Saturday, August 1, 2015

Girl Drink Drunk: Bear Flag Dark Red Blend

Once upon a time, I was having a really shitty week. I was just about broke, my boyfriend had moved away for the summer, I was waiting for my acceptance letter from Dal. I was stressed the fuck out. I had taken what change I had and gotten a twenty pack of smokes and about fifteen packages of Mister Noodle which I ate for every meal, seven days straight.

Even when things are looking down, there are two things I can’t live without: booze and smokes. I had smokes, and I had twenty dollars left on my credit card for booze. I went in the liquor store and started poking around, after a while one of the employees came over and was like, “hey, can I help you find anything”. I said my usual, “nope, I’m doing okay” when what I meant was, “can you point me in the direction of the shitty wine? Not that bad wine, I want the really shitty wine.”

Bear Flag is actually one of my favourite winemakers because it tastes good, it’s fourteen bucks, and it gets you fucked up. It’s not great wine by any means, but it’s affordable and it doesn’t have that tangy, acrid taste that makes your eyes screw up and your tongue turn inside out that most wines under twenty bucks seem to have. Plus it has a really cool label (why do you think I bought it in the first place?), there’s a picture of a bear on it, bears are pretty great. I didn't take a picture of it, but it was pretty cool.

I also really like dark wines. This is more flavoursome than Bear Flag’s normal red blend. It’s got a sweet, smooth vanilla flavour that is really nice. I brought it up to my mum’s the following weekend and tried to get my brother to drink some proclaiming, “you should try it, it’s really bold.” I’ve always found the word bold really irritating when used to describe something you eat or drink, so I started using it ironically (another word I downright hate the misuse of, and subsequently misuse myself just because it gets my point across), and now I can’t stop.

Recommended for people who people who only have twenty bucks to spend at the LC and want a nice glass of bold wine. You will still have six bucks left over for other things, like groceries or whatever.

Bear Flag’s website is here and is also really cool.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Worlds of Science Fiction (Part 2)

The majority of my fiction consumption is in the form of short stories, and the collection I read most recently is called The Worlds of Science Fiction. I wrote about it before here. I finished reading the book recently and the highlights are as follows.

"A Saucer of Loneliness" by Theodore Sturgeon

Theodore Sturgeon is one of my all time favourite writers in any genre – he is classified as a science fiction writer but his style and subject matter is often hard to pin down to anything so specific. Sometimes very dark, sometimes really sweet, his stories always illicit a strong emotional reaction from me, even when they’re barely comprehensible.

This story is about a woman who is touched by a flying saucer while walking down the street one day and receives a special message. Afterwards, people view her only as the woman who talked to the flying saucer, and her life becomes a toilet flush of sadness and isolation. It’s a weird story, and beautiful in its weirdness. Sturgeon has a way with words that’s simple, and fantastical, and dreamlike, but also very real. “The novels were alright for a while until she found out that most of them were like the movies – all about the pretty ones who really own the world. So she learned things – animals, trees. A lousy little chipmunk caught in a wire fence bit her.” It's elegant but also frank. I think that juxtaposition is what I like so much about Sturgeon's work, and this is a great example of it.

"Now Let Us Sleep" by Avram Davidson

About a guy who visits a planet with no resources or strategic value, inhabited by a race of semi-humanoid aliens called Yahoos. Passing space ships stop on the planet to let their crews “blow off steam” by hunting the Yahoos and raping their women. The guy is upset by that and attempts to do something to stop it, with mixed results.

I really like science fiction stories that get into the ecology of alien worlds. Even if I don’t really care for the story, I find it interesting (and that’s pretty much how I got suckered into finishing Dune. It’s the worms, man). I did like this story. It was a little heavy handed maybe but it was good.

I also have some pretty strong thoughts on conservation and the fact that humans are super shitty to pretty much everything that's alive, so this story got me in the feels pretty good.

"The Ugly Little Boy" by Isaac Aasimov

I had read this story before, in one of those books that was one book on one side and then you flip it over and it’s another book on the other side (the book it was attached to was The Widget, The Wadget, and Boff by Theodore Sturgeon, I think I've made my feeling about him explicitly clear), and didn’t really like it a whole lot.

It’s about a time travel institution where plant, rock, and animal specimens are pulled out of prehistory to be studied. One such specimen is a small Neanderthal child who is put under the care of a nurse and taught to act like a human. After several years of bonding with the boy, she learns that the institution needs the space more than they need him and is planning on unceremoniously dumping him back in his own time despite him no longer having the skills needed to survive on his own.
It’s actually a good story and pretty well written, the setting is interesting and the conflict is both believable and heartbreaking. If it were written by somebody who had ever met a woman, I might have liked it.

It’s just that the main character, this nurse, is such a lame cutout of 1950s misogynist femininity. Okay, she’s maternal, that’s the point of the story, I have no problem with that, but it gets turned into this whole "women are so sentimental" thing which is grating to say the least. Plus she's got this weird, creepy infatuation with her boss, she gets really disappointed when she finds out he's married, and then acts really catty towards his wife and son. Coz, you know, that's what women do, we fall in love with any man that pays attention to us, even if it's in a professional setting. It's surprising that there wasn't a scene in the story about how she had mixed feeling about going to work for the institute because she couldn't bring all of her shoes.

Anyway, not a bad story, that stuff just annoys me quite a bit.

Any stories you want to recommend to me? Or maybe you're incensed that I slammed Isaac Aasimov? Either way, leave me a comment, yo, we can talk about it.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cool Antique Stores in Halifax

Back in February my boyfriend and I got our own apartment together. No roommates, no weird mold in the walls, no furniture. Apart from my desk and dresser and the few crappy bits and pieces of shit I picked up to sit or sleep on over the last year or so, we had no furniture. So we did what any broke ass couple would do in our situation. We went on an antique crawl through Halifax. I quickly realized that antique stores are kind of the opposite of thrift stores in that you will not get something for less than it is worth so I didn't end up buying much of anything but I saw a lot of cool stuff and went in a lot of cool stores. Some of the antique and curiosity shops I visited and liked are as follows.

McLellan Antiques and Restorations 2738 Agricola Street When I went here I read "restorations" as "restaurant" and didn't realize my mistake until I left the store. So I was pretty confused while I was in there. My apparent inability to read aside, this place has some really nice stuff in very good condition, and it smells like wood polish which is nice for sure. I would definitely buy from them, everything looks gorgeous. It's also very expensive but I'm guessing not overpriced for the quality.

Finer Things Antiques and Curios 2797 Agricola Street Right across the road you've got Finer Things which is more the kind of store you would expect - there's stuff everywhere, on the floor, on shelves, piled on top of other stuff. There's big stuff, nice stuff, expensive stuff, found stuff, anything that could be considered antique or collectible in any way, it's there. The childhood hoarder in me is delighted by stores like this coz yeah it's packed with stuff but it's all so meticulously organized. If I could get my house to look like that I'd be happy.

They had this really cool zebra head which I would like to own some day

Zion's Gate Boutique 47 Williams Lake Road I read about this store in the Rotary News and to be honest I was expecting a little more. Something sort of like a curiosity shop, and less like yet another curated thrift store. It's also really small and the owner is right there so it's like you can either awkwardly make small talk or awkwardly not make small talk. Either way it's kind of weird. That being said, it is the only store where I made a purchase on this particular excursion.

Plan B 2180 Gottingen Street

More taxidermy I want to buy
So, alright, this is probably my favourite store in Halifax. It's just so weeeeeird, it's part antique store, part craft collective, part straight up junkyard. There is shit all over the place, some of it's cool, some of it's not, there isn't really any rhyme or reason to it. People looking for something in particular, or expecting a traditional shopping experience, will not be impressed. But anybody who would rather just delve through a bunch of freaky weird shit, this is the store for you. Got a favourite antique store or curiosity shop in Halifax? (Or anywhere else for that matter) Give me a shout in the comments, I'm always looking for new purveyors of weirdness.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Internet Wishlist: Animals On Everything

Periodically I like to go through the bookmarks on my phone and look at all the pages I saved with the intention of one day buying some of this stuff. Maybe one day I will. For now it's just fun to look at.
Zebra Print Racer Back Top

Every girl should have at least one garish animal print item in her wardrobe. This one is cute.
Source: The 15 Dollar Store
Price:: 15 Dollars

Phat Stripe Brown and Black Pants

I think these are supposed to go with a steampunk outfit but they also remind me of Obelix's pants and give me sort of a Viking vibe.
Source: Etsy
Price: $135.92 CAD

Relic Penguin Coin Purse

For whatever reason, most girls have an affinity with some kind of cute and fuzzy animal. My grandma was into hedgehogs. Some girls like everything to be kitty shaped. I like penguins. I have a penguin towel, I have penguin binoculars. I need somewhere to put my change, why not a penguin change purse?
Source: Bealls Florida
Price: Out of stock. Fuck.

Skull Planter
Much nicer than the ice cream containers and cream soda bottles I currently keep my plants in.
Source: Etsy
Price: $51.19 CAD

Shark Shower Curtain

Another animal I like is, ironically, sharks, eaters of penguins. What's cooler than taking a shower with a shark on the curtain? Nothing, that's what.
Source: Amazon
Price: $28.98 plus shipping

Black and White Butterfly Earrings

Fun fact: a butterfly is actually my spirit animal. No lie, I learned this during guided meditation in my youth. It's a funny story how that went down, and also a story for later. The story for now is that I wanted to get a tattoo of a butterfly but feared that it would be interpreted less as "this is my spirit animal because of it's strength", and more as "I have zero taste or imagination". Butterfly earrings I think are acceptable.
Source: Etsy
Price: $43.81 CAD

Vintage Pie Plate with Recipe

My mom used to (and possible still does) have all these pie plates with recipes on the bottom. That always struck me as both stylish and incredibly practical which is my favourite combination of things. I need to get me a couple of these.
Source: Etsy
Price: $15.48 CAD

Sunday, June 7, 2015

TRESemmé Split Remedy Shampoo

A while ago, I got a coupon in the mail for any TRESemmé product. I normally use Herbal Essences because I like the colourful bottles, variety of flavours, and the fact that they're on sale a lot of the time. However, a coupon is a coupon, and I get a kick out of trying new products from time to time. After standing in the shampoo aisle of Sobey's for an interminably long time while my boyfriend patiently waited in the car, I picked the Split Remedy edition because I have hella split ends and the bottle said it would fix them.*

Now, I feel like it's important to stress the fact that I'm not stupid and I understand that the science behind split end repair shampoos is a bit spurious but I was out of shampoo, and I had a coupon, and my hair is a fucking mess, and I didn't think that there was any possible way it could make it any worse.

So I crossed my fingers and hoped that shampoo wasn't one of those things that only worked if you believed in it, like Tinkerbell and Jesus. Did it work? Let's find out together!

So, here's an extremely, uncomfortably, close-up picture of my hair before I started using the shampoo. My hair has suffered probably a decade of abuse from bleaches, dyes, the sun, and god knows what else.

Still some split ends there. Also pictured: the duct tape corset Zoe and I made (which I will post about later) and my shamefully messy house.

Split ends are still there. I'm getting better at taking pictures of the ends of my hair though.

And today, there are still split ends in my hair. A lot of them. Soooo the shampoo didn't work. When I say it didn't work, I mean it didn't "repair" the split ends in my hair. It still made my hair clean and smell nice which means it does work as a shampoo. It could be argued that I didn't use it correctly (I didn't use it in combination with the conditioner, for example). It could also be argued that it's not really possible for a shampoo to "bind split ends". Either way, this didn't put me off of TRESemmé's products by any means, but I'm not any more likely to buy them than before. Once this bottle runs out I'll be back to buying Herbal Essences.

*Sort of. What the bottle actually says is this: "Reduces up to 80% of split ends after 3 uses, with continued use when used with TRESemmé Split Remedy Conditioner vs. non-conditioning shampoo" which, as far as I can tell, means it might do something. And it also might not. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Planters from Recyclables

Last summer I planted my first garden in a space I shared with my roommate. It wasn't much of a garden - my section was poorly planned and yielded little more than two bell peppers and a handful of herbs before I killed everything with neglect, but it was fun and I learned a lot in the process.
Over the winter I moved into my own place which has little in the way of garden space so I started growing stuff inside. Most of what I planted was originally kitchen scraps so I'm calling the whole thing learning experience. So far, so okay.

I had a few planters left from my old place and I bought a couple more at Canadian Tire and Halifax Seed but the cost adds up pretty quickly when you're trying to grow a bunch of different things so I repurposed some containers I had lying around into new planters. By which I means I dug a bunch of shit out of the garbage, poked holes in the bottom, and went to town.

This stuff doesn't look great but it is functional. Some things are, of course, more functional, or easy to work with, than others. And that's why I'm sharing my insight with you, gentle reader, so that you may learn from my weird mistakes and enjoy the piece of mind that comes from not paying for stuff you can make yourself out of garbage.

The first thing I tried was an ice cream container which was the best of all of them. The one I used was made out of that plasticized cardboard stuff so it was really easy to poke drainage holes in the bottom. Since this was my first one, I underestimated how many holes I needed to poke in there though so I did end up with a bit of a drainage issue. My advice: poke a shitload of holes. Poke holes in the sides. Since the material is coated in plastic it has no natural drainage or absorbency.

This was the end of a celery I bought at the store. This container worked really well actually until I left it too close to the baseboard heater and it basically melted. I think it was too hot for the celery also and it died. So, yeah, don't do that.

I would not recommend soup cans. They are the most customizable, but the hardest to work with. I did not know this, but apparently the bottom end of the can is way thicker than the top, and cutting drainage holes is really hard. Yes I tried a can opener. I ended up using a nail and another can to hammer it in (I don't own a hammer for some reason). The garlic is okay with all that, though.

Milk cartons are about the same as ice cream containers in terms of ease of use, plus they usually come in fun colours, but you have to be really, really really careful when washing them out because milk ingredients seem to get caught in the corners super easy and then make life miserable for everybody.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Worlds of Science Fiction (Part 1)

One time when I was up home (New Brunswick is "up home" for me in case anybody was wondering), my mom gave me a stack of books she said were mine and needed gone out of the way or whatever. I gladly accepted them coz I was pretty much starving for reading material. So I got them home and started looking through "my" books, which included Gravity's Rainbow (not mine), The Golden Fleece (not mine), The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston (I have no idea who that is), The World at War (also not mine) and other weird stuff. In my mom's defense, she has a very small house and twice as many people live there than do my apartment.

One of the books she pawned off on me was The Worlds of Science Fiction, a collection of short stories which I have never seen before but is still a fairly apt assessment of my tastes. I love short stories since I am really busy and have a hard time getting through a whole novel. Lately, I get about half way through a book and then have to take it back to the library and then put a hold on it and then forget to check my e-mail and then the hold expires and so on and so forth.

Anyway, short stories. The highlights are below.

"Evening Primrose" by John Collier is the best one so far I think. It's about a guy who gets tired of dealing with regular life and decides to move into a department store. He hides during the day and dicks around writing poetry and hiding from the night watchman after hours. Then he discovers that there is a society of really creepy people who have been living in the store since the Great Depression. It's really surreal and bizarre and sort of funny and makes me want to read more of John Collier.

"Babel II" by Damon Knight is about a dude who, while selling photographs and models to an interdimensional alien, inadvertently triggers an event which renders all humans on earth unable to understand one another. The story really gets into detail the problems that would ensue in such a scenario (for example, all airplanes are grounded because they have no radio communication). I liked it because it presented me with an idea that I hadn't really contemplated before and I had no idea where the story was going.

"Memento Homo", about an elderly spacer on his death bed, was a nice read and I got really excited because it was by Walter M. Miller and he's a really good writer. "'All You Zombies--'", about a time traveler who is his own mother and father is a weird enough idea that I spent a lot of time thinking about it and discussing it at work, but I got really annoyed because it's by Robert A. Heinlein and I really don't like his writing.

The other stories I read so far are nothing really to write home about. I'm only about halfway through the book now and will post again when I'm finished.