Sunday, June 30, 2013

That song and that dance

For Cat Stevens (and Rod Stewart and Sheryl Crow) the first cut is the deepest. But for a just-married couple, the first dance is the sweetest!

(Ugh, that blog opening is terrible. It's also hilariously cheesy so I'm leaving it.)

The wedding plans are coming along really well and we're trying to focus on the things that will be important to the day but also will be the main things we take away from the day as a couple. The wedding rings are a big one and we haven't made any decisions on those yet. Photos are huge but we're very happy with our photographer and we're confident there will be photos that our family and friends think are amazing and beautiful and that we'll tolerate (we both HATE having our pictures taken).

Another big one for us is our first dance song. While guests may not remember months or years later what we danced to, we sure will and that song will be representative of us as a couple for the rest of our marriage. Needless to say, a lot of thought has gone into picking that first song.

The main obstacle with finding that song comes from our taste in music. Being teenagers in the 90s, the Beau and I came of age and grew up listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Joy Division, Garbage and the rest of the grunge scene. We're also both big fans of 80s music, which will help make our reception ultra danceable, but there are few (if any) songs in our preferred playlists that fit the requirements of a first dance song.

Of course, there are SO MANY songs out there that are great for a first dance. If you're a Whitney Houston or Shania Twain fan, you're golden. If you're into the classics, like Louis Armstrong, Etta James or Nat King Cole, there are lots of great choices. And if you're a country music fan, the world is your first-dance oyster.

But what happens if you're like us and every discussion of the first dance song devolves into, "What about 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' by Joy Division?" (Seriously. Every time. And the joke has yet to get old.)

A quick online search provides many, many lists of the best first dance songs though it's clear the authors of some of these lists haven't listened to their song choices. If they had, they would know Every Breath You Take by The Police is all kinds of stalkery and voyeuristic; that Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler is all about no longer being in love; that All I Ask of You from The Phantom of the Opera is incredibly beautiful and full of a love triangle and the unrequited love the Phantom has for Christine; and that Here Without You by 3 Doors Down is completely angsty and not at all about love and marriage and being together.

We have managed to cobble together the beginning of a shortlist and there are a couple solid contenders but we're both very focused on finding a song that we both love; that is by an artist or band we both love (or at least enjoy/respect); and isn't full of lyrics about infidelity or depression or political activism or dark erotic imagery. (While I can't think of examples that fit those descriptors, we have encountered songs that seem great at first until the lyrics reveal their true nature.) We're also running into a tempo problem, where quite a few songs that have lovely lyrics and melodies are just a bit too upbeat for a first dance. And we're discovering that we both really like depressing music.

So what will that magical first song be? I guess you'll have to wait until November 9.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hot run in the summertime

Toronto summer arrived with full force yesterday. As someone who hates extreme heat I consider myself lucky that the intense humidity didn't arrive until June 23. But arrive it did and since it was hotter than a cave troll's temper and stinkier than an orc's breath, it was a day best spent inside watching The Hobbit and Arrested Development. 

It was also the perfect day to catch up on laundry since fabric could hang outside without spontaneously sweating through everything. But around 6:45 pm our neighbour knocked on our back door to alert us to the start of the rain. The laundry made it in but the forecast said there'd be thunderstorms by 8pm. I wanted to run but was waiting for the sun to set, meaning the temperature would drop by half a degree. But with the threat of rain I made the executive decision: I would go running right then.

And I did. And it was hot. And sticky. And hot. And humid. And HOT.

But I made it. It was another 25-minute run and I made it through all 25 burning minutes. And I'm happy to say that the first 18 minutes were easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Actually, it wasn't until about 22 minutes that it really started to hurt and not just from the heat. Even with the last three minutes full of pain I kept going and it was awesome. (Well, eventually it was awesome. When I was done I was done.)

And because the rain held off, the Beau was able to barbeque. It's just so nice to come home from a steamy run to find burgers on the grill, eagerly awaiting cheddar cheese and anticipating being topped with carmelized onions and BBQ sauce.

Om nom nom!
I don't always grill burgers, but when I do I grill the best burgers.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Jealousy, part II

Jealousy is an ugly thing that will eat away at you, even if you know it's there, even if you try to ignore it, even if you think you've succeeded at ignoring it.

I'm sure it can be overcome and properly defeated, I just haven't got there yet.

I don't really know how or when or even why my own bout of jealousy started. Sure, I've struggled with various types of envy most of my life, particularly when it comes to my body, but those have been intense bursts of "Why don't I look like that?!" followed by a cooling-down period and then all is forgotten. I'm not saying it's a good thing, but at least my envy has been manageable and I've been able to (mostly) realize it's silly to be envious and that my energy is better spent making myself happy rather than fixating on the perceived happiness of others.

Yet, despite this awareness, I found myself completely, totally and horribly consumed by jealousy of one of the Beau's ex-girlfriends.

The odd thing is that this jealousy has only reared its ugly head in the last six months or so - meaning after almost four years of dating, after buying a house together AND after getting engaged, I became jealous of an ex-girlfriend. Oh, and it should be noted that the Beau and this particular ex ended their relationship back in 2005 - so roughly four years before he and I even started dating. They have worked at reestablishing a friendship, so they are still in touch, but it's strictly platonic now.

So what gives?

I don't even know. I don't know why it happened now. I don't know why it happened towards her. I don't know why it's become so all-encompassing. I don't know why it's reduced me to tears on more than one occasion. 

What's a girl to do?

After having it bother me for a few weeks, I did a very difficult thing: I talked to the Beau about it. At first I didn't want to bring it up with him because I felt that actually putting my feelings into words would make it more real, give it more power over me; I thought that if I just battled it out in my head, I'd win.

I didn't win.

So I sucked it up and told him. I told him who I was jealous of and that it was gnawing away at me and making me scared and insecure and I hated it, but it was still there. I told him I didn't know why it was happening or where it was coming from, but that it existed and that I couldn't beat it alone. I also asked him some awful questions, like if he felt he was settling by marrying me and if he wished he'd proposed to her instead of me (his answers to both questions was an unequivocal and very decided NO). I told him I didn't know how to make it go away and that it was going to be there for the foreseeable future and that I couldn't promise it wouldn't spill over again.

His response? Hugs. Kisses. Gentle back rubbing. And the reassurance that he loved me, that I am the right person for him, that he doesn't know what to do for me but that he'll always be there for me, that he'll help me now and forever. But the most important part of his response was listening to me, not getting angry with me and not judging me.

Talking with him definitely helped but it hasn't made the jealous feelings go away completely and, honestly, I don't know if they ever will. I hope they do, but until then, the best thing I can do is to keep talking to the Beau about it and making sure he knows when I'm feeling particularly vulnerable to those feelings.

Because that's what jealousy does: it makes you feel bad about things but it also festers and if you don't talk about it, if you don't recognize it for what it is, it will continue to spread and before you know it you're fighting with the person you love about who's turn it was to empty the dishwasher and then you're sleeping in separate beds or worse separate homes, for good. And I never want that to happen.

I do plan on beating this jealousy thing though. I just don't expect it to be easy.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Last night I went out running again and it was the first time since I've started that I actually wanted to go out. Usually it's all, "I have to go running now to keep up with the progress I've made." But I had planned to go in the early evening and I didn't try to make excuses or spend an hour saying, "I don't want to go running...but I have to."

It was a pretty nice feeling, I gotta say.

It was also a damn hard run - 25 minutes straight. I managed to do it, but it hurt. My allergies may be playing a part in the breathing pains I was having, but by the time I went to bed (4 hours after finishing) my lungs were still a bit sore. Even today, 15 hours later, I can still feel little twinges when I breathe deeply. I will be a very happy girl when allergy season is over. (Wait, when IS allergy season over?)

Even with the breathing challenges, I'm pretty proud of my progress though sometimes I need to be reminded to be proud. The Beau is my biggest cheerleader and after every run, when I tell him how long I ran for, he always responds with genuine enthusiasm and pride. And when I start comparing my progress to that of marathoners (which of course makes my 25 minutes seem like nuthin!) he makes sure I realize that, for most people, running for 25 minutes straight IS a big deal and should be treated as such. It's an accomplishment and shouldn't be scoffed at.

And - you know what? - I agree!

Post-run sunset. Aaaaaaahhhhh.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


It's a terrible, terrible thing.



Last night proved to be another wonderful night for a run. Though there was a point when I almost poured myself a glass of wine but I was strong and went running first - and it was SO WORTH IT.

Last night's run was run one of week seven of the Couch to 5K program and the furthest I've made it yet with the program (last time I did it I topped out at week six). I was a little worried about the run because it was the second long run of the program - 22 whole, continuous minutes. Even though I was scared and worried that I wouldn't be able to do it, I made myself go out. The result?


There was even a point where I think I was hitting the beginning of the mythical runner's high, where I felt I could go forever. This was tempered rather quickly, though, by the feeling that I was going to die but then the magical, mechanical voice in my app said "One minute left" (sweeter words I've never heard!) and I pushed through and made it. And it was awesome.

So far I'm only worrying about time spent running, not distance. I know I have to eventually focus on distance but I'm more interested in getting my endurance up. When I ran on the treadmill I was at a 7-minute-kilometre pace. If I'm doing about that outside (and I honestly don't know what my speed is) then last night's run would have put me at 3 km, or 60% of where I need to be for a 5K. (Did I mention I've registered for a 5K? No? Well, I may or may not be doing a 5K that may or may not be in September. Heh.) Of course, throwing out the 60% number takes away a bit from the 22-minute number, but I'm not discouraged by it. I've got lots of time before September, so lots of time to keep building my endurance.

I've gotta say, I was beginning to think that I'd never really be a "runner" of any kind but since I've started running outside it's been so much better. I think I just might be able to do this.

Evening run, FTW.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The wedding present backlash

So apparently there's this new trend where people write articles and blog posts decrying the outdated, old-fashioned, selfish, terrible, horrible, no good and very bad practice of not just giving gifts at a wedding but also of brides- and grooms-to-be of having the audacity to ask for presents.
(I'm sure there are more examples out there. These are the two I came across today that prompted this post.)

Because anyone getting married is a selfish jerk who should not at all expect anything from their guests. And I get it; we're asking our guests to travel for our wedding and possibly book a hotel room and those costs add up. But because our invitations do not state "GIFT MANDATORY YOU UNGRATEFUL BUM", we're okay with how we've arranged the logistics.

I'll be honest, I could have done without a gift registry. When the Beau and I set up house last October, we combined two full households. Do you know what we bought for our three-bedroom home? A bed frame, an IKEA closet (but only because our master bedroom closet was tres petite) and two couches. THAT'S IT. We already had, between us, enough furniture to furnish said three bedrooms (add: one bed frame and one closet); most of the main floor living room (add: the two couches); the dining room; the kitchen (gadgets, not furniture, but still); the basement living room; the basement den; the basement kitchen (yay storage!); the front entryway; and this interesting space we have in our dining room/kitchen that nicely accommodates our buffet and another storage cabinet and also holds one of our two desks that we use as an extra table for big family dinners.

Plus, we have bath towels, tea towels, dish cloths, flatware, stemware, dishes, a coffee maker (as well as a much-loved Keurig, which was a housewarming gift), place mats, table cloths, an iron and ironing board and all the small appliances a person could need. (Except a food processor, but we've purposely put off buying one of those so we could put it on the registry.)

I'm not trying to brag about how much we have, but instead make the point that when someone makes the argument that gift giving is outdated because it's no longer about young'uns leaving their parents' house for the matrimonial home and needing everything to set up house, I can understand the argument. When it comes to giving a gift at a wedding, it's not about "What lovely thing can I pick out for the couple that they will need and love and appreciate for years to come?" but instead "They have everything. What's the point in buying something for them?"

This, of course, is where the wedding registry comes in handy, yet many hate on it as well. Because the Beau and I have so much that we need, we made the decision to build our registry around the few things we don't have (like the food processor); one high-end item that we're honestly not expecting anyone to buy but we wanted to give the option (erm, Le Creuset); and items that will replace old/mismatched/worn out items we currently have (like new, matching coffee mugs and a full dinnerware set for 12). We also registered at Mountain Equipment Co-op as we enjoy the outdoors and could use a few more things. And I know some people who don't like registries and who would rather buy a gift they like and think the couple will like. This is fine, but I view registries as a list of what the couple wants and will use, which to me is much more practical to shop from. And since we've included some pretty things on our registry, guests can buy items that aren't just utilitarian.

I think we did alright with our registry and we were very aware of how much things cost and that we should give our guests a wide range of options to fit all budgets. And if someone doesn't give us a gift? No biggie - that guest will still get a thank-you card because that guest celebrated with us and that's what matters.

So why did we bother with the registry? I think it's about the generational divide more than anything. Guests from our parents' generation were very keen on us creating a registry so they would be able to buy us something that we wanted, rather than just give us an impersonal cash gift. Of course, some will prefer to give cash. Some will prefer to pool resources and give one gift on behalf of several couples/families. And some will give us a card and leave it at that. But it's okay because all options are wonderful and fantastic and completely acceptable.

So were did the backlash against giving wedding gifts (and wedding registries in general) come from? This is all just my opinion, as I haven't researched anything and don't have any data to back up my thoughts, but I wonder if it comes from engaged couples who have everything building a registry of more expensive items that they wouldn't normally buy for themselves but are better to give as gifts. Or maybe it comes from the brazen couples who specify cash amounts to give in lieu of gifts (a practice I consider rather gauche). Or perhaps it's simply a general backlash against the wedding industry, one that is growing and constantly demanding more and more from couples (engagement party! bachelor party! bachelorette party! stag and doe! bridal showers! rehearsal dinner! post-wedding brunch/lunch/something!) and their guest list.

Then, of course, there's the etiquette that says a guest should spend as much on a wedding gift as the couple has spent on the food/drink for said guest. I think this is a great starting point, but again, it's up to each guest how much to spend.

One thing I did wish was available when we were registering was the ability to register for events. Because we're watching our costs with the wedding planning, we're not going out as much and gift cards for dinners out, a night at the movies, theatre or museum tickets or a fancy food store would be awesome. (Perhaps this should be a new business venture...?) But even though we didn't find that, we found what works for us and we're going to share that with our guests. How they use that information is completely up to them.

When it comes to my own wedding, I view it in two ways: firstly, as a legal ceremony to officially make me and the Beau husband and wife and secondly, a celebration of this awesome new legality. He and I both want to make it a fun and fantastic experience for our guests. Anything on top of that is a wonderful bonus.

The bottom line: buy a gift if you want to. That is your right and regardless of your decision, you should expect a thank-you card. (I feel skipping the thank-you card is a bigger faux pas than skipping the gift, but maybe that's just me.) Of course, each couple will react differently to guests who don't gift and that this their right. But don't be angry because two people decided to make a list of what they want and told you where you can buy it. Go to the wedding, have fun celebrating your friends/family/work buddy/acquaintance nuptials and be sure to tell the bride she looks beautiful.

And if you're at my wedding, expect a thank-you card. (I'm really keen on those.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Real, perfect weddings - like mine, right?!

My cousin's sister-in-law recently got married and the photos have been shared over Facebook. And let me just say - the photos are amazing! The wedding was incredibly beautiful with many well-thought-out details and a lovely vintage theme. In fact, you can see some if for yourself right here!

With my own wedding fast approaching (150 days to go!) I find I both love and loathe looking at other weddings, especially real weddings.

I was never one of those girls who has had her dream wedding planned since she was a child, nor did I have a clear idea of how things just had to be once I got engaged. Because our guest list is at 180, the biggest factor when we started planning was finding the right place at the right cost to comfortably accommodate our guests. And it's all worked out just fine and I love the venues we've picked but that doesn't stop me from feeling both envious and doubtful when I see other weddings.

Of course, each couple is different and will want different things in their wedding (another cousin of mine is getting married in Mexico next February because that works for them) but that doesn't make me stop second-guessing our decisions.

It's not like it's some kind of competition - even though those things exist - or that people are going to leave my wedding and say, "Well, it would have been better if they'd done what [insert other couple here] had done." And really it's not about the wedding but about the marriage, about making it official and legal and then celebrating the awesomeness of it.

As a bride-to-be I've spent hours on Martha Stewart Weddings and other sites for ideas but I know those photos and ideas are staged to look as perfect as possible, so I take the inspiration but not the exact execution. But real weddings - man, they're always so perfect that I instantly start to worry that mine won't be. And that's what it comes down to, right? Not just the desire for a perfect wedding but the desire for everyone else to thing it's perfect.

All brides-to-be go through this, right? Right?!

(Our wedding will be perfect. I know that. Honestly, I do!)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Smooth(ie) movies

You know what? Smoothies are awesome. I've been having one every morning for breakfast and I kind of love them. I just make one each night before bed and grab it on my way to the bus stop and by the time I get to work I'm full of fruity (sometimes veggie) goodness - though I still need a coffee.

It's also a great way for me to get more fruit in my life since I'm so hit and miss with my fruit consumption. (The mad apple cravings I was having a month ago have passed.)

I've been fervently collecting smoothie recipes and I'm finally getting brave enough to change them up and add and subtract ingredients as I see fit. One thing I've done is stop making my smoothies with yogurt. While using Greek yogurt gives a smoothie a great protein boost, I'm just not a fan. For liquid, I'll use 1% milk but mostly water is just fine. I guess it depends on how think you like your smoothie; if you want to be able to walk on it, go with yogurt. If you like it a little thinner, milk or water will do that for you.

And that's a big reason why smoothies are so great: customization baby! I've already shared my love of the peanut butter-banana smoothie; here are two more I'm into right now:

Spinach-strawberry-mango-banana smoothie
1 banana
1 cup mango
1/2 cup strawberries
Handful spinach
1 cup liquid (I use milk in this one)
Then blend it up and drink it up!
I also through in one scoop of vanilla protein powder and a tablespoon of flax seed oil.

Spinach and strawberries and mango, oh my!

 Grapefruit-mango-strawberry smoothie
1 medium grapefruit, peeled and sectioned (I cheated and used stuff from a jar)
1/2 cup mango
1/2 cup strawberries
1 cup water (I feel like milk would be weird with grapefruit)
Blend and drink!
Again, I did my protein powder and flax seed additions. I don't eat a lot of citrus fruit so this is a great way for me to get some extra vitamin C.

See those grapefruit chunks in the bottom?

Monday, June 3, 2013

A (TV) marathon and my own long run

Every few weeks, the Beau and I are gifted with a Sunday where we have absolutely nothing to do - no plans, no commitments, no pressing house or wedding duties. When these Sundays roll around we do our best to enjoy them in all their lazy, responsibility-free splendor.

Yesterday was one of those Sundays.

Now, it's not very often that the plan-free Sunday is also a house-duty-free Sunday, but we hosted my book club on Saturday night and cleaned up after the party, so there was no need to do housework. Just a couple loads of laundry and we were good for the day.

The weather also cooperated with us, in that it rained on and off for most of the day so we didn't feel the least bit guilty spending the day inside, on the couches (I'm so glad we have two!), watching a TV marathon.

And no, it was not an Arrested Development marathon. Instead, we watched Orphan Black. It just so happened the season finale for Orphan Black was Saturday night and Space, the station that carries the show, ran the entire season during the day Saturday. So we PVRed all the episodes and settled in for a day of excellent TV.

What. A. Show.

Orphan Black is a sci-fi show that centres around a young woman's discovery that she is one of many clones. Who made her, where she came from, why she was made and how she can have her own biological daughter are all explored in the 10 episodes of season one and it is one hell of a story.

But while watching Orphan Black, I kept thinking about running (and not just because the characters do a lot of running, for exercise and other reasons). I wanted to keep the momentum from Friday going but I also knew what was waiting for me in my next run: 20 minutes of straight running. I had hit this point last year when I did the Couch to 5K program and I successfully ran for 20 minutes, so I was also worried about not being able to match my previous performance.

Finally, shortly after 8pm, I made up my mind: I was going for a run.

The biggest change from Friday night to Sunday night was the weather. Gone was the humidity that had helped keep the air (and my airways) warm; now I was faced with a 16-degree evening, complete with chilly breeze.

Normally that kind of temperature is what I love - perfect for walking around the neighbourhood with a coffee. But I had to run and run I did. And I made it - almost. At about the 17-minute mark, I took a 30 second walking break, then ran the remaining time. But only 30 seconds of walking. Otherwise, it was all me, all running, all success.

When I got home, the Beau was so happy and supportive about my progress and corrected me when I said that my 17 minutes of running was probably a warm-up to most people; he said that for the average person, 17 minutes of steady running was excellent and something to be proud of.

So I am proud. And I feel pretty good today, though my lungs are a little tight still from the cold last night. But because I'll be fine, it was totally worth it.

Midnight run

Okay, fine, it wasn't a midnight run. But it was an evening run (which I'm fast discovering is my favourite time to run).

When I left work on Friday, it was in the middle of a serious rainstorm. But this being Toronto, the rain didn't last long and by 8:45pm, it was still overcast but dry enough to venture outside for a run.

And what a run it was.

I'm still on the Couch to 5K program and Friday night was the second run of Week 5: 5 minute warmup; run 8 minutes; walk 5 minutes; run 8 minutes; 5 minute cool down. I'll be honest, the 8-minute sections had me a little worried but I gave it my best go anyways...and the first one was easy peasy! Not even sure why that happened but it did so I just kept going.

When I finished the second 8-minute section, I still felt really good so instead of cooling down in the last five minutes of the workout, I ran it. That's right - 13 minutes baby! And - AND - when I was done I felt GREAT!

Why it went so well can be attributed to my working at running more regularly but also partly to the humid evening that was Friday. Even with the rain the humidity hadn't dissipated completely and proved an instance where the environment didn't work against my asthma. (Because both exercise and the environment cause my asthma to flare up, it's always neat to see when it HELPS me to breathe.) The humidity helped because it kept the air warm; when the air is cold and I'm gasping for it (like when I run) it causes my airways to constrict more, making my breathing harder. That's why running in the winter can be hard unless I've got a scarf or something over my mouth - but even then it can be dodgy.

But now that it's summer and the air is moist my running is getting on track and it's awesome. And I'm finally getting not just excited about building my strength as a runner but also confident that I can keep going and keep getting better. What an awesome place to be!

My neighbourhood, post-run, late in the evening