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 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 18: To Niagara!

Have you ever gone down to Niagara Falls for a night, in the middle of winter, mid-week? No? That’s so weird. Perhaps you are gainfully employed?

Well I’m not so I went! Actually my boyfriend had some vacation time he had to use, so we decided to go down and see the Falls, eat some nice food, and stay in a fancy (read: not fancy) hotel.

Groupon is great for a lot of things, and one of those things is travelling to Niagara. We got a hotel room with a king size bed, meal vouchers, and some other stuff we didn’t use (who would ever need a coupon to East Side Mario’s… no one wants to eat there! A slight discount won’t help), for about sixty bucks. And if the Canadian dollar weren’t in the toilet, it would have been even less.

We took a Via train down from Toronto bright and early Wednesday morning, and arrived at a desolate train/bus depot in Niagara. Even though the weather had been really nice the week before, it was snowy and windy and frigid that day. Perfect timing, Mother Nature, thanks for that.

A taxi was the only reasonable way to get from the train station to the hotel, so we taxied. We warmed up and relaxed in the room for a while before trekking outside to find nourishment. At 2pm on a Wednesday in winter, there’s not a whole lot going on in Niagara – who’d have thought? We coldly walked past chain restaurant after chain restaurant, and finally decided on a chain restaurant. Niagara is a bit of a tourist town (read: hard-core tourist trap).

But the Falls were beautiful. There was one bus of tourists to share the view with, and that was it. We were free to wander and take photos leisurely, without competing for space with the hordes. We walked the whole length of the boardwalk, read up on the history of the area (OK, I did this), and took some photos.

After a quick afternoon nap (because it’s vacation time and that’s what one does on vacation), we were off to dinner. We had made reservations at Ruth Chris’ Steakhouse, unnecessarily. There were two other people there when we arrived. But the reservation got us a gold booth, not just a red booth. They were the same booth, but with different colour fabric. Most of the booths, which made up 90% of the seating, had big walls between them, and privacy curtains. This was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

We ordered some delicious (yet overpriced) steaks and sides, and shared a bottle of wine (and three bottles of water). The food was delicious – the steaks are seared in butter. I don’t like steak much, but I really liked this steak, and the butter.

You know how when a server puts a plate down and says “careful it’s hot.” And you’re like “but how hot is it?” And you touch it and it’s warm, but not too hot. This was a hot plate. I guess it goes in the oven beforehand to help keep the steak warm on the table. Fortunately our server told me this beforehand, because otherwise I would still be growing back my fingerprints.

While we ate the main course, the curtains were closed. It was very fun, strange, and oddly exciting. It felt like a mix between what I imagine a harem looks like, what I think the VIP area of a club looks like, and how I want the private room of a strip club to look like. But in a classy way.

After our delicious (but expensive) meal we went to the casino. This was a compromise on my part because casinos are pretty boring. But I learned how to play blackjack! Sort of. It seems like it would be a pretty easy game, but once you get into the theory behind it, apparently it gets a little more complicated. When I had a 15 I would look at the guy next to me, and he would either say “book says stay,” or “book says hit.” I lost $9.

We had a leisurely breakfast on Thursday and made our way back to the bus/train depot to return to Toronto. It was much colder on Thursday, so on the way over we were able to see white, frozen trees lining the edge of the Falls. While the Falls weren’t frozen, there were huge icicles hanging from the cliffs nearby. It looked like we’d gone beyond the Wall.

Next time I go to Niagara (which will be in another 5 years, because Google images exists), I will drive. The area is not designed for pedestrians. Most of the times the cross signal at an intersection doesn’t go, because they don’t expect people to actually use them past September. Or maybe I’ll just go in the summer.

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Week 17: Fencing

Oh man, fencing is fun. It wasn’t originally on my list, but my friend, Liz, wanted to try it, and so I fenced.

There’s a place called My Fencing Club near St. Clair West and Bathurst that offers introductory adult fencing lessons on Saturday afternoons, which was super convenient for all parties.

The class had about 10 participants, and was led by Noah and Leesa (I’m not positive this is how she spelled her name, but she didn’t seem like a Lisa spelling). They seemed to be teenagers, but they also really knew their way around a sword. We learned about the three types of fencing swords/styles (foil, sabre, and épée), and got to hold the different styles of swords. The differences were negligible to my untrained eye.

After the history lesson, we were issued our weapons. After holding the real-deal swords, I was a little disappointed to receive a plastic foil sword to practice with. But I can also understand why we were given plastic – I definitely would have taken someone’s eye out with a metal sword, despite the dulled tip.

We learned how to stand, how to attack, how to defend, and the basics of how a fencing match works. As it turns out, it’s quite a bit harder than it looks (as most things are). There’s a lot of technique and stamina and skill in fencing – I mean, to win at fencing. Losing is significantly easier. It’s especially challenging when you’re trapped inside one of those fencing masks/helmets, which are super sweaty.

For example, to get a point you have to stab someone (obviously). But if you both stab each other at the same time, the point is awarded to whoever started their attack first (an attack is when you start straightening your sword arm). But if you attack first and your opponent parries (defends) and then attacks, they get the point. But this is negated if other things happen… full disclosure, this part got confusing. I will not be becoming a fencing judge in the near future. The point is, there’s a lot going on even though it looks like people are wildly stabbing each other for fun.

After practicing how to stab people (so much fun) by stabbing gloves and walls (so much fun), we did a few practice matches (so much fun). I wasn’t too bad. I found myself attacking quite a bit, and scoring a few (unofficial, but fun) points against my opponents. I can see this being a good activity for stress relief.

The one hour class was a surprisingly good workout and a good way to spend an hour on Saturday afternoon (especially because the walk home brought me past several delicious bakeries). I don’t know that I’ll be trying it again, but at least if someone challenges me to a duel, I’ll know how to handle myself.

 

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Week 13: Auditions

If you recall the post from week 12 (which was written a few days ago even though the challenge took place last month), I recently did some cold reads for the New Ideas Festival (NIF). During the cold reads I sent an email requesting to audition, because why not? Just because I have extremely limited theatre/acting experience doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be amazing in a play. Right?

Either way, I went for an audition. In usual Katharine fashion, I was given ample time to prepare, but I waited until the day-of to actually prepare. Natalie (yes, the same Natalie) sent me some monologues to memorize, as well as a rundown of what to expect in the audition. I was also given a side to learn – an excerpt from a scene of a play, as I now know.

So with only a few hours left to go before the audition, I started memorizing the monologue. It was only a few minutes worth of speaking, but it took me a while to learn it. Usually I learn stuff that I’ve written, so I’m more familiar with the dialogue and it sounds more like me. This was a little different though and proved a little stressful. In the end, I was fairly happy with the way I had memorized the monologue: although it wasn’t perfect it was pretty darn good.

Thanks to the TTC, I arrived a minute late to the audition, which probably didn’t look great, but I also can’t fix. Because of the stress of being late and having to deal with the TTC, as well as some nerves for my first audition, I was pretty shaky by the time I got onto the stage. There were about two dozen people in the room, mostly directors and writers, as I did my monologue and side.

As soon as I left the room, I immediately felt a huge sense of relief and relaxation. I was in there for all of six minutes, but it was a very stressful six minutes. While I’m usually pretty comfortable in front of an audience (even on my own), it was still uncomfortable going in there because I didn’t feel completely comfortable with the material I was performing.

I did end up getting a few callbacks though, which was kind of a weird validation, but still nice. Guess what my week 14 challenge will be?!?

 

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Goodbye 2015!

It’s been quite a year for me. I’ve tried lots of new things, learned a bunch about myself, and had some fun along the way. Here are some of the highlights of my 2015:

  • Moved in with my boyfriend. This was a biggie because neither of us have killed each other in the almost 11 months we’ve been living together (because yes, I’m writing this blog post mid-January). Good thing too because I gave my bed away so I’m pretty committed now.
  • Started an herb garden. And kept it mostly alive. They don’t look great and occasionally they go through a prolonged drought, but they’ve been alive since the summer, which is really good for me. (Let’s just turn a blind eye to the orchid I killed.)
  • Got a full time job. And then left said full time job. Sometimes I’ll be doing something and I’ll just stop and think, “I’m so glad I quit my job!” If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have the opportunities and the time that I do to enjoy myself and do things that make me happy and fulfill me.
  • Got into and out of a funk. I got really unhappy toward the end of my full time job and I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I left that job. All of a sudden it was like a weight had been lifted off of me. I felt more confident, happier, and lighter. A few people commented that they noticed a difference in me. But more importantly, I noticed a difference in me.
  • Started a series of part-time jobs. These part-time are mostly in fields that interest me, and at the very least provide adequate income and don’t take up too much of my time – this allows me to continue doing things that I love, even if they don’t pay.
  • Travelled to Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Montreal, but not on a bike. Vacationing is fun! And it had been quite some time since I had taken a vacation that wasn’t also an epic journey across a country. So that was fun.
  • Started my challenges challenge. Even though this sort of fell off the tracks at the end of the year (I was busy!), it’s back on track now. The challenges challenge has opened me up to new things, and forced me to try things I’d always wanted to try because I have a deadline! Deadlines rock.
  • Found a better balance between saving and spending. I’ve always been a good saver. My credit score is ballin’ (bet that’s the first time anyone’s ever used ballin’ to describe their credit score). This year though, I started spending a bit more money on things I would enjoy – like the occasional nice dinner or new clothes so I don’t look like a homeless person.  I still have a budget and savings and RSPs and all of those fun things, but I also have the memories of the experiences I spent the money on.
  • Bought a stove. OK, half of a stove. And we’re still paying it off. But this is a big showing of commitment for me. A few years ago I had a lot of trouble signing a two year phone contract because I didn’t know where I’d be in two years. At least now, wherever I go, I’ll be bringing half a stove.
  • And of course I had a birthday and matured as a human being and met a bunch of cool people yada yada yada.

All in all, it was an amazing year. Thanks to everyone who made it so special.

 

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