- The meal planning website Plan to Eat. Last January, after years of attempting to meal plan by hand and failing miserably, I finally remembered I live in the 21st century. At the time we signed up for the Six O’Clock Scramble and it is not an exaggeration to say IT CHANGED MY ENTIRE LIFE. It worked wonderfully for us for many months but the recipes, while mostly delicious and reasonably healthy, didn’t match the way we want to eat in the long term. We want to eat more beans, less dairy, a wider variety of ethnic foods, and have the flexibility to use any recipe, not just the ones in their database. Enter Plan to Eat. It doesn’t make meal plans for you but it makes it ridiculously easy to make your own, dare I say even FUN? At least as close to fun as meal planning can get. It is basically just a very smart, clean interface for organizing all the recipes you collect from anywhere (their Save Recipe browser button automatically imports any recipe you find online, others you can enter in yourself very easily), which you then drag and drop into your calendar and then compile a shopping list. They have a 30 day free trial, after which it costs $39 a year. Try it – I dare you not to like it. (Clearly this post is not sponsored – who in their right mind would sponsor someone who blogs bi-annually?)
- Stop Podcasting Yourself. I have been a fan of podcasts for as long as I’ve had an iPod, which is some number of years that I’ll certainly underestimate because that’s what happens when you get old. I can’t read on the bus without feeling like I need to hurl, so podcasts are my company and my stranger-chat deterrent. I have my classics that I’ll always love – The Savage Lovecast, This American Life, Planet Money, and The Bugle – but recently a new podcast entered the mix and quickly rose to near top status: Stop Podcasting Yourself. It’s just a couple of Vancouver comedians, usually with another comedian guest, shooting the shit. It’s like being the fly on the wall of a conversation among professionally funny people. Actually it is exactly that. They are my age so have lived through the same cultural experience – the same music, same TV shows, the same infiltration of the internet into every facet of our lives. Warning: listening may cause embarrassing episodes of audible snickering at inopportune moments on the bus, in elevators, in waiting rooms etc.
- Meeting bloggy friends. I exclusive read the blogs of smart, witty people so the rare time that I actually get to meet one in person is truly exciting, as it was last Saturday when I got to meet Jenny of Adventures Along the Way for a drink! She made me simultaneously curse the fact that teleportation hasn’t been invented and thank my lucky stars that the internet has. I also have her to thank for the push I needed to finally post something. ANYTHING.
- The book The Poisonwood Bible. I’ve read it before but have wanted to read it again basically as soon as I put it down. I have carried vivid images from the book with me for years. This weekend I finally picked it up again and am so happy I did. It is beautifully written and eye opening in the most unexpected ways. I’m appreciating it even more the second time around.
- My new purse. I am not a purse collector – I am a purse committer: I pick one and use it for YEARS. My old purse was starting to show serious evidence of that so I splurged on a new one. It’s a lovely deep green leather (the picture doesn’t quite do it justice), just the right size, and has both a shoulder strap and an over-the-body strap, which is undeniably brilliant.
When we were home-hunting, we found two places that tied for the top spot. They were the same price and size, only about 7 blocks apart, but one was more dressed up with new floors and gleaming bathrooms while the other had room for improvements but a more open and pleasing layout. It was a toss up that was keeping us up at night.
On a quiet spring evening, we decided to walk around the neighbourhood of both homes to get a better feel for them and also hopefully clear our heads, because this home buying stuff was making us both a little nuts.
Right by the room-for-improvements place we stumbled onto a pedestrian overpass across a major road. But it was so unlike any overpass we had ever seen. Lush with plant life and paved in charming little stones, you could hardly even tell there was traffic below unless you climbed up the banks on the side to peek over.
We then followed this path directly into our home-buying tie-breaker: the most charming little park in Vancouver.
The park is along the seawall that connects up most of the shores of Vancouver. It is almost entirely an off-leash dog park, with a small elementary school and playground tucked onto the side. The dog area is large and laced with little winding paths. It has a giant field for running your doggie heart out, a duck pond for our feathered ‘friends,’ lots of fun little crevices to explore for semi-edible things to chew on (Cassie’s specialty), and a small waterfall with a pool below to cool off in. Yeah, a waterfall.
I think it’s safe to say these dogs are spoiled rotten.
I still have to pinch myself daily that this is the place where I get to go walk my dog. In the sun of May, it is easy to love as everything glows emerald green and a cool breeze off the inlet washes over your face. But even during the bleakest of rains in February, when the park is nearly empty of colour and visitors, it is still remarkable. In fact, it inspired the name of my blog, which is appropriate since most of my blog ‘writing’ happens when I’m walking along its paths with Cassie.
On Saturday night, we were feeling like the epitome of the old married couple – slightly bored and desperate to get out, but having no clever ideas of where to go. After much thought and hand-wringing we decided on dinner and a movie. (Feel free to copy that brilliant idea but make sure to mentally thank me when you do.)
After eating dinner at our favourite sushi restaurant, we headed downtown and grabbed some movie tickets. Since we still had an hour before the movie was to start, we window shopped to kill some time. Unfortunately by the time we made our way back to the theatre, the only available seats were in the very front row. Apparently we had severely underestimated how many other people want to get out of their houses on a Saturday night. And based on our experience out in the world so far, frankly we weren’t sure why.
We were grumpy enough about this to actually get back in the giant line-up at the movie theatre and get a refund for our tickets. Defeated, we started to meander back to the train station to go home. As we approached Granville Street, John casually said “Isn’t that Dan Savage show on tonight?”
Just in case you don’t know, Dan Savage writes the sex and relationship advice column Savage Love, which is found in independent weekly newspapers around North America and many other parts of the world. He is perhaps best known in the wider culture for starting the It Gets Better campaign in an effort to tackle the high rate of suicide among gay teens. He is also an opinionated voice in politics and isn’t afraid to froth up controversy. In short – he is awesome.
We had seen a poster for his show a few weeks earlier but hadn’t really pursued it, mostly because we are cheap. Some subconscious part of my brain pulled up the knowledge that the show was at the Vogue theater – which was just down the street from us – and my shame at slinking home at 8:15pm on a Saturday night gave me the motivation to say “let’s head down there and check it out.” Which we did, despite some skeptical looks from John.
The area around the theater was completely empty (bad sign) but the box-office was open (good sign). I asked the woman behind the glass whether the show had started and if tickets were available. She said they were just getting started as they were running late and yes, tickets were still available. Then she said she had two single tickets that had not been picked up from will-call that she could give me for free. They were not together but both were great seats – one in the second row, the other in the front row of the balcony. Umm, yes please! I was so taken aback that I didn’t even thank the woman with the profuseness warranted; I was expecting someone to take the tickets away from me at any moment so I just wanted to get inside immediately. HOLY CRAP, WE JUST WALKED RIGHT INTO FREE TICKETS TO SEE DAN SAVAGE!
John, knowing of my political and intellectual hard-on for Savage, let me have the second-row seat. I stumbled in the dark to find it as the show had already started and then proceeded to grin for the next two hours while he answered audience submitted questions.
He was brilliant live, as I knew he would be. Smart, witty, heart-felt. While I do not relate to his advice on foot fetishes and nipple clamps, I find his views on relationships to be a breath of fresh air in a world that feeds us a lot of bullshit about the nature of love. Here are some of my favourite philosophies of relationships according to Dan Savage:
- There is no settling down without settling for. Or like he said at the show “There is no ‘the one’ – there are hundreds of thousands of potential ‘ones’ out there – or more like 0.64’s that you round up to one.”
- Relationships come with a price of admission. That price might be a partner who never picks his socks up off the floor or it might be one with an insatiable desire for pies being shoved in his face (this is apparently an actual fetish, basically anything you can imagine being fetish-ized, is – along with a lot of things you can’t.) Ask yourself at the outset if that’s a price worth paying for all the lovely things that person brings into your life and if it is, then accept it.
- Sexual exclusivity shouldn’t be the cornerstone of marriage. You only have to look at the high rates of infidelity (or Newt Gingrich) to see how hard it is to meet this requirement for four or five decades of marriage. Savage’s suggestion of sexual openness in marriage is often interpreted as disrespectful to the institution and threatening its very core, but he argues that his is actually a very conservative view: he wants marriages to last. And allowing a little bit of sexual freedom – even if just in theory – might preserve a wonderful marriage that provides emotional support, raises children, and otherwise makes you very happy. I should also add that Savage is all for monogamy when it works (as it does for us) and believes you should keep that promise once you make it – but does question the weight placed on monogamy over everything else. Read more on that here.
- People who are in long-term, exclusive relationships are allowed to find other people attractive. Contrary to popular opinion, being in love does not obliterate all of your other senses and feelings; while you are a living, breathing human being, you will find other people attractive and admitting that’s ok might just make you a little more sane.
The underlying message is one of realistic expectations, hopefully leading to more honest and lasting relationships. Many of these topics are entire posts on their own and I may not have explained them sufficiently in my summary, but I’m curious to hear your reactions.
(Click image for source).