Insanity Sandra and the Case of Too Many Renovations

Reno Collage

Right, so jumping straight into it, my life, as of late, has been a seemingly endless cycle of renovation-induced insanity.  We are installing new ceramic tile and carpeting throughout, and to cut down on the labour costs, I have undertaken the monumental task of ripping up all of our existing hardwood floors and ceramic tile myself.  It has been a dirty and difficult job, made all the worse by the fact that we are also having our bathroom redone, so, you know, no plumbing.  Compounding all of the above, I’ve also been dealing with tradespeople who can’t respect an appointment, tradespeople who won’t return my calls, period, and a very involved condo board.

So I’ve been busy doing non-nail art things, as the state of those poor nails is, well, abysmal.  But I suppose that’s what’s happens when you spend three days yanking splintered boards of wood off the ground with a two-foot-long crowbar.

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And so that is where I have been, once again with my apologies for flaking off on you kind readers and interested onlookers.  Years ago I stopped reading a blog by a woman I otherwise really liked and admired because she began every post with an apology for who-knows-what, usually a nominal absence of just one or two days.  It grew so irksome, I stopped following her blog altogether.  Now I find myself in that same position, and I’m apologizing for that, too!  Good lord, the only way I could get more Canadian right now is if I had a beaver tucked up under one arm (heh.)  Please don’t leave me, who will I talk to about Disney and twenty one pilots?

But I swear I’ve been up to more than just manning the phones, brute-forcing out an entire apartment’s worth of flooring and apologizing for things.  I’ve been reading A LOT (I’m nearly up to eight books for the year!) and planning all sorts of manicures for my Literary Inspiration series.

I’ve been trying to mind my diet and exercise and failing badly.  I don’t operate very well under stress, and food is a comfort when everything else is a half-finished mess.  I wish – oh, how I wish – I could get that drive back that I once had not so very long ago to do better, be better, but potato chips are so very tempting and my willpower has been non-existent.  Why can’t I get together?

I’ve been watching a lot of new (or new-to-me) movies and television shows.  This is remarkable only in that I’m a real “Well, why not Beetlejuice for the 137th time?” kind of person, but I’ve found all sorts of new favourites, including Crazy Rich Asians (oh my word, THAT WEDDING) and a super cute show on Netflix called Derry Girls about a group of teenagers living in Northern Ireland in the early ’90s.

Maybe it’s the chaos of the renovations.  Maybe it’s my lingering sadness at losing our beloved cat late last year.  Or maybe it’s just the way one inevitably feels when the six-month-long winter of our discontent is finally drawing to a close and you just don’t know what to do with yourself when you’re not living in a snow globe.  But I feel curiously flat and affectless, and I’d like it to stop.

Anyhow, please do bask in the half-finished state of our apartment and marvel, ye gods!, at the bare expanses of floor, for I am the Renovation Queen!  Hold the (Bathroom) Door, Plumbing is Coming, etc. 😉

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Owning Up and Cutting Back

So here’s the sitch for any readers who may have come to this blog via some older posts I wrote about the complete overhaul I once made to my lackluster diet and exercise regimen – all of that weight I proudly spoke of shedding?  I have regrettably gained back so, so much of it.  My daily trips to the gym and/or the swimming pool for a few dozen laps?  I’ve worked out maybe five times in the last month and a half.  The improved, non-butter-centric diet?  Very much incorporating – or even just basing an entire meal around – butter once again.

For a while I blamed my newfound – and very much unwelcome – slothdom on the absence of our cat, Weegie, who passed away at the beginning of December.  I was practically incoherent in my sadness, and December was a blur of eating my feelings, and everyone else’s as well.  But I can actually trace the slackening of my resolve to our Labour Day 2018 long weekend trip to Disney.  I fell out of both my diet and exercise routines at that point and never really found my way back to them, so I can’t lay the blame solely at the doorstep of one very terrible Monday morning in December.

We also just returned home from another week in Disney World, where, despite walking over a dozen miles a day and being on our feet for 13 or more hours each day, we both put on a bit of weight AND picked up even more poor dietary habits – the hazards of vacationing in a place that features cheese-covered everything, with a margarita on the side.

Ears and Cocktails Collage

So for about six months now, it’s been a solid slide back to a place I very much do not want to return to, and it’s time to hit the brakes, throw the truck into reverse and…and I really don’t know vehicles well enough to be making driving metaphors!

But here’s the thing: I feel like crap.  All the time.  I’m actually writing this post at 4:00 in the morning, because I woke up with a sore head, back and tummy.  That’s what happens – or at least that’s what happens to me – when I’m not taking care of myself.  The headaches – a particularly troublesome affliction of mine my entire friggin’ life – that had once subsided have returned with a vengeance.  My back, once strong from daily exercise, throbs when I lay down for any longer than four hours at a time.  And without getting into the finer details, my GI system is a riot of gingerale/potato chips/pasta/fried food/butter-induced indigestion.  And I flirt with bouts of insomnia, an experience made ever so less appealing by the fact that it is no longer an act of meowing cat (my, how she loved screaming us into consciousness in the wee small hours of the morning) and now just an act of my own restless, bothered mind.

Also?  When I’m not taking care of myself, when I’m not making good health and dietary choices for my family, I begin to feel like life is going off the rails in all sorts of other ways, and that makes me very, very unhappy.  I’m a person who needs a loose framework of structure and order in her life, and I need a track on which to set my, uh, donkey?  Again, REALLY don’t know my driving metaphors.

But I feel like I’ve been a trackless donkey for far too long now.  So I’m making some changes.  Starting yesterday – fitting, since the last time I decided to kick my own arse, it was also at the end of February – I once again began monitoring my caloric input, while cutting back the bad and increasing the good.  I know what I should be eating to feel good and strong, it’s just a matter of reminding myself – repeatedly, because it’s a tough lesson to learn – that I feel so much better when I make responsible choices regarding my diet, and I really ought to put down that second helping of pasta.

To that end, I’ve once again subscribed to Hello Fresh, the meal subscription box I reviewed (spoiler: mostly favourably) in this post.  I maintain that Hello Fresh is not the least bit cost effective, and I’ve had a couple of very poor customer service experiences here in Ontario that left much to be desired.  But the recipes (we get the two-person vegetarian box) are creative and tasty, the ingredients are of excellent quality, and hey, I just plain old like it.  Also – and this is a big benefit to us right now as we aim to rein things in – the serving sizes are small, and feed no more than two people at a time, which pretty well ensures that you’ll be respecting those ever-creeping portion sizes, because there won’t be a bit of food left to sneak from the pan out in the kitchen.

Hello Fresh Collage

And starting up once again yesterday morning, I began a light exercise routine down in my gym.  Nothing more than a bit of walking on the treadmill for right now, but hopefully I’ll be back to swimming, weights and stretching soon.  Can’t say I love plodding away on a treadmill or an elliptical machine for many mind-numbing minutes at a time, but I do know I feel better – clearer, lighter, more productive somehow – when I exercise, so exercise I shall!  Also, could the weather possibly warm up a titch?  I’d really prefer it if my first swim of 2019 wasn’t a polar dip.  And that’s in the indoor pool!

Gym Selfie

So that’s where we stand here at the end of February 2019, with a mea culpa for the cached example of a past success that is regrettably no longer my present reality.  But I’m tired of feeling cruddy, and it’s time to return to a slightly more positive standing in my life.  And a huge part of that is remaining accountable to kind and interested people like you who may be struggling with, or have struggled with, diet and weight issues of your own.  So please do return to this space in a month’s time, when hopefully I’ll have all manner of inspiring wisdom to share with you about how I broke the dieting code or found the foodie holy grail (a never-ending fountain that dispenses calorie-less Linguine Carbonara, of course) and maybe we can get through this thing together. 🙂

Well, That Was a Year

2018 Collage

If you follow this blog with any sort of regularity (and thank you for that, by the way, that’s very kind of you!) you know my 2018 is ending on a real down note.  At the beginning of the month we rather unexpectedly had to have our absolutely adored kitty, Weegie, put down.  The fallout from that was that Mr. Finger Candy and I just sort of drifted through the Christmas season, present in body, but nearly totally absent in soul.  For someone who never shuts up, I’ve had a hard time articulating why this particular death has hit me so hard.  I’ve lost quite a few beloved pets over my lifetime, and even more adored people, and yet this is the one that’s broken me.  I suppose this is what some well-meaning dumbass would optimistically term a formative event, and I’d begrudgingly have to agree – I certainly don’t feel like the same person I was at the beginning of the month, a change not necessarily for the positive.

But there’s no better time than the start of a new year to hit the reset button, and I’m looking forward to trying, trying again in 2019.  Because even without the heartbreaking events of the last month, 2018 was a wild roller coaster of big ups and bigger downs.  Sometimes actual roller coasters, even!  It just didn’t feel like the most cohesive of years, and I flubbed quite a few personal goals.

But supposedly we learn from our mistakes and all that good stuff, so I thought it might be helpful to look back over the hills and valleys of 2018 and take note of the things that worked, the things that didn’t, and hopefully find a path through 2019 that’s a lot less fraught with grief than 2018’s.  To a better year for all of us.

The Good

I started off the year on a positive note, promising myself that I’d limit my wax and beauty purchases to a small handful of orders from favourite vendors.  My discretionary spending was quite out of control, and my scented wax stores were fit to bursting.  So I put myself on a casual low buy, which though no real direction on my part morphed into a regimented no buy; there were a few months there where our financial behaviour could best be deemed as stupidly tightfisted.  But there just didn’t seem to be anything I wanted to buy, and besides, saving money felt better than buying stuff, which was kind of the point of reining in my spending in the first place, no?  Anyhow, this one was a proper New Years resolution, the kind you make with every intention of breaking, but somehow, I held fast.  Now, with three lovely, highly anticipated orders in my hot little hands (and hot little warmers) I’m set for another year of waiting and watching and planning and melting. 🙂

2018 Wax Collage

2018 is also the year I taught myself a video editing program, upped my photography and video game and started our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!  Amusingly enough, I can lay all three of these newly acquired skills at the tender little furry paws of our cat, Weegie.  There was a time (oh, just the last four or so years) when our sweet baby beast would NOT abide by either her fur mama or papa sleeping for any longer than it took for her soft food dish to run dry (roughly every hour and 45 minutes.)  So I’d find myself awake at all inhospitable hours of the very early morning, with precious little to do.

Then one morning as I sat there just staring at the sky, literally trying to will the sun into cresting the horizon, I suddenly thought about all of the photos and video I had shot of our Disney vacations, and wondered what more I could do with them (other than drive you lovely readers bonkers, that is.) 😉  And so that morning I downloaded a little iPhone-based editing program called iMovie and edited together my first project (a collection of photos of Weegie looking unbelievably saucy, of course, backed by Tom Jones’ What’s New Pussycat?)  Since then I’ve produced 27 videos for Park or Perish!, and some of them aren’t even all that bad!  I particularly like sound editing – it’s incredibly satisfying when two tonally disparate clips finally snap into place (nearly) seamlessly.  This is a major milestone for me; as I’ve mentioned a time or 20, I am unbelievably tech-unfriendly.  That I could even find the program in the App Store in the first place was something of a miracle.  Here’s the most recent video I posted, a fun round-up of our adventures at Disney this past year.  I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

Speaking of Disney vacations and saving money (now there’s a couple of antithetical concepts) we were able to enjoy two of the former this year precisely because we prioritized the heck out of the latter. We eased up a bit on our “Disney or death!” approach to discretionary income as the year wore on, but generally, if we had two cents to scrape together, we’d throw them into the vacation pot.  It was through this kind of financial nit-pickery that we were able to take two Disney vacations in 2018, both fully (and reassuringly) paid off before we had even stepped foot in a park.  We also became Disney annual passholders this year, because it made the most financial sense given the extent of our plans.  Every little bit helps, and I was incredibly proud of us for hitting this Disney financial goal.

Passholder 1

And speaking of those two vacations, they were wonderful; some of the best moments of my year were had at Disney World.  It’s just where we go to cut loose, explore and have an awesome (frequently margarita-enabled) good time.  We are so fortunate to be able to enjoy such incredible vacations – some people can’t swing a single lifetime trip to Disney, let alone two in one year (actually four in 365 days, but who’s counting besides ourselves and every single one of our friends who has jokingly enquired as to whether we plan on just moving into Cinderella Castle full time (dare to dream!)

Character Collage

Just about my favourite moment of the year was spending Halloween, our 14th wedding anniversary, bombing around the Magic Kingdom rock star cosplaying as two different video versions of Tyler Joseph, the lead singer of twenty one pilots (the October release of Trench was another neon yellow bright spot in an otherwise pretty gloomy year.)  I can’t speak for Mr. Finger Candy (who was the recipient of most of the delighted compliments, including a number of longing and appreciative glances from one very interested lady and a couple of even more interested dudes) but I loved playing rock star for the day, even with that black gunk smeared about my neck and hands (black stage makeup, by the way, and no, it wasn’t difficult to take off at the end of the night.  Messy?  Yes!  Sooty black water droplets allllll over the bathroom.  But not difficult.)  Also, my man looked hella hot in his meggings and shorts combo, and no, I’m not remotely joking.

Tyler Two Pilots Collage 2

The Bad

Losing our beloved cat.  Taking her to the vet one snowy Monday morning, knowing in my already breaking heart that we wouldn’t be bringing her home again.  Holding her paw until the very end.  Lots of uncontrollable sobbing.  That was my December.  I don’t wish to ever experience another one like it (oh, that we could control such things!)  But isn’t she adorable?  Gosh, at one point she was a complete LARD; look at that tummy!  That’s some serious Weege the Hutt action right there.

InstaWeege

Losing Weegie also brought into sharp focus the good relationships in our lives – the people who have been there for us at this awful time, in supportive ways big, small and occasionally virtual – and those that are no longer worth our precious, middle aged time.  It was really its own special kind of compounding heartbreak to realize that with some people, we just didn’t rank, not even in the midst of our grief.

On the other, infinitely more positive hand, this event clarified the truly excellent relationships we do have in our lives, people we are so profoundly grateful to call our friends.  They are such fantastic humans, a realization ultimately worth so much more than the one about the social boobs.  I actually feel sort of hashtag-blessed. 😉

But getting back to the crap, after making incredible strides towards improving my health in 2017, I backslid in 2018 HARD, maintaining my diet and exercise regimen for most of the year before apparently just giving up altogether in the last three months and gaining 25 pounds.  I apparently like to eat my stress and grief.  And everyone else’s as well.  I aim to jump back aboard the treadmill express in the new year, and overhaul our diets while I’m at it.  Please stop the rich holiday food, I want to get off!

And this blog?  My beloved Finger Candy, which turned five impressive years old this year with nary a whisper of fanfare?  I have no idea what this blog is even about any more; I’m not even sure if nail art is my preferred focus.  I’m in a state of blogging flux; I hope to find some solid ground soon.

Okay, that’s it, 2018 – you’re drunk, go home.  Don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out.  And cheers to 2019 as it makes its hopefully spectacular way in.  Happy New Years, friends.

Not Your Usual Holiday Meltdown

Mario Wax 2

After a year spent excitedly throwing myself onto and then most likely staggering off of any number of actual roller coasters, I find myself, here at the end of 2018, riding the Emotional Roller Coaster Express.  It’s been a real “Stop the world, I’d like to get off” kind of month.  But upon reflection, that’s been my entire 2018 – wild vacation highs followed by protracted periods of gutting real life lows.  On the whole, I haven’t enjoyed this ride.  In fact, I’m totally sick of it (instead of just getting sick by it.)  Zero stars on TripAdvisor, this attraction sucks.

Pretty much the only thing I didn’t biff this year was my commitment to cutting back on my discretionary spending.  I mean, I did just turn around and plow that money straight into Disney vacations, so file that one under the “Re-Prioritization” files.  But after 2017, when I spent every bit of money I had on things that I thought would make me happy, but didn’t, I knew a shift was in order, and I curbed my spending HARD.

Part of that curbing was limiting my wax purchases to three orders, a custom order from Sniff My Tarts (due any day now!), a hugely anticipated order from The Melting Duck and this order from Rosegirls, a holiday tradition of mine for three seasons now.  I love receiving these whimsical Mario blends every year; it wouldn’t feel like Christmas without them.  Just being handed this sweetly scented package put a smile on my face, possibly the first genuine one in weeks.  Also, not for nothing, but by limiting my purchases to a few absolute must-haves, it made what was becoming kind of boring and accepted (oh look, another wax order) a Very Special Event.  It’s nice to actual derive some enjoyment and delight out of my treats again.

Mario Wax 3

All right, enough emotional shop talk, on to the wax.  Let’s take a look-see and peep the Super Mario-themed blends I picked up in 2018, shall we?

Mario Wax 4

First up, a sextet of adorable little muffins (“Title of your sextet tape!”) in, top row, starting on the left, Jumping on Clouds, a candy floss-dominant bakery blend of Vanilla Crunch Donuts Fluff Puffs, Marshmallow Smoothie, Cuppa Cake and Cotton Candy Frosting, Starbeans Cafe, a gently caffeinated combo of Espresso, Vanilla Crunch Donuts and Vanilla Bean Noel and Thwomps, an incredibly unique, “Wow, this one’s got a taste!” blend of Pine, Peppermint, Sugar Cookie Dough and Campfire Marshmallow.  I’m not entirely sure I like Thwomps, but I don’t dislike it either (which means in about a month’s time it will become my most favouritest scent blend EVER, trust.)

Then on the bottom row, once again starting on the left, we have Warp Zone, a spritely combination of Monster Cookie Fluff Puffs, Peppermint and Vanilla Crunch Donuts, Koopa Klaus is Coming to Town, a rich, ultra comforting blend of Sugar Cookies, Coconut and Baked Zucchini Bread (and an all-time favourite of mine) and Bob-omb Blast, an improbably delicious blend of Blackberry, Campfire Marshmallow, Vanilla Bean Noel and Glazed Donuts.  It is so weird and I love it about as much as I’m confused by Thwomps.  Both feature Campfire Marshmallow; is that the weird at work here?

Mario Wax 4

Finally, we have a pretty random assortment of chunks, top, and a new item called Mario Melts, bottom.  In chunks, I grabbed Yoshi the Red Nosed Dino, left, a beautifully hued and ultra tart combination of Raspberry Sauce and Pistachio Marshmallow Fluff (another favourite, if not THE blend that turned me on to scented wax in the first place) and Go Tell it on DK’s Mountain, right, another “Why do I like this?” fave featuring Fresh Pine, Sweater Weather and Vanilla Bean Noel.  How bizarre that all my Mario usuals are my usual unusuals, no?

Then in the Mario Melters, little layered, bar-shaped wax chunks, I ordered another annual favourite, Up on the Castle Top, left, a bubblegummy blend of Berry Creme Brulee and Rice Krispie Treats (it does not smell like pink bubblegum, but rather this berry Bubbalicious gum I loved as a kid) and then the new wax on the block, Koopa Klaus Needs a Latte, right, a combination of my beloved Koopa Klaus is Coming to Town and Espresso.  Holy smokes, this one is great; Mr. Finger Candy’s going to be all over this coffee ‘n’ cookies combo.  I also think the potential for someone to actually mistake this wax for something edible is nearly guaranteed, particularly at this time of year – it looks EXACTLY like these homemade Twix bars I like to make, and smells just like them, too.

Mario Wax 5

So there we have it, a highly anticipated Rosegirls wax order over one year in the making.  I really wish a lot of things had gone differently this year, particularly in the last month, but I will continue to be proud of myself for reining in my more destructive shopping impulses so that I can once again enjoy the things I do buy, like this special little wax order.  Gotta take pleasure in the small – and smell 😉 – victories.

Merry Christmas, Holy Shit, Where’s the Tylenol?!

Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the house…there wasn’t an effin’ peep, because I was trying to be as quiet as possible so as to hear my postal carrier’s knock on the front door.  Which never came, because I’m talking about Canada Post here, and they are wildly incompetent thieves, charlatans and goons.

To back up this cheery Christmas fable a beat or two, the union representing Canada Post, the taxpayer-funded Crown corporation that manages the Canadian postal system, launched a short-lived, pre-holiday strike that was about as successful as their usual approach to business – drowning in complaints, the federal government quickly legislated them back to work, with a promise to re-open the negotiations in the new year.  And I vehemently hope that when that time comes, the government mails out the invitations via Canada Post, so they never, ever get to their recipients.

Our postal system is, and always has been, a colossal joke.  But I thought it was just your garden variety unionized incompetence.  But with this strike, timed to inflict as much damage as possible on customers (commercial and civilian, Canadian and global alike) they have shown their true colours – they are ignorant, crass opportunists willing to hijack an entire holiday for their own dubious gain.  The Grinch comparisons are apt.

What has my fur up today is the fact that I rearranged my entire schedule so I could be home for a time-sensitive, need-it-by-this-weekend delivery.  For days now I’ve tracked my package as it’s bounced back and forth between various distribution centres, many of them hopelessly backlogged because of the short-lived strike.  Also, not too surprisingly, there are reports of continued intentional slow-downs and informal strikes by the most devoted of the union’s members.

Without getting into the politics of UNION GOOD/BAD (I have actually worked in both kinds of environments, and each system has its pluses and minuses) I believe the union’s demands to be wildly out of touch with Canada Post’s proven track record of near-complete ineptitude.  You won’t find a person in this country who doesn’t have multiple stories of misplaced mail, destroyed packages, completely undelivered packages, disinterested, snarky customer service and trampled landscaping.  On review site trustpilot.com, there are 917 reviews for Canada Post, and a full 93 percent of them fall under the bad/one-star category.  The one thing they seem to do consistently well is piss off their customers.

Like yours truly, who sat here all morning – didn’t run down to the gym, didn’t push the vacuum around, didn’t even take a call that might have tied up the line – anticipating a delivery that I KNEW was not going to come.  And it didn’t.  After some hours, I went down to the mail room, and there in my mailbox, nestled in beside the bills that always seem to show up on time, was a delivery notification informing me that I could not be reached, and I could pick up my own damn package at a postal outlet tomorrow afternoon.  You cannot access my mail room without accessing the entire building as a whole, which means the carrier was here, actually IN my building, and couldn’t be arsed to drag his lying butt up to my apartment or, alternately, call up and ask me to come down and meet him.  The truly galling part of all of this is that a different delivery, this one through UPS, showed up on my doorstep about two minutes later – nice, friendly guy carrying out his professional duties like a professional.  Take notes, Canada Post.  Then drop them on the slushy ground, step on them and lose them under the seat of your van for the next three and a half months.

And please take note, Canadian government, of the taxpayers who are no longer willing to broker with a bunch of lying, duplicitous laze-abouts.  Because the fallout is greater than just some people being horked off that their Christmas gifts didn’t arrive on time.  Rather, we’re talking about the wholesale defrauding of the Canadian people and their postal partners.  Canada Post’s service has NEVER warranted the nearly bulletproof protection afforded to it by its government and union affiliations, and the organization as a whole has done itself precisely zero favours with this pre-Christmas Grinch grift.  ANY negotiating leverage they think they may have amassed is about as effectual as their actual service.

Last year, completely dissatisfied with my dealings with both Walmart and the entire Loblaws group of companies, I sought to cut both out of my retail experience.  And for the most part, I was successful – I think I shopped at Walmart maybe five times in 2018, and even less than that at a Loblaws-owned entity.  It was a pain, and in many cases the workarounds I found were more expensive than if I had just gone to the stores in question in the first place, but sometimes our convictions are more important than nabbing 72 rolls of three-ply at a low, low, low price.

2019 is the year I cut Canada Post out of my life.  That this may harm businesses I like to shop from is without dispute, but I will no longer deal with any company that uses the postal system as their default carrier.  I will find alternate carriers to transport my goods, and if I can’t manage that, I simply won’t buy from that retailer in the hopes that they, too, strike this toxic entity from their business rosters.

Shame on you, Canada Post, you petulant, foolish children, and thank your lucky stars Santa isn’t one of your employees, or this year you’d be getting jack shit.  Merry Christmas, ho ho ho, and oh yeah – get fucked.