Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I caved.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hook, line and sink her.

For roughly the last year, my dear friend Chloé and I have been fixated on the idea of going ice fishing. As good Albertan girls, it’s problematic that we’ve never participated in this Canadian winter activity.

We’d very much like to come up to Dave’s Fish Huts for an overnight fishing excursion. We’re particularly interested in fishing in Georgina ever since we learned that it’s the ice fishing capital of Ontario. However, as newcomers to the sport, we have a number of questions that we were hoping you could answer for us before we book:

1. How does a tip-up style rod differ from any other types of rods? Do you offer any other rods for rental? (I understand that we would have to purchase our own tackle, but it would be ideal if we could rent rods.)

2. Can prospective fisherwomen buy fishing licenses on-site? Or should we purchase these prior to arrival?

3. I have an extreme hate/fear of fish in general. (This stems from an unfortunate fishing incident that occurred in 1987. I haven’t been fishing since.) I am also a vegetarian. Can we catch fish and throw them back? Or are we required by fishing law to keep them?

4. Chloé is concerned that if we catch fish and throw them back, we’ll be “condemning them to a cold, lonely death.” I certainly don’t want the fish to be lonely. Do fish incur injuries when you catch them and throw them back?

5. Is it possible to catch fish without using the live bait?

6. What is more ethically problematic: catching fish and not eating them (due to the aforementioned vegetarianism) OR catching fish, throwing them back and condemning them to a cold and lonely death?

7. Can fish even become lonely?

8. Suppose we become lonely, do you offer any “introduction to ice fishing” type classes? (If not, are there any other operators within the Georgina area who would offer us some sort of support and guidance?) We will supply the beer.

9. If we aren’t allowed to throw the fish back in, do we have to kill the fish with a bat once they’ve exited the water? Also, what do we do with the fish once we’ve caught them? (Theoretically Chloé would eat them, I suppose. She’s very interested in that particular activity. However, this would also entail filleting the fish, which neither one of us knows how to do. If you have any suggestions, it would be greatly appreciated.)

10. Suppose it turns out that we don’t like the fishing component of the whole ice fishing experience. Would it be okay with you if we just hung out in the fishing hut overnight and played Scrabble instead?

11. After receiving this email, will you still allow us to book a fishing hut? Specifically, is there any availability for one night on the weekend of February 11-12?

I know a number of these questions may seem ridiculous, but they are all meant in earnest (with the possible exception of questions #5 and #6). We’re city dwellers who really want to learn more about ice fishing and try it out for ourselves.

Any additional information you are willing to provide would be greatly appreciated!

All the best,


Thursday, January 19, 2012

We went dogsledding. It was neat.

On Monday, I successfully completed my first challenge in Year of the Physical Fitness Challenge.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I was actually terrified to go dogsledding. As the guides connected the snarling male huskies to the sleds, I could feel the tears brimming in my eyes. I've always been scared of dogs, so knowing that I was going to be driving a team of five animals that could easily rip me apart set me on edge. 

But it was more than that--it was the fear that I was going to do something wrong or lose control. It was the fear that's underpinning all the things that I hope to do this year.

But, predictably, I loved it.

I want to go again.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Maybe Edmonton

A love hate relationships at its best: maybe edmonton is hands-down my favourite tumblr site. I discovered it over Christmas while I was trying to find information on the Canada Fitness Program.

(I have a sneaking suspicion that I must know its owner.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012: Year of the Physical Fitness Challenge

The test itself is just a hazy memory. I don't really remember the sit-ups, the push-ups or even the flexed arm hang. In fact, there are only two things I remember clearly about the Canada Fitness Program: giving up on the endurance run after just one lap and the badges.

The badges were the worst part. In first and second grade, long before being able to identify name brand clothing was an indicator of social status, there were the badges. They marked you. If you had one, you were popular. If you didn't, you were nothing. Even my older brother, Andrew, whose athletic (in)ability was comparable to my own, wore a silver badge proudly on his windbreaker.

My own participation pin was a mark of shame.

I hardly think it's an exaggeration when I say that the Canada Fitness Test fucked me up for life. It convinced me, at the tender age of seven, that I wasn't good enough. For the next eight years, my head would be the target of dodgeballs, my name would religiously be the last one called last for teams, I would be slammed against lockers in the change room and I was always, it seemed, on the brink of tears.

Twenty years later, I'm tired of being afraid.

So, with this in mind, I'm declaring 2012 the Year of the Physical Fitness Challenge. But instead of trying to get super ripped and work out every day (which, let's face it, is just a boring New Year's Resolution that's bound for failure) this is going to be a year about challenging myself mentally.

It sounds counterintuitive, I know, but let me explain: trying new physical activities still terrifies me. To this day, I refuse to play team sports. I go to the gym regularly, but every time I try a new class I'm convinced that everyone is staring at me. (And if the instructor talks directly to me, it's unlikely that I'll go a second time. When I tried to join an advanced highland dance class a couple of years ago and the instructor suggested that I should attend the intermediate class instead, I never returned.) When I went to a gym for the first time at the age of 20, I started hyperventilating. At 22, when I took a surfing lesson in Australia, I spent the majority of the lesson collapsed on the beach crying. I refuse to work out with Jay, because I'm afraid that even he will make fun of me.

But if my time in pouring concrete in Vanuatu, hiking in Peru, or hauling pharmaceuticals up riverbanks in Guyana has taught me anything, it's that what I lack in natural athletic ability, I more than make up for in mental endurance. (This is probably why I've always loved running.) This year is going to be all about playing to my strength--finding the mental willpower to participate in activities that have previously pushed me to the edge. This year, I'm going to go rock climbing, I'm going to learn to kayak, I'm going to run a half marathon, and hell, I might even face my ultimate fear and go scuba diving.

This year, I'm going to earn my badge my own way.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

2011: Year in Review

I wish I could ignore the pomp and pageantry that comes with new years like I do all other holidays and notable occasions (Christmas, the birth of children, wedding anniversaries, etc). But the truth is, I'm undeniably a sucker for the New Year and new beginnings. And I have a really good feeling about 2012.

But before moving on, here's a post to the good times in 2011:  

Taking advantage of media connections played a major role at the start of the year. Free Raptors games, play tickets and bowling were the theme throughout January.

But I had to pay my dues sooner or later. This mainly involved escorting Chloé to a frat party or two in February.

By the time March rolled around, I was starting to do random things to supplement my freelance income. Amongst them? Supervising high school students on their spring break in Punta Cana.

In April, I finally got to take a real vacation on our road trip from New Orleans to Beaumont, Texas.

Back in Toronto, the weather warmed up enough in May for the first island excursion of the season.

Not that it mattered, of course, because I barely spent any time in Toronto over the summer. In June, Chloé and I jetted off to Peru, where we reach Machu Picchu on the morning of the Winter Solstice. . .

. . .and then less than two weeks later, I was back on a plane again, this time for Kate's July wedding in Cold Lake.

I stayed in Cold Lake until the middle of August, which was just long enough to crash two bachelor parties, go tubing down the Cold River and see Tyler and Bre tie the knot.

After spending nearly the entire Spring and Summer driving and flying, it was time to head back home. I was excited to spend some time with Brie and Court, wine tasting in the Niagara region in September.

And then, because I clearly hadn't contributed nearly enough greenhouse gas emissions to the earth's atmosphere, I decided to go visit Sasha in Geneva and Tristan in London in October. (I actually worked in 2011, too. I swear it. Remember--this is a post for the good times.)

Since I didn't fly, drive or hike anywhere in November, I had to come up with other forms of entertainment. Dogs in socks tops the list.

And then in December, it ended where it always begins, back in Cold Lake.

Monday, January 02, 2012

2011: Year of the Deal Recap

Before I reveal my 2012 resolution (which, as per usual, isn't really about saving the world or improving myself), I thought it imprudent to give one last final update on Year of the Deal (which should probably be just be referred to "Year of the Only Sensible New Year's Resolution That I've Ever Made" from here on out).

The Resolutions

1. Coupons: I'm going to learn how to use them. Then I'm going to use them. And then I'm going to laugh all the way to the bank.

Verdict: Success! 

By using coupons alone, I saved $497.62 over a 11-month period. It may not seem like a lot, but that's nearly an extra $50 my pocket, every single month. I'll take it! 

I'm definitely going to continue couponing in 2012, although perhaps a bit less obsessively. (I'm concerned that we won't use up all our stockpiled shampoo before the apocalypse.)

2. Sales: I'm going to become one of those people who buys Christmas junk in January and saves it until the following December. And I'm going to rediscover my love of Value Village.

Verdict: Success! (Well, sort of.) 

I discovered that the Christmas junk that you can buy in January is actually, well, junk. After spending hours scouring the post-holiday discount aisles, I came to the conclusion that there are very few occasions for which I can justify buying pumpkin-shaped coasters or yet another box of no-name brand chocolates. I actually saved more money by ignoring this resolution all together. 

As for Value Village, the same rule of thumb applied; why buy pilled secondhand sweaters when I can buy nothing at all? Instead, Jay and I did two massive clean-outs of our condo, with donations going to Goodwill. I also sold some of my clothing to Common Sort. Our next major clean-up is scheduled for this week. (To quote Jay, "You are the opposite of a hoarder.")

However, when it came to online shopping (everything from booking a car to ordering clothing from the UK) I fell in love with using coupon codes listed at RetailMeNot.

3. Entering contests: Why not? Someone has to win, right? 

Verdict: Fail.

Three words: Waste. Of. Time. This resolution was great for when I had tons of time and was unemployed, but there was no payoff. All I got from this was a daily explosion of junk mail. I stopped entering contests in February.

Instead, I signed up for Web Perspectives, a Canadian survey company. I only fill out the surveys when I have time, but so far I've earned three free movie tickets. (A far better use of procrastination time than just refreshing Facebook.) I'll probably continue doing this in 2012.

4. Reward Points: I'm already a near-obsessive rewards point collector. But this year, I'm going to take it to a new level. 

Verdict: Success!

I thought I was a obsessive rewards points collector, but I was wrong. Very wrong. I had so much to learn about points collection and I still do. 

In 2011, we earned roughly $100 in free groceries from Airmiles, my summer flight to Alberta was covered by Aeroplan, and after mastering the Shoppers Optimum point program (we earned nearly $175 worth of free stuff this year), I decided it was time to apply for a Shoppers credit card. 

Having so many credit cards (shamefully I currently own four, although I'm about to cancel one) terrifies me, but I'm entering 2012 with a $0 balance on my rewards cards and have paid zero interest. As long as I can keep that up, the payout is worth it. Rule of thumb: only charge what you already have in your bank account and pay it off as soon as you get home.

5. Free Stuff: I'm going to try and get free stuff this year. But only free stuff that I'm going to legitimately use.

Verdict: Success!

But seriously, I don't need 10 bottles of travel-sized conditioner. And after six months of thoroughly enjoying my Luxe Box subscription, I've decided that it may be time to cancel soon.

Best of Year of the Deal

Best Investment: Travel insurance. When our flight was delayed by 14 hours on route to Geneva, we missed our connecting flights and had to pay for hotel rooms. Best $50 ever spent. 

Biggest Splurge of 2011: So, there was this one time that I went to Louisiana. And then I went to Peru. And then I went to Switzerland. Totally worth it, though.

Biggest Savings of 2011: 
1) Instead of buying Brock a $30 winter dog coat from a pet store, we went to Goodwill and bought a child's sweatshirt and cut the arms off. It cost us $2. 

2) For Halloween, I dressed up as Medusa. I wore my cocktail dress (aka the "silver potato sack") from Miss Universe Canada. When I couldn't find toy snakes at the Dollar Store, I bought them for $16 at a toy store. And then, on November 1st, I reaffixed the price tags and returned them to the store.

The Real Resolution

Apart from my innate desire to hoard discounted laundry detergent, there were other forces at play when I resolved to make 2011 "Year of the Deal." At the start of 2011, I was unemployed, receiving EI and basically living out an extended adolescence.

Now, largely thanks to Jay's constant support (financial and otherwise), I have a registered business, RRSPs, a reasonable and sustainable freelance income, and a small amount of money in savings. I've been able to pay off a chunk of debt and by 2014 (knock on wood) I will be out of debt.

I really didn't mean for it to be about self-improvement. It just turned out that way.