Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Four and a half rooms of one's own

Last night, a centipede the size of a mouse ran across my living room floor, and I decided it was high time I stopped talking about moving and started actually making plans to blow this popsicle stand. Sayonara spiders. Ciao centipedes. I am outta here. So I found this place online and made a call, and now I'm waiting for a call back to come and look at it. Which might never happen, but it might, and I might like it, and I might write a cheque right there and then and begin chronicling Jen's Year-End Moving Adventure!! Which would be a companion tale to Jen's Rapid Descent into Ever-Increasing Debt!!! Good thing Jen works for a bank. A couple of things: if I do take this place - and that's a big if, it might be a total dive, it might be part of a sinister bait-and-switch plan ("Well, no, that apartment has been rented, but we have a 1-bedroom suite next door for only $1500 plus hydro and your firstborn child!") - I'd like to point out that, even though the ad says that the apartment is in "the heart of Rosedale", it isn't. It's on the outskirts of Rosedale. It's huddling in the shadow of Rosedale. It's east of Mount Pleasant Avenue, for Pete's sake. It's not in Rosedale. So don't worry. I haven't suddenly mutated into one of those annoying blonde women who carry their dogs around in Louis Vuitton dog-bags. I'm still me: refreshingly plain and ordinary. I don't even have a dog! And yes, I know that the two pictures with the hardwood floor and the windows and the rads are of the same room. I'm no fool. Apparently, one of the rooms is carpeted - that's what "Steve" told me. Note how that room didn't even make it into the slide show - it doesn't mesh with the "hardwood floors" part of the ad. But as long as the carpet isn't puke-green shag, I don't care. The carpeted room can be the junk room if this place is all it's cracked up to be. I have to get out of Centipede Central - I just can't take it anymore. I didn't set out to find a two-bedroom apartment. It's not like that was high on my Must Have list. What do I need with two bedrooms? I own, like, seven pieces of furniture - how am I going to fill two bedrooms and living room with that? It's going to take some time and some dedicated spending, let me tell you. But I noticed that the indexing on is far from perfect. So I took advantage of it in order to further my quest for the Perfect Place. Basically, you're supposed to be able to search for a place by location, by number of bedrooms, by rent, and by whether or not the apartment is shared, furnished, or unfurnished. I don't know how 'Shared" got thrown into the "Furnished/unfurnished" category but there you have it. "Rent" tends to be fairly straightforward. You can search in different ranges - my favourite ones are $600-899 and $900-1199, because they tend to yield the most results - for Toronto apartments, anyway. There are a couple of "rentless" apartments floating around - I just ignore them, because I'm too busy to call and find out what the rent is if it's not posted. Bedroom Number is also pretty obvious although you will occasionally pull up ads saying "One bedroom but can be turned into two" and that kind of thing. More devious is the search for a one-bedroom in a given range that yields a result for, eg., "$850 and up", which sometimes translates into "Bachelor apartments in this building start at $850, sucker". But "Location" is a crapshoot on Every advertiser has a different idea about what part of Toronto their apartments are located in. It is generally understood that Yonge is the East-West dividing line in the city, and I'd put the North/South border at Eglinton, but maybe that's too South. Who knows? Nobody, evidently. I've seen ads for Yonge and Eglinton indexed under "Central," "Central North" and "Central East". Given this reality, I intuited I was missing a lot of potentially good apartments. So, instead of using the interactive map feature and restricting my search to one-bedroom apartments in a series of neighbourhoods, I did a "Quick Search" on central, one and two-bedroomed apartments renting for between $600-1000 per month. And voila. Apartments in desireable neighbourhoods that had never appeared in my previous searches were suddenly a mouseclick away. Anyway, it's a start. Begin as you mean to go on, that's what I always say. Starting now.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

No news

Is good news, I guess. I really don't have much to report. I'm feeling rather drained and in need of a recharge. The schedule I've been keeping for the last six weeks or so has been very gruelling and I'm glad it's almost over because my enthusiasm is definitely flagging. If you've called me or sent me a card or an e-mail in the last little while and I haven't responded, I'm not ignoring you - I'm just really busy. What I need is a vacation but unfortunately now is not a good time. Also I'm torn between spending money on a trip somewhere fantastic, or spending it furnishing my apartment, which is still a shrine to Ikea and also to carboard boxes and assorted cat carriers. But right now, what I want more than anything else is 8 hours of sleep. That would be amazing.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Spring makeover

I ruthlessly weeded my wardrobe yesterday, tossing every item of clothing that didn't fit, that I hadn't worn in 18 months, or that I didn't like. I haven't lost weight, but I have lost fat I guess - a lot of them were too big. Even stuff I bought a couple of months ago is getting to be on the loose side, but still wearable, and too new to part with yet. And yes, there were a couple of items from 2001, the year I swam three times a week and got dumped for another woman, that were too small. Anyway - it's all going to Goodwill or Village or the Salvation Army. Bye bye unflattering clothes! I had a lot of empty hangers when I was done. Then I took myself down to my friend Rina's new full-service salon, RC Beauty Studio at Yonge and St Clair, for a trim. If you're in Toronto and looking for a stylist, I highly recommend Rina. For starters, she's something of an inspiration: she moved here from Hong Kong 14 years ago, and worked at various salons until this past spring, when she fufilled her dream of opening her own. She's living the Canadian dream! More importantly, I trust her with my hair. And she doesn't charge you a mint- you won't be paying $50 a cut, no way. E-mail me if you want location and contact info. Then I went down to the Eaton Centre, to start rebuilding my clothing inventory. I didn't see much that appealed to me, but I did buy two new retro-style skirts - a black full-skirted A-line at Jacob and a funky black-and-white floral print at The Gap. Today: shoes.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Salute to Women in Sport

This week the Women's Sports Foundation held it's 28th annual Salute to Women in Sports at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. The mission of this excellent organization is to encourage women to be active in sport or any kind of physical activity. The group has far-reaching influence over the lives of young people. They support a number of community programs which give young girls the chance to play sports in their communities. Also, the foundation has assisted individual athletes in their training and competition at higher levels.

I attended the event with friends and mentors from my training years at Mayo. The evening is an inspiration to men and women alike, as it celebrates the female athlete.

This year, the Rutgers Women's Basketball team received the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award for their overcoming adversity to reach the NCAA finals. Even after their stunning Cinderella story, they were still judged not on their hard work and incredible achievement, but on their appearance during play. The now-famous comments by Don Imus (who, despite medial portrayal, is not an evil man; just misguided and insensitive) about their lack of grooming is certainly a wake-up call to all females in competitive jobs or sports. Imus' comments put a finger on something which is terribly wrpng with the way women are viewed in society. It sends the message that no matter what we as females achieve through our determination and effort, we will still be judged on our appearance.

So here's to you, Lady Scarlet Knights. Not only can you teachus all about teamwork, how to play basketball and overcome tremendous odds; you all look gorgeous. Too bad those evening dresses don't work on the court.


Thank goodness for nail salons and haircuts. If it was not for those two venues, I would never read Cosmopolitan magazine. Their tagline "fun fearless female" is one I live by, but in general their target audience is a bit younger than I am.

Imagine my surprise when on the subway last night my boyfriend and I are seated next to a pleasant, well-built man who asks me which stop will take him to SoHo. Turns out he is Chris Jones, one of the 2007 Cosmopolitan magazine's "50 Hottest Bachelors." He's from Montana and is here in New York for the magazine launch this month.

We only speak for a couple of minutes. He seems to be an intelligent, earnest guy. He tells us about the fun he's had here in New York, about how surprised he is that he made the top 50. Apparently, some co-workers of his nominated him for the honor.

At the Spring Street station, we get off of the subway and part ways, but not before I ask my boyfriend to snap a photograph of us in front of one of the omnipresent "iPod" billboards. The Cosmo website contains a link so that interested women can write to Chris. Sure, he's a great-looking man (the photos do not do him justice) but from our short interaction I can tell he is much more than that.

Congratulations, Chris. Happy you are enjoying your time in our great city.\
(click on image for full size photo)


My friend, Helen, is about three weeks into her "name tag" experiement. Every day, she wears a stick-on name tag that reads "Hello. My Name is Helen." She had the idea from a website where a man writes about his doing this for years.

Helen is an outgoing person to begin with. I met her more than 10 years ago when I lived and worked in Philadelphia. We were volleyball partners and became friends. She is an extremely positive, high energy person who brings a smile to practically every situation. The name tag element just adds spice to the pot.

At first, I thought she was nuts. Why would anyone want to look like a lost conventioneer? But she's found that folks are more likely to talk to her and to introduce themselves to her. Her experiences made me think about the first impressions we all make and create about others.

Folks who are on the far end of the spectrum on the quiet side might be viewed as "snobs." The most outgoing people could be seen as brash or overbearing. These behaviors are most likely manifestations of nervous energy; "How do I start a conversation? What do I talk about?" The name tag is a brilliant equalizer here. It creates a sense of comfort and approachability.

I'm eager to learn of Helen's adventures (and misadventures) with her name tag. What are your thoughts?

Burger Club.

The first rule of Burger Club is - you do not talk about Burger Club. The second rule of Burger Club is - you DO NOT talk about Burger Club..."
Well, maybe a little.
Burger Club came into being because of my brother, Mike. He and I thought it would be fun to get together for a burger about once a month. We choose places in New York which are thought to have the "best" hamburgers, according to some of the local press. We'd eat a hamburger and catch up on each other's lives.
A couple of months ago, my friend, Amy, joined us for a bite at Rare Bar and Grill on Lexington Avenue. We had the Murray's Cheeseburger. The recipe changes weekly. This week, we enjoyed a smoky concoction with aged cheese. The toppings were delicious, but the beef was a little grainy for my taste. The star of the evening was the basket of assorted fries. The trio of sweet potato, waffle and shoestring comes with chili ketchup and maple dipping sauces.
Conversation centered around work, mostly. Amy started a new job at ESPN. She's been working on the news magazine, E60 and loves her job. Her work as an associate producer is varied; she'll be a cameraman one day, an interviewer the next. But Amy's strength lies in her creativity and her meticulous attention to detail. I've been lucky enough to catch some episodes she's worked on and the stories are fascinating.

Last month, my brother was working late and did not attend Burger Club. But our little group has now expanded to include friends from work and from life. In November, Joyce, Trey and Rob join me at J.G. Melon on Third Avenue. I'm biased since these are my favourite burgers in the city. Smaller than those found in many other places, these little gems make up for their size with their incredible taste and texture. The beef is juicy but not greasy, perfectly seasoned and meant to be savored. The J.G. Melon burger is served simply, with pickle and onion. Their chip-style fries are crispy and have just enough potato for a great mouth feel.
Conversation on this day ranges from the lighthearted and fun to somber. We choose a middle name for Rob, who does not have one. We talk about relationships and family. Trey just lost his younger brother in a horrible motorcycle accident in Texas. We discuss loss and grief and how this season magnifies all of these feelings.
This December 21 marks the third anniversary of my mother's death from pancreatic cancer. It's no coincidence that she died on the darkest day of the year. Even now I find myself reaching to call her on the phone to ask her advice or to share good news. She loved hamburgers and I'm sure would have made a fine addition to our Burger Club.