The Return to Paris, the Starred Review, an Upcoming Book Launch…and More!

Less than a month ago, I was strolling the streets of Paris once again, after two and a half years away. Needless to say, I am grateful to be able to travel again, grateful to be here, and just in general, I am trying not to take things for granted anymore (especially with everything going on in the world).

Paris, je t’aime

When I arrived in Paris after all that time away, my two best friends who live in France were waiting for me at the airport, and let me just say—when I hugged them tight and my eyes got misty, the ugliness of Charles De Gaulle Terminal 2A melted away, replaced with the vivid brushstrokes of raw and unfiltered joy.

The funny thing was, this trip wasn’t even about Paris at all. We’d planned the trip as a getaway to Sicily, our first jaunt together as the three musketeers. But would I pass on the chance to fly in and out of Paris, and spend a few days in the city that has my heart? Of course-fucking-not.

I will write about Sicily another time (and I still have to write about the wondrous time that was had in Puglia in 2019, and in Slovenia the year before that), but for now I can confirm that Paris is as glorious as ever, fresh croissant are as flaky (and chewy) as ever, “wine on a terrace” life continues to thrive (thank god), and walking 20,000+ steps a day still feels normal and essential when in Paris (although I had to stop at the foot of Sacré Coeur on the second day in Paris by mid afternoon, to apply a bandage to a bourgeoning blister). I can also confirm that leaning on the bridge at the Seine River at night, and watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle while you’re arm-in-arm with your BFF, is still as glorious as ever. It simply never gets old.

There are also those hilarious and unexpected moments—which still seem to occur despite this being my ninth time in Paris—and this latest one happened in Montmartre, after a long walk, a lot of stairs, and an intense need for a late afternoon drink on a terrace. It happened across the pedestrian street, where in plain view (and full earshot), a Frenchman with an accordion seated by the curb, was full on shouting expletives at the woman at a table just a few feet away. She, meanwhile, was smoking her cig and muttering some things, not giving a shit at all. From what we could surmise, she had said something to provoke him—not that it should excuse his aggressive outburst. She probably called out his terrible music (justified), and when the waiter in his crisp white shirt and black apron arrived on the scene to break things up, he actually, kind of…didn’t break up anything at all. He seemed as disengaged as the woman, staying on theme of giving very little shits, despite the fact that a rowdy situation was unfolding at his literal workplace. It’s France, you guys. Needless to say, the curbside cobblestoned theatre made every sip of my drink taste better, and every laugh between myself and my pals even louder. I love Paris.

Here are some photos from my whirlwind return to beautiful Paris (with a second return just a few weeks away—more on that in the next edition).

Less than 3 weeks until the launch of 24 Hours in Paris!

Meanwhile, I have a novel about Paris that will be releasing online and in bookstores in less than three weeks, so now’s a good time to talk about the many (many!) things that have happened since I last wrote about the book deal.

The starred review a.k.a. holy shit

The first thing—which shocked me and filled me with joy—was receiving not only a Publishers Weekly starred review for 24 Hours in Paris, but a review so positive, it blew my mind and the minds of multiple people on my team who have worked in the traditional publishing industry for years. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I come from the self-published world, so to receive a review like that for my traditionally published debut? It made me feel like I wasn’t wrong for believing in myself for all those years when I was a self-published party of one (and it made me grateful for the people in my life who always believed in me too). Here’s a link to the review and you can also read it below:

The physical book a.k.a. also holy shit

Receiving my author copies and getting to hold the book in my hands—the result of 86,000 words written, structurally-edited, line-edited (twice), copy-edited, and proofread within nine months with a full-time copywriting job to boot—well…it was a monumental thing. It also closely aligned with my birthday, so naturally I had to celebrate.

Preorders (and no rest for the type-A dreamers)

It would’ve been great to be like “I got a starred review, I’m launching a book in a month, time to chill out and bask in my success, suckas!”, but anyone who knows anything about publishing knows you have to scrape and claw to find success in an extremely saturated market, even when you’re traditionally published. You also probably know that the traditional publishing industry has historically ignored POC writers, and even though efforts are being made to fix that, the industry is still years behind other mediums like streaming services, which are finally giving more POC-led artistic endeavours a chance (which has resulted in the opportunity to binge-watch some of the best and most memorable shows in recent years with POC characters and creators at the forefront—see that, industries? You’ve been missing out!)

As a POC author with a novel that is led by a POC protagonist, I feel immense pressure not to fuck this up. I’ve spent over a decade trying to make my mark in writing books, and I finally have the chance to be on a broader stage, to have the kind of exposure I never would’ve had as a self-published author. With this opportunity before me, I don’t want my book release to barely make a dent and be quickly forgotten. I don’t want to fail and then give ammo to the ones in powerful positions, the ones who still wrongly believe that “diversity doesn’t sell.” I want the book that I wrote from my heart—the one that doesn’t use POC characters as tokens, but rather as complex people with hopes and flaws and desires and dreams (because hello—we are human beings too)—to be successful!

No pressure, right?

For the reasons above, my mind won’t rest, nor will my colour-coded marketing content calendar that I continually update in Google Sheets, even though I know my publisher is helping me too. I have lost my mind.

The good thing is, all the thinking and planning and communication has resulted in a good level of social engagement, and even some conversion into preorder sales, which are another new aspect I didn’t experience in the solo self-publishing world.

I’m told that preorders are very important, to drum up demand and help bookstores—and libraries—see that your book is an exciting story, a cool-ass thing they should be stocking up on ASAP. I can’t control every aspect of this preorder thing, but thank you to the many on social media who have preordered my book thus far. It is very appreciated, and if you haven’t had a chance to preorder 24 Hours in Paris but are interested in doing so (or would like to order another copy for a friend), all of the purchase links are here.

A first podcast interview and hating my voice

I mean…the subheading pretty much sums it up. It was an absolute thrill to be invited on This Podcast Needs a Title, for an amazing talk about publishing, random stuff like Jurassic Park and Seinfeld, and of course my upcoming book. It was such a thrill, in fact, that I’m not even embarrassed to share the link (which contains my ridiculous Canadian voice that kind of sounds like a 1990s valley girl). You can listen to episode 21 on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Just when I thought the starred review was the pinnacle…

So…every year, the Publishers Weekly staff decides on their “Best Books Summer Reads 2022” list. Somehow…me, just the debut author girl from the self-published world, was the TOP FREAKIN’ ROMANCE PICK OUT OF ONLY FIVE ROMANCE BOOKS CHOSEN! This happened two days ago. I’m still buzzing about it. You can see the list here, and here’s what they said about why it’s a great summer read.

And to be exact: two weeks and four days ’til the book launch (yes, I’m counting)

I’m tired, but it’s the glorious tiredness of watching a lifelong dream take shape. In the next two weeks and four days (as of midnight), I’ll be keeping my head above water at the full-time copywriting gig, sharing sneak peeks and tidbits about the book on Twitter/Instagram/TikTok (you can find me on all those channels at the username “romimoondi”), and finally, on May 10th (a.k.a. release day), I will be giving myself a moment to take a break, soak it all in, and ENJOY IT.

Until then, follow along on social media, and thanks for coming by and reading this blog, this thing that in the world now ruled by Gen Z, feels as archaic as Fred Flintstone ordering a brontosaurus burger (at the drive-in he arrived at by peddling his stone-made car with his fucking bare feet. Young people scare me).

More to come after the launch!

À bientôt,

Bookending 2021 with: A Book Deal, and a Freakin’ Finished Manuscript!

It was mid-January 2021.

I was doing really well with my New Year’s resolutions, primarily because I hadn’t made any (don’t we have enough to deal with already, without trying to be even better? I’ll just keep being true to myself, thank you very much).

And then, I got the email. Less than a week later, it led to the official video call:

A book deal!

In my post back in August, I described the whole glorious and daunting thing, so I’ll pick up where I left things, and tell you what’s been going on since then.

The book cover

What I love about working with Wattpad (among many things), is how much they’re willing to involve me in the process. They gave me the opportunity to fill out a book cover brief in advance, detailing all the elements I was hoping to see, and flagging all the elements that usually make me vomit when I see romantic comedy book covers (the couple making out, the woman being so dolled up it’s completely unrelatable, etc.). That didn’t mean I’d get everything I wanted—since the final decision is not mine to make—it simply meant that my input would be considered, which was nice.

I suspect most publishers offer that initial input, but what followed is what really made me feel like they value my thoughts. The book cover went through a couple of iterations that were vastly different from one another, and remarkably, I was able to give detailed feedback on each one. In the end, when I compared the final cover to my original brief, it was so heartening to see how well it lined up with what I wanted—along with some cool direction from the sales team, on what they feel will be appealing on physical bookshelves and online.

Anyway, ta-da!

As a woman of colour (please read that in Mindy Kaling’s voice), it’s so wonderful to see “POC-ness” reflected on a romcom book cover, because a quick scroll online will tell you that it doesn’t happen often enough. It especially doesn’t happen often enough in a way that doesn’t feel like tokenism.

On that note, I am so thankful to Wattpad Books for at no point pushing me into making the character seem Indian in a stereotypical way on the book cover. That, in turn, has allowed the cover to more accurately reflect what’s inside the book. My main character—like myself—has a South Asian (specifically Indian) background, but she—as well as I—don’t spend weekdays guzzling chutney or weeknights sashaying around in fancy embroidered saris. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my culture, but it’s a part of me, not all of me. That’s the same level of realness I aim to bring to the stories I write these days, whereas in the past, my self-published books were admittedly more entrenched in Indian culture. I suppose that happened because the books of the past were a vivid reflection of my life back then—i.e. the plot of the first book was literally about avoiding an arranged marriage, hashtag awkwardly relatable.

It was great working through all that shit back then (what fun!), but now I’ve settled into the everyday reality of being a brown girl in a North American world; it’s the world that reflects being light-hearted yet dramatic, multi-faceted yet obsessive, westernized yet culturally diverse, and messy as fuck!

The main character in 24 Hours in Paris has a cutting sense of humour, is obsessed with the City of Light, deeply believes in wearing casual clothes and flat shoes for touristy endeavours, enjoys wine, and is horny for scenic picnics (aren’t we all?). She’s also reeling from the recent upheaval of her personal life, and when the book comes out, you’ll be able to read all about it. In short, the cover reflects the reality of the character, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Oh yeah, there’s a guy on the book cover too, and while I certainly endorse him as a worthy male lead, we all know who the real star is (just sayin’).

The two of them are Mira and Jake, or Mira then Jake, or me before you, or whatever encompasses the woman being dominant and way more important (haha kidding, equality, yay!). Yes, these are your two romantic leads in 24 Hours in Paris. And yes, you’ll be able to read entire chapters from each of their perspectives.

And…*drumroll*…you’ll get to follow them around for a twenty-four-hour romantic Parisian adventure on May 10th!

The book release date

24 Hours in Paris will be online and in bookstores on May 10th! I know, I just said that, but it bears repeating, as it’s a pretty exciting fucking thing. You can preorder the book at Indigo and Amazon in Canada, at Barnes and Noble and Amazon in the US, and at Amazon in the UK. You can also preorder it directly from Wattpad if you’re in the US. It will also be available at independent bookstores and libraries in North America on May 10th, and if becomes available anywhere else, I’ll let you know on social media.

Physical advance reader copies

As you’ll recall from my last post, signing this book deal meant an overhaul; a total re-outline and a page-one rewrite to transform these characters from college students in the original story, to seasoned adults who have been through some shit in the reboot. I don’t even know how I re-did the outline and finished that draft by the end of July (after only beginning the process in April), but somehow I got there, and somehow, after one structural edit, a line edit, and then a final line edit (which my obsessive ass relished every minute of), we have a cleaned up version that is going into final copy edits as we speak—and, more importantly, that is now available on NetGalley for reviewers to request!

That last edit was completed, oh, five days ago (I’m still sweating), and we needed to hit those deadlines so we could make physical, juicy, advance-reader copies, because yes, I have been told that due to the exciting sales potential of this book, the marketing and sales team want physical advance reader copies; yay!

And so, if you’re a book reviewer on Instagram, TikTok, a blog, YouTube (or some other platform my withered old self hasn’t heard of), and you’re looking for a different kind of rom com, you can request a free review copy on NetGalley now.

Where I’m at now

Like I said, it’s been a mere five days since completing the 2021 book-deal-rollercoaster that kicked off in January. I’m definitely still sweating and my brain’s a little fried, but I’m here. Upon reflection, perhaps things would’ve been easier if I hadn’t embarked on extra obsessive things that weren’t part of the contract. Things like doing an 8-page marketing plan complete with a table of contents, so the publisher would know exactly where my head was at, to maximize collaboration. Or things like launching a weekly #24QuotesFrom24HoursInParis on both Twitter and TikTok. If not for those things, I likely would’ve had a little more energy on this Monday evening of December 20th, 2021.

But I am who I am, super extra all the time.

Despite my deep-rooted character traits, I’ve managed to stay involved in the usual human things.

Bringing back the bold lip and feeling fancy

The 2020 version of the holidays was horrid, and even though these holidays, while briefly wild and free, are retreating into that limited-gathering landscape, I’m impressed that I was able to freshen up my sweaty self long enough to slather on a bold dark lip, and even have some fancy-bar fun (on multiple nights, no less; just wild!).

The love of baking lives on

No one would have blamed me for skipping out on the baking this year, and yet, this past Saturday, I found myself spending nine freakin’ hours in the kitchen, baking all the things. I suppose it’s okay for one to feel occasionally exhausted by one’s endeavours, if said endeavours align with the things one loves. I believe this applies to baking just as much as writing.

And so, here we are, at the end of another up-and-down year.

While I’d love for you to now preorder my book—as the pre-launch demand helps authors very much‚ please only do so if you have some extra budget after helping out your favourite charities. Because, after all, it’s the season of giving. If you need some ideas on where to direct your donations, my post from last December can help you get started.

And with that, I bid farewell to 2021. It was a challenging year for society as a whole, but I’ll allow myself to say it was a special one personally, in terms of this lifelong book dream coming true.

I’m leaving the year feeling grateful, and even though I don’t really blog very often, I have a feeling I’ll have more to say before the launch of 24 Hours in Paris on May 10th.

Be well, and stay tuned,

It’s Been Busy + A Book Deal!

The last time I wrote in this seemingly archaic format (I’m just a blog girl living in a TikTok world), I was reflecting back on a humanity-changing year, whilst sharing a list of ways to give back.

But now, the giving back is over. That’s right, ME before EVERYONE, thank you very much.

Correction: it is always a good idea to give back if one is able to, even if it’s out of annoyance, i.e. my Red Cross donation yesterday stemmed not from a desire to help out (just being honest), but as a way to get Red Cross Canada to stop calling me multiple times a week, which is what they’ve been doing since I last donated. Do they not realize that the biggest perk of donating online is to never have to speak to a human? I was so turned off by the frequent calls, sometimes during business hours, that I almost vowed to never donate to Red Cross again. Luckily, I realized that the people in need are not to be punished for the sins of the Red Cross employee—or volunteer—handbook, which apparently requires an overzealous frequency of calls. Anyway, I hope they’ll never call me again; just take my money and leave me alone.

Now that I sufficiently sound like the grumpy old man who sends handwritten complaint letters to companies that have wronged him, I HAVE SOME WONDERFUL NEWS TO SHARE!

(This news has been extensively shared on social media, so if you’re familiar with said news, feel free to skip ahead to the juicy teaser)

This year started off with a bang, in the form of being offered a book deal from Wattpad Books, specifically from their new imprint W by Wattpad Books, which will specialize in women’s fiction.

It was something I didn’t see coming, because after years of self-publishing and screenwriting and ad copywriting, I was, at the time, existing in that magical space of not really worrying about what came next, and simply writing fiction for the fun of it.

But isn’t that when the magic usually happens? When you’re focusing on the joy of it, instead of on the outcome?

I shared the news publicly in April, and had always intended to share it on this blog—where my writing dreams were born—but somehow the subsequent four months passed by in a flash. I think that had everything to do with the fact that the story in question, the one that got deal, needed a full re-outline and a page-one rewrite, all of which needed to occur within this four-month timeframe.

This is not the typical trajectory of a traditional book deal, but let me tell you: I couldn’t have been more thrilled by the prospect of a shit-load of work. Why, you ask? Well, the story in question, 24 Hours In Paris, was a story that was born on Wattpad, a rom-com story of college-aged students on a school trip. This new imprint, however, is focused on adult women’s fiction, and so, when I was asked if I’d be willing to age up the story…I WAS THRILLED!

If you know my writing, you know that 95% of my characters are a bit older than college students, especially in my most recent stories. They’ve lived through some shit, they’ve seen some shit, and even if they’re a little frayed at the edges, they still dare to dream and love. And so, to have the chance to take one of my favourite story concepts (it really takes place over 24 hours!), and age it up to my favourite demographic? It was the best news I ever could’ve heard.

But as I said, it meant a shit-load of work.

With full-time ad copywriting hours serving as my biggest obstacle, I squeezed in a full re-outline of the book over a 4-week period. Then, over the following 12 weeks, I squeezed in 28 chapters or 78,000 words, along with my own line edits and copy edits, for a brand new draft that—once it’s all polished and done—will be shared with the world in print and e-book form in May 2022.

I wrote the original 24 Hours In Paris nearly six years ago, and I’m so proud of how much my writing has changed in that time, based on personal growth, new sources of inspiration, and lived experiences. If you’ve read the original 24 Hours In Paris, consider this a whole new book, and one that I hope you’ll enjoy once it sees the light of day.

In the meantime, I figured I’d take some inspiration from Emily Henry, and share a little in-progress teaser from the book—and yes, we both have romantic comedy new releases coming out in May 2022. Will mine be as popular as the latest from the aforementioned international bestselling author, who has probably sold millions of copies? I mean…obviously?

(I didn’t make it this far without delusions of grandeur)

I’ll leave you with this teaser that introduces you to our two main characters, and without giving too much away, I’ll also say this about the book: this one’s for the ones who love Paris…for the ones who are excited to see a person of colour as the woman protagonist (!)…for the ones who love the urgency of a 24-hour running clock…and for the ones who like entire chapters written from the man’s prospective (yes, that will happen, and yes, that is a first for me!)

Read on below and enjoy. I’ll be back sometime soon with the book cover reveal—I saw some sketches today, and I love the direction it’s going in!

À bientôt,

‘Tis the Season (of Giving Back…)

No parties, no big holiday dinners where the bubbly keeps flowin’, no fancy outfits you had to frantically buy at the last minute, no Secret Santa gifts you have to purchase for some rando co-worker you don’t even like (that’s just a ‘for instance,’ I love everyone! *cough*), and it goes on and on…

If that list sounds familiar, then maybe you’re like me, in that maybe even after an unfathomable year that changed the world, it turns out that your ‘airing of the grievances’ during this year’s Festivus isn’t actually all that bad (come on, you watch Seinfeld don’t you? A Festivus for the rest of us!).

That doesn’t mean there aren’t highs and lows, and that doesn’t mean that on certain days it’s more than enough to simply get out of bed. Like you can literally still complain and be petty even if you’re really grateful. I mean I think you can still complain. I’m still waiting to find that out as I make my way through the bestselling book ‘Think Like a Monk‘ by Jay Shetty. Tell me Jay, can I look forward to a chapter entitled “How to Develop a Meditation Practice That Allows You to Still be a Petty Bitch Sometimes“? I really fucking hope so, Jay.

Until Jay gets back to us, in the Romi School of Philosophy you can:

1. Be a nice person and also make fun of things

2. Be more accepting while still being very unimpressed

3. Give something back to communities in need while still buying so many kinds of exfoliating masks that it would only be justifiable if you were an alien with a minimum of three different faces and three different skin types (dry, oily, and combination)

It’s true, I like exfoliating scrubs, sue me (the Darphin Paris one has these DIVINE exfoliating pearls…). Sometimes that’s just what a girl really needs to get through a ‘pandemic day,’ but I also know how extremely lucky I am to still be earning a pre-pandemic income. And so, with it being the season of giving, and with many of the usual December expenses not happening this year, why not do a little more giving than normal?

[Side note: if the exfoliating indulgence didn’t resonate with you, insert the most relevant alternative, like for example…hmm…a PS5? Yeah, I’ve been hearing a lot about the PS5, and if you want to buy yourself a PS5 right now to get through the rest of the year, you go girl! Although to be honest my ‘gaming’ allegiance will forever lie with Mario and Luigi and Toad and etc (yesterday I heard that they’re opening a Super Nintendo World theme park in Japan next year. Interesting, very interesting…I’ve never been to Japan…)

Okay…on to the giving!

Below you’ll find a list of some giving back ideas. These links may be more tailored to Canada (and to myself so I have a handy list to go back to throughout the month—oh what, you didn’t know this blog was my personal iPhone notes list?), but think of them as thought-starters to get you inspired for choosing causes and organization you care about!

Before I get to the list, let’s be real: there are SO many charities out there. It’s really overwhelming, right? And how much of my money is actually going to the cause? Am I lining the pockets of some shady CEO so he can line his stomach with a pile of shaved truffles on his omelet every morning? Is this an actual charity, or something on the level of a Nigerian prince that’s gonna send me a million dollars if I just send him all my bank account info?

I demand answers!

No matter what country you’re in, you can usually find out a lot about a charity with a little online research. I find Charity Intelligence Canada to be very handy in rating charities for financial transparency and how much of your dollar actually goes to the cause. My rule of thumb is to aim for at least 60 cents on every dollar, with administrative costs of 5% or less.

Okay, now to my handy list that is conveniently tailored to myself:

  1. Red Cross Canada. I’m starting with this one today because for ‘Giving Tuesday,’ your survival kit donation will be matched by SGI Canada! Why else? Well, Red Cross Canada is usually first on site to help out in emergencies both around the world and domestically, and that includes COVID-19 support where it’s most needed. And, 78 cents of every dollar you donate goes directly to the cause.
  2. The Daily Bread Food Bank Canada. What I like about this one is that it’s linked to over 130 local agencies across Canada, so if you’re struggling to narrow it down (it gets as specific as the neighbourhood sometimes), you can know that through Daily Bread, 77 cents of every dollar you donate will go directly to food supplies. With food banks being relied on a lot more during this pandemic, any food bank you can donate to would appreciate it!
  3. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. CAMH is Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital and one of the world’s leading research centres. The centre is dedicated to suicide prevention, and I have to admit, I’ve been ignorant towards how essential it is to provide care and support upfront to prevent this tragic outcome (especially during a year as difficult as this one). I’ve been learning more through my best friend from high school who’s doing incredible work at the centre as a leading psychiatrist and researcher. From a donation standpoint, 84 cents of every dollar goes directly to the CAMH programs.
  4. Canada Helps. Over 23,000 charities in Canada are linked to Canada Helps, and donations make their way to organizations fast via weekly bank deposits. You can tailor your donation to a specific cause or charity, and by paying the admin fee yourself (between 3% and 5%), 100% of your donated amount will go directly to the charity!
  5. Restaurants, yo. There isn’t a website link for that (at least I don’t think so), but we’re 9 months into this pandemic now, and even with government subsidies, rent relief packages, and takeout and delivery service, your favourite restaurants could really use some help! If you’re like me and your takeout consumption isn’t as frequent as you’d like, because maybe home cooked food has been good for your soul or maybe you’re worried about backin’ that ass up into jogging pants that won’t fit anymore (because you’ve been eating too much takeout), fear not, there are other ways to help! First, check out some restaurant websites to see if they do gift cards directly. If so, buy a gift card and save it for later! Or better yet, don’t use it at all and consider it a donation to a restaurant you love! If your resto of choice doesn’t appear to sell gift cards, then maybe there’s a plucky startup in your city like The Neighbourgood, which is a completely non-profit platform that sets up a gift card option for local restaurants and small businesses. I noticed that Rosalinda Restaurant (amazing vegan Mexican food!) is on The Neighbourgood, so I will definitely be purchasing a gift card to help keep them going. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Like there is hope right now, we are turning a corner, so it’s more important than ever to lift up the restaurants we love (and the ones we hope to try some day), to help ensure that they’ll be around when we can frolic and dine once again!
  6. Entertainment, yo. Maybe you’re in New York and it’s Broadway, or maybe it’s your local improv or a ballet company or an independent movie theatre or a live music venue. Whatever you enjoy, the industry that brought you all those laughs, tears, and heart-clutching happiness needs your help! About a year ago I went to my first ever show at Second City Toronto. It was a comedy sketch show called “If I Could Throwback Time” and it was SO funny. We laughed and laughed and laughed and couldn’t stop raving about it after. I just noticed that the Second City Toronto website sells gift cards. Enough said.
  7. Other small businesses, yo. My usual routine of supporting small businesses used to revolve around strolling through a neighbourhood and making new discoveries one little shop at a time. That’s not as easy to do when it’s winter and various stages of lockdown are in place, but that doesn’t mean we can’t support the cause—we can support it even more, in fact! It only takes a little bit of Googling to discover small business options for products you may have normally bought at a chain store, or to find convenient services that curate a variety of products. One such small business curation service is Toronto Market Co. It’s a virtual market with almost a hundred local small business vendors; all you have to do is fill up your online cart and they’ll deliver your order right to your door! This website has made it easier than ever to get delectable cheese from a local creamery, or handmade soaps, or small batch ice cream, or that perfect tapenade for your Christmas charcuterie board, or cinnamon bun spread (I need that in my life), or handmade pop tarts (also need that in my life), or Ontario caramelized onion spread (what is that and I need it!), or margarita pizzas from your favourite Toronto pizzeria that are ready-to-bake at your convenience (OF COURSE I need that in my life!), or, or, or… Imagine supporting ten small businesses in a single order, well worth the flat delivery fee!

Well there you have it, some thought-starters (and hopefully some inspiration) on giving back this season (if you’re able to of course, no judgment!). It’s true that every individual contribution makes a difference, but imagine if we all gave a little bit more than we usually do in this all important season of giving. Imagine what a difference that would make! Maybe your heart won’t grow three sizes like the Grinch, but why does the Grinch get such positive PR anyway? He literally stole all the presents before he gave them back. And then he got invited to dinner? That’s bullshit. The Grinch is like a billionaire who doesn’t pay taxes but then every year, coughs up a paltry sum to the vague ‘environment’ or something.

But that’s a story for another day.

Merry Christmas!

Things I’ve Been Doing (And Crazily Thinking About) In Quarantine

The last time I posted something on this blog was almost a year and a half ago, in what was a detailed account of a gluttonous jaunt throughout New York City. What a time that was! Crowding around with people on the Brooklyn Bridge on the way to the best pizza in Brooklyn, lining up for cronuts in Soho without any social distance, lining up for giant cookies on the Upper West Side without any social distance (a lot of my close-contact-with-other-humans involves consuming large quantities food; I am not ashamed).

I love New York, and after going there again only two months after the food-fest, I was thinking that in 2020 I would definitely need to go there again. Maybe in late Spring! I thought. I’ve never seen New York when everything’s in bloom…

Things obviously took a horrible turn not long after this springtime daydream, and New York, like so many other places around the world, has been going through a terrible time. Meanwhile, we’re about 6 weeks into the quarantine in Canada, and the main theme for many of us who are sheltering in place is how lucky we are, with a focus on giving back where we can (if you can spare it, check your local food bank as they probably take donations online!). Then there’s the gratitude, for all those essential workers who are doing the most to keep things going and help us find our way out of this. There’s also some degree of fear, but I’m sure you’ve all been dealing with enough of that yourselves, so I’ll skip that part.

The luck, gratitude, and fear is something that remains in orbit throughout the day; it’s there when I wake up, and it returns when I begin to fall a sleep at way-too-late of an hour.

The rest of the time though, my quarantined days have been marked by: consuming content (I recently watched American Graffiti–hot Harrison Ford barely had any screen time, false advertising!), taking on new cooking feats, grudgingly exercising due to consuming aforementioned cooking feats, being less-petty-than-pre-quarantine, but nonetheless a little bit petty still (as is a requirement for my existence), writing, engaging in more video calls with friends and family than ever before (a paradox of horrid and nice), trying to find the humor in things so I don’t go totally nuts, but then also self-examining and analyzing more than ever, resulting in a slow but inevitable descent into madness, hooray!

If you’re on social media, the normal way to experience the summary I’ve described would be to watch one of those clever videos, where people just talk to themselves and then edit themselves, so it looks like they’re doing many things in a humourous way. That’s a very cool way to go about it, but have I ever struck you as cool? If the blog itself wasn’t enough of an indication, my extreme deficiency in coolness is plastered all over the dorky way I just described the life of the video comedian or TikTok star, or however the fuck you would describe the current era of bite-sized humour.

I am, in fact, extremely old school, and in 2020, what is more old school than writing out a list of thoughts in completed sentences, on an online diary called a blog? (perhaps you would say “Well isn’t using a feather quill and parchment more ‘old school’? Hmm?” And to you I would say, shut your mouth with the smart-ass comments…)

This old school vibe now brings me to a list, a list of things I’ve been doing or randomly thinking about, ever since they told me to stay inside and wear pants with elastic waistbands.

And so, without further adieu…

Things I’ve Been Doing (And Crazily Thinking About) In Quarantine

Let’s get the embarrassing stuff out of the way first.

(Upon reflection, none of the below items reflect a total lack of embarrassment, but alas, we must proceed)

I’ve been doing a lot more personal video calls. Before Quarantine (B.Q.?), there were only one or two friends with whom I felt comfortable enough to share the full-frontal, uninhibited view of myself on a video call. I’m of course referring to the ‘triple-chin‘ view, we’re you’re reclined on the couch or in bed, and your phone is at that angle where it accentuates the most chins possible. Since quarantine, that tiny of circle has now expanded to several friends, all of whom have now been treated to the ‘triple chin’ view. There remain certain friends who don’t have access, and for them I will still sit upright in a chair, and for that I will not apologize. Frankly speaking, the ‘triple chin’ look is still somewhat private, and if society has any chance of recovering from this mess, some things must remain sacred.

I’ve been doing a lot more professional video calls. The company where I’ve been freelance copywriting is doing all their work remotely. My smaller team has a catch-up meeting every day, and our larger team does a meeting once a week. All of these meetings are conducted over video call. When I would go into the office on a normal day, I would be my usual normal self, and my normal ‘going outside’ persona is: some hair product, some makeup, and a consciously thought-out but casual outfit. Basically we’re talking about full-on glamour all the time. Or maybe a B-minus fashion grade. Whatever. So that was the outside look, but from the first video call and ever since, I haven’t been doing any of those things (except for that I still wear clothes, which are now usually hoodies etc.). The first time the larger team saw me on a video call, I’m pretty sure I witnessed some actual shuddering, or maybe the video was shaky (she tells herself). Or maybe I’m overanalyzing and they never even registered my appearance; like am I really so full of myself to believe they even think about me at all? ISN’T IT FUN TO OVER-ANALYZE IN QUARANTINE?! Just in case they were traumatized, when I see them in person again I’ll make sure to compensate with fake eyelashes, that ‘contouring blush thing’ the Kardashians do where it looks they have a different face, and perhaps a full-length wig. TBD.

I watched that Gal Gadot ‘Imagine’ video and almost puked. It’s been a while since it happened, but I’m still traumatized by the fact that a bunch of celebs got together to sing “Imagine a world with no hunger or possessions” as a way to make the lowly peasants feel better. Ugh, I’m still not ready to talk about it.

I almost spent $800 on a digital piano and leather bench. Hear me out. This was one or two weeks into quarantine, when I started to realize that this stay-at-home thing wasn’t ending anytime soon. I started to think about my lifelong bucket list, and while a lot of my travel dreams have been checked off the list (a list that will go on forever–I miss travelling!), I remembered that one of my grown up bucket list items is to learn how to play the piano. I know it’s a lot harder to learn as an adult versus learning as a child, but I’ve always been told that I have long fingers (why have I been told that at least a hundred times? That is creepy as fuck!). So I ask you, who am I to let these long dangly sausage fingers go to waste? That was my logic for being on the Best Buy website, and browsing an array of grown-up sized keyboards. The deeper I got into the rabbit hole, the more I decided I needed “weighted” keys, and so my searching progressed to the fancier ‘digital pianos.’ As I browsed this new niche of products, I decided that I needed a digital piano with one of those accompanying ‘gas pedals,’ or whatever those foot thingys do. I also needed somewhere to sit while I played, so obviously I added a sleek-looking leather piano bench to my online shopping cart. Once I was done, I moved to the next screen where it calculated the cost with tax, and that’s when I finally took a deep breath and realized: the economy is very uncertain right now, so maybe I shouldn’t be buying an $830 digital piano package. At least not right now. Someday though…these dangly fingers will finally get to play…(gross)

I’ve been cooking all kinds of things, and it’s been really therapeutic. I refrained from beginning this list by talking about food, lest you end up thinking I’m a one-dimensional food whore. The items mentioned above have obviously proven otherwise (a piano, wow, look how complex and worldly she is), and so, since it’s now crystal clear that my dimensions are vast, I can now get on with my favourite topic. When it comes to quarantine cooking, I totally understand why a lot of people haven’t been able to cook during these stressful times. It is certainly not a mandatory hobby, as each of us can only do what is best for ourselves (or the family, if you’re currently residing in a chaotic home that includes children). For myself, my stressed out brain seems to calm itself by diving in head first to cooking I’ve never tried, to deliciousness I’m craving, or to the science and thrill of wondering whether a recipe will work out great or taste like trash. My stress-therapy experiments have included making fresh ravioli for the first time, making baguettes (yep, I am one of those bread-making basic bitches), making chicken tikka masala flatbread from scratch (possibly my fave!), poaching an egg for the first time (it wasn’t easy!), baking a dark chocolate olive oil cake, and most recently, making fried chicken, biscuits and waffles. I almost screwed up the baguettes, and I had to wear gloves when I was frying the chicken because the droplets of oil felt too hot. Yes, I am a weak-ass little baby, but everything was flat-out delicious. You can see the full highlights on Instagram, and thank you to all who’ve been joining me on the Instagram-Story-Quarantine-Cooking-Adventures (your comments have been fun to read, and tomorrow is Chicken Tinga Taco Night)!

When I haven’t been cooking, I have eaten a shitload of chips. I think I’ve eaten at least 6 bags of chips in the first 6 weeks of quarantine, along with 2 bags of kettle corn (different categories!) Two of the bags of chips were ‘family size’, but in my piggish defense, I’m convinced that ‘family size’ bags have gotten smaller in recent years, whereas I’m highly suspicious that the price per gram has increased…I need Mulder and Scully to look into this. In the meantime, have you seen the new bags of Cool Ranch Doritos? They have extra seasoning, and it’s amazing.

Because of all the cooking and chips, I’ve been grudgingly finding ways to exercise. The original plan was, that 2020 was gonna be ‘a new decade, and a new me.’ I got myself a personal trainer and everything! He was great, and the long-term sins of pasta past were finally being abolished. And then the pandemic hit. To reference my thoughts at the beginning of the post, boy am I ever privileged and lucky, if one of my concerns isn’t seeing my personal trainer (you bougie bitch!). I recognize this, and I also recognize that with all of the cooking and consuming, and the bags of chips that I refuse to stop eating, if I don’t find a way to exercise, I will never be able to wear denim again (unless it’s in some sort of poncho form). My amazing trainer has been sending me exercises I can do at home, and I’ve also been doing some virtual classes, which I must confess, I was worried about at first; like if the tyrant can’t see me doing the moves, why would I even try? I’m just gonna eat this ravioli instead. Somehow though, the thought of all the bags of chips has made me haul my ass, so I am grateful. I’ve also gotten myself a skipping rope, and let me tell you, it was a harsh reality to learn that skipping for ‘cardio’ is a WHOLE lot different than casually skipping as an eight-year-old. Why didn’t anyone tell me that skipping on the spot for three minutes straight would practically break my legs? Rude.

I watched Ozark season 3. And I still haven’t recovered.

I’ve been writing. Since this blog post is turning into a full-length book (oops), I would certainly put it into the “writing” category, and I’ve also been adapting a screenplay of mine into a novel. This adaptation was not in my original 2020 plans,  but with all this extra time, I’ve had the chance to re-discover how fun it is to write in narrative form. I love actually getting inside the character’s thoughts, and adding background colour I couldn’t include in a script. I don’t have anything snarky to say about this, I’m just geeking out on writing and it feels pretty good!

I made my friends sing me ‘happy birthday’ on a video call. This forced act was exactly as horrifying and awkward and as off-key as you would imagine, but if you can’t make your friends awkwardly sing you ‘happy birthday’ in the midst of a pandemic, then what’s the point of having friends at all?

I’m fascinated by Instagram influencers trying to be sexy during quarantine. So…what do you do if that perfectly curated outfit is irrelevant in these quarantine times? It’s a tough question for a lot of Instagram influencers, those for whom the norm is to pose in the street in different outfits every day, but I’ve been fascinated to see how they’ve adapted. A lot of them have been trying to make loungewear seem inventive and hot. Like I never knew jogging pants could be so provocative and sexy. It’s inspirational.

I ordered a 1,000-piece puzzle of my favourite Van Gogh painting. This is possibly my favourite thing on the list, as the painting in this puzzle has a lot of sentimental value. Before I ever set foot in Paris, I ordered a print of this Van Gogh painting of a French café at night, and I would stare at it all the time. During those lengthy stares, I had no actual plans to ever go to France or Paris, I just hoped that maybe one day, after all the staring…I would just fall into the artwork somehow. In a way, I did. And many, many times after that. I can’t wait to geek out on this puzzle, but I can’t decide if I’ll be more efficient with several cups of tea, or with several glasses of wine. I guess I’ll just try it both ways and see.

I love random humour when I’m in quarantine. I pretty much love random humour all the time, but somehow it’s even funnier during these stressful times. My latest discovery was an EP from the hilarious comedian Chelsea Peretti. She’s actually released 5 well-produced songs with the most ridiculous and yet relatable lyrics. Mostly the songs are just about coffee, and it’s divine. One of the songs is called Oat Milk, if that’s any indication. Anyway, it’s amazing.

I’ve started feeding a squirrel. Since quarantine started, I looked into fostering a cat, but each time I tried to get myself a furry friend, it fell through. The failures felt like a sign, like maybe it was the universe’s way of trying to say: why don’t you instead feed this squirrel that probably has rabies? He’ll burn through your premium almond supply, but he will never show you a single ounce of gratitude. Isn’t that something you could use in your life? It started as the universe’s sick little joke, but now I’m in too deep. Now my squirrel will continue to get six premium almonds a day at the pre-determined time. Except…is there two of them? THAT’S RIGHT, last week I noticed TWO black squirrels scurrying around, so now I don’t actually know if I’m feeding the original squirrel, or if the second squirrel FOUND OUT about the almonds and took over. Has the second squirrel stolen the first squirrel’s lunch? Is he the bully on the playground? Am I enabling squirrel bullying? (Isn’t it fun to over-analyze during quarantine??!?!)

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Phew! Okay, is anyone still reading this or am I just talking to myself? I mean, the latter would be pretty on brand for quarantine, so it’s fine. What I wanted to say to you, or to myself, was that I started this post with the intention of telling the fun and random travel story from that time I went to Slovenia (since this is pretty much a travel blog these days). It would’ve been fun to reminiscence, but the topic went a little sideways, and now this post has long overstayed its welcome.

Maybe next time…