Sunday, December 9, 2012

Crazy? I Was Crazy Once . . .

It was called the NaNoWriMo Challenge.

A few months ago, Mik and I discovered that our mutual friend Meghan discovered we all had something in common; we all loved to write. So we did the most natural thing for a group of would-be-novelists; we formed a writer's support group.

Our credo was simple, we would get together to write, we would set up goals to help each other write, we would feed each other and play writing games. Pretty soon it became our weekly ritual. In October we added two new members, Alex and Adopted Roommate.

As a group of young professionals/students who love to write fiction, it also made sense for us to attempt to do the National Novel Writing Challenge. For those of you who don't know what that is, click here or here's the short version - write 50,000 words of a new novel draft in 30 days. As members of Cafe Chi (the name we gave our group) we decided to accept this challenge because, well we're crazy. Of course.

Trying to write the majority of a first draft was an incredible experience, I learned so much about myself as a writer and a person. Some of the favourite things I learned include:

-when you are doing such an all encompassing goal, good friends going through the same thing are a wonderful asset. We had many boot camps where we all sit in my living room and just focus on our writing together.

-sleep is something we should always be grateful for.

-eating vegetables is something not to forget.

-I read a quote once for which I can not remember the author, but he said being a writer was like having homework every night for the rest of your life. That is pretty accurate. I found that if I didn't apply myself everyday, catching up the next day was too much and I then I got exasperated.

-the best thing to know; stop giving yourself excuses, shut up and just write.

By some miracle, I actually ended up taking my own advice for once, and completed my goal in 28 days instead of 30! Isn't getting what you wanted the best feeling there is?

Whether we hit the 50,000 word mark or a revised goal, our whole group went out to celebrate on December 1. We all grew as writers, grew closer as friends, and then followed my favourite writing advice:

"Shut up, and keep writing!"

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Let Us Give You a Clue

I have two roommates, one part-time roommate, and one adopted roommate. Part-Time Roommate lives around the corner and has our spare key. Adopted Roommate lives a ten minute walk away. Mik took in Part-Time Roommate when they realized they are basically the same person (and we needed a new spare key person) and I declared we were adopting our other extra when I decided that if I could have a little sister, I would choose Adopted Roommate.

As a result, both these girls have become part of our away-from-home family. They show up spontaneously, stay up all night talking with us, and are involved in some of our greatest adventures.

In August (before we adopted Adopted Roommate) Mik and Part-Time Roommate had the idea that they wanted to do a group costume for Halloween. We were discussing this on an IKEA trip with the our other roommate (the one who actually lives at our house for real) whom we will call the Serenader (more on that story later).

Part-Time Roommate and Mik discussed possibilities of what we should do as we stepped into the elevator. I thought of my favourite group costume, which my sister and her family did a number of years ago, and suggested we do the same thing. Everyone instantly liked the idea, and after recruiting the necessary guy friends and a few trips to Value Village, we arrived at the church Halloween dance like this:

Still no guesses? Let me give you a Clue; it was Miss Scarlett, in the church gym with the wrench. From left to right we have Mrs Peacock, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlett, Colonel Mustard, Mr Green Mrs White and in front, Serenader came as our murder victim, Mrs Body.

We ran around the whole night accusing each other of murder, it was great fun. Yet another reason to love Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Parting Gifts

I work for two lawyers. We will call them Boss Man A and Boss Man Z. Working for both makes me very happy, except for three weeks ago, when Boss Man A announced he was moving to another city and leaving. I was happy for him, but sad for me.

Last week was Boss Man A's last at our firm. He spent his last morning going through his office packing up personal belongings, sending the few possessions that actually belonged to others to their respective owners, and then figuring out to do with all the other stuff. As his assistant, I was the lucky recipient of many of his cast offs.

Boss Man A kept coming out of his office and saying things like:

"I got you a present. Have some extra Sign Here stickers. I hope you like them."

"I know I shouldn't have, but here are some notebooks."

"Okay, now I'm overdoing it, but have some envelopes. Don't you feel special?"

You can tell that Boss Man A and I are a good team because we both thought this exchange was hilarious. I responded with equal enthusiasm to all his extravagant presents and pretended to be incredibly flattered by the fact he gave me a stack of half used notepaper and more tabs than I will ever need.

A little later, I got up and used the photocopier, which is right next to my desk. While there, I looked up to see Boss Man A practically nose diving onto my desk. My cubicle has this little countertop that I call my takeout window. Both Boss Man A and Z like to dive over it when they need to steal a pen. However, it made absolutely no sense for A to be doing so on a day he was giving his stationary away. Then I noticed he was placing something on my desk.  It was green, and looked quite delicate because he was carefully trying to balance it as he set it next to my computer.

I walked over. He looked up and grinned. His only response this time was:

BMA: "It's cardboard. I can't pack it."

Me: "You got me a dragon? Awesome. Is there a story behind it?"

BMA: "No."

Me: "There is now."

BMA: "Well there you go. Enjoy."

Isn't it cute? I will have to name him. Coincidentally, I own the following erasers that already occupy my desk:

All I need now is some of those plastic swords they use to hold together sandwiches and I can create fairytale or cool girl power scenes.

Thank you Boss Man A! Such a good parting gift.

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Tacky Alter Ego

You would think with five older ones I would have had my fill of sisters, but I have a few kindred spirits who have become honourary ones. At the forefront of those is my cousin Woozie, and no that is not her real name, but it might as well be. That, or Woozie Snitzel. Or just Schnitzel. Mik even called her Schnitz once, but that bore too much resemblance to her own sister's perma-nickname, Snit.

Woozie and I however have more to bond over besides our family's aversion to Christian names.  We both like eating weird things, reading book synopses in a dramatic fashion, and frozen yogurt, to name a few. Also, considering she is the youngest of her family, and her mom is my mom's sister, it's no wonder she's my bonus sister; we have been shoved together since we were babies.

On one such occasion, on a family camping trip as little girls, Woozie and I were bored, so we started reading aloud (in a dramatic fashion) the only reading material we had; an Archie comic. It was, like everything else we did together, hilarious. Our favourite was in a future comic, where Archie meets two characters named Gloria Gudluks and Vivian Vavoom. They were notable not only for their fabulous names, but because their outfits were so outlandish, they leapt off the comic strip. Naturally we quickly decided to branch away from our chosen names even further; Woozie became Gloria Gudluks, and I became Vivian Vavoom. We would call each other that whenever we felt especially silly.

I do not remember how long after this next instance was, but sometime later, Woozie and I were at Nordstrom Rack with our moms, and we were bored. Running in and out of the circular racks had lost it's appeal, so had playing hide and seek (we were about 11 and 13). The sugar rush we had gotten from Krispy Kreme beforehand was wearing off, and we were getting impatient. Imagine our chagrin when our mothers did not want to leave as soon as we stopped tearing apart the department store!

My sister, at the much older and wiser age of 15 came up with a better idea to stay entertained; why didn't we try and find items around the store to make an outfit for our gaudy alter egos? It caught on quickly, so much so that we built up Gloria and Vivian's wardrobes whenever we went out.

As we got older and began enjoying giant department store trips, Woozie and continued to play this game, even accumulating some Vivian/Gloria items for our own closets. We were in university in different countries, but I was still able to show her the Vivian coat my mom bought me (gold pleather) and she posted her Gloria coat on Facebook (faux leapord print fur).

Last spring, when I texted Wooz a picture of flourescent green wedge heels, a plan long overdue was hatched. Woozie would be in Edmonton for the summer, so we would  have to go thrifting, and that plus the Vivian/Gloria items already in our closet would finally allow us to dress up as our favourite tacky comic book characters.

Last weekend we finally got around to it. These are some of our favourite Value Village finds:

And at home, we played a little dressup. Meet Gloria Gudluks:

And Vivian Vavoom:

Despite the joke it was to us as kids, we've discovered everyone has a little Vivian/Gloria in them. The world needs a bit of bling!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

"Your Nails are Painted? Who are You?"

I have never considered myself a girly-girl. Well, that may be less than accurate; as a little girl my room looked like the inside of a powder puff; pink walls and lacy ruffles to boot. Plus I wore dresses to school all the time.
But as I've grown older, I have never been one of those girls who always has immaculately done hair. I took Cosmetology in grade 10 and learned all the tricks, but despite this, I still remained a ponytail girl half the time. I have just never had the patience.

It should come as no surprise that my nails have never been that noteworthy. Again in Cosmo, I learned how to do really nice manicures and I have all the tools, but I never saw the point; they chip fast, they're distracting, my fingers weren't something I liked to draw attention to anyways. I didn't even like waering rings. When I started my job it seemed even more pointless. I type most of the day, what would be the point in doing my nails if they're going to get chipped everyday?

In May, my cousin Mik moved in. She is as much of a nail/hair person as me, except her mother never managed to convince her to take Cosmo. When she moved to Edmonton she started working at a jewellery manufacturer, which has started her on a few curious out-of-character habits:

1. She has a habit of taking people's rings off their fingers and scrutinizing them before lecturing on proper ring care. My dad bought me a gorgeous green saphire in Thailand a few years back which according to Mik I have done nothing but abuse since. When I told her I didn't take it off to wash my hair she actually cringed. My ring now sits safely on the counter every time I use shampoo.

2. Mik does her nails all the time.

I guess when you are holding rings under a magnifying glass to show people the glamour of a diamond, you want your nails to look equally fabulous, so Mik has taken to sitting down in the living room at least once a week to retouch her French tips, and becuase I live in the same house as her and hang out with her all the time, I took to joining her.

I got into it slowly; dipping my toes in so to speak by actually painting them. Then I ventured to my fingers. This past week, I went bold, and painted my fingers red. Midweek there was a few chips, so I repainted. The next day at work, I stopped by my friend Maddy's desk to borrow a hi-liter. As I reached to grab the marker, she stopped and exclaimed:

"Your nails are painted? What have you done? Who are you?"

Upon explanation, she just laughed.

I didn't realize how far I had come until I felt the need to do another touch up last night. I scanned my memory through all the times Mik have hung out at home: watch BBC miniseries and paint our nails, discuss writing and paint our nails, paint nails while lemon squares are baking, make my grocery list and paint my nails....

Have I become this person? I nicked my thumb nail while I was out today and corrected it as soon as I came home. Overwhelmingly, yes, I am that person.

Who would have thought.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

To Brother, The Best One, from Sister, The Other Best

My family is comprised of five daughters. We can re-enact the Famous Five, the Spice Girls, and the Bennett sisters with a full cast, although if I were to choose, I'd go with everyone's favourite British pop band; if we're Jane Austen's quintet, I have to be Lydia.

Of us five, I am the youngest. I was borne ten years after the oldest, and entering my toddler years, my parents were decided; five little girls was enough.

I, on the other hand, had different plans.

As part of my early childhood education, my mother was teaching me to pray; her basic instructions included; start with what you are thankful for, then ask for blessings you need. Every night, I would ask my Heavenly Father to bless my baby brother in Heaven.

It was cute at first, but sometime around when  I started pouring over baby catalogues and asking if I could have whichever baby I liked for my brother, my parents decided it was time to tell me that I was indeed the baby of the family. I wouldn't have it. I kept praying and shopping for mail order brothers. I don't know how long it took them, but eventually my parents realized I knew something they didn't and shortly thereafter, I got my wish, and my baby brother was born.

I like to remind him of this story whenever he is angry with me.

Nineteen years later, after years of loving each other when we bond over imaginary games and hating each other after being shot with pellet guns, I can truly say that Brother is one of my favourite people. We unite over our mutual lack of spouses, our belief that life would be better if people still carried around swords the way they carry cell phones, and our love of closet novel writing. He calls me Sister, and I call him Brother (because he is my favourite). Last year when I moved to Edmonton, Brother was the person I spent the most hours on the phone with back home in Calgary, we vented our dating stories together, I critiqued his university papers and reminded him to stop using so many commas already, and he told me to stop making excuses and start writing again. Brother is my number one fan  and I love him for that.

On June 6, Brother went down to Provo, Utah and entered the Missionary Training Centre. He is going to serve a mission for our church for two years in Denver, Colorado, teaching in Spanish. For the next two years our only contact will be through letters and his half Spanish e-mails. I miss his phone calls and his "Hello Sister" greeting when he sees me and reminds me how very short I am (he's 6'3").

This morning, I was reading the news about the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado. As I lamented the loss of so many, I thought of my own brother, and had a completely irrational worry session. Feeling less like a sister and more like the overanxious mother Brother tells me I act like sometimes, I sent him a quick letter telling him not to do anything stupid and be safe. He'll probably roll his eyes when he reads it and tell his companions that he doesn't have five older sisters; he has five extra moms.

That is a fairly accurate description at times, especially since most of my other letters have been nagging him to send me pictures and eat more, but that is one more thing to love about Brother. He tolerates my bizarre worries and doesn't even point out that I never take my own advice (not much anyways).

The last time I saw him before he left, he was loading some things in the car for me before I drove home, and once he finished, he looked at me and said:

"So when I get back, you'll be married and have sent your book to a publisher."

It wasn't a question. It was a statement. The first part didn't surprise me; Brother has been joking for months that since I predicted his birth, he gets to predict when I marry, but the second part of his statement did. I thought about it the whole way home. Brother has always been my number one fan, to the point he's taken my manuscript to show his friends and (after he realized that was not a good plan) asked if he could show it to certain people. He is the biggest optimist I know. He doesn't just hope for the best, he states it like it's an inevitability.

So for what it's worth Brother, I'm really glad I said that prayer.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Memories of 2011: The Realities of an Ordinary Pancake

Well, a new year is upon us, and with that everyone is either crowding into the gym or waxing nostalgic about the past year. 2011 for me was a good year with lots of obvious exciting things going on. Of the whole year I only really have one major regret; I didn't blog enough.

As I've thought of all the wonderful memories and moments of 2011, the thought kept popping into my head "why didn't I blog about that? I wanted to tell that story." So I've decided better late than never. Over the next couple posts I'm doing another mini series: the moments of last year that need to be remembered and shared, but have yet to make it onto the blogosphere.

Let's begin with the wafels.

Last May, the females of my family all fulfilled a pipe dream and took a mother-daughter trip to New York City. We all had an amazing time, seeing the sights together, and not together. You see, the thing about going on holiday with your four older sisters and mother is each of us is very different, and had different ideas of what a good time in New York entailed. To prove my point, here is my to do list:

-go to Frick (yes, that is the real name of an art museum);
-go to the Met;
-go to the Guggenheim;
-go back to the Met;
-marvel at a few of my favourite skyscrapers;
-eat whatever yummy looking food places I happen to stumble upon;
-take one last tour through the Met and find solace in my favourite gallery (hey, it's pay what you will).

And here is the itinerary I've made up for my sister Emily based on what she planned for the trip:

-go on the Liberty Island tour;
-go to the thrift stores in Manhattan I looked up while planning this trip;
-eat at the restaurants I looked up while planning this trip;
-go to the fabric district I looked up while planning this trip and find stuff for future sewing projects;
-have a look at the Empire States building;
-spend a morning in the Met, then go thrifting.

I love all my sisters, but if we had tried to correlate all our sightseeing schedules, we would have spent more time arguing than was really necessary, so it was agreed early on that we would divide up for certain excursions and meet for dinners, if nothing else.

Our first day, I was in Central Park with Mom, Katey, and baby Liam. Kate had wanted to check out the Swedish Marionette Theatre, and after being entertained by what people can do with puppets on strings and babies trying to grab them, we decided to grab lunch off one of the many food carts in the park and enjoy a picnic out in the sunshine before I went to meet Jaima at the Cooper Hewitt. After a little perusal, we chose a place called Wafels & Dinges. Regrettably, we did not take a picture of the stall, but the container below is from there:

It says:

Studies have shown* that altruisitic attitudes might shift dramatically while wafeling. Check your wafel-o-meter prior to sharing to avoid serious side effects.
*study conducted by Belgian Ministry of Culinary Affairs, Department of Wafels.

Another section of fine print read:

The wafels are intended for the human enjoyment only and may not reflect the realities of an ordinary pancake. The intent of the wafels is to assist the individual in the creating of the happily-ever-after experience while eating the many dinges on top of the wafels.

I would have loved these is only for their witty lines, but these wafels completely lived up to their container. Best wafel I have ever eaten (sorry Jason), and there was no way I was sharing a single bite. I almost went back for seconds.

In case you are wondering what dinges are, they are the toppings for your deliciously sweet wafel. Many Belgian specialties, as well as the typical ice cream, strawberries, etc. Was it ridiculously decadent? Yes. Totally worth the calories? Over and over again.

My absolute favourite dinge was speculoos spread. It tastes like carmelly peanut butter. I need to find it and buy a jar. Amazing stuff.

So when you're in New York, forget the hot dogs and bagels. Go for the wafel cart. I even found them online. Look them up next time you're in the Big Apple.