Tuesday, 26 July 2011

In Defense of Spending Money On Rentals

The other day I had my good friend Emma over for tea. Good Emma has been one of my best friends since the ninth grade, when we found ourselves too self-conscious to take Gr. 9 music (and subsequently bear the social suicide of forced membership into Grade 9 band) and opted for Grade 10 drama instead. Because drama nerds are far cooler than band geeks.

Good Emma sat on the couch, holding her cup of steaming tea, and looked around the apartment.

"You've done well," she says, approvingly. "You've done a lot with this place."
"Thanks," I say. Then I pause. "Remember when I lived in the hole?" I ask, quietly.
"Yeah..." She says. And then she repeats, more slowly this time, "yeah..."

Contrary to accusations as of late, this is not a blog. Therefore, this is not a blog post. This is an essay in defense of spending money on your rented living space.

My move to Toronto came on a bit of a whim last summer. Okay, a total whim, reinforced by my parents announcing a move to rural Ottawa that fall. Perhaps filling a subconscious need to one-up them at every going away party thrown in their honour I announced my move to the bigger, scarier, trendier city of Toronto (filled with a handful of good friends to safegaurd at minimum a handful of happiness.) 

Short on funds and time I took an apartment sight unseen. Well, sort of.

a) I did a skype tour with a blonde woman wearing bright red lipstick. Polly, we'll call her, was an artist who lived in the home with her family and two tenants - the 'german and italian doctors.' (My adventures with Polly and this band of characters are an entirely different non-blog post.) 

b) My friend (and vintage fashion blogger) Caitlin sent her wonderful boyfriend Jon to scope it out.

"I just need to know if it's mouldy," I tell him via e-mail. "I loved it from the skype tour and the location can't be beat. But if there is any reason why I couldn't possibly live there, tell me. But I'm 90% taking it." (Read - given that I have no job or other such purpose tying me to this decision, successfully renting an apartment is the only thing that can legitimize this move.)

He wrote back to describe the apartment as a 'poorly furnished cellar.' He recommended I hold out for something better.

But no mould?

I'll take it.

(I was wrong about the mould.)

In the early days of the aptly described 'poorly furnished cellar' (it's amazing what lighting and camera angles can do, even on Skype) I sat with my two high school best friends and asked their advice. They nodded along encouragingly to everything suggested. One of them threw a blanket over the massive grey elephant sitting in the corner. George was his name, I think.

"It's got potential. I think you can work with it," says Good Emma.
"How about a westernized 1920s Turkish?" says Vintage Caitlin.
"Yeah...Think art deco," Good Emma agrees.
"And try to give your landlady back her art, will you?" ...This came from both.

My Attempt at '1920s Turkish'

The idea was to work with the low rusty drop ceilings (via drapey, luxurious fabric - read, 'Turkish')
and antique (read - old and decrepit) furniture, not against. I never did work up the nerve to give the landlady back her paintings of swirly vaginas.

I did what I could with textiles and knick-knacks. Some furniture re-arranging. But with the limitations set out by my landlords (who opposed nails in the wall for hanging pictures), not to mention the (literally) rotting bones of the room with which I had to work, my hands were pretty much tied.

Let's put the experience this way:

I had two identical bamboo plants. One in the hole and one on my desk in my cubicle. Neither got any natural light. The one in my cubicle thrived. The one in my apartment shriveled and died.

Or this way:
My parents dropped me back off in Toronto after my Thanksgiving weekend visit. It was the first my mother was to see of the place. She wept the whole five hour drive home.

Some highlights:

1) I woke up regularly with rashes.
2) Lacking the luxury of a bathroom sink (a surprise upon arrival) I spat out toothpaste and washed cutlery in the same place.
3) After noting a black, tar-like substance stuck at random to my naked body for the fourth time, I realized that the shower was covered in black mould. (Before your judge me as blind and clueless, consider that the shower tiles were black, too.)

I found myself complaining to anyone and everyone who would listen. I couldn't stop myself. And I didn't have reason to, considering each new day presented a new disaster.

"My bathmat gets more wet throughout the day instead of dry...I think there's a leak under the floor.."

"My landlord isn't replacing the rotting wood from that leak..."

"They're re-doing the floors upstairs and my apartment is filled with dust. And...[soft wail]...a rat got in..."

It seemed that if I got it out of my system in public, where I ultimately had to appear cheerful regardless of my vent (read - could not succumb to a nervous breakdown), I could crawl back into the hole feeling empowered to spend just one more night.

The squeaky wheel does get the grease, however (if not from your landlords.) Merely 3 weeks into my new job and a (fabulous) co-worker offered me up her (fabulous) condo (nay - loft) to live in while she was on vacation for a month. That's how bad it was. Practical strangers offering me up their homes.

In the end it was none of these things that broke me, actually. It was an entirely different unpleasant ordeal. On top of my toxic hole, literally on top, was a 9 year-old learning the recorder. A 9 year old I was occasionally asked to babysit, in fact.

........deep sigh.

Finally, in February, MB arrived (thank f*ing Jesus) and we moved into our new apartment. It was a fixer-upper, but it came with the blessing to do whatever we wanted with the space.

"It's a fixer-upper," I'd say to friends with a smile. The permanent, giddy smile that comes only after one has crawled out of a deadly cave and into the healthy sunshine. "We've got a lot to do!" I'd jump and kick and prance.

"What?" They'd ask, understandably confused. "Don't rented apartments come move-in ready?"

Not this one. (Consider Super My Ace.) But did I care? No. I had moved out of an artist's cellar and into a place to call my own. Moreover, it had windows and fresh air and it was clean and it was dry. And with the 1960's thick concrete walls, it was, above all, quiet. 

And so began the home reno, serving no other purpose than to make me feel comfortable and happy in an environment that is a personal expression of (MB and) myself.
We re-painted from top to bottom.

We ordered custom blinds for our oddly-sized windows.
We purchased a PAX wardrobe from IKEA that cannot leave the room without being disassembled and thus has become a permanent fixture. Or so says MB.

We overhauled the heinous kitchen.
All of this time, money and energy spent, and we won't see a penny of it back. Unless of course, the new tenants buy the blinds (otherwise those babies are coming with us.)

This past weekend we spent another small fortune on a few small projects. When the cashier rang up the total on paint and supplies I was stricken by that nervous, nauseous feeling that only comes when your gut is telling you you are buying something superfluous you can't afford. (A feeling the US is all too familiar with.)

And then I remembered the hole. The hole. The hole. The dark, mouldy, hole, filled with the sounds of a screaming, musically-challenged child.

And I'm quite happy to cut my losses in 3-5 years. 

(When MB drags me out of here kicking and screaming.)

Thursday, 21 July 2011


As I write this, the GTA is experiencing record breaking temperatures. Yes. My first time (anxiously) away from the idyllic 27-31C Thunder Bay summer and Toronto must leap to NEW highs (take that Vancouver). At 12:08 PM it is 34 degrees C with a feels like of 46. 

Yup, I nod, as my heart rate slows to that of an ailing slug. Seems about right.

A city that never settles, I sigh.

In this heat I have lost my appetite. Great for Hollywood, perhaps, but if you're like me and eating every 2-3 hours is part of the joy of being alive, you will sympathize. What kind of food does one eat in this heat? What is even appetizing? Nothing cooked, that's for certain. And please do remember that I am equally as allergic to ice cream as I am to the prospect of getting fat.

But today I discovered the recipe (heh heh heh) for survival. Yes, I am now embracing the raw food diet.

I was brought up in a household spoiled by a stay-at-home mother. They were luxurious, those days. (And I of course had not a clue.) But as a result, I moved out of my house at aged twenty-one as a completely useless human being.

I was officially housebroken by my roommates (thank you) but, when it came down to meals, I still sustained myself on veggie dogs and oatmeal. Crackers and cheese and canned soup. Toast. And so on.

Once my roommate caught me puzzling over mould growth in my jar of tomato sauce.

"How bizarre!" I say. "I just bought this 2 weeks ago!"
"Well have you been using it? Is it open?" She asks.
"Um, yeah." (Add 'boiled pasta' to the list.)
"Ohmigod! It's supposed to be kept in the fridge!"



Aside from the odd humilitation, though, the life suited me. Until the day I came home with a grocery-sized list of allergies & had to learn to cook my own meals and shop almost entirely at a health food store.

Flash forward seven months to when I meet musician boyfriend as a new, self-sustaining, shockingly healthy-eating woman.

"Ever tried quinoa?" I casually ask over a glass of wine. "It's incredibly easy."

From microwaved veggie dogs to a vainglorious food snob in just half a year. (Fortunately for me, MB is equally as snobby, and likely one of the only straight boys on the planet who could ever put up with my diet.)

Unfortunately for my mother, a maritimer who raised us on meat, potatoes and a side of string beans, my 'home' visits have become a new, cooler version of hell.

"What should I buy for groceries?" She asks with a sigh. We're on the standard pre-visit phone call. "What do you even eat?
"I told you Mom. I can eat lots of stuff. Just no cow's milk or wheat or cane sugar. Or peanuts or peppers or potatoes or tomatoes. Or food colouring. But we're all allergic to that poison."

I show up to be welcomed by a pot of white rice and a selection of vegetables. My mother eyes me suspiciously as I chew and swallow. For someone who can only eat lettuce, she is thinking, you'd expect she'd be a bit skinnier.

The move to Toronto has done wonders for my diet. The variety of restaurants alone has made eating out fun again. And of course, I got to experience my first raw food cafes and eat my first real desserts in...a coon's age. So it was only a matter of time before MB and I were trying our first batch of raw popcorn (made out of cauliflower, if you're interested), ordering a spiral slicer (to make noodles out of zucchini for christ sakes!) and I was at Chapter's buying The Art of Raw Food.

I called my mother to tell her about our new food habit just last week. MB and I, you see, are visiting on August long weekend.

"Okay," she replies calmly. Too calmly. "Okay. I can just give you my credit card and you two can go to the grocery store and buy whatever you want and make your own meals."

I can't believe it. I really can't believe it. After 26 long years, she has finally relinquished her kitchen. When I thought I'd be prying the ladle out of her cold dead hands one day, there it is. So simple. Mine.

A few days later she sends me this.


This woman is 51

Gillian McKeith is a TV health guru advocating a holistic approach to nutrition and health, promoting exercise, a vegetarian diet of organic fruits and vegetables. She recommends detox diets, colonic irrigation and supplements, also states that yeast is harmful, that the color of food is nutritionally significant, and the utility of lingual and faecal examination.


This woman is 50

Nigella Lawson is a TV cook in Great Britain, who eats nothing but meat, butter and desserts.

I rest my case...

Of course, MB and I are not going to become strict raw foodies. We are about balance. (Read - we are far too lazy and lack the dedication. And I can't risk being an even shittier guest at parties.) MB balances out his cauliflower-turned-popcorn with a beer or three, for example.  

And so, on a day when turning on an oven or even heating up a frying pan is suicide, I made my first raw pea soup for lunch. Needless to say, it was incredible. (Have included the recipe at the bottom, but please do not mistake this non-blog for a food blog.) Look. There are pictures.

And for the first time since approximately July 5th, I look forward to dinner.

I rest my case.

Raw Pea Soup Recipe

1 pint (1/2 L) water
3/4 cup almonds

1 3/4 cup peas

1 avocado
1 small handful fresh mint
Salt and Pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

First make the almond milk.
(What? Make almond milk?!) Yes. All you must do is blend the almonds with the water. It's easier if you soak them for 12 hours first, but if you don't have time it's not necessary. This simple task produces a gorgeous, frothy, sweet, heavenly drink.

Then mix with peas, avocado and half the mint and blend. Add salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg to taste. Garnish with mint and serve.

Yup, it's that f*ing easy.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Shocks and Balls

When illness befalls us, we ask - what did I do to deserve this? Or rather, what is the cause of this cold, flu, or other dismal state in which we have found ourselves?

The following is a causal explanation for why I am home sick today (yes, am always home these days Mom but never sick).

Musician boyfriend and I love to entertain. This is a very fortunate thing, as being a couple with an apartment in downtown TO, we are a destination for two (very) different sets of friends. We welcome this. We get to share a bit of our new lives with our friends from home and hopefully are deemed hospitable, fun friends in return. We get hosting gifts. The latest was a shower curtain liner with built-in pockets for extra storage of your misc. shower products. I had been coveting it for months.

I have had the pleasure of hosting two friends of mine, separately. Dear Sarah (Shazaam!) and Tall Megan. They come. I get to wake up to live-in outfit advice and spend my days doing girly things all over this grand city. Musician boyfriend gets the apartment to himself, for once. It's wonderful for all.

We don't have a spare room, which is a downside, but we do have a new couch that folds down. Note - new. As in, our guests need not fear popcorn kernels from 1996 lurking in the cracks and crevices of the old chesterfield. We (I) keep a set of bedding in the coffeetable that MB built to include storage space (I know, he's brilliant). We (I) offer our guests sleeping masks (for the bit of sun that escapes past the blinds) and suggest earplugs (traffic). We make do. Dear Sarah and Tall Megan make a point of tidying up their sleeping space, daily, so that our living space is ...well...liveable again. I bask in the thoughtfulness of other women. For them - my heart warms.

Dear Sarah.
Pictured to the right is Dear Sarah, snug as a bug in a rug in the little sleeping alcove our living room becomes on 'guest weekends'. Please note that MB has since declared the guest duvet cover in the image to be ours. (Reference Chronicles of a Duvet Debacle.I have to hand it to him for replacing the old one for even LESS than $10. He's quick. He's very quick. (I am now on the hunt for a guest duvet cover.)

This past Thursday was MB's turn to host. Not one, but two male friends of his were coming to Toronto to party.
"It's going to be a stinky boy fest in here," he warns me.

"That's fine," I say. Thinking, how bad could it really be? I like boys. Always have, always will (regrettably.) I think I get along great with them. I'm dating one, am I not?

So naive. So, so naive I was last Wednesday in full health. Fortunately, in a spectacular display of timely friendship, my good friend Emma lent me keys to her air conditioned bachelorette pad before she left town.

On Friday, her apartment was a godsend. While our big sweaty guests farted in their sleep in what was formerly known as our living room (it's still somewhere under there whispers my internal voice as I sneak out the door)
I got to spend the day writing in a cool, clean, beautiful place. A place fit for a girl. A place I might go when I die.

On Saturday I am invited to a Jay's game. They have an extra ticket. They could have sold it, but they are offering it to me. I had plans to head down to St. Lawrence market. Pick up some local fruit, veggies and meat, maybe a bouquet of flowers. Eat at the raw food cafe. Treat myself to a wheat-free sugar-free dairy-free muffin or two. Walk along the harbourfront.

Go, urges that same internal voice. This is your hostess gift. You can go to the market anytime.

And so I venture down, with them, in a cab (they refuse to take the subway), into the valley of drunk jocks and ponytails in baseball caps. Where delicious hot dogs and beer taunt me at every corner. You can't eat me, they say. You can't drink me. Why are you wearing heels?

Nearly five years ago I went to a local baseball game with my girlfriends. It was one of those "why not?" afternoons. The air was chilly. I was wearing a scarf hot skinny blonde had bought me for my birthday.

"I should have brought a hoodie," I say, leading up to my hilarious joke. "All I brought was this ugly, ugly scarf."

Sometimes my sarcastic tone sounds identical to my everyday tone. Hot skinny blonde thought I was serious.

"I hope you get smoked with a fly ball!" She wished, vengefully.

Not forty minutes later, I did. In the neck. People brought ice. I shed tears in public. We left out of spite when they wouldn't refund my (all of our) ticket(s) and proceeded instead to pick up boys  in a trailer in the RBC parking lot. That's just what we did, back then.

I learned one of two things that day:
a) Hot skinny blonde is a witch.
b) The baseball gods (read - Babe Ruth) hate sarcasm.

This past Saturday I chose to believe a) hot skinny blonde is a witch.

Five minutes into the game I grab MB's hand. He looks at me. 

"What's up?" He asks.
I stare back at him, softly, intently. My eyes are like shining saucers.
"Are you going to propose to me?" I ask in a half-whisper.

Sitting in the outfield.
I laugh my head off for about a minute. Then I spend the next 280 minutes thinking up baseball puns, wincing and ducking for my life every time a batter hits a fly ball, checking the hits on my non blog via iphone and puzzling over why this particular breed of athletes get paid so much. They are not even in shape.

To fit in, I make a point of  talking
 about 'pop flies' and 'grounders.' I learn that the Yankees don't put names on the back of their uniform due to the EPIC nature of the Yankee legacy (pretentious bastards.) 
"Do you think Derek Jeter will play for the Yankees until he retires at age 65?" I ask, sipping on the gin & soda MB so kindly waited 20 minutes in line for. No response.
"They're good, they're really good!" I declare as the Yankees get another run.
"Didn't John MacDonald have a farm?" I pose the question as MacDonald goes up to bat. Guest #1 is wearing his jersey. He would know, right?
I ask MB if I am his angel in the outfield. He says he'll never take me to a baseball game again. (For the record, he doesn't even like baseball. This is a meaningless threat.)

I have no photo evidence of the weekend and I don't feel it appropriate to share anymore details. But I am certain that my current cold is a direct result of short fitful sleeps. Of inhaling the poisonous fumes seeping into the hall from the bathroom. Of finding banana peels in my herb pots. Of hearing the word vagina ten too many times.

"I'll be there in a minute guys, I'm just going to wash my [dirty, sweaty] sandals in the sink [where they wash all of their dishes,]" says Guest #2.

"If you do, that will kill me," I tell him. "I will die."

He used the bathtub. I escaped to the antique market. But it was too little too late. Today I am wiser, yes, but home sick with a cold during a heat warning. And now, please excuse me, but I am going back to bed. All because of my weekend 'hosting' (giving up) in my apartment. An entirely different animal from Dear Sarah and Tall Megan's visits. My weekend full of shocks and balls. And I ain't referring to the Jay's game.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Art of Hot Potato

Some days I feel like I'm living two lives. In one I am an aspiring chick lit writer and in the other I am an aspiring health policy analyst. I think a lot of people have this split. There's the teacher who'd like to be a professional golfer. The lawyer who likes to rock out on his guitars. Cross-dressers. And so on.

The following is an attempt to synthesize my two lives by connecting this fun, frothy and flexible non-blog to the boring, rigorous policy school I will be attending in the fall.

There are handful of things in life that bring out my competitive side. You could not say I was a competitive person - no. I am strictly competitive with only this small number things that hold a chance of me winning at them.

For example, I am a terrible skater. It's just not something I took to as a child. My mother would have to sit on the bleachers and watch as I, at 5 years, opted to walk around the rink while the other 5 yr olds skated ahead (walking in skates is more challenging, actually). I didn't have the natural ability to put me up there, shredding, battling with the top 5 aged 5. So I simply decided that skating was not worth my time. If you like to skate, go for it. I hope you excel. I have other (better) things to focus on.

One of these small number of activities is the game Catch Phrase.

It was a party favourite in my Thunder Bay life. If you've never played, it goes like this. You have an electronic timer that gives you a word or catchphrase. You then have to describe that word/catchphrase to your team (without saying the word, of course). When your team guesses correctly you pass it to the next person on the opposite team. The goal is to not be holding the timer when it goes off. If you are holding it (because your team didn't guess fast enough or because you sucked at describing the word/phrase) the other team gets a point.

So it's like hot potato for adults.

Once the timer gave me the word 'shazaam'. 
"A 1970's expletive," I said, trying to remain calm, trying not to curse the timer for giving me such a ridiculous word.
"SHAZAAM!" cried my dear friend and teammate Sarah. Complete with the required intonation.

Point us. It was a moment in Catch Phrase history. Dear Sarah and I, we play to win. See?

Last Friday I was invited to a party with Musician Boyfriend's co-workers. Someone brought Catch Phrase. I was elated. I had my game face on. It had been MONTHS since I'd had a chance at winning at something.
We played girls vs. boys.
My team lost.
"I feel like I let you down," said one of the women, in earnest.
"No no, it's just a game," I say, forcing a smile. Do not act like a sore loser in front of MB's office. Do not embarrass him. "No big deal," I shrug.
I think you get my point.

Mulling over this crushing loss in the days following eventually shifted to mulling over something perhaps more productive.

The art of hot potato. The passing of responsibility from one person to the next.

We've all done it. We find out that our brother-in-law's wife is having an affair. We don't tell the brother-in-law ourselves, we tell our partner to tell their brother. (Or not. It's up to them. That's the art of hot potato). An assignment comes up in a meeting that bores us to tears - throw it to the new girl. Hot potato. Don't feeling like deciding on Friday night's plans for the group? Morris is better at it anyway. Hot potato.

Yesterday, this reflection on an age-old social practice collided with a great website a former professor posted: The Candian Index of Well-Being. I downloaded the article "Ideas for Positive Change" (who doesn't like positive change?) and got to reading the suggestions held within.

I always appreciate these kinds of suggestions and ideas in reports. These "actions for government leaders" (as the paper begins.) There are solutions to the world's problems, it seems. Look, right there! Answers! Answers! Low-hanging fruit!

So why isn't anyone doing anything about it?

Oh, lots of reasons. Money. Capitalists. Puffy white guys.

But there's something more to it than that, I now argue.

Maybe our civil service, our political leaders and decision-makers, are stuck in a game of eternal hot potato. 

Like your Wednesday morning meeting that goes around in circles until everyone leaves with nothing, no one is willing to action these marvelous (and obvious) solutions.

I imagine that for some of these civil servants (the higher-ups responsible for decisions, most predominantly Mr. Stephen Harper) going to work everyday is something like the feeling of going to that brother-in-law's 25th wedding anniversary party.

In a system filled with policy advisors and analysts, where are the policy actionists? Is it a committee struck? Are they responsible? So they will meet once a week and then....wait. Stop right there.  We covered this. Meetings are like goddamn vegetable ovens, for christ sakes. Hot potatoes galore.

But I don't just point fingers at this group, no. I'd say it also applies to the voters. The people who elect (some of) this group into our system. For example, the suburbanites who voted in Rob Ford as Toronto's mayor. The ones who hot potato'ed their responsibility for protecting the environment, the arts and the gays and oh, helping one of Canada's major cities set an example on the world stage, in favour of paying (slightly) lower taxes.

I hope that boring, rigorous policy school will have a rebuttal to this attempt at synthesizing my two lives. I hope that by Christmas I am eating my words. It's not just a game of hot potato. Everyone is willing to own up to responsibilities and make real change. Not just punching in and tinkering around a bit 'til you've earned enough to get to the Barbados for Christmas. All the world's problems really can be blamed on a) the system and b) the puffy white male capitalists.

To sum up, hot potato is something that we're all guilty of. I've even told you a story that illustrates how stupendously adept I am at it. 

But I put forward that there is a time and a place for the art of hot potato. Children's birthday parties, for example. My friends Danielle and Jay's basement. Certain social or work situations (read - harmless, or the ones where the responsibility really shouldn't be yours)

Hot potato has no place in the working lives of our country's decision-makers or in the people who vote for them.

(You can quote me on that. It's a bit Trudeau-esque, no?)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Chronicles of a Duvet Debacle

Blog Schmog. Now that I no longer have co-workers to entertain with the mundane details of my life, you must read about the chronicles of my duvet debacle. And a glowing example of customer service (contrary to my former drycleaners).

Musician boyfriend is the first boy I've ever lived with.
(It will be 6 months on August 1.) But this major first comes with a dinghy of spin-off firsts trailing (not far) behind the...bigger boat...that the dinghy accompanies.. 

1. First time coming home to a made dinner since I lived with my parents
(that wasn't soup I'd had in the freezer since Sunday.)
2. First fight over spending. (First fight...period. BTW it resulted in the best couch in the world.)
3. First time being called out on my passive aggressive behaviour.
4. First time I've ever sounded like my mother (see above).
5. First time experiencing disappearing groceries.
6. First time compromising on style (and pretty much everything else.)

Musician boyfriend isn't one of those boyfriends who surrenders fully to the woman's decorating tastes. He is artsy. He's a graphic designer who does not like to stray far from his design ethic
(he is stubborn.)

My Auntie Jo recently met him and told me he reminds her of a good friend of hers.

"Oh? How old is this friend?" I asked, "Too old for Hilary [ her daughter]?"

"Well he's married," she replied. "To a man."

And so began my adventures in the land of compromise. The land where every decision must be discussed and mutually agreed upon. It's collaborative.  Like Jack and Michael teaming up against Stephen before Jack threw Michael under the bus and ran for his life
(pun intended). 

Or, like a coalition government.

Problem is, this isn't Germany. And the Canadian fear of a coalition government is that nothing will ever get done.
Dialogue will go on for an eternity. Imagine that. Dialogue.

I can attest to this, in part. Decision-making in a collaborative partnership can remain at a standstill. Particularly when only one of you can reach the toolbox in the closet
(still need to buy a stool dammit.)

But musician boyfriend gave me concentration of powers over decorating the bedroom.

"I don't care about the bedroom. It's all you," he tells me one day in February.
"Why don't you care about the bedroom? You should care about the bedroom. That's your sanctuary!" I protest.
"Nope. No one sees it. I sleep in it. Don't care," he re-affirms.

I eye him up, skeptically.

"Okay," I concede. "I will figure out the bedroom."

"Great. Go for it." He picks up his guitar.
"What if I pick out a flowery duvet cover?" I ask.
"Go ahead. Couldn't care less." He starts to strum.
"But what if it's pink? And embroidered," I test him. I think I have him here. 
"Sure," he shrugs.
I could push him further,  but he is now drowning me out with a song that is not about me.

So the bedroom is all mine.

If the bedroom were
really all mine, I knew that I would buy a duvet cover from Anthropologie. My ultimate fave store and the antithesis of MB's design ethic. I have browsed their bedding online and in their catalogues and dreamed many o' time of the day when I might own one.

But I still don't quite believe MB. So I make it my mission to research a duvet cover that is unisex. After many ignored bedding links sent to MB and over a month of stalking
apartment therapy for ideas, I find one at Restoration Hardware. It's simple. It's linen. It goes with my (imagined) 'fog/stormy chic' theme. It is expensive, but when you are living with a boy and sharing home expenses, everything is 50% off. 

So I order it.

And the duvet debacle begins.

2 weeks later, UPS tries to deliver it to my apartment building. UPS buzzes me, which calls me on my cell. I tell him I am at work, and to buzz my super. She has offered to collect packages.

I go home to no package.

Day 2. UPS buzzes me.

"UPS here."
"I am at work. Did you try buzzing my super?"
"Yeah. She won't take it."
OF course not.
"Okay, well I am not at home. Please try her again tomorrow. I'll sort it out."

Day 3. UPS buzzes me.

"UPS here."
"I am at work. No luck with the super?"
"Okay. Just leave it at the UPS store and I'll pick it up later."
"This is our last attempt ma'am. You have to call UPS immediately or they will return it to sender."


An hour later I am still on hold with UPS trying to ensure my duvet cover stays in Toronto. In Canada. Whatever I can get. Then I ask where I can pick it up.

"You have 5 business days to pick it up ma'am or we will return to sender."

"Okay, sure, got it, just give me the address."

What? You're in VAUGHN!?

How the f* am I going to get it now? Rent a car? Take a cab? VAUGHN? Really? I had assumed it would be like Canada Post to Shoppers and just go to the nearest UPS store.

But nope.
(I start to think MB is clairvoyant & was just trying to avoid this huge hassle with his 'I don't care about the bedroom" bullshit.)

So I pull up my sleeves and get to work on a plan to pick it up. I call my parents. (Who are conveniently planning to visit that week while my Dad has work in the area.) Eventually my "parents" agree to drive completely out of their way to save me from this mess.

"Your father will do it on his way to work," says my mother.

Success! But wait. I  notice something fishy on Restoration Hardware's delivery notification just as I'm about to close my e-mail.
(I have it pulled up to repeat the tracking number to UPS about a billion times.) It has a tiny image of pillows...but no duvet...

The package was not the duvet.
The package was pillow shams. ONLY SHAMS. I get on the phone with Restoration Hardware immediately.

"What kind of SHAM is this?" (I wish I'd said.)

"Your duvet cover has been backordered ma'am."
"When is it expected to arrive?"

It's currently March. 
But I want to show it to company coming in a week! And assuming I will AGAIN miss the delivery, how will I get to Vaughn?

The beautiful duvet cover.
I snap. I cancel my order. I go on Anthropologie's website. I pick out a duvet cover (it's called wingspan), call the store, put it on hold, and head there immediately after work. (The 'fog/stormy chic' theme is shot, by the way.)

Musician boyfriend came home that night to a pintucked, embroidered, massively delicate and girly duvet cover. It's a phenomenal duvet cover (pictured right). But I cringe, waiting for MB's reaction.

"It's nice," he shrugs. "I think it just needs to be ironed?"

That night I quietly regret my decision as I watch musician boyfriend pull the pintucked, embroidered, massively delicate and girly duvet cover up around his beard. It's not exactly a turn on. 

He spends the next week waking up in the middle of the night, clawing at the pintucked corners like an apprehensive cat.

He eventually gets used to it. It was expensive and his girlfriend loves it.

3 weeks later it rips. Along the buttons. I try to cover it up.

2 weeks after that it rips a little more.

Musician boyfriend notices. (Foiled!)

2 weeks after that it rips a little more and I lose one of the buttons completely.

Etc Etc.

MB goes to bed every night looking smug. (Until he pulls up the duvet cover around his face or I catch him spooning it the next morning and then I get the last laugh). 
I resolve to get it repaired. 

I eventually take it off the bed, swear I'm going to get it drycleaned and stitched up, and it sits on a chair in our bedroom for another 2 weeks. But the idea that this duvet cover can tear so easily weighs on me. What if it happens again? I struggle with my loyalty to the merchant.

Which brings us to today, when I successfully returned it (and the matching, mascara-stained shams) to Anthropologie.

Yes. A store that did the right thing. No questions asked.

I called yesterday and spoke to the manager. She was incredibly nice and sensitive, took down all my info, looked up my purchase
(no receipt!) and set me up to see a manager the following day.

Long story short, I ended up with another whopping credit at Anthropologie. And the lovely salesperson I dealt with completely renewed my faith in fellow
(retailer) human beings.

Musician boyfriend has declared that the next duvet cover is his choice.
He is going to spend max $10 on it.

I don't care. Go for it. No one sees the bedroom. I sleep in it, that's it.
 Am happy to pass the buck and wash my hands of (hand wash) duvet covers until the day I die (or maybe just 3-5 years from now when I'm over it).

I gots me a
new pair of pants, a fleur de lys pitcher, and $257.68 left to spend on clothing and teacups when I am a starving student. Maybe a hat. (Am not allowed to buy a) anything regular priced b) anything until at least September when I am truly feeling desperate to shop.)

It took 4 and a half months, but in the end I'd say the duvet debacle worked out for the best.


But I wonder what MB will choose...

...so he cares after all...

PS. Was so caught up in this non-blog post that I didn't leave on time for an appointment. Was forced to bike (egad). Saved $6. Half-way to checking it off my to-do list.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Yoga Aficionadon't know what I've done. Part II.

First off - a sincere thank you for reading. I didn't think anybody really was until I discovered this newfangled 'page views' count. It could be just be a click-judge-exit count, but if it isn't, I am grateful. And under lots of pressure.

Below you'll find a joyful 'reneg' of my desperate cry for help.

On Friday afternoon I ventured 7 minutes down the street for round two of hot yoga (
or, as I belatedly noted it's official name) the 'hot yoga challenge' (no kidding). With the agonies of my previous class not far from mind I approached round 2 with a new, dual-faceted strategy.

The shorts. I could not return in pajama shorts. This I knew for certain. Fortunately, on Wednesday, my aunt/(fairy)godmother came to visit with my uncle and cousins. I met them at the Eaton's Centre for some shopping and wound up being gifted with some lululemons. (I know, life is tough.) Thank you again Auntie Jo & to Hilary for picking them out.

2. Timing. I could not return to an evening class where a) ex-cheerleader could be the instructor and b) it would again be packed. Friday at 2 pm, I thought, would be perfect. It's population would not only be small, but a 
collection of hapless people (like myself) with nowhere else to go during the work day.

I arrived at the studio feeling confident
(and limber) in my new spandex. I was met by a small (humble) foreign man (Eastern European?) who spoke in quiet tones (presumably my instructor.)  Shortly afterwards, while sitting quietly in the changeroom, twiddling my thumbs to avoid the sauna until absolutely necessary, I became acquainted with one of my new peers.

It was she who broke the silence. I was relieved. Look at me! I was making a friend.

"You know I was at yesterday's class," she said, "and I didn't realize just how hot it was until I put my stuff back on today and it was still wet."


I silently wished she'd never spoken. I'd imagined a beautiful friendship between us. But alas - it could never be. Who gets back into wet, sweaty work out gear? Who?

"Oh," I smile nervously, "yeah...110 degrees I hear. Pretty hot." I give her another chance to bond and proceed to tell her about the 'do whatever feels good type' yoga I came from.

Sounds like yoga for pussies," she says.

It's on.

Once inside, I made sure to lay out my mat next to hers.

What was going on in my head for the rest of my weekend.
As I'd predicted, there were only 7 of us in the class. (One male retiree. No former dancers.) Plus, contrary to strict, "push yourself to the MAX" ex-cheerleader, humble yogi seemed to know a thing or two (read - everything) about the philosophies behind yoga - it's relaxed, meditative qualities, for one, and the mind/body connection. And the idea that everyone should go at their own pace so as not to injure themselves. And while I appreciated this tremendously about him, it's not what I appreciated the most. Not even close. No, what I appreciated the most was that from the moment he stormed into the room wearing nothing but a speedo, I couldn't help but think that Martin Short could make an amazing comeback playing this man. Think Hanz in Father of the Bride. Only with less jarring enthusiasm (read - mercilessly meditative and inward.)

When I had a job to go to everyday, I woke up a good hour before musician boyfriend. So for an hour I would be pacing the apartment, making breakfast, showering, coiffing, while musician boyfriend stayed snugly in bed. Every time I stole a jealous glance into the bedroom, however, I had to smile, because every
single time he'd be sprawled in a completely different position. I could grab something from the washroom and look in two seconds later and there he'd be, upside down. 

It was a great morning game for myself. I've missed it since I stopped going to work.

Anyway, my reason for sharing this with you is that every time I craned my neck to steal a glance at speedo-clad Martin Short yogi, perched on the instructors mount, he was in a different position. The game was back on!  

It didn't matter how long or short a time I'd be stuck staring at my navel or with my cheek against the floor. Whenever I looked up, there he was. Somewhere different. He'd be lounging on his side. Sitting up with one leg crossed over the other. Standing and leaning against a rail. All the while lazily spewing out instructions and explanations and philosophical words of encouragement.

But that's
still not even the best part.

In between his stream of instructions Martin Short Yogi threw in completely random words. Like "louisana lasagna." And "Vatican Fall of Rome." And "South Korea." As in, "We now do position for second time south korea shoulders back chest up head back breathe in hands in prayer fingers crossed louisana lasagna reach sideways."

Why do people ever write fiction? Why am I?

And to add further to my obvious, incredulous enjoyment, Martin Short yogi proceeded to critique every move of my un-laundered neighbour. A
t one point (the highlight of my class) he even said, "like she's trying to do" and pointed to me. ME. Yes, he said trying. But still. I was the example.

Who are you calling a pussy now? Hmm?

Upon exiting the studio I found myself riding the elevator with the only young male from class
(not a hippie with a boner - I checked). As soon as I looked at him he burst into maniacal laughter and started tracing the 'swirlies' etched into the metal elevator door. He said something about how great it was to be a kid again (I'm assuming it was the heat?). I nodded in agreement. Then he erupted into crazed giggles once more, the doors opened, and we parted ways.

I have to say...I like these weirdos.

I'll be back next Friday at 2 pm.