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Getting things done

I had a good evening yesterday. It snowed during the day so when I came home from work, I took Cassie to the dog park to frolic in the snow with all the other dogs who were enamored with the stuff. After a good romp, we headed home to cook dinner/collect dropped bits of dinner. Then I settled on the couch with a glass of wine to watch narrate berate the train-wreck of emotions that is The Bachelor. I have to say that on a scale of one to ten, I freaken love that show.*

Thanks to the early East Coast broadcast, it was done by 8pm and I decided to bring out the sewing machine that I got for Christmas. Earlier in the day I had popped by the fabric store and bought some clearance fabric to make Cassie a cozy little bed. It only took a couple of hours and turned out beautifully if I do say so myself.

 See she likes it! I didn’t even force her to lie down on it and pose or anything!

Don’t worry, this blog hasn’t quite sunk down to the level of me just telling you about my awful television viewing choices and finding any old excuse to slip in a dog photo – yet. No, I’m telling you about my evening because it made me realize that I am finally emerging from the fog of my migraines.

For the past two months, these headaches have descended on me most afternoons. I trudge through the things I absolutely have to do on autopilot – work, taking the dog out, feeding myself – before I can retreat to the couch and stay there, motionless, for the rest of the evening. I have little energy to be creative or social or productive. The dishes are often left undone, meals are left unplanned, and blog posts are left unwritten.

The migraines last just long enough to make me believe that this is actually who I am – this unmotivated, unpleasant, listless blob of a human being.

Last night it dawned on me once again what a different person I am when I feel well. I have energy to do things and the motivation to try. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve not only made dinner but actually enjoyed doing so (partly also due to being told what to make). I’ve taken on projects that I would normally put off until the weekend, or maybe the next one – like making Cassie’s dog bed. We’ve started grocery shopping on Tuesday nights instead of Sunday afternoons to avoid the crowds; we get the whole of Granville Island Market practically to ourselves and it is fast becoming my favourite weeknight. Last Wednesday we had friends over for a game night and I enjoyed it.

I know my headaches will come back. They always do. Until then though, I’m going to get things done. I think we might even finally start some bigger projects.

*Adaptation of an actual line by one of the participants last night. Only the best and brightest!

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Six o’clock train out of Grump-ville

Rage. I have it. I have it over rain when it is coming at me sideways, over the fact that in the first three hours of 2012 CEO’s made the annual wage of the average worker, over commercials that come on WAY LOUDER than the rest of the show, and over Reddit for making my husband chortle out in laughter for hours while I’m trying to write a post.

Also on this list is making dinner (yeah it doesn’t take much). Or rather, figuring out what to make for dinner because we can’t seem to be able to plan ahead. And because I always get home from work before John I am faced with the consequences of our laziness.

The ‘meal planning’ starts once I head out with Cassie for her walk. Step one: mentally tally up the contents of the fridge. Usually it is some combination of the following: wilting chard, a few peppers, olives, a questionable bag of mushrooms, a few sweet potatoes and onions, plain yogurt, pasta sauce, and a block of cheddar. Oh and a pile of tofu blocks. No easy meal idea jumps out at me, at least not one that we didn’t already make yesterday and the day before.

Step two: phone John to ask for ideas, not because I think he’ll actually have any (he doesn’t possess the ability to keep a mental tally of the contents of the fridge*) but rather to make clear how burdened I am by having to think about this to the only person who might give a crap. And I should point out that by this time I am usually headachy and one dumb suggestion away from complete grumpiness. Invariably John suggests a stir-fry. And that my friends, is the one-way ticket to Grump-ville, decorated today with shit-coloured balloons! (i.e. Cassie eating goose-poop at the park while I run and scream at her to stop.)

We have tried to meal plan. We’ve tried doing it very casually by scribbling a few ideas down just when we’re about to head out shopping, but sooner or later it falls apart. We’ve tried the hyper-organized spreadsheet approach. That truly was an honest effort, including compiling a list of our favourite dinners so we could just pick a bunch for the week and have a plan ready to go. It really seemed like it was going to work.

We managed it ONCE.

Then this December I heard about the Six O’Clock Scramble on the Unclutterer blog.

It’s a very simple idea really: a service that tells you what to eat for dinner. Seems TOO simple really but somehow we can’t manage this ourselves.

For a small subscription fee, they send you five recipes each week (usually 30 minutes or less to prepare), including a shopping list categorized by grocery store section. If the chosen recipes don’t suit you – for example, we want only vegetarian and fish options – you just swap them out for something else from their searchable recipe database and update the shopping list. Luckily the recipes are pretty healthy and vegetarian-friendly already, though I wish you could also add your own (maybe you can, haven’t played with it too much yet).

After some recent, extra potent rage on my part, we decided to splurge the $21 to give this service a try for a few months (cheaper than marriage counselling!). To complete the food-planning make-over, we also cancelled our subscription to the organic produce delivery service we were using** and vowed to grocery shop like normal people.

Tonight we made our first shopping run – to nearby Granville Island Market for fish and produce and the grocery store for the rest – with great success. Having a list in our hands that we knew was complete was wonderful for my clouded-by-the-day brain. The meal we made – fish with butternut squash and couscous – was a bit more involved than our usual weekday fare but still pretty quick (about 40 mins total – but 15 of that was waiting for the oven to pre-heat) and leaps more creative. And from this single recipe we already got some good cooking ideas for future meals.

I’m hopeful this meal-planning trial might actually work. And at the very least, it’s nice to be excited about food again.

*The gene that enables a person to do this is believed to reside on the X-chromosome, next to the skill that enables one to keep their farts in until they are somewhere private. Due to the presence of two X-chromosomes, women are far more likely to possess these skills. [Disclaimer: the author is not responsible for the scientific accuracy of statements presented.]

**This is a service for getting local and organic produce delivered to your door year-round. We have been getting a portion of our produce from them for the past 3 years. Some of the items understandably cost more than at the grocery store, but every time I started doubting if this was a good use of money I reminded myself of the importance of voting with my dollar. And paying fair prices for quality food is something I STRONGLY believe in. But we’ve started to realize that other local produce options are available to us and we don’t need this particular service to make our money count in the right places. Instead, we are going to buy produce from the nearby market in winter and at farmer’s markets in the summer, and hopefully waste less food (and money) in the process.

Images from we heart it.

I’d rather beat myself with sticks

Image from Wikipedia

You know what’s a surefire way to feel like a freakishly awkward, hideous, pointy-haired excuse of a human being?

Record yourself giving an anniversary toast on video.

Try it. I dare you.

John and I spent THREE HOURS last night trying to do just this. And this is how I learned for the first time how freakish my eyes look – all beady and black and apparently cross-eyed – when I’m sitting and listening, trying my damnedest to look pretty and supportive. The only thing worse are my eyes when I’m actually talking, all flared open in feigned excitement. Ugh. Uggghhhhh. <shudder>

It is John’s parents 40th anniversary on Sunday,* which means unfortunately we won’t be at their party (instead we’ll be just north of the Arctic Circle, sitting in a sauna beating ourselves with birch branches). In true John-family-organizing-things fashion, we were told Sunday night (that’s two days before we leave the country) by his sister that that is no excuse for not giving a toast – she wants us to film a toast so they can watch all of our awkwardness displayed on a giant projector screen.

Now that might be adequate warning for a normal person, but John and I are both equally terrible at this kind of thing. We can’t speak about anything emotionally meaningful in front of anyone but each other, and even then it’s only semi-annually. And if we must – as we did at our wedding – it must be brief and point form, at most 30 seconds.

So we tackled this like any nerd would – we wrote out a script in a Google doc and then set-up two laptops, one to record us and the other to display the text.

Mistake number one: we didn’t have anything to drink.
Mistake number two: looking slightly off-camera to read text is super creepy. You’d think we’d have learned this lesson already from Michele Bachmann.
Mistake number three: not being born with the natural ability to speak off-the-cuff in a heartfelt way. We are not emotionally expressive people in real-life, so we’re not suddenly going to whip up a bunch of sap on video when we’re not even there to defend ourselves afterwards!

After a slight temper tantrum (by me obviously) and a whole lot of hilarious out-take footage, we got a couple of versions that only made us cringe to the point of a dull pain at the bottom of our gut, rather than full-on body convulsions of cringy-ness. We might try it again tonight if we find the self-esteem and the time.

But first we have to drop off Cassie, something I’m still pretending isn’t happening. Maybe she could just fit in my carry-on? Please?

*Amazing right? I truly hope I can absorb some of their… happiness? willingness to work at it? luck? magic dust? Whatever it is that makes a marriage tick for 40 years.