Quick Update and Hello Summer!

No, I haven’t abandoned this blog yet again.  (Thanks for noticing my absence, though.)  Things have been a bit busy around here but Baby Owl has graciously allowed me some time to myself this morning and I thought I’d pop onto the blog for a few moments.

Plans for this blog are becoming more concrete, which I’m really happy about.  The new series I introduced a while ago (Snazzy Shoestrings, Spending Smart, and The Budget-Friendly Recipe Book) were pretty popular, so I’ll be continuing to add to those series as this little train chugs onwards.  I’ve got some more soup recipes on the way, as well as some content related to first-time parenthood as I’ve experienced it so far.

Summer is in full swing in Quebec — seems we skipped spring again, really — and we’ve got a lot happening in the next few months so stay tuned for some content on family, friendship, how to survive a Montreal summer, and maybe even a post or two on a different take on summer fashion.

Off the blog, I’ve finally landed on a side hustle that I am really passionate about and will be pursuing (for reals, this time)!  Until it’s ready to go live I won’t be saying much but things are already underway and I’m so excited for it.

Finally, if you want to keep up with me in between posts, you can find me on Instagram (@demipinte) — that’s where I’m most active on social media on a daily basis (just ask my father-in-law).

See you soon!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot 

Part of me feels like I should be writing something profound and moving on the last night of 2015.

The bigger part of me feels like I don’t have to if the right words won’t come — and I’m okay with that.

There’s not much I can say about 2015 that I haven’t already written about, so all I’ll say here are the five things my father believed every child should be taught to say in complete sincerity.

To everyone in my life, and to those who have left it but might still come back here to visit…if you know me well, you know what I mean to say to you with each one of these.

Please.

Thank you.

I’m sorry.

I forgive you.

I give you my word.

***   ***   ***

Happy New Year.

In Pursuit of Happiness, #2: Parody, Comedy, and Sisterhood

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and Monday saw me dashing through the rain from one job to the other with no time in between for anything but a granola bar – a thankfully rare occurrence – which means this week’s dose of happy is a day late.

I’ll have to work on sticking to my self-imposed writing schedules in the new year.

 

1. Yelping with Cormac: After two years of having The Road by Cormac McCarthy recommended to me by a friend, I finally bought it a few months ago. A few weeks ago, I finally got around to reading it. The recommendation came with a disclaimer – “Don’t read it if you’re even just remotely moody; it’s so bleak and you’ll be depressed” – that went largely ignored when I sat down with a cup of tea to read it.

This friend will tell you that my catchphrase is, “Trust me, I know things,” and I would have probably listened to his disclaimer if he had quoted me at the end of it. And yes, this is me trying to shift the blame a bit because it’s rare that I’m challenged so much by the atmosphere of a novel that I can’t read it in a straightforward and timely manner.

About halfway through The Road, I stumbled upon an unexpected trove of humor that made getting through the second half of the novel so much easier: Yelping with Cormac.

Those of you who are familiar with any of McCarthy’s works will know that “hilarious” and “light” are not adjectives found anywhere near this writer’s name, but as a spoof-homage to him Yelping with Cormac is a hilarious and light parody of Cormac McCarthy’s distinctive style. It’s a fantastically accurate mirror of his particular way with words, and yet when the Cormac Touch is applied to a review of Urban Outfitters or the Apple Store it becomes a new kind of magic altogether.

Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.

2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine: I’m really picky with my television shows, especially when it comes to comedy, and I don’t own a television – which is why I’m always rather late to the party for any show that started its run in the last five years. However, thanks to Netflix, I’m fully on board (and caught up) with Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

I pay close attention to the credits that roll over the opening scenes of an episode, and when I saw Phil Lord and Christopher Miller right there in the pilot I knew I would enjoy Brooklyn Nine-Nine. They’re the guys behind Clone High and The Lego Movie, to name my two particular favourite Lord Miller projects.

But it’s not just the Lord Miller touch that makes this series highly enjoyable. In a knee-deep morass of New York cop shows that are heavy on the dark drama of big city crimes, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a much-needed step up onto the dry ground of fresh perspective and new storytelling. If you were to find a Venn diagram of cop shows, ensemble comedies, and real-world farce, you’d see Brooklyn Nine-Nine right at the middle where all the best bits of each genre come together.

3. The Following Quote and My Oldest Sister:

“From the earliest times, the custom of breaking bread together has been symbolic of sharing and accepting and loving one another. A ‘companion’ is one with whom we eat bead…to eat together is to love. The Noche Buena feast, after going to Midnight Mass, ought to be one of the most beautiful Christmas symbols. We pray together and then we eat together…because we love each other.”
– Father Galdon, SJ

Of course there’s a story here. Because of my work schedule and company policies regarding vacation time during peak periods, I’m actually stuck in Montreal until Christmas morning. It was rather upsetting at first because this will be the first Christmas in many years that most of my family will be under one roof for the holidays, and I was faced with the prospect of spending a very quiet and very lonely Christmas Eve on my own.

With our mother away since American Thanksgiving and our schedules taking us all over the place in the weeks leading up to Christmas, my oldest sister and I haven’t had the opportunity this year to decorate the family nest or even come together over our beloved Advent wreath once a week. Add that to the fact that Montreal is still waiting for a proper holiday snowfall, and you can probably see why Christmas Eve this year was starting to look like a scene out of The Road.

That is, until my favourite oldest sister told me she would fly out with me on Christmas morning.

So, while I might not get the magic of Christmas Eve with my nephew and the rest of my family, I won’t be alone during Christmas Mass and I won’t be sipping a lonely cup of hot instant coco in a strange hotel room at the airport. I’ll be welcoming the Holy Child at Mass and then sitting down at our old, worn dining table to toast His arrival with my sister.

“Out of the womb of nature” in the middle of Kentucky

I’m currently in Ohio visiting my sister and her family on a short Labor Day Weekend vacation. Sure, Ohio might not be the most glamorous of States to visit, but I love coming here nonetheless. A visit to my sister’s West Chester home is everything a vacation should be: relaxing and refreshing, with good food and better company in abundance.

Yesterday we took a family road trip two hours south into central Kentucky, and on the way down we saw a wild turkey, some white-tailed deer, and a turtle crossing the I-75 (who we thankfully did not see lying belly up on the Interstate on the way home). We finally arrived at the Mammoth Cave National Park with an extra hour, having forgotten to take into account a one-hour time difference, and so had the opportunity to explore more than we’d anticipated.

Now, the surrounding countryside on the surface was a sight to see unto itself.  Being raised in the Fraser Valley gave me an appreciation for the great outdoors that I’ve carried with me into the concrete jungle where I’ve resided for the past seven years, and getting out of the city is always my favourite way to spend a long weekend.  It doesn’t happen nearly enough, but with landscapes like these all over North America, that could change soon…

The view from the trails above the caves.

The view from the trails above the caves.

After a quick picnic lunch and a ¾-mile nature hike, we piled into one of three buses alongside 130 other guests, drove four miles out into the wild, and descended 280 steps on a narrow metal staircase into the world’s biggest cave system.  Over 400 miles of cave systems have been explored underneath nearly 53 000 acres of densely-forested land, and as we walked ever lower into this “grand, gloomy, and peculiar place” on the “Domes and Dripstones” tour, I felt like we were entering a new world entirely separate from our own. Though adequate light sources few and far between – set up mainly to illuminate the more elaborate and interesting rock formations and features – we filed through the tunnels at an easy pace, congregating in three separate cave chambers to learn more about the caves and the park’s history from our fearless leaders, the amusing duo of Rangers Jason and Jeff.

This was probably the most amount of light we got down there.

This was probably the most amount of light we got down there…

...while the rest of it was more or like this.

…while the rest of it was more or less like this…

...and, more often than not, like this.

…and, more often than not, like this.

Even in these spacious caverns the lights were dim, and in one of them the Rangers turned the lights off entirely so we could experience the total stillness and utter darkness of the caves as they were before man came with firelight to illuminate their grandeur. According to the park’s lore, in the early days an explorer was left behind by accident in one of the chambers and was found nineteen hours later sitting on a boulder banging two rocks together. When praised for his clever thinking to use sound to guide his team back to him, he explained that it had been more for his benefit than anyone else’s: the total silence and darkness had been enough to drive him crazy.

I can believe it. What I’m still trying to wrap my head around is that some people were intrepid and daring enough to venture down into places like the Mammoth Caves with little more light than what’s afforded by a Zippo.  But nonetheless I’m glad they did, and the two-hour trip to the grand finale was well worth the careful stepping and occasional fumbling in near to total darkness.

The Frozen Niagara feature of stalactites and stalagmites at the end of the tour took my breath away. It’s one thing to see these formations in photos or in documentaries, but to experience them in real life is almost indescribably amazing and downright cool. There was so much to take in from that one section of the tour, and if we could have stayed down there longer it would not have been long enough for me to take in everything I could have. Alas, with the buses waiting at the surface to take us back to the visitors’ centre, I had to pull myself away from that underground display and ascend back into the light of the surface world.

Heading down into the

Heading down into the “Drapery Room” once we reached the Frozen Niagara formation.

Looking up from the bottom of the

Looking up from the bottom of the “Drapery Room.”

Just outside of the

Just outside of the “Drapery Room,” on the way back up to the surface.

It’s hard to imagine any degree of beauty or creation existing so far away from the surface where humans are best suited to life. But the wondrous subterranean landscapes of caves proves that beauty not only exists but truly thrives even in the dreariest, darkest places – and their surprising closeness to home reminds us that once you’re able to see beauty in the dark cold depths, you’re not as far as you think from the light and warmth of a beautiful day.

Keeping up appearances in hairy situations

Summer is in full swing here in Montreal, which means the season of sleeveless tops and cute shorts has arrived. I’m going to let all the menfolk in on a little secret: all that lovely smooth skin you see everywhere during the summer months doesn’t just magically happen overnight. For most ladies, getting rid of hair and peach fuzz isn’t just a weekly or bi-weekly ordeal. It’s an obsession – to the point where whole aisles are dedicated to the pursuit of achieving baby-soft, silky-smooth bodies DIY-style in addition to such services being offered at pretty much every salon and spa in the city. And with so many options available, it’s no wonder that beauty bloggers and vloggers flood the interwebs with reviews on all of these products and services.

Somewhere in the plethora of hair removal products and techniques there’s an effective solution for every woman. From investing in electrolysis treatments to just not giving a care about body hair, every woman I know has her own way of handling body hair.

Unfortunately for me, I still haven’t found the perfect, 100% foolproof routine for all the hair I’ve got from the nose down. My main problem is that I have very fair skin covered by very dark hair in a few different textures on my body, and on top of that I’m one of those women who just want pretty much everything from the nose down to be perfectly smooth. For every area where I’ve wanted to get rid of unwanted hair, I’ve needed a different method…which means I’ve had a few experiences with hair removal that maybe didn’t quite turn out how they were supposed to.

Like that one time when I decided to throw out the razor for my underarms and wax them instead. So, out came the large wax strips for the dreaded armpit tape-and-tear. What followed next was not worth enduring ever again because when a wax strip leaves so much wax behind that you end up sealing your arm shut to your body you really end up questioning your intelligence and sanity. Yes, you read that right: after removing the wax strip, I put my arm down and promptly sealed it shut at the armpit…as in, I could not move my upper arm at all. It looked like I was halfway out of a straitjacket and dancing the funky chicken as I panicked in my tiny bathroom. I ended up having to lie down on a towel on the bathroom floor with a kitchen funnel stuck in between my arm and my body, pouring shower oil into my armpit in the hopes that it would help. In the end, it did work and I didn’t have to use deodorant that day because that shower oil smelled amazing…but will I ever put a wax strip near my underarms ever again? Aw, hell no. Any kind of oil is too expensive to be used on a regular basis in this fashion, especially when it smells really nice and comes from some exotic country.

My arm hair is particularly dark but very fine so you’d think wax would be highly effective here. But this is me we’re talking about here and I only narrowly avoided repeating the great armpit incident when I attempted to wax away my arm hair. Enter the era of the epilator, whose motorized wheel of hundreds of tweezer heads evokes images of the Sarlaac. While it is highly effective – I still use this on my arms and on my upper lip – it hurts. It’s more irritatingly painful than getting inked, and when it’s yanking out hair on sensitive areas like inner arms and upper lips, you can’t really help but whimper. The good thing is that it’s louder than a machine gun so nobody will hear you express your pain and anger at this highly effective tool. (However, if you live with guys like I did when I first used my epilator, you might walk out of your room or bathroom to a living room of very odd glances and awkward silences.)

The first time I had my eyebrows threaded at a salon, it hurt so much that I cried and ended up looking like a wet raccoon. Luckily the aesthetician was very nice and redid my eye makeup for me, but it was still pretty embarrassing. I wasn’t ugly-crying in the middle of the salon, and I wasn’t even emotionally distraught when I walked in. However, threading hurts like a bitch. And public tears are always awkward, and there’s no way to make them any less awkward whenever they do happen for whatever reason, even if the reason is because you’re trying to look good for a date. But wait, there’s more! In an attempt to avoid a repeat performance at the salon, I went on YouTube to watch tutorials on threading your own brows at home. An hour later, a mild string burn on my fingers and my forehead and lopsided eyebrows were all I had to show for my efforts. I guess there are some indignities through which we must suffer in public to be beautiful, and threading might be one of them.

Then there was that time when I nearly concussed myself in an attempt to neaten up my bikini zone. Apparently posing like Captain Morgan in your tub while simultaneously doing yoga on an old bathtub mat doesn’t excuse you from the laws of physics. Luckily I wasn’t physically hurt, but even though I didn’t have an audience to witness that spectacular display of bathroom-capades my pride was significantly bruised. I still don’t vote for bush, but until I stop being such a chicken and book an appointment to get a professional wax job done I really hope the new adhesive ducks do their job.

As for leg hair…well, when you’re a girl who gets five o’clock shadow on her legs, it’s always an uphill battle. Once again, I found myself thoroughly sick and tired of always using a razor to get rid of all that stubborn leg hair. This was after the armpit waxing incident and since I don’t have thigh gaps I really didn’t want to tempt fate by buying wax strips because I was pretty sure I would end up with my legs glued shut. So, what did I try instead? That stinky, itchy, goopy stuff known as depilatory cream. I wasn’t able to do anything while I had this stuff smeared all over my legs, so I ended up lying on my bed with my legs up in the air, all the while trying to ignore the burning itch that I had to endure for the longest fifteen minutes of my life. Oh, and then when I washed it off, I realized that while itching is normal with this product, burning is not, and I had to go back to the pharmacy to get a soothing topical treatment for a mild allergic reaction to the product. Lovely.

After the struggles I’ve endured with  removing hair from my lower body, I still use a razor and shaving cream. It’s labor-intensive and has to be done frequently (though I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes putting up with a bit of stubble for one more day is highly preferable to razor burn) but I’ve come to realize that using men’s shaving products on my lady body actually works better. I think it’s because these things are designed by clever scientists to take care of Bropunzel’s facial hair. Gillette is probably the only hope I’ve got in the battle against my Amazon Bushwoman genetics. The only odd moment I’ve had with this regimen was the time a cashier asked me if I was aware that I, a female, was buying male toiletries.

Dude, after all I’ve been through in my pursuit of removing hair from all over my body, do you really think I’m okay with paying more for pink shaving cream and a matching razor to whittle it all away? But that’s a blog post for another day.