Archives For September 2012

I’d like to paint a scene for you: It’s 5:45 pm. Matt is home from work, and so am I. We’re both lazy as all get out, and both have meetings to get to within the hour. What we need is a blissful half-hour of TV-induced relaxation before we are required to turn our brains on again. Our varying tastes leave us with only a handful of mutually-agreeable options. Chief among them? A little show on A&E called Storage Wars.

Storage Wars doesn’t really fit within my carefully curated TV schedule. I can be a little picky (re: pretentious) when it comes to the shows I watch, so I haven’t openly divulged my affinity for this show before. But I think its high-time to put away the pretense, and come clean: I LOVE STORAGE WARS. A&E has somehow managed to craft an entertaining half-hour of television out of a very simple concept: Obnoxious people bidding on stuff. Though it’s a seemingly banal premise, I’ve become attached to this cast of characters. I love Barry; I hate Dave; I want to hand Daryl a towel and a cold glass of water because he always looks so inexplicably sweaty. Basically, I’m a super fan, OK? And I am not ashamed!

So, when a contest showed up on my Facebook minifeed from Tourism Hamilton offering the chance to meet Jarrod and Brandi (of Storage Wars fame) and win a free meal at the Keg, I entered. Truthfully, I’d meet anyone if it was followed by a free meal at the Keg. All I had to do was provide the name of Jarrod and Brandi’s thrift store. I didn’t expect to win, because I never win, but the very next day, I was contacted with some hilariously unexpected information: I WON. What the heck?!

I have to admit that winning the contest was almost more fun than claiming the prize. The Facebook post in which I announced my victory was my most-liked status ever, and confirmed what I already suspected: EVERYBODY WATCHES THIS SHOW. So, let’s all stop pretending we’re better than reality TV, and admit our shameless love for this moderately-entertaining slice of television programming. While we’re at it, let’s also admit our love for Pawn Stars and The Bachelor. Say it with me now: “I love Harrisons both Rick and Chris!” Ahhh, that feels good, doesn’t it?

Not long after the Facebook notifications died down, I got myself to the nearest thrift store. I needed an outfit worthy of dining with some mid-range-reality stars. Obviously, I’ll use any excuse to thrift a new dress, but I also needed something that would kick-start the imaginary conversation Brandi were destined to have. It would go like this:

“Hi Brandi, we’re big fans. You’re pretty.” (And Matt loves you but I wouldn’t say that)
“Aww, thank you! You’re so sweet. I love your dress.”
“Oh thank you! I got it from a thrift store. I knew you of all people would appreciate that.”
“Oh really? Tell me more!” (What? This is a totally realistic conversation)
“Well, I actually have a blog about thrifting. I only wear thrifted clothing, and maybe someday I’ll have my own thrift store.”
“That sounds fascinating. Here is my producer from A&E. He would like to give you your own reality show and follow you around as you thrift and make you a really big star.” (Okay, maybe a little less realistic now….)
“I accept! Will I get a trailer? And will Chumlee be there? What? Wrong network? Oh. No problem. I will get a chubby side kick though, right?”

So there you go. I needed a supreme thrift score because my future as a reality TV star depended on it. Luckily, I found something up to the task at Salvation Army. This Lupis dress is fun, flirty, and more importantly: it fits. Another $7 well spent.

With my big-break dress ready to go, we headed to the Keg for our brush with fame. Brandi and Jarrod arrived 20 minutes later, at which point I was killing myself with laughter. I don’t know why. The whole thing was just totally bizarre. They sat down at a table right behind us, so I was in very close proximately to Jarrod’s big head and Brandi’s big…stilettos (get your mind outta the gutter! Sheesh!). I kept asking Matt to take dorky photos of me à la Tina Fey in Date Night. It was hilarious.

They then called the winners up, two by two, to have our mats (that would eventually hold our photos) signed by the duo. I think this was the “Meet and Greet” portion of the evening, but that’s a bit of a misnomer, as we just said our names to their assistant, who then wrote them down on a sheet of paper, from which Brandi copied onto the mat. Fun fact: Brandi used little hearts instead of dots. Isn’t that the least surprising thing ever?

After that, they called up the winners for photos. I knew this was likely the only interaction we’d have with the couple, so I had to make some sort of moment out of it. We introduced ourselves, and I jokingly apologized to Jarrod for making him feel short. Brandi said he’s used to it. As we readied for the flash, and I asked Jarrod if he’d like to stand on the step behind me. Everybody laughed. Brandi clapped. Jarrod said something like “Awww c’mon!” and good times were had by all. Granted, it didn’t result in any offers for TV shows, but I’m holding out for TLC anyways.

As soon as the photos wrapped, Brandi and Jarrod headed out the door for some other promotional event in Toronto. I then enjoyed one of the more delicious meals I’ve had in some time by shamelessly selecting the most expensive steak on our limited menu. We ended the evening with a fancy coffee and a framed photo our new BFFs.

All in all, it was a brief, odd, and delicious evening, heightened by a cute dress and the generous amounts of bacon bits and blue cheese on my iceberg wedge. I think, though, my favourite tidbit came from our waitress: The first thing Jarrod did upon arrival at the restaurant? Take a big handful of the host desk candies and put them in the pocket of his pants.

Totally shameless.

Back to School

September 20, 2012 — 14 Comments

September. Weather cooler, pants longer, days shorter and TV better. There is a shift in the air, and perhaps no more pronounced than in the grand lecture halls and dingy dorm rooms on college campuses all across the globe. Earlier this month, millions of students returned to the college life, trading their crappy summer jobs for crappy 8:00am classes. Some ready to learn, some ready to party, and some ready for both. While everyone feels this shift, I’m observing it at close distance. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a graphic designer at a university, and so I can’t help but relive my own college memories at times like this. Sure, I’ve wandered into the realm of academic nostalgia before on the blog, but September also brings the pangs for the social joys of college life. You know: cheap Corona nights, dorm pranks, crushes that last for approximately one psychology class.

Since most of you don’t find yourselves surrounded by memories off ye ol’ college days, I thought I’d pillage Julie’s College of Pop-Cultural Knowledge once more and let TV do some reminiscing for us. And let’s be honest: TV life is always way more fun than real life.

Always one to dress for the occasion, I’ve prepared for this lecture with some recently thrifted college fashion: this studious vintage mini, a collared shirt, and a chunky belt. I’ve put them with my not-thrifted Oxfords and a bag big enough to hold all the books I read spark notes for. Even if you’re years and miles away from your college days, these shows are bound to make you long for the college experiences you actually had, and the ones you wish you had. Some of them are shows, some just episodes, all fantastically fun portrayals of life within the the post-secondary universe.

Community
Oh gosh, I’ve professed my love for this show on more than one occasion. But any self-respecting list maker (that’s a thing, right?) couldn’t start a college list without it. While this show has veered into broader territory in its later seasons, season 1 is the most delightful look at community college cliches ever. The joys of running the school newspaper, core classes that make your brain cry, electives that no school actually offers, but should. It’s all gold. Plus, I think we can all agree that paintball wars should indeed be mandatory at every university.

Felicity
This show could quite actually be called the opposite of Community. It takes college so seriously. But still, it’s full of glorious young-intellectual angst. It could also be credited with cementing a classic TV rule: that all dorms are SO MUCH NICER than any actual dorm in real life. Extra credit: they taught me how to say “hey“.

The Simpsons: Homer Goes to College
If I need to explain why this episode is classic, I don’t think you should be reading my blog. But in case I do, here you go: Here and here.

Undeclared
Undeclared is to college what Freaks and Geeks is to high school: An awesome, Judd Aptow creation that was tragically cancelled before it’s time. My brief affair with this show began out of the same motivation that got dudes watching 24 – “It’s that kid from Popular Mechanics for Kids!“.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This isn’t a show about college, of course, but two fantastic college episodes are enough to get it on the list. Buffy and the gang would eventually do what most teen shows do: stop going to college after a few months because it’s just too hard to keep it interesting. But two episodes in Buffy Season 4 are some of my favourite bits of college-themed TV. Firstly, episode 4.1 has Buffy completely intimated and lost in her new university surroundings. She even does the classic walk into the wrong classroom and don’t realize it until it’s too late. This wins because I TOTALLY DID THAT. The second must-watch episode is the one with Buffy’s roommate. She labels her food, listens to Cher on repeat, and irons her jeans. Therefore, she’s an evil demon. We’ve all been there in some fashion, right?

I could expand this list to movie territory, but then I’d have to reveal to all of you I haven’t seen Animal House, and I just haven’t worked up a decent enough excuse for that yet. I have seen Old School though, so that’s got to count for something.

If I do ever get around to a Top 5 College Movies list, I have an anecdote ready to go for The Social Network. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the movie, but I did have the privilege of being in college when Facebook launched as a a new, exclusive college thing. At one point, I made the mistake of inviting everyone in my “network” to our Halloween party, and all four of my housemates did the same. The next thing you know, our house is so packed I thought it might explode, our lawn is torn up with tire tracks, a ninja turtle is puking in the hallway, and my housemate and I are outside dealing with a spontaneous visit from the landlord. We did our best to convince him of our upstanding citizenship, while dressed as a vampire and a cheerleader, respectively. Nothing says “responsible” like pom poms and a cape.

And as hard as I’m trying for a college look today, that one will always take the cake. A TV moment if ever I’ve lived one. Give me an “A!”

Bonjour, mes fidèles lecteurs! See what I did there? I typed “hello, my loyal readers!” into my Google Translate app and voila: French! What’s the reason for my foray into the language of love? This past weekend, Matt and I traveled to la belle province of Quebec for a few days in Montréal. Neither of us had been to the city, and good friends living there coupled with a great deal on Princeline.com made it the ideal location for an extended anniversary weekend.

(Note that I’m going to skip over the apologies for letting this blog suffer in silence as I camped, worked, and ate my way through the rest of the summer, and instead make up for it by packing three entries into one super-sized-mega-entry. Beefy!)

Okay, here we go!

Matt and I arrived in Montréal around 11:00am on Saturday. We split up the drive over Friday and Saturday, so we were granted a long day, and a decent amount of sleep as well. Though we weren’t technically allowed to check in until 3:00pm, I tried my luck at the front desk, and they had a room ready for us. A brief word on our hotel: It was beautiful! Chateau Versailles is a lovely old boutique hotel located just outside the heart of Downtown Montréal, and walking distance to many of the sites on our list. It was so charming – a lovely old building, art all over the walls, and continental breakfast with brie cheese. Win!

Not long after settling into our digs for the weekend, I realized I packed like a bit of a doofus. Granted, I did pack a few easy, comfy dresses, but I also packed way too many complicated outfits: skirts that only work with the right shirt, shirts that only work with the right bra, yadda yadda yadda. I forgot that vacation is about comfort, and, frankly, trying to out-trend Montreal women is a losing battle: they wake up looking chic. Luckily, I rectified that misstep soon into my trip by putting my thrift powers to work. But more on that later!

For our first excursion, I pulled out one of the smarter pieces I packed: my stripey rainbow friend, and off we went. First we strolled through the McGill campus, then some of the residential neighbourhoods nearby: tree-lined streets, full of apartments humming with students moving in and out. I was left with two strong feelings: 1) Why didn’t I go to school in Quebec?! and 2) I want a stoop.

We then arrived on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, in the heart of Montréal’s Plateau district. Such an amazing street! So many unique shops and restaurants, and so much character. I didn’t even bother breaking out my camera, because I just wanted to enjoy the atmosphere. With grumbling tummies, we settled on a place for brunch, and Matt enjoyed the best omelet he had in his whole life: Apple curry, brie, pine nuts, ugh. I actually don’t like talking about it because while my meal was also delicious, I’m still a little jealous.

Not soon after the meal, I found a string of three vintage and thrift shops. Hurrah! They were all adorable, but I found the most luck at the ten-dollar rack. Thrifting: a universal language. I picked up a colourful, comfy cotton sun dress that would right my doofus packing job. You’ll see it a few pics down. We then walked a few streets down to Saint Denis – another lively, colourful street that I could quite happily live on forever and ever and ever.

Feeling quite accomplished, we decided it was time to head back to the hotel and coordinate our trip to see our friends Petra and George. Petra was my design professor back in university, and basically one of the coolest people ever. It also cooled down just enough from me to wear this 60s bell-sleeve dress I thrifted a few weeks ago.

Petra and George live in this fantastic apartment just outside Westmount, on a leafy, quiet street. They are also quite close to St. Joseph’s Oratory, so we spent the afternoon exploring it. What an incredible space! The oratory was constructed in the 1920s, and completed in the 60s, so while it doesn’t have the ornate detailing of, say, Notre Dame, it’s breathtaking in a whole different way. It uses heavier lines, and a bolder, more graphic style. Truly breathtaking!

After working up an appetite in the oratory gardens, we headed back to Petra and George’s, where they spoiled us rotten with olives, martinis, flaky appetizers, grilled salmon, wines both red and white, and the pièce de résistance: dessert pastries from a Parisian baker down the street. Magnifique!

The next morning, we prepped for day two with a continental breakfast of brie, berries, and croissants, and I slipped into my new thrift: this sundress. This dress was a great addition to my vacation wardrobe, namely because it’s slightly oversized, thus allowing me room to gain 25 pounds directly attributed to various kinds of cheese. So I, Matt, and my new sundress headed out to the Montreal Museum of Fine Art.

The main exhibit was a retrospective (the first of its kind!) on pop artist Tom Wesselmann. Readers of my blog will already know I’m a bit of a pop art nut, so this was the perfect addition to our trip. The exhibit spanned decades of Wesselmann’s career and life. I wasn’t nearly as familiar with his work as I am with some of the other artists in the pop art movement, so it was amazing to discover just how innovative he was – he was forever seeking beauty, and explored just about every medium in that pursuit. Wesselmann actually had an itchy relationship with the “pop art” movement. While his aesthetic may be similar to his contemporaries, his intentions were all his own.

For fear of being “that guy”, I kept my camera in its case for most of the exhibit, just breaking out the iPhone once and while.

Following our morning with Tom, we hopped a bus to the Old Port in Montreal. We’d been warned by some that this area is rather touristy, to which we always think “Well, good: we’re tourists.”

The Old Port is just lovely. It’s blocks of picturesque architecture, populated with buskers, merchants and street performers. Soon into our venture, I realized it had been nearly five hours since my last dose of cheese, so we rectified that with a meal at Jardin Nelson. My friend Marlene recommended this restaurant for one main reason: they serve WATERMELON SANGRIA. I was told it would be life-changing, and it was, as I can no longer enjoy regular sangria. Thanks a lot, Marlene. Matt and I both ordered The Nelson Crêpe, and, well, the tweet I wrote mid-meal will tell you I how I felt about it:

With our cheese-metres back up to acceptable levels, we spent a few more hours exploring the area, and decided our last stop would be the Atwater Market to pick up some economical dinner options for later. We landed on a big brick of olive harvarti (which should surprise no one at this point), a baguette, and a cheap bottle of vino from the dépanneur.

We then gave our legs a break for a few hours and watched some bad TV at the hotel (which is somehow always so much better than bad TV a home, am I right?). To cap off the trip, we headed out one more time and ended our evening with a few pints (and cheese sticks – is this becoming a problem?) at a local pub near the hotel. I made the point of changing my outfit once more to justify the extreme over-packing I did. Plus, Labour Day’s alternate title is also “Wear-those-maxi-dresses-you’ve-only-worn-once-this-summer-before-it-gets-too-cold Day.” What, you didn’t know that?

The next morning, we stopped by Petra and George’s once more for a hearty breakfast (and cheesy eggs, obvi), then hit the road. All in all, it was a marvelous weekend. I’d never been the Quebec at all, so at the very least I now feel like a slightly better Canadian. West Coast, you’re next! If you ever get the chance to visit the city, take it. The rich culture and lively energy truly made it feel like a getaway, and I can’t wait to go back.

Oh, one more miscellaneous item: The bathroom of our hotel had THREE mirrored walls. It was like a 90s music video in there (those of you on my Instagram heard that joke already, but too bad. I only have so much original material). Needles to say, gratuitous selfies abounded:

Wait, here’s an original joke: It was like a fun house from a creepy carnival movie montage! Anyway, I am now back to using one lousy mirror every morning, and eating stupid no-name cheddar, AND I can’t get wine from the corner store anymore. Geeez Ontario, what gives?