Learning to Treat Yo Self

Parks and Recreation Meme

I am not so great at taking care of myself.

Not in the general day-to-day sense – I’m able to put pants on the right way (usually, depending on how bleary eyed I am), get myself to where I need to go, eat food when needed. I mean more in the “treat yo self” kind of mentality. In that I generally don’t. And when I do, I slather on a guilt trip so thick it’s overpowering.

I know I’m not the only one like this – in fact, I’d wager most women and quite a few men would enthusiastically nod if asked if they’re kind of crappy towards themselves. We try to do everything for everyone and agree to things we can’t possibly accomplish, and then throw ourselves over multiple hurdles to get it all done. All of the little things that spark our interest or would refuel our tanks get pushed aside, squashed down, re-filed to a “someday, that would be nice” drawer. And then for good measure, we chastise ourselves for even thinking about doing item X when there are so many other things that need to get done.

I’ve alluded before to my penchant for list-making. I organize my time to the hour some days (*coughs* most days) which is fine when I’m working and want to be all “super productive do all the things!” woman but on a Sunday morning I should be able to binge-watch Netflix in my p-jams without sassing myself off the couch. The same extends to when I travel, except this time I think I got the upper hand.

I’ve been in Venice, California for a week (yes, I’ve been here before…and before) and FORBID myself from making a list. My brain tried real hard. While waiting for my flight I caught myself casually jotting down goals in my phone (which is really a list’s subtle cousin). I promptly deleted them. I arrived and went straight to the beach with a book (Amy Poehler’s delightful Yes Please) and managed to sit for 10 minutes before thinking I should do homework or maybe groceries or perhaps check work email?

And then I silenced my brain. And thought about what would make me truly happy at that moment. And did that.

Getting my sassy brain to zip it has been an epic struggle this week. I allowed myself to plan a day of activities I really enjoy – hiking, record shopping, crafty things and stuffing tacos into my face. It felt nice to do things that I wanted to do for myself without simultaneously worrying about not crossing things off a to-do list. Being productive and accomplishing tasks is important and fulfilling, but so is treating yourself to a little personal time now and then.

So when people ask why I visit LA so much, part of it is because I have a very expensive reset button on my brain apparently, and tacos and ocean seem to be the only way to satisfy it.

Find your tacos, people. Tap into what you enjoy and tell your brain to shove it. That’s my hope for 2015.

In the City: Melrose Trading Post

Melrose Trading Post

What: A weekly vintage goods, arts and crafts bonanza

Where: West Hollywood, in the parking lot of Fairfax High School (corner of Melrose and Fairfax)

When: Every Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Good Stuff to Know: Get there early. Parking fills up quickly, but there’s ample street parking in the surrounding neighbourhood – just be prepared to walk. Also, it’ll set you back three bucks to enter!

The Scene: Hipsters, ahoy. Looking for a terrarium, high-waisted shorts, scuffed (but not too scuffed) Doc Martens or an old typewriter? Melrose Trading Post has got you covered. Run by a partnership between Greenway Arts Alliance and the Fairfax High School community, the Trading Post is a great place to start a lazy Sunday in LA.

After cooler-than-expected December temperatures LA finally warmed back up, and I wandered aisle upon aisle of vendors wrapped in the warmth of the mid-morning sun. The Trading Post has a Spitalfields vibe to it – with more artists selling handmade goods (A++). I picked up several pairs of retro-inspired earrings and a few Christmas presents, and wished for a larger suitcase to cart home some of the shabby chic furniture and home decor dotted all over the market. One of the most popular booths was a vendor selling nothing but vintage postcards and pictures, meticulously organized by state. I’m not sure which my brain appreciated more, the travel aspect or the insane attention to detail.

Other things that tickled my fancy:

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  • $5 ugly (and I mean ugly) Christmas sweaters! Why are these so expensive here? Why are there so many in LA? Is this where Christmas sweaters go to die? Note to self, stock up here next year and resell them at home for a tidy profit. Or, just throw amazing ugly sweater parties (more likely).
  • Actual bathrooms!
  • The vendors I spoke with were all lovely! None were pushy and all seemed pretty laid-back for a flea market.
  • The enormous Macho Man Randy Savage body pillow that I really should have bought but couldn’t figure out how I would transport home. Would I have had to buy him a seat on the plane? How awesome would that have been?! I’m sorry Mr. Savage, I should have taken you.

Many vendors are equipped to take credit cards, but bring extra cash for haggling ease. And a friend who’s not an enabler – it took a lot of restraint wandering there solo. There are also a few food vendors and a cute little coffee booth (I opted not to have any coffee, as I was still coming down from Saturday’s activities), and a live band!

Do you have a favourite flea market?

LA Coffee Crawl

I had the brilliant idea to embark on a coffee crawl while in LA recently (Venice Beach, to be precise). The sun was warm, I was a tad sleepy, and I thought it would be a fun way to explore the neighbourhood.

A few notes:

  1. I can’t drink a lot of coffee. Caffeine makes me jumpy, excitable, nervous, twitchy, etc. etc. And by a lot, I mean more than a shot of espresso. Maybe two cups of regular coffee over the course of a day. I KNOW.
  2. Bar crawls are social endeavours (unless, you know, you have a problem). Important to have company for any type of crawl. Yep.
  3. By a tad sleepy, I mean I was exhausted after accomplishing a weird triathlon-esque 10K run and 25K bike ride the day prior. Sorry, legs.

So, armed with a book and a notebook, I set out. Here’s how it went.

8:30 a.m.: LEGS OW. COFFEE YES. First latte of the day at Cafe Collage! Conveniently around the corner.

9:30 a.m.: Intelligentsia! You fancy. (ordered: cappuccino and a gluten-free banana muffin, about which I noted “Sustenance is needed for this task. I am committed to my craft.”)

Coffee, with love

9:40 a.m.: Seriously, people line up for coffee? Venice, you crazy.

Intellegentsia

9:45 a.m.: Trying to rewrite lyrics to “Macarena” with “banana muffin.” (I can’t make out these notes)

10:30 a.m.: Book finished, but my head hurts.

10:31 a.m.: Oooo, hipster soundtrack ahoy! They’re playing Arcade Fire AND Pavement.

10:32 a.m.: AGHHHHH. (I think my head started hurting again)

10:40 a.m.: Please. Feed your screaming baby next to me (the entire place was empty, yet the seat next to me was chosen for this task)

10:45 a.m.: Coffee three! Cow’s End! Let’s go to the beach! (just a coffee this time, because espresso was making my heart race)

Coffee three!

11:13 a.m.: Debating renting a skateboard because am now feeling invincible and positive and that nothing can go wrong in life. 

11:30 a.m.: I’ve come to my senses, thanks to overwhelming NOOOOOs from Twitter. Thanks guys.

11:45 a.m.: Almond milk latte from Groundwork. SO GOOD.

Noon: I think I should stop.

12:31 p.m.: Took a break from the coffee bender because guys, I’m not a machine here.

2:30 p.m.: Hang on, has Target always sold booze?

3 p.m.: Actual food needed. Heading to Manhattan Beach.

Waiting for Lunch of ChampionsBest. Sandwich. Ever.

3:30 p.m.: Can’t talk. Eating. Sloopy’s, I love you.

5 p.m.: Ended the madness at four – three espressos and one coffee. Drank nothing but water for the next seven hours.

Thoughts once I’d come down from all the caffeine:

  • Intellegentsia was nice, but too pricey for my regular tastes. A fun splurge, and excellent muffin.
  • Under $3 for an almond milk latte and a great selection of brews makes Cow’s End one of my favourite places for coffee, anywhere! I’ve rambled on about my love for them before.
  • Seriously the Target I visited in LA sold booze. And not just wine.
  • If Sloopy’s in Manhattan Beach ever closes I can’t go to LA any more, so PLEASE DON’T EVER CLOSE.
  • Any type of crawl activity needs more than one person, not just for the social company but so one can carry the other’s ass home and put them to bed so they don’t drive almost to Watts (South Central, to be precise) looking for a craft store and then miraculously find one and wander its aisles singing along to a Backstreet Boys song playing on the radio, softly. THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

Venice Boardwalk, Or, How to Attack All of Your Senses At Once.

Image

For the first time…maybe ever, I’ve travelled without a camera on purpose. I feel so lost without it, however on the flip side my shoulder is thanking me for not having to lug it around. I left it at home for two reasons:

  1. I’m finding myself a bit too reliant on capturing moments on film (or I guess memory card) versus memory. This is a test to see how well I remember things for visual cues, sounds, smells, etc. Senses, ahoy!
  2. The aforementioned weight of the camera. Also pulling out a lens takes time and I miss stuff happening. And for safety reasons, as nothing says “Oh haiiii, I’m a tourist” like a DSLR.

And so yesterday I took nothing but a notebook and a coffee and spent my first morning in Venice Beach on the boardwalk and beach, people watching. And I jotted down a list of words I would use to describe the boardwalk, which included:

  • Loud
  • Colourful (both in the literal sense – there’s great graffiti here, and in terms of language used)
  • Sunny
  • Eclectic
  • WTF

That last one is particularly apt. I think if I was asked to explain what the boardwalk was like, I’d equate it to turning a radio knob quickly and scanning through a lot of stations at once (yes kids, this makes me old enough to have willingly used a radio with a tuning knob). As you flip through, you’d hear some West Coast rap, country, Spanish jams, classical, more rap, Bob Dylan, meditation music, Christmas carols (’tis the season) and a man in a Santa costume singing Justin Bieber while strumming away on a guitar. While your eardrums are processing this combination, you’d notice two men juggling sticks on fire whilst sporting nothing but thongs, a man artfully twirling a snake, and vendors hawking silk-screened T-shirts and beaded necklaces. Friendly women will approach you asking if you’d like a medical marijuana assessment (which you politely decline, for you’ve had enough of a contact high already this morning). It smells like churros, sunscreen and a 70’s basement, with every kind of incense and candle stinging your nostrils and the aforementioned waft of pot every now and then. In short, it’s an attack on all your senses, but in an awesomely entertaining way.

I love Venice – the people are the friendliest I’ve encountered while travelling, the vibe is low-key and there’s a quirkiness to it that keeps me coming back. The boardwalk is no exception.

Four Days in Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Every morning at sunrise I ran along the boardwalk. Usually when I run, I need music to keep my mind occupied (meaning: distracted from the sounds of me wheezing and my internal monologue of PLEASE STOP THIS) but I kept one ear tuned into my surroundings and the other focused on the sounds of the waves crashing onto the beach.

Around 6:45 a.m. a familiar man would appear on my right. Dressed all in black save for a well-worn Santa hat, he sat casually draped across a patio chair, smiling at the world. “There she is!” he’d exclaim as I came along. I would be lying if I didn’t appreciate the chance to stop for a few minutes to catch my breath, and he’d chat about his plans for the day and how excited he was to be alive.

As anyone who knows me can verify (or even if you’ve read a few of these blog posts, such as this one), I travel to California quite a lot. I love the sound and sights of the ocean and mountains, the smell of eucalyptus trees and the copious amounts of vitamin D. But most of all, I really enjoy the warm nature of the people that I encounter, particularly in areas like Venice Beach. While it is gritty in spots (particularly along the boardwalk) and rather eccentric in general, I find residents to be quite friendly. I went just before Christmas for four days and encountered west coast charm at every opportunity – from shop owners on Abbot Kinney and baristas in the local coffee joint, to morning joggers and surfers getting their boards ready for a morning session. People just seem to be really content with life and that spirit is quite infectious – I recommend checking it out.

If a trip to Venice Beach tickles your fancy, here are some favourites of mine:

Continue reading “Four Days in Venice Beach”

Sunday Seven – Best Beaches for Naps!

I love me a good nap. Curling up under a blanket, particularly in the kind of weather we’re having right now, is heaven. But napping on a beach is pure joy.

So to combat the chilly temperatures and all the snow I shovelled this morning, here’s seven of my favourite beaches – napping edition!

7. Manitou Beach, Centre Island, Toronto
Surprise! I picked a beach in Toronto! While I would never actually wade into Lake Ontario, I like this beach for sitting and snoozing because it faces south and is away from the throngs of families and frisbee throwers. Just go on a day when it’s not too humid – otherwise the lake gets a tad stinky.

6. Carmel-by-the-Sea Beach, Carmel, California

White sand, rolling dunes and the smell of money. Carmel is a classy place, and the beach reflects that. Apart from pesky squirrels attempting to steal your lunch, this is a great spot for a long afternoon nap. Pack some oversized shades to blend in with the wealthy types.

5. Kaikoura Beach, Kaikoura, New Zealand
Pay a visit to this beach and you’ll quickly discover why there are so many campervans taking up residence in the parking lot. With mountains providing a backdrop and crystal clear waters, Kaikoura Beach is a great spot to pack a picnic (perhaps with some local wine) and catch some rays along with your zzz’s.

4. La Jolla Shores Beach, San Diego, California
San Diego is a goldmine for good beaches. Some are pretty family-oriented, but they all offer great views and toasty sand to stretch out on. A nice spot to sip a little wine, read some tabloids and enjoy life. Just don’t wander too far – a popular nude beach awaits!

3. Waipi’o Valley Beach, Hawaii
Perhaps it was due to exhaustion from the intense hike down into the Valley (or the anticipation of the even crueller hike back out), but sprawling out on a secluded black sand beach was pretty fantastic. Getting back up, not so much. Bring a blanket, lots of snacks, and a good book. This one’s worth camping out at for a few solid hours.

2. Chesterman Beach, Tofino, British Columbia
A close runner-up, Chesterman Beach is absolutely gorgeous. Great for a variety of activities including surfing and picnics, it’s also fantastic for a good nap! The sand is soft and the beach is enormous, which means lots of space for you to spread out away from families or large groups. Watch out for the tide!

1. Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

Australia is full of gorgeous people. It should come as no surprise that its beaches would also be fairly easy on the eyes. While I had some good naps at Manly, Bondi had the SOFTEST sand ever. I essentially dug myself a little sand bed, and camped out for much of the day with a lunch, some beer and a good book (and a big ass hat). With warm breezes, plenty of space to sprawl out, and the sweet sound of waves crashing, Bondi is the perfect napping beach in my opinion.

So, what do you think? Any beaches I need to pack a blanket for? Leave a comment below!

15 Ways to Spend Your Days in LA

I have been to LA at least 8 times since 2005. Sometimes it’s just been for a day or two as a layover between a flight elsewhere, other times I’ve stayed for longer. But every time I walk the familiar route out of LAX towards the rental car shuttle, the warm air and sight of palm trees always makes me smile.

I love LA. It’s the first place I went when travelling without my parents, and I regard it almost as a type of height chart that marks my adventure progress. But it also has a comfortable familiarity about it, and has been a great place of refuge when I need a quick vacation without much thought put into it.

I am always happy when friends ask me for LA suggestions  (sometimes they don’t ask, I just dole them out like candy in the hopes they’ll consider going there – seriously California Tourism, give me a job) because in all the times I’ve gone there I’ve resisted the Hollywood touristy gimmicks – for the most part. A couple exceptions will grace this list – my top 15 ways to spend your days in LA.

Continue reading “15 Ways to Spend Your Days in LA”