Here there be dragons...

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

Home is where the heart is... Even if you don't know which box you packed it in ;)

So…   We get our new house on Friday!!!   It’s also Ashley’s wedding on Friday lol.  Have been doing all the pre-move craziness, calling all the utilities and service providers, dealing with banks and lawyers, fun stuff like that.   Whether or not I managed it all?   Well – time will tell…   Actual move isn't till next Friday :(   Which is logistically good, but I Want It NOW!!! *foot stomp*  lol   I am pretty excited about the new house though J   Less excited about the new mortgage L
 
Duolingo released a whole ton of new topics the other day.   So for those not familiar, each topic, has 5 levels.  And each level has 3-20 mini lessons.  So that’s a TON of new content.   And once you’ve done level 1 of each, the next area is open.   So I promptly tested out of the first two checkpoints, which got me to level one of about 13(?) topics and reopened the whole tree so I can do whichever lessons I want.   All good.  Lol and I was pretty pleased to pass J
 
So then I discovered, that you can also test out of each level on any individual topic.  So now I’m working my way through those.   So what’s the point?  Well I figure if I test out of everything I know, I’m left with the ones I really need to work on.   AND I’ll tell ya, the low levels are pretty painful.  There’s only so many times you can translate “the cat drinks milk” before you want to throw the phone out the window.   The higher topics are complex enough that I’m still learning and won’t likely manage to test out beyond level 1 or 2.
 
But it is nice after much effort to see that I can pass a fair number of them with no errors and no effort.  Also nice to now be able to provide answers in the duolingo forum that helped me through the basics when I was starting J   Of course, I went and found an intermediate/advanced one and promptly got entirely lost again.  And heaven forbid anybody speak at native-speaker pace.  Even if I know every word I won’t understand any of them *sigh*  Lol but hey, baby steps right?  

#fridayflash 70: Vaalea's Story

After publishing Jezina's Story (as I still think of it and wish I'd never changed the name) I've been asked a few times for what happens next, and occasionally, for what happens before.    Well before was an easy chapter to write -- it's here if you missed it :).   However, after....   Well after was a challenge.   I've written a bunch of random chapters.  Jezina and friends heading out to the town where the dragon was supposed to leave Vaalea, only to discover (spoiler alert!) neither of them ever made it (you can't possibly be surprised by that).   But, tbh, it didn't really interest me.  We'd seen the characters and the places in her first journey.  Going back to almost the start -- well, if it didn't interest me, odds are, it wasn't going to interest you :)

But then I got to thinking, Jezina's travels were driven by prophecy, but a prophecy that was really quite simplistic.  But maybe it was simplistic because it was just the introduction to the grander one.  These things do tend to run in families :).  And it's clear any prophecy with Vaalea could not have occurred had Jezina failed in hers.   And so I introduce a start...  A page really...  Of Vaalea's story :).

Thanks again to all those who read and support my writing.  Comments keep me going!  

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Vaalea's Story:

Stories are often told of princesses being rescued from dragons; as far as I know, I’m the only princess who had ever been rescued *by* a dragon. I was so young – I didn’t really understand all that had happened, or have any understanding of all that would happen. My sister, who I’d only just met, called the dragon, Drazul, and I climbed on. I was fearless and he was amazing. He spoke to me and made me laugh. And away we went.

It took forever to get there. Days? Weeks? I don’t know. It seemed like forever, but I was a child -- a year is a lifetime then.   He told me all about the special school I was going to; a school for people like me. We landed on top of a mountain. Slowly the mist cleared to reveal a castle, whose sides shimmered as though a mirage. Drazul directed me to head inside, and I was so excited – I’m sure I bounced.

There were other kids, and for the first time I could remember, I was allowed to play with them. My roommate, Adalyn, was the same age as me, but she seemed so much older. She was calm, always organized, “well put together” my mum would’ve said, and never got into trouble with the rest of us. But somehow, we still became friends.

We played, we learned, and we grew. Every once in a while, the dragons would bring us a new student. They would wander in; some were excited, but most were terrified. And thus we learned about the outside world, where magic was at best feared and at worst hunted. And so we stayed where we were safe, and we learned, and we practiced. And over time, we became strong.

But eventually, I grew up. And as I did, I wondered. I remembered so little of my life before I’d come. Why had my mother or my sister never come to visit? Drazul flew me here, surely he could’ve flown them. And I started to think that maybe it was up to me to go find them.

My first thought was to call Drazul and ask him to take me. He’d flown me here so many years ago, and stopped by at least a couple times a year since. We’d talk and play and sometimes he’d take me flying. But he never answered my questions of home, always just said I was better here. And eventually I stopped asking. Unfortunately though, I’d never learnt to call him; Drazul came when he wanted to and left on a whim – he never stuck around for long.

I slung my backpack over one shoulder, everything I valued inside. There were no rules against leaving – we could go at any time; the only rule was that once you left, you could never return. It was an easy life at the school. One where I knew everybody and was known. I could be myself and practice my magic, and perhaps one day even teach. It was a good life. But it wasn’t the life I was destined for, and somewhere, deep inside, I knew it.

I had said my goodbyes, but purposely not told anybody exactly when I would leave. It would be hard enough without a crowd. As I slid through the door, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Looking back over my shoulder, I saw Adalyn carrying her matching bag. “You didn’t think you’d be going without me, did you?” she asked.

-----

If you've been reading my stories for a while and the school seems vaguely familiar -- a, credit to you for an awesome memory!  And b - that's because it first appeared in The Road Less Travelled.  I didn't know then that that's where Vaalea was hanging out, but it made perfect sense when I went looking for her ;)

You never learn anything by doing it right...

So I took an unplanned break from my Spanish lessons, not intentionally, just wasn't prioritizing it enough to commit to a time 24h in advance (as required by the system).   But I did keep up with the self study via duolingo, busuu, workbook, etc.   Had my first lesson today in 2.5 mths and was super pleased to discover there's been improvement :).  Woohoo!   Cause I'll tell ya, it definitely feels like I'm on a very flat or even downward sloping plateau *sigh*.  But yeah - while conversation remained slow and painful, I was able to hold up my end more accurately and switch between tenses more successfully.   So pretty pleased at that.   Although please note the qualifiers -- "more" does not equal "well" ;)
I set my phone to Spanish for self-motivation.
Turns out I know how to work my phone without reading instructions ;)
Pretty excited about the move coming up in 3 weeks now :).  We have 2.5 week overlap so will move things in pieces -- 4 weeks till the bulk of our furniture moves.  But current owner showed us all around and let us take pics and ask questions, so getting pretty excited about the whole thing.

Have also started a new exercise program -- Lift 4.  It's only in test mode at the moment, 20 min workouts instead of the 40 min ones that will be in the real program.  Real program starts July 16...  Since I'm feeling the 20 min ones, I'm quite looking forward to the results of the full adventure (note - not actually looking forward to the adventure itself, I just want the results ;).

And in unrelated news, I'm rather pleased with how my moment of craftiness worked out :)


More Spanish games

So while I feel very much like my Spanish has plateaued at a horribly low level, I was fairly pleased to discover I'm able to understand more spoken than I used to be able to. Listening to DuoLingo stories and podcasts and actually grasping a good portion of it. A few months ago it was a painful act to try to get through any of those.

I've also started using Busuu, which has an interesting component in that in the last exercise in each level you either write or speak something and submit it for somebody else to correct. This has the potential to be very strong. Lol BUT -- I've had a couple "corrected" via personal preference (eg - they changed my tu into usted - essentially informal into formal). Which I just rolled my eyes at. But what made me really annoyed was when I flipped through the ones studying English, how many answers were just plain wrong. It hurt. And it worries me that when I get farther in and really don't know what I'm doing, the feedback I receive might be just as bad :(.

That being said, my new way of procrastinating studying Spanish is to coach people studying English ;). I try and include an explanation so they know why, not just fix it -- unless it's super beginner, then I just fix. But I'm getting entertaining results from the more advanced ones I answer.  And am disproportionately pleased by being tagged "best answer" ;).  You can edit their work (shows up in green) and/or add notes.   They see both what they wrote and what you changed.  Pretty easy.

This is keeping me more entertained than it should
Haven't had any real lessons in a while -- mostly just been busy and/or nice weather calls ;).  But should really start those back up and get some speaking in.

In other news -- was coaching at Foxcroft yesterday in their annual show.  Highly entertaining.  As much socializing as anything, and didn't hurt that Kennedy had an amazing day.   Lots of fun to see everyone.

My favourite childhood memory is not paying bills...

So this morning I had a very sad reality check of the impact of office work on fitness *sigh* Those of you who’ve been around this blog for a while or who actually know me in person may remember that once upon a time, not so long ago, I ran a riding school. During which time, I was what I would deem functionally fit. I wasn’t going to the Olympics for anything, but I could be on my feet all day, muck the barn, do farm work, teach, put in the standard 15-18 hour work day… All good. I didn’t weight lift, but throwing bales of hay and hauling jumps was no problem and a daily occurrence. I didn’t do cardio, but I could run 5k easily with minimal effort. A decent base standard of fitness… Fast forward 4ish years into an office job…

Now, I make a concerted effort to “work out” because I don’t have that in my every day any more. So there are weights and cardio machines in my life and it sucks. And I also try to either walk to the train or go for a walk at lunch each day. But at least I still felt, if nowhere near farm fitness, I was still okay. Until this week. You see, we moved to a new office, and this office offers adjustable desks. A, this is awesome because they actually adjust low enough for me to be ergonomically correct – win! But B, they also adjust to standing. Sweet. So the last couple days I’ve been standing for a couple hours a day – usually in 20-30 min intervals. All good. Didn’t really think anything of it, until I woke up this morning. Ugh – my abs were dying! And even my legs were sore. It was like I’d done a really brutal workout, except I haven’t.

So yeah – that’s my “adulating sucks” realization of the day. Blah.

In other news – we sold our house!!! Woohoo!!! 4 or 5 days on the market J Lol was awesome. Fingers crossed I’ll have good news on the buying a house side of things in the next few days J And I would like to say, I only did a very cursory look for jobs in other countries and other fun places to look before committing to potential new location. This is admittedly due as much to the husband factor as anything, but we’re going to pretend it’s more adulting ;) Cross your fingers for us!

1 step closer toward adulting?

AG shown for scale -- Tucker wasn't home ;)
Short post today just because this made me laugh.  Not a life "goal" per say, but more of a life experience.  For the first time ever I managed to significantly shrink an article of clothing.  Now, this shouldn't be a thing, but given how much I despise laundry and the complete lack of effort I put into assuring things go well, really -- this should be a weekly occurrence.   So I was highly amused to find a child-sized sweater that fit me last week as I was putting away clothes.

Home inspection today!   Cross your fingers for us :)

Curious to see what the next chapter will bring


So after a whirlwind effort to get it ready, our house listed and sold in less than a week J   Conditional on home inspection which happens on Thurs.  Cross your fingers for us!   No reason it shouldn’t pass, but always that fluke thing…   I’ll be super happy when it’s official J   And it’s kinda nice being in a house for a little while that is spotless and pretty ;)   HUGE thanks to my parents for dog sitting so we can keep it that way until it's official.   The next one might be a bit of a dancing unicorn to find, but we’re really hoping once we do, it will be a long-term stay.  Or, you know, sell everything, get a job that allows working remote, and move to a remote island somewhere warm...  Hmmm...  But, well, responsible husband ;)   Lol    At least once we move the commute will be less bad.
 
I’ve started doing 80 Day Obsession workout program.  It’s the same coach as 21 Day Fix Extreme, who is definitely not a favourite of mine, but I'm getting better at tuning her out.  I’d say these workouts aren’t quite as intense as Extreme, but are getting good results.  The new-to-me exercise equipment that has me amused are “sliders”.  No, not the mini burgers – they’d have the opposite effect of what I’m going for.   These are basically Frisbees – one side is fabric, the other plastic.    Depending what surface you’re on, you put the slippery side down and perform a series of exercises involving sliding various parts of your body.   Essentially the equivalent of sliding around slick surface wearing socks ;)    Deadly for the abs though.  Ouch.
 
The exercises are repetitive – as per any weight based training – but at least there’re a lot of them, which enables variety.   Most of the workouts are also closer to an hour than 30 mins, which is at times a scheduling challenge.   But we’ll see J   There are definitely times I miss working at the barn!

And speaking of -- in a huge flash back, I taught at Myrddin the other day.  Lol yeah -- real fast way to make the years disappear.   Even some of the same riders were still there -- fun to see them again.  Was also great to see Lissy again -- she was in two of the lessons I taught :)   Fun times.
 

It's a dog's life :)

So our dogs have their own bowls, and are pretty good about sticking to their own spot.  They get the same food, so not critical if not, but Sasha gets more of it.

This morning Tucker wanted more outside time than normal so I let Sash in -- who went straight to her breakfast -- and then I went about getting ready for work. When I returned a min or two later, Sash was still at her bowl as I let Tucker in. All good right?  Except somehow all of Tucker’s food had disappeared ;).  Lol too smart.  Not like she finished hers and then went looking.  No, hers would still be there later.   I guess she recognizes a good opportunity when it arises.  Since I didn’t actually catch her at it I just laughed and gave T some more breakfast ;)

Went to a symposium yesterday that was reasonably interesting. The keynote speaker, David Marquet, was a former commander of a nuclear submarine (captain? Are those words interchangeable in the navy - prob not ;).  Random eh? But essentially he got switched last second to a ship that he didn’t know and discovered fairly quickly that navy command and control style leadership might end with getting them all killed, so he had to figure something else out.  Really good speaker.  Website is fairly meh - if I’d seen it first, I’m not sure whether I’d have gone.  But in person worth listening to.

For the win :)

So my Triec mentee landed a job today, and I think I'm as excited for him as I was when I got my last job :).  And it happened with a few weeks left in the three month contract, so super excited about that.  I was officially the mentor in this situation but I still learned so much throughout the experience.  Really great, and one I expect I'll do again.  But YEAH :).  Lol so happy for him.

Today was worth the commute ;)
And as far as my job goes, while I was super excited about the job I started in Feb, we had an internal shuffle *sigh* so now I'm on a new team and not entirely certain what I'll be doing.  Frustrating and stressful, BUT at least I landed with a cool team.  It's a very new team and the first team building event was today -- axe throwing.  I'm not even kidding.  Definitely my kind of event ;).  Lol and even though I was definitely *not* talented at it, I won the tournament.  Lol disproportionately proud of that.  So we'll see how the role actually evolves...

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.