C’est L’Halloween

I don’t know about you guys, but today really kicked my ass. I had lofty goals of coming home from work and finishing an awesomely hilarious post about zombies I started this weekend, but instead I just lay on  the couch, ate pizza and watched 3+ hours of entertainment news programming. (Side notes: how is Chris Brown still a free man? Julianne Hough is an idiot, and I cannot wait for baby WildKis.)

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Anyway, since I stupidly vowed to write a blog post every day this month, here is an awesome link that’s been making the rounds on Facebook today-

‘C’est l’Halloween’: the story behind the greatest French Halloween song ever

Those who know, know. And if you don’t know, now you know.

I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore.

Read the post, watch the vid, feel nostalgic, get in the Halloween spirit.. and maybe sing and dance a little. Or don’t- and say you did. That’s cool too.

Question of the Day: Did you take french classes in school?

Throwback Thursday: Halloween Candy

Halloween is right around the corner, and since I’m too lazy busy deciding which ironic Halloween costume to wear (Miley Cyrus wrecking ball?

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Or Baby North West?),

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I thought I’d go into the vault and pull out this little gem I first published back in October, 2011.

Originally part of a feature I did called Turn Up The Good: Turn Down The Suck, where I profiled a few things that were good, followed by a few things that sucked (genius, I know), this post is all about my favourite thing in the world (besides wine) – Candy! enjoy.

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Halloween is by far my favourite holiday of the year. Not only does it give you free license to wear whatever the hell you want and call it a “costume”, it’s also the day on which such A-List celebrities as Vanilla Ice, Rob Schnieder and (drumroll please)…. yours truly, were born. So that’s why, for this edition of Turn Up the Good, Turn down The Suck – I thought I would focus on one of the best parts of this glorious day: CANDY.

Halloween breezyk circa 1989

As a child, I put the “anal” in “analyze”. This was especially true of Halloween. I would return from trick or treating, dump my goods on my bedroom floor, and proceed to spend hours poring over my loot and categorizing its contents; determining which pieces were to be consumed first and which saved for later. By the time I was done constructing all of my little piles, my room looked like an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive- but it was worth it. My rationing ensured that I would be adequately supplied with candy until Christmas (or at least until my older brothers got a hold of it.)

Sure they look cute… but these boys CANT BE TRUSTED

Anyway- as evidenced by my story, not all Halloween candy was created equal: so here I present to you a list of the best (turn up the good) and worst (turn down the suck) of Halloween candy:

Turn Up the Good

1. Full Size Chocolate Bars: otherwise known as the holy grail of trick or treating. Like unicorns (yes, exactly like unicorns), these were scarce. Neighbourhood kids would discuss which houses were giving full-size bars away, and make special trips just to get them. God bless these generous individuals.

2. Reese Peanut Butter Cups: I realize this one is slightly subjective. You can feel free to insert your favourite fun-size chocolate bar here- but damn I loved me some Reeses. Guaranteed to make the top cut of any sorting round.

2. Full Cans of (NAME BRAND ONLY) Pop (None of that No-name cola shit): I hesitated to add this one, simply because of the sheer weight these puppies add to your treat bag. However, it’s a cross I was always willing to bear in order to have unlimited cans of Pepsi at my disposal throughout November….

4. Homemade Shit: This makes the list due to its elusive nature. Homemade cookies? Quaint little bags of popcorn tied up lovingly with ribbons? CANDY APPLES? Sure they all looked amazing- but kid, you might as well just forget about it. If your parents were anything like mine, all that gloriousness was being thrown in the trash faster than you could say “this isn’t actually a costume“.

Homemade halloween treats- I salute you. Though your creators may be creepy, and you may contained concealed razor blades- your potential deliciousness transcends.

Turn Down the Suck

1. Rockets: AKA a cheap-ass waste of valuable treat bag space…. or, as a friend of mine rightly clarified: “a waste of EARTH space”.

2. Mollases Kisses: You know the ones I’m talking about. A sort of caramel/tootsie roll/ black licorice hybrid that have been around forever, and for some reason still persists. These choking hazards shouldn’t be given to CHILDREN- they should be reserved for old men who are missing most of their teeth so they can kill some time. I’m not feelin it.

3. Unmarked bags of potato chips: This was always a crapshoot. Emblazoned only with the “Hostess” or “Humpty Dumpty” logo all over them, you never knew what you were going to get. You risked wasting potential treats if you opened it up and didn’t like that kind, and for the weirdo kids like me, this created a nightmare for categorization.

Like this… EXCEPT NOT

4. Non-Food Related Items

Pencils, erasers, religious pamphlets… basically anything that made you roll your eyes behind the mask of your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume and go “REALLY?”

Bitches be fundamentally misunderstanding the concept of Halloween, yo..

Question of the Day: What were your favourite/ least favourite Halloween Treats?

A Climb To Remember

Looking back, the summer of 1990 was a rough time for everyone involved. The Gulf War was in full swing, a sharp recession swept the global economy, and MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” was a number one single.

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As if these atrocities weren’t enough, it was also the year my mom went back to work part-time, leaving my dad with five wily rug rats to contend with during one of the hottest summers on record in Nova Scotia.

My sisters, teenagers at the time, could mostly fend for themselves; however my brothers (10 and 12) and I (only four) required constant entertainment to keep from tearing each other’s heads off.

Dad tried taking us to the playground; but the monkey bars proved too perilous. Our trips to the beach resulted only in jellyfish stings and heartache. Eventually, he gave up, bought a bucket of KFC and took us to Greenhill Provincial Park. A picnic in the park, he (undoubedtly) thought, what  could possibly go wrong?

The park offered panoramic views of the entire county, and in those days there was a tower several stories high you could climb to get a better look.

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Immediately upon arrival my brothers rushed to the tower, with me following right behind them.

“Where do you think you’re going?” asked my brother Kristin, “This isn’t for babies!”

“I’m not a baby!” I protested, “I’m four and a half!”

“You’re not allowed!” contested my brother Stephen.

“Can I dad?” I pleaded

“Go ahead,” he sighed, lifting a drumstick defeatedly, “but be careful.”

With a satisfied grin, I began climbing the ladder, taking the first few rungs with vigor. I was feeling quite smug- until I looked down. The ground appeared miles away; my dad and his bucket of chicken nothing but a red and white dot on the horizon. Above me, the ladder seemed to extend infinitely.

My lip began to quiver.

“Hurry up!” shouted Stephen, a few rungs ahead.

“She’s scared,” chimed in Kristin. “I told you she was a baby!”

Tears burned the backs of my eyes, but resolve stirred deep within me. I was Jack, and this was my proverbial Beanstalk. I would climb this tower if it was the last thing I did.

Somehow, through sheer adrenaline, blind faith and four-year-old will, I made it to the top. Ready to bask in my accomplishment, I stepped onto the platform, took a long gaze around, and…… immediately began to bawl like a baby.

“DADDY!!” I wailed, “IT”S TOO HIGH!!!”

Inconsolable and paralyzed by fear, my father was forced to abandon his chicken and momentary peace to climb up the tower and rescue me.

“It’s ok,” he said later, wiping away my tears with a half soiled wet-nap. “You can try again next year.”

But I didn’t. Not that year, or any year after. Instead, I developed a life long fear of heights (and, vaguely, wet-naps). However, I did learn one important lesson that day which continues to guide my decision-making process: when given the choice between taking a risk and staying firmly on the ground with a bucket of fried chicken- always, always ,choose the chicken.

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Question of the Day: What Is Your First Memory?

Love Lessons From My Childhood Pen Pal

I got a letter in the mail the other day. It was a bit of an unexpected thrill, considering my mailbox is usually filled with nothing but Domino’s pizza flyers. (Which, don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate.) 

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While reading it, I was reminded of a time in my life when letters weren’t quite so infrequent.

………. Cue the flashback (you knew it was coming)

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The year was 1995: I was 9 years old, bookish, and heavy into Blossom Hats and The Babysitter’s Club. I was teetering on the verge of what would soon become my five-year “awkward phase”, but didn’t know it yet. Life was good.

It was also the year I made my first Pen Pal.

*Not me or my dog.

*Not me or my dog.

I acquired my Pen Pal through somewhat unusual circumstances. My father, the son of Croatian immigrants, liked to keep ties with his Eastern European heritage. This manifested itself mostly in three ways: cooking obscene amounts of cabbage, hoarding things, and subscribing to a Croatian newsletter called  Zajedničar. 

Zajedničar, as I recall it, was a bizarre publication filled with ads for life insurance, way too many consonants, and people in weird costumes playing Tamburitzas.

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 I never paid much attention to it until one day, my dad showed me an ad offering a PenPal service connecting Croatian children across North America.  

Now this was something I could get down with. The opportunity to correspond with a real live girl in another country? Sign me up!

I immediately submitted my information to the magazine, and a few weeks later, received my first letter.  It was from a girl named Jessica in Erie, Pennsylvania. She was 10 years old, and loved Barbies, gymnastics and stickers- in that order.  She even sent me her school photo, in which she was wearing one of those Western bolo shirts that were popular at the time.

This was the best I could do on Google images. In reality, she looked nothing like this.

This was the best I could do on Google images. She actually looked nothing like this.

Her long, sandy blond hair was tied into a side braid with a fluffy white scrunchie on the end, and she accessorized with dangly troll earrings, gummy bracelets and a toothpaste-commercial smile.

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To me, she was impossibly cool.

I immediately began crafting my response. Besides just telling her my entire life story, I also spent hours researching her hobbies and interests in order to prove what a thoughtful and conscientious Pen Pal I could be. I even had my dad pull out the atlas to show me where Erie was on the map. 

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I was certain she would be impressed by such informational gems as:

Did you know your town is named after a lake??!”; and 

I heard toothpaste is great for removing sticker residue!” 

We corresponded for the next few months, sending letters as well as other totems of our respective 90’s childhoods: stickers, colorful erasers, POGS, temporary tattoos.We never spoke a single word about Croatia, but that was OK. 

Eventually, things kind of fizzled out. Ok, I’m lying. Jessica just straight-up stopped writing to me. I don’t really know what happened. I mean, maybe I was a little overzealous in my pursuits- spending hours drafting elaborate letters, consulting atlases and whatnot. And maybe I should’ve seen this one coming when my 10-page anthologies met with only a few measly paragraphs in response. “Maybe she’s busy practicing her tumbling,” my mother would say. But deep down, I knew the score. 

While being blown-off so coldly hurt at the time, in a way I’m thankful, because it probably prevented me from becoming a full-on stage 5 clinger in future romantic relationships.  

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Now I’m just incredibly closed-off and distant. I think it’s working out pretty well for me.

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So thank you, Jessica, for teaching me that there is such a thing as coming on way too strong. I  hope you finally found that Sailor Moon sticker sheet you were looking for, and that somewhere, out there, you and your side braid are tumbling off into the sunset.

Question of the Day: Did You Have A Pen Pal Growing Up?

Throwback Thursday: 90′s Edition

Fasten your seatbelts, kids- because I’m about to take you on a trip down memory lane the masochistic nostalgia highway with yet another round of have beens, washed ups and never-weres.

Yes, it’s Throwback Thursday again- and this week, we’re kicking it 90′s style.   

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The inspiration for this TBT actually came from an experience I had at a play a couple of weeks ago here in Toronto.

Yes, you read that correctly: BreezyK went to the theaaaataaah! Clearly I’ve been spending way too much time with Intellectual Dachshund.

All the world's a stage and.... hey, where's my scotch?

All the world’s a stage and…. hey, who moved my scotch?

Anyway, I was standing in line at the box office waiting for my homies, when suddenly I spotted a handsome gentleman to my immediate right. I was like

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I turned my head to take a closer look, only to discover that this “cute guy” was actually BRANDON FREAKING WALSH!!!

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 Yes- Jason Priestley was standing directly beside me, breathing the very same air. I wanted to say something snarky like “hey, wanna go to the Peach Pit after this?” or  “how’s Brenda? still reeling from that pregnancy scare?”

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But I refrained, and instead focused on obsessively studying every detail of his face. He was wearing a red K-Way type jacket, and looked a little worse for the wear- sort of like a hot dad post-soccer practice.

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He was also shorter than I expected, but had movie star eyes: the kind that melt your heart and haunt your soul at the same time. We held eye contact for roughly 3 seconds. (I counted.) 

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Obviously I had to Google him afterwards. It’s the responsible thing to do once you start dating someone new. I discovered that after such career highs as Choices of the Heart: The Margaret Sanger Story and People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful 1991, Jason bounced around for a while before landing the role of a morally flexible car salesman on HBO’s Call Me Fitz. 

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The show has received some critical acclaim and firmly re-trenched the Canadian starlet in D-List celebrity territory. Priestley is also starring in David Mamet’s new play “Race”, opening here in Toronto on Sunday. So, if you need me, I’ll be sitting in the front row, wearing my ratty old 90210 shirt and cheering on my man until further notice. Jason, if you’re reading this- let’s try to make it 4 seconds this time.  ;) 

Savage Garden

This TBT is brought to you by the Bellagio hotel lobby, whose unofficial radio policy is: “All Savage Garden, All The Time”.

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I swear I heard their songs more times in the past 4 days than in the past 10 years combined.  (Not that I’m complaining.)

For those of you who didn’t slow dance to “Truly Madly Deeply” with your grade 6 boyfriend like I did, I’ll give a little background: Savage Garden was an Australian pop/rock duo who first hit it big in North America back in 1998. Something about “Chicken Cherry Cola”.

The band consisted of Darren Hayes on vocals and Daniel Jones on instrumentals. After producing a handful of hits in the late 90′s, the pair split up in 2001 so Hayes could pursue his solo endeavours. 

Hayes came out with the song “Insatiable” in 2002 which I never heard but somehow has over 4 million YouTube hits???

I initially credited this to his glorious frosted tips in the video:

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but joke’s on me, because Darren Hayes is actually a legit TBT success story! He has done four solo albums since Savage Garden, all of which have been commercially successful. According to Wikipedia, he also came out as being gay in the early 2000′s and is a huge a Star Wars buff. Who Knew!

Chumbawamba 

Now I know y’all remember pissing the night away to this one:

But what has happened to the Brit band since?

Well, apparently Chumbawamba has been together for almost 30 years (!!) and was originally formed as an anarchist movement.

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After gracing the world with their surreptitiously anti-facist party anthem “TubThumping”, Chumbawamba had a bit of an identity crisis. They signed under multiple different labels, recording songs in basically every genre possible: techno, punk, world, a capella folk. They even released a Japan-only mini album (wtf is that?) consisting entirely of country and western versions of their greatest hits. Oh, and I almost forgot- they also sometimes go by the name “Skin Disease”.

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Apparently they got tired of being the weirdest band on earth, because in 2012, they decided to call it quits.

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So I know I say this about everyone, but this band REALLY needs their own reality show. I would totally watch that noise.

Off to find a way to make that happen!

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Question of the Day: Any 90′s stars you wonder about?

Book Review: Ham On Rye By Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski was one angry man.

….Or should I say, Henry Chinaski, Bukowkski’s thinly veiled aler-ego in the novel Ham on Rye.

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In this semi-autobiographical take on Bukowksi’s own life, Ham on Rye follows Chinaski through his childhood and adolescence, first in Germany, and then in depression-era Los Angeles.

To say life wasn’t easy for the young Chinaski would be an understatement. Poverty, bullying, and frequent beatings from his father were just a few of the problems he faced on a daily basis. Not to mention the horrible,  disfiguring acne he acquired as a teenager, forcing him to suffer through painful treatments and social ostracization.

As a result of this, Chinaski grew up an angry outsider. He had few friends at school, and spent most of his time reading D.H. Lawrence books in the Los Angeles public library. He also sought solace in writing, but his stories were often dismissed by others as being “too angry”.

I would call Chinaski a misanthrope, were it not for his abiding love – nay, obsession- with the female form. (let’s just say l had no idea how gross teenage males could be).  Oh, and of course, alcohol. He notably remarks, after experiencing intoxication for the first time: “this is going to help me for a long, long time”.

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Unfortunately, the honeymoon is short-lived, and his relationship with alcohol leads to progressively seedier and more violent behavior.

There’s not really much of a “plot” in Ham on Rye: it tells the story of the first 20 years of Chinaski’s life; and then it ends. And that was OK with me.

I read this book in one Sunday afternoon. I had planned on seeing Gangster Squad, but had 45 minutes to kill before the movie started. So I popped into the bookstore next to the theatre. I’d been wanting to read Bukowski since I read this letter he wrote, so I picked up this book and settled into a comfy chair to check it out.

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Four hours and 230 pages later, I completely missed my movie, but found a great book. (Yes, a book beat out Ryan Gosling. What is happening to me.)

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I ended up buying a copy out of guilt (Well played, Chapters Indigo…Well played), and proceeded to walk out of the store like a zombie. The last time I read an entire book in one day was probably in Middle School, when I was obsessed with the Emily of New Moon series.

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I used to lock myself in my room for days, devouring books like some sort of crazed meth addict. I’d forgotten what an overwhelming and mentally exhausting feeling this can be. Thoughts and emotions whirred around my brain like crazy; letters floated in front of my eyelids every time I blinked.

I think this book hit me particularly hard because it was so emotionally raw. At times I thought about putting it down, but couldn’t. It was sort of like pressing a canker sore; as uncomfortable as it was, I also kind of liked it. Having read a lot of fluff before this, it felt good to read a book with real pain and tangible feelings involved- one that wasn’t obviously angling to become a Hollywood film.

I think one of the biggest things I took away from this book was just how good my generation has it. Growing up, my parents would say things like, “you kids don’t know how lucky you are!”. And proceed to regale us with harrowing tales from their youth; like “I used to walk four miles to school, in 35 foot high snow!”  or “I had to scrub the floors for three hours every day.. with a toothbrush!”

It was easy to tune them out and hear the voice of the Charlie Brown teacher when it was my parents:

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not so much when the words were right there on the page in front of me. It made me feel guilty and ashamed for complaining about all of my first-world problems, when poor Henry Chinaski was wearing the same pants to school every day and getting his ass kicked for missing a blade of grass when he cut the front lawn.

Chinaski’s experience as a German immigrant also really hit me on a personal level. Like Chinaski, my father was also the son of Eastern European immigrants, and he too was chided by his peers and made to feel unwelcome for his immigrant status. It gave me a whole new appreciation for how difficult it was for my dad growing up. I wanted to reach out across four provinces and give him a great big hug.

Even though it was aggressively emo and made my cold sarcastic heart grow three sizes in one day,  I still thought this book was great, and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to take a step out of their reading comfort zone.

I give it: 4/5 Intellectual Dachshunds 

Intellectual Dachshund Says: I Feel Feelings

Intellectual Dachshund Says: I Feel Feelings

Question of the Day: What book has made a lasting impression on you?

And P.S. for those of you who are worried about my emotional health, rest assured that I am currently reading The Happiness Project.. which I’m told fixes every problem in your entire life. Right??

When Did Valentine’s Day Get Such a Bad Rap?

The other day, I got a package in the mail from my mom and dad. In it, was a little Valentine’s day gift (yes, I know I am 27 years old.. what is your point, please?), as well as this vintage looking card with Raggedy Ann on the front:

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Curious, I opened it up to reveal that this was one of the cards I had given away myself in elementary school.

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Cute, eh? I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure I gave these out in grade 3. I also dressed up as Raggedy Ann for Halloween that year, so the timeline (and sadness) of it all would make sense.

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Grade 3 was a bit of an awkward year for me.

Anyway, it all got me to thinking about Valentine’s days past.

I will take any excuse to use this flashback image.

I will take any excuse to use this flashback image.

Back when I was a kid, Valentine’s day was invariably awesome. I’d wake up to some little treat from my parents; a card with some chocolate, some new barrettes, maybe even a Barbie (!!!) and then sit down to what I can only assume were my dad’s attempt at heart-shaped pancakes.

He tried.

He tried.

Then, I would deck myself out in red from head to toe (even the socks. I was a Valentine’s day extremist) and head to school, where we’d spend the morning fashioning little envelopes out of construction paper to hang on the edge of our desks to collect our Valentine’s bounty.

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After lunch was when the magic happened: Everyone brought in some food item to share with the class; (homemade cupcakes if your mom was fancy; a box of Oreos in my case) and there was often a bowl of punch, which, as a kid always made you feel very grown up.

Then, when it was time, you’d walk around the room and drop your painstakingly chosen Valentines into the newly minted envelopes of each of your classmates. No one was ever left out; as the rule in my school was that everyone got a Valentine.

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When all was said and done, I’d lay them all out on my desk; analyzing my haul the way I would my Halloween candy. Disney cards were always a constant; The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast. Other themes varied from year to year. One year Power Rangers was big; another year I distinctly remember getting 6 separate Sailor Moon cards.

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I can’t help but wonder; when did it all change? When did Valentine’s day go from being this awesome day filled with treats, kitschy cards and self-assurance; to the polarizing, commercial holiday it is today? When did we start calling it “Singles Awareness Day”, rather than just “Best Day Ever”?

sadWas it once elementary school ended, and the safety net of everyone getting a card was cruelly ripped out from under us? Or was it even sooner? Come to think of it, I remember as early as grade four, poring over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles card given to me by my crush, analyzing the cryptic message inside. “You have a Pizza My Heart” it read. Did this mean we were officially an item now? He had pushed me in the mud earlier that day…

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I can’t say for sure, but I kind of long to have those days back. I want to make sh*t out of construction paper again, and dress in monochromatic red with reckless abandon. I want to drink Hawaiian punch out of a fancy bowl and gorge myself on Grocery store slab cake. (Ok, that last part I will probably still do; though it will be in the solace of my own home rather than a classroom setting. And the punch will probably be spiked with the good stuff). Who’s with me? Let’s find a DeLorean and make it happen.

Question of the Day: When did your perception of Valentine’s Day shift?

Like Father, Like Daughter

So as I mentioned in my last post, my dad came to visit me in Toronto this weekend.

Since his birthday is on Christmas and he perpetually gets the shaft gift-wise, my siblings and I decided to chip in this year and get him tickets to the Buffalo Bills game happening here.

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Now, given my dad lives in small town Nova Scotia and has only been to Toronto once 30 years ago, I kind of expected his visit to resemble one 48 hour-long episode of Breaking Amish.

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But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Dad soaked up Toronto like a sponge and wanted to experience everything it had to offer. He seriously wore me out. I’ve gotta start taking those iron pills.

The weekend got off to a rough start, however, when we experienced a slight luggage snafu at the airport. (I just love the word “snafu”. It makes even the most horrific problems sound like charming little anecdotes). I won’t get into too much detail because it’s kind of a long story, but know that in the end, we emerged victorious. And there might have been a little low-level B&E involved (By him, not by me of course: I have a professional reputation to uphold).

All’s well that ends well, right??

Anyway, with lady luck on our side, we prepared to tackle the rest of the weekend. (<— football pun).

Some highlights included:

  • Brunch Dates: (Sorry Karen.. had to cheat on you just this once)

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  • My very first visit to the CN Tower

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(And no, I did not step foot on that glass floor. Heights and I do naaaat get along.)

  • The Hockey Hall of Fame

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Ladies- a word to the wise. If you plan on accompanying a man here, bring reading material. And maybe a flask. (Unless you’re one of those progressive ladies who are really into sports. In which case, have fun… and ignore my anti-feminist propaganda. )

  • The Allan Gardens Conservatory:

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  • The St. Lawrence Antiques Market

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This was a win for both of us. I checked out vintage jewellery and books while he bartered over old coins. I even scored this sweet vintage 1968 Bulova. #treat

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  • He even got me to go to church. At least I got this cool instagram pic:

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And, of course, the Bills game:

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To say he loved it would be an understatement. We got kicked out of the stadium for lingering there so long afterwards. He loved the crowd and seeing all of the behind-the-scenes stuff you don’t see on TV.

I, on the other hand, amused myself by taking pictures:

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Reaffirming my love for cracker jacks, and of course, Psy’s halftime performance.

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Does this feel like a really long 15 minutes to anyone else?

I also feel like I got to know my dad a lot better this weekend. Like for one thing, he asks a LOT of questions. Here is just a small sampling of the many queries he had for me:

  • Are the Concession vendors inside Rogers Centre paid an hourly rate or by commission?
  • Who owns this building/when was it built/what is the occupancy/how many stories is it (Re: every single building we were in)
  • What does your landlord’s boyfriend do for a living?
  • Are the subway cars the same on both ends? What happens when it gets to the end of the line?

I guess I can’t really fault him; I, too, was notorious for my relentless questioning as  a child. I remember asking my older sister what other names my parents had considered for me, and she responded “Sun Yeoung”.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“She who asks too many questions.”

What’s that about an apple and a tree?

He was truly obsessed with the subway though.

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He had never been on one before, and kept trying to convince me to take it to the end of the line just to see what would happened. Of everything we did this weekend, he told me the Bills game was his favourite, followed by riding the subway. I told him he was like a little kid who gets a gift and likes the box better than the present itself.

Dad also made like 800 new friends talking to every single person he encountered. Ticket scalpers, homeless people, construction workers, TTC employees, you name it. He knows all of them by name and their life stories. I hope he doesn’t get wind of the fact that we’re looking for a new mayor here in Toronto, or I may never have my apartment to myself again.

Question of the Day: Are you like your dad? Your mom?

P.S. I know you’ve been waiting for it. Here it is, folks: Track 3 from the mix-tape nobody cares about!

On How I Ruined Christmas

The year was 1994, in the month of December. My best friend and I had just settled into a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos when the topic of Christmas arose.

“I hope I get SuperTalk Barbie,” I yearned. “Did you know she can say over 100,000 things?”

Truth

Truth

“Well I already know what I’m getting for Christmas,” replied my best friend, “because I snooped and found it all”.

I was incredulous. At 9 years old, I was a play-by-the rules-type of kid. I did my homework religiously, never talked back to my parents, and had an unwavering, self-imposed bedtime of 8:00 p.m. The idea that someone would snoop for their Christmas gifts seemed an affront to almost everything I believed in.

“But you couldn’t have found them all!” I pleaded. “What about the ones Santa brings on Christmas Eve?”

“Oh Bree,” she said, shaking her head, “You’ve got a lot to learn.”

She led me down the hall towards her parent’s room, checking to make sure they were firmly entranced by the TV on the way. She motioned for me to “Shhh” as we tiptoed into the bedroom and opened the closet door. There stood a large bag full of Christmas delights: Barbies, shiny new clothes and a few wrapped packages.

A pile of Christmas gifts in colorful wrapping with ribbons.

“That one’s The Lion King,” she said, gesturing to the colourfully wrapped package I was holding. “I already steamed it open and wrapped it back up.”

I was overwhelmed with emotions. Despite this stark evidence to the contrary, I refused to believe that Santa was nothing more than an elaborate hoax. Maybe her parents just didn’t understand how the whole process worked. Did they even have a chimney? Perhaps they had worked out some sort of alternative delivery arrangement with Santa and were simply holding these presents in escrow on his behalf.

santa2

Seriously. That bag probably gets real heavy on Christmas Eve.

But try as I might to justify it, once this brain worm had been implanted, it was like inception. I needed to see for myself.

I waited until my mom was out grocery shopping and my dad was fussing with the Christmas lights outside to make my move. Given that I was a complete novice in gifting espionage, I didn’t quite know where to start, but figured I’d begin with the usual suspects. After striking out in the closet, under the bed and in the basement, I knew there was only one place left to look: the attic.

I had vowed never to set foot in our attic again after my two older brothers had locked me up there with a horrifying life-size Raggedy Ann doll almost 5 years prior. But sometimes, even your own rules are meant to be broken.

I took a deep breath, pulled the cord that released the rickety old ladder and began my ascent. Through the near pitch -darkness, I could make out a fuzzy pink blanket covering something big and oddly misshapen. I tip-toed closer, careful not to make a peep, and yanked the blanket off.

There before me lay Christmas morning: almost three weeks early. There was SuperTalk Barbie; just as I had dreamed of! There was a GT snow racer, a brand new SEGA genesis for my brothers, nerf guns, even a BopIt! And of course, the mother of all gifts: a giant, 12 disc rotating CD player (which, in 1994, was no small potatoes). It even had a double tape deck!

CDp2

But then a funny thing happened. Instead of feeling validated like I had expected, I felt sick to my stomach. My initial excitement over being able to tape a tape quickly faded and left me with nothing but guilt and anxiety. I had ruined Christmas. There would be no surprises now. And worst of all, this seemed indisputable proof that there was indeed, no Santa Claus. We had a chimney. And it worked just fine.

Riddled with guilt, I tried everything in my power to clear my conscience. I wrote tearful admissions in my diary. I became Santa’s biggest playground defender. I even went to confession. But no amount of Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s could repress the memory of what I had done.

When Christmas morning came, I smiled with a heavy heart as we headed into the living room to see what “Santa” had brought us. “Look!” said my mom, pointing to the CD player excitedly, “Santa must know how much you like making mix tapes!”

I nodded forlornly as I watched my siblings tear open packages, their eyes glistening with delight at each new surprise. Oh what I would have given to experience that feeling myself!

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Not me

“Hey guys,” said my dad, “come look on the roof! I think the reindeer left hoof prints!” I knew, of course, that there had been no reindeer. I had heard my dad up on the roof himself the previous night as I lay awake sleepless. He had spent almost an hour creating the perfect “tracks”. I was going to fake this surprise if it killed me.

I never did come clean to my parents about what I had done, and although I never snooped again, I still live with the residual guilt. I don’t know what, if anything, I can do to repay this karmic debt, but I do know that when I become a parent, I’ll be certain to find a better hiding spot.

I mean come on mom and dad, have you never SEEN this movie?

Really mom and dad? The attic? Have you SEEN Christmas Vacation?

Question of the Day: Did you snoop for your Christmas gifts growing up?

It’s Not A Party Until Somebody Busts out an EpiPen

“Someone call 911!!” my Father shouted, “and for God’s sake would someone go calm down your mother??!”

It was Thanksgiving 2007, and I was standing in the upstairs bathroom of my childhood home, staring down at the (seemingly) lifeless body of my older sister Marija.

Just a few moments before, she had returned from her annual Thanksgiving 10k run and  gone upstairs to take a shower. The rest of my family and I were busying ourselves in the kitchen when suddenly, we heard a telltale “THUD” . We rushed upstairs to find my sister, passed out cold on the bathroom floor, sweatband and dry fit gear still firmly in place.

What she had neglected to tell any of us was that for the past four days, she had been subsisting on nothing but a cayenne pepper and maple syrup concoction (laced with speed, evidently) in an effort to pare down for the holidays. Apparently, this was a diet Beyonce swore by.

Right. So that makes it a good idea.

Unarmed with this essential information, we all feared the worst and launched into full-scale panic mode. My brother hit the floor, attempting to revive her like a scene from a bad Nicholas Cage film, while my mother screamed bloody murder in the background. I, in my usual helpful fashion, did nothing but stand there and sob uncontrollably. My father had just gone to send up an emergency flare in the backyard when my sister came to, staring into the faces of 6 crazed lunatics.

“Guys, I’m fine” she said. “But can someone get me a Gatorade or something?”

I wish I could say that this story was one of a kind; a blip on the radar of an otherwise unblemished Thanksgiving history. But sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Growing up the youngest of 5, Thanksgiving, much like any other holiday, was basically a shit show. If someone wasn’t passing out, they were splitting their hand open with a carving knife, or arm-wrestling over the last drumstick. Just getting us all in one place was cause for celebration in and of itself.

Despite all of this calamity,  I continue to book the overpriced ticket and go home for Thanksgiving every year. Why? Because there’s always the distinct possibility of one of my siblings getting their head stuck inside a turkey. And if so, I’d really like to put sunglasses on it.

Another Thanksgiving debacle in our family is the annual debate over who will say grace. The pre-dinner prayer was a necessary precursor to every Thanksgiving meal growing up, and one my siblings and I avoided like the plague. My Father would take up his post at the head of the table and ask, “Now, whose turn is it to say grace this year?” And inevitably, 5 collective heads would lower, eager to escape this cruel and unusual punishment.

I’m not really sure why we hated it so much. You reference the grub, thank the Big Man upstairs and move on. I mean, sure, there are are some weird, Latin old-timey words in there, but it wasn’t like you had to announce that you still wet the bed or something. Regardless, it was an unwritten rule that the one who had to say it would be forced to carry around a lifetime of eternal shame.

As the youngest, I was often the scapegoat. My siblings would team up against me and insist “It’s Bree’s turn! It’s Bree’s turn!” conveniently “forgetting” that I had recited it the previous 5 years in a row. If I ever thought about objecting, I only had to look at my brothers to know that one peep would result in a year’s worth of Smurf bites and figure four leg locks. Inevitably, I relented, left to mumble “Bless us o lord, for these thy gifts…” into my mashed potatoes as my brothers snickered in the background.

Things only got worse for me when one year, I decided to make a Thanksgiving centrepiece. I was 11, and going through my short-lived “interior decorating phase”. I watched home decorating shows religiously, rearranged the furniture in my bedroom daily, and, if permitted, would have sponge-painted every available surface area in our home. I had seen an amazing centerpiece in a copy of Martha Stewart Living  and was hell-bent on making it, despite my mother’s objections about the mess it would cause and my brothers’ taunts that “no one cared about a stupid centrepiece anyway”. It consisted of fall leaves artfully arranged in a cornucopia made out of a single piece of birch bark: all sprinkled with a hefty dose of glitter. It was magnificent. I just knew having it on our table would make for the best Thanksgiving ever.

Determined, I set off  in search of the perfect fall foliage for my piece de resistance. What I neglected to consider, however, were my chronically severe seasonal allergies. About 20 minutes into rummaging through leaf piles, I was sneezing so hard I could barely see straight, hives popping up on every inch of exposed skin. Think McCauley Culkin in My Girl, minus the anaphylaxis. I was barely able to stumble back home and limply drop my leaves onto the table before my mom gave me a hefty dose of Benadryl and sent me to bed. This was not, as Martha had suggested, A Good Thing.

Luckily, I only had to wait one year for my embarrassing Thanksgiving moment to be eclipsed by my brother Kristin performing what was perhaps the most notoriously stupid act in our family’s history.

We were celebrating our first Thanksgiving in a brand new home, and my mom brought out her gold-plated wedding china for the occasion. We had all been served, and were just about to sit down to dinner when my brother decided to warm up his turkey dinner in the microwave.

Not being an idiot, I of course knew that the combination of gold plating and microwaves did not mix, but despite this did nothing to stop it. Why? Because the irony was much too sweet. My brother; the self-described “science prodigy”. Boaster of many a math and science accolade. Dropper of frequent and unsolicited periodic table-related puns. This was much, much too good.

Just as I (and every known law of physics) predicted, within seconds sparks began flying and the Microwave lit up like a fourth of July picnic. He quickly rushed to press “cancel”, but not before leaving a sizeable hole in the newly microwave and a strong sulphuric tinge in the air. I had never felt so validated.

Shockingly, the mayhem is showing no signs of slowing down, and year after year, our house continues to resemble another instalment in the National Lampoon series. Just this past Thanksgiving, my mother claimed to have taken an allergic reaction to my sister Sherene’s homemade preserves, and proceeded to fan her face and sneeze dramatically throughout the entire meal. She says it was because of the nutmeg. I say it’s because they sucked. Oh well, I guess the old adage is true: it’s not a party until somebody busts out an EpiPen!

           Question of the Day: Any Good Thanksgiving Fails to Share?

*Ok so I know it’s not technically Thanksgiving for me. But I thought I would share this one for all my Amurrican friends. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!