Wicked

Nope, I’m not describing what I’ve been up to lately (and not because ‘wicked’ would be too tame a descriptor) but instead the famed musical – Wicked, based on the book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

If you were to read the theater reviews (and I don’t) you’d probably be told what a great show it is, what a wonderful cast they have and what fantastic sets they use. Well I’m here to tell you my first hand story of my life and time at Wicked…

And the invitation goes to…

Receiving a second hand invite from a friend with an extra ticket; I give her an offhand acceptance with innocently innocent inquiries on ticket prices & potential resale value. Having been sold out for months, this show was highly anticipated and I could imagine tickets reselling for an exorbitant price. My good friend, knowing me well enough and long enough, held onto my ticket until show time to ensure I did no such thing. Apparently she bought the tickets because she wanted to see the show and wasn’t looking to make a profit (amateur!). With tickets safely locked away in her purse, we headed downtown to watch the show.

Cut to Act 1, scene 1

I’m falling asleep. Actually, I think I’ve fallen asleep several times already and I’m not sure if it’s still the first scene or even still the first act.  Years of attending boring lectures and never-ending meetings has taught me how to look awake (sit upright, hold head straight) while dozing quietly away. As the singing chorus on stage bursts into song, I awake with a start. Glinda the good witch is regaling her court with a story of the Wicked Witch of the West. As the chorus leans in expectantly to listen to the good witch’s tale, I know should feel excited, I should be intrigued, I should be on the edge of my seat but I can barely keep my eyes open…

2 hours before showtime

My friend and I are sharing stories and making up for lost time the best way we know how – our traditional tequila shooters ( Recipe: take regular tequila and then add the word ‘traditional’ in front). They’re on special tonight too, a sure sign that we were all meant to be together…

1 hour to showtime

Martinis on special you say? Don’t mind if we do. If our glasses are empty waitress dear, that means we need refills. Chop chop!

30 minutes to showtime

They sell drinks at the theatre too? How convenient. Now, should we start with gin and tonics, bacardi and cokes or one of each?

You’re right, silly question (one of each).

Also, let’s not forget to pre-order our intermission bevies too.

Showtime!

Cut to Act 2, Scene 1

Nothing like halftime refreshments to, well, refresh. The scenes are brighter, the singing is bolder and the action is soooo much livelier when your eyes are open.

Things I’ve learned from my life and time @ the musical Wicked:

  • I love getting dressed up to go to plays
  • 1 hour goes by very slowly when you desperately need to use the washroom
  • People take their play watching seriously ( I think someone poked me in the shoulder for moving my head around too much!)
  • My eyes will always perk up for good looking male actors (oh Fiyero!)
  • I’ll never get the song Defying Gravity out of me head (and yes, I’m even singing it now)

And most importantly:

  • If you’re gonna consume a whole lotta drinks….save it for after the play.

.

.

.

Oh and if you still need some official reviews:

4 out of 4 stars – The Toronto Star

Wicked is steeped in talent -The New York Times

If [Wicked] doesn’t please you, you’re too tough to please – Wall Street Journal

Go see it already!

Nelley’s Got a Gun

The shooting range. Oh how I’ve longed to shoot off a set of twin rifles, pop off an oozi or hold a silver smith ‘n Wesson sideways against a punk ass bitch. Yes, most of my gun knowledge comes from the movies or video games, but I assumed it should be just as easy to pull the trigger in real life as it is to pop off a pimp in Grand Theft Auto…..right?

It all started with Duck Hunt…

I loved that Nintendo video game and, if I can be blunt, I kicked ass at it too. No duck was safe when I was at the controller.  I could even accurately hit that damn dog too (you know, the one who laughs at you when you miss) if the system was advanced enough, damn dog!

Nelley get your gun

Guns as far as the eye can see!  They have to buzz you into the showroom area, there are cameras everywhere and they have to buzz you out to let you leave. They even take your driver’s license away while you’re in the shooting range. High Security – check!  There are so many guns to choose from and I can’t decide on which to shoot first. I settle on the basic – a 9mm handgun. Cool. We’ve signed in, picked our weapons of choice and now we wait for our turn.

In the line of fire

We suit up in protective earphones and eyepieces and 45 minutes later, we’re -BANG- onto the -BANG- shooting range. Our -BANG- assigned gun-guy dude is -BANG- going to, or is telling us -BANG- how to safely hold and -BANG- shoot our guns. I’m trying to -BANG- listen to him so my girls and I move in close -BANG- to hear him but all I can understand is -BANG- don’t point anywhere but at the range -BANG- (and duh!).  I’m trying to loosen -BANG- up but I can’t. The loud -BANG- sounds from the other shooters in the range is getting to me and I can’t -BANG- concentrate. Plus we can’t take off our protective ear wear to hear him better or else we’ll go BANG deaf from the shots. Plus if they’re this loud -BANG- with the protective ear wear on, then I don’t want to -BANG- hear what it sounds like without protection.

I’m first up to shoot but before I can take aim, I have to put some of the 50 bullets I bought into the dang clip. One by one.

Booooring!

I paid $32+tax for this so these clips should be pre-loaded! There’s no manual clip loading in Duck Hunt. Hump. In 5 minutes, I’ve managed to wedge in only 10 bullets….5 with the instructors help (show me again…and again….and again…and 47 more times please).

He warns us that the empty shells may pop up and hit us, but not to worry or jump when the searing hot metal hits our flesh. Right. I’m jumping already just from the sound of the gun shots (they’re never this loud in video games!) so I hope hot bullet corpses don’t smack me in the face.

Why did I wanna do this again??

Take the shot

No, it's not blurry. I'm just shaking alot...

I’m up. The gun is heavy and industrial looking. Following his instructions (technically he has to physically move my hands and body into position because I’m frozen in place) I’m ready to shoot. I look at my lifelike target, take aim and start shooting at the shoulders and other non essential areas so that the paramedics can revive him after I’ve finished (the paper target’s family would thank me). After each shot, our instructor tells me I can open my eyes now. He also reminds me to breathe since I seemed to have forgotten how (air goes in and then out, right?). I’m only 3 shots in and I’m done. This sucks. I turn around and my girls are dying from laughter behind me…and taking pics. Argh!! I hate the sound, I hate the explosions from the gun, and I hate the smell of gun powder. I take 7 more shots at the instructor’s encouragement and then I’m ready for a break. Unfortunately, the instructor took my obvious hints and filled my secondary clip with 18 more bullets.

Dammit.

Ok, I’ll just shoot off the rest and then I’m done. I’ll do just enough to earn my street cred (done!) but not so much that people think I actually like shooting these things (not a gun freak – done!).  18 more shots down and I’m free to leave the area and let the others in my group take aim. Phew. Enough with this human  target stress.

I’m going back to Duck Hunt.

Remembering Y.O.U.

Michael Jackson

Love him or hate him, this polarizing icon has monopolized mainstream media for many years. Even more so after his untimely death last June 25th, 2009. However, a common thread I’m hearing in casual conversations is not a continuation of the initial shock at his passing but the surprise that it has already been a year since he passed.

365 days since three children unfortunately lost their father. 12 months since millions of fans said goodbye to a music legend and 1 year since Bubbles the Chimp lost … well whatever you’d call that relationship (no judging!). While Michael Jackson’s death is significant (you can personally determine the level of significance), my attention has been captured by the  ‘a year has gone by’ part.

Sure, there are many occasions and tools out there to acknowledge and mark the passing of a year – birthdays, holidays, calendars,  etc. Heck there’s even this monumental event that takes place every December 31st in the evening time. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Nonetheless, Michael Jackson’s sudden passing is different. While we anticipate those other events and plan for and expect them to happen and take place each year, his passing was a surprise to all.  Now that the anniversary of his death has rolled around, the universal feeling is “What? A year already?”

Time flies and the end is nigh.

As I write this entry, I’m flying through the air and we suddenly hit a patch of turbulence causing the plane to drop suddenly, taking my stomach with it. The toddler two rows up starts screaming and crying (and will continue to do so non-stop until we land…) and I quickly realize all this writing could be for nought.

Hey! Why doesn't ur care-antee include "Getting me there alive!" 😮

All these words could go to waste and never get read as we lurch to our deaths 25,000 feet below. Of course, the turbulence only lasts mere moments and we continue on course to land safely as planned (yawn, boring!).  The point though is this: It could all end at ANY TIME.

Now I’m not one to focus on the negative but to recognize that it exists to allow us to make our way to the positive good stuff.

The Positive Good Stuff:

Box of Crayons

Last week I was stumbling online and came across this really cool site called Box of Crayons. It features a cool video titled  Eight Principles of Having Fun that asks the question:  Are you having fun yet?

I really liked their 8 principles of having fun (example principles – #1. Be Creative: Stop following the rules and #7. Take Action: Stop being busy) and after viewing it, I signed up for the newsletter too. Although I’m not nearly as impressed with the newsletter as I was with the initial video that caught my eye, I do like the author’s positive attitude and his creativity is very inspiring so I will allow him to continue sending me occasional newsletters.

Things She’s Done/Places She’s Been

Then I was searching thru random profiles online and came across these notes on someone’s profile that made me green with envy:

I love to travel, visit and see other parts of the world:

  • I have walked the hills of Athens, Greece

A Dubai Gold Souk shop

  • Indulged in cappuccinos in Rome, Italy
  • Tasted exotic crepes in Paris, France
  • Partied at Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain
  • Watched amazing sunrises in San Sebastian, Spain
  • Walked through the Gold Souks in Dubai
  • Ate the most delicious mangoes in Ghana…

I wanna do that too! (she cried out immaturely). Now while everyone’s list will be different, I still feel twinges of envy at ‘Partied @ Las Ramblas in Spain’. I don’t even know what this is but I can’t help but think “How amazing would that be?”

100 things to do before you die: The Buried Life

So I sort of started this list in my about me section but these punks outgoing guys are actually doing it on their own MTV show. As taken from their website:

Relying on goodwill, guts and gumption [Canadians] Duncan, Ben, Dave and Jonnie travel the globe in a purple transit bus to complete a list of ‘100 things to do before you die’ and to help and encourage others to go after their own lists.

I’ve watched a few episodes and love it. The episodes show the four dudes planning and plotting their list item and when it comes time to do it, the actual events  in these episodes were shown in hilarious fashion via handheld hidden camera.  Because you can’t crash a stranger’s wedding or Hugh Hefner’s pad with a camera crew in tow.

Sample list items:

  • #6. Attend a party at the playboy mansion
  • #41. Make a toast at a strangers’ wedding
  • #27. Give a stranger a $100 bill

So what’s my point? (Weren’t you paying attention???)

My point is this: that thing you’ve always wanted to do/try; that place you’ve always wanted to visit/see; that person you’ve always wanted to meet/reconnect with; why haven’t we done it yet? What’s holding us back?

You might also note that I’m not mentioning so called ‘rational’ issues like jobs and money and all the other rather ‘irrational’ issues that we use as excuses to hold us back. Everyone has that friend who dropped everything and moved across the world or we know a person working towards their dream job and earning very little income (right now) but is the happiest person you know.  We also might try to rationalize why they could do it but why we can’t do it too (Cuz that bitch is crazy!?).

No more excuses.

Oh and for the record I’m not suggesting selling or donating all your possessions and sailing around the world, however I’m also not not suggesting that either… (The rules are this: You can thank me but you can’t blame me).

C’mon now, whatever you’ve always wanted to do and whatever you’ve always wanted to see, go and do it! Go live it! Go see it!

I know I will…

.

.

.

Photo credit: Dubai Gold Souk

The Anatomy of a Girl’s Night Out

Ok. I get it. You want the details. I get numerous emails, texts and blackberry pins on the subject so I think it’s finally time to break the silence and break it down for those of you NOT in the know.

If you’ve ever gone to a bar or club and thought ‘I just don’t get the appeal’ this probably means one of 2 things:
1. You just don’t get the appeal
2. You’re probably not doing it right

Regardless, it’s time to learn all about what goes on and what goes into a great Girls Night Out. Hint: It’s part art, part science, but definitely all you.

I. What not to wear

If you feel fabulous in it, wear it. Your ensemble is 40% actual style and 60% confidence. If you can convince the crowd that suspenders with a bikini top are the ‘it’ items to wear this season then by all means wear it and wear it well.

Oooo. Does this come in pink?

Like everything in life, it all starts with attitude. Bring a positive one please. Are you looking to have a good time? Do you want to meet new and/or interesting people? (Trust me. Not always the same thing). Or are you going to be that sour bitch in the corner again? (You know who I’m talking ‘bout…)

II. Who’s with me?

Bring along drama free, fun-loving gal pals. Small numbers are always best. Think four ladies or less. This makes it easier to get into…everywhere. More is only merrier for birthday parties (more people to buy you drinks) or angry mobs (more people to yell at those select few not buying you drinks). Feel free to switch it up and add some newbies to the mix. Fresh blood always creates a stir. Good or bad, you’ll definitely have something (or someone) to talk about at brunch the next day (“Did you see what the new girl did on the stage with that beer bottle? O.M.G.”)

III. Let’s get it started

$20 for 2L of Crystal Palace vodka. Gawd bless America!

Even celebrities pre drink. No girl wants to pay for alcohol (gawd forbid!) so the next best thing is to buy it in bulk and get the party started at someone’s house before you go out. Alcohol serves to relax the uptight and open up the close-minded. This step, however, is not always necessary because some people don’t require it to be fun and others are actually worse when given a drink (like giving water to a gremlin after midnight worse).

Drinking is always optional. Having a positive attitude is not. Also, please do all your eating here. The only food you’re allowed to have from now until brunch tomorrow is whatever garnish comes with your free drinks (little umbrellas for dessert, yay!).

Game Plan: Drink until it’s time to go out or until the bottles run dry (whichever comes first). If you’ve mastered ‘location, location, location’ (see below) then it won’t matter what time you show up.

IV. Location, location, location

Here’s where being a ‘regular’ pays off. Ideally, you want to achieve the Girls Night Out ‘hat-trick’: bypass the long lines, bypass paying cover, and bypass paying for drinks. A Stanley Cup worthy achievement. The connections you’ve made over the years should help you to  accomplish all three goals. As a small group of smiling, well-dressed, positive-attitude-having chicks, you should be able to slip into anywhere easily.

No connections, no problem. Send forth the wiliest and the hottest in your crew (whoever’s wearing something short and/or low cut) to the gatekeepers and have them work their magic. Wait 2 minutes, meet them at the front and follow them in.

Easy.

V. Are we having fun yet?

Of course you are.

Here’s the part that’s more art than science. You look great, you’re dressed well, you feel good and you’ve got your positive attitude on full blast. The fun should literally come to you. If you’re still not having a good time then at some point you’re going to have to make one happen. Don’t question it. Just get to it already.

Fun Enhancing Quick Tips:

  • Dance.  If that’s too boring for you then go dance on something. Like a table, a speaker, a ledge or a hot bouncer
  • Smile
  • Take a walk around. See if you recognize anyone
  • Don’t sit. Stand. Sitting makes you sleepy. Plus you always look better when vertical. Also, to those of you who care about height, this is the easiest way to see how you match up
  • Smile
  • Talk to your girls. Take the time to re connect and find out what they’ve been up to
  • Bored? Walk around again. The music’s getting remixed and so are the people
  • Go to the ladies’ room and make friends with the person in front of you. At the very least, her weird story will make you feel better or give you something to contribute at brunch the next day
  • Dance some more. If you can’t have fun, at least you can burn off the calories from all the garnishes you’ve eaten (pigging out on lemons & limes, are you?)
  • Eavesdrop. When done in a bar its completely acceptable. Feel free to add your two cents worth to strangers’ conversations. It’s practically expected here.

Still not having a good time? You might need to drink more. People are way less annoying after you’ve had a few. If all else fails – just go home because your sour face is just ruining it for the rest of us, you whiney brat. (Nelley’s version of tough love)

VI. Closing time

The blaring, florescent ugly lights have come on.  Time to take inventory of your girls and to get a good look at whomever you’ve been chatting with for the past little while.

Obviously has a great sense of humour

Tip: Like what you see? Give him your number. If he looks like an uglier version of Uncle Fester, take HIS number instead (of course I’ll call you, baby. You have a great personality behind all that ugly…)

If you can’t immediately locate your crew, be sure to check your phone for any missed calls/texts. This can tell you where they are or more importantly, the location of the after party. Which brings us to…

Choose your own adventure time. You can either:

A: Go to bed: (Note, I never said your own… heh heh heh) Or go home! Nothing beats your own bed for cleanliness and comfort

B: After hours bars: Typically open till 8am or later (earlier?). If you have the cash to pay another cover, this new location will introduce you to the other side to the city. Unnatural mood enhancers are plentiful and everyone is obviously on them. What you choose to do is up to you. (Nelley doesn’t judge!)

C. After hours party: These take place in penthouses and various apartments around the city. They’re reminiscent of the pre drinking party…only they take place about 8 hours later and can last until noon. Pack a toothbrush.

D. Late night eats: The only time Denny’s or Burger King can become your preferred restaurant choice. I don’t recommend, but if you don’t want the night to end, this becomes a last minute, inexpensive option.

VII. Recap

Finally we come to my favourite part – Brunch. Mmmmmm. Some girlfriends and I used to frequent this well known greasy spoon where the flamboyantly gay owners jokingly and joyously greeted us each week with: “Welcome back you filthy whores!” or “It’s good to see you ladies standing upright!”. Sigh. Memories.

Mmmm. Sweet with a side of spicy gossip!

Brunch is where you get to dish about last night’s activities over a dish of Belgian waffles (Who’d you meet? Where’d you go? Did you see where the new girl disappeared to with that weirdo?). This part is sometimes more fun than the night itself.  It doesn’t matter if your own night was uneventful by comparison, you now get to relive it through the eyes of someone’s night that was (By the way, did anyone hear from the new girl today?).

VIII. And that’s a wrap

This has been your beginner lesson on how to have a fun-filled Girls Night Out. It’s simple, it’s easy and most importantly, when done correctly, it shouldn’t cost you a thing. To learn more about VIP sections, after-hours etiquette, foam parties, scoring free limousine rides and the art of the 90’s song request, you’ll have to sign up for my more advanced, Las Vegas based courses. If interested, please let me know. In the meantime,

See you Friday..

.

.

Hey! I’ve updated my ‘About Me’ section. Take a look through and leave a comment. Thanks!

.Uncle Fester image source

.Belgian waffle image source

The anatomy of a Girl’s Night Out

Budgetary Restraining Order

$4600 (AKA why a budget?)

I opened my credit card bill in March and nearly dropped it in horror. After double checking to see if it was actually mine I reread the amount due. I owed the credit card company $4,600. All accumulated within a 6-week time frame. Admittedly, some purchases were for investment items that were going to pay off in time but in the here and now – yikes! Not only that, for the past few months I’ve been forever throwing out food in the fridge that gets purchased and never used. I can’t imagine all the $$$ that gets wasted via my refrigerator. While local restaurants were cashing in on my laziness, my wallet and savings were taking the hit.

Enough was enough. It was time to take some drastic measures.

Background story (AKA what’s the dilly?):

I’m a big fan of the show Till Debt Do Us Part. This show teaches couples to reduce spending, increase savings, stick to a budget, find other income sources and to get themselves out of debt.  Most couples on the show are spending up to 3 times more than their monthly earnings, are in consumer debt in excess of $50k, and have no clue about their finances. In each episode, the host, financial wizard Gail Vaz-Oxlade, cautions them: if you continue spending like this you will be $500K, $1 million+ in debt in 2 years, 5 years, etc.

While I’m not in a couple nor do I have any consumer debt- the spending less, increasing savings and sticking to a budget part sounded appealing to me (oooo a budget! How fun!). As I always mock the contestants who can’t stick to one, I felt it was time to put my money where my wallet is (or not put the money there in this instance I guess).

In any case, I have big dreams (move to France, Australia or Mexico), big plans (a website, an online business, retire at 40) so saving money now and proper money management are very important and none of those dreams will come cheaply.

Which brings us to the budget.

Calculation

Average monthly income (from all sources)

Minus fixed expenses (various savings, housing, utilities, cable and internet, transportation, gym memberships and the always important hair appointments).

Less the cost of the new things I want (maid service, a website designer & server).

(- 60%) Then slash the rest by 60% (As per Till Debt do Us Part)

What’s left: $599/month or $149.75/week to spend on the groceries, dinners out, lunches, brunches, concerts, shows, plays, shopping trips, bars, clubs, coffees, toiletries, clothing, snowboarding, rock climbing, shoes, gifts, snacks, books, taxi rides, magazines, newspapers, lotto tickets, art shows, weekend trips away, and all the other fun extras that you never put a thought to. Life if you will.

As a socially active shopper who can easily spend $149.75 in one good shopping trip or a great night out, this wasn’t going to be easy. However, that was kind of the point.

The Challenge: Get to the end of the month before getting to the end of the money

The Reward: On the show, the winners get up to $5,000 to be used to pay down their debt.  Since I have no debt, my reward is much more rewarding. If I complete all the challenges successfully, then I get to Viva Las Vegas. Up to 5 days and 4 nights to spend in the city of sin dependent on my angelic April spending.

Although I hate them, in this case they’re definitely in order. With the challenge set, there had to be some RULES:

  1. Spend  $149.75/week to a max of $599/month
  2. Beg or barter for any expenses over and above the budget
  3. Have fun every weekend (at least one night out) and plan fun, no budget/low budget activities for 2 other nights per week (doesn’t count and would be unrealistic if I became a hermit for 30 days)
  4. Host at least 1 dinner party for 6+ people…keeping the budget in mind
  5. Find money. It’s in the home somewhere. Any money found can be used.
  6. Get creative.  The best things in life ARE free. Find them. (Caveat: Once found, if you don’t like them, just ask for a refund…)

Week 1: The $10 dinner party (AKA Why spend more?)

Last time I hosted a party for 9, the cost was about $125 as I had it catered by the local grocery store’s pre-made department and included an overpriced house cocktail for sharing (composed of pricey champagne, cointreau and vodka), along with several bottles of mix (brand name pop, Tropicana juices, etc)

This time around – 8 people, BYOB (bring your own booze) and I hope, a better and healthier selection of food. All for $10 or less.

The plan – I had to base my menu on whatever I had in the fridge/cupboards/pantry and freezer.

You’re invited to dine Chez Nellé

It would take place on Day 4 of 30. Everyone was invited to my house for dinner.  Afterwards we would split a cab and go to a concert at a club nearby.

APPETIZERS

  • Microwave popcorn (ghetto, perhaps but it’s what I had in the cupboard and who doesn’t like buttery popcorn with extra butter?)
  • Homemade trail mix with dried cranberries, almonds, chopped dried apricot slices, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
  • A sliced rustic looking chicken & spinach pizza I found in the freezer. I then added parmesan cheese, sliced tomatoes and sea salt & pepper (to give it a homemade look, hee hee)
  • My personal invention: mini cranberry and roasted turkey wraps. How they tasted in my mind, 10/10. In reality I’d rate them a 6.5/10.

Roasted turkey, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, cream cheese, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts

Cost: $3.26 for roast turkey from the deli. Everything else was sitting in the fridge (cream cheese, whole wheat tortilla shells, spinach leaves, etc.)

MAINS

  • Veggie fried rice
  • Baked sole with garlic butter
  • Fresh baked coconut bread (supplied by a party goer)
  • Garden salad with spring mix, feta cheese, pumpkin seeds, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers

mmmm. you know you want some of this

Cost: $2.58 for 2 packets of fried rice seasoning (my favourite). I had a huge bag of rice in the pantry, sole fish in the freezer purchased months ago and an unopened package of feta cheese from a few weeks back. Veggies are always on hand in my house. It was nice to use them for a change versus just throwing them out every few weeks and buying replacements to eventually throw it. It was a vicious cycle.

DRINKS:

A bottle of cola and diet cola as well as a selection of soda I keep in the fridge (I refer to soda simply as ‘mix’)

For ice, instead of spending $3 for a bag, I started filling and freezing ice cube trays on Thursday night so I had a full bag of ‘homemade’ ice for Saturday’s festivities.
Cost: $3.20 for the 2 bottles of soda

DESSERT

  • I think I mentioned this before but BYOB. 😉

The results: Empty plates and full and happy bellies! (It also helped that they all arrived hungry, heh heh heh)

Total cost: $9.04, woo!

My #1 tip for success: Using what I had on hand. My other option was to make a pasta dish as I had frozen meat in the freezer, a couple jars of tomato sauce in the pantry and a years’ worth of whole wheat pasta in the cupboards. This wasn’t about luckily having tons of food in the house, this is about using whatever you have in the house. Look in your own kitchens, with minimal purchases, can you host a cheap night in with friends?

Week 1 one went by in a blur. My fridge was still full from previous shopping expeditions and with no new shopping on the horizon, sticking to the budget was fun and eating the food in my house was easy. Week 2 however, was where it started to hit me. Friends would go out for dinner somewhere out of my budget and I would have to say no. Other friends wanted to do some cross border shopping but I had to say no. Go out on the town twice in a weekend? With $149.75/week for everything, there was no way to make it happen without being forced to eat mac ‘n cheese for a week (one box=3 meals). No, No, NO!  It was something I had to get used to saying. As was tradition, on Friday some coworkers went out to lunch and invited me to go along but as I had already packed a lunch for that day there was no reason for me to spend more $$$. N-O. I felt like having sushi for dinner but couldn’t justify the expenditure seeing as I had enough food in my house to make a healthy meal before it went to waste. Gimme an N and an O. NO!

On day 16, frustration hit its breaking point. Friends were showing me their newly acquired purchases (so cute!) and I was annoyed that I didn’t go with them. I need new stuff too. What was the point of the budget anyway? I could see the money in my bank account. It’s just sitting there, why not use it? I’m all about doing what I want and a budget is all about the very opposite of that. Shopping brings me pleasure. I’m bored and I want to spend some of the hard earned money that I earned and dammit, no one’s going to stop me. Not even myself.

With that thought in mind, I picked up my keys, dusted off my credit card and went out the door to the nearest shopping mall.

Happiness, thy name is mall.

**Did I let the budget get the best of me? Find out how I fared thru weeks 3 and 4 in the sequel – Budgetary Restraining Order Part II: The budget kicks back.

Climbing, on the rocks

Challenge: Climb 48 flights (or 739 steps). Straight up. All in support of research for the BC Lung Association and their 9th annual Climb the Wall: The Stairclimb for Clean Air fundraiser at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel.

Challenge Accepted: Before signing up, I prepared myself by going to the gym and using the ‘ol StairMaster. 10 minutes of ‘training’ later, feeling strong and confident and ready for any challenge, I signed up assuming this was all the training I needed.  I would soon find out that I was so very, very wrong.

Climb me!

The night before the event, I planned to do some yoga stretches, have a large salad with a side of pasta for dinner (carbo- loading), drink plenty of water and then get to bed early. With healthy plans made, I imagined nothing would get in the way. After all, no one will want to go out on a rainy Saturday night anyway, right?

Wrong.

The best laid plans…

I received the invite via text at 5pm that evening -the day before the climb. I tried to ignore it but it was followed by a reminder invite via text just after 8pm. A fun friend we hadn’t seen in awhile was back in town and it felt like a one night only thing. Especially when my friend said it could be – for one night only. I didn’t need much convincing and gathered round the usual suspects and headed downtown. As we trekked downtown, I told my fellow party people “As long as you make sure I’m home by 12:30 1AM, I’ll be fine.”

1AM: You can’t leave yet. Have another gin and tonic…

1:30AM: Cheers everyone! Tequila shots for all…

2AM: Lemon drop shots are more lemon and ice than vodka anyway…

2:15AM: Hey, weren’t you supposed to be asleep by now?

Home at the crack of 2:45AM, I intelligently reset my alarm from 8:35AM to 8:45AM. There. That should do it.

The longest morning of my life

Sundays are sacred. Yes for Him of course, but mainly I’m talking about me. Well, Sunday mornings are sacred at least. It’s the last day before the workweek begins that I get to sleep in. Getting up before noon is ridiculous; before 11AM is crazy and before 9AM should be considered a sin (and I like to think that He would agree).  After dragging myself out of bed then tossing myself into a cold shower, I haphazardly pack a bag and head out, wondering what I was thinking and why I’m even doing this in the first place…

FIREFIGHTERS

Grammatically speaking, I really don’t need to bold and capitalize the word FIREFIGHTERS. However, after meeting a menage of them in person I realize now that there’s definitely a physical need to emphasize the word FIREFIGHTERS. I’ve seen them on TV and in the movies but I have never really seen or paid attention to them in person. Consider me a newfound fan. Captain of the fan club in fact.

I arrived at the event just after the first few FIREFIGHTERS had finished their heats. This was in perfect time to see them strip out of their heavy firefighter jackets to reveal wonderfully formfitting, dark blue firefighter shirts and tanks. I slowed my pace and watched as their shirts stretched across their broad shoulders and bulging biceps. I came to a dead stop as some removed their sweat soaked tanks to expose their glistening chests and well-defined abdominal muscles…

Ooof. Where was I now?

Oh yes! I now see why FIREFIGHTERS support the BC Lung Association because they definitely took my breath away. Ha ha ha. (Promise: next time I’ll warn you when there’s a bad joke ahead)

Registration taken care of and my free shirt & climber # in hand, I met up with some of my teammates. Immediately, I noticed the many firefighters in the area.  6 foot plus, broad shouldered, dark haired and gorgeous, I’m forever grateful to my outgoing friend for getting the attention of these nearby specimens and beginning a conversation with these 2 gorgeous lads.

She estimated their ages to be around 20 to 25 years old. I simply estimated their ages to be ‘old enough’. Swooning, I ask their take on the stair challenge versus the StairMaster. Handsome #1 replies: Completely different. Handsome # 2 chimes in: It doesn’t prepare you for this stair climb at all.

Gulp.

2 days of training out the window. My heart starts to beat rapidly in my chest.  Partially from staring at that droplet of sweat on Handsome #2’s neck that I want to wipe off (with my body) but mainly from the challenge ahead.

An average of 8 minutes, the BC Lung Associations’ website claimed, is how long it will take most people to do the climb. My very fit firefighting future husband and his buddy (the best man, perhaps?) took just over 9 minutes to do it. My friends estimate their times will be in the 20 to 25-minute range. I’m still clinging (probably falsely) to that average of 8 minutes because 15 minutes of climbing straight up sounds as appealing as taking my eyes off these 2 lovely firefighters (can I help you wipe the sweat off your abs, sir?)

Let’s get to it

With the warm-up and stretches complete, there’s nowhere left to go but up. As my turn at the stairwell approaches, I’m given the green light to go.

Step 1 (48 flights to go): Cheers and hoots and hollers and it’s all for me! I think to myself as I sprint down the hallway and up the stairs, “I can do this, woo!”.

Flight 4 (44 flights to go): Only a few seconds in and I’m out of breath already. Uh oh. Maybe that last gin and tonic wasn’t the best idea…

Flight 8 (40 flights to go): I catch up to my friends and slowly slip past them. They’re engaging in the slow and steady pace method whereas I’m employing the ‘go as fast as you can before your body realizes what’s going on and slows you down’ method. In a scientific study, both methods proved to be equally effective.

Flight 16 (33 flights to go): An un-amused teenager in a monotone tells me I can do it and wishes me luck. For some reason, I don’t feel her sincerity.

Flight 21 (How many damn flights are left?!): I have long since stopped sprinting. The walls are closing in on me. And I never knew I could breathe so loudly. Is it really only me breathing this heavy in here?

Flight 28 (20 fricking flights to go): the sound of my own breath now annoys me. And those cheering morons at every flight are starting to tick me off with their canned hurrah’s and phony encouragement. Just so you know – “Only 20 flights to go!” is NOT encouragement when your thighs only have 18 flights left in ‘em.

Flight 34 (too many #$& flights left): I seriously look at the exit door to the right and consider it for a second. Then I remember the sign at flight 20 or so that states: “Only losers take elevators!” or something along those lines.

Flight 43: A large sign announces: “Only 5 flights to go!” I want to take that sign and shove it down the throat of whoever had the balls to make it. I bet you he never walked up 739 #$& flights of #$& stairs.

Flight 48 (0 flights to go):  What? I’m here? I’m alive!? Oh yay! Thank goodness. I hug the cheering darlings and take their proffered cups of lukewarm water (I assume the bringer of ice has to take the stairs…) Strangers in the recovery break room hi- five and congratulate each other on a job well done. The room smells as well as you’d think a room that’s had 400 sweaty people passing through it would. Then add 100+ more.

They send us down via the elevator back to the main area where we’re met by a feast of fresh fruit, pastries, bagels, cupcakes, coffees and teas and lots of water to help us recover. A wonderful event made even better by the continued presence of many FIREFIGHTERS to congratulate us and thank us for our efforts (no mister firefighter sir, thank you). The organizers continue to applaud us and announce our times will be posted later that day and/or on the website the next day. After stretching, getting some coffee and noshing on a bagel or 6, we pat ourselves on the back, take one last long, long look at any remaining firemen and get ready to head out.

So after going out the night before, going the distance the day of the event, going for it all by going to the top, I definitely know what I’m going to do when I get home…

I’m going to take a nap.

Oh and my official TIME to climb 48 flights of stairs or 739 steps: 31st place (out of 235 women), coming in @ 8 minutes and 13 seconds, woo! However, I swear it felt like an eternity so I assume they rounded down.

The Paralympic Plight

Shopping on Vancouver’s famed Robson street district yielded several new treasures for my wardrobe with the added bonus of an eye opening experience.

Sunny g's!

That Saturday afternoon started out well enough and saw everyone out and about enjoying the sun. I myself joined in on the fun, wanting to take advantage of this rare February window of clear, blue skies, cool breezes and sunny g weather.

Whilst spending money I had yet to earn, I noticed a new fashion trend. Besides the summer rushers wearing shorts and flip-flops in 11-degree weather (read- not warm enough yet you rushers!); and not including the skinny jeans, ugg boots crowd, there was a newly emerging group of like-minded lemmings: the Go Canada crowd. I commented to my shopping buddy on how glad I was to see people still wearing their team Canada gear after the Olympics were over, feeling the Go Canada fever continued to live on. Giving me the ‘are you crazy’ look, she curtly replied – “What are you talking about, the Paralympics are coming.”

Oops.

Double oops too considering I’m part of the Olympic AND Paralympic organizing committee and should have, sort of, kind of,  really remembered this.

Can I also add a ‘Yikes!’. What a state these games are in when even those working on them day-to-day can easily forget their existence.

Personally, I think there’s really no one to blame for this. Except for those marketing folks of course. Sure I work there but would it kill them to send me an email or a text message or something? Perhaps reminding me that the HR papers I’m working on are for the Paralympics.

Sheesh.

Such is the plight of the Paralympics. Fully supported by the Organizing Committee for the Olympic games (well at least those on the committee who remembered, tee hee), happily embraced by the community, but all but forgotten by International media and the spectators.

———————————————————

What are the Paralympics?

5 events:

  1. Alpine skiing
  2. Biathalon
  3. Cross Country skiing
  4. Ice Sledge hockey
  5. Curling

Tickets available for sale here. These games will get 150 hours of live and delayed TV coverage and host broadcaster CTV is committed to 50 hours of coverage through its various channels.

———————————————————

The Olympics were built up with 5+ years of prep work, countless overtime hours and thousands of committee members. It exploded in a 17-day extravaganza of sport and excess and concluded in a continuous series of whirlwind indoor parties and outdoor street celebrations some of us are still reeling from today (it’s no lie, Absinthe stays with you forever). Afterwards, everyone packs up, everyone goes home and (typically) everyone puts away their Olympic clothing and gear and then 2 weeks later another smaller, lesser-known event takes place (Para-what now?).

Problem #1

The logistics are off. How can anyone, short of a member of the royal court, afford to stay for over a month (Feb 12 to Mar 21) to watch both Olympic ceremonies and sporting events? Most can barely afford to go to one actual event (ex. $800+ for an opening ceremony ticket) let alone both series of sports.  I live in the city and couldn’t afford to do everything possible for the first series. Nor could I spare the time in all the line-ups. My maximum time in line is proportionate to my patience level- however long it takes for me to bumped or jostled five times in line indicates it’s time to go. Though not before giving that fifth bumper a swift elbow to the face  (oh I’m sorry, I didn’t see your face in the way of my elbow. Hope that heals quickly for ya.)

Problem #2

Disability stigma. It’s true. No one wants to have a disability. The very nature of the word makes it something you want to avoid. It’s never a celebration or good news when the word ‘disability’ is involved (New Hallmark cards: Happy Disabled Birthday! Congratulations on your Disability!).

However, the Paralympics should be widely celebrated as these athletes are not only more active and much healthier than most of us (yes I’m talking to you on your couch there buddy) they’re also doing it way better than we ever could and they have a disability. Dang. Feel free to give that personal trainer a call now.

Doing some research online (You have to love this invention. I hope it sticks around for awhile), new, exciting info was discovered. After 5 decades of being in the off year of the Olympics, the Paralympics have recently been placed adjunct to the Olympics and are a fully-fledged partner staged in the same host city. This year, Vancouver’s Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee has brought about a few first ever(s):

  • The first time the word Paralympic has been in the organizing committee’s name
  • The first time the Olympic and Paralympic flags have flown side by side at city hall
  • The first Paralympic countdown clock

Says Sir Philip Craven, International Paralympic Committee president: “They’ve gone out right from the start with the intention for it to be one organizing committee and two connected Games in a great festival of sport, and I think it is fantastic”.

Solution:

Go to the events. Continue to wear your team jerseys and support team Canada as our 55 Paralympic athletes take on the world.
Luckily, Go Canada fever still lives on as I’m happy to report that all the Canada games for Sledge Hockey, the most popular Paralympic event, are sold out. No worries though as there are still plenty of other Sledge Hockey games and numerous events left to watch and other countries to cheer for. Alternatively, if you can’t get tickets you should just get out to the bars and cheer Canada on in the traditional way – with a burger and a pint.

Myself, I’m definitely going to support Team Canada and besides going to the opening ceremonies (pending ticket purchase), I will happily host parties at my homestead or at a local bar with fellow well-wishers. Also, when Canada wins gold in the Sledge Hockey finals (or any gold medal final for that matter) I will excitedly attend any and all celebratory parties, honourary celebrations or ‘Better luck next time, Russia’ shindigs in the streets and stay out until the very last underage partier goes home… or at least until last call at the bars. Whichever comes first. So please Team Canada, no thanks needed.

I’m just doing my part.