Thursday!

An early Friday post this week: I'm off to the Rockies this afternoon for a few days of mountain air and scenery. Unusually, I think their Alberta's spring is further along than Ontario's so I might even take off my coat!

It's good timing for a little internet break. I usually try to restrict my internet use at certain times of day when I want to write and read. And by restrict, I mean completely swear off. I believe firmly that it's better to start the day creating content rather than consuming it. I don't log into Twitter or my reader or my e-mail even until later in the morning (considering I get up very early by most people's standards, I really don't miss much).


I'm wary of that urge to actively look for things to tweet (or to Instagram, when I had Instagram), rather than allowing that to happen organically. And because I'm the kind of person who, once she sets up these accounts, wants to maintain and grow them, it's better for me to really pick where I want to be and be there wholly.

This is not a "I'm going to quit my blog and Twitter" post. It's more about the kind of psychological hangover I get from these things, how they change my disposition, even perception. I look for ways of fulfilling them. My attention becomes more flickering. My story-telling contracts. Sometimes this is good... maybe blogging and Twitter have made me a better Flash fiction writer. But I would hate to be limited to that ontology for those reasons.

In the last few weeks I've been harried during my days, so my discipline has slipped away. I find myself reaching for the tasty morsels of online content rather than creating the space to read and write. I need a reset. The mountains will be my reset.

Also rereading this (a favourite) and this. And, no, the contradiction of linking to something else online is not lost on me. Like I said, I'm not being all hyperbolic about evils of online or quitting. Just reclaiming my own space too.

Have a great weekend! I'll be back next week, like so many Heidis coming down from so many mountaintops.

Meyer Maple Leaf Cocktail

I spotted this recipe on Quitokeeto over the weekend and filed it away for my next party. It seems a particularly delectable combination of tart and sweet. I tend to favour tart in my desserts and cocktails. But, of course, I couldn't be a Canadian if I didn't also have a penchant for maple syrup.


Images via Quitokeeto

New work by Bobbie Burgers

I love Bobbie Burgers' lush floral paintings. Her newest work, spotted at Bau-Xi is like a tonic for the eyes this subdued spring.

Sunday best: Navy and nude

It's been hard to find those little pockets in the days when I'm not panicked by what I ought to be doing. I've got decisions to make, but I can't seem to find the right space to know which way is up, to trust myself.

When my days are like this, I lean right into the nicer things. I read a mix of poetry and fashion magazines. I make all kind of lists; clothes to buy, books to read. I mark up recipes to try in cookbooks. I plan new furniture I might buy. I decide I'm going to start wearing more navy and nude.


Next weekend, I'm going away to the mountains and I can't wait to look up at those familiar peaks and revisit a city I once called home. And I'm just clinging on in the meantime, hoping it all comes clear in thinner air.

And just this: A simple pleasure.

Products: ChloƩ ballet flats from Net-a-Porter | Splendid navy mini dress from Net-a-Porter | Lunar Necklace from Temple St Clair | Rider bag from Loeffler Randall | Byredo Fragrance Travel Case from Barneys

Friday!

Work kept me busy all week. I stayed mostly quiet and to myself. Moments when whatever I could have said felt needless and dumb.



I found it hard to get up. Hard to go to sleep. I wondered if I was coming down with something. I seemed to come down with something (all my talk shattered). I kept working anyway, feverish and not quite right.

I saw some theatre. I read recipes books for flowers and food in bed. I drew baths, some too hot and some too cold. One just right. I slept, the windows open, an extra blanket. The rain woke me at 2am, my thirst unquenchable.

I printed and read this and was in its thrall. I saved this for later. I thought this beautiful.

Have a lovely weekend!

Links from image: Laura Mercier | Soulpepper | Illesteva | Studio Choo

The one that got away

I wrote a little piece of Flash in my head on the bus today, coming down Leslie by the side of Wilket Creek, one of my favourite stretches of road for its smooth downhill cruise, a rare curve in a city of straight ups and downs.

I was holding my phone in my hand, thinking get it down now, the words are there. But I didn't. And now it's a fading thing and when I try to write it, it will be an anemic version of what I held then in my mind, watching the trees pass and knowing there were stables down there too, with conker horses who might nuzzle the crook of my neck.

This is always writing for me; degrees of removal from the bright thing in my mind, like a fish that loses its colour out of water. But I try to hold onto the words anyway, and occasionally I capture the glimmer. And there are plenty more fish in the sea. That too. Shoals of words in gloaming seas.

But always too the feeling that today; that was the one that got away.

Sunday best: April stroll

It's still chilly. But I'm done pandering to the weather. It'll be 30 degrees soon and I'll be lamenting these in-between days, even the ones that feel like a cold grey stone in the palm of my hand.



I love today's ensemble - it feels like such a great mix of comfort and structure. I generally hate clothes that are super-fitted. I like sweater dresses and tunics, slouch and layers. But sometimes that doesn't feel smart or grown-up. This has it all.

Today, I'll be taking my slouchy old self to the flower market, to the coffee shop. I'll finish the book I'm reading, wallow in it a little bit as I always do. It's a little heartbreak every time; you never get that first read back...

A regular enough Sunday then... Have a good one!

Products: MIH JEANS Paris jeans from Net-a-Porter | Cotton Pindot Shirt by Raquel Allegra from La Garconne | Vector Felt Jacket by HELMUT Helmut Lang from La Garconne | Alexa by Mulberry | Cassiopeia ring from Sophie Bille Brahe | Bronte boots from Hudson

Friday!

I'm trying something new for Fridays; a little visual highlight of my week. My days lately have felt so desk-strapped and dreary, this prolonged winter knocking the spring out of my step. At the same time, I do make an effort every day to find something lovely, even if it's small, to savour a moment before bed or in the very early morning when the weather always seems more promising. I want to celebrate that here.


I also enjoyed Rita Konig's already much-reblogged apartment over on The Selby and all this spring silk over on The Wardens. It was a new moon on Wednesday… it knocked me for six and then I felt so much better on Thursday.

This caught my attention:
"Self-degradation sustains the adjunct economy, and we see echoes of it in journalism, policy and other fields in which unpaid or underpaid labour is increasingly the norm. It is easy to make people work for less than they are worth when they are conditioned to feel worthless." - Thomas A Benton

And this did too:
"...it’s when you need to write yourself out of a pile of shit that the interesting stuff happens." - Edan Lepucki

In the last few months my life has changed; the people in it have changed. It's changed me. I've been thinking about the effect some people have on me. I don't often think like this — I usually consider myself a sort of island, aloof and impenetrable. I have so many defences against aggressive invasions, but I'm susceptible to those who creep insidiously in. I get fooled into thinking they're welcome, into thinking they're friends. And then I'm surprised when they're gone, that I feel released.

So, busy and cold as it's been, I've been drawing a deep breath and letting some things go.

Happy weekend!

Image links: Vita Fede | Astier de Villante | The Gentlewoman

Reducing

I wonder sometimes if we've gone too far the other way hen we talk about dieting. In all our "diets don't work" talk, there's a sort of shame in saying you're going on a diet. I'm even a little scared of saying the word… it's so loaded with so many negative connotations, with fads and fables, with a set-up for failure.

But the truth is I could do with going on a diet. I'm reading The Bell Jar and Plath calls it reducing. I like that, "reducing". That's what I'm really doing; simply trying to eat less because I feel like I've been lately strapped to my desk, but eating more.

And I've resisted the idea of going on a diet, thinking, oh can't I just temper it gently, introduce some sensible moderation. It's not really cool any more to deprive yourself. I bet many of us diet in secret these days. The people who say no to desserts are considered party-poopers. Friends tell each other we deserve to shove treats in our cake holes instead of supporting each other's efforts or choices.

Some of this was articulated in the Orlando Gough piece I linked to last week. The want to be healthy, but conflicting want to enjoy all food (down with self-deprivation!)

"We want to be healthy, but we want to have fun. We’re keen on self-improvement, but we enjoy a bit of self-destruction on the side. We’ve got our calorie-counting apps, and presumably we’ll soon have chlorestorol-counting apps and hydrogenated-fat-counting apps, and at the same time we’re drinking too much gin. It may be that by some fluke this is leading to a beautifully balanced diet, and maybe, more probably, it’s not, but it’s definitely making us anxious."

It's got to be the same reason magazine interviews with celebrities often begin by telling us that the celeb in question shoves tasty morsels into her face throughout. Second helpings even! Oh, yes, let's order dessert! We don't really want to know what it takes to maintain that body. We don't want to think that it takes an extreme effort, especially from those whose bodies are lauded as being more "real" (though that's a bullshit thing to say too).

The idea that these people are not making a supreme effort is mostly a big lie and we know it. But we want to believe it can work that way, that we can have both. And some people can, maybe. But I cannot. That's one thing my body does not do.

My body does other things: Weight isn't only way to think about your body. I never catch the colds or flus when they're going around. I don't know why, but my body seems so strong in that way. I've only been on antibiotics only once in my entire life (as a precaution after my wisdom teeth came out). I'm grateful for my immune system. I also think it's mad and arbitrary luck, genetics, something I don't control...

So, there's some stuff my body is great at, that I love my body for. When I'm wishing I had one of those "can eat anything I want" metabolisms, I remind myself of all that my body already does so well. Wanting - and needing - to diet right now isn't about being at war with my body, or about self-hatred or self-punishment. It's about acknowledging that I'm off track in one area, that if I want to correct that, this is the reality of how I'll do it.

I started counting calories tonight. I can't remember the last time I really counted calories. It's sort of fun, to reduce all those complex messages and subtexts to the most straightforward arithmetic. Of course, not all calories are equal. And it's not that I really think it's just that simple. It's obviously not. When I overeat, it's not because I did the sums incorrectly, it's because something else is wrong.

At the same time, I also think we've become a bit hyperbolic about the emotional part. In many ways, that angle adds another layer of shame to weight gain. It's not perceived simply extra weight, it's now become some sort of psychological scar, a heart on sleeve ailment. I think we've gone a bit too far Oprahfying weight in that regard. It doesn't always mean something. Sometimes it just means I'm holed up and writing too much and skipping spinning. Sometimes, it just means I've been making repeated small, but unreflective, decisions about food.

And that's where I think the discipline and structure of a diet and exercise program is helpful. When my own intuitive sense of "too much" or "too little" is off-kilter, it quantifies and sets limits, establishes a framework for actively engaging with those decisions I've been making absent-mindedly. I'm not talking about following a fad, just setting some basic rules for myself, giving myself a structure to follow. I'm not talking about an extreme regime, just a commitment to a certain amount of exercise per day and week.

Mapping all of that out and acknowledging that's what it will take is just like budgeting and forecasting for your finances, rather than spending willy-nilly. This isn't about extremism, but structure and steps. I don't know why diet has become such a dirty word, but I'm going to say it: I'm on one.

Rose gold

Sometimes I feel mounting pressure to pick a side here with my ole bloggy blog. You know, either be all serious and wordy all the time, or completely material and pretty. I resent this tug-of-war. Truth is, even if you put the screws to me, I'd give up neither.

So, yes, I'm reading The Bell Jar right now and I'm also working on a story that's a bit dark and wrenching, but maybe a little funny too (or funny to me at least). But - whole truth and nothing but - I'm also thinking about buying something that's rose gold and I've visited that Anita Ko ring at Augustina about a dozen times...

Rose gold: because it's pink and it still goes with silver.


Products: ELA | Illesteva | de Gournay | The Great Gatsby | Anita Ko | Sara Happ | Eddie Borgo | Valentino

A poem & a painting for Monday

I love this artwork by Elliott Puckette, spotted over on Paul Kasmin Gallery...



... and this poem by Richard Hugo. I'm still enjoying his poetry so very much.

Blue Stone
A blue stone is only one piece
of a huge blue stone no one can find.
A blue stone is anything but
a blue stone. It is a speck of sky
in your hand or a tiny bit of sea.
Of all stones, it contains
the most magics. It can veer your life
away from poverty to riches. It can grow a tree
exactly where you need shade. Just rub
a blue stone and make a wish. A blue stone
becomes the blue marble shooter
you won all those marble games with.
I always act indifferent
around blue stones, sort of nonchalant
like I feel they're nothing special.
That way they work best for me.
I avoid cold faces amd cruel remarks.
When I sail a blue stone downwind into
the long blue day, armies stop.
When I sail a blue stone into the wind
that always precedes a rain in Montana
and then find the stone and pick it up
a bird sings blue rain.
Days I can't find a blue stone
no matter where I look, I know they're returned
every one to the big blue stone they came from
somewhere in the blue mountains,
somewhere unmapped and roadless
that can't be seen from the air.

Sunday best: Spring rain

Overnight, rain crept into my consciousness and I woke to streets veiled softly. It has dried up now, but the sun isn't breaking through yet. The sky is muted and it's dulling the edges of my mind, already a little worse for sloe gin fizzes from last night.


I love today's ensemble. Prices aside, it not only feels like a pretty fair representation of what I would wear, but also what I've of what I've worn since my teenage years, when - for some reason - we also ran around in aran jumpers and wax jackets, just a battered Land Rover short of being wealthy Meath farmers.

I found myself craving a new parka last week. Our springs are usually a lot less transitional than this one and I could do with a lighter coat. I saw some yesterday, but wasn't much in the trying-on mood. And I'm not sure I am today either.

But I will go out for coffee and some air and I'll let the rain do that thing it does with my hair because nobody will see me anyway. I'll begin a new book, or maybe reread an old one. And later on, when the coffee has worked its magic, I'll try to get some writing done.

Happy Sunday!

Products: Idris bag by Ally Cappellino | Proenza Schouler jeans from Net-a-Porter | Military Field Jacket by ASPESI from Steven Alan | Alpaca Handknit sweater from La Garconne | Cathy Waterman Diamond Flower Frame Ring from Twist | Bottega Veneta ankle boots from Net-a-Porter

Friday!

Yesterday was the first day I noticed something pure and green beginning to bud up under the brown grass. And on the bus ride home I saw a robin and then another and another. It was cold this week, but it suddenly lifted and Spring awoke.

I'm still thinking about buying one of those astrological charts I blogged about a few weeks ago. These stargazing samplers put me in mind of them again.


And I enjoyed reading this Orlando Gough piece over on Toast Travels this week too. Although some of his examples don't sit quite right, I love the rhythm of his words, the tug-of-war expressed that seems to resonate so deeply, not just with food.

I've been reading Deborah Levy's Swimming Home too. Actually, it's been a while since I did a book report and I owe you many. Perhaps I'll compile them all in one post next week. But Levy's book is something special. It doesn't immediately remind me of anything I've read before, or even imagined, and that's exciting to read.

I've also been writing; a spontaneous flash piece on the subway on the way to work yesterday and a short story that's going to need much more marinating before I decide where to try to place it. There'll be more writing this weekend, I hope, but also easy-going things and, fingers crossed, dreamless sleep.

Inspired by Jessica's amazing pop of colour, I'll hit the flower market too.

What are you up to? Happy weekend!

Past and present me

Tonight, I cooked that recipe I linked to yesterday. It was delicious. And minutes ago, I was cleaning my kitchen, wiping down the counters, stacking plates into those neat stacks that I love to open cupboards and see. And I realized I was doing it and imagining myself approving. And then I realized this is something I do a lot.

Many of us seek approval, from many different sources. I do too. When I achieve something at work, I want to tell my Dad - it's his praise I crave in all professional things. When it's writing-related, I want to tell my favourite professor, who has always been such a supporter of me in every endeavour, but whose judgement of my writing I both fear and hold above all others.

But in the simple mechanics of living a good life, it's my own past ideas, daydreams, that I measure myself against. The years after I finished grad school but was waiting to emigrate, in particular, were ripe with aspirations; what kind of apartment I would live in, the way I would dress, how I would live in the place I lived, how I would spend the money that I would earn, who I would end up sharing it all with. And it's that Jane I feel myself sometimes wanting to impress.

There are some things about my life now that I know would disappoint that version of me. She'd be sad that I'm alone, whereas I'm not that sad that often about it. She would have expected me to own a home by now, something I occasionally feel shitty about to). But I can also imagine her blown away by some things and bemused by others (those curtains?!) And I can imagine her finding comfort and consistency in other things; books colour-coded as they've been since teenage years, Ted still stashed somewhere in the bedroom, the copy of Peter and Jane in the Garden on her bookshelf.

When I was a teenager, buying something that came wrapped in a paper bag with tissue and ribbons always felt fancy. I still love it. I think I still love it for my teenage self. When I open my medicine cabinet, I'm sometimes thrilled because I vividly remember the excitement of buying my first Clinique moisturizer at the original Brown Thomas - my first beauty counter purchase. It's that memory that prevents me normalizing these things to the point where I stop enjoying them. I'm probably not alone here - I'm sure many of us indulge and impress past selves in these small ways, harmless as they are. After all, "if you had told me then" is an oft-used phrase.

This post feels self-indulgent: writing about me thinking of me; my own past and projected opinion mattering so much. But it's also a source of a lot of the self-flagellation. That pressure to be and to do and to change is often fuelled by this phantasmical self. And sometimes I start to feel like I'm failing at things without realizing the source of that judgement and without realizing that those ideas were perhaps ill-informed in the first place, wide-eyed and idealistic as they were.

And maybe in ten or twenty years, I'll think the same things about thirty-something Jane, about what it is I'm projecting into the future today. Will I have a dog then? Will I own a home yet? Will I surprise myself yet and fall in love again?

David Hume cast skeptical doubt on the idea that we are really the same self moment to moment, saying that self is neither constant nor solid. His ideas about personal identity are arguable, of course, but there's a kernel I love: That we do seem to think of ourselves as much more constant than we are. We think of paths and courses, arcs and progressions. And in some things we're so dead wrong and yet we remain haunted by the dogma of those ideas. But in other things there really are threads that bind our sense of self, that fuel our sense of constant and evolving identity.

One thing I know: Past and present, I likes my plates neatly stacked, just so.

April

April already! I feel like I want to make new resolutions this month. To cook more, to eat more colour, to exercise more. Over the weekend, I read Helen's post and thought, exactly. So, here are some things I'd like to commit to in the next few weeks:

(1) Exercise
I have a spinning bike and just need to get back to doing my circuits, five times per week. I also need to limber up, so I'll do 20 mins of yoga after 45 mins of spinning. This was my exercise routine in the past and it worked for me. I hate gyms and classes, so being able to workout at home or outdoors is key to my success.

(2) Diet
I have stacks of cookbooks and yet my meals have started to betray a distinct lack of variety. It's definitely good to have some faithful favourites, but I want to dip into my recipe books and Donna Hay magazines and try different ingredients and recipes, especially those heavy on fresh fruits and veggies. I'm going to start by making this.

(3) Cut back on coffee
I drink one very big cup of coffee a day and I love it. But lately, it has started to feel more acidic to me and that I need, more than savour, it. I'm going to take a break from daily coffee for a few weeks and reintroduce it in smaller measure. I want to enjoy my coffee always, not pound it back.

(4) Find the right motivation
I sometimes use impossible ideas to motivate myself, only to feel disillusioned when those ideals fail to manifest. I think this is a common thing; a mindset from childhood when we were told we could grow up to be whatever we wanted, or from teenage years when magazines were taken as literal possibilities. But I'm a thirty-something woman, not a child or teen. I need to set goals and ideas that relate to me and not to some wholly disassociated idea I've carried for too long. A dose of realism, Janey (not my strength).

(5) Different work isn't down time
The thing I want to do when I'm most burned out from my job is write. It's not always the best thing for me. It's like I'm trying to negate difficult work experiences with the kind of work I love doing. I need to find the non-work way of relaxing. This is going to be a tough one because as well as a day job, I do a lot of freelance writing and then I try to blog and write fiction too. Clearly, writing is most important to me, but my writing is definitely stronger when I'm kind to my body too. Some balance, then.

Happy April!