What I’ve read this year

What I've Read This Year

For the past few years, I’ve been using the Goodreads reading challenge to encourage myself to read more. I’ve kept my goal fairly simple, aiming to read a book a month. I’ve fallen a bit behind on sharing reviews as I’ve gone, so I thought I would share a quick catch up. Here’s what I’ve read so far this year:

  1. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

    This book is a collection of poetry. This was beautifully written and gave me chills, but I found some of the poems difficult to read at times due to subject matter. Even still, I rated this 4 out of 5 stars.

  2. Wherever You Go, There You are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

    This was a self help style book, all about mindfulness meditation. The book was very well-rated and I read it on the recommendation of my doctor, but man. This book was not for me. It was too new-agey, too philosophical for my liking. I rated it 1 star.

  3. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

    This is a YA novel from the writer of the Shopaholic Series. Audrey suffers from anxiety and mild agoraphobia. There were parts of the story that really irritated me, but it was a fine read. 3 out of 5 stars.

  4. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

    The autobiography of the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah tells his amazing story from his young life in apartheid South Africa to the host of one of the more popular satirical news shows. This was a great read and I totally cried. I rated it 4.5 stars out of 5.

  5. Everybody Writes: You Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley

    This was assigned reading for the course I took this year, so I picked it up because I had to. It’s a great resource for anyone looking for a guide to content writing. There were definitely chapters of this book that covered things I already knew, but it’s a solid guide for anyone that is new to content writing or looking to brush up on their strategies. I rated it 3 stars of 5.

  6. When We Collided by Emery Lord

    Another YA, this book put an interesting twist on the boy-meets-girl, summer loving story. It handles the portrayal of mental health and mental illness in a more realistic way. The story has alternating narrators, from the POVs of the two main characters. I really didn’t like the one character, but still rated this 3.5 stars.

  7. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandy Menon

    While I found this book slow to get started, I really, really enjoyed the main character, Dimple. I honestly thought I knew where the author was going with the story, but she surprised me. It was a well-crafted story with real characters. I rated this 4 out of 5 stars.

  8. Other People We Married by Emma Straub

    Other People We Married is a collection of short stories. I didn’t really enjoy this book, but kept reading, because I thought maybe the next short story would grab me. It was readable, but I wouldn’t call it enjoyable. I gave this book 1.5 out of 5 stars.

  9. The Assistants by Camille Perri

    I loved this book, it was a fun read. The story was incredibly far fetched, but I think that’s what made it so fun. And having spent my fair share of time working as an unappreciated assistant, there was definitely something cathartic about this book. Don’t judge me! I rated it 4 out 5 stars.

  10.  My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

    Another Sophie Kinsella book. This was definitely more of Kinsella’s normal chick-lit style, where her protagonist gets herself into some major trouble, lies about it, then gets found out and hilarity ensues. It was formulaic, but something you can pick up and read. It was fine. I rated it 3 out of 5 stars.

  11. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

    Absolutely hated this book. I ended up hate-reading it because I really struggle with DNFing (Did Not Finish) books and again, it was a collection of short stories, so I thought maybe one of them would speak to me. I was not a fan of the main character. He came across as a complete asshole and maybe if I hadn’t read it in the middle of the garbage fire that is life, society and politics these days, maybe I would’ve enjoyed it more. But right now? Hard pass. I rated this 1.5 stars out of 5.

  12. This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

    This book follows the story of Sloane, who’s adjusting to life in Florida. Her family has just relocated from NYC and Sloane is struggling with the fallout from the move. When a painting by her new best friends’ mother goes missing, Sloane takes it upon herself to find out what happened to it. I really enjoyed this YA novel. The author created a really great group of secondary characters in the main character’s group of friends and family. I rated this 4.5 out of 5 stars.

  13. I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee

    Samatha Bee’s autobiography was a good read. It was interesting to read about her early career and Canadianisms that were very familiar. I skimmed through some of the essays, but overall it was an entertaining read. I rated this 3 out of 5 stars.

  14. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

    I picked this book after watching this review of it on Marines’s YouTube channel. The story follows Starr in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend from childhood, Khalil, by a police officer. This book punched me right in the feels. It was heartbreaking, inspiring and all too real for many POC families in America. I cried a lot. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

  15. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennett by Bernie Su and Katie Rorick

    I have to start off by saying I did not watch the web series, so I read this as a stand-alone book. I feel like that probably took away a lot from the story. This book was fine, but I wasn’t totally as in to it as my friends who experienced the webseries and book together. I very much related to Lizzie as being a mid-20s post-grad struggling to break into a competitive job market so she doesn’t drown in debt/have to live with her parents the rest of her life, but otherwise I found the story a little predictable. I gave this 3 out of 5 stars.

  16. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

    Another autobiography! This one by Mindy Kaling had its moments, but at times her self-deprecating humour gave me the same feels as Amy Schumer’s brand of humour. As in, it felt bad, man. I rated this 2 out of 5 stars.

  17. Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

    This book tells the story of Norah, who suffers from anxiety and agoraphobia. She can barely manage to leave the house to see her therapist, but things change when she has an encounter with her new neighbour. This story reminded me of other YA novels like Finding Audrey and Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, but it was way better because Norah’s struggles feel more realistic and true to life than Audrey’s (and isn’t insta-cured when a cute boy shows up) and she is truly ill. I rated this book 3.5 stars out of 5.

  18. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

    Okay, so this book was difficult to read at times. No pun intended. The stories in this collection deal with very heavy subjects. Some of the stories are hard to read and left me feeling uncomfortable. I had to take a break from this book because of how difficult I found some of the subject matter. That being said, I still found Difficult Women to be well-written and a good read. I rated it 4 out of 5 stars.

  19. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

    It’s been a few months since I’ve finished this book and I’m still not exactly sure how to describe it. The main story follows a group of kids in a small town where weird shit happens as they’re getting ready to graduate high school. It’s definitely science fiction, it’s definitely quirky and I love the diversity in the characters. This book is not for everyone, but it was definitely my kind of weird. I rated it 4 out of 5 stars.

  20. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

    Speaking of weird and quirky… Eleanor is an incredibly socially awkward, solitary woman in her mid-30s. She lives a very regimented life, which has been her method of survival. She and her awkward, sloppy and loud coworker, Raymond, happen upon an elderly man having a medical emergency. The unlikely pair save him, which inevitably leads to them all sort of saving each other.  I really wasn’t sure where this book was going at first. It’s clear that Eleanor is haunted by things that she has survived, but the ending of the book still took me by surprised. I’m pretty sure I liked this book? I rated it 3 stars out of 5.

  21. Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

    Set in 2575, a corporate war is breaking out and recently broken-up teenagers Kady and Ezra, along with the rest of their planet, are fleeing the conflict. On top of that, their fleet of evacuated civilians is dealing with a homicidal artificial intelligence and a zombie-plague. Kady is trying to untangle a scary corporate conspiracy and ugh, now she has to rely on her stupid exboyfriend and other teen-angsty things. I found this book distracting as heck to read, because it’s told through IM conversations, dossier briefings, medical reports, intercepted emails, and interview transcripts. But the design of the book is beautiful and once I got into the story, I had a hard time putting the book down. This is the first of a trilogy.  I rated it 4 out of 5 stars.

  22. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

    I loved, loved, looooooved this collection of essays by Roxane Gay, and it wasn’t only because she did a complete tear down of the bullshit that is the “romance” of books like the Twilight Saga and 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy. Though that was a very good part of the book and made me feel incredibly justified and validated for the trauma my friends and I suffered recapping the series for the Snark Squad website. Anyway. Twilight and FSoG aside, this was an excellent commentary on feminism, the culture and media we consume and that we can all do better. I rated this 4.5 out of 5 stars.

  23. Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2) by Rob Thomas

    Okay, let’s be honest: I read this book for one reason and one reason only: I am a Marshmallow.  My love for Veronica Mars runs deep and she was taken from us too soon with the cancellation of her show after the 3rd season. After the Kickstarter campaign that brought us the Veronica Mars movie, these two books were released to carry on the VM universe. In this book, Veronica is hired to investigate the claims of a woman who says she was assaulted and left for dead by an employee in Neptune’s fancy hotel. The book was fine, but if it wasn’t Veronica Mars, I wouldn’t have read it. I gave it 3 stars out of 5.

  24. Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

    This is the second book in the Illuminae Files. I was better prepared for the way the story was presented, so I found this book easier to get stuck into. The book follows new characters on the Jump Station Heimdall, who wind up pulled into the corporate warfare when the company BeiTech tries to gain control of the station. Hanna, the daughter of the station’s commander, reluctantly teams up with Nik and Ella, members of a notorious crime family to try to save the crew of the Heimdall and the universe. No big deal, right? I gave this 4 out of 5 stars.

What are you reading right now? And do you use Goodreads? Let’s be friends there!

That time I was a guest on a pod

For those of you that are familiar with my blog, you probably also know that I blog elsewhere, recapping shows like A Series of Unfortunate Events, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil and books like the Twilight Saga on the Snark Squad site.

A few weeks ago, the lovely Nicole and Marines invited me to chat with them and fellow guest Silvia about my new fav show, The Bold Type.

Our episode is now live! You can check it out by clicking the link below.

My Epic Summer Vacation

Every summer for the last few years, I have had 8 weeks of vacation. And every summer for the last few years, I have felt compelled to fill every single second of those 8 weeks off with some kind of work, job or project. I’ve felt this intense pressure to have a great story of what I did with my time off to prove that I was somehow worthy of this time off. I break out in cold sweats just thinking about having to face my coworkers and their ‘So, what did you do over the summer?’ questions. It’s almost not worth the anxiety vacation causes.

It’s been pointed out to me that maybe this isn’t the point of vacation and maybe I’m projecting. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe my coworkers don’t care and are just making small talk. They’re probably not judging me at all if I don’t have a justification for my time off. Maybe I should calm the hell down.

But here’s the thing:

I am often very hard on myself.

I don’t listen very well when I’m not being told what I want to hear.

I am very stubborn.

I have anxiety.

It’s not uncommon for one to be hard on one’s self. Often we are our own worst critics and I’m no different. It’s also not unusual to not want to listen to someone when they’re telling you something you don’t want to hear.

Why can’t each and every person in my life just blindly enable me to do what I want, by telling me exactly what I want to hear?

I am stubborn. Very stubborn. Which only exacerbates the fact that I’m both very hard on myself and don’t want to listen to people who don’t want to validate my criticisms of myself.

And lastly, I have anxiety. Anxiety likes to focus on something small and grow it into a big, paralyzing problem. It doesn’t have to be rational. It usually isn’t.

It’s a frustrating combination.

At least I’m willing to admit that?

Anyway. What is my point here? My point is that maybe it’s okay to take a break. Maybe you can just enjoy vacation time and not feel the need to defend the fact that you’re taking things easier.

Maybe I don’t have an epic story of how I remodelled my kitchen, built a nature sanctuary for donkeys, or hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. But that’s okay.

We all work hard. We’re all doing our best. And we’re all surviving through the darkest timeline right now.

Like, have you watched the news for longer than five seconds? Because I haven’t. Anything longer than 2 seconds shoves my anxiety into overdrive.

So I’m going to try to not guilt myself into having to prove that I made good use of my vacation time. I’m not going to be baited into feeling like I need an epic story or example of how I spent summer vacation.

I’m planning on a summer vacation that can be just that: vacation. And that’s okay.

 

 

So sometimes I’m stubborn

I am pretty stubborn about some things.

A few weeks ago, I rebuilt by freelance website. I hadn’t really touched it since I first put it up two years ago. So I overhauled the entire site, which included adding some new plugins and widgets. Particularly, I wanted to update the security of my site by creating a secure admin login page.

I researched different ways to do this. I read about my plugin options. I made my decision, set everything up, chose a really clever page slug that I would totally remember.

Then I left my fresh site to collect dust for a few weeks.

Last weekend, I went to log in to my freelance site. But I couldn’t remember my new, clever, memorable login page address.

I tried a few different page addresses.  No luck. I tried typing random letters into my browser’s address bar, hoping that autocomplete would help me out.

It didn’t.

I opened up my browser history and went back to the weekend I did my site’s overhaul. I figured the login page must be listed there somewhere. I’d spent hours rebuilding my site. Setting up the new security protocols. Testing it. It had to be there somewhere.

It wasn’t.

Frustrated, I logged into my web hosting admin panel. I figured I would surely be able to easily find the information there. I poked around in my domain management portals. At the very least, maybe I could reset it if all else failed.

I couldn’t.

I was strongly starting to consider deleting the whole website. Throwing my laptop into the fire. And running into the forest, never to be seen again.

I started going through my site’s database, file by file. It had to be there somewhere.

If it was, it was hiding from me.

What an a-hole.

It was now quickly approaching 2am. My partner suggested that we go to bed and give it ago in the morning after I’d had a chance to sleep on it.

But that’s not how I work.

Instead of doing the practical thing, I queued for my web host’s tech support live chat. At 2am on a Sunday morning. And waited. And waited.

While I waited, I poked around some more in my site’s database. I opened every file. I read through so many pages that my eyes were burning. I was going to figure out what my admin page login was if it took all. Damn. Night.

Finally, my chat window pinged. I was next in line for the tech support chat.

At the same time, buried deep in the files of my website, I found what I was looking for. The URL to the secure admin login page.

It may have taken over 4 hours, a lot of cursing and the worrisome feeling that maybe I’d been gaslighting myself, but I figured it out.

This is my long-winded way of saying that the same stubbornness that kept me up all night trying to figure out my freelance website is the same stubbornness that keeps bringing me back to this blog.

I’m going to keep poking around until I figure it all out.

So yes. Still here. Hi, hello. Thanks for sticking it out with me.

 

My Top 3 Favourite Cancelled TV Shows

I’m really good at choosing terrible TV. Don’t believe me? I can prove it.

All my favourite shows get cancelled way too soon, while other shows that should’ve been canceled ten years ago soldier on (Looking at you, Grey’s Anatomy.).

Here are my top 3 favourite (now cancelled) shows from the last year.

Powerless


Photo source

NBC put a spin on the popularity of superhero shows with Powerless. Powerless is a comedy that follows Emily as she starts her dream job as the director of research and development at Wayne Security in Charm City. A city where superheroes and villains and the everyday regular humans that are sick and tired of having to deal with the aftermath of epic battles.

As the director of research and development, it is Emily’s job to motivate and inspire her team into creating the latest new product that will solve the problems of regular humans co-existing in the superhero world. It’s too bad that Emily’s team is less than interested in their mission and her boss, Van Wayne, is only interested in himself.

Powerless employed some of my favourites. Alan Tudyk, who you may recognize from Firefly, another one of my prematurely cancelled TV shows, portrays Van Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s cousin, CEO of Wayne Security. Danny Pudi, from Gilmore Girls and Community, and Ron Funches from New Girl, @midnight, and the Kroll Show,  are members of Emily’s development team and Emily herself is portrayed by Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical, Grease Live).

I really enjoyed the quirkiness of this comedy, and the premise was interesting and engaging. I loved the whole ensemble cast, but it was Alan Tudyk and his awesome performance as Van Wayne that made the show for me. And Powerless featured a few super cool cameos like Adam West and Marc McClure. It was a fun show.

The network didn’t agree with me and Powerless was cancelled before its first season was up.

Conviction

Photo source

Speaking of shows that were cancelled in their first season, the next show on my list finished its 13-episode run mid-season and left me wondering whether or not it was going to be cancelled for months before the network gave us the bad news.

Conviction is a show about Hayes Morrison, a former first daughter, lawyer and wild child, who gets strong-armed into heading up the new Conviction Integrity Unit to avoid going to jail for cocaine possession. She and her team investigate cases where there is suspicion of wrongful conviction. The new high-profile job puts Hayes in the spotlight while her mother is running for state senate and in close proximity to her ex-boyfriend and former colleague, DA Conner Wallace.

When I first found out about this show, I was a little worried because the promotional material really leaned hard on the ‘wild child’ bit. But Hayes Morrison was being brought to life by one of my celebrity crushes, Hayley Atwell. And I fell in love with Hayley because of her portrayal of Agent Peggy Carter in Marvel Cinematic Universe films like Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: Winter Soldier, The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man.  On TV, in the same role, Hayley guest-starred on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and starred in the cancelled-after-two-seasons Agent Carter.

I’m not bitter that the TV execs cancel everything I love. Not at all.

Anyway. I was in mourning after the cancellation of Agent Carter, so I was just excited that Hayley Atwell was back on TV. The show turned out to be really good, with a compelling cast of characters and great stories. It wasn’t as full of horrible tropes as I was expecting.

Alas, apparently the ratings weren’t there for a show  with a smart, badass, queer lady lead, a diverse cast and compelling stories.

Dark Matter

Photo Source

Speaking of diverse casts. It’s almost too soon to talk about the last show on my list.

But I can’t talk about awesome shows with diverse casts without thinking about Dark Matter. From the creators and show-runners of Stargate, Dark Matter is a space opera where the crew wakes up on their ship, the Raza, to no memories of who they are or what they’re doing. As they start to piece together their past, the Raza crew, lead by badass, POC, queer woman Two (aka Portia Lin, aka Rebecca), explore what identity is all about while running from the Galactic Authority and their past lives as criminals and dangerous people.

They’re trying to stop a corporate war, assassins and an android uprising, while exposing conspiracies and building alliances. It’s just all in a days’ work for the Raza and her crew.

The 7 person crew has a diverse representation of different races, ages, gender expressions and sexual orientations. This crew is unlike anything I’ve seen in a science fiction show before.

The show was fun, had a bit of campiness, wasn’t afraid to make jokes and created engaging stories, characters and relationships.

Dark Matter’s supporting characters were great and well-casted. Their villains were complex (Hello Will Wheaton).

Oh, and did I mention it was a Canadian production? And for me, it holds a special place in my heart, because my high school crush and Canadian Idol winner, Melissa O’Neil stars as the Raza crew’s leader, Two.

While Dark Matter was cancelled only a few months ago, there was hope this show might be saved after the fandom rallied behind it. But after the last of 3 interested parties passed on picking up the show, it remains cancelled. Apparently, I can’t have nice things.

Honourable Mention

I have to give an honourable mention to the show Doubt. Which was canceled after 2 episodes.  It was a courtroom drama, starring Katherine Heigl, from every romcom in the late-oughts, and Lavern Cox, from Orange is the New Black. The main character, Sadie, played by Katherine Heigl, was boring AF. But all of the other characters including Lavern Cox’s Cameron Wirth, a transgender woman finding her way as a new litigator in a new firm, were interesting and engaging.

Doubt was cancelled after 2 episodes but I honestly feel the show wasn’t given enough time to find its feet. Who knows what could have been. I really enjoyed what I saw from this show that was canceled before it even started.

 

What is your favourite show that was ripped from the airwaves way too soon?

Tell me all about it in the comments.

Why I ditched my electronic calendar

I’m as attached to my mobile as any other millennial, I just can’t be without my phone. But as much as I love my phone, I’ve never really been a huge fan of my electronic calendar. It just hasn’t  been the same as writing things down in something tangible. I find it’s harder to look at all of my due dates and appointments all at once. I just can’t visualize things the right way when I look at a calendar of dots. What does that dot represent? Is that a holiday or something I scheduled? It drives me insane.

So I swear by writing things down the old fashioned way. I need to have a paper planner. But as paper planners have become more of a thing of the past, I’ve found it harder and harder to find a planner that I like. The past few years, I’ve even gone planner-free because I was tired of spending money on them and then not using them because the layout didn’t work for me or I didn’t like the size or style of the planner. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought about having a paper planner. Or browsed for one. Or drooled over the beautiful, customizable, build-your-own planner sites. During my hours of planner research, the closest to what I was looking for was the Passion Planner by Angelia Trinidad.

I was really excited for my mum when she told me that she had ordered a Passion Planner to help her stay organized in her retirement (I swear she’s the busiest retired person I’ve ever met), and to assist her keep her schedule straight while she’s dealing with post-concussion syndrome. I guess she had been researching planners, too and really wanted to give the Passion Planner a try. I admitted to having planner envy, and because my mum is the greatest, she also ordered a Passion Planner for me! I’m probably a little too excited about this.

So my planner is finally here and I’ve started the process of setting it up. Honestly, I wasn’t really sure where to start. It’s like starting a new notebook. I never use the first few pages, because what if I fuck it up and make it look ugly? Spelling mistakes, failed doodles, crappy handwriting. Disaster. Am I the only one like this? Yes, I’m a total freak?  Cool, cool.

Anyway. Luckily for me, there is a huge community behind Passion Planners, so there are heaps of resources to give me some inspiration. I may or may not have spent a day watching YouTube videos of how other people have set up their planners. The Passion Planner has its own YouTube and Instagram account with videos and tips and planner pron. But the planner addict thing runs deep and there are lots of people posting inspiration and planner set up videos. Maybe I’m not so strange after all.

The planners are pretty easy to customize, even though they have a lot of pre-printed sections. I’ve seen some Instagram videos where people have used washi tape to cover headings they weren’t using or needing and to replace it with headings that suited them better. Some of these planners have been turned into complete works of art. It’s pretty impressive.

The Passion Planner comes in two sizes. The compact is 5.5 inches wide and 8 inches tall. I have the full size planner (8.5 inches wide x 11 inches tall) and at first, I was worried that it might be  little too big, as I’ve never had a planner this size before. It’s a little too big to fit in my purse, but it fits in my work bag or my tote bags, no sweat.

The planner has a soft cover. I’m a huge fan of that. I’m not as big a fan of my particular cover design. The design of my cover is plain. You do have some options when it comes to cover design, but they are limited. I have an all-black cover. My plan is to customize it to brighten it up a bit. I have an all black covered moleskin notebook right now, and I’ve doodled on that. I plan to do the same with my planner.

My Passion Planner

As far as layout goes, there is month-at-a-glance pages, as well as weekly spreads (my preferred planner layout!). The week layouts have a full seven days, which I appreciate. I’m not a fan when weekends have less space than Monday-Fridays. The days are broken down into half hour increments, starting at 6am and going until 10:30pm. These pages include room for To Do lists, both personal and work ones, inspirational quotes, places to spell out your focus for the week or day, and there’s room for reflections.

There is one intimidating part of the planner for me: It has a huge emphasis on goal setting. Every six months, the planner has a section for brainstorming and mind-mapping your goals for the next 3 months, one year, three years and lifetime. Goal setting stresses me out. I want to achieve all the things and figure this is the quickest way to fuck them all up. Writing them down means I’m committing to them. Because just getting out of bed and living in this world is hard enough, without the pressures of achieving your wildest dreams.  Haha, lololol, kill me.

That being said, I want to use my planner the way it was intended. So I’m going to give it a try. I like that there is space in the planner to revise your goals to tweak them, change them or update them as you go on. Maybe this won’t be an intimidating as it seems. We’ll see.

I’ve only had my planner for a few weeks, so I’m not sure how it will be using it long-term. But so far, it’s probably among my top 3 favourite planners, ever.

Do you use a paper planner? Which one is your favourite? What features do you look for in a planner?

Tell me all about it in the comments below.

 

Disclaimer: This post is in no way sponsored. I just love paper planners and have been really happy with my experience with this planner, so I wanted to share it for anyone who loves paper planners like I do. For the rundown on how I manage sponsored posts, you can visit my about page

 

My 3 Summer Projects of 2017 (Because I don’t know how to vacation)

With my new day job, I’ve been spoiled with a ridiculous 10 weeks of vacation. I’ve had summers off, which at first sounded like a really great idea. But by the third week, I’m starting to get a bit restless. So for the last few summers, I’ve tackled a project to keep me busy. Two summers ago, it was updating the main bathroom. Last summer, it was the development and launch of a website for one of my freelance clients.

See? I’m bad at vacationing.

This summer, instead of tackling one big project, I’m working on a few smaller ones:

Setting up the office

I’ve fallen into a bad habit of working from my couch. While it’s nice to have the flexibility to choose to work there from time to time, I’m not a huge fan of the fact it’s becoming my home base. My end tables are covered with office supplies, which frequently end up in my dog’s mouth. There are a lot of distractions when I work from the couch and it means there is next to no work-life separation. I could easily just work all the time.

We do have a home office. It just doesn’t look like one right now. So I plan to set this up so it’s useable as a workspace. This is going to be quite the project. Because there is so much stuff in there that doesn’t need to be.

Which brings me to my second project of the summer:

Decluttering the house

We bought this place 8 years ago and I can’t believe how much stuff has collected in that time. Our guest bedroom, spare bedroom and home office are all full of random stuff that otherwise doesn’t really have a home. Instead of having three storage rooms, I want to restore them to their former glory: a guest bedroom, a workout room/ spare room and a home office.

This means I’ll have to go through boxes and piles of random stuff that we haven’t really used. I have boxes in what should be the home office that are full of kitchen and living room items we packed up three years ago when we tore up and replaced all the floors on our main level and have forgotten about. Clearly, it isn’t anything we need. We haven’t gone looking for that stuff for three years.

There are binders and notes from the various post secondary courses we’ve done that need sorting and consolidation. We have more books than shelves to put them on. There are clothes and shoes and even extra furniture that is just taking up space. So I want to tackle those rooms, decide what’s to be donated, what’s to be recycled and what needs to be trashed. It’ll be awesome to have more useable space and I purging and organizing. It feels so good.

Yes, I know. I’m weird. Stop looking at me like that.

Taming my wild garden

Not a euphemism.  I’ve never really cared too much about our garden, if I’m being perfectly honest. I’ve had gardens other places that I’ve lived. My favourite was the front garden in the house I lived in during my second and third year of college. It was beautiful and full of wild flowers, Black-Eyed Susans, hostas and poppies. Until the new home owners ripped it out the day they took possession of that house. Those fucking monsters.

This could be why I lost interest in putting an effort into my garden. I was fine to let my front garden do its thing, but haven’t really planned it out or planted anything new. It fit it with my surrounding neighbours and their (lack of) landscaping. Everything was cool.

Then last summer, my stupid new neighbours ripped out their garden, built it up with brick edging, planted gorgeous plants and even finished it off with mulch. Their garden makes ours look pathetic. So at the risk of having my heart broken when we sell this place (hopefully in the next few years), and another beloved garden is murdered by some heartless monster, I want to tackle my garden.

Those are my summer projects. Do you plan projects to take on in your down time or vacation time? Or are you better at taking vacation than I am? Can you teach me how to relax?

Tell me all about it in the comments!

What the actual duck: Canadian-ing at its best

Canada doesn’t get much attention these days on the world stage. Our world leader isn’t a racist, bigoted rotting orange in a suit, but nor is he the Prime Minster Centrefold he used to be. Thanks for stealing that attention, Macron.

We are kind of quiet about things and stay as neutral as possible on the world stage while still trying to achieve our goals. We don’t like to cause a ruckus. But when we do, you know we’re super sorry about it.

So it might surprise you to learn that Canada has trouble brewing. And it comes in the form of a giant inflatable duck.

This is a real thing, guys. We have a giant motherducking problem.

The oversized novelty bathtub toy is set to make its debut in Toronto on July 1st (Canada Day) as part of the 150th birthday celebrations. It was meant to be a fun, if not slightly ridiculous, tourist attraction funded primarily by the Ontario government.

Yet the controversies surrounding this 6-storey tall rubbber duck has grown to be quackers.

Controversy one: The cost.

The actual cost of this giant inflatable tourist attraction seems a bit unclear. The lowest cost I’ve heard for the rent and installation of this duck is $70,000. Conservative Members of Provincial Parliament claim the cost is closer to $200,000. Our government (Liberals) and supporters of the rubber duck feel it’s well worth the cost, as such a ridiculous and fun thing will draw tourists and pay for itself. I mean, who doesn’t want to take a selfie with a giant rubber duck?

Conservatives cry that it’s a waste of tax payer money. I mean, it’s a big rubber duck, costing $70,000-$200,000. Imagine all the people we could feed with that! Imagine all the problems we could fix in our country with that kind of money!

This argument makes me laugh for two reasons:

  1. Conservatives never want to spend money on things like ‘feeding the poor’ (the way they put it), because that’s not how Conservatives spend money.
  2. That’s not how budgeting works. This amount of money, whether it’s $70K, $200K, or one million dollars, has been allocated to Canada’s 150th celebrations. So it was going to be spent on something frivolous or stupid anyway.

Controversy number two: The Case of The Counterfeit Canard

There are rumblings that the rubber duck the 150 Canada celebration organizers have chosen to rent is a knock-off. Our duck is coming from a man in the US, and while he is the owner of this particular giant rubber duck, it is not the first of its kind, nor is it a creation of this gentleman.

A Dutch design company is claiming this American duck is simply a rip off of their concept and design, and that the Ontario government should have instead contacted them to ensure the 150th Canadian celebrations were done right. And with the original giant rubber duck, not this so-called counterfeit.

The fight over who has the true copyrights to this giant duck have been going on for a few years now. The Dutch artist, Florentijn Hofman, had been contracted by events producer Craig Samborski to create this duck for an event at the Los Angeles waterfront, but when he failed to deliver the duck drawings as specified, Samborski and his partner Ryan Whaley had the giant duck built by an American company.

When asked if this controversy would impact the decision to include the duck in Canada’s 150th celebrations, the response from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism was basically:

So, that would be a no.

The third controversy plaguing the giant duck: A lack of patriotism.

What comes to mind when you think about Canada? Hockey? Snow? Canadian geese, maybe? Mountie, loons (the bird, thank you), a maple leaf?

Those are all very relevant iconic Canadian things, albeit slightly stereotypical, HOW DARE YOU.

But you’ll notice ‘giant rubber duck’ wasn’t on that list. Anti-duckers are upset that we’re investing so much money is something that doesn’t really represent Canada. See? Canadians can be patriotic. We’re just quieter about it. Why couldn’t we get a giant beave– okay, bad example. Why couldn’t we just get a giant inflatable Tim Horton’s coffee cup? Or moose? Or hockey puck?

This actually ties back into the first controversy about the cost of the duck. If conservatives and other similar-minded people hate that we’re spending so much on an inflatable duck? They’d loose their minds over the cost of contracting someone to create and install a brand-new piece.

It’s all about the Bordens, baby. Which is Canadian for:

The last, and more serious controversy surrounding the giant rubber duck is the fact that not everyone is thrilled to be celebrating 150 years of Canada, period.

See, like most countries that were ‘settled’ by Europeans, we also have a deep, dark history of stealing land that wasn’t ours and treating the people that were already here in Canada like garbage. We’re actually still pretty garbage at taking care of our Indigenous population. So you can understand why not everyone is keen to celebrate the 150th anniversary of this settlement. This is a controversy that of course extends beyond a stupid rubber duck, but whenever we start to talk about celebrating the last 150 years of Canada, it’s an issue that comes up. Understandably.

Because it’s 2017 and 150 years later people still don’t get the point when it comes to our Indigenous peoples.

So there it is. Canada has scandals and controversies, too, guys. We’re just super Canadian about it. Sorry.