Monday, November 22, 2010

Oprah's Favourite Things

It's the MOST wonderful time of the year . . . 

Well, it is if you are one of those lucky chosen few who get to be in Oprah's audience for her 'Favorite Things' episode.

And this year there were two episodes.

The Engineer hates Oprah.  He finds her annoying.  If she introduced him on her show it would sound like this:  Today on OPrah we have the ENginEEEEEEEEER!

Erm, it's harder to write than to say.  But you know what I mean.  That weird yelling/emphasis thing she does.

Back to the Engineer hating Oprah.  His only exposure to a 'Favorite Things' episode was the SNL parody starring Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch.  It's not on Hulu or the SNL website but I found it via another blogger taped from the television:
The Things That Make Me Laugh

You have to watch carefully but you may notice Rachel peeing her pants in the front row and Amy Poehler's head popping off in the sheer excitement of getting free stuff.

On a rainy Saturday, I made the Engineer watch Part One of Oprah's 'Favorite Things'.  Watching with him was pretty much the funniest thing ever.

Have you watched this show?  Have you seen the craziness that are these people getting amazing gifts for free? 

The Engineer thought they were joking.  He didn't realize we were watching Oprah.  He wondered where Tina Fey was.

No, Engineer, they are that crazy. 

I don't blame them. I would be going nuts too if I was getting a free cruise, or an iPad, or a freaking 2012 VW Beetle that isn't even MADE!!!! 

It is mob mentality right?  Two hundred people making each other go crazy.    Someone is bound to faint.

As the episode progressed, and the medics were brought in (due to said fainting), the Engineer grew more and more agitated.  

Oprah:  "A set of  CANDles!!"  

Camera pans to a man whose mouth is open in astonishment and tears stream down his face. 

The Engineer:  "WHAT?  For candles?  This isn't real. This is a joke.  Is this a joke?"

Me:  "No"

Then a woman started praying to God.  

Well, that just set the Engineer off.  "It's MACARONI AND CHEESE!!  Is this an audience for a sporting event that they are faking to be on Oprah?"

Me:  "No"

In fact, the only time the audience didn't go crazy was when they got the Kiva gift certificates.  For an audience that was chosen based on their charity work, their reaction was lacklustre.  The Engineer flipped out.  "WHAT?  How can they possibly be charitable?  They're so materialistic.  They should be the most excited about charity."

Me:  "Maybe they are so excited because now they can give their presents away."


Today's episode had even me wanting to pee my pants and blow my head off with excitement.  A Le Creuset set AND an iPad?  AND a VW Bug?   AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!

Here's the thing about Oprah:  she is a billionaire and crazy successful and yet she is GRATEFUL everyday for her success and continues to better herself spiritually, emotionally and physically.  You may not like her (um, Engineer) but I think that is very cool.  I am also fascinated by the fact that all those 'favorite things' are now bestsellers.  

The Oprah effect.  Pretty incredible stuff.  Businesses will spend upwards of $20 000 to get on her favorite things episode.  And when they are accepted, they can roll out the carpet of success.  They are immediately sold out and on the road to millions.

This was her last favorite things.  I for one am sad.  I mean, (A) how will I know what to put on my Christmas list next year? (B) watching that episode bonds the Engineer and I in gut bursting laughter for an hour and (C)  I will miss the crazy.

Like her or not, Oprah: one of my favorite things.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wacko Wacko: How these Two Words Changed My Life (and my hips!)

Over the years (and a few before that) of writing this blog, I have gone the distance, so to speak, when it comes to trying out new and fun ways to trim my waistline and get back into my high school pants (or at least third year university pants).

I have tried pole dancing (which was when I was my fittest and most toned but I kept falling off of the pole when it came time for the fancy upside down stuff), pogo stick hopping, spinning (or hell, as I think of it), boot camp, Bollywood dancing, boxing (30 Minute Hit is the best!!), yoga, hot yoga, yoga with wings, yoga-ballet, yogaltes, pilates, pilates with props, hot pilates, hoop pilates, powerball pilates, personal training, hula dancing, hula hooping, 80's style jazzersize, and even aquasize.

It's no wonder that in exploring Toronto, I have sought out some fun fitness trends.  Especially with the size six wedding dress that is sitting in my closet.

Well friends, I believe I have done well.

First 'Wacko' goes to Witty Workouts

The gist is that you do a circuit workout twice and in between sets (is that the right word?) you play a game. And you know I like games!

But that's not all!  Oh no - it's all done with a . . . .  THEME!  THEME!  I am queen of themes!  I love themes. I theme everything!  I even theme Christmas presents.

Therefore when I was told this was a workout with a theme I nearly peed my pants with excitement. 

I happened in a few days after Halloween.  Therefore the theme was, yup, you guessed it!  Halloween!

Firstly, the trainer was wearing a Jack-o-Lantern costume complete with a hat.  Secondly, our warm-up was the 'pumpkin twist'.  Literally.  He found a song called "The Pumpkin Twist" and we followed along.  Pretending to be pumpkins and twisting around.  Thirdly, each station had a fun name.  So twists become 'Witche's Couldron'.  Some of the stations even had hats!  The games included beer pong that had me laughing so hard I didn't notice I was doing crunches for three minutes.

I give Witty Workouts an A++ on the scale of not noticing I worked out until I got out of bed the next day and couldn't walk.

My second 'Wacko' goes to Zumba.  The Latin-inspired workout that is spreading the world like wildfire. 

It might just be the funnest dance party I have ever experienced.  I love trying to dance.  I stress 'trying'.  I am one of the most unchoreographed people ever.  In Brooklyn, I always wanted to go to African dance but, if you recall I looked like a monkey on speed, therefore was always too scared to go back.

Zumba is no exception. 

As soon as the uber fun and sexy music starts playing, you can't help but start to dance.  It is the funnest dancing ever!

Our instructor was this sexy Latina girl with long flowing dark hair who could move her hips at breakneck speed.

Do you ever watch instructors and think you look exactly like them, then catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and realize you look like a drunken chimpanzee?  It's like the time I had to wave at myself in yoga because I didn't realize my butt looked so big from behind.  The sudden realization that you are a terrible dancer hits you like a ton of bricks.

Whatever. I am the whitest person I know.  I cannot be expected to be a super dance star.

I tried my best to follow along.  Shaking my butt with the beat.  Waving my hands in the air.  All the while doing mambo steps.  Luckily I was in loser corner.  The guy next to me was a three-hundred pound Indian guy with a beard (I LOVE the fact he even was at this class!) and a gal who had even less coordination than me!  We banded together in our inability to turn around and cha cha at the same time while Shakira sang 'Wacko Wacko'.  And when I crashed with Mr. Beard during 'espenza' (I think this is what it is called - hard to know.  Basically you shake your bum while sticking it out and waving your arms like a washing machine in front of you) it was no big deal because we were in unpretentious and awesome zumba!

Unlike African that was full of people who were taking it a bit too seriously, it doesn't matter how sucky you are in Zumba.  I will not be too scared to go back.

The more you mix up the fitness fun, the more likely you are to stick to a regular routine and see results.  That's what I have learned anyways.  I know it's time to move on from a workout when I have to drag myself away from Golden Girls or I stop seeing changes in my body.

But I'm fairly certain that mixing up tossing a jack-o-lantern and shaking my booty will last at least until I have to zip that wedding dress up!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Royal Slip

Yesterday's post, A Royal Engagement, had a wee bit of a Royal, erm, Freudin slip.

I may have written, "Is this what people felt like in 1981 when SARAH and Charles got married?"

That's right - I confused my own name with that of Princess Diana's.  Whoops. And I didn't even notice after proofreading. Nor did any readers notice.  None, except for the Engineer.  Double whoops.

I guess it just seemed so natural, after all Sarah DOES mean princess.  And there was Sarah, Duchess of York. 

After yesterday's announcement, female Facebook status updates included things like "Prince William is off the market :(" "At least Harry is still available" and, my personal favourite, "Can now handle the royal engagement after reading this article:  Unemployed English Girl to Wed Soldier from Welfare Family".

It made me handle it better too.  Kate may be able to bag a prince but she can't bag a job. And their wedding is being paid for by British taxpayers. So there. 

No.  Can't do it. I love Kate!  Look how classy and pretty she is!  I can't wait to buy china with her head on it!

My mum pointed out that I should feel sorry for Kate.  Being thrust into the limelight the way she is.  Check out their statement and the amount of flashes going off.  But I don't feel sorry for her!  She has been going out with him for eight years!!  She knows exactly what she is getting into.  After all, she grew up in the time of Princess Diana.  I am pretty sure Kate thinks being a Queen is worth it.

Yesterday when I admitted being envious/sad of the royal engagement, I really did think I was alone.  Facebook proved I was not. 

And it was that fact that made me feel better.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Royal Engagement

As you may have learned, Prince William and Miss Kate Middleton are finally engaged.

And when you heard the news you felt a twinge of envy and sadness.

Or was that just me?

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE the Engineer.  He is my Prince.  But he isn't exactly from Royal blood nor does he have a castle.  I didn't actually think I was ever going to be a real princess anyways but there was always that happy knowledge that a single future king was out there.

It's like that moment you realize that you are never going to figure skate with Kurt Browning in the Olympics (so many things are wrong with this to begin with but this was my dream at 14).  Or dance in the Nutcracker.  Or be the future Queen of England.

I am happy for them though, and I can't wait to see the dress Kate picks!  Also, how can we not like her?  She's a commoner!  Educated.  Pretty.  Fashionable.  And she bagged a prince.

Is this what people felt like in 1981 when Sarah and Charles got married?

They plan on getting married next spring or summer.  Great.  Now my wedding definitely won't be the event of 2011.

I have been engaged for 11 months now and I have some advice for Miss Kate. 

ENJOY the engagement-moon!  My friend told me that she loved the first couple of months of being engaged and boy, was she right.  I wish I had relished them more.  I look back on those first two, and very cold, weeks in January when I was with the Engineer in London after our engagement with fondness.  I can even smell the London flat and taste the tea as I sat for hours on my computer looking at possible wedding destinations.

When you are newly engaged, you feel as if you have just fallen in love for the first time.  My affection for the Engineer drove me wild.  I adored everything he said and wanted to kiss him all the time.

We're back to normal now.  HA!

I also loved being a new bride.  The unfamiliar feeling of having a ring on your left hand. Catching yourself in every mirror or window or puddle to see the glitter of your ring.  Talking in an unusual manner with your hands hoping strangers would comment on the beauty of your ring. 

When you are newly engaged, it's fun to race to the bookstore and buy every bridal magazine.  You wait at the counter whilst paying just waiting for the person to comment on your engagement (God, how needy am I?).  The excitement of talking about all that you want for your wedding before the inevitable budget sets in.  Trying to decide where in the world to get married (or was that just me?).

I loved telling everyone (and because I was in London this was hard!).  My group of friends have a tradition of telling big news over brunch. How long I had fantasized about sitting over eggs benny and then saying, "So I got the best thing in London" and then whipping my left hand out to a myriad of screams.  Instead, I revealed it by email because the Engineer and I wanted to post our engagement on Facebook (so much is wrong with that statement). 

The best part about being newly engaged is that you are crazy in love, not just crazy. Which is what you are eleven months into an engagement.  The Engineer and I no longer look into each other's eyes with wonder as we contemplate growing old together.  Now I just ask him if he prefers pink to yellow and what sort of music should we have at the ceremony (bagpipe!). 

I have the date set, the invitations have already been RSVP'd, the dress is sitting in my closet, and my bridesmaids are picked. 

Also, I am not a 'new' bride anymore.  Other people have gotten engaged since my engagement.  Like 15 minutes of fame, you only get 15 minutes of absolute adoration until it is your wedding day and you get to be adored again. 

Then you're really screwed because you'll be married.

So, Kate Middleton, I toast my cup of tea to you and William.  May you enjoy your engagement and the uphoria of finally getting the ROCK (she waited long enough!).  I look forward to wearing a hat at your wedding.  Although I will be watching it from my couch. 

And for all you single gals  -  there is still one single royal left . . .

West Coast Girl

My whole life I have been a 'Prairie Girl'.

I was born and raised in the prairies.  I am one of those unique individuals who actually knows that bread comes from wheat and appreciates the effort it takes.  I have ridden in a combine.  I know that a prairie sunset can last forever and ever because the sky is so big.  I've been up early enough to see the hint of sunrise in the east and the navy sky in the west.  I've been woken up to hear the coyotes howl in the night sky as the Northern Lights dance overhead.  I've know what it is to experience winters so cold that your eyes actually freeze closed.  I've watched storms roll in from 100 kilometres away and disappear a 100 kilometres in the other direction.  I know that early morning in the prairie is one of the most beautiful things in the world.  I know how to find beauty passing hundreds of kilometres of canola, barley and wheat from one prairie town to another.

I am such a prairie girl that my old email address is actually prairiegirl.  My first production company was Prairiegirlproductions. I am such a prairie girl that I have never considered myself anything but.

I just moved to Toronto with the Engineer.  I feel very out of place.  My mum thinks it is because I am a westerner and I am just not an East Coast girl (New York was in the States so apparently doesn't count.  Even though if I lived there forever I still would never be a true New Yorker).

But am I still a prairie girl?

Truth be told, I never really thought about it. Until . . .

A group of wonderful gal pals and I gathered on a wet Sunday to take a picture.  We had just spent a wonderful weekend at  Sakinaw Lake Lodge on the Sunshine Coast.

In typical BC form, our departure was marked by low, grey clouds and rain.  We all smooshed together, arms around one another, our rain hoods up and our wellies protecting our toes from getting wet.  The owner of Sakinaw apologized for making us take a photo in the rain.

My girlfriend quipped, 'That's okay!  We're West Coast Girls'.

It was then that I realized:  I was less a prairie girl and had slowly become a West Coaster without realizing it.

Obviously I am the sentimental type.  I am probably the only person who was affected by this statement.  I mean I was  dwelling on my departure from BC. On the eve of my move to Toronto, I got to celebrate the West Coast in style.

I have lived in Vancouver for ten years.  In that time, I have shed my ability to withstand cold and bitter winters.  I don't even know how to drive in the snow anymore.  I am now conditioned to drop ANYTHING I am doing and run outside - when the sun is shining.  It gets very confusing when I am in places (like Toronto) that always seem to be sunny. 

From my bedroom, I see the North Shore mountains that turn that lovely purple hue at sunset.  Right now I bet they are starting to get that dusting of snow.  It's a three minute walk to sea water.  My walks through barley fields have been replaced with dog walks in a rain forest.

My footwear of choice are rainboots.  I am comforted by rain and fear snow.

I am a West Coast girl.

In these ten years, I have cultivated some of the most wonderful and strong friendships ever imaginable.  Women who love me even when I lament on the ferry heading back to Horseshoe Bay that it is the last 'BC Ferry (aka White Spot) clam chowder I will ever have' (ummm, I will probably be on a ferry in a month).  Women who love being cozied up inside with a crackling fire watching the mists roll over the lake (or ocean depending where we are).  Women who also love the uniform of lululemon, rubber boots and raincoats.  Women who invited me into their lives ten years ago and have helped to transform this prairie gal into a West Coaster.

I mean some of these girls have had to sit in a car with me as we soar over the Coquihalla as I gush "OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!  BC is the prettiest place EVER" (seriously, the views really are hard to beat).  Maybe a bit of my sentimentality has rubbed off on them :)

Anyways, as I adjust to this new life on the East side of Canada I can't help but reflect on the fact that I am a westerner at heart. There are many reasons to miss BC. It's amazing beauty and freshness, the mountains and ocean, and the fact that Vancouver remains green all year round.

But the biggest reason to miss BC, are my West Coast Girls.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day

I was out the other day with a new group of people, one of which commented that she wondered what the point of taking Remembrance Day off of work was.  Do people really take a moment and reflect?  Or do they do, as she does, sleep-in and watch daytime television?

The Engineer jumped in really quickly to prevent me from losing it because he knows how angry this thinking makes me.

Since I was a child, Remembrance Day has always greatly affected me.

Perhaps because my grandfather passed away on November 10th and I have always associated this time with remembering.

Or maybe because my great-uncle died shortly after landing on the beaches of Normandy.

Or, the most likely reason of them all, like most people in our country and world, seeing the valour, honor and pure selflessness that so many men and women have shown in serving for their country.

Watching the coverage of the ceremony this morning in Ottawa, I heard an interesting quote I want to share.  Military historian and author Jack Granastein said this:  "Remember why we fought. Never for aggression, or for territory, or for spoils. Only for right reasons.  For our friends, for our allies, our values especially for our freedom, democracy.  We only ever fought for the right causes.  And there aren't many countries that can say that.  It's important to remember."

In May, I wrote about visiting my great-uncle's grave in France. I wrote about the Iraq war and how I didn't really understand why we were there.  I take that back.  Since then, I have done much research and spoken to some veterans who were there. I really respect the effort our Canadian forces are doing in Afghanistan.  They are working to keep out the Taliban.  They are fighting to protect those that are not able to protect themselves.  They are making the world a better place. We have lost 152 of them.

On my way to the beach today, around 10:45, I ran into a small marching group heading to the local war memorial.  I could hear the pipes long before I could see them, and quickly went to watch.  Led by a man in his motor-scooter holding a "Lest We Forget" flag, was a piping group (one of which was a Chinese woman - I love that about Canada).  Behind them were a few veterans (including a woman!) and behind them was a group of about 12 young men wearing WW2 replica uniforms.

That really moved me.  When one puts into context just how young those soldiers were, it is incredible.  Just babies.

The Engineer had an ultra-Canadian moment at 11am.  He was at a Tim Horton's surrounded by construction crews, businessmen, families when 'Last Post' started to play and EVERYONE was silent for two minutes.  

Earlier I was listening to a few women who served during WW2.  Women wanted to play their part in the war.  They were brave, got dirty, and did 'unladylike' things.  Not only did these women pave the way for future generations of women who can now serve in the military, but they also paved the way for all women to work.

When my grandfather died, I met one of his neighbors who had served in the RAF.  She told me how proud she was to help build planes.  She also told me that she was pudgy and her uniform pants were too tight.  Ha!

Captain Nichola Goddard, 1980-2006

At his funeral, our family was incredibly moved by the group of WW2 veterans who showed up.  Apparently, veterans check the obits every morning looking for fellow veterans.  They don't have to know the man, or have served with the man, or even served with the same country, but they will come and pay their respect.  I spoke about spending time in England with my grandad and how grateful I was for that.  Afterwards, one of the veterans who also happened to be British gave me his British poppy with a black center (like the ones we have this year).  They also played 'The Last Post' and each walked up to salute his picture.

Talk about ugly cry fest.

My grandfather was bitterly disappointed that he got injured before he was able to serve on D-Day.  I always waved this comment off and told him I am glad he didn't go.  I now understand his sadness.

Tom Bentley joined the British Royal Marines the moment he could, in fact he lied about his age. While training, he was in a motorcycle accident and therefore unable to go to war.  No wonder he was so disappointed.  Ever other man in his country was off to war, fighting and protecting Britain and liberating Europe.  He was sent back north.  He never got his chance.  My family might not exist if he had, which I am grateful for, but I can definitely now see it from his side.

I realize this is a long post but I just feel so strongly about this day.

We lose 400-600 WW2 veterans a week and we lost our last WW1 veteran earlier this year.
There are 152 lives that have been lost in Afghanistan and thousands who continue to serve.

If we don't make this day important, we diminish the significance these men and women have made in our lives.  If we don't make an effort to remember, one day we will forget and their sacrifices will have meant nothing.

So please take more than just a minute today.

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother" - Henry V

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.