Podcast Round Up

In these trying times, when spending quality time with friends and family is pretty much impossible, I’ve been adding more and more podcasts to my list. They give the same warm feeling of hanging out with friends without requiring any participation on my part. I stay safely inside, do my dishes, laundry, whatever, and I don’t end up having long, involved conversations with my plants. Well, I do, just not quite as often.

If you’re also going a little stir crazy, I suggest you give the following list a try.

1. My Favorite Murder

Do you like true crime? Do you enjoy hilarious riffing by two sassy women while they talk about murder? Then this is the podcast for you. If you’ve never listened before (first of all, you’re welcome! I’ll think of something nice for you to give me as a thank you later), make sure you start at the beginning. It’s so fun to listen to this podcast evolve into the force it has become today and there are too many good episodes that I absolutely refuse to let you miss. So sit back, enjoy and remember: Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered!

2. I Said No Gifts

Comedy writer Bridger Winegar hosts this adorable and fun podcast, in which guests always show up with a gift, despite the title. There is no set topic for discussion and Bridger is an excellent interviewer and host, guiding the conversation with an expert hand. Some of my favourite episodes have included guests Lauren Lapkus, Matt Ingebretson, Louis Virtel and Emma Thompson, but they’re all great. Bridger’s voice is so soothing and he’s always so funny. The podcast is a delight.

3. Vulgar History

Do you like history but you’re sick of hearing about the same ten dudes and never the super cool, insanely clever women? In this hilarious podcast by historian and writer Ann Foster, you’ll hear all the scandalous details about history’s most underappreciated women. There are murders, super sexy secret marriages, spies, thieves, and much more. A personal favourite was Cleopatra VII, but honestly, they’re all fantastic.

4. Why Won’t You Date Me?

On this dating podcast hosted by comedian Nicole Byer, no topic is taboo. Nicole is hilarious and so are her guests, as they explore everything dating, romance, marriage, sex and relationships. And the theme song? It’s physically impossible for me not to grin when I hear it. And if you love Nicole as much as I do, she’s on two other podcasts you can check out as well. The Newcomers, with Lauren Lapkus, and Best Friends With Nicole Byer and Sasheer Zamata.

5. Do You Need a Ride?

This is yet another fun, relaxing podcast, featuring comedians Karen Kilgariff and Chris Fairbanks. Sometimes they have a guest on, sometimes they don’t, but the conversation is always funny, light and distracting in the best way. It feels like being at coffee with two great friends who are quick with jokes and good stories. New episodes drop every second Monday, but don’t worry, there’s a huge bank of episodes to keep you company in between.

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Seed Update

The major update on the bevy of seeds I ordered to turn into freakishly beloved plant babies is that they are not here yet. But they are supposed to arrive tomorrow.

In preparation for what I can only hope will be plants that gain sentience and take over the world, or at the very least provide me with the makings of a good salad, I headed of to the local farm and garden store to buy necessities. A bag of nice seed starting mix, a grow light, and of course even more seeds because dammit I’m impatient and I want to grow something already!

I brought up some old seed trays from my gardening bin in the basement, washed them and set up my grow light. Despite being fairly straight forward, the instructions were garbage, so I’m giving all the credit to me and my engineering prowess on that one. (I have no engineering prowess. It was honestly just that simple, but still. I’m offended on behalf of instruction sheets everywhere.)

Everything is set up for me to get right down to business tomorrow when my package finally arrives and in the mean time I was able to plant some of the seeds I bought today. Impatience wins!

My little pots are not tidy and I do not care in the slightest.

Don’t worry, I’m going to keep you updated on the progress of my plant babies. Like any new mom I will be inundating you with pictures from every conceivable angle. And as per the social contract, you will heap praise upon me as a most excellent plant mom.

Because I am.

So peaceful

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Why I’ll Never Be a Fashion Blogger

My love of fashion died in my twenties when I realized I hated being uncomfortable. If you want to be stylish, you need to care about form over function and aesthetic over comfort, and I will never be someone who can do that. I’m the person who chooses to stay at her current job because I’m allowed to show up daily in jeans and a hoodie.

My number one focus in picking out clothes and putting together an outfit is comfort. If an item is even a little uncomfortable I will not put it on my body. Add to that an almost hyper sensitivity when it comes to seams, fabrics and fit and… yeah. Bye fashion career! See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!

If a piece of clothing itches, restricts my movement even a little, is too tight or is stiff and uninviting, it has no place in my closet. I had patience for that shit in my twenties, when looking hot seemed like the be all and end all, but those days are over.

Here is a short list of things I will no longer wear:

Thongs. Why? Because I’m a feminist, dammit. And you can’t convince me that thongs aren’t the patriarchy trying to keep us down. Think about it. “Hey, could you spend the day with a piece of string up your ass? It’s sexy.” Um, no. No, I will not do that. I will wear my exceptionally cute, uber comfortable undies, thanks. If, heaven forbid, an outfit is unwearable without one because it’s so mother-flipping tight you could see my (gasp!) pantyline, I’d rather skip the outfit entirely.

High Heels. Yep. Spent my twenties parading around in those. Do you know what it got me? Bunions. My entire shoe wardrobe now is sneakers, sensible walking shoes (are they ugly? Yes, very. But guess what? I walk for literal miles and it feels like I’m stepping on clouds, so who’s the idiot now?) and ballet flats for dresses and such.

Spandex. I know a lot of people out there love spandex leggings and yoga pants and I will never understand you. Having spandex on my legs makes me want to crawl out of my skin. It’s so tight and it doesn’t breathe! Same with skinny jeans. What are y’all punishing yourselves for?

Anything that requires me to hold my breath or contort in any way to get into. Again, why are y’all punishing yourselves? You are worthy of love! And if you start your explanation with ‘once you get used to it’ I am going to grab you by the shoulders and shake you. Who hurt you, honey? Who hurt you?

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New Levels of Quarantine Boredom

The exciting thing about a pandemic (besides seeing how long you can go without groceries or putting on real pants) is getting to see what avenues your mind will start exploring when boredom reaches nuclear levels.

For the first year of quarantine (oh my God. Year. Hold on, I need to scream into a pillow), I did okay. I read a lot of books, watched a lot of TV and movies and managed to see friends and family through the summer at safe, socially distanced outdoor get togethers. It was inconvenient, but completely managable. Now, three months into winter, with another two-three months to go, I’m getting… a little desperate.

Yes, I still read a lot, but TV has become less enjoyable. There’s only so much screen time my eyeballs can handle before a real sledgehammer of a headache starts and I’ve seen most of what there is on offer. That leaves a lot of time to fill. Time I usually spent going out to eat with my husband, or having coffee with friends. Instead, I’m trapped in my house, I hate zoom meetings and my husband and I have stopped eating supper in an effort to drop the covid weight we put on eating our feelings all year.

Here are a few things I’ve found myself investing time in:

Dollhouses. Specifically haunted ones. I spent a few weeks online, researching dollhouse kits and following dollhouse enthusiasts on Instagram. I ended up nixing the idea for now, because A) they take up A LOT of space, B) they are a ton of work to design and decorate (especially when you get really into it, and I absolutely would) and C) filling them with furniture and such is wretchedly expensive. I don’t feel like adding a miniature sized mortgage to my monthly bills, thanks. Plus, I’d probably get resentful when my dollhouse had better furniture than I did.

Lego. After the dollhouse failure, I thought maybe I would prefer building a Lego empire state building or maybe the Louvre. I like puzzles, so why not let a pretty piece of architecture take over my dining room table for a while? Haha, wow and I thought the dollhouses were expensive. No thanks, Lego. If I want hours of entertainment, I’ll spend $25 on a book, not $650 on a box of pieces to build the Taj Mahal. Whatever feeling of accomplishment that might have given me would be completely undone by the credit card bill.

Seeds. One thing I did buy was seeds. Lots of them. They have yet to arrive, but when they do I’m going to get real intense about them, monitering their growth, talking to them daily and referring to them as my ‘babies’ and ‘plant children’. And if I manage to kill them because I didn’t think through the fact that my house has terrible light, so be it.

Darning socks. Yeah, I’ve actually been darning all my holey socks. A friend has gotten really into up-cycling and mending and she’s inspired me to reduce waste and re-use items I might have thrown away otherwise. She posted a video about darning some of her worn out socks, tights, etc. and it looked weirdly soothing. So, I bought a darning needle and some brightly coloured embroidery thread, watched some YouTube tutorials and fixed all my old socks. Honestly, it actually was soothing. And it kept me off the internet for a while, so win-win.

Sock darning in progress. Control your excitement, please!

All of this in an attempt to not lose my sanity or worse still, clean and organize my house. (Hopefully things don’t ever get that dire.)

Is it wrong that by the time this is over I sincerely hope we’ve all developed some really weird hobbies and interests? I want to see people that are way to into bird watching. I want ventriloquism. Maybe some mult-generational painted rock families or a menagerie of knitted sock puppets. If you come out of this normal and well adjusted, I don’t want to hang out with you. Because frankly, you scare the hell out of me.

You know I wouldn’t deprive you of the finished sock!

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I Like Monsters

I like books with monsters in them. I just do. Yes, I read contemporary fiction as well, the occasional literary novel. Honestly, I read pretty much everything. But when I want to really cozy up with a book? Reality is out of the question.

Sometimes, I want to keep it light, something with a little humor. Something like Monster by A. Lee Martinez.

Monster is about a guy named Monster, who runs a paranormal pest control agency. He teams up with a woman named Judy when she discovers a Yeti in the freezer aisle of the grocery store where she works. Hijinks ensue. They ensue a-plenty.

Other times, I want reality with a twist of weird or dark, like with the Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong.

The first book, Omens, opens with Olivia finding out her idyllic life is not all it seems. It turns out she was adopted as a child. And her birth parents? Convicted serial killers. Her hunt for answers leads her down strange paths and towards things she can’t explain but are somehow familiar…

So far so good right? Then there are the times I’m looking for morally ambiguous characters, the kind that makes you question who the real monster is. For example, Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer or This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab.

And obviously, you know I wouldn’t leave you hanging. Of course, I always want a good paranormal romance. (Incidentally, the Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong scratches that itch very well.) For this category, I would be remiss not to mention The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, starting with The Cruel Prince. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride is another book I’ve mentioned in a previous post but I don’t care. I still fucking love that book.

And if that’s not enough, I have one more recommendation for you. Jackaby by William Ritter. It’s like Sherlock Holmes, if he solved paranormal cases. So good.

Okay, my friends. Go forth and read wonderful monster books. I’m off to do the same!

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I’m Freezing. How Are You?

It’s winter and I’m cold.

I’m cold

All.

The.

Time.

I shuffle around my house, movement inhibited by whatever large blanket I have currently wrapped around myself as an elaborate cape/burrito, stumbling from kitchen to couch and the nest of even more blankets I have waiting for me there.

At work, my space heater and humidifier run constantly. (I like my heat moist and jungle-y.)

It hasn’t even been that bad of a winter so far. But that’s part of the problem. So far. There’s still so much more winter to go. Where I live there are another three months ahead of me. Possibly four.

I suppose I could use this quiet, frozen time to accomplish something. But that would require leaving the blanket nest.

No, instead I think I’ll attempt hibernation until spring. If bears can do it, I can too. It’s only a matter of will. (Shut up, science. This doesn’t concern you.)

I will see you all in spring, when I emerge, a blanket-less butterfly.

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New Year, New Me… But Not Really

Ah, the new year. Brand new and just out of the packaging, un-smudged by greasy fingerprints and regret.

And this year I’m going to do it all right.

I tell you, gone are the days of losing multiple hours to binge watching Netflix and YouTube, a massive headache trying to knock my skull apart from too much screen time.

No longer will I procrastinate. I will be a beacon of productivity! I will take the world by storm!

Yes! I will become fluent in french, lose those eight or ten pounds I put on during quarantine, do yoga every day and keep the house clean!

Every night I’m going to wash my face and moisturize! I will floss multiple times a day! I will clean the basement! I WILL READ A THOUSAND BOOKS! I WILL LEARN TO DRAW!

Or, I will attempt to be slightly less terrible. Slightly. Baby steps.

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Pokey The Murder Tree

So pretty, so angry

As you may recall from an earlier post, I don’t usually get a Christmas tree. But with the world such as it is, and with a local health order forbidding get togethers with anyone outside our immediate household, my husband and I decided that maybe we would indulge in a little Christmas magic and buy a tree.

We always buy real trees because 1) we don’t want to store a fake tree all year, taking up valuable space and reeking of mildew when you do haul it out and 2) I read once that real trees are actually more environmentally friendly because of how long it takes for fake trees to break down in a landfill and I took it to heart.

Decision made, my husband offered to stop after work and pick up the tree, which sounded great to me. As much as I love going to stores, standing out in the cold and scrutinizing trees with no real idea of how it will look once it’s untied but feeling pressured to ‘pick a good one’, only to stand in line forever, pay and then carry and forcefully shove said tree into a vehicle to drive it home, I was happy to leave that task to someone else.

Except I really, really should have gone with.

The first time I bought a Christmas tree on my own, I stood in a yard of identical looking trees, wondering why some were forty dollars and others were twenty dollars. They looked exactly the same. Were they older? Less fresh? They didn’t seem to be. “Why would I pay double for the same tree?” I thought and merrily picked out a cheaper tree and drove it home to my little apartment. I didn’t realize that the difference in price was for a very good reason.

It turns out, the cheap trees are murder trees. I might as well have brought home a bin of hypodermic needles to decorate. That tree’s needles were so sharp decorating was almost impossible. I yelped so much my neighbours probably thought I was giving myself a DIY prison tattoo. A fair bit of the red on my first solo Christmas tree was blood. And I swore on my punctured skin I would never make that mistake again.

Until this year.

My husband wasn’t with me during my first purchase of a murder tree. He didn’t know that the only true test of a good tree is to touch the needles and make sure they don’t try to kill you. He just looked for a nicely shaped tree that would fit in the car and went on his merry way. He bought a murder tree.

I knew the second he brought it in the house. One touch and I started whispering “oh no”, over and over like I was possessed, or perhaps someone who’d been flayed before and was in the middle of an intense wave of flashbacks.

“What?”

“You bought a murder tree.”

“What? No. It’s fine.” He touched the needles. “They’re a little sharp but I can decorate it on my own if you want.”

A little sharp? This tree was the unholy offspring of a rabid porcupine and a sea urchin. This tree didn’t want to be a Christmas tree. It didn’t want to be decorated. It wanted our blood.

Give me your soul, petty human.

A day later, the tree now unthawed and restless for murder, I dug out the thickest gloves I could find for my husband and me and we set to work. They did a decent job protecting our hands but they made hanging ornaments difficult and clumsy. We tried without the gloves but it was too painful. It was like shoving our hands into a basket of, well, needles. One by one we wrestled ornaments onto branches while being mercilessly poked and stabbed everywhere unprotected by the gloves. By the end we were both covered in a rash of red dots that made us look like we had a raging case of chicken pox. My skin itched like it was on fire.

The tree, desperately unhappy to now be a source of twinkling magic and joy, immediately set about killing itself. Despite constantly making sure it had water, the tree turned brittle and dry, barely making it to Christmas. Every time I leaned past it to plug in the lights it stabbed me, its insanely sharp needles puncturing through my jeans like they were nothing.

After Christmas we took it down immediately, lest it burst into flames and take us with it in murdery vengeance. It managed to shed 50% of its needles as we un-decorated it and even more as we dragged it out of the house. One last ‘screw you’ for our attempt to turn it into a Christmas tree. Come summer, we’ll chop it up and burn it, releasing whatever demon was trapped inside to wreak its havoc on the world.

At least now my husband knows to always touch the needles before buying, so hopefully that’s the last demon murder tree we bring into our house.

And let this be a lesson to all of you. Check the needles! Do not buy the murder tree.

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Tis’ The Season to Eat Your Feelings

Winter is here, we’re all locked in the house and we’re getting dangerously low on things to watch on Netflix. Add the looming holiday to the mix and there’s only one thing left to do: eat. Eat all the things.

I’m a big fan of poppycock. For one, the name makes me feel whimsical and British. It’s also insanely tasty and I will mow down an entire tin in ten minutes flat if left unchecked. The hard bit is that it’s super tedious to make. And yeah, I know I’ve got nothing but time, but I need snacks now, dammit.

Another good one is peanut butter balls. They’re way less labour intensive (although still a little tedious) and also have the power to render me incapable of self control. Never had one? Picture little balls of sweetened peanut butter and rice krispies, dipped in a bath of dark chocolate. Oh yes. That’ll do pig, that’ll do.

Then, of course, there are the classics. The batches of chex mix, the various combinations of shortbread, toffee and chocolate (ours is called divine toffee squares and the title is very accurate), and usually something involving marshmallow. Sugar cookies I don’t find particularly tempting, ditto with rice krispies squares. (I actually didn’t know anyone made rice krispie squares for Christmas until I got married.)

If sweet isn’t your thing and only salty snacks will do, there is of course the savoury version of the chex mix, the various charcuterie and cheese boards, the little mini appetizers that show up everywhere this time of year.

The point is, among the diversity of holiday snacks and treats we should all be able to find something to joyfully inhale to mourn (or celebrate) our inability to socialize this winter. And hopefully the food coma inspired nap will last long enough for Netflix to push out some new shows because there’s only so much tic tac toe you can play with the cat.

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Christmas Movies That Have Nothing to Do With Christmas

Around this time of year, we all do our obligatory Christmas movie watching, as is mandated by holiday law. Everyone has their “must watch” list. Elf, Love Actually, The Grinch, Charlie Brown, etc. I have those as well (have you seen Arthur Christmas? Heartwarming!), but they aren’t the only movies I start jonesing for. Every year at this time I get the urge to watch my other seasonal favourites, and they have nothing to do with Christmas.

A little background on me. One of my favourite cousins growing up was a huge nerd. No matter what house was hosting Christmas every year, he always managed to take control of the TV in whichever basement we were hanging out in. All through Christmas day and into the evening, he would watch movies and they were always sci fi movies. It didn’t matter to me what we watched, all I cared about was sneaking the largest plate of cookies possible downstairs so that I could binge eat treats out of sight of my mom and any other responsible adult. The result? I’ve come to associate Christmas (indeed, the very best parts of Christmas) with science fiction. So, every December it’s not just Charlie Brown I reach for.

My top picks?

All of the Alien Movies

Inexplicable as it may be, as soon as the holidays draw near, all I want to watch are the Alien movies, specifically Alien and Aliens. If there’s time, I’ll watch the entire franchise, but the first two are a must.

The Original Star Wars Trilogy

These ones are straight nostalgia for me. We watched them A LOT. My cousin was straight obsessed. And you know what? I don’t blame him. That shit’s entertaining!

Predator

Ideally, I’m going for the crossover of Predator vs Alien, but any Predator movie will do in a pinch.

And While We’re At It…

Honestly, I’ll watch anything if it’s science fiction. New or old. Terminator, The Matrix, Star Trek. It truly doesn’t matter. And if you don’t like it, you can blame my cousin. It’s really all his fault.

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