC! work, yet it’s just as catchy and brilliant with guy/girl vocals, horns, strings, and awesome melodies that make me want to dance. RIB opens with the crescendo of In Media Res where Gareth sings “let’s talk about you for a moment” and even though none of these songs talk about me, or you, or whoever is listening, this album rather seems like you’re hanging out with a fun group of friends, partying, swapping secrets and even having yet another documented emotional breakdown. And we all need our friends, and our favourite music around us when we are breaking down, and I’m thankful to have this album around for both good times and bad.

Top Tracks: The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future and A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State; Or, Letters from Me to Charlotte

And there's my favourite album list for yet another year. It was quite tricky to cull this list: there were albums that kept moving on and off this list, but I’m pretty sure I’ll always enjoy these ten albums. What were your favourite albums of 2010?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas.

Hey all fellow bloggers, random readers, and well-wishers!

I hope that you all have a very merry Christmas and that each and every one of you are graced with at least one of those magical Christmas moments that happen during Christmas TV specials.

Merry Christmas! I'll be back soon with all of my year-end lists and such, provided that no holiday mishap befalls me. I already took an epic fall on a patch of ice yesterday in London. I was air-borne. It was seriously awesome; I actually had time to think while I was flying through the air. I didn't get hurt; just covered in snow and slightly embarrassed. Anyway, that was probably my Christmas accident for 2010, and I should be good now.

Hope you all have a great day!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

This snowman is shaping up to be an eight but not out of ten.

I love how time sort of has slowed down over holidays. Okay, well I *am* already at the Wednesday of week one (please week two never come), but it seems like so much has happened over these holidays already.

On Monday, my friend, her husband and I were essentially let loose in a warehouse full of shoes where we could take two free pairs each. It felt like some sort of bizarre game show. Does anyone remember that show "Supermarket Sweep" (I think) where people ran around a grocery store trying to spend the most amount of money? This was the shoe version.

After that, we met up with other friends for a delicious Thai lunch at a restaurant at Spadina and Bloor that I'd never been to before. I ate mango salad, spring rolls, cashew beef, and pad thai for only $7. Amazing.

Yesterday morning I was up and at them for a dentist appointment. At least the people at my dentist's office are super nice, so it makes me dread going to the dentist a little bit less. It was just for a cleaning though, and now my teeth feel nice and clean.

I walked home from my appointment and got my last gift. I'll probably still pick up some impulse items, but the list is done.

Last night was Jason Collett's Basement Revue at the Dakota and it was super fun. There were lots of great musicians and even some poetry reading. Lots of various members of BSS, Metric, and Stars wandering around. I was super excited to hear Ron Hawkins (of Lowest of the Low) play a few songs. That man has such a great voice. Ron Sexsmith also played, which was great. The end of the show was fun: some members of BSS came on stage and made up a couple of songs, and then the night ended with Torq from Stars and Jimmy from Metric singing a sad song.

Today I have to pack and meet up with Mathew for twice-postponed-sushi. Then I'll catch the train to Stratford. I'm really looking forward to a week of relaxing in my little hometown. I'm especially looking forward to catching up with friends. Tomorrow night (weather-permitting) I'm driving to London to have dinner with my friend Heather. Then, next week will be the thirteenth-annual Group of 9 Christmas, and we might have all nine attend this year. The only wild card, as always, is my friend Mel, and I think I'll send her a message right now reminding her of the event.

I'd end this post with "Merry Christmas" but I'm sure I'll have time to post from sleep ol' St. Ratford before then, so you'll just have to hold on for your well-wishes.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

But darling I'd still catch a grenade for ya.

I've made it to vacation! I always love the Sunday night before a week off. It feels so good knowing that I don't have to go to work tomorrow. (Sorry for those who do.... you'll have time off soon, right?)

The last two days of work were hectic as I expected: most of it due to the annual talent show preparations. The talent show turned out great, as usual. All of the winners were very deserving, and all of the acts were pretty entertaining. Every year the talent show exposes me to some new pop song of which I was unaware. Last year it was "Bad Romance" and this year it was Bruno Mars' "Grenade" which is pretty darned catchy. I always get a little bit emotional during the talent show: I'm so proud of all of the performers for being brave enough to take the stage. And, the audience is always very encouraging of every act, no matter how different or slightly bad they may be. The best was when we had an amazing classical pianist play this year. I was standing near some rather thuggish kids in the audience who cheered "Mad talent! Mad talent!"

After all that, we had a staff lunch (meh), I went home and had a short nap, and then my pal Fea and I took student council out for a Christmas dinner to celebrate a successful first four months. It was lots of fun. Those kids are just really great people, and it's nice treating them for dinner. Which we all deserved since we worked so hard on organizing the show.

Yesterday was another busy day with lots of food since I had two birthday parties. All I ate at the second one was a piece of super delicious red velvet cake though. Also, I got to catch up with a good friend who I hadn't seen since the summer; and both of us kind of fell off the map for similar reasons. We're going to have a good catch-up session complete with some beer when we're back in town.

Today I woke up early and got myself a Zipcar so I could drive Rilo to my parents' place as a Christmas surprise. I first had to stop by the pet store to get her a new carrier. She was able to claw a hole through her old one on her last car trip. This time I got a sturdy plastic one; I'm pretty sure she's met her match. Anyway, she was a little bit better this time: she was quiet for maybe half an hour of the two-hour trip.

My parents had no idea that I was planning this trip and were surprised when I showed up. In fact, my dad had just done some Christmas shopping, and I wasn't allowed to enter the living room until they had time to hide all of it. Anyway, they were happy with the surprise, and Rilo was happy to investigate my parents' giant Christmas tree. I also bought her a laser pointer cat toy at the pet store. She loves it and I had a fun afternoon making her chase it around. It's the first cat toy I've found that she gets super excited for.

I did a bit of shopping in downtown Stratford this afternoon. I got my second last Christmas present and an excellent chai latte at my fave Stratford coffee place. Then I went to Swiss Chalet to get Festive specials as a treat for my parents. Man, they're spoiled! Dinner and a cat taxied to their doorstep!

The drive back was very smooth, and now I'm home. I'm pretty tired so I think I'll be in bed very early. The next couple of days involve appointments, social plans, cleaning, packing, and a concert (yay!). I'll head to Stratford on Wednesday night for almost a week. I'll get a couple days of rest then, but there are a lot of fun plans to keep me busy as well.

Less than one week 'til Christmas. Yay! Hope you are all merry, and slightly less tired than I am right now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I know that only I can save me.

The next few days of my life are going to be crazy busy, even though the holidays are starting oh-so-soon. Let's look at my itinerary.

Tomorrow - Last day of teaching. Quizzes for all. That's how I roll. Then, it's a late night at school with the talent show dress rehearsal which, as I learned last year, is always a disaster. However, a disastrous rehearsal means a great show.

Friday - Shortened classes. Talent Show. Staff Luncheon. Student Council Christmas dinner.

Saturday - Morning: manicure, pedicure, facial.
Afternoon: birthday party for a 2-year old.
Evening: birthday party for a 28-year old.

Sunday - Depending on the weather, I might get a car and drive Miss Rilo to St. Ratford as a Christmas surprise for my parents. They keep saying "oh, I wish Rilo could come here for the holidays." I actually have a friend driving me back to the city, so taxi-ing Rilo one way for the holidays wouldn't be too bad. Again, it's all dependent on the weather which is looking iffy already. If the weather sucks, I might have a day of rest, and Mathew can cat-sit his god-cat while I'm in St. Ratford.

Monday - In the morning, I have a foot doctor appointment. Gotta milk my benefits before the end of the calendar year. I'm hoping for a nice free pair of boots out of it. In the afternoon, I have lunch planned with a bunch of friends.

Tuesday - Dentist appointment in the morning, probably packing my stuff in the afternoon, and then the Basement Revue at the Dakota Tavern with Jason Collett in the evening. Guess which part of this day I'm looking forward to the most??

Wednesday - I will take the train to St. Ratford for a few days of rest. Who am I kidding? I won't get much rest. Already my days are looking quite booked up. Oh well, at least my family is small and our Christmases are relatively quiet.

I have given up on the idea of getting my marking mostly finished before the holidays. I'm going to have to schedule a few marking sessions into my holiday schedule. I have no motivation to pick up a pen right now. Also, in the midst of those busy days above, I'll have to get my place into a presentable condition. I hate coming home to a mess after a trip. At least my Christmas shopping is almost done. I just have two more presents left to buy. Plus birthday presents for those parties on Saturday. Thank goodness I live near a Shopper's Drug Mart. It's the best place for last minute gifts.

Anyway, I could wash dishes, I could do laundry, but instead I'm going to curl up in bed with the book I'm reading. It's called "The Little Stranger" and it's written by Sarah Waters. I tried to read a different book by her a couple years ago, and I couldn't get into it. However, I came across this one at my neighbourhood library, and it looked good, so I picked up. It's delightfully gothy; the setting is a run-down English country mansion post-WWII. It seems haunted. I love it so far.

Hope you are all staying sane amidst the holiday craziness.

p.s. Someone from school sent me this cartoon because they thought I'd like it. I seriously guffawed when I saw it. Nerd.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Christmas Song Post.

This last week of work before holidays is always nuts. The kids don't want to learn, I don't particularly want to teach, but the reality is that when they come back, we have only three weeks before exams, and I have a lot of curriculum to cram in before there. So, it's a challenging, challenging time. However, I have to say that today I taught a kickass lesson on the most exciting of topics: curved mirrors. Getting 29 teenagers happily drawing ray diagrams during the last week before holidays is a gift in itself.

I have so much stuff to get done this week: endless marking, Christmas prep, my apartment is a disaster, and did I mention I'm involved in planning the year-end talent show? It's a crazy time folks.

So what did I do this evening when I got home from work? Had a nice bubble bath with a glass of wine and read a book. Then fell asleep while reading the book.** The more stuff I have to do, the more my brain and body go into relaxation mood. But today's only Monday, right? Getting through a Monday in itself is hard enough work... I'll work harder the rest of the days, I promise.

Now that I've set the mood, here's what this post is really about: my favourite Christmas songs!

In my Slow Club post, I mentioned they had a great Christmas EP, which got everyone talking about their favourite Christmas songs in the comments, so I figured that I'd make a list of my own before Christmas. Here it is!

1) To re-iterate, the 6-song Slow Club Christmas EP, "Christmas Thanks for Nothing" is awesome. And on iTunes.

2) Last year, The Line of Best Fit put out a free compilation of Canada indie rock Christmas tunes called Ho Ho Ho Canada. My favourites from this compilations are "I Wanna Kiss You This Christmas" by Megan Barnes and David Carswell, "Snowfall" by The Acorn, and "Cinnamon Winter" by Cinderpop. The've put out a new compilation this year, and I've yet to go through it, but I will.

3) My beloved Los Campesinos! put out a Christmas song this year called "Kindle A Flame in Her Heart". It's great. You can download it here.

4) Everyone loves "Fairytale of New York" of course. The original is the best, but there is a version by Pilate that I got on some Christmas compilation CD years ago that I dig. And of course, I love Stars' version of the song too. I also remember seeing them play it at a pre-Christmas show at Lee's Palace years ago, so it's got nostalgia value.

5) Another Christmas duet that I love is "Baby, It's Cold Outside." I have three versions of it, but my favourite is the one by Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel from the Elf soundtrack.

6) There's a Ben Folds song called "Lonely Christmas Eve" that was from the soundtrack of the Jim Carrey Grinch movie. I bought the CD for that song years and years ago, and it was worth every penny for that one song because it is really great, and obscure now. Ben channels the frustration of the Grinch with all the noise, noise, noise in one song.

7) Of course, I always listen to Boris Karloff's "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."

8) Naturally, I also always listen to "Linus and Lucy" by the Vince Guarldi Trio from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

9) One of my favourite parts of Christmas is listening to Hawksley Workman's Christmas album "Almost a Full Moon". It's been part of my Christmas traditions for ten years now. All the songs are great, but my favourite is "A House or Maybe a Boat".

10) However, the most epic Christmas album I own is the Sufjan Stevens Christmas box set. It's got such awesome songs like:
  • Did I Make You Cry on Christmas? (Well, You Deserved It!)
  • Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!
  • Get Behind Me, Santa!
  • Hey Guys! It's Christmas Time!
  • That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!
It's also got traditional Christmas songs as well, but the originals are my favourites. But as I said, it's an epic box set of Christmas music.

So that's my list of some favourite Christmas music. And I'm just scratching the surface. My current Christmas playlist has about 70 songs on it, and none of them are that mall drivel that makes you want to pull out your hair. Although I tend to blame that phenomenon not on the music, but the other idiot shoppers you run into.

**Aside: while I fell asleep reading, I had a dream that Becca T and I were shopping in a cool independent bookstore and we ran into my boyfriend, George Stroumboulopoulos. He was browsing through books in the same bin that I was looking through. I kept my cool just so you know.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Thursday's Broken Social Scene concert can be summed up in one word: epic.

Pretty much the whole BSS family made the show. The only person that I could see that was missing was Emily Haines from Metric, although I suspect she made Friday's show.

The opening band was Superchunk. I'd never heard of them, but I thoroughly enjoyed their 45-minute set. Their music reminded me of the type of fuzzy indie rock that I listened to in the early 2000s. I could picture their stuff coming out of my discman's headphones as I walked around campus.

After Superchunk, they closed the big red stage curtains, which sort of upped the drama. What exactly was going on behind those curtains? How much equipment would they need to accommodate the full line up?

The show started abruptly. The in-between music was still playing as the red curtains opened, and wow, there they were... the current regular members of Broken Social Scene. They launched into World Sick which is a great show opener, as it is a great album opener on their latest album, Forgiveness Rock Record.

The second song of the set was the first BSS song I ever loved: 7/4 Shoreline. And that's when two of my favourite women, Leslie Feist and Amy Millan, took the stage. I was in heaven.

Following that was a bunch of songs from FRR like Texico Bitches, Forced to Love, All to All, and Art House Director. The lineup on stage kept varying. Sometimes the horn section would be there, sometimes not. Sometimes there'd be two drummers, sometimes one. Sometimes you'd count and realize there were ten people singing. My concert pal, just new to the BSS universe from a mixed CD that I made her, said "Wow! Every song is completely different!" And that, right there, summarizes the brilliance of BSS. That, and the fact that they are all about friends, and family, and the city of Toronto.

There was a turning point in the show where it went from awesome to epic. BSS played the instrumental Feel Good Lost from their first album of the same name. Then, they seamlessly flowed into Superconnected from their eponymous album. That was the point where I realized this was one of the best shows I'd ever seen (and I've seen a lot of shows). During that song, I held onto each and every word that Kevin Drew sang.

Amy and Lisa stepped into Emily's shoes for Anthems for a Seventeen-Year Old Girl, which Kevin introduced as "the BSS song most associated with Toronto." (Oh, and you'll notice that I'm just going on first name basis now with everyone in the band.) That is probably my favourite BSS song hands down, and I was so happy to sing along to every word. After that, we were treated to a stripped down version of Lover's Spit.

At one point, Feist took centre stage with her guitar and sang I Feel it All. It was great. Another highlight was The Sweetest Kill. That's a BSS song that I didn't much care for, until I heard it live. That happens to me so often: I'm completely meh about a song, but then I love it once I've heard it live. I should coin a name for a phenomenon.

The absolute climax of the show was the finale: the instrumental Meet Me in the Basement. There were a tonne of people on stage, and I couldn't keep myself from humming along with the melody. Near the end, the band would stop playing, and Kevin would thank the audience, and then they'd launch back into the song. At the very end, Kevin said (and I paraphrase) "Toronto, what are you going to do to change what's happening the city? Whatever you do, I hope it sounds like this" and then the band finished the song with a flourish. I loved it.

The encore was great as well. BSS played for a full 2.5 hours, I believe, and it was breath-taking. I can't wait to see them again. I've never gone to the traditional summer show on the Island, but you know I'll be there this year.

I was effing exhausted the next day. I'm not accustomed to going to a long, loud, stand-up rock show on a school night. My last few school night shows have been at theatres and churches and the like. One kid looked at me during first period and said "Miss, you look tired. You look like you wanted to stay home today." He was right. I was tired, but extremely happy.

Anyway, last night was my work Christmas party and I was still visibly tired. I even went home before the after-party, which shocked and confused many. I'm going to have to work hard to redeem myself in the new year.

Well, that's my BSS review. But kids, it's not over yet. I still get to see Jason Collett (who was also on stage during the show) next week. I've been promised special guests. I bet some of them will be from the BSS family. Yay!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

He won't be what you want him to be. (Oh no!)

I'm getting really excited to see Broken Social Scene tomorrow night. I've been listening to them *a lot* lately. I can honestly say that I've always liked random songs of theirs, and I got into their new album earlier this year when I saw them play at Criminal Records, but it's been just lately that I've been listing a lot to "You Forgot in People" and "Broken Social Scene" and digging out some great tracks from "Bee Hives" and really, really appreciating BSS more than I ever did.

Part of my excitement for the show centres around a BSS tweet from yesterday that said "expecting the entire BSS family at Toronto shows this week". That's what I was hoping for when I bought these tickets a few months ago! I'm crossing my fingers that Feist, Emily Haines, and Amy Millan will all be there. Even just one of the three would make me incredibly happy.

I have to admit, though, that this show will be a little bittersweet for me. It's bitter because things are much different now than they were back in September when I bought these tickets. I pre-ordered them a) so I could see BSS properly; and b) so I could make someone's day. However, that someone decided to remove themselves from my life, and I have to say that it still saddens/disappoints/angers/baffles me. All I can say is "really!?!" a la Seth & Amy from Weekend Update and leave it at that.

However, the show must go on, right? I'm never ever one to step away from a rock show because it could make me wistful or a tad emo. I asked a couple of my usual concert buddies to the show, but since it's December, a lot of ppl are Christmas-partying away, so I got to do one of my favourite things: ask a completely random friend to a show. I used to co-teach a crazy course with someone who became a good friend, but sadly, she had to move to another school. I know from Facebook that she loves concerts, so I asked her randomly, so we'll be having an awesome co-parent reunion while seeing an amazing band... with special guests! That will be the sweet part of tomorrow.

As I was saying, I've been listening to a lot of BSS and Feist recently. They totally make me feel so much better about things. For instance, a lot of the horn parts in BSS songs (like Ibi Dreams of Pavement) make me feel really powerful like I could do almost anything. And Feist's sad songs, like Intuition, make me feel okay about being sad, you know?

Since I've been on this musical binge, I decided to pre-order the Feist documentary that I just saw at the ROM from Gallery AC because I really liked it, it comes with a CD of live stuff and alternate versions, and I got a Tshirt with it. So, I'm now wearing my new fave around-the-house outfit: my red Feist Sea Lion Woman shirt over a black and gray-striped long-sleeved shirt and yoga pants. It makes me happy. And I love the CD. Yay for online shopping!

Look for a BSS show review in an upcoming post. However, that might take awhile to write since my work Christmas party is Friday, and we've been known to get up to no good after these things. Recovery time could be needed... I hope.

Hope you all have fun weekends too! I'll leave you with some BSS since I was taught in a previous post how to make a Youtube video fit into a post properly.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Random Work Funnies.

There are eight more teaching days until Christmas break. This is the time of year when the kids are getting a little bit restless. They don't want to learn anything. However, when we get back from break, there are only three weeks left of the semester, so I still have quite a bit of curriculum to teach them. It makes for a challenging time of year.

However, luckily for me, there's still enough funny stuff happening to keep me sane. Here are some random funny things from the past couple days.

1) One of my friends, from the phys ed department, was trying to organize a coffee date amongst some friends. Anyway, during Sunday coffee-shop-marking, F mentioned this invite, and I thought that I must have missed it my email because I wasn't aware of the plans. I checked when I got home, and figured that maybe I wasn't in with the cool crowd anymore (unlikely) or I'd been accidentally left off the list (more likely).

Anyway, I got to work on Monday, and saw in my inbox what looked to be a forwarded email from myself. Weird, I thought, I don't remember sending myself something...

I opened up the email and saw "this must be for you" written above a forwarded message from my phys ed friend. I was totally confused. I did not remember writing myself a note on top of a forwarded email. Maybe this was it: I'd finally lost my sanity.

Then, I opened a "reply-to-all" from my pal F. I was cc'ed. "Hey - you sent this email to Christopher *insert my last name* instead of Christy. I hope he comes to coffee! Maybe he's the male version of Christy!"

I checked the mysterious forward in my mailbox. It was from Christopher, not myself. How nice of him to figure out the mystery behind the strange coffee invite in his inbox.

So, I guess I haven't lost my sanity (yet) and it turns out there's some dude with the male version of my name working for my school board. Small world.

2) A centipede (or some insect... I'm no entomologist) disrupted my first period class on Monday. Nothing destroys a well-planned lesson like an insect; I've been lucky to discover this many times in my teaching career. There were cries of "It's getting closer to me! Help!" "Kill it, miss!" "Don't kill it miss!" "Step on it!" and "Even the smallest organism is very important to the ecosystem, Miss!" (Okay, maybe that last one is my imagination... I was teaching an ecology lesson, and if someone had shouted that, they would brought tears of joy to my eyes.)

Anyway, I wanted to smoosh it, but I do have a reputation of being "Miss Eco" so I had to kindly remove it from the classroom. I grabbed a piece of paper, let it crawl onto the piece of paper, and safely let it go into the hall. Centipede saved, and lesson resumed.

3) The powers that be decided a cold December morning would be a great time for a fire drill. Luckily, teachers get to know about this ahead of time, and we all carried our coats to class. Of course, not one kid noticed me carrying my giant winter coat into the classroom.

However, as soon as the fire alarm went off, that's when everyone noticed my coat. "Miss! You knew about this! That's not fair, I'm wearing a T-shirt!" Yes, it's true that it wasn't fair. I consoled them with "if I was in charge, we would have done this in October" but strangely, that didn't make them feel any better.

4) We're studying light in my fourth period class. Part of a lesson was about different forms of luminescence: incandescence, phosphorescence, fluorescence, etc. One of the random ways that light can be made is triboluminescence. This occurs when chemical bonds are broken in material when you scratch it, pull it apart, rub it, etc. You can observe this easily by rubbing together a couple of sugar cubes in the dark, or, in a more delicious fashion: by biting down on a Wint-O-Green lifesaver in the dark.

So at the end of today's class everyone got a lifesaver. Even better, I have a fairly large, dark, storage closet in my classroom, so everyone got shut in the closet in groups of eight to watch each other eat candy in the dark. It was strange lesson; but very fun, and left the classroom smelling minty fresh.

Anyway, even though work is still fun, thank goodness there will be a break soon.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

You're somewhere in the city and I hope you're good.

Oh look it's snowing. Rilo's sitting on a chair watching the snow, or perhaps looking to see what the cat in the window across from us is up to on this snowy Sunday. Or maybe she's just plotting how she can vanquish her vile foe: the curtains. I assume they're enemies because she spends hours attacking them.

Anyway, I'm just in the midst of getting ready to pack up my mountain of marking and meet up with Fea at a coffee shop. Misery loves company, right? That's our coffee shop marking motto. She's running a bit late which is okay with me: I plan to get there a bit early and read until she arrives.

I had a super fun Saturday. My work spouse and I went to see the musical "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" and it was pretty fantastic. You know things are going to be good when before the show starts you are asked to put your cell phones in your purses or man-bags, and to remove any large wigs from your head as a courtesy to those behind you. Anyway, if you are in the Toronto area, go have some campy fun and see it while it's still here.

After the musical we hit up the mall to do some boot-shopping, but neither of us had much luck. However, we worked up a good appetite for dinner, and went to my favourite middle eastern restaurant in my neighbourhood. Yum for red wine, kefta (beef, lamb and veggie skewers with rice), and labni (a cream cheese/yogurt dip served with pita). We had some great conversation, and I returned home happily stuffed and sleepy.

I put up my little Christmas tree last night too. I'm trying my best to get into the Christmas spirit, but I still feel like I'm going through motions. I think I get thrown off by little things that make me wistful. Like when I see a god-awful camo purse at Nine West, or when I see on Facebook that my crazy friend has gotten yet another, um, interesting tattoo by that tattoo artist. It's just not very fun keeping these things to myself, so I'll just shout them into the blogosphere instead. Thanks blogosphere.

I think Rilo's gotten tired of the watching the snow. She was eyeing the snowflakes quite intently, and I think I could see her kitty brain trying to work out how she could catch one. However, that rhetorical question has tired her out, so she's now curled up on a chair for an afternoon nap, which makes me realize that I should venture out for my marking session.

Hope that you all have restful Sundays, and painless Mondays.

Edit: I just came home from a good four hours at the coffee shop. It was fairly productive. I'm 75% through marking 58 unit tests, so that's good. We also had to make talent show cuts too, so that discussion took away from the marking time.

In addition, when I looked here, my blog was all wonky looking with titles and stuff out of place. What the what? I changed templates to see if that helped, and it didn't, and I can't remember how to get my old one back. After taking away the Slow Club videos from last post, and getting rid of my badge, it looks nice and neat again. So that's why things look different around here, in case you were wondering.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Waiting never quite felt like waiting when waiting was with you.

When I'm feeling a bit emo, this band always makes me feel better.

They also have a super awesome Christmas EP called "Christmas Thanks for Nothing", which I totally recommend getting if you are going to get one new piece of Christmas music this year. Not only does it have the title track, it's got a song called "It's Christmas and You're Boring Me", the very nice "Christmas TV" and a great version of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)".

A friend and I once discussed Slow Club and how we both like the band name. I assumed it referred to a club for slow people, and his interpretation was it referred to someone clubbing something slowly.

Either way, they're a fun band. Seriously, get the Christmas EP. It's on iTunes and it's that time of year.

And tomorrow's Friday. I get to stay after school supervising talent show auditions. It's a glamourous life.