Thursday, August 30, 2012

When is an outfit more like a costume?

I've been mulling this question in my head for a few months. The other week, I started putting my thoughts into typed-format on Sheila's blogpost about self-doubt, but the that barely scratched the surface of my thoughts.*

In case you haven't noticed, I haven't post any outfit pictures on here for a long time. My last actual outfit post was in June. I've traced it back to three reasons.

1. I can't do self-portraits with my new camera. It just doesn't work, and I've been too lazy to order a remote. And too lazy to find my old point-and-shoot, not to mention that the card for that camera isn't compatible with my Macbook.

2. I love choosing outfits, but since I work with a group of people of my age and interest in clothing, there is less of an urgency to come home and post "look! I got dressed today! In new and exciting ways!" as there was when I was working from home.

3. I love most of my outfits. Because they're me.

I found the more blogging I did, the more I was co-opting other's styles as my own. And now that I'm wearing clothes that genuinely feel like me, I don't feel so inclined to share them. They're not daring, they're not avant-garde, they're me.

Don't get me wrong - every time I wear my maxi dress (which is often, if you ask my mother who almost staged an intervention after only ever seeing me wear it), my new black dress, my awesomely thrifted red pencil skirt, or my animal print wedges (which I promised ShyBiker I'd photograph a long long long time ago, and I'm a horrible person for breaking my word!), I do feel a twinge of guilt and remorse for not sharing my latest thrifting finds. The outfits will likely come back at some point.

But in the meantime, I'm enjoying dressing me for me. And for me, I'm most comfortable confident in more traditional business casual pieces for the work week, and bright colours and cottons on the weekend. And while I loved when I felt bold enough to experiment wearing a rainbow of bright colours to work, or making a staunch work outfit adapt for weekends, I didn't always feel like me. And what is a great outfit but a costume, if you don't feel like you?

*Of course, as I write this, I realize that I do sound a bit like a stuck record, having mused much the same here!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer Road Trip

Scott and I are no stranger to hoping into a car immediately after work on Friday and not returning home until far too late on Sunday. It's been the story of our life, particularly in the last three years. Living in a different province from family resulted in 3 1/2 - 6 hour drives on a fairly regular basis. Oddly, it wasn't until our wedding and one month before we moved back into our home province that we developed what is still my favourite iTunes playlist. While it's chock full of memories for us, especially since it played at our wedding, I'm still getting people asking for the list over a year later.

1. Lucky - Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat
2. Love Song - Adele
3. Think I'm in Love - Beck
4. Nobody Does it Better - Carly Simon
5. Forever - Ben Harper
6. Like U Like Crazy - Mates of State
7. Apple Blossom - White Stripes
8. When I'm 64 - The Beatles
9. You and Me Song - The Wannadies
10. I'm Sticking With You - Velvet Underground
11. I Want to Hold Your Hand - TV Carpio
12. I Melt With You - Jason Mraz
13. Anyone Else But You - Moldy Peaches
14. God Only Knows - Beach Boys
15. Maybe I'm Amazed - Paul McCartney
16. Perfect Day - Lou Reed
17. Banana Pancakes - Jack Johnson
18. Dearest - Buddy Holly
19. Hello, I Love You - The Doors
20. Love Me Do - The Beatles
21. Happy Together - The Turtles
22. Open Window - Sarah Harmer
23. Holy Holy Holy - Sufjan Stephens
24. Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen
25. First Day of My Life - Bright Eyes

The downfall of this mix is that it's not much longer than half an hour. Now our standard road trip comes in at 2 1/2 hours, with an additional 1 hour 10 minute jaunt occasionally on top of that. If I were to actually think about this list outside of the car, I'd likely add some more songs like Flowers in the Window by Travis or Lover's Spit by Broken Social Scene.

These lists by no means encompass our musical tastes. These are the song found in the middle section of the venn diagram of our iTunes libraries. I love the liberty afforded to me in music selection when driving by myself, with songs like A Plea from a Cat Named Virtue, by The Weakerthans, or Somebody to Love by Queen.. Ok, maybe Scott could handle this list, but what he couldn't handle is a) me screaming along to them and b) me playing them over and over and over and over and over again until I'm hoarse-voiced.

What kind of song make up your favourite driving lists?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A purchase 10 years in the making

The first time I can remember my fingers touching a computer keyboard, I was 5, maybe 6. They wheeled what was most likely a Commodore 64 into the kindergarten classroom, and I believe I wrote a story about a turtle on it.

About 4 years later, my parents finally purchased their first home computer. Hours were spent playing solitaire as a family, huddled around the dining room table. We were genuinely thrilled when we received SoundBlaster as a Christmas present.

When they moved on to their second computer, I adopted the first one as my first personal computer. Sure, it couldn't even handle the internet, but it still had solitaire!

My parents bought me my first computer when I went off to university. For the first degree. The first time. Ten years ago. It was my lifeline when I moved away from my home and my friends (back in the days of MSN Messenger). It quickly became my main source of entertainment (I may have burned out the DVD-ROM in the first 2 years). It also was the reason I ended a relationship (not entirely true - but when someone thinks you want a stick of RAM for Christmas, it's generally just one more sign that they don't really know you).

When I went off to grad school, I brought "Carrots" with me (as I named it), but supplementing its quickly dying power with "Baby Carrots" - a netbook - but promising myself to buy myself a brand new desktop when my income tax return came in a couple years.

But when the tax return came in, Scott was going back to school and he needed a computer. I finished the last draft of my thesis camped out on Scott's computer having to call him every time the computer went into screensaver and locked and I couldn't remember the password. Neither of my computers could cut it any more.

And finally, ten years after my first real computer, I got my second real computer.

Monday, August 13, 2012

An aha moment

You're at a cabin with no cell reception with three out-of-town friends. One has taken a it of an adventure. Naturally, you get a choppy phone call saying he's lost, but heading the direction the signs said to go to get back, but doesn't know where to turn. Thinking he's not far away, you say you'll meet him at the turn, throw the phone down on the couch and run out the door. And run up the first hill. And the second hill. And when you reach the third hill, you finally think to check the view to see if he's coming. He's not. One more hill and you decide this was a dumb idea. The turn is further than you thought. There are more hills than you thought. He's obviously not heading the direction you thought.

You turn around and run down the fourth hill, up and down the third, the second... once you find out this friend turned around and headed back out to the highway, you've ran 2km. And that's after your 30 minute run that morning.

But as you run down that last hill, round the corner, grab the keys to the truck and head out to the highway to track down your lost friend, you don't think about how sore your knees are for running without your knee braces, how tired your feet are from running in your beat up slipons, how you're certainly not glowing, you're sweating. Instead, you're thinking: "I ran 2k. In jeans. And I don't feel like I'm going to die".

And that's when waking up at 6:00am, battling wind, or suffering through humidity makes it worth it.

Because you know you're in shape.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Working it old school

Scott and I have been discussing what we feel is important in work place a lot these days. Afterall, Scott will be starting at a new job in the next few months, and I have seen quite a few offices in the last 12 months. And of those offices, I've dealt with issues shoe-free zones, construction areas (in the office), hostile work environments, and spaces so quiet, even the office phones were on silent. We both agree none of that is ideal.

Scott is considerably more relaxed than I am. His ideal work environment consists of jeans on any day of the week, starting at 9, but no one shows up before 9:10, heck, he even loved the idea of a dog coming into the office for a day here and there (until he realized that playing with a dog on a Thursday would be fun... but having to work twice as hard on Friday to make up for it would not).

On the other end of the spectrum, I like a much more professional environment. I'd rather know what the expectations are and strive to meet them, than flounder through only discovering where the boundaries are too late. I like clean, organized work spaces. I like tailored skirts and structured jackets. I like professional interactions between employees.

Don't get me wrong - I like some levity in the work environment, but I know that levity comes from respect. I appreciate when my boss understands that my bus was running late, and thus I did not arrive on time. In turn, I know I will make up that time without having to be asked.

I like having a crowd of "work friends" with whom I can share a story and a laugh. But I try to keep the social conversation short, or limited to coffee and lunch breaks.

I like that the occasional conversation that crops up in the office and involves the whole department. But I also know that they are not a daily occurrence as everyone has different "busy times" , so it's best to keep across office conversations to a minimum.

Sometimes, I wonder if I have too high expectations for my work environment, especially when my co-workers jokingly say: "Cara's no fun" or someone commends my "exceptional work ethic" when I feel I'm just meeting the requirements set out by my position description.

I broached the subject with the crew that haphazardly gathers for lunch. Does it make me strange that I don't crave social distraction at work? That I don't see the appeal of "perks" of being allowed to bring pets to work like I see some offices allowing? That I relish the silent moments in a shared office? The general consensus was that my preferred environment was not necessarily better than the other. 

When pushed further, as to whether I was expecting too much from our work environment, one of my colleagues said that she agreed with my preferred work environment and that it did make sense for our field of work. Then she shrugged and added: "But maybe we're just old school".

With that in mind, I'll gladly leave Scott in the "modern" work work of his design and technology related field. I'm quite happy, kickin' it old school. And maybe, just maybe, it'll help me climb that corporate ladder.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My life can be envied

I've spoken many times about feeling like our life is in a bit of a holding pattern. While we're working towards goals, our progress is not nearly as tangible as many of the goals we've achieved to this point.

I am finding, more and more, that I can reflect on the progress we have made, and how much better life is now compared to a few short months and years ago. Most often, now, I feel content.

But I still find it hard when someone in the blog world or the real world gets to achieve a goal before me. And in these last few months, we have been witness to so many people getting to live their dreams around this online community. Jealousy may have boiled over. I may have had a hissy fit or two.

After a couple days, I usually realize the sacrifices people have made to achieve their goal, sacrifices I'm not willing or ready to undergo, and I am able to be truly happy for them. And a number of days later, I can go back to be content with my life. It's good enough.

The other day, as we went for our morning run, a quiet 5k, through our manicured residential area, amongst two manmade lakes, I was finally able to realize that my life can be envied. Granted, I don't want someone to be jealous of us, and I'm not sure anyone really is. However, after a few weeks of being jealous of other, it was nice to know that my life was good enough that it could be envied too.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Busy times

Last Monday, I wrote up a bunch of posts and scheduled them for the next week and a bit. This Monday, I was too exhausted. Long weekends, why do I always put everything off until you come?

This week we:
 - made pickles with my sister
 - couldn't hang out in the shade of my balcony because they removed the one above us (thought I do enjoy the extra light in my living room)
 - visisted my grandparents
 - watched far too much Olympics
 - played tennis
 - waited too late in the day to go running and ended up exhausted
 - took a nap on the couch
 - baked bread
 - ran some errands (including a $5 thrifting run)
 - organized the storage closet
 - cleaned the oven
 - vacuumed
 - met up with my sister, her husband and my niece for ice cream

Plans for this week:
 - get two more runs in before the weekend
 - visit with my parents (couldn't you tell from the above cleaning?)
 - make a Costco run
 - organize my linen closet
 - pack and head up to the lake for the weekend with some friends from Regina

 What do you have up for the week?

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Art of A Cabin

The fascination with cabins in our neck of the woods is interesting. There are two markedly different attitudes towards cabins
"It's a back-to-nature retreat. Electricity? Plumbing? That's optional, at best!"
"Summer is meant to be a time to relax. We need the creature comforts!"

Scott and I fortunately feel the same about both attitudes:
"If you want that kind of nature, why not camp?"
"It's not a cabin, it's a summer house"

Of course, we may be biased. After years of, sigh, not wanting to waste his summers without video games, Scott has finally warmed up to his family cabin, and for myself, I've been loving the "spoiled" nature of it, having grown up camping.

There certainly are some creature comforts - a full bathroom for the ladies, newly installed air-conditioning, and satellite tv. However, the spiders, the mucky water of the lake (without any sand these last few years) and the entire lack of cell phone reception and internet access make it feel like you're actually out in the middle of no where.

My favourite thing about the family cabin is that it's constantly influx. Walls have even been known to move in between visits. If I am allowed an opinion (and after my "Hey, you should build a guest cabin" comment, I may not be allowed one!), the attention to decor in all of these renovations is what balances the comfort of the house with the nature of a cabin.

The cabin has 2 and a half bedrooms... that's a master bedroom, a smaller second bedroom with a double bed for guests, and a loft with another double bed for "kids," looking out into the living space.

The living space is open concept with a wood burning stove, a couple couches (including a hide-a-bed for even more guests!), a dining area and a kitchen. The last time we were there, the kitchen was the latest area undergoing a change.

 Everywhere you look, there is wood, as every good cabin should have (well, wood and my in-laws signature red walls). But the mixture of nautical accessories and well chosen antique furniture makes it a great place for those who escape the city and those who want to feel at home.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Quinoa - the magic meat

Quinoa is not meat - but boy can it act like it!  I could tell you about the protein/amino acids/what have you that make it an excellent replacement for me, but let's face it... for us non-vegan/vegetarian people looking to stretch their food budget by finding meat alternatives.

My quinoa tacos are great, since it mimics the crumbliness of the beef, and you don't even notice a change in taste since the taco seasoning is so spicy (in a good way!).

Every once and a while, though, you want burgers without all the fat. Scott barely ever eats a hamburger, preferring chicken burgers. But where to quinoa burgers fit?

We found out earlier this week. Quinoa burgers have the ease of burger but the more delicate flavour of chicken. That's right - everything ends up tasting like chicken. My recipe was loosely based off this one.

Chick(en)Pea  Burgers (makes 4)

1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 small carrot
1/8-1/4c crumbs (we grind up crackers with our mortar & pestle... we only LOOK like we're classy)
7.5 ounces beans (we used chickpeas)
1 egg white (we didn't have any eggs, so I used 1 1/2 tsp of ground flax seed and 1 tbsp water)
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp garlic

1. Cook the quinoa (1/4 cup raw quinoa, 1/2 cup water)
2. Chop carrot in food processor. Add remaining ingredients (except quinoa) to processor and blend.
3. Mix in quinoa and form patties. Dip hands in water to keep mixture from sticking.
4. Grill on greased tinfoil/pan or fry with oil in a pan.
5. Top as you would a chicken burger.
These burgers are really filling (Scott even debated whether he would eat a second) but are roughly 155 calories, 1.8 g fat, 7 g protein and even 4.6 g fiber per patty. Even with a slice of cheese and a bit of mayo, it's a great option!