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Celebrating Birthdays and the Chinese New Year

On Friday evening I attended a Chinese New Year event for a freelance assignment I was working on. I mentioned last week that I was just a little nervous going into it because I was on my own and I wouldn’t know anyone, and I suspected I might stand out, which, I totally did. But everyone was super nice and welcoming and it was QUITE a time ringing in the Year of the Rooster.

I think it was my first time seeing a Chinese lion dance in person, so that was pretty intense. I really enjoyed it. I initially was calling it a dragon dance but I looked it up and there is a difference — dragon dances typically have many people acting as the dragon, while the lions only have two (per lion). I was not aware of that. The lions danced to the beat of a drum and were fed lettuce, which somehow symbolizes getting rich. These days the dances are just for show or competition but I guess it was originally believed that the lion would chase away the evil spirit Nian–who feared lions.

There were many giveaways throughout the evening, one was straight up hundred dolla bills, y’all (keeping up with the get rich theme), which THREE PEOPLE at every single table won, but one of those people was not me. Of course. But that’s okay, ’cause you know what I won? A jar of Auntie Hung’s gingered walnuts.

Which were freakin’ delicious. I don’t need no $100 ’cause I have these fantastic walnuts, which are priceless. Evan says I didn’t win $100 because I wasn’t channeling my Chinese “bring the money to me” vibe, which could be true. But I think I didn’t win because I just don’t win things.

There was also a live band that sang throughout the evening.

They were really good, though it was mostly in Chinese. But there were a few English songs thrown in! Just for me.

The people at my table were fabulous, and one woman and her husband totally took me under their wing and made sure that I always got food first and my drink was always full for toasting (there was a lot of toasting). And they explained what was happening onstage because it was also mostly in Chinese, so that was helpful. The servers brought me a knife and fork for eating but GUYS. I know my way around chopsticks! When I started using them my table friends started cheering and giving me the thumbs up. I felt proud.

So the food. I think there were eight courses plus dessert, I sort of lost track but it felt never ending. We started with the crispy pork skin and noodles (edit: those noodles are jellyfish! A got a couple of corrections. I remember a lady at my table saying “sea noodles” so jellyfish makes sense. It was hard to follow sometimes.)

It was pretty good. I ate nearly every last bite of everything in front of me because everyone at my table was watching me and would ask “do you like?!” after my first bite. I would nod enthusiastically. I did like! I liked this the most:

That was my favourite dish for sure.

I thought this was hot and sour soup so I got really excited because I LOVE hot and sour soup, but it was neither hot nor sour, sadly.

It wasn’t bad though, I ate it.

Chicken…

And the fish.

I can’t lie I felt a bit weird about the fish arriving at our table with its head and tail still intact but I was pleasantly surprised about it. It didn’t taste fishy at all and I really liked the taste of the sauce it was in, so, I enjoyed.

Dessert was a sort cold red bean soup with jello in it, which definitely was not something I’m used to, but I actually kind of liked it and I ate it all.

The highlight of the evening was definitely the limbo contest. I did not partake (I’m a large white lady, I could not compete) but watching it gave me great pleasure. It was hilarious.

It was quite a night and I learned a lot and I made some new friends, so that’s a success!

I had a sore throat on Thursday and Friday and as soon as I got home Friday evening it was BOOM. Full on cold. So I cancelled my Orangetheory class on Saturday morning and spent the day mostly leisuring and trying to get better until it was time for Evan and I to head out to our friend Sherrie’s birthday party.

I got that inflatable picture frame at some random store in the Distillery District, such a find.

Sherrie had her birthday at the same bar as last year, The Edge Lounge in Ajax, since we loved it so much. Last year was a highlight for me because my bestie Lisa was in town so I didn’t think this year could top it, but I dunno, it was pretty close.

I was feeling pretty crappy when I first arrived and I was wondering how I was going to get through the night… But then I sort of picked up on everyone else’s energy and the adrenaline kept me going. Evan and I ended up almost closing the place down and I had such a great time!

We had some glasses switching going on…

And a LOT of dancing. I had a bunch of videos on my Snapchat but didn’t take a lot of photos — I keep doing this lately, snapchatting and forgetting to save. Oh well, it was a time.

That was at the very end of the night when we were about to leave so we missed a bunch of people, so last year’s picture for context.

Good times. And now I am off to California! I won’t be blogging while I’m away but I would recommend checking out Cely’s blog next week ’cause I suspect she’ll have some stories up. California is really trying to thwart my visit with their dams breaking and their snowstorms and the sides of their mountains sliding off but I will not be deterred! And you know I’ll be spamming snapchat and instagram with our adventures. Have a great weekend!!!

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I Can’t Keep Quiet

I can’t believe what is happening in the USA right now. Every day seems to be more unbelievable than the last and I’m running out of WTFs.

How I feel.

I feel like we are all living in some kind of alternate universe, or a dystopian young-adult novel. It’s terrifying, but like a train wreck I can’t keep my eyes away. I can’t stop reading about it! This is the most informed on politics I’ve ever been, and they’re not even my politics! Being Canadian I have the luxury of distance. But that isn’t to say we’re not affected. What happens in America impacts the entire world so while I live in Canada (and I’ve never been so thankful for this), this will touch me and everyone I know. It already is. I think we’re all just watching in horror, powerless to stop it. Trying to make jokes when we can but that’s getting difficult.

I know it’s only been two weeks and we are already burnt out on politics and sick of all the posts coming up in our social media feeds. I want to look at puppies and kittens too and I’m sorry to be another person going on about it. But I’m more disturbed by people who aren’t saying anything and are just carrying on as usual. We can’t bury our heads in the sand, we need to be informed. And if I have a forum I feel I need to say something. This is no longer about every day politics, or being right or left, or who won or lost the election — this is an unprecedented crisis for American democracy and it’s going to get worse. Anyone who follows history knows what’s happening. People have already lost their freedoms. It is incredibly scary and that is an understatement. I can’t believe the number of people who straight up don’t care for other people, and now, empowered by this new government, are so open about announcing it!

I may be more informed than ever but I don’t have the words or the bravery to say everything I’m feeling — but my friend Cely does. I have really come to look forward to her political commentary on her blog. She is clearly educated on the subject and isn’t just throwing out random memes that AREN’T FACTUAL. If you’re interested I highly recommend checking out this post, and this post of hers. She is so articulate and I think her voice is so important. She gives me the courage to want to say something. When people speak out it helps us know we’re all in this together!

I’m trying to stay positive and on Monday I’m attending this Choir! Choir! Choir! event that I think is going to be super uplifting and also a lot of fun.

We’re singing MILCK’s single “Quiet” which she performed at the Women’s March in Washington, DC. She’s actually flying in from LA and thousands of us are going to be singing it with her, which I think is pretty exciting. All proceeds go to the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union. It’ll be live streamed so check that out on C!C!C!’s Facebook page!

I think the song is pretty amazing, and I’m looking forward to singing it with a bunch of strangers.

I am also bringing the bloggers and lagers with me — it’ll be their first time at a Choir event and I can’t wait to see how much they love it!

If there is a bright side to all of this, it has brought people together like never before, and that is heartening. Try to have a good weekend and remember when things seem hopeless that love trumps hate!

We sure could use Snape in that elite inner circle.

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Tilly McTillers

Someone asked for a Tilly update a little while ago and I have been meaning to write one for a while so I am happy to oblige! I originally had this scheduled to post last Tuesday but it was not the best day for a Tilly update.

If I could sum Tilly up in one short sentence – girl is cray. She is wonderful, and definitely the biggest character I’ve ever had in a cat, but she is definitely crazy. She’s about nine months old now, so maybe it’s still the kitten in her and she’ll simmer down eventually. Time will tell. Right now we’re enjoying it because she is absolutely hilarious and makes us laugh all day long.

I like that the white under her armpits and on her crotch make it look like she’s wearing a bikini

Tilly is a lovely kitty but she is not a snuggler, and it’s hard not to compare her to Winnie since that’s mostly all I know. I had Winnie for 22 years and a good majority of the time she was on my lap or in my arms. She lived to snuggle. Winnie also really reminded me of my Nana though, and Tilly reminds me of my brother when he was a crazy toddler. Tilly certainly does not live to snuggle. The only time she will snuggle with me is when I get home from somewhere. I usually have about a 1o minute window where she’s all “OH HELLO MY WONDERFUL HUMAN” and she’ll let me hold her and she’ll nuzzle her little face into my neck which is so cute.

She has her muffin moments. When we got home from Florida (Tilly went to her catsitter’s house for the week), she let me snuggle her for a good half an hour. But other than that, no. There is no snuggling.

This was a very rare occurrence

All Winnie wanted in life was a good pair of legs to nap on, but Tilly would prefer to nap juuuuust out of reach of us. I try to entice her with a heated blanket but she rarely falls for it.

I like it over here, thanks

That being said, she does love to be pet and she loves being around us. She will follow us around from room to room and hang out wherever we are stationed. She sleeps with us every night (by my feet, let’s not get too excited, she won’t sleep in my arms like Winnie did). Originally she would sleep above my head on my pillow but I’m so glad she doesn’t do that anymore because it was really annoying. She would push me off and spread her little body across my entire pillow. Now it’s just feet.

Her latest thing is also sleeping inside the box spring for our mattress. She tore the fabric away from the bottom so she could climb into it, and now she hangs out in it like a hammock. Cats, I tell ya.

She is OBSESSED with water. Just can’t get enough. If we leave a glass of water somewhere she is all over it, sticking her face in. If we go into the bathroom, no matter where she is in the condo if she hears the door close she will come running and start banging on it to be let in. She is so obsessed with the toilet that we have to leave the lid down or she’ll get all up in there.

She also routinely just hangs out in the bathtub.

And tears up my loofah.

When we shower she again bangs on the door until we let her in, and then lies on the side of the bathtub between the two shower curtains while we’re showering. She loves water so much that for Christmas we got her this drinking fountain from Amazon (Canadians, you can find it here, currently for $49 but we got it for $29 so you might want to wait for a sale.)

It is seriously awesome and I highly recommend it. She’s drinking so much more water now! (before she would mostly just play with it)

If anything new happens in the house, she has to investigate. If we bring out a box, or open a drawer, a door or a cabinet, she is immediately running to investigate. When I was wrapping Christmas presents, she was rolling all over the wrapping paper, pawing at the edges and biting the boxes.

Helpful.

She initially left the Christmas tree alone, but after a few weeks she had a phase of being totally obsessed with it and she would spend the evenings trying to drink the water and stretching up and smacking the branches. I still don’t know why the sudden obsession.

She is the first cat I’ve had who actually plays with her toys, although they all end up under the couch within 10 minutes. She cannot keep her toys away from the couch and I am constantly down on my stomach trying to retrieve them. We need to shove some pool noodles under there or something to block it off.

The only “toys” that don’t seem to end up under the couch are her two favourites, which are the ones she acquired herself. I told you about the wing on our owl door stopper that she ripped off and now carries around in her mouth.

She likes to leave it in front of us so we’ll throw it for her so she can fetch it and return it. She loooooves playing fetch.

Her most recent favourite toy is a stick she ripped off our Christmas tree.

Throw the stick, please.

And again she’ll carry it around in her mouth and drop it in front of us so we’ll throw it for her. She’s so good at bringing it back!

She is quite a resourceful little minx.

Despite being a terror a lot of the time, she is a very nice kitty. When our little nephew Landon comes over he makes a beeline to Tilly and starts harassing her, she is not only super gentle with him, she makes no effort to get away. I think she actually likes it.

So that’s a Tilly update. She is different from what we’re used to, for sure, but she really is the best little kitty. We love her so much and are so happy we rescued her!


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Beautiful. Wonderful. Fantastic.

Thank you so much for your lovely messages about my Nana. They mean a lot to me and I loved reading them. I especially loved hearing that some of your favourite posts to read of mine were about Nana. They were some of my favourite to write! I did my first tribute to her soon after I started my blog. Several people referred to her as the “famous” Nana, and she would have loved that! I’m so glad I could share her with all of you and you could get to know her and love her, too. If only she knew how many people she touched.

I’m not done talking about her just yet, I have learned many lessons (and recipes!) from her and I don’t want to forget, but I need to collect my thoughts on that first. Right now it’s one day at a time.

I have my moments, as expected, but I am okay. I was on my way to dinner with friends and then a Kings of Leon concert on Monday when my dad called to tell me the news. I missed his call and was going to call him back but then got busy at the restaurant with the girls and figured I’d just do it later. I’m so, so glad I didn’t call him back. Finding out in public would have been awful and I’m not sure how I would have reacted. I don’t know how to be upset in front of people. Obviously I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the concert, so I would have left and gone home. But there was nothing I could have done at that point so I’m happy I was blissfully unaware for a little while. Kings of Leon was a really good time.

I’m not sure the guy in front of us enjoyed it quite as much as we did. He was not a fan of the couple directly in front of him.

It was Evan who broke the news to me when I got home that night, which I’m sure was super fun for him as I was clearly still on a concert high and came in the door singing “Yeahhhhhhh, your sex is on fire!” (Kings of Leon song). I’m so glad he was the one who told me though, at home, where I could just process by myself.

I knew this moment had to come at some point so I’m surprised at how shocked I was. I just saw her, and she was same sweet, happy Nana. But I know she’s been in a lot of pain for a while, even though she put on a brave face. Nothing specifically wrong really, just being old and her body breaking down. I’m so glad she’s not in pain anymore.

I also know that she has been ready to go for a couple years now. When she was 100 she somehow lost her dentures – she put them in a tissue and left them beside her bed, and we think the nurses accidentally threw them out thinking they were garbage. It really sucked for her because eating was her favourite and without her teeth for the last couple of years she hasn’t been able to enjoy her favourite foods. She could only eat soft things and liquids. No more Turtles and cookies! She didn’t get new teeth because they’re expensive and at 100 what’s the point of spending money on teeth you can’t possibly have the time to use? Her plan was to just ride it out. But on her 102nd birthday I remember her saying “If I had known I was going to live this long I would have gotten new teeth!!!” Which makes me laugh. Fair enough. I hope she is surrounded by all her favourite foods now and is just going to town on them.

I’m glad it was sudden and peaceful. It seems so fitting for her, too. Quietly without a big fuss or dramatics. And I cannot help but think of her timing. My aunt (Nana’s daughter) left for Florida last Friday morning, arrived on Sunday, and is there until mid-April. We had a plan in place if anything happened while my aunt was away, we’re not having a memorial for her until the spring, and all the arrangements are already made. I honestly think my Nana knew that this would be the hardest and most stressful on her daughter and so she waited until she was safely in Florida. Which is again, typical Nana. Considerate of others until the end.

I’m sad that she won’t be able to make it to our small family wedding in Toronto (although I don’t know if she would have been able to make it anyway). But I’m so happy she got to know Evan and she knew that we were getting married.

One of my favourite memories was when she asked me what Evan’s last name was and I wrote down “Evanoff” (mine/her last name). That really made her laugh. Actually, my favourite recent story of her is when I told her Evan and I were engaged.

I went to visit her when we got home from Cuba, and I wanted to tell her the news in a visual way since by this point she was nearly completely deaf. I took off my ring and showed her pictures from our trip that I printed for her, in sequence. One of us on the beach…

The one of us in the water just after Evan proposed…

During this she just kept saying “Oh beautiful! Beautiful couple!”

In case she missed the ring on my finger in that last one, I then showed her a picture of just the ring.

I think she got it then.

But just in case, I pulled out my actual ring and put it on so she could see.

Her reaction was priceless. Her eyes welled up and she gave me her genuine “Beautiful! Wonderful! Oh fantastic! Ohhh I love this!”

And then she checked out the goods.

She approved. More beautifuls, wonderfuls and fantastics.

It was a beautiful, wonderful, and fantastic moment that I will forever cherish, however, this took place in the main room with the other residents and the entire time this was happening there was a lady in the background yelling (to herself) “JENNIFER! You get in the car right now! Don’t you make me get your father! I’ve got a JOB, and you DON’T, THAT’S THE DIFFERENCE! Hurry up and get in or I’m going to call the policeman!”

Super awkward at the time because I was trying not to laugh, but now I think it makes the story better.

Another recent moment that I will forever cherish was the last time I saw her, when we showed Nana a picture of her young husband that my aunt found in an old album.

And notice she is still wearing her wedding ring

I’ll never forget how her face lit up. She just repeated how handsome he was. She sounded so happy, and so lucky that she had such a handsome husband. And seriously though.

Papa (who I never got to meet) was handsome. It makes me happy that my Nana is finally reunited with her love.

We are all so lucky to have had such a wonderful lady in our lives.

Who was THE MOST beautiful, wonderful, and fantastic.

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Sweet Nana

Yesterday afternoon my sweetest and most wonderful Nana went to take a nap and did not wake up again. Being 102 (and a half, let’s not forget), we have all been bracing ourselves for this moment for the past few years but somehow it still came as a shock. She has always been the most constant positive influence in my life, she was always the same, and she was always so full of life that I think I just assumed she would live forever.

I feel so incredibly lucky to be her granddaughter and to have had her in my life for as long as I did. She touched every person she met – literally and figuratively, she always had to be touching us! Her happiness, positivity and resiliency has been such an inspiration to our family and I know that we will all be telling stories about her for many years to come. I’m thankful that I documented so many of my memories of her on my blog, some of my favourites are here.

I’m thankful that we told her every chance we got, in person and in letters, how much we loved her, how amazing we thought she was, and how important she was to our family. I’m thankful that after 35 years she’s reunited with her husband, whose picture we showed her the last time I saw her and she just kept saying “Oh, he’s so handsome! Isn’t he so handsome?? Look at how handsome he is!!” He was. He really was so handsome.

And I’m thankful that in the end, she went peacefully while she was napping. I can’t think of a better way. Love you so much, Nana xoxo

Thanks so much to you guys for reading about my Nana over the years and loving her right along with me.

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Merry Christmas!

Have the best holiday! Evan says that he would like you to print this out and put it on your fridge or with the rest of your Christmas cards 🙂

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