31 October 2008

Happy Halloween!

I almost yelled this at my peacefully slumbering husband before I slipped out of our room this morning.

Despite the fact that I’m closing in on my dirty thirties, there’s something about All Hallows Eve that manages to cut through whatever small amount of maturity or sensibility that I’ve acquired since childhood. As a matter of fact, I believe I enjoy October 31st more now than when I was six. I suppose it’s because today is the one day where it’s acceptable to throw caution to the wind and get away with looking and acting just a wee bit bizarre. For a fairly conservative / suit-toting business gal, the prospect of “going nuts” has its appeal. Add on a heaping dose of OCD and you’ve got yourself a bona fide Halloween junkie, not to mention the neighbourhood ‘freak lady’.

I was a bit jealous this morning seeing hubby all decked out in his punk costume to head to work. He’s an IT guy at a private E-Commerce company, so the dress code and mentality is a little more laidback. Heck, I’ve even seen the founder and CEO dressed as a pirate before. No such luck where I work in the Government. I could dress up but I’m sure I’d get some eye rolls. It’s hard enough being taken serious sometimes when you’re in your twenties and everyone else is about 20+ years older than you. For my own personal gratification though, I am still sporting dark black nails, neon pink skull earrings, jeans and a black blazer - just a slight rocker edge. Besides, I’ll always be punk in my own mind…

Can’t wait to get home this evening and put the whole haunting into effect. Hubs and I are going to try to leave work a little earlier this afternoon in order to setup the final details (thank God for leftover vacation time). It’s going to be a busy night and we will probably have to man the door in shifts as we both have to get ready for another Halloween party this evening at a friend’s house. Thankfully this couple lives close by, just a quick five-minute jaunt through the field in our backyard and we’re at their doorstep. We usually close down shop at 8:00 pm because most of the younger kids have already visited, so we should still have ample time to kick back with a few cold ones and celebrate yet another successful year of terrifying the local hobgoblins.

People keep asking me for photos of our exterior décor. If time permits, I will try to snap a few photos of all the little details this evening.

Happy Halloween folks! Enjoy but stay safe and sensible.

30 October 2008

Final Halloween preparations...

Boo. Things are looking a little different here on Tales of the Rambling Redhead. Fear not, this isn't going to be a static design. Being the geek that I am, I needed yet another way to honour my favourite day of the year...HALLOWEEN!

Only one more day before the candy-grabbers come and the haunting commences. While the inside of our home is pretty much back to normal, I have now turned my attention to creepifying our front lawn and creating a ghoulish scene that’s sure to frighten the children….mwahahaha!

Because our house is small to begin with, and not nearly large enough to accommodate my elaborate decor, hubby has wisely set down the annual "prop-buying" ground rule of only one purchase per year. As a result, I have become fairly creative with my displays, often using things that are found around the house.

Last year I built a half body to crush under the garage door. I stuffed an old pair of jeans with some leftover deck wood and paper, added a pair of boots for the feet and voila! We left the legs sticking out under a partially closed garage door and backlit the scene with a red flood light. Despite all the prefabricated ghosts and tombstones on our lawn, I think the children liked my homemade display the most…go figure.

In addition to the garage dummy, this year hubs and I decided to make another set of legs to hang out the window of our second story guest room. Thank goodness I own several pairs of jeans because, once again, I found myself stuffing pants….what else is a gal to do at 10 pm on a work night? Actually, the dummy was very easy to assemble and I managed to whip it up in only ten minutes. To keep the weight down, I decided to forego attaching boots to the legs; instead I stuffed some of hubby’s gym socks to form feet and I sewed them to the inside of the ankles in the jeans. I then stuffed the jean legs with garbage bags to give them shape – very simple and yet very realistic! The only setup required tomorrow evening is removing the screen from the window, dangling the legs out and sliding the window pane back down on top of the jean waist to hold the dummy in place. We had a few spare red lights leftover from last weekend’s party, so I swapped out the regular lights in our spare room to cast a creepy glow out the window and draw peoples’ attention to the hanging legs. Genius or madness? You decide…

The other usual suspects will be part of our ‘haunting’ this year: ghosts, cobwebs, glowing footsteps, creepy music, warning signs, pumpkin reaper (from Halloween party), etc. We decided to improve the tombstones this year by fortifying them with larger wooden stakes and hope to backlight them with a red floodlight and a smoke/fog machine. Last year we had the fog machine on our front porch but the strong wind kept blowing the smoke in through our front window and door - these things are a learning experience…

The only slight degeneration this year is the fact that we only managed to carve four pumpkins; we carved six back in 2006 for our first Halloween. I do, however, think that the other improvements far supersede the Jack-O-Lantern issue, and besides these pumpkins are huge! (yet another way we passed out time last evening.)

Wish us luck folks. It is always our goal to be the best house on the street. The only foreseeable detriment to our success is the fact that hubs and I can’t seem to prevent ourselves from eating all the candy for the children!

29 October 2008

Keep the curtains closed…

Have you ever woken up one morning, stared out of the window and yelled $#@&!? I have…just this morning to be exact.

Cold, miserable, wet and dreary – that’s what greeted my bleary eyes this morning. Halloween is exactly two days away and Ottawa has officially had its first snow storm and dump of the season. We haven’t even had a chance to put our winter tires on the car yet. I grumbled miserably to myself this morning as I trudged my way into work from the Rideau Centre. I had to close my eyes for most of the 20-minute walk because the wind was biting and it kept freezing the tears in my eyes.

The fact that the onset of snow can manage to depress me this much, once again indicates that I was never destined to live in this city. Don’t get me wrong; I adore Ottawa! I just tend to hate it for about one-quarter of each calendar year...as I suppose I would with any snowy city in the world. My pasty skin and pallor does little to support my love and tolerance for warm, humid and sunny days, but I swear to God I'm not built for this chilly climate. I’d like to say that I’m made of sterner stuff but I’m clearly not. Any girl that starts wearing her reindeer flannel pajamas in early September is a certified weather wimp.

Forget the fact that the snow will undoubtedly melt in two-days when the weather goes back up to 13Cº. The fact that I even had to see snow out my window this early in the year is a horrific reminder of the crap to come. Better get used to it because it will be back before I know it.

But I can still moan and grumble as much as I like; I’m Canadian after all and it’s an inherent right in this land!

28 October 2008

Our Night of Fright…

I realize that I’m a few days late with the party recap, but I think that I earned myself a few days of well-deserved rest!

Saturday’s party was a big success, minus a few last-minute bailouts due to illness. I believe we had roughly eighteen adults in total, with the addition of two adorable little munchkins. Needless to say, it was a good crowd with lots of original outfits and some pretty fierce competition for the Best Costume trophy. In the end, the honour went our good friends M & L and their new little baby boy C. Despite being a new mommy of only 6-weeks, L still managed to find the time to sew three costumes by hand. The family went as the Wizard of Oz: Mommy as Dorothy, Daddy as the Scarecrow and baby as the Lion. If that doesn’t make you heart melt, you’re clearly not human!

I am happy to report that this year’s goodies table was bigger and better than ever. The theme food was quite popular and surprisingly easy to make. I actually managed to finish up in the kitchen long before the party started...spooky!

As the pictures will confirm, hubby and I decided to dress as hardcore punk rockers. More specifically, we were dressed as members of our band “Sick Addiction” from Rock Band II. Yes, I fully realize that this is a public testament to our geekiness but come on, look at us! How cool are we?!? Actually, I think hubby really pulls off the rocker look quite well. There’s something about that rebel look….hmmmmm…. Me on the other hand, well the outfit would be enough to make any parent cringe!

On Sunday morning hubby and I gleefully tore down the interior Halloween decorations (the outside is still crazy for the 31st). Despite my love of Halloween, it’s nice not living in a theme house anymore or jumping at creepy displays and pumpkin reapers when I’m half asleep and wandering downstairs for my morning cup of java. Another year gone, another great party!

Pumpkin reaper complete with black lights

Witches hats

Zombie fingers


Peeved Pumpkakes

Lyndon Slewidge, Spartacat and Daniel Alfredsson

The crazy lady

The Joker

Dead Ensign

Film Noir detective

Hubs and I, the rockers

Chocolate and the Goddess

Princess Leah and Stormtrooper

No, I was NOT drunk!

Our wonderful winners, how cute are they?!?

Mr. Clean (He even cleaned a few spills...)

Old University buddies
(older, better, but certainly not more mature)

Keg man

The hosts of the evening

And so the Rock begins

Hubs getting into the spirit!

24 October 2008

Fright Night…Tomorrow!

One more sleep until hubby and I host our third annual Fright Night Halloween Party. While October 31st falls on a Friday this year, we decided to hold the party one week earlier because many of our friends have children and will undoubtedly be busy trick-or-treating or manning their candy stations on Halloween. Besides, it’s always nice to throw the party as a build up to the big day. In our case, hubs and I are pretty much run off our feet scaring children on the 31st so throwing a party that evening was no dice! We have a certain reputation to uphold on our street after all, not to mention a growing lynch mob of little neighborhood hobgoblins to please.

I cannot yet reveal what hubby and I will be wearing for the party, but let’s just say that it is beyond AWESOME! This is the first time that hubby has actually agreed to go along with my plans for a couples’ / theme costume. Dressing up is a mandatory part of our evening because we award a trophy for Best Costume – a gawdy tombstone, standing on a wooden base with golden / engraved plaques. Each year we add the name of the new winner to a plaque and they then have the prestigious honour of hiding displaying it in their home until our next party. Despite some wonderful effort and creativity from all our guests, the same family has won the trophy twice. This particular couple takes the competition very seriously and have had the trophy on display in the living room for the past two years. I have no idea what to expect this year, but I have a feeling that the rivalry will be steep! Who knows, maybe hubby and I will be the lucky recipients this year? Fingers crossed…

As with any large party of 20 + people, I will be busy tonight and tomorrow with preparing a huge ghoulish spread for my table. I have tried to pick food that will work well with a Halloween theme but still taste decent and, more importantly, help to absorb large quantities of poison (a.k.a. alcohol). This year’s spooktacular spread will include:

Le spooky menu:

Toxic sludge punch,
Witches hats cookies,
Witches fingers cookies,
Bat chips and blood salsa,
Jack-o-lantern cupcakes,
Orange pita roll-ups
Jack-o-lantern cheese ball with crudités

I realize that this makes me certifiably nuts, but I love tackling a theme head on! Lots of work, but always lots of eating! We usually can’t keep enough food on the table once people have imbibed a few.

Have a fun weekend everyone and don’t forget to decorate your homes for those little kiddies. I’ll be sure to post some pictures from Fright Night on Sunday, provided I survive the whole ordeal…

And no folks...I have not taken up smoking. My only filthy habit is enjoying an annual stogie. As you can see, I decided to play “classy hostess” at last year’s party. Yup, just another regular Saturday night on the patio, dressed as a vampire and enjoying a fat one. Sorry Mom and Dad, I know you tried your best ; )

23 October 2008

Happy 200th anniversary to me!

As I logged in to make this entry, I realized that today marks my 200th blog post on Tales of Rambling Redhead. For a little over two years now, I have been pouring out my heart, soul and utter nonsense online for friends, family and yes, even complete strangers. People often ask me, “RR, why do you blog?” or a perennial favourite, “Where the heck to you find the time to write?”

I you harken back to my very first post in 2006, you will find a pretty good explanation of why I chose to hop on the blogging bandwagon. I suppose one could say that it has filled a certain void in my life; it has provided me with a much-needed creative outlet and my own little slice of the cosmos where I can bitch, whine and ramble on about complete and utter nonsense…hence the aptly-named title of my blog. In another sense, I hope that my writing and experiences can bring a bit of lighthearted laugher to others. Life, after all, is quite a silly thing and should never be taken too seriously. In my mind, we are all living out some strange personal soap opera worthy of a best-seller biography or movie. The only difference is that this gibberish is real!

If you have stuck it out with me since the beginning and endured all 200 posts, I bid you thanks and congratulations – you are either a very strong and loyal person, or you have way too much time on your hands. At any rate, I hope that I have made you laugh and will continue to do so. I may not always be the most faithful blogger and I’ve certainly had my lapses of writers block, but I hope that you’ll stick with me until post # 300. A lot can happen in a year (or over the course of 100 posts)...the adventures are only just beginning

22 October 2008

I’m not ready, nor will I ever be…

I have come to the conclusion that I’m not meant to live here in Ottawa. My body was not built for cold weather. My hands have been frozen since the end of August and they will most-likely remain so until June 2009. I have taken to the awkward but necessary habit of sitting on my hands anytime they are resting idle…too bad my posterior is not much warmer. I have actually mentioned this problem to my family doctor, to which he replied, “Some people are just really cold.” Gee, great, thanks! At this rate, I might as well be an iguana; perhaps I was in another life…?

Today is the first day that we have had wet snow / flurries in our forecast since last spring. While even I will concede that snowflakes look pretty, I am not ready to face another winter. After last year’s horrible winter, my back and my muscles start to ache just thinking about snow. Here’s hoping that this year isn’t as horrible. While the white monolith on our front lawn looked neat, I never want to shovel that much snow ever again for as long as I live!

“Please Mother Nature; be kind to the rambling redhead and her fellow citizens of Ottawa!” Cross your fingers for us, dear readers. I would do so myself, but I’m sitting on them…

21 October 2008

Tough Love with Jari...

After a five-week hiatus from weight training (due to a wonky muscle pull the day before my brother’s wedding), last night I tentatively returned to my Get Ripped, Slim and Lean free weights DVD by Jari Love. Let’s just say that after an hour of straining muscles that had been otherwise dormant for a few weeks, I wasn’t exactly feeling the “love”. To be perfectly honest, I’m pretty damn sore this morning.

It’s hard to believe how quickly muscle mass can decrease if you don’t condition it on a regular basis. Before I injured my neck and shoulder, I was doing free weights two to three times each week, alternating with cardio every other day. I suppose I never realized how much more strength and stamina I had. I’ve kept the cardio up, but the weight lifting really does provide an added boost. Last night, I found myself struggling with weights that were manageable six weeks ago. I guess I’ll have to start at square one again and gradually build my strength back up.

In an attempt to keep my exercise regime “fresh,” I also started doing cardio kickboxing on Mondays during my lunch hour at work. While the class does provide a decent workout, there are too many people crammed into our small exercise facility. My workout if often interrupted as I have to keep distancing myself from encroaching classmates who, Lord love them, never seem to kick in the proper direction and always aim at my head. Hmmm…maybe that should tell me something….

Back to work now. It’s only 8:00 a.m. and I’m already dreaming of a warm bath and Epsom salts – it’s going to be a long and painful day.

20 October 2008

Sickest. House. Ever.

It seems that I say it every October, but I think hubby and I truly did outdo ourselves with the Halloween decorations this year. Apparatntly, according to the local children, we have been bestowed with the prestigious title of “sickest house in the neighbourhood.” No folks, this does mean that my household suffers from disease or ill health – allow me to translate for those of us that still think the word “cool” is really “hip”. Nowadays kids use the word “sick” to express awe or appreciation. So yes, my house being “sick” is actually high praise indeed!

As you have undoubtedly already deduced, hubs and I spent our entire weekend spooky-fying our home for our annual Fright Night party next Saturady and, of course, for All Hallows Eve itself. Not only do we transform the outside into a horror scene, the theme also makes its way indoors. We are quickly becoming “that family” on the street; don’t pretend you don’t know what I talking about…every street has one!

While I’m sure that some people think I should be committed, my rational for hand cutting eighty felt bats and building creepy pumpkin dudes is quite simple - I do it for the kids (okay…and my own inner child as well). For one night each year, I get to give the local children something special – a fun memory that they will hopefully be able to recount with friends and family well into their adult lives. As a kid, I always appreciated the people who went that extra mile to give us a thrill; I guess I see this as a way to pay it forward and inspire the next generation of twisted adults who enjoy scaring the bejesus out of little children.

The decorating is a ton of work, a bit of an investment and an eater of storage space, but its all worth it in the end when you see kids cycling past your house and slowing down to take a peak or stopping to stare. Needless to say, we had quite a few visitors drop by to examine our work yesterday. Dan found two little girls on our front lawn, pondering the authenticity of a ghost tied to our tree. It’s these types of moments that make the effort worth it.

Lord help me when I have my own children someday…

18 October 2008

I'm published...

Yesterday evening I received quite the pleasant surprise when my father called to tell me that one of my editorials was published in the local newspaper, the Ottawa Citizen. I had submitted my blog post about low Canandian votership in our recent federal election, on the off chance that someone may find it compelling enough to print. I didn’t have my hopes up (they receive tons of opinion letters each day), so needless to say I was quite surprised to find out that my little article made it into the paper. It’s a neat feeling. I’ve never actually published any of my work in the newspaper before. I’ve given interviews to journalists and had quotes published in a few articles, but I’ve never actually seen one of my own compositions in print. It feels a little revealing - like leaving your emotions and opinions open for the world to see and critique. However, above all else, it feels empowering. I write for the pure joy of self expression (and stress relief) but it’s nice to know that my words can also have an impact.

If you subscribe to the Ottawa Citizen, be sure to check out yesterday’s editorials and opinions page (Section A, October 17th), The Right to Gripe. The article is also available through the Citizen online for a limited time (click on above title for direct link).

As always thanks for reading!

17 October 2008

Great balls of fire…

Goodness! Gracious! The BWE managed to pull off yet another three-game sweep last evening. It wasn’t our best team effort but thankfully we managed to keep it together to squeak by with the lead. One month into the season, I am proud to report that we are still the top ranked out of twelve teams.

Despite last night’s victory, we really weren’t on top of our game. Perhaps we’re getting over confident? For some odd reason, nobody was calling the ball (myself included on occasion). If we want to keep this lead going, we’re going to have to learn to communicate better as a team. Yes, we are in this for “fun”, but we will soon start to lag behind if get too comfortable and laissez fair. Hubby coined in beautifully last night during a rousing team pep-talk, delivered moments after we almost lost our second match. “Okay guys, so we really sucked in those first to games,” he decreed, “Time to stop sucking now, okay?” Eloquent, eh? That’s my hubby!

All joking aside, it’s a damn good thing hubby brought his A-Game last night because he managed to win us that brutal second match with some good and consistent serves. Poor guy, the pressure was really on when he came up to serve for game point. I watched him pace the floor, turning purple with nerves and praying all the while that he wouldn’t flub the serve. When the ball sailed over net and the other team missed the return, hubby erupted into what can only be described as the zaniest victory dance I have ever seen. Picture a high hanging jump, one arm raised high it the air (roping motion), while riding an invisible pony. Take a moment to savour that image…hilarious!

Last night our team also welcomed the addition of a new female player. Thank goodness we have another lady among us, because now we won’t need to scramble to find a replacement anytime one of us women is ill or MIA. The new girl seems to be a solid player and quite tall as well, which is definitely an advantage! She’s an absolute vixen at the net and was getting in some great blocks…sigh…oh to be taller!

So far so good for the BWE. With a little more vigilance and practice, hopefully we can keep the wins coming.

15 October 2008

Where have all the voters gone?

First of all, if you voted in last evening’s Federal election, I’d like to give you a hearty pat on the back and a firm handshake. Way to fulfill your civic duty! Whether the polls worked in your favour or not, you have played an active role in the democratic process and, as such, you have earned the right to gripe, complain and harangue your elected officials. Sadly, it seems that only 59% of the Canadian population has earned that privilege…

According to the latest national polling statistics, last evening’s election marked the lowest voter turnout in the history of Confederation. In a time where the global market is facing a major recession, you would think that more people would be concerned about the leadership and direction of the country. Perhaps it’s because we have it too good here in Canada; maybe we haven’t known enough hardship to warrant change and public interest. Maybe folks have lulled themselves into a false sense of comfort and apathy. Or perhaps, as much as I hate to think it, many Canadian’s have simply become ignorant.

And so today we once again find ourselves facing another Conservative minority government. I voted and I’m pleased with my decision and outcome. However, I have heard a considerable amount of people groaning this morning at the final results. Given last night’s voter turnout, I have to ask myself whether half of the whiners and complainers even bothered to visit their local polling station.

Wake up Canada! What is it going to take to make you care?

14 October 2008

Turkey belly...

The long weekend is over and I am the proud survivor of Turkey Days I and II. Ask me to cook or eat another bird and I just may hurl!

It seems that the predominant theme over the past five days has been “food”…and not of the healthy variety either.

Hubby and I kicked off the Thanksgiving weekend in fine voracious style by taking two vacation days to visit Kingston for a much-needed break and rest before the weekend turkey madness. Turns out a little excursion was just what the doctor ordered. The fall colours were out in force, Indian summer was in full swing and we spent the bulk of our time wandering about town, shopping and enjoying the quiet. We also took advantage of the wonderful weather by taking a three-hour lunch cruise of the 1000 Islands; coupled with some very ‘reasonable’ drinks prices, it made for a fun afternoon! Tack on a haunted walk of Kingston and a visit to “Fort Fright” (Old Fort Henry à la Halloween); it was a very relaxing and fun little getaway. Of course, we also decided to jumpstart our digestive systems by consuming as many sugar-laden goodies as we could possibly find, on top of some pretty spectacular breakfasts at the B&B. Even I have to admit that, “we’re on vacation,” is not a justifiable excuse for visiting the local bakery and dessert shop two nights in a row to eat chocolate vanilla-bean cheesecake and drink mocha lattés…Oops!

On Sunday the feast continued with a visit to my brother and sister-in-law’s new home for the newlyweds’ first-ever family Thanksgiving dinner. It was a lovely spread and, no matter how you slice it, a 20 lb bird is quite an accomplishment for any first-timer, let alone a seasoned Thanksgiving turkey veteran!

Monday marked the second and final day of gluttony with Thanksgiving II cooked chez nous. While the day was busy and I spent most of my hours in the kitchen, I can honestly say that this was the easiest that one of my turkey feasts has ever come together. I think hubby and I are finally getting into the turkey groove; it’s truly all about timing. I am proud to say that dinner was on the table at 6:29 p.m. exactly one minute earlier than promised. Tasty, tasty, tasty! My only slight disappointment, is the fact that I made two pumpkin pies believing that my father-in-law was a big fan, only to discover that he hates the stuff (last time I listen to hubby). Sadly my family hates pumpkin pie, although my brother was kind and gulped down a huge slice. I was a little sad because it was the first time I ever made pumpkin pie, not too shabby tasting either but I don’t think I’ll be repeating it in the future. The company did, however, polish off one of the nine damn apple pies that I baked and froze last month…only eight more to go.

Today I was foolish enough to hop on my scale. BAD idea! Looks like I’ll be wearing stretchy pants this week….seriously, who gains THAT much in a week?

08 October 2008

The great pre-gobbler escape…

It’s almost Thanksgiving, that glorious time of year for turkey-induced lethargy, tryptophan hangovers and weary bathroom scales. It’s the inevitable season where family comes together to eat, argue and collectively wreak havoc on our digestive systems. Throw in not one but two of said gatherings, with three different families, and it’s the perfect recipe for a year-long diet and, quite possibly, therapy…

Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving! Oddly enough I’m one of those people who relishes the thought of wrestling with a giant gobbler and spending my entire day in the kitchen. My problem, however, is that I am often overambitious and end up biting off more than I and a room full of guests can chew. I often think that my cooking abilities, mixed with my dubious skills in fractions and estimation, would be better suited to a military dining hall. At any rate, we never go hungry.

This year hubs and I will be getting a double-dose of the festivities. On Sunday, my brother and his wife will be hosting their first-ever Thanksgiving dinner complete with her immediate family, my parents and hubby and I (12 people in total). It's a daunting task for any first-timer but I'm a firm believer that there is truly no better way to learn than being thrown headfirst into the challenge. I can't say I really envy them. I remember my first turkey dinner…it was nerve wracking! But as the old adage goes, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” On the plus side, the turkey is already dead, so my bet is on the newlyweds!

Following "il primo gobbler," I will be cooking a second family dinner on Monday for my parents and in-laws. Thankfully, I am only anticipating a crowd of 6-8 people. This will be the smallest Thanksgiving meal that I have cooked thus far and, quite frankly, I’m over the moon. This time I have opted to try something new (get ready for the irony); I’m sticking to an old recipe! I am not opening any new recipe books for this meal and I’m sticking to last year’s tried and true apple-glazed turkey with apple-pecan cornbread stuffing. The only new addition to this year’s table, on top of one of the nine pies I baked last month, is a harvest pumpkin pie. I’m keeping it simple this year and, for once, I’m not going to treat my family like guinea pigs. Sometimes it’s best not to mess with a good thing. Who knows, maybe this will become my trademark turkey - a recipe that my own kids (looking into the crystal ball here) will come to love and anticipate each year.

And now for the title of today’s post…

With all the impending turkey madness and hours slaving in the kitchen, hubby and I are treating ourselves to a pre-Thanksgiving escape to Kingston. We will be spending the next few nights blissfully being pampered at a lovely historic B&B, wining, dining, strolling about town and cruising the 1000 islands. Of course, being the Halloween freaks that we are, hubs and I will also be attending the opening night of “Fort Fright” at Old Fort Henry, as well as the Haunted Walk of Kingston. It’s going to be escapism at its very best and the perfect way to relax and get ourselves into the holiday spirit before the craziness begins.

07 October 2008

No vote, No respect…

Time and time I hear it again, especially from my own apathetic generation of twenty-somethings, “I’m not going to vote because I’m not really into politics, blah, blah, blah,” (insert myriad of other lame excuses here). I cannot even begin to explain the anger that this phrase invokes in me…I often have to calmly count to ten, ball my fists at my sides and repeat the mantra, “Don’t snap, don’t snap, don’t snap!”

Why would anyone fortunate enough to have the right to vote actively refuse to do so? Do they not realize the importance of civic duty? Do they not realize what a privilege it is? Are they completely ignorant to the suffering, the hardship and yes, even the murder, that so many have had to endure (and continue to endure) just in order to obtain this civic liberty/ this keystone of democracy?

Quite frankly the excuses make me sick. Perhaps your party of choice may not be a front-runner; perhaps you feel “Why bother? My candidate isn’t going to win anyways.” Imagine if we got rid of this pathetic and lackadaisical attitude, perhaps then we would see a turnaround in this nation’s politics. If voters don’t give a damn, why they hell should our politicians?

Wake up people and exercise your vote! Stop thinking only of yourselves and get informed. And if things don’t go your way and you’re unhappy about the way government X is leading the country, at least you will have “earned” the right to complain.

06 October 2008

The long and short of it...

I did it; I chopped of my scraggly mop and returned to my short roots. I was a little frightened once I got in the salon chair, but I decided to go with the flow and let the hair fall. In the end, I got exactly what I was hoping for, a choppy layered hairstyle very much à la Meg Ryan. It’s definitely more edgy and funky than my old long locks and I think it fits my personality to a tee. Thankfully, hubby was equally receptive to the chop….some guys are dead set against long hair on their wives, but mine loves me any old way or style (as it should be).

Last night I had my parents over for dinner and I was anxious to surprise my mother and see her reaction. After four years of long hair, several styles and experimentation, I think she was finally warming to my hair. Part of me was dreading that she would flat out admit, “I hate it!” Yes folks, no matter how old you are, you always value the acceptance of your mother; you can’t escape it and you don’t like to admit it, but it’s true nevertheless. Thankfully, she actually liked it, although she was quick to tell me that I now “look older.”

The real test comes tomorrow morning, when I actually try to style my hair myself. Try as I might, I can never replicate what my stylist does. I may be cursing my new hair in the end.

And now, the big reveal. Please note that my hair is 2-days old in this picture, so it’s not quite as nice or voluminous as when I left the salon. Verdict?

04 October 2008

Here comes the chop...

I have no idea what is up with my hair lately but I can’t seem to do a damn thing with it.It’s as though it has decided to be apathetic towards any style, product or amount of effort that I put into it. I’m half tempted to pull a Brittany Spears, holler “@$&# you, hair!” and shave it all off. Even my waves are lack luster these days…double damn!

What do I do when I’m having a bad hair day…or week for that matter? I do what any other over emotional young woman (who has been diligently growing out her hair for months) would do, I cut it off. I also tend to lean towards the drastic rather than a simple trim. A frustrated redhead is a dangerous redhead! I reached my breaking point yesterday at lunch hour and I called my hairdresser to schedule an appointment for this afternoon. I’m still not entirely sure what I have in mind, although I’ve been having some pretty delusional rock star fantasies lately, due in part, I’m certain, to playing too much “Rock Band II” with hubby. Perhaps I’m also starting some form of mid-twenties crisis. Trust me to get it backwards and be content with square and conservative as a teenager, only to finally hone in on my inner badass as an adult. I say this, but I will undoubtedly always be a suit-wearing business woman, albeit with a rebellious heart and a hidden agenda. Maturity or age fighting defense? Very possibly…

Wish me luck folks. Here’s hoping that I come home looking at least half-way normal and don’t let my very daring and artistic stylist get too creative.On the plus side, she does know and like my mother…

03 October 2008

Billy Rides Again!

I’ll get to the title later, but first of all I have to get something off my chest…

Owwwwwww! &%@* I’m sore!

My first yoga class was a success and I am proud to admit that I was able to twist and contort myself into several strange positions. I bent my body in ways that bodies don’t typically bend and today I wear my badge of pain with honour. I would give myself a big thumbs up, but that would probably hurt too much.

For all you yoga naysayers, don’t knock it until you try it. While I found the relaxation bit at the end a little hokey (due mostly to five minutes of Tantric chanting from the instructor), the rest of the routine was awesome. I can definitely see how my body, balance and posture will improve over time…not to mention my repertoire of cool party tricks.

And now on to the exciting details of today’s post…

After limbering up with Yoga I was well prepared for a triumphant return to volleyball in the evening. Yes folks, the Billy Whitmore Experience is back and better than ever!

Unfortunately, last week I had to miss the team’s first game of the season because I was on a plane returning from Saskatoon. Because of my absence, the team did not meet is required quota of two female players on court at all times. Thankfully, one of players was able to bribe a gal pal as a last minute substitute and not only did the BWE avoid a forfeit, they also managed to win all three games in their entire match. Thank goodness, because I was feeling pretty horrible about not being there!

Last night I was back in the saddle and reunited with the team for our second match. I was a little concerned that I would be rusty after a month-long hiatus and also by the fact that I haven’t played indoor court volleyball in years. After the summer season, I had grown accustomed to the unlimited ceiling and soft sand of beach volleyball. I was a little concerned that my brain wouldn’t register the change and that I would find myself still leaping and diving for the ball…not as much fun when you’re landing on a hard gym floor! As a precaution, I got myself some kneepads. I’m still undecided as to whether I like wearing them or not; they kind of make me feel like a Transformer, although some would consider that pretty “badass”.

Another unexpected surprise about court volleyball is that the net is much higher than the beach volleyball courts that we played on during the summer. Trust me folks; it’s hard enough being 5’2” and I don’t need any more vertical obstacles to remind me how short I am. I was worried that my serves wouldn’t clear the net, but thankfully the Lord of volley was smiling down on me. I served like a pro and was able to get a straight run of five consecutive serves in every game. My bumps/ returns were also spot on; I seem to have finally stopped scrambling under the ball and swinging my arms. Once again, however, I still struggle with playing net. Perhaps it’s my wonky depth perception or just being over eager, but I always seem to get directly under the ball and end up volleying in straight up rather than propelling it forward. I still have to learn to back up a little when playing net and getting slightly behind the ball in order to volley in forward. At any rate, I think I have improved a ton and played some of the best volleyball of the year last night. The team was equally wonderful and we are definitely improving on calling the ball, setting up plays and giving each other space.

Once again, the BWE pulled off a solid three game victory and we are leading the ranks at the moment. Who knows, if we keep this kind of play up, we may end up in the championships this season. It’s all for fun of course, but it’s hard not to get a little competitive when you realize that your team is pretty decent and has the potential to go further. At any rate, it’s always awesome feeling to return home after a long day of work and play with a big dorky grin on your face, basking the afterglow of a game well played and, hopefully, victory!

02 October 2008

Jen goes Zen…

Move over Gumby, make way Gandhi; I’m embracing my inner chakra, I’m sporting my yuppie Lulu gear and I’m going to stretch, bend, twist and contort my way to a better me. Yes folks, I’m biting the hippy-dippy spiritual bullet…I’m starting Yoga classes today.

Like the conventional and pragmatic gal that I am, I always used to roll my eyes at the whole yoga craze. I’m not really one for inner peace, harmony and all that jazz. I guess some would argue that I’m not in tune with myself; I’ve never put much stock into spirituality per say. Instead, I view the world as a cynic or, as I like to call it, a realist. My practical attitude towards “inner balance” and exercise is based on the evidence that physical activity boosts endorphins which in turn makes me feel better – perhaps I’ve been hanging around scientists for too long. Try as I might, I’m not sure I can digest the more liberal ideas of self-transcendence or enlightenment; I’m too much of a facts junkie. When I see lbs. melting off my body or falling off the bathroom scale, that’s my sense of personal fulfillment! Being able to wear skinny jeans - that’s my inner peace!

All this cynicism aside, even the realist in me is attracted by the obvious physical benefits of yoga – increased flexibility, stronger muscles, better balance and overall toning. Have you even seen the lean and lithe body of a yoga instructor? Phenomenal!

Who knows, on top of improving my body, maybe I’ll discover a bit of my inner hippy. Either way, Thursdays are bound to become a physical, sensory and emotional overload as not only am I doing yoga during lunch hour, I’m also starting up another season of co-ed team volleyball in the evenings.

01 October 2008

The “way too eager” beaver…

I’m a dork and way too organized for my own good. Perhaps some folks would accuse me of being anal and taking the mystery and adventure out of life. What people fail to understand, as sad as it sounds, is that I live to plan things…and very meticulously I might add!

Despite my best intentions to hold off until closer to the trip, I just booked the last of our accommodations in Paris. Per usual, I was browsing the holy grail of travel sites, Trip Advisor, when I stumbled across a little gem right near the Eiffel Tower. I was originally planning on staying in the 7e arrondissement, an upscale area of Paris, but had abandoned hope after seeing some of the regular prices for accommodations in the surrounding neighborhood. Instead I found a cheap and cheerful looking place in the busy Quartier Latin in the 5e arrondissement - the only problem being that the reasonable price meant a very competitive booking process and I would have to wait until December 15th to book a room for April 2009. In my heart of hearts, I still wanted to be in the 7e. Needless to say, I was thrilled to get a hit when I searched for new properties yesterday. At 420 Euros for three nights, the 3-star hotel isn’t exactly a steal but it is much more reasonable than some of the other properties that I had found in the 7e a few months ago. I lucked out on an internet price promotion but still have the added benefit of being able to cancel without penalty up to two days before arrival. I am also quite pleased by the TA reviews that that have the hotel ranked as 4.5 out of 5 stars – high praise from the often-discerning members of the forum. Check it out - a restored Napoleonic Mansion - isn't it so perfectly Parisian? I'm already craving the side-walk cafés, exorbitant prices and the notoriously aloof people!

Parfait n'est-ce pas?

Escalier carctéristique. I'm such a sucker for the architecture.

I’m quite pleased that all my hotels are now booked. It appears that my eagerness, while laughable, also comes in handy from time to time. I managed to stay within budget and lucked out on nicer properties than I probably would have if I waited until the last minute…or at least that’s what I tell myself to justify my anal retentiveness. But fear not dear readers, there is ALWAYS more for me to plan. Now I have six months to memorize maps, plot of travel routes and learn local customs and colloquialisms – hahaha! Actually, the beauty about travel is that no matter how well you prepare, there are always wonderful surprises just around the corner. I’m organized folks, but even I love to leave certain things to chance.