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Who Is This and Where Am I?

There are some aspects of life, where I don't even recognize myself anymore. Take cooking for example. As a teenager, I had absolutely no interest in preparing a meal for myself, aside from maybe kraft dinner. I may have actually started to take an interest during my university years if it hadn't been for my volatile ex. When he went on one of his rants about me studying too much, he would always tell me how domestic chores such as cooking and cleaning were supposed to be my responsibility as I was the woman. Apparently, I should have even been willing to sacrifice my studies to make time to do these things as it would be more important for me to know how to clean a toilet than to know who Charlemagne was, or to know the moral behind 'Macbeth". He was the one who was supposed to be focusing primarily on school as he was the one who would be working. Needless to say, I refused to do any domestic work in protest.

When I moved in with Bren, I finally realized that I had to learn to do these things if I wanted us to have an equal relationship. So for nearly a year, I stuck to a few key recipes - pasta sauce, chicken caesar salad, butter chicken, anything in the Mexican food family and shrimp stir-fry. They were all fairly simple things to do and they faithfully turned out great every time. It was during the past summer that I finally began to expand my interest in cooking. It was provoked by two things. First of all, I received a few cookbooks as gifts at my bridal shower. One of them was huge thing that was thicker than any Bible or dictionary that I had ever seen (It is appropriately titled "How To Cook Everything"). Secondly, Bren and I went to see the movie "Julie and Julia" starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. The movie, as everyone who does not live in a cave must know by now, is loosely based on the decade that veteran chef Julia Child spent in France with her husband, Paul. She enrolled at the Cordon Bleu and eventually published the book "Mastering The Art of French Cooking". I really was inspired by it. Currently, I am reading Julia's autobiographical book, "My Life In France".

After the bridal shower, I started challenging myself to make one new main course a week. In between times I also expected to experiment with desserts, soups and side dishes. So far, this has gone surprisingly well. It has been nearly two weeks and I actually have stuck with this goal so far. In addition, the majority of the new dishes have turned out great! My beef stroganoff tasted exactly like my mother's. My mushroom soup from scratch would be the perfect remedy to any cold. I even put together a very refreshing chilled cucumber soup (I had been dying to try this ever since I read "The Wide Window" (The third unfortunate event in "A Series Of Unfortunate Events". In this book the ill-fated Baudelaire orphans are sent to live with a new guardian, Aunt Josephine, in a lakeside town. Josephine is a major neurotic who is afraid to turn on her stove so she only prepares cold meals - no matter what the weather outside is like. The Baudelaires arrive at her place just before a hurricane.) The book did not exactly make the soup sound appetizing, but since I had never heard of cucumber soup at this point, I was curious to try it out. In addition I have put together a tasty casserole, filling enchiladas and some orgasmic desserts. I still have many more dishes that I would like to try. In all honesty, I think this just may develop into a lifelong love affair.

It's amazing how my attitude has changed on this subject. This time last year, I had very little interest in cooking. Now I have a desire to try and cook any dish that is within my capability to do. I am curious to know where this interest will take me.

Sep. 4th, 2009

It has been nearly two months since my last post. I've missed livejournal over the summer. My reason for not posting has been largely due to my lack of a computer at home. I so need one. I definitely need the Internet. I honestly don't how much longer I can go on living without it. There were a few events this summer that I have wanted to write about. now that I am back at work and have a lot of time to spare, I'll write an update on my life.

Both my bridal shower and my bachelorette party happened in July. The former occurred on July 15 starting at 2:00pm. Julie and Kari hosted the event and Mom was nice enough to volunteer the house as the location. I picked up, Elizabeth, my mother-in-law to be a little more than hour before. We arrived to find the living room fully decorated. Streamers were hanging from the entrances and one of the chairs was decorated to be throne for me. On the corner of the chair, the girls had placed a hat (that looked like something out of a Holly Hobbes picture) on the corner of said chair. I immediately knew that I would have to wear this for the entirety of the shower. I sighed at this, but assured myself that it wasn't so bad. The hat itself didn't look awful. I'm just not a hat person. I was then horrified to find out that the girls were going to attach all of the bows that were on my gifts to the hat. Kari told me (with a very amused look on her face) that I was going to have to wear the hat will all of the bows on it. Needless to say, I was very reluctant to do this. I'm just not one to voluntarily embarrass myself.

A large crowd attended. Many of my Dad's cousins live in Ottawa, so about half of the guests were family. However, Mom's good friends Christina and Lorraine came (along with Lorraine's daughter and daughter-in-law) as well as my parent's neighbours Eileen and Joyce. As for my friends, there were of course Julie and Kari as well as Negar, Kate and Sarah (one of the fabulous six that I haven't spoken much about yet). I found out later that Kat had spaced on the date. As far Martine (another one of the fabulous six that I haven't spoken much about), she was out of town. It was good to see everybody and it was great preparation for the actual wedding day (though I can't remember if I'm actually supposed to speak at the reception), since I had to address the crowd two or three times to thank them for coming. During my first speech, I spoke about the many blessings in my life - Brendan, my family and my good friends. I truly meant the words that I said. I could feel the tears in my eyes as I spoke. An event such as this helps one to realize that they are truly blessed. It was a celebration of my upcoming marriage to a wonderful man and my closest friends were there to share it with me. It truly was an overwhelming experience.

On a more material-girlesque note, I received so many lovely gifts. Elizabeth has ordered a comforter for Brendan and I (we currently do not have one and I dearly miss having one). Christina gave us a small coffee maker (we aren't coffee drinkers ourselves, but it would be nice to be able to offer it to guests). There were a few cookbooks among the gifts and I have been making good use of them already, believe it or not! In addition, I was given a very sexy set of underwear from Negar, an elegant jewelry set from Sarah, a muffin pan from Kate, a Royal Albert tea cup from Julie and a handmade shawl from Kari. I loved the shawl. Kari even put small blue beads in it so that I would have "something blue" on my wedding day. I was touched. It was a great day!

The bachelorette party was the following Saturday (July 25). The girls had it so early since Julie was moving to Orillia in the next two weeks so that she could live with her boyfriend, Dave. It was a small group - just me Julie, Kari, Negar and Kate, but I actually preferred it that way. A bachelorette party is one of those things where you want to have a night to be completely, even bizarrely you and I am not the type of person who can do that in a big crowd. We started out by having dinner at one of my favourite restaurants, The Blue Cactus. It was a great chance for us to talk since nightclubs can be very loud. Mom and Lorraine actually joined us for part of the evening!

The party did hit one obstacle when we left the restaurant. If you were in Ottawa at all during the month of July, you should already know what that obstacle was - rain. Wet, hard rain. It was pouring so badly that we were anxious about running even a short distance. However, with a few brave moments on our part, we eventually made it (fairly dry as well) to the Velvet Room, a bar located in the heart of the downtown core just above Fat Tuesday's, a restaurant that specializes in New Orleans style food. Though it was packed we did manage to get a table. This was mainly thanks to Negar and her social skills. Once she explained the situation to a couple of guys who were hogging a huge table, they were more than happy to give us rooms to sit. We drank, we laughed, we danced. It was one of the best girls-nights-outs that I had ever had.

We may have another unofficial bachelorette closer to the day. Right now, I am just shocked by how close that day is getting. It will be just over six week from today. Yikes!
Over the weekend, Kari invited me over to her new apartment in Westboro (a yuppified neighbourhood in the west end of Ottawa). She managed the impossible. She found a place in that area for a good price and it's actually on the main street in a very trendy section. In addition she doesn't have to walk too far to get to the nearest grocery store.
After hanging out in her new pad for a while, Kari and I decided to go for a walk to see what else she was close to. After stopping for some cheesecake at a place only three doors down from her building, we walked until we discovered the Mecca of clothing stores for people who enjoy high-end brand names (for example, myself and Kari). It's called Hush and though it is a second had store, it is exclusive to high-end garments in good condition. There were blazers by Juicy Couture for just under $80.00 (it is difficult to get anything of this brand for under $100.00). There was a Lacoste sweater for $35.00. Betsey Johnson shoes for the same price. Betsey John dresses as well. There was a countless number of things from Banana Republic. I swear, the most low-end brand name we could find was likely Abercrombie and Fitch (which actually isn't low end at all). There was even a pair of Manolo-freaking-Blahnik's on display and only for $300.00 (they normally go for about $900.00). Manolo Blahniks! The favourite shoe brand of the great Carrie Bradshaw!
Naturally, we decided that we could have to go back there. However, we are unsure if it is a good thing that Kari only lives a walking distance from this place (and I am maybe a fifteen minute drive). We came to the conclusion that Hush was an evil place, but it was a good evil (similar to myself and Kari). But one thing is for certain, we are definiately going back there.

A Day At The Beach

Bren and I have already developped our Canada Day tradition. For the past two Canada Days, we have packed a picnic lunch and spent nearly the entire day at Meech Lake, just about 20 minutes outside of Ottawa on the Quebec side. It's great. We're away from the overwhelming crowds of downtown and we don't end up dead on our feet from walking around on them all day. In addition, we never have those moments where we are dehydrated or hungry because we always have food and beverages at our disposal.

This past Canada Day, we headed out just before lunch time. Bren expressed interest in stopping into one of the museums on the way. Last year, we had decided on the National Gallery of Canada. But we have been there recently, so instead he suggested that we go to the Museum of Civilization this year. Currently, they have an exhibit for mythical creatures so I definitely thought that it would be interesting. Honestly, who wasn't fascinated with unicorns, dragons, etc. when they were a child. In addition, I love th Museum of Civilization. Their permenent exhibit is so lifelike that I feel the need to go see it every couple of years whether I have company to bring around the city or not. The exhibit did turn out to be good. I particularly liked the section that was devoted to the cyclops (you know, the one-eyed creature from Greek mythology). I read Homer's "The Odyessey" just a little over a year ago and the my edition of the tale contained an intriguing footnote about the cyclops. Apparently, the root of the belief in the creature stems from a discovery on the island of Sicily. Sicily used to be home to an ancient breed of elephant and their skeletons can even still be found there today. The skulls had big hole in the middle of the face area where the trunk would have been during the elephants' life. Of course, one who wasn't sure what the animal originally was may have thought that this whole was actually for a gigantic eye. This was the assumption and thus the myth of the cyclops was born. This section actually did contain the skull of one of these anicent elephants just to show where the belief came from.

We went onto the beach after leaving the museum. Our usual spot is a deck in one of the more isolated areas of the lake. It is so relaxing. We have our privacy and comfortable place to sit or lay down. The weather did co-operate with us for the most part, with the exception of one brief storm (fortunately there are a few big trees near the deck, so we did have sufficient shelter during the storm). But the stop subsided and the sun dried everything off very quickly. We spent most of the day just talking on the deck and enjoying the food and atomosphere. But at the warmest point of the day, we went in the water. I love the wildlife in this area. Every time we go to that spot, we see fish of different sizes. The smallest ones will swim right to the shore and are very time. They always come so close to my feet. I just like to watch them. Bren seems more fascinated with the bigger ones. They usually stay near the deck. We have found our trips to the lake to be a great way to spend time together away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

As the sun was setting we packed up and headed to nearby pub for dinner before returning to Ottawa to watch the fireworks. The fireworks were impressive as usual.

Canada Day was certainly a good way to start off our summer vacation. It was the day where we really get to relax and let loose for the first time since we got off work. The only downside were the sunburns that we got. Note to self: only wear a two piece if there is sunscreen available. Fortunately, 3 days have passed and they don't look too bad anymore. Bren's looks almost completely gone. As for mine, I'm just avoiding tank tops and anything too low cut until it has faded a little more. Oh well. It was a small price to pay.

The Excitement Is Building

We started sending out the invitations last week and are already getting a few responses!!! I just can not believe that our wedding date is getting that close!!!! The first respondent was my parent's accross the street neighbour Eileen and her husband. In addition I have heard from Ruth, my old babysitter from Kingston (who is actually going to come), my Dad's cousin Margot and my friend Sarah from World Youth Day.
In addition to the excitement from the invitations, I received a call from The Bay today. Bren and I have to pick up our first wedding present within the next few days!!!!! It's so close!!!!! Yipeee!!!!!!!!!

Writer's Block: RIP Michael Jackson

In honor of the King of Pop: What is your favorite Michael Jackson song?
It's amazing how the world can change in only a second. A small rock can be thrown in water and it will have impact. It creates rings that can spread out metres away from where the rock was originally tossed. The calmness of the water has been disturbed by just a simple rock. The death of Michael Jackson has seemed to have this same impact. He is one stone in a world of billions, yet when he fell into the water, he created many rings. The news showed statements made by his family and many fans. The newspaper printed statements made by other celebrities including Madonna and Celine Dion. What they seemed to all agree on was the fact that he was an amazing person with so much talent and that he was taken from the world too soon.
I believe that Michael Jackson, at the heart of it all, was a good, compassionate person. But he was very misunderstood. I have trouble judging him for his odd behaviour (I'm not referring to the accusations on pedophilia. If you want my honest opinion on that, I never believed those kids). After all, there have been many good people in history who tried to be giving, compassionate and generous, who were misunderstood and suffered for being so. Jesus Christ himself fits this description. He died for it in fact! Michael Jackson had a very rough childhood. I believe he had a sincere interest in helping children. He wanted to do what he could to ensure that other children would not face the same issues that he faced as a child. He did what he could to help children (and some in unfortunate situations) develop positive memories of their childhood. Everybody who was close to him has used the word "compassionate" to describe him.
Early death seems to be a consequence for being an icon. Look at Elvis Presley, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, JFK, Diana, etc. So many of them have gone too soon. Yes, for many of them it was possibly related to drugs (Like Elvis and possibly Judy Garland). In other cases, their commitment to their cause became way too dangerous (Martin Luther King). But who knows what more they could have done or how much more of an impact they could have had on society had they been given more time.
I had hoped that Michael Jackson could finish off his career on a high note, live a quiet retirement with the company of his children and escape the media as he grew into old age. But icons don't grow old.
Rest In Peace Michael. May God grant you the serenity that you were denied in life.

To answer the writer's block, I like many of his songs,

1. Thriller
2. Billie Jean
3. You Are Not Alone
4. Say You'll Be There
5. Black Or White
6. Who Is It?
7. Blood Is On The Dance Floor
8. Scream (his duet with sister Janet)
9. Beat It

I find it impossible to name a favourite. I grew up listening to him. 

Things to do....

The wedding is less then four months away.....EEEEP!!!!

My great awareness of the date creeping up has happened for one big reason - the invitations started going out yesterday! Wow. That awareness I just spoke of became even greater as I typed that. In addition, now that I am on summer vacation, I am making a list of the things that we still have left to do. That's left me with a very weird feeling. I'm overwhelmed by the fact that there's still a lot left. But at the same time, that same feeling stems from the fact there actually isn't much left to do. This is it:

1) We still have to book the cake

2) We still have to book the flowers

3) We have to decide if we're going anywhere for our wedding night

4) we have to buy our bands

5) In August, we have to get our marriage liscence

6) We have to make final decisions on the hymns we will use at the ceremony and choose the people who will participate in our procession. Then we have to submit our final outline of the ceremony to the priest.

7) We have to send the DJ our song list

8) I still have to contact the people at our reception venue and tell them that we would like red wine to be available as well as white wine

9) We have to send some ideas for picture to the photographer

10) After we receive responses to the invitations, we have to decide on a seating plan

11) We have to get a basket for the flower girl and a pillow for the ring girl

So you can see why I'm undecided about whether there is still a lot left to do or really not that much. Thank God we're on vacation!

Searching For Purpose

For the last few days, I have been thinking about how I can use my energy. In the last four years, I have had the tendancy to use my excess energy as a tonic to heighten my anger at certain people. That was one of, if not the worst effect that my volatile ex had on me. For the longest time, when I reflected on his character, I convinced myself that he had absolutely no redreeming qualities. I had to tell myself that. It was for my own sanity's sake. A recent spat with Bren caused me to think differently (our disgreements sometimes end up becoming moral debates). I won't get into what started it or what provoked him to make this point, but he told me that everybody had redeeming qualities. I'm still having a hard time agreeing with him completely. I mean, does "everybody" include Hitler, or Caligula? Or what about Elizabeth the Countess of Bathory (better known as the Countess Dracula)? I guess they did and maybe one or two people saw them (after all, Hitler and Caligula did manage to attract wives, so who knows). But my point is, I think that my volatile ex caused me to have the opinion that "people are born rotten and get worse every year" (quoted from Martin on "Frasier" in the episode where Frederick visits Seattle for his birthday). Now that enough time has passed for me to think about him rationally, I did see some, though very few, moments where my former lover could be a good person (but they were very few). In any case, due to that attitude, I have developped a major problem of channeling my energy towards people I am mad at. I'd like to try not to do this anymore.
My experience caused me to become very internal. Before that relationship, I had a great love for my friends and took an interest in their lives. In addition, I had a high regard for humanity as a whole. I am at the point where I feel a strong connection to those who are a part of my life again. The World Youth Day pilgrimmage last year really helped with that. I seriously do think that I owe this to the fact that I am making a point to practice my religion again. Faith in God is something that makes you care about the world.
For some odd reason, I am having trouble with thinking beyond my own friends and family. I would like to have that ability, but when I try to get in that mind set, it is like there is a wall in my mind. This bothers me because I remember that I wasn't always like this. I have been thinking of putting myself on a system where I force myself to think that way. I have thought that I should try to do a minumum of one random act of kindness every week for one year (I did originally consider everyday, but I'm not sure if it is realistic to think that the opportunity would come along everyday) and keep track of it (kind of like what Julie Powell did when she attempted to cook her way through Julia Child's cook book). Maybe if I start off by forcing myself to do it, it will become more natural over time.
I did get off to a decent start today though, so I am happy about that. A few months ago, I heard this guest speaker at work - Elias Saikaley. He is a rock climber and a filmmaker from right here in Ottawa. His mentor was this professor from the University of Ottawa, Dr. Sean Egan. Apparently, Dr. Egan had a dream to climb Mount Everest and did embark on an expedition. I'm sad to say that he died of heart failure before making it halfway up. his goal was to be the oldest Canadian to make it to the top. Elias wished to continue his mentor's legacy and attempted to climb Mount Everst himself. Well, Elias, did not make it to the top either (though he did very well for somebody who had only recently learned to climb), but his experience did imspire him to make a difference in the world. Elias founded the organization Finding Life, which has been committed to various projects to help children in Nepal. I had visited his website many times over the past few months out of curiosity. today, I went back and finally made a donation.
Recently, Finding Life had completed their funding for a school in Nepal. The latest project was to raise funds to build a well in the same area so that the children could have drinking water. The project will require 17,000 USD. This is the project that my donation went towards. Of course, in comparison to how much the project requires my contribution is very small. But every bit counts. I did feel good about it. A donation to a charity may mean little to some people, but it was a good start for me. It's like with raising the money - every bit counts.

Writer's Block: Set the Scene

Empty parking garages, roadside motels, dark caves, dank basements, overgrown forests—what kind of setting makes you feel nervous?
I'm answering this just to throw in another crazy fact about myself, though anybody who knows me very well already knows the answer to this. I am nervous anywhere there are spiders. I've been afraid of them as long as I can remember.

The Overcompensating Ken Doll

I sometimes stop into Chapters on my way home from work. One of the main reasons why I am so happy to be living near Pinecrest Avenue is because I am not even a five minute drive away from Chapters (and maybe only a twenty minute walk if I am feeling very amibitious). On occasion, I will slowly go through the entire store. But I always check four key sections: History, Fashion, poetry and the discount section. I usually only look through fiction when I know exactly what book I am looking for. A few days ago when I was in the discount section I came upon an interesting book titled "Forever Barbie" - a book about every North American girl's favourite playmate. It discusses how she came to be and her impact on society. Not bad for only $4.00. due to my interest in the history of pop culture and my nostalgic feelings towards Barbie, I bought the book.
It has been well publicized that Barbie is celebrating her 50th birthday this year. 1959 must have been an interesting year. It marked the end of a decade that emphasized tradition and family values and was the transition into the sexual revolution. Ruth and Elliott Handler (the founders of the Mattel toy company) must have seen what was coming when they came up with the idea for Barbie. She was very sexual in comparison with the other dolls of the time. But most importantly, she had the ability to be anything. I myself had a substantial collection of Barbie dolls. I had many versions of her. One of my incarnations of her was a ballet dancer, another a figure skater. I had rock star Barbie, downhill skiing Barbie, Barbie with Reeboks, Dream Glow Barbie (One of my favourites. When I went through my childhood toys just a few weeks ago I had sadly discovered that her head had become permanently detachable from her body :( ). To put it simply, I had Barbie in many forms. The collection I have just mentionned still does not include my two Ken dolls, My doll of Joey from the New Kids On The Block, my Midges (Barbie's best friend), Theresas (another friend), Skippers (Barbie's sister) and Courtneys (Skipper's best friend). In order to make the community that I was God to more diverse, I did give each doll their own name.
You may have had some reaction to the fact that I only had a ratio of three male dolls to more than twenty female dolls. As a little girl, I honestly didn't find Ken that interesting. His hair was as plastic as the rest of his body. His clothes were uninteresting. He was a typical man, and I had no interest in them at this point in my life. My new book, however, caused me to have more of an interest in him.
Ken came to be in 1961 when the demand for Barbie to have a steady boyfriend exploded. The big guys at Mattel were still hesitant. Why, you ask? Did I not just mention is was 1961? The sexual revolution was still under way and people were still trying to cling to tradition. Keep in mind this was only a year after Alfred Hitchcock had given his creation, "Psycho" to the world. It was in that movie that Janet Liegh became the first woman in film to wear nothing but a bra to conceal her breasts on camera. That caused a lot of controversey. The hesitation at Mattel stemmed from the question of what to do about Ken's tallywacker.
Ruth Handler, being fairly liberal minded wanted the doll to have a "bulge in his groin", but the male executives thought that this was too much. The males suggested that Barbie and Ken should simply look similar in that area (I'm serious! Get the book if you don't believe me!), but the females voted against that. so apparently, three suggestions were sculpted. They were all different degrees of bumps. Charlotte John, the clothing designer for the dolls had these things to say:

1) Bump #1 - "You couldn't even see it"
2) Bump #2 - "It was a little bit rounded
3) Bump #3 - "It really was"

Even Charlotte and Ruth agreed they did not want an actual penis on the doll. Ken ended up with a bump in that area, just a touch bigger than Barbie's (and if memory serves me correct, nothing had changed by the 1980's. I recall my Ken dolls having a v-shaped bump, just slightly bigger than Barbies.
Clearly Mattel still set Ken up to be very insecure about his shortcomings. His first garments came with long, thin accessories. "He had a hunting outfit with an enormous rifle, a baseball outfit with a very long bat, and a doctor outfit with a pendulous stethoscope. He didn't motor around in a roadster like Barbie, he drove a hot rod. The cruelest moment on his gential deficiency, however, came in 1964, with "Cheerful Chef", a backyard barbecue costume that included a long fork skewering a pink plastic weenie." (From "Forever Barbie" by, M.G. Lord). Barbie was never given these long, thin items.
I found this to be a very interesting passage in the book. As somebody living fifty years later, I have a hard time seeing why this was a such a big deal. If I could go back in time, I think I would like to see the 50's and 60's just so that I could try to comprehend where they were coming from. Aside from that, I found this to be a very interesting yet amusing fact about the history of the Ken doll. The more you know....