Sunday, April 29, 2012

Looking Forward

There are many things going on in the next week, and in the next few months that I'm really looking forward to.  In an effort to remind myself of how awesome life is, I am going to list them here.

Next week...

1) I am going for sushi with my friend Katie on Monday.

2) I am hopefully Skyping with my pal Sandee (Go9) on Tuesday.

3) On Wednesday, I am going to a documentary at the HotDocs film festival with my friend Fea.  It looks like it might be a bit depressing.  It's about a 38-year-old woman whose dead body was left unnoticed in her London apartment for three years.  There was an article about the film in the Toronto Star that was really interesting, so I wanted to go.

4) On Thursday, I'm going with a few friends to see Rose Cousins play at the Rivoli.  I love her album so much, and I'm very excited for this show. 

5) On Friday, I'm going with another couple of friends to another HotDocs documentary.  This one's about aging supermodels. I had wanted to go to a different one that evening, but it sold out.  When I read about this one, I figured my friend Eric would want to go, and he said yes right away.  I really wanted to see a film at the newly renovated HotDocs theatre on Bloor, so I'm glad I get to go.

6) On Saturday, I'm heading down to Stratford to take my dad to MacHomer.  I loved this play when I saw it in Toronto, and can't wait to see it again!

This month....

1) My 10K race is in two weeks!  I'm as ready as I'll be, and my friend Jolene (Go9) is running it with me.  It'll be fun!

2) I'm going to see the Joel Plaskett Emergency!

3) My friend Vern (Go9) is coming down for the long weekend.

4) The weekend after that, I'm running my first 5K race of the season.  I'm hoping to beat my time from October 2011.

5) I've got my solo Patrick Watson show.


1) There are tonnes of free shows going on in the city for Luminato and NXNE.  I'm hoping to catch Rufus Wainwright, Matthew Good, Kathleen Edwards, Dan Mangan, and Ohbijou. 

2) Jabba is coming to town!!!  I'm so excited to meet her!

3) It's the last month of work!

The Summer...

1) Trip #1 - I have my tickets to see Feist play at the Folk Festival in Winnipeg with my pal Matt.  I also want to rent a car and drive to Saskatchewan, so I can knock that province off my list (it will mean I've been to 9/10... all that's left will be Newfoundland).  Then, I'll fly to Chicago to meet up with my pal Alex, and we'll spend a few days there, then roadtrip to Minneapolis-St. Paul's.  (The order of this trip is still pending.)

2) My pal Wes from Vancouver is visiting Toronto!  I haven't seen him in five years! 

3) The Group of 9 is trying to organize a camping trip... It'll be glam camping though.  My friend Joanna's family has a very nice trailer, I hear.

4) I will be planning a second trip in August too, but I haven't gotten it written in stone yet.  I have ideas though.

So yes, I have SO MUCH to look forward to.  I'm excited!  Goodbye to April 2012.  You were a rather crappy month with too much work, too little play, too much drama, too much sadness and I won't miss you one bit.  :) 


I went for a really good run in the cemetery this evening, and then ordered a pizza for dinner.  Talk about dividing out, as we call it in the math business.

Anyway, after I ate my pizza, my plans were to pretty much chill at home, do some housework, do some laundry, and read.

I got a text from my work spouse (i.e. my BFF from work who lives about a 20 minute walk from me).  Apparently she had a nap and dreamed that I was caught up on marking and she was not.  This made her feel jealous and stressed out.  Seriously, this is what teachers dream about.

I texted her back saying that I had just watched an episode of Park and Recreation that made me think of her.  Tom told April that she didn't care about anything, and April responded "Yes I do.  I care about Andy, Champion, Leslie's campaign, and sleep."  My work spouse loves sleep so that was the correlation.

We kept texting her back and forth until I decided to pick up the phone and call her.  We chatted until she said "my husband says that you should just come over and drink some wine."

"Oh, but I was going to do laundry."  This is one thing about me... I don't like changing plans and I often say stupid things like "Oh, but I was going to do laundry" when someone invites me to do something better.

"I'll come pick you and your laundry up.  Be there in ten minutes."

So I spent my night laughing, crying, drinking wine, doing laundry in a big new swanky machine, and watching the first Sex and the City movie with one of the best friends that I have.  I didn't know it, but I really needed this night.

I spent another evening earlier this month watching SATC episodes with my friend.  I feel that I need to re-watch the series now that I'm in my thirties.  I love the series because it highlights the importance of friendship, and friendships are such important and pivotal relationships in anyone's lives.  I realize that I am very blessed with so many great friends.

There is a scene in the first SATC movie when Carrie is heartbroken because Big left her at the altar.  Her friends take her to Mexico, but heartbroken Carrie can't get out of bed.  At one point, Samantha comes to her bedside and starts feeding her oatmeal.  My friend said "this scene always gets to me", and both of us started to cry.  I think I was particularly affected because, I have been Carrie, and my friend was Samantha, and she took me out for pancakes after I'd had one hour of sleep and looked just like Carrie does in that scene.  And I thought where would I be without friends like that in my life?  That is the beauty of the SATC series/movies; they make you so thankful for your friends.

Anyway, I came away from this evening feeling very rich that I have a friend down the street that is so very close to me.

Also, I've had a good couple of days because I've been booking lots of fun stuff for the coming week and beyond.  April was a month of work, and May should be more of a month of fun and I daresay that I need it.  In addition, I started the ball on my summer planning by buying tickets to see Feist at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, so I feel good knowing that fun times are afoot.  I need fun. And friends.  And I have both.

I am rich.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I'm looking for something that can't be found on the main drag.

Things I'm digging today:

1) Being able to leave work early enough to get to a favourite pub way before it's busy and having a great catch-up session with a good friend.  Often, this place is too busy to get a seat, but I'll let you in on a secret: Wednesday, 4:15 pm.

2) I'm currently listening to the new Rufus Wainwright album, Out of the Game, on heavy rotation.  I enjoy it a lot.  Reviews have said it's a throwback to his earlier pop sensibilities and is one of his most accessible albums.  I agree.  I really like it.  I listened a lot to Rufus in university.  His album Poses was a staple while Becca T and I would be studying.  Just listening to his voice on this new album brings me back to happy times, and I like it a lot.

The title track is a favourite, and I think the video with Helena Bonham Carter is pretty cool.  Even cooler, Rufus is doing a free show for Luminato in June.  On top of that, a bunch of musicians are going to be playing his songs before his plays, so it's going to be a Rufus-tastic evening.  And, he's moved to one of my favourite Toronto neighbourhoods, the Annex, so maybe one day I'll run into him on the street.

3) The first book that I downloaded for my Kobo was Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.

It's a woman's memoir about hiking a crazy trail that stretches from Southern California to Washington state.  It's very well written and interesting.  She starts this hike as a way to find herself after some negative events in her life (her mother's death, her divorce), and is a bit unprepared for the demands of long-distance hiking on such a challenging trail.  Some of the things that happen to her on the trail have caused me to gasp aloud while reading.

This book reminds me of my one true camping/hiking experience and I don't know how people can hike for months on end.  After two days, I felt so grubby and smelly; I can't imagine how weeks of intense physical exertion without proper bathing would feel.  There were a couple places in the book where she almost ran out of water, and I remember being at the end of a long day of hiking and being really thirsty while waiting the 30 minutes for the water treatment pills to work, like she has to do while being extremely dehydrated.  However, I did not wake up to frogs covering my body, like the author did.  I think that's definitely the most memorable incident in the book for me.

Anyway, I am going to finish this book tonight, and I highly recommend it.  Also, Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods is another very entertaining crazy hiking memoir, but on the other side of the US (the Appalachian Trail).  I might just have to re-read it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I'm at a payphone trying to call home.

This weekend I had a lot of plans on the go, but enough downtime to relax a little too.  It made me feel a little bit more like myself than I have in a long time.  I like a good balance of busy and relaxing.

On Saturday night, I went to see the movie "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" at the TIFF Lightbox.  The Lightbox is the fairly new headquarters of the Toronto International Film Festival.  I'd only been there once before to see the Tim Burton exhibition in the fall.  This was my first time seeing a movie there, and it was a very nice experience.

The film was a documentary about the world's premiere sushi chef.  The way making sushi was set to music in the movie was beautiful.  It was also interesting watching a man so dedicated to his craft, and watching the dynamics he had with his son who worked with him.  I'd recommend this film.

I also went to the baptism of a friend's daughter.  The reception afterwards was a bit amazing.  She'd spent three days baking cookies, cupcakes, cake pops, and a beautiful cake.  I wanted to try everything but got full fast.

I also bought a Kobo to replace my dead Kindle.  I set it up tonight, and I have to say I don't like it as much as I liked my Kindle.  The Kindle worked much more seamlessly.  I decided to move to Kobo so I could download library books onto it.  The Kindle isn't compatible with public libraries in Canada.  However, I can still replace my old Kindle at a reduced price, and I might do it, just because I liked it better.  My mom, for some odd reason, seems to think I should have both kinds.  Maybe once I get used to my Kobo, I won't miss my Kindle as much and won't bother replacing it.  But seeing my empty red Kindle cover, with the very nice light, makes me think that I should foot the $65 and replace it.   I'm still looking forward to downloading books for free from the library, hence I'm keeping my Kobo too.

It's weird how I really started missing having an E-reader.  I'm so over reading big books on the subway and they take up so much room in my bag! 

I also got addicted to the new Maroon 5 song this weekend.  Oh, how I love my guilty pop pleasures.  I used to hate Maroon 5 with a passion, but I really do like this new song.  I think it's 'cuz I really feel the lyrics and like the swearing in it. 

Well, that was my weekend.  Hope you all have a good Monday!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Great Escape

With the release of the new record "Adventures in Your Own Backyard" yesterday, it seems like everyone's been talking about Patrick Watson.  And by everyone, I mean my pal Matt from Wpg, my blog buddy/Patrick Watson fan Siobhan, Kathleen Edwards in my Twitter feed, and even my mother.  (She saw them on TV and figured they were the type of band I'd like... she is right.)

Today I thought about Patrick Watson and how I've never seen them.  I knew that they were playing in Toronto sometime this spring and all my sources tell me that they are an amazing live band.  I looked to see if there were any more tickets left, and all that was left were a few single seats in the balcony of the venue.

This made me think that perhaps I should take myself on a nice concert date.  There really is no point in looking for a concert buddy when at best, s/he'll be sitting behind me.  The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go, so I got my ticket tonight.  It's an aisle seat, so I'll only have to sit beside one stranger.

I haven't been to a concert by myself in a long time.  I think the last time was a few summers ago, when I saw Neko Case at Massey Hall.  It was a situation similar to this.  By the time I realized I wanted to go, there were only single seats left, so I figured why not take advantage? I did, and I had a really good time.  It was Neko Case, after all.

I know I've dropped into some various free shows on my own in the past.  I remember when I was in university, Blue Rodeo was playing a free lunchtime show somewhere downtown.  I also had a paper due that day at 5 pm.  I stayed up all night writing, took a break to see Blue Rodeo, came home, finished the paper, and handed it in an hour before the deadline.

I've only been to one bar-type show by myself.  This was again during my university days, but I distinctly remember it was during one of the summers where I stayed in Toronto and worked for the provincial government.  The Weakerthans announced a surprise show at the Rivoli, one of my favourite small venues, and there was NO WAY I was going to miss that. Becca T, my fellow Weakerthans super-fan, was back in Ottawa for the summer.   Since it was a really last minute announcement, all my friends who remained in the city were unavailable, but that wasn't going to stop me.  It was enjoyable, and I noticed a lot of people there alone and I didn't feel uncomfortable.  In fact, since this was before smartphones, I noticed a few people who pulled out books to read in between sets.

So yah, I guess with this Patrick Watson show, I'm re-entering the world of solo concert-going.  However, I usually have no problem finding a buddy, so I don't think it will be a common occurrence, but it's nice to know that I can do it if there's something I don't want to miss out on.  And, hey, you can definitely cash in on single tickets to good shows at the last minute.  I think there's a bit of freedom and empowerment that comes from being able to do something like this on your own, and I'm rather looking forward to it.

How do you guys feel about going to things on your own?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

You can't keep the darkness out.

I am waiting for this month to be over.  I'm consumed with work.  Last week, it was preparing for a student council event - a fasting-for-charity school sleepover event.  It's my third time organizing this thing and supervising for the duration (i.e. 33 hour workday).  That means that I spent my Friday night hanging out with teenagers.  My Saturday morning from about 1:30 am to 2:30 am was spent acting as a prison warden trying to get them to sleep.  I took off my shoes and my keys and walked around the kids silently, so they didn't know where I was, and would point and "SHHH!" a lot.  Finally they fell asleep, and then I got to sleep on my air mattress for a few hours.

Now that that's over, I have a week in which I'll be furiously working on report cards, and then the last week of April will be spent working on an application for an environmental award.  I hope I'll be able to exhale in May.

I'm also feeling overwhelmed in the rest of my life too.  I felt ready for my 10K before Paris, but I haven't been having good runs since then.  However, I have four weeks left, and that's plenty of time to get myself physically and mentally ready for it. 

Also when it comes to looking forward to May, I'm going to see Rose Cousins at the beginning of the month.  She's a singer/songwriter from Halifax, and I knew of her because she sings on Joel Plaskett's masterpiece "Three".  I just got her album "We Have Made a Spark" today, and I love it.  It's beautiful and dark.  I love all of the songs on the album.  It's very relevant to things that have gone on in my life.  I just wish that I'd gotten it earlier.

Check out the song below.  It's amazing how beautiful she sounds in what I assume is her backyard, and that black dog is cute too.

I feel like March and April have been rather dark months for me.  I know that I haven't been quite myself.  I can feel it in interactions with other people, and just my overall struggles in getting motivated to do anything.  I've been doing a lot of emailing back and forth with people, and I feel like I actually have some things (concerts, etc) to look forward to in May and June.  I hope that those months are less dark, and that I get back to being me.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Let It Go

Now that I'm done posting about Paris, I guess I have to get back to my usual material: music, life, books, you know, that stuff.

This song is my current anthem.  OK, I just found it today, but I've decided it's my springtime anthem.  I didn't need much time to make this declaration, obvs.

I love Dragonette for a couple of reasons.  Their ubiquitous song "Hello" (with Martin Solveig), blasted from an advertising bus, greeted me last March when Becca T and I alighted our bus from the airport to a rainy Placa Cataluyna.  That song will always be my Barcelona hello.

My second reason for loving Dragonette is that before she was in Dragonette, lead singer Martina Sorbara was a singer-songwriter playing the Toronto/Ontario scene.  I was in my early twenties, and I first caught her as an opener for Hawksley Workman at Call the Office in London, Ontario.  I remember that my crew and I all loved her, and after that I made a point of seeing her when she was playing bar shows in Toronto.  I listened a lot to her album A Cure for Bad Deeds back in my university days.  Some of her songs helped me out with my early-twenties boy problems, which in retrospect, were pieces of cake.

Years ago when I first came across the electronic band Dragonette and found out it was Martina singing, I was pretty happy that she'd found a new place.  Apparently, Dragonette is quite popular in Europe, no?

ANYWAY, the point of this is that I love their new single a lot.  I think I've been listening to too much histrionic stuff lately, like my dear Hawksley Workman.  I love him, but man, that dude's got some good bitter music for when it's needed.  Usually I listen to his happy stuff, but I dug deep into his catalogue, and found some pretty great stuff where he's heartbroken and loses his shit.  Love it, but I gotta wean myself off of it a bit.  I should listen more to his songs about autumn and motorcycles instead of the sad stuff.

In addition, having the words "let it go" running through my head is good advice.  I realize that I'm being really HARD ON MYSELF lately, and I need to you know, just let my criticisms go and give myself a big metaphorical hug.   Maybe even do a Stuart Smalley daily affirmation as needed.

One nice thing that helps me when I'm being hard on myself is to read some random posts from my blog archives.  It's funny, but when I read my old posts, I find myself really like myself, and thinking "hey, I'm cheering for that girl."  Whoever thought that would be a benefit to years of blogging?

But, yah, awesome song by Dragonette.  Think I'll be listening to it on repeat as I'm training for my two May runs.  I can't believe that my 10K is in one month and four days.  I will live through it.

I am reading the Hunger Games right now.  I'm hooked.  It's a great book.  I see why all the kids at school are carrying it around.  I think I'll go back to reading it now.  I should do a book review post soon since I've been reading lots of interesting stuff.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Last Day in Paris

After my very enjoyable day in Bruges, I was left with one more day in Paris.

Becca T and I woke up early and dragged ourselves for a run in the Bois de Vincennes. It was really nice. It was the only run I did all trip, but that's okay. I think I got a lot of exercise from the wandering around I did, plus the fact I climbed a lot of stairs every day (Metro, to Becca's flat).

After the run, I had my fave lunch of baguette, brie, and Orangina Light. Becca had work meetings in the afternoon, so I decided to do my last sight-seeing of the trip. I went out to Malmaison, which is Josephine Bonaparte's chateau. It's all the way out in the suburbs, so I had to take the line #1 all the way to the end (La Grande Arche), then take about a 30 minute bus ride to the chateau.

I was interested in Malmasion because I read an excellent series of books on Josephine Bonaparte a few years ago: The Josephine B. Trilogy by Sandra Gulland. If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend this series. Anyway, when I was looking through my guidebook to figure out something to do on the last day, I came across Malmaison and decided it would be the perfect thing to do. The book described it as "small but extremely pleasant" and I completely agree.

The chateau was completely restored and had lots of Josephine/Napoleon memorabilia. I think my favourite things to look at were the little vanity cases of each of the Bonapartes. It was interesting seeing old fashioned scissors, toothbrushes, etc. Unfortunately, I didn't get good pictures of them. Anyway, the chateau was restored very nicely, and it was interesting walking through the rooms and imagining what life was like when the house was lived in by the Emporer and Empress. It was no Versailles, but very pleasant.

The front of the chateau:

Here's the dining room:

A portrait of the Empress in Napoleon's bedroom:

Napoleon's bedroom:

Josephine's bedroom:

Me in a mirror.

The famous portrait of Napoleon crossing the alps. Oh so humble.

After I left the chateau, I did hit up the gift shop. I bought my dad a Napoleon pen and mini note-pad. I knew he'd adored them. For myself, I got a Josephine pillbox to go with my Marie Anoinette pillbox from Versailles. Apparently I have started a collection of pillboxes of my favourite French Queens/Empresses. Becca T though this collection was hilarious, and joked we'd be fighting over them in the nursing home. (Becca T and I have a long-running joke that we will resume our university roommate-hood when we move into a nursing home and much hilarity will ensue. I look forward to my sunset year.)

After I left the chateau, I took a quick look at the modern Grande Arche. Definitely the most modern thing I've seen in Paris. I know people who are big fans, but I'm meh about it.

After that, I headed back to Central Paris. I browsed at some shops in the Marais, and then walked back to Notre Dame. I had plans to go to the famous English bookshop across from Notre Dame called Shakespeare & Company, but I decided why not go inside Notre Dame, even though I'd been there years before? It turned out that I was there in time for Mass, and I decided that it would an interesting thing to experience, so I stayed.

I then met up with Becca T for dinner. We chose a cute little French restaurant with a nice Prixe Fixe. Then, we brought a bottle of wine to the Seine, and spent some time talking and drinking.

I've caught up to this post now.

Sunday morning, I was on the Metro out to CDG at 10 am to catch my flight to Montreal. I had a two hour stop-over in Montreal, and then it was back to Toronto. It was a nice flight overall. I read over half of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, so I felt that my time in transit was time well spent.

At the airport, my good pals Paola and Fea picked me up which was so sweet. My previous ride bailed on me, and I didn't have it in me to take a cab or transit. It's so nice to be met after a trip by good friends with a welcome back sign. Awww. It made my return to Toronto seem way less sad.

And that's it for my series of post on my much-needed March Break in Paris. I'm still struggling at getting back to real life here. However, I do have some ideas for my summer trips, and as soon as they are for-sure, I'll let you guys know. This just might be the summer where I finish Canada... and by that I mean visit the two provinces that I've not been to yet.

Au revoir!

Monday, April 02, 2012

In Bruges.

My Friday in Paris was spent mostly out of Paris. I wanted another day trip so I could explore more of France. While I was researching day trips from Paris, I came across a bus trip to Bruges. Why not add another country to the list of ones that I have visited? Also, I remember Bruges mostly from the movie In Bruges, which I remember being rather amusing.

The bus left Paris at 7:15 am which meant that I had to be up quite early. Luckily, the place where I caught the bus was on the same Metro line as Becca's place so it wasn't a long trip.

I was surprised about how many other people went on the tour with me. There were English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French people, so the information was given in four languages. The drive to Bruges was about four hours. We had a rest stop at a service station on the way. Foreign service stations are always fun.

When we got to Bruges, we had about an hour walking tour, and then the rest of the time was free.

I enjoyed the walking tour. Thankfully, we broke up into language groups so it didn't take as long. Buses aren't allowed in the city centre of Bruges, so it was a short walk from the the coach park to the centre.

Here is the first picture I took as we walked into the city centre.

We walked through a beautiful park called Minnewaterpark. Then we entered a square of land with trees and daffodils surrounded by a convent called Le Beguinage. It was beautiful... I wish I could have really taken a picture that showed its beauty. It's one of the places in which I've felt the most peace.

The heart on this house made me smile.

Here's the belfry of Bruges. I learned that belfries were built in Northern France and Belgium as ways for cities to show off their wealth. Guess Bruges was doing OK.

We kept walking. Bruges is referred to as the Venice of the North, and has many canals. (Interestingly, I read the same of St. Petersburg in the novel on Catherine the Great that I just finished. Guess I'll have to go to the real Venice, and then St. Petersburg to make my own judgement.)

I took lots of canal pictures.

Here's a picture of the tower of the Eglise de Notre Dame. Hey - that's the third Notre Dame of the trip! Well done me.

Here's the square in the centre of the city.

This is where the walking tour ended, and I was keen for lunch. Bruges is seriously the most delicious-smelling city I've ever smelled. I was really hungry by this time, so I picked a modern looking cafe for mussels, frites, and beer.

This is probably the most delicious beer I've ever had in my life.

I enjoy mussels, and I've had some good ones in my day. I had some good ones when I traveled to the Maritimes. Let me tell you, those have NOTHING on Belgian mussels. These mussels were HUGE, and served in a delicious white wine sauce with celery and onions. SO YUMMY. There were seriously one of the best things I've ever eaten, and I couldn't finish them even though I tried my best.

Not pictured: delicious frites with mayonnaise.

I walked around a bit more, and even though I was stuffed, I really wanted to eat a waffle in Belgium. Oh, it was good.

I considered doing a canal tour, but they didn't really have a set time when the boats left, and I kept just missing them. I did some shopping instead. I bought some chocolates for some friends and my 'rents, and also a lace bookmark for my aunt. (Bruges is known for its lace, and we all know about Belgian chocolate.)

When I was done shopping, it was sunny out, so I took more pictures.

What a beautiful city. The swan is Bruges' symbol, and there were many of them there. Made a Stratford-born girl like myself feel quite at home. In the movie, Colin Farrell plays a hitman who made a mistake, so his boss (Ralph Fiennes) has to have him killed. The boss feels badly, so he decides to send the doomed hitman to the place where he would want to spend his last days: Bruges. Colin Farrell's character hates Bruges and keeps complaining about.

After my day trip to Bruges, I completely agree with the boss. Bruges is a great city.

Next vacay post: last day in Paris.