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

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 ninety-four

The aftermath of 31 Days 31 Dates

I had a little cry today.  Partly recovering from my little birthday party shindig, partly the fact that I’m now 31, and partly overwhelmed by both the complete emotional and physical drain that came from going through 31 days of dates.  I never thought it would be so intense.  I’m feeling better having let it all out (by crying and confiding in a friend), but I’m still confused and tired and not knowing at all what I want.  I started 31 Days 31 Dates with the same thing that I will end it with: Ahhhh!

I also wanted to put in one website I forgot to add to yesterday’s post: AshleyMadison.com.  It’s a dating site for married people to find other people to have affairs with.  “The most recognized name in infidelity.  We are the most recognized and reputable extramarital affair company.  Our married dating services work.”  There are over nine million members, so dating while in a committed relationship unfortunately seems to be a large part of the dating community.  I am not too happy about that, but dating month is not complete without it.  Here’s a video of the founder on The View:

Cooking 30 Countries

All sorrows are less with bread.  ~Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

This is the month I’ve been looking forward to!  I love to cook, try new recipes and eat.  A month devoted to those pleasures has to be a great month!  Each day I will either cook or eat (in some instances I will eat at restaurants, or at friends’ houses and they will do the cooking part) something from a different country.  I will try to post as many recipes as I can, give a description and a photo of the food, and a little of its history.

Ethiopian

Yesterday I had Ethiopian food with my mom for lunch.  There are so many great Ethiopian dishes, I thought it best that instead of trying to cook just one, we would go to a restaurant where we could have the vegetarian and meat platters and try them all! We found a seat at Lalibela Restaurant on Bloor Street, east of Ossington, and I convinced my mom to share the platters.

The meat and vegetarian platters combined. Far too much food for the two of us, but so delicious!

Meat combination: alicha wot (split pea stew), kitfo (spiced raw or rare ground beef), doro (chicken), gomen ayib (cottage cheese with collard greens), salad and dullet (spicy mixture of tripe, liver, beef, and peppers).  Vegetarian platter: split peas, lentil, chick peas, cabbage, collard green, vegetables and hilbet (beans, garlic, ginger and fenugreek).  Served with injera (sourdough flatbread).

Ethiopian food tends to be very spicy, served as a platter of shared food, and eaten by hand – taking a piece of the injera and scooping up the food with that.

Here’s a video on how injera is traditionally made:

Yum!

Day ninety-three

The end date

As I said last night when I wrote my post in a fog at 3:18 am, my date was The Man of Many Stories – another server at the pub I work at.  A fascinating guy, who I only really got to know last night as we enjoyed our beer after a really hard day of work.  He drove tanks in the army, grew-up in Wales, could possibly be Welsh royalty (if there was a royal family), is a working actor who’s hoping to get a job playing a dog man in a new tv show.  I feel like I could listen to him for hours (especially because he’s a great story-teller, being an actor).  I must sit down with him again for story time soon!

Tired, but very happy for making it through date month!

I made it!

I made it through 31 Days, 31 Dates.  There were so many ups and downs, I’m in a daze.  I just read through all my posts for the month, and I realize how far I’ve come.  I’m way more confident dating now – I was very nervous during my first few dates.  I know that if a date isn’t going well, it can end after a quick drink.  If a date is going well, it can last for hours.  One of the hardest parts was,  because all of the men knew about the experiment and the blog, sometimes we spent more time talking about dating than actually dating.  In general, though, this month taught me a lot about myself, what kind of people I want to date (and what kind of people I don’t want to date!), and that taking time for myself is important, even when going on 32 dates (three days with two dates in them covered the two days I didn’t have a date, hence 32 dates).  See below for my top ten things I learned this month.

Recap of the month

From online “go f__k yourself with cucumber you stupid b___h” (the bad) to romantic dinners in Yorkville (the good), I’ve definitely done a lot. Here are the dates I went on during my month of dating: the best friend date, the last-minute set-up, the we-met-at-a-party-and-got-along-so-let’s-go-out date (and older man date), the guy-I-dated-briefly-in-the-past date, the quickie, the blind date, the online date, the first boyfriend date, the no-pressure date, the concert date, the two-dates-in-one-night date, the high-school-crush date, the bar/club scene date, the second day date, the I’m-sick-of-guys-canceling-at-the-last-minute date, the (former)teacher-(former)student date, the online-Facebook-blog-YouTube-text-finally-meeting-in-person date, the speed-dating date, the too-young-for-me date, the second-chance date, the full day of dates, another OK Cupid date, the ‘finally’ date, the ex-boyfriend date, the co-worker date, the social experiment date, the girl date, the chillin date, another set-up blind date, the house date.

My favourite moments:

  • Hanging in the park with The Director – no pressures, just enjoying the day and his company
  • The notes on the flowers The First Boyfriend gave me.
  • Spontaneous ice cream out of an ice cream truck on my first online date.
  • The awesome concerts I got to see – Corin Raymond, Jonathan Byrd, Arctic Monkeys, Stornoway, Sea of Bees
  • Having a complete gentleman taking me for dinner in Yorkville
  • Making some awesome new friends, most importantly The Eco-comedian
  • Picnic in the park with The Epicure

My least favourite moments:

  • Online dating, the online part – the effort, the bad messages, trying to respond to everyone, the rude behaviour because some people think that because it’s online you can get away with it
  • Feeling bad about writing when I didn’t have a great time, or trying to write something interesting when the date was fine, but boring.
  • Clubbing
  • The I’m-sick-of-guys-canceling-at-the-last-minute date
  • Speed dating, although worth the experience once in your life

Here are some statistics that I didn’t mention when writing from day to day (out of 32 dates):

  • Number of times the guy paid: 17
  • Number of times we split it:13
  • Number of times I paid: 2
  • Number of times I wanted this month to be done: too many for me to count
  • Number of times a guy picked his nose while we were talking: 1
  • Number of dates I would rather have been hanging out with my friends instead: 4
  • Number of dates that I didn’t want to end: 8
  • Number of kisses: that information will just have to wait until the book.  I have to entice you to buy it somehow!

Things I missed, but don’t want to leave out:

  • double dates
  • singles bar nights
Interesting websites to check out:

What did I learn?

This is the question most people are interested in.  Did I gain any insight into the world of dating that can help others?  Did I learn anything about my dating self?  Every month, I try to do one ‘top ten’.  Here are my top ten things I learned during my month of a date (or sometimes more than one) a day:

10. There are certain deal breakers that everyone has, ie. whether you want children or what religion you are.  Know what your deal breakers are, so you don’t end up in falling for someone, then realizing that you can’t compromise on a big issue.

9. Sometimes what looks good on paper, doesn’t work in real life.  Sometimes what works in real life, doesn’t look good on paper.  Stop being so picky!

8. First and last five minutes: A smile and a hug are the best things to do in both the first and last minutes of a first date.  Start the conversation with something you know you have in common, or a running joke you have. Don’t linger at the end of a date, as it gets awkward (I’m horrible for this) – say goodbye and walk away confidently.

7. There’s a dating site for everyone, whether you are a geek (gk2gk.com), in uniform (uniformdating.com), or want to pay (or get paid) for it (Whatsyourprice.com)!  Or you can just get someone to match-make for you for the low fee of $15,000.

6. Stop asking so many questions.  Just let the conversation flow.  The most important thing is chemistry and whether you can have fun, not what job you have or what your background is (why does everyone ask me this question?  I’m Canadian).  Falling in love does not come from what looks good on paper (see #9).

5. Dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and confident.  If that is sneakers and jeans, then wear sneakers and jeans.  Confidence is the most attractive quality anyone can have.

4. Always be honest – tactfully.  If you don’t like someone, tell them you are not interested, so they don’t waste their time.  People appreciate that way more than if you just ignore them and hope they go away.  Knowing is better than always wondering what happened.

3. Changing scenery makes for the best first dates.  There is always lots to talk about, because your environment is changing constantly.  Go for a walk, or a streetcar ride.  Keeping things moving will keep the momentum of the date going.

2. Laugh – a lot.  Have fun.  Let yourself be silly.  If your date doesn’t like you when you are being silly, then you don’t want to be with them anyways.

And my number one thing I learned during 31 Days, 31 Dates is:

1. Don’t try this experiment at home!  I am exhausted!

Where will I go from here with Dating?

I need a little break to assess how I feel about dating and the men I dated.  There are a couple of men I would like to go on another date with, and I probably will, but I want a little space to really look into my feelings.  I am not ready to jump into a relationship after this.  Hopefully, though, one will come from it (either from the knowledge I gained, or one of the actual dates) in the future.  I will keep you posted!

Today

I’m going to continue with this pattern of writing the day after an event.  It gives me a little perspective and is easier on the days when I’m running around.  Read about the beginning of Cooking 30 Countries (and my birthday lunch) tomorrow!