A Toronto Transformation

Five Shows to Curl Up With This Fall

Shows to Curl Up With This Fall via metamorphocity.com

As much as I love all of my autumn activities, sometimes there’s nothing better on a chilly fall day than curling up on the couch with my latest crochet project and some really good tv.

Borgen – A seriously fantastic Danish series about the complexities of government and the choices politicians face. It manages to be both real and really fascinating. As an added bonus, I expect to start understanding Danish any day now.

The Mindy Project – it never ceases to crack me up. Mindy is hilarious and I really dig Danny Castellano. I’m a sucker for a curmudgeon with a heart of gold.

Orphan Black – This show about human clones is so clever, suspenseful and well-written. It also features my lovely, talented pal Kristian Brunn and the phenomenally gifted Tatiana Maslany, who should win all the awards for her flawless portrayal of multiple characters. Plus it features my lover Toronto, as itself no less!

Utopia – If you’ve ever worked in an office where you dealt with the red tape and stunning inefficiencies of buerocracy or preposterous projects that landed in your lap on the whim of a clueless higher up, this Australian series will have you in stitches.

Top of the Lake – I watched this right after finishing True Detective, and actually liked this mystery/thriller set in New Zealand more. Elizabeth Moss is fantastic and New Zealand makes a gorgeous, fascinating backdrop for the show.

I’m still hanging in there with Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones despite the constant killing off of my favourite characters and I’ve put off starting the new Outlander series, because I really love the books and I REALLY love the books’ male protagonist and I’m worried the series won’t measure up to my own imagining of the stories, but I’ve heard it’s quite good too.

What are you guys watching this fall? Do you have an all-time favourite series?

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The Trouble With Trolls

women in animal masks Sometimes it feels like the internet is a masquerade…for jerks.

I’ve been thinking about trolls lately.

No, sadly, not the fluffy, neon-haired bejewelled belly button type (what a weird fad that was).

I’ve been thinking more about the type who prowl the internet looking for unmoderated forums to spew bilious, hateful trash. You know, the ones you encounter when, against your better judgement you think, “I’ll just quickly scroll down to the comment section of this thoughtful piece of writing or this heartfelt video.”

I believe in dialogue, I believe in letting people have their say and I believe in participating in important conversations. After all, respectful debate is essential for human evolution and democracy.

But man, few things are as optimism-crushing as a comment section on a viral post.

My personal policy is to try never to say anything online I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to someone’s face and/or be comfortable having everyone I know hear.

For some folks though, the possibilities that come along with perceived anonymity are too tempting not to test out.

Online, you can be whomever you want.

And for some reason, I guess a lot of people really want to be assholes.

Maybe they feel powerless or invisible in their own lives. Maybe they hate themselves or are bored with their lives and don’t have the resources to deal with that productively. Maybe they’re genuinely mentally ill.

Whatever the reasons, they bring their racism, misogyny, intolerance and bullying to the internet and let fly. Some seem to believe the nonsense they’re spewing, while others pathetically claim to be writing loathsome things just to get a reaction (the original definition of an internet troll).

Recently, a woman accused of “trolling” a family whose toddler went missing was unmasked by a news team when they found out Scotland Yard was investigating her Twitter account, with which she obsessively tweeted abuse towards the family, who she believed were responsible for their child’s disappearance. According to news outlets, she was found dead of an apparent suicide a couple of days later. The situation has sparked some debate over whether exposing so-called “trolls” in this manner is the right thing to do.

I don’t know exactly what the solution is. I value my privacy online, and I value free speech, but I do think that we need to take online harassment, threats, and hate speech seriously, because the internet doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and the more encouragement these so-called “trolls” receive either directly from other mean-spirited commenters cheering them on or through lack of consequence, the more likely that behaviour will be picked up by others and the more it will bleed into their lives offline.  And even if it doesn’t, we all know by now that sadly online bullying can have devastating and fatal consequences.

Some say we should just ignore online bullies and trolls, but Stephanie Guthrie had an interesting take on misogynist trolls in particular in this awesome Ted Talk last September:

What do you guys think? Have you encountered online bullying or trolling on a personal level? How do you think we should deal with people who make it their mission to threaten or make others miserable online?

 

Things to be Thankful For

Thanksgiving2014_10

For me, thanksgiving means hopping on a train out of the city to my aunt and uncle’s lovely house in the country for a feast and a visit with the people who’ve known me since I was born.

My mom has four sisters and one brother and when they were younger the women used to be mistaken for each other. While obviously I’ve never had a problem telling them apart, it does make me laugh to see them all together and realize just how many common traits they share. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but inevitably one of my aunts will say something in a particular tone and my little ears perk up and go, “mom?”

This year, while I listened to fellow passengers gripe about the lateness of the train (which, I pretty much plan for when taking public transit) and about the fact that they were “obligated” to go see their families, I realized for the zillionth time how lucky I am to actually enjoy spending time with my family.

One of the best feelings in the entire world is sitting around the table after dinner and listening to them tell stories and make each other laugh until they can’t breathe. I’m so glad they still take the time and make the effort to get us all together year after year.

So, while I’m thankful for the delicious meal and lovely hospitality, for my cousin picking me up from my late train, and for the chance to unwind in the country for a day, the thing I’m most thankful for this thanksgiving is that feeling. That bubbly joy in my chest when I hear my family laughing and I feel completely happy and at home in my skin.

Apple crumble pie

succulents in mason jars

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Asked to put buns on the table. Acted accordingly.

Tech break

Thanksgiving2014_2

Thanksgiving2014_1

Our grandparents couldn’t make it this year so they skyped in. It’s like we live in the future!

ontario fall leaves

laughing in the trees reflection

Thanksgiving2014_6

This is what happens when I dare to attempt a group shot. Even with only a quarter of us it’s still pandemonium.

women hanging from garden trellis

These three needed exactly zero outside prompting to do this.

I’m also thankful that this garden trellis did not break.

Do you guys celebrate Thanksgiving? What are you thankful for this year? Let me know in the comments! 

Craft Projects for Fall

Crochet brick stitch headband

I don’t know about you guys, but there’s something about that first chill wind of fall that makes me want to head indoors and start one million creative projects.

This week I dove into my trusty bag of yarn and dusted off the crochet skills I picked up as a loner newspaper reporter living in the middle of nowhere, and whipped up the snow white headband pictured above.

Few things are more relaxing and cozy than curling up on the couch with a ball of yarn and a borrowed cat purring away. Concentrating on the soothing repetition of a crochet pattern is still the closest I come to meditation and there’s just something so satisfying about making something with your own hands.

I usually have a couple of creative projects on the go, so I find it especially satisfying to create something I can definitively finish in a day or two.

Although I really want to find some time this fall/winter to tackle the challenge of this pretty boho sweater or this cute throw blanket.

Are you guys crafty? What are you making this fall? Let me know in the comments! Stuck for ideas? Check out my “crafty” board on Pinterest!

What Women Really Want

What is not being reduced to boring, outdated, gender-based stereotypes, Alex?

Last week, an episode of Jeopardy featured a category entitled “What Women Want.” Suddenly the quiz show looked suspiciously like a 1950s episode of The Newlywed Game as one misguided attempt to pin down half the world’s population’s priorities after another was revealed on the show’s iconic blue screens.

Apparently what women want is Sleepytime tea, more time to do our precious pilates , jeans that fit well, and of course, for our domestically useless “partners” to unchain us from our vacuums.

Whew. Good thing we’re not a diverse group of people with a myriad different wants and needs or that would have been a really tough category to put together!

I know many people will (and have) argued that there are bigger fish to fry in the struggle for equality, but, as I’ve said before, I think it’s perfectly reasonable, and in fact necessary to sweat the “small stuff” when it comes to sexism. The ways that men and women are portrayed in popular media really do matter. The more we let slip by, the more these harmful stereotypes become the accepted norm, until we find ourselves losing the gains we’ve made towards living in a society where men and women are valued equally and where people are not bound by rigidly constructed roles assigned based on genitalia.

For the record, I’d also find it offensive and detrimental to society if the category had been called “What Men Want” and featured a list that painted a limiting stereotype of men. Maybe they’ll do that one next!

The sooner we stop making judgements about one another based on gender, the better.

Meanwhile, I’ve come up with a list of a few of the things I would like for myself and my fellow women just off the top of my head, jeopardy style:

What is:
Access to education around the world.
Not having our private photos stolen and posted on the internet.
Being taken seriously in the world of technology/programming
Equal sports funding and media coverage.
To be valued for the quality of my character, not my appearance.
Not to be told a “thigh gap” is desirable & that we can all have one if we really try.
Not being harassed by men in the street.
For strange men to quit demanding that we smile for them.
To feel safe walking home at night.
For missing aboriginal girls/women in Canada to be a priority for our government.
Not to be blamed or slut-shamed when we are sexually assaulted.
And, oh hey, maybe just to be treated with respect, compassion and dignity.

Anything you guys would add? Let me know in the comments, or add it to the Huffington Post conversation on Twitter #WhatWomenReallyWant.

What Keeps You Up at Night?

full moon over the CN Tower, Toronto

I’m usually a pretty solid sleeper.

Of course, usually I sleep in my quiet apartment with the reassuring hum of my white noise machine gently roaring in my ear to keep all the misophonia-inducing sounds of the night away.

But still.

With the exception of the occasional interruption from my super active bladder or a terrifying nightmare (side note: do you guys ever wake up with tears on your face from sleep-crying? No? Yeah, me neither…), I can usually count on a good night’s sleep.

Not so, last Thursday night.

I hopped into bed around 10:30, suitably worn out from work, followed by Barreworks, followed by lugging groceries home, I read a little, then turned out the lights, closed my eyes and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I guess the sand man had other plans.

In the whooshing dark, my mind was free to wander, and wander it did, to some very dark places.

Maybe the reason you can’t sleep is because you’re going to die tonight.

Wait, what?

Maybe a piece of the clot in my leg broke off today and is headed for my lungs as I’m thinking this!

I mean, that’s entirely possible. Cue me thinking through an elaborate scenario wherein I call 9-1-1 and drag myself out of my apartment to wait for an ambulance only to die alone on the sidewalk. Relaxing stuff, to be sure.

I wonder what all my exes are doing right now?

Oh good grief.

My parents are going to die one day.

Shutupshutupshutup!

I’m probably going to miss out on having kids from waiting too long to find the right partner.

Oh, thanks for chiming in, biological clock!

Israel-Palestine conflict, Ebola, ISIS, fracking…

Eventually I gave up and went back to reading. But John Irving was no match for my brain’s bizarre determination to focus on problems I have little to no control over.

In the wee hours of the morning I couldn’t stand it anymore and took an advil nighttime, which finally did the trick.

Ideally though, I’d like to find a way to beat insomnia sans drugs.

So what do you guys do when the late-night wakies strike? Do you have tips for turning your brain off and beating insomnia? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

10 Ways to Embrace Fall

10 Ways to Embrace Fall I know, I know, summer is barely in the ground and here I am telling you how to move on! It certainly didn’t feel terribly autumnal in Toronto this weekend as my darling cousin and I lounged around on a blanket in High Park, but fall is definitely on its way, and I for one, am determined not to let the winter blahs set in early! So, I’ve come up with a list of 10 ways to embrace fall:

1. Have a pumpkin carving party – If fall doesn’t leave you feeling nostalgic on its own, this ought to do the trick! Pro tip, if you eschew the usual grinning jack-o-lantern face for carving a lizard you perfected in 8th grade art class into your pumpkin, you’ll totally win the carving competition (even if said competition was not explicitly stated as part of the event. Ahem.)

2. Go apple picking – another classic. Bonus points if you can work in a hay ride! Fall Activities - Apple-picking! 3. Picnic under the changing leaves in the park. Just because summer’s over doesn’t mean we need to stop dining alfresco. Just throw on a sweater and gloat over the fact that the wasps who plagued your August picnics are probably dead by now!

4. Have a fall feast – Speaking of dining, why not throw on a pot of borscht, slow cook some lamb stew and have some pals over for an evening of hearty fare, tasty wine and a game of drunken truth or dare…I mean, civilized discourse on current events! If you want to get really ambitious, try organizing one of those roaming dinner things where you eat a different course at each friend’s house before moving on to the next! Fall activities - pumpkin-carving! 5, Go on a ghost walk – grab a thermos of boozy tea (a little sortilege whisky maple syrup liquer should do the trick) and someone you can cling to in fear and head out for some campy, guided-tour fun.

6. Explore a new neighbourhood or a nearby town – There’s nothing like a little road (or rail!) trip to take in some fall foliage.

7. Match your lipstick to the leaves – you don’t have to go on an all-out spending spree to update your fall wardrobe. I like the look of Bite’s Matte Creme Lip Crayon in Truffle, or if you’re feeling crafty, you could even make your own lip stain with beets for a sexy, chemical-free fall pout! Fall Activities -picnic under the leaves in High Park!

8. Thrift for Sweaters – Emma, my champion thrifter pal recently snagged the most stunningly soft 2-ply cashmere sweater the world has ever known from a thrift shop on Queen West. I will not rest until I find its equal. And hey, thrift shopping is economical and environmentally-friendly!

9. Cemetery Scavenger hunt- If you dare! I love strolling through a gorgeous cemetery, although I do get the heebie-jeebies every so often. Race to find historical figures, dates, images, symbols or statues. But if you come across your own name, get out of there because you’re obviously now living the plot of a horror movie.

10. Tour a winery – I hardly think I need to sell this one. Wine country just about anywhere is notoriously gorgeous. Bring home a case of something unique to take to parties all winter long! Just remember to bring a designated driver!

How do will you guys keep yourselves entertained this fall? Let me know in the comments!

If at First You Don’t Succeed…Back off.

Toronto flower Market Tote bag

All I wanted was some quality time with these guys…

Last week I was sitting on my favourite lunchtime bench, enjoying the shade, some tasty nosh and a podcast and was just debating setting my alarm and giving in to my temptation to sneak in a little cat nap, when a young man crept into my sight line.

He stood in front of me and waited expectantly for me to remove my ear buds, which I reluctantly did, hoping he just needed directions.

Alas, no.

“I just wanted to say, you’re really cute.”

“Oh…thanks” I shrugged, my urge to be polite winning out over my urge to give a lecture on the inappropriateness of commenting on a stranger’s physical appearance. Plus he seemed young and had the grace to be (or at least seem to be) a little nervous.

He told me he was an exchange student and that parties here in Toronto are “so crazy!” while I stared longingly at the ear buds dangling from my hand, the dream of a nap dissolving into the warm grass at my feet.

“So, I don’t want to be rude, but, are you single?”

“I am…” I said, “but I’m really not interested in dating.”

“Maybe just a friendly chat then?” he proposed.

“I’m ok, thanks!”

And that was that, right? Right, reasonable people of the internet?

“Are you a student?” he asked, gesturing to the book beside me.

“Not since 2006,” I said, pointedly.

“Oh, so maybe I’m a bit too young for you then?”

“Yeah, probably,” I confirmed.

“How old do you think I am?”

I released the sigh I’d been holding in for the whole conversation thus far.

“I don’t know, 23? 24?”

“Wow! Good guess, I’m 24!”

“Ah, so is my baby brother.”

“Hmm, so I guess you’re in your 30s or something?”

“Just about.”

At this point I could see that no amount of perfunctory answers or discouraging hints was going to shake him loose, so I started packing up my lunch things, saying I needed to get back to work.

He was just about to launch into some more grade A small-talk when to my delight, we were approached by some religious recruiter-types. As they thrust pamphlets into his hands and told him about their bible study group, I took the opportunity to jam the rest of my things in my purse and slip away.

I thought I was in the clear, when I heard “Wait!” and he ran up behind me.

“I didn’t get your name!”

“It’s Sarah” I said, blessing my parents for not naming me something unique enough to bother googling.

He told me his name as I sped away and called after me “Maybe I’ll see you around! I live around here!”

“Not if I see you first,” I muttered.

As far as this kind of experience goes, this is far from the worst I’ve had, and I guess some allowances could be made for this guy’s age, but I find myself galled again and again by the way men seem to think that it’s totally fine to ignore the signals a woman is giving them (uncomfortable/closed-off body language, short answers, brusqueness, and even the words “I’m not interested” or “No thanks” – the operative word being “No”). It leaves women with no choice but to be harsh in their dismissal, which as too many of us know, means the strange man we’re dealing with might turn ugly and threatening on a dime.

I can’t count the number of times strange men have “complimented” me only to call me a bitch when I didn’t accept the compliment or give him the attention he wanted in return.

I guess I don’t begrudge this young guy approaching a stranger on the street, (although I feel like the odds of meeting someone you actually want to spend time with that way are probably not excellent, as opposed to through friends, at an event, or even online dating sites) but if you’re going to do that you’d better be able to read people and be prepared to back off pretty quickly if it looks like your interest is not reciprocated.

It’s not cute or charming to keep hanging around in the hopes you’ll change a woman’s mind or just plain wear her down; it’s creepy and disrespectful.

Do you think she doesn’t know what she wants? Or that your interest in spending time with her should trump her desire not to?

Lastly, why on earth would you want to go on a date with someone who doesn’t feel a connection with or interest in you?

Have you guys encountered this kind of persistent refusal to take a hint? How do you deal with it? Or, have you ever been the one to persist when someone seemed disinterested? If so, what was the thinking behind that?I’m genuinely curious!

What Are You Reading?

Love these "little library" neighbourhood book-sharing arrangements.

Love these little neighbourhood book-sharing arrangements.

When I was little my mom took me to the public library at least twice a month. I brought home stacks upon stacks of books and devoured them like I was absolutely starving for words.

My reading habit exercised my brain and stretched my imagination, it made me more educated and curious and it taught me about grammar and spelling and communication. The books I read taught me how to express myself and most importantly I think they helped to teach me empathy, immersing me in worlds and perspectives I wasn’t likely to encounter in my day-to-day life.

It was no accident that I developed an adoration for books. As well as organizing bi-weekly library trips, my parents read me wonderful books when I was small, and some of my happiest memories are of reciting “If I Ran the Zoo” along with my dad or taking turns reading chapters of Anne of Green Gables out loud with my mom, bribing her to read me just a little bit more by promising to give her a scalp massage.

I’ve always gravitated towards fiction. I love curling up in a comfy nook and jumping into epic adventure, being gripped by the emotion  of a beautifully-written tale.

With so much of my focus being locked on to my health of late, and a bad habit of watching Orphan Black or Game of Thrones or Golden Girls while I do my evening chores (and then getting so engrossed that I burn through multiple episodes before bed, of course), I’d all but forgotten that feeling.

It took implementing a laptop-free long weekend at home with my family and diving into a copy of The Gargoyle, a gorgeous, adventurous story  about enduring love and just plain enduring, by Andrew Davidson to remind me just how great it feels to get totally swept up in a novel and now I can’t get enough.

I’ve got a couple more novels lined up but I need more! I’ve got the GoodReads app, but I’d love some more personal recommendations.

Are you guys reading anything good right now? Or do you have a favourite that you would happily read over and over again to recommend? Let me know in the comments!

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