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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Where to find the best gifts in Toronto this Holiday Season

*This article was originally published in a lawyerly magazine I write for on the side- but since my creativity well is running mighty dry, And you can buy most of this stuff online also, thought I’d repost it here. Enjoy!

The holiday season is upon us, and with all of the parties, potlucks, and year-end tax restructuring, who has time to schlep around from store to store in search of the perfect gift? So to save your friends and family from socks and Starbucks cards, here’s a roundup of the best places in Toronto to find thoughtful gifts for everyone on your list.

For the foodie

The Good Egg (267 Augusta Avenue).
This Kensington Market outfit has everything you need to make your kitchen Instagram-worthy: rare cookbooks, artisan-crafted aprons, Le Creuset cookware and a vast collection of kitchen gadgets you never knew you needed.

And while you’re in Kensington, check out Toronto Popcorn Company  (147 Baldwin Street). This shop devoted strictly to popcorn (which I thought only existed in my dreams) offers over 100 unique and delicious flavors — from maple bacon, to caramel pina colada. Single bags are $4 and you can even mix and match (in a stroke of genius, I once combined pizza and cookies and cream).

Via Torontolife.com

 

For the CanCon enthusiast

Drake General Store (various locations).
From maple syrup-scented candles to mountie-printed adult onesies, Drake General Store has everything you need to show your Canadiana-loving friend some true patriot love.

And for some distinctively Toronto gear, check out Drake’s newly opened OVO store near Trinity Bellwoods (899 Dundas Street West). There you’ll find a wide assortment of printed toques, tees and hip hop gear to keep your friends and family proudly repping #The6.

For the little ones

Kol Kid (647 Queen Street West).
This indie kids’ retailer specializes in unique children’s clothing, accessories, and killer toys you may or may not want to keep for yourself. My nieces especially love the handmade moccasins and Taro Gomi activity books.

For the ladies

While you’re strolling down Queen West, drop by Coal Miner’s Daughter (744 Queen Street West), a cute boutique specializing primarily in pieces by Canadian clothing and jewelry designers at reasonable price points. (I’ve got my eye on these sweet Labradorite Rings).

For dudes

Montreal-based retailer Frank & Oak just opened up shop in Toronto (735 Queen Street West) with its line of hip and affordable menswear. Browse their collection of colourful khakis, elbow-patched cardigans and incredibly sophisticated grooming products as you sip an Americano from their fancy in-store café.

For the audiophile

For the hi-fi fanatic on your list, check out the new and improved Sonic Boom (215 Spadina), a bigger, badder version of the beloved music store that combines both the former Annex and Kensington Market locations. With nearly 12,000 sq feet of vinyl, CDs, and merchandise (there’s a section devoted entirely to music-themed literature), even the most discerning Rob Gordon types will be impressed.

For the bookworm

Check out Type Books (883 Queen Street West) for a well-curated selection of staff favourites that put “Heather’s Picks” to shame. Type carries a broad collection of small-press and independent titles, including tough-to-find newspapers and magazines. And for the bookworm-in-training, head uptown to Mabel’s Fables (662 Mt. Pleasant Road), a whimsical, fairy-tale inspired children’s book store that you might just want to move into. Located in an old, two-story house, Mabel’s carries hundreds of titles organized by age group and is known for its incredibly helpful and inspired staff.

For the unconventional

Blue Banana (250 Augusta Avenue). This two-story artist collective in Kensington Market is filled to the brim with one-of-a-kind gift ideas: jewelry, house wares, vintage décor; there’s even a wall filled with gourmet hot sauces for the Sriracha-obsessed. Labor of Love (242 Carlton Street) in Cabbagetown is also a great spot for eclectic gifts, and carries a diverse collection of handmade jewelry, quality paper goods, and adorable kitsch (like this fixie bike pizza cutter).

Question of the day: Who is the hardest person on your list to shop for?

Brow So Hard

You may recall that a while back, I was the victim of a horrific crime against brow-manity.

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You can read all about it here, but in case you find that too traumatizing, here’s the cole’s notes version: some b*tch named Tina at The World’s Worst Salon waxed half my eyebrows off and burned me like a blank CD.

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Anyhoo, it’s been nearly four months since that fateful day, and with the help of countless dollars’ worth of miracle growth products a little patience, regular exfoliating and nightly prayers to Saint Jude, the Patron Saint of Lost Causes, my eyebrows are FINALLY starting to grow back.  

The only problem is, now that I’ve been burned once before (quite literally), I’m a bit gun-shy. I’ve been scared sh*tless to let anyone else touch my brows lest I suffer the same fate.

And let me tell you- four months of regrowth ain’t pretty. My brows began to slowly take over my face like misshapen, wayward caterpillars.

When she heard my harrowing tale of woe, a friend recommended that I check out the Brow House in Yorkville, a salon dedicated exclusively to eyebrow maintenance in Toronto’s most chi-chi neighbourhood.

“They put me on a ‘brow plan’,” she told me “I love my eyebrows now”.

A brow plan? Well if that isn’t exactly the type of ridiculous, first world sh*t I live for, then I don’t know what is.  Sign me up!

I booked a “consultation” on Saturday afternoon, right between my hair and nail appointments (the struggle is real), and spent the rest of the week with visions of full brows dancing in my head.

The salon is tucked-away in a brownstone walk-up on a quiet Yorkville street. Inside, it is is minimalist and chic: all white with a few, well-spaced red salon chairs, mirrors, and a coffee table stacked with aspirational lifestyle magazines.

I was introduced to my “brow artist”, Natalia.

“How can I help you today?” she asked.

I proceeded to recount my traumatic experience.  “That is horrifying” she said, taking my hand and looking in my eyes seriously. “I am so sorry you have gone through that. You have come to the right place. ”

She proceeded to explain that, despite their current Anthony Davis status, my brows were actually in OK shape.  She drew a line on my face to show me where my brows should be, and said that for the most part, they were growing back nicely. After a couple more months, my arches would be good as new.

As she waxed away the stray hairs, she told me about the Brow House philosophy. “We take a lot of factors into consideration when providing a brow recommendation,” she explained, “your hair texture, color, face shape. If you have a round face, you will need longer, more arched brows to balance it out. For a longer face, we recommend flat brows with a low arch”.

I nodded enthusiastically, amazed by this brave new world of brow theory.

Like me, the ladies at the Brow House are firm believers in the “full brow lifestyle”.

“Have you ever considered getting a tint?” she asked. “That way you won’t have to fill them in every day?”

I was skeptical. What if I looked like one of those old ladies who colored in her eyebrows with a Maybeline eyeliner?

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“No no, it will be subtle” she promised. Reluctantly, I consented, and held my breath as she coloured in my brows with a miniscule paint pot.

The result was, just as she had promised, natural and awesome.

“I feel like a whole new person!” I squealed, taking in my (arguably incrementally) changed appearance in the mirror.

I paid my bill (yikes) and booked another appointment in four weeks. Hook, line and sinker.

Exhibit A: Awkward After Pic I made Colin take of me in front of the microwave.

 

The price of beauty apparently knows no bounds, but god damn if I just bought me some good lookin’ brows.

Question of the Day:  What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for beauty?

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How To Make The Perfect Grilled Cheese

The ironic thing about my last post (get it? IRON-ic??) was that the majority of you seemed to just breeze right past my laudable domestic accomplishment, and instead focus solely on the photo of the delicious grilled cheese sandwich.

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I can’t say I blame you.

In fact, I was actually pumped you guys asked, since this particular sandwich involved serious time, effort, and months (yes MONTHS) of planning.

Let me start by saying that those of you who found my last post “too domestic” might want to turn back now. Also, this is not your typical, Kraft Singles noise, so you grilled cheese purists also might want to sit this one out.

But if you’ve got an adventurous palate and like eating delicious things, then read on to see how it’s done.

And when it’s finished, I PROMISE you will say:

 

1. The Bread

We used a nice sourdough from BlackBird Baking Co. in Kensington Market here in Toronto:

but  you can really use any artisinal or store-bought variety you want, provided that:

  1.  it’s not too holey (you don’t want to lose any of that sweet, cheesy nectar); and
  2. you don’t slice it too thick (otherwise the cheese won’t melt. Duh)

2. The Cheese

There are times in life when one should exercise restraint. THIS IS NOT ONE OF THEM. Feel free to pile on as much cheese as humanly possible. We used a combination of old cheddar, and habanero havarti.

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I briefly considered adding a third cheese, but then I thought

Each cheese needs its moment in the sun. (And by that I mean, in my mouth)

3. The Bacon

Oh yah. I went there.

We fried up some applewood smoked bacon for a little extra flavour and it was DELICIOUS.

4. The Tomatoes

In a rather unconventional move, we added roasted tomatoes to the mix.

We made these guys a while back using a recipe similar to this one,  using beefeater tomatoes from the farmer’s market. After roasting them for 5(!!) hours, were planning to preserve them in olive oil, until we heard that can cause botulism

so we froze them instead.

If this roasting tomato business seems way more effort than it’s worth (trust me, I had that thought too)  then you could always use store-bought sun-dried tomatoes instead.

5. The Spread

We used fresh pesto from Saint Lawrence Market, but again, you could also use store-bought. I honestly never met a pesto I didn’t like.

6. The Assembly

Heat up a heavy pan (we used a cast iron skillet) with a bit of oil. When that’s ready, take the bottom slice of each sandwich, and spread generously with butter (if you’ve made it this far, you’ve given up on being heart-healthy long ago). Set the bread butter-side down on the pan until it is evenly browned.

Make sure you watch carefully. We had a few casualties on this step.

Next, load up the cheese tomatoes, and bacon. We took another unconventional step here and broiled cheesy bread in the toaster oven for a few minutes.

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One the cheese begins to melt, remove from toaster oven.

Then, take the top slices of bread, and spread generously with butter on one side, and pesto on the other. Place butter-side down on the pan.

Once browned, flip over and place pesto-side down on top the sandwich.

Press down gently, and behold the delicious ooey gooey goodness.

If you really wanted to, you could probably do another flip of the whole sandwich on the pan- but ours were melty and delicious enough already.

So There you have it- a deconstructed, pesto and roasted tomato grilled-cheese on artisinal sourdough.

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Can you tell I’ve been watching too much Food Network lately?

We paired ours with tomato basil soup (I can’t remember the brand but we bought it at Loblaws) and some pickles and olives on the side. Perfection.

Like this aerial shot? Ive got mad photog skillz
Like this blurry aerial shot? I should totally be a full-time food blogger

 

Now, for once on my blog I can finally say- you guys should ABSOLUTELY try this one at home. And make one for me too while you’re at it.

Question of the Day: What are your tips for the perfect grilled cheese?

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The Boot Camp Diaries

In an effort to ditch the baby weight, I recently started taking boot camp classes.

The classes take place in one of those industrial, open-space gyms that I thought only existed in my nightmares, and are a mixture of crossfit and pure, unadulterated hell.

Nestled above a Chinese restaurant on one of Toronto’s busiest strips, the gym is a large, windowless box with concrete walls and little ambiance. Across the rubber-padded floor rest various, increasingly imaginative torture devices- from giant tires, to sledgehammers, to dangling gymnastic rings. A thick strip of astro turf runs inexplicably, terrifyingly, down the middle. 

The central radio unleashes a steady onslaught of adult-contemporary hits, and a single metal fan provides the only, pitiful source of ventilation. Near the front of the room is a chalkboard, listing each day’s unique menu of misery. Exercise terms like “Power Cleans” “Weighted Jacks” and“ “Inchworms”  taunt you like creatively-named death sentences, exacerbated by the insane numbers of repetitions scrawled in the margins. 

Needless to say- the combined effect is my own, personal torture chamber.

My general philosophy

Alas- this baby belly isn’t going to eradicate itself, so twice a week at 7 am, Stephen- a fiery welterweight with seemingly boundless energy- leads us through an hour of cruel and unusual punishment while I internally weep and say silent prayers to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes.

A typical workout consists of three “rounds”, and although they vary each day, it’s a pretty safe bet that each will contain some combination of the following exercises:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Push-Ups
  • Pull-Ups
  • Lifting heavy sh*t
  • Some form of Crawling or jumping;
  • generally wanting to die; and- the WORST:
  • BURPEES.

My boyfriend and I (yes, he’s in on this too. Misery loves company, people) have been going for a few weeks now, and we’re starting to recognize a regular cast of characters. There’s the overly-opinionated middle-aged lady who unreasonably believes everyone is “stealing her free weights”, the tatted-up gay couple who are impossibly ripped (and impossibly cute), and a few former university athletes who boastingly sport the swag of their respective alma matters.

And then there’s us. While we’ve run a few 10ks and consider ourselves reasonably fit (mistaken pregnancy notwithstanding), we certainly weren’t prepared for this type of workout. After our first class, we both couldn’t move for nearly a week. (Although, I do consider the time we spent massaging one another’s calves and writhing in pain while watching Diners Drive –Ins and Dives a true bonding experience.)  

To his credit, Stephen, has been incredibly patient and encouraging with both of us; explaining each exercise and instructing on proper form. He’s also been a terrific cheerleader- especially with me.

Guys, I am not exaggerating when I say I am the WORST at boot camp. I am invariably the last one finished each round, and that’s even AFTER modifying all of the exercises. (Don’t look at me like that. I’d like to see YOUr a$$ do a real pull-up).

Given I am competitive in nature and generally think I am the best at everything, being confronted with my own inadequacy is somewhat devastating. It would be OK if I thought I was getting better, but I honestly feel like I might be regressing. Every week I seem weaker and weaker. I’m like the Benjamin Button of exercise.

The other day in class, I was sitting on a giant tire lamenting my inadequacy, when Stephen came over to me. “How you doing?” he  asked “good?”

“Yeah…” I responded quietly

“It’s ok to take breaks. Don’t worry about what they’re doing,” he said, pointing to my fellow boot camp members, “don’t compare yourself to them. Just think about you. If they’re not taking breaks, they’re not working hard enough. I think you’re doing great”. 

It felt like I had somehow been transported into a scene from a motivational sports movie. Like Mr. Miyagi to the Karate Kid- Stephen had inspired me to get up and flip that tire once more- this time with the heart of a champion.

The whole thing was sort of emotional.

Anyhow- I still suck at boot camp, but now when I want to give up, instead of doing this:

I just listen to Stephen’s voice back in my head saying:

… and if that fails, I just close my eyes and think about pizza.

Mmmm. Pizza.

Question of the Day: What is the most challenging workout you’ve ever done?

Back In The Old Country…

When it comes to comfort food, you really can’t go wrong with good old-fashioned, cheesy, delicious pierogies.

These pierogi mascots should be the mascots of my life.

Which is why I was pumped to attend the annual Polish Festival a few weekends ago here in Toronto. Pierogies + beer tents + POLKA = a guaranteed good time. 

The festival took place along Roncesvalles avenue, a mostly commercial strip between College and Queen streets, and it was bumping. Food trucks, cotton candy, bouncy castles- you name it. Only thing was, it wasn’t very Polish…. at all.

I mean, don’t get me wrong there was one (Grammy nominated) Polka band busting out tunes… right next to the Fillipino adobo cart.

And there was one pierogi stand, but the lines were so long that we eventually gave up and hit up a nearby Cuban place.

The real fun for me anyway was checking out all of the permanent retailers along the strip. Roncesvalles is an up-and-coming Toronto hot spot, and a number of cool new boutiques and restaurants have opened up there over the past few years. The neighborhood still retains a lot of its old-school charm though, and there are still a number of Eastern-European small businesses holding it down amongst the hipster-fication.

Like the Old Country Gift Shop:

When I first walked by, I was struck by the vintage-looking sign, and the eccentric display in the front window – a veritable hodge podge of stuff. There was a mannequin modelling a pearl necklace, an array of various deodorants, a selection of power tools, and a large display of Ritter Sport chocolate bars.

Needless to say, I was intrigued

I walked inside, and with the sound of the jingling bell was transported back in time nearly 50 years. I felt like Marty McFly, only without the cool DeLoreon.

Along the yellowed, gondola shelving sat everything from specialty jams, to vintage cutlery, to a comprehensive collection of mint condition Ty beanie babies.

At the 1960’s style cash register stood two spunky older ladies with white bouffants, extolling the virtues of a blown-glass ash tray to what I assumed was a regular customer.

These foxy ladies I later learned, were Karin and Helga, German (again, not Polish) sisters who grew up in the store and have worked there for nearly 50 years. Turns out the Old Country Gift Shop is family-owned, and has been serving the customers of Roncesvalles with their random treasures since 1962.

Obviously, things haven’t changed much since then.  the walls are lined with what looks like the original wallpaper, and the floor is covered in a well-worn, checkerboard-patterned linoleum.

Sort of like this. She knows.

The nostalgia in the air is palpable- each shelf dusted with memories of days- and times- gone by. As I made my way to the back of the store, I spotted a wide assortment of Octoberfest aprons, and an entire section of unopened, pristine VHS tapes. I wondered who the audience for this collection might be, but then I got distracted by the large, menacing chunk of the Berlin wall.

And did I mention the chocolate? So much chocolate. One entire wall filled with bars of the good stuff from Germany, France, and Switzerland. Brands I had never heard of, and thought only existed in my dreams.

Sorry for doing this to you.

Obviously I couldn’t leave without a taste, so I picked up the Mozart Kugeln chocolate ball- a pistachio, nougat and marzipan sphere of Viennese deliciousness.

As I left the store and re-entered the world of 2014, I couldn’t get the gift shop out of my mind. Not only did I want to go back every day to revel in its weirdness, I also wanted to be best friends with Karin and Helga; to find out what inspires them, and makes them tick. While I may never fully understand the Old Country Gift shop, it’s still nice to know that places like it exist.

Question of the Day: Been to Any Cool Stores lately?

The Running Dead

I don’t mean to make this overly dramatic or anything… but I think I am being stalked by zombies.

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It all started on Saturday afternoon. I was heading to the mall for a free Chanel makeup consultation (priorities, people) when I noticed a few passengers on the subway who looked a bit… off. At first I attributed their pallor and trance-like appearances to general public transit-related malaise (been there); however my tune quickly changed when I noticed their ripped and soiled clothing, open wounds and blood dripping from every orifice.

These weren’t just fellow disillusioned passengers-  these, my friends, were The Undead.

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No sooner had I realized who (or what) I was dealing with than the doors opened, unleashing a second wave of soulless corpses into my cramped subway car. Each was bloody, disgusting, and slightly more terrifying than the last. There was a man with his entire chest blown open; another with a bolt protruding from his neck, like a modern-day Frankenstein… only wearing with an iPod. There was even a female zombie holding an (un) dead baby.

Fearful, I hugged my pole closer and averted my gaze. In order to project the air that I could actually afford designer makeup, I had dressed up for the occasion. The last thing I needed was some flesh-eater dripping fake blood onto my designer knock-off booties.

When the subway reached my station, I hurried out of the car only to realize I was being followed by a zombie army. Thinking enough was enough, I approached a young, non-threatening looking (minimally bloody) zombie and asked her where they were going.

“Uh, the Zombie Walk?” she responded, “At Nathan Phillips Square?”

The what in the where now?

A quick Google search informed me that the “Zombie Walk” is an annual event where hundreds dress up as Zombies, march the streets of Toronto and generally scare the beejesus out of fraidy-cats like me.

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I found this to be highly disturbing, but also fascinating. I’ve never really understood the allure of zombies- mostly because the sight of blood makes me nauseous. Also, I’m scared of my own shadow. (I haven’t been able to watch a scary movie since I saw Pet Cemetery in grade 3 and couldn’t use the bathroom with the door shut for a year.) But despite my cowardice, there seem to be a lot of people who just can’t get enough of the stuff: Zombie movies, zombie survival camps, zombie training books. To each their own I guess?

Anyway, I tried to forget the whole traumatizing experience and instead just focus on getting my face on (Which resulted in being traumatized instead, by the amount of money I spent on products. WHY am I such a sucker). Despite my best efforts, however, I still ended up having highly detailed nightmares about zombie babies and zombie women with perfect smokey eyes and bold lips.

Needing to clear my head of all Zombie and makeup-related terror, I decided to head out for a run on Sunday morning. It was a beautiful autumn day, and everything was going swimmingly, until I saw this sign:

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DUN DUN DUN

Just then, I heard a commotion behind me, and turned to see a gaggle of bloody, tattered corpses turning the corner and heading in my general direction.

I was like:

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The expression “run for your life” took on a whole new meaning for me that day. With Zombies hot on my trail, I took off like a bat out of hell, turning my iPod on full blast and not looking back. Every once in a while I’d get a waft of fake blood, and a zombie would pass me and make threatening gestures in my direction- no doubt enjoying the sight of fresh meat.

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Eventually, however, I was able to lose them when the race path turned off into a densely wooded area. (CREEPY).

The upshot? I ended up clocking my fastest (unofficial) 5k time ever. And I must admit that the whole thing was a little exhilarating. Maybe I should recruit a couple of zombies to follow me in my 10K race this weekend?

…. Nah.

Question of the Day: Are You Into Zombies? What’s With the Hype?

A Profound Experience Of Art… Or Something Like That

While I won’t delude you into thinking I am a particularly sophisticated woman, every once in a while I do get a whim- a flight of fancy if you will– to get off my couch and do something cultural for a change.

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He knows

One such temporary break in sanity occurred this past weekend, when I attended both Ai WeiWei’s According To What? exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Nuit Blanche in downtown Toronto on the SAME DAY.

What can I say? I was bored just really love contemporary art.

The first stop on “BreezyK’s Excellent Bougie Adventure” was the AGO. If you haven’t heard of Ai WeiWei, he is a Chinese contemporary artist, famous for designing the “bird’s nest” stadium at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as for his activism.

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An outspoken advocate for democracy and human rights in China, Ai has participated in several investigations of government corruption and alleged cover-ups- including the 2008 collapse of government schools resulting in the death of thousands of children following the Sichuan earthquake.  

As a result of his activism, Ai has been unable to leave China since 2012; his passport confiscated by government officials. His studio and home have also been under constant  surveillance, and his daily blog monitored and censored. 

Regardless of your stance on Ai’s political ideals, his work- which includes sculpture, installations, photography, film and architecture- is pretty incredible. I particularly enjoyed his sculptures, which were massive pieces of work requiring tons of manual labour and raw material to create. Like this piece, made from wooden stools fused together using an ancient technique with no nails or glue!

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Or “Straight”- composed of 150 tons of steel rebar recovered from the sites of the collapsed schools in Sichuan- each meticulously straightened by hand.

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It was a pretty cool, and but also extremely emotional experience. Here’s me cutting the tension and showing my instagram followers how artsy I am:

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The exhibit is on until October 27 in Toronto, so check it out if you have the chance!

Stop 2 of the day was Nuit Blanche – the annual contemporary art festival in Toronto where museums and galleries open up their doors for free from dawn till dusk, and over 150 projects are exhibited around the city by more than 500 different artists and curators.

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The pieces ranged from “Forever Bicycles” (pictured above) by my BFF Ai WeiWei, a sculpture of over 3,000 bicycles suspended in air, to smaller projects like Parallax, a light fixture of sorts composed of horizontally stacked tubes of different sizes.

020… Not gonna lie, it kind of reminded me of a Lite Brite. 

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The other pieces ran the gamut; from “Ferris Wheel” designed to evoke “joy and delight”:

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To “Music Box”, a jack-in-the-box like collection of instruments that feed off each other and produce one random symphony:

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…to whatever the hell this is:

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Something about “childlike innocence”?

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As I walked the streets, watching others marvel at the pieces before them, I thought of a passage in a book I read recently called Leaving The Atocha Station by Ben Lerner. The book is about a young American poet named Adam Gordon on a prestigious fellowship in Madrid. One day, Adam witnesses a man openly weeping in front of a painting at an art gallery, and begins to worry that he himself has never been moved to such a level by art:

“Was he, I wondered, just facing the wall to hide his face as he dealt with whatever grief he’d brought into the museum? Or was he having “a profound experience of art”? I had long worried that I was incapable of having a profound experience of art and I had trouble believing that anyone had, at least anyone I knew. I was intensely suspicious of people who claimed a poem or painting or piece of music ‘changed their life’ especially since I had often known these people before and after their experience and could register no change. […] The closest I’d come to having a profound experience of art was probably the experience of this distance, a profound experience of the absence of profundity.”

I could sort of relate. While I appreciated some of the pieces; others (like that scary giant insect) were just completely incomprehensible to me. I wondered if this was because these pieces didn’t  especially “speak” to me, or because I straight-up didn’t “get” it.

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In any event, I’ll have some time to think about it, as I’ve now fulfilled my entire culture quota for 2013 and can happily go back to rotting my brain with as much reality TV as humanly possible (which, let’s be honest, was really the goal of this entire exercise.)

Question of the Day: Have you had a “profound experience of art”? Do you believe in it?

Friday Five

So it’s only my fourth day of consecutive posting, and I’m already exhausted. Remind me again why I signed up for this??

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Since writing a post about one coherent topic feels like A LOT right now, here instead are a bunch of random things I’ve been thinking about lately, all wrapped up under one alliterative title! Enjoy!

1. SNL

(and the amazingness that is BLERTA)

This past Saturday, SNL debuted for it’s 39th season; and because I’m kind of a loser die hard, I skipped out on a party to stay home and watch it. (Yes, I am aware I’m dying alone.)

Hosted by Tina Fey, it was the first episode in what has been dubbed a “rebuilding year” after the departure of Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and mah boo Jason Sudeikis, and the addition of 6 new white guys cast members.

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Although I expected the night to be a total disaster, there were actually a few standout moments – like this parody of HBO’s “Girls” introducing Blerta, the Albanian refugee who keeps all those whiny white b*tches in check with her truth-telling. (and should 100% be made into a full-time cast member.. just saying).

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(Canadians can watch the full clip here)

Blerta is seriously my homegirl.

Side note: does anyone else remember those t-shirts?

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I bought one circa 2004 pretty much solely to shock my Catholic parents, and when I wore it I thought I was the SH*T. I also had a t-shirt with Jimi Hendrix’s face on it, despite never actually having listened to Jimi Hendrix. All of this serves as further proof that I am, in fact, a fraud.

2. Fall Weather

I hate to be one of those girls who just can’t S.T.F.U. about fall, but guys, I honestly can’t help it. October is f*cking amazing. Thanksgiving, Halloween, my BIRTHDAY, pumpkins, not sweating Whitney Houston styles on the subway every morning.. I mean, life really doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

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Plus, with this weather I am actually motivated to get out and run for a change. You see, since the Treadmill, Cold Weather and Too Hot Weather are BreezyK Public Enemies #1, 2 and 3, there is really only a short window of opportunity during which running doesn’t completely make me want to kill myself.

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Since we’re currently in the sweet spot, the other day, I decided to go for a run on the Lakeshore path in Toronto and it was glorious. I of course had to instagram it to show all of my friends how superior I am for exercising:

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And in doing so, nearly fell into Lake Ontario. Don’t ever let anyone tell you karma isn’t a b*tch, kids.

3. This

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4. The Return of Primetime TV

With the notable exception of Big Brother, it was a long, dry summer for TV up in here. I was seriously beginning to worry I was going to have to find a hobby or something… Or worse, actually leave my apartment.

On a weeknight?!

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Alas, I can continue my sloth-like ways, because all of my stories have returned to their rightful place inside my dream box. There’s

The New Girl,

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The Mindy Project

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Parks and Recreation, X FACTOR. I could go on. There are also a few new shows that I think might have potential- like Seth MacFarlane’s Dads starring Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, starring Andy Samberg as a wise-cracking cop.

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I can’t tell if it’s going to be good or garbage but I will support the co-creator of Laser Cats until the day I die.

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5. Fresh New Tracks

Besides just being the season where outfits look the best on me and my skin glows most luminous, fall is also an amazing season for music. Some of my favourite artists are out with new stuff, like Arcade Fire, and Drake (even though he jacked my outfit) as well as some cool new bands I hadn’t heard before, and I’ve got a few sweet concerts lined up. Here’s a track I’ve had on heavy rotation lately to help carry you into the weekend…..and also make you vaguely crave a pumpkin spice latte.

No? Just me on the latte then?

Question of the Day:

(get ready- because it’s a really deep one)

What’s your favourite season?

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