A New Discovery

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Wow, I did not intend to go almost three weeks without a new post! I always feel the need to acknowledge when I go a long time between posts because I hate when that happens on my favourite blogs. But I have a reason for the lack of updates. I’ve been sick! It all started on November 25th. I had gone out the night before to Worn Fashion Journal’s Black Cat Ball to celebrate the release of their latest issue. The next day my voice was raspy but I figured it was because I had been out late drinking cocktails and yelling over music. But as the day went on it got worse. I developed a sore throat and by the next day I had a full on cold.

I am still fighting off this cold actually. I am not kidding when I say that this is the absolute worst cold I have ever had in my life. It seems doubly worse because I probably haven’t had a cold for five years so I had forgotten what they feel like. But this one involved a full on deep phlegm-y cough (ew) and a general feeling of misery. I’ve got it down to just a bit of a cough now but I’m amazed that I haven’t fully recovered yet. I have to admit, it’s been difficult for me to fully slow down and not do anything but rest.

Anyway, while suffering from this cold I did make an amazing discovery. I was able to drag myself out of my apartment and head over to Davids Tea to buy their Gail’s Organic Cold Remedy tea. It’s made with ginger root and lemongrass and although it didn’t fully get rid of my cold it did bring on some major improvements. Of course it probably helped that I was drinking about six cups of hot clear tea in a day but either way, I highly suggest it to anyone who feels a cold coming on.

American Thanksgiving

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I have a confession to make. I love American Thanksgiving. Now, I am specifying American Thanksgiving because I am Canadian and our Thanksgiving was over a month ago. I love Canadian Thanksgiving as well. Every year I take it as yet another opportunity to cook up a big feast for my family. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the smiles on their faces after a big meal. Anyway, you might wonder why a Canadian is so invested in American Thanksgiving. Well, it all started when I was in college and I had Thursdays off. I turned on the television and for the first time ever I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Since then I’ve had a lot of Thursdays off so I’ve been able to watch it almost every year.

There’s something about American Thanksgiving that just seems like more fun. There’s a sense of pageantry and grandeur. After all, those lucky Americans usually get four day weekends to celebrate the whole thing! So every year I watch in awe and wonder as NBC airs the parade, followed by the National Dog Show and then Miracle on 34th Street, which is truly the best Christmas movie to start the season since the movie itself begins with the Thanksgiving Day parade. I may not be eating any turkey tomorrow but I will definitely be enjoying myself and getting a little taste of an American Thanksgiving.

My biggest Christmas commercial pet peeve

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Well, I resisted for as long as I possibly could but my mind is already starting to drift to Christmas. And with that, I’ve begun to notice something that is turning into a huge pet peeve of mine regarding Christmas commercials. I first noticed it last year. It seems that just about every discount retailer is telling consumers that they will save so much money that they can buy “even more!” But in what world does that make sense? The whole point of shopping at a discount store is so that you can save money. So for instance, say a shopper is spending a total of $700 on Christmas gifts (that sounds pretty steep but Google says it’s the average). Now imagine that you go to a discount store and instead of spending $700, you are able to save a bit and you only spend $500. Why would you think, “Gee, I saved $200 that I thought I was going to spend, I may as well spend it anyway and get more junk instead of paying off my credit card debt/putting the money into my savings.”

I know, I know, the economy is bad and buying stuff helps everyone but so does paying off debt and/or saving your pennies so that you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. I’m no money expert but I did grow up with frugal parents. I never wanted for anything but I was quite aware while growing up that our Christmases were pretty tame compared to other families. And at the end of the day, I’m really thankful for that. I always managed to get the one dream toy that I wanted. In more recent years my focus around Christmas has been more on spending time with family, attending the special candlelight service at church and cooking up an incredible meal for the whole family to enjoy. And even though we all love getting presents, I have to say that I am truly thankful that my parents taught me the value of saving and planning rather than acquiring a bunch of stuff that I probably won’t use in ten years.

Christmas in October?

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It’s that time of year again. For the past few weeks, even before Halloween drew to a close, retail stores everywhere started putting up Christmas decorations. After Halloween, it got even more intense. By November 1st, it seems that almost every store has put up Christmas decorations, replaced Halloween products with Christmas ones and  some even started playing Christmas music. I noticed as I walked down the street that people were now carrying bright red cups from Starbucks and even overheard two customers joke about how they were being forced to get into the Christmas spirit whether they wanted to or not.

It seems that we, as consumers and customers, go through this every year and I swear it starts earlier each year. I saw the first Christmas themed advertisement back in September (!!!) and by the middle of October I noticed a huge number of stores with their decorations up. Some of them even had Christmas trees for sale! Even for those of us who celebrate Christmas, it’s all too much. That’s why I was surprised and delighted last week when I read a story stating that Shoppers Drug Mart had suspended playing Christmas music due to customer complaints. What was even better were the comments (aside from a few idiots who thought the move was “evidence” of the west being taken over by “jihadists”) from people who, just like me, say that although they love Christmas they would rather wait until much later in the season to start celebrating.

Most people ask that at the very least, stores wait until after Remembrance Day to put up their decorations. Remebrance Day was today and it is the one day out of the year when Canadians are urged to remember the soldiers who died for our freedom. It is an incredibly solemn and serious day and not a time to think about holidays and being merry. Personally I think that stores should wait even longer before decorating. As with most commenters on the original story, I would be ecstatic if stores waited until December 1st before they started with the decorations and the music. However, I am a really big fan of Nordstrom’s yearly sign that they will not put up their Christmas decorations until after American Thanksgiving because they believe in celebrating one holiday at a time. Of course that wouldn’t quite work in Canada, where Thanksgiving is celebrated in October, but it’s always something to consider!

And for anyone who thinks that is a sign of Christians giving up their beliefs and right to celebrate the holidays, it’s not. The church itself doesn’t even start focusing on Christmas until Advent, the four Sundays that lead up to Christmas. I strongly believe that if anyone really wants to focus on Christmas, they should spend less time shopping and more time volunteering, doing good deeds and, oh yeah, maybe actually going to church.

Top 5 Halloween TV episodes

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Halloween is upon us! I actually intended to post this list a bit earlier but I’ve been a bit caught up with other things. I’ve already given you my list of the top 5 movies to watch at Halloween. I’ve watched them all, and in fact I’ve now watched Hocus Pocus twice. I may have to watch it a third time before the day is through. But in addition to movies, the one thing I absolutely adore is Halloween themed episodes. They are a special treat that just helps to get me even more excited for the day. So here are my top 5 essential Halloween TV episodes.

 

5. The Simpsons – The Simpsons Halloween Special

Yes, that’s right, the very first Halloween episode of the Simpsons was not called Treehouse of Horror although it is the first in a series that has now gone on for 23 years. Although there have been several memorable episodes, I’m still partial to the original special which included a story about the Simpsons moving into a haunted house, another vignette about aliens and finally a rendition of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. It’s an absolute classic.

4. Suburgatory – Halloween

Suburgatory is only in its second season but their Halloween episode last year totally won me over. New Yorkers George and Tessa are chastised by the neighbours in their new suburban home for putting up decorations that are too scary and gruesome. George tries to explain to his neighbour Dallas that Halloween is all about getting scared and that it’s actually kind of fun. They also do a great commentary on the ridiculousness of sexy Halloween costumes, with one girl going so far as to dress up as a “sexy mushroom.”

3. Ugly Betty – The Lyin, the Watch and the Wardrobe

Okay, so this may  not be the absolute best Halloween episode but it is by far my own personal favourite. I love the fact that this episode incorporated Halloween and yet still managed to have its own plot line. In this episode, Betty is forced to traipse around NYC in a butterfly costume looking for a watch that her boss left at a woman’s apartment. The only problem is that he can’t remember which woman and he has slept with one for every night of the week. Meanwhile, she must also struggle with her feelings for a new guy while still being tethered to one who’s not right for her. Oh, and then there’s her dad who would rather focus on Halloween pranks than tell her what’s up with his social security number. All in all, it’s a great episode.

2. Home Movies – Coffins and Cradles

This is a hard one to explain if you aren’t already familiar with the brilliant made-for-adults cartoon Home Movies. There are several plots that go on throughout this episode and I will try to make sure I’ve got them all: Brendon discovers at the last minute that his teacher, Mr. Lynch, is dressing up for Halloween as a cat, the same costume Brendon had planned on wearing. So at the last minute he tries to come up with something new and ends up with something that looks like a cross between a fish and a salamander. Meanwhile his pregnant stepmom goes into labor so it’s off to the hospital along with his own mom, Mr. Lynch, and his friends Jason and Melissa. While at the hospital Jason tries to refuse candy because he can’t stop at just one piece but he relapses and ends up sucking on a glucose tube to get his fix. Additionally, coach McGuirk has landed in the hospital in drag because he had a heart attack while getting hot and heavy with an old flame. So that’s about it. It probably doesn’t sound that funny but I assure you, this episode is hilarious.

1. Freaks and Geeks – Tricks and Treats

I love this episode because it has so much to offer. First the boys (the geeks) struggle with the age-old dilemma of wondering how old is too old to go trick-or-treating. Lindsay ditches her mom to go out with the freaks and gets into the sometimes destructive nature of Halloween but goes too far when she accidentally ends up egging her own brother! Both of those issues could still exist today but there is even more that I love because it is a perfect representation of the changing attitudes towards Halloween in the early 80s. A classmate at school warns the boys that they shouldn’t go out at all because they may end up with candy that is laced with drugs or has razorblades in it. When the Weir’s mom, Jean, asks her husband, Harold, to hand out candy he gets a little too into the Halloween spirit and scares the kids much to the horror of their parents. But my absolute favourite scene is when a mother tells Jean that she is “crazy” for handing out homemade cookies for Halloween as she has just spent the afternoon lecturing her kids never to take homemade candy from a stranger.

It’s funny to see how much has changed even since then. My mother’s stories of actually entering people’s homes on Halloween (back in the 50s and 60s) and bobbing for apples seem unthinkable now but really, what is the harm? Also, as someone who loves baking, I would love to be able to hand out my own homemade baked goods on Halloween but alas, I know that’s impossible. Anyway, that is my list of essential Halloween episodes. I’m sure you may think that I forgot some (yes, I know there is a lack of Roseanne) so feel free to add your recommendations in the comments!

Parents, scare your children!

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I’ve noticed a troubling trend over the last several years. It seems to get worse with each passing year. The trend is that Halloween is no longer scary because parents don’t want their precious children to actually get scared. It’s understandable. Most parents have a very strong instinct to protect their children from anything dangerous. But as helicopter parenting has become more and more prevalent, so have children that are now raised to be terrified of everything. Personally, I find it very annoying.

I may be too young to go on this kind of a rant but when I was a kid, Halloween was all about getting scared. It would always happen at one point or another. We had a neighbour who went all out with her witch costume and would scare the neighbourhood kids. There was always the requisite “scary house” that I ended up visiting, usually convinced that I wouldn’t survive whatever its owners had in store for me. But at the end of the night, I had survived through whatever thrills and chills had seemed so terrifying just a few hours before and usually felt more confident because of it.

Nowadays parents are so apprehensive about letting their children experience Halloween that they organize “trunk-or-treat” events instead. Parents gather in a church or school parking lot and have their children go from car trunk to car trunk to get candy. What’s even more hilarious/sad is that a lot of these groups insist that there be absolutely no “frightening” decorations or costumes including but not limited to blood, bats, spiders, witches, monsters or gore. In that case they may as well not bother celebrating Halloween at all.

The lack of scariness isn’t just limited to Halloween celebrations either. As a child of the 90s, my life revolved around the Goosebumps and Fear Street books as well as TV shows like Eerie, Indiana and Are You Afraid of the Dark? Each year from the 80s to the mid 90s there were numerous Halloween television specials that were specially designed to give kids a scare. It was all age appropriate and looking back it was occasionally cheesy. But most importantly, it says a lot that parents were okay with letting their kids have the occasional fright because they knew it wouldn’t scar us for life. Nowadays I’ve been hearing parents complain about horror movies, even when they are made for kids, like the new film Paranorman. I saw this film and theatres and although I could see how very young children might get frightened, it seemed totally acceptable for any child over the age of 6 or 7. It might sound a bit dramatic but I am actually saddened to see the lack of special Halloween episodes and tv specials for kids today.

I guess what I’m trying to say is parents, scare your children. Don’t terrify them, just scare them, even if it’s something as small as yelling “Boo!” when they least expect it. And although I know that kids should have free reign over their Halloween costumes, try to remind them that Halloween was once about making yourself look ghoulish so that you would fit in with the souls that came back to earth and wouldn’t be dragged to hell or tortured by evil spirits. Go old school and encourage them to dress up like witches, goblins and vampires (without sparkles). Let them learn what it’s like to feel the adrenaline rush of getting scared and then realizing that they are safe. And for heaven’s sake, take them out for regular trick-or-treating! After all, that’s what Halloween is all about.

On depression, religion, and fighting back tears

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I want to talk a bit about depression and trying to move away from it. I have recently gone through a stressful experience. I got a job and then decided to quit after just a few weeks. After considering the disorganization of the workplace, the horrible attitude of the boss (think Miranda Priestley only with no excuse for the ego) and the fact that I found myself crying regularly the night before I had to go into work, I decided that it wasn’t worth it to keep going back, especially not for minimum wage. I have decided instead that I will try to get a retail job. At 28 and with seven years of postsecondary education under my belt this isn’t exactly where I pictured my life heading. But at the very least, a retail job would give me a steady income with flexible hours while allowing me to work on my writing (yes, I’ve finally realized that I should take this endeavour seriously) and still apply for my dream job in advertising.

Anyway, I realized while working at the hell job that I was very nearly on the verge of sinking back into a deep depression. I did my best to try to change my headspace but it wasn’t enough. I talked to my mom a lot about how I was trying to change my thinking and become a more positive person. So for my birthday, October 10th, she gave me the book “The Power of Positive Thinking.” I was thrilled. I will warn anyone who is reading this that the book basically suggests a lot of bible reading so if you aren’t into that kind of thing then it may not be of much help to you. I’ve never considered myself a very religious person, more spiritual if anything, but lately I have actually found myself wanting to go to church. I even found a great church right downtown that aligns with my views. It’s Anglican, is LGBT friendly and actually acts on what the bible says by doing things like having a daily soup kitchen and organizing all sorts of charity events. I’ve only gone a few times but I think that I may start going more often and try to let the church be a sort of grounding force in my life.

But back to the book and church. As I have started to become more familiar with both I can’t help but notice that each time I partake in one or the other I get emotional. Every time I read a chapter in “The Power of Positive Thinking” I find myself wanting to cry. The same thing happened when I went to church on Sunday. I woke up and felt good about myself for going and yet as the opening hymn began I could barely get the words out. I was afraid that I might burst into tears in front of everyone. The only theory I can come up with is that I have actually been feeling a lot more stressed and wounded than I have admitted to myself. I am convinced that things will get better from here. In fact, the day after I quit my job I got three good bits of news and feedback that gave me even more hope for the future. From here on out I am going to let myself cry as needed. But more importantly I am going to let myself heal and get stronger.

Where is my Halloween spirit?

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Halloween has long been my favourite holiday of the year. It’s probably because I’m an October baby. For as long as I can remember I would look forward to every October 31st, constantly changing my mind about what to be for Halloween and dreaming about the pillowcase full of candy that I would amass. That excitement carried on into my adolescence when I decided that my family should go all out with Halloween decorations instead of just having the standard jack-o-lantern. I made a scarecrow for the front entrance and sat him on a bale of hay. I insisted that my mother buy not one but three pumpkins and I carved each one with a different pattern. I hung up bats, cheesecloth ghosts and plastic skeletons. And when Halloween night came, I gladly handed out candy to all of the trick-or-treaters.

Now that I’m on my own and living in an apartment things have changed a little. I don’t get any trick-or-treaters and my decorations are limited to a few small plastic pumpkins and decorative candle holders from Bath & Body Works. I have gone out in costume some years but not in others. I do tend to have a schedule of watching my favourite Halloween movies and tv episodes but for some reason I am just not feeling the same way this year.

I actually don’t get it. Maybe it’s because I started thinking about Halloween too early, as I always do, back at the end of August. Maybe it’s because I’ve just started a new job so I can’t spend all day baking pumpkin flavoured treats and re-watching my favourite Halloween specials. But for whatever reason, it just isn’t feeling like October and it’s definitely not feeling like Halloween. Occasionally I get my old spirit back (most recently it was after browsing Pinterest and whipping up a batch of pumpkin spice pancakes) but then I find I lose it all over again. So what is the deal? The only clear reason I can find is that stores are already putting out their Christmas stock. It’s hard to concentrate on Halloween when aisles are already red and green. But I’m going to keep working on it. I’ve already got another Halloween favourites list in the works and over the next two weeks I plan on watching everything I can to get into the Halloween spirit. Here’s hoping it comes back in time!

Top 5 Movies to Watch at Halloween

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It’s been a while and pretty soon I’ll explain why my posts have been few and far between. But in the meantime, it’s October! And that means it’s time to start thinking about Halloween. Or in my case, just think about it more because I’ve actually been thinking about it since July. I’ve decided to make a list of my favourite movies to watch at Halloween. Here we go!

5. Sleepy Hollow

This is a great take on a classic. It’s got Tim Burton’s typical dark and fantastical ambiance and it even has some scenes that are rather comical. Johnny Depp is perfect as Ichabod Crane, the officer who is sent to uncover the cause of a slew of creepy murders by decapitation.

4. Donnie Darko

This isn’t a Halloween movie per se but it takes place in October and there is a scene with a Halloween party so I’m including it. More importantly, this is one of the strangest and affecting movies I have ever seen and it’s one of my favourite movies of all time. The end of the film will probably leave you confused and a bit melancholy but in a good way. Even if you don’t enjoy the film you should at least appreciate that it has one of the most beautifully haunting scores ever.

3. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Yet another Tim Burton movie! This one tells the story of Jack Skellington, the “pumpkin king” of Halloween Town. Unfortunately, Jack isn’t fulfilled by his role as the town celebrity and once he discovers Christmas Land he decides that he’ll take over the role of Santa Claus instead. Hijinks ensue.

2. Hocus Pocus

This is a movie that seemed totally obscure back when I was a kid. I swear it felt like I was the only person who had ever heard of it. Now years later it seems to have a cult following. This movie tells the hilarious story about a teenage virgin who brings three witches back from the dead. It’s a race against time to defeat the witches before they suck the souls out of all the children in Salem!

1. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Okay, so this isn’t a movie so much as it was a tv special but how could Halloween be complete without it? Between Linus’s devotion to the Great Pumpkin and Charlie Brown’s failed attempt at a ghost costume it’s a total classic.

Real Diversity

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Anyone who has read this blog knows that I’m a fan of the HBO show Girls. Girls isn’t without its problems though. Early on it was criticized for not showing a single person of colour, ever, which is strange considering it takes place in a city as diverse as Brooklyn. Apparently the show’s creator, Lena Dunham, is trying to remedy this by featuring African American actor Donald Glover as a recurring character next season.

Now some may say that this is a sign of progress but I’ve always wondered, why is it that television shows usually only look to black people as a way to show diversity?

When I think about diversity in my own life I think about my last job and my co-workers, which included people that were of French, Polish, Eritrean, Ukrainian, Iranian, Egyptian, Indian, Filipino and Jamaican descent. I think about my old neighbourhood and my friends whose parents came from Serbia, Scotland, Iraq and Korea. And of course there is my own family’s background, as I am half British and half Indian. What’s funny is that even this list is just a small sample of the kind of people that I encounter day after day.

We have a long way to go before television depicts the real diversity that most of us see day to day. After all, diversity is not about depicting just two races on television. There is a whole wide world of people to choose from. The sooner television and movie execs decide to showcase the world we actually live in, the better.