Celebrate Good Times!

Ok, I know you’ve all been just dying for some vacation details, so at long last, here we go! This will be one of many installments of our adventures.

It makes sense to start at the beginning, which in fact was way back in April – when we picked the general timeframe for my visit and I started the months long scrambling to get all the details sorted out. I had the paperwork to get my passport already printed off and ready for fine-comb scrutiny. It probably took about three attempts at filling in all the little boxes and squares and ‘this only applies to you if you were born at this spot before this date’ spaces before I was certain it could be brought in for government inspection without meeting instant rejection for having a signature go outside the lines. When it came time to choose which government line to brave for a morning, I chose a location far from the centre of the city. Less popular, less people, less lining up, less chance of me snapping at someone who controls where I’m allowed to travel.

It went off without a hitch, and within another few weeks I had my passport. My SUPER regimented, no glasses, no smiling, no frowning, no expression whatsoever passport. I look like a disaffected yuppie and it cost me $8. And that was just for the pictures, nevermind the little blue folded book itself.

Next came picking the dates for flights and hotels, trying to maximize our alloted vacation time between weekends and matters-of-convenience for getting myself to the necessary airports. As soon as the dates were picked, the tickets purchased and the hotel reserved, it was just a matter of waiting. Shopping, and waiting.

FINALLY June rolled around. The last two weeks crawled and dragged by until one morning I strolled into work with a bright smile on my face. I made no bones about announcing my state of mind to the world at large: “People, I am not here today. Technically I am not here tomorrow, as I will be on a plane to visit my boyfriend in warm climates for the first time in one year. But rest assured, I am not here today either. Is the coffee machine broken? My good sir, I do not care.”

The next morning my mother picked me up for the drive to Buffalo, as it was $100 cheaper to cross the border in a car instead of flying directly out of Toronto. The navigation was a bit rough. Next time I’ll get the directions myself instead of leaving it up to her to leave up to her boyfriend to leave to the last minute resulting in no more than a poorly printed map and handwritten, somewhat incorrect instructions. However, we got there. And after connecting issue-free in Detroit, I got there.

There is here

Josh’s brother Nate drove him to the airport to pick me up, and dropped us off at the hotel where Josh had checked in earlier. In we rolled with our luggage, up the elevator, down the hall, and, well I’ll leave it at that for at least a few hours 😉
We hadn’t stopped to eat dinner, so later that evening I was starving. I figured we could go to a bar or restaurant, but anything nearby was closed by ten. Even with the scooter Josh had already brought to the hotel, the closest source of food was the SuperWalmart. We decided on a late night junk food/grocery shopping spree. I’m not usually a big fan of Walmart or its inhabitants, but I figure when in Rome…(or the South…)
It's ok, Talea was at the gym...

It's ok, Talea was at the gym...

The next morning, or maybe the following morning (I may have lost track of time…), I asked Josh to take me to Ihop for breakfast. He agreed, but was disappointed to learn that it’s somewhat of a misnomer. The “international” house of pancakes is at most a “national” house unless they have them in Mexico – we sure don’t have them in Canada, or at least not that I’ve seen. I in fact did not have pancakes, which I have not been able to stomach since a rather disastrous event with plane food many moons ago. Nor did I get waffles, which I’m told would have been an acceptable substitute. I got a strawberry crepe, which was damn good. I also had a lovely eyeful of Ihop patronage, and the new knowledge that some folk do in fact eat fried chicken for breakfast and encourage their kids to do the same.
yeah...

yeah...

Our breakfast was followed by much in the way of napping (sort of), to fill the hour or so one is supposed to wait before post-eating aquatic adventures. Yes, the hotel had a pool. But between the hot sun and the small family taking up most of the water, we opted to stay indoors. The pool was small, and it wasn’t so much about there being a crowd as there being just one family – we weren’t really in the mood for inevitable tourist small talk. Luckily, there were recreational activities to be found inside as well. 

This photo took approximately 37 takes.

Word, they had a jacuzzi!

We also went out to dinner at the Outback (which I think we do have in Canada, but I haven’t been in a while), and clothes shopping at Target. It may seem mundane to spend a vacation going to Walmart and Target, but we never get to do these little every day things together. Getting to spend an hour trying on shorts and lamenting the lack of non-thong sandals for men is a rare opportunity!

Alas, the weekend could not last forever, and we only stayed at the hotel for a few days. So after 60 some odd hours of our shagedelic fest of sugar, saunas and shopping, we packed up our bags and waited for our ride to Nate and Sami’s house to stay with them for the rest of our vacation. The first thing we did all together was head on over to their parents house for a family dinner with what I like to refer to as my ‘almost in-laws’. They love to take pictures at any and all opportunity, flattering or not…

Thought bubble says "Hey what are you - "

Thought bubble says "Hey what are you - "

Photobombed, and still adorable

Photobombed, and still adorable

And of course, we took plenty of pictures ourselves.

Totally worth the wait!

Totally worth the wait!

That’s all for this first installment, the adventures continue soon! Coming up next, we’ve got killer dogs, date night, strippers, licking (not to be confused with stripper licking), and other fun.

Stay tuned!

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Rocky Horror at the Body Shop

I do refer to ‘The Holidays’ instead of Christmas sometimes. It’s somewhat PC, since my environment surrounds me with many different strokes of folks and when the season is upon us I like to hope everyone enjoys whatever the hell they’re doing. But this is only half the motivation. Since my birthday is slightly before Christmas, a month prior to be precise, and since ‘Christmas’ starts earlier and earlier every year, I have come to refer to my own fete as part of ‘the holidays’. Yes, I am fantastic enough to look at all the glittery lights and snowflakes and assume that they are there in celebration of me. I think someone, somewhere once (probably in University) got offended by that, but where I come from Christmas is nothing more than a reminder to spend money. So fuck it, it’s my damn birthday.

Anyways, I tend to get much in the way of gift cards and the like throughout the holidays. I’m not the kind of person to be offended by the “it’s so impersonal” approach. I do enjoy a random thoughtful gift, something small and inexpensive that demonstrates a close knowledge of my life and loves, a reminder that I’m liked. A surprise Starbucks on a bad day, a nice pen or other desktop knick-knack. But for the mandatory gift-giving seasons, where I feel we do no more than exchange money instead of time, hit me up with gift cards. I’m all over that. I’m sure you’ve got enough people in your own life that are difficult enough to buy for and I’m not going to be one of them. I don’t need stuff.

This year the cards were Winners, Lululemon, and the Body Shop. They procured, respectively, the Mom Purse (seriously, when the fuck did I start carrying around a big-ass, doubles-as-a-laptop-case, knocks over old people behemoth of a purse?), a yoga dvd (as yet unopened…) and some Mandarin Orange Orchid perfume.

Let me tell you about the perfume. It’s not much, simple and fun. I don’t love it, I don’t hate it. I do wish I had been able to actually shop around and purchase something I really wanted, but I unfortunately got sucked into the consumerism mind trick that says “YOU HAVE ENTERED A STORE. YOU MAY NOT LEAVE UNLESS YOU PURCHASE SOMETHING. YOU HAVE A GIFT CARD, WHY CAN’T YOU JUST MAKE UP YOUR STUPID MIND???”

I really wish I had just turned on my heels and left the store. My poor dad who was with me just shook his head and stayed out by the fountain – no way in hell kiddo, you’re on your own in there.

Tell me, what comes to mind when you think of ‘The Body Shop,’ hmm?

It Used To Be For Hippies

Do you, much like myself, still think of ‘non-animal testing’ and ‘natural’ and ‘fresh’ and other familiar, somewhat hippie terms? Oatmeal scrubs and raspberry soaps? Body butters, surely!

Natural Looking Faces - A Good Thing!

Well. I’m sorry if I haven’t made a trek into one of these little hovels of hippiedom anytime recently. I now live in an area of the city in which it is far easier to go to the indie natural store up the street whenever I have the urge to buy something environmentally friendly. So yes, it has been a while since my presence has graced this formerly fresh-faced facility, I will admit. However, given that the last time I checked they’re still all yay-environment, I was a little surprised to be not just greeted, but accosted, by this face:

What. The. Ass.

 

When did The Body Shop start competing with MAC and failing terribly? Have you never heard of image branding? What the hell? If I wanted to be blind sided by glaring liner and oonksha-oonksha-oonksha-wikki-wikki-whiirrr music I would have gone into Stitches or wherever the hell young skinny people shop for saran-wrap pants these days. I want earthy! I want clear skin and cotton shirts! I sure as hell don’t want some Kelly Osbourne sans-rehab done up a la Rocky Horror getting between me and the shelving within thirty seconds of my crossing the threshold!

After telling Body Shop Barrista #1 that I’m more than capable of browsing without having my upper lip waxed, I did a quick circle of the premises to investigate the sale items, the new items, the smelliest items. It seems we’ve lost the way of the granola, but at least the place still smells fantastic – perhaps all is not lost. This may be why I ended up at the perfume section in the first place, it’s not like I’m an otherwise frequent user.

This is where Barrista #2 showed up.

YOU MUST BUY THE GIFT SET!!!

My hand had not yet touched a sample bottle or even reached for the little paper tabs intended for test sprays when a glaring flowery head accessory came dashing towards me, all in a flurry about gift sets. Don’t buy the single bottle! My name is Anna and we’ve got gift sets! Yes, oh yes, you can get not just a bottle of the scent you need to live, but powders and creams and matching little boxes that will go gloriously moldy in that unvented bathroom of yours! Oh, but not in that scent. Or that scent. How about the lavender? I know you seem to be interested in Mandarin Orange Orchid, but if you simply decide to like what I like, you can get more of what I like!

Hey Anna? Fuck off.

So this is probably why I grabbed the Mandarin Orange Orchid, to show Anna that I was so intent on my desired purchase that I would forgo all offers of extras in order to claim my prize. I covet this little bottle, and not you or Dr. Frankenberry Lipliner who got me at the door will stop me! Get out of my way, I’m headed for the cash!

I got my perfume. I went back into the mall, shaking the music and lights and anger from my head. My dad greeted me at the Starbucks, marvelled over the noise I had just faced (remember, a year ago I probably would have cried) and waited patiently while I poured enough honey into my rooibos tea to sugar-shock myself into a nice daze for the ride home. It took me a week to bust out with the first spray, and if it hadn’t been at least remotely pleasant I probably would have just bombed someone with it out my back window instead of making the return trek to have it exchanged.

The perfume was about $20. The gift card was $25. I won’t be spending the remainder any time soon, so uh…yeah. Let me know if you want $5 in Body Shop Bucks.

 Stupid Body Shop.

Winter Wonderland

Okay, it’s not *quite* Wonderland out there, especially because to us Southern Ontarians, Wonderland is a place with a lot of fun rides and over priced chili fries.

This would suck covered in ice

This would suck covered in ice

But somehow, I’m not super pissed about the snow this year. I’m actually sort of….well I’m afraid that if I say I’m enjoying it I’ll get skewered by a foot long icicle – ’tis the way of the winter justice. I am surprised, however, by how minimally pissed I am at this most recent dumping of chilly, frozen flaked water all over my city.

It could be for a number of reasons:

– I have purchased, for the first time in many years, a ‘sensible’ pair of boots. Wedge heel. Fuzzy. Muklukish without being ugly. On sale. None of this ‘winter heel’ business for me anymore.

Fashionable, yet not retarded

– I have a nice coat. Not just a warm coat, but a nice, long, extremely pretty and in-style coat that makes me feel like I’m in Casablanca. Except, you know, with ice.

coat

Not this nice, but pretty close

– Up until this morning when I had to take a $5 taxi ride two blocks to the subway station, I had the transit schedule all figured out. This one might take some readjusting, but generally speaking I am able to leave my apartment right before the bus pulls up to the stop just across the street. Less than five minutes outside in the mornings? I can dig it.

Boourns!

– Indoor shopping. Toronto is used to the cold, and so there are a myriad of ways to get your shopping done, even grocery shopping, without ever having to step foot outside. Malls connect to the subway system, and once you get right into the core of the city, the PATH winds through most of the major buildings and transit, all without even looking towards the doors outside. Now if I can just find an indoor laundromat…

This is indoors, suckers! Mahahaha!

Toronto's PATH system: because the outdoors is for losers

– In the event that I do not find an indoor laundromat, I have discovered one that is even closer to my apartment than the one I’ve been using hitherto. I don’t even have to cross any intersections, which can be kind of dicey on my street. It’s a little more expensive and frankly not as nice, but it’s smaller, not as busy, plays classical music, and has no attendant. You’d think that would be a downside, but I prefer to not have people around when I’m out running errands or washing my undergarments.

– Toronto does have some rad winter stuff going on. And by the time I’m back here I’ll have someone who’ll actually be excited to attend such events even though we do, as Josh puts it, “turn everything into some weird abstract art thing.”

Cavalcade of Lights

Weird abstract art - still pretty!

 – I have a new weapon against the frozen, treacherous tundra that will be my sidewalks within a few weeks. It’s a phone number. You call it and tattle on all the lazy fucktards that didn’t shovel their snow, letting it instead be compounded into frozen footprints that are out to break my ankles every year. Seriously, I have developed this ridiculous fear of breaking my ankles. I will call that number fifteen times a day if I have to. I’ll call it on my own damn landlords. My ankles are grateful for my city’s well-spent tax dollars.

OW MY ANKLES!!! AND POSSIBLY KNEES!!!

– It’s a white Christmas! Surprisingly enough, we almost never get snow in time for Christmas. It shows up right at the beginning of January and clobbers our asses until Easter. And given that with a little luck this should be my last Canadian Christmas for a couple of years, I’m very pleased that the weather is going all storybook for me this time around.

My place does not look like this...but up the street it does!

– Money has been okay this year. I didn’t have to carefully plan each and every gift according to how many groceries I’d have to knock off the list. I was able to go out and buy exactly what I wanted without a second thought. Which does wonders for those last minute items, especially when Christmas is distressingly close to the rent cheque.

Damn expensive holiday!

And now the big reason:

– I told the Family to fuck off this year. Well not really, but I’ve never enjoyed the whole family holiday thing. And this year I said so.

Last year was a big deal. It was the last year my grandparents would be around before moving to Quebec, and my long lost cousin flew in with his fiancee from Vancouver. So for the first time in….possibly ever, that entire side of the family was together for Christmas. I went, even though I was ridiculously medicated and probably an embarassment. It was a big deal to me, and I went out of my way to get a little something for everybody, even the fiancee I’d never met. This year, I’m doing my own thing.

This year, I am going to a friends house for a Christmas Eve visit with her and the wee ones. I’ll wake up by myself – seriously, how is this some kind of tragedy? I don’t get it. I’m going to make sure I have a super clean kitchen the night before, and will make myself a really nice breakfast with mimosas and eggs florentine. I’ll say Merry Christmas to Josh if he’s around, and then make my way to the same friends house for a big gathering with her and her awesomely Greek family for what she is dubbing “Orphan Christmas.” There will be food, drink, and a related assortment of merriment. And since they’re Greek there will be more festivities for Orthodox Christmas later on. I’ll see my actual family in small, quiet doses on Boxing Day.

It’s not that I don’t like my family. I just don’t understand why every year we all rush through our Christmas mornings to haul our asses out to the suburbs in ridiculous holiday traffic to get to The Big Family Event by 2pm. Everyone bitches every year because the same aunt/uncle always show up late. I adore this aunt/uncle because they do their holidays their way. They open their gifts slowly and take the time to appreciate them, and show up to The Big Family Event when it suits them. The rest of us are usually in mid-crisis by this point. There is screaming and frantic organizing, paper thrown to and fro, gifts exchanged between cousins who don’t even know each other in ‘real life’. Food shovelled onto plates. I usually fill up on carrots and potatos. Every year I leave exhausted, cranky, shaky, carrying buckets of stuff that someone less fortunate could use far more than I, and I usually don’t remember who got me what. Then we all drive further into the frozen suburbs to visit even more extended family and stand around awkwardly. Everyone else seems to know how to do this, but I’m still lacking the ability to care about people I only see once a year. So I leave even more cranky, sleep deprived, with the general feeling of having been poked and prodded unpleasantly, and the lingering fear of “am I the only one who doesn’t know how to do this shit?” I do not enjoy these excursions.

Like this but with more panic and no Cousin Eddie

Also, I know you don’t really have to be religious these days, but what is this need to cram ourselves together in a room to celebrate what amounts to not much more than a giant shopping spree?

a christmas exegesis

As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not into the religious aspect of it, then the spirit of Christmas is more about little kids. Seeing them get all excited, hear stories about reindeer and gingerbread things. I’ve got one age-appropriate cousin that I never see, and all other cousins/siblings/etc. are well past the age of Santa. So I don’t see the point, especially when the little one has no idea who I am. My friends kids, on the other hand, run to the door when I visit! “Auntie Em, yaaaaay!!!” I am so all about that this year.

So!

I’m thinking that Christmas and winter in general is stressing me out far less this year because I finally feel like a grown up. I’ve got my shit together, I know what I’m doing, and I’m not overly concerned with how I’m expected to celebrate. I’ve got awesome friends this year and an awesome boyfriend next year (and this year, but especially next year.) The coming months are already filled with plans of adventure and I’m really looking forward to it. 2008 started off a bit rough but is ending fantastically. 2009 should kick even further ass.

I’ll see y’all there! And until then, I’m going to keep doing it my way.