Tour de Open Houses

Newly married and quickly outgrowing our single closet 500 square foot condo, my husband and I recently began looking for a house in Toronto.

Friends and family gently warned us that the real estate market in Toronto was “tough”, and that we may want to adjust our expectations. We listened politely, but remained firmly ensconced in our naïve, hopeful bubble: we had our expectations in check, thank you very much– a semi-detached was just fine. Plus, we had what we thought was a healthy budget.

We set up an initial meeting with a real estate agent, and over beers, peered down at a giant, dry erase map of downtown. She handed us a marker and suggested we circle the areas we were interested in. I drew careful circles around our dream list of preferred neighborhoods, reserving a heart for our favorite neighbourhood of all.

“So, the magic question”, she asked,”what is your budget?”

I relayed our amount confidently.

“Ok, so that rules out here” she said, proceeding to break my (literal and figurative) heart with the back of her hand. “You might be able to get a semi here,” “here, it’s not likely but we’ll give it a shot”.

“Don’t worry,” she reassured us, correctly reading the terror on my face, “we’ll find you something”. We left with a stack of pamphlets on home inspections, termites and standard terms and conditions, already convinced we couldn’t afford to live in Drake’s compost bin.

The next morning, we began receiving daily listings of houses in our selected areas. At first it was exciting; I would roll over in bed, pick up my phone and scour the listings like a little kid on Christmas morning. But quickly my enthusiasm began to fade.

“They want how much for this dilapidated shoe box?” I’d ask my husband, incredulously, “I think I see crime scene tape! Is that blood??”

Still, we soldiered on, and began what I call our weekly “Tour de Open Houses”

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that visiting open houses is basically an endurance sport. Each weekend morning began with making a list of 6-7 homes we wanted to check out. Some were on opposite ends of the city, and since we don’t have a car, to make them all within the 2-4pm open house window, we plotted our mission like a high stakes jewel heist.

Our initial strategy was to take the subway to the farthest destination, then physically run to the next house on the list. We soon realized that a) we are in horrible shape; and b) we were wasting precious time lacing up sneakers. Also, some of the agents didn’t take too kindly to us sweating all over their beautifully staged furniture.

So despite the frigid February weather, we switched to flip-flops (what’s a little frostbite if you find your dream home?) and Ubering between houses.  At one point we had our Uber driver wait outside each house in his cherry red Mazda 3 like a getaway car.

We had a checklist of must-haves (3 bedrooms, eat-in kitchen, parking, finished basement) and approached each house like a sting operation, scouring the rooms with maximum speed and efficiency.  At one point, my husband wanted to take a closer look at the shed in the backyard and I was like:

Of course, there were plenty of diversion tactics designed to lead us off course. Like when the agent at one open house was literally baking cookies. As soon as we walked in we were assaulted by the delicious smell. “Don’t fall for it- It’s a trick!” I hissed at my husband, who had already begun walking, zombie like, towards the plate of cookies on the counter. I grabbed his arm and pulled him back to me. “Can’t you see the smell is masking a tiny kitchen and already lifting floorboards?!”

I successfully sidestepped the wine and cheese at the next house (which for me was a MAJOR accomplishment), but ultimately succumbed to the fresh cannolis at the next (you guys, cannolis! From the bakery just down the street!).  We actually considered putting an offer on that place, until the fog of sugar and fat lifted and I realized it was directly across from a derelict gas station that appeared to be an illicit drug front operation.

Interpreting the adjectives realtors use is also like deciphering code.

  • “Cozy” = shoebox.
  • “Renovator’s Dream” = asbestos paradise.
  • “Recently updated” = cheap flip job where the doorknobs fall off in your hands.

I even saw one house described as “Artisinal”, which I thought was a term reserved for hipster restaurants and small-batch coffee producers.

We also learned to look past the cheesy staging furniture and decor, sidestepping the “Keep Calm and Carry On” pillows that assaulted our eyes at every turn. And we quickly got wise to the tricks designed to make the rooms look bigger- like the doll-sized furniture, and stripping all signs of life and clutter bare, absent a few, classic novels,  discarded casually on bedside tables as if to imply “You, too would read Tolstoy if you lived here”.

So, after nearly 6 months and almost 100 homes visited, where does all this hard-earned intel leave us?

Nowhere.

Although we have yet to achieve the pinnacle of home ownership, and are still engaging in a shoe turf war, at least we’ve narrowed down what we are looking for so much that we skip open houses and go directly to the source with our agent. Which, on the bright side, means I can now spend my Saturdays doing what’s really important: watching everything I PVR’d from the week and eating bottomless bowls of cereal.

Question of the Day: Have you bought a house? How was the process?

 

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License to Wed

It’s now less than two weeks until our wedding, and I’m like:

I’ve been following a checklist on a popular wedding website, and along with such feminism-destroying tips as “Start your wedding diet!” and “Explore teeth whitening options!”, it also informed me last week that it was time to obtain our marriage licence.

A marriage licence. Now this sounded serious. The term evoked Victorian imagery in my mind, and I pictured a court of high justice with bewigged elders bestowing this all-important document upon us. I prayed there wouldn’t be any kind of dowry involved because with this wedding I am seriously broke as hell.

We filled out a simple form online, printed it off, and walked into Toronto City Hall the next morning. Already, I was disappointed by the lack of ceremony. I would have liked to have been heralded in by velvet-coated trumpeters announcing our intention to marry.

Instead, we walked into a dreary scene and were asked to take a number.  There were dozens of people in line and my heart immediately swelled at the would-be married couples. Then I realized that the line forked in two directions, and that everyone except for us was waiting for employment insurance.

So we proceeded to the front of our line and were greeted by a middle-aged balding, bespectacled man in a sweater vest. Wow, this guy really won the city worker lottery,  I thought, gazing sympathetically at the sad, disgruntled employment insurance claim processor to our left.

But sadly, Tobias Fünke 2.0 didn’t seem to have picked up on his good fortune.

“ID’s please”, he said dryly.

As he looked over our IDs, I steeled myself for the long and formal interview process that would inevitably follow. After all, they don’t just let anyone get married, do they?

Instead, he looked up and said “Ok, let me just print your licence now.”

That was it? No interview? No quality control? I thought about standing up and screaming “I AM UNDER DURESS!” just to see what would happen, but in the end, thought better of it.

He walked over to a 90’s-era printer, and returned with a long piece of white paper. “Here’s your marriage licence” he said, nonchalantly.

I gazed dejectedly at the unassuming, legal-sized sheet.  I had been expecting a gilded scroll; perhaps tied with a peacock feather. Couldn’t they at least have thrown in a little parchment? Give me something to Instagram here.

“Give that to your officiant.” He added, unceremoniously. “And Good luck”.  Did I detect the faintest hint of sarcasm?

I walked out on to Queen Street in a daze, fully qualified to marry, and fully convinced I watch way too many movies.

Question of the Day: Are you married? Did you get swept up in the planning process? 

30 Lessons On My 30th Birthday

It’s coming for me. Rearing around the bend like a freight train. I can’t run. I can’t hide.  All I can do is curl up in a ball and accept my fate of crows feet, fiscal responsibility and mythical two-day hangovers.

Tomorrow, I will be turning 30.

Ok- so maybe I’m overreacting a little bit. There are some good things about turning 30- like never having to wear cut-off jean shorts or attend a music festival again. Plus, I’ve picked up a few nuggets of wisdom along the way. Here, in no particular order, are 30 things I’ve learned in 30 years here on earth.

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1. Never trust anyone with bad eyebrows. NEVER.

2. No juice cleanse is ever worth it

3. You can’t change genetics. The body you’re born with is going to be the body you have to deal with for the rest of your life, +/- a few pounds…. No matter how many juice cleanses you (don’t) do

4. Speak up in meetings. Even if you think you have nothing to say, find something so people can hear your voice and know that you’re there

5. The 5 minutes between when you wake up and when that sweet, sweet caffeine hits your veins are invariably the worst of your day. Soldier through, and it can only get better.

6. Take the job/opportunity you feel unqualified for

7. Jennifer Anniston movies are always going to get approximately 37% on Rotten Tomatoes.

8. Being able to do your own winged eyeliner is a highly valuable and transferable life skill

9. Time spent watching The Bachelor is never time wasted

10. Listen to your mama about who you let into your life. She can always sniff out the bad seeds (and the good ones) long before you can.

11. Don’t worry if you suck at driving. Google is inventing self-driving cars by 2017 anyway. Along with hoverboards, automatic tooth flossers, and that machine that spits out food from the Jetsons.

12. Going to bed at 10pm is never a bad idea.

13. You CAN learn to love (or at least not loathe) exercise if you force yourself to do it enough

14.  If you realize you’re not smelling so hot on the way to a fancy event and the only thing around is a bottle of Febreeze, it will do as a makeshift deodorant (I may have just learned this last night.) Ain’t no shame in smelling like your aunt Marg’s spare bedroom.

15.  Wear sunscreen. Every day. Even in a snowstorm. Even when you’re sitting on your couch watching an Extreme Weight Loss marathon. Seriously. The sun is not your friend

16. Know your limits and when to say no. If you have a hard time with that, here are some GIFs you can use as inspiration:

 

 

17. Family is BAE. Even when they’re acting a fool and driving you crazy. Protect them always and never make excuses for them

18. Having thin hair is not a death sentence in this wonderful world of cheap and plentiful hair extensions

19. Sometimes you just gotta admit you’re the problem.

20. Don’t waste your time looking for the next best thing

21. You will have the frequent occasional Low Self-Esteem Tuesday. Drink a big glass of red wine, call a good friend and sleep it off.  Tomorrow will be a better day.

22. Patience is a virtue and one not many people possess. Having it will set you apart

23. Never let anyone see you sweat. Except at hot yoga cause ain’t no way you’re avoiding that

24. Embrace your quirkiness (I don’t know, maybe even start a blog about it)

25. Demand more for yourself. Kick anyone to the curb who isn’t giving you 150%

26. No one’s life is ever as good as it seems on Instagram

27. Being vulnerable once in a while is OK

28. Nutella makes everything better

29. Don’t be scared to take the occasional risk. Fortune favors the bold (although, mostly just rich people)

30. You can always find the humor in everyday life- you just need to look for it

Question of the day: Anything to add to my list? 

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Pumpkin French Toast with Caramelized Apples

At the risk of sounding completely basic, I will admit that I absolutely love pumpkin. Every year, when September rolls around, I’m like:

I even wrote a whole post devoted to all the different things you can do with leftover pumpkin.

This was not one of them but obviously should have been.

And since my other BAE is brunch

I thought why not marry the two?

What about….. PUMPKIN FRENCH TOAST!!

I decided to top it with some caramelized apples because I went apple picking in Caledon last weekend (and by “picking”, I mean stood around directing Colin to get all the high ones) and have about 30 left to use. Plus, isn’t the best way to enjoy fresh, seasonal fruit smothering it in butter and sugar?

For the caramelized apples I used a slightly modified version of this recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butt-aaaah
  • 4 apples cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used mostly MacIntosh. Some recipes say to peel them but I enjoy the skins)
  • 2 tablespoons golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat until it begins to brown. Next, add apples, brown sugar and spices, stir to blend and sauté until tender (about 10 minutes).

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aww yeah

Now set aside that delicious noise and move on to the toast.

For the French Toast (makes about 8-9 pieces): 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond because I am a weight-conscious yuppie but you could use any variety)
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix- use the real sh*t) 450
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp of Pumpkin pie Spice (recipe here)
  • 8 pieces of bread (I used day-old egg bread, similar to Challah)
  • Butter or margarine for the pan
  • Maple Syrup to top

First, pre-heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat (or griddle if ya nasty) and butter that sh*t. Combine the milk, pumpkin puree, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and Pumpkin Pie Spice in a bowl until well combined. Pour into a shallow dish.

Next, dip the bread into the egg mixture one piece at a time, coating both sides (Tip: use your hand to dip the bread. I initially tried to do it with a spatula and it was a hot mess). Transfer to the skillet and cook until golden brown on one side, then flip to the opposite side and cook until golden brown as well.

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Guys, this smelled SO GOOD. I had to hold myself back while cooking.

Once done, transfer to plate and top with caramelized apples. I also had some leftover toasted hazlenuts because I am basically Martha Stewart so I threw on a few of those as well.

Serve warm with real maple syrup. No Aunt Jemima bid-nass up in here. (I also made some turkey bacon on the side. If you close your eyes really hard it ALMOST tastes like regular bacon.)

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Voila! Oh MAN. Let me tell you,

The only thing missing?

Question of the day: What is your favorite breakfast food? 

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Be Our Guest

While I am by no means a natural “planner”, I like to think I’ve risen to the occasion on this whole “bride to be” thing. Over the past few months I have somehow overcome my paralyzing laziness and successfully managed to set a date, pick a venue, order a cake and even source the perfect, realistic looking human hair extensions (seriously guys, I look like a Real Housewife in them. In a good way).

I was beginning to feel confident- dare I say, even a tad cocky- in my wedding planning abilities –

Until we met with the event coordinator at our venue last week.

We were there for our food tasting, but as soon as I took the first bite of my grilled Cornish hen, she pulled out her clipboard and launched into a line of questioning.

“Have you thought about your seating arrangement? Colour of the chairs? What time will the cake cutting be? What about favors? What about a candy bar? Everyone is doing a candy bar these days. And how many speeches will there be and what is your social insurance number and can I please have your first-born child?”

I was like:

“And what about a guest book?” She added, not missing a beat “Have you thought about what you’ll do?”

“Of course!” I lied

“Because you know there are so many interesting things you can do these days besides just a regular old, boring book for people to sign. You should really do something that’s meaningful to you as a couple.” 

“Go check Pinterest,” she continued, “there are tons of ideas!”

I stumbled out of the venue like a survivor of a zombie apocalypse, visions of flowers and place cards and candy bars swirling in my head.

I spent the next couple of days in a haze of anxiety, stress eating my go-to bulk barn candy (aptly named “OMGs”). But one thing you should know about me is that I’m competitive as hell and never back down from a challenge. So I logged onto Pinterest. She wanted a unique wedding guest book? She was going to get a unique effing guest book.

I was immediately bombarded by hundreds of ideas- each more ridiculous and involved than the next. Was I really expected to compete in this world of extreme Bridal DIY? I thought I would share a few with you, just so you see what kind of intensity I’m up against.

1.”Encourage guests to sign small squares of fabric. After the wedding day, pay a local seamstress to fashion the squares into a sentimental quilt.”

2. “Hire a silhouette artist to come to your reception and create custom likenesses for all of your guests to be placed in a keepsake album.”

What,you don’t know a silhouette artist? I have one on speed dial, right between “Artisinal Moustache Wax Purveyor” and “Theremin Player/Reiki Healer.” Come to think of it, this is a great idea. I’ll set him up right between the build-your-own fixie bike station and the DIY taxidermy bar. Maybe I’ll even throw in a vintage ferris wheel and an organic candy apple dipping station! Adult coloring books are so 2015. 2016 is all about the adult wedding carnival!!

3. “Have guests sign decorative plates for a beautiful wall hanging for your new home!” 

                                             Plate Guest Book

4. Or how  about a wedding tablecloth?

“Ask guests to sign well wishes on a tablecloth you can use for festive occasions! Just be sure to buy a clear plastic cover since you won’t want to wash this baby often!”

5. Have your guests create a thumbprint work of art!

Ok, so this is actually kind of a cool idea and kudos to those brides who can make it work, but I have a feeling that instead of this splendid, beautiful peacock/hipster lovers with balloons:

I’d end up with this:

HELP!

Question of the Day: Any realistic guest book ideas for me? (MINIMAL EFFORT REQUIRED) 

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You’ve Changed

I was standing at the stove the other day, toasting some cumin over low heat (just long enough for it to become fragrant- not too dark), when I suddenly had an out-of-body experience. Who was this woman, patiently coaxing the flavors out of Indian spices on a Tuesday night? This woman who, 2 years ago,  would have been hard pressed to boil a pot of water, let alone cook an entire meal of food. 

I floated above myself, taking in the olive oil, chopped fresh parsley and other detritus of the World’s Most Involved Potato Salad strewn around me. Clearly, I was no longer resident in my own body- I had been possessed by the demon of The Pioneer Woman, doomed to make twice-baked potatoes and blackberry cobbler for the boys on the ranch until the cows came home.

But then I thought back on my other culinary exploits over the past few months- the dry-rubbed salmon; the homemade salsa, the ambitious (and indulgent) mini NutellaCheesecakes-

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Awww yeah

and I felt an unexpected surge of pride. Could it be that I have actually grown to like cooking?

This episode forced me to reflect back on some of the other changes I’ve made over the past few years. There’s the ironing. The regular yoga attendance. Somewhere along the way I miraculously developed an ability to drink in moderation. I’m engaged to be married. I even have a wedding website for god’s sakes. A WEDDING WEBSITE.

Shortly after coming to this realization, I was walking down Queen Street West, internally debating the merits of monogrammed cocktail napkins, when I was stopped dead in my tracks by this sign:

Immediately, a wave of shame washed over me.

It felt like a giant, accusatory finger pointing directly into my soul.

HOW DID  IT KNOW? Was the yuppie, grown-upness emanating from my pores really that pungent? Someone must have told it about that time I did a juice cleanse.

I’ll be honest, part of the reason I’ve been absent from blogging for so long is that I feel like I no longer fully identify with my former BreezyK persona. When I read back on old posts about crying into my poutine at 3am, I laugh (cause let’s face it, I was hilarious), but with a sort of detached objectivity. The girl who wrote those words no longer feels like me, but a lovable, misguided younger sister.. sort of like Cameron Diaz In Her Shoes. (Aughties movie reference anyone?).

And it’s partially a fear of being told by my readers and friends exactly what that billboard asserted that has kept me away.

“You’ve changed”. It’s a loaded statement. Rarely uttered in a positive tone, and often followed by a long, judgmental silence, it typically implies that the speaker liked the “old you” better.

Would people accept the new, wedding-planning, green-juice-drinking BreezyK? Or would they mourn the passing of my lonely, junk-food-binging single girl persona? Would they think of me as a hypocrite? a phony? Or, worst of all, basic? 

I cursed this stupid billboard, whose entire purpose seemed to be thrusting passersby into shameful spirals of self-reflection.

And then I had another thought: Maybe…. just maybe… I was projecting. Maybe this billboard wasn’t accusatory at all, but more of a silent high-five, congratulating you on finally getting your sh*t together.

Because to be honest, the old me kinda had some room for improvement. I started this blog when I was 25. 25! That’s like, Miley Cyrus + 2. Now that I’m staring down the barrel of 30, it would be slightly concerning if I was still unable to cook, clean, do laundry or pay any of my bills on time.

Sure more of my life is devoted to grown-up pursuits like doing hand-written thank you notes and seasonally rotating my closet, but deep down, I’m still the same old BreezyK. I still watch more reality TV than I’m proud of. I still deeply prefer books to human interaction. And god damn if I still don’t love me a good cat meme.

Hehe.

Maybe I’ve changed, but I think I’ve changed for the better. And the biggest part of me that still needs to change? The part that gives a sh*t what people think about it.

Question of the day: Has anyone ever told you you’ve changed? How did you feel?

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10 Things That Happen When You Get Engaged

A few months ago, I got engaged.

Exciting for sure, but also a little bit terrifying.

Because with my shiny new accessory, I was thrust into the weird and wonderful world of wedding planning – a veritable parallel universe where words like “charmeuse” and “pave” abound, and everything is made from precious unicorn hair and costs $10 thousand dollars.

For a girl who has spent more time envisioning her ideal rap name  than her dream wedding (“DJ Breezy Beatz”, in case you were interested), this was completely overwhelming.

So to save you from the same shock I experienced, here are 10 things that happened to me- and will very likely happen to you- after getting engaged.

1. You Will Have To Use The Word “Fiancé

2. You Will Join The Pinterest Army

Even if you’ve never considered joining the visual bookmarking site; even if- to borrow a phrase from Lena Dunham- you think you’re “not that kind of girl”, within weeks of getting engaged, chances are you’ll be pinning your little heart out- perusing photos of elaborate centerpieces and DIY crocheted ring pillows until your eyes cross. You will feel a new-found sense of social media validation every time someone follows your carefully curated “Rustic-Modern-Victorian-Tropical-East-Meets-West Wedding” board. You will question what this says about you, but you won’t be able to stop. Before you know it you will be down a rabbit hole of mason jar snow globes and  mini lights; seriously contemplating giving your guests live Maltipoo puppies as wedding favors.

RESIST the urge, ladies.

3. You Will Watch Wedding Shows with a new-found purpose and enthusiasm.

Because staying in on Friday night to watch Say Yes To The Dress is no longer sad.. it’s productive.  (Ok, it’s actually still just sad).

4. You Lean More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Flowers

If you’re a horticultural rookie like I was, prepare to be SCHOOLED in the art of wedding flowers. Hydrangeas, Calla Lillies, Amarylis, Briar Rose, Gladiolus, Sage Moonblood.

(Ok, so at least two of those are actually celebrity baby names. But god help you if you can guess which ones).

By the time you’re finished visiting with florists and decorators you will feel like you’ve received an unofficial Bachelor’s Degree in botany. And, incidentally, the perfect name for the protagonist in that Victorian Romance Novel you’ve been working on.

5. You Will Discover “The Wedding Premium”

The bridal industry is one giant racket. Like the world’s suckiest magic, whenever you attach the word “wedding” to a good or service, the price skyrockets 300%.  No matter your budget, chances are you’re probably going to blow through it. Hope you like eating Campbell’s soup for every meal!

6.  You Will Become an Expert At Telling Your Proposal Story

Like an unofficial ToastMasters class, getting engaged teaches you the art of telling the same damn story 17,000 times over- condensed, edited, and maybe even hyperbolized to its pithy, climactic perfection. Which is great, because for a while, it’s all you’ll want to talk about.

But  no matter how amazing your story is, you will eventually begin to feel a simultaneous sense of dread and validation every time someone asks you about it. It’s how I imagine Tony Bennett must feel every time he gets on stage with Lady Gaga.

7. You Will Realize How Horrible and Sexist Most Wedding Publications Are.

Guys, I’m convinced the target audience for wedding magazines is solely Aspiring Disney Princesses and contestants on The Bachelor.  

With their glossy-paged depictions of elaborate, $100,000 celebrations, and articles like: How to Lose 6 Pounds in 6 Days!” and “Choosing the perfect scent for your big day!“, these publications seem to suggest that if you’re not absolutely losing your sh*t about your wedding 24 hours a day and dreaming of giant Kim-and-Kanye-inspired flower walls, well then my friend, you’re doing it wrong.

This is totally reasonable, right?

8.  You Will Surrender All Privacy

Wearing a ring on your left hand is like an unofficial beacon that screams “Please, come ask me detailed questions about my personal life!” Before you know it you will be awkwardly navigating questions with near complete strangers about whether you’re going to change your last name, when you are planning to have kids, and- in the case of your Great Aunt Martha- if you’re nervous for the “big night”.

9. You’re Going to Think You Lost Your Ring… Like All The Time

76% of brides-to-be suffer from (<— made up statistic) Hyper Ring Awareness- a manic, irrational condition where you constantly check your left hand to make sure you haven’t somehow lost your ring (Spoiler Alert- You didn’t. You’re just crazy.)

10. You Will Feel A Compelling Desire To Use The Bride Emoji Gratuitously

Fight this compulsion at all costs.

Question of the Day: If you’re engaged -any tips?

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My Real-Life Elizabeth Taylor Moment

A couple of months ago, I turned 29. I didn’t make a big fuss about it because, who celebrates turning 29? It’s one year closer to 30 and, let’s be honest: 

 I figured I’d just pour myself a big glass of red wine, slather my face with anti-wrinkle cream and spend the day flipping through old Facebook photos, lamenting the dewy, uncorrupted skin of BreezyK past. 

My boyfriend however, had other plans for me.  He suggested we both take the day off work and hang out, which sounded good to me, because shameless self-pity isn’t really my best “office look”. 

I knew we had dinner reservations at 9pm, so I figured we would just kick until then. We were watching old SNL reruns when he turned to me and said “I have a surprise for you, but you have to pack an overnight bag”.

 “What is this, a Bachelor Fantasy Date?” I asked “Where are we going? And (more importantly) “how much time do I have to get ready?” 

 

“You’ll see” he said, “Just pack something to wear to dinner tonight, and some comfy clothes. We’re leaving in an hour”

Suspiciously, I began to pack. I am a notorious overpacker at the best of times, but with few parameters, this reached new extremes. I literally packed everything I own; including my passport (in case we were going to Paris), 6 pairs of socks (in case it got cold in Paris), and two different hair straighteners (in case one didn’t match the Parisian outlets).

“Whoa, it’s not like we’re going to Paris,” he said, correctly reading my crazy. “We’re staying at the Drake Hotel overnight.”

The Drake, if you’re not familiar, is a boutique hotel, restaurant, concert venue and general Toronto institution. I’ve been there many times to eat and drink, and have often said, “wouldn’t it be cool to stay here for a night?”

So I was really disappointed it wasn’t Paris pumped we were going there! (No really, I was. I don’t even look good in berets anyway.)

 Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived, so the concierge offered us complimentary cocktails at the hotel Bar. We sipped our Moscow mules and pretended we were fabulous people who regularly drink cocktails in hotel lobbies at 3pm.  

“Sorry for the wait,” said the concierge after we had finished, “we upgraded you to our nicest suite, and were just getting it ready. Looks like you have just enough time to change before your couples massage”.

Couples massage?

 

Our room had a very retro, mid-century modern feel with low light, teak wood furniture, and a big, sprawling chaise lounge. A bottle of champagne was chilling on ice. He must have mentioned it’s my birthday, I thought, adding two points to the mental tally I was already beginning to lose track of.

After our massages, he suggested we start getting ready for dinner early. “That way we’ll have time to drink champagne before we leave”, he said.

I was like,

 

He changed into his suit and I began the arduous process of getting ready. Two hours An hour later, with my smokey eye perfected, I emerged from the bathroom in my plush Drake Hotel monogrammed bathrobe. “I think I’m just going to wear this while we have our champagne,” I announced. “Then I can sit on that chaise in my robe and get lipstick on my champagne glass. It will be a very Elizabeth Taylor moment”.

Ok so she’s wearing a ball gown here. Whatever, you get the idea.

“Ok,” he responded, not missing a beat. After knowing me for nearly 5 years, he is used to my delusions of grandeur.

I sauntered over to the chaise lounge, folded my legs up under me in my best “White Diamonds Commercial” impression, and held out my champagne flute in front of me.

He smiled and poured us both a glass, raising his for a toast.

“Cheers,” he said, “I am so happy to be spending your birthday with you this year”.  

“Cheers!” I responded, clinking my glass against his and proceeding to down half of it in one fell swoop.

“Wait,” he said, “I’m not done yet”.

Something about the way he said it stopped me dead in my tracks. I slowly lowered the glass from my lips, dribblig the offending champagne back in. 

He reached behind the champagne bucket, and pulled out a jewelry box. Before I knew it, was down on one knee. He said a few sweet things, all of which I’m sure were carefully planned but now are a complete blur, before hitting the punchline:

“Will you marry me?” 

And how did I respond? Did I jump up and down? Cry beautiful, heartfelt, mascara-stained tears as Liz Taylor undoubtedly would have done? 

Nope.

I laughed.

And laughed.

And laughed. To say I was surprised was an understatement.  After about 30 seconds of solid giggling, I caught a glimpse of his face, which was registering pure terror, and I realized I still hadn’t actually SAID anything.

“Oh my god yes!!” I responded “Yes of course!! Sorry, it’s not funny, I’m just happy!”

 We decided to keep it just between us for the night, and to let our friends and families know the next morning. We went for a lovely dinner where we were so distracted by the enormity of what had just happened that we could hardly enjoy the delicious food. Just a note to newly engaged couples- TELL EVERYONE. Seriously, MILK that sh*t. We stupidly didn’t mention it until after our meal was over and had paid, and the chef literally ran out of the restaurant after us saying “Why didn’t you tell us! We would have given you free champagne and treats!”

 When we arrived back at the hotel, a long line was snaked outside of the Drake for their annual Halloween costume bash. We walked right to the front with our room card, and told the bouncer we were guests of the hotel. “Of course,” he said, lifting the velvet rope.

 “You know,” he said, once we were back in our room, “with our reservation, we have access to everything in the hotel, including the party. I think we should go- but we need some costumes.

 …….. Good thing I brought some!” to my utter disbelief, he pulled two costumes out of his seemingly endless bag of tricks- for him, a Mountie, for me, a Chef. (which was a relief, because I worried for a split second I was going to be The Pioneer Woman).

 Laughing, we switched into our costumes and made our way downstairs where we danced to 90’s hits and partied with kids too young to remember them. Although I had never imagined the night I got engaged to end like this, it was, strangely, perfect.

 So, in the end I guess I did get my Elizabeth Taylor moment-just not quite the way I had planned it.

meLiz

Question of the Day: Are you engaged? Tell me your proposal story!

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The 10 Best Books I Read in 2014

While my reading tally this year didn’t quite stack up to the 52 books I read in 2013, Intellectual Dachshund and I still managed to get through some 30-odd titles.

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This proved to be a much more manageable number, and one which actually allowed me to leave my apartment once in a while (whether I liked it or not.)

Also, can I just say that 2014 was officially the year of the female author? 7 out of 10 of these titles were written by unbelievably talented, smart, funny women.

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K I’m done now. On to my top 10 books!

1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

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What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

That is the question posed by Kate Atkinson in her wildly inventive novel Life After Life. Like a slightly heavier Groundhog Day, the book follows Ursula Todd as she lives- and re-lives- the events of the 20th century. From the opening paragraph, this book had me captivated and completely hooked. I had no idea what turn would come next, which kept me turning pages wee into the morning hours. More addictive than a Chopped marathon on the Food Network, I would highly recommend this for an exciting read. 

2.  Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

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In this funny, ambitious novel, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe, best friends and 12-year business partners, must save their beloved used vinyl shop Brokeland Records from the new “Dogpile Thang” music megastore opening two blocks away. It’s like a High Fidelity and Empire Records mash-up, with the end result becoming something new and original entirely.

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 3. The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

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Way back in 2008, before Eleanor Catton won the Man Booker Prize, she wrote The Rehearsal- a gripping little story (about 1/8 the length of the Illuminaries– a major reason why I chose to read it instead) set in the aftermath of a local scandal involving a young female student’s affair with her music teacher. Told from several different viewpoints in a non-linear plotline, I found this book inventive, captivatingly dark, and twisted. Definitely worth a read if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path.

 4. Us by David Nicholls

In Us, well-intentioned-yet oblivious scientist Douglas Petersen attempts to win back the hearts of Connie, his artist wife of 20 years, and the affection of his brooding, 17-year old son Albie, all against the backdrop of a family European vacation.

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I’m a big fan of David Nicholls, and loved his previous books Starter For Ten and One Day. I had high hopes for this one as well- but after reading several books this year about middle-aged marriages in crisis (see: The Vacationers, I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You), I worried the theme might be a bit played out. Happily, this book differentiated itself for me with its clever plot twists and laugh-out-loud humor.  I expect this one to be adapted into a screenplay any day now. I’d cast Colin Firth as Douglas,  Rachel Weisz as Connie, and Ansel Elgort as Albie.

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See, don’t they look good together? I’m really in the wrong line of work.

5.  The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill

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19-year-old twins Nicholas and Nouschka Tremblay, offspring of Quebec folk singer, and notorious playboy, Etienne Tremblay, spent their childhood in the public eye. Now they are grown up and making their own mistakes on the streets of referendum-era Montreal – all of which ending up in the French Canadian tabloid Allo Police. It’s a slightly-offbeat coming-of-age tale with a hefty dose of family drama, and a side dish of Canadian politics.

6.  The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman

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I have a special place in my heart for this book, even though it is responsible for the one and only sunburn I received in 2014. (Seriously I’ve gotten much better on the tanning front since winning the nonexistent Miss Hawaiian Tropic competition in 2008). I could feel my shoulders getting redder in the mid-July sun, but my heart just wouldn’t let me put the damn book down. I didn’t want to stop reading about Nathaniel, the self-absorbed future literary star, with a similar penchant for breaking hearts.  This is also maybe one of the best books I’ve ever read told from a reverse gender perspective. I found it amazing the way Adelle Waldman really got into the mind of a man and wrote Nathaniel so convincingly. Seriously worth a read.  (And if you don’t believe me- according to her Instagram, Kate Hudson liked it too.)

7. My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

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Part memoir, part coming-of-age story, part love letter to New York City, My Salinger Year  tells the story of Joanna Rakoff as a starry-eyed twenty-three-year-old who moves to New York with the dream of becoming a writer. Instead, she winds up in a crappy Williamsburg apartment with a crappy boyfriend and a crappy job as assistant to the literary agent for J.D. Salinger. Her task? To answer Salinger’s endless pile of fan-mail with a stock response. At first mind-numbingly boring, she soon becomes engrossed by the letters, inspired to craft her own replies.  As they say in the publishing world- it’s a “small story” , but it’s got a lot of heart, and is a great, light, entertaining read.

8. Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler 

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Fed up with the way his life has been portrayed by others, and in the media, thrice-married, aging TV producer Barney Panofsky decides to set the record straight by writing his own memoirs.  Rich in themes- including life, love, family, friendship and aging- I thought it was excellent. Romantic, captivating, hilarious, and uniquely Canadian, I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great read.

9. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Confession: I kind of want to be best friends with Amy Poehler. And if you don’t already, you will too after reading her hilarious book Yes Please. A hodge – podge of personal essays, life advice, Bossypants-esque memoirs from her time on SNL and Parts and Recreation  and straight-up randomness, it will both endear you to her, and leave you laughing uncontrollably. Do yourself a favor and read this one.

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10. No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

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This short story collection by indie darling Miranda July (she also wrote and starred in a movie Roger Ebert cited as one of the best films of the decade) is weird, captivating, and slightly disturbing. Any summary I would give wouldn’t do it justice- so check it out if you’re in for a very different read.

Other Books I read in 2014 (In no particular order):

  • Office Girl -Joe Meno
  • The Goldfinch – Donna Tart
  • Fangirl– Rainbow Rowell
  • Listen to the Sqwaking Chicken– Elaine Lui
  • Transatlantic– Collum McCann
  • One more thing – BJ Novak
  • Run Rabbit– John Updike
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man- James Joyce
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil- John Berendt 
  • Not That Kind of Girl -Lena Dunham
  • The Vacationers – Emma Straub
  • I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You – Courtney Maum
  • American Pastoral- Phillip Roth
  • No Relation -Terry Fallis
  • Dear Leaves: I Miss You All – Sarah Heinonen
  • Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations With Today’s Top Comedy Writers– Mike Sacks

Question of the day: What was the best book you read in 2014?

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