Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holidays: Friend Or Foe?

I know it has been quite some time since I wrote (at least that's how it feels on my end), however, life always seems to get in the way these days. No matter how much I get home and say "Write!!!", the opposite seems to happen. I really am sorry - I am hoping that in the spirit of the holidays, you can all forgive me. Since the countdown to Christmas holidays now has even less days than the last time I wrote, I thought I would discuss them some more, and whether or not they are the best or worst time of year. Granted everyone's opinion differs, this is MY blog, so right now, what matters is MY opinion...This is, after all, what has kept you coming back faithfully - my oh-so politically correct views, and obviously optimistic attitude regarding everyday subjects. Let's get to it, shall we?

If I appear a tad bitter about today's topic, the holidays, it is perhaps because if I look back to a year ago, I was in the crappiest place I have ever been for the holidays - the beginning of the end of what I had believed to be my "happily ever after". Work had distracted for most of the month, but once I was on vacation, I found myself at home, and feeling more alone than ever. Bambi, through no fault of her own, barely had enough time to sleep, let alone time for a few good heart to hearts with yours truly. Instead, I sought comfort  and advice in one of my closest guy friends, and then found myself falling for him, which just made everything worse. Instead of spending the holidays with the love of my life, I found myself dodging him at every corner, contemplating everything we were and stood for - and everyone could see it. Everyone watched us crumble as though we were that lonely cookie left at the bottom of the bag, with no one to lean on, to one to help us stay whole and strong. And every night, as I told him that I loved him, and as I crawled into his arms in bed, I felt a piece of me die.

Fast-forward 12 months...Now, I find myself single and much happier than I was a year ago. But alas, the holidays is most certainly THE time of year that you want to have someone special in your life. It is always so nice to feel fuzzy inside as you feel that special someone's gaze on you as you open a present, solidly kick their ass at the annual Legault-Bédard Monopoly battle or as you sit by a fire and enjoy a nice glass of red wine. This year, I get to watch others do that, and take my place as a bystander. I won't get to feel that gaze, or be the culprit responsible for someone else's ear-to-ear smile as they open that gift I picked out perfectly. I will wake up alone on Christmas morning, I won't get to be snuggled under a mountain of blankets, or hear that "I love you" as I open my eyes, and I certainly won't be stealing kisses under the mistletoe hung in the front entrance. I can't help but feel a little sad about the fact that no one will be seeking ME out at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, anxiously awaiting that cliché, but oh-so-delicious, first kiss of the New Year. This year, I will present my date as "my friend" at my work party, not my significant other...I will also pray that he doesn't pull a Hank Moody and hit on every girl there he finds to his liking, though technically, he is certainly allowed to - after all, there really is nothing going on between us.


Now, rewind to 11:00am today, December 14th, 2010. As I sat in a meeting at work half listening to my team mates, half asleep, someone brought up the dreaded subject of "coverage" while we are all away from the office for two weeks. Apparently, this person didn't remember that last year, NO ONE on our team had Blackberries, only Account Managers had bring-home laptops and oh ya - no one died. Our Out of Office responses on Outlook were enough for our clients to realize that we were on vacation and barring World War III, any issues they had could - and  would - be resolved upon our return. To sum it up, last year, we actually got vacation. This year, the Account Managers have Blackberries and the assistants have bring-home laptops. And to a certain extent, we are ALL on call. What. The. Fuck. Is. THAT? So if I understand correctly, the office is closed for a week, I am NOT allowed to carry any of my vacation over to the new year thereby forcing me to take time off, but I am expected to check my emails to make sure the clients are supported? How does that make sense? Did I mention I don't get paid for having to check these emails? Not that I have to respond, I just have to check to make sure nothing is pressing, but that requires me to spend at least a half hour opening, reading and assessing emails - ya, I would say that sounds like working. I realize that sometimes you have to do things that aren't exactly "included in the job description", but this is most certainly pushing the envelope, and the expectations mean I won't get to fully enjoy my vacation. You aren't supposed to check your emails during vacation - the point is to take a break so you don't have a meltdown, so your brain can not think for a period of time - so you can come back feeling rested, and maybe even excited about the new year. And some might say that I should count my blessings since I have a job to begin with, and to those people, I say screw you - for 45K/year + the bullshit I put up with on an almost daily basis, checking my email while on vacation is NOT in my job description. If you want me to check them, then give me more money.

So, being single and having to check email aside, I must admit that I am looking forward to vacation - can I call it Fake-ation?- this year. Just a tad. This year, yet again, I get a whole two weeks off. My twin from another mother also gets a ton of time off, so the 21st, she is driving in from Toronto and coming to spend a few days with me before jetting to Montreal to see her family. I get to go shopping, have late breakfasts, sleep in (because she likes to sleep in too!) and just enjoy her company. When my turn finally comes to head off to the 514, I will be hitting up my friend's Latin Invasion soirée at an intimate little venue, and dance to my heart's content - also with a ton of friends that I don't see as often as I should. On the 24th, I know I can look forward to the traditional dinner with those closest to me, and even though I will be doing it up single-styles, I know it will still kick some serious ass. After all the Christmas brou-ha-ha, I get to hit up the Biodome and go hang out with some awesome mammals, rock the ski slopes with the twin, and do up some serious breakfast lounging at L'Avenue with another best girlfriend. I am then topping off that week with a New Year's celebration in cottage country, off the beaten path, where I can frolic in the snow, sleep late, and just be silly while enjoying home made pizza and having my butt handed to me during random occurences of "Game Time!".

I have yet to decide whether or not I am excited about the impending holidays. Technically, I suppose they have already arrived and are already sucking large, but I have decided to wear my optimist hat, and hope for the best. Don't get me wrong, I fully expect the worse, but I am willing to remain open to the idea that maybe this year will be different. This will be the last "usual" Christmas I get to spend with my family for the next few years, and I guess I would rather not write it off completely until I am at least half-way through it. And in the event that push comes to shove, I suppose a little booze can always help brighten the mess up.

Now to start thinking of resolutions I might keep...

-Milie B.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Juice Is Worth The Squeeze

Those who know me, be it well or not so well, know that I LOVE food. LOVE IT. I love smelling it, I love eating it, I love watching people make it, I love sampling it - honestly, I just can't keep food out of my mouth. You know those people who can eat just a handful of chips? Well, I do not belong to that demographic. I am the person who will eat the entire bag, to herself, in one sitting without batting an eyelash. On more than one occasion, I have finished a guy's plate while out on a first date...I know what you're thinking - DAMN that is sexy! And right you are! Actually, not (really) having that sensor that tells me to stop is a bit of a pain; I often wind up in food comas. And, since I don't discriminate against high-calorie snacks, I often indulge in those a wee bit more than I should...Oh well - go big or go home, right?

I thought I would write about food because the Christmas holidays are right around the bend. Basically, this is prime time for food. This is the time of year where all the yummy stuff makes that resolution you made about going to the gym really hard to keep, when you eat more sugar than you thought you could ever consume - the time of year where you appreciate those ugly-as-sin elastic waistband pants, and wonder why you didn't buy more than just one pair. After all - there is a good chance some of the yummy treats will find their way onto your clothes. This is the time of year to forget about calorie counting, and just indulge - as often as humanly possible!

I recently began thinking of the holidays, and all the baking that comes along with them. I can only speak for myself, but every year, I go home to my parents for Christmas Eve dinner and find myself surrounded by a myriad of desserts. Butter cookies, tarts, pie, brownies, fruit cake (ugh...) and whatever other sweet treats my mom has decided to add to the roster. And that's just what my mom makes - that isn't even counting what various family members and guests might bring along to add to the feast! Now, I'm not quite sure why, but this is the first year that I have really opened my eyes to the hard work and prep time these yummy treats demand. It really doesn't happen overnight, and much blood, sweat and tears can go into all this baking. And this is really a best case scenario - this isn't taking into account the time you need to set aside for holiday shopping, family needs such as kids, and the general stress that holidays seem to bring about. So, this year, I thought I would try to alleviate some of that stress for my closest girlfriends.

A week ago, I held a dessert swap. The idea is simple - get your friends together, and have each person bake a portion for everyone else. In doing so, you bake one dessert multiple times, and you leave the swap with many desserts, enough to provide a generous variety for all your holiday party needs! The more people you have in on the swap, the more you walk away with. This will most likely still involve an entire day devoted to baking, however you only need to worry about one recipe. For our swap, we had six ladies baking treats - and treats could be anything we wanted to offer up. I chose banana bread - it freezes well, and I can never seem to get enough of it when my mom makes it! I set aside a Saturday afternoon, bought some bananas, and got down to business. Having never made banana bread, I wasn`t too sure what kind of job this would end up being. I doubled everything, threw it all in a bowl and then discovered just how thick banana bread mix is - my electric hand mixer began having problems early on. It made a variety of interesting sounds, jammed, and then I started to smell smoke. I felt it was time to move on to a spatula. Wrong move #2. After all of five seconds, the spatula broke in half - half in the batter, the other half in my hand. This was obviously going as planned. It was time to bring in the wooden spoon and put my arm muscles to use...Not such a bad idea considering I haven't been to the gym since that bout of pneumonia. Armed with my wooden spoon, I showed that banana bread mix exactly who was boss.

After having conquered the mixture, it was now time to throw everything into the oven. I like to think that I am pretty good when it comes to baking - I can't cook, but I can bake. This endeavour presented a mini-challenge in that these were mini versions, and as such, the cooking time had to be adjusted. Also, I was cooking them ALL at the same time and there were no "extras" - only enough so that each lady would have one. There was no room for error, and I couldn't really taste-test any of them...All I had were three little cupcake-sized extras made from the little batter that was left, and since these were smaller, they couldn't be an accurate measure of how the real banana breads would turn out. I had one of the three itty-bitty ones and it was scumptious. It almost melted in my mouth, and I regained my confidence in its bigger siblings. I wrapped them up in foil and my freezer quickly turned into a massive banana bread grave. I couldn't wait for the swap the following weekend!

Finally, swap day arrived, and I waited for my girls to arrive. Slowly but surely, everyone arrived, bags of desserts in tow. We set out healthy snacks, and extra portions of our desserts - after all, we had to sample the goods just a bit! We settled in for an afternoon of gossip, treats and catching up. We laughed, shared stories, oooo-ed and awww-ed at the kids that had joined their moms on this afternoon and just enjoyed being with each other. It felt like it had been forever since we had all been in the same room together. There was no drama, just smiles. The way holidays should be. The afternoon wore on, ladies came and went. By the end, the sun had begun to set, and snow had begun to fall - it was a perfect ending to a perfect day, and everyone agreed - this would now be a tradition among us. It was the perfect opportunity to get together, and everyone could particpate since it was kid-friendly as well.

The dessert swap is by far one of my best memories of the 2010 holiday season, which is just barely under way. The baking aspect was a little tricky, but the reward was well worth it. The holidays are a time when people are supposed to get together and simply enjoy each other's company. It is easy to let holiday stress get the upper hand, and having some good friends to chill out and relax with for an afternoon can certainly contribute to positive morale, and help take the edge off. I think everyone needs to remember that taking time for yourself is a good thing, and that slowing down is a must if one is to make it past Christmas day alive! My friends are just as important to me as my family, and I cherish the time I spend with them. The dessert swap was the perfect pretext, and seeing the joy on everyone's face was such a rewarding feeling...

Starting this new tradition has actually left me feeling (slightly) cheerful, and I can truly say, the juice is worth the squeeze...Now, go start your own traditions and enjoy the precious moments you share with those you love and hold dear - and remember, food is always a great way to get everyone together!

-Milie B.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

For The Love Of...Travelling!

Oh my - already December 7th! You know what that means - 19 more days until Kwaanza!! And more importantly, 18 until Christmas day! But, no need to discriminate here - to those of other religious beliefs, I wish you happy Hannukah (chanukah, hanukkah, and whatever other ways I have seen it spelled)  and a happy Eid, just in case. I think that covers it all...Think.

Now that I have that out of my system, I will attempt to move forward...I would love to sit back and take complete credit for today's post, but alas, I can only take 98% of the credit. My cousin gets the other 2%, but only because she started an album on Facebook dedicated to her favorite things. Which is more or less the point of this post - and others to follow. I have decided that it might be a good idea to let you peer into my life, into what makes me tick, what I am passionate about. Things I enjoy, and things I loathe. I am going to try to remember to post at least once each month from each category - things I love, and things I hate. There are probably more of the latter, but I hope you will be entertained no matter which one I choose to write about.

So yes, I love to travel. And what is funny is that I am not someone who has travelled very much. Don't get me wrong - I have done my fair share of moving around Canada since I am military brat, but I am definitely unsatisfied. I think my ex-boyfriend might actually be responsible for the travel bug biting me to be honest. When I was 19, and 3 months into my first "real" relationship, JL and I sat down and decided we would go on vacation. We decided that some crappy three-star in the Dominican just wouldn't do for our champagne taste, so we opted for a (fairly) swanky all-inclusive five-star in Ixtapa, Mexico. This place was awesome - it had a gazillion restaurants, more bars than we knew what do do with, and a 24-hour snack shack - more than I ever thought I would have on my first official vacation. The flight was long, and we arrived super late at night, but the week that followed was nothing short of amazing! We went jetskiing, parasailing, had a liquid breakfast most days and met some really cool people! We returned tanned, rested (?) and I was certainly anxious for the next vacation! Getting away was going to be something I now needed required on a yearly basis...

JL and I broke up, and shortly thereafter, the opportunity to spend a month in Italy presented itself to me on a lovely silver platter. I was in university majoring in translation, and my minor was Italian. It made sense to go - what better way to learn the language than spend a month in the homeland! And so, I jetted off to Florence. I spent a month eating paninis and pizza, drinking espressos and aranciata San Pellegrino. I visited Gucci, Prada and Miss Sixty, and even managed to find some spare change for an itty bitty Dolce & Gabana string bikini! While in Florence, I was also treated to World Cup fever...Craziness I tell you! Every day, class would finish and we would hit up The Old Stove for homework and calcio...and pints. Lots of pints. While visiting abroad, I had to stay true to my nature - I managed to get so sick I was almost shipped back to Canada right before finishing my course. Seeing the stress I was under, my teachers told me not to worry about the final exam, and to get out of Florence for the weekend and go explore - always one to take advice(cough, cough), I did exactly that. I peaced out for 3 days, and was lucky enough to venture out to the Amalfi Coast. This remains the most beautiful place I have seen to date. While out on the coast, I got to drink a tad more vino rosso, sleep in a Snatch-style caravan (a.k.a. a trailor) and pull a B&E at a campground pool...I also got to see some of the most breathtaking views that can be experienced in Italy, and swim in the Mediterranean Sea...As the trip came to an end, I was sad to go home, but I was also happy to return to a country where I could get free healthcare, and understand what the nurse was saying when describing my lymph nodes.

Over the next few years, I didn't have quite as much opportunity to travel. I moved out of my parents place and in with my new man. Between school and rent, I didn't exactly have the funds required to vacation at will. The next few vacations were in all-inclusive resorts in either Cuba or Mexico. Nothing fancy, nothing special, but a sunny getaway nonetheless...Sometimes that's all you need really. And even those trips were awesome in their own right; I met some unforgettable people, and made new friends along the way...I also learned that I could be given a crash course in scuba-diving in Spanish and make it out alive, and that contrary to my own beliefs, I could drink Tequilla without a problem. The next vacation I took was after I moved back to Ottawa - I went to Orlando and Miami with the man I thought I would marry so that we could do all the things I never got to do as a kid - we went to Disney, Universal Studios, we saw a Tampa Bay Rays game and then lived the high-roller life in Miami for a few days - it was an awesome trip minus the fact that it was plagued by continuous arguments as he drove and I tried to read the map. Who would have thought that every place we wanted to visit was just not well indicated on the map? It certainly never crossed my mind.

Fast-forward to summer 2010, June to be exact. Freshly heart-broken and armed with more money than I knew what do with, I called my twin from another mother and proposed the following: Vegas. I had never been, and my twisted logic led me to believe a trip to Sin City was bar none THE way to get over this latest failed relationship. Being single was now looking like it might not be so bad after all...We booked our tickets and the countdown began. As the day drew nearer and nearer, I could feel my stomache ball up with excitement! I was so ready for this. We got on a plane and embarked on the most fabulous disaster of a vacation - not disaster in that it wasn't amazing, disaster in that I don't think I have ever been as invincible but incapable all at once. Vegas was paradise, I never wanted to leave. The sun was beaming and it was 40 degrees each day, no humidity. Booze flowed freely, and everyone was there to have a good time. Nothing was ever rushed - you got there when you got there. Girls were treated like goddesses and everywhere we looked, yummy boys could be found. Coming here was the best idea I had ever had - we left hungover, broke and 20 new friends richer. The countdown to my return (to Vegas) had now begun.

As the summer wore on, I travelled a little more. Nothing huge, but I went camping in Maine with some friends, and in the fall, I even hit up California to go visit some of the friends I had met in Vegas, and catch Smoke Out 2010, a one-day, three-stage concert dedicated mainly to hiphop and its culture. As I returned from this trip, my heart sank. I was sad to be leaving. Not because I was leaving L.A., but because I realized that travelling is something I should be doing more of. There is so much that I want to see, and I feel as though I might not have enough time, and mainly not enough money, to see it all. There is so much to experience, so much to do, and so many other wonderful people out there who's paths I have yet to cross. Every time I get on a plane, I get anxious - not because I am afraid that it will crash, but because before my adventure even begins, I know it will sooner or later come to an inevitable end. And though it isn't even really an end - more a pause really - it is the time between different "play" periods that seems so long. I once thought that being single would be the shittiest thing to ever happen to me, and as luck would have it, instead I found a blessing in disguise - now I fear that I might find someone worth holding onto; I don't think I could put this passion on hold yet again.

Where will I head to next? I am happy to say that I have no idea! I know that due to some recent developments, I will be spending quite some time in Brussels in the next three years, but the roster isn't fixed. My travel wishlist? Bora Bora, Egypt, Iceland, Spain, Hawaii, Prague, Turkey, Hungary, Croatia, Ukraine, Ireland, Brazil, Costa Rica, Australia, Bali, Dubai, England and the list goes on for quite some time. Whether alone or with friends, my only hope is I can somehow visit all the places I dream of, and that each trip enriches my life more than the last.

As far as I'm concerned, the best feeling in the world is the sensation you get from the g-force as the plane takes off, and the thrill of not knowing what lies ahead...

-Milie B.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Strategic Planning, 101

As a self-proclaimed procrastinator, I know all about putting things off until the last minute. Though it isn't exactly an enviable trait, I am proud to say that in doing so, I also developed the ability to write three 10 page essays in one day while studying at university. Recently, I have also been told at work that (perhaps) I need to be more proactive and less reactive. The truth of the matter is, I am actually very proactive, but it seems this only shines through when I actually care about the task at hand - or at the very least, am being treated with respect instead of being thrown under a metaphorical bus on a daily basis. But that's neither here nor there. I actually doubted my proactiveness until a friend told me he would be in my neck of the woods visiting for a few days...As you have probably already guessed, yes, this definitely has to do with sex...But it also served as an exercise in strategic planning - execution and observation of.

About a month ago, right after the disaster I like to refer to as Halloween 2010, Mr. T.O announced to me that he would be in town at the end of November. He informed me that he had picked up a contract here in Ottawa, and would be visiting/ working for about five days. Now, not to toot my own horn, but I knew when I visited the states in October that he found me to be a pretty awesome chick (I am quoting). I also knew from my visit that he is pretty bomb in das sack. So, when he mentioned his impending business trip, I knew two things were certain:
  1. I was going to get to hang out with him and finally get him to relax and get reacquainted with the meaning of the word
  2. I would have a few late nights due to midnight athletics
*Guys, you probably won't care, or appreciate, but ladies, this guy is 10 different shades of tanned yumminess. He is not only very tall, well-cut and armed with a million-dollar smile and baby-blue eyes, but he is also super smart. Smarter than me, that's for sure. He is also very social, outgoing and makes me laugh - all around, a keeper (if only he lived here...sigh). And, he's a successful entrepreneur - my heart/ brain is melting as I type.

Being the proactive person I can apprently be, the first thing I did was run to the bathroom to grab my trusty Tri-cyclen, and then I ran to a calendar. After some quick math, and a quadruple-check (there was NO room for error here), I quickly realized that the weekend he would be in town was the dreaded "week" every woman gets to experience once monthly. This was simply unacceptable. I ran to the pharmacy and re-stocked knowing full well that if I didn't eat the sugar pills and started right away on the new pack, I would skip the week, and be free to frolic as late and as often as I pleased. In retrospect, this was an awesome move on my behalf. Awesome. When Mr. T.O finally arrived, I packed a bag and made my way to his hotel. It was funny because for once, I remembered to bring toothpaste, something I usually don't bring, only because I always anicipate the place where I am going will have some. Yet another awesome proactive move by yours truly, because Mr. T.O had none...When I left the next morning, I left it for him thinking this would save some time in his schedule - less running around meant more time to work, and the faster the work got done, the faster we could get back playtime.

The next time I was over, I found myself with gremlin breath...I had just devoured 3 pieces of pizza, and paired that with a large coffe, followed by a cigarette. Not very appetizing - it was my mouth and I couldn't stand the taste that was lingering around. In desperate need of some teeth brushing, and general oral cleansing, I made my way to the bathroom. Upon my arrival, I was quickly confused - I had  left more than enough toothpaste for his stay (and for me to borrow if need be), yet the tube was nowhere to be found. I looked under towels, in a toiletries bag, on the shelves - nada. As embarassed as I was about my inability to locate something so simple, I asked "My mouth tastes like ass - where on earth did you put the toothpaste?". His answer, "In the shower, it's way more efficient if I can wash and brush my teeth at the same time!". Ahhh...So he was apparently all about strategic thinking as well - and I found this whole scenario amusing because I used to do the same thing. I crawled into bed shortly thereafter, in desperate need of sleep. It was time to wander off to dreamland...

Well...It seems as though Mr. T.O was even more of a strategic planner than I thought. He quickly joined in bed, and would have bet my left arm that he too was off to dreamland given the late night and long day he had just worked. I was wrong. He had gone so far as to work midnight athletics into his (our?) schedule. As we, ahem, got down to business, I was amazed yet again - normally, I keep latex products in all purses or bags or whatever. He had planned well enough in advance to actually relocate these from his backpack to the nightstand, to make them not only easily accessible, but also to save the time one (a.k.a. me) would spend looking and fumbling around for them. I won't go into any details regarding the 45 minutes that followed, but I will say that post-playtime, Mr. T.O was showered and back in bed in about 10 minutes flat. And as he crawled back in bed, and I began to doze off, I heard the unmistakeable clicking of a keyboard. That's right, he's also a machine - or workaholic, whichever you prefer. He was now planning his presentation for Monday morning.

I think we can all learn something from Mr. T.O - strategic planning plays a key role in being successful. Whether it is life, play or work, making a plan is not always such a bad idea (which reassures me, because I am such a planner!). These plans allow you to map out strategic ways of going about your business in an efficient manner so as to get more done in a short period of time, or to maximize the time you spend doing something - be it sex, work, vacation, etc. However, I think that the amount of planning we put into something is also indicative of its importance to us. I recently planned a dessert swap with some girlfriends of mine - I planned it because I know the holidays are stressful, and there is never enough time to bake, cook and get "life" done, and by doing this swap, I knew it would alleviate some pressure,and free up some time for my girlfriends to actually enjoy the holidays instead of spending them slaving in a kitchen. This way, they get a bunch of desserts, ready to serve, and only had to bake once (unless they choose to bake some more, but the point remains the same). I would never put this much effort into oh, I don't know, a potluck for work. Why? Because other than providing me with a decent salary, my work is simply not that important to me - it is not my passion, and as such, by no means deserves the love and attention that something I am passionate about deserves.

And remember, this is applicable to everything - strategic planning, I have found, is quite the tool when it comes to navigating busy shopping malls during the holidays!

-Milie B.