Trouble in Lake Tahoe

I’m baaaaaaack!!! And I didn’t blog while I was away so you know what that means…endless vacation recapping! I have a lot to talk about so gird your loins.

I left last Thursday morning and happened to bump into my pal Dawnald at the airport!

She was headed to San Francisco for a conference and I was meeting up with her for the second half of my trip, coincidentally our flights out there were at the same time. It was nice to see her for a quick romantic rendezvous.

I was headed to Sacramento, however, and while she had a direct flight to SF, I had quick stopovers in Chicago and Denver. I actually didn’t mind those too much — it took me 10 hours to get there but the stopping broke up the flight time. The Chicago airport was super fancy, too. They had automatic rotating seat covers on the toilets in the bathroom which I thought was pretty cool but also probably unnecessary. They also had personal deep dish pizzas which I totally missed and only noticed after I had already grabbed a sandwich. Stupid. I made the wrong decision!!!

Anyway, I was on my way to meet my long time internet friend Cely for the first time! We have followed each other’s blogs for years (I actually just had my six year blogging anniversary — CRAZY!), and over that time we have emailed and texted a bunch, and we are Facebook friends (so that means we’re real friends) but we have never actually hung out in person. Just on the internet.

Cely was picking me up from the Sacramento airport and on my flight from Denver to Sacramento I started to get just a litttttle bit nervous about meeting her for the first time. We would be spending several days together, what if we didn’t like each other or had nothing in common? But I needn’t have worried. As soon as I saw her I felt like I was meeting one of my best friends. There was never any awkwardness (this is why exchanging long crazy emails for years before meeting is key!), our conversation flowed naturally right away and we spent most of our three+ days together just laughing. At one point we also had a good 20 minute conversation trading stories of falling down the stairs so, I feel like we are awkward kindred spirits.

Someone commented that the two of us meeting up felt like a TV crossover episode, which made us laugh hard. Just like when Steve Urkel was on Full House!

I get to be Uncle Jesse, sorry Cely.

There was one must-eat place for me in California, In-N-Out Burger. I’ve been hearing about it for years but have never had the chance to try it so we headed there after Cely picked me up.

I have to say I was underwhelmed… My burger was good but I didn’t find it to be the most spectacular fast food burger I’ve ever eaten. It was pretty onion-y. However, I heard I didn’t order correctly and I should have asked for my burger to be ‘animal style’. Cely even warned me about this and I didn’t listen. Oh well, you live and you learn. I’d go again and do it right next time.

After our burgers we drove to South Lake Tahoe for a skiing adventure. Cely had warned me the day before that this part of our trip might get delayed since that area of California had been experiencing some extreme weather lately, namely landslides. Apparently the highway we needed to drive on had been closed due to a mudslide and had only reopened the afternoon before. There was also a snowstorm in the area that was supposed to cause some trouble, but thankfully that wasn’t as bad as expected so we didn’t have to postpone our trip. And now since leaving, part of that highway has collapsed into the river. I feel very lucky that we were able to get in and out okay. I joked that the weather out there hated me but it truly could have been much worse.

It was super awesome to be traveling to Lake Tahoe with someone who knew the area. I was totally lazy in my travel research because of this and just let Cely choose where to stay, where to eat, where to ski, etc. since she knew area so well. She also brought a bunch of ski accessories and snow boots for me to borrow, which was great since I was traveling with just a carry-on.

We checked into our hotel (Harvey’s, which I would definitely recommend — our room was cute and surprisingly inexpensive) and then hit up the Stateline restaurant and brewery for a cheese plate.

And some beers.

I wanted to try them all.

I was really excited that Cely was always on the same eating page as me. It’s so nice to travel with someone who is just as food-oriented as you are!

After the cheese and beer we headed back to our hotel and hit da sheets. It was about 3am my time at that point and I was tired after sitting on the plane all day (traveling will really do that to ya).

The next morning we got up early, grabbed a leisurely breakfast (I had breakfast nachos and they were delightful), rented our equipment (we reserved it online in advance which was a good call, saved 25%!) and then took the gondola up to Heavenly.

I’m glad there was this photo of the mountain because it was snowing so hard I couldn’t actually see the mountain and that was disorienting. I had to rely on Cely to tell me about the views I would normally see up there. The snow made it difficult to even see the hill in front of us so I never got to see the lake! That was sad because I hear it’s a spectacular view. I just tried to imagine it.

So this is actually the first mountain I’ve ever skied on. I’ve cross country skied on a mountain in Revelstoke (wrote about that experience here) but never downhill skied. We don’t have any mountains in Ontario so my skiing experiences up until this point have been on very large hills. The biggest difference I noticed was that it takes so much longer to get down a run! I really liked that. It’s been about 7 years since the last time I skied, but thankfully it’s just like riding a bike and I still got it.

I was so thankful to Cely for letting me borrow a water pouch, goggles and that skeleton buff for my face. I felt so badass.

It was a bit more difficult than I expected though because of the weather. We were having some serious depth perception issues — the ground just looked like flat whiteness but there were big snow drifts that we would ski into that would mess things up. There were some struggles, but neither of us had a yard sale (when you fall on the mountain and all your equipment goes everywhere) or fell at all, so that’s a win.

We stuck to mainly long leisurely blues, which are my favourite so I was happy Cely was on the same page about that. Since she knew all the runs I was content to let her take the lead and just follow her red jacket down the mountain.

Unfortunately we got separated at one point and another girl with a red jacket and black pants somehow got in front of me so I blindly followed her for a while. In my head I remember noticing that her ski outfit just got super sleek all of a sudden, but I was concentrating on not falling so I didn’t register that it wasn’t Cely. At one point there was a portion of hill that levelled out and we had to work a bit harder to get across it so I was yelling some snarky comments at her about that, trying to be funny. She glanced at me over her shoulder but didn’t have a reaction other than that which I thought was weird. Then we stopped at the crest of another hill and I pulled up beside her and realized she was not actually Cely. I turned around and saw Cely coming up behind me dying laughing. Whoops. We laughed for a good half an hour about that. Cely said she was worried I was going to blindly follow this lady down a double black diamond or something. Sure glad that didn’t happen. Fake Cely may have lead me to my death.

We skied for a few hours and then took a break for lunch when the snow started coming down harder and the wind increased.

Eating after physical activity is my favourite. That was some damn good chili.

After lunch we headed back out hoping the weather would be better, but unfortunately no, it had gotten worse. The wind picked up, making the lifts (which are quite long) a pretty crappy time because it felt like little daggers of ice were hitting your face. We did a few more runs and then decided we were done. I loved it though and was so glad we skied!

The next day when it stopped snowing I could finally see that yes, we indeed skied on a mountain!

But I still hadn’t seen the lake. I’ll get to that next week though ’cause somehow this got long. In the meantime, Cely recapped all our adventures really well so you can check that out on her blog.

Have a great weekend!

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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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Valentine’s Card Regifting

I was thinking about what sort of post I would do for Valentine’s on the ol’ blog this year and was considering some sort of cartoon…but then I kept coming back to my very favourite Valentine’s Day memory, and that’s what I want to write about. It doesn’t even involve a significant other, though my first Valentine’s Day with Evan is a close second. My favourite Valentine’s Day memory is all about my Nana.

It makes me feel good to remember her, so it seems fitting to tell this story this year.

Forgive me friends and longtime readers because I have mentioned this several times so you may have already heard it. Hopefully it hasn’t gotten old.

So my Nana was obsessed with greeting cards. They were her favourite part of any gift to both give and receive. All she wanted from us on any occasion was a card (and pictures of us), and she saved every card her family and friends had given her over the years and kept them in a photo album so she could go back and look at them from time to time. She was sentimental, that Nana.

Her favourite cards to give to us were those super cheesy ones with long messages on both sides written in script. She took her card selections very seriously and would choose the perfect card with the perfect message for every family member. She would then decorate the cards and envelopes with stickers she had bought (for this purpose, of course), and she would write the sweetest messages inside. My birthday card every year, without fail, had the message “May your dreams come true.”

Sometimes in her later years they would also say “Happy New Year!” which I also loved and appreciated.

Nana would watch our faces and truly take in our reactions as we opened and read her cards. Those cards gave her great joy. We would get them for Christmas, our birthdays (and on Christmas and birthday’s those cards came with cheques!), St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and of course, Valentine’s Day (and when I was younger my Valentine’s Day card would come with a Babysitter’s Club book!).

The last few years though, it was difficult for her to get out and buy cards being in the nursing home. One Valentine’s Day a few years ago, she didn’t have a card for me. But she couldn’t just let me not receive a card. Unthinkable. So, she did what any resourceful grandmother would do.

A group of elementary school students had recently made Valentine’s cards for residents of the nursing home, so Nana decided she would just use the card she received from one of the kids.

When she presented this to me I remember thinking “Wow, did they have craft time in here or something?” (which, they should!!!) But when I opened it up I saw that Nana was probably not the original creator of the card.

It may have been the “Nana” over the the whited out child’s name that tipped me off.

I’m sure she appreciated the card when she received it (I’m sure there were proclamations of “wonderful,” “beautiful” and “fantastic”), but she didn’t need a card from this stranger, she needed a card to give to her granddaughter!

I erupted with laughter when I realized what had happened and Nana said “Oh I didn’t make this card! I just…borrowed it.” which made me laugh even harder because Nana, I can tell!!! She totally regifted that card, but I loved that she didn’t just try to pass it off as her own.

I’ve saved the card and I think I’m going to frame it because it might be the most precious card I’ve ever received (it’s certainly the most hilarious). I love the thought behind it so much, that she did what it took to ensure she had a card to give me. I think that’s kind of a metaphor for our entire relationship — she went to great lengths to ensure she was taking care of me, and she went to great lengths to show me that she was always thinking of me. What a Nana she was.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Friday Wrap Up (and help I need San Francisco reco’s)

Guess what! Next week I’m going to California! I’ve never been and I’m super excited about it. Several months ago my good friend Dawn told me she was attending a conference in San Francisco and asked if I wanted to join her for a Danny Tanner adventure once her obligations were over. Pretty tempting… I’ve always wanted to go to SF and what better time to do it? Okay, well, it’s not exactly the most ideal time to visit the US considering everything that’s going on, but I bought my ticket before this shirtshow really got underway and it’s non-refundable so…I’m goin’.

Which leads me to my request, people of San Francisco, or just frequent visitors, WHERE SHOULD WE EAT?! Any must-eat places you can recommend?

You know? I still have regrets about not eating enough in Nashville. We’re looking for at least one nicer dinner, cheaper lunches, cool drink spots, etc. Well, you know what I like. We’re staying in the North Beach area but we’ll be all over the place so we’re easy. I don’t even know what SF is known for food-wise, so I need some help.

I’m also visiting my long time blog friend Cely for a few days while I’m out there, which I am SO excited about. We’ve been internet friends for about 5-6 years now but have never actually met in person, so that’s going to be a time! I can’t believe it’s finally happening. When I told her I was coming out there she immediately offered to host me for a romantic Valentine’s weekend. We’re starting off our adventure in Lake Tahoe, and this is one of the pictures Cely took when she was there a couple weeks ago…

I die. That picture takes my breath away. I can’t even imagine in person. Ah, I’m getting overwhelmed thinking about all the shenanigans.

Other things that are going on…

Tilly is still loving the crap out of her cat tree.

It’s the best $100 I’ve ever spent. She seriously lives in it.

Tilly and Bonnie are still not friends. We still have Bonnie in the guest room with the screen separating them and do an hour or two of supervised visits every day. Tilly is just OBSESSED with Bonnie and wants to harass her all the time, but Bonnie would prefer to be left alone. Every encounter is just soooo dramatic. Tilly will get closer and closer until she’s all up in Bonnie’s face like the below photo, and then one of them will start swatting in the other’s direction and I’ll have to intervene with a feather toy to distract them.

I am seeing improvements though, so I still have hope they’ll be coexisting in a couple of weeks.

The other day I was looking through my Netflix and saw the OA was recommended to me…

Because I watched the cracking fireplace. I’m not sure what my show choices say about the kind of person I am… Anyone watch the OA? Because based on that recommendation it sounds just riveting.

And is anyone watching Riverdale yet?

I was freaking obsessed with Archie comics when I was younger, my bestie and I would spend our summer days reading those on the dock and we still buy them for each other for holidays now. So I was SO EXCITED when I heard they were making it into a show. I don’t know how it hasn’t happened sooner.

Normally I don’t like it when things are changed up too much from what I’m used to and love — Riverdale is a lot darker than the original Archies and the characters are VERY loosely based and I’m not sure what to think of this weird, creepy Jughead (or Luke Perry as Mr. Andrews, or Miss Grundy?!) — but I actually loved the first episode. The second one I didn’t like quite as much, but I’m still hoping it’s gonna be good.

Speaking of Netflix, since I’m technically not working right now I’ve enforced a no Netflix before 4pm rule around here so I can try to be productive during the day. Otherwise it’s a slippery slope and I feel like I’ll just be on my couch in my pajamas all day watching all the things. I mean, I do still spend a lot of time on my couch in my pajamas, I’m currently writing this from my couch in my pajamas, BUT I’m trying to focus on productive things like writing. Though, that’s not to say I don’t spend a lot of time messing around on the internet, which is also a slippery slope…

And speaking of writing, I’m covering an event tonight celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year for a freelance article I’m working on for a travel website, and the event is an EIGHT COURSE DINNER. I feel a little nervous about it, mostly because I won’t know anyone there, but oh man I’m so excited for all that food!!! I’ll report back.

Have a great weekend!

 

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Winter Reading

Now that I’m no longer commuting to work my reading time has cut down significantly. I don’t always miss taking the subway, but I do miss subway reading time (and the stories). I’ve managed to pack in a few books though and I better keep it up because I’ve set a goal for myself in Goodreads to read 40 books this year. I read 36 last year and I felt like I could have read a few more so I upped it. It’s definitely going to be harder now that I don’t have that subway reading time, but I’m trying!

In honour of Black History Month, this month I am only reading books written by a person of colour or about the black experience. I’m currently reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, but I’m hoping to get a few more in so please let me know if you have any recommendations!

Anyway, here are a few I’ve read lately.

It’s Not Okay by Andi Dorfman

Synopsis:

Millions of people tuned in to see Bachelorette star Andi Dorfman get engaged to her chosen suitor. But when the cameras turned off and the dust (or rose petals) had settled, Andi realized she was engaged to a man she’d known for barely two months. And as they endeavored to return to normal life, they discovered that happily ever after wasn’t as easy as it looked. In her own words, Andi delivers “plenty of surprise (and some disturbing) details” (Cosmopolitan) as she tells the whole truth about her entry into the exclusive Bachelor family, her experience on the show, and finally, what happened to make it all fall apart.

But this is much more than the diary of a very public breakup—Andi divulges her story along with some no-nonsense, straight-talking advice to other women dealing with their own romantic issues. In It’s Not Okay, Andi is the best friend we all wish we had, telling us the good, the bad, and the ugly to inspire us to always be true to ourselves and remember breakups may be hard, but it’s always going to be okay.

So like most people I really liked Andi in Juann Pablo’s season (because she stood up to him and I HATED him), but didn’t like her as much when she was the actual Bachelorette. And with her book. I enjoyed it when she was giving juicy details of the Bachelor, the cast, and her relationships, but could have done without her preachy breakup advice and to-do/don’t lists. My bestie warned me about that going in, so I was prepared, but I disliked that part of it and definitely did some skimming. I did enjoy that she wrote very conversationally.

Something that really bothered me was that she was so upset about Nick slut-shaming her on After The Final Rose (when he asked her why she would make love to him when she wasn’t in love with him), however she herself seemed to slut-shame other women MANY times in her own book. She also mentioned several times that she wasn’t slutty, wasn’t a whore, never slept around, etc. Um, we get it, but who cares? I’m not sure why that was necessary to mention. But maybe she still felt insecure due to her jealous and controlling ex-fiance who always thought she was cheating on him. That I can understand because I also have a jealous and controlling ex-boyfriend who constantly thought, for no reason, that I was cheating on him when we were together, so I also tended to get defensive about stuff like that. Josh reminded me a lot of that ex boyfriend, so it was interesting to read about his jealous behaviour because I recognized so much of it. In her book it felt like she was STILL trying to prove to him that she wasn’t slutty. That came across to me.

Other things that bothered me… Most of her stories/anecdotes seemed to put herself in the best (read: coolest and most laid back) light possible, and sometimes when she was explaining things that happened they just didn’t ring true. Especially when she described things she did after her breakup. I could sense a ton of exaggerating. And OMG when she was talking about her revised life timeline! She was saying if she wanted to get married and have kids now, by the time that happened she could be 35 and would be the oldest mother in the neighbourhood. 35. THE HORROR! She is STILL under 30. She was what, 27, 28 when this book was written? Her revised “emergency” timeline for life events is MY ACTUAL, PLANNED, TIMELINE. Ugh, STFU. It was enraging.

Something she wrote that I resonated with though was that she learned something from each of her relationships chronologically. I feel like that, too. I’ve learned things from each of my past relationships and those lessons have finally lead me to the creme de la creme, Evan. I hope she really did learn something this time and does not go back to her preferred jocky type of dude bro again. Andi, they’re all the same.

Whew, I didn’t realize how many opinions I had about that book until I started writing. Anyway, 2 stars. Not as good as Courtney Roberts’ book in my opinion, but Andi dishes!

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Synopsis:

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.
 
More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.
 
The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Going into this book I had NO IDEA how graphic and sexually violent it was going to be. So, just a heads up on that. It caught me off guard and I do think there should be a warning somewhere because I could see it being triggering to many people. It was one of the most extremely graphic books I’ve ever read. HOWEVER, maybe something is wrong with me because I loved it and I was enthralled the entire time. I could not put it down and it reminded me how much I love reading a good thriller! Though it was disturbing and admittedly left me feeling heavy, I think that the extreme graphic violence was almost necessary for the punch of the storyline. It was startling. It’s not for everyone but it’s definitely going to stay with me for a long time. I thought it was a good psychological thriller and I give it a solid four stars.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

Synopsis:

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is – a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friends – an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably – but only because it’s over.

I also gave this four stars and now I’m having a hard time remembering why. It was pretty good, though I was certainly not sobbing uncontrollably because it was over. I liked it more than Amy Poehler’s book, but less than Tina Fey’s and Mindy Kaling’s. I don’t think that I’m at all a prude (um, see the book above I just gave a raving review to), but sometimes Amy gets a bit cringey for me. I like that she’s upfront about sex — I feel that’s hard for women to do without being called certain labels. However, I think she relies a lot on that shock factor for laughs, which to me has always seemed like a cheap way out. I prefer a sharp wit.

I enjoyed reading about her family life and her childhood. I’m not sure if her parents would be able to say the same, though… Overall, she seems like a real, regular person, and I appreciate that. So, it was pretty good.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Synopsis:

In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. With wit and wisdom, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between these four women and their American-born daughters. As each reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined.

One of my former coworker friends, who is Chinese, recommended this to me. I do not know a lot about Chinese culture, so that was new to me and interesting to read about, and I enjoyed reading about the mother-daughter relationships and the rivalries between the women. I also like reading stories about people who have immigrated to North America in general (both fiction and non-fiction). But, it took a while for me to get into it. I found it picked up the last third of the book or so and then I was thoroughly engaged and into the story, but it was a long slog until that point. I’m okay with that because the last third had so many redeeming qualities, but I did put the book down and read others before coming back and finishing it.

I found the characters confusing, also. I’d start reading someone’s chapter and be all “wait, whose daughter is this again?” and have to go back to the character chart at the front of the book to confirm. That was a bit annoying.

It did sort of feel like a mandatory high school read but overall it was pretty good and I’d recommend it.

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TO Light Fest and other things (mostly food-related)

I’ve been working on a cartoon post this week but it’s taking longer than expected, so in the meantime here’s what’s been happening around here.

Last week Evan and I met up with our friends Emily and Corey at the Toronto Light Festival, a new thing going on this year in the Toronto Distillery District. We had planned to all go to the Christmas Market together back in November, also an annual thing in the Distillery District, but unfortunately the stars did not align for that and it never ended up happening. So, Toronto Light Fest was our back up plan.

It was originally advertised with a stock photo of tunnel of lights, so Emily and I were a bit disappointed that wasn’t actually a thing, but the exhibits were pretty cool. We wandered around the area for a bit and checked out the sights.

Big kitties!

The love locks, which are always there.

This thing…

The Uniting Lightstar…

And my favourite, the Angels of Freedom by the OGE Group, an architectural firm in Israel.

I love that Marcus has his own little halo over his carriage.

If you go there, take a picture with the wings and then post it using the hashtag #MillStLights, Mill St. Brewery will donate $1 to the Daily Bread Food Bank. Pretty groovy.

We didn’t get a chance to see everything and one of the exhibits we missed was My Light is Your Light.

(photo from BlogTO)

I would have loved to see that and I’m not sure how we missed it. The light exhibits are there until March 12 though, and it’s free, so we might have to go back!

Evan has reservation-making skills and somehow managed to get us into El Catrin, a Mexican restaurant in the area (that I actually went to for Eat The World Mexico). It was totally packed and they were turning people away at the door so we were very lucky to get in. A note that if you’re planning on eating in the area during the TO Light Fest, try to make reservations in advance! I think we just called at the right time. I don’t LOVE the food at El Catrin, but they have great drinks (important) and one of the best atmosphere’s I’ve experienced in a restaurant so I guess I’ll forgive them. Evan and I started with corn on the cob though and that was insanely delicious.

The rest of our food was fairly mediocre but I will be talking about that corn for years to come.

The weekend was pretty low key, which was exciting. Usually January and February are a bit slower on weekends but this year they seem to be exceptionally busy — we have had stuff going on every weekend so I just assumed we were busy this weekend as well. When I actually looked at our calendar and saw nothing was happening I was ecstatic. We watched Outlander on Friday (I assumed I’d be watching it by myself but Evan’s mom and aunt were telling him how good it is so he was actually interested), Saturday morning I went to Orange Theory, ran some errands, and then in the evening Evan and I had a pho date at our usual haunt and came home and watched Gilmore Girls (still slogging through the sixth season).

On Sunday we met with our wedding officiant (for our Toronto family wedding, not the Cuba wedding) in Newmarket at a restaurant called Made In Mexico. Heather, our officiant, chose the restaurant, and I could not have been happier with the selection. I got the enchilada sampler and it was so, so good.

I could not have been happier about our officiant, either. It was our first time meeting her — Heather reached out to me through my blog last year when I mentioned we were getting married in Cuba but wanted a Toronto ceremony first. I love blogging for things like this!!! We wanted to do lunch to sort of get to know each other before the ceremony, and we absolutely loved her. I’m feeling really excited that she is performing our ceremony and so grateful she emailed me about it!

On Monday I went to I Can’t Keep Quiet with Choir! Choir! Choir! and MILCK that I mentioned in my last post. Before the show I met up with my blogger friends at Loblaws in the old Maple Leaf Gardens by the Phoenix Concert Theatre (where the event was happening). We figured it would be good for a quick dinner. I grabbed soup and a mini baguette, and then since they have a Nutella Cafe in there this had to happen…

Because of course. So good!

We headed over to the Phoenix just before 7 and found a lineup that stretched longer than a city block.

That’s just behind us, there was probably double that in front of us. It was awesome that so many people came out, and there were pussyhats in abundance! We had printed our I Can’t Keep Quiet signs.

Me, Casey, Michelle, Shanondoah (they’re all coming to our Cuba wedding which I am so excited about!)

I’m sure we held our signs upside down half the time, but that’s okay, you get the point. There was one sign there that I was

MILCK came out and Daveed and Nobu taught us how to sing her single I Can’t Keep Quiet which went totally viral for the Women’s March, I like this video especially:

Anyway, it was a really cool experience.

Singing that with strangers gave me all the tingles. MILCK sang the lead and the hundreds in attendance sang a three-part harmony that Daveed and Nobu taught us. I’m so glad we went! I hope my blogger friends had a good first Choir experience, though I have to say it ran a little longer than a usual session and all of our legs were dying by the end so I hope that didn’t ruin it for them. I can’t wait to see the video!

Here’s a good article about the whole thing on BlogTO. I’m not a fan of that “Women, Their Rights, And Nothing Else” sign, though. There are plenty of other things. Human rights and nothing else, yes.

All proceeds went to the ACLU, in this case, but past events have supported many Canadian charities (they raised over $25,000 for local charities in December) and C!C!C! has also raised over $60,000 to sponsor two families from Syria and Iraq. It’s something I’m proud to be a part of!

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