Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Escape



Here's a post I've been meaning to write for over a year.  Initially, I didn't want to write it until I had tried all the places on the list so I could make a more fulsome report.  The problem was, new places seemed to open up in town as soon as I had tried one!  I suppose it still applies now though, since it's cold and miserable out and it's nice to find things to do to occupy your time and get you out of your pajama pants every now and then, if that's your thing.

I tried my first escape room last fall and pretty much became obsessed.  I love them.  They sound super weird - you get locked in a room for 60 minutes and have to solve a series of puzzles in order to escape the room.  It's basically a live video game, and it's SO MUCH FUN.  If you dig puzzles and critical thinking, then this is for you!  I've tried four of the places on the list so far - and have escaped two rooms.  I'm still hoping to try all of them on the list (come do a room with me!) so hopefully I can do an updated post with some better reviews later.  In any event - check it out.

Adventure Rooms - This was the first room I tried, located in Kitchener.  I don't know if it's because it was the first, or just because it was an engaging room, but this one is my favourite.  I tried the second room, and managed to get about 80% through the room on a first attempt with a two-person team, which apparently is pretty good.  This location didn't have themes or plots involved in the rooms, but I really enjoyed the puzzles and definitely want to go back to try a room again.  They also have a location in Niagara Falls, which is a great idea.  This location has cameras to watch you attempt the room, and they communicate with you on a tablet, which is great for getting hints.

Exodus - Is located beside Centennial Hall in London, and seems to be the most popular location in London.  It's nice - the rooms have themes and are set up really well.  I tried the Professor's Den in a four-person team and wasn't able to beat it.  My biggest complaint with this location is that it's hard.  Like, it seems unnecessarily difficult.  The sweet spot for escape rooms seems to be an escape rate of about 20% and I think Exodus has a much lower rate.  I'm not keen to try this one again.

Escape Canada - This one is also in London, located on York Street near Wortley Road.  I really enjoyed this place - they seem to be opening new rooms all the time, and they had solid themes.  I did the Lost room in a two-person team and this was the first room I escaped.  My biggest complaint with the Lost room was that the puzzles were mostly opening things - a lot of "Open this case to get this so you can open another case."  There were some cool puzzles, but it wasn't as impressive as Adventure Rooms.  I would like to try their new Cabin Fever room, though.

Lost City - Located on Kipps Lane in London, this one is a bit of an outlier.  I wanted to try this location because I got to go for free on my birthday.  We attempted Castle in the Sky in a two-person team, and we beat it.  This place was pretty fun - there was a puzzle right on the front door that had to be solved before you even got into the building.  The room itself was okay - we were in the dark using flashlights though, which seemed to be unnecessary.  The plots and themes of the room were a bit weird too - like, Castle in the Sky?  What does that even mean?  The worst part was that we had solved the final puzzle, which released the lock on the door, but we didn't even realize it.  So we finally had to use the walkie-talkie to ask what we were supposed to do, and they told us we had actually unlocked the room and could just walk out.  We still beat the room, but it was a little underwhelming at the end.  It still had some cool puzzles that I hadn't seen before though.

Mystery Escape - I haven't yet tried this location, which is on Waterloo Street in London.  It seems pretty cool though, since it's in one of those lovely old houses.  They have a lot of different themes, which I dig, but a lot of the rooms seem to be geared towards larger groups, and I prefer a two-person team if possible.  This one is the next location on my list that I would like to check out.

Escape Castle Dracula - Who knew there was actually an escape room in Strathroy?  This one is apparently located very close to my house, which is super weird.  I'm pretty sure that it's just in someone's basement, and I'm somewhat wary that it's just a trap and I'll end up in a new Saw movie or something.  I've messaged back and forth with the owner a little bit though, and they seem pretty on top of their game.

Here's some tips if you try an Escape Room...

  • Say things out loud.  This is my number one - say things out loud.  Even if it seems dumb, it can end up being useful.  In one room, I noticed that a there was a thermometer on the wall, but it was broken.  We later realized that it was fake and was holding a key.  Had I said, "Hey, this doesn't work" out loud, it might have triggered something with someone else in the room.  Just say what you find - you never know when someone else might know what to do with it.
  • Don't panic.  It's easy to get overwhelmed with nervous excitement and fumble or forget about things.  Try to go slowly and if you're getting frustrated, try to just move to another puzzle.
  • You know a clue when you see one.  The first room I tried, we WAY overthought everything.  Things like, "There's a production number on the bottom of this chair!  It must be a code for something!"  No.  Clues are deliberate - you know them when you see them.  Don't get caught up by red herrings.
  • Don't be afraid to use the hints.  Every location I've tried has had a system for help or hints.  Adventure Rooms had tablets to send you messages, and every other location had walkie-talkies.  At Adventure Rooms, we kept forgetting to use the tablet - to the point that the staff actually slid a note under the door to tell us to look at the damn tablet and get a hint so we could get on track.
  • Pay attention to the layout.  There was one room I tried (I won't say which one) that had a secret panel.  I didn't immediately realize it, but if I had looked at the layout of the room, I would have realized that there was a wall where there shouldn't have been one.
  • Try everything.  I've had to roll up area rugs for clues, move pictures on hinges, read braille, fold origami, read music, and unlock a cellphone to solve puzzles.  The puzzles seem to really vary wildly and play off a lot of different skill sets - just keep trying things out, and eventually something will click!
  • Look for things that are unusual.  Things are very deliberate in an escape room, that's kind of the whole point.  See a clock that's stuck on a certain time?  It's probably a code for something.  A set of encyclopedias that's missing a volume?  That's important.  Put on your video game logic helmet and check out those unusual things.
I think that's about all the tips I can come up with - I'm far from an expert.  Like I said, I've tried four rooms and escaped two.  I definitely love trying them though - they're so weirdly addictive!  It's pretty nerdy, but seriously so much fun.  




Monday, 25 January 2016

Treats of the Week - Recycling Bin Wanted

Today was garbage day, which is always exciting, but today was especially exciting because it was also recycling day.  See, I only get recycling pickup every other week.  This wouldn't be so bad except we have the big wheelie bins here for the automated truck deals so once they're full, they're full.  I'm still playing catch-up from the holidays as far as my recycling goes, and I thought this was finally going to be the week where things got under control.  I actually came home from work excited to see an empty recycling bin at the road so I could fill it up with the scattered recyclables which have taken up residence in my garage and finally feel like I have some modicum of control over my life.  I came home from work to find my garbage bin sitting demurely by the side of the road, but no recycling bin.  Where a large wheelie recycling bin would disappear to is beyond me.  My neighbour still has a recycling bin sitting in front of their house, but I don't know if it's theirs or mine.  I could go to their house and ask, but that requires human contact and seems like a crazy plan.  I figure I'll just sit in my house and hope that this isn't a bad sign for the start of my week and maybe the bin will turn up in front of my house tomorrow morning.  A girl can dream.

And now, treats.

  • I'm rather rapidly turning into a crazy person who collects enamel pins.  But seriously, tell me how I was supposed to resist this Badass Peggy Olsen pin?



  • I was meeting my friend Lauren for lunch the other day and had to wait in the "no stopping" zone in front of her office building.  I sent her a text ("Get in, loser.  We're going for burritos.") and hoped she would be out quickly before some FedEx truck came along and started freaking out on me or something.  Luckily the nice gentleman parked (legally) in front of me knocked on my window and offered me his parking stub and spot since he was just leaving.  Yay for nice people!
  • I've been doing really well at the whole "Hang Shit Up" thing.  I even managed to tackle finally hanging up Vivian's height ruler in the kitchen - it only took a year.  I busted out my drill and level and everything!  It doesn't look straight here, but it actually is.  I think it's more because of the shadow and the fact that I can't take a picture straight.


  • I did a little bit of wandering this weekend and found this lovely lady at Memory Lane.  What a special time it was when you could put naked women on a calendar for a grocery store.  I really wanted to take her home, but she was $95.



  • Kimberly and I went to see the So You Think You Can Dance live tour this week and it was so much fun!  They did all the dances we were hoping to see from last season and even had some new stuff.  Hailee was insane - she was in practically every number!
  • Saturday was a trip to Brown & Dickson with the dude to see a live magazine.  What's a live magazine, you ask?  Well it's a pretty unique event that Brown & Dickson came up with that consists of live interviews/music/storytelling/reviews.  Basically anything you might read in a magazine, but performed live.  It was super cool - I really dug it.  Luckily if you didn't make it out for the first issue they're planning on doing it every month!  Keep an eye out for the next edition of Kangaroo Variety.



  • I tore through the first two seasons of Mozart in the Jungle this week - almost makes me want to go back to my French Horn days!
  • This is not a drill - The Land of Nod is doing a line of bedding and housewares inspired by the art of Charley Harper.  I need all the things.


  • Snoop is coming to London in a couple of weeks and I've got my tickets!  Love those concert announcements to keep the winter blahs away!
Wish me luck with my recycling bin, you guys.  

Monday, 18 January 2016

Treats of the Week - Blue Monday

Today is Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year.  Sounds about right, if you ask me.  It's cold and wet and miserable and even though it's only been winter for about 45 minutes, I've had enough of it.  Vivian is losing mittens at an alarming rate, and I already hate having to carry my "inside shoes" to work.  The best way to cure the winter blues is always treats!

  • I finally found my way to Yardigans this week after hearing so many recommendations!  I was really impressed - there's so much stuff there and it's all really reasonably priced.  It seems to be more and more difficult to find furniture at thrift stores, but they had loads here!  I was pretty partial to this campaign-style end table.


  • The Oscar nominations have been announced and I could not be happier to see Mad Max: Fury Road with 10 nominations!  I've got a lot of viewing to do before February 28th - we watched The Big Short on the weekend though and I loved it!
  • Another way to get through the winter blues?  By downloading Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on my phone, obvi.


  • I love, love, love The Last Man on Earth, and this picture of Will Forte has me dying to see some new eps!


  • I've been considering changing my chalkboard backsplash because I just wasn't using it and it felt so "I just discovered Pinterest in 2011" to me.  But lately I've been using it, mostly to make little jokes to myself so I might keep it around.



  • I ordered some pins from Do Not Disturb ages ago and have been nervously tracking their delivery progress online as they made their way from LA to Mississauga to Richmond, BC for some unknown reason.  Finally they arrived today and I'm so happy with them!  


  • Wintertime seems to be podcast time for me, and since Serial has decided to only post a new episode every other week (ughhhhhh) I've been spending a lot of time listening to Guys We Fucked.  It's definitely not for everyone, but I dig the honest discussions and stories from comedians.  If you need something fun to listen to, check it out!
  • We tried to take some cousin pictures yesterday, and this was about as good as it got out of probably 20 pictures.  Brody is getting so big, and both of the girls just adore him.


I know there's something I'm forgetting, and I'll probably remember it as soon as I publish this post.  Oh well.  Lots to look forward to this week though - including going to see So You Think You Can Dance on Thursday (thanks, Kimberly!) and going to see a live magazine on Saturday (should be interesting!)

Have a week!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Nice Things on the Internet

Sometimes I kind of forget that people read this blog other than people who know me in real life.  Every now and then the reality of the Interwebs kicks in and I am reminded that indeed all the dumb things I write are available to people all over the world.  I try not to think about it too much though, wouldn't want to self-censure.

Once a woman in Australia wanted to buy the vintage Rainbow Bright sheets I use as curtains in Vivian's room.  I politely declined.

Another time, a woman in Australia wanted some of the Sarah Richardson paint chips, which I happily mailed to her.  (Apparently I'm big in Australia.)

Someone in England bought one of my old purses.

Someone else has tried to purchase a pair of my shoes.  (This was possibly a creep.)

Someone in Toronto wanted to buy my vintage Air Canada bag.  Again I had to politely decline, but I keep my eye out for one for her.

The most recent instance of the Interwebs reaching out to me came just yesterday, when a lovely woman commented on my blog post about the CFPL Radio Print series, which I have begun collecting.  Her mother has passed away, and she's trying to clear out some of the smaller items.  She Googled the prints to see if they had any value, and came across my blog about them.  She was kind enough to comment asking if I would be interested in any of them, and of course I was happy to accept!  She had prints of the Country Courthouse, Middlsex College, Eldon House, and St. Peter's Basilica.  The Basilica was the only one I hadn't yet found, so I stopped by her place today after work to retrieve it.  I was thrilled to add it to my collection, and she was pleased it was going to a happy home.  Hooray for nice things on the Internet!

Monday, 11 January 2016

Treats of the Week - Stardust

Like many people, my morning started off by learning of David Bowie's passing.  It still seems so unbelievable - he seemed untouchable, somehow.  It's awful to see him go, but what a gift he's left us with his final album.  He truly was too good for this world, and we were lucky to have him for as long as we did.


  • I finished season 2 of You're the Worst this week and holy crap - I love it so much.  The first season is pretty light and funny, and the second season starts off the same way but weaves in a really heartbreaking plot about dealing with depression in a relationship.  Seriously, it's so good.  Go watch it.
  • I'm way behind on my comic book reading (as usual) but I had to add this new title to my bag after seeing Dustin Nguyen's beautiful art for the cover of the first issue!


  • LOOK HOW CUTE MY NEPHEW IS


  • I'm so freaking lucky that King of the Pigs has a Strathroy location!  We got takeout on Thursday night and it was bonkers good.  The Portuguese sure know their way around chicken.
  • My friend Kimberly invited me to go see So You Think You Can Dance live in London in a couple of weeks!  Hooray for fun plans in cold months.
  • Can't wait to watch the new documentary Je Suis Charlie now on Netflix.


  • I published my 1000th post last week - sometimes I can't believe that I've stuck with the blog this long.


  • It was back to classes this week - Policy Process in Local Government and Local Government Management.  Try to contain yourselves.  I was actually stressing about the workload this semester, but after going through the course outlines with the profs it seems pretty manageable.  Plus we have the benefit of knowing each other a little more this semester, so it was great to see my classmates again.
  • Super adorable trip to Qdoba.



  • It was games night this past Saturday night!  I'm terrible at games for the most part, but it's always nice to just have some snacks and drinks with friends.
  • I actually got around to hanging some shit up - one of my tangible goals for 2016!  It was only a couple of things, but I'm working away at it!
  • the LA Mood Graphic Novel Group had the annual pitch session where we set up our reading for the whole year.  I can't wait to get started, even though I usually don't read anything until the night before!  We meet on the second Saturday of every month at 11:00 a.m. and anyone is welcome to join.  Let me know if you want to check it out!


Do the Starman proud guys - crank his music and be weird!

Friday, 8 January 2016

Weirdos and Basket Cases

This is my 1000th blog post.  I figured it made sense to write about this topic for this post, since I've been meaning to get around to it for some time and I was stressing about something appropriate to mark this occasion.  When I started this blog it was August 2009.  I was engaged and living in a small apartment in London.  Now, my life is totally different.  I have Vivian, I live in Strathroy, I have a cool dude in my life.  Those drastic changes in my life have unfolded to some degree over these 1000 posts.  I love this blog.  It's not always as clever or as fancy as I'd like it to be, but I've stuck with it this long, and people still tell me that they read and appreciate my outlook on things, and for that I'm forever grateful. 


For this 1000th post, I thought I would write about a change I made a few months ago.  I've always been quirky - a bit of a basket case at times.  I've written before about my quirks - how I don't like unfamiliar convenience stores, how I count stairs whenever I go up or down a flight, how I like my rituals, how organizing things calms me down.  And all of that is fine - we're all weirdos in our own way.  After I had Vivian, things were a bit harder.  If I'm being honest with myself, I probably had a postpartum depression, and I didn't do anything about it.  It was a rough couple of years, but I'm stubborn and spiteful and have a hard time asking for help.  It wasn't until this October, when I was dealing with the aftermath of the strike, being in school part-time, freelancing part-time, working full-time, and trying to be a mom/daughter/friend/coworker/girlfriend that things started to really pile up.  I didn't feel like myself.  I didn't feel like I was reacting to things in the way I should.  I was obsessing over conversations that had taken place weeks and months ago.  I felt overwhelmed and impatient.  At one point there was a phone call I needed to make, and I didn't want to do it.  I don't like talking on the phone at the best of times.  This wasn't a scary phone call - just a normal one.  I wasn't in trouble or anything, and yet I just didn't want to do it.  I avoided it for days, and then finally decided it needed to happen on a specific day.  When that day came, I set parameters and rules for myself.


"It's too early to call - I'll wait until after 10:00 a.m."
"I'll finish this off, then I'll call."
"I'll call after lunch."
"I'll call at 3:00 p.m.."
"I'll call at 3:15 p.m."
"It's 3:16, I can't call now.  I'll wait until 3:30 p.m."


I knew I was being nutty.  I finally forced myself to make the phone call, but I knew I needed to make another call. 


Once I made an appointment with my RN, she asked me what was going on.  I told her that I had already gone over and imagined this conversation in my head about 50 times in the last couple of days, if that gave her any indication of where I was at.  I was paranoid and anxious and tired.  She agreed that I was having a rough time - and it might just be situational because of the stress I was under, or it might just be me.  In any event, we decided that some medication would help.


I've been taking a low dose of Cipralex since October, and it's really helped.  I still feel like me - I'm still sensitive and neurotic and anxious and weird, but I feel like I have a handle on things.  I'm still doing all the same things, but I don't feel as overwhelmed.  I can manage my time better because I can focus on things more efficiently.  No more, "I only have an hour to do this.  That's not enough time to do anything!  I might as well do nothing!"  No scaring myself by reading conspiracy theories and No Sleep threads on Reddit because I feel anxious and want to have an outlet for it.  (When I'm anxious I often turn it into paranoia because I feel like it's better to have a reason.  This would often lead to me being afraid of going down to the basement by myself because I kept imagining what would happen if I walked down to the basement and there was someone sitting on the couch.  This kind of thinking isn't conducive to me getting laundry done, to say the least.) 


I feel good.  I feel like I can use my words and tell people when something is bothering me rather than bottling it up all the time.  I feel like things are doable, and nothing is ever as scary as it might appear.  I feel like myself. 


Why am I writing this?  It's certainly not for headpats or pity or anything like that.  I'm writing it because I know that everyone struggles with their anxieties and complexities to some degree.  And if it's really starting to get to you, there's no shame in popping that pill every day.  It's cool, we're all weird.  And hey, maybe you can manage anxiety with something else like colouring or exercise or meditation or Legos or puzzles or any number of things.  And that's awesome!  For me, for right now, this is helping.  Maybe when things settle down a bit I can focus on some other methods to stop being such a basket case.  But for right now, this is what works.  And that's cool, and I'm proud that I did something about it and so pleased that I had so many people who were cool with it and supportive about it.  Seriously, you wouldn't believe how many people told me, "Oh hey!  I take that too!"


We're all weirdos sometimes, but that's what can keep things interesting.  Take care of yourselves, friends!  I'm trying to take care of myself.  We'll see what changes may come over the next 1000 posts!

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Tangible Goals for 2016

I'm about as good at keeping resolutions as most people are.  I always have the best of intentions, but they're usually short lived.  What can I say?  I'm the worst.  This year, rather than making the typical resolutions (Take better care of myself!  Save money!  Be more active!) I figured I would put up some real, tangible goals for 2016.  Goals sounds better, doesn't it?  These aren't necessarily things that I resolve to change, it's more shit that needs to be DONE. 


  • Replace the roof.  Ugh, my poor roof.  I had every intention of doing it in the spring, but then the strike happened and I decided to continue to pay for the house under the roof and you know, eat and stuff.  The strike ruined those plans, so the roof absolutely needs to be done in 2016.  Yay for being a grown-up.
  • Hang shit up.  I have a terrible habit of buying posters and things and then never getting around to getting frames for them.  Sometimes even once they're in frames I still drag my heels on hanging shit up.  This is my current pile of "shit to hang on the walls".  I want to get it alllllll hung up this year.

  • See more comedy.  It seems like as I get older I go to fewer concerts and more comedy shows.  Comedy shows are awesome - they're super fun and usually fairly inexpensive.  Plus, you're expected to sit down, which is so nice.  I'd like to make more of an effort to go to comedy shows.  Okay, this is more resolutiony, but I'm still putting it here.
  • Paint the fucking table.  Hi, meet the coffee table that's been hanging around for over a year because I started to strip it and then decided that was too much work and now just want to paint it again. 

  • Get another tattoo.  Sorry, mom.  I got my typewriter when I started the DPA program in September and I would like to get another one when I finish the program in July.  There's a couple more tattoos I would like to get, so I would at least like to get one more in 2016.
  • Shop local/Shop small.  I have a terrible habit of finding super cool things online or in shops and walking away because the shipping costs too much or I don't think I should spend money on myself or something.  The thing is, I always love that stuff more.  This year I would like to make more of an effort to buy those things that are lingering on my wish lists, support the small local businesses in town that I love, and actually buy some things at craft fairs rather than just gazing longingly and petting things.  Support small businesses and artists, yo!
That seems like enough for me.  Of course my major priority of 2016 is finishing the DPA program - I have to complete my major research paper by July 29th.  It's looking like I'm not going to go into the MPA program this fall (I'll go back to it later when Vivian is a little older) but I may take a few more courses in 2016 just to keep padding that resume until I'm ready for a new position.  Hit me up with your resolutions/goals - let's go see some comedy together!




Monday, 4 January 2016

Treats of the Week - Hit the Snooze

Ugh, was today just the worst for everyone?  I swear I forgot how to even dress like a grown-up this morning.  My morning was spent hitting the snooze button every 10 minutes for close to an hour.  "Just another few minutes - I don't need to eat breakfast.  Just another few minutes - I can do my makeup at work!"  Needless to say, it's going to be a very long week trying to get back into the swing of things.

I hope 2016 has been better for all of you!


  • I rang in the new year with an evening in with friends.  I had Vivian this year, so it was pretty low-key.  Once she went to bed we busted out Nightmare - which I wanted so badly as a kid, but had never played.  It lost a little of its charm since we couldn't get the VCR to play and had to cast the video from YouTube, but it was still a pretty fun time.



The Gatekeeper was not made to be seen on a 50" plasma.

  • Like everyone else, I've been devouring the Netflix series Making a Murderer.  Of course I've spoiled myself and know how it ends, but it's been a great ride so far.  It fits right in with my little true crime documentary binge, since I finished The Jinx last week and am now working on The Staircase.
  • I also made it out to the movies to see Sisters and Hateful Eight.  Sisters was actually better than I was expecting, and it was nice to head out for a matinee and a visit with Jenn.  Hateful Eight had been plagued by such division among the critics, I was really anxious to see it.  While it's definitely not my favourite Tarantino, I fully enjoyed it.  It never dragged for me, and I enjoyed most of the dialogue.  It's a lot like And Then There Were None, which I love, so maybe that saved it for me.
  • While at these movies I also managed to score third and first place on TimePlay, so you know, I'm kind of a big deal.
  • I also managed to watch the Christmas special of Sherlock (look how much watching of things I can do when I'm not working or in school!) and I LOVED IT.  So great.  Maybe I was just so desperate for new Sherlock that I would have been satisfied with anything, but I thought it was a really wonderful episode.
  • I spent some time wandering around Chapters the other day, where I took pictures of the books that interested me so I could remember to go back for them some other day when I'm not stupid broke and can spend money on books and more notebooks that I don't need.  You know, like a normal person.







  • I fear I'm about to cross into some real Hipster Asshole territory and start collecting enamel pins.  I mean, they're just so cute!  And there's literally one for EVERYTHING.  Don't worry, I'll hold off on covering a jean jacket in buttons, pins, and patches...for now.


  • I've seen these before, but this week I got sucked into watching videos of the beautiful paper sculptures made by Li Hongbo and they're absolutely hypnotic.




  • Also in Hipster Asshole territory?  This anatomical model of a balloon animal.  Because obviously.


All right, friends, I need to go wrestle with my computer.  (Seriously, if anyone knows how to fix "This waveform audio format is unsupported by your audio driver" let me know.  I'll be  your best friend.)

I didn't make it to 1000 posts in 2015, but if I publish a couple of old posts languishing in my drafts folder, I should hit it this week!  So much randomness!