Friday, November 27, 2015

The Best Meal Ever

The best meal I ever had was a potato waffle topped with avocado, salt, and pepper, eaten with a dear friend who would be leaving the next week for a teaching job in America. The best meal I ever had was with my husband, sitting at the floor-to-ceiling window-wall at Luma, eating cod drench in dill all perched atop a bed of pickles. The best meal I ever had was with a friend, when she bought a fake-fruit and ice cream-topped funnel cake from my uncle's beachside snack stand and a half-dozen of us dove on it like seagulls, picking it apart with our bare hands. The best meal I ever had was with my sister and two of her friends at Rundles in Stratford, where, at the ages of 21 (me) and 18 (her), we got roaring drunk and the staff took magnanimous care of us. The best meal I ever had was when my dad and I flew to San Francisco for the weekend, and we got the last table at Chez Panisse, and I ate some kind of soup and some kind of seafood, and then we had to run—run!—back to the BART station in order to take the last train into town.

The New Yorker recently published an article about the process of choosing the world's fifty best restaurants. The list, produced annually by San Pellegrino, started as a lark and has been since elevated into a maker, and marker of Very Good Restaurants. "According to Bloomberg, the day after Noma captured the No. 1 slot, in 2010, a hundred thousand people tried to book a table," the article says. (Also, an aside, but: has the The New Yorker always been somewhat slutty with its comma use, or is this a new thing?) The list—and it's very tempting to refer to it as The List—has now been subdivided into multiple global regions, like Latin America and Asian. There are gratifyingly few American or French eateries listed; it seems like the major culinary earth-shakers are coming from places like Mexico City, Lima, Bangkok and Copenhagen (although the article rightly points out that the sole African entry is run by a white European, which is problematic).

If you are of a certain age, a certain income bracket, and of a certain disposition, you may find yourself treating lists of this kind, both global and local, as a to-do list. One ex-boyfriend was a chef; the other graduated from Starbucks to running the AGO's cafe. I can imagine both of them poring over these articles, scanning for places they've been, places they'll go. The names of the fifty best restaurants are a collection of syllables that reveal nothing about the food they serve: Gaggan, Noma, Arzak. Blank slates, promising the very best in innovative cooking.

As always, lists titled things like, "World's 50 Best Restaurants" create in me an existential despair. I want Canadian cuisine, dammit! What is that, though? Toronto is still dominated by Asian tapas bars, ramen houses, and taco joints. Toronto Life praises Italian seafood restaurants, Asian-Nordic mashups (full disclosure: that sounds like heaven), and Argentinian innovators. With the exception of Boralia, which Toronto Life refers to as a "history lesson," there's often very little acknowledgement of local culinary history, and maybe that's because we simply don't really have one. Toronto, the most diverse city in the country, feels free to borrow extensively from global tastes. What ends up lacking, however, is a sense of our own culinary roots.

What unites the San Pellegrino list is a sense of muscular, embodied gastronomica: a chef's clear vision for his (and it is nearly always a man in the chef's whites, both on this list and in the general population) food. The best chefs in the world aren't offering Spanish food in Moscow or Danish food in Melbourne. If anything, they're maybe hewing a little too close to the locavore movement, sprinkling their plates with "ingredients" like lichen or rainwater. Toronto's chefs make good use of Ontario's produce bounty, the inspiration for the dishes is far-flung indeed. And while Toronto offers really wonderful food, it's not surprising that we have yet to crack the top fifty. The closest we've come has been Langdon Hall in Cambridge in 2010, and they offer carefully Ontarian menu items that sound right at home on the San Pell list: "tasty roots" (featuring an on-trend forest floor broth!) share the page with Montforte chevre and cloudberry souffle. This year, a single Canadian restaurant in Montreal manages to make the top 100.

There is nothing wrong with Toronto's restaurant scene. It's vibrant and innovative, and our fusion menus can compete with anything on offer in Paris, Tokyo, or New York. I've have dozens—hundreds!—of delicious meals here. I could eat Karelia Kitchen's smoked shrimp crepes any day of the week. The rotating seasonal brunch menu Emma's Country Kitchen has exposed me to pumpkin pancakes, and I will never be the same. The small plates at Fishbar, the scallops at R&D, the slobbish (yet carefully constructed) burgers at Burgernator, the mezze plate at Harvest Kitchen: all memorably delicious.

And yet, because I'm greedy, I want more. I want a gang of upstart chefs to create a Dogma 95 for the 416 food scene. I want the excitement to come not from how well we adapt the culinary traditions of the world, but how innovative we can get with our ingredients and traditions, even when we have to create those traditions from scratch. I want to see our name up there on the best-fifty list. It's a beauty pageant, sure; doesn't mean the whole thing doesn't matter.

Image via Jose Perez

Friday, November 20, 2015


In the Haitian tradition, a zombi is a person who has died, been magically revived by a bokor—a sorcerer—and then to act as a slave to the bokor or whomever really wants a shaggy half-alive manservant.

At this stage of my pregnancy, I feel like the fetus is the bokor and I'm the zombi. My bokor, instead of asking me to, like, dig holes or do unpleasant tasks, is primarily interested in tracking down and eating all the soft, white, salty foods we can get our hands on: President's Choice White Cheddar mac 'n' cheese, boiled perogies, pizza, raviolis of various sizes and fillings (let's not kid ourselves: cheese raviolis), various breakfast cereals, all the cookies a human being could ever consume, and more.

I literally feel like I've been hypnotized.

I knew, going into this pregnancy, that there would come a day when I could reach My Highest Weight Ever. This record was previously held in 2012, when I weighed 159 pounds on a 5'1" frame, and I wore a size 12/14. In photos from that time, you can see all that weight I'm carrying: my boobs are huge, my face is swollen, my stomach puffs out over my belt loops. I had terrible digestive issues at the time: chronic bloating and diarrhea, nausea after I ate, and a whole host of other intestinal maladies that are, frankly, pretty gross.

Riffling even further back through the calendar pages, the colonic disruptions I dealt with in 2012 were probably a result of a decade-plus of bingeing and purging. Bulimia is a stupid, ugly disease, made stupider and uglier by the fact that, often, the very things a bulimic is trying to control—a puffy face, for instance, or a bloated stomach—are exacerbated by the binge/purge cycle. I took myself through a decade of shitty behaviours before wising up in 2010. I got a dietician, who told me to eat the food groups; I started working out once or twice a week; I stopped sticking my finger down my throat.

Ironically, the course correction took a physical toll. Between 2010 and 2012, I gained 30 pounds. I was eating normal food, but it made me feel like garbage; I felt like garbage, and there was no healthy way for me to fight it. When I switched to a paleo diet midway through 2012, tiny alarms bells rang—alarm chimes, really—because I had to ask, was I restricting? And then the weight started to come off and my skin cleared up and my poops became somewhat less life-ruining, and I had made a good choice. Adding in a rigorous weight-lifting habit a couple times a week meant that, when I wanted a slice of cheesecake, I could have one, along with abs and tricep muscles and a thick neck that I'm sort of proud of. (Kochany necks are the thickest, and it's sexy. We look like bulls.) I was proud of my body! After a decade of eating disorders and recovery, I felt like I had reclaimed something that had been mine the whole time.

So anyway, now that we're through that long, TMI preamble, here's my point: I was wholly unprepared for the mental shell game of the healthy weight gain that comes with pregnancy. I feel utterly bombarded with messaging around how I'm supposed to look—from weight gain calculators to Instagram posts to mom-friends on Facebook, there seems to be a "good" way of looking pregnant, and it involves staying cute and lithe and doing lots of prenatal fitness. And I feel, in my seventh-months glory, like a fucking water buffalo.

I do not feel glowy. I do not feel cute. I do not feel like a goddamn goddess. I feel like, if I wanted to ever lose any baby weight, I should have all my kids before I turned 30. I look at my friends who had kids and who bounced back to their pre-baby bodies in a matter of months, and I despair. I read blogs that say that I will never get my pre-baby body back, and that this is a good thing! Look at what I'm gaining! I see stretch marks being reframed as "tiger stripes" and I feel like these women are fooling themselves. I can't work out right now, because I'm too tired and sore from the physical angst of hauling around this belly all day to do the intensive cardio/weight regime that usually keeps me in check. Hell, even just walking around the damn block creates all these cramps and round ligament pains and aches.

And then I eat half a box of macaroni and cheese, because I'm starving and our tiny sorcerer is asking for sacrifice.

I'm now four pounds away from My Highest Weight Ever, and I'm freaking out. My face? Puffy. My stomach? Well, it's big. It's hard to the touch. If you want a simulacra of this experience, please shove a fully-loaded laundry basket under your shirt and then try to put on your socks. I can literally see my child twist and turn inside me, which is magical, but also deeply weird. I was told that I can gain between 25 and 40 pounds while growing this kid. So far, I've gained 23, and I have another eight weeks to go. I feel as dense as a dying star.

This is clearly one of those "get it out, get it down," posts, because I'm not really sure what I'm looking for (maybe a paleo mac 'n' cheese recipe?). Just as I couldn't anticipate the physical and emotional toll this process would take, I can't predict what the recovery will look like. I can't know what my body will look like in a year, or five, and I really can't figure out how I'll feel about it. So maybe, if anything, a reassurance that this too shall pass, and that there will come a day, very soon, where I lose anywhere from five to ten pounds in a single day, and this day might change everything.

Image via Tom Gauld

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Urban, Suburban, Exurban

Every now and then, I fall into this daydream: I'm a few years older, sitting in the kitchen of a farmhouse, looking over the fall fields as the sun rises in the distance. I'm sipping a cup of tea. There's a dog curled around me somewhere. An open New Yorker lays on the table in front of me, but I'm not reading; instead, I'm thinking about the farm, my family, and what I need to do that day.

As the sun rises over the crest of the autumn-dried haygrass, I might pick up some knitting, or turn on the oven for muffins. My husband appears in the doorway and rumbles through the kitchen cabinets, hauling out the frying pan for bacon. Our kids are somewhere—maybe outside in a treehouse, maybe upstairs, still under the covers, reading, maybe hollering at each other, or the dog, or us.

Don't get me wrong—I love living in Toronto. Over the last decade, it's become my home: I've fallen in love here, made several homes here, started a family here. Nearly all of my friends live within the city limits, and my parents live close enough that I can see them many times each year. The city has lots going on: its density means that we can live without a car and still buy groceries. We can hop on our bikes and within a half-hour, be down at the waterfront, or in a historic/rapidly-gentrifying neighbourhood that has a 1:1 ratio of brunch places to young families, or in a park. Toronto has so many parks! Big-ass parks like Trinity Bellwoods or High Park, plus all these little parkettes, scattered through the city like dropped freshwater pearls.

But I was raised in other places—cities, small towns, and also out in the country. After four years in Calgary, we moved to Manotick, Ontario when I was in elementary school. Actually, not even Manotick proper, which, in the early 1990s, could best be described as a village; no, we lived outside of Manotick, on a rural road that faced an empty lot near the Rideau River. In a lot of ways, Manotick was terrible for me: I hit puberty there, I was bullied there, I was devastatingly lonely there. But—and this is a big, reluctant but—there was also great things about growing up in a place where I could be outside four seasons of the year, where we could play on a rope swing or have a big garden, where the neighbours had a stream in their backyard and we could go sledding in their ravine.

I don't know if I would choose to raise my kids out in the suburban countryside (and we lived a short car ride from both Ottawa and Nepean, so it wasn't like we lived in isolation). The social pool is so small, for both adults and for their kids. The amenities are few and far between—a YMCA class here, an arts camp there—and getting anywhere requires a car. Trips into the city were always glamorous, but that was because my folks planned them as outings. We'd eat McDonalds hotcakes and then skate on the Rideau Canal. There were museums trips. Compared to Manotick, life in Ottawa seemed great.

Toronto offers those same chances for us. There's just wads of culture: museums, festivals, restaurants, live shows. It doesn't have to crunch our wallets, either: we can buy an eight-dollar roti,  check out the Swedish Christmas festival, and then hit a second-hand bookstore. Factor in the price of a TTC day pass and that's still less than the cost of a movie. We get lazy, and complacent, and forget that these things are available to us, but they are, and they're a vital part of urban family life. But we miss the other half: the nature, the freedom to chuck your kids outside into the yard and say, "For god's sake, go blow off some steam," and the semi-enforced boredom that, I think, allows kids to sharpen their imaginations.The suburbs, which were supposed to offer proximity to the city's cultural gifts while still allowing for a yard, no longer provides either. When's the last time you drove around on a suburban cul-de-sac and saw a gang of kids playing outside? Most suburbs don't even bother building sidewalks. Who would use them? Let's face it: nobody walks out there.

But I still crave that rural pace. I want to be able to have a garden, a big dog, and a gang of kids that aren't tucked into a two-bedroom condo. I want to be able to walk on the beach, or stand around the firepit, or make a cardboard fort with my kids in the driveway. And I still crave that urban place, too. I want to be able to hop on the streetcar to the swap meet, to walk to the library, to see the latest Indonesian action movie on the big screen. And I'm here, already, and so it feels like that choice is to be here too. But I wonder: what am I giving up? What would another place, another pace, do to my life? To my family?

My parents have a farm now. It's not a working farm, although it does have a barn and occasionally, a local farmer will offer them cash to take their hay. My folks use it as a rental property through the summer, and then they settle in for the winter. It sleeps eight in proper beds and another four on various couches, and there's a sun porch, a huge kitchen, an enormous bathtub, and poppies ringing the front porch. There is a cozy kitchen woodstove, a massive fireplace in the living room, and a firepit outside. In the summer, a hot wind comes up and shakes the trees and makes the cicadas sing their buzzy song. In the winter, the snow drifts slowly—so lazily, in fact, that if you're not careful, you'll fail to cotton to the fact that you're getting snowed in.

There, in the mornings, all year round, it's possible to look out over the fields and watch the sun come up.

Image via Alessio Albi

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Horoscopes to Wear Sweaters To

Gather round, ye astrological astronauts, and cozy up to my latest witch proclamations. These go down especially nice with a good cocktail (Manhattans, anyone?), or, if you're abstaining, a hot chocolate made with real milk.

ARIES: I recently joined this Facebook trading group, where people will post photos of stuff they don't want—tables, half-eaten loaves of banana bread, unopened and slightly outdated tech—and then go "ISO" things to replace them. People are in search of the weirdest things, but the same general categories keep coming up: succulents, haircuts, mirrors, "consumables" (you're fooling no one, stoners), and, always, tall cans and tokens. It's this weird proxy economy that couldn't exist if we weren't terrible at just getting rid of stuff. We always seem to want something in return.

TAURUS: When a woman gets knocked up, there are very few objectively great things that happen to her body. The whole nine months are basically just one long ooze. The exception? Goddamn, pregnant hair looks amazing. Add in that "glow" people talk about? It's like they're radiant from the chin(s) up. Perhaps, Taurus, you too have a unexpected and time-limited glory in which you can revel.

GEMINI: One of the weirdest (to me) subgenres of film is Christmas horror, but not only does it exist, Christmas horror has a rich and bloody history reaching back to the Canadian X-mas horror classic Black Christmas. One of my favourite Christmas horror movies is Rare Exports, a Norwegian movie featuring a very off-putting Santa and a bunch of homicidal—and, um, full-frontal naked—elves. It's so weird, you guys. But it's also kind of charming, and it's actually not all that scary. It's more of a ninety-minute wtf-fest where the intersection of gore and nostalgia and amazing Scandi scenery are at its peak. Which is all to say: seeking out life's strangest intersections can be a beautiful thing.

CANCER: My sister spends her life flying between her office in the city, her work zone in the hinterlands, and her boyfriend and family three provinces away. There's something in her spirit that really enjoys this, but Cancers are known for being homebodies. Y'all like your creature comforts. Maybe this is why, when she travels, she brings her personal totems with her: favourite sweaters, an iPod loaded with pop music, her At Bat baseball app. It keeps her grounded even as she makes a habit of never quite knowing where she might wake up tomorrow.

LEO: I love office supplies. Index cards, binder clips, printers that work right out of the box without having to whack the side and pray to Jesus that everything is hooked up: magical talismans, one and all. Having a well-stocked office supply cabinet makes me feel prepared—which, when you think about it, is just another word for safe. The illusion of safety can be a powerful one, and not all bad. After all, I'm way more willing to take a risk when I feel like I have a net underneath me, even if that net is made up of paper clips and half-inch binders.

VIRGO: Can I level with you? It took me a full year to read The Hobbit, which is ridiculous because that book is not long. My husband's copy of the book is 279 pages, which is about the same as a Stephen King short story. I think it took me so long to wade through it for the same reason I'm lukewarm on Star Wars and I don't really care about the Beatles: not having been exposed to them as a kid, I missed the rush of discovery and wonder that those pop culture touchstones can create. Encountering them as an adult, I understand, on an academic level, why people dig them; they just don't make me feel anything. This year, I stopped apologizing for that. It's not my fault the timing didn't work out.

LIBRA: "I feel cheated never being able to know what it's like to get pregnant, carry a child and breastfeed,” once said noted feminist Dustin Hoffman. Allow me to fill you in, D: stick a bicycle pump in your belly button and inflate your stomach until you can no longer see your pubes, then go on a 45-day crying jag. Experiences that seem magical from the outside are often very much not once you're strapped in for the ride, and it can be tough to know, when, exactly, the payoff stops making sense. Maybe you, too, Libra, are engaged in something feels way different on the inside that it seems on the outside. Maybe you could share with the group a little more.

SCORPIO: I've been really coveting black Nike running shoes lately. I went through an intense clogs phase, and I still love my Blundstones, but there's something about a breezy pair of runners that make me go "mmmm." But all the art-school girls I see are still clutching their dirty white Chucks like they're the effing holy grail, and now that I'm in my thirties, I can't tell if they're weird or if I am. It feels shallow to "still care" about fashion, as if that's something I'm supposed to give up as I get older—like I have to trade that brainspace for, like, knowing about investments or something. But also: this stuff matters to me. Sometimes, you gotta give in to the parts of your brain that cares deeply about superficial stuff.

SAGITTARIUS: I have this recurring daydream in which I'm a farmer. I see myself with a baby goat slung around my neck as casually as a Milanese millionaire would wear an ascot, and I walk the rows of my crops—lavender? Hops? Peach trees?—with the comforting buzz of artisan honeycombs coming from somewhere over the next rise. I wear galoshes because I have to, and my hair is wiry yet alluring. This daydream has pretty much zero in common with actual farming, and is just an escapist fantasy whenever I find myself spending too much time on the computer...but it's also really useful, because it points out what I'm lacking: physical work, a connection to nature, a sense of purpose. It helps what's missing throw a shadow.

CAPRICORN: So Trudeau filled his cabinet with women, and you know who wants to talk about it? Cab drivers. Cab drivers definitely want to ask you about your opinions on Trudeau and his political harem, and they definitely have opinions themselves, although they won't share them until they suss out where you fall on the political spectrum. I get the sense that Toronto cab drivers, as a group, have some of the highest levels of diplomacy and tact on the face of the earth, even though they scare me half to death when I'm cycling and they're going extinct in the face of Uber. Maybe Trudeau can repurpose Toronto cab drivers as ambassadors; lord knows they have the skills for it.

AQUARIUS:You know what pains me? Justin Bieber is having A Moment. I've listened to "Sorry" about 300 times, and you know what? I'm NOT SORRY. That damn song is really catchy. Bieber is doubly embarrassing because, like me, he's from Stratford; unlike me, he's a gazillionaire pop star who has silly tattoos and wears/acts like the dumbest shit on earth and people are always like, "You're from STRATFORD?! Do you know JUSTIN BEIBER?!!!??" and first of all, no, and secondly, ugh. But I am powerless in the face of "Where Are U Now," as all reasonable humans must be. And you know what helps? Watching the "Sorry" video for the 301st time. Those girls can daaaaaance.

PISCES: Did you notice a lot of tandem bikes this summer? I sure did. I saw them everywhere, and I can't help but wonder if they're in a renaissance, or if they've actually been there the whole time. I feel like this is a metaphor for something: maybe there's a slightly unusual trend that will pop into your life soon, making it a bit weirder and more delightful. Maybe that thing is already circling you like a friendly, dopey shark, and you just need to start noticing it. Maybe join a tandem bike gang—it will obviously have an even number of members—and keep your eyes open on the road.

Image via The Bold Italic

Friday, October 30, 2015

Pregnancy, In Lists

A partial list of cravings so far:
  • tortellini with pesto
  • banana smoothies
  • green smoothies
  • dim sum-style turnip cakes
  • pad Thai
  • toast
  • more toast
  • seriously, an embarrassing amount of toast
  • kefir
  • samosas
  • peanut sauce
  • macaroni and cheese
  • pudding cups
  • soft white foods in general
Things that have been the grossest:
  • my beloved kombucha SCOBY, which I had to throw away and then barf a bunch afterwards
  • red meat
  • the inside of my own mouth
  • the stupid prenatal vitamin that I take like twice a week and always which always makes me feel disgusting
Nicknames for the baby:
  • the little buddy
  • the tiny dancer
  • little friend
  • kiddo
  • the disco monster
Cutest things:
  • have you ever seen a newborn onesie? Good lord 
  • what I'll fill my freezer with before the kid arrives
  • strollers—they truly are the car parents buy before they buy a minivan
  • sleek maternity clothes
  • how to position my body in time and space so that I'm comfortable
  • avoiding other people's unsolicited labour stories
  • toast
  • knitting tiny clothes
  • pinning gender-neutral clothes on Pinterest
  • baby-wearing resources
  • poking at my belly to see if that's the kid's head or its bum
  • offering people a chance to touch my stomach (I am a monster)
Physical challenges:
  • stiff hips
  • sore back
  • leaky boobs
  • my crotch is a swamp 24/7
  • this, like, numb/burning area at the top of my abdomen? The midwife says this is not unusual, but I think there's a demon in there
  • sometimes I go to pee and then an hour later I have to pee again, and then an hour after that I'm peeing again, and...

Physical amazingness:
  • feeling this kid move around inside
  • no acne?! 
  • seriously, my hair looks insanely good right now
  • constantly fondling my new outie bellybutton 
  • yoga is fun again
  • a bunch of different people have said that I'm "glowing"
Emotional challenges:
  • crying pretty much on the daily, for real
  • fear
  • anxiety 
  • developing an inexplicable fondness for Justin Bieber songs 
  • that every twinge is somehow a miscarriage, or, now, premature labour
Emotional amazingness:
  • when my husband reads stories to my belly and then we snuggle afterwards 
  • the incredible influx of people who want to give us baby-related stuff, including furniture, clothes, and soaker pads for the aforementioned leaky boobs
  • holding onto the parenting mantra my mother gave me, which was "Feed the baby. Hold the baby. Change the baby," which, like, I can totally do those things
  • feeling closer to my mom in general
  • finding some mom-friends (however: is there a more terrible phrase in the English language than "mom-friends"? I don't think so)
  • watching my body change in all these incredible ways, and not feeling super fucked-up about it (as Virginia Slim said: "You've come a long way, baby."
  • starting to maybe feel sort of like, if I can get my house cleaned up and take a shower sometime between now and January, I might be ready for this. 
Image via Rebeca Losada

Thursday, October 22, 2015

On the Bandwagon

True confession time: I only really care about sports when there's something on the line. Spring training? Whatever. Regular season play? Unless something truly spectacular happens, like a brawl in a sport where there usually isn't any brawling (bowling, for example), I tend to skim it. The gold-medal games in the Olympics? The World Series? The Superbowl? I'll made a dent in my couch for that. But this year's Blue Jays—home of Joey Bats and Tulo, of Josh "MVP, MVP" Donaldson, of hometown boys Russel Martin and Dalton Pompey—have forced Toronto to fall in love with them. I'm no exception.

For the past few years, my dad has bought a 500-level flex pass, which lets him select a bunch of games at which he can drink eleven-dollar beer in the sky. He's been generous with the tickets—I regularly get texts asking if I want free tickets to the game—and we've been greedy in accepting them. My husband and I load our bags with Bulk Barn snacks and bottles of water, and we alternately roast in the sun or sit out under the stars. It's an outing: a bike ride to the lakeshore, a required-by-law Instagram shot of the CN Tower, and also, some sports.

I have great memories of my friends at these game, which were otherwise unremarkable. Going to a game with unrepentant Yankees fan Abe meant sitting next to him as he cheered for A-Rod (of all people) while the rest of the stadium cheerfully booed him. This was the same season that Munenori Kawasaki and Ichiro Suzuki were in regular rotation; the Japanese fans behind us hollered us for both the Jays and the Yanks that night, wildly waiving Canadian, American, and Japanese flags.

But the games? Oh, those games were not good. In 2014, there was a record-setting nineteen-inning game in which they barely beat the Tigers; in 2012, they burned through 31 different pitchers. They hadn't won more than 90 games in a regular season over a decade. They had the longest payoff drought of any professional sports team in North America. Before this summer, going to Blue Jays games were like going to a movie where, even if the ending was okay, the whole thing was kind of disappointing.

I was nine in 1993, when they won their second World Series and Joe Carter walked on the moon. I remember that series: I remember the Coke ads, and somehow winning fifty bucks in a family pool. I remember being freaked out by Phillies center fielder and noted felon/angry-looking man Lenny Dykstra. But mostly, I remember the electricity of caring. Feeling like it was something big, something that mattered. Not having a TV at our cottage, we went to my mom's cousin's house and huddled around the TV to take in October games. Mike tells me stories about being in Toronto when the Jays won, of going to Bloor Street and watching the city erupt in mad fandom, finally feeling justified to howl at the world. Some nights, when we come back from having a few too many drinks and want to feel that feeling, we'll lie in bed and watch the walk-off home run clip in bed together. Joe Carter's erumpent face, equal parts thrilled and shocked, and Tom Cheek's heart-eyed instructions to "touch 'em all, Joe," are as Canadian to us as Heritage Moments and Tim Hortons.

For twenty years, caring about the Blue Jays was Torontonian background radiation. They played, we cheered, they had heart and good players, and none of really mattered. Even my dad vacillated between two settings: "those bums" (when they lost) and a grudging "those guys" (when they won). I mostly went to games for a chance to yodel Ennnncarnaaaacion along with the PA announcer.They were good enough—all sports teams manage to win enough to keep fans from chewing the insides of their cheeks into lace—but they had not again touched greatness.

Until, unexpectedly, things shifted this year. When they the team acquired ace pitcher David Price and shortstop Troy Tulowitzski in the late-July trade deadline, they suddenly went from being good-enough to something special. People who hadn't known anything about baseball were suddenly showing up at the SkyDome (never Rogers Centre, please), cheering on a team that had put down two eleven-game winning streaks. Torontoist published a guide for bandwagoners. Then the Jays clinched the American League East, and then they beat the Rangers in a five-game series that culminated in one of the weirdest, craziest, funniest games ever played, post-season or not.

The Jays are now fighting the Kansas City Royals in a brutal seven-game series. They've forced the Royals to Game Six, after losing their first two games and getting absolutely slaughtered in the fourth. But the thing about the 2015 Jays is that they just keep going. They keep not losing crucial games. They're still in the running. It's the most bizarre thing. If they win the next two games—and they could, they really might, everyone is being cautious but nothing's really over yet—they'd be heading to the World Series for the first time in 22 years. I have to admit: imagining Toronto's crazy joy at that moment gives me a manic chill.

But still. For me, if we finish here, it will have been a good finish. The Toronto Blue Jays have finished in the bottom half of the division for the past nine years. Now, we have the batflip that spawned a thousand memes, a team that seems to play as though they care, players who regularly fly through the air to catch and throw. Watching them play now is a pleasure, because they believe again. And we believe in them, too.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

How to Dress Yourself and Grow a Baby at the Same Time

Hola bitches! Whoops, now that we're expecting babies / baking buns in our ovens / exploring the mystical path of motherhood, I guess we have to trade the word "bitches" for something more G-rated. So: Hola, gestaters!

By this point in your journey towards birth, you may have gained five or ten or forty pounds. I offer no judgement on the number, on your general shape—some lucky bitches gestaters only gain like, thirteen pounds all the way through and we can still see their abs well into their eighth month. (Those women are stone-cold freaks, though.) Full disclosure: I'm six months along and I've gained nineteen pounds, mostly in the baby zone (tits and stomach). I've gone up about four bra sizes. I wear a special belt to keep the weight of belly from cranking on my back. According to my midwife, my abs—my hard-earned abs!—are slowly being separated down the middle line by the sheer force of my uterus growing out. (This is the same midwife who, when I told her I was feeling very pregnant that day, looked at my stomach and said slowly, "Well, it sort of just looks like you had a big lunch." CUE FEELINGS.)

Since your body is changing, you will be forced to get new clothes. In my experience, maternity clothes are both different from, and better than, just sizing up. Sizing up often means that, while the garment fits over your belly, it's sloppy elsewhere: too-long straps, gaping underarm holes, bumster pant rises. I hate to admit it, but maternity clothes just fit better. They're designed to fit over the basketball your partner has shoved under your shirt.

But they're also stupid expensive and often designed as though the average age of Canada's first-time mother is 55, not 29. Some fashionistas recommend embracing your inner Golden Girl during your pregnancy, and just rolling with brightly coloured muumuus. Counter-point: I feel uncomfortable in colours brighter than navy. Throwing a weight gain and a shape change into the mix wasn't exactly inspiring me to break out the teals and aquamarines.

I've staunchly stuck to, and expanded on, my wardrobe of grays, blacks, white, black, red, and more black. For reference, here's a list of maternity things I've acquired over the last six months:
  • gray skinny pants *
  • black wide-leg pants *
  • cheaply made pair of black leggings *
  • insanely beautiful pair of black leggings **
  • spangly black party dress **
  • dotted grey cocktail dress *
  • black pencil skirt **
  • black denim skirt **
  • black poofy skirt **
  • black tank top *
  • green-khaki tank top *
  • black 3/4-length sleeve top *
  • plum tunic *
  • gray short sleeve sweatshirt **
  • gray v-neck baseball-style sweatshirt **
  • black swingy sweatshirt **
  • white maternity/baby-wearing parka *
This is in addition to a bunch of things that I've just kept wearing well into pregnancy, including a mesh tank top, a sheer blouse, an extremely tight black sweater, several long shirts/minidresses, and a pair of leggings that I kept from my fat days, because I liked the pattern and knew that, at some point, they would be resurrected in their bump-accommodatingly largeness. I've also co-opted my husband's sweatpants, and have been wearing a fur-topped toque pretty much everywhere. (I was led to believe I would be sweaty as a pregnant person, but I'm freezing.)

So what are all those asterisks? Well, the single star is something that I bought second-hand, either from a mom who was selling something she no longer needed, or from a used-clothing store like Value Village or the Salvation Army. The double star was something that was given to me free of charge—most often from my own mom, but also from friend-moms who were like "ENOUGH of these belly panels I need real jeans again!"

I provide these items to you, not as a shopping list, but as a reminder of two things:

1. It is totally possible to dress yourself on the cheap during this period. There are a few things that I need to complete this wardrobe—some maternity tights, a cozy hoodie, and maybe a couple more tank tops—but for the most part, I'm there. Second-hand maternity clothes tend to be in fairly great shape, because most women only wear them for a few months. And, in addition to checking the usual VV/Sally Anne places, second-hand and consignment shops devoted to outfitting your kids will often also have a maternity-clothes section. I scored a $140 shirt for six bucks from one these places, and I'm still not entirely over it. Trolling parents buy-and-trade groups are also a great place to pick up deals, as is Kijiji: witness my $500 maternity coat, which I snagged for a cool Borden. I think the total cost of this wardrobe has been about $300. While half of it came for free, I think it could be done for under $500 even if you had to buy it all.

2. I love showing off my bump. Maybe even flaunting it! As a well-endowed woman who has struggled to accept my weight and shape for most of my adult life, being visibly, obviously pregnant has been crazy empowering. A pregnant belly isn't like a fat stomach (shut up, I didn't know this!): it's hard and firm and well-defined with the outlines of your kidlet's growth pod. Of course, your mileage may vary. Some women gain weight all over, some gain very little, and some may not even show for a while, especially if they started out on the heavier side. But for me, this stomach is something I'm proud of! I like wearing tight clothes and showing off my kid.  (#thatmom)

But I still am not drawn to toucan prints and sunset colours. I love black and grey for the same reason that I love mesh and tight clothes: I feel most like my primal self when I wear those things. During a time that is often primal, and often confusing (hello, hormones!), the comfort of a power-outfit can be a touchstone. Finding things that reflected who I am, even as I change, has become important to me.

Thinking hard about my own fashion narrative throughout the years has been a great creative exercise, and a terrific way to figure out the self I want to project in the world. I can be so many different people—post-apocalyptic farm girl; sharp-eyed gallery curator; cozy-kitchen'ed baker-maker; gauzy-eyed lavender-and-hops farmer; all-black witchy mama; thick-muscled fitspo pinup; and so on, and so on. Each of those facets of myself, or those personas to which I aspire, gives me strength and courage in the world. I love my post-apocalyptic farm girl style for its natural fibers and self-reliant air; I love my witchy-mama vibe for its mystery and all-black colour scheme. Plus, fashion is fun, and pregnancy is often not fun. Finding a fun outlet in which to be pregnant is a kind of take-back-the-night moment for me, in between all the morning sickness and backaches and acid reflux.

These moments—these nine months, actually—are moments of transition, between focusing on myself to focusing on my wee family. After the baby is born, my clothing choices may cease to matter at all, or drop way down on my priority list. They may go from from form-fitting to forgiving, or from fashionable to utilitarian. But there is absolutely no reason I can't be a well-dressed bitch until then.

Image via Nettie Wakefield