Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What I Did Over March Break, Part 1

Alternate Title: How to be Cool

I wrapped up the week before March (aka Spring) Break not feeling particularly spring-y nor particularly cool. Despite a few days of glorious above-freezing respite the weekend *before* March Break started, winter is a tenacious bastard, and as I sit writing this post on the official first day of spring, I am once again looking from the inside-out at a freshly-shaken snow globe. O, Canada, indeed.

A few weeks ago, in a fit of ambition inspired by multiple viewings of "Pitch Perfect" (and probably a glass or three of wine), I signed up for DJ camp at Off Centre DJ School in Toronto. A few days after I signed up, I received email from Laura at Ladies Learning Code about an application I'd previously filled out to mentor their workshops and camps for girls, and a few emails later I had committed to spending the mornings before DJ school mentoring girls at Girls Learning Code's March Break Camp.

First let's talk about GLC camp. These girls were all amazing, and the event's organizers, Laura and Ashley, killed it. On the first day of camp the girls were editing HTML and CSS to make Love Bombs. By the end of the week each group of 4-6 girls had created an entire website full of multimedia goodness, including a logo they created using GIMP, a stop-motion animation, and photos and a video that they shot and edited. The group with which I worked most closely made this website for their cause, "Operation Rescue: 911 For Animals." Did I mention they were seriously amazing?


Next up, find out how I learned to scratch, beat match, and that time I ate pie with a 2013 Canadian Junior Champion figure skater. (And you thought I was kidding about the whole cool thing.)

Friday, March 01, 2013

Sunnymail #2

From: Sunny To: Gillian
Date: Sun, 17 Feb 2013

Really like this little valentines gizmo. It's a neat invention . Sorry if I was more than stunned yesterday. Was very tired. 'twas good to see Denise so hope I was not too off the wall. How is Lolo? Love you. Xxx,loo.Sunny
The gizmo in question is a stylus, which seems to be facilitating much longer missives.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sunnymail #1

Last Christmas, we bought Sunny an iPad, primarily to facilitate FaceTime convos with my brother in Toronto. It has not been used for that so much as for being the world's most expensive handheld Solitaire game. Recently however, Sunny (who is now 81) rediscovered email. I'm not quite sure what inspired her, given that the last email I received from her was in 2009, however, I'm glad she's honing her technical skillz. (Next thing you know she'll be on code.org. Maybe we can get her in a video with Will.i.am.) In short, her emails are too good not to share with the three of you who still have UFF in your RSS feeds.

From: Sunny To: Gillian
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2013
Subject: Query

Just to find out if I can send a message. Think that's very clever huh ? Love Sunny

Monday, January 14, 2013

Last we spoke, I was 26 days into a 100 day project. Then, as usual, I had knee surgery and my life was derailed for a few months.

Now it's January and time for my annual three blog posts! This year I'm resolving to post once, in January. And, if you're reading this: RESOLUTION ACHIEVED. We're all very proud of me. (I'm also resolved not to have knee surgery this year. We'll see how that goes.)

I just returned from a week in New York, during which I drank approx. 8 bottles of wine, ate out at least 15 times, and partook of various Puerto Rican feasts, gracias to my/Ken's in-laws. In fact, the last night I was in town when I stopped by to say adios, the table was covered in food: Rice & beans, Dr. Pepper (!) chicken wings, and the most delicious roast chicken of all time. Even though I was on my way to meet friends for dinner, and at 9 a.m. the next day, I had to both try a wing ("It's just a wing!") and take a to-go container of food with me ("For breakfast!"). Frankly I'm surprised I didn't incur additional weight charges on the return flight.

Now that I'm back in the land of the ice and snow, I've resolved to cook more. I was feeling uninspired, but a quick Epicurious search yielded this recipe for Fracatelli with Pecorino and Mustard Greens, which looked both easy and cheap (even with ingredients from the nearby fancypants grocery store).

The verdict? Two enthusiastic forks up! I would be impressed if someone cooked this for me, and even more impressed to learn that it's possible to prepare a tasty homemade pasta dish in around 30 minutes for under $5 (I already had a hunk of pecorino and always have an ample supply of butter). I'd never heard of frascatelli before but it couldn't be easier to make, and if your pantry is better stocked than mine, you might not even need to buy semolina flour, which would bring your total down to under two bucks for the mustard greens. (I used chard instead, which tasted great, was still only $1.49 for the organic AND rainbow variety.)



Perhaps I should just resolve to cook once this year so that I could cross that one off too, and focus on avoiding trampolines and slippery floors.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Day 26: Easier Said Than Done

Two weeks ago, I pledged two things: To be more mindful while I'm eating, and to work on my to-bed transition time. I proceeded to eat dinner while watching TV. Then I stayed up too late watching more TV or looking at Reddit or playing Drop 7 (or some combination of the three).*

Lather, rinse, repeat for several days, until last week I consciously prepared a meal and sat down at the table, with no distractions, to eat. I hate to admit this, but it was uncomfortable. I wanted to finish eating quickly. I glanced at my phone sitting on the table next to me, and vaguely lamented that I had to use both a knife and a fork to eat and thus didn't have a free hand to check email. I even looked around for an easily-reachable magazine or newspaper.

I don't know why this was so difficult, but I kept it up for all of last week, when I was bacheloretting at home. I'm happy to report that it did, in fact, get easier. Look at that: Practice!

The bedtime transition has been another story. My first mistake there was discovering "Homeland," and watching all 13 episodes in just 4 days. So, uh, yeah, there were maybe a few late nights. Then Oktoberfest rolled into town, and all bets were off.

This week I'm traveling again, and plan to renew my commitment to a healthier pre-bedtime ritual. I'm also considering a fall cleanse so that I don't fall into hibernation habits like carb-loading and excessive couch-sitting.

Last week's inspiration: Trujoy Nutrition's Jenna Gass' suggestion via Twitter to eat 1 serving of raw vegetables with every meal (including breakfast!). I already throw a kale leaf or two in my morning smoothie, and subbing (or just adding!) raw veggies at other meals is working out well so far.

*I should note that I achieved my highest Drop 7 score while simultaneously browsing Reddit, so, you know, I'm not going cold turkey on that one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

100 Days of Practice: Day 13

One of my big ideas for this 100 Days of Practice project is awareness. I'm trying to observe, without judgement, my own reactions in day-to-day situations and interactions. And one thing I've observed is that I like to be very busy. I fill my days with work, house projects, and exercise. Even yoga is something crammed into the spaces, and always hot yoga. Intense. In the evening, more work, more exercise, and sometimes watching TV. I hardly ever just sit and breathe, or write. I'm always doing and planning. It's almost like I'm avoiding being with myself.

Thinking about this reminded me of something I read recently over on ejshea.com:

...I fall asleep every night with earbuds and an old episode of 30 Rock, but it also feels a bit, I don’t know, sad. Not pathetic-sad, more like frustrating-sad. Was it really so hard to be in my own head space, in the quiet of my own mind, for the duration it would or should take me to fall asleep?

I'm considering whether this need to be busy is similar to Erin's experience - do I really find it hard to be in my own head space?

As you may already have gleaned from the title of this post, today is Day 13 of my 100 Days of Practice. I haven't structured this project in any particular way, but it has occurred to me that effective practice is structured. When I played piano, I sat down to practice at about the same time each day. I spent roughly the same percentage of my practice drilling scales, learning new pieces, and polishing my current repertoire. When I trained for a marathon, I ran hills or did speedwork on Tuesdays, went for an easy short run on Thursdays, and spent Saturday mornings (and sometimes afternoons) adding miles.

In these first 13 days I've noticed two occasions at which I'm considerably less mindful: While I'm eating, and in the evening, when the day is winding down. Over the next few days I'm going to work on structuring my practice, focusing on these two situations.

First, I will practice paying attention to my food - to being mindful of what I'm eating, and how. To consider where my food comes from and how it is prepared. To notice how I feel while I'm eating, and to take my time, and let myself feel hungry sometimes, just enough to be sure that I'm eating because I'm hungry, and not because I'm happy or sad or bored or there's a really delicious cookie available. (OK, maybe sometimes that last one.)

Additionally, I will practice different ways of ending the day. I'm not sure yet what this looks like (good thing I'm still practicing!) and I'll try a few things - maybe a 10 minute meditation, or a short creative endeavour like writing a paragraph or drawing a picture. Regardless, pre-bedtime activities always include flossing, pillow fluffing, and lots of good night smooching.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Getting to Carnegie Hall

Last week I decided to start a 100 day project.

100 days is a pretty common timeframe for these things - politicians often talk about the first 100 days in office, and I've heard senior managers at companies talking about their 100 day plans.

At first the point of this hundred day thing was kind of nebulous. I wanted to do something longer than a 21 day cleanse, but nothing so big as a life list or even a New Year's resolution. Something somewhere in between. But I wasn't sure what.

Until I woke up at 3:30 a.m., on the morning I'd planned to start the countdown. Insomnia definitely wasn't part of the plan, but it worked out: While one part of my brain was admonishing me to get back to sleep already, another part was busy working it out. I woke up a few hours later to find scrawled in the notebook on my bedside table: "100 days of practice."

We practice to reinforce what we know. To identify what we need to improve. To perform exercises to target improvements. Practice involves drills, doing things repeatedly and regularly, and learning to gracefully recover from mistakes.

Robert H. Schuller, via the inspirational fridge magnet, asks, "What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?" For me, practice removes that fear of failure, because in practice, failures and imperfections are expected, and learned from.

So that's what I'm up to. 100 days of practice. 100 days of practicing awareness & authenticity, patience & compassion, gratitude, connection, solitude, getting things done, new techniques, fiscal awareness, responding, creativity & making things, fitness, organization & putting things away, moderation (in moderation), sexy times, commitment, and branding.

As part of my writing practice, I'll update here every 5 days or so. Stay tuned.

This particular 100 day notion was inspired by this video (via Ange at Sokoko Life, who is a total bastion of inspiration).