Wednesday, May 24, 2017

TryPod: my "must-listen" podcasts

A couple of years ago I was looking for a new way to learn.  I needed to expand my knowledge, my mind, and my experiences, all from the comfort of my own home.  Books are great, yes, but I have made it a policy never to read anything that will teach me things on purpose*.

I also needed something I could do while walking, driving, and knitting.

Enter the podcast -- a short radio-type downloadable episode (**see technical definition below!)

My sisters and numerous other friends had been listening to podcasts for years by this point, but I am woefully behind the times.  I mean, I still haven't fully figured out Snapchat.

Now, I am so entrenched in the podcast world, I often start my sentences with, "I was listening to this thing yesterday..."  It has given me endless pieces of useless facts.

And you thought I had too many already!

I decided to share my favourites in hope I can spark someone else to expand their world.

The Way I Heard It

Host: Mike Rowe

I have watched Mike Rowe on Dirty Jobs and listened to him narrate The Deadliest Catch.  I liked his sense of humour and his calming voice.  So, when I found out there was a short podcast (usually 10 minutes max) where he tells you a clever story in a way you've never heard it before, I had to sign up.

You listen to his stories with rapt curiosity and then, at the end, he reveals the name of the person he is talking about.  It is clever and mind-blowing and I learn all sorts of things.

My favourite episodes are: The one where a songwriter bases his most famous song off the Morse Code for "dead" and the one of the most feared sniper in WWII.

History Chicks

Hosts: Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider

This was the first podcast I binged listened.

Friends and family will attest that for months, I talked of nothing else but these two women and the women they discussed.  I learned so much!

Listening, I really felt like I was sitting back with a glass of wine chatting with two friends about their fascination with amazing women of history.  Their tag line says it all for me: "Any resemblance to a boring old history lesson is purely coincidental."

My favourite episodes are so many I can hardly write them all down.  But I loved the one about Hatshepsut, the Egyptian Queen who decided she was a King; Molly Brown, the powerhouse woman who survived the Titanic sinking; and Dorothy Parker (Part I and Part II).  There are so many more, you will not be disappointed.  They even did a series on all the women who have run for President of the USA.


Creators: Phoebe Judge (also the host) and Lauren Spohrer

I fell in love with two things about Criminal right off the bat: the soothing voice of host, Phoebe, and the completely different take on stories of crime.

In a world that is all about sensationalizing crime and the glamour or horror behind it, Criminal is thoughtfully done and respectful of the people involved as perpetrators and as victims.  It is the story of how crime occurs and the people it effects.

As for favourite episodes?  There's the one about a couple who put a Buddha in an empty lot to discourage garbage dumping and ended up turning around their neighbourhood.  There's the story of the police dog, Talon, who had to retire. For a third, there is a story about a woman who spent years searching for the bodies of two children she had never met.

It's not always easy to listen to, but there hasn't been a thing I've heard that wasn't fascinating and didn't change the way I see the world, so I think that's a pretty good thing.

Girls Girls

Hosts: Brittany Gibbons and Meredith Soleau

Warning: THIS IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.  You will hear more cuss words and talk about sex things than you will ever need to hear in your life.

However.  If you ever want to hold your stomach and laugh so hard you pee a little, these are the girls for you.  They will talk about anything and everything with such openness you will forget to be shocked... and then you'll remember again.

As for favourite episodes, I don't think there is one that hasn't made me laugh so hard I snorted.  Sometimes, listening to Meredith's reaction to things has me wheezing in pain and laughter.

Again, this is not for my nice aunties or conservative friends.  If you listen and are horrified at the fact this is one of my favourite things on earth, I will just stare at you until you go away.

Episodes I love: We're all mad here -- the one about mental illness.  Panty Sniffers -- the one about people who sell their dirty underwear (honestly, I died at this one. I still laugh thinking about it.) Alternative sex facts -- the one where they discuss sex. (That's every episode).

They have more. Some I get weepy, some I am touched, and some I am so happy that someone is talking about things no one will talk about.  I like them a lot.

Now, this is a small list of the podcasts I must listen to as soon as they hit the internet.  Maybe I will share some more I love later on.  Maybe not. But here is a start for you.

You can listen to them on their webpages or you can subscribe to them via an app on your phone.  I started out using Podcast (the iPhone app) and now am happy with Overcast.  Check them out.  You won't regret it.

*Sadly, taking my Masters has done away with this policy.
** "Podcasts are similar to radio programs, but they are audio files. Listeners can play them at their convenience, using devices that have become more common than portable broadcast receivers." (Source)  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Imposter syndrome settling in fast: a tale of Masters woe

It is late at night and I should be awake in a few hours so I can get back to work. Since I know it will take longer to get to morning if I am awake for it, I have chosen to wait it out.

I have entered the realm of "completing my Masters" panic where I have a paper due soon and I have no idea what I'm doing or how long it will take to do it.

notes, organized, studying

I have often heard my family members (sisters and cousin) and friends complain about the workload of doing a Masters. I heard them bemoan the sleepless nights, looming deadlines, and set-in of panic, but I thought it couldn't be that bad. Tough yes, but not paralyzing.

I would like to apologize.

Now of course I am working full time, heavily involved in my union, working as a consultant a few times a month, and volunteering in my free time. Add to that my social life (occasional wing nights and suppers with my husband) with my copious amounts of recorded TV shows and trashy romance novels I want to read and I am having a bit of time management issues.

I assume everyone else also responds to this by napping and/or playing games on their phone.

Part of my lack of confidence lies in the significant time that has passed since I have been in the world of academia. When I last wrote a term paper, I had to research using card catalogues. I painstakingly jotted quotes and ideas on recipe cards so I could tape them together in as an outline before I wrote. I used a shared computer in a lab where I stood in line for 45 minutes so I could work for 2 hours.

I also walked uphill both ways.

I am lucky in a few ways. I have written case reports, agency evaluations, project proposals, and more in the over 15 years since I last exited the hallowed halls of school and swore on my mother that I would never return. I am lucky to have written anything resembling intelligent thought in the time between.

I am also lucky as I have my father's gift of bullshit where if one speaks confidently and without pause one sounds like they know much more than they do. (I'm not speaking out of school here, it's one of his favour things.)

However, as I sit here in front of the computer, I don't actually want to do these things. I want to eat ice cream in the pantry with a large spoon while the dog sits outside the door and wonders why I won't share.

Thankfully, we're out of ice cream.

Friday, January 27, 2017

What to buy for people who are hard to buy for: a tutorial

It's coming up to the 10th anniversary of the first date that The Guy and I ever went on.

So cute and young.

Ten years. That seems like a long time and yet not long enough. I feel like we've been together for a long time and also not that long.

Time is weird. Also, now I have to get a gift for him.

I've got a dilemma.

What do I get the guy who doesn't need or want anything?

The Guy's answer? "Truck parts"

I'm not buying trucks parts. Maybe for our "chrome" anniversary. Wait... I just realized 10 years is the tin/aluminum year. Ugh. 

But I've been thinking about our date-iversary and what I want to get The Guy. So, when UncommonGoods contacted me and offered me a chance to review their site and get a bit of money for it so I can buy something, I jumped at the chance. 

What's so good about UncommonGoods?

Well, my favourite thing is in their mission statement. UncommonGoods are "making sustainability a part of every decision we make" and are "working to make UncommonGoods more environmentally friendly, [and] socially responsible."

Honestly, with all the things going on in the world today, I have been trying to make better decisions about my purchase choices. Sustainability, environmentally friendly, and socially responsibility is where I've been focusing.

I'm serious. Read the mission statement.

Presents for the guy who has it all

I got lost in the rabbit hole of awesome gifts for everyone I know, but I focused on gifts that are good for guys and gifts to commemorate anniversaries of all kinds. (I also looked at things for the dog... Monty's been in this relationship too!!)

Alcohol Options

The Guy likes a good beer. He's a bit of a beer aficionado and so I always know that beer is always a good gift for him. When I saw I could narrow down my recommendations to beer related, I was pretty stoked.

I figured I could take one of everything, but these were my two favourites. The Guy has always loved Guinness beer so this kit would be a neat way to explore that. The glass set is a perfect co-gift. Wade likes beer and I like wine!

beer wine beer making glasses
Irish Stout Beer Brewing Kit and Personalized Tree Trunk Glassware Duo
All photos source UncommonGoods

Travel related gifts

We love to travel all over the place. I swear, if we had all the money in the world, we would never come home. UncommonGoods has some awesome travel themed presents for everyone.

personalized map pillow frame
Personalized Anniversary Pushpin World Map and Hand Embroidered City Pillows

I'd love to have a map where we could keep track of all the places we have been and where we want to go. I've also started buying pillow covers respresenting each of our travel destinations, so the hand-made cover would be perfect!

Home decor options

I am always on the lookout for home decor stuff. So, with the great decor options for the home from UncommonGoods, I couldn't resist.

statues lamps gifts home decor
Handmade Rock and Vine Lamp and Kissing Lovers Sculpture

I cannot stand the lamp that is in The Guy's office, so I love the idea of replacing it with this awesome handmade lamp. And what can I say about the statue. It is so beautiful and I can think of all the places it would look perfect in our house.

Now, I will link The Guy to options for me! Anniversary gifts that a woman in your life would love.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Please. Don't. Suck.

The new year is coming.

This, of course, means that everyone and their dog has a New Years post with something to say. I am no different. I have been quiet the last few months, but today I had a need to write.

This last year, that of 2016, has been a rough one. I have to admit that it has nearly defeated me on more than one occasion and I am not sad to see it go.

2016 has taken countless people from the Earth who have made extraordinary differences and many others who seemed ordinary but made differences just the same.

2016 has seen the uprising of bigotry, misogyny, and other various kids of hatred. It has lead me to fear for the world in general and its people in specific.

Yes, there have been good things about 2016. If you look at my Instagram, you will see all the good things about my year personally. It was full of puppies, school, friends, food, knitting, and football.

Love and beauty and art and simplicity that have seemed like brief, shining, fleeting moments of glitter amongst the refuse.

Even with it, it feels as though the refuse is winning.

So I have this to say:

Dear 2016, don't let the door hit you on your way out.


Looking to the future

But I also have something to say to and about 2017.

Dear 2017, Please. Don't. Suck.

That is my phrase for this year. Some people pick uplifting things for their yearly plan, but I don't have it in me. All I have is a plea to the coming year as it struggles to push 2016 out of the way so we can finally be done with it. Please, 2017, don't suck.

Now, this is my intention for the year 2017 and the things that happen in it, but also it is my intention for me personally.

Don't. Suck.

I plan to wake up every day and think to myself that this year, I should not suck. I should be as good as I can be at things, sure. But what I'm looking for is a little deeper.

Don't. Suck.

As a human being, in the world of all people, DO NOT SUCK. Don't be the one that others look at and think "Wow, you suck at being a people."

Be kinder.

Be more helpful.

Be patient.

Be strong.

Be knowledgeable.

Protect the innocent and the weak.

Give of your time or body to others in a way that is respectful to them and yourself.


That is all I ask of 2017, the things that are to come, myself, and the world around me.

I don't know if it is too much to ask. Some of the things I've seen and heard in the last year make me wonder. All I can do is try myself to suck less at being a person on this Earth filled with millions of other people who may or may not suck.

I will treat people with kindness more often. I will protect the innocent and the weak without being a dick about it. I will not save the world, but I will be a better part in it than I have been before.

I will not end misogyny or bigotry or other hateful things, but I will point it out when I see it (even in myself) and I will make noise about it. I will be less programmed and I will be better.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

How to overcome the smell of rotting broccoli in two easy steps

I am not a good cook.

This is not a surprise for most people who know me as it has been a running family joke for most my life. The tale of the hamburger soup I made to impress my step-mother but actually forgot to turn on is something that I still get teased about.

It's nice to know I'm consistent.

This week, I made a pretty decent Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey turned out great, the potatoes were creamy, the veggies were roasted, and we all ate like kings. So, revelling in my success, I thought I would make turkey soup to keep the party going.

I had good intentions.

But then...

This brought on a great deal of conversation on my FaceBook page about other people's mishaps and reminders that it could be worse. My cousin jokingly reminded me it was no worse than the time I forgot broccoli in the microwave for 2 weeks.

That brought up many questions for friends and family, so I thought I would regale you with the story. It may be the perfect example of all my cooking experiences.

Broccoli clip art for emphasis. Source here.

Once upon a time, my soon to be sister-in-law, Mel, and I lived together in an apartment. It was a cute little apartment with 60s style room dividers and a teeny kitchen off the living area. This was good as it was rare we ever cooked with any consistency.

One day, we were trying to be healthy and made supper. Pork chops in the oven, pasta on the stove, and broccoli steamed in the microwave. I'm sure it was lovely, but I have no memory of the meal itself.

What I have is memory of the aftermath.

A couple of weeks went by and we were overwhelmed with the smell of rotting vegetation. We cleaned the kitchen top to bottom. We moved the stove, cleaned out the fridge, and washed the floors.

Still the smell remained.

We didn't locate the source for many days.

Now, you would think with the extreme clean that we did that one of us would have remembered to open the microwave. You would think that someone would have used the microwave in those weeks, but then you would not understand how much we truly hated cooking.

Finally we opened the microwave.

There it was.

A small bowl of broccoli was sitting there in the middle of the appliance. It was green, but not in the way that broccoli is green, but that green that has taken over once-living vegetation.

The smell that wafted forth from the open door was somewhat sweet, but mostly decaying, and caused an immediate retching from each of us in the room.

We threw out the broccoli and cleaned the microwave. Like my other cousin pointed out on FaceBook, there is not enough vinegar in the world to stop that smell. But, we gave it the college try.

Eventually we admitted defeat. We were going to live with that smell forever and that was how it would be.

A possible solution came to us. Popcorn!!

Have you ever cooked popcorn and had the smell take over an entire room? Maybe this would do it for us.

Plus, we would get to eat popcorn. Double win!

We threw the popcorn into the microwave and settled down to watch American Idol.

I would like to remind you of two things here. First, this was long ago enough that watching American Idol was awesome. Not weird and sad. Second, this was long ago enough that the microwave did not have a popcorn setting. You put it in for numerous minutes and waited for the sound of popping to slow to one pop a second.

American Idol got very exciting. Mel's favourite singer knocked out my favourite singer in the last round. Mel was whooping and jumping around in victory while I felt small and insignificant.

Suddenly... "What is that smell?" and... "The popcorn!!!"

The microwave door opened to reveal the popcorn bag on fire. Panic ensued. Flaming bag was dumped in sink and doused. Popcorn was mourned.

Once the excitement finished, we noticed something important.

The smell of rotting broccoli was gone.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ode to my hatred of gardening

i hate gardening

Oh, how I hate you, Garden.

You lure me with your promise of food and stress relief.
You speak to the blood of my farming ancestors
and stir up memories of abilities once used.

You fool me with picturesque images.
Of over-sized hats and flowered gloves
and simple salads made with love and sunlight.

The reality is much less romantic.
It is the presence of dirt that cannot be removed
and mosquito bites I cannot reach to scratch.

It is of aggressive and ever-present weeds.
They cannot be thwarted nor can they be tamed
and often are larger than the plants they accompany.

O, Garden, you are a menace.
After weeks of producing little, you develop overnight
with amounts that cannot be handled by one woman.

You grow with ferociousness that shows your true nature.
You do not want to feed, but overcome
and take back the earth from civilization.

Harvest comes quickly and needs constant vigilance.
Those with employment cannot manage
and require days of rest to be abandoned for labour.

I curse you, dear Garden, and all your fruits.
I loathe the carrots that will not be plucked easily
and the onions that grow 4 feet tall with no bulb.

I despise your zucchini the size of small dogs.
The spinach that flowers too quickly to be picked
and lettuce that overwhelms the bed.

One cannot eat this much salad!
I have grievously injured myself on a carrot
and my back aches from wrestling with beets.

There is nothing I love about you, Garden.
I loathe you with the hatred of a thousand suns
and expect I will do it again next season.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Monty's grand adventure: The great escape

It was Monty's 11th birthday on May the 29th. I thought, in celebration of this troublemaker, I would tell the story of Monty's grand adventure.

dog escape adventure
Letting freedom wash over him

In October this past year, Monty went for a sleepover. When The Guy and I have the privilege of travelling the globe, Monty sleeps over at our friend's place. He has been there many times. She even used to watch him as a brand new puppy, so she has been his "other mom" for years now.

We dropped Monty off at his home-away-from-home with our friend's lovely housemate (who has also cared for dear Mont in the past.) We left with full confidence that all would be well and Monty would behave.

Spoiler alert: Montel did not behave.

The Guy and I jumped on a plane and headed on our way. We were going to Hawaii for the first time and we were pretty thrilled. I had just resigned from a position causing me a great deal of stress and The Guy was happy to be getting me somewhere I wasn't crazy. Also, beach.

Many layovers later, we were about to board the plane for our 7 hour oceanic flight when I got a message.

Monty had gone missing.

dog, run, escape, adventure

I talked to his caregiver who told me that Monty, a dog who has literally NEVER run away, had snuck out under the fence gate and made a break for it. She had tried to lure him back to the yard, but he'd had a taste of freedom and he liked it. 

Now Monty has never been an active dog. He likes his walks, but after about 20 minutes, he just wants his couch and a long nap. He does not even like being outdoors that much. 

He's a bit of a princess.

But now that he was on the road like the wild animal he descended from, he was going to enjoy it. 

While his sitter first chased him down the street and then frantically called everyone on our emergency list, Monty made his first of many stops. The reason we know where he went is because sightings of this little black dog were posted all over FaceBook.

missing dog found
This face was everywhere online.

He headed south until he reached the hospital grounds. This was only a few blocks away, but was directly across a very busy street. Being that I've seen Monty scared by a plastic bag rustling, I'm not sure how he managed to cross with that much traffic and still remain functional.

Monty then veered left toward the new stadium build. I figure he knew his dad is a huge Rider fan, so he should visit the site to make sure it was all going well. He said hello to a few construction workers, but when they tried to pick him up, he ran away.

He crossed another busy road to go to the Aquatic centre and visit a few people in the parking lot there. However, we all know that Monty is not a fan of water, so he carried on like the Littlest Hobo.

From there, he crossed a railway track and another major road. This time Monty hit up the Dairy Queen knowing that is his mom's favourite spot. He also knows that the drive-through is where food comes from, so I imagine he thought a treat might be in his future.

Finally, Monty was getting tired. He had travelled just over 1.3km in just over 2 hours. For a little dog, that was a long way.

He walked south a few more blocks (across yet another busy street) and stopped in the middle of an intersection. He blocked traffic from moving and appeared to be pretty freaked out.

A kind woman, who once had dogs of her own, stopped her car and approached him. She didn't try to grab him, but instead said one of his favourite sentences, "Do you want to go for a car ride?"

He did.
Road trip.
Did you say "car ride"?

Now keep in mind, none of us knew this is what happened. We were on a flight to Hawaii frantically checking FB every few hours for updates. We had friends, family, coworkers, and even kind strangers searching for our dopey mutt into the wee hours.

We were fearful of him alone in the dark and thankful for unseasonably warm weather.

It was a long night.

The next morning, I had a message from our vets office. The emergency numbers on Monty's collar were only during office hours, so the kind lady had kept Monty overnight. I called her and made arrangements for our friend to pick him up and take him home.

The lady told me she had given Monty some toast with peanut butter and then he crawled into bed with her. She paused.

"That was weird," she said.

dog bed my bed
This is my spot now. Sleep on the couch.