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.

Advertisements

Two hundred and seventy-five

I made it through 30 Holiday Celebrations!

Going from being vegan, to eating a little fish and chicken, to being really sick, to recovering, my body has gone through quite the roller-coaster this month.  Consequently, so has my energy level, my mind and my emotions.  But I made it through in good health and feeling great.  Even during that rough period of not being able to leave my bed, I was still interested in all these different holiday celebrations – even if I couldn’t celebrate them myself.  That was the beauty of this month.  I could honour the holidays around the world by researching, understanding and writing about them.

Recap of the month

I covered many holidays, from international celebrations, to silly ‘marketing’ days, to local parties.  Here are some of my favourites: World Vegan Day; All Souls Day (Catholic); American National Sandwich Day; Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night (England)Eid al-Adha (Muslim); Journalist’s Day (China);  Iqbal Day (Pakistan); Remembrance Day; Chicken Soup for the Soul Day; World Kindness Day; World Diabetes Day; UN International Day of ToleranceStruggle for Freedom and Democracy Day (Czech Republic); Mickey Mouse’s Birthday; International Men’s Day; Mexican Revolution Day; World Hello Day; Start Your Own Country Day; Japanese Labor Thanksgiving Day; American Thanksgiving; Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day; International Aura Awareness Day; Movember; Square Dance Day.

What did I learn?

“I am learning all the time.  The tombstone will be my diploma.”
~Eartha Kitt

There were heaps of interesting things I learned this month.  I feel like a fountain of (sometimes useless) knowledge!  How else would I have known about how to start my own country and the Prince of Sealand putting his principality on the market? That Movember started in Australia?  Or all the complicated rules that go along with Square Dancing? I might not have spoken to the man from Egypt at the Occupy Toronto camp on Bonfire Night.  And I probably would never have celebrated Mickey Mouse’s birthday, or learned about all the different religious and national holidays that other people celebrate both around the world and in different religions here in Canada.

Unlike some of the other months, which had a lot of personal growth or change, this month was more about knowledge and research for me.  I did enjoy celebrating the holidays, but I was more interested in learning about all their details and about what it would be like to celebrate them in the context they are generally celebrated in.

Where do I go from here with Holiday Celebrations?

Hmmm… This is a tricky one.  I’m not sure I’ll really be celebrating every one of these holidays every year.  That would make November pretty busy!  Although I did really appreciate my time visiting my grandfather’s grave for All Souls’ Day, and learning about the weird and wonderful holidays celebrated throughout the world.  But I honestly will not be celebrating Hug A Bear Day or Banana Pudding Lovers Month.

I will go forward from this month with more of a respect and appreciation for other cultures’ celebrations.  Next time I see a random holiday on my calendar, I will spend a few minutes looking up what it is and how it is honoured.

Tomorrow I start Good Deed a Day month.  I’m looking forward to spending time helping people for the month.

Two hundred and seventy-four

Square Dance Day

November 29th is Square Dance Day.  It is a day to celebrate the folk dance where the ladies wear twirly skirts, the moves are called out through a singer, and the more I find out about it, the more complicated it seems.  I didn’t realize there were so many different rules and moves!

Square dancing was first described in 17th century England, although it was also popular in France and Europe.  It became associated with the United States, through the combination of traditional folk and social dances of the variety of people who migrated to the country.  Nineteen states have declared it their official state dance. (more information on the history of square dancing in the U.S. at dosado.com)

Square dancing is a dance involving eight dancers/four couples who form a square with one couple on each side.  Each of the couples has a number, with Couple 1 having their back to the music, then numbers moving around the square counter-clockwise. The head couples are Couples 1 and 3.  The side couples are Couples 2 and 4.  The “boy” always stands to the left of the “girl” (it doesn’t matter what sex the dancers are, as long as they remember which is the “boy” and which is the “girl” for the dance).  The couples are considered “partners”, while the person beside them (ie. to the left of the man and the right of the woman) is their “corner”.

The couples move around depending on what the “caller” tells them to do.  The “caller” is the person who sings out what formations the couples will take (like Simon Says, sort of).  It is always called in English, so anyone from around the world can participate, no matter what country they are in.

When moving around the dance, at some points you will end up with a different partner and corner.  Your “partner” is always the person standing beside you (even if it isn’t your original partner) and your “corner” is the person on your other side, as described above.  However, your designation as head, side, or couples 1, 2, 3 or 4 will stay the same throughout the dance.

Some other rules: when standing beside each other either facing the same way (a “couple”), or opposite ways (a “mini-wave”), you must hold inside hands; if there is a line of multiple couples or mini-waves, they should all join hands.  When passing another dancer, they must pass right shoulders.

This is already making my head explode a bit.  But, wait, there’s much, much more to square dancing…

There are many different moves that you must learn in order to understand what the “caller” is telling you to do.  Here are a few and some short descriptions courtesy of Square Dancing 101 (many more on the website):

  • Allemande Left: “Dancers face their corners if they have not already done so. Corners form left-hand-to-left-hand handholds and turn around each other 360 degrees, dropping the handhold at the end as the dancers rejoin their respective partners.”
  • Do Sa Do: “Starting formation  Any number of pairs of facing dancers. Dancers advance and pass right shoulders. Without turning, each dancer moves to the right passing in back of the other dancer. Then moving backwards, each passes left shoulders returning to starting position. No touching is involved, and no positions change. “
  • Courtesy Turn: “The man and lady stand facing the same direction with the man to the left and the lady to the right. The man takes the lady’s left hand (palm down) in his left (palm up) and places his right hand in the small of the lady’s back. The lady’s right hand is on her skirt. Working as a unit, the couple turns around with the man backing up and lady walking forward.”
  • Four Ladies Chain: “Starting formation – square of 8 dancers. All four ladies step to the center and join their right palms together to form a star shape if seen from above. The ladies walk forward (to the left, in a clockwise direction) and turn the star halfway around to their opposite men. All meet up with their new partners, take courtesy turn handhold, courtesy turn to face the center of the set.”

There are two broad types of square dancing: traditional and modern western square dancing.  Different locations have slightly different styles of the dance.

More details at Square Dancing 101 and Wikipedia.  For information on where to square dance in Canada, visit dosado.com.

On a side note, did you know there is a National Square Dance Campers Association, with over 100 chapters in the United States and Canada?  In order to be a member, you must complete a prescribed course in Modern Western Square Dancing style and be a camper.

And one more fun video to end off today’s talk of square dancing.  Happy Square Dance Day!

Two hundred and seventy-three

There are quite a few monthly celebrations/holidays/awareness days that happen during the month of November.  I don’t have time to discuss them all, but here is a list of a few of them:

  • Adopt a Senior Pet Month
  • American Diabetes Month
  • Aviation History Month
  • Banana Pudding Lovers Month
  • Diabetic Eye Disease Month
  • Epilepsy Awareness Month
  • Family Stories Month
  • Gluten-free Diet Awareness Month
  • Greens and Plantains Month
  • Historic Bridge Awareness Month
  • I Am So Thankful Month
  • International Drum (Percussion) Month
  • International Orphan Disease Month
  • Lung Cancer Awareness Month
  • Military Family Appreciation Month
  • National Adoption Month
  • National AIDS Awareness Month
  • National Alzheimer’s Disease Month
  • National American Indian Heritage Month
  • National Family Caregivers Month
  • National Georgia Pecan Month
  • National Healthy Skin Month
  • National Hospice Month
  • National Impotency Month
  • National Inspirational Role Models Month
  • National Lifewriting Month
  • National Marrow Awareness Month
  • National Novel Writing Month
  • National Pomegranate Month
  • Peanut Butter Lovers’ Month
  • Spinach and Squash Month
  • more at classbrain.com and brownielocks.com

Man, they have a holiday for everything!  Do we really need a whole month to celebrate Banana Pudding Lovers?  Seriously?!  Although I am on board with the Peanut Butter Lovers’ Month.  Mmmm, peanut butter…

It is also Cyber Monday today – a marketing “holiday” where online shopping in America has huge discounts, like Black Friday is to in-store shopping – and “Make Your Own Head Day“, where you’re supposed to be crafty and create your own head (yes, a very odd holiday – must have been made up by a grade school teacher running out of ideas for day plans).

Two hundred and seventy-two

Happy Movember!
(not a specific day, but every day for the whole month)

It’s that month again that some of my girl friends hate (quote: “oh god… movember. Time to keep my eyes on the ground while walking around the city”) and others wear t-shirts with “Mo lovin'” across the front.  The month where men start clean-shaven and slowly grow hair on their upper lip to raise funds and awareness of the often ignored issues of men’s health, specifically prostate cancer.

The ‘staches are in full glory now in the last week of November.  The stubble has slowly become less of a five o’clock shadow and more of a moustache.  The trimming, grooming, and waxing has taken place. It could be any of the many types of moustaches:

a handlebar (bushy and must be worn long enough to curl the ends upward, which is usually achieved with styling wax); a pencil (thin, narrow, closely clipped mustache that outlines the upper lip); a chevron (thick and wide mustache, usually worn long to cover the top border of the upper lip); a horseshoe (full moustache with vertical extensions grown on the corners of the lips and down the sides of the mouth to the jawline, resembling an upside-down horseshoe); a walrus (large, bushy, droopy mustache that hangs down over the lips, often entirely covering the mouth); or a unique creation (descriptions and images from AmericanMustacheInstitute.org).

Movember began in Melbourne, Australia in 2003 and since then has grown into a global movement, inspiring nearly 1.1 million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas to participate.  In 2010, almost 119,000 Canadian Mo Bros and Sistas raised $22.3 million CAD. More information at ca.movember.com.

There are tons of events around the world to celebrate Movember.  Take a look at the Movember Canada website for events near you.  You can also donate money to prostate cancer research by giving through a specific friend, a team or a general donation.

Here are some photos of my co-workers’ “mo”s:

Andrew

Mike

Brett

Andrew

Happy Movember!  Gentlemen, enjoy your ‘staches for the last few days.  And ladies enjoy the view… or count the days until it’s over!