Between a Wall and a Net: A Pigeon’s Story

by PenRei

On Sunday morning, Mister Neener (a friend visiting from Ottawa) and I awoke to the sound of cooing pigeons. Now, this was no surprise to me since their annoying routines have a tendency of waking me up almost every morning at 8am, but Mister Neener was unfamiliar with it. When I want to go back to sleep but the pigeons will not cease and desist, I open the curtains briskly and that will generally scare them away. If the ratbirds are feeling particularly gutsy, they’ll stay. That’s when I open my balcony door and they fly off in fear of my morning grumpiness.

That morning was, however, slightly different. I performed my usual task of opening the curtains to scare the 7 pigeons away. 6 flew off in fear, but one kept flapping its wings, but never leaving. What in the world was it doing? I couldn’t figure it out. I then opened the balcony door and that’s when I understood. The pigeon had somehow managed to bypass the netting surrounding my balcony. WTF? There’s only one small opening on the side and for some reason, it chose to explore it.

Since it was 8am, and Mister Neener and I were up until 2am talking about books, dealing with the stupidity of a pigeon was not in our interest. I thus decided to go back to bed, thinking if he was smart enough to find that tiny opening to get in, he’s smart enough to find it again and get out.

I should have known better.
I gave that pigeon far too much credit.

Two hours later, I woke up and found the pigeon perched on one of my chairs, its crap all over the place. Fuck! I thought with immense frustration. I would have to help the pigeon get out. I took my broom outside and used it to keep a distance between the pigeon and I as I lifted the netting so it could fly through. The pigeon’s stupidity continued to skyrocket since it did not take the opening net as a sign of freedom, but chose to panic and fly everywhere. This was a failed attempt.

Due to my extreme distate of pigeons, thoughts of killing it had occured to me. However, there is this certain law that says it’s illegal, so I decided not to become a criminal on account of a stupid pigeon.

Not knowing what else to do, I called the weekend phone number for my superintendent. In about 3 minutes, one of the maintenance guys was at my door – Mister Neener and I didn’t even have enough time to change out of our pjs. He went out on the balcony and said that he would try catch it with his hands. If that didn’t work, he would then call someone else to come and help him.

Neener and I watched with excited anticipation out the window to see if this man would succeed. After five failed attempts, hope faded in our hearts. On the sixth try, HE GOT IT! He swooped his arms up in the air with perfect timing and caught the pigeon with both hands. Neener and I cheered at his success, wondering why we ever let our hope falter.

The maintenance guy then approached me through the screen door and asked with a touch of humour in his voice “feel like having a barbecue?”. We laughed and I asked him to set it free. He carefully snuck the pigeon between his hands in the small crack of the balcony and we watched it fly off towards freedom. The guy stepped back in the apartment to continue his daily life and proclaimed “I’ve never done that before. Now I have another skill I can add to my resume.”

It was quite the interesting Sunday morning for a pair of groggy half-awake friends.

What A Stupid Pigeon

What A Stupid Pigeon, image from the app

The Year of the Dragon

by PenRei

Hello readers! Sorry it has been so long. This blog seems to have fallen on the side in the craziness that is my life.

I’ll be honest as to why I haven’t been contributing as much lately. It’s quite simple actually. Before November 21st, I had a desk job as a production coordinator that allowed me to write my blog slowly between tasks over the span of 4 hours. Writing an entry was a welcomed 5 minute distraction every 30 minutes to help refresh my brain and practice my writing. My job today still involves computers, but 4 of them and none of them have the internet. During my 9 hour shift, I only have the chance to log onto the internet for about 1 hour a day. That’s not enough time to write a blog entry, especially when you factor in eating your lunch. On top of that, I am an especially bad blogger since my life has recently been filled with physical activities, social events, and visiting friends. I don’t find myself particularly motivated to spend 2 hours writing an entry in the very little time I have to myself in front of my computer.

I know that these might all seem like lame excuses to not continue a blog, but I figured I’d just be honest with you. There are already too many lies in the world. So from here on, I’ll try to at least post once a week. That shouldn’t be too hard… right?

What shall I blog about today? The upcoming Chinese New Year!

On Monday January 23rd, it will officially be the year of the dragon in the Chinese calendar. For one more day, we are in the year of the rabbit (mine and Nomes’), and I can personally say that it’s been a good year for me. So long rabbit year! We’ll meet again in 12 years.

For those of you who didn’t know, the Chinese zodiac consists of 12 animals, each one occupying a year. The full cycle thus takes 12 years to complete.

12 Chinese zodiac signs

12 Chinese zodiac signs

On top of the 12 animal signs, there is also the traditional Chinese agricultural calendar, better known to others as the lunar calendar. Basically, this means that your animal sign can also have an elemental sign attributed to it: wood, earth, fire, metal, water. It’s all quite complex, so if you want to know more, follow this wiki link. Maybe it’ll give you a better idea of what I’m talking about.

Now, back to the subject at hand. What does the year of the dragon 2012 mean to us humans (if you’re a believer)?

This year belongs to the water dragon. It is suppose to be unpredictable, untouchable, and much like a dragon, it will be hard to see the head and tail of a situation at the same time. Because of the unpredictable twists and turns that might occur, it is considered to be a good year for life-altering/transforming decisions. Much like water, it is important to go with your decisions and not fight against them. We all know that swimming against a current is extremely hard. If you want to change your direction, don’t fight against it, but find another current along the way that breaks off into a different direction. Basically, the more you struggle, the harder things will be.

Happy Chinese New Year! May your bellies be full of Chinese food on Sunday night, and your year filled with good health, luck, and prosperity.

Also, for any of you dragons out there, it’s tradition to wear red underwear on the eve and day of the new year. Don’t ask me why! It’s an old Chinese tradition that is suppose to bring you good luck for the rest of year. I don’t know how red underpants do that, but if you believe it, wear them!

Buying Jeans: Every Woman’s Struggle

by PenRei

Buying jeans.

I need to do this, and I need to do it soon.

Not too long ago, I had the perfect trifecta of jeans: 1 skinny dark wash, 1 skinny light wash, 1 bootcup dark wash. Now, they all have holes in them. NOOO! They fit perfectly and I loved them dearly, but now that day is over and I have to replace them, or risk wearing my ugly jeans FOREVER!

Okay, I’m being a little over-dramatic. Let’s be kind and rewind.

The holes in my jeans are in that awkward place along your inner-thigh. You know the spot I’m talking about. It’s unavoidable! Your thigs rub against each other as you walk, or if you’re like me, against your bike seat in a repetitive motion as you bike to work or a friend’s house. Sadly, I have lost these wonderful 3 pairs of jeans and they must be replaced.

Unfortunately, with the weight I’ve gained over the past 4 months, I’ve discovered that I’m in some kind of limbo area when it comes to sizes. I usually like to buy mine at the Gap since the fit was so great… but not anymore. My usual size was 29/28 for bootcuts and 29/30 for skinny jeans. Now, the 30 in skinny jeans are too small (embarassingly, I can’t even put them all the way up), while the 31 requires me to hike it up to my waist every 5 minutes. Don’t they have a 30.5? Stupid limbo sizes! My only solution is to try and stall for as long as possible while I try to trim down to fit in my usual size again.

But enough about my struggles with buying jeans. Let’s look at a few fun facts about them:

  • The word “jeans” actually comes from the French phrase “bleu de Gênes”, translating to blue of Genoa. It was named as such because the blue they used to dye the fabric was very popular in the port city of Genoa in Italy. (R)
  • Back in the day, denim was a cloth made out of wool and linen. The word “denim” derives from the coton production in the city of Nîmes in France. The family André made twill covers doubly weaved out of cotton with an oblique pattern. They were known for their robustness and restistance. A quality product! Anyway “denim” came from the words “de Nîmes” which literally translate to “from Nîmes”. Etymology is fun! (R)
  • The first pair of jeans came from non other than German Oscar Levi Strauss in 1853. After arriving in California, he discovered that there was a demand amongst conquerers from the West for robust pants. At the time, he was running a tent and cover shop. He took his talents to create the very first pair of jeans: overalls with adjustable suspenders. Around 1860, Levi Strauss opted for a material that wasn’t so heavy and went  for the frabic from Nîmes (denim). (R)
  • In strech denims, only a small percentage of the fabric requires an elastic (like elastate) component to give a capacity of 15% of stretch.
  • A sales clerk in a jean store once told me that even the best designer can only fit 60% of womens’ body types. That’s why it’s important to try on as many designers as possible because there might only be one out there for you. Take as merciful truth or some sales pitch. I leave it to you.
  • Here’s a website I found relating different female body types to different jean cuts.

Well kids, PenRei has to get back to work. I guess those are the only fun facts I can deliver today.

The Plan To Counteract the Holidays

by PenRei

If you’ve read my previous post about the consequences the holidays have had on my weight, than perhaps you’re either waiting to hear how I have already failed (as most resolutions’ failures happen within the first week), or how I’ve managed to stay on track. Lo and behold, I am definitely ON TRACK! It hasn’t been ridiculously hard, but it definitely required motivation on my end.

Taking a page from my friend Gretchen, I’ve decided to announce to the internet that I’ve decided to drop the approximate 10-15lbs I’ve gained between September and December to get back to my happy weight. Sure, it’s hard to keep track of my progress since I choose not to weigh myself. So I’m going to keep it on a more personal level and just work on it until I am back to my happy weight and my clothes no longer fit with that extra tightness around the arms, thighs, or waist. Gretchen has been right so far: once I announced to a few of my friends that I wanted to loose that extra flab, not wanting to fail in their eyes has been that extra push I needed on a few nights.

So how exactly am I planning on doing this? It’s pretty simple actually. I’m not even planning on counting calories. It just takes willpower.

Ever since I started working in the control room of the studio at the television station, I have been drinking A LOT less water. It’s mostly because we’re not really allowed any food or drink in there, and it’s my desk for 8 hours everyday. Guh! So, I’ve taken to bringing a 500ml bottle of water and found a place near my desk that can’t accidentally cause a technical problem if the cap pops open and it spills. I’ve been drinking minimum 1L during my work hours, and now it’s slowly becoming more.

At first, it was really hard. I didn’t think that drinking so much water would actually be a challenge. On Monday, when I tried to drink that whole liter, I felt like I would accidentally drown myself from the inside. It was SO uncomfortable! This was the period of transition. My body wasn’t used to getting so much water at a time and had to work its own mechanics between the new amount of water that was coming in and the water that was already stored. Luckily, by Wednesday, my body was getting the flow of it and drinking 1L-1.5L of water in a work day felt normal. Now, constant hydration is welcomed. Plus, if I’m ever feeling peckish, I’ll drink water first and that might curb my appetite from unnecessary snacking.

If you’re interested in knowing why water can help with losing weight, check out this article that I read.

Essentially, I’ve cut out all non-fruit related sugars from my diet at the exception of my Mini-Wheats (the extra fiber in them is welcomed by my bowel movements), honey, and the few little snacks that are already in my apartment. After all, I am a firm believer in not wasting food. Luckily, I’ve been good with not indulging in those sweets. I have three chocolate bars in my kitchen and I haven’t touched any since I’ve been back.

Foods that I’m temporarily avoiding:

  • Sweets
  • Junk
  • Root vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots, ect.)
  • Corn
  • White pasta and bread
  • Cheese (EXCEPT when I’m with Nomes, but in very small quantities)
  • All pastries (CRY)

The hardest part of all is to stop my nasty habit of overeating and shrink my stomach back down to a normal size. As previously mentioned, every time I go back home to Ottawa, I overeat because my parents’ food is just too tasty. After four (or ten over the holidays) days of stuffing my face, my stomach expanded. Once I came back, I was faced with having to shrink it back down to its original size. Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder than expanding with too much food.

For the first three days, I was always hungry. Even if I ate a full meal, carefully portioned to be enough, but there was this deep hunger in my stomach I couldn’t get rid of. It was so frustrating! Still, I told myself that a large wrap and salad is enough. Luckily, after four days of always being uncomfortably hungry, my stomach started shrinking to its original size. Now I’m back to a healthy portion of eating. Hello sandwich accompanied by pita chips and a filling Bolthouse juice!
DISCLAIMER: Please don’t misunderstand this section as potential anorexia. I fully believe in eating and fitting in your 4 food groups as much as possible in every meal (at least 3 times a day). This is simply about knowing the difference between overeating and eating a healthy portion.

Many of us have a problem with this frenemy, but exercise is essential to maintaining that balanced lifestyle we all want, and to losing weight. Luckily, I don’t hate exercise… I just hate the gym! I have always found ways of exercising without the gym. The only problem was my motivation to really keep it consistent.

So how did I do last week?

  • Tuesday: Various stretches and short exercises (like sit ups and jumping jacks) to wake up my dormant muscles. I didn’t want to start my week of exercising by shocking my system.
  • Wednesday: Pilates for 30 minutes.
  • Thursday: Brisk 7km walk. My abs were in too much pain from the previous night for any hard exercise, and I was too tired to run. But luckily, I still found a way to do something.
  • Friday: 50 minute run + 2 hours of sports and dance Kinect with my friends. Maybe you don’t consider the Kinect to be exercise, but it’s definitely physical activity.
  • Saturday: Yoga class with Nomes for 1 hour and a half at Yoga Sanctuary.
  • Sunday: Day of rest. I was in too much pain from yoga in my upper back and arms to do anything. The last thing I wanted was to push myself too far and cause an injury.

I’ve been pretty good so far. The most important thing is to keep up the motivation, because the only person who will be stopping me is myself. I don’t want to make excuses to not do anything. On a positive note, having exercised almost every day has made me feel very good. My energy levels were surprisingly higher and I was glad to find things that didn’t involve sitting in front of any kind of screen.

Perhaps I shall go to Yoga again tonight. We’ll see how my arms and back fair throughout the day. More on our (Nomes’ and mine’s) yoga experience in the future.

If you’ve got a goal or a resolution, don’t give up! That’s the easy way out.


Note: This post is about my personal experience. I am not a certified nutritionist, dietitian, doctor, or trainer. Losing weight and maintaining a balanced lifestyle can be different for everyone. If you’re serious, consider speaking to someone first to ensure minimal injuries and proper nutrition. Most importantly, listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs.

Hipsters: What’s That All About and Why PenRei Doesn’t Like Them

by PenRei

To anyone who has even spoken to me, it’s really no surprise that I don’t like hipsters. It’s not that I dislike them for the sake of disliking them. It’s because they’re entire subculture is based around irony and apathy. Ugh! At least the punk subculture was all about saying “fuck it” instead of just whining all the time.

So let’s get into the meat and bones of why I don’t like hipsters.

Other subcultures seem to have vanished because of hipsters
Nowadays, the term hipster seems to have not only evolved into its own genre, but is sucking off of many other subcultures that already exist. When did it happen that being artsy, hippie, retro, indie, nerd, and even vegan automatically make a person a hipster? Uh… they’re not the same. For crying out loud, even wearing a checkered shirt and listening to Nirvana is no longer grunge, but hipster. Just because you like indie music and don’t shop at the Gap doesn’t mean you’re a hipster. If you like foreign and experimental films, that does not a hipster make of you. If you enjoy shopping at Goodwill or Value Village for retro clothing, there is no automatic hipster button on you. If you choose to cut out animal products from your diet for whichever reason suits you best, there is not necessarily a hipster within you. Since I was a toddler, I grew up with music on vinyl and at age 8 started using a 35mm camera. It was just a part of who I was. Today, if I so much as utter the words vinyl and 35mm camera, people put me in the hipster category and there’s no way out. WTF?

Sure, we can all argue that culture along with its subcultures constantly evolve into new and different things. The two most popular ones we have seen in the last few decades are popculture and alternative culture. They dance with each other in a perfect balance. If one changes, the other must by force of opposite magnets, but they don’t take over each other. I find it to be quite irritating how at least 6 subcultures who existed before the rise of hipsters in early 2000 are automatically classified with a group of people who are inherintly different from them.

How do I know if I am a hipster?
The answer is actually quite simple: apathy. The attitude of not caring and laissez-faire just doesn’t cut it in the world today. The truth is, no one cares that you don’t care. Not caring means less voting in a democratic country, lack of awareness for serious issues on a national and international scale, and on a more personal level, a sense of hopelessness. I mean, if you wake up in the morning and just don’t care about most things, than what’s the point? Your lack of action and motivation isn’t doing anything for anyone. In fact, it makes you invisible, because you don’t even care to be present.

A bit of hipster history
In a way, I can understand why the hipster apathetic movement happened to begin with, back in the early 2000’s with the reign of President George W. Bush. With him as president, the youth voice in the US appeared to have silenced overnight. No matter how many protests, documentaries, or objections to his decisions were presented, those opinions were cast aside like week old leftovers to make way for Bush’s vision. Ex: the youth generation wanted to save the environment with sustainable energy, while Bush kept pushing for fossil fuels.

On top of that, it wasn’t just the government, but many industries as well, such as entertainment. Television, music and film no longer showed what youth wanted to see, but told them instead. And that’s when the internet EXPLODED to create its own online culture.

Products were now being made available over in the internet. Why listen to the radio’s top 40’s which included Rihanna and Nickelback when you could download the new Interpol album? Partnered by their apathy towards the hardwork of artists everywhere (Hipster: I need my 12$ more than The Kills do), illegally downloading became the new thing. Sure it existed before, but now, everyone was doing it as casually as putting butter on toast. With the boom of the internet, new celebrities popped up everywhere: internet celebrities and bloggers. Facebook, Myspace, YouTube and many other sites propelled the illusion that anyone could become famous. Hipster bloggers became famous just for their cynicism. At a time when the youth generation didn’t seem to matter, being able to create your own content while still being apathetic was a gold mine.

Why do hipsters never admit that they are hipsters?
Simply put, the hipster subculture spawned from a group of people who didn’t want to be labelled in a cookie cutter world. Within a few months, they were labelled as hipsters, thus their individuality was over. If you’re a hipster from back in 2000, it’s probably because you wanted to live outside of labels, so you hate when someone labels you as a hipster. It’s a circular battle that neither side can really win.

Hipsters also don’t really like anything that becomes popular. They’ll claim that they discovered a band that’s amazing, but as soon as anyone outside of hipsterism likes it, or even too many hipsters like it, they’ll say that they never liked that band. Muse is one of my favourite examples. I’ve been loving and listening to them since New Born and my loyalty hasn’t wavered since. Sometime near the beginning of Black Holes & Revelations (a magnificent album), hipsters were all over the album. Then, the track Supermassive Black Hole appeared in the Twilight movie (stupid vampire baseball) and they all denied ever liking Muse. Also, who here remembers that once upon a time Lady Gaga’s song Just Dance was THE dance anthem of hipsterism. How quickly did they ditch her once her song made it on the radio?

Lastly, irony
Since Nomes has already touched on this aspect of hipsterism quite well in her last post, I won’t get too far into it. The only thing I will add is that I find it partially insulting whenever I see someone with Peanuts t-shirt who wears it because they hate Peanuts, therefor its ironic, because they’re wearing something perceived as stupid in a cool ironic way. Gag! The personality you’re protraying to the world is of someone pessimistic and slightly insulting. No one likes that dude in the back of the class.

So to end this off, how do I know I’m not a hipster?
Simple. I like art, vinyls, everything nerdy, and sushi, but I love them without faltering. I love Muse even if stupid tweens do. I wear long sweaters because I like something that keeps me warm during Canadian winters. I like the Batman 1992 Animated Series because it’s just amazing. I vote at every election because I think my voice matters in my country. And I love/do all of these things for the simple reason that I love them, not because it’s ironic. But mostly, I have stuck by them through their moments of rise, popularity, decline, and renaissance. I didn’t let any subculture deviate me.

So to end this off kids, you might like certain things labelled as hipster, but remember that hipsters didn’t necessarily create anything new (except cool fonts), but instead stole from a bunch of other already existing subcultures.

  • You like watching films with subtitles? You’re not a hipster, you’re just well-rounded.
  • You like going to an independent rock concert because the band is good? Stick with the band for as long as they are good in you’re eyes and not the public’s.
  • You gave up animal products because you’re against the meat industry? Take a stand! You couldn’t be further from a hipster.
  • And lastly, do you care about what happens to the world around you? Don’t give up! Because as soon as you’ve resolved to becoming lazy and apathetic, you’re a hipster.

Keep on space trucking kids! The hipster movement can only last so long. Their choice president, Obama, is running the country. Their favourite music is on the radio. Their fashion style is everywhere. There really isn’t anything left for them to not care or be ironic about.

Welcome back! Now what does a gal have to do get a coffee around here…?

Yesterday. First day back from Ottawa, on an excruciatingly early flight, which landed me in TO at 8:20, and it’s time to get cracking on last minute preparations for school the next day.  But first I must shower! So there’s that. Oh and reunite with my aunt first, chats, gift exchanges etc. Then there’s the unpacking to do. Call home to remind sister about a book and tell them I arrived safely. Ok. Done. Then I sit at my desk and crack open the laptop: a mistake! Then I get a text from my sister saying: “Sherlock’s back”….sooo it’s time to watch THAT delicious and brilliant BBC show. ACK! Now it’s 2pm and I have barely glanced at my play. THAT’S IT! This is a job for: Coffeeshooooooop! A (mostly) distractions free environment which lends itself just brilliantly to studies and work ethic. Never mind the potentially attractive clientele. Plus, there’s warm liquids to be had. 🙂 SO, off I go!

Fairly certain of where I want to sit for an hour or two, I head straight to my favourite coffeeshop in my neighbourhood but ALAS, it being January 2nd, and a holiday for all, it appears all of my hipster neighbours have convened at this exact location. CURSES!…cramped…dark… So OUT I go, foggy glasses and all (it is BLOODY cold right now in TO). Location 2 will do just fine for me. But ALAS! Location two is closed.. no… it’s actually COMPLETELY closed. Like forever. What? Sometime during my month away it failed to complete its mandate and was terminated. Poor Location2. So from too many, to not enough people I’m left with few options: if I keep on walking, there’s literally a Starbucks one block away… in each direction. But when I arrived at the first Starbucks, I looked inside the window to the only slightly less crowded ‘shop and… I just kept on walking. Something about Starbucks just doesn’t lend itself to studies, for some reason in my mind. So I keep going straight down the road to nowhere, (cause just doing a 180 on a crowded sidewalk will cause embarassment, see… so… keep walking there Nomes, keeeeeeeep walking. Fool them all into thinking you know what you’re doing…*ahem*) I met a whining dog, attached to a bike rack and next to him: a globe, so that was cool. Yep, that’s right, a little planet Earth being guarded by the saddest puppy ever. Bite-size TO sighting: love.

Anyway, somewhere between the next 3 blocks eastward and the following backtracking home (on the opposite side of the street of course! I am basically a spy. You should all know.), I got to thinking… Because Location1 was full and Location2 quite the opposite, could it be that Location2’s clientele just migrated? Thus causing the traffic jam at the pastry counter? It seemed strange to me, because Location1 is so very indie and Location2 is a nation-wide chain… so those two clienteles just wouldn’t mix in my mind… but maybe in this case but…. wait a minute. EVERYONE goes to Starbucks: an INTERNATIONAL chain! How come they get the ok, even from hipsters: The ever-denying-culture? After all, it is a general rule in hipster-dom, or so PenRei has noticed, that once anything becomes mainstream (especially in the music world) hipsters will often deny they ever liked it and reject it. My personal view on hipster-dom is that it mainly revolves around irony (ironic nerdy/oversized clothing and accessories, for example). So tell me, hipsters, if Starbucks is as mainstream as it gets, where’s the irony that justifies your support of its business?

Is it in the Art History Masters Graduate who serves you your latte? Is it in the iconic and unique “sizes” they have? Or is it in the fact that you are there …at all? In which case even my pet snake, Plato, who is currently eating its own tale, would be confused.

On a side note: I recently had to explain the humour of this strip from :

Source: ...Love Kate Beaton. Love her.

 Most. Difficult. Explanation. Ever. It was actually quite funny how my lovely friend Noosy was completely clueless as to how this was relevant or made sense or.. *sigh*

Anyway, so here’s my late disclaimer: I personally love me some Starbucks once in a while, I simply don’t get how they won over the hipsters. How’d that massive corporation get past the iron-gate of acceptance into their judgemental bosom. Maybe they didn’t and its just the fake hipsters I see there… Disclaimer 2: I also don’t hate on the hipsters(love their clothes, love their music and love their small businesses so, I really can’t hate), I guess I just despise the fact that its all become so mainstream to be  hipster-esque and… oh my god. I’m a hipster. Shit. Oh NO! Why didn’t anyone TELL ME!?

*falls into oblivion*


Update on status: Better now. Crisis averted: PenRei has calmed my fears. I am not a hipster. Mainly due to my lack of apathy! PHEW! Who knew being a hyperactive musical theatre student (ergo extremely jovial and optimistic) saved me from despair? Huzzah!

Why I Get Fat Over the Holidays

by PenRei

There are many reasons why people tend to gain weight over the holidays. For most people, it’s because they over-eat so much delicious holiday food. As much as this is part of the reason for me, I found that there was a deeper level.

Ever since I can remember, I love to cook. I just don’t like to cook for myself. What’s the point of putting so much effort into cooking a meal if it’s only for you? I’m generally happy if I can fit my 4 basic food groups in and have leftovers for lunch. Safe to say, living along is not the greatest motivator to be lean-mean-cooking-machine. I do, however, like to go big if I have a friend over. It suddenly becomes fun! I believe that food always tastes better when you have someone to share it with.

About two years ago, after a lengthy conversation with someone about how grapes and pies are amazing, I found myself with little to do on a Sunday afternoon. Out of nowhere, I decided to put my hands hard at work towards making a grape pie. It turned out to be quite good, although better cold or room temperature than hot. It took a surprisingly long time, due to peeling every single grape carefully whilst watching the anime Samurai 7. During the pie making process that took the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening, I found myself to be strangely calm.

Time went by and I discovered that making pies was a really great way for me to release stress. Yes, running has always been a good way, but when it’s -40 celsius, your lungs freeze from taking in so many deep breaths. When it’s 40 celsius (104 Farenheit), with humidity, you’re basically dehydrating yourself and possibly bringing on heat stroke instead of relieving stress. Sure, I could solve this problem by running at the gym, but it’s SO BORING! If I’m not running in a ravine or a nature trail, I feel like I’m back in middle school in track and field as I lagged behind with the other nerds while the sporty kids whizzed by, occasionally overlapping us, as our teacher yelled to push through the pain.

All right, this is starting to get off track. While I made pies at home and fed them to my friends at work, it occured to me that cooking can not only be fun, but a good way to help deal with stress. To each their own, right?

Now, when the holidays come around, it’s only natural that some families have certain members who become a bit more controlling, nervous, or perfectionist than usual. This is something that I don’t deal with very well, especially since Christmas’ are the only vacations I’ve known for the last 6 years. For me, a vacation is not about running errands between cooking and cleaning… but that’s what Christmas time is like. So, whenever I start to feel the annoyance bubbling inside, the only thing that truly calms me is cooking food. I’m not talking about any food, I mean the whole Christmas meal, pies, sweets, stuffed artichoke, stuffed duck, you name it. It’s the type of cooking that takes time, patience, and a wallet to make.

So, the more that certain annoyances come up, the more I cook, and the more I cook, the more everybody eats. It gets to the point where we find ourselves eating not because we’re hungry, but so that the food doesn’t go bad… and because it’s delicious.

Back in Toronto, my fridge is near empty about 90% of the time. The reason being that I am only one person and I have taken to buying my groceries in small quantities on a daily basis for freshness and to reduce waste with expired foods. This means that I can’t really eat out of boredom. If I’m bored and want to eat, I have to go out to buy a snack, and let’s face it, you only do that when you’re at work. When I’m at my parent’s home, with a fridge full of delicious foods, I eat when I’m bored. What a nasty habit!

So, why do I get fat over the holidays?

  • Families stress people out over the holidays, so I overcook
  • By overcooking, the family can end up overeating
  • I overeat one step further out of boredom

I try to make myself feel better by using the treadmill at home to exercise. But let’s be honest! The 500 calories I burn every two days on that treadmill are nowhere near the 400 million calories I probably ingest a day. At this point, those treadmill runs are just there so I don’t feel so guilty.

Once I get back to Toronto, my habit of eating out of boredom will stop, and I will only be cooking enough to feed myself, and not expand my stomach. Lastly, I bought some winter running gear on Saturday, so until it hits -40 celsius, I’m going to run instead of bake pies.

Care to share why the holiday season can be a difficult time for you to control your weight?