One of the great things about living in a city like Toronto is access to all manner of continuing education courses at the local post-secondary institutions. Want to brush up on your culinary skills? Your carpentry? Great. Going for your Project Management certification? No problem.
While the idea of going back to school full-time gives me hives, I can’t seem to resist the urge to head back to the classroom at least once a year for a structured look at some topic or other, either to satisfy my curiosity or to add another skill to my resume.
I’m currently enrolled in the seventh con ed course I’ve taken since moving to Toronto, and aside from my ill-advised foray into the wacky world of web design a few years back, it’s the one that has me the most out of my element.
I think it’s normal to gravitate towards the things we’re already good at, whether it’s something we have prior training in or just a natural affinity for, but while it has been great to polish and buff my existing skills, I really wanted to give some attention to related areas of knowledge I may have neglected.
For me that means stepping out of my usual arena of monkeying around with pretty words and ideas and delving further into the business/strategy side of communications.
The first few classes weren’t too intimidating and I felt I was following along with the lectures all right. Although I missed the camaraderie of the last class I was in. It was a smaller group with livelier, friendlier discussions.
My first attempt to participate in a group discussion this term was shut down rather frustratingly when I brought up the topic of the #nomorepagethree campaign (encouraging folks to boycott a newspaper until they end their tradition of featuring topless women on the third page of their publication) during the part of the class where we discuss current social media trends/events etc. I was explaining the online campaign and its rising popularity/possible success when a man in the class loudly interrupted me, not to comment on the tactics, or the interesting use of social media, but to deride the campaign itself, exclaiming “Well if you don’t like it, just don’t buy the paper!”
Sidenote: if you’re a man, and a woman is telling a brief story about sexism, maybe DON’T INTERRUPT HER!
Anyway, I haven’t felt much like piping up since.
So I was dismayed to find that our first assignment, worth a substantial part of our mark was to include a presentation.
And, despite my diligent note-taking in class, I felt ill-prepared to tackle this particular assignment. The words “analysis”, “strategy” and “measurable objectives” jumped off the page and made my poetic heart pucker in protest.
It wasn’t long before I’d decided I couldn’t do it. I didn’t understand all the nonsensical business lingo involved, I’d never done anything like this before or even seen an example of what we were being asked to produce, so how could I possibly do anything other than a totally horrible job and embarrass myself in front of everyone else in the class who would undoubtedly use their umpteen business degrees and superior brains, experience, knowledge and talent to put together their presentations in their sleep.
I tried to be proactive about it. Sort of. I asked the instructor if he could show us an example of approximately what he was looking for, which he kindly did provide. But it was too late. Having already decided I didn’t understand what was being asked of me, I just stared at the example, my mind a dark whirlpool of doubt. The thing might as well have been written in an alien language and then run through a shredder for all the good it was doing me in my worked up state of mind.
As time marched on, I agonized more and more over this assignment. It was a steadily growing knot in the bottom of my stomach. My focus quickly shifted from trying to figure it out, to trying to figure out how to get out of it. I tried to psychically deduce whether I could do well enough in the rest of the course to just skip it altogether and accept a zero, but with my confidence at a mega-low, that seemed unlikely.
So. I thought. I’ll just try to do the written component. Maybe if I at least do that, I can just squeak by with a passing grade at the end of the course, and only the instructor will know the secret shame of my idiocy. Hurrah!
I could just sit quietly and pretend not to hear when my name was called on presentation day. I could claim laryngitis, I could faint! Heaven knows I’ve fainted enough times by accident by now, surely I could summon my powers of squeamishness if needed!
So, with that extremely well-thought-out plan in place (look at that! I can strategize after all!), I finally got to work on the written component. When it was done, I still didn’t feel particularly confident about it, but it looked about the right size and shape, so, exhausted, I let my perfectionism go.
Then I thought, “Well, ok, you might as well at least just take what you’ve already bothered to come up with here and transfer it into a slideshow. It doesn’t have to be cool or creative and I’m still not saying you have to get up and present it, but why not just have the format handy…just in case.”
I was still telling myself this on my way to the classroom, talking to my brain like I was trying to make a toddler eat broccoli. “Just go into the room, just sit down and watch some presentations.”
And then, finally, when the instructor asked if anyone else would like to get their presentation over with on the first day “Just put your hand up. You can still lose consciousness if you need to.”
And that’s how I got through the worst bout of perfectionism paralysis I’ve had in a long time. And the payoff is, that while I might not have perfected the particular skills the assignment required, at least now I know where to start.
I had to take my own advice. I’m always telling friends who are stuck at a loss with what to do with their lives/careers etc. to just try something. Try anything. Step off in a direction and see where it takes you. Just take one step. If all you learn is that that wasn’t the direction for you, then that’s one more thing you know about where you want to go (not there).
Stop agonizing over the details and the reasons why you can’t do the thing and just bloody well start. Start the thing hideously, start it wrong, start it ugly, but start. There’s time for perfection later.
Perfection is not a starting point.
Are you guys ever paralyzed by perfectionism? How do you get past that kind of mental roadblock?
Strawberry Coconut Overnight Oats
Lately I’ve been on a mission to become a more environmentally responsible citizen. I really feel that humans’ impact on the planet is one of (if not the most) important issues of our time. For those of us who don’t yet feel drastically inconvenienced (or horribly threatened) by the effects of climate change, it is all too easy to push some frightening realities about what will happen if we don’t change our collective behaviour to the back of our minds.
Everyone has seen photos of polar bears stranded by melting ice, but they’re far from the only immediately at-risk species.
Baby puffins are starving to death because they can’t swallow the butterfish their parents bring them now that their usual diet of smaller herring and hake have disappeared from their habitat as the water warms up.
Bees are disappearing because of pesticides and climate change. And guess what? Without them we won’t just lose honey, we’ll lose huge swaths of our global food supplies.
The WWF also lists sea turtles, whales, pandas, orangutans (fuzzy little red-haired orangutans, guys!), elephants, frogs, and tigers as just a few of the candidates for extinction if people don’t act quickly to slow climate change.
Now, obviously cutting down on the amount of garbage I purchase for my bathroom isn’t going to magically reverse climate change. There is much more that I can do, starting with supporting political leaders who aren’t so seduced by capitalism and motivated by greed that they can’t see (or muzzle scientists and willfully ignore ) the bigger picture. I know I need to lend my voice and support to organizations and movements that are working hard to lead us away from environmental catastrophe.
Still, there’s no reason I can’t also do my part to cut down on the amount of junk I send to the landfill (or the giant patch of garbage in the ocean). So here are a few small changes I’ve come up with to make your bathroom eco-friendly:
How to Make Your Bathroom More Eco-Friendly
1. Replace body wash and liquid handsoap with solid soaps to cut down on plastic. One of my best pals actually made some beautiful lavender soap, so I’ve been lucky enough to have that on hand for a while. I also really like Kiss My Face olive and chamomile (paraben-free! Not animal tested!) soap for shaving.
2. Buy eco-friendly dental floss. This one has been a challenge, as even floss made from more environmentally-friendly ingredients tends to be packaged in hard plastic. Add to that the fact that my teeth are super tight, and it’s almost impossible to find something that will work.
I actually went so far as to email Oral B and express my concern about the environmental impact of so many of their dental floss dispensers winding up in the trash. They sent me back what I would describe as a polite kiss-off claiming that they are very concerned about the environment without going so far as to say they will actually do anything about the issue at hand. I suggested one immediate improvement would be to sell the reusable dispensers and 200m spools of floss they sell to dentists to the general public. Shockingly, they haven’t replied.
So far, the best I’ve come up with is Ecodent gentle floss. It comes in a cardboard dispenser, so at least it won’t float around in the ocean for eternity once I’m done with it. I only wish it was a little flatter for my poor crowded teeth.
3. Use solid shampoo. I’ve mentioned Lush solid shampoos here before, and I am still dedicated to them. Godiva, Seanik and Karma Komba are my favourites.
4. Buy Large. If you can’t find a replacement for a bottled product, buy a giant bottle of it. I have yet to find a solid conditioner that I like, so while the search continues I figured the least I could do was buy giant salon-sized bottles of the stuff to cut down on plastic at least a little.
5. Trade in your plastic toothbrush for bamboo. Think about all the toothbrushes you’ve used in your life so far. They all still exist in a landfill somewhere, and as far as we know, they will never stop existing. Bamboo toothbrushes on the other hand, will biodegrade, and bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials on the planet. Easy math! The one pictured above is from WooBamboo.
6. Use solid toothpaste. Good news! Crest recently removed plastic micro beads from their toothpaste after folks realized that…what was it again? Oh yes, they realized that it was INSANE to put tiny pieces of plastic in toothpaste (which is also packaged in plastic) and made some noise about it. Nice work, noisemakers! Meanwhile Lush toothy tabs do not contain plastic AND are not packaged in it. These little sweet tart-looking tabs foam up something fierce, but they do leave my mouth awfully clean. And with no creepy plastic micro-bead residue!
7. Try a menstrual cup or reusable pads. Approximately 20 billion tampons, applicators and disposable pads wind up in North American landfills every year. And none of them are mine! Again, there was a learning curve with this little gem of a product, but after my initial hilarious/terrifying adventure, I’ve never looked back! This one’s not only an earth-saver but a money-saver too!
8. Don’t shave your legs! Or, if like me, you aren’t quite at that point (at least not year-round), ditch the disposables or products like Gillette’s insanely over-packaged refills and try a Preserve reusable razor. They’re made from recycled yogurt cups and their refills aren’t infuriatingly individually sealed in hard plastic.
So there you have it, a few ways to green up your bathroom! And don’t forget, if you think a company’s packaging or product is environmentally irresponsible, you might want to consider letting them know exactly why you won’t be using it anymore. If they hear from enough of us who will take our money elsewhere, they’ll have no choice but to make a change.
Does anyone have a solid conditioner recommendation or any other ways to make your bathroom eco-friendly? I’d love to read them in the comments!
What’s a gal to do when it’s crazy-cold in Toronto? Why grab a couple of her best pals and head to Ottawa, where it is about 20 degrees colder, naturally!
It may seem counter-intuitive to some, but three of us have been meaning to go since one of us made a move to the nation’s capital a few months ago, and it’s so terrifically rare that we all have a weekend free, that we didn’t dare wait until it warmed up to hop a train to see her.
Ottawa can be a strange place to navigate as a relatively young person looking for activities, entertainment and something delicious to eat, but we did a decent job of it and I thought I’d share what we found in case any of you are planning a trip there anytime soon.
Food and Drink
Mamma Teresa Ristorante – We were only too happy to tuck into generous portions of mouth-wateringly delicious Italian food on our first night in the city. Mama Teresa’s, a fairly upscale eatery in an old house was the perfect place to do exactly that and then linger and visit over glasses of wine.
Must wine bar – We kicked ourselves for checking this place out after we’d just eaten, because the menu looked delicious, and if the drinks were anything to go by, it certainly would have been. This bar/restaurant tucked into a heritage building in the market was the perfect place to cozy up with cocktails and wine for the evening. It would make a great romantic date spot too!
Benny’s Bistro – Holy brunch, batman! The great thing about dining out with a pack of women is that they will probably all offer to let you try their meals and because of this fact I was able to verify that everything on the brunch menu at this place tucked in the back of a little bakery was SO DAMN GOOD. Go there. Eat all the things. Be happy.
Moscow Tea Room – This place gets an honourable mention for ambiance. We went in the afternoon and it was a great place to cozy up with a cup of tea in front of their giant windows and watch the snowy world go by. Unfortunately the food left something to be desired, but if you need a tea-fix, and a pretty place to sit on your way to the National Gallery, it’s perfect.
Byward Market – While it’s more bustling in the summer, the market area was still the perfect place to pop in and out of the cute little boutiques
Victoire – This store, which apparently also has a Toronto location, could be alternately named: Excellent Gifts for Sarah. They have very cool jewelry and carry lots of awesome Canadian-designed clothes. If it had just a little more give, I’d have taken home this fantastic medieval-unicorn-print jumpsuit, despite my clothing budget cut-back!
Giant Tiger – if you didn’t grow up in small-town Canada, you may not be familiar with the treasure hunt that is Giant Tiger, or as those in the know call it, GT Boutique. While they carry all kinds of weird junk, it’s also the perfect place to pick up some fleece leggings for any canal skating adventures you might attempt, and cheap snacks for your pregnant pal’s midnight cravings. Plus there’s the thrill of the Ottawa location being the original GT. Or maybe that was just us.
Mugshots -We made a very brief appearance at this bar housed, along with a hostel, in the city’s former jail, only because we nattered away so long at dinner that the band we wanted to see was finishing up as we arrived, but I’d like give it a proper chance sometime as the vibe seemed cool and I dug the unusual venue.
The Rideau Canal – There’s nothing more Canadian than skating on the Rideau Canal, unless it’s (as I mentioned on Instagram) the guy I passed who was skating on the Rideau in a toque and plaid jacket, carrying a toboggan under one arm. Or maybe if it’s that guy with a beaver under his other arm and a maple leaf in his lapel? Anyway, being a touristy activity doesn’t make it any less wonderful to have the opportunity to skate for miles without being restricted to the tiny circle most rinks provide. A word of warning though, if you don’t bring your own skates it’s not cheap! Be prepared to shell out $17 for a two-hour rental.
As I mentioned in my Lifehacks for Procrastinators post, I am a big fan of a breakfast that lets me sleep in as long as possible (my standby is a bowl of boiled eggs in the fridge). So imagine my delight when Pinterest introduced me to the world of overnight oats.
After playing around with a few recipes, I came up with this little on-the-go gem to fortify me on mornings when I’m pressed for time.
This recipe fills one large or two small mason jars.
It’s protein-packed peanut butter and jelly, with a twist!
1/2 cup oats (not quick-cooking)
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup frozen fruit
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup milk (or water)
1 scoop vega choc-a-lot protein smoothie
1 Tbsp coconut oil (melted)
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tsp vanilla
1 pinch cinnamon (to taste)
Combine oats, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut oil, protein powder and flax. Mix in additional ingredients and layer with frozen fruit into a mason jar or other portable container. Leave the jar in the fridge overnight and your oats will be ready to eat in the morning!
What’s your favourite on-the-go breakfast?
Well happy new year, pals! I hope you all had wonderful holidays with plenty of R&R. As you may recall, it always takes me a few days of getting a feel for the new year to decide what my new year’s resolutions will be, and 2015 has been no different.
Last year’s resolution to not become betrothed was such a smashing success that this year, I thought I’d try my hand at being resolute again!
As I’ve said before, I think it’s so important for people to be engaged in what’s going on in the world outside our own front doors, and if I want to be able to discuss current events and important issues, I should do a little civic homework beyond skimming the paper or tuning in to the CBC over breakfast.
To that end, I’m diving into Naomi Klein’s latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. I’ve just read the first few pages, and I can tell already that this book is going to scare me, and maybe break my heart a little, but as far as I’m concerned, more of us should be frightened and heartbroken over the state of the planet and how little we’re willing to give up to save it and ourselves. But I’m hoping I’ll also find some inspiration for potential solutions. All is not lost, but we can’t be voices for change if our heads are buried in the (tar)sand(s).
Sand is very muffling.
And speaking of voices for change, last week the Moth podcast introduced me to the incredible Grace Lee Boggs. I dare you to listen to this hilarious, sharp 97-year-old (at the time of the recording) talk about her life as an unstoppable activist and her relationship with her “physically and politically attractive” husband without falling totally in love with her. She talks about him being a “solutionary,” a visionary organizer who “proposed things people didn’t know they could do until someone told them they could do it” and about how that’s the sort of thing we need in the world today.
Immediately after l finished listening to it, I went online to order a copy of American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, because I just had to know more about this fantastic philosopher and her contributions to every major social movement in the United States for the past 70 years, and in my Googling, I was sad to learn that the 99-year-old has been in hospice since September. There is a campaign to support her in her final transition as she lives out her last days. If you have a couple extra bucks to throw her way, funds are being collected here. And, if you’re in Toronto and would be interested in watching the documentary about her, let me know as I’m toying with the idea of setting up a screening of it and sending the funds her way if there’s some interest!
So I guess that’s my real New Year’s resolution: to be more like Naomi Klein and Grace Lee Boggs, to do my homework and be more of a “solutionary.”
(Also to go to bed earlier, bulk up my savings and keep my apartment tidier, you know, if there’s time)
What are your resolutions for 2015?
While 2014 has been a year of getting my budget on track and lassoing my idle consumerism (my clothing spending has been limited to a couple of pairs of underwear and socks and a Halloween costume I put together for $20 since I wrote this, btw!), I do love finding little treats for my loved ones this time of year.
As always, my family will probably do some charitable giving in each other’s names. The Stephen Lewis Foundation, the David Suzuki Foundation and of course, my near, dear, Mother Nature Partnership are all worthwhile organizations (that do not discriminate against the LGBT community like the Salvation Army and their ubiquitous bell-ringers), if you’re looking for a way to give back this holiday season, but it’s still fun to have some things to unwrap under the tree on Christmas morning.
Here are a few ideas for those of you who are stumped for stocking stuffers:
Help your pals stay mistletoe-ready year-round with Toronto company Bare English & Co’s Tea-infused vegan lip balms (pictured above). I love their Vanilla Coconut flavour and am obsessed with the way it smells like popcorn jelly bellys (another excellent stocking stuffer)!
David’s Tea has pretty little gift boxes this time of year along with the regular one-off bags of the stuff in case you’re not sure what insanely tasty flavour to choose! I’m partial to the red velvet cake tea myself.
Bananagrams – I remain obsessed with this game. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s like scrabble without all the waiting around. If this doesn’t help me stave off Alzheimer’s, well, I mean, I’ll just continue playing it, because I am bananas about it. Yeah, I said it. Bananas.
In case you need to spike the aforementioned tea with something sweet (say, for example if you needed a little extra courage to attempt to best me at Bananagrams), Quebec’s way-too delicious Sortilège Whiskey Liquer has you covered.
Give the gift of Canadiana with this adorable mounties toque from the Drake General Store
Help your loved one organize the change having a party in the bottom of her purse with a beautiful changepurse from Scout & Catalogue. If you feel the need to also buy her a full-sized clutch in that gorgeous marbled leather, I’m sure she’d stop drooling at least long enough to thank you profusely!
Have a pal who’s trying to lighten their environmental footprint? Lush solid shampoos are a great way to cut down on the amount of plastic packaging in their shower! Oh, and the Godiva one will make them smell scrumptious!
What’s the best gift you’ve ever found in your stocking (or stashed in someone else’s)?
I suppose the ultimate time-saving hack would be to hack all this hair off, but for now, dry shampoo to the rescue!
If, like me you are a terrible procrastinator, I mean…terribly busy and important person, you may find yourself running short on time to devote to hobbies like eating food or maintaining personal hygiene. Here are five time-saving life hacks for procrastinators (you know we love a good shortcut!) I’ve adopted recently to help!
- Sort your laundry as you undress. On a recent trip to IKEA, I couldn’t decide between a black or white laundry hamper, when it hit me: I could buy both and use one for my lights and the other for my darks and cut out the time spent sorting the two on laundry day. Genius!
- Take your clothes into the shower with you after a workout. I often walk home from my workouts for a little extra cardio (and because I can’t stand waiting for transit), so I don’t usually shower and change until I get home. While I’d never throw my gear back in my gym bag until next time, sometimes all it needs is a little rinse between loads of laundry, so I just toss my lulus in the tub , let them share my shampoo or body wash while I shower and then give them a quick rinse and hang them to dry. It saves me from having to buy a workout outfit for every day of the week, and from running a whole laundry cycle without a full hamper. Win-win!
- Make friends with dry shampoo. Speaking of shampoo, as a long-locked lady there are definitely times when I just don’t have the time to wash and dry my mane before being seen in public. The solution? Dry shampoo! I experimented with a few brands of the spray-on stuff, which were so full of chemicals and heavily-scented I couldn’t believe it, before realizing I could just store a mixture of cocoa powder and arrowroot starch in a salt shaker and run it through my roots with my fingers before brushing it out to get the same volumizing, grease-absorbing effect. PLUS IT MAKES MY HEAD SMELL LIKE BROWNIES! I’ve since also become a fan of Lulu organics talc-free hair powder. It’s very fine and smells delicious. It might be a better idea than the cocoa powder concoction I use for lighter-haired lads and lasses as it can be hard to brush all of the cocoa powder out.
- Steam clothes in the shower. (man, for all this time I apparently spend in the shower you’d think I’d have time to wash my hair an adequate amount. Alas, you would be incorrect!) Because I’d rather spend my time doing (Insert pretty much any activity at all here) than ironing, and since sometimes when I manage to get my laundry through the washer-dryer cycle, it chooses to languish in what more than one acquaintance has referred to as my “laundry chair” rather than folding itself and hopping into my drawers in a timely manner, hanging a few pieces up in the bathroom while I take a steamy shower is one of my very favourite life hacks.
- Put all your eggs in one basket. Boil five eggs on Sunday night and keep them on hand in your fridge for a week of ready-to-eat protein to add to your breakfast. I pop mine in my egg slicer (a sanity and second-saving little device) and eat them on toast with a side of fruit before I run out the door. I’ve also taken this to the next level for a month or two by cooking a giant pot of something on Sunday evening and portioning it out for a week’s worth of lunches to save even more time in the mornings!
Are you guys procrastinators? What are your favourite time-saving life hacks for procrastinators (or, you know, very organized, responsible and motivated individuals with a shortage of time)?
Last weekend my mom and I popped by the AGO to check out the (awesome) Alex Colville exhibit. While we were there, we wandered into the art and politics wing of the gallery, a place where my mom could pretty much be an installation, as it was the intersection of two of her greatest passions.
We came across this quote about democracy in the write-up next to one of the paintings, and both really loved it: “”For all its faults, democratic politics is the brave, hugely important attempt of people who don’t know each other well to try to live in peace together.”
Hugely important indeed.
A lot of people, especially young whippersnappers, can’t seem to see the connections between themselves and politics, which, to me, is really bizarre. Politics is the way we determine the rules we all have to abide by and the values we want to be held sacred in our communities. Do we care about how (and how much) our families pay for healthcare? Do we care about access to education? Do we care about basic human rights? Then we have to care about the systems that govern them. Ta-daa! Connected.
Yes, in this country politics can come with a heaping side of old, caucasian gentlemen posturing or sometimes just spouting absolute unrelated nonsense in response to direct questions. But that’s no excuse to ignore the actions going on behind those (admittedly sometimes baffling) words. It can be easy to become disillusioned, but it’s what we do with that disillusionment that matters, and disengaging entirely is not the answer.
If the system is broken, talk about it, brainstorm ways to make it better and work together to make some noise until it’s fixed.
Of course, we can’t work together for change if we don’t actually talk about it.
A lot of people I know are of the mind that it’s somehow impolite to discuss political issues anywhere outside of Parliament Hill, yet have no problem discussing, say, Kim Kardashian’s various body parts. I don’t get it. It seems like some holdover from an etiquette guide that should have been thrown out somewhere around the time women in North America won the right to vote.
Is the fear that they might be exposed to a different viewpoint than their own? That some sort of friendly (gasp!) debate might take place and cause them to re-examine what they previously believed and broaden their own views? That they might start to understand the person they’re talking with better?
I suspect a lot of people are afraid of offending, or being offended on a personal level, and I will admit, discussing political issues is a good time to be extra-sensitive to the feelings of those around you and keep your sense of humour and your ability to recognize when it’s time to say “I can see where you’re coming from, but I just don’t think we’re going to agree on this” and move on, close at hand.
Perhaps people who refuse to take part in any political discourse, even among friends, simply have not made that aforementioned connection, and realized the importance of politics, of discussion and healthy debate, of engagement among citizens in creating a better world for all of us?
I don’t know.
But I do know that ignorance never bred progress. Evolution doesn’t happen when we keep our heads in the sand.
What do you guys think? Do you follow politics? Are political issues taboo in your circles?
Hey pals, today I’m over on Blogher, talking about my PCOS diagnosis, related weight-gain, and what I wish I’d done differently to address it.
It’s been amazing in talking about this condition, to learn just how many women actually suffer from it. I’d love to hear about your experiences with it too!