Friday, August 30, 2013

A guide to staycationing

I am currently on somewhat of an impromptu vacation. Because I am starting a new job in September, I decided to take some time off in between the old gig and the new gig.

The in-between-jobs vacation is the absolute best. No reason to stress about work that is piling up in your absence. No real idea of what you are walking into on the other side. There is truly nothing to worry about until you get to the new gig and find out just what it really is. Which makes for the best opportunity to truly clear your mind and relax.

Since I love to travel so much, I thought about taking a solo trip (Hubby did not have any more time off this summer). With Springsteen on a tour hiatus until September, I can't stalk him don't have any concerts to go and see right now. So I looked at other stuff. I've always wanted to go to San Francisco, and Hubby has no interest (weird, right?), so that crossed my mind. I toyed with the idea of throwing Fergus in the back of Rosie (the car) and taking a road trip down to the East Coast. And I contemplated travelling to D.C. to visit a friend or back to Manitoba to visit family. But everyone is complaining that it's been too cold and windy in San Fran this summer, I hate being in a car much more than an hour, D.C. is hotter than Hades in August, and I was already home this year to visit the family (love you, Mom!). So in the end, I decided that the absolute best way to unwind was to do as little as possible, as close to home as I could. A staycation!

After a week of staycationing, I now fancy myself an expert. And I want to share that expertise with all of you. So here you have it, my top ten tips for successful staycationing.

1 - Put that "to-do" list away!

Too many people waste precious staycation time by doing things around the house that need to get done. Like painting the spare bedroom. Or restoring that antique dresser you found at a garage sale three years ago. I say, put the paint brush and sand paper down! That's work, dummies! And you are supposed to be taking a break from work. Take a lesson from me. Here is the list of things that I have to get done at some point in time:

- pressure wash the deck;
- pick up the new lights that we ordered;
- return my cancelled EcoPass to OC Transpo;
- pick out a paint colour for our master bedroom;
- paint the master bedroom;
- bring Rosie in for a tune-up and a proper car-wash;
- price out contractors for replacing the carpet on the second floor with hardwood;
- make an appointment with the orthotics clinic.

And here is a list of items above that I have actually done this week:

That's right. It's a blank space. Because I haven't done any of that stuff! And you know what? I don't plan to either. And that's okay. Because I'm on staycation! Which is what I tell Hubby every day when he comes home from work and nags me about getting nothing done around the house.

That is one unused pressure washer...

2 - Read all the magazines

You know that pile you have that keeps stacking up and you never, ever, ever have time to read? And you look at it every single day and think to yourself, "Man, I have got to start reading these or else cancel that subscription!" Well don't cancel anything! Just tackle the magazines methodically during a staycation. I mean, what else are you going to be doing if you aren't crossing things off your "to-do" list? That's right, you are going to read-read-read. Whether your thing is celebrity gossip or hard-hitting news from around the world, pick up a magazine and thumb through those glossy pages. (Or slide your thumb across the iPad touchscreen - that's how I read them.) Get your magazine fix while you have time to do it!

And in case you are wondering, my pile consists of 4 back-issues of Vanity Fair and 2 of Modern Dog. Plus that big pile of Maison & Demeure that Hubby keeps insisting he wants me to flip through so that we can figure out how to decorate our dining room, but that feels too much like work for me when on staycation...

Tearing through some Vanity Fair

3 - Eat all the ice cream

I don't know what to say. I just really, really, really, really love ice cream. And so I have made it my personal mission during this staycation to eat as much of it as possible. Whether I make it myself or go out and get a big, honking ice cream cone or send Hubby to the grocery store to buy it for me, I have eaten an AWFUL. LOT. OF. ICE. CREAM. This will probably be a hard habit to break once the staycation is over. I may need ice cream rehab. Do they have that?

The ice cream maker getting a work out

4 - Exercise. But not too much...

I believe in giving your body a break just as much as I believe in giving your mind a break. So admittedly, I toyed with the idea of completely taking time off of all forms of exercise, save walking the dog.

Who am I kidding. That's my massage therapist talking. She thinks - and is probably right - that I have been overdoing it lately and that I should take some time off, or else she will continue to jab her pointy elbows into my glutes until I say "uncle". She's probably right. But since I am eating all of the ice cream, I need to do something. Or else I will grow out of all of my clothing.

So I've tried my best to taper. I've cut out lifting weights for a couple of weeks. And I've done a lot of yoga. A. LOT. Which is odd for me because I sortofkindofhateit. Luckily for me, I found a studio that I actually really like, just up the street in my 'hood - Yogatown. So I've gone almost every day. And now, when I fold foward, I can actually touch my toes without wanting to throw up. Yay flexibility!

I have also kept running. But I've committed to doing shorter and flatter distances. The operative words here are committed to....

There was that 8k run to Sandbanks Beach and back. But it wasn't my fault that it was 4k to get to the end of the beach. I had to run back, didn't I?

2k in + 2k of beach + getting back home = 3k more than I was supposed to run. Oops...

And it's not my fault that the cottage I was staying at is in the Gatineau hills, turning my mere 5k runs into glute-busting hill training sessions, is it?

Believe me when I say that this picture does not do justice to the steepness of this hill. And there were about six of them.

At least I could jump in the lake when I was done all that sweating!

Straight into the water with my running clothes on! That's gotta be therapeutic!

Okay, so how about this. Exercise as much, or as little, as strenuously or as moderately, as you want to. After all, it is your staycation. Just know that my massage therapist can rip into whatever ails you and fix you right up when you get back. She's awesome that way!

5 - Enjoy beautiful scenery

I took two mini-trips. One with Hubby and some other friends on the first weekend of my vacation to Prince Edward County, and one on my own into the Gatineau hills for a couple of days of vegging at a friend's cottage. Both involved:

- very little in the way of organized activities;
- extended periods of sitting (or laying) down and doing nothing;
- drinking too much wine; and
- eating too much food (including delicious ice cream).

In other words, they were perfect little getaways.

They were also in idyllic settings, offering beautiful vistas. At the risk of sounding all new-age-ey here, these sights were good for the soul. (Did I mention I was doing more yoga during this staycation? That's what happens... I get all zen on your assess...).

Prince Edward County

Sunrise in Prince Edward County. That's not Instagram, people. That's the real deal.

Cottaging in the Gatineau Hills. 

6 - Drink. Why not?

No trip to Prince Edward County would be complete without visiting a winery or two. After all, Hubby and I did purchase Huff Estates wine for our wedding celebration, and did mini-honeymoon at their beautiful Inn. So of course, we found ourselves back at Huff, where we could not help ourselves but to purchase their delightful rosé and their French style Cuvée. As next year will be our fifth wedding anniversary, and since we both agree that we don't want anymore bear-chasing adventures to celebrate, we also took the opportunity to book ourselves into the same room that we had on our mini-honeymoon. So next July 11th, there will not be a bear in site, but vineyards as far as the eye can see!

While touring around the County, we also discovered a craft distillery, Sixty-six Gilead Distillery (and if anyone knows how the heck to pronounce that, I would be grateful to learn. I was too shy to ask the owners, lest I show my ignorance...). I can't resist a good gin and tonic, so of course, I bought a bottle.

Vanna White-ing it up for the camera, and showing off my Loyalist Gin

And might I just say that it is delicious! Best damn gin I have tasted in a long time! So good that I am not whipping it out when I have friends over. I am keeping it all to myself! Same with the Rosé and Cuvée from Huff Estates. Sorry peeps. You get the "not-so-good" stuff when you come over to my place!

7 - Nap

Face it. We are a sleep deprived people. We have obligations: husbands, wives, dogs, kids, jobs, to-do lists, back-episodes of Modern Family eating up room on your PVR. We don't sleep nearly enough. So sleep, dammit! You've earned it. So what if it is only 2pm and there is ice cream to eat or wine to drink. Just close your eyes for a few moments, and let it take you where it takes you. Maybe you'll cat nap. Or maybe you'll do like me and spend two hours on a chaise lounge drooling all over your swimsuit. Who cares! Just nap. You'll feel so much better, I promise!

It's hard to snap a photo of yourself napping. But I did get one of the dogs napping. Right before I had my own little snooze.

8 - Go to the spa. A lot.

Faithful readers know that I dub myself a bit of a spa slut. At no point is this more true than when I am on a proper stay-cation. I mean, what else am I going to do if I refuse to touch my to-do list? Well, besides reading magazines and eating ice cream and doing yoga and drinking gin or wine and napping and running longer distances than I am supposed to.  Okay, so I'm a little busy doing all of these other fabulous things, but the point is that there is always room for self-improvement in our lives, and so we should always make time to go to the spa.

When I'm home, my fave place to go is the fabulous Forbes Beauty Co., a boutique spa that just opened in my neighbourhood and where I have decided to spend all of my money. So far on my staycation, I have had my nails done, my eyebrows done, a facial, and some waxing.

Perfectly sculpted eyebrows!

Why not blue nails - I'm staycationing!

(I'm not going to share pictures of waxing because this is a PG blog.)

And today, I am going back for a mani-pedi. Because I should look good for my first day on a new job, right?

(My god, I have a problem...).

9 - Spend quality time with (insert name here)

In my case, it's with Fergus. We've been inseparable this past week. Morning runs, casual bike rides along the river, leisurely afternoon strolls, fetch in the dog park. I even took him cottaging for the first time, where he hung out with me and a doggy pal. Unsurprisingly, Fergus loves the cottage. Although I couldn't get him to dock dive, and just barely convinced him to hop into the canoe with me (he is, after all, not a water dog), he did love zooming around the property, barking at boats out on the water, swimming in the lake, and sun-bathing during his afternoon siesta. I'm pretty sure that he wants us to get a cottage now. And who can blame him. It's a good life, as you can see by these photos!

Waiting at a construction stop to get to the cottage. (Notice the re-corked bottle of wine that I am bringing with me to the cottage. Waste not, want not.)

Puppies swimming
Looking out over the deck and contemplating life

My boys - Hubby visited for one day to read about wine and to nap

Surveying the lake from his perch upon the dock

10 - Write a blog post about your staycation

Why not? How else will you guys be able to plan a fabulous staycation of your very own?

You're welcome.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lasts and firsts

Three years, five months and twenty days ago, I started a new job.

Today is my last day.

Now I purposely don't talk much about my job on this blog because it's boring. But I'm going to break that rule today because I am feeling a little bit, well... I actually don't know how I am feeling. I am just feeling. So humour me a little bit cause it's probably going to be a long day.

If you ask most people close to me, they will probably tell you that the last three and (almost) a half years have taken a toll on me, and that it is time that I move on. Certainly, my husband can tell you about all the sleepless nights that I have spent, unable to shut off my brain because I could not stop worrying about deadlines and backlogs and problems to fix and media interviews to give and briefings to the Minister and notes to write and and and.... My best girlfriends can't count high enough to track all of the pins that they have received from me over this period, desperately begging them to go for a drink with me after work so that I could unload about my "bad day at the office" (and I should say, not because they are not good at math, but because I really have sent a lot of those things!). And my colleagues and boss will probably tell you that, especially for the past few months, I've been a little too snippy in meetings, a sure fire sign that this normally pretty cheerful girl is getting tired and cranky.

So you would think that I would be running around doing cartwheels this morning, completely ready to move forward to bigger and better things. Plus, my new job is a promotion, so I should be doubly happy, right?


Not so fast.

The thing is that I have had some truly awful days at the office over the past three and (almost) a half years, but I have also had some truly remarkable days. Some big victories, in fact. Victories that I am pretty damn proud of, if I do say so myself. Going from something that I am successful at to something that I don't know yet is sort of kind of scary!

Plus there are the people. I have a pretty incredible team in my current job. And because we have worked on a fairly high-priority file together, I feel like we are a little bit closer than your average team. I'm not good at good-byes, so I'm bracing myself for an emotional day.

And then there is all of those incredibly great experiences that I have had over the past three and (almost) a half years. Things that at the time, were incredibly difficult to deal with and caused no end of stress, frustration and sleepless nights, but that, in retrospect, mark my most significant growth moments. Like being called as an expert witness in a court trial for the first time. Or giving my first media interview. Things I really didn't want to do at the time but that I now look upon fondly as amazing experiences that I am lucky to have had.

Yes, this job has been incredibly difficult and challenging, stressful and frustrating, and it has kept me up far too many nights. But my mentor once reminded me that other important things in my life have kept me up at night. Like my kitchen reno. Or planning for my wedding. I'm just the kind of person who has trouble unplugging from those things that matter to me the most. And as a career-driven woman, my job is just one of those things.

Which means that this new job will likely be incredibly difficult and challenging, stressful and frustrating, and it too will likely keep me up at night. Because that is how I roll.

The fact is that it is very difficult for me to separate personal Jay from professional Jay. And that's because my career is an important part of my identity. I am masochistically proud of myself when I work on insanely difficult problems and then fix them. I seek out challenges that everyone else is smart enough to turn away from. And I push myself forward constantly in my drive to always find work that allows me to make a difference in peoples' lives.

So today I will go in and say goodbye to everyone, likely with a few tears and kleenex. Then I will take some time off. And then, just as all the little kiddies are going back to school, I will start a brand new job. With brand new challenges. And brand new stress. And brand new things to keep me awake at night.

Maybe I'll feel better if I go buy myself a new outfit for my first day?