Last year was filled with travels in twos. Beautiful British Columbia twice – once at the beginning of summer and once at the end of the year. Flamboyant Florida twice last winter – for an escape from the brutal cold in Canada. Never-endingly-thrilling New York City twice – once in the spring and once in the fall. Mon coeur Montreal twice last summer – for a break from my life in the country. And in all these travels, in every adventure and every day spent in these wonderful places, the one thing I felt consistently was complete awe at the very existence of so many different worlds within this one world of ours.
The same thought inevitably found its way to the top of my mind whenever I boarded a plane to fly back home and I kept asking myself the same question: How can it be that I am leaving a location so magical and special, where life and the energy of that place will continue to exist and go on when I am gone? At this very moment, some of my favourite people are in these locations going about their day-to-day lives, interacting with people in those worlds and experiencing a completely different reality than the one that I am in.
What’s incredible to me is that inherent difference in space but unity in time – that these different worlds exist across expansive spaces on the same plane of time (even when there are three hours separating me from BC). I remember very distinctly thinking how strange it was to be lounging on a beach in Florida while there was a totally different world back home that was cold, grey, and snowy. I can still feel the wonder welling up inside of me as I walked the streets of NYC, taking in the enormous buildings and frenetic atmosphere around me as I contemplated that my house back home was sitting quiet and empty on a quaint little road. I hiked up mountains in British Columbia and questioned how this magical and overwhelming scenery could be part of Canada when so much of what I know from home is minuscule landscape, comparatively. And even only 45 minutes from home when I stayed in the charming city of Montreal, it was still apparent to me that my life in the city was drastically unlike my life in the country.
We go along in our lives operating in a very specific space, building a world around us that is shaped by our environment and the people in it. But with every movement to a different space, we are allowing ourselves to experience a whole new world that runs in parallel with our own and in those different worlds, anything and everything is possible. Our world at home continues to exist but in our travels and transportation to a different world, we engage with an alternate universe that is comprised of a space that is not our own but simultaneously made our own in that very instant. Even if only temporarily, that world belongs to us and we are active participants in that universe, separate and detached from our world back home.
That transportation to another world is powerful. We leave behind the familiarity of home, of routine, of the known world we occupy daily and we enter into a realm of infinite possibility. Some might refer to this as a sort of alter ego on vacation – a person who is away from home and in an unencumbered state, fully free to do as she or he pleases, shedding responsibility and the mundane while welcoming freewheeling and the unknown. The world we know is behind us and a new world is available to us to explore and fall in love with in every trip to an alternate universe.
It’s not just me feeling this, right? There is something about visiting a different world that loosens something up inside us. And certainly me on vacation > me at work, but it’s not just a simple equation that we are happier and having more fun when we travel or leave home. The underlying magic is in our capacity to remove ourselves completely from the world we know by adapting to and wholly embracing the new world we find ourselves in… Not to mention the people in it.
Have you ever stepped back for a moment in a crowded space far from home to appreciate how many people there are on this planet? And in that moment of appreciation, have you recognized that every individual has a world of their own that could potentially intersect with yours in that very instant, or even more incredibly, at another point in time in your life? Mind. Blown. In our travels to different worlds, we interact not only with a new space but with new people, who might come into our lives for a fleeting period of time or become an essential part of our existence moving forward. Who knows who will cross your path when you explore a new world?
This year is shaping up to be another filled with travels (turns out selling your house and paying off your debt gives you an unforeseen freedom and drive to do all the things and go to all the places and have all the adventures). It started early with my last trip to BC rolling into 2017, an impromptu weekend with my best friends in Miami at the end of January, a too-short long weekend in NYC just a couple weeks ago with my Miami Mamis… And the feeling grows stronger with every trip: These alternate universes within the one world I live in are astounding. I’ve already got other trips lined up in the coming months to visit friends and family who are spread out around this incredible planet in a series of different worlds and while I don’t have a magic carpet, I know the secret to accessing a whole new world – you just need to open your eyes and see it. Seriously, Aladdin had it right – don’t you dare close your eyes.
Here is my latest confession: I’ve turned into an Instagram junkie. No shame – it’s slowly become my creative outlet in 2016 in the absence of writing. There doesn’t seem to be enough time to keep this blog alive (at least not right now, in this new phase of my life that’s focused on staying active and getting myself out of the house as much as possible) but I still feel an unyielding desire for artistic expression and creativity that needs to be addressed… And Instagram somehow satisfies that need in a simple and beautiful way. Is that lame? I don’t really care.
There’s something strange and fascinating about my addiction to this tool that I see as a medium for art, because it is simultaneously a vehicle for human interaction and individualized narcissism. (Not to mention that it’s owned by Facebook, an entity that I begrudgingly embrace only because you basically can’t exist in modern times without being on the book.) Art, social, and ego. In my world on Instagram these three very different concepts exist and play together in an interesting way, highlighting and sometimes undercutting each other.
At the most basic level Instagram is a social tool, giving us yet another way to interact with our friends by letting them know what we are up to in a single frame. We will often take this a step further, bringing them in on the action by tagging them when they are in the photos. The act of tagging someone in a picture on Instagram is a modern expression of love to a certain degree – to tag or mention someone in a comment is a deliberate connection with that person in our online world. And in this tech-pervasive society, our online connections are fundamental if not an extension of our offline human relationships – hasn’t it become the status quo to maintain a relationship both online and offline? What’s even more interesting to me is Instagram’s capacity for human interaction beyond our existing connections – by applying a hashtag that is used by thousands (or millions), we can gather likes or new followers and this human interaction with strangers is fulfilling in a very different way.
At a deeper level, Instagram is a tool that feeds our narcissistic egos by allowing us to show ourselves off in a very calculated way. I still believe that everyone filters themselves online by choosing to show a specific narrative about their lives that they want others to see, and this is perfectly epitomized in the act of sharing a photo of oneself with the public. I would never willingly post a picture of myself that I do not absolutely love and while I certainly do not post that many pictures of myself on Instagram, I completely understand why people do. The one time I indulged my narcissistic side and posted a photo of my solitary self grinning at the camera, the overwhelming positive feedback in likes and comments was incredibly rewarding. It gave me a little boost that was totally unexpected, so I agree with and encourage the narcissism (in moderation) because it is healthy to feel good about ourselves and engage in self-love. And sometimes it can be difficult to do this alone, so using this tool to receive positive encouragement and reinforcement can be a good start.
The simple act of tapping that little heart can potentially brighten someone’s day and have a huge impact. This is a beautiful illustration of social and ego playing together on Instagram and it’s one of the reasons that I have come to adore this little application. It is truly a vehicle for beauty, human interaction, and self-love… And as a student of Communications who exited school just as social media was ramping up, it is endlessly thought-provoking and entertaining to look at Instagram from these different angles and through different filters (pun absolutely intended).
The role of the hashtag feels fairly significant in all of this. This is something I learned quickly in my adventures on WordPress – adding tags to a blog post has a direct correlation to the number of people who actually read the post – and the same logic applies on Instagram. Where that element of human interaction is concerned, the hashtag is inarguably a means to an end if your goal is to connect with strangers in this online world. Of course, there are opposing views on the matter, or at least I get the sense that people tend to have varied (and very strong) opinions about the hashtag. Personally, I have mixed emotions.
On one hand, the hashtag is a great way to expose yourself and get your photos in front of a wider audience because a “real” hashtag will invariably get you more likes (which I suppose is sort of the point in view of that element of human interaction and connecting with others). On the other hand, it feels like a contrived attempt at getting the most likes and comments possible to feed the ego, and on top of that it seems completely silly and strange that our entire society now communicates with these little clips of text. I’m even guilty of taking the hashtag offline into verbal communication or text messages… Why? What is it about a hashtag that says something more than the simple words themselves? Is there something more concise or definitive about putting that symbol in front of a word (or many words)? #whydoesthisfeelmoremeaningful than just writing the words themselves?
Ah, the hashtag… An enigma and polarizing entity that I still haven’t wrapped my head around. As a result, I often find myself presenting a mix of both “real” hashtags along with silly and over-the-top “unreal” hashtags that are so unbearably long that nobody could actually make them into something reusable that people would follow. Which is sort of the point, to laugh at the medium of the hashtag and ironically participate while also accepting that this is the norm and way to get that exposure and feeling of community that comes with sharing a photo with strangers. Social and ego, playing together again. My profile is public for a reason – like others, at least I suspect, I am trying to build an online persona that is a mix of a filtered and somewhat unreal version myself while being an equally genuine representation of who I am, what is important to me, and what I find to be beautiful in the world.
This online persona is a projection of who I really want to be. She is happy-go-lucky, open, friendly, artistic, and maybe she does something other than a corporate day job. She is mysterious and creative and has a good eye for framing shots, and just like everyone else online, she knows how to apply a good filter. Her profile is public because she is unafraid of sharing who she is and she wants to embrace the world with open arms. She uses hashtags like #sunset and #montreal unabashedly, not to get more followers but in the hope that she will connect with people.
But of course in this online persona and in real life, I do want to be honest… So let’s get real, I obviously apply a filter on nearly all of the pictures that I post on Instagram… But doesn’t everyone? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to make the world more beautiful and that’s really what the filter allows me to do, at least until Apple finally invents a camera on their phone that can 100% capture the true beauty of the incredible scenes that I frame with my iPhone.
Beyond the feeling that it’s impossible to capture the real thing, it’s equally appealing to me that you can apply a filter onto a photo and all of a sudden something looks that much more beautiful – it can be more glossy, or have a softer edge, or feel classically retro, or be more vibrant and colourful. Suddenly there is something a little unreal about it, and even though you know it is unreal, it still feels somewhat truthful. It is a challenging concept though because this means that I am publicly presenting and giving myself a filtered memory of that moment. When I look back on these pictures, I will have to acknowledge that they are not entirely representative of that precise moment in real life. But memory is already a bit of a haze as it is, so what’s wrong with giving it a nice glow?
With that being said, here in the photos I have shared you should know the unfiltered truth behind them. Some of the nights that I went to watch those sunsets I felt very sad and lonely. Some nights I felt really, really good about myself and thought that I was on top of the world. Some nights I felt very witty and clever and pleased to be taking such beautiful pictures. Some nights I was just content to be watching the sunset while listening to good music. Some nights I felt frustrated and angry with myself for being too focused on posting a picture. Some nights I felt like I was perfectly aligned with the universe and exactly where I was supposed to be. On all of those nights, I am fairly certain that none of these emotions were conveyed in the captions included with those pictures. That’s Instagram. #Filter. #NoFilter.
Oh my goodness, oh my goodness – so much has been going on these days! It’s hard to believe that it’s already the middle of the last week of June, how did that happen!? I’ve got to say, it’s been a great month – June is and will always be my favourite and this year was no exception, especially since I celebrated a milestone birthday which included time spent with loved ones and unexpected travels to the Great West (Los Angeles and Beautiful Country, British Columbia – more on that adventure another time).
So far, turning 30 has been fantastic. This could be largely due to the fact that I have been anxiously waiting to enter my 30’s for a few years now – I’m not one of those people who worries about getting older and unlike most friends and acquaintances that I talk to, I have been looking forward to leaving my uncertain and stressful 20-something self behind so I can emerge as a confident, happy, 30-something woman who knows what she wants and gets it. And while it wasn’t like I woke up on June 3rd feeling like a different person, I do sense this very real shift in the way I’m carrying myself, in the way that I try to think things through, and in my overall sense of self. Of course this is all just in my head and I know at heart that I’m still a big kid who will never grow up – but nonetheless, I feel great.
Elements of this “new decade, new me” sensation seem to be infiltrating every part of my life, including this blog and my ongoing meal planning project. Where I used to worry and stress a few months ago about what I’d put on the menu each week and feel internal pressure to keep up with regular posts, I’m now more mellow and happy to go with the flow week by week. This might also be heavily driven by the fact that my trip out west more or less killed our budget for the entire month which prevents me from planning extravagant meals every week, as well as the arrival of the glorious summer season which gives me my giant dose of happiness-inducing vitamin D and puts me into a more relaxed lull.
Also, my garden! This garden is just extraordinary – it does so well with so little intervention that I’m convinced there is some magic power fuelling the growth of everything in that tiny plot. We’ve been living on salad for the last 3 weeks and I can’t pick the lettuce fast enough.
So this brings me to the Summer Salad Smorgasbord – since I haven’t been putting meals up on the chalkboard for the last few weeks, I thought I could at least share a small glimpse of my salad-filled month of June, perhaps to inspire a little impromptu salad spin-off in your own life. (Speaking of spinning – please note that a salad spinner to dry lettuce would be an extremely useful tool should you choose to start a garden filled with leafy greens…)
Tomato Basil Magic: Is this the most essential and classic food pairing in the world? I certainly think so. These two mixed together are like a perfect marriage of sweet and spicy and fresh and tasty and yum, yum, yum. I’ve pretty much made a Tomato and Basil Salad once a week since I planted my herbs in May, and it never gets old. I mean: sliced or chopped tomatoes, slivers of basil, freshly cracked pepper, some coarse kosher salt, a drizzle of olive oil – easy and delightful. The tomatoes in my garden are just starting to come in so I’ve been buying local from a place about 5 minutes from my house until my garden explodes in a few weeks.
Duo Di Salad: Once upon a time, there was a glorious Italian restaurant in my hometown, and they offered the best duo di pasta dishes with 2 different noodles and sauces that were perfectly complementary to each other. The restaurant is long gone but the duo concept lives on in my heart… So my duo di salad is like the skinny woman’s version with 2 fresh salads playing off each other for dinner – we had these 2 with a big cheese omelette and it was excellent. Does that tomato salad on the right look familiar? That’s some A+ tomato-basil-magic right there. And the salad on the left is a ton of lettuce from the garden with locally purchased cucumbers and radishes (at least until my own cucumbers come in), topped with this easy, flavourful and creamy salad dressing that I discovered last year.
Tomato Cucumber Medley: This salad has ALL THE HERBS. Parsley, Basil, Chives, Mint, repeat. And it’s basically the same as my magical tomato-basil concoction (salt, pepper, olive oil, toss) except it includes large chunks of cool cucumber and plenty of different herbs, making every bite taste slightly different. In fact, whenever I throw this together, it comes out like a completely new salad each time, which I love!
The Mighty Cesar: This year we decided to try growing Romaine lettuce in the garden, and (why am I always so surprised) it worked! I pillaged this section of the garden last night and we had a gigantic Chicken Cesar Salad, complete with bacon bits and grated cheese. (And yes, I used dressing from a jar instead of making my own, it was a lazy dinner night and my man loves the pre-made dressing, I have no shame.) That lettuce though. It looked so good I would have eaten it bare without anything on it.
Sadly those are all the pictures I have on hand – in all other salad instances, we were too hungry to pause before capturing the greens in all their glory. But something tells me there’s more to come from the garden in the coming weeks… Until then, eat your greens kiddies, and enjoy the sunshine!
This photo was taken at the very beginning of August, but it gives a fairly accurate representation of my entire month, which was full to the brim with super tasty zucchini from my garden in the backyard. Yes, that is my foot on the far right. And yes, the zucchini on the far left is bigger (MUCH BIGGER) than my foot. My Pinterest has been overflowing with zucchini recipes so I can keep up with the harvest in the garden and I’ve got a great meal that I will be sharing on here very soon, with bright green zucchini in the starring role.
It’s (finally!) that time of year…the pilgrimage to Vacationland was not without a few obstacles this time around, but we arrived in one piece and I am ready to relax and enjoy my peaceful two week vacation. The salty air has already given me a rejuvenated sense of being, and the view doesn’t hurt either! Got to go, must get sand between my toes and lobster in my belly.
In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, today’s summer photo is a shot of my very first cherry tomatoes harvested from the backyard garden. They were as delicious as they look and I still have a hard time believing that such gorgeous food is yielded from the little baby plants I put in the earth. First Tomato. It was a big deal.
I’m sad to report that this eggplant was the one and only that we were able to harvest this summer. The squirrels got the best of the other eggplant and although we enjoyed this little beauty a few weeks ago, we have yet to see another sprout from the lovely purple flowers on the plant in the garden. Alas! And, yes. Lily is the beast in this post – she went through an angst-ridden teenager phase this summer and was prone to destroying things in the mudroom during the day while we were at work. But that face, I can’t be mad…even the camera is focused on her and not the incredible aubergine sitting in my hand!