Archive for the 'Best of 2009' Category

Best of 2009: Tea of the year

I’m doing the Best of 2009. Check it out and do it with me.

December 16 Tea of the year. I can taste my favorite tea right now. What’s yours?

I love tea. I’ve been drinking tea since I was about 4 and it’s always been a calming influence in my life. It’s the drink I go to when I’m upset, anxious, not feeling well, or cold. It’s also my drink of choice when chatting with friends or doing just about anything else.

That being said, I feel a little guilty about my life with tea this past year. This past year, I got a coffee-maker and I sort of feel like I’ve been waking up to the ‘other woman.’ I only started liking coffee a few years ago and now it’s a big part of my life. Unfortunately, I’d venture to say that it’s taken tea’s place in parts of my life.

Tea is still top dog when it comes to an afternoon or early evening hot beverage. And it’s still tea that I offer first when friends come to visit. But the drink certainly doesn’t have as bright of a spotlight in my life anymore.

Despite my years-long relationship with this glorious beverage, I’m a pretty boring tea drinker. I stick closely to black teas. I don’t stray into the herbal camp because a lot of them upset my stomach and I don’t have a lot of experience with some of the new trendy teas like rooibos and white tea. I have some experience with chai as I spent some time in India and I really miss the amazing tea there.

But mostly, my tea of choice is good ole’ orange pekoe (which my brother pronounces ‘orange pee-ko-y’). When I do want something a little fancier, I do one of two things:

1. I put the tiniest drop of vanilla extract into my cup of orange pekoe or,

2. I make a pot of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea Raspberry Earl Grey .

A friend bought me this tea as an ‘anytime gift’ from the states and I fell in love. I still have her pick me up some when she’s in Michigan because I can’t find it anywhere in Canada. It’s delicious stuff!

Aside from the lovely taste and warming feeling, the thing I like best about tea, any tea, is the social aspect. I love sitting down to a cuppa with a good friend and enjoying a good chat. I wish ‘afternoon tea’ was still something that was common in our culture. In India, most families always sit down for afternoon tea and it is no small affair. There is a specific way to make the tea, a specific way to serve the tea, a specific way to drink the tea and everyone in the family is always present. You do not miss afternoon tea in an Indian household (or at least the ones I was in). I wish we did that here.


Best of 2009: Rush

I’m doing the Best of 2009. Check it out and do it with me!

December 14 Rush. When did you get your best rush of the year?

My rush did not come from any sort of extreme sports activity, it did not comes from taking any huge leaps of faith or making any split-second decisions. No, my rush came from a carefully planned and meticulously executed task.

Before I tell you about this great rush, I first need to give you some background.

I’ve been debating with myself for a while about how much to reveal on this blog about my work because it’s the internet and OMG people get fired for stuff like that! But the reality is, many of the people I work with are internet and social media savvy. If they happened across this site, they would know immediately who I was and I’m ok with that. I don’t plan on talking about work a lot, but I’ve decided that I can at least tell you what I do.

I work in agriculture and I am the editor of a farming magazine. Yep, a whole magazine devoted to farming (there are actually A LOT of magazines devoted to farming, shocking, I know). I love my job and I love the magazine and it factors strongly into my rush of the year.

This year, the magazine expanded considerably. We changed the name and expanded our focus. With all these changes came a complete re-vamp of both the look and the content of the magazine. With the help of a lot of other people I worked on the project to completely redesign the magazine. We agonized over colour choices, fonts and layouts. For the first issue, we spent meticulous hours choosing stories, researching stories, writing stories, sourcing photos, combing through drafts, consulting style guides, editing spelling and grammar and double checking spelling and grammar. I’ve put a magazine together before, but this one was more important that your average issue. This was the FIRST issue and it had to be PERFECT. There was lots of work leading up to that one day when the final draft was complete.

Handing the draft to the printer was both exhilarating and terrifying. It was the feeling I imagine rock climbers get when they lunge for that hold just beyond their reach. Running through my head were thoughts of “did we correct that bi-line, did we fix that spacing, did I spell that name right.” I was full of terror and excitement. There was a lot riding on that magazine, my career included (this is probably a huge exaggeration, but it’s too dramatic to exclude).

That feeling of excitement and fear lasted for the four days it took at the printer. Typically with a magazine, once it’s gone to the printer, I don’t think about it anymore. But I awaited this one’s return anxiously.

When it arrived, I could barely look at it I was so terrified. I was terrified I had spelt the headline wrong on the front cover (I spelt ‘intelligence’ wrong in a headline once). Luckily, the cover looked great and no one spotted any other foibles. Or, if they did find a mistake they were too terrified to tell me.

Getting that first issue out is one of my greatest accomplishments so far. It was terrifying and exciting all at the same time. During the week leading up to the print deadline and the wait for the printed copy to arrive, I bounced back and forth between thinking I was going to vomit and resisting the urge to jump up and down shrieking like a 14-year-old girl.

Altogether, it was an awesome rush.

With each following issue, the rush decreased just a bit. Finally, one day, about two weeks ago, I realized that the latest issue was back from the printer. It had been sitting on my desk and I’d barely noticed it. I was already hip deep in the upcoming issue and I no longer had time to ooh and ahh. The rush wears off, but I still remember the feeling of the first one.

Best of 2009: New Food

I’m doing the Best of 2009. Check it out and do it with me.

December 12 New food. You’re now in love with Lebanese food and you didn’t even know what it was in January of this year.

This one is really easy for me, but also really embarrassing. You see, I am an incredibly picky eater. It is something that has plagued me all my life and it apparently runs in the family. My sister is a picky eater, probably more so than me, and recently I have unearthed that my dad is a picky eater too, he prefers to stick to the standards like PB&J and roast beef (but not together, that’s gross).

Being a picky eater is a huge challenge that can easily take over your life. Thinking about working lunches and dinner with friends is enough to stress me out. It’s a constant balancing act of eating enough so that you don’t offend anyone and trying desperately not to gag on the Quiche/cannelloni/risotto/curry/baked beans/goat cheese pizza/sandwich with more than 2 toppings/chili/soup (this list could go on for a very long time, I’ll stop here).

The point is, there are a lot of foods I do not like. The other point is, I hate offending people. I hate being the person who makes people think they’re a bad cook because, the reality is, they are probably a GREAT cook. My taste buds are just very primitive.

But, I’m trying. I’m trying really, really hard. Since moving in with the boyfriend, I no longer have a diet of roasted potatoes and pork chops. I’ve expanded the list of ‘food I like’ by a lot and I am increasingly willing to try new things.

There are 2 new foods that have entered my life this year and really made some big changes. The first one is mashed potatoes. I’ve always loved potatoes, but the texture of mashed potatoes always turned me off. I remember being young and watched my sister spit them out on her plate, maybe that has something to do with my aversion to the now staple food in my kitchen (she still doesn’t like mashed potatoes, by the way). I’ve always been able to eat them, but it used to fall into that category of “eat as little as possible and move them around on your plate so it appears you’ve eaten more.” That is until this year. This year I embraced mashed potatoes. I don’t know what changed, but now they are a definite staple in my house.

The other food on my list of ‘new foods’ is equally embarrassing: tomatoes. I’ve always enjoyed tomato sauces and salsa (not a huge fan of ketchup, but I don’t dislike it) but I’ve never actually enjoyed whole tomatoes. If they were in a salad, I would eat around them. If they appeared on my burger, I would brush them off, careful not to let the juicy innards ooze onto the bun. But this year, the Boyfriend convinced me to try them. The first bite was ok. It certainly wasn’t love at first bite. But by the second and third bite, I was sold. Following that discovery I had a toasted tomato sandwich every day for two weeks.

Overall, I’m really proud of my improved eating habits. I know they may seem like incredibly miniscule baby steps towards enjoying more exotic foods like curry and sushi, but to me, they were huge giant leaps; one small step for mankind, one giant leap for Claire.

Best of 2009: Place

I’m doing the Best of 2009 Blog Challenge.

December 11 The best place. A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?

My initial reaction to this question is to talk about my favourite pub. But, the reality is that the pub, although great, isn’t the best place. For me, the best place of 2009 is the same as the best place of 2008 and the best place of 2007 and the best place of 2006, etc.

That place for me is home. Although I am increasingly loving and feeling at home in my apartment, home to me is still my parents home. Yes, I moved out 6 years ago and yes, my mother in all her crazy loving neat freak ways has purged the place of all my stuff, but it is still home.

To give you some background, before I moved to University, I had lived in the same place all my life. My parents bought the house about 25 years ago and they are still there. It’s a beautiful house on about 3 acres in a neighbourhood in the middle of the countryside called Sleepy Hollow. Yep, that’s right folks, I grew up in Sleepy Hollow. It’s small neighbourhood right on Lake Erie. The best way to describe it is like a campground. It’s all dirt roads and ravines and bush and in each clearing there is a house. It’s about a 10 minute drive through the countryside to the nearest town and a 20 minute drive to a town large enough for things like movie theatres and espressos. The neighbours are all friends and get together often.

We have a Canada Day parade every year complete with decorated riding lawn mowers, fire trucks and a pot luck. We have the Winter Olympics every year which feature such events as hockey stick-golf in the snow and log sawing.

Growing up I had access to countless ravines (actually I think there are about 4) a lake, a huge cliff, cherry orchards, vineyards and a sweet tree house. Thinking back, it was an awesome childhood in the Hollow. But I’m sure while I was living it I was all “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do” – age 5 and “why can’t I live in town where all my friends are” – age 12. I don’t think I realized how awesome that place was until I left for university. It still depresses me sometimes knowing that I’ll never have a house in a neighbourhood like that because I don’t think there are any other neighbourhoods like that (I’d move back there, but there aren’t many job opportunities in the small surrounding towns).

But now that I’ve told you all about this awesome place, I need to show it to you (although not all the photos will be from 09).

Matt and I in one of the ravines in the spring of 09.

My house in the late summer – ignore the bare patch of ground – we had some septic tank issues that required digging up the lawn.

The stairs to the beach. I remember when we built these stairs. I was about 8 and I helped carry lumber to all the neighbours who were helping build it.

My mom and dad walking down Sleep Hollow Rd. You can’t quite see it, but there is a ravine on either side of the road, definitely only room for one car, one way. It’s not usually a problem, it’s a dead end road that is technically private.

Man, I love that place. I’m going home this weekend and I’m excited!

Best of 09: Album of the Year

I’m doing the Best of 2009 Blog Challenge.

December 10 Album of the year. What’s rocking your world?

I have a confession to make: I listen to bad music.

I used to listen to good music. I used to know about good indie bands and I used to listen to a lot of old classic rock, and not just the popular old classic rock.

But then it all changed. I don’t exactly know when it happened. It started with an increasing desire to be able to sing along with the songs at the bar. It kept building as my radio listening increased and my iTunes playing decreased (it hurts my computer to run such a program now-a-days). And just like how lots of small earthquakes and volcanic eruptions eventually build a mountain range, my love of bad music built to the point where I can no longer hide it.

On the way to work, Ke$ha’s song Tik Tok puts a smile on my face. I belt out Britney Spears on my way to the mall. I have the Pussy Cat Dolls on my iPod and I no longer frantically change the station to something ‘more appropriate’ when coworkers and friends get in my car: “Yes I listen to KISS FM, do you have a problem with that?”

Therefore, I am really unequipped to answer this question. But, in a classic Claire move I’m going to answer it anyway.

Despite my love of bad music, and trust me, that love runs deep, I did happen to see a couple good concerts this past year.

I saw Ben Folds, Craig Cardiff, Great Big Sea, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Matthews this year alone (please note this is not a typical year for me, I think I’ve seen more concerts this year than I have all my life).

From these concerts I ended up purchasing CDs which get various amounts of playtime on the drive to work. Typically, I’m totally satisfied with my Rhianna and Beyonce but every once in a while I need a little more depth and I’ll delve into Ben or Dave.

So, of all the 4 CDs I bought this year (Ben Folds – Way to Normal, Dave Matthews – Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King, Ben Harper and the Relentless 7 – White Lies for Dark Times and the impulse buy of MGMT – Oracular Spectacular) the best I have to say is Ben Folds – Way to Normal.

This is not to diminish Dave and Ben H., cause they rock (I don’t feel so bad diminishing MGMT). But Ben F. rocks my world. I mean this man has so much talent (unlike Ke$ha) and such a great sense of humour. His snappy piano chords make me endlessly happy and his lyrics make me laugh out loud. He is vulgar and sarcastic and funny as all hell. We’re talking about a guy who was ballsy enough to write lyrics about how hard it is being male, middle-class and white. Yes, this is offensive to most people, but it’s dripping with so much sarcasm and the piano behind it is so happy that I can’t help but love it (the song in question is not on Way to Normal, it’s called Rockin’ the Suburbs on an album of that same name).

Back to the Way to Normal album itself, it is full of gems. The first song tells of story of how he tripped and fell off the stage at a concert in Hiroshima and got a concussion. The song is called Hiroshima or B-B-Benny Hits His Head. Another song, You Don’t Know Me on the album with Regina Spektor is haunting and beautiful. The Frown Song features lyrics such as “Tread slowly from the car to the spa, like a weary war-torn refugee, it’s a struggle just to get to shiatsu…” and the song, The Bitch Went Nuts always makes me giggle.

You should probably go out and buy this album right now. It will improve your mood, it always improves mine. Also check out Dave Matthews and Ben Harper they rock out hard as well. Ben H.’s new band, the Relentless 7, are pretty awesome and the song Shimmer and Shine always gets me pumped up. Dave’s album is all kinds of awesome too and my favourite song from that one is You and Me, it’s so sweet. Buy all three, I promise it’s a good idea. Or, put them on your Christmas list, there’s still time!

Best of 2009: Blog Find of the Year

So first off, a disclaimer (yeah, I’m that cool): I was planning on writing this post waaaay before I found out a particular person, who shall not be named, had already written about me. I feel sort of insular in this situation now, but I’m going to write this post anyway (yeah, I’m that cool).

So my blog find of the year is an easy one. I’ve read lots of others’ posts on this topic and a lot of people have gone on about how difficult it is to choose. For me, it was a simple decision not because I don’t read lots of great blogs, I do. No, this choice was so easy because I wouldn’t be reading any great blogs if it wasn’t for this one.

This person is my good friend Erin who blogs at Down the Rabbit Hole. She introduced me to this whole blogging thing (yeah, I know, I’m way behind the times) and it all went down like this:

One day while at work after some discussions with a co-worker, I started a twitter account. I work in communications and I’d heard a bit about this new fandangled technology and I wanted to see what it was all about.

Apparently Erin had some sort of auto-notification corresponding with her email address book because she immediately started following me. Erin and I have been friends for a long time; she wrote about our friendship here and I wrote about it here.

She was my first Twitter follower and I learned of her blog for the first time via her Twitter page. It amazed me that I had been friends with someone for so long and yet was so unaware of their internet life. Now this doesn’t amaze me a whole lot anymore because I don’t tell many people in my real life about my blog.

So, I read her blog and started checking it often. Then, I started looking into her blogroll and reading the blogs of her fellow blogger friends. Then, I discovered the amazingness that is Google Reader and one thing led to another and I finally started my own blog.

For those who don’t know, the whole “to be determined/insert title here” is not intentional. I still haven’t thought of a name for this blog, that’s how much a newbie I am.

The bottom line is, I’m very thankful for Erin for opening my eyes to this whole blog thing and pushing me to start my own. She rocks my socks off.

Oh, we're also hair twins. Her's is just a little bit shorter.

Best of 2009: Workshop or Conference

December 6 Workshop or conference. Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?

Being new to the working world, this past year (and a bit) has been the first real opportunity I’ve had to attend conferences and workshops.

(Yes, I realize students go to conferences and workshops too, but I didn’t do anything like that as a student)

Therefore, just the fact that the organization I work for is willing to send me to conferences and workshops is amazing to me. For instance, last week, they flew me across the country to Vancouver and put me up in a fancy hotel for a conference.

The conference itself was very interesting and very intimidating. My industry is very male dominated and this conference was focused on a separate but related industry that is even more male dominated. There I was, one of about 2 dozen women in a room of 250 people. It was rather intimidating. But, I feel I held my own and I’m pretty proud that they decided to send me.

The best part was actually after the conference while waiting for my plane. I was at the airport with another woman from the conference and we got a chance to debrief a bit. It was nice to have an opportunity to chat about the conference; what we learned and what we thought.

It was a grown up moment and I felt that I definitely held my own.

Hi There!

I'm Claire. I like to write about ridiculous things.

I love chocolate but don't think cheese and cake belong together.

I often wish it was socially acceptable to wear glitter before 10pm.

If you want to chat, email me at clairesuzanne1 at gmail dot com.


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