A Slice of Heaven

From apartmenttherapy.com

The image above was featured today on Apartment Therapy, one of my favourite blogs. I think this might be my dream home and my dream bedroom. My taste is changing so much. I used to love riots of colour and kitsch, and now the serenity and calm of modern lines, with natural elements really speak to me. For you designer-types, I’d call it eco-conscious mid-century modern.

Serenity. That’s my word for this 35th year of my life. I’m going to make it my absolute priority to transcend my tendency towards stress, anxiety, worry, and fiesty-ness. I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to accomplish this, but I’ll be sure to share whatever I’ve learned. One thing I realized, just this morning, is that the more irritable and anxious I am, the more I need alone time. I think if I’m not careful just to take time out, just for me, for mindless alone activities I start to go a little squirrely.

A cottage weekend is on the horizon. My grown-up dream is to have a very green cottage. No motor boats, totally sustainable, and totally escape pod like. It will have to have a fully outfitted kitchen, amazing indoor and outdoor dining space, quiet corners for reading, and a body of water at either the front door or back door. In a perfect life, when we’re not traveling, I’m living there as long as I can and only heading back to the city when I absolutely need to. I think I’d rather invest in something like that than a permanent dwelling in the city. I hope I can convince my loves that this is a great idea. The girls would absolutely love it and really benefit from it too. The only unfortunate part is the commuting to and from. Not so green, but if we pack 5 people in the car, and only travel when we absolutely need to, perhaps it’s not so bad?

So, this weekend will be my quiet wicker swing. I’m so looking forward to being near the lake again.

Nearly Over the Hump

Artichoke pendant lamp shade

This has been a mostly good week when it comes to separation anxiety. Mostly.

Monday came and went in a flurry of keeping busy, running the business, making dinner. Tuesday started out the same, but somewhere during dinner prep I thought of him and the girls and the busy noise and sweet activity of our bustling week night kitchen and then the sadness started to creep in. My lady went to baseball, and I tried to banish the sadness with books, and then this made me unconscious. I went with that, and took myself to bed early.

Today, as always, is an entirely new day and it’s a good one! I worked hard, and when my eyes were starting to cross from staring at the screen too long, I planted an herb garden on our balcony. The master bedroom has a lovely balcony that we really haven’t used, but I’m trying to turn it into a morning coffee, evening cocktail paradise.

I need a bistro table with three chairs.

I also need a handsome shade umbrella and a very sturdy stand.

Then I need some flowers that are hopefully late summer/early fall blooms.

Next summer I will tackle the rooftop patio on the third floor. Or maybe this summer, if time allows. Early autumn dinners would be lovely under the canopy of trees.

My herb collection consists of:
Flat leaf parsley
Rosemary (I want more of that, in it’s own fragrant pot)

Sarah brought home some tomato plants that a co-worker grew from seed and they are thriving! They’ve even got little green fruits ripening on their vines.

Ella the bunny just about ravished me as I tried to carry the paper bag filled with plants through the house. She’s been very naughty since the kids and daddy have been away. Every single night she pees on me or near me, at about the same time. Her consequence has been to lose some of the freedom we’d been giving her. She never has these accidents randomly, so I think it’s some kind of weird bunny dominance behaviour. Guess what bunny? You’re gonna lose that battle.

I found some STELLAR recipes on Epicurious. What a tried and true resource that website has proven to be! For weeknight meals I always search the fast & easy section, and then sort by which meal and by rating.

On Monday night I made Chicken Breasts with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce. It was ridiculously good. I followed the advice in the reviews – more butter, some white wine, some de-glazing – and it was perfect. It was even fantastic the next day.

Last night I made Pork Tonkatsu with Watermelon Tomato Salad. This dish was all about the salad, which was so light and refreshing! The pork was yummy, but my attention was divided by a phone call, so only the first batch was perfectly cooked. Make only what you can eat, unless you plan on a sandwich the next day.

Another new favourite time-killer is pouring through Etsy. There are some birthdays and celebrations coming up, and I’ve decided to only buy gifts from that website from now on. I love it so much! We have a UPS inbox in Niagara Falls New York which only costs us about $20 a month. We visit family in Niagara-on-the-lake regularly and the inbox is just a short trip away. It’s really changed the way that I shop, and Etsy is a nice way to still support artists. I’ve decided to start featuring some of my favourite Etsy finds here too. The beautiful lampshade pictured above is a reasonable $55 and can be found here.

Birthday Weeks

My birthday brunch at Saving Grace

I’m a Leo, born on the cusp of Cancer, but really more Leo than anything else. As a result, I like it to be my birthday for as long as humanly possible. It’s been an extraordinary birthday so far!

Saturday evening I enjoyed dinner at Sidecar with some fabulous ladies. I have to say, I was a bit underwhelmed with the food. Everyone raves about Sidecar, and though the food we ordered was prepared well, I found the menu a bit boring. The cocktails were mad though! Unreal actually. Next time, cocktails and aps there, and then somewhere else for dinner I think.

Sarah looking stunning for our night on the town.

After we ate we hurried over to the Mod Club to catch the Gala Night of the Toronto Burlesque Festival. Some of our troupe members were debuting new numbers, and we wanted to offer our support. This was my fourth year catching the festival, and this year by far had the most impressive offering of acts. I still wish that the festival organizers would stream out some of the acts that are lower in their caliber, and work to create a better lineup. Numbers were sometimes redundant because of where they were placed in the show, and the timing of “thank you’s” and “shout outs” to sponsors and coordinators fell at the end of the show and killed the high note that the outstanding closing act had created. All of those things should be embedded in the show.

I had been asked to MC, but declined because we were planning a family vacation. I was sad to not have been part of such a great evening, but it was such a nice treat to watch as an audience member instead. Of particular note were American performers Jett Adore (who is my first ever rock-star crush after his stunning performance) and duo Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey. Unbelievable presence, comic timing, physical strength, skill, attention to detail, etc. I was moved and inspired from my head to my toes.

My lovely friends and I hit the Gatto Negro for cocktails after and I enjoyed a lovely birthday toast at midnight. We were huddled under an awning in the summer rain, and I felt absolutely surrounded by love.

Yesterday, my lady took me to brunch where we met two of our beautiful girlfriends. Brunch was my weekend food highlight. We went to Saving Grace on Dundas and it blew my mind. It’s really sweet and airy inside, the service was lovely, and their menu spectacular. I ordered the coconut and pecan praline pancakes, and my girl ordered the flautas. Both were out of this world. The prices were good, and we chose the place based on many online kudos which were well deserved.

After brunch we came home and a beautiful Rose of Sharon shrub that was left on our porch by my auntie inspired some spontaneous gardening. I have the passion for plants that seems to run in the women of my family, and so does Sarah, so we both will just tackle the front yard sometimes. It’s turning into something really amazing, and the neighbours are now speaking to us. All this time I thought they were stand-offish because of our lifestyle choices. They just wanted to see some yard work!

We Skyped with our man and one of our girls after that, which made my heart hurt. It’s so fantastic that we can see them and hear them when they are halfway around the world, but not being able to reach out and touch them or smell them made my throat lump up. I was grateful for the chance to check in though, and texting seems to work again which is going a long way towards making me feel better. They are having an amazing time, of course.

After our chat we packed a blanket in the car and headed to Trinity Bellwoods where we lounged with some girlfriends until dusk. I love that place on a nice day – so much fantastic people-watching. After park fun, we hit a girlfriend’s new condo (where she has a covert hair salon in her living room!) and ordered some Thai for dinner. It was the perfect way to wind down the evening and by 10pm we were ready for sleep. We hit home, crashed hard, and I slept through the whole night until waking up to a thunderstorm at 6am.

It’s a perfectly lovely rainy day here. My plants are so happy after the long, hot dry spell. My red boots will walk to do some banking later today and I’m meeting a dear friend for tea later, and feeling generally fantastic. Reading so many birthday wishes on my Facebook wall was a lovely way to doze off last night.

35 is going to be the best one yet.

Dashing Down Your Dreams

I spent the morning staring at Sassafras

Despite a rough start – not much sleep again, and I began the day by pouring the bunny’s food into my full cup of coffee – this is shaping up to be an excellent day in Schnooville.

This morning I sat on the patio of a Yorkville cafe frantically searching from my book edits to work on. My wife was getting her hairs did at Lid Salon by our family stylist and dear friend Angela McQueen. I finally remembered that my chapters had been saved to a Dropbox folder, but before that, and during a panic of epic proportion, I discovered a Google doc that I had created in 2009. Here’s what it said, and I’ve added my own notes on progress:

Schnoo’s Two-Year Dream Plan:

  • A warm, well-organized home to call our own. This includes a guest bedroom that is also our back-up bedroom, a yard with a garden, a creative workspace – DONE
  • The ability to create my own work schedule and work anywhere and anytime that I want to- DONE
  • Many opportunities to express myself creatively both for pleasure and profit- DONE
  • My first published piece of work – IN PROGRESS
  • In the best shape of my life with a very healthy attitude towards exercise – PROGRESSING WELL!
  • Radical growth of my blog with monetizing ability – see Dooce.com – IN PROGRESS (I have to simply commit to writing every single day. Strangely, taking on more responsibility with our family business may facilitate that.)
  • All close family members and loved ones totally aware of our reality – DONE – RESOUNDING success, and only a couple of stories of heartache
  • All immediate family members aware of our reality – DONE
  • Amazing summer travel adventures as a family – NOT YET – hopefully in the early New Year
  • Occasional adults-only travel retreats – DONE (ONGOING)
  • Consulting with artists and friends to help them organize their ideas and set in motion creative and business plans – IN PROGRESS, casual
  • Securing funding for Les Coquettes for operations and production – IN PROGRESS – Not sure why this was in italics, but we’re seeing this unfold now.
  • Try to have a baby – VERY GLAD THIS ONE DIDN’T HAPPEN! It’s still something I want but if you’re a regular reader you’ll know we had a lot of groundwork to lay and lots of shit to sort out in these last two years. We’ve done a great job after lots of trial and tribulation. I’m happy to report that we’re looking forward to this next chapter, if we are lucky enough to be blessed with more children someday.

I was amazed to be able to check so many things off this list! I’m definitely doing this again this year. Probably tomorrow on my birthday. I’m feeling so grateful for all we’ve accomplished, and it’s really put a lot into perspective for me – what a little blessing today!

I’m still so homesick for my family, and I was feeling a bit down this morning, but I feel seriously cheered by the discovery of this little list. What wonderful, supportive partners I have to help me realize my dream life! I feel more ready than ever before to open my heart and have more faith in myself than ever to really embrace the kind of life I’ve always dreamed of.

Tonight is ladies’ night with dinner at Sidecar and then the Toronto Burlesque Festival at the Mod Club. I have a fabulous pair of periwinkle blue suede cage booties that are begging me to take them out on the town. Mamma-cation 2011 is going well today!

Freedom? Day Two

John's Italian Cafe

Yesterday was day two of taking care of business at home while the kids and my man are in Africa.

I got up an hour earlier than usual when my lady got up for work and I did some writing. When I went to post what I had written, the Internet was no more. It remained that way until 5pm, and was not a result of bunny teeth, but a service outage across Toronto. I tethered to my iPhone, but this was a much slower method so I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked. A bit frustrating, but I tried to make the most of it.

My girl and I met an old work colleague for dinner and drinks last night, and he shared some news of adventure on the horizon. He’s such a cool guy – super smart, really personable, very active with the Stephen Lewis Foundation – lots of admirable qualities. He and my lady had never really hung out and I was delighted to see them get along like a house on fire.We ate at what is now our haunt – John’s Italian Cafe on Baldwin. They have my favourite antipasti platters and paired with a pitcher of Sangria it was the perfect meal on such an incredibly hot day.

At home we read another chapter of Catcher in the Rye. Can you believe I’ve never read this book? It’s my girl’s favourite, and she got it for us all to read together. I’m really enjoying reading it out loud because it’s written in such a conversational style. It’s like sight-reading a monologue.

Today I need to get some proper work done, make two pairs of pasties for some of our performers who are in the Toronto Burlesque Festival on Saturday, and swing by the rehearsal studio for a sneak preview of Billie Black’s new silks routine. I’m also hoping for a bike ride to the library to pick up some more books.

My sleep was interrupted at 3:30am last night by a strange gurgling coming from the air conditioner. After I investigated the situation I couldn’t fall back into a proper sleep. I also had bad dreams about my far-away travelers. In real life my guy was suddenly no longer able to receive my text messages yesterday, and I’m feeling a little cut off without the instant gratification of an immediate response. I haven’t heard from them today either, and in light of my bad dreaming it’s making me uneasy. I’m feeling very far away from them and anxious, and a bit frustrated with myself for being so emotional about it. Perhaps an afternoon nap with fix everything.

We’re growing tomatoes and beans and basil in containers on our front lawn and our bedroom balcony. I want to get planter boxes for the balcony and fill them with more herbs. I also want to find a little bistro table, three chairs, and possibly a shade umbrella that will fit up there. It’s such a nice spot, and would be so nice for morning coffee or evening cocktails – very romantic I think. Maybe I’ll work on putting some concepts on paper today.

It’s my birthday on Sunday. I’m turning 35. For the first time I can say that my life looks exactly like I dreamed it would, and continues to blossom before me. I’m going to celebrate quietly this year, far away from some of the people I love most and feel very grateful indeed for what 35 is looking like.


Adventures in Freedom, Day One

The beautiful Yorkville location of Anthropologie

A day in the life of a mother and wife who finds herself suddenly without responsibility.

The crew got off without a hitch late yesterday afternoon, and then I had a good cry. I nearly lost it when our seven-year-old held on to me so tight and her eyes started to well up. Both girls gave me a great send off that might just get me through. Saying goodbye to their daddy was bittersweet too. More tears, then I locked myself in our house and got the rest of the waterworks out of my system.

I couldn’t immediately relax into the quiet, empty, and oh-so-messy state of affairs, so I had my girl meet me at our local pub for dinner. Then I tagged along to her baseball game, which I promise you was more a commentary on my loneliness than my love of baseball.

Home just before 10pm, I curled up with my new book, a birthday present from my loves, the hilarious Amy Sedaris craft book “Simple Times”. I got about ten pages in before my lack of sleep from the night before took over. My phone was plugged into the bedside and right beside my head so that I would wake when my travelers texted to report they had landed in Amsterdam.

The phone didn’t wake me, but Ella the Bunny who broke into our bedroom did. She was on the empty pillow beside me and licking my forehead. I thought it was cute and gave her a scratch only to realize that she had nestled in and peed all over the pillow. Misery. I managed to execute a very basic clean up without waking my girlfriend, which I think means that I’m awesome.

The travelers made it to their first stop at about 12:30 am our time. The girls hadn’t slept on the plane because it was flying directly towards the sunset. Apparently they were like zombies who were starving at the Amsterdam airport, so they attempted to take on McDonald’s but our littlest one projectile vomited her airplane dinner all over the place before they could eat. Good thing Mama C (that’s me) packed some wet wipes and a change of clothes in the carry on. Daddy had to give her a bath in the men’s room sink.

This morning I overslept and had to race to meet my beautiful buddy Ming Wong for breakfast. I went to the location I had originally thought of instead of the location we finally decided upon. Fortunately they are mere blocks away from each other. It was lovely, and she treated because of my day of birth looming on the horizon. Then I took a little tour through Anthropologie. I love that store, but I seldom ever buy anything because I find it ridiculously expensive. Strangely, being there made me want to sew. I hate sewing.

After this, I hit the library to pick up a stack of books on hold. My latest trick is to find books with incredible reviews on Amazon, borrow them from the library, and buy second hand copies (again on Amazon) of the ones that are keepers. I was on my bike and by 11am the heat was making me feel a bit stoopid. I pedaled home oh-so-slowly and then drank lots of water and attempted to launder the bedding.

In case you were wondering, bed pillows shouldn’t go into your economy-sized washing machine.  A little while after starting the wash, while tidying the kitchen, I heard a thud-thud-thud which I first thought was coming from the neighbours’, and then feared might be the rabbit (who is a mere four pounds.) Realizing the sound was coming from the basement I hurried down to find the washer literally jumping across the floor. The sodden pillow had become so heavy that it was actually wrestling the spin cycle. I liberated it, got soaking wet, and then put it out on the porch. The washer survived.

The rest of the day has looked like this:

Major tidy of the main living space/work space (you can drop in now for a visit and I will actually answer the door)

Kitchen tidy

Main floor vacuum (bunny hair sheds twice a year and it’s more like marabou feathers than pet hair. someone should have warned us!)

Shopping (online of course. for the same price as one dress at Anthropologie I got two dresses, a bathing suit, some wedge sandals, some suede thigh-high boots, two tops, and a linen/silk blend sweater. even more fantastic, I spent my birthday money from mom and dad on these wishlist items at mjrsales.com)

Les Coquettes work (approved our poster for the upcoming New Year’s Eve extravaganza and began working on a press release for said magical event)

Real job work (so much quicker and easier than I even imagined)

Now I’m awaiting the bat signal from my lady. We’re having dinner and drinks tonight with her new pal from work and his partner. My first ever queer double-date! Whee!

The other members of my family arrived safely in Nairobi at about 12:30 pm our time. I’m hoping for a phone call, but can be patient and wait until they are human again tomorrow.

Not so shabby for day one, but you can bet I’m still going to be crossing days off the calendar. This really isn’t so bad though! It’s like the very best of the Fortress days all over again, with the warmth of knowing I have so many people who love me.

It’s Gonna Take A Lot To Take Me Away From You

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Have you ever remained in denial about a thing until it was right there staring you in the face? Of course then what happens is that all of the feelings and fears you refused to acknowledge are there en mass, and there’s no pretending anymore.

I’m folding tiny clothes and tiny socks and packing up suitcases and trying to stay bright and positive, but I’m not good at missing people. I’m not good at “aparting” as my five-year-old would say. My fella and my girls are off to Africa for three weeks and my lady and I must stay behind.

It’s a huge opportunity and a huge adventure for the girls and my man hasn’t been back in 22 years. It’s an important trip for the extended family, surrounding an important religious occasion, and I’m excited for them but so sad.

Sad to miss so many firsts, sad to be so far away, sad to not be able to take time off to visit such an amazing place, and sad that their first time couldn’t be our first time too.

There’s a bright side too because there always is. I get three very quiet weeks to focus on work, reading, writing. I get three weeks to enjoy some alone time with my lady. I’m hoping those great pluses will take the edge off my worry and sadness.

I furnished the girls with a fresh new sketch book, we will Skype every day, and hopefully the time will fly by. In the New Year, I’m hopeful that we can go on a family vacation – something we’ve yet to do all together.

What a magical time for them! I guess it’s a little tough for me because I’ve missed a lot of their magical experiences already, and I’m new to the maternal separation anxiety thing.  I’ll focus on the magic that we’re bound to share as their lives unfold, enjoy the quiet time for reflection, and celebrate the adventures that await us all.