Gardening update! (3)

My plants are still alive! Let’s just take a moment and recognize how amazing it is that I’ve created and sustained life for 3 whole weeks.

I am also now realizing that some of these seeds are simply not going to produce plants – I have accepted defeat.

My tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, and basil are doing quite well. OK, the basil’s doing alright – I’m not great with basil. Most of them have two or more leaves and haven’t died of thirst yet (my usual M.O.).

I’ve also planted a new crop – dinosaur kale, cauliflower romanesco, and spaghetti squash. I wasn’t originally planning on doing squash, but my friend Rita (who is also gardening this year) had some extra seeds, and I never turn down free seeds. Plus squash is good.

I’m becoming a little concerned with how many plants I actually have. I went to the community garden for the first time ever for the “pre-opening worker bee.” We fixed up a lot of the communal areas (ie we weeded them) and got to see how the plots would be resized. While my plot is a great size, I’m honestly not sure if all of the plants will fit in there. I may be giving some away to a good home.

My garden plot was one giant weed. I didn’t even know where to begin. But that’s the beauty of a community garden – everyone was willing to help. A few people volunteered some time to help me dig up the weeds (they were all weeds, so fortunately we weren’t worried about pulling up anything good), and one guy took a shovel to my whole plot and churned the soil. There were kids everywhere, and they loved looking for worms in my plot  – for every worm they dug up, the also dug up a weed, which I considered a fair trade.

There may also be a berry bush in my plot. The other (more experienced) gardeners think it’s a berry bush, but they’re not quite sure. There’s an equally good chance it’s a giant weed. Either way, it’ll probably do quite well this year as we took away all of the surrounding weeds.

Every time it rains now, I’m happy for my soil.


Week 26: Dancing on a Pole

This was, hands down, one of the best challenges of my year. So. Much. Fun.

I had planned on doing this challenge with a bunch of ladies from work, but planning an outing for six busy women proved a bigger challenge than I was up for. I ended up going with my friend Dominique, who was enthusiastic about the outing from the beginning.

We registered for a beginner pole dancing class at Brass Vixens in Toronto. Heels were optional, but we did not opt. I was a little nervous going into this – anything new and requiring a fair degree of confidence and booty makes me nervous. And it turned out that “beginner” doesn’t mean “first time ever”, so many of the other students had done classes before and seemed like pros to me.

The real pro, however, was the teacher. She had a real name, but I couldn’t remember it after she told us her stage name – Crystal Chandelier. I liked her. She walked in six inch heels better than I walk. Period. And she had fishnet stockings. And a lot of upper body strength. I really liked her.

Dominique and I picked poles in the back of the room, for obvious reasons. We wiped the poles down (DIY) and started the warm up. I immediately felt like I was all elbows and knees – my body just wouldn’t move the same way as Crystal’s. Her butt and hips seemed to move independently from the rest of her body. How does she do that? But it was a very positive environment. Everyone was trying something new and trying to be ultra sexy and confident, so it didn’t feel weird at all. It’s just like improv – it only looks awkward if you feel awkward about it.

We learned moves such as the body roll, the crawl (so much harder than what babies do), how to get up from the ground without falling over, two types of twirls around the pole, and how to pull yourself up the pole (pre-requisite for moves like sitting on the pole). It wasn’t the hardest I’ve worked in a class, but it was challenging.

I also understood why we had cleaned the poles at the beginning of class – my hands are really sweaty! We did one move where we would hold ourselves up on the pole (just hands, no feet on the floor), and I kept sliding down. Much like a sexy fireman.

The moves themselves were lots of fun, but what I enjoyed most was the atmosphere. It was a very sexy-positive vibe, and we were encouraged to try moving our bodies in ways we don’t usually (or I don’t usually, at least). Dominique and I spent most of the class giggling and attempting to emulate Miss Chandelier.

I am seriously considering a career change.



Gardening update!

I have created life!

My plants are actually growing – OK, not all of them, but most of them. Enough that I think I may be a successful gardener. Not a great gardener, by any means, but adequate.

Most of my tomatoes, sweet peppers, and paprika peppers have gone from seeds to little green-leaved wonders. Which made the next step all the harder. I had planted a few seeds per pot, and in many pots I had two or three little wonders bloom. Which would be fine, BUT the book said to trim (ie kill) all but the strongest plant in the pot, so that it would get the most sun/water/soil. I had to destroy some of my little darlings.

I get that it sounds like I’ve become some weird plant lady (like a cat lady, but with plants instead of cats). And I basically have. Whenever I’m given the opportunity, I tell stories of how my plants are doing and what I want to do with my community garden plot. I don’t really care that you’re not interested – you’re hearing about my basil!

These plants are my children. (But they require far less work to keep them alive. I think.)

Week 25: Therapy

Well it might not be as much fun as hula hooping (which is on my list), but this was a good week.

Over the last 18 months I’d been involved in more and more conversations that included someone speaking to a therapist and having really good results. Whether it was after a break up or a big transition in life, or just because, my friends and acquaintances were glad they had gone to therapy to talk through their lives.

I guess you could say that I’ve had some stresses this year – transitioning to a new (and unknown) career and being constantly nervous about income hasn’t created the soft and cushy environment I so crave. I also went through a really low period just before I left my full time position, and wanted to prevent that from happening again.

I found a therapist who is a 3 minute walk from home, and made an appointment (after confirming it would be covered by extended healthcare, because who just has that kind of money floating around? Not me, thus the need).  I was a little nervous going into the appointment, but only because it was something new. I don’t know if nervous is the right word: what’s a good word for less than nervous, but also mildly excited? Anticipatory!

Anyway, it was nice to go; it was good to talk with someone who listened and analyzed and gave good advice in a non-judgmental and unbiased setting. It was also pretty cool that it could all be about me – how often do you get to talk for an hour just about yourself?

She pointed out that an “ideal” job is not realistic for anyone: you’re never going to find a job where you love every single aspect of it and it fulfills every single one of your interests and skills. So she suggested making 3 lists – things that I must have in a job, things that I would like to have in a job, and things I would hate in a job. Stuff like location, co-workers, hours, flexibility, team environment, etc. If a job doesn’t involve one aspect of my interests/skills, I could always have a part-time job or volunteer role on the side.

So I’m making my list. It’s pretty challenging. There are a lot of things to think about when selecting a career, and a lot of things I hadn’t thought of before. It’s a lot of work to think about work! But at least it’s making me consider things I never had, like the fact that getting a career in a field that doesn’t check all the boxes, isn’t really settling.

When I quit my full time position I gave myself a deadline. I would do this part-time patchwork for one year (since modified to 13 months because I basically took October off), and then find a career path. That means I have six months left to sort out my life. Start the clock.



Week 24: Community Garden

I have been wanting to get a community garden plot for years, and I finally feel like I have the time and energy and enthusiasm to do it this year.

I started emailing community gardens last fall to find a plot for this summer. Apparently, it’s really difficult to get a plot in Toronto. Fortunately, while I did receive rejections from everyone else, I managed to find one community garden who is expanding this year, and is therefore able to offer plots to more people for the 2016 season! Additionally, it’s super close to home, which is always a perk.

It’s an organic garden sort of run by the City of Toronto, but also a board of directors, and is very community based (there are a lot of community plots and events). I will have plot H4, which probably means nothing to you, but is very exciting to me because it means it’s real! My plot is being resized this year, so I’m not quite sure how much space I’ll have, but it looks really cool on the blueprint.

I got a book called “The Organic Home Garden: How to grow vegetables and fruits naturally” from the library… and then I read it. Usually I just let library books sit on my desk for several weeks, and then return them slightly late, having accrued a sizeable fee. But I read this one, pretty thoroughly, in an effort to grow plants, and not kill them all. I’m not great with living things, as my herb garden will attest to.

The book says that some plants needs to be sown indoors before being replanted outside. This is especially important in slightly colder climates, like Canada. Giving them a head start results in stronger plants who yield more vegetables sooner than if I just planted them outside right away. Or so they say. I have a word document plotting when and how to plant each seed, and calendar reminders set up for sowing dates.

I went with a friend to Urban Harvest, which is an organic seed store in Toronto. I got a bunch of amazing and organic seeds – cucumber, dill, melons, basil, red peppers, hot peppers, beets, kale, tomatoes, cauliflower/broccoli Romanesco (which I’m calling broccoflower), and snow peas. Having never had a garden, or a house plant that has survived more than 2 weeks, I know this is a bit ambitious, but I have high hopes!

I also purchased some organic potting soil. If you’re going to do an organic vegetable garden, do an organic vegetable garden.

After fairly extensive research (I read one website), I was off! I mixed my soil with some hot water and filled my tiny planters. After soaking the tomato and pepper seeds in some water, I buried them in the dirt. It was quite fun and it felt good having dirt in my nail beds for the proceeding 3 days.

And then, I put the seeds in the oven. They’re supposed to germinate at 30 degrees celsius. Because this is my first year, I don’t have the proper set up for germination, and because I’m not 100% sure I’ll love it (or, realistically, that I’ll be successful), I don’t want to spend too much money on this. So I had to find an alternative to a greenhouse. Unfortunately, my boyfriend does not want to keep our condo at a refreshing 30 degrees, so the oven had to suffice. Apparently this is a fairly common practice for germinating seeds, although many websites warned to not accidentally turn the oven on… because obviously that would ruin the seeds and probably cause a small fire.

Every once in a while (ie, when I remember) I turn the oven on to “keep warm” for a few minutes, let it warm up to about 30 degrees (I measure this by feel so it’s really not that accurate), and then turn the oven back off, leaving the light on so the little guys can grow. After just a few days some of my tomato seedlings popped through, but I haven’t seen anything from the peppers yet. I’ve read that they’ll take a bit longer than the tomatoes, but I’m not a person known for my patience with such things.

I did have a bit of an incident today (yeah, I know, I’m behind on my blogging, I get it!) with the oven. I turned it on to warm, and then forgot about it for a bit too long. All of a sudden I jumped out of my desk chair and ran to the oven to save my tiny seeds! The oven had gotten a bit too warm, but hopefully they’ll just think it was a small heat wave. If I’ve accidentally cooked my plants I’ll become extremely sad. I did say some encouraging words to them, and issued an apology, so hopefully that will make up for my negligence.

I will get access to my garden plot at the end of April, once it’s been cleaned up and resized and opened for the season. At that point I hope to discover that my plot is larger than I had expected, so that I can plant even more vegetables! Either way, I know this will be a learning year for me, but I hope that at least some of the stuff turns out edible.

I’m also going to try to keep updating my blog with gardening stuff as I go… assuming all goes well. I’m not going to document an epic fail.


Tomatoes… after a brief heat wave. Be strong, little ones!

Week 23: Stand Up

This was a big one that I’ve been working on for a while. At the beginning of the year I started taking stand up comedy classes, which includes an end of term stand up show.

Stand up has been on my list of things to do for a long time, but I felt I needed the guidance and push of a class (or at the very least, a deadline) to get started. I had heard of Comedy Girl classes (a stand up class for women only) and decided to sign up. I ended up doing a co-ed class, purely because of my schedule, which was fine by me.

As it turns out, the more work you put into this class, the more you get out of it. Strange, that seems so similar to so many things in life. And yet, of course, I was so good at procrastinating that I put in the absolute minimum amount of work required from me. I’m sure there’s a life lesson in there somewhere, but I can’t find it right now because I’m quite busy – Facebook isn’t going to stalk itself.

Even though I feel like I could have worked harder throughout the seven weeks of class, I think my show went fairly well. I had a solid 3:30 minutes of material, and got quite a few laughs.

During the class, Dawn Whitwell, the amazing and talented teacher, told us that it’s always good to have a bit of nerves before a show, so that you aren’t too relaxed and care-free on stage (you have to work for it). The problem was, I was somehow way too relaxed leading up to the show. I had rehearsed my material all day, and had confidently memorized everything. But nerves eluded me.

This fact alone should have made me anxious, but it didn’t. During rehearsal, I was so relaxed that I messed up most of my material, couldn’t remember the order of my jokes, and overall did exceptionally poorly. Because of this (I’m pretty sure) I was put third in the line up (while stronger performers were put later in the show). While I was a little disappointed by this, it acted as incentive for me to work harder and prove that I could be funny.

A few days before my stand up debut, I had an interview for a tour guide position. The person interviewing me had done stand up before, and gave me some good advice. He said to tell the audience the material like I was delivering a tour. I’ve done many tours, so that wouldn’t be too difficult at all.

Listening to the first couple of acts in the show (everyone in the show was from the class), I realized that speed is pretty gosh darn important for stand up. Go too slow, and the audience gets ahead of you or gets bored. Go too fast and no one can understand what you’re saying. I think that part of my problem in rehearsal (besides being unable to remember what came next), was that I was speaking far too slowly.

About five minutes before I was due to be on stage, I got nervous. Success! If nothing else, those nerves boosted my confidence. I went up on stage and delivered my material like a tour to a sea of black (I couldn’t see anyone because of the stage lights), and got some nice laughs. It also helped that I had written down a show order on a post-it and brought that on stage with me.

I would like to continue with this but I know myself, and I know I won’t have motivation without a deadline. Fortunately there’s a level 2 class, which I will be signing up for. And I plan to actually work hard in this one.

Week 22: Taxes!

Full disclosure… I got really behind on these and they are slightly out of order. BUT, I did my taxes early, so I’m sure I’ll be forgiven.

While I usually like to do my taxes at the very last minute and scramble to finish them on time, I actually did them early this year. I think I know why – I was procrastinating from doing other stuff. I actually decided I’d rather do my taxes than say, write a blog post. That’s never happened to me before, but at least I found my incentive.

It still wasn’t easy. I did procrastinate, but I was also motivated by the idea of a tax return. I really wasn’t sure I’d be getting one this year – I had a bunch of T4s, and a multitude of independent jobs that I hadn’t been paying tax on, so it was anyone’s guess as to whether I’d be getting money back or paying it.

But somehow, everything worked out for me! Thank goodness for TurboTax. I’ve used them in the past and they are so straightforward and helpful. I absolutely hate filling out paperwork (like filing taxes), so their system of answering questions and copying my pay stubs etc. over is not bad at all. It’s still not fun, but it’s not the worst way to go about earning money.

The program also reminds me of potential deductions… like for the transit passes I forgot I had purchased in January and February of last year! What really helped me was that I shut down my tax free savings account (TFSA) and put all that money in my RSP. While I love the idea of a TFSA, the American government doesn’t quite understand it, and when I eventually decide to file US taxes (as a US citizen I’m technically supposed to, even though my income isn’t high enough that I would owe anything), a TFSA would be a non-compute. Apparently, when you invest in your RSP, there’s a bunch of money coming your way come tax season.

I briefly toyed with the idea of filing US taxes, but I quickly became baffled by the process. I don’t even want to talk about it. It’s complicated. And if you do something wrong, the IRS is all over you for years. I’m unwilling to put myself through this.

Now, because I am awesome and filed my taxes not only on time, but really early, I have a sweet tax return, which will pay for my trip to Yellowknife in June! I’m really excited for the trip, and now super relieved that I have a way of paying for it.

Week 21: Boyz II Men

I know so little about this band, that I had to use google to double check that there’s a “II” and not “to” in their name. I also learned how to spell Boyz correctly.

For a friend’s birthday, he wanted to see a Boys II Men concert at Casino Rama, so this week I really had two challenges – the concert and dealing with the Casino Rama in Orillia, which is an interesting place.

We drove all the way up to Orillia, and I didn’t even fall asleep! (Spoiler alert, I fell asleep on the way back.) We entered the casino and took in all of the wonderful sounds, flashy lights, and extra oxygen it had to offer. As it was a Friday night, the place was pretty packed with locals and tourists alike (although to be honest, I’m not sure it would be that different on a Wednesday night). I didn’t even get ID’ed by security! Not sure that’s a compliment but I’m going with it.

We were some of the first to be seated for the concert, in the surprisingly large theatre. Apparently the concert was sold out, but I strongly suspect they had given away free or discounted tickets to fill the seats. I may not know that many Boys II Men songs, but at least I’m around the age that would have listened to their music. The other, slightly more geriatric attendees, on the other hand, probably weren’t 100% sure what they were getting into. “A free concert? This casino really cares about me!”

The concert itself was an absolute blast; the Boys put on an amazing show. All of their songs that they played were ones that I recognized, and there was choreographed dancing. Really, I would have been on board with anything, as long as it was accompanied by choreographed dancing. It’s just so much fun to watch!

Halfway through the concert they pulled out instruments and did some cover songs. My group didn’t even know that they played instruments, so that was a nice surprise. They were even funny doing that!

Towards the end of the show, most of the audience (all of us who were born after 1970) were singing along and happy to be there. But during the last song, the band asked the audience to stand up. Apparently, the theatre seating is basically chairs on bleachers – none too steady bleachers: the whole bleachers system was shaking under our feet as the audience danced. It was at this point we decided it would be a good time to get some dinner. The audience was completely fine in the end, but I couldn’t help but think about all of those stages that collapsed a few years ago due to high winds.

After dinner we did a bit of gambling. OK, I lost $10 on slot machines (which I still don’t understand fully), while the others played real games. Even with the extra oxygen and free coffee, I can’t imagine spending an extended period of time in a casino.

Even though I fell asleep on the car ride home, it was a really fun night.


Look how swanky they are! Just imagine that… but with choreographed dancing.

Week 20: Let There Be Wine!

I went wine making! Because Groupon is great.

My original plan was to actually brew my own wine – but that involved a lot of planning, a lot of work, and a whole bunch of supplies (like giant carboys and a significant amount of space dedicated to wine making). I was down for the idea of getting cheap wine, but I was not quite willing to put in a significant amount of work or money.

For years my dad has made his own wine from a wine making kit (it pretty much supplies all of the ingredients, so that you don’t have to pick and wash and crush all of your own grapes). He has experimented with altering the flavour, the fullness, the whatever-else you can change about wine, and has found one that he loves. Because of this, I have a decent idea of how much time and effort goes into at-home wine making.

Liz (the same one who came fencing with me) and I made appointments at The Wine Butler and trekked all the way up to Yorkdale to drop some yeast into a larger container. For real, that was it. I knew the appointment would be short and sweet, but this was a bit ridiculous. It took us an hour to get up there (stupid buses and their transfer times), and we were only inside for about 5 minutes. The actual act of dropping the yeast was roughly nine seconds. It’s surprisingly little yeast.

It’s a weird workaround, but if they witness me “dropping the yeast” into the soon-to-be wine, I don’t get charged a bunch of government taxes. Because of that, I’m getting 14 bottles of wine for $40. Of course, I have to either supply or buy my own bottles (for $1 each), but still, that’s a pretty good price.

In a few weeks I will be going back to bottle and label my wine. As far as I can tell it’s a pretty idiot proof system. The only complicated part is that for my wine to mature fully, I have to wait at least 8 weeks after bottling it before drinking it. That’s a huge time commitment for someone who’s not into waiting for alcohol.

I would like to eventually make my own wine from scratch (as thrilling as dropping the yeast in was), but maybe when I have some more space. I can’t imagine having a huge carboy in the corner of the condo for several months, when we have enough trouble making room for a new recycling bin. Of course, now I’ll have to store 14 bottles of wine for two months, in a place where we won’t be tempted to open the under-developed, probably gross tasting wine before it’s ready. Win some, lose some.


Week 19: Cleanse

Spoiler alert: I don’t like cleanses.

I knew this going in, but my boyfriend wanted to try it, and so to be a nice and supportive girlfriend, I participated. Don’t worry, it wasn’t some grapefruit diet, or maple syrup and cayenne pepper water, or cabbage soup kind of thing – it was basically just eat really healthy for a few days.

The “cleanse” consisted of a morning berry smoothie (with pea protein), a mid-morning vegetable smoothie, lunch (chicken or fish or tofu with vegetables and quinoa), a snack (almonds or something), dinner (same as lunch), and all the water you can drink. There was also the option of “snacking” on potassium broth, which is really just potato broth, which is one of the strangest tastes I’ve ever had.

Now here’s the challenge… I’ve been know to get hangry (so hungry that you become angry). And because I’m a fairly active person, I become hungry fairly often, and therefore become hangry on a daily basis. I knew this would not be easy. For either of us.

There was a lot of preparation and forethought involved in these three days. We had to prepare everything in advance, and make sure we would be available to eat at the assigned times. The biggest challenge for me was not snacking while I was waiting for things to be ready to eat.

The first day was fine. I was super hungry, but I survived.

The second day, I had to come home from work early because I was too hungry. I had very real fears that I would collapse and my stomach would begin consuming the rest of my body for nutrients. I was that hungry. So by day three I had incorporated real breakfast (an egg sandwich) into the equation.

With the exception of breakfast, I think the cleanse was pretty comprehensive – there were enough calories in there for a normal human being to survive for a few days. That human being wouldn’t be particularly happy (there was no chocolate in the cleanse), but they’d be alive. So I don’t know why I felt so hungry all of the time. Maybe it was knowing that I couldn’t eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. All I did was think about food. Even writing this now, I’m getting hungry.

Long story short, cleanses aren’t for me. I’m going to eat a sandwich now.