A Toronto Transformation

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!

How Honest Should You be in a Relationship?

While I was having lunch with Emma recently, she got a text from a friend asking if he should tell the woman he had been dating for a few weeks that she was a horrible kisser.

Our verdict was a unanimous and emphatic “Hell no!”

“I mean, surely something can be done without telling her outright,” I mused. “Can you imagine how traumatic it would be to have someone tell you that you’re a terrible kisser? Maybe the next time it happens he can just make some gentle adjustments with her face in his hands, or, I don’t know, move his head back and chuckle a bit and say “Whoa, your tongue went a bit crazy there for a minute, and then go right back to kissing her and hope she takes the hint?”

While I’m normally all for direct, open verbal communication and honesty in relationships, I just couldn’t see how a conversation that included telling someone you were attracted to that you don’t enjoy kissing them could be anything but brutal and hurtful.

At least I don’t know that it could for me. Maybe some of you are made of sterner stuff but I prefer a gentler approach, at least for that particular kind of subject matter.

It got me thinking about the interactive documentary “The And,” a fascinating sort of choose-your-adventure film/website featuring a variety of couples sitting across from each other and attempting to answer questions about their partner and relationship honestly.

Some of the questions are fairly sweet and easy, like “What was your first impression of me?” but many of them made the participants (and me watching) visibly squirm. Questions like, “talk about a time when I dissapointed you” or “What would you do if I cheated on you?”

As difficult as some of those questions seemed, I’d be interested to know, and would venture to guess that being that intensely honest with each other for the film can only have made it easier for the couples involved to be more honest and communicative with each other on a day-to-day basis.

So, watch out, future partner, I’ve got some questions (and answers!) for you.

Just for Pete’s sake don’t tell me if you think I’m a terrible kisser.

And a question for you guys, just how important is honesty in a relationship? Is there ever room for a little white lie?

Little Luxuries: The Best Top Coat

Seche Vite - The best topcoat I've ever used

Ever since someone gave me a bottle of Little Mermaid peel-off nail polish when I was five years old, I’ve loved painting my nails.

It’s admittedly kind of a silly habit, and I’m not thrilled about the environmentally unfriendly aspect of nail colour, but I have always had a tough time resisting pretty polish.

Unfortunately, while I’m not a bad hand with a nail brush, my home manicures only ever look good for a day or two, maximum, regardless of the quality of the polish I use.

Or at least that was the case before I finally picked up a bottle of Seche Vite top coat last week on a friend’s recommendation.

Whatever mad French scientists came up with this stuff are geniuses! It is, without a doubt, the best top coat I’ve ever used. Not only does it dry quickly, as the name implies, it has actually kept my polish from chipping for a week! Unheard of!

My only complaint is that it doesn’t seem to be carried in my usual beauty supply haunts (Shoppers, Sephora) here in Toronto. It wasn’t until I wandered into a beauty supply outlet that I actually stumbled across it.

Have you guys tried Seche Vite, or do you have another standby top coat in your nail arsenal?

A Life Unplugged

A tech-free afternoon stalking (and wearing!) flowers in the park.

A tech-free afternoon stalking (and wearing!) flowers in the park.

Relieved as I was this weekend to finally pick up my dear old laptop from the repair shop, I have to say it was lovely to have a little break from it.

While I was by no means completely technology deprived (I work on a computer all day and carry around and care for my phone like it’s a tamagotchi), it was still quite a change to not have every tool and distraction the internet has to offer (and a decent-sized screen to interact with said distractions) at my fingertips every hour of the day.

Without it, I found myself reading more, going to bed earlier, listening to more music, taking more photos, lounging out of doors, gardening, playing catch (Catch! Imagine!), and reading from a hilarious 1950s magazine for young ladies to my friends by candlelight on my deck.

BUT I didn’t write.

I thought that maybe the absence of my keyboard would just send me scrambling for the romantic glitter pens and notebooks of my youth, but alas, no. I’ve been too seduced by the speed and ease of correction a computer offers when I want to get my thoughts down.

So for that reason, I’m really happy to have the old girl back.

But I think I’ll try to remember to unplug a bit more on my own, preferably without spilling liquids on my expensive electronics in order to remind myself of the value of some time off from technology.

Have you guys unplugged lately?

Universe – 1, Sarah – 0

Smiling on the outside, throttling a dog-owner on the inside.

Smiling on the outside, throttling a dog-owner on the inside.

 

I never doubt that the universe has a sense of humour.

For the past month and a half or so, since my PCOS diagnosis, I’ve been really carefully monitoring my health

Having a blood clotting disorder and chronic DVT means this is something I’m typically pretty tuned in to, but finding out about my polycystic ovaries and insulin resistance problem (and associated higher risks for diabetes, heart disease and a whole host of other things along with the hormone imbalance, mysterious weight-gain and MIA period I’ve already experienced) has meant a whole new set of things to monitor and adjust. Hilariously, most women who suffer from PCOs are prescribed hormonal birth control to quiet their symptoms, and of course, as a clotter that could kill me fairly swiftly. So. Natural remedies it is! In particuar, I’ve had to re-think my (already perfectly reasonable for the average person) diet and focus on carefully selecting what to eat, how much and when, in a way that for me feels overwhelming and a bit ridiculous.

As someone who has addressed weight and diet issues in an unhealthily obsessive (and just plain unhealthy) way in the past, this kind of strict monitoring is actually something I tend to specifically  avoid. For a long time my scale has had a healthy layer of dust over its dial window.And that’s not just because of my very real aversion to dusting.

I love food, and my diet philosophy for years has just been very common-sense-based: Everything in moderation, junk extra moderated, lots of fruits and veggies to balance out delicious fats and carbs, and don’t worry about weight gain as long as your clothes fit and your bod feels healthy. It’s a good philosophy, I think, and one that would work if not for PCOS rearing its hirsute (yet also somehow balding? how is that fair?) head.

I’m sure eventually eating for my hormones will start to feel like natural common-sense, but for now it takes a lot of mental energy that I would just rather use elsewhere, and while I know I’m approaching the weight-loss side of things in a very healthy, sustainable manner, and I’m lucky that I am learning what I need to do to maintain a healthy body while I’m still young and energetic enough to tackle change, it’s really frustrating to see how slow the progress is.

I hate going to restaurants and not ordering my favourite creamy pasta or rich chocolatey dessert because I know what an overreaction my hormones will have to all that sugar and the havoc they’ll wreak on my body as a consequence.

But of course I know all too well that you cannot take your health for granted, and so I persist.

Which is why, Sunday evening found me roasting chickpeas for an hour to take with me as a high-protein snack to eat in the park for the Christie Pits film festival’s screening of A League of Their Own. Did I want the popcorn, chips, popsicles and bacon cheeseburgers everyone else was happily skipping away from  the nearby vendors with? Oh yes, I most certainly did.

But no, I held to my resolve and opened my sad little tupperware container of under-roasted ‘peas, trying to will them into something more delicious. I turned around to pose for a photo with Red, and that’s when the yippy little lapdog some woman was allowing to run around the picnic blankets untethered, stuck his head in the bowl and gave them a thorough slavering lick.

And it’s why, if you look into my eyes in the above photo taken right after the incident, my mouth is smiling a happy feminist baseball-movie-watching-in-the-park grin, but my eyes convey “Good one universe. Sending a dog to lick my stupid healthy snack. You’ve bested me again.”

 

 

 

She’s Alive!

rp_20140703-230347-83027435.jpg

In case you were wondering, it’s true! Unfortunately, no sooner did I finally find some time to sit down and get back to blogging, then I knocked a glass of water directly onto my laptop. You know, like the professionals do.

So, while I wait for a verdict from the Mac geniuses, I’m continuing my absentee blogger streak just a little longer. Meanwhile, you can find me over on Instagram, obsessively posting photos of tiny things I examine with my phone’s macro lens, or as viewed above, pining away for my laptop amongst the greenery.

I hope you guys are hanging in there, enjoying the summer with perfectly dry electronics!

Indecent Exposure

This weekend on my way to the Toronto Flower Market, I saw a lot of penises.

Penises (and vulvas) on bicycles, attached to naked human cyclists protesting car culture as part of world naked bike day, to be precise. It was nudity at its best, most carefree and humorous (although I’d have to bet, uncomfortable). I chuckled (and cringed a little) and continued on my way.

It was a far cry from the reaction Red and I had a couple weeks ago when we stumbled onto another scene of surprise nudity in the city.

It was a little after midnight, and we were making our way to our respective homes from dinner celebrating my last day of work when I noticed someone step off the porch of a house a few doors ahead of us.

In the quick glimpse I caught of a flash of legs and a pair of briefs, I initially thought it was a tall woman with her skirt hiked up.

I interrupted Red to tell her I thought we might be about to wander past a drunk person coming out of a party to pee in the bushes or something. She had caught a quick glimpse too, but as we got closer to the house, we couldn’t see the person anymore.

We thought maybe they’d gone around the back of the house so we proceeded to make our way along the sidewalk until at the edge of the hedgerow, there he was, waiting for us, underwear pulled down, bent over and presenting his bare ass to us while he put something in it and wriggled it around (I thought it was a sex toy, Red thought it was a stick).

It’s difficult to describe it in a way that doesn’t just seem ridiculous and funny, if a little gross, but, while we did laugh nervously from the place across the street we’d shrieked and sprinted to, it really wasn’t all that funny. It was disturbing and frightening and threatening. And it made me really angry.

As a young guy came ambling down the street from where we’d come, the guy righted himself and sprinted towards the alley behind the houses. The  young guy slowed down to ask us what had happened. I guess he’d seen us scream and run. He said he thought we were being pranked by a friend.

Worst prank ever, by the way.

I asked Red, “I guess we should call the police?”

And, weirdly, the young guy said “Nah, you don’t need to call the police. I live on this street, this is a nice neighbourhood, it’s fine.”

Then he offered me a swig of his wine thermos.

I declined and Red and I hustled the last few steps to my place to call the police non-emergency line.

She claimed it was my turn as she had made the call last summer when we stumbled  across a fully zipped sleeping bag that appeared to contain either a live or dead human being laid out across the sidewalk on a quiet street.

From the safety of home, our adrenaline still buzzing it was hard not to dissolve into hysterical laughter, especially when the police asked for a detailed description of the suspect and I was of little use:
“Did he have any defining features? Facial hair, tattoos?”
“I mean, it was really just the butt we got a close look at. It seemed to be a caucasian, middle-aged butt, if that’s helpful?”

Still, I was glad we called just in case this is an ongoing thing in the neighbourhood, I figure it can’t hurt to give them whatever little scraps of the puzzle I could, and I felt a little safer knowing they’d send a car by in case he was still lurking around.

Still too shaken to part ways just yet, we chatted a little about what could  possibly be going on in a person’s brain to make them think that was an acceptable thing to do to non-consenting strangers, marvelling at just how involved and specific the whole encounter was, as opposed to your run-of-the-mill subway flasher or whatever and Red asked, “Do you think we gave him the reaction he wanted?”

I said unfortunately, yes. I doubt he expected we’d be delighted or pull our own pants down and join in surprising passers-by as a lovely summer’s eve activity. I thought the fact that he took off when a guy approached was telling. I think he probably waited and watched and chose us specifically. I think he wanted our fear and shock and disgust. I’m sure it was a real thrill for him.

I tried to muster up some compassion for this man and whatever mental illness he must be dealing with. But as I walked my pal downstairs, peered from my curtains, and ushered her out the door only when we saw a friendly-looking middle-aged couple heading her way so that she wouldn’t be alone on the rest of her walk down my street, I just felt fearful and sick. I felt like a target.

I cringed at the thought of what happened and at the implied threat that’s present whenever a strange man involves you in his sexual world in some way without your permission.

I cringed, and I didn’t chuckle.

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