Monday Musings: when you accidentally give up twitter

In my last job I was so incredibly bored and so remarkably un-busy that I often checked Twitter hourly. Okay, if I’m being really honest, sometimes it was every 15 minutes. So basically I checked Twitter way too often. But then I got busy in my new job, so busy in fact that I cold-turkey stopped checking Twitter almost two months ago.  It’s been an enlightening experience to let go of something that used dominate a fair bit of my time and mental energy, and today I share that enlightenment with you.

For the most part, I followed a pretty light crowd, a pop culture hodge-podge of musicians, movie stars and athletes. Still, there’s enough going on in the world today that it was easy to fall down the Twitter rabbit hole of infuriating tweets and retweets and sub-threads. Often, I’d walk away from my brief but frequent forays into the Twitter-scape with feelings running the gamut from mildly irritated to disgusted with the state of the world. In other words, Twitter was bad news for my emotional well-being.

At first it was difficult to let go.  Sure, I was busy, but I wondered what  Chrissie Teigen was cooking that day or whether Ryan Adams was hanging out with his cats.  I felt disconnected from the world at large.  But then when I realized I also wasn’t reading Donald Trump retweets or endless and increasingly illogical arguments between the anti-NRA and the pro-NRA, suddenly I realized that my mental energy was staying more balanced. I was getting less worked up. The world was looking brighter. Twitter was in grave danger of being forgotten.

But the best part of this whole unintended Twitter breakup was that Twitter knew it was on the verge of being ghosted. They clearly have a game plan in place for when frequent users experience a drastic drop off. It started with the daily emails, that ones that kindly informed me that I had 29 updates from a handful of whatever Twitter’s algorithm had determined were my favourite celebrities du jour. I could live with that. I liked to know Twitter was still thinking about me.

But then they added a second daily email, these ones a little more focused on just one celebrity. They were putting all their eggs in one basket.  They were willing to bet that if I knew Ryan Adams tweet was featured in the news, I’d have to get back into that app. I mean, I might be missing kitten pictures. I was sort of impressed with this strategy. I am a highly curious person. I did want to look, but my new job has kept me so much busier that I often simply forgot.

Never ones to accept defeat, Twitter then unleashed its unleashed the ultimate FOMO-inducing strategy. Feast your eyes on this one:

It’s so supremely mysterious, so very deliciously vague. I mean, what is this one message that is waiting just for me??? I actually give Twitter a huge kudos for this one. It’s one thing to tell me that someone I follow has just tweeted, or to let me know that his or her tweet has somehow gone viral, but it’s a whole different ballgame to create the illusion of personally curated tweets that only my eyes might see.

It’s a total lie, of course, but for just one brief moment I imagined a world in which Twitter might somehow know that what I needed that very moment was a picture of Ryan Adam’s cats and not the inane political ramblings of a bunch of total strangers. But although it was a nice dream, it was also a flawed one, and so I ignored even this most coy of click bait and continued without Twitter. On the other side of two months Twitter-free, I can honestly say that almost nothing could tempt me to come back.*  I might finally have cracked the code on my own sense of FOMO. Thanks, Twitter, I’ve been working on that one for a while.

 

*It also helps that I finally unsubscribed from all their “you’re missing out” emails. 

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Real-Talk Thursday: how a 10-day carb & sugar bender will feel after 1.5 months of low carb living

Ah, the holidays, a time of magic, time with family and friends, festive activities, sparkly lights, and lots and lots of lots of indulgences.  I dove into holiday indulgences like it was my job after a month and a half of severely restricted sugar and carb intake. I am here to tell you how it feels to go from 0 to 100 on the sugar consumption scale which, in a word, is awful.

I believe it was around November 6th that I said a sad farewell to sugar and carbs. I was extremely diligent at first, loosely following a ketogenic approach for the first two weeks. I loosened the strings a little bit after that, reintegrating things like wine, because I’m not a savage and life without wine isn’t worth living as far as I’m concerned. Another week after that, I integrated my Saturday “cheat day”, which allowed me the occasional splurge on a donut or cake or ice cream or chocolate or…the list goes on.

For most of that time, I wasn’t entirely sure it was worth it. I just didn’t feel that much better. Then, just as we entered the week before Christmas something miraculous happened: I had energy! I felt good. I was sleeping well. I was waking up on my own, at 5:00 a.m. no less, ready to rock the day. This was uncharted territory for me, but I was willing to run with it.  Even though I felt wonderful, I had decided that Christmas would be my time to let loose, enjoy myself, and indulge in all my favourite holiday treats. This turned out to be a terrible mistake.

True to form, instead of gradually easing myself into carbs and sugar, I simply jumped into the deep end. Okay, that’s not exactly true. For the first few days at home, I kept my carb intake to a minimum. I avoided pannetone and brioche at breakfast, crackers and bread sticks at lunch, and I showed amazing restraint with baking. But then…I fell off the wagon hard.

There was dessert every day. There may have been a breakfast donut. There was sushi rice and twice-baked potatoes and daily wine and daily cider. There was afternoon chocolate. There were post-dessert chocolate ‘snacks’. It was a total shit show of sugar and carbs. If you want to know what 10 days of sheer indulgence after 1.5 months of more structured eating feels, here is what you’d have to look forward to:

–sluggishness to the max. You’d think all that sugar would give you energy to burn. It won’t. You’ll want to lay on the couch for hours on end.

–say goodbye to early mornings. Even nine hours of sleep will leave you feeling half-awake.

–say hello to feeling like garbage. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but somehow it is: eating garbage makes you feel like garbage.

–water retention! Oh the joys of barely being able to do up your boots, which you only have issues with when you’re retaining water like a champ.  You can blame it on muscular calves, but you know you’re lying to yourself.

–“puffy belly”. This is my affectionate term for the immediate and noticeable bloat that comes from sugar and wheat consumption. Your snug-fitting pants will be your first cue that ‘puffy belly’ has come for a visit.

–mind-numbing headaches. Your body isn’t going to know what hit it, so when your blood sugar levels spike dramatically, look out for some raging headaches. Nothing will make you regret chocolate like feeling as though your brain is rattling around inside your skull.

I’m back off sugar and carbs for the time being, at least six days a week. I won’t trade my cheat day for anything.  What’s clear to me after this little bender is that it’s really not worth it to go crashing back into sugar and carbs. I promise you it’s going to be a mistake. I promise you the treats won’t even taste as good as you remembered. And I really, really, really promise you that you will feel like a giant bag of garbage.

 

Mid-Week Tangent: busting through the bad economics of advent calendars

I bet you thought the holidays were over, didn’t you? Well, I’m always one to extend the holidays beyond what’s considered normal. Not only is our tree still up and lit, but we also watched a holiday movie last night, and a really bad Hallmark holiday movie at that! But that’s not what I’m here to write about today. What I’m actually here to write about today are advent calendars.

I know what you’re thinking. I’ve written about advent calendars before. I lamented the fact that I couldn’t find any, and then the universe delivered not one but five!!!! But throughout all of this, neither me nor my boyfriend could shake the bad economics of advent calendars. Regular retail price for a Lindt advent calendar ranges from $11.99-13.99 CDN. For 128 g. Even steeply discounted at end of season they’re around $7 CDN. If you do the math, that’s anywhere from $6.24 to $10.92 per 100g. No one in her right mind would pay that much for chocolate. Sure there’s festive packaging, but let’s not pretend that’s worth the extra coin.

We knew something needed to change, but our challenge was that we love the idea of advent calendars. We love daily surprises during the holiday season. I also have a deep and passionate love for chocolate. Given all of this, what were we to do?

Boom. We got ourselves a fillable advent calendar. No more paying exorbitant fees for chocolate. No more putting up with whatever assortment the calendar comes with (I’m looking at you, Lindt calendar, wasting my time with your boring milk chocolate squares and seemingly eliminated my beloved white chocolate Lindors!). No more dealing with the threat of advent calendars selling out. No more worrying about retail pricing whims getting in the way of a “good” deal.

Next year, the power falls squarely back in our hands. Next year, we will fill this calendar with any brand of chocolate we so desire, at prices that don’t carry a hefty sticker shock. Hell, we may even go crazy and stuff those slots with small ornaments or other festive surprises. The sky is the limit now. Sorry, Lindt, while I have enjoyed your advent calendars for the last few years, the economics of them are simply ridiculous. We’ve found a more cost effective way to indulge in a month’s worth of holiday spirit. If only I didn’t have to wait 332 days to give our new calendar a try…

Monday Musings: holiday confessions

It is only one week to Christmas!!!!! Can you barely contain yourself? I can’t! If you’ve been reading my posts during December, it’s likely clear that I land quite high on the spectrum of holiday enthusiasm (as illustrated below).

In light of this, I thought it only fair to share my biggest holiday confession, my guiltiest holiday pleasure: I love, love, LOVE made-for-television Christmas movies. The cheesier the better! Bonus points when they include 1 or more 80s sitcom stars. I am not kidding when I say we have watched at least one Hallmark-style made-for-TV movie every night pretty much since the beginning of December. We still have at least a dozen more for us on our PVR. My extra confession is that I experience mild anxiety when I contemplate how we will possibly fit them all in before Christmas.

Let’s leave that sad fact alone for a moment and focus on the fact that I’ve watched so many of these movies now that I’ve compiled my definitive (at least until I watch the next twelve on my PVR) list of made-for-television holiday movies that are soooooo bad they’re almost good.  Man, oh man, these were all so awful we couldn’t stop watching. In case you didn’t know,  that’s a different kind of bad than so-bad-you-can’t-watch-them bad. But enough preamble. Let’s see my top 5!

5. Christmas Cupid: This one was the closest to legitimately bad. To quote my boyfriend: “I can’t believe we watched that whole thing. We could have found so many better things to do with our time.” This one takes the cake for having the least to do with Christmas of any holiday movie, other than taking place around Christmas and having a loose narrative connection to A Christmas Carol. Not only that, but Christina Milian almost lost out at her chance with Chad Michael Murray.  I mean, come on, anyone who watched One Tree Hill knows that you don’t turn down CMM for some smarmy guy just because he supposedly has power and money…especially when it’s not like CMM was slumming it in his career. He was a doctor for God’s sake. Give your head a shake Christina Milian.

4. A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale:  The only award that this movie gets is for having the most literal movie title in history. It is actually about dog walkers at Christmas. But wait, there’s more. They’re trying to save a community dog park from an evil corporation with plans to convert it to a fancy day spa. What’s shocking is that they succeed, because apparently corporate executives will take their lead from an 18 year old who was basically described as beyond vapid.  Never mind the story, though, what really rattled around my head the entire time I watched this film was the following question: can your acting skills actually regress over time? I can only assume the answer is yes based on Jonathan Bennett’s acting.  I remember him being plausible as an actor in Mean Girls, but he has been hosting Cake Wars since then. Over time, perhaps that wears down your the refined subtlety of a good actor. Every line he delivered had the forced enthusiasm and approval-seeking pause of a food competition host waiting for a pun to land with a panel of judges.

3. The Perfect Christmas PresentHang on to your hats, guys and gals, the lead character in this movie’s sole occupation is creepily stalking his client’s loved ones so he can suss out the perfect, elaborate, over-the-top gift…that his client can then take credit for. With a premise like that, you know this one’s going to be fraught with opportunities for misunderstandings, minor betrayal, and love-almost-lost. This film has all of those things. But, of course, the jilted ex-boyfriend and the new suitor find a way to put aside their differences (i.e. the fact that new suitor essentially stole ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend) to save the day and bring new love together. Holiday magic, start to finish.

2. My Christmas Love : My word, this film will really test your patience as the world’s most self-involved woman assumes that an elaborate, daily, live-action version of the 12 days of Christmas presented as gifts could only be for her. Even though she is in a house with three other people. And even though no note accompanied the gifts. *Spoiler alert (and surprise plot twist)*: the gifts were for her father the whole time! In the only touching moment of the entire film, it was revealed that his deceased wife had planned for this elaborate display of love prior to her death. Sadly that storyline took a back seat to his daughter’s antics, which involved her falling in love with no less than four men in the course of one week.  If you watch this, be prepared to be severely annoyed, but also watch out for dad’s amazing and quippy burns throughout. He’s the real gem of this movie!

1. Holiday in Handcuffs : I’m not going to lie. This is mostly #1 because it stars Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez.  With that kind of dynamic, former 80s star duo, you absolutely cannot go wrong.  All I needed was AC Slater’s high-waisted, pleated, acid-wash jeans and I would have been in heaven. Sadly, the jeans didn’t make an appearance. Instead, plot implausibilities abounded in this flick. Somehow poor Mario, despite being kidnapped at gunpoint, finds it in his heart to a) not flee his kidnapper the moment he can b) play along with his kidnapper’s ridiculous ruse and c) fall in love with her even though at the time of his kidnapping he had been waiting to propose to his girlfriend. I know, right, you’re scanning Netflix and your local cable television right now to see if you can find this one. Trust me, as with everything on this list, you won’t regret indulging in its awfulness.

Happy holidays!

Mid-Week Tangent: how the other half lives

I’d like you to imagine a world in which you roll up to the airport a mere 15 minutes before your flight, and in which you walk straight through a quiet and empty terminal without any thought to removing liquids and laptops and shoes and belts, boarding the plane with only a cheerful introduction from the pilot (with a handshake to boot). It sounds like a fantasy world, doesn’t it? But my friends, this world exists, but only, and this is an important only, for the other half.

This week, I took my first and likely only trip on a private jet. In a word it was brilliant, and such a stark contrast to commercial aviation.  I would include a picture of the magical vessel, but realized that the picture I took might give away the company I work for. Suffice it to say, if this is how the other half lives, perhaps I should have worked about 1000 times harder in my career.

At first I thought I was super fortunate to step foot onto the corporate jet. As a relative peon in the corporate machine, I have no business being there. I am merely fortunate that my role occasionally requires attending meetings with senior executives, and sometimes those senior executives don’t have time to dilly dally with commercial air travel when those meetings occur in Minnesota. I now realize that there was nothing lucky about this experience because from this point forward I will be plagued by the memory of idyllic private jet travel whenever I suffer through commercial air travel’s laundry list of unpleasantries, such as:

–arriving at the airport 1-2 hours before my scheduled flight time, forced to kill time surrounded by screaming children, loud talkers and seat hoggers. Did you catch that earlier when I said you can arrive 15 minutes for a private jet? Even for an international flight. 

–suffering the indignity of airport security with its rules and formalities and tiny liquids bottles stowed only in regulation-sized, clear plastic bags, and hand swabs and pat downs.  You better bet you can carry liquids of any size on a private jet. Family-sized shampoo? Go for it!

–rushing to fit in one more visit to the bathroom before boarding time because you know that it’s not worth it to take a chance on the washrooms on board. Guys, do you know how big the washrooms are on private jets? I could turn around without hitting a wall or sink or toilet. I mean, I could’ve done a full lunge in there. And we had a real towel to dry our hands on. Contemplate that level of civility for a moment.

–jockeying for position during pre-boarding by corralling myself into the appropriate zone like some of sort of cruel caste system.  How can I forget being personally greeted by the pilot as I waltzed onto the plane without line nor formality?

–needlessly turning my phone onto airplane mode, stowing my bags under my seat, or putting my laptop away during take off or landing. Imagine the liberation of having your purse casually tossed on the couch directly adjacent to your chair (yes, as in a standalone chair).

–snacking on nothing but a tiny bag of pretzels and some club soda instead of a custom-ordered meal eaten with actual cutlery and cloth napkin. Ugh.

–walking through multiple and seemingly endless wings of gates to find your way to customs only to be greeted by an agent I’ll tactfully describe as no fun, who will ask you a million questions in a way only customs agents can (i.e. the way that inspires total anxiety even when you have done nothing wrong). I didn’t even have to leave my cushy, on-board chair to clear customs. They came to me, and I didn’t have to answer a single, damn question. A simple glance at each passport sufficed. That’s the sign of power and wealth which, to be clear, I had only by association in that moment.

I’m sorry if I’ve just ruined commercial aviation for you, especially as we near the holiday season when chances are you, like me, will be hopping aboard a plane with the masses, crammed into a middle seat between a crying baby and chatty Cathy. It wasn’t my intention. I just needed to open your eyes to a world of air travel beyond what you and I are likely to experience and, yes, it is every bit as incredible as it sounds.

Mid-Week Tangent: where oh where have the advent calendars gone?

I made a very grave mistake this year, one that I am reminded of each and every morning when I wake up, knowing a new day is upon me and also knowing that I cannot rejoice in the new day arriving by opening a tiny cardboard window. This year I have failed to procure my Christmas advent calendar.  The only excuse I have is my cheapness, and it has haunted me for the last five days.

Let’s backtrack here. Last year, my boyfriend and I made what we thought was an amazing discovery: once December 1st struck, the advent calendars went on sale. And I’m talking about some steep discounts. We got our primo Lindt advent calendars for just 7.99, a good 30% less than the pre-December price. We thought it was the ultimate score.

Flash forward to this year. We’ve been brazenly walking past the advent calendars for weeks, confident in our ability to secure post-December-first calendars at a fraction of the cost. I’d even scoped out the Lindt advent calendar pattern that I really wanted, so supremely certain that it would be there for me this past weekend.  It never even occurred to me that last year’s experience may have been an anomaly.

On Sunday, while running errands, we looked  at our local Save-On Foods. Nothing. I wasn’t too stressed. We had lots of other options. Then we went to No Frills. Then Shoppers Drug Mart.  No calendars.  By this point, I was beginning to get worried. I tried to convince myself that it’s just because No Frills is a bit dodgy. I mean, they probably never had Lindt calendars in the first place. And the Shoppers Drug Mart by our place is rather tiny and has the most pitiful of Christmas sections. Surely those were the issues, and once we visited bigger and better stores we’d be rewarded for our savings mindedness.

Now, two days later, I’m no longer sure that’s the case. Today, we collectively searched six more stores, many of which were large stores in the city centre. There were still no advent calendars to be found!!!!! My boyfriend found some of the crappy advent calendars, you know the ones, the ones with confections that bear only a slight resemblance to actual chocolate. I ain’t got time for those.  My search was even less fruitful, though. I visited stores that didn’t even have the cheap advent calendars. Sure, I would have snubbed them even if they had been there, but it begged the question: where oh where have all the advent calendars gone????

I do not know the answer to this question. I have hypothesized that it’s because we live in the city now, and perhaps the excessive stocking of advent calendars only occurs in the suburbs where there are more families. After all, I’m not sure that the primary market for chocolate advent calendars is childless adults in their late thirties. Or, as an alternative, perhaps the retail machine has finally learned to order appropriate volumes of goods. Maybe last year’s scores were due to retailers over-estimating demand and we just lucked out. Perhaps, though, the reason is a lot simpler. Maybe it’s just the universe’s way of telling me not to be so bloody cheap. After all, can you put a price on tiny balls of Lindt chocolate for 24 consecutive days? The answer to that question is a resounding no.

I have learned my lesson now, although perhaps a little too late. Next year, I promise you I won’t tempt the advent calendar gods. Next year, I will fork over the full price without any hesitation.  Next year I will wake up every morning in December with the excitement that only comes from knowing that chocolate is in your immediate future.* There truly is no greater excitement.

*If you live in Vancouver and know where I can find full price or discounted Lindt advent calendars, please save me from my crippling regret and tell me where to go.

Mid-Week Tangent: Renouncing my love for white chocolate peppermint M&Ms

Just one year ago, almost to the day, I wrote a list of my top holiday treats. Sitting atop this carefully crafted list was the white chocolate peppermint M&M, the very pinnacle of the festive season’s candy choices, so beloved that it even edged out the Lindt Candy Cane Lindor. I mean, that’s saying a lot. You can see why what I am about to say is extremely difficult for me. Today is the day that I must renounce my love for white chocolate peppermint M&Ms. Fully and completely.

How does a tried and tested confection fall from top of my list to the very bottom in one fell swoop? Even I cannot answer this question with any real certainty. All I know is that when I saw my formerly beloved white chocolate peppermint M&Ms in the store a couple weeks ago, I thought I had reached nirvana. I don’t recall ever seeing them in Canada.  I was so so excited that I eagerly tossed a bag into our shopping cart despite one very troubling fact: I wasn’t eating any sugar at the time.

Those M&Ms sat in my cupboard for a full two weeks, a true feat for my self-control. They called to me almost daily. Okay, not “almost” daily, but actually daily. I bargained inside my own head, trying to find any avenue to justify abandoning my sugar-free weekdays for just one or two sweet, sweet M&Ms. Finally, last Saturday, my cheat day, it was time to dive into the bag. I couldn’t wait. What happened next can only be described as a candy tragedy.

The first bite could only be described as a full-on peppermint overload. My actual thought: “Good God, my mouth is ablaze…from peppermint. How is that even possible????.”  Peppermint should, in fact, be an icy sensation not a hot sensation so the fact that my mouth felt as though it were on fire was particularly perplexing. My next thought was that perhaps I’m just not used to sugar/candy and I need to eat a few more to get reacquainted with the delight of sugar. I foolishly deluded myself into believing more peppermint might somehow tame the peppermint.  Well, I ate the whole damn bag and I can definitively tell you what you probably already knew: more overwhelming mint begets only more overwhelming mint. Not only did I feel absolutely ill, but the minty aftertaste was so strong and prevalent that I swear to you it felt like I just brushed my teeth…excessively…with the world’s mintiest of toothpastes.

Look, I am a huge, huge advocate for chocolate and peppermint, but I have to say that if you feel like you’ve just brushed your teeth after eating a peppermint candy, that is too much peppermint.  I like my white chocolate saccharine and these M&Ms lacked the sugar hit to balance out the peppermint. To say I was crestfallen would be an understatement.  I was left only with an extremely unhappy stomach and the unnerving experience of being let down by one of my true candy loves.

I do not know if Hershey Canada has a different formula for white chocolate peppermint M&Ms than in the US, which is where I acquired these candies in the past. I do find that Hershey’s chocolate tastes altogether different in the two countries. Perhaps that is the culprit here. Regardless, I can safely say that my latest experience has soured me so much that I will never find out. I am sorry peppermint white chocolate M&Ms, but we are done.  Though I am saddened by your sudden disappearance from my list of favourite holiday candies, I am thankful that there are hordes of other peppermint chocolate confections to take your place. I bid you adieu.