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.

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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

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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Damned if you do, damned if you don’t (Also known as the Bride responds)

And now, a guest blog from my best friend, the bride whom I had the privilege to stand by on her wedding day:

Since we are on the topic of weddings, I asked the owner of this amazing blog, the Canadian Female, to let me throw in my two cents, and she reluctantly agreed. I am the previously mentioned bride and best friend.

The reason I wanted to throw in my two-cents, other than the clear abundance of opinion, is to touch on the other side of this equation.  And Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t sums it up quite nicely.

I have been married for a total of three weeks (which obviously makes me an expert in all marriage-related topics). Our wedding day was everything I could have wished for and more. I married an amazing, caring and hilarious man with my funny, gorgeous and very supportive best friend by my side.  Everything was perfectly executed, from the designer cake, to the blue Manolos, to the mandatory late-night guest dancing with a tie around his head.

However, I would lie if I said the whole wedding outlook didn’t raise a number of questions and concerns in my own head. As a woman in my mid-20s who has spent most, if not all, of her adult life in a committed relationship, it made me question if I was ready for the substantial leap of faith that marriage has come to signify to our generation.  The reality is that being single has a certain sexiness to it and being married is considered one of those huge milestones that must mean you have all of your shit together (which I do not, by the way), or that you are done experiencing life, and settling down is the natural progression before being written out of history all together.  Dramatic? Maybe. But also absolutely true.

I recently had someone approach me at a party, nothing more than a mere acquaintance, to interrogate me on why I got married. This person proceeded to then tell me that, at 24, I should be out there “living life” and “being happy” as if marriage was nothing short of a death sentence.  Such an asinine question merited an equal smarty-pants answer so I told him I wanted to get fat and getting married meant I could let myself go.  That look of shock, pure gold. Seriously, Master Card has nothing on that.

The point is, there are two serious lessons to be learned that no one bothers to teach young brides embarking on this wonderful journey.

  1. Your bouquet won’t even be wilted by the time everyone has dumped all of their expectations on you.  As romantic as wedding planning is, you will start receiving baby questions 24 hours out from your wedding. And house purchasing options. And ten-year planning tips. Because a wedding is nothing more than just an open door into your life and everyone will take the opportunity to offer their expectations of you and your husband. Prepare for it and laugh it off.
  2. Your friends will either be really supportive or really judgemental. There is no in-between and neither will be on purpose. As happy as people will be for you, your actions will make them question their own lives and decisions. All those questions that you ask yourself as a single gal in the face of commitment and your friends moving on with their lives, they still exist, you just have to pretend you have your shit together more because you’re apparently an adult now. Go figure.

In sweet, because this wasn’t very short, those questions never go away when you get married, you just have to decide what is beneficial for you, and damned be those naysayers. There will always be questions and second guesses, it has sadly become a staple of our generation. So rest assured single ladies, those of us who are hitched have no frigging clue what we’re doing most of the time either.

But it helps to have good open chats about both sides of the equation and, when that fails, have copious amounts of red wine with your best friend.

Wedding Day Sept 7, 2013

Wedding Day Sept 7, 2013

And She Walked Down The Aisle

A few weeks ago, I stood by my best friend’s side as she said “I do” to her husband.

This was an enlightening experience on many levels. Of course, the most obvious being that I am unimaginably thrilled for her to begin this new and exciting chapter of her life. It also made me realize that this was just a part of the inevitable tsunami of weddings and babies that accompanies someone in their mid-to-late twenties.

Every where someone in my “age-box” looks, there’s a couple getting engaged, walking down the aisle or procreating. It’s a bit unnerving, to say the least. Weddings are one of those things “grown ups” do, so coming to the conclusion, as a spectator, that I am no where near that phase of my life was a bit of a check and balance moment. The usual laundry list of questions floods your brain:

  • Am I where I thought I would be at [X] years old?
  • Is marriage something I want to do?
  • Would I be good and nurturing as a parent?
  • What about everything I wanted to do BEFORE  all of this grown up stuff had to happen?
  • Does this mean I have to start thinking about mortgages, gift registry listings, and retirement residences?
  • Oh good God, do I really have to get those people a wedding gift?
  • Wait, a blender costs how much?
  • The bride gets whatever she wants, right?
  • Are these guests silently (or not so silently in some cases) judging the single-me in attendance?
  • Those baby “necessities” are how much?
  • Pay rent, or show face at an acquaintances wedding and great a free meal/open bar?

Some, if not all, of these questions have flooded through my absent minded brain in the last twelve to eighteen months.  To varying levels of intensity, I’ve tried my best to answer them. That’s when I came to the conclusion that some times, not having an answer is OK. (In other times, yes, you do have to give them a wedding gift, and yes that blender’s price tag is $300.)

These life milestones come in waves, some people are just more comfortable to dive in sooner. I am firmly in the second wave, the group that holds out for a while. It’s a realization that was not easy to come to grips with, especially given my last year. But having faced it, I know it to be true. Things will happen when they do for my friends and I in our time. Just because we’re not on the fast track doesn’t make it any less worthwhile or fulfilling.

In the mean time, we collectively wish those diving in sooner the best in their new adventures, while relishing the time we have left to experience life on our own terms, for just a little bit longer. I have a few more things to cross off my checklist before diving forward too!

The One Where She Ate Her Words

What I am experiencing today can most succinctly be described as disappointment. This will be a brief post. I can, without a doubt, launch into a retrospective diatribe of the Canucks play this post season, blown calls, missed glorious scoring chances, and puck luck.  But I’m not going to. No, this season will likely be summed up by pundits and amateurs as the “their-last-chance” season. I agree with this for the most part, some changes need to be made, an aging team is a hard thing to hide and pretend nothing is wrong, unless you’re the Detroit Red Wings and draft/develop players with wizard-like efficiency.

I will say one thing, with respect to last night’s game. My boys definitely laid everything on the ice. They hit hard, shot often, and were out duelled by the hungrier team. Surely plenty of changes will occur this off season, or in a shocking move, none at all. In any case, even though I know for sure that no one at the Canucks organization will read this, I say simply one thing: Thank you. The Canucks are a hell of a team to cheer for, one I am proud to say I have been behind for 20 years. From top to bottom, management to coaching staff, and in particular the players, they give back to the community in a lot of anonymous ways. This is not unnoticed by those of us who know where to look. To those of you who stick around for next season, I hope you have a rested summer, come back healthier, stronger, and fully recuperated from whatever the hell ailed you this year. To the departing, thanks for the memories, (well, maybe not you, Derek Roy, we never really got to know you, or like you).

Until training camp, boys.

thankyoufromvan

Hockey Heartbreak

I am writing this in advance of my team’s fourth (and potentially final) game of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  I am by no means admitting defeat, in any way shape or form, of my beloved Canucks to the San Jose Sharks.

Today, I am here to confess that I am a hockey instigator. In no way do I claim to know all about hockey, rather the opposite.  However, I am no slouch. I know teams, most relevant stats, player statuses and rumours inside and out. It is this knowledge that becomes my best friend and mortal enemy during playoff season.  You see, I am not what one would call a “silent spectator”. Sure, I watch games in relative silence, I enjoy the peace, for goodness sakes we all know I have to watch the first period of a regular season game on mute! Playoff hockey brings out the Jekyll in me. I am a raging, high-strung, stressed-out, heart-racing, clawing-at-my-jersey, monster. A monster. There, I said it.

This can best be exemplified by my actions last Friday evening. I was having a girls day out, ending of course in time for puck drop to go spend the evening with my boys. We watched Ottawa and Montreal play, Montreal winning 3-1, and I convinced the keeper of the remote to play the Vancouver-San Jose game immediately after. Down after 20 minutes, Ryan Kesler (Kes-lord to you plebes), strapped the Canucks on his back to score twice in the third, ensuring a Canucks win, with a minute left to play, right?  Wrong. Patrick Marleau, ever invisible, scored the game-tying-goal at 19:04 in the final frame.

Now, until this point, I was quiet. Occasionally looking skyward, praying to the hockey gods for a goal or four to break the opposing goalie’s Berlin Wall-esque demeanour. There were  a few groans on bad hockey plays, and a few instances of shouting at the TV while the boys looked on at me in disbelief. I only acutely resembled this guy, I swear!

At 19:04 of the third, everything changed. I made the quick decision to split, immediately.  Forcing myself to bust-my-butt to get home for the start of overtime (OT).  I explained to the boys that I did not want them to see me “that way”, and scurried out the door. You see, OT makes me freak out. The sit in a corner of my room, rock back and forth and repeat “come on boys” kind of freak out. I am a mess when it comes to sudden-death overtime, why? Because that’s it. That’s all she wrote. No re-dos, no play out the rest of the period, that’s it.  Your goose is effectively cooked, and being down 2-0 in a series is never, ever a good thing, even worse when your next two games of a seven game series are in the other team’s house. Last Friday, I made it home for OT. I loaded up a stream in time to hear iron ring and pray to God that puck hit the post a few inches inside the bar, and not out.  God did not answer those prayers. A minute later, the Sharks scored, the game was over and my team is headed for what many feel is a second consecutive ousting in the first round of the playoffs.

Losing did not sting as badly as it should have. Losing in OT, when your team out hustled, out hit and out shot the winners is the stinger.  This, friends, is hockey heartbreak, and this is why I am writing this today, ahead of game four, down 0-3 in the series with supposedly no hope left. Friday night was heartbreak night, Sunday was time to be enthused and hopeful for 40 minutes, and then watch your team implode night. I have hope. There will be a game 5, at least. There has to be, because if not, I have to hear it from my “friends”, the Leafs fans, in particular, who after 9 years of ridicule, shame, and constantly cheering for a team who fails to live up to expectations, they will seek their revenge.

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And Then, There Was Hockey.

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It is a very well known fact that I love hockey.  I make no effort to hide my passion, nor do I apologize for feigning paying attention to people when they are poorly positioned in front of a screen showing a game.  Nothing about this side of me improves between April and June of every year (barring a lock out).  I hermit away with friends, mostly male, and follow the NHL playoffs as though our lives depend on the outcome (they do).  The race for Lord Stanley officially gets underway this evening, and I for one, could not be happier.

The female contingent of friends in my life do not understand this “craziness”, as they call it.  Most of them could care less about the carnage that will be left in the wake of the Los Angeles Kings- St. Louis Blues series.  They won’t have a vested interest in the outcomes of  Boston and Toronto or Montreal and Ottawa.  The sideline stories will have no consequence, either.  Who cares if Number 87 battled back from a concussion. You probably remember he was out for over a year. Then he had his jaw broken by a puck. Crosby’s head has been through a lot.

No, to the ladies in my life, it does not matter that the Maple Leafs will be facing every terrible trade they’ve made in the last decade stare them in the face at puck drop against the Bruins.  This is all OK.  They (for the most part) understand that for about 3 and a half months every year, my priorities change around.  I am not interested in martini night, shopping or lady gossip.  I would much rather toss on a pair of jeans, my favourite Canucks T-shirt, grab a beer and sit in silence and watch a game or three in one evening.  Bless their hearts for putting up with me.

This will be the first year ever, that I will be attempting to follow my hometeam’s playoff run from a different time-zone, and I cannot say that I am looking forward to it.  Catching a Canucks game in Ottawa is hard enough during the regular season, but add in that their first round games all have a start time of 7:30PM PST, and it’s near impossible to find establishments or friends with appropriate cable packages to exploit.  It is my quest, this playoff season to rectify this injustice.  I will politely cheer for the adopted home-team’s victory over Montreal and revel in the superhero-like recovery of the Senators hot-shot defenceman, Erik Karlsson.  And at 10:30PM EST I will plead with the person in charge of TV programming for the evening to please turn on, and turn up the real hockey game.

That’s it, ladies and gentleman, hockey’s second season has officially arrived, and I take no prisoners or fault for what may be said in the coming weeks in this blog.

Adieu, and good luck, fellow NHL fans.

P.S. Go Canucks Go!

 

Let Them Eat Tiramisu Cupcakes, She Said

I try to visit my best friend in Toronto on the partial-regular (aka when my bank account permits, or another friend driving down takes pity on me).  This time round, the trip had a different feel and sentiment to it.  There were no deadlines, no commitments to social events, sports games or wedding-specific tasks to take care of.  For the first time in a while since she and her fiancé moved out of Ottawa, we have actually had time to enjoy each other’s company without the pressure of a deadline or departure.  This turn of events couldn’t have appeared at a better time, for me and for her I feel.  Both of us as of recently have been suffering from a case of the “lonely-s”.  The “lonely-s” are a side effect of being separated from most of our friends and families, going through the ebbs and flows of life.  In this specific case, the ebb.  The arrival of “spring” here in Canada brought with it a change of circumstance, in particular a lot of them for me.  A difference of opinion and need for personal space lead to my signing a lease, accepting my need to be selfish in a relationship lead to the dissolution of one that had potential, and lastly, a great opportunity career-wise turned out to not be the best fit.  And so, the spring of 2013 brought me back to a very familiar place: square one.  The only difference this time around is the location, Ottawa.

These reasons are more than likely why this venture to The Big Smoke ended up having more meaning and more necessity behind it than I initially thought.  Thankfully, this trip provided a respite to take a beat, step back from every thought racing through my mind and assess my next plan of attack.  In a way in which only she could, this process has been aided by delicious French food, champagne, macarons, sushi, and tonight, homemade pizza and tiramisu cupcakes.  There is something mind-clearing to cooking and baking for me.  Even if I am merely playing sous-chef, the act of focussing all of my energy into a tangible output calms me, focusses me, and gives me some brief peace of mind. (Double-edged life lesson right there, don’t you think?)

Alas, following a weekend of much needed family, friends, rest, and relaxation I head back to Ottawa with a heavy heart, and clear eyes.  I firmly believe the next few months will shape the next phase of my life, for better or worse.  It is only with this mindset that I can truly tackle the next steps in front of me these coming weeks.  With this realization, and new-found clarity, I have no choice but to end this post with a little baking therapy, in the form of the Tiramisu Cupcakes my best friend churned out last night.  I mean, you have to stop for the smallest pleasures in life.  There are no better.

Tiramisu Cupcake Recipe


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