Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Life Update

It seems like it's beyond time for a little life update! I guess I'll start with work...

What was supposed to be a two month replacement position at Meals on Wheels, is still going strong! I will most likely be done by the end of July, but at the rate it's been going, I don't feel confident about making any plans. Things have been going well there, however. I'm definitely getting more comfortable in the kitchen and cooking. I appreciate how much easier cooking can be compared to baking, but I still prefer to bake. :) I've tried recipes I've never made before, multiplying for large quantities and making substitutions where necessary... It's been a great learning experience, with comfortable hours and pleasant coworkers, and I will most definitely miss it when my contract ends.

One challenge I've had to face was preparing 3 different meats for the main course in one day. I had just enough meat for the regular meals, but there was also a community meal planned that day, so I took out some sausages and there were just enough for that, but then there were a few extras/people who don't eat whatever was the main meat, so I also did some chicken tournedos - it was quite a busy day!

I'm still working at the restaurant as well. I won't go into detail here, but like most jobs there are good days and bad days. It has also been a learning experience so far, but more in a social aspect than practical, I would say. At the moment we have on the menu rhubarb coffee cake, deconstructed lemon meringue pie, and an Elvis Presley cake (banana cake with peanut butter frosting and fried bananas between the layers).

One particular challenge I've had to face at the restaurant was making six rhubarb cakes and four Elvis cakes (as well as several other dessert elements) the same day... with only three cake pans. And one of those cake pans is my own! I did it (well actually I only made 3 Elvis cakes because of only having 3 pans and because they take an hour and a half to bake. So I went back the next day to do the last cake), but it wasn't without stress and a small anxiety attack...

Adventures with Loretta the Jetta continue. April was a busy month, all around, but for Loretta specifically. She was in and out of garages for various repairs. And then, the day after I picked her up from a longer stint at the garage... the timing belt broke as I was pulling into the yard at work. It was a lucky spot/time to break down (not too much activity in that yard at 7am), but caused me so much stress. In the end, I had to replace the motor which was a much bigger repair than I would have liked, but was a really decent price and much cheaper than buying a new car! So, Loretta has new life! She made it to Montreal and back last week (we went to La Ronde - you can read about it here) with no problem. There are a few more repairs needing some attention, most recently the driver's side mirror falling off... But we're making do. :)

One of my Compassion correspondent children had to leave the program - I was really hoping to visit her on my next trip! :( - so I have a new child to get to know! His name is Michael and he's 16. Having a new correspondent renewed my interest in letter-writing, so I've been sending notes and letters to people I haven't been in touch with for some time. I do it every so often, but this time I literally flipped through my address book and picked out people I haven't heard from or written to for at least 6 months. I love sending (and receiving!) cards and letters, so if ever you want some fun mail, let me know and send me your address! :) Also, I've been thinking lately about all my friends with little kids, and how amazing it was for me as a kid when older friends/people I knew would take the time to write me a note. So if you've got kids that like getting mail (who doesn't?!) I may be in the market to be a sort of Big Sister Penpal...

Speaking of penpals and correspondence... I've always been more of a card/letter person, as opposed to postcards. I suppose because postcards aren't very private, and really don't have much room!, so I don't use them very often. (As in, I had to look up how to write/address one because I couldn't remember. Duh!) However, last weekend I came across a website called Postcrossing, which I joined and am really super excited about! You can get up to 5 addresses at a time, completely random people from around the world, to whom you send a postcard. You can send other things as well, I think, but there has to be a postcard included. Each correspondence has an ID number, so when the recipient gets your postcard, they register it online, and then someone else, from anywhere in the world, will send you a postcard! It's kind of weird writing to someone you don't know, and will most likely never hear from again - what to say? But I managed to fill up 3 postcards yesterday. I found them at the used bookstore (photographs from the region, and one for the store itself). Today I went to the big bookstore at the mall and found some really gorgeous ones. They're not local photographs, but they're so pretty, and I'd be tickled pink to receive one myself! :D

Hm... what else? A few weeks ago our family went on a little Sunday afternoon drive and ended up at a local covered bridge. It's a really pretty spot, good for pictures! There is also a local artisan's coop boutique set up there, which my mom and I found very interesting! I always love checking out artisanal  crafts, and I especially love discovering local talent - and there really is so much of it around here! Anyway, I ended up joining the coop and left some of my clay figurines there the next weekend. It won't be a very big audience, but it's something and requires very little effort on my part.

Well, I guess that's all the news from me. Things are more or less quiet around here at the moment. I'd like to get a few cake orders over the summer, but it's not looking too good so far. But we'll see, things can change very quickly! :)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

La Ronde

I finally met a lifetime goal, and crossed off my first 30 Before 30 list item... I went to La Ronde!

La Ronde is a Six Flags amusement park in Montreal that many schools send end of the year class trips to. For whatever reason, my class never went or I was never able to attend the trip. My cousin has lived in Montreal for years, and has invited me to go on several occasions, but again, it just never worked out before.

But finally, this year, things happened! My cousin and her boyfriend had season passes to La Ronde (which is a really great deal, if anyone is interested for next year), and coupons for friends which were to expire the end of June. And because June 24 is Quebec's national holiday and everyone has the day off work, my brother and I were invited to go spend the day with our cousin and her boyfriend and little girl at La Ronde!

Because we had a two-year-old with us, we spent the first part of the day around the kid-friendly zones and rides: splash pads, a carousel, a tower that gives you a view of the park and skylines, a train around the park, and a fun little boat ride. After lunch, my cousin took her daughter home so she could have a nap, and we could go on the big kid rides. ;) We went on the Ferris wheel first, which was a bit disappointing. I expect a Ferris wheel to fill up and then make a few full turns before starting to disembark - not so with this wheel. :/

Then we got in line for The Monster, which is, according to Wikipedia, the largest wooden roller coaster in Canada, and the tallest two-track roller coaster in the world. The attendant at the entry told us that it would be an hour wait for either track. I made the executive decision that if it was the only other ride we got to go on that day, it would be worth it, so we decided to stand in line for an hour. An hour and a half later, the rain started, which made it too dangerous to keep the ride going, so they had to shut it down. A lot of people ahead of us left the line, but we said, "We've waited this long, we might as well stay." Then the rain stopped and everyone cheered! But, then we had to wait for the tracks to dry off. More people left. Finally, after 2.5 hours standing in line, the ride was up and running once again! And we were able to work it out so that Reuben and I sat in the first car!

What. A. Rush!

I don't know how long the actual ride is, but I have to say, I think it was worth the two and half hour wait. Being in the first car like that, you really experience every drop and twist. I haven't been on many roller coasters, and I've never been in the first car, so I guess I don't have much to compare it to, but it was awesome. We're hoping to maybe go back again before the end of the season - there's another roller coaster I'd like to try out (The Goliath), and I'd give The Monster another go!

After the long wait and exhilarating ride, it was pretty late. But there was one ride that my brother and cousin's boyfriend thought they wanted to try and the line wasn't long, so I waited and watched them on The Demon, and then we headed back to their apartment for some pizza before making the two hour trek back home!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Thirty Before Thirty

It's a really scary, inconceivable thought to me, but my 30th birthday is fast approaching. In my mind I think I will forever be 16...

Until I watch 16 year olds interacting, then I will forever be 18...

Until I hear 18 year olds conversing in a restaurant, then I will forever be 21. :)

Bunny trail...

The point is, in 26 months (less 3 days) I will be turning 30 and beginning an entirely new chapter of life. I think one of the reasons I'm so anxious about 30 is because I feel that my life has been so very unexciting and unaccomplished thus far, and that I haven't met certain goals that people should meet by this age, and I'm afraid that in 2 years nothing will have happened to change that...

So, something I've been thinking about for quite a few months now, I'm going to bravely put out into the open... 30 things I'd like to do before I turn 30. I'm really good at making lists and coming up with challenges and plans, but I'm really bad at following through, so this will be the ultimate challenge. Because 30 day challenge lists and New Years Resolutions you can redo and try again any old time, but once you turn 30, there's no going back. Your 20's are gone. It's also more challenging because I'm making it public. If other people know your goals, it makes it a little harder to get out of doing them. And, by 30 you are officially an adult in all senses of the word - no more excuses for not acting like one.

So, without further ado, in no particular order, here is my very own 30 before 30 list:

  1. Live on my own: Until quite recently, it never really bothered me that for the last 27 years I've only lived with my parents or in a school dorm. However, lately I've started feeling like I'm missing out. There are certain milestones my friends have reached that I have no hope of meeting in the next 2 years, but this I have control over. So by 30, I'd like to have my own place.
  2. Write a business plan: I have some really big dreams, but I also have to be realistic. I would love to have my own bakery/cafe/something by the time I'm 30, but it would be so much more realistic to just have a written business plan and be getting the first steps in motion, so that's my goal.
  3. Set foot in every province/territory in Canada: I have not even seen half of the country I live in. I think every Canadian should be able to say they've visited every province and territory at least once in their lifetime, but it would be really awesome to do it before my 30th birthday. I think I have at least one friend or family member in every province or territory, except Yukon, so this is potentially a possibility! Plus, road trip? In general, that's been a goal of mine for some time as well. And if you're going across the country, you might as well add a few more thousand kilometers to visit friends in California! This will definitely be the most challenging point to meet, so I'm going to say that if I can at least visit Newfoundland and BC before 30, I'll be happy.
  4. Discover my personal style: I do not feel that I have a "style," as such. Most of my life, I've just worn what's comfortable. I'm not saying I want to start being uncomfortable for the sake of fashion, but I want to have an actual style, an actual wardrobe. Along the way, I'd like to experiment a little bit, and that may involve dying my hair an unnatural colour, or getting something pierced/tattooed while it can still be blamed on youthful whims. ;) I'd also like to learn how to apply/wear makeup properly.
  5. Find my perfect "little black dress": Regardless of what one's style may be, I have read before, and firmly believe, that every woman needs her own "little black dress" that fits her perfectly, makes her feel like a million bucks, and is appropriate for all kinds of events. I have found a couple black dresses in the last year, but as it turns out, they're not my perfect dress. They're nice, but the search is still on.
  6. Be healthier: I've been reading lots of these 30 before 30 lists, and almost every one of them mentions some form of getting healthy/in shape/losing weight, etc, and I know it's cliché - whenever anyone makes a list of goals, health is on the list, but I'd like to say the reason everyone puts it on all their lists is because we know the importance of taking care of ourselves. Some have more vain reasons than others, and I'll be honest, vanity is a very strong motivator in my case, too. But as mentioned above, I'm also trying to be realistic with this list. So I'm not going to say I want to lose X pounds, or any weight at all. I just want to develop a healthier lifestyle and choices as I move into the next decade of my life. There will always be room for improvement, but I'm happy to say that I'm taking steps in the right direction. As of June 2016 I was assigned a family doctor (mine retired over 2 years ago, and I hadn't seen a doctor or had a blood test in at least that many years), so I finally had a blood test which showed that all my levels are where they should be, which was a huge relief (there was some concern a few years ago about cholesterol, and we have family history of diabetes...)! As of July 2016 I've started seeing a nutritionist. It's a slow job, but it will be worth it. To start we're working on eating proper meals at the proper times.
  7. Get active: Along with the healthier lifestyle, but I think worthy of a separate point, is the need to be active. I need to make excuses to move more - parking the car farther from the door on purpose, taking the stairs, using that bicycle I bought a couple years ago, or the treadmill that's been sitting unused in the basement for far too long, etc. I also have a (not anymore) secret desire to join a soccer team... But we'll see about that.
  8. Read Jane Austen: I'm a 27 year old woman living in the 21st century, who considers herself an avid reader, and I'm ashamed to say I've never read anything by Jane Austen. I own all her works (in a single, very pretty binding!), but I've yet to read any. If I read nothing else in the next 2 years,  I will accomplish this goal!
  9. Do 30 Random Acts of Kindness: This, too, is something I've been thinking about doing for ages. I love Random Acts of Kindness, I love helping people, and I love doing special things on my birthday, so why not combine them? This goal is one I'd like to actually perform on my 30th birthday, if at all possible, so I have the next 2 years to come up with which Random Acts of Kindness I will perform! Suggestions are definitely appreciated...
  10. Be a more faithful blogger: I journal fairly regularly. Not as often as I used to, but still regularly. I do not blog regularly. Typing and handwriting are very different. I appreciate both for various reasons, but when it comes to putting thoughts, opinions, and feelings down, I find it much easier to do so on paper. I think it's because blogging is so public, so out-there, so can't-take-it-back (even if I do only have 6 readers...). But I'd like to make more regular blog posts - about anything, random things, day-to-day-life. It doesn't even matter if nobody's reading it, I just feel like I need to get over this fear of others' opinions about my thoughts and opinions. Admittedly, I haven't been being very faithful over here on this blog, but for the past 4 months I have been adding weekly posts to my book review blog, which I consider to be a great accomplishment! I will try to make an effort to give equal attention to all my social media outlets, but in the meantime, I'm considering this done (December 2016).
  11. Make a YouTube tutorial: I love searching YouTube for crafting/baking tutorials, and I know the types of videos I find interesting/useful and the ones I don't. I also can't always find the tutorial I'm looking for, which I know other people must be looking for as well, so I'll just have to make my own! :P In order to make the kind of video I find most attractive and informative, I think I would need a decent microphone and editing software. I would also need to know how to use these things.
  12. Get up to date with technology: I'd like to get more up to speed with my peers. Twitter and Instagram are the two social media outlets that interest me most, and along the same lines would be getting a "big girl" cell phone. Until this point I've only ever had a pay-as-you-go flip phone - wicked old school, I know. Going to school with teenagers and 20-something's last year made me realize how out-of-date I really was. But honestly, I don't use the phone that much, so the prepaid deal is probably what I'll stick with. I'd also like to be able to just take a decent picture and post it to Facebook whenever the mood strikes me, wherever I may be. Whoooo!!! I got myself an Android smart phone for Christmas 2015!! And I decided to go with a plan (even though it's more money than I'd like to be spending every month) because the phone was free with the plan. I stuck with Virgin because I know them, and I figured it would be easier to keep my old number (it wasn't). I also joined Instagram (@amjb1999)! Still haven't got on the Twitter bandwagon, I still just don't get it, and I really don't feel like I'm missing out. :)
  13. Travel with my best friend: My best friend and I live in different provinces - different time zones - and we don't get to see each other very often (it has presently been two years since our last visit). We've both done a bit of traveling and want to do more, but we have never gone anywhere together. And who better to travel with than your best friend?! Also, as alike as we are, our lives have started to head in different directions and it's only a matter of time before we are no longer able to make our schedules blend (which is already really difficult!), so this is an absolute must. It could be the aforementioned road trip across Canada, it could be going to New York City for New Year's Eve, it could be traveling abroad, but we are going to take a trip together before our 30th birthdays! March 2017, we went to Orlando together! I'm writing a series of 4 posts about it, you can read the first one here!
  14. Enter a contest: By this I mean submitting something I made with my own two hands into a contest for a prize. I used to participate in drawing contests in school and at our local Post Office, and I occasionally won! It could be a writing contest (I'd like to challenge myself in that way), or art (my polymer clay pieces), or a cake decorating contest, which would be so much fun!
  15. Take an online course: I love learning and I love being in school, and if it were possible for an average middle-class woman, I'd probably just be a student forever. But, it's not possible. So, next best thing? Take a course online! I'll get to learn something new, but still afford to live and not be in debt for the rest of my life. :) Photography seems to be the popular thing that most people want to learn, and I don't want to copy other lists, but honestly, I really would like to learn how to take better pictures (and edit) without investing tons of money in a big fancy camera - if that's possible? That, or perhaps a course relating to small business operation.
  16. Learn to enjoy cooking: One of my current part-time jobs involves cooking for a large amount of people. Admittedly, I'm not making anything terribly complicated, but I had never done much cooking myself until starting this job because I don't enjoy cooking (on a regular basis, for myself, etc). I like to eat, and I like to watch cooking shows, but I find regular meal planning and preparation extremely time consuming and exhausting. In the next two years I hope to learn to appreciate it more, and maybe even learn a couple "signature dishes."
  17. Get more organized: I have my own systems of organization. Some of them make sense to other people, some of them don't. I'd like to learn how to discipline myself in organization and time management, if possible. I think as far as organization is concerned, uniformity is key for me. If everything looks the same, it makes the whole space look better, and that will help me to keep it that way.
  18. Become smarter financially: I have tried to cut back on spending, but I am still known to make silly impulse buys and other unnecessary purchases. By thirty I'd like to be able to say that I only spend my money on necessities and the occasional splurge. I want to keep better track of my finances and do my own taxes. It's not that I don't know how, I just don't know how to start. I'd also like to be able to say that I'm debt free and/or financially independent by thirty, but I think it's going to take longer than two years to get to that point... I will, however, hopefully be on the right track.
  19. Plan for my retirement: I have seen what happens when people don't properly plan for the future, and while at this point I have no dependents and no major debts that will weigh my parents down if something were to happen to me, that could always change in the next few years, so it would be prudent to start preparing now. Always room for improvement, but I did talk to my financial advisor and we set up a plan to automatically invest $50 a month into mutual funds (since March 2016).
  20. Spend more one-on-one time with my nephews: For years now I've thought of giving "the gift of time" gifts to my nephews for birthdays and Christmas, but I've yet to do it, for various reasons. They're preteens now and before I know it they won't want to spend time with their boring old Auntie! They already prefer hanging out with my brother more than me, so I need to make an effort to spend time with them (together or individually), attempting to do things they like to do.
  21. Host a dinner party: This will, hopefully, come with having my own place, but it could happen before then as well. I want to invite people over and be able to say I prepared the whole meal, start to finish, by myself. (This is also something that appeared on a lot of other lists).
  22. Learn to be ok with being solo: I have been to the movies by myself, once, and it was a huge deal for me. There are a lot of times that I don't do things I want to do, because I have no one available to go with me, and because I get anxious in large groups which is magnified when I'm also alone. But I realize that my friends are moving on and becoming less and less available, and I just need to be ok with doing things by myself, otherwise I will become a hermit and a crazy old cat lady, and people will make fun of me and point and laugh when I tiptoe out of the house in my pajamas to get the newspaper...
  23. Be a more knowledgeable car owner: I strongly feel that one should have to undergo training on general maintenance before being able to own machines including cars and computers. I can fuel up and check/add oil, but that's about where my knowledge ends. When I mentioned to someone that I didn't know how to change a tire and maybe they should show me, their response was "call CAA." So helpful. -.- 
  24. See a live show/concert: Seeing a Cirque du Soleil show is on my life bucket list, so the concert/show could be that, or a favourite band/artist, doesn't really matter what, but it's gotta happen. My brother and I went to see Walk Off the Earth (my fave band of Canadians!) in Montreal in April 2016! I didn't write about it, but I instagrammed it!
  25. Go to La Ronde: Yep, sometimes it's the simple things. La Ronde is a Six Flags amusement park in Montreal that a lot of kids get to visit on class trips, but I was never part of one of those trips, and even though I have a cousin who has lived in Montreal for years, and who has offered to take me, I still have never been. This is about to change. I finally went (June 2015) with my brother and cousin, you can read about it here.
  26. Walk the Foresta Lumina: Another local attraction, this interactive lighted forest walk started last year and I really really wanted to go for my birthday, but it didn't work out and I was super disappointed. It was such a success, tho, that they're doing it again this year. So fingers crossed I can go this August! Got to go for my 28th birthday (August 2015)!! You can read about that here.
  27. Visit the Abbey at St-Benoit du Lac: This is a local monastery known for their cheeses. They also have a store with other local goods that I'm really interested in visiting! Went for a quick visit in August 2015 - bought cheese, chocolate, and jams to try! You can read more about it here.
  28. Eat food truck food: I can't really expound on this one much. I just love the idea of food trucks so much, and the ones you see on TV are always so cool and trendy, so I just feel like I need to try food truck food, and it just so happens that there is a food truck festival in Montreal once a month all summer long, so no excuses! My brother and I went into Montreal in May 2016 for the food truck festival, along with our cousin & her family. I didn't write a post about it, but I instagrammed it! :)
  29. Personal: They can't all be public!
  30. Unknown: I'm leaving the last one open, just in case I come up with some spectacular thing that I haven't thought of yet. :)
So, there you have it! Some big goals, some small ones... Hopefully I can cross off the majority of them by August 2017. If nothing else, this project has helped me think about and look forward to the future a little more.

Do you have a milestone birthday looming ahead of you? I'd encourage you to make your own birthday bucket list. It's kind of fun! :) And of course, I'd love to know what some of the items on your lists would be! Do share, and don't forget to throw me some ideas for my 30 Random Acts of Kindness! ;)