The 12 Beers of Christmas

As I mentioned in my previous post, last night I went to an event held by the Dominion City Brewery and the Albion Rooms restaurant called the 12 Beers of Christmas. The event was held as a fundraiser for Candlelighters, an Ottawa organization that supports children with cancer.

The premise was 12 courses of food paired with 12 beers, each course based on a theme from the song the 12 Days of Christmas. And you guys, it was so, so good.

At first, I was nervous because there were some exotic and odd things on the menu. For example, elk tartare.  Squab (which is pigeon). Pheasant. You get the picture.  It was definitely an adventurous meal for me!

The elk tartare was quite good, with enough seasoning to make you feel like you’re not really eating raw meat. Next, there was “head cheese” with turkey, duck & quail (probably my least favourite of the night), followed by salt cod croquette and then the lamb lollipop.  OMG, the lamb.  I have never had lamb before in my life and this was amazingly tasty.  I’m not sure if it was simply the lamb itself or the spiced yogurt that came with it, but it was by far my favourite of the night.

The next few dishes were smelts, pheasant, cornish hen, goose with a quail scotch egg, and the squab.  And yes, I ate the pigeon.  I felt weird about it, I won’t lie.  But it was surprisingly tasty! I actually kind of enjoyed it.  I wouldn’t order it off a menu again, but if it showed up at another event like this I wouldn’t be so wary, either.

Following that, there were three dessert courses.  Yep, three!. The first was an Italian meringue with melon & mint. The next was cannolis and finally tres leches cake.

And of course that’s not even mentioning the 12 beers we got to sample!

As a bonus to the evening, I ran into a couple friends from Barley’s Angels and we all sat together so I wasn’t totally alone all night! Huzzah!

Don’t forget to comment to be eligible to win a $50 Chapters gift card!

The Gift of Peace

One of the subjects I came across when planning my blog posts for December and January was the question “What gift are you giving yourself this year?” That’s a complicated question. I mean, I could simply look at my goals for 2017 and say my gift to myself will be creativity. Or my gift to myself will be losing weight. Any of the things on that list would suffice. But it is a more complex thing that I’d like to gift myself this year.

What I want is the gift of peace.

Truth be told, I am a very anxious person. I am on a significant amount of medication just to deal with that. While the medication generally works, anxiety still gets to me about particular situations. On top of that, I have a hard time dealing with loneliness. Don’t get me wrong, I love being alone most of the time. I am a very strong introvert that way. But when loneliness does hit me it often cripples me emotionally. I don’t want to have another evening like NYE. I want to be able to be peaceful even when I don’t choose to be alone. To find peace when my anxiety is flaring up.

I suppose you could change peace for contentment. Ultimately it’s the same result. I want to be happy regardless of whether I have anyone to hang out with at any given moment. Regardless of whether I choose to be alone or not. I want to reclaim my zen!

And it should be noted that this is not a plea for more social invitations from friends. Not at all. It is simply a self-reflection and I’m trying my best to be honest about it.

Tonight there is a 12-course dinner and beer pairing hosted by Dominion City Brewery that I really wanted to go to. I couldn’t find anyone to go with me (which, to be fair, it is a rather expensive dinner). So as part of the “dealing with loneliness and anxiety” gift, I decided to go alone. I am decidedly more anxious about the food than the going alone part (I am going to be eating squab people!). This is a good first step for me. To find that peace, regardless of the circumstances.

What gift are you giving yourself this year? Tell me about it in the comments and you’ll be entered to win a $50 Chapters gift card!

Goals for 2017

Along with hating New Year’s Eve, I also hate new year’s resolutions.  Mostly because I often utterly, utterly fail at them.  But that doesn’t stop me from making a  list of goals I want to achieve for 2017. And they are as follows:

  1. Write 500 words a day. This does not include blogging.  Already I am sucking at this! WRITE MOAR. Why do I want to write more? I’m never quite sure.  I don’t have a dream of being published.  Ok, I do, but I’m not really doing anything to attempt to achieve it.  It’s like my dream of winning the lottery. Up there in the clouds.  But I wouldn’t mind some pieces in magazines and journals, and to do that you gotta write.
  2. Finish Abdication of the Fourth. It’s a horrible, horrible story because it is horribly written, but I want to finish the damn thing regardless. I started it as a Nanowrimo project many years ago and it was ok that it sucked because it’s the quantity not quality when it comes to Nano. So yeah, it sucks.  But gotta get it done.
  3. Start “Seventeen” because it is sitting in my brain taking up space. Seventeen is the story of a washed-up punk singer and the foster girl he takes in. Who just happens to be obsessed with him.  So that’ll be awkward.
  4. Clean the apartment once a week. Should also include daily dishes duty, cat litter and making the damn bed. Life looks better with your bed made. It just does.
  5. Cook a meal from scratch at least once a week. A real meal, not a freaking “stir-fry” for the 4,000th
  6. Workout twice a week. I really, REALLY need to get back to the gym. It’s getting pathetic how long it’s been, and yet I keep paying them money.  It’s like a laziness tax.
  7. Drink less beer (this makes me sad. But if I want to lose weight…), drink more water.
  8. Go on monthly creativity dates with the Amazing Flatmate (who is not *my* amazing flatmate, but nonetheless the name has stuck). WE often create “together” while texting each other, but in real life creativity dates are very exciting!

Generally speaking, if I can use some clichés, I want to live with intent, and live more in the moment.  I want to be deliberate with my choices and enjoy the things I’m doing for what they are.  Even writing Abdication.

I was listening to a podcast last night that talked with a man who did a study on happiness. And he said that the more our minds wander, the more unhappy we are.  That it doesn’t matter what our minds our wandering to, just the state of wandering itself is the catalyst for unhappiness.  So I want to live as if the opposite were true.  The more focused I am on the task at hand, the happier I’ll be.  At least that is my hypothesis.

I know this sounds very crunchy granola hippy etc. But I need a rebooting of my life.  I need new things in my life in 2017, and the only way to change things is to change myself.

What are your goals for 2017? Tell me in the comments and be entered to win a $50 Chapters gift card!

2016 & 2017

Anyone who knows me decently well knows I hate New Years Eve with the passion of a thousand burning suns. I really frakking hate it.

Why? Because it’s a lot like Valentine’s Day, in that it’s this manufactured thing that is meant to be a new beginning but all it manages to ever do is depress me. Mostly because of my own stupidly high expectations, I’ll admit. There’s just something about being stuck alone on New Years that just blows compared to being alone any other night of the week. At least it does for me.

I try not to let it get to me, but it always does, and inevitably I end up in tears and crawling into bed at 10:00 like I did last night.

It was especially important to me to have someone to spend it with this year, as 2016 was the shities of all shitty years I have experienced. And I’ve been through a lot of shitty years. I’d typically do a year in review here, but suffice it to say, the only thing that comes to mind is my mom dying. June 9th 2016 my Mom died and nothing will ever really be the same any more.

Yes, she went quickly and painlessly, or mostly anyway. It’s a good way to go if you’re going to go, i know that. But I wanted more time. Just more of everything.

But that’s not going to happen now. So what I had wanted was a good new year. That went to shit too. So 2017 better be a grand improvement. Let’s just leave it at that.

 

In better news, today begins the first day of my GIVEAWAY. From now through the end of February, every (meaningful) comment on my blog will be entered into a draw for a $50 Chapters gift card. I look forward to hearing what all of you have to say!

 

Favourite Quotes

Every once and a while I like to go back and look over some of my favourite quotes.  I find my favourite quotes to be motivating, for the most part. There are some exceptions, of course.  Like my first quote below.

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” (Stephen King)

This one is a bit sad, isn’t it? It seems lonely. It’s also the opening line to one of my favourite stories, “The Body”. This is the novella that the movie Stand By Me is based on. The thing is, I know this feeling.  I know this feeling inside and out, having been there so many, many times.  I think if you’re a particularly sensitive type, you’ve probably been there, too.

Next we have

Let go or be dragged.” (Zen proverb)

I really like this one because I have trouble letting go of the past. I hang on and I hang on and I hang on.  It makes life very difficult. When I came across this quote it really spoke to me.  I have most certainly been dragged into moments kicking & screaming. I need to learn how to let go.

I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things (John Green)

This comes from “The Fault In Our Stars”, a great book which I recommend you read, but that’s besides the point.  Why do I like this quote? Because it is very much who I am.  I am very honest and blunt in my feelings.  I tell people how I feel about them. Very few people will go to the grave not knowing what I think of them, or how I feel about them. And if you don’t know it’s because I can’t be arsed to tell you.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing (Arundhati Roy)

Optimism at its best, wouldn’t you say? That’s why I like this one.  In times like these where it seems everyone is dying and the world is crumbling, I need quotes like this to keep me going, to keep my head above water, so to speak.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly (Richard Bach)

Once one of my favourite authors, Richard Bach explores spirituality throughout his books.  This one is from “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”.  It reminds me that nothing is the end of the world, that endings can lead to beautiful beginnings, and that disaster is a matter of perspective.

…and those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. (Nietzsche)

A famous quote, which I have loved for ages.  It helps to remind me that sometimes I’m the only one who hears the music, the only one dancing, and that’s ok. I am my own person and I don’t need to care about what anyone else thinks,

“Stop looking for happiness in the same place where you lost it.” (unknown)

The first time I read this quote it was like I had an epiphany.  It stunned me. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? But it’s something that I have done over and over. Mostly with people.  I kept waiting for people who hurt me or made me sad to be better, and then I would be happy.  Except it doesn’t usually work that way. Situations and people sometimes need to be left behind if they aren’t making you happy.

And finally:

Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly (Neil Gaiman)

I like this one so much I got the last bit tattooed on my arm. It is spoken by the Sandman to someone about falling in your dreams.  But it is also a good metaphor for life. Like the caterpillar thinking it’s the end of the world, this reminds me that not all falling is bad. Sometimes it can lead to amazing things.

What are your favourite quotes? Tell me in the comments!

 

Christmas

Merry Christmas & happpy Hannukah, and a general Season’s Greetings to all my readers!

Today I am in Barrie celebrating Chritmas with my sisters (and in spirit with my brother in Manitoba) and so far I am having a lovely time. I love spending time with my family, I don’t get to see them very often, as I live in Ottawa, and getting to spend this time with them is important to me.

Of course there’s also the giving and receiving of gifts. It’s always nice to know someone’s been thinking of you, although of course gifts are not an obligation of the day. I received some lovely gifts I must say, well thought of ones that include some of my favourite things like tea and beer. And I like giving too, although I’m not as good at it as my sisters are. I tend to give things to people and hope they’ll like them.

Christmas is full of great music that never fails to cheer me up. Ok, there are a few exceptions, there are definitely some depressing Christmas songs. But generally they’re pretty cheery. The food is good and even the snow is pretty, at least for one day.

But the holidays aren’t always easy for everyone. There’s a lot of lonliness out there in the world, and if you’re single it can feel like you’re the only one in the world that is. Trust me, I know.

And this year is the first year without my Mom, which makes it harder. I will say that it’s been easier than I thought it would be, I hope that doesn’t sound crass. But I miss her something fierce, especially today.

But I know she’s with us in spirit.

Ode to Winter

I’m not the biggest fan of this season, I’ll be the first to admit. It’s hard to walk around in, people forget how to drive in snow, and it’s bloody cold. But winter has it’s good points too!

  • Cute sweaters. Opportunity to wear cute sweaters almost make it worth it.  I don’t get many opportunities to wear cute sweaters because I run hot, but I do have a few!
  • Less sweaty. I love that about winter, because I spend all summer sweating like a crazy thing. Nothing ruins a look like getting all sweaty.  I  once had someone ask me if it was raining I was so gross.  None of that in winter!
  • It’s pretty. Mostly.  Away from downtown. But once you’re out a bit snow is really beautiful!
  • Holidays.  I personally celebrate Christmas and I love it. I always look forward to it.  This year might be different, but we’ll still be ok.

What are your favourite things about winter? Tell me in the comments!

Orleans Pride Dinner

So this past weekend my friend Tracey invited me out to the annual Orleans Holiday Pride dinner.

I do not live in Orleans, you may have noticed. Not that this stopped me. Any excuse to hang with a bunch of lesbians was fine by me. Although now that I think of it there were no cis gay men there, so maybe this was a Lesbians only thing? I really should know this stuff.

Anyhow, while numbers were few (there were maybe 15 of us?) good times were had by all. I got to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a long time, and got to reaquaint myself with a few others.

Thanks for having me Orleans!

My Christmas List

So, it’s that time of year where we make Christmas lists for our family and friends to ease the shopping for them.  In non-blog life I don’t normally go for lists.  As gauche as it sounds, there’s not much I want, and the things I want I tend to buy for myself.

But in the interests of the season I have decided to put together a list of things that I want. For posterity.

  1. Donal Trump not to be President. I mean really, this man is toxic. The fact that the United States has such a big impact on life in Canada is disturbing enough on its own, let along with this guy in charge. Ugh.
  2. Socks. Yes I am totally serious about this one. Apparently every pair of socks i own is now missing its mate.  If you see me wandering around with mismatched socks, this is why.  Don’t judge! I hate wearing socks, but winter requires them!
  3. An Instant Pot.  No I’m not really sure why either.  But everyone I know who has one raves about them.  Now I’m curious.
  4. Syria to be peaceful. The horror stories I’m reading make me sad and angry and leave me feeling helpless.  Not sure I can get this one, but a donation to Doctors Without Borders is something right?
  5. Notebooks and pens. Always. Because I heart them.
  6. Time with my family, which I will get! Yay me!
  7. A happier 2017. Seriously.  2016 sucked.
  8. Beer.  Preferably craft.                                     .

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t want for a lot. A maid wouldn’t be turned down, but generally speaking a live a comfortable life, stuff-wise.

Here’s hoping you get what you wish for this holiday season!

Favourite Online Tools

So yesterday I talked about my favourite websites.  Today is a variation on that theme, where I introduce you to my favourite online tools.

Grammarly: Grammarly is an online proofreading tool.  Not only can you plug text into the website for it to check, it also has several apps/extensions that you can use.  I use the one for google chrome, which checks almost all of my online writer for grammar and spelling.  They also have a premium option that apparently provides 250 more types of checks.  I am satisfied with the free version, however.

Hemingway: Similar to grammarly, Hemingway checks your writing, but this time for readability.  It gives your text a grade level, tells you when your sentences are too long or complicated, and generally tells you how to tighten your writing.

Writer: The Internet typewriter: I love this tool.  Writer provides a mostly distraction-free writing environment.  It has a green on black interface and very cool typewriter sounds.  I like the sounds because they make me feel like I’m accomplishing something.

WordPress.com: I mostly use the wordpress software rather than the .com site, but the website provides all the tools you’d want to start a blog without the joy of installing the software on a server and then hosting your own site. A powerful blogging platform.

Mailchimp: Mailchimp hosts your mailing lists, and everyone knows a mailing list is key for those of you who want to build an audience. While somewhat complicated at first, once you get the hang of it, mailchimp is a valuable tool for creating and sending your newsletters.

Google Docs: This one needs no introduction.  I love it because it is always available on whatever platform I choose, and is just as functional (for my purposes) as MS Word.

Write or Die!: Write or die (almost) does what it says on the tin.  You set a time, a word count and a consequence or reward and you start typing away.  If you don’t make your goal or you slow down too much you hear alarms, see pictures of spiders and various other not-so fun things. You can try it on the site, or buy it for desktop use like I did.

So there you have it, my list of favourite online tools.  And I promise you none of them have paid me for the accolades.  What are your favourite online tools? Tell me in the comments!