Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

I haven't been everywhere yet, but it's on my list.

Niagara Falls - Feb 9, 2018
We've reached our third anniversary, and are now half way to the five-year reunion trip ;).  However, since we're planning on Africa later this year, we couldn't really escape this winter (having just started a new job didn't help either).  So instead, we took one day and decided to go to Niagara Falls (for those not from here - it's about an hour and a half from here if there's no traffic).  Chris gets credit for the idea and we decided to go full on tacky tourist.  And it was So. Much. Fun.   Lol still makes me laugh.
Hopefully will have real giraffe photos later this year, until then, this will have to do.
Our Tacky Tourist Adventure started with a quest for a hotel room with a heart shaped jacuzzi.   They do exist, and they're as horribly tacky as you can imagine!    The mirrors were an added bonus ;)
I'm not even exaggerating.
Now a heart shaped jacuzzi in a classy hotel (well, as classy a hotel as one can find a heart-shaped jacuzzi!) would've had a fairly stunning falls-view, I'm sure.  Our hotel?   We had a direct line of site to the local Hooters.  Seriously.  I couldn't make this up.

However, I am getting ahead of myself.  Because before we could see the room, we had to get there.   Days Inn, on Victoria, Niagara Falls.   That's a pretty main street, this shouldn't be too hard right?   But, you know, tacky tourists have to get lost ;).   We didn't though, cause, we're awesome -- clearly.   Nope -- we went to Days Inn, on Victoria, in Niagara Falls.   And no reservation.   Hmmmmm.   So I pulled up the confirmation on the phone.  "Oh, that's not this Days Inn, the one you want is down the street."   And, since the street in question is under construction, gave us directions to where we should go.

Two Days Inns a couple blocks apart?!?!  Yup, it's a thing.   But wait -- it gets better.   We get to the Days Inn and go in.   And no reservation.   You have got to be kidding me.  "Oh, that's not this Days Inn, the one you want is down the street."   WTF?!?!?!   How many are there?!?!   Yeah, for the curious, there are FIVE Days Inns on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls -- 3 of which are within a few blocks of one another.   Sheesh.

So the third attempt did, in fact, have a reservation under our names.   And the hotel was about what you'd expect for one with those kinds of amenities overlooking the local Hooters ;).  I don't *think* they rent rooms by the hour, but it's a close call.   The *did* however, also boast of a pool, hot tub, and sauna -- which were all part of our grand escape.   So we hit that up first only to find the pool mostly drained (plus - this meant we had the place to ourselves), the hot tub more of the lukewarm variety, and the sauna more closely resembling an ice box than a sauna -- potentially due to the open windows near the pool.  But no way either Chris or I could find to turn on any heat in said sauna so we abandoned that idea.  The jets to the lukewarm tub were also intimidatingly loud lol, and the nearest door was being held open by a broomstick.   But we were there to enjoy the hot tub so damnit we were going to enjoy the hot tub.

Our super fancy hotel reservation came with free passes to several activities at Fun Zone.   So I very much wanted to go to Fun Zone.   I mean, with a name like that, how could you not?   We had reservations for dinner at 7, so thought we'd stop by on the way.   However, finding parking was proving to be a real challenge, and the weather was miserable enough that we didn't want to walk.   So instead I called to see if I could change our reservation, yup - no problem.   When we got to the, essentially empty parking lot, we realized why.
*The* touristy dinner spot in Niagara -- the revolving restaurant.
Walked up to check in -- no issue re arriving more than an hour early ;).  Then we got to pose for our super-awesome tourist photos.  Green screen all the way baby -- it doesn't get much more tacky touristy than that.   Turns out, Chris and I aren't great at the green screen game - lol.   Ah well, we tried, and it kept things amusing.  At least for me; I'm reasonably certain C was just humouring me ;)

Glass elevator had amazing views!  The blurry-purple is the falls ;)
Then up the glass elevator to the revolving restaurant.   There was an excessively large Amish party clearing out -- but this meant it was only a couple minutes wait for a table.   Dinner felt slightly rushed -- they're very quick to get you in and out.  There are facts on the windowsill as you rotate around that were moderately interesting.

The Ferris Wheel would've been ideal Tacky Tourism,
sadly, the weather was not enabling good views,
and, well, it was cold!
I really enjoyed my dinner, though C was less impressed was his.  I do think though that the views would've been spectacular had the weather cooperated!  Alas, it was both foggy and snowing, so most of the time we had no idea what we were missing.

I still got my traditional anniversary PiƱa Colada,
and while sadly not served in a  coconut,
I did at least get this stylish tourist glass to keep.
Tacky Tourist Win!
After dinner we continued up to the observation deck, where the brave can venture outside.  Given the temperature and the wind, we weren't out there long!   But it was worth it for a few seconds for the amazing view and a photo or two :)

No glass, just the wire safety mesh...
It finally occurred to me to take a pic from the elevator, more than half way down..
And right before the elevator goes back indoors.
We left the car at the restaurant (hello, free parking ;) and braved the elements to walk to the casino, and from there to the Fun Zone.   Lol -- let me tell you, if you want to be a tourist, dinner time in February is definitely the time to be there.   We had all the places to ourselves.  Entirely.  No lines.  No people.  It was awesome!   So our passes gave us access to the Mystic Maze of Mirrors, Mini Put, and two Haunted Houses.
Our first Fun Zone experience
So the Mystic Maze of Mirrors was first up.  I had absolutely no idea what this would entail.  We were given gloves to wear so as to avoid any chance of fingerprints on the mirrors.   Instructions were no running and walk with one hand held in front of you.  Ummm sure, why not?

Well I'll tell you why not.   Because if you don't, you are 100% going to crash into a mirror.  I kid you not.  This was actually awesome in a weird and twistedly disturbing kind of way.  It's not so much a maze in that there's almost always only one path to take -- the "detours" are super short (like a step or two).   Which is just as well because it'd be very easy to become very lost in there.   I really wish I'd taken a photo or two inside.
Thanks Google!   Yup - this is pretty much it.
So you see tons of identical options -- and it's essentially impossible to tell by looking which ones are true paths and which are solid.   I learned to focus directly ahead and if I saw any form of reflection to stop and turn until I found a way with no reflection.  This sounds deceptively simple.   FYI - it's not ;). There are hundreds of reflections everywhere, so it's strangely disorienting and tricky to determine which paths are safe.  The hand out in front and walking slowly was definitely key advice.

On reading it, it does not sound like something I would enjoy.  It sounds very much like something that would make me feel trapped and claustrophobic.   But I actually had a blast.  It was way better than anything I'd been expecting and I would totally do another one.
I would *not* have wanted to meet him in the hall of mirrors!
Next up was glow in the dark mini-put.   Let's be honest, mini put is always moderately amusing.   This one was partially under construction so only had 8 holes, and tbh, there was none of the fun stuff you usually see in mini-put.   But the decorations were awesome, for some random reason the back ground music was Beach Boys, and I was in a silly mood.   So yeah, it was a good time :)

Suspect this is prob the first time I've ever ridden a lizard ;)
Now those of you who know me in person, or who have read much of what I write, will be aware that I, at times, have shown a propensity towards a rather vivid imagination.  While most of the time this amuses me to no end and I'm forever grateful for it.  There are circumstances in which it is definitely detrimental.  Horror movies are 100% in that category -- I will have nightmares, and sometimes even daymares for months if not years.  So no.  Just no.   So suffice to say, it precludes any enjoyment in Haunted Houses.   Especially when combined with having read too many crime novels.

So we decided to forgo that option and instead headed to the casino.  Here we each decided on $20 to play with and played slots till we ran out.   Lol and you know what, it was just long enough.   I wasn't totally bored and frustrated yet, but I wasn't sad to be done either.  I was also pleased that we literally managed to use every penny.   Lol took some doing to spend those last couple cents because even the penny machines mostly had a minimum bet of well over a penny.

We did not, in fact, feel the need to hike down to the falls.   Have you been outside?   Yeah - no thanks.  We've both seen the falls before; I rode my bike there this spring.   So I suppose technically that was a Tacky Tourist fail.  But sometimes discretion really is the better part of valour.

And the heart shaped jacuzzi?   Well, that's an adventure you'll have to experience for yourself :)

So yeah, overall it was a really fun anniversary.  Admittedly a very different experience from our traditional beach escape, but I haven't laughed that hard in ages.  And am very much looking forward to the next year :)

So far so good.

The quest for *the* fitness app.

So I wanted a change from the P90X type workouts for a bit.   I still think they're awesome, I just wanted to play with weights for a bit.  So as a result, was looking for an app that would let me track workouts -- what exercise, reps, how much weight, etc.  Even better if it had a training plan.  I didn't think this would be such a challenge, but it's ridiculously hard to find *sigh*.

There are ones like Gymbook that let you track weights/reps/etc but doesn't offer suggestions or training.

Then there are ones like Fitstar (which Fitbit bought out) that learns and adapts but doesn't have tracking.

The closest to success I found was Jefit -- it has training plans with really good instructions and good tracking.  Win!  It doesn't personalize -- no big deal, and requires TONS of equipment (I think it thinks you're bringing it to the gym).  Also the workouts aren't searchable which is a little odd.  But I did find a good one, so that was decent.   Only thing is -- you can't mesh sets.   I'm used to while one group of muscles is on a break, you work a different set.  This app doesn't let you do this.  So it's just stand around time.  I don't have 1-2h a day for exercising; well, at least, not when I'm commuting 3h/day *sigh*.    Sasha loves it cause I throw the ball for her during the breaks ;).

Lol so overall it's a decent app, but just not *quite* what I was hoping for.  But maybe what I was hoping for doesn't exist.   Anyways -- the one thing it did call out was the lack of cardio in my current life.

I wanted a spin bike last year but didn't buy one cause I figured it was just cause I had R2CC on my mind, but I still wanted one this year so I went ahead and got one :).  Yeah me!   Lol AND I even managed to assemble it.  Win!   The computer I bought for it unfortunately doesn't attach.  Pretty disappointed at that since the same person sold me both items *sigh*.   I've amazoned (yes, I've deemed it's now a verb) a new one that has good reviews and should be here tomorrow.

Because just riding and not going anywhere is all kinds of boring and, in my case, remarkably ineffective, I went looking for an app.   Lol who's surprised by this?   And I discovered there are two distinct categories -- apps for cyclists who are using their spin bike to stay fit or improve specific areas of training, and apps for people who like spinning.   So for cyclists the top two seem to be Sufferest and Zwift.   For spinning it seemed to be CycleCast and Peloton.    All four of which are subscription services that are not cheap.   After much debate I decided I wanted to go the spin route and was really leaning toward CycleCast.   Except...  It's not available in Canada :(.  Huge fail *sigh*.  So Peloton it is.

I looked at Peloton last year when I wanted a spin bike -- it's a bike and app all-in-one setup.  That costs ~$2K.  Lol ummm no.   But now you can subscribe to the app without having the bike so worth a try.  I'm now the proud owner of a two week free trial ;).    Can do live workouts at scheduled times or on-demand pre-recorded one.   Filter by length, type of music, or instructor.

Not knowing any instructors, I chose 45 minute of 90s rock today ;).   Lol and it was as good or better than most of the spin classes I've taken in real life.  Apparently including weights in spin class is now a thing *g*.   Who knew?   But otherwise pretty much as I remembered.   They had matched cadence perfectly to the music, which was super handy since I don't yet have a cadence tracker ;).   I just tried to match the cadence of the instructor at first until I clued in to how perfectly the music matched ;).   They also reference tension levels, not having their bike (or any numbers on my tension) I just made that up as I went -- conveniently they reference "a little more", increase by one, or numbers from 30 - 80, so I could at least guesstimate.

Not the hardest workout I've done -- at least partially cause I'm still learning my bike so didn't go full out at first.  But I was (TMI warning) completely soaked and dripping buckets of sweat by the end.  Wasn't wearing my Fitbit and didn't bother to check pulse so no idea what my heart rate did, but I'd say it was a decent cardio workout.   Certainly worth doing two week's worth to decide if it's worth continuing.

As for overall fitness app -- the quest continues *sigh*.  My latest search has suggested Keelo.  It may be good but is quite expensive -- not sure I want to do two weeks free of two programs at the same time.   We'll see :).  If you have any other suggestions, please let me know!


The next chapter begins...


Okay not actually, but it made me laugh :)
I, of course, did not sleep last night.   Why would my brain give me a shot at starting a new job rested?    Sheesh.   Regardless, I got through Day 1 ;)    Yup, that’s right, my new job started today and it’s a bit of a surreal experience.   Same company.  Same building even (for the moment).  And I think it’s those similarities that make the differences stand out.
First off all, walking in – I need to take a different elevator bank.  Absolutely no big deal (in fact it’s actually a shorter trip since there are much fewer potential stops before my floor) but I still feel slightly wrong going there, and definitely disoriented coming out.
Once on the floor – same size, same building, similar layout.  But not quite the same.  Neither locker nor desk were even close to where I expected them to be.  Win on the locker location though – very happy about that.   And desks are flexible as per my last role, so I can move around after this week if I want.  They have a coat rack by the lockers which is a nice plus J   Lol the little things.
And walking around – going to get breakfast in the morning, the hot water tap is on the other side of the kitchen.  Such a minor thing, but made me think about a mindless task early in the am.   And knowing almost nobody – I’m not particularly social by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm used to saying hi to most people I pass throughout the day, knowing the people who usually sit near me, etc etc.  I’ve been there for more than three years now – there’s a basic familiarity there.   Whereas here, I’m not even at “hi in the halls” stage of knowing anybody.
Or almost.  The people on my team seem awesome; one made a point to come say hi this am.   Another I met with later in the am and we chatted for a bit.  And new boss seems a good fit – I’m excited to be on his team and it looks like there'll be interesting work.   So that's kinda the point.  My project team is scattered all over, but I met them in an all-day session last week, so that at least covered ice-breaking ;)    Sadly though, since none are in the building, it didn’t help alleviate the stranger in a known land feeling.
Same company, same building, different culture.  More formal both in dress and policy L    No work from home and hours seem to be of the 9-5 variety.   Really struggling with both these things, esp given that my aforementioned project team is scattered so I won’t be seeing them face-to-face anyways – which to me is the only advantage to coming in the office.   Ah well, fingers crossed that gets updated in the near future – until then, I’ll be watching my fitness and health slide down L   Ugh.   No stairs.  Literally sit at a desk for 8h, and spend 3h commuting with a few thousand other people.   Not the best recipe for wellness I’m afraid.   Also, they’re doing construction on the floor below so the noise combined with lack of sleep led to a substantial headache by midafternoon *sigh*
But the job itself is definitely a step up in interest and difficulty level.  Starting a little soft, at well under 100%, with a well-established program, which is less challenging than I might like, but at least it’s a super-interesting area.   Chatting with new boss I'm pretty convinced the potential for both interesting AND challenging is fairly substantial here, so I’m looking forward to that J
And all the people so far have been awesome.   Which is huge.   The rest – that’s just details ;)

Now on to day two...

New Year, New Job ;)

So now that it's been officially announced at work, I can announce it here too -- I have a new job!  Woohoo!  lol starts on the 29th.  The super fancy title of Senior Manager, Transformation -- which is a lateral move for me, but I'm still pretty excited about it as it should definitely be more interesting and enable some career growth.

It's a comparatively tiny department, unfortunately much more formal in both dress and in complete lack of work from home.  *sigh*.  To be honest, I'm dreading having to go back to commuting every day.  Really hope it's worth it ;). But I really like the people I've met so far, and the job has the potential to be really cool.  So yeah, pretty excited.

Also, unrelated, I've started volunteering with Triac -- which arranges professional mentoring for newcomers to Canada.   These are people who were professionals in their own country who are either unemployed or underemployed, having trouble finding employment in their field in Canada.  Things like cultural expectations, unspoken rules of job shopping, interview skills, etc.  I met my mentee a few hours before my job announcement came out on Friday :).  It was an interesting day.

I'll miss moments like this when I can't work from home anymore :(

Skiing: the art of catching a cold and going broke while rapidly heading nowhere at great personal risk.

I am the snow plow queen!   And not in any useful way -- like as in being able to effortlessly remove snow from your driveway.   No, my talents lie more in the completely talentless skier category ;)

So let's recap -- since I'm not riding right now, I'm once again in search of a hobby.  But preferably one of the once/week variety as opposed to the all-consumingness of riding (cause let's be honest, I've proven I can't do that on any casual level).  I'm not quite sure why skiing popped into my head but I did some googling and found reasonably affordable lessons at Glen Eden on Tuesday nights.  Perfect.  Timing works with my work and teaching schedule, location is half hour from home, and while not cheap, is still less than I'd budgeted for riding.  And, better yet, Laura was in for joining me.  Sweet.


However, then reality reared its ugly head and let us know lesson spots were already taken.  Being the adventurous sorts we are, we deemed this sort of irrelevant and decided to go anyway.  Lol I figure it's been almost 20 years since I've skied and Laura is slightly better off at closer to 10 but figures just as long since any regular skiing.  So really, lessons probably would've been a wise life choice ;)

For perspective -- once upon a time we used to do family ski trips; I suspect inspired by the fact that Mum loved to ski.   So when I was a kid/teen I was a reasonable intermediate skier.  I was never brave enough to be interested in even trying the moguls or black diamonds (although I believe my brothers played that game), but I could certainly handle anything blue easily, ski consistently in parallel and under control.  I was never good, but I was competent.

Tuesday rolls around and off I head to Glen Eden.   It's quite the hike from the parking to the skiing but sobeit.  I was moderately amused that the baby hill still has the fence at the bottom before the road.  I vividly recall crashing into that fence on a day trip with school when I was in grade school ;).  Lol it still serves its purpose.  Got through the rental area with no line and no issue -- yeah perfect timing!  Skis are now significantly shorter than they were twenty years ago.   Lol I knew that intellectually, but the reality hadn't quite sunk in.   Also, ski helmets are now a thing (probably for the best!), and they're actually incredibly comfortable; I was quite pleasantly surprised, although I did have issues with the helmet pushing my goggles down *sigh*.  That's a bit of a pita.

So through the tiny tunnel, up the stairs and good to go.   Except Laura wasn't there yet.   So I read the ski map and took a picture and generally just appreciated that it was absolutely perfect weather and didn't seem to be particularly crowded.   Any other day I would've just skied till she got there, but for the first day, I figured it might be best to wait.
We did Escarpment and Quarry all night ;)
Soon enough, it was time to go.   We headed over to the chairlift and made it on with no drama.  Woohoo! And even better, we made it off with equally no drama :).   Win!   Lol first hill of the day accomplished (seriously -- when you haven't skied in forever, the getting-off-the-lift hill counts!).   There's a nice green route that goes across the hill (almost as much XC as downhill since there is definitely a slight up section!) and then cruises gently down the far side.   This was our objective.  And with a  whole lot of hesitation and some confusion, we made it!   Lol.  Mostly we just didn't go down any hill steep enough that your skis could point out over it ;).  Seemed a wise life choice.  We did miss the turn back to the original chairlift so took a different chairlift up -- but this one put us half way through our lovely green route so the next trip down was shorter.   Just as well as we were still getting our ski legs ;)
No.  Not now.  Not next week.  Not even on horseback.  Just no.
Over time and multiple runs though our confidence started to grow and we weren't nearly as painfully slow getting down.   Even had some moments of picking up speed :).  However, this does make the run significantly shorter *g*. I'd forgotten just how small Glen Eden really is *sigh*.  Ah well -- it'll keep me amused for this year.   We spent the whole time on that run and by the end were starting to feel a little more okay.  Don't get me wrong -- embarrassingly bad.   Snowplowing most of the way, and the few feeble attempts at making my skis align in a parallel fashion had them more than hip-width apart.  Nobody was going to be mistaking me for any degree of competent!  Lol BUT there was no falling, diving, starfishing, somersaulting, or splits.   So the complete lack of gymnastic displays we're calling a win.   Of course, Laura raised the valid point that it's only once you start to feel confident that that kind of stuff comes into play ;).  So we'll see next week.

My only oops was when I did this once as I was starting to get brave *sigh*.  BUT, I recovered it ;)
We ended before we were really done because we wanted out before the school finished.   Next time we'll go earlier and give ourselves a little more time.  Also, I think both of us were ready to try a more interesting run -- it might be for the best that we ran out of time before doing so ;).  Next week, blue it is!  I'd like a little less dramatic snow plow, and maybe to pretend my skis are both controlled by the same brain.  I feel that'd be a good goal.  Except I think I'm working late next Tues so next week may be a fail *sigh*.  Adulting sucks sometimes.   But we'll see.

Today I expected to be very sore, but wasn't at all.  I did, however, sleep incredibly well last night.  A sport that I come home from grinning and excited, sleep unbelievably deeply, and wake up not sore?!?!   That's all kinds of awesome.

So yeah -- it was perfect weather and uncrowded.  Not sure how long fair weather me will last in real winter.  But for now, it was a blast :)
The girls who lived :)




New Year, Similar Randomness ;)


So I definitely had a blank moment trying to remember my work password on Tues. That tells me that I did actually completely disconnect over break. For the win. Better win – I remembered said password before locking myself out ;)

I have been slightly amused watching people in the office today as at about 10 to the hour about half a dozen or so within sight stand up and go for a walk. I’m gonna go ahead and guess Santa delivered each of them a shiny new Fitbit ;) But that’s exactly why it’s good so more power to them :)

Work is deserted this week – it’s an odd vibe. People are still relaxed from vacation and half are still away, but also back already into heads down mode. So very quickly I get back into doing stuff and then suddenly somebody I need something from isn’t here and there’s that abrupt reminder that only a couple days ago I too was still on vacation. Amazing how quickly you fall back into the routine.

So I decided not to continue with the part-board I had on trial in December.   Which mostly tells me I'm not as dedicated to riding as I once was since it was a good deal and involved all kinds of lessons (which I really miss).  But after 3h of commuting in a day, driving out to the barn and back 4 days/week was just pushing my commitment capabilities.   That and I'd like to see my husband once in a while ;)

However, with that gone, I find myself, once again, in search of a new hobby.   Am still super disappointed that adult gymnastics got cancelled.   Realistically probably for the best.  So instead, she who hates winter, is going to embrace it and take up skiing.   Yeah -- adult gymnastics suddenly doesn't seem like such a bad idea eh?  lol.  I haven't been on skies in, oh about twenty years.   So Laura and I decided we'd sign up for weekly lessons.  Yup -- I'm not going into this insanity alone ;).  Except, lessons are sold out.  Fail.   So being the brilliant souls we are, we've decided to just go at the same time.   That starts next Tues (hopefully the deep freeze will be over by then -- I would pick the most wintery winter we've had in ages for this).   Stay tuned *g*

And continuing the exercise trend, Nicole and I have taken up 21 Day Extreme.  I tried this once before and failed horribly because I had a very low tolerance for the person leading it, but the workouts were good.  So hoping with an accountability partner it may happen.   I was destroyed by the first workout.  Didn't seem particularly hard as I was doing it, but it's now four days later and those muscles are *still* sore.  This has also encouraged me to do entirely too much research on recovery supplements ;).   That first day was plyo -- so essentially entirely butt muscles.  Followed by upper body that completely spaghettied my arms; fortunately they weren't too bad the next day although definitely still feeling the chest muscles.  Pilates was easier than the core workouts in Core de Force so not terribly impressive.   Leg day today...   Well suffice to say I won't be going down many stairs tomorrow ;).  It was my favourite one so far.   The one thing I don't like is that they use the same set of weights for all exercises.  Easy enough to alter though, I use several sets in each workout depending on which muscle is involved.   Cardio, and a couple full body ones still to go.  Then rinse and repeat.  We'll see.

Also, according to the iReaditNow app, I read 136 books last year ;).  Only writing it here so I'll be able to find it next year and see the difference :)

Think that's enough babbling to ring in the new year.  Hope it brings everything you hope for.