Archive | July, 2009

Things You Can Do While I’m Not Here.

31 Jul

Hi!

I have to take a brief sabbatical from this blog. Don’t worry, when I say brief, I mean brief. Like five days or so, maybe a week. I just have too much to dooooooo right now, what with the wedding we’re attending this weekend and moving (which is happening way sooner than we anticipated) and all that jazz. But here are some things you can do in the meantime…

You could…

Paint your nails a nice new shade. I recommend Purple With A Purpose, Do You Lilac It, or Room Service (all by OPI), or something from the Essie neons collection.

Read a silly young adult novel. YA fiction is the best for summer. They’re generally easy reads, and yet can be surprisingly well written. I recommend something by John Green or Maureen Johnson.

Listen to the newest Regina Spektor album, Far. Because it’s spectacular.

Go see a movie. There are so many out right now (or coming out soon) that I am dying to see! Among them: 500 Days of Summer, Paper Heart, and the new Harry Potter (hey, I was waiting for Imax, okay?).

Become engrossed in a video game. I’m not much of a gamer, but I believe I have lost years of my life to Animal Crossing. I desperately want The Sims 3 but I’m waiting until I can find a used copy.

Buy some new shoes. Everything is on sale right now!

Eat cake at a restaurant that specializes in desserts. I took a friend to Oh So Good the other day and ordered the vanilla layer cake, arguably the most boring item they had on offer. It was the most miraculous vanilla layer cake I have ever tasted.

Flip through the new issue of Bust Magazine. It has Diablo Cody on the cover. In all honesty, I find Bust a little hit-and-miss in the past couple of years, and I wish they’d stop with the rhyming taglines already, but this particular issue is content-packed and will keep you busy for hours on end.

Trim your bangs. The trick is to do everything in reverse. Pull them across your forehead in the opposite direction from which you want them to fall, then trim section-by-section, also cutting against the direction you want them to fall in. For example, my bangs are angled to the right, so I trim the sections angled to the left. The critical element is to never let the scissors close entirely as you’re snipping… the object is to chip in gradually, not to hack in huge chunks. If you do this right, you end up with a nice smooth angle that doesn’t fall too heavily.

Clear out some of your junk. Seriously, you have too much stuff. So do I. You don’t need to buy heaps of organizational tools (i.e. more stuff), you just need to get rid of some of it. It’s actually not that hard… just be ruthless. Just because you loved Dazed And Confused in high school (but haven’t watched it since) doesn’t mean you should hang on to that old VHS copy of it forever and ever and ever. Just let it go.

Take a nice walk around your neighbourhood. Unless your neighbourhood is York and Dalhousie, in which case you might want to just stay in after dark. Yikes.

Sing along to Taylor Swift songs. Come on. She’s adorable. The whole world loves her. And Love Story is one of those songs that’s deceptively easy to sing. Even if you’re tone deaf, you will sound awesome singing Love Story.

Watch an entire television series on dvd. Steve & I are currently plugging our way through every Gilmore Girls episode ever made. It takes a weird degree of discipline to do this, especially if you commit to not watching anything else until you’re through.

I’ll see you again when I’m all settled in the new apartment!

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How To Sort Out Your Sleep Cycle.

30 Jul

My entire life, I’ve had a mixed-up sleep cycle. I remember being little, up at 2 a.m. in the spare room with my Barbies, scared my mom would wake up and catch me. I also remember being 16, forced to wake up at 7 a.m. to get to school on time, and just dissolving into heaps of tears for being so damn tired. These days, I definitely still keep awkward hours, but that’s just because I prefer the night to the daytime. The difference is that now, I can actually get to sleep when I want or need to. Sometimes we night owls just have to adjust to the hours imposed on us by the rest of the world (for example, going back to school, or starting a “real job”), and that can be incredibly hard to do. Because I think this can be a problem for a lot of people, I’m here today to share my gleanings…

Be consistent with your sleep/wake time.
By now, this is classic advice. Nobody hasn’t heard this before, but very few of us follow through with it… even though it works. If your sleep schedule is a bit wacky (say, staying up all night and then crashing out at 1 p.m.), it will take some effort to reset your internal clock, but it will eventually happen. You just have to be consistent with it, which is the challenging part. Try going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night, and waking up 15 minutes earlier each day. Eventually you’ll be back on a normal, diurnal sleep-wake cycle. Trust.

Condition yourself like one of Pavlov’s dogs.
For those unfamiliar with Pavlov, he studied a phenomenon known as classical conditioning, by conditioning dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. How did he accomplish this? He started by consistently pairing the ringing of a bell with the presentation of food. Of course, in the presence of food, the dogs naturally started drooling. Eventually, they got so used to seeing food upon hearing the sound of the bell, that their bodies started going into drool mode upon hearing the bell alone (read: no food to be found). What does this have to do with sleep? Simple: You have to condition yourself to see your bedroom, or in the very least your actual bed, as a restful place. Doctors will tell you to reserve the bed for “sleep and sexual activity.” I say go them one better and restrict sexual activity to the living room floor for a little while at least (kidding!). The point is, don’t read in bed, don’t watch TV in bed, don’t eat in bed, and for the love of love, don’t work in bed. Bed is where we sleep. That’s your new mantra.

Keep the TVs and computers out of the bedroom!!
I already touched on this a bit with the conditioning component, but it bears repeating. Electronics do not belong in the bedroom. Some people will claim they cannot sleep without the television on. I’m sorry, some people, but you are wrong. Television sets do not enhance sleep in any way. Sure, the noise may distract you from your own thoughts for awhile, allowing you to drift off for a bit, but your sleep will not be good sleep. This is because television sets emit light, and light interferes with sleep. Ditto for computers. If you have to have something to distract you from your own thoughts, try music instead. No, it doesn’t have to be whale songs or soothing classical music, although I’m sure those are fine choices. If you prefer, you could listen to podcasts. As much as I love the CBC and This American Life, they’ve both been instrumental in putting me to sleep on more than one occasion.

No caffeine in the afternoons.
I know someone with terrible sleeping problems. She swears up and down that they are in no way connected to the fact that every night around 8 p.m., she has a caffeinated beverage. She claims to be able to drink coffee at any time of day and not have it affect her sleep. And yet she does not sleep very well. Personally, I think it’s a simple case of not putting two and two together. Caffeine stays in your body for something like 8 hours, and it’s no secret that caffeine has energizing qualities. Therefore, if you are having trouble sleeping, you might want to stop ingesting caffeine somewhere around the early afternoon. However, do keep in mind that a small dose of caffeine consumed slowly can help you stay awake the morning after a sleepless night. Just remember that the giant cups they sell at coffee shops are in no way considered “a small dose.”

Avoid long naps.
This is so hard to do when your sleep cycle is messed up. You’re exhausted, so you lay down to rest for a “power nap,” intending for it to last no more than 20 minutes. After 20 minutes the alarm goes off and you realize you barely had time to nod off, so it’s “just five more minutes”. Five hours later, it’s 9 p.m. and you’re bright eyed and bushy tailed for the rest of the night. Honestly, if you don’t have the discipline to truly pull yourself up after 20 minutes or so, you really shouldn’t settle down for a rest during the day at all.

Get some exercise.
Doctors love this bit of advice too… and as a genuine sloth, it pains me to admit that they’re right. Getting some exercise during the day definitely does translate into better sleep at night. Not only are you expelling pent up energy, but exercise also reduces anxiety, which I’m sure goes a long way in helping people sleep better. Just try to avoid exercising too close to bedtime, so those crazy endorphins don’t go messing everything up.

Be aware of your lighting.
This is a critical component that I think a lot of people just don’t pay attention to. Human beings are not set on a 24 hour sleep-wake cycle. It’s actually the sun that tells us when to get up and when to sleep. So, when you go introducing artificial light into the mix, your body just doesn’t know what to do with itself. From what I understand, the key is to mimic nature as best you can. Dim your lights in the evening, have your surroundings be as dark as possible while you’re actually sleeping, and expose yourself to as much bright light as possible first thing when you wake up. I know there’s a grain of truth to this, because when we lived at the apartment, we had sheers that let the sun trickle in, and I woke up consistently earlier than I do when staying at my parents’ place, where they have blackout blinds.

If you can’t sleep, try to stay awake.
Counterintuitive, no? Allow me to explain. The meaning of this is twofold: First, if you’ve been laying awake in bed for some time and just aren’t sleepy, you should get up and go somewhere else for awhile. This has to do with the conditioning we talked about earlier. If you lie awake in bed all night, you aren’t conditioning yourself to associate bed with sleep, you are conditioning yourself to associate bed with lying awake all night. So get up and do something else, somewhere else. Second, if you really need sleep and getting up is not an option, try tricking yourself by trying to stay awake as long as possible instead. If you’re remotely tired, you will pass out from this. Think of all the drowsy mornings you’ve had, doing everything in your power to just. Wake. Up. But all you can do is drift back to sleep. Same principle.

Be careful with pills but be aware of the option.
I’ve used sleeping pills before, both prescription and non. In truth, I don’t advocate the nonprescription variety. Personally, they didn’t seem to do much of anything really, but that aside, sleeping pills aren’t really something you want to mess around with. You certainly don’t want your ability to sleep to become contingent on popping a pill every night. So if you’re going to try sleeping pills, spare yourself the trouble and just get a prescription for something mild, in a controlled dose (like a week’s worth). I did this right before starting college, because it was what I needed to get me back on track fast. After one week’s worth of sleeping pills, my sleep schedule remained normal for several months without any work on my part. I’m not saying it will work for everyone, I’m just saying if you’ve tried everything else first and you need it as a last resort, do it the right way. Remember, natural supplements work on your body the same way drugs do. Don’t self-medicate with them; see a naturopath if herbs are your preferred means.

Stop kidding yourself.
I know, I know… you are a special and unique flower, and just because other people can’t sleep normally ten minutes after closing the laptop doesn’t mean you can’t. Granted, as with any rule, there will always be exceptions. I’m sure there are people out there who can down a litre of Coca Cola and then drift off to sleep moments later. However, they’re not the people trying to figure out how to sort out their sleep cycles. Call them lucky punks, accept the fact that you are closer to the norm, have a little discipline, and move on with your life.

I’ll be honest, all the times that I’ve complained about sleep problems (oh, hello, all the 8 a.m. classes I missed during university!), it’s been pretty much entirely my fault. I’m the one who didn’t want to turn off the TV. I’m the one who had to get up and clean my room right now. I’m the one who couldn’t haul my butt up without hitting snooze three times first. I think a lot of people have trouble accepting that sleeping isn’t something we do because we’re lazy; it’s something we do because we need it to live. So you have to be willing to take responsibility for your own health and do what needs doing in order to sort out any problems. It doesn’t matter what TV movie happens to be airing on PeachTree TV in 10 minutes. Get some sleep!

Lucky Ducky.

29 Jul

Because sometimes I need to remind myself…

I’m lucky because about three years ago now, I met The Great Love Of My Life, and luckily enough it just so happens that I am also The Great Love Of His Life, and soon we will be married.

I’m lucky that we happened upon the most beautiful, perfect wedding venue.

I’m lucky that “our song” is off-the-beaten-path and yet still perfect for us, and we’ll get to dance to it on an island under fireworks (no joke).

I’m lucky that we found a lovely little apartment today… it may not be perfect, but it will be our home.

I’m lucky that I have the sort of family that bails you out when you suddenly need a little economic stimulus.

I’m lucky to have a job, even though it’s one I kind of hate.

I’m lucky I like the people I work with.

I’m lucky that nobody close to me has ever died.

I’m lucky that for every good friend I lose, I seem to meet two more.

I’m lucky that I have good friends, period.

…And I’m lucky that the aforementioned Great Love Of My Life brought me a Kit Kat Chunky bar as a surprise tonight, and now I’m going to have it with some tea!

Had any good luck lately?

Journally.

28 Jul

Hello, full plate! Ye gads, I’m busy right now.

Steve and I are in the process of finding a new apartment. We need a place for September 1st. We already have a moving van rented, but no actual place to move to. We’ve looked at 4 places, 2 of which we thought were kind of sort of okay, but in retrospect, none of them were even acceptable, never mind good. It was just that two were so terrible, they made the other two seem alright by comparison. So, last night I buckled down and consulted the internet. I found no less than thirty possible dwellings. Surely one of them must be good.

See, my problem is that when it comes to living spaces, I don’t want to settle for good. I want it to be great. And I loved our last apartment. Yes, it was small… too small, in fact, to contain all of our stuff… but it was in a great location, and the elevators were spacious enough that I didn’t have panicky fits every time I stepped in them (I’m scared of elevators), and it was quiet, and the other tenants were great (in that always-hold-the-elevator-for-you sort of way), and we had underground parking, and it could fit our sofa and our chair and our coffee table and our dining room table, and it had a real kitchen (none of this “galley kitchen” nonsense). Honestly, the only real drawback was that you could hear your neighbours peeing.

I lived there a year; not once did I hear sounds of passionate love being made. But you could always hear people peeing. So that was weird.

Anyway, aside from the Great Apartment Hunt, I also have a wedding to attend (Steve’s friend’s), and a wedding to plan and participate in (that would be ours, then), and Safe Guide to complete, and other assorted tasks, various and sundry.

That’s a great term, “various and sundry.”

Things I need to accomplish this week:
+ Print off examples of various resumes, so that I am duly prepared when I finally make it to employment counselling.
+ Call and view eleventy-billion apartment buildings.
+ Ensure I have everything I need in order to apply for a marriage license.
+ Finish reading that silly young adult novel I started long ago! (Fun fact: I refused to read YA novels when I was a teenager, but now I love them.)
+ Complete Safe Guide.
+ Go to a wedding! Whee! Free champagne!

Bye for now!

Overcoming Negativity.

24 Jul

The inspiration for this particular post comes courtesy of the indomitable Miss Gala Darling, whose work I (and everyone else in the world) adore. Gala has a new side project, Love Letter to the Universe, in which she recently wrote about a mean-spirited email she received from a reader of her main project, Icing.

For the 3 of you out there who may not know, Icing is meant to be a positive place. Thus, Gala’s focus is on all things happy and sparkly. Apparently this rubs some people the wrong way. I won’t re-write what Mr. Emailer had to say, but it seemed to be written in the spirit of a “reality check,” referencing Gala’s hair colour and means of making a living. It made me think a little bit about all the jerks out there, and how easily they can ruin your otherwise lovely day.

I actually have something of a pet theory regarding mean people. I think 80% of people are just self-centred. These are the people who act without ever considering the effect their actions have on others. It’s not that they’re bad people, or that they’re actively trying to bring anyone down; it’s just that they don’t realize the power inherent to what they say and do, because they don’t think much beyond their own experience. Then there’s another 15% or so of people who are Just Mean. These are the people who, for whatever reason, can’t stand happiness. I think these people come from all sorts of different backgrounds… there are the people who had something bad happen to them that they can’t get over, the people who can’t take their anger out on their boss so they take it out on the waitstaff instead, the people who are paranoid that everybody’s trying to take advantage of them, the people who are just plain depressed… all sorts of reasons, that all come down to the same thing in the end: An angry, mean mess of a human being. The remaining 5% are genuinely kind, nice people who want to do good in the world. But even they have their off days.

So, if there’s any grain of truth to my little hypothesis, it begs the question: How do we deal with the people around us who have nothing better to do than ruin our day? Admittedly, this is not my strong suit… I’m a fairly sensitive person, known to hold something of a grudge when deeply wounded… but maybe this will help generate some new ideas. Who knows? So…

Try to appreciate the other person’s point of view… even when their point of view is ridiculous!
Working in customer service, this is a skill I have to practice on a near daily basis. Whenever a customer starts behaving badly (or even if they’re just asking what I would consider to be a “dumb question”), I have to remind myself to consider their point of view. Just because I’ve seen the signage and been over the small print with a fine tooth comb doesn’t mean they saw it and doesn’t mean they understand it. Likewise, maybe the person who you thought was blatantly ignoring you is just hard of hearing or happened to be daydreaming at the time. Maybe the person berating you for your unusual style of dress once had a bad experience with a gang of knife-wielding goth maniacs on a subway platform. The point is, you just never know where someone else is coming from!

Don’t take it personally.
This is especially true of situations where the negativity or criticism is coming from someone you don’t actually know. I have to admit, not taking things to heart is very difficult for me. That being said, I think it’s important to recognize two things: 1, not everybody is going to like you, and 2, you don’t need them to. I think that not taking things personally is inextricably linked to considering the offender’s point of view. Yeah, maybe the person is being a total jerk and making fun of you for some quirk you have, like the way you walk or dress or talk, but considering the narrow confines of acceptable appearances and mannerisms that we set for each other in the first place… there are bound to be some people who take those confines too far and see them as “rules” rather than “norms.” Critical people tend to be one of two things: narrow-minded, or just plain stupid… or sometimes, a little of column A and a little of column B. There’s just no good reason to let a narrow-minded stupid person affect what you think of yourself.

Hug it out.
I’d really only advise this if the offending person is an acquaintance or friend, because it could backfire terribly with the wrong person. However, I think we’ve all had those situations where you hear second-or-third hand that so-and-so said such-and-such about you behind your back. You can either get really pissed off at so-and-so and never speak to them again (or worse, retaliate), or you could just ask them what’s up. I’ve handled the situation both ways in the past, and asking them what’s up has always worked out better in the end.

Shift your focus.
Another thing I find difficult. I’m a dweller. But they say the more you practice optimism, the easier it becomes. The concept goes, rather than thinking about the one bitchy cashier you had at Starbucks this morning, focus on all the positive interactions you’ve had today instead. This sounds very good in theory and it’s something I’d love to get better at.

Know yourself.
Speaking for myself only, I know I have a hard time with mean people because I internalize other peoples’ opinions too deeply. For example, I used to be pretty involved in singing. I even taught lessons for a good chunk of time. I believed I was good… really good, actually… until I got a bit older and people started being more harsh with their criticisms and less forthcoming with their positive impressions. After one too many bad karaoke experiences and a single lesson with a teacher who told me I sounded “nasal,” I more or less stopped singing altogether. I wish I’d had it in me to be more confident in my abilities and have faith in the fact that even though my voice may not be technically perfect, it’s still good… really good. It just goes to show that it’s so important to have a firm grasp on your own abilities, personality, appearance, what have you. Because, quite frankly, criticism will always come. It’s your reaction to it that makes all the difference.

That’s all I got.

Tea Time!

24 Jul

Ahhh, I love tea. I’m enjoying a cup right now, while my lop-eared rabbit hops about for playtime. It’s a veritable English garden I live in, folks. Not really. But that won’t stop me from sharing my favourite kinds of tea with you!

Be aware that I’m a brand loyalist. The only tea I drink is Stash. This is because it’s the only brand of tea I’ve been able to find that tastes like what it claims to taste like. For example, their creme caramel dessert tea actually tastes remarkably like caramel. I’d love to see Celestial Seasonings pull off a feat like that! That said, I’m open to suggestion… anyway, getting on with it!

1. Red tea. Technically not a true “tea,” as it comes from the South African rooibos plant. I recently described it as being “blandly sweet,” which made no sense to my friends until they tried it and subsequently agreed. There’s a vaguely nutty flavour to it as well. This is my bedtime tea on account of its being naturally caffeine free. Caffeine and I don’t get along very well, particularly at night.

2. Organic honeybush. I picked this up one day when I couldn’t find my trusty red tea, and was told that honeybush is the same thing. It is not the same thing. However, it will do. Apparently (according to wikipedia, at least), there are great similarities between the honeybush plant and the rooibos plant, but you can tell just from the flavour alone that honeybush and rooibos are not one and the same. Honeybush is far more bland and I need to steep it longer in order to achieve a nice flavour. That said, once steeped, it’s certainly close enough to the red tea that it’s not worth splitting hairs over, and the fact that it’s organic is a nice bonus.

3. Double bergamot earl grey. God I love earl grey. This particular variety is my breakfast tea. I don’t do coffee in the morning as it tends to make me jittery, so this is my personal pick-me-up. Bergamot, just for the record, is a variety of citrus fruit. It’s also the ingredient that gives earl grey its trademark perfume-y scent and flavour. Personally, I love it, so while regular earl grey is great, double bergamot is much, much better.

4. Jasmine blossom green tea. Usually I’m not much of a green tea drinker. It’s just too delicate an art for me. Ten seconds too long steeping it and it’s bitter as all get out. However, I like the simplicity of it. I’m one of those people who carries tea bags around, and while boiling water isn’t really that hard to come by, milk and sugar are. So this is nice in the regard that it doesn’t require such accoutrements. Plus it tastes like flowers! (Uh, that’s a good thing.)

5. White peach wuyi oolong. I use this for homemade iced tea, as I can’t stand that powdered garbage that never quite dissolves, and pre-packaged peach iced tea is really hard to come by. The only kind I can ever seem to get my hands on is Snapple, and even that’s a rare find. I really don’t like fruit flavoured teas when they’re served hot, but peach iced tea is one of my favourite things in the world. White peach wuyi oolong makes it cheap and easy.

Now, everyone likes hot tea served a different way… you’ll have to muck about by yourself for a bit to figure out what ratio of milk to sugar you prefer and all that. But I can’t blather on about homemade iced tea without telling you how to make sure that it turns out awesome. It’s really easy to make, and very delicious. So…

– Boil 4 cups of water.
– Pour boiled water over 4 or 5 teabags (the flavour’s up to you, but seriously, try the white peach). It should go without saying that you need to use a heatproof container for this.
– Let steep for 1 hour or more.
– When tea has finished steeping (it should be relatively cool by now), add two cups of cold water.
– If you want to add sugar, add it now. I suggest a quarter cup, max.
– Done!

I don’t know if there are any sort of safety precautions that need to be taken with this recipe. It actually surprised me when I learned that iced tea should be prepared with boiling water for health reasons, but there you have it. Anyway, I always try to consume mine within a day or so of making it. But you really shouldn’t have any problems with that because it is delicious.

On a completely different note, I wish that I’d been able to make it out to the Blog Out Loud event tonight! I promptly fell asleep after dinner tonight, and remained in a state of deep unconsciousness until 10 p.m. It sounded like a really cool event. Next time, I guess.

Sour tummy…

22 Jul

Does anyone have a great cure-all for an upset tummy? I’ve been nursing one for about two weeks now and I’m slowly going insane because it feels worse when I eat, and heaven knows I love to eat. HALP!

Random…

21 Jul

Do other people read blogs the way I do?

Basically, when I find one I like, I devote the next bit of my life to reading it from start to finish. It only occurred to me recently that this might seem a bit creepy and weird to the blog writer in question.

The internet is a fascinating bit of technology, no? I mean, we put so much of ourselves up online, but we also acknowledge that it can be a little creepy when people are interested in what we’re putting up online.

So, uh… sorry if I’ve freaked anyone out recently! Ha ha!

Things To Look Forward To…

20 Jul

I hate to admit it, but I am currently suffering from an acute case of the doldrums. 

I think that what I need is to shift my focus, find some things to look forward to rather than wallowing in abject misery all the time. And so…

The wedding. People keep asking me how the planning’s going. Maybe this is a terrible sign, but so far, there just hasn’t been that much to plan. I mean… we plan to get married. We have a venue, we have an officiant, I have a dress… as far as I’m concerned, we’re good to go! But either way, planning or no… it’s the biggest thing I have to look forward to right now. I am more excited for this than I will probably be for anything else in my life, ever.

Someone else’s wedding/break from work.  A friend of Steve’s is getting married the first weekend of August. We’ll be travelling by train to attend it, which is so, so fun to begin with… and it means I get 5 days off from work. Yay! This is the first substantial amount of time I’ll have been off work since November 1st. I’m also deeply excited to wear the new dress I got specifically for the wedding. 

This coming weekend. A couple of Steve’s friends are coming to town, and there is an Egyptian festival going on, apparently. I suspect there will be good food at said Egyptian festival; thus, I plan to attend. 

Finding a new place to live. This is actually going to be a bit tricky. We have to strike the right balance of awesome neighbourhood vs. affordable place. I’m just really keen to get out of suburbia. I miss Centretown and its easy access to everything. I miss the noise. Suburbs kind of creep me out.

Finding a new job. In all likelihood this will take months, or even years. But it’s gonna happen eventually! It can’t not. I just need to figure out the most efficient way to make the change happen, that’s all.

My schmancy little stats counter in the corner tells me that there are people finding this little blog, and potentially even reading it! So c’mon, people! I know you’re out there… what are you most looking forward to right now?  

Wedding Cake!

20 Jul

I think we’re going with red velvet.