Mini Raspberry Cheesecakes (Crack in a cup)

I first found this gem of a recipe over at Oh Sweet Basil this summer. She adapted it from a Martha Stewart recipe, and I’ve gone on to tweak it further. Since then, I’ve made these little suckers a handful of times with my additions here and there.

 

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Given that this recipe has been an absolute hit with everyone who’s tasted it, I thought it was about time I shared the love. You’ll need the following items.

for the crust:

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
for the filling:
  • 1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1 1/4 cups cream cheese, room temperature (I prefer the Philadelphia sticks, or Liberte brand)
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche (you can pre-purchase, or make your own)
  • touch of lemon or orange zest for added flavour
  • 2/3 cup  icing sugar
for the raspberry sauce:
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries (or frozen, but I’m a purist)
  • fresh raspberries, for garnish

First up, the crust. Line a muffin tin with saran wrap, with a lot of slack to cover the cups themselves. In a small mixing bowl, stir the sugar, graham cracker crumbs and melted butter together until combined. When it’s fully combined, spread the crust mixture evenly among the cups, pressing the mix against the mould to form your “crust cup”. Once you’ve formed your moulds, put the tin in the freezer to set the forms.

For the filling, grab your electric mixer with whisk attachment and beat the daylights out of the cream until medium to firm peaks form, carefully place your whipped cream into another bowl, and then return your bowl to the mixer. Throw on your paddle attachment, and beat the cream cheese, creme fraîche, and icing sugar until fully combined. Now, fold in your whipping cream into your base mixture until smooth and combined. Scoop your filling into your now set moulds, and freeze until everything settles and firms up.

While these are in the freezer setting, get your raspberry sauce going. In a small saucepan, mix the cornstarch, sugar and water, and then add your 1.5 cups of raspberries and cook, stirring it steadily until everything comes to a boil. Once it boils, let it cook, while stirring for about another 2 minutes. Grab a medium or fine sieve and pour the sauce into a bowl to help separate the seeds. Let this all cool to room temperature.

Finally, gently remove your mini cheesecakes from the muffin tin, and drizzle with your raspberry sauce. Top them off with your left over fresh raspberries, and serve! You can prep this a day or two ahead of when you intend to serve, and I find that they preserve well in the freezer for a week or so.

I know this recipe sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. Start to finish, I think I spend on average 40 minutes. It’s a sure fire hit, and you might find your diners reaching for a second without even noticing it!

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World Cup-itis

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or don’t have access to any form of communication at all, you will know that the 2014 World Cup is in full swing.

For those of you who are not sports fans, I’ll sum up this work-stopping, life-stopping quadrennial event briefly.  32 national teams will compete for the title. There are three stages of play: group play, playoffs and the final. The 32 teams are split into 8 groups of 4, one or two of which are almost always titled the “Group of Death”, meaning that all 4 teams have a strong chance of advancing to the next stage, thus, all games are crucial. The top 2 teams from each group advance to sudden death playoffs, until we reach our final. Tricksy stuff ensues when you advance from the group stage to playoffs. Teams are awarded points for wins, and ties. If you have the same point total as another team, tiebreakers determine seeding. Ultimately, the more goals you score, the bigger buffer you have in the event of a tiebreaker.

It’s fairly straightforward, but for true non-soccer fans, I say this: take up a hobby for 30 days, because the rest of the planet will be watching the World Cup.

Group play is awesome. There are a generous amount of games (3 daily) for two straight weeks. You get to see powerhouses crash out in a ball of flames, (Yes, I am referring to Spain disappointing everyone, including most sports pundits), little engines that could, (Uruguay! USA! Switzerland!) and perennial heartbreak (England) unfold before our eyes. Even the most passive soccer fans will throw their support behind a national team, based on absolutely nothing more than “I liked their jerseys” or “well, I’m part *blank* nationality, I think?”

In any case, the beautiful game is firmly in the spotlight, and it is glorious. Now, obviously, I am a fan of soccer, I follow the English Premier League and a smattering of club teams throughout the normal year. We should, also note that I am a woman. And as such, World Cup is the female equivalent of the Victoria Secret Fashion Show for us. Listen, I know what you’re thinking, this girl talks about hockey as being her first love and blah blah blah. It is, and always will be. Let’s get real here for a moment though, there are very few, and I mean very few good looking hockey players (who have all of their teeth) in the NHL. Occasionally, pure superficialities beat out superior athleticism.

Now, World Cup-itis as I like to put it, has firmly stuck in my household. I have an American brother in law who was rather crushed at the USMNT defeat last week. (I was not). The real joy though has been reconnecting with friends abroad and near and all having the same topic of discussion. Take, for example, an acquaintance I met in Germany in 2009. He’s Swedish, we met in line at Oktoberfest. Until this summer, we touched base only now and then to see how the other was doing. For some reason, this year, that acquaintance has moved up in rank to good friend, and we have spoken everyday for almost a month now. He is not the only case of this happening. I can guarantee, if it weren’t for the World Cup and a healthy dose of technology, this would not be the case.

I’ve had an on-going argument with an American lately, (not the brother in law), about which sport is more popular on the world stage. Usually I would argue it would be hockey. For a few reasons: more nations than Canada play, it’s gained notoriety in the last few years and it has tournaments on the World level- the World Championships and the Olympics.

At the root of it

I am wrong. Take note of these three words, I will never utter them again. But I am so very wrong. It’s soccer (or football). One-hundred percent it is. It is global, you just need a ball, or something that will move like a ball, and find something to use as a net or goal posts. Bam, you have your equipment if you can move your feet. Sure, it’s not perfect, there is a lot of drama, corruption and diving. At the root of it though, no other sport is played by over half our planet. No other sport can be the harbinger of doom or sheer joy as this. I’m not even Spanish and I was shocked at their ousting. I’ve had a love-affair with Italy and my heart broke a little when they didn’t advance.

World Cup-itis has absolutely settled in. There is no known treatment, we just have to embrace it. Now please excuse me. Half time is over between Netherlands and Argentina, and a team in orange needs my attention.

Gelato can change your life

I present part four, long overdue in the creative writing series. The topic, as ever, provided by 642 Things to Write About.

“Your most transcendent ice cream experience.”

I begin by slightly altering the topic to “Your most transcendent gelato experience”. This is two-fold. Firstly, ice cream is something you can buy at any grocer, corner store, or mom-and-pop shop across the way. Gelato however, gelato is a love affair you will chase across the globe. Ice cream is the poor man’s gelato, and anyone telling you otherwise should be put in their place. Secondly, I am in the midst of a 5 year love affair with gelato.

It’s not that I had never tried it prior to arriving in Italy, it’s just that everything that accompanied my double-scoop cone from Gelateria Santa Trinita was what put it at the top of my all time culinary experiences. (This is saying something, coming from someone who dated a chef, and a damn good one at that.) Sure, the atmosphere makes the experience of cool, perfectly flavoured crema and nocciola gelato dribbling down your chin fairly memorable. Let’s be honest, you’re in the middle of a Florentine palace (the Frescobaldi Palace, to be exact), everything by default is going to taste that much sweeter. There is a reason there were repeat purchases made here throughout the remainder of my week long stay in Firenze.

Santa Trinita Gelateria Exterior

Photo credit: Gelateria Santa Trinita online

 

Gelateria Santa Trinita

Photo credit: Almeera Ismail, Firenze, 2009

Most travel books tell you to visit San Crispino in Rome for great gelato. They are lying to you, straight up, bold-faced lies. If you must skip Florence and get gelato in Rome, please do yourself a favour and venture to your local pizzeria, or any restaurant for apertivo instead. You’ll thank me. Nothing will compare to gelato from Santa Trinita, nothing.

Unless you visit Vancouver. In which case, please, please, I beg of you, visit Bella Gelateria in downtown Vancouver. You will wait in line, likely year round, and absolutely so in good weather. But your taste buds will alight the minute you get your first sampling. I visited this establishment after returning from Italy (with my elitist gelato expectations in tow), and was absolutely blown away. (So too were a lot of Italians when this little company from Vancouver, B.C. won the 2012 Technical Jury Award, at the Florence International Gelato Festival in Italy. (And has continued to win, year after year, since).

Bella GelateriaPhoto Credit: D. Sitar and an iPhone5, 2014 (Eating Salted Caramel and Meyer Lemon Gelato)

Rather obviously, I accompanied a friend of mine for a noon “ice cream” fix ready to critique the heck out of their offerings. Trouble was, I couldn’t find a problem. In fact, in the three years since I had been back, this was the first time through taste alone I seriously wondered if I was back in that piazza, sitting on a church step listening to the sound of rain while I contemplated life over gelato.

It was those first moments in Florence, sitting in the quiet, the rain my only soundtrack, that I realized a few things. One was that this was truly the pace of life in Italy. This is a country that beats to its own drum when it comes to that ever elusive work-life balance. As a culture, they take their time with life, savour it. If there was one thing I brought back with me, it was this outlook on life. To savour the sweetness of doing nothing, and everything at the same time.

The other realizations were more personal. I was preparing to come back to Canada, and start a career that I was unsure of before it had even begun. This decision would be the first of many life lessons I would learn in the following years. And not once do I regret my decisions. Now, more than ever, I unabashedly believe that we are the creators and destroyers of our own opportunities. Your life is going to be what you make of it, so you better make sure you are going to be happy with the decisions you make now.

Lastly, on those very steps is where I came to terms with the fact that the relationship I was in was finally coming to a close. It was one of those that probably went on a little longer than it should, but you didn’t want to be the one to end it. You had gotten to that comfortable place where a part of you says “it’s not terrible, we don’t hate each other, and we care for each other, so why end something you’re sure of?” Life lesson: end it. The difference between being a young-twentysomething in a relationship and an older-twentysomething in a relationship is that you finally figure out that if you’re not 100% happy with something, you can say so.

It was in these quiet moments, savouring the sweet offerings of Florence that I was changed. I did not know it at the time, but slowly, your own self creeps up on you and surprises you when you least expect it. So go ahead, get that double-scoop cone or cup, sit on a park bench, on some church steps, or wander the streets. But whatever you do, allow yourself to enjoy those quiet moments. They speak loudly if you let them.

Life As An Astronaut

Part three of the creative writing series, topic provided by 642 Things to write about, penned by a good friend, The Sailor.

“You are an astronaut. Describe your perfect day.”​

Most people expect me to answer this question by taking about how amazing it was to be in space, free-floating above the world below, thinking deep thoughts about immensity and universal-truths.

Honestly, space was balls. You gotta avoid puking pretty much the whole time. You strap yourself in to pee. You can’t eat real bread. Your body begins weakening immediately.

​Oh, and farts! Weightless farts don’t dissipate. That’s something they don’t tell you in the NASA brochures. On top of which, you eat nasty freeze-dried food that was made by some crazy Russian factory. The food has one flavor: glop. That and borscht. Ok, two flavours. Both aren’t good. And both make you fart.

Honestly, my best days came after space. When you have the time ​to really understand the amazing adventure you’ve had a chance to participate in. When it sinks in.

​When it really sinks in.
I think, for me, that was when I noticed the little bits of response from people long after we had returned. Sure, there are big parties and thousands of people watching as you are returned to earth, but the best part is when someone recognizes you in a bar, or picks up your coffee at a shop and just says “thanks”.
I like to think of each of these experiences as thanks from the universe for the huge risks we took up there. Risks that were worth it when you consider the kinds of science we were doing, and the potential impact it will have on our future.We learned a lot about how to grow plants and deal with animals in space. If you think that’s a minor accomplishment then you’ve got no idea what it’s going to be like trying to take those first shipments of grain and animals to populate Mars.
We learned about how fast human organs start to decay and atrophy in space, muscle tissue particularly. If you don’t think that’s important then you’d better not plan on being a part of the first long-distance manned spaceflights.
I won’t even be alive when we put some of those pieces of information to use, but I’ll be glad that I made the trip. In the meantime: thanks for the coffee. ​

The greatness of sandwiches

A while back, I talked about a journal I stumbled upon, called 642 Things to Write About. I’ve been fairly diligent in writing every day, sometimes twice. So as part of the new direction of this blog, I give you the second in this creative writing series.

“The greatness of sandwiches.”

Sandwiches are perfect. Straight up, they are legitimately p-e-r-f-e-c-t. They don’t discriminate in their length or width or smell, if they’re regulated as a side to a soup, or if they’re your entree. Sandwiches just want to be there for you, to be eaten, and savoured. The perfect sandwich will aim to please you so greatly, you’ll come back to them. They are not unlike your own personal yes-man. Hungry? Yes-man. Want a delicious sandwich that’s the perfect mix of protein, seasoning, garnish and cheese? Yes-man. I reiterate, sandwiches, you are perfect.

If done right, you, the eater, are faced with this perfect equilibrium of your choice of protein, dairy, vegetables and bread. This is the stuff dreams are made of. A good sandwich can fill you up. A great sandwich can turn your day around and put you in a better mood. An epic sandwich? That will change your life in a way you never imagined.

Consuming an epic sandwich means you’ve hit some various criteria: the ideal crunch-to-softness ratio has been achieved, there’s just enough flavouring to your meat or substitute so as to not overpower you, the right combination of salty and sweet has been met in your vegetable additions and somewhere in there, you’ve added in delicious cheese to ooze every where, or bring out the flavours further in your wonderful gastro-experiment.

Case and point, this example from a local Vancouver eatery, Meat and Bread, their slow braised beef brisket with cabbage.

I have consumed many a sandwich in my day, from the ho-hum mystery lunch meat specials, to a solid PBJ (Organic peanut butter and home made jam, of course), to amazing finds on the go in Vancouver and abroad. Thankfully, sandwiches are one way that experimenting with foods and combinations can actually pay off once in a while. Your adventurous nature is often rewarded in the symphony of deliciousness that unfolds with your first bite. I can verify this is a thing. No, seriously, if you’re ever in Florence, head over to i due fratellini, order the cinghiale piccante con caprino and then come back here and tell me I changed your life.

Prosciutto panini
Prosciutto and provolone on a homemade bun, i due frattelini (please note the massive size of this amazing sandiwch).

The fact that someone can even question the greatness that is the sandwich breaks my heart. ‘Breaking bread’ is a time honoured tradition with friends and family, but why bother breaking it in the first place if you don’t intend on piling it high with amazing ingredients, revering it for what it is (the best sit down or on the go food around), and stuffing your face?

 

 

 

A True Sports Fan’s Guide to Playoff Hockey

So, your hometown team didn’t make the playoffs.  In fact, they went from being an absolute lock for a playoff spot and a contender for the Western Conference title to pathetically stumbling to the finish line with a team being held together by some scotch tape, glue and probably a lot of cortisone shots.

Now what? Pack up and go home for the summer? No, not this girl. I may not watch nearly as avidly or intently as I would during the regular season, but if it’s a good match up, and the potential for a knock-down drag-out series, I’m all over it. (See: Chicago v. St. Louis, Boston v. Montreal). I will get my butt out of bed for the crazily scheduled 10AM game on a Saturday morning. Hockey is hockey, and I for one think you should take what you can get, while you can still get it. (I’m looking at you, Gary-ye-of-the-lockout-happy-Bettman).

Sure, I could watch the Memorial, or World Championships, but the calibre of hockey would still not be as high as in the NHL. And, arguably, the guys playing for the Memorial or the World Championship title would MUCH rather be fighting for Lord Stanley’s Cup. I’m serious.  There’s a reason the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in professional sports. There are no first-round byes in hockey, 16 teams are in contention from the go,  MLB has 8 by comparison. You have to win 16 games to come out on top, or play up to 28. That is a LOT of hockey, if you factor in overtime, where 2 and 3OT is not a rare sight. That’s 2 60-minute games, in one night.

It takes a team to win this championship, a clutch 3-pointer, 70 yard end zone run, or home run isn’t going to seal the deal. The entire team, physically and mentally needs to persevere with each round, facing tougher opponents and ever-ailing bodies. 82 games a year, and another 28 in the playoffs at full throttle will wear on the best, and it certainly does. I mean seriously, who plays for a championship with a broken rib, separated right shoulder and a punctured lung? Hockey players, that’s who.

Stories like these of the injured players fighting as hard as they can, and their superstitions are the reason I still watch hockey this late in the year. I like to see who is arrogant enough to lift or touch the conference trophy on the way to the Stanley Cup Final, how their personalities change in locker-room interviews the closer they get to the holy grail. Call me a nerd, a geek, a silly fan (if you call me a puck bunny, you have another thing coming), but THIS is what hockey is all about. And this is why I don’t pack up and hang out by pool all summer, like Junior over there.

Playoffs

How to Deal When You Love Hockey, But Your Team Majorly Sucked This Season

Obviously, if you’ve read any of this blog in the past two years, you can safely determine that I am a tiny bit of a hockey fan. So, recently, faced with a new “my-Canucks-sucked-so-bad-they-didn’t-make-the-NHL-playoffs-and-oh-my-God-the-team-is-going-to-blow-up” world, a thought occurred to me. What’s it like to be a hockey fan in the depths of summer, when you have no one to cheer for? I posed this question to a friend of mine, we’ll call him Junior, and asked him to write his take of life deep into the most exciting time of the year, with nothing at all to be excited about. Is it really about the world’s best and most beautiful sport? Or do allegiances taint the love?

Junior:

It’s Wednesday, May 14th and the eyes of the hockey fans around world (really, mostly North America) are focused on the TD Boston Garden where the Bruins are set to face the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of their war of attrition 2nd round playoff series. As a Vancouver Canucks fan, you would think that I would be greatly anticipating the prospect of the Bruins’ season ending at home – to a Canadian hockey team no less.

The sad fact is: I just don’t really care either way. I guess it’s a symptom of watching your favourite team’s season end before the playoffs even begin. Without a vested interest in the NHL playoffs, you find yourself saying things like “that Marchand is a talented two way forward” and “Milan Lucic sure seems like a classy fellow.”  Yes – you can become a bandwagon fan for a few weeks and cheer for a feel good story – there’s nothing wrong with that. (Editor’s Note- There is, 100% absolutely something wrong with BOTH of these former statements, and I have supporting evidence to both, but I digress.) But if you have not spent an entire season following a team through its highs and lows (and being a Canucks fan, there have been plenty of crippling, deeply dark, lows lately), that emotional component that makes the road to the Stanley Cup so exhilarating is noticeably absent. In other words, I could give a duck. It’s impossible to feel good about hockey in general when you realize that in the span of about eight months, your team went from being a high-calibre, playoff ready squad, to having two rookies in net, lowest scoring totals in half a decade, and an injury list that could reach Los Angeles.

Playoff Hopes

 And this is how I have come to feel strangely indifferent about the NHL playoffs this spring without the Vancouver Canucks’ involvement. There were never any potential second or third round match ups to worry about. Never any lineup controversies to get into a heated argument discuss with co-workers. Never any ridiculous time pumping quotes to analyze. No, being a hockey fan come playoff time when your team does not even qualify for postseason play is an altogether dreary experience. It’s like knowing someone’s going to win the lottery, someone you know, maybe even like a little, and you’re not even getting a penny of it. Maybe admitting this fact makes me a sad excuse for a hockey fan, but it also makes me an honest hockey fan. I’m a one-team, and one-team only kind of guy.

 The rest of you can enjoy watching hockey well into June. I’ll be sitting by a swimming pool somewhere eagerly awaiting (and maybe dreading) October.

Plea to a Houseplant

I was recently turned toward this journal, 642 Things to Write About and found my creative juices rejuvenated for the first time in a while.  As a result, this little blog of mine is going to have a new shape and feel to it in the coming months.

Starting with today’s entry, my first in the journal. The topic chosen at random: “A houseplant is dying. Tell it why it needs to live.” This is, oddly, the absolute best jumping-off point for me, creatively speaking. For as anyone who has ever had the pleasure of meeting me knows that I’m a killer. A cold-blooded shrubbery killer. There has never been a plant, or tree, or garden I have encountered that I have not managed to bring to the verge of death, or carry right over to Hades.

And so, I give you my plea to all houseplants.

Why do I need you to live? Because I really really need to stop being a murderer. A vicious, serial-plant-murderer. Honestly, unless you’re a cactus, there is little hope for you. And even then, let’s be real, I’ve offed a few of your brethren. You should be well aware that I cannot guarantee your well-being while in my presence, and for this I am dreadfully sorry. You didn’t know when you were given to me that you were approaching your certain death sooner than anticipated. Really, your life span with me as your guardian depends on your will to live, my leafy green friend. So, live! Choose life! Choose flourishing leaves and flowering petals! Fight the good fight, and persevere against all odds. Trust me, I will do everything right, and somehow, you will wilt, dry out, or worse, inexplicably drown. (I’m looking at you, mysterious 4-inch tropical, circa 2008). For once in my life, I’d like to know I didn’t assist in a plant-suicide, and that my mere presence does not want to make you keel over. I know I can do it. I just need a willing compatriot. So, plant life, bring me your tried and true warrior, and let us prove the nay-sayers wrong! Long live the perennial!

Death to Plant Life

Attack of the Intimidating Woman

About a week ago, I had a great coffee date to catch up with one of my friends from high school. He’s one of those people whom I was little worried about for a while in our early twenties. We had been very close in high school, and immediately following. But, as with life, we fell out of touch after I moved across the country for university. Of course, the advent of social media let me keep track of him so I knew the bare basics of what his life looked like.

Since university, he’s been on this one-man tear to follow his dreams. Moving to New York to pursue a career as an actor, and having the opportunity to study at the Lee Strasbourg School. He’s back home in Vancouver visiting for the holidays and our schedules serendipitously aligned for us to grab some coffee, and embark on an ambitious 2 hour catch up of approximately the last decade of our lives. Challenge accepted. During this conversation, he referred to me as being “intimidating” more than once. And after the third time, I had to ask him to clarify his definition of the word. Was my being an intimidating woman a good thing, or a bad thing? Turns out, it was great.

As he so eloquently described, an intimidating woman:

  • Has her shit together
  • She has drive and determination, personally and professionally
  • Is a grown woman (she has no time for the “trivial shit other girls obsess over”)
  • Doesn’t need to impress you with make up, and clothes, she let’s her wit win you over
  • She is comfortable in her own skin, and doesn’t feel the need to apologize for how you think she looks
  • Has self confidence, (apparently this is the #1 attractor) and as a result is both beautiful and smart

Needless to say, I asked him to stick around and continue to whisper sweet nothings to me all day long. It did get me thinking though, why the choice of “intimidating” as the main descriptor? Why not strong, driven, or a plethora of other options? His answer: because you’re the type of woman every guy wants, but is scared shitless when they actually get you. They don’t know what to do with you, because you’re equally as happy with or without us. The only difference here is that by needing us, you show vulnerability, giving us a glimmer of hope.

Obviously, this was a lot to take in at 10AM in the morning. I always thought there was something about me that I couldn’t put my finger on. How I managed to end up surrounding myself with some really great people, in particular, strong women and driven personalities. He summed it up in the laws of attraction- that you get back what you put out into the universe.

So what was this all supposed to mean? Did I give off some signal that screamed “Caution, intimidating woman, be afraid”? (This may explain portions of my dating life.) According to my source of male insight, this was quite the opposite, the only thing that “screamed” off me, and those like me, is that you better bring your best self to the table before approaching, because otherwise you will not be given the time of day. Sure, this sounds fairly bitchy and discriminatory, when it fact, it just means that you are self-aware and do not have time for those who are not.

Of course hearing this from an old, but close friend was a pleasant surprise. It also was reassuring to hear this coming from someone who also knew me “back when”, so they have a reference point. The moral of the story here is that yes, I am and can be a lot to handle, but I have equally the same to offer. I am, in fact, a unicorn. There are more of us popping up here and there across the land. Be ready friends, the attack of intimidating women is coming, and in the word’s of Beyoncé, “you’re not ready for this jelly”.

The One Where Her Guard Fell

I’ve been meaning to write something like this for a while, but never really had the cajones to do it. This last year has been tough, amazing, but tough, in all aspects of life. So I figure doing some cathartic writing therapy, before charging into 2014 was as good a time as any. This is going to get personal fast, but we all know I wear my heart on my sleeve. For better or worse.

The best way to attack this is to break it down, categorically. We’ll briefly touch on friendships, career(s), and love. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Friendship:
About a year ago, it became clear to me that someone I thought would be in my life forever, as my best friend, would not in fact be that person. I’ve been told time and again that people are in our lives sometimes for a certain length of time to teach us about ourselves, and move on. I firmly believe this was what she was to me now. We’ll call her AB. We had a great ride, I mean, I can honestly say that I have never, and likely will never pick up a girl at a bar again on St. Patrick’s Day, by offering to swap our dates for each other, and then end up leaving together without either of them. Upon moving back to Ottawa last year, she and I tried to dive right back in. Big mistake. A lot had changed for both of us, and we were not the same university students anymore. She decided to pull the rip cord, and I, though completely disapproving of her actions, did not push her. It is now a year later, and we have not spoken. Not to sound ungrateful, but her absence, though known,  has not necessarily been missed. Sure, I recall fondly our time together, memories and conversations. But my life has not suffered for it, there is no void. When I realized this, about 6 months into my imposed friendship exile, I knew I was at peace with it. I wish her only the best in life, hold no ill will, and thank her for everything she has taught me. This is not a conclusion that would have come so easily to me in the past. I would sit and over analyze it, pick apart everything said and figure out how to fix it. I fight for people I love, and friendships sometimes to a fault, and I know now that it’s ok to let someone step back if they need to, they’ll come back if they are meant to be in your life. Frankly, if I had gone into past-Meera-psycho-mode, I think this situation would be a lot more miserable than it was, and I don’t think either of us would have been OK with that.

Career(s):
If I can say one thing about 2013, it is that I have legitimately worked my ass off. (No, seriously, my ass is smaller than it used to be, I’m pissed). I have held down, at any given time, anywhere between one to four jobs, and at full steam put in 70-80 work weeks. Everything about my life at that time was amazing and miserable simultaneously. You know when people say that they really value work-life balance? Let’s just say I didn’t believe in it. While working these crazy hours, I sacrificed my health, my sanity, friends wondered who the zombie-like brown girl was in the room, and the person in my life took matters into their own hands, and turned off my cellphone, and laptop to just get me to watch a football game with him. This job consumed me. It came to a bit of an abrupt end, which absolutely caught me off guard, but also gave me a healthy dose of reality. I knew what I wanted out of a mentor, a boss, and this person did not fit the bill. Losing that job got me back to BC, (the place of my last missing mojo crisis) but this time I was coming back with my tail between my legs, but my head held high. Part of that mojo loss was placing expectations others had for me, above those of my own. I can’t function that way, especially when those people (the closest to me), do it out of love. I understand their concern, but them worrying about me, and constantly voicing their opinion on the matter became suffocating the last time. I knew that coming in, and asked for my space. Lo and behold, it took a while, but employment came in a tidal wave, and I am glad to say I am finishing off the year in a good place, and in Vancouver, somewhat permanently.*

Love:
Love is a fickle, unforgiving bitch. OK, maybe not totally true, but I have a point! I can honestly say that this past couple of years, I was in love, in lust, and just plain bored. Let’s begin with bored. You know when friends tell you that you should take up a hobby? Maybe actually take up a hobby, and don’t do what I did- date someone as a social experiment, realize you do like them a bit, but not as much as they you, and then brutally dump them hastily before a party because that wasn’t part of the plan. No one likes a bitch, let me tell you. Boy A, let’s call him, met me at a time where someone I like to refer to as “bored-Meera” showed up. She’s got a job, got a good group of friends, and decides to bring in some companionship to boot. Nothing serious, a dalliance, someone to go out with, spend some time with and then say thank you and move along. All-in-all a solid plan, until it blows up in your face. Boy A ended up falling for me a bit, this was a no-no. Not in the plans, and not what I wanted. I chose him for external factors that seemed to be ideally suited for where I was mentally at the time, and then he went and threw the caring wrench into it. Sorry to say, that relationship ended (on relatively good terms), we went our separate ways, and I fell in lust.

Enter #2, Hulk. Here was someone who was smart, funny, loved football (and played it too!), and seemingly loved a lot about me. The duper became the duped here. This is a situation where I thoroughly thought there was something substantial going on with us, assumed the feeling was mutual and never sought to clarify. This went on eight months. Note to future Meera: always clarify, it saves you a lot of time, and a lot of looking like a ass. Had I clarified, this could have been a mutually beneficial situation, instead, I was a little surly and a little upset for a time, but I got over it. I can say, looking back on my time with Hulk, I regret nothing, we were great fun while it lasted, it was nice to feel like a real woman, (my girls know what I mean), and I harbour no grudges. If anything, I thank him for making me realize the massive douche-nozzle (real term, I said so) I was to Boy A up there, and I am better for it.

The final chapter, #3. The one where her guard fell down. Hulk up there, he taught me to not be a jerk, but he also taught me to have my guard up, and not drop it so easily any more. Enter the Magnet. Something about this person has always kept me interested for the greater part of a decade. Be that on a mental, physical, spiritual level. He is the type of person that makes me so furious when we talk because he constantly challenges me on everything, but that can say one word or phrase and I give up. He had said, repeatedly since we had been together that we were going to change each other, whether we intended to or not. The Magnet was 100% correct. My constant questioning of his carefree nature and live in the moment attitude balanced out his lack of observation for the rules of relationships that I adhere to. I fell hard, fast, and absolutely was in denial of it, until it was too late. Magnet is the type of person who says whatever is on his mind about you, and “we” and does not question it. That’s a scary thing, to be presented with someone who cares for you so fiercely that they say, honestly so, they see a future with you. And when in my sarcastic nature challenge them to paint it out, the illustration is so realistic is scares the shit out of you. As we know, I am the take what you say with a grain of salt type person, and Magnet managed to beat that side out of me. I began to believe him, and eventually I saw it too, clearly. I told him I finally got what he was talking about, and I was in. If you could have seen the look on his face, it was like a kid that was just told “hey, it’s Christmas morning everyday for a year, oh, and you can eat ice cream for breakfast too”. His reaction to my revelation? “Finally, now I’m not the only one in this.”  You know it’s a bad break-up when I’m the one trying to hold back an all out sob because he emailed you to end things because shit got real for him. That’s when I knew precisely how bad it was. I don’t cry over men, I haven’t in a while, because I’m just as happy in a relationship as I am out. This just pulled the rug out from under me. Suddenly all of the trials I had been through the past year or two didn’t matter as much. My heart dropped, my breath went shallow: no, not him. It was a slap in the face, and kick in the gut at the same time. And moreover, email? WHO THE HELL DOES THAT? He was right, our relationship did change me, he gave me a sense of clarity in what I want in a partner, he also cleared up the what I don’ts. So, thank you Magnet, for finally answering the what-if. Our timing has, and likely always will be off, but I know I think perhaps you were more caught up in the idea of us than the reality of us. We will always be messy, complicated, tricky to navigate, and it could be glorious, or a disaster. We both knew there would be no in-between. Because, if you weren’t, you’d have stayed and fought. Let’s face it, you’re the first person who ever told me I was worth fighting for, and fortunately, that is the one thing that has not changed.

This verbal rant fills the void of blog posts from the fall, (see above writings for reasonings why), and also serves as a verbal confirmation that yes, I am doing all right, thank you. So 2014, I look to you for bigger, better and more enlightening occurrences.  Until then, enough real talk, I have a spiked hot chocolate with my name on it waiting for me.

I leave you with words of wisdom sent to me from the aforementioned best friend and bride of earlier this year:

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