The Music

Music has always been a big part of my life. Not playing music, I was never any good at it (despite many many lessons). As I’m sure many of you do, I seem to define times in my life, memories, by music. Road trips to Windsor with my Mom, driving along the back roads listening to Enya and The Doors. My childhood best friend, and her undying love for Nirvana. A slow dance party in Candice’s back yard featuring mostly Boyz II Men. Beck, singing Nobody’s Fault But My Own on a mixed tape. At the age of 17, I spent an entire overnight transatlantic flight talking about boys with a girl named Megan. Later on in our travels, she brought me into her dorm to hear U2’s Stuck in a Moment. I don’t remember the name of the guy she was in love with, but I remember how excited she was to find this song that told the story she shared with me on the plane. You know that feeling? When a song takes that bit of your life, weaves it into four minutes of gorgeous and lays it in your lap, saying yes - this is you. This is your experience. Music can do such things. It can change you, take you places you’ve never been or bring you back to places you can’t forget.


Music is how I fell in love with the man I married. He makes music. Good shit, too. I didn’t know that when I met him. I found out he had a band when he invited me to a show. But I was busy that night, or something, so his music remained a mystery, until one day when he sent it to me. He and the band made a new album. Their second. He emailed me a link to stream it online. It was a Saturday morning when I opened my laptop to give it a listen. (You can find it here, if you’d like to listen).


About a minute and a half into the first song, Jaw Wired Shut, I knew something was happening. Like I was taking the first steps of some epic journey. And the last song (which technically isn’t the last on the album, but I heard it last due to technical difficulties), Hand Me Down, kind of killed me. I sat listening to it at 2am, sitting alone in my little apartment, holding my head in my hands. To say that I was in love with him wouldn’t be fair… we hadn’t even had our first date yet. It would be fair, however, to say that I knew I would be. The music did that. I knew that I would fall in love with him. And that was a terrifying prospect to a gal still peeling the bandages from a broken heart… I was in no mood to fall in love. But scary can be good, right?


I went on that first date with him, and the rest is history. We were married on September 28th, 2012 in front of friends and family. And why am I telling you this story today? Because of the music. There’s more of it! The band, they’re about to release their third album. And it’s a real beauty. They made it entirely independently, a true labour of love. I just thought you might like to hear it:




For Bernadette Denomme, and all who went to Florida before her.



I’ve long held a theory that when people die, they aren’t really gone, they just moved to Florida. And I didn’t get their number. Or their Florida lifestyle is too relaxed to warrant their owning a phone, so we don’t talk much anymore, at all. But they’re there. They spend most of their time on the beach. They never get sunburned or bored. And the weather is always perfect. And I wish I could visit them but I don’t get down to Florida much. And they wish they could visit me but they’re having such a nice time in Florida.

This morning my Grandma went to join my Grandpa in Florida. She was a gem of a woman, hilariously witty, a heck of a quilter, and a mother of ten. It makes me cry until I picture the two of them, in sun hats and lounge chairs, side by side, holding hands in the sand. All the pain of the cancers that took them is gone. And they’re living marvelously well. And I’ll miss them every day.

For the rest of us, who’ve yet to make the trip, I hope to impress upon you the following: so much of your life depends entirely on your perspective. There are little things you can do in your mind - like imagining your loved ones in bathing suits frolicking in the surf - little things that bring happiness to a place that was otherwise very dark and empty. Things that actually physically dry tears and make smiles. How many of those can you find in your life? How many can you change? How many ways can you choose happiness? 

This life is ever so brief. So put on some Bob Seger and dance your way to work. Laugh and snack with your favourite people. Snuggle into your pillow or partner and let yourself feel loved (because you are). Feel the warmth of it. Take your spare time and make art, make love, make a bubble bath. You can’t change what you’ve done up to now. You can’t change tomorrow because it hasn’t happened yet. What are you doing right now, right this moment, that is happiness? Please tell me it’s something. 


Outside

This was my first year in my first (rental) house with a garden all my own (and Z’s). Growing up, I don’t remember ever being fond of yard work. Except when it offered the chance to tan in the summer, and possibly build some sexy arm musculature. But having a garden of your own is quite another thing. Kind of like not really liking babies until you have one of your own… I’m guessing. If you let yourself, you’ll fall in love with it. Working in it will calm your mind. It’ll inspire you. I think you’ll find yourself better off whenever you spend time there. For reals. It’s a powerful thing, a garden. And if you bring it up right, it could actually like feed you. Real food. Good food. It’s kinda the awesomest.

This first year was a trial. I learned a lot, failed a lot, but had a wonderful time the whole while. Here, for those who would like to get started in your own garden, are 8 lessons I’ve learned in our yard - in no particular order. Read, then go forth and cultivate plant life. 

1. LOOK AT YOUR YARD BEFORE YOU PUT THE MOWER AWAY

Because when you mowed the lawn, you missed a spot. In fact, you missed a lot of spots. And if you’ve already put the mower away, you’re not going to get it out again and fix the spots. Because you’re tired, because you just mowed the whole lawn. Or at least most of it. And those spots you missed? They’re too long as it is. The next time you get around to mowing your lawn they’ll be twice as tall. They’ll be so tall that they’ll flop over, and lie horizontally perpendicular to your shorter, vertical grass. And when you go to mow those spots now, the mower won’t cut them. They’ve flopped over - they’re laying flat, because they’re SO long. And now if you want to get rid of these spots you need to go in by hand with your trimmers, to really get under the flops and chop ‘em off. And let’s be honest - if you were too tired to get out your lawn mower to mow the missed bits in the first place, you sure as hell aren’t going to get out the clippers to hand chop them the next time around. It’s a vicious cycle. By the end of the summer the long bits are growing toward your house, about to creep in your bedroom window and strangle you in your sleep. This is serious shit. Survey the lawn before you put the mower away. You’ll thank yourself.

2. WATCH IT AROUND FENCES

I saw this thing on the internet about planting lettuce in rows of eavestroughs lined up along a house. COOL. 

http://www.homegrown.org/profiles/blogs/repurposed-raingutters-as


Since I’m in a rental and not toooo comfortable with screwing into the owner’s stuff, I opted out of the full eaves construction this summer. Instead, I bought a long rectangular window box type thing that came with a special hook to attach to my fence. Just like the eaves thing, but more trial sized and impermanent. I filled it with vegetable soil and a crop of organic lettuce seed mix from Hilary, my seed hookup. I put it up on the fence and watered it. The next day the soil had all been scooped out and the seeds were lost. Squirrels? Raccoons? A few days later a basil plant that also happened to be hanging on the fence disappeared. Squirrels? Raccoons? Asshole neighbour? We’re not talking a few ripped leaves here. The plant, roots and all, was cleanly swiped. Like so tidily removed I was highly suspicious of human intervention. I vented my surprise and frustration about the missing basil very loudly to Z while my neighbour was working in his yard next door, because if it was a human that took my basil it was totally that guy, and I wanted him to know I was on to him. 


So be aware that the tops of fences are animal highways, and also the easiest for your neighbours to reach. If you’re gonna hang things from there, do some patio lanterns or something. No plants. Keep those down low, or on the side of a building or something. ALSO, be aware of which side of your fence gets the good light. I had this raspberry plant, for instance, that I planted on the shady side of the fence. But the shady side of the fence is the sunny side of the fence on the other side. Where my basil-stealing neighbour lives. So this raspberry plant kept trying to grow on his side, through the slat in the fence. Every day it would stick it’s top through and every day I’d pull it back to safety. I get it, it just wanted some sun. I felt bad for pulling it away. It should have been on the other side of the yard, where the fence is sunny. So guys, using your vertical or peripheral fence area may seem like a good idea, cuz your yard is small and you’re trying to maximize your use of space, but don’t sacrifice the plants’ safety or sunshine happiness.

3. WATER WATER WATER


I never imagined a summer when I’d look to the sky, fists shaking, and say “Enough with the beautiful sunny days!  Where is the rain?”. Plants hate being dry. HATE it. I speak broadly here… cacti obvi an exception. But in your average garden, everything thirsts. And if Mother Nature is not satisfying those thirsts, you gotta get out your hose. At the start of spring, make sure you have a functioning sprinkler. Making trips all over your yards with a watering can gets tiresome fast. And leaky spray guns are a waste of water. So just do it right the first time and everyone’s happy. Water often, and thoroughly, but do not oversaturate. Don’t drown the plants, just make sure they are thirst-free. And when the forecast calls for rain, ooooh be excited!  You’ll feel such a grand exuberance at the sound of drops in your yard - a thrill more powerful than any drug. The blissful relief of knowing that the world is sustaining itself, all while you’re sitting and relaxing, is a beautiful feeling. You gotta give maximum respect to the farmers of the world, always at the mercy of the daily probability of precipitation. This year, I could barely keep a tiny yard going. To witness a drought on your whole farm - to see the devastation of your entire year, years to come, or perhaps your livelihood - I can’t even imagine the dread and helplessness. So if you ain’t growing it yourself, go out and buy local. Support team awesome farmers. They need all the help they can get. Especially the little farms.

4. DON’T PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN A NEW AGE GARDENING TECHNIQUE BASKET


Remember what happened with the pseudo-eavestrough planters? Entire crop lost within 24 hours? Can you imagine what would have happened if I planted all my veg like that? No tastey tomato treats. No yummy dill. Gardening is like investing. The safest bet is a diversified portfolio. You want to use some pots. You want to plant directly into the ground. You want to use some hanging planters. And you also want to try cool things you saw on the internet. Like planting tomatoes upside down in cut off pop bottles. It goes pretty much like it sounds. You cut off the bottom bit of a pop bottle. You turn it upside down. You put the top of a tomato seedling through the spout. You fill the rest of the bottle with soil, which due to some law of physics, will not all fall out the opening. You fashion some sort of harness for the bottle out of twine, and you hang it from the bird feeder hanger which happens to be outside your window from the previous tenants who must have liked to feed birds. You’ll have to water it more than the in-ground plants. It dries out easily, sitting out, so exposed. 


I don’t know why exactly you’d want to hang your tomatoes in this fashion, aside from pure curiosity. I think there are a couple of practical benefits… like no sluggy bugs… and less disease. But I think the physical planting area is too small. Although they were impressively the first to produce fruit, my hanging tomatoes grew to about 1/10 the size of my in-ground tomatoes, which all started from the same seedlings. So yeah it works, but you won’t see the same yield. Lower return and requires more work. So on paper, maybe an unwise investment? But what if there was a slug infestation this year? I bet my ONLY tomatoes would have come from the pop bottles. And my potted radishes? The pots didn’t have enough drainage so they all drowned. And I put radishes only in pots, so I didn’t have any radishes at all. True story. Diversify. Just in case.

5. WAIT AND SEE WHAT COMES OUT (BUT DEAD STICKS THAT STAY DEAD ALL YEAR ARE PROBABLY DEAD)


Come spring I was terribly afraid for my garden. It was so sparse. We had some tulips and such… and a lot of dirt and dead looking things. I was all set to go to the store and pick up some ground covery plants, and dig up everything that looked like death, when I got… lazy. So I let it all go. Fast forward to later spring, early summer, and we’ve got PLANTS. And I mean plaaaaants. Everywhere. Everything I thought was a dead stick grew new leaves. Sometimes even incredible flowers. Like the kind of flowers people pay good money for at the flower shop. I had them coming out the wazoo. Can you imagine, just a couple weeks ago, I was going to pull these plants out cuz they were so dead looking? But no! So alive. They just needed time. Same goes for empty spaces. There were entire sections of plain dirt that I thought I’d have to fill up with things, but lo and behold, things grew. Like out of nowhere. Different kinds of things - not just weeds. Nice flowering things. It was incredible. So, moral of the story, don’t give up on empty spaces and sticks unless they make it through one complete year without doing shit. Patience. Ooooh! You know what it reminds me of? Did you ever see THE SECRET GARDEN? When Mary tells Dickon she found this place, but it’s probably not that cool, cuz it’s probably all dead, and he’s all like dude, I know gardens, let me diagnose that shit. And so she takes him, and he cuts into a stick and shows her the green bit and calls it wick and says that means it’s alive. I loved that part. Dickon was such a handyman dream boat. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UVFgCfHNow&feature=BFa&list=PLF7CEE2BA73C379A2

6. LEAVE ROOM FOR ENJOYMENT


I recommend two spaces. Space number one: a grassy square. Grassy squares are very good for laying out blankets. And on those blankets, put your hungover friends, and plates of bacon and fruit and waffles. It will make for an excellent afternoon. Space number two: seating. Home Depot sells plastic adirondacks for like $20. $14 if you get them on sale. They’re comfy, and you can hose them down. Because things outside get dirty like SO fast. Sitting and laying. That’s all you need. I dunno, maybe a picnic table if you have a lot of space. You just need somewhere to enjoy your outside niceness. Because what good is outside niceness if you’re just wandering around, pruning and weeding? You need a rest and relaxation zone. And don’t forget to use the damn thing.

7. PLANTS FIGHT


Some plants are assholes. They might be underground assholes, and grow really big roots that take up all the space in the hanging basket, so that the other plants in the basket can’t grow more than an inch tall. No room for roots. Sometimes they’re sunshine hogging assholes. They grow big with big leaves that spread out over top of all the smaller plants and hog their sunshine. So then the little plants are all hidden in darkness. Not cool guys, not cool. So you gotta get in there, with your weeding hands and your pruners, and you gotta break up the plant fights. The big plants that take over the sunshine? Trim them back a bit. Or move the little guys, hidden in darkness, to the front of the garden where they can get more light. And the root hogging plants? Keep them in their own pots. Or separated somehow from the other stuff. Just make sure everybody has their own space, and their own necessities for survival. Seems a bit political, no?

8. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER: NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME


The garden is a place of constant change. What was boring dirt one day will be tiny sprouts the next. Those tiny sprouts will grow into bigger plant shapes the next day. And if you don’t water the plant shapes, they’ll be shriveled the next day. And if you do water them they’ll be bigger and plumper the next. And then there will be blossoms. Copious beautiful flowers, and you won’t be able to imagine a time when it was all just dirt. And then the flowers will fall off and leave these thorny jerk bits that attack you when you go near them. And eventually, I imagine even the jerk bits will all wither and die with the coming cold. And next year maybe something will grow in their place. Or maybe it will stay as dirt. So enjoy every day out there, because you’ll never have another like it. And if you don’t like how things are looking - don’t worry, because they’ll be new again tomorrow. Change is the only constant.


Don’t sell me under the boat.

-Jenism
(One of the best things said at the office in a while. The number of idioms that went into this statement, without forethought, is mindblowing)


Under the Sea

There is a youtube video out there featuring a clam eating salt off a kitchen table. I hadn’t seen it, so my friends reinacted it for me: 


And here is the clam, eating salt off a kitchen table. This is exactly what I thought it would look like (although slower, if anything):




You are encouraged to record your own impressions of the clam, and post the links in the comment section.


Do you ever kind of hate working out? Maybe it bores you, running on a treadmill and never really getting anywhere. Ever. I’m pretty sure boredom is one of the biggest obstacles on my path to becoming a fitness allstar. Really, it’s not the pain that’s holding me back… I die almost every day riding around on ma bicyclette. Because when I ride, things go by, I see people and dogs and buildings, and I get places. New places that I wasn’t at before. IT’S SO FUN. I’ve tried many a workout scheme in the hopes of gleaning some enjoyment to go with my buff-ing. Driving to work this morning, a song came on the radio to remind me of the most fun I ever had while working out.

Copland’s Hoe-Down. Here’s what you gotta do. Download it to your ipod, and then get on an elliptical machine. Suddenly you’re riding a horse. In a western. There’s like a saddle, and wind in your hair, and reddish dirt kicking up, and hills in the distance - cedar rail fences. It’s just you, bouncing on your horse, on the open range. IT’S SO FUN. You will never want it to end. And you’re getting buff at the same time. Doesn’t. Get. Any. Better. Seriously, try it. This is the workout fun factor you’ve been dreaming of.


Grandmother Style Part II: A Purse Returns Home



My Nonna taught me many things in life, not the least of which has been the value of the investment piece. Why buy five pairs of terrible shoes when you can have one incredibly comfortable, extremely well-made pair that will last a lifetime? It’s been over 15 years since she passed away, and now that I’m all grown up, but still the size of a small grandmother, I’ve inherited some of her favourite pieces… a dress coat, some cashmere sweaters, and a few of her purses, all still pretty much as good as new.

Two weeks ago I returned to the city where Nonna spent most of her life - Windsor, Ontario - for my cousin Aliza’s wedding. I decided on wearing a coral lace dress that I bought on etsy, paired with my cream heels. At work I asked Jenny, the Queen of Accessories, if she had a purse I could borrow that might match my shoes. But when I packed my suitcase the night before heading out of town, I threw in one of Nonna’s old handbags. It wasn’t the best match with my chosen outfit, but I needed a backup in case Jenny forgot to bring her cream purse. As fate would have it, I forgot to tell her which weekend I needed it, so Nonna’s bag would have to do.

Aliza’s wedding reception was held at a restaurant in downtown Windsor called The City Grill, at 375 Ouellette. Z and I arrived there shortly after cocktails began, and I ordered a very dirty martini. I sipped it in my shift dress, it was so Mad Men. We sat ourselves down on a sofa in the corner, and my Mom came to join us. She looked at my purse and laughed “you brought Nonna’s bag here?”. I thought she was going to point out that it didn’t go with my shoes, but instead she told me that we were in the exact place where Nonna bought it. The City Grill, as it turns out, used to be the Birks store in Windsor. In fact, the old double B door handles were given a little shrine at the front of the bar, on a section of wall painted Birks blue.



Sure enough, when I looked into the purse and unfurled the label I’d never bothered to check, it read “Made in England - Henry Birks & Sons Limited”. My Mom told me that Nonna bought the bag in the late 60’s, to wear at her father’s funeral. It’s in remarkable condition, a testament to Nonna’s eye for quality, and her sense of style because I do think it’s a timeless piece. And here it was, home again, nearly 50 years after she bought it.



During dinner I sat beside my Aunt Joan, a fashion maven in her own right. Halfway through the salad course she leaned over and began to tell me the geography of the old Birks store - where they kept the pearls, and where they kept the diamonds. She pointed to the corner where Aliza was happily dining with her new husband and told me that’s where they sold the handbags. I pulled the purse from my other side and handed it to her. When I told her my Nonna had bought it here she raised it to her lips and kissed it just below the golden clasp. The purse and its story were then passed up and down the tables, so that all my aunts and cousins could share in this moment of accessories history. It warmed my heart, and I just know that Nonna was up there, somewhere, loving every minute.

 


We Made a Movie



Sometimes, in life, you just have to make something. If you’ve got access to power tools, maybe you’ll build yourself a useful furnishing.  When you spend your days working on the admin side of the film and television world, sometimes you need to leap over your desk and make a little movie. A couple weeks ago, that’s exactly what Z and I did.

It all started about a year ago. Z’s been an actor since the age of 5 but longed to spend some time on the other side of the camera. His head is full of stories to tell, so I encouraged him to pick one and make a tiny script out if it.  Movies are pricey bitches to make, so starting tiny is necessary.  He had this idea for a music video for a Joel Plaskett song called “Run, Run, Run”, which he tweaked into a full blown 8-minute emotional roller coaster of a short film. Even on the first draft, I thought the script was funny, touching, heartbreaking… felt like we had a winner. With Z filling the shoes of the writer and director, he asked that I help him produce it, and I gladly and giddily accepted.

Our first step was securing the cast. Each role in the script was written with a particular actor in mind, so one night we emailed each of these people with a copy and asked if they’d join us on this little adventure. Within minutes we had overwhelmingly enthusiastic and excited responses from the whole cast. It was exactly the push we needed to look at each other and say okay, let’s do this.

Next up, we went in search of funding. Many grants require that you submit at least one piece of work, which neither of us had. Our best option, in terms of deadlines and requirements, was a BravoFact! grant, which are handed out quarterly, and can be given to first works. In applying for this grant, I (as co-producer) spent a million hours researching everything that we’d need to put into this film - every union requirement and crew cost I could figure out from the multitude of guidelines available on the internet. To help us make sense of all the information, we’d set up occasional dates with people who have way more film and television-making experience, and asked that they steer us in the right direction. Each person we sought help from was not only responsive, but imparted invaluable wisdom and knowledge that ultimately shaped this film.

Submitting the BravoFact! grant proposal was a victory in itself. Whether or not the money came through, we knew all the bits that we’d need to make the film a reality - and that in itself is a major hurtle. In the end we did not get the grant, which - to be honest - may have been a blessing in disguise, because Z got very busy with work around our proposed shoot date.  The timing was just wrong.

A few weeks later we were ready to reconsider the future of our film. Our budget was rather nonexistent… but we didn’t want to wait the months or years until we were eligible for some other funding. Should we just give up, glad for all that we’d learned? That was definitely the easiest course of action. But there was a nagging voice in my head telling me that almost making a film and making a film are not even close to the same thing, and that we should keep pushing. So we decided to proceed, guerilla-style.

This required a whole new set of coffee dates with indie-filmmaking friends of ours. We sat people down and told them that we were going to make a film with extremely little money, and we got all sorts of tips, like how to light a shot with cardboard. We asked our cast and crew if they’d donate their skills for little to no financial recompense. And they agreed - I could cry just thinking about it. The amount of love and support we got for this project continues to overwhelm me, and I will be forever grateful to each person involved.

We needed a song for the first scene, and didn’t have the money for “Run, Run, Run”. Z asked a band he’d played with a couple times if they’d let us use a song from their upcoming debut EP. Turns out the lead singer was also making a film, so he was sympathetic to our cause. With that connection we secured our soundtrack (which has become one of my most favourite songs of all time).

So, game on! We picked the first Saturday that our Director of Photography had available, and we booked our shoot. I called the lovely people at Joe Sutherland Rentals, asked another million questions - all of which were very helpfully answered - and secured our equipment. We set up a rehearsal with the actors and a camera test with the DOP, both of which went smoothly. We had just started living in a lovely little rental house on the east end that fit perfectly for the script, so I spent the days leading up to the shoot converting our two bedrooms into the bedrooms of teenage boys, with photos, posters, books, art, and a collection of concert ticket stubs, all generously loaned by some really great pals.

About three days before the shoot our sound guy backed out, causing major panic. With very few (read: none at all) connections in the sound world, I googled a possible replacement. Found a guy with a website I liked and asked Z to get in touch him. Turns out they’d worked together on a show years ago. He liked the project, and we booked him for recording and post.

The night before the shoot I asked a good friend with damn good food skills to help me prepare a lunch for the cast and crew… with everyone giving so much of themselves to this project, the least we could do is give them a good meal. She made some wonderfully tastey and healthy dishes that went over very well the next day.

Then Z and I went to sleep, alarm set for painfully early the next morning. That sleep was enormously uneasy. The film was past the point of no return - all we could do is lay there and hope that everyone showed up the next day, and that we hadn’t forgotten anything important.

And everyone showed up the next day. And we hadn’t forgotten anything important. There aren’t really words to describe what the shoot day meant to me. I had a house full of artists, present out of the goodness of their hearts. The performances were brilliant. The crew was exceptional. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better bunch to spend the day with. I hurried around making sure all was going according to schedule, making sure everyone had everything they needed, transferring footage to a million backup drives, giving cues, sharing laughs and stories between takes, and just a lot of watching… watching everyone do their jobs so damn well… watching Z direct for the first time in his life. I was never so proud.

The film is almost done now. Our editor and post sound have been wonderful, and we’ve got an illustrator working on the poster. We can’t show you the footage yet… gotta try and get it into some festivals first. But as soon as we can release it, you’ll be the first to see it. I cannot wait to share it with you. To name all the names of everyone who helped. It’s been a labour of a lot of love, and worth every single sleepless night.

Sometimes, in life, you just have to make something. And we did.

 


(Z, soundlessly directing)


Birthday Week: When One Day’s Just Not Enough



One year, for my birthday, I took the day off work and Z organized birthdaycation. He moved his TV into the bedroom and we watched movies and played wii all day. He cooked, we ate. The best birthday wasn’t about fancy presents and spent money; it was time - perhaps the best gift you can give someone.

When Z’s birthday arrived a few weeks later I wanted to return the favour, but I couldn’t take another day off work.  So I organized one low-budget surprise event for each night of his birthday week.  A week’s worth of quality evenings seemed to equal a whole day’s worth of goodness. So now it’s an annual tradition. Sound like something you might want to do for a loved one? For some tips and ideas, here’s what we got up to this year:

Night 1: Karaoke at BMB and Board Games at Snakes and Lattes

I booked us in at BMB for an hour, and we got our own room with 2 couches, 2 mics, and one hefty songbook - all for pretty cheap.  I’d never done Karaoke before, and I’m so glad my first experience was in a private room with a man who’ll love me anyway… because I sucked. Bad. Like really bad. I considered working my way up to Aerosmith’s “Crazy”, but instead just started with it. Failboat. Z tried to explain away my suckage with a lecture on the science of microphones, which kind of helped. Then he serenaded me with some Radiohead and Pearl Jam.

After, we crossed the street to one of the nerdiest places on Earth, Snakes and Lattes. And by nerdy, I mean mega-cool. The licenced side of the cafe was booked with a Dungeons and Dragons singles mixer, so I reserved a spot for us on the other side. I got a berry smoothie and Z had a latte. Once seated, you can choose from their infinite selection of board games, and play forever. We started with Jenga (which I won), then did a couple rounds of Guess Who (which I won again), and finished off with Blokus (*cough*guess who won*cough*).  This is definitely a place we’ll be frequenting. You should go.

Night 2: Valentine’s Night In/Movie Rental

Valentine’s Day always has and always will fall in birthday week. It’s the nature of the calendar. But no fancy outings for us on this night, oh no. This is the one day a year when I make a lunch hour pilgrimage to Bay Street Video, and pick up a film or two that I know we’ll both enjoy (I really should do that more often!). We decided that cooking would cut into the much-desired romantical cozy couch time, so I went on the justeat website, and found the pizza joint with the best reviews in our neighbourhood: Diamond. I pre-ordered some tastey snacks for 7:30pm delivery. It was wonderful. We watched Ides of March (meh) and Submarine (very cute). Z made sure the day wasn’t all about him though, despite it’s birthday week classification. He showed up at the office with a dozen red roses and some sushi for my lunch. MOST romantic.

Night 3: Art Gallery and Chinese Food

Wednesday nights are free admission to the AGO… after 6:30pm I think? Z still hadn’t seen the renovation there, which I watched the entire construction of from the view out my living room window when I lived on Stephanie Street. I took him around to all my favourite bits, the curvy staircases and the Monets, the modern video exhibits in the big blue box and the tiny ships in the basement. I saved my favourite - the tree carvings in the Galleria Italia - for last but it was closed for dismantling when we got there DAAAMN!  We settled for sitting amongst the Group of Seven paintings. Champagne problems.

Hunger struck, and I took Z to his favourite Chinese food restaurant just down the street, Spadina Garden.  Tea and Szechwan and chats and goodness.

Night 4: Bowling/Fail

The day before this I was at the doctor’s office, and she was all like “you haven’t had a Tetanus shot in FOREVER, do that shit up”, and I was all like “stick a needle in my arm, biotch”. Fun medical fact for the day: you should get your Tetanus shot every decade to stay protected. Fun medical fact #2: the vaccination will DESTROY you. The very next day, day 4 of birthday week, I felt like my whole body was the worst kind of headache.  I left work at noon and slept the day away in an Advil coma. By dinner time I was up and on my feet, but in no shape to take Z to Danforth Bowl for the round of 5-pin I had planned.

Instead, we cooked beets and green bean salad (my first experience with beets!), and a pasta with turkey meatballs from the GOOP website (I love Gwyneth and everything she eats). Candlelit dinner, some tele, and we crashed.

Night 5: Still Alive and Family Dinner

When feeling my worst on day 4, I googled possible side effects of a Tetanus shot to make sure this sickness was all normal and that I wasn’t having a deadly allergic reaction. Effects were classifed as mild (aches), medium (fever), and very bad news (internal bleeding). Get up first thing on day 5 and have a pee which is very very red. PANIC! MUST BE DEATH BY INTERNAL BLEEDING! Please note I ate beets for dinner last night. Please also note that I don’t eat beets, so I’m not aware of their pee-changing abilities. I managed to put the two together on my own anyway, and Z confirmed when I ran wild-eyed into the kitchen, semi-sure of my impending doom.

Anyways… where were we… birthday week! On this night, I invited Z’s entire family to the Real Jerk for a dinner celebration. I ate fried chicken and loved it. Z’s mom made a delicious banana cake, which Z ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all the next week. They gifted him with the most beautiful glockenspiel. It was a lovely evening.

Night 6: Shopping and Spa

This was the most expensive yet cheapest day of birthday week. I took Z shopping for a brand new outfit, but it was a gift from my parents, so it was free for me. Then I took him to the Stillwater Spa at the Park Hyatt for some whirlpooling and steaming and relaxing, followed by a prescribed/insurance-covered massage. And then we went home.

And that was it. That was birthday week. On each of these birthday nights I pulled a candle and lighter from my purse and anointed whatever he was eating as birthday cake. It didn’t even matter which night was his actual birthday. Birthdays always feel so anti-climactic day-of, don’t you think? Instead, I say live every day as if it’s your birthday, or the birthday of someone you love with a million love points. You’d be surprised at the fun you’ll have. And if you’ve got any ideas for fun surprise low-budget evenings of goodness, hook me up in the comment section : )