Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Little Fun: Dark Dining

It was my sister’s 27th birthday this week, and with the way that plans panned out, she ended up with an entire week of celebrations. My family always celebrate birthdays with a family dinner that everyone attends, but my father was off scuba diving in Hawaii this week. So we went as a family a week early to a restaurant in Vancouver called Dark Table.

Dark Table

My family outside the restaurant, from left: Dad, Mum, Andrew, me, Kelsey

This was no ordinary restaurant – this was a concept called dark or blind dining. Have you heard of this before? It was a fascinating and unique experience. You’ll notice the graphics on the wall behind us have Braille lettering. You eat in pitch blackness and it simulates blindness for the course of your meal. You read the menu and order your meal before even entering the restaurant, because once you’re inside there is no reading taking place. You can’t see ANYTHING.

Our “guide-server” Rose was blind (as are all the servers), and she told us that working in this environment was the first time since losing her sight that she felt in control of her surroundings. When we entered the restaurant, we were taken into a vestibule. The door to the outside and the door from the vestibule into the restaurant were never opened at the same time, thus keeping out all light in the dining area. Once the door to the outside shut, we were instructed to form a “conga line” by placing our left hand on the left shoulder of the person in front of us. The first person in line placed their hand on Rose’s shoulder, and then Rose led us into the darkness and to our table.

I’ve never been anywhere so dark in my life. I had my eyes open the whole time and all I could see was utter blackness. No electronic devices were allowed inside, so there was not even any illumination from cell phone screens. My dad even had a watch face that glowed in the darkness and he had to take it off! The purpose of all this, of course, is to eliminate vision and learn to use your other senses in a safe environment. Of course, it’s something truly special to do this for an experience as sensory as eating.

When our drinks arrived, we were instructed to place our glass in the right corner just above our plate at our place setting. Afterwards it was always easy to find our glasses by touch alone. When the bread basket arrived, we could smell it coming from two long table lengths away, and it was divine. And then came our first real challenge: we had to butter our bread without seeing what we were doing. It was… messy. But we managed!

When our appetizers and entrees arrived, we were ready for a really interesting experience. My brother (later) tweeted a pic of his meal:

ISN’T HE HILARIOUS? Ha. The appetizer was a spinach salad with goat cheese, strawberries and other goodies. It was interesting to take bites of salad and try to identify what components you were tasting and feeling in your mouth. I figured out strawberries by texture before I identified the flavour! The entrees were all simple dishes, designed to make it possible to identify the flavours without seeing your food. The chefs did a great job of anticipating diner’s needs; for example, they had de-tailed my garlic prawns so I didn’t need to fiddle with them in the dark. They had sliced the chicken orders into smaller pieces so that diners wouldn’t be spearing an entire chicken breast into their mouths with their fork!

Despite these measures, it was pretty funny… we all had some success and learned to use our cutlery passably without seeing what we were doing, but all of us ended up hunching over close to our plates and scooping the food into our mouths to minimize dropping food in our laps! Most of us also found that we accidentally knocked some bits of our food onto our place mats, and my sister even used her fingers to pick food up off the plate after awhile. (Why not? Nobody could see her terrible manners!)

The experience was eye-opening (pardon the pun!) We had the most delicious meal of our lives… not necessarily because it was the most delicious that had ever been cooked (although the food was very tasty!) but because we’d never paid so much attention to the smell and taste. We had fun playing a Would You Rather game of choosing between losing one of two senses. It gave me new respect for what those who don’t have the benefit of vision go through every day of their lives. We felt utterly at the mercy of Rose, and it’s lucky she was so lovely and trustworthy! I also was a little shocked to discover how heavily I rely on watching people’s lips move to understand what they’re saying when they’re speaking to me. (I am not deaf! I definitely don’t have the best hearing in the world, but I didn’t realize I did so much lip-reading to filter out distracting background noise)

If you have a dark dining restaurant in your area, I strongly encourage everyone to try this experience. It’s a very unique, memorable and fun way to enjoy a meal.

Never Too Late

About a week ago, I got a very unexpected email at work. It was from an ex-roommate who had treated me very poorly, and I hadn’t spoken to her in about six years.

A little back-story: The longest romantic relationship I’ve ever been in lasted four years, and we were engaged to be married for the last year that we were together. (Sidebar: He unceremoniously dumped me for another girl and kicked me out of the house on my mother’s birthday. Happy birthday Mum, your heartbroken and shell-shocked adult daughter is moving back in with you!! He is very un-fondly referred to now as The Prince of Darkness by my family.) When I met him at the tender age of 23, he was living in a 3-bedroom apartment with two roommates, one girl and one guy. After about a year of dating, he had a huge falling-out with the male roommate, and kicked that guy out of the house. (ANYBODY SENSE A THEME HERE?!? Ugh.) He invited me to move in with him, and as I’d been wanting to do so for a long time, I said yes without giving it much thought.

Yup, I moved in with my boyfriend AND HIS FEMALE THIRD-WHEEL ROOMMATE.

He assured me that he’d run this scenario by Third Wheel and she was totally fine with it, and I’d always gotten along great with her. But from the moment I moved in, she was a Capital B Bitch. Minor spats and palpable tension between us grew for months, culminating in a blow-out fight between us and then we simply didn’t talk to each other after that. Ever. For any reason. If we were in the same room we just gave each other the silent treatment for over a year. It was the worst, and made my life at home very unpleasant. She finally moved into her own place after two years of living with my boyfriend and I in a very unfriendly environment. I never knew why she was so awful toward me.

The email I got last week was from her. She’s married now with a child, and she lives three hours away. She’s felt guilty about how she treated me for years, and finally decided to look me up and apologize to me. Apparently the Prince of Darkness did indeed ask her if she was okay with me moving in, and she had said no! But in his typical style, it was his way or the highway, and so he told her that was too bad and that I’d be moving in anyway. And then he never told me that Third Wheel didn’t want to be a third wheel. She was writing to me to let me know it was him that she’d really been upset with, but that she’d taken it out on me, and she was deeply sorry.

I was very touched that she reached out. Truth be told, I privately forgave her years ago, though I never spoke to her to tell her so. I don’t believe it’s healthy to hold onto anger that no longer serves you, so I forgave her for my own mental sanity. But I’d always been confused as to why she had acted that way.

I am glad I’d been able to give myself closure prior to this, or the new information about my ex might have upset me. But it was nice to have an explanation. Nice to hear the apology. And nice to hear what her life is like now. It takes a big dose of humility to admit you were wrong, especially so long after the fact. I think she’s a truly good person who just didn’t know how to handle being treated as totally inconsequential to decisions about her own living situation, and I got the brunt of it because she felt like she couldn’t stand up to him. (I often felt that way with him myself, so I can relate.)

We’re getting together for coffee next time she’s in town, to reconnect with a clean slate and on better terms. I’m so glad she reached out. It’s never to late to right a wrong.

Sugar Detox: Week 1

Sugar DetoxAlthough it struck fear into my heart, I recently decided to enroll in Nicole‘s 30-Day Sugar Detox program, and boy am I glad I did. It launched at the beginning of June, so I’ve been working my way through the materials for just over a week now, and it’s been rather eye-opening.

I am a bit of a sugar fiend. I have a terrible sweet tooth – heck, my catch phrase is that I like a little coffee with my sugar and cream! I have gotten into the habit over recent years of having a “treat” every day, sometimes more than once a day: a muffin here, a piece of chocolate there, a danish for breakfast on a day that I’m running late. It’s not really a treat anymore if you’re eating it all the time, is it?

Most of the time if I indulge in a sugary treat, I feel like I can’t help myself. And with certain particular items, I feel like I can’t stop at one, either. (TIM TAMS, I’M LOOKIN’ AT YOU). I was aware that when Nicole kicked the sugar habit, she went whole hog and basically eats 100% sugar-free now, but this wasn’t really my goal… I just wanted to avoid obvious sources of sugar for the month and kick the cravings. I wasn’t concerned about added sugar in non-obvious places.

The first phase of the program was focused on our connection with food – really delving into why we eat the way we do, where patterns of sugar-eating formed, and creating alternative coping mechanisms for those instances. One of my most interesting takeaways was remembering a family dinner tradition from my childhood: my mum served dessert of some sort almost every day (even though most of the time it was just fruit or yogurt, it was still a sweet flavour), but my parents told us we had to “qualify” for dessert by finishing some arbitrary amount of our main entree before we could move on to dessert. I had never made the link before, but there it was glaring me in the face. I had learned to equate sweets as a reward. And I do that to this day. Make a big sale? Cake! Finished an intensive study course? Ice cream! Had a super productive weekend? Pie!

I also realized how often I eat crap just because I’m bored, and especially if I’m bored and lonely or stressed. So, the coping mechanisms I came up with when I start craving sweets were the following:

  1. Take a walk
  2. Call a friend, and if I’m upset or stressed, vent
  3. Do something on my to-do list… preferably not something at the computer or at my desk.
  4. Play a fun song and dance it out

I’m now in the second phase, which is the education phase of the program, and this got really interesting for me. You’ll remember that I had no intention of cutting out added sugars in non-obvious places, but I also didn’t think that they were in so many non-obvious places! Nicole gave us a list of all the different names used in ingredient lists for various types of sugar additives. I don’t even think the list was comprehensive, but boy howdy, it was a long list. And after comparing every pantry item in my kitchen against that list, there were some nasty surprises. Rice vinegar! Canned olives! Chicken stock! Black beans! Mayonnaise! My beloved lemongrass had no less than FOUR DIFFERENT TYPES of sugar additives. And I nearly cried to see sugar as the second ingredient in sriracha. (Thankfully, I was also happy to learn that dill pickles, marmite, and my particular brand of salsa, crackers and dijon mustard were safe.)

So, I’m still not giving up my beloved sriracha, but it got me thinking that maybe there are some easy switches I can make that will reduce my sugar consumption without even noticing. First things first, it’s probably time to start soaking and cooking my own beans and chicken/vegetable stock instead of relying so heavily on pre-packaged varieties. I will probably commit to the switch from processed to natural peanut butter. And in some cases, a simple brand change is all it will take… did you guys know that most commercially made mayonnaise has added sugar, but Trader Joe’s brand doesn’t? (Sidebar: I am obsessed with Trader Joe’s and want to start crossing the border every few weeks for a grocery stocking trip, so I’m TOTALLY FINE with another excuse to hit them up). I will be reading ingredient lists on food packaging much more carefully in the future.

The best part? I haven’t even avoided obvious sugar 100% since June 1, but I have definitely reduced it dramatically and I’m pretty sure I’ve kicked the daily cravings. Also? I’ve been breaking through a weight loss plateau without increasing my activity level!

Stay tuned for more about this as the month goes on.

Breakneck Speed Dating

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared any dating stories with you guys! There’s a reason for that… as I shared here, I’ve made virtually no effort to date anyone over the last several months. A couple of weeks ago, however, in a fog of weekend boredom, I spent four hours chatting with a guy on an online dating site. It started off as a simple hello, but he turned out to be a great conversationalist and we were talking well into the wee hours of the morning, only stopping when our eyelids were drooping. We ended the conversation with plans to go for a hike the next morning and see if we had as much fun in person.

I found him at the agreed-upon meeting spot, his pooch in tow (ALWAYS A PLUS!) I made fast friends with the dog first, and then we set out for a two-hour trek in the woods. Initially a little skeptical of being alone for two hours with a guy I’d never met before and with no quick way out if he turned out to be crazypants, I relaxed upon meeting him. He was chatty, interesting, and had a casual demeanor with me that made me feel immediately as though I’d known him for years, and we didn’t run out of conversation at any point.

At the end of the hike, I found myself disappointed that it was over, and I suppose he’d been thinking the same thing, so we went to get coffees and drove down to the beach to sip and chat some more. There he kissed me, and we ended up spending nine (!!!) hours together that first day. When we parted ways finally, I felt like my life had just been flip-turned upside down and I was floating on a cloud. I couldn’t believe the ease that I felt with him; it immediately seemed that I had an established boyfriend.

Again, it seemed the feeling was mutual with him, and on our second date, he made a tactical error. He must have been feeling close to me and felt comfortable sharing information that you would normally not disclose on a second date. After a casual question asking how long he’d had Kira his dog, I was bombarded with the following:

  • He’d just gotten Kira back from his ex two weeks prior.
  • Kira had been with his ex because she had “stolen” the dog when they broke up and tried to use Kira as leverage to get back together.
  • When that didn’t work, SHE HAD HIM ARRESTED. With handcuffs, and he was escorted away from their place in a cop car! For physical harassment? The story he told me: When he wouldn’t agree to stay together with his ex, she lost control and began physically lashing out at him. To keep her from hitting and punching him, he wrapped his arms around her to immobilize her until she calmed down. She called the police afterwards saying he’d physically restrained her. I actually believe him that this was just a desperate manipulative ploy that she pulled in order to regain some power, and I don’t think he physically abused her, but still… RED FLAG.
  • This all went down a mere 6 weeks ago.
  • Due to the recency of this situation, he actually was still couch-surfing with his buddy following moving out of the apartment he had shared with his ex, and would be moving into his own place the following weekend.
  • Oh yeah, and crazy ex is HIS CURRENT WIFE. Due to divorce law in Canada, he can’t file for divorce until they’ve been separated for one full year. 6 weeks down, 46 to go!!!
  • On an unrelated note but just for kicks to add to this barrel of laughs, he does a lot of marijuana. Like, A LOT. Daily.

Any sane person would probably run away kicking & screaming, but I have always had trouble processing overwhelming information in the moment that I encounter it. So I deferred to my usual tactic of Smooth Things Over And Deal With It Later. I spent the next little while reassuring him that it was okay, and he kept confiding in me the finer points of his breakup with this woman. Eventually I succeeded in changing the subject to a lighter topic, and we had some dinner and wine and fun. I shoved this bonkers tale onto a dusty shelf in the back corner of my brain for later examination.

When he’d left and I had some time to reflect on the mess I’d gotten myself into, I thought back to the details of our conversation about his breakup with his wife. He’d assured me he was over her, which was very plainly not the case. What he meant, I think, was that he had no intention of getting back together with her, which I believe… but the sheer emotion that arose while he was hyper-focused on talking about this relationship made it crystal clear that this really lovely guy was just at the beginning phase of dealing with the fallout from his separation. And he had no business whatsoever being registered on an online dating site. Not only that, but I’d noticed an awful crassness to his language while he was worked up about this story. Listen, I sometimes have quite the sailor-mouth myself, and I have a pretty high tolerance for swearing… but it was literally 2 curse words per sentence and really gross ways of describing things. I was offended and that’s quite a feat!

On the other hand, none of this erased the connection I’d felt with him. After running it by a couple of close friends, I decided that I could possibly deal with the horrible timing of our meeting if the swearing turned out to be something that happened only because he was upset, and was never directed at me in anger… and if he could agree not to ever do any pot around me.

So I very cautiously approached a third date a few days later, and the pot-smoking came up in conversation. I asked him to please not do it around me, and he said it wouldn’t be much fun for him if he couldn’t smoke up and then watch a movie with me or relax in his own home with it. And that was that. There were about ELEVENTY BAJILLION great reasons not to date this guy, and I was willing to consider it anyway, but that one? Dealbreaker.

It started and finished so fast, now it seems like a crazy surreal dream. But it did remind me how nice it feels to have someone in your life that you relate to that way.

Housekeeping Note: New Blog Header!

If any of you logged in to this blog last night (Sunday), you might have noticed some wacky design changes as I was testing out some different layout and template options. My wonderful roommate from my trip to Vegas, Karlyn who blogs about feminism over at The Shattered Glass Slipper, made this beautiful header for me and I’ve finally got it up and running today. It’s not a full site overhaul, just a nice coat of fresh paint, but I’m thrilled with the more customized look and the brighter pops of colour. Here’s what I changed:

  • Added the header that Karlyn designed
  • Changed the WordPress template design from Fresh & Clean to Twenty Twelve
  • Changed the background colour to lime green
  • No more truncated posts on the main page!

If you’re reading this in a reader, pop over and have a look. Let me know what you think and give Karlyn a visit!

May Highlights, June Intentions

It’s been a good, rather eventful month. I’m enjoying the pace of 2013 so far. We’re almost halfway through and I want to keep the momentum up.

May Highlights:

May means lots of hiking in the woods. Source: Grouse Mountain

May means lots of hiking in the woods. Source: Grouse Mountain

  • Found out one of my closest friends is pregnant with her second. I’m so excited for her.
  • Got a pedicure with a fun glittery colour for my vacation.
  • Took my mum out to a brunch spot she’s been wanting to try for ages with my family for Mother’s Day
  • Took a week and a half vacation from work and went down to Las Vegas to party with 64 other bloggers and knock an item off my life list – I saw Shania Twain perform!
  • Hit up Trader Joe’s in Bellingham, WA for some American grocery shopping action on the way home from my trip.
  • Attended the rehearsal dinner and wedding of a wonderful friend, Julia
  • Enjoyed quite the whirlwind romance that was over before I’d had a chance to absorb what was going on, after months of utter boredom on the love life front. It’s been… interesting!
  • Read two more books that I really enjoyed this month: I loved Requiem, which wrapped up the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver and was very pleased with the way it all ended. And I finally picked up Roomby Emma Donoghue after hearing about it for months, and devoured the entire story in one weekend. Definitely worth a read.

How did I do on my May intentions?

  • Let loose and enjoy lots of new friend time in Vegas! – Check!
  • Related: do not let TOO loose. Have 3 meals of whatever I want; make smart food choices the rest of the time. 3 alcoholic drinks per day. -I didn’t really track it, but I did alright on this front. I only gained 1 pound over my 6 day trip and lost it (plus more) quickly upon returning home.
  • Spend no more than $600 in Vegas on things that haven’t already been paid for. – Check!
  • Back on track healthwise when I return from Vegas: eliminate sweets from your diet for the rest of May. -I have had a few cookies but have mostly been eating well. Half check?
  • Complete a hike longer than my usual 1.5 hour hike before month end. -Oh, so close! It has been pouring rain since I’ve been back almost relentlessly, so I haven’t been out on the trails much. Finally the sunshine returned today so I met this goal two days late!

June Intentions:

  • My fabulous Vegas roommate Karlyn has made a custom blog header for me, so stay tuned to see that go live this month!
  • I’m participating in Nicole‘s 30 Day Sugar Detox program. I’m avoiding all sugar-laden snacks for this month and expecting to make some weight loss progress and some changes to the way I eat.
  • I WILL NOT BAIL ON MY BOOK CLUB THIS MONTH. I WILL NOT BAIL ON MY BOOK CLUB THIS MONTH. I WILL NOT BAIL ON MY BOOK CLUB THIS MONTH.
  • Celebrate my sister’s birthday this month without breaking my resolve to avoid sugary treats. I can celebrate with her without eating cake.
  • Complete the Grouse Grind hike up Grouse Mountain this month. I use this hike as a gauge of my fitness level because it’s technically very difficult and intense, and I have had to turn back without finishing it several times because if I don’t pace myself carefully I become dizzy. I’m hoping to finish in an hour and a half for my first run at it this season.