Sunday, February 28, 2010

I had plans to blog today...

...but then this happened...

...and I decided to go downtown and enjoy the celebrations instead. When I did finally get online, I spent the whole time chatting on facebook and twitter despite having this page open for the better part of two hours. C'est la vie. I had a lot to talk about (and not just hockey) but now it will have to wait.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cheese with a side of crazy

So I do my big bit about needing to watch what I eat a little bit closer and not giving into cravings every time one occurs and then I get an email from MySwitzerland today (another country for which I often feel great nostalgia) and the subject says "Grüezi, Do You Love Cheese?". What sort of question is that? Of course I love cheese. I lived in Switzerland, I believe it's therefore illegal for me to regard cheese with anything less than love. Asking me if I love cheese is like asking the PussyCat Dolls if they love skanky clothing. Duh! I open this email, knowing that it will taunt me with a picture and I find this:

It's my favourite type of cheese: melted! It also has my favourite cheese side dish: crusty French bread! Oh cruel fates, how dare you taunt me so. This was all made slightly worse by the fact that I decided I would not hold my annual winter fondue this year. Partially because I'm trying to be good about my food and there is no way to make a cheese fondue healthy, and partially because Spring has arrived and a fondue is very much a winter dish. Alas, My Switzerland, you do taunt me and now I kind of hate you. To take my mind off of cheese (specifically, cheese melted in wine) I threw on k.d. lang's rendition of Hallelujah and listened to it five times. I am a huge fan of Mr. Cohen, but her rendition wins me every time; I can't tell you how happy I was to hear that she sang it at the Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony. It did get my mind off the cheese, but it also made me very melancholy. Note to emo bands every where: listen to that song to really learn how to emote while singing. Better yet, just stop singing; you all really annoy me.

I think I might have some issues. The more I start doing active things, the more harebrained schemes (or "goals" as I like to call them, seems less... crazy) I come up with. I haven't even finished part one of my three year plan (do the Juan de Fuca) and I'm already thinking of things to do after I do the Chilkoot... three years from now. Or maybe I will fit these ideas in before then, I don't know, but I think someone needs to stop me from thinking up new ones. Or maybe I just need to write down a list of things to do in the next 10 years and then transpose it onto a stone tablet cut-to-size so I can't keep adding things to it. I could refer to them as my 10 commandments... assuming there's only 10.

Today's plan grew out of the fact that I have never really seen Wales. I have been to Ireland more times than I can count (well, that's not true, I've been there seven times averaging about 2 months a visit... I'm due for another one) and have travelled around England and Scotland, but other than the Holyhead to Manchester train I've never actually seen Wales. I looked out the train window and thought the countryside beautiful, I read the signs with the village names and wondered what the Welsh obsession with with 18 g's, w's and l's but only two vowels in a name is about, but I can't even point on a map where my B&B in Holyhead was. "Why not make it a point to climb Mt. Snowdon (pictured right)?" was the refrain that kept playing in my head as I walked to work.

The crazy just snowballed from there when I learned about the National Three Peaks Challenge in which people compete to complete the three highest mountains* in the UK in under 24 hours. Of course, people partaking in this challenge drive between the mountains, but what if you hiked it? Sure, it would take some time but wouldn't that be a fun trip? The I scrolled down and saw the Four, Five and Six Peak Challenge (although these are not official). "I've never been to the Isle of Mann," I thought to myself. "Wouldn't that be a fun adventure?" I then spent the better part of my work day flitting between work and trying to figure out if a) this idea's even feasible and b) am I really daft enough to do it? The short answers I came up with are yes and yes but perhaps I should look up other possibilites like public transit only or bike the parts 'in between' or some otherway to make it a bit less rushed than the 24 hours idea but not as insanely long as the 'walk the whole thing' idea. I can see I'm going to have to contemplate this a little bit more before I commit it to my 10 Commandments, but it's definitely being add to that list now!

*as a West Coast girl, I giggle calling these large hills 'mountains'. The highest peak is Ben Nevis at 1,344 metres. The 50th highest peak on Vancouver Island (nevermind in BC, on the Island) is still 500 metres higher than that. It's not that I assume they'd be easy because of their height (I know many smaller mountains that are much more physically or technically demanding than higher ones. Mt. Meru vs. Kili being a great example of that), but if that's the tallest peak in the mountain range, isn't it really just a bunch of foothills leading up to one smallish mountain?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nostalgia is the best seasoning

I know food is a big issue for me and I need to strive to make improvements in this area. I'm usually a fairly decent eater who loves to cook things from scratch, but I'm too willing to give into my cravings. A little bit here, a little bit there and it all adds up through out the day/week/month. My department at work is notorious for our food days, something we do almost bi-monthly, and as healthy as many of us try to be there's always someone who forgets and just picks up a bag of chips on his/her way in to work. Potato chips are my weakness as I love savory. I like sweet; I enjoy sweet. I love savory; I crave savory. To combat this on our last food day, I brought in nothing so I ate nothing. Well, that's not totally true; I was badgered into trying some guacamole. "It's the best you will have ever tasted." "It's heavenly; you have to try it." My coworkers were falling over themselves to compliment the guy who made it, and after the fifteenth time of being told to try it, I gave in. It was mediocre, at best. I faked an 'mmmmmmm', returned to my desk and was more than happy to ignore the table for the rest of the day after that waste of my taste buds.

So I know that food is an issue that I have to work on and what am I eating as I type this? Rice. White rice. Which I fried in oil after I cooked it. I have taken the unhealthiest rice option and made it worse. Why didn't I just serve it on a donut while I was at it? I have brown rice in the apartment (I actually prefer the taste of brown rice, I find white fairly bland... like the guacamole I mentioned above), but it had to be white rice and it had to be fried. I am having a nostalgia meal, and this meal takes me back to Tanzania and my roommate, K.

K and I met volunteering at the same orphanage outside of Arusha, TZ. We were roommates and immediately hit it off. When it came time for her to leave and continue on her travels, I took two weeks off to join her for part of it. We had a great time and by the time we hard parted ways, we had spent 51 days together. Because we were roommates, there was only 2 days that we were not together for 24 hours. Oh, how I wanted to go all the way to South Africa with her and when she extended the invitation it pained me to say no, but I had made a commitment to the orphanage that I had to honour. We've kept in touch through emails and the occasional letter, especially lately as she's thinking about coming out to Victoria/Vancouver this summer. In the meantime, she's off on another adventure; she's been in Egypt for a month and is about to cross into Jordan, and will make her way up to Turkey. After an exchange of emails about things to do when she's in Victoria (I suggested surf lessons up in Tofino, she thought that would be great... what have I gotten myself into?) I receive the following: We had so much fun travelling in Tanzania, why don't you come meet me in Turkey? That was it; just one simple sentence and I spend days dreaming about the idea.

I can't go to Turkey, not that I don't want to, but I've got school and a glaring lack of money staring me in the face. I turned down the offer and instead took a trip down memory lane. Not as exciting or glamorous as just packing up and heading off for adventure, but much cheaper and just as smile-inducing. That's were the fried rice comes in. See, we didn't have a microwave in our kitchen and K and I both had a horrible habit of cooking too much rice (they don't have brown rice in Tanzania... at least, not readibly available at the market. You have to go to the expensive "western shops" to get it), so breakfast often ended up being fried rice with a fried egg and a fried tomato (although I was the only one who had the fried tomato... Irish family) all cooked in Blue Band "spread" (a margarine product, what ever that means).

The good thing about K coming out to Victoria is that she's a very active person and it's giving me an added kick in the pants to get the food thing sorted and to stop letting exercises slip just because I'm doing something else (not nearly as) active. Now not only do I have the Juan de Fuca trail to do this year (in a matter of months--eek!) but now I'm probably going to have to do a pop-up on a surf board. That would be a heck of a lot easier if I'm carry around less weight. Come on self, you can do this... as soon as I finish my rice and fried egg dinner.

Addendum: K, incidentally, makes the best guacamole I have ever had. She'd make it and we'd eat it on toast for dinner.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shrove Tuesday Equals Pancakes

If it weren't for my cynicism towards organised religions in general, I would be a great Roman Catholic as I'm a sucker for traditions and ceremonies. I love traditions, I thrive on traditions and the Roman Catholic Church is awash with them. Although my BC family is Roman Catholic in name only (the Alberta and Ireland relatives still attend church with the regularity of Metamucil), there were some traditions we kept. Shrove Tuesday and its pancakes are a perfect example of one such tradition; we didn't have pancakes every Shrove Tuesday but often enough that I am determined to keep the tradition alive.

The French call it Mardi Gras or 'Fat Tuesday', the idea that this is the last day before Lent and you have to get rid of pretty much all the food in your house before the Lent fasting begins. (Yes, once upon a time Lent was a fast; now it's just a 'follow certain dietary rules for forty days but you can cheat on Sundays'.) Somehow this evolved into eating pancakes on the Tuesday (which is why some places refer to it as 'Pancake Tuesday') and who am I to argue with tradition? So today, I went whole hog and had banana and chocolate chip pancakes. Was it really in my eating plan? No. Did I enjoy it? Hells ya! Then I started thinking about how Shrove Tuesday leads into Lent but I never do anything for that; maybe this should be the year I give something up. I know Lent starts tomorrow, but I'm still debating exactly what I'm willing to give up. Maybe I'll wake up and know the answer... or maybe Lent will just have to start a little late.

I made a good discovery this past weekend: I have reached that point where I have to work out. THR, my lovely running buddy without whom I don't think I would have reached this point, has had to pull out of running due to some health issues she's dealing with at the moment. I love her, I hope everything is sorted soon, and I miss her when I'm running, but I completely understand. Still, I was apprehensive because I know me, I can talk me out of pretty much anything. Would I let myself talk me out of my workout schedule? I tried to pre-emptively make things easier by changing my workout schedule so I'm not running a) in the dark and b) on the same nights as my African dance class. Monday night rolled around, normally a running night, and my body noticed when I didn't get up and head out the door. I started to get restless. I would wander into my kitchen for no reason and then wander back into the living room and check my email. My body was craving some excercise! I did eventually head out for a 20 minute walk but I was so happy; I don't need to worry about going solo, my body won't let me talk me out of it!

Anyway, I have tons more to say but  (as usual) this has taken me much longer than I planned (I have a really bad habit of doing this while doing other things... distraction does not a good blogger make!) but I did want to let you know that I'm going to be playing around with the layout and adding a few pages over the next little while so don't think you've gone crazy if you come and everything is all lime green. Actually, if it's lime green, you probably have gone crazy. I hate lime green.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Friday's Fantastic Flops

It's been a wild weeks of ups and downs for me at work, but I'm so happy to say that the week ended on an up. There is a problem person at work and they were dealt with; it's been a long time coming, but it has made for a fabulous start to the weekend. It also made for a slightly messy start to the weekend because this good news was greeted with an impromptu social outting with some of the work colleagues I do enjoy. Add to this that I had agreed to another skating session with AB. Apparently alcohol and skating are not the best combination, who knew? At least I wasn't actually drunk, just pleasantly buzzed, and the cold air helped me sober up pretty quickly.

AB had bought herself pretty new hockey skates and, and as I laced up my fabulous rented skates with one lace too long and the other not long enough, I felt that twinge of jealousy creep over me. I want new skates! No, scratch that, I want skates! Alas, being a student and being cheap, this is a purchase that will have to wait until the summer when I'm working fulltime and can justify it (and by justify, I mean 'pretend I have money to burn'). I looked around at our fellow skaters and felt a bit disappointed. Last week there had been a few older people, parents with younger kids mostly, but this week I was the oldest person by a dozen years, maybe even a baker's dozen. Great, just how I wanted to spend my Friday night when I'm buzzed.

Part of the problem with the group skates like this is that you have a collection of the following:
1) Really bad skaters who hang onto the board, and step-step-step
2) People who can go forward and look like they know what they're doing but can't stop (me)
3) People who are decent skaters who can stop among other things (AB)
4) Little sh!t kids who dream of becoming professional hockey players who zip in between people with the speed of a hummingbird but without the awareness that not everyone can change direction as quickly as they can.
Tonight's skate was full of #4. FULL! There was one particular kid who was an amazing skater, but he must have measured all of 4'6"; he would just pop out of nowhere, give me a heartattack, and then continue around the rink. I may have made a snarky comment about tripping him up on purpose, and AB may have agreed with and even encouraged it on a few occasions. But all this was forgotten when the MOOA arrived (Men Our Own Age.)

Unlike last week where the few men our age were with a cow girlfriend, there were five guys around our age all without a girlfriend in tow. Now I'm not assuming that one doesn't have a girlfriend just because she's not there, but if I can't see her then she doesn't exist until you tell me otherwise or she comes racing from the shadows and slaps me.. So here I am, happy that there's finally some eye candy which doesn't make me wonder if I should be on some sort of registry, and I make a complete fool out of myself. This wasn't a surprise to me; as I once said to a friend "my game's so bad it doesn't make it out onto the pitch for a warm up session" and I wasn't joking.

Two of the guys caught my single eye and I kept casually glancing around the rink to see where they were just so I knew when to look like I knew what I was doing. During one of my casual glances, I missed seeing the big divet in the ice. When I say 'big', you could lose a Cadillac in that thing! A Smart Car? Tonka Truck? Fine, a matchbox car. At the very least, it was big enough to lose the front of my pick into. I was going with such speed that I flew forward doing my best angel imitation, came crashing down on my left knee, bounced back up (I know, knees bounce?) to land on my well-padded chest and then slid forward about two feet before my skates reconnected with the ice's surface and stopped the forward momentum. I actually slid foward on my chest; my legs were in the air! And who comes sailing by after this moment of grace? Why one of the hot-hot men. He was laughing... at me. It wasn't an evil laugh, just a 'that was awkwardly awesome' laugh as he cross-stepped away from me. I looked over my shoulder at the divet, trying to figure out the quickest way back to it so I could crawl inside.

I get up and get over myself. So some rather hot but nameless guy watched me make a fool of myself, so what? I've done worse (no really, I have; much, much worse); I'm not here looking for someone, I'm here to have fun with AB. We go around a few more times, every trip around the rink builds my confidence, and we come to the inevitable point where we're behind some slow people. AB pulls to the left of them to go around, I pull right to head between them and the boards. I start swinging my arms to help build my momentum around the slow pokes and my right hand accidentally punches hottie #2... in the groin... as he tried to sneak to the right of the slow pokes as well. He appologizes to me (don't know why, but wasn't that nice? I hit him, he says 'sorry') and skates off a bit slower and shakier than he was on any of the other times he lapped us.

Sadly that is probably the best my 'game' has been in a while, and my friends wonder why I'm single...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dancing my ass off

I find my workplace very stressful. Not work, workplace (as in specific coworkers), and I'm finding exercise is a great stress reliever after some of the antics I've had to put up with. The knowledge that I had my regular African dance class tonight along with an hour long doundounba afterwards was about all that kept me from walking away from my desk today.

I can't put into words how much I love dance, and I don't know why it took me so long to get back into it after I stopped ballet. I did a couple of belly dancing classes and thought 'I should give this whole dance thing another go', but I never did. Here I am, over 10 years after I stopped formally dancing and I'm only now getting back into it. I love West African dance in a way I never loved ballet, there's a naturalness and freeness to the moves (if either of those are actual words, I like to make things up that sound real) and the cardio it provides is amazing. I don't even sweat that much when I'm doing a run!

After working on our soko dance for the beginners, we had a brief break while the other students and outside participants arrived for the doundounba as part of the Dance Victoria month long celebrations. In this case, the doundoundba is a Guinean circle dance (it's also an instrument and a specific beat), usually used for celebrations and it's pretty much a free-for-all with dancers entering at random or entering together to 'challenge' each other with their moves. The drummers struck up a beat and we had at it. Being fairly new and a little, well, sore from my class to be honest, I spent most of the time moving around the outside practicing my pulses and just enjoying watching the other students dance with such wild abandon. There are certain moves which indicate 'everyone join in' and once I got those down, I definitely got in but no solos yet... maybe next time.

I was having so much fun pulsing to the music, clapping along, and hootin' and hollerin' that it wasn't until my walk home that I  noticed at some point I must have gone over on my right ankle, my back was really sore, and my left ribs felt like they were out of alignment. Still, the doundounba was so much fun, it was worth the pain I'm going to feel tomorrow!

A note about the picture: I tried to find something in the public realm, but while Google gave me lots of posed picture, I was unable to find the craziness and informality that is a doundounba. So I stole (I prefer the term 'permanently borrowed') this picture from Moondance (the company I'm taking lessons with); it's one of their recitals from a few years back.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Productive Weekend despite the Doctor Who

For me, a weekend doesn't get much better than the one I just had. Despite the fact that it didn't end with the usual Sunday night dinner at my step-mom's, almost everything else I wanted to happen this weekend did: I had my first foray back into skating and it went really well, the Canucks beat the Bruins, Ireland won the opening game of Six Nations (rugby), I purchased and watched the Doctor Who Complete Specials DVD, I had a fabulous brunch with (most of) my girls, and I kept up with my running even without my running partner.

The last point was probably the biggest hurdle for me. Not feeling well, THR emailed me on Friday to say I'd be on my own for the next few days. A momentary fear crept over me; without my partner in crime, would I allow myself to talk myself out of my runs? Would some phantom pain or ache stop me from getting off the couch? It did on Friday but mostly in part because I was going to go skating afterwards so when I returned home from downtown later than I anticipated, I decided to let it slide and did the run on Saturday morning instead.

There is one upside (if I can call it that) to THR being sick. I was looking at the schedule for this week's runs and saw the increase of 2 minutes up to 3, and I balked at the notion. Although I find myself doing the 1 minute runs with ease, the 2 minutes still present a lot of gaa-waa-gaa-waa towards the end. Three minutes? The mere thought starts me gaa-waa-gaa-waaing and I'm sitting still. With only myself to be concerned with, I can make the executive decision to repeat this week's worth of runs and I don't have to try and sell anyone on the idea.

Skating on Friday night was a hoot, there really is no other word for it. I met up with AB from work and her boyfriend (or man purse, as we insisted on calling him after he agreed to hold our things) at the Oak Bay Rec for the Teen Skate. I know, I know, it's been a while since I could claim to be a teen, but I phoned earlier in the day to confirm if there's an upper age limit and according to the lady on the phone "there's no age limit, we just say 'teen skate' because we don't have a quarantine for the little kids." Um, quarantine? I was not as unsteady on my feet as I had anticipated, and soon we were heading around at quite the clip. By the end of our 90 minutes, I was in love with skating and couldn't wait to get back on the ice. Crazy ideas =1, complete and utter failure = 0.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Do hockey skates come with Velco?

Like most kids in Canada, I took skating lessons when I was younger but living on the usually snow-free West Coast, lessons don't really mean anything unless you plan to do figure skating. We don't have snowy winters with outdoor rinks like my cousins in Alberta, so what's the point? I had reached the point of starting to learn to do corners and to stop when my family moved to another part of town. We were no longer eight blocks from a rec centre; my lessons were done. Just like that. I'm sure if I had asked 'what about skating?' my mom would have enrolled me, would have driven across town for the lessons (she did for ballet and, before our move, piano), but I never loved skating so I was happy to let it slip by the wayside.

I have skated since my early childhood foray into the world of ice. In my teens in Ireland, my cousin's friends assumed that as an Irish-Canadian I must be good at skating and so off we traipsed, decked out for the disco as I had been misinformed about our destination, to a Friday night skate at a rink in a nearby city (this particular cousin lived in a town). They were asking me for pointers as we laced up our skates; how do I explain to them that I don't skate? I decided the answer was to go as fast as I could. I did go fast, very fast, even lapped them a few times, but any illusions of my ability came to a grinding halt as I tried to stop as I had seen countless hockey players do and landed 'ass-over-tit' with my head between my knees and my skirt trying to be a tube top. Jump forward to me living in Switzerland and the same assumption is made about me being a Canadian. Add five years of wisdom, however, and I'm more than willing to admit that I don't skate and believe that hanging onto the boards for my dear life is the way to go.

So here I am, on a quest to get in shape and the crazy idea pops into my head "why don't I learn to play hockey, a sport I adore? That would be a fantastic workout!" First problem, well, see the above paragraphs. I decide to check out if the Rec Centre closest to me has any adult skating lessons beginning soon. I'm about three weeks too late for that option but now this idea has been in my head for a week, it's festering along with the love of running, and I can't just give up because I missed the start of classes. I will just have to brave the 'everyone welcome' skates on the weekends. I will have to watch children zip by me, practicing their crossovers, while I try to glide forward without falling on my butt... or knees... or hip... or elbow... or face.

I planned to go on my own, saving myself from the embarrassment of friend's watching my attempts at being graceful but then I mentioned it to a friend. She still regularly skates, she'd love to come and teach me (in exchange, she starts hockey this month and knows nothing so I'm teaching her the rules and the basics of the game... in theory). I mentioned it to a few male friends who rent ice time once a month. They thought it was fantastic, might even have a pair of skates kicking around; next time they play hockey, I should come and they could help me work on hockey skills during the warm up. I mentioned it to another friend. Can I let her know when the lessons are, she'd like to join. Suddenly, my crazy idea doesn't seem so crazy.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Don't come any closer, I'm changing!

Well, I have some good news and I have some bad news. The good news is that it is the shoes, the bad news is that it is the shoes. For six years, I have taken my old runners in and just said 'I want the newest version of these' and for six years I have had fabulous shoes which have never hurt me in anyway. Given that I wanted to start a running program, I should have stuck with my tried and true method; I didn't and it has routinely come back to haunt me during the runs. The longer the distances, the more my feet hurt. I ended up having to speed walk the final run portion of Sunday's outting and it was frustrating. I never expected the runs to be easy but I assumed it would be my lungs that would hold me back, and here I was still able to breath but my right foot/ankle/calf were aching. The walking was better but it still ached and it pissed me off; it wasn't me holding me back, it was my gear. I know now that it is my shoes because I wore my very old but much loved shoes for tonight's run and no pain. Well, substantially less pain. Let's not be overly optimistic!

Having to buy another pair of shoes is annoying, but it's much better than some internal issue which would require more than a new pair of shoes to fix. I've never really been a runner per sae. I was athletic through most of my teens, but all my running was done on or around a soccer pitch. I found the act of going for a run fairly tedious (portable tape decks were named 'walkman' and not 'runman' for a reason!) so regular sneakers did me fine for the day-to-day activities I engaged in. I am learning as I get older, there really is something to the idea that you're only as good as the gear you wear. In a sense, I'm lucky that the pain was enough that I stopped wearing the new runners as soon as I knew what it was. If it was something smaller, less noticable, I may have actually done some damage before I realised what was going on.

We have officially started week three of the 'learn to run' program (which, for those who are so inspired, you can find here) and I'm still really enjoying it. The running is getting easier and we both commented that clothes are fitting better in the midsection; pants are looser, tops hang better and jackets move better. It's encouraging to know that physical change, has been noted by both of us. We're obviously doing something right. The question was posed, what do we do at the end of the six weeks. I know we're only two weeks in, but I'm ready to keep going. I want to make this a habit. I had already gone online and found a few 'run a 10K' guidelines with my goal being to run the TC 10K in April (or at least run more than I walk). Step by step, I am being converted into a runner. I feel like a character on some sci-fi show, you know the ones who are bitten by some strange bug and start to turn into that creature. In the middle of the night, a pair of running shoes (not my new ones, obviously, they're pretty much useless) jumped into my bed and left a bite on my body. I've yet to discover its location and I'm not even sure I really want to, let the 'poison' fester in there and I'll be a true runner before you know it. The response from THR wasn't quite as loudly proclaimed as that from me, but I'm sure I'll be able to talk her into joining me at least once a week.