November 30, 2011

knee deep: getting engaged

this is part two in a series about relationships. see part one here.

so you're with someone you really love. chances are you've moved in together. maybe you're still living at home, but you see a real future together. whatever the case, you have a feeling this is something special. and you really, really, really want to be with him or her all the time, forever-like.

when does the thought of marriage cross your mind? at what point are you ready for something like that? how in the hell do you even plan the proposal?

here it is, straight from the mouths of my friend victoria, and her favourite man.

photo by ricky flores


1. how did you meet?

we met in first-year university in september 2003. we lived on the same residence floor, and became friends throwing a pack of peanuts back and forth until it became peanut butter. in mid-september we were hanging out in my room when my roommate told us that she had just scored a "hot date". i looked over at him and asked when my hot date was going to be, and, well, here we are...

the first day in residence there was a floor meeting to go over ground rules and first introductions. i remember seeing her there. she looked incredible, and i remember thinking that since no one knew anyone yet, i might actually have a chance. it didn't take long to come, either - it came when one of my new friends mentioned he had kissed her the night before. i think i said something like "damn, she was mine!". after a very manly duel he said he wouldn't pursue her any further.

after the peanut incident, i knew i had made it into the friend zone, but i was just waiting for my chance to move things further. then, one day, we were sitting in her room and her roommate was bragging about some hot date she was going on. my girl looked at me and said, jokingly, "when are you going to take me on a hot date?". i knew i had to act fast, so i replied "monday". she looked surprised but happy.

2. at what point did you realize this relationship was of the "forever" variety?

this is a hard question. i would have to say it was when i realized the idea of being married to him forever wouldn't be so bad. early on in the relationship i had told him i never wanted to get married, but then, somewhere along the line, i changed my mind. i'm always reminded of how much i love him when all i want is to be near him, even if it just means the two of us sitting on the couch watching tv.

we always had a special connection. something that you can't quite put into words. as we spent time together, endured hardships together, enjoyed life together, we became not just partners, but best friends. when all i want is to be at home with her, sitting in comfy clothes, just talking, watching tv, or anything, that's when i know that this is the girl i want to be with forever.

photo for jewelry by garo via etsy

3. what was the proposal like? how did you go about planning/not planning it?

so i wanted it to be awesome. ridiculously awesome. i wanted to propose on top of a mountain in b.c. i kept trying to figure out a plan to make it happen, but between my work, and her school and work, it just didn't seem possible. 

i went out and bought the ring on the only weekend that i could get away without her knowing i was doing something out of the ordinary. i spent about 6 hours in the jewellery store...  i knew the proposal had to be a surprise. victoria had mentioned she thought it would be cool if my proposal was kind of low key - something a little more intimate. so that's what i did. i took her out on an unassuming date, the day before her birthday (i couldn't propose on her birthday, she might expect that). we had a nice time, and when we got back to the apartment, she said " i had a really good night". as i fetched the ring, i replied, "oh yeah? i think i know something that will make it even better". she looked at me teasingly, thinking i was looking for some action, but then i said, "if you married me".

i looked over at him, and he was kneeling, but it didn't register. i didn't even see the ring, so it took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on. i'm pretty sure i replied with some less-than-lady-like words before i finally said yes. it was simple and perfect, and a great ending to an already perfect day.

we should also note that i almost ruined the whole thing about a month earlier. i had just come back from my sister's baby shower, where i had been asked a billion times, "when are you getting married?". my best friend was with me, and, being a little annoyed from the questioning, i told her, "it's not like he even has the ring, because if he did, i know where it would be." i then marched over to our closet and said, "it would be up on the top shelf, behind all of the boxes." little did i know, he had actually bought the ring the day before and had hid it there. luckily, i didn't start pulling the boxes out, and he didn't react to me going to the closet, otherwise i would have ruined the surprise.

4. what were the family and friend reactions like?

the day after he proposed i had reservations for a birthday lunch with several of my friends, so i got to tell a bunch of them at once. everyone was really happy, and it was great to celebrate with friends right after it happened. i was most concerned about how his parents were going to react. my family had been bugging me about a wedding for some time already, so we knew they were going to be excited. i had no idea what his parents were going to think, but they're super excited for us, and have been really helpful.

three words: it's about time!

5. now that you've crossed that mark, has your relationship changed in any way?

maybe a bit. now i can't nag him about proposing anymore, but i get to nag him about slacking on his wedding planning responsibilities. new things to nag about are definitely a great change ;).

i'll ask... i don't think i'm allowed to have an opinion on this any more.

photo by justen eason

6. what are you most looking forward to in marriage? is there anything you're not looking forward to?

not having to shave my legs anymore... i mean... obviously i'm excited for what the future will bring: new adventures and growing old together. cliché, i know, but actually how i feel.

i'm looking forward to growing together, changing together, having fun and experiencing new things together. life is made up of experiences, not necessarily good or bad. they are what we make of them.

7. what has the whole wedding planning process been like for you? do you feel any kind of pressure to have your wedding a certain way, or not?

we were engaged for almost 6 months before we started any real planning, which was really nice. it gave us some time to enjoy being engaged, and slowly think about what we wanted... without the pressure to commit to anything. the only real issue is the challenge of planning an out-of-city wedding - we're getting married in oakville, which is about 5 hours away. we haven't received major pressure to have our wedding any specific way, though. we're paying for it ourselves, and i think that has helped keep both sets of parents from trying to have things their way.

we both want the same kind of wedding, so, thus far, we haven't been pressured to do it any way but our own. the most stressful part is when victoria decides she wants something done - then it had better get done...

engagement is a big step for any relationship. it has the ability to bring out the crazy in both partners (and sometimes the family members that get too close), and can put into sharp focus the less-desirable habits and qualities we all have. but it can also reveal how strong a team the two of you can be, and can teach compromise and understanding like almost nothing else (when will you ever have the chance to blend an atheist and roman catholic family again? or indian and mid-western traditions?).

if you're with the right person, whatever difficulties, family relations, and crazy you may face, you'll do it together, and learn and grow from each other. and, in the end, not only will you marry one of your best friends, but you'll realise that all those epic battles over colour schemes, ceremony readings, and chair covers were a cakewalk compared to the real issues faced after marriage.

kidding. sort of.


November 27, 2011

sunday how-to: the "i" in relationship

or, how to maintain your independence in a committed relationship. but that's a mouthful.

how many times have you seen it happen? you have an awesome, interesting, single friend. one day they get a new girlfriend/boyfriend. slowly, you see them less and less. maybe they start referring to everything in "we" terms. maybe they stop doing the things that made them both awesome and interesting. whatever the case, it's a tragedy for them, and for those around them, when they merge into a giant couple blob with their significant other.

maintaining your independence in a relationship is incredibly important. if all you do is spend time with your partner, only doing things both of you like, life (and love) will get old, fast. eventually, you'll find nothing to talk about aside from your work, and whatever funny youtube videos you found that day:

(note: i am not saying that beatboxing dogs and other equally funny videos are anything but awesome.
they are awesome. you should simply have other things to talk about as well.)

and, frankly, there's only so long i can watch, or talk about, hilarious failed pranks and what i ate for lunch.

to keep that relationship magic alive, and to keep the conversation flowing, try one of the following:

1. join activities and groups you have an interest in
if you enjoy cooking classes, book clubs, and improv comedy troupes... get involved. there's no guarantee the person you share your life with will also be mad interested in these things, but that doesn't mean you need to give it up. the reason your love fell for you is because of who you are, and the interesting things you do (or maybe just the size of your car and wallet, but that's a whole different can of worms) - so keep doing them. you'll have new, and fun, stories to share over dinner!

2. hang out with your own friends, without your partner around
that is one of my best friends, hisham. he and the boy get along splendidly, and can spend hours together no problem, but, sometimes, i just really want to hang out with my friends by myself. there are reasons you have friends in the first place... interests you don't share with anyone else, candid conversations, inside jokes... these relationships need just as much nurturing as the one with your love. if nothing else, don't leave them behind come a new relationship for the sole reason they probably still have dirt on you.

3. make decisions without consulting your partner
now, i'm not talking buying a car, some major appliance, an all-inclusive vacation, or anything else that involves a lot of time and money. what i do mean is making evening or weekend plans without double-checking whether your love would rather hang out. a girlfriend asks you to go to a movie you wanted to see? say yes, then tell your partner you have plans friday night to hang out with a bud. none of that "well, yeah, maybe, but i need to check with (insert name here) first, to make sure he/she doesn't already have plans for us. but i really want to see that movie, so maybe." super lame, friends.

image by sadie dayton for twist collective, via pinterest

4. go it solo
did you once enjoy going to movies on your own? spending time at a library? taking long walks with the dog? quality time with yourself is necessary for pretty much everyone. make sure you make some time to do your own thing and recharge.

thoughts? what do you do to keep your independence intact?

November 23, 2011

simple things 23.11.11

simple things is an ongoing project to find the win, the joy, and the beauty in small moments.

spending the season's first snowy evening curled up on the couch with my own personal heater.

and, i mean, really, who can deny that face anything?

November 20, 2011

sunday how-to: switching to a simpler and more natural skincare routine

for a couple of years, on and off, i've been in the process of switching to a more simplified, all-natural regimen. there have been some ups and downs (and a whole lot of breaking out), but i feel like i'm finally starting to get somewhere.

there are a few reasons i prefer to go simple and natural(ish):
  • less chemicals applied to my skin = a health win.
  • using mother earth's bounty = environmental win.
  • not spending $40 on a product = wallet win.
so, for those of you considering the switch, here are a few starter suggestions/steps:

photo by vibrant spirit

1. the simplest thing to switch out today is your exfoliator.
ferreal. i once bought a $42 exfoliator from murad that promised to clear up pimples, and give me baby-bottom smooth skin. yeah. 'bout that. my budget and i were not friends as i tried to use up the damn thing over the next year. i then read about and tried the aspirin mask, and haven't looked back. seriously, friends, crush up an aspirin or two, mix it with a teaspoon of plain yoghurt and slap it on your money-maker. strangers will want to touch your amazingly soft face.

2. stay away from cleansers that contain sodium laureth sulfate.
this is the stuff that causes cleansers to foam. it's also bad news bears for your skin. it's an irritant - although still approved for cosmetic use. go figure.

i'll be the first to admit that finding a cleanser that doesn't contain this is no easy task, but i did find something, which i can no longer live without: dr. bronner's pure-castile tea tree soap.

other options:
kissed - gentle foaming cleanser (found here)
good things - fresh start creamy cleaser (found here)
andalou naturals - meyer lemon creamy cleanser (found here)

garden of wisdom also has a couple sls-free options (found here and here).

photo via fireislandsoap on etsy

3. make friends with the scent of tea tree oil.
this is for those of us with skin that wields its own light-saber its so badass. tea tree oil stings when applied neat. if you go all red at the touch of a raindrop, this isn't for you. if you can handle it (or are willing to try it out), pour a few drops of organic tea tree oil onto a cotton pad and gently rub it all over your face - steering clear of your eye area. you will need to use a moisturizer afterwards

photo via lauren conrad

4. make your face masks at home - using baking ingredients.
honey: applied straight, or mixed in with yoghurt. it's antiseptic, antibacterial, and surprisingly soothing.
baking soda: a teeny amount is great as an exfoliator. be gentle.
milk: a mild, mild exfoliant. will also make you feel so totally 50s, in a good way.
rolled oats: ground down and mixed with yoghurt and honey is soothing and smells pretty good.

do you have a favourite all-natural skincare trick? i'd love to hear about it!

November 16, 2011

kitchen novice: tomato and corn pie

this is the first in a soon-to-be ongoing series in which i learn to cook.
you have been warned.

the year before i met my husband i basically lived as a vegetarian. then i had the misfortune (er, fortune - love you, babe) of falling in love with a true meat and potatoes kind of guy. one who will grudgingly eat maybe 5 different vegetables (and potatoes are one of them). needless to say, my blossoming vegetarianism took a fatal nose-dive.

all of which leads up to this: a few weeks back i cooked up a meat-free mess of savoury pie deliciousness (wordy, aren't we?). and i'm pretty sure the boy would eat it again.

this is the recipe i followed, and this is how it all went down.

(warning: photos in this post are of pretty terrible quality. you can thank my sony cybershot, and horrible kitchen lighting.)

you will need
1/3 cup mayo
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 3/4 pounds of tomatoes (preferably beefsteak)
1 1/2 cups chopped corn
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups grated chedder
1 pie shell (or homemade using whatever recipe you prefer)

because i'm lazy i used a pre-made pie shell, and because i'm cheap i used frozen corn instead of fresh, whatever kind of tomato i had on hand, and skipped the chives (which i didn't have).

and away we go.

1. preheat your oven to 400 F. whisk the mayo and lemon juice together, then set aside.

2. cut an 'x' in the bottom of each tomato and blanch in a pot of boiling water for 10 seconds, cool on ice, then peel. (note: i'm lazy and tried skipping the blanching. thus peeling did not work out so well. i ended up leaving the tomato skins on, and the pie turned out fine.)

3. slice tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick, and remove the seeds (this will help keep the pie from getting too soggy). arrange half of the slices in the pie shell, then top with half the corn, basil, chives, salt and pepper. spread about 1 cup of the grated cheddar overtop of all this.

4. create a second layer, same as above, top with the lemon mayo mixture and the remainder of the cheese. cover with the top shell. cut 4 vents into the top, and brush with a small amount of melted margarine.

5. bake til golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. let cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

now, if you're like me and the boy, you will get impatient and try to cut into the pie before it has cooled properly. this will result in your pie oozing filling all over the place.

delicious, yes, but not quite what the pie was meant to look like (for a better idea of pie perfection check out the recipe page linked above).

results: i think a 1 inch piece of pie was the only thing that survived dinner. i ate it for breakfast the next day. 'nough said.

November 9, 2011

putting on your big-kid pants: that first "real" job

about a month after graduating from college i landed a contract at a tourism office in my hometown, working in media relations. it was a great little place, and i met some fantastic people. but i didn't have a ton of responsibility. i had no budget to manage, no spokesperson duties... as long as i completed my little tasks nothing would fall apart.

fourteen months later that first job became the reason i am where i am now - in one of ottawa's top cultural attractions, as the only person responsible for tourism marketing.

oy vey, was i unprepared. just over a month in and i'm desperately willing myself to grow into my big-girl pants faster.

if i could get a do-over on this last month, here is what i would tell my unemployed self before beginning the new job (and maybe help one or two of you along the way):

1. if at all possible, talk to the person you will be replacing... before accepting the position.
this is likely only possible if you found the job opportunity through a connection. but if you have a way of meeting him or her for 10 minutes over coffee, take it. no one, not even that person's boss knows quite what the job entails as the one who is leaving.

2. have a ton of questions for your interviewer.
one of my old stand-bys is "tell me what the day-to-day is like", so, as per usual, i asked... and got no clear answer. i was not prepared for this. had i been smart (or prepared), i would have had a whole backup arsenal of questions to try and get more details. but, i didn't, and thus, upon landing the job, was surprised at many of the tasks thrown my way.

3. upon accepting the position, don't be afraid to ask questions - until you're goddamn blue in the face.
i have this inbred desire not to annoy people, and asking question after question to a new employer is something i find embarassing and annoying. this sometimes leads me to attempt things without any real clue how to do them. this sometimes leads me to embarassment and failure. learn from me. ASK. ANNOY. in the end, your colleagues, your boss (and if you're me, your significant other), will be grateful nothing got fucked up. and you will be too. promise.

i'd love to hear of any tips or advice you have to create a better start at a new job!

November 1, 2011

simple things 1.11.11

simple things is an ongoing project to find the win, the joy, and the beauty in small moments.

i decided to take a walk on my lunch break the other day.

nothing makes me happier than a slight chill, a blue sky...

... and finding the perfect crunchy leaf on the sidewalk.
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