3 Reasons why Manhattan is different than anywhere else

5 Nov

1. In Manhattan there are fines for misbehaving and they make sure you know exactly what for. Exhibit A:

I wish they had signs like this in every city. Although, to be fair, it didn’t seem to stop the cabbies from playing it fast and loose with their horns. But I still appreciate the official nature of it all.

2. New Yorkers don’t believe in grocery shopping. Okay, maybe that’s not fair. But the city certainly doesn’t make cooking for yourself overly convenient. And even if you do manage to stumble upon a store, it certainly won’t be budget friendly. More than likely it will be called “Gourmet Grocer” or “Fancy Supermarket”. They might as well be named If-Your-High-Priced-Manhattan-Rent-Doesn’t-Bankrupt-You…-Feeding-Yourself-Will. What happened to Food Basics, No Frills and Price Chopper? I don’t know how New Yorkers do it.

3. Fortunately, one way in which Manhattan is the same as many other places lies in the fact you can still find little kids trying to save up by selling baked goods outside their houses. Granted, they’re doing it on the pavement in front of a massive apartment building rather than the end of a driveway but they’re out there trying to bring home the bacon none the less. Plus they’re bound to draw far more traffic than I ever did on my suburban lane. Man, those New Yorkers learn about “Location, location, location” from a very young age!

5 Lessons I learned on my first day visiting New York

3 Nov

1) Cities without lights are freaky. As we flew over the areas that were hit hardest by hurricane Sandy I felt like I was in some sort of apocalyptic movie. The only lights you could see below you for miles were flashing emergency vehicles. No window lights. No streetlights. Just emergencies. That is some scary stuff. As someone who has lived my whole life in a city where a foot of snow is the biggest weather deal we get, I have no idea what those people are going through but I feel for them. That experience must be terrifying.

2) Do not assume just because you and someone else are getting on planes to the same destination 15 minutes apart, you will wind up in the same place. You may, in fact, end up on opposite ends of the airport, miles apart. And then both think you’ll be the wise and helpful one and go to meet the other. Only to find yourself miles apart again. And to have to ask yourself the tragic question: “what did people do without cell phones?” is doubly depressing. I mean seriously, what did they do? Send a page over the entire airport? Continually journey 15 minutes back and forth between terminals until one of you catches up to the other? As much as I dislike some aspects of technology, I am glad I did not lose hours of sightseeing time busing around the airport.

3) Watching people walk through automatic turning doors at airports is hilarious. The device may be clearly turning when they get in it, yet still they feel the need to push on it with all their might. And the stronger they push, the slower it goes and the more loudly the automated voice says “please do not push on turning door”. But for whatever reason they aren’t listening and they choose to kick the turning door. But the automated voice does not stand for such nonsense and chooses to stop the rotation altogether. Oh people! I simultaneously love to love you and love to laugh at you.

4) Pushing your way onto a plane will not get you there faster. It may get you into a cramped, uncomfortable sitting position faster. But it will not get you where you’re going any faster. But hey, if you want to shoot out of your seat in the waiting area and jockey for position, be my guest. I will continue reading my brilliant book.

5) Which brings me to… Mindy Kaling is brilliant. Okay, I already new that. But if you need confirmation of that fact, just read her book Is everyone hanging out without me? (And other concerns). She is just too awesomely funny.

The adventures of my mom and I in New York City: Part 1

3 Nov

The official airport scoring:
Me: 1
Airport: 1

Okay, technically I suppose the airport has two points since they make all the decisions and I’m just along for the ride. But the fact I met a series of nice employees who let me win even one point is close to a miracle.

As always, I approached the security station with a myriad of “hazardous” things I had no idea were “hazardous”. But unlike the horror stories I’ve heard or experienced where people were forced to eat whole grapefruits while airport attendees watched or forced to toss a whole tub of ¬†Nutella in the trash (liquid? Puh-lease! That is solid chocolate and sugar my friend), my experience was far more civil. The kind employees took pity on me and let me keep my 6oz yogurt! It did have to go through rigorous screening but in the end my double-the-legal-limit yogurt was permitted entrance to New York. My hair spray, unfortunately was not so lucky.

When they invited my suitcase and I over to a special investigation zone I thought they were doing the usual “see, there’s no racial profiling here, look at me a searching the little blond girl” which I am familiar with enduring. (Side note: It’s extra funny when you’re selected for a body pat down while wearing a spandex top and leggings — seriously dude, where do you think I’m hiding something? But I digress…) So, the man unveiled my hairspray that had to hit the trash. That hairspray has lasted me a solid two years though and I was only just starting to get to know my yogurt. So I’ll count my blessings.

How I simultaneously love and hate swimming

27 Oct

So, I went swimming for the first time in months. Does anyone find it incredibly challenging to motivate yourself to go swimming? With the elliptical or stationary bike I feel as though it requires virtually no motivation at all. I just hop on, get out my book or turn the TV to a good station and I could be there all day. Running takes a little more motivation since it can be long and challenging depending on the day. But for the most part, I can talk myself into changing and getting out there. But swimming is a different beast entirely. You have to change, pack your swim bag, travel to the pool, change, talk yourself into jumping into the cold water, swim, get tired, swim some more, get out of the pool, shower, change and journey home. Before you know it 2-3 hours of your day are gone. But the one thing I will say for swimming is it may be the hardest to talk yourself into but it’s the most rewarding at the end. You can head home feeling clean and refreshed inside and out.
There is, however a down side to swimming that isn’t present in most other workouts: people. Now, don’t mistake me for someone who is antisocial. I LOVE working out with people. But with swimming you aren’t swimming with people, you’re swimming despite them. And that’s not as inspirational.
I was fortunate today in that I spent the first half hour with a lane to myself and it was glorious. The second half hour, was less glorious as two gentlemen joined the lane. The first I would describe as the swimmer who thinks he knows it all and the second was the type of swimmer who’s trying to prove he knows it all. Neither are attractive qualities.
The first took it upon himself to regularly sprint to the wall out of nowhere and come inches away from smacking into me as I went to flip-turn and push off. He was a treat. To him I have the following to say, “Sir, I understand you are impressed by the speed you achieve in doing a single length, but I, myself am doing 60 consecutively so I would appreciate it if you timed the one length you do more appropriately.”
The second gentleman was the dreaded, flipper-wearing type. The type who do a couple of lengths at top speed before draping themselves across the wall to rest, thereby making you turning around at the wall next to impossible. But this particular gentleman was the type who also found joy in swimming as close to me as possible so he could brush against me while he passed. To him, I have the following to say “Friend, I understand you are deeply impressed by the speed your fake duck feet give you and you are eager to show me just how skilled you are. However, as someone who is holding her breath every fourth length and kicking with the dainty toes God gave me, I am less than swept off my feet. Kindly desist from body-grazing me. Much appreciated.”
But all in all, I genuinely enjoyed my swim and really must commit to doing it more. What about you? Any humorous swimming stories to share?

Winning at running and laughing at Halloween

27 Oct

Okay I have two things to post about today.

The first is to give myself a pat on the back because yesterday I ran my first 9km since taking 5 weeks off to heal my horrendous shin splints. It’s a double success because as anyone who enjoys exercising can attest — taking a month off (even though you know it’s right for your body) can be a very frustrating experience. So that fact I managed to do that and am now better for it is a huge reward. Hopefully I can keep the dreaded shin splints at bay from now on!

And secondly I must post about the hilarity of taking public transit or even just walking around downtown on the weekend before Halloween. Seeing people on the subway engage in what they feel is a completely normal conversation while wearing a massive teletubby get-up or sporting eyeliner drawn scars on their faces is pretty hilarious. Also, seeing the amount of people who I’m sure would proudly announce their costume to be a “sexy _____” really just look like very cold, under-dressed hookers is a little humorous as well. Because let’s face it, a mini dress that has “Diet Coke” written on it does not mean you are a bottle of coke — it just means you’re wearing an itty bitty dress on a cold night. But hey, to each her own!

I myself will be enjoying a quiet and peaceful Halloween. Rather than donning a creepy Halloween mask, my friend and I will be sporting the moisturizing kind as we enjoy a girls’ night in this evening. And then on the actual day I will be engaging in the joyful experience of handing out candy to little tots. Sounds like the perfect combo to me!

Tip of the day: Something you should avoid doing

16 Oct

Dearest readers,

I am going to share some valuable information with you that I hope will be valuable to you for decades to come. It has taken me years to come to this discovery and I hope to save you that painful and exhausting journey. And so, without further ado, I present to you my tip of the day:

Never, I repeat, NEVER, ask an actor what he/she has been up to.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “well that just sounds rude. Why wouldn’t I ask a friend who is an actor what he/she has been up to? I want to know.” No my friends, you do not. You may want to know how your friend is doing but you do not want to know what your friend is doing. Why you may ask? Well, it’s quite simple. Sure, as actors we refer to ourselves as actors. But we are not really professional actors. For the most part we are professional auditioners. We spend for more time preparing to audition than we do to act. And what is an audition but another term for “interview”? Think back to your last job interview — what did you do to prepare? Did you think of all your relevant experience, past jobs and what has brought you to this point in your life — and then prepared answers accordingly? Probably.¬† Now imagine the chances of you getting that job were one in a thousand and whether or not you make some money at what you love doing rides entirely on that one in a thousand shot. You’d probably get pretty darn good at expressing just how awesome you are. And that is why any time you ask an actor friend at a social gathering what he or she has been up to, your conversation will go something like this:

You: Hey man, what have you been up to?

Your friend: A lot actually, yeah, a lot. I did a student film a few months ago which was pretty cool. It was about an ape that eats people, you know and I was the lead so there were a lot of special effects and whatnot. Pretty sweet. And then I’ve been auditioning a lot. A lot. I mean I’m all over town auditioning. All the time. It’s crazy. And I’ve had some callbacks which is great. Lots of people interested. And I’ve been taking some classes, you know, working on my craft. Lot of film classes, improv, little bit of dance, and singing of course. I think I might get a part in an off-off-off Broadway musical any day now. And uh, other than that, you know…serving at the restaurant. Which is great, you know. Great tips. Lots of fun. Loving it. So, yeah, yeah… super busy. Things are great.”

And please note that all of that was said with an uncanny sense of optimism and slightly put-on positivity. Now doesn’t that all sound exhausting? It does. But actors never seem to believe that anyone will believe them if they simply say “Things have been good.” Because it has somehow been instilled in them over the years that saying “things have been good” loosely translates to I haven’t been to an audition in months, I live in a box and I eat my own hair. So instead they overcompensate to nauseating degrees.

So, my friends, my advice to you is this, never ask an actor what he/she has been up to. Ask her if she saw the most recent episode of Modern Family. Ask him how his family’s doing. But whatever you do, DO NOT, ask him/her a general question such as “what have you been up to” because I guarantee you, your actor friend dreads answering that question as much as you will regret asking it.

Lesson of the day: Making the most of anything

9 Oct

If you were to rewind two weeks, you would have found me skipping through the greenery. Literally. A couple of weeks ago I went for a walk through the trails and found myself genuinely stopping to smell flowers, smiling at everyone I passed and breaking into a skip here and there. I was in a happy place on par with what you see portrayed in Viagra commercials. And I wondered idly to myself, “I feel I may be too happy right now — is the world just waiting to bite me in the butt?” Sadly, I think that may have been the case. My life had given me a wonderful high, only to throw a whackload of wrenches in my way. And slowly as I got hit by bummer after bummer, I felt myself falling further and further away from my happy place. Which I did not appreciate.

So today I thought to myself, what can I do that no one can take away from me? And it suddenly occurred to me — I can donate blood. So I nervously made my way to the nearest donation centre and took the plunge. It was my first time doing it and I was terrified I would experience some extreme pain, or pass out, or worse. But I didn’t! So to all those people who have been making me feel like less than what I am, I have this to say:

I saved three lives today, what did you do?

Happy Thanksgiving! Things I was thankful for today…

7 Oct

Well, it’s Thanksgiving in Canada — so it only seems right that I share the 10 things I was most thankful for today…

1 My first sip of coffee. Let’s face it, the first is always the best of all of them.

2. That moment where you think you’ve eaten all the homemade bars/cookies in a tin, only to pull up the tinfoil and discover there’s a whole other layer underneath. Here’s to my mom’s unbelievable oat, seed and fruit bars… and the fact I still have a another row of them to eat!

3. I saw a bear and lived to tell the tale. Okay, that makes it sound more serious than it sounds. But on my bike ride today a young bear (I’m thinking teen years, or maybe the terrible tweens) ran away from me and I thought for sure mama bear was going to hunt me down. But I’m still here!

4. The movie Madagascar. Have you watched it lately? I don’t remember what I thought of it the first time I saw it but I just rewatched it and can’t count the amount of times I laughed out loud.

5. That I have family I am genuinely sad not to see at Thanksgiving. It might sound odd to say I’m thankful for being sad during a holiday. But I consider myself very fortunate to have family that I love so much that it makes me sad to not see them every day of my life. I know a lot of people are unbelievably stressed around the holidays to have to see family they don’t like or deal with critical relatives. So I think I’m pretty lucky to have a family I love so much.

6. That my mom went through all the trouble of putting together a whole Thanksgiving dinner just for the two of us. Now that’s commitment!

7. That my cat deigned to look in my direction long enough for me to snap this picture:

8. And the fact I treat myself to a fancy new camera that can take images like this:

9. My job. I am unbelievably grateful that I can choose to take a day off when I need one and that’s okay because I make my own hours. It’s a rare gift to love what you do and I should be thankful every day that I have such a gift in my life.

10. Pumpkin pie. It’s that simple. No Thanksgiving would be complete without it and I am very happy I got to have some today.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Gratitude of the Day: Being an easy-going cook

2 Oct

Now, I wouldn’t be so bold as to say I am a good cook. If you put me on the set of one of those reality cooking shows I would stare at the rows of ingredients like a deer in the headlights and then maybe manage to whip together a mediocre salad off the top of my head. I wouldn’t know where to begin when creating a recipe for muffins or cookies or pies from scratch. I don’t know anything about palates or contrasting flavors or any of those things cool people go to culinary school to learn. What I do know is that I am relatively easy to please and my mother was kind enough to instill upon me what I call the “shrug and go” technique. It involves exactly what it implies. When you come upon an ingredient you don’t have or a method you don’t understand you simply shrug and proceed ahead with whatever first pops into your heard. For instance, this evening, I decided to put together a recipe I found for Kelp Noodles and Spicy Peanut Sauce and my inner monologue went something like this:

“I only have one package of noodles instead of two. Ah well, never liked noodles much anyway — more veggies for me! Oh. I don’t have broccoli. Brussel sprouts it is then! What on earth are Enoki mushrooms? Let’s pretend it says button mushrooms. One teaspoon of grated ginger? What if mine is frozen into a solid block formation? Hmm… yes this large chunk I have sawed off will do. Don’t have red curry paste…let’s go with green. Two teaspoons? That’s awfully complicated to measure. I think a small-ish sized glob will be just fine. Hey wait, I don’t have cumin or coriander or chili sauce like I thought. Curry powder? That’s spicy-ish. And cultural. Meh… sound good. Hurrah!”

And I gotta say… it was a pretty darn fine meal. I mean look at it:

Now, truth be told, this method doesn’t work for everything. I once swapped evaporated milk in for condensed milk and the results were not pretty. I probably should have assumed from the names that evaporated would be the exact opposite of condensed… but hey — live and learn! I don’t think I’ve ever followed a recipe word for word and I’m okay with that. It all tastes fine to me!

P.S. You should totally try this recipe in whichever form works for you — because it’s seriously delicious.

30-Day Vegan Challenge is complete!

29 Sep

Well folks, it’s official: at 5 p.m. yesterday I completed the 30-Day Vegan Challenge. And I gotta say, it was a lot of fun. And surprisingly, a whole lot easier than I would have guessed. Granted, I think a lot of the simplicity was thanks to the fact that September was a relatively quiet month for me. Which brings me to the main point of this post: my list of what is awesome about being vegan as well as what makes veganism a little more on the challenging side.

What is awesome:

  • It does wonders for your insides. Seriously. I read a lot about how veganism can make you feel better from the inside-out and I definitely see what people were talking about. I literally didn’t have an internal issue in the entire month period. And as someone who tends to have tummy aches, poor digestion and/or abdominal pain multiple times a week — this is a pretty awesome and welcome change. And by some bizarre chance of fate, it actually worked out that I had plans to go to a restaurant with no vegan foods whatsoever at pretty much the hour I had finished the challenge — and my body definitely felt the effects.
  • Although it is certainly possible to eat vegan unhealthily, it does eliminate many of the usual bad options you might be prone to turn to. Think about it, how many bad foods can you think of off the top of your head that don’t contain some kind of animal product? Not a whole lot. Pizza, cream sauces, chocolate bars, ice cream, burgers, candy, etc. all involve animal products. So if you go at it with the right approach, it’s very easy to totally recalibrate your eating habits.
  • The majority of vegan recipes don’t just remove the meat or dairy and call it a day. They tend to experiment with a huge variety of different grains, legumes, nuts, vegetables and more. I haven’t tried this many different healthy foods in such a short amount of time in so long! Very satisfying.
  • It can help you eliminate some of the things you weren’t really loving in the first place. I’ve never particularly liked milk or eggs or red meat but I felt as though there were no alternatives. So experimenting with flax eggs, soy/rice/almond milk and tempeh/tofu were welcome changes that taught me a lot about how easy it can be to reduce your impact on animal production.
  • You find super yummy new things like using ground cashews as Parmesan cheese and putting alfalfa sprouts on everything.

What is less awesome:

  • There were lots of people that were very welcoming of the changes I was making and were excited to learn more and share their experiences and thoughts. But I also encountered some people that responded in very odd ways which was upsetting. Some looked at me like I was crazy, others seemed angry and a select few actually made fun of me. And as someone who doesn’t really know how to handle confrontation, this left me feeling sad, confused and even embarrassed. If you’re considering going vegan, don’t let worry of such attitudes deter your — there are definitely more positive people than negative. But it can be challenging at times.
  • Eating out is undeniably different than eating out when you aren’t vegan. I got in the habit of making big quantities of food and then packaging them individually in case I had to go somewhere and would need a meal which made it a lot easier. But if you’re going to someone else’s home or have been invited to a restaurant that doesn’t have vegan options, be prepared for big changes.
  • For me, I think one of the biggest challenges was feeling as though I was inconveniencing people or offending them in some way. In most cases I don’t even think it was anything they said or did, I was just overly worried that I’d be putting someone out. As someone who has loved being able to respond to the question “I made ____ is that okay?” with “Of course, I eat everything!” — this was a big change for me and not one I think I could easily get used to.

So where does all this leave me?

I suppose you could say it leaves me enlightened but confused. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to speak to someone who has fully research the both sides of the debate and she helped me figure out how I feel about everything. I do believe that human beings are meant to eat meat. But I don’t believe that we need quite as much meat as we have become accustomed to and I don’t believe that animals should be treated the way they are treated in order to satisfy our mass consumption. It also frustrates me that there’s this notion that we’re at the top of the food chain and that entitles us to eat as much meat as we want. But the factories we get most of our meat from don’t have cows grazing around a field until it’s time for them to be used. They’re stuck in unbearable circumstances that no living creature should have to endure. If a cougar tracked down a person and ate them, that would be the circle of life. But have you ever heard of a cougar tracking down a person, tying them into a miniature cage, force feeding them food and hormones to make them gain weight, impregnating them so they would produce milk, taking away their baby at birth so the baby could be used for baby meat and then killing and eating them? Nope. Cause that’s not how the circle of life is supposed to work. But I digress — all this is just to explain why I think changes do need to be made — although I don’t think it has to be all or nothing. There are plenty of naturally raised farms in Canada where the animals are treated very humanely and even enjoy equal or better lives than they would in the wilderness. I’m just not a fan of how treating animals cruelly in the name of meeting demand has somehow been deemed okay. But it’s obviously a complex issue and I do believe there are dozens of worthwhile ways to look at the issues. Now, where was I? Oh yes… I have also come to realize based on a lot of research that the whole notion of drinking another creature’s milk or eating their eggs just doesn’t make sense to me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go to a restaurant and ask if each item on the list contains the products — but I am going to stick to cooking with flax eggs at home and drinking soy or almond milk wherever possible.I definitely respect vegans that are able to cut them out entirely no matter where they are, but I don’t know that’s where I am yet.

I read a wonderful book called The Main Street Vegan that opened my eyes to the possibility of being an “at home vegan.” Where essentially you eat in a vegan way at home and make vegan choices when available while you’re out but if they aren’t available that’s okay to. The author suggests that living this way can help people gradually move towards being more vegan if and when they’re ready, or if not, they’re still doing something to help the world and that’s great. If anything, these 30 days have taught me it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I can still do my part to help the animals while I’m at home but I can also enjoy the health benefits that come from eating healthy meat products when I’m out. And I can also not worry about offending someone when I’m a guest in their home or not being able to pick an option I can eat off the menu. These beliefs might change with time and that’s okay too. We’re all just trying to find that happy balance between what we feel is right and what makes us happy — and as long as we keep fighting to find that, we’re doing okay.

Most importantly, I hope I haven’t offended anyone in writing this. Whichever side of the debate you may sit on (or somewhere in the middle!) I hope you can understand that I’m new to this and am just another person trying to find my way and discover what I think is right. As I’m sure we all are! But I’m always open to new perspectives — so please feel free to share your thoughts!

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