Three hundred and sixty-six

Three hundred and sixty six days

I made it through it all.  All 366 days of it!

Normally I do a recap of the month, but as this month was a bit of a recap of the year, I’m going to skip that and just do a final post of the year.

Recap of the year

Where do I even begin?  So much has happened over the past year.  I’ve decided the best way is to share my favourite posts, divided by the months.  Although I have lots of ones I am proud of, these in particular resonate with me for some reason or another. (If you want a short description of what I got up to each month, click on the monthly topic below and it will take you to my recap posts for that month.)

MARCH 2011 – Extreme Couponing

APRIL 2011 – 30 Days of Art

MAY 2011 – 31 Days, 31 Dates (there’s a tie with this one – I also really enjoyed my dating advice at the end of my final post for that month)

  • The speed-dating date – I have always wanted to go speed dating and it was quite the experience.  It was one of the worst ‘dates’ of the month, but also one of the most memorable.
  • The social experiment date – A confusing date that forever changed my life, the way I feel about myself, and my future plans (we had a short, passionate affair that ended badly, then I drove across Canada with him during First Kiss Interviews month, we hated each other, then became sort of friends, he made me doubt all the great things about me, and now we don’t really talk – advice to all the ladies out there: listen to your instincts and don’t get blinded by a pretty face).

JUNE 2011 – Cooking 30 Countries (funnily my two favourite posts this month were meals I shared with the man who taught me stop motion animation and the one who confused me)

  • Italian with the Italian – a wonderful evening with a wonderful man, and lots of practical information about Italian cooking.
  • Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi – Kangaroo and Tim Tams.  It reminds me of living in Melbourne, and some very interesting facts about kangaroo meat included.

JULY 2011 – Only Online Purchases

AUGUST 2011 – Out of My Comfort Zone (there were so many great posts this month, but here are a few of my favourites)

SEPTEMBER 2011 – 31 First Kiss Interviews

OCTOBER 2011 – Vegan for the Month

  • Freeganism – I find this world of living without money fascinating, and although extreme, I think we can learn from them.
  • Raw Vegan Food Diet - Another extreme way of eating, taken from a lecture I went to at the University of Toronto.  Lots of great information.
  • Makeup and Skin Care - Interview with Kait Gray from Arbonne.  This changed the way I look at the cosmetics industry.

NOVEMBER 2011 – 30 Holiday Celebrations

  • Guy Fawkes Day – A fascinating discussion with some of the Occupy Toronto camp.
  • Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day - I was a model for the Toronto Star and did an online video for them!
  • Happy Movember – I love this holiday.  Men with moustaches for a month – very sexy in a Tom Selleck sort of way.

DECEMBER 2011 – Good Deed a Day

  • Extremely good and bad people in one day - A shocking negative event followed by an equally shocking positive one.  It brought tears to my eyes.
  • Hitting the bottom mid-month – including a very personal (yet very public because it was on the blog in the comments for all to read) debate between a friend of mine and I which almost cost us our friendship.  The debate crossed several posts, with this being the finale.  It really opened my eyes to my own views, but also how others perceive what I write.
  • The science of good deeds – How good deeds affect us mentally and physically.

JANUARY 2012 – Life at the Poverty Line

FEBRUARY 2012 – A Photograph A Day (month suggested by and voted on by the readers)

What I learned

In each of the month recaps (click on monthly topic above to read them), I talked about what I learned as an initial reaction.  As a year-long learning experience, I have no idea where to start.  I have learned so much from skills to knowledge to personal growth.

I am a different person than when I started March 1st, 2011.  Besides physical changes of losing weight through being vegan (and keeping it off through keeping up the no dairy and yoga), there have been many emotional and psychological changes.  The knowledge I gained about the different topics has given me a wider perspective on the world.  I feel like I have a purpose – like I’m fulfilling a need in myself and sharing it with others.  I am now part of a community of bloggers who are as supportive as they are talented.  I am happy and calmer, but also a bit more jaded with the world (damn porn cinema!).

I gained skills like extreme couponing (the auto correct on my computer kept wanting me to write extreme “coupling” – when you’re tired like I have been on numerous occasions this year and am right now, you find this very amusing) and cooking.  I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to do this and I have such amazing people in my life who support and encourage me.

I wrote this on Day 100 and it still rings true:

There have been days when I’ve hated that I’m doing this – that I’d love a ‘normal’ life where I don’t have to blog and make Taboulleh at 1:30am.  But most days I love it.  I love that I’m learning something new and writing every day.  I love talking about my project – still.  I love sharing my experiences with other people, whether by the blog or by them being a part of whatever adventure I have planned for the day.  I love that I’ve created this for myself (with the help of so many great people) and I feel so fortunate every day that I can do this.  Whether this turns into a million-copy selling book becomes less and less the point (although that would be fantastic).  It’s about the experience, the knowledge and the growth.  And the chance to share that with you.

Where do I go from here

The plan is to write the book about my experiences.  I will also be blogging at least once a week.  Every Wednesday I will post a recap of how things are going with me.  Sometimes it will be a comment on a topic or research on a subject that I’ve discovered about one of the ideas from the year.  And sometimes it will be just about how I’m feeling.  A bit like the daily blog posts I’ve been doing, but on a bigger scale.  I will also be posting occasionally during the week if there is something that inspires me to write or a very interesting or timely topic I want to discuss.  So keep reading for all that.  I will also be updating you all on how the book is coming along and my search for an agent and publisher.  This could be interesting to those of you out there trying to get your own work published.

I’m also going to stick with some of the things I learned this year.  I’m still trying to buy all natural cosmetics, and not eat dairy or pork.  I am determined to pick up my guitar again, paint, make pottery, sew more and do all the other projects I started during art month and never finished.  I still use my online and coupon shopping skills.  I’m still pushing myself to  do things out of my comfort zone on a weekly basis, and I’m a fountain of dating knowledge for my single friends out there.  I’m working on arranging some more volunteer experiences for me to help out more in the community.  I’m donating money regularly to help those less fortunate.  All of these habits I learned through experiences in the past year and I am grateful that I can stick with them.

Thank you again everyone for following along through three hundred sixty six days of posts!  Check back next Wednesday to hear how much I miss my blogging routine, how the book is coming along, and hopefully some other fun information.

One hundred and fourteen

Before I get into the amazing French meal I had yesterday, here are a few updates from other months:

  1. Coupons.  I got a free chocolate bar with a coupon today.  My coupons are still helping me out! (Although a bunch of them have expired before I could use them, and I’ve stop checking my Groupon e-mails every day)
  2. Art. Another flash mob!  The National Ballet School, in partnership with the Manifesto Festival of Community & Culture, is doing another flash mob – hip hop style.  You don’t have to have experience and all ages are welcome.  The performance will be on Sunday September 25th at a secret location.  Rehearsal schedule is still being finalized.  Sign up here if you are interested and they will add you to the mailing list.
  3. Dating.  One more dating website to add to the list.  Clique is a New York-based website launched last month that connects friends of friends. “In real life, you meet people through your friends. Why? Because you trust them. They know you. They know what you like to do, where you like to go, your passions and your quirks. And since they love those things about you, they’re going to have other friends who share the same interests—you just haven’t met them yet. That’s where Clique comes in. We surface those connections for you so you can date people who are only a degree or two from your immediate social circle, rather than complete strangers.” Click here for an interview with Click founder Christy Purlington.  I’m not sure how successful this will be because the only way for it to work is if all of your friends join (you can join if you’re in a relationship as a “wingman”) or if you have friends who have time to devote to this site (how many people in relationships will actually spend the time playing matchmaker?).

French

Chicken supreme with gratin dauphinoise and asparagus topped with hollandaise sauce. Yum!

Being cooked for is such a treat.  Especially when it’s high maintenance French food!  Being the sous-chef of our ‘cuisine’ I was taught how to properly chop shallots and mushrooms for the Chicken Supreme.  I observed the master’s perfect slices of potatoes for the Gratin Dauphinoise.  I scraped the hollandaise sauce out of the blender (see Julia Child’s recipe below) because I don’t own a spatula (bought one today). Dinner wasn’t served until 10pm because of the complexity of the recipes, but it was so worth the wait!  The flavours and richness of the meal was divine.  I couldn’t have it every night (or else I’d be the size of a cow), but it was such an amazing treat, and I feel a little more confident in the kitchen learning from the chef of the evening.

The French meal included Chicken Supreme (chicken fillets baked with shallots and mushrooms, then topped with madeira or port and cream sauce), Gratin Dauphinoise (thin potatoes, topped with swiss cheese and milk and baked), and asparagus with hollandaise sauce (egg yolk, lemon juice and butter).

Perfectly sliced potatoes for Gratin Dauphinoise

My contribution - chopped shallots

The finished meal, with vin (notice the wine is almost gone - dinner took a little longer than we expected and my brother and his girlfriend polished off the bottle before dinner)

Julia Child’s Hollandaise – a la blender:

3 egg yolks
2 TB lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of white pepper
1 stick (4 oz.) butter, melted until bubbling hotPlace egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and pepper in blender. Cover and blend at high speed for 30 seconds. Uncover, and still blending at high speed, start pouring in the hot butter by droplets. Allow time for the butter to absorb and emulsify with eggs. When about two thirds of the butter has been added, you can pick up the pace a little more. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Tonight

Italian with an Italian.

Day one hundred

I can’t believe I made it to day one hundred!  I feel like I should celebrate, but I can’t seem to find time.  Below is a little recap of how the past three and a bit months have influenced me and each other.  But first, Lebanon.

Lebanon

Tabouli/Tabbouleh

It was 1:40 am when I sat down to eat my tabouli after finishing a twelve-hour shift at the pub (oh, the life of a server).  Such a simple, healthy and delicious dish, it was perfect (suggested by my manager Alana).  Traditionally made with bulgur, I used couscous because of my time constraints (bulgur needs to be soaked and then dried before using it).

A few facts about Taboulleh:

  • The word tabbouleh (tabbūla) derives from the root Arabic word “to season” or “to spice.”
  • Tabbouleh is properly eaten by scooping up small amounts with pieces of romaine lettuce.
  • Tabbouleh relies heavily on parsley to cleanse the mouth between bites of other more heavily seasoned dishes, such as hummus.
  • Served as part of the mezze or beginning course.
  • The Guiness World Record for Tabbouleh was in 2009 in Beirut, Lebanon, weighing 3557 kilograms!  “250 sous-chefs and their 50 bosses from the state-run culinary school chopped and sliced over three and a half tonnes (7,000 pounds) of the salad, using 1,600 kilogrammes (3,520 pounds) of parsley, 1,500 kilogrammes (3,300 pounds) of ripe tomatoes and 420 kilogrammes (926 pounds) of onions.” (Google News)

More information: CliffordAWright.com, suite101.com, Wikipedia.

Lebanese Tabouli/Tabbouleh from epicurious.com

3 bunches finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 cup chopped fresh mint
2-3 tablespoons fine bulgur
1 chopped firm tomato
1/2 onion or 2 scallions chopped
1/2 cup extra Virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayyene pepper (optional)
Prepare the chopped parsley and mint and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix Bulgur, chopped tomatoes, chopped onions/scallions with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add to them the parsley and mint and olive oil and mix, adjusting seasoning by adding more oil and lemon if desired.
Serve cold garnished with romaine lettuce.

(I borrowed this image from a Vancouver "100 day long experience inspired by the unique collaboration of graffiti art and innovative cuisine".)

Making it to day 100!

It’s been a crazy few months, but I’m over a quarter of the way into my year of experiments and I’ve learned a lot.  Sometimes those lessons are obvious right away, and sometimes they are a little harder to figure out, but I do feel more knowledgeable – and more tired!

It’s interesting how each month tends to help the next ones.  I still use coupons – one I even used to get someone to go on a second date with me!  I agreed to direct a one-woman play because of art month, which we’re rehearsing for right now, and the woman was a guinea pig for a couple international recipes.  Some of my dates from last month have sent me ideas for this month.

Extreme couponing taught me about planning, making lists and saving money (I’ve managed to do all the months on a budget so far).  30 Days of Art taught me about being creative and trying new things.  Date month helped me connect with some amazing people, go to places I would have never gone on my own, and to be comfortable in meeting people.  This month so far has made me try new foods and eat healthier meals.  They’ve all taught me about time management.

There have been days when I’ve hated that I’m doing this – that I’d love a ‘normal’ life where I don’t have to blog and make Taboulleh at 1:30am.  But most days I love it.  I love that I’m learning something new and writing every day.  I love talking about my project – still.  I love sharing my experiences with other people, whether by the blog or by them being a part of whatever adventure I have planned for the day.  I love that I’ve created this for myself (with the help of so many great people) and I feel so fortunate every day that I can do this.  Whether this turns into a million-copy selling book becomes less and less the point (although that would be fantastic).  It’s about the experience, the knowledge and the growth.  And the chance to share that with you.

Today

South African curried meat casserole – Bobotie

Day sixty-three

The best friend date

Some of you might think that this is a cop out, to put my best friend as my first date.  But I don’t think so.  My best relationships have been with people I was already friends with.  Yes, you do run the risk of ruining the friendship.  But you also have the potential for it to be the best relationship you ever had.  You already know you love them.  You know you get along.  You know all about them and you feel comfortable with who they are.  There are no secrets.  You don’t have to spend your first date asking boring questions like “where did you grow up?” and “what do you like to do?”, because you already know the answers.  You can talk about interesting topics, have fun, enjoy each others company.  But I guess the big question is: is a really great friendship worth the risk?

It was a lovely evening out with the best friend that went into the wee hours of the morning.  He chose the place.  He even insisted on paying, even though we usually split everything.  He treated me like a lady (although did tease me constantly).  My headache this morning attests to the amount of wine we drank.  I had a lot of fun.  (I know, I bet you wanted more juicy details than that.  There will be juicy details on other dates, don’t you worry!)

Tonight

Having an odd schedule makes dating especially hard.  No one wants to go on a date on a Monday night.  Nine-to-fivers don’t think it’s a good night for a date.  Shift-workers want to relax after a long weekend or are working.  I did have a date planned that bailed on me, then another potential date that couldn’t do it, so I sent the task to a friend of mine with lots of contacts and five minutes later, a date for tonight!  And a pretty interesting one at that.  He’s going to blog about me blogging about him.  And pick me from a party with all my workmates there.  And joked about showing up with a parrot on his shoulder and speaking with a Mexican accent.  Should be fun!

The Flash Mob

For those of you who followed me through art month, below is my video of a few short clips of the dance.  I can’t seem to find the official video yet (will post that as soon as I can find it), but they did say we could post on Monday, so here’s my take on the experience:

International Dance Day Flash Mob
Metro Hall Square, Toronto
April 29th, 2011
Organized by the national Ballet School
Choreographed by  Matjash Mrozewski
Filming by Nico Szidiropulosz
Editing by Lindsay Schwietz

UPDATE!

Official video posted:

Day sixty-one

The end of 30 Days of Art!


I’m happy and sad for my month of art to be over.  I’ve seen and taken part in a lot of interesting things I probably wouldn’t have found the time to do if I wasn’t doing this experiment.  I’ve discovered some new areas of interest that I’d like to pursue – like charcoal drawing, knitting, and stop motion animation.  I’ve participated in some fascinating political art events because my art month happened to fall in the lead up to the Canadian federal election.  I was even asked to write a blog post about my experiences writing about art during the time of election for the Department of Culture (read it here). Thank you to everyone who took the time to teach me a skill, or join me on an art expedition, or learn alongside me.

Recap of the month

What I covered during art month and links to the posts about the topic: colouringoil pastelsstill life charcoal drawing,knittingart therapypoetry, double bassexperimental film artclay modeling and wheel,  guitarTim Burton exhibitsewing,art and politicsjewellery makingspontaneous artphotographytheatreart on a budgettheatre-in-developmentconcert,salsadesignreligious artthe Wrecking Ballstop motion animationwrought iron, flash mob.

What did I learn?

I’ve been stressed about finding time to do everything I wanted to, cover every topic of art I could, really enjoy myself, and still find time to blog about it.  Writing about art is so hard because it is more about the experience than the description of it.  I was warned by a friend that 30 Days of Art would be one of the hardest months to do.  I didn’t believe it, as I love art, but it is so true.  I was talking to this friend the other day, and after an “I told you so” from him, we talked about all the positives I got out of it.  This month has opened my creative brain to help me get through the next ten months.  It put me out of my comfort zone on numerous occasions, and forced me to reveal my lack of skill in certain areas, but also my willingness to try them nonetheless.  I am more confident that I can make it through this year having made it through this month.

Where I will go from here with Art?

My friend recently lent me The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, a best-selling book on how to discover and recover your creative self.  It’s a twelve-week course that allows you to open up to your own creativity.  I’ve only started reading it, and although it is pretty ‘hippy-skippy’ (as my friend puts it), I think a lot of the exercises are really useful and connected to some of the things I learned while doing 30 Days of Art.  I will try to use some of the exercises to keep my creative self open.  I’m also still working on the art for my walls, including some mixed media projects, and practicing guitar.

Art things I didn’t get a chance to do, but would like to try: Hot Docs film festival (documentary film festival on now, see website for details), cake decorating (see Couture Cupcake Boutique for some beautiful cake designs), choreographing a dance (Kendra Hughes of Kinetic Elements graciously offered to help me with this, but we could never get our schedules to match), floral design (beautiful floral arrangements at Mocha Rose – I wish I had a green thumb!), finger painting (I’m going to do this one day, just for fun), life drawing class (I’ve moved this to Out of My Comfort Zone month), video game design (click here for Roger Ebert against the idea that video games are art, and here for the TED Talk with Kellee Santiago arguing that it is), and I’m sure there are many other things that I missed.

Tomorrow starts 31 Days, 31 Dates. Ahhhhhh!