Here there be dragons...

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

Spanish adventures are still ahead of piano adventures ;-P

So I today I just finished the 20-week Intermediate Spanish Storylearning course and absolutely loved it.  Was super-helpful.  There's not a lot of actually good material for intermediate speakers, so I really appreciated this one.  And there's enough there to make it worth revisiting more than once which is even better.  So yeah, pretty pleased about that.

I also have a new online Spanish teacher who I'm really enjoying working with.  He's the first one I've worked with from Spain (the others have all been in Central or South America) and so I'm enjoying learning about some of the cultural differences between Spain and Canada.  lol I told him about our unique system of measurements; apparently he shared it with his family and friends and the general consensus was that I must be making it up ;-P.    Similarly - how do you explain maple syrup to somebody who's never heard of it ("what's it for?"), and also - what are uniquely Canadian foods?  Cultures?  Experiences? It's surprisingly hard to answer these questions when A - your country is a blend of other cultures, and B - everything is "normal" to me, so I've no idea what is unique to others.  For instance, that public school is free attendance -- apparently there "everyone goes to school" but there is still a charge associated.

So I'm at that weird place on the intermediate plateau where sometimes I feel like I'm *finally* getting it and it's all easy, and sometimes I'm like wtf?!?!  How have I been studying this so long (albeit on and off) and still miss SO much :(.   Ugh.   Like, there's a YouTube channel I'm *really* enjoying and I can consistently understand the gist of what's being said, often the details.  But the lead speaks for a living.  Lol when he talks to friends or people on the street, only rarely can I understand the response.  Similarly, I watched a movie the other day and actually enjoyed it (light romcom type thing) - but I read the cc for prob 75% of it.  Plus side - I had zero issue following while reading in Spanish.  Down side, when not reading I couldn't really follow :(.   I'm going to watch it again now that I know the story and see if it's any easier the second time *g*.  It's also based on a book which is now on my kindle ;).   Other plus side, my recommendations in Spanish are getting far more accurate now so that's helpful.  When I started looking for stuff everything was drugs, war, or over the top drama - none of which appeal to me.  So kinda cool that I've watched enough now (even if only on YouTube) that the recommendations are improving :) 

Plus side - when I watched the trailer just now while looking for a pic, I could understand most ;).
So maybe rewatch is worth it.

Anyways - all that is why I'm super pleased both to have completed a course that seemed to be at *exactly* the right level and to have a new teacher who I'm enjoying working with and who has actual set lessons; many of mine recently have been just conversation practice, which in itself is super useful, but only if I'm actually getting corrections as well; if I had to guess, I'd say a number of online teachers only have beginners so comparatively I'm "doing well" lol but compared to real life, there's still a ways to go.  New teacher is doing a bit of a repeat of stuff I know, but he at least started with intermediate content and it's possible we'll fill in something I missed along the way, so I'm deeming the review worthwhile and excited to see where it ends up.

A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new

So the last song I worked on in my pianoing was my first "advanced" lol which I realise is nowhere near advanced by normal standards, but that's what the app calls it so why not.  It took me 6 weeks to learn 20 bars, and 90% of the left hand I'd learned in the intermediate version of the same song.  Multiple hours to get through single bars.  A, super painful.  B, sheer stubbornness got me through it.  C, I am fully aware even the "successful" version is atrocious, but technically I got through it hitting all the right notes ;).   There were two different pieces of notation I had to google what they meant.  And after all that, I realised I was definitely at the point where I needed help.  (Clip here for the brave or curious:

Accurate.  Except that I love my husband enough to wear headphones.

After the assessment and my free admission that I can't effectively read bass clef yet, and my theory is minimal, we're starting with the "level 2" book.  lol level 2 is super basic from both a playing and theory standpoint, but it that means it gives a chance to catch up on any/all basics that I missed.   Top of that list: how I hold my hands.   He corrected it in the first lesson, but I didn't really get it.   In the second lesson the light started flickering a little more and while it will undoubtably take me forever to fix, ("shorten your reins" anyone?), at least conceptually I get it.

My teacher is an older gentleman w a reasonably strong accent - my guess would be Eastern European or German? Idk - I’m really bad w accents lol. The ESL factor makes explanations a little iffy and I’m definitely an overgrown toddler in needing to understand “why” ;).  My favourite was being told:  “You must rest!” Hmmmm I feel like I might’ve heard that before ;). In this case, when I'm sight reading music I have a tendency to just ignore any form of rests ;-P

Re the whole hand position thing - I have to acknowledge that once the light started flickering, both the YouTube teachers whose videos I've been learning from have mentioned the same, but sometimes you need someone in person to actually show you how what you're doing isn't what you *think* you're doing...  (I swear the advent of cell-phone video cameras made teaching riding *so* much easier when I could show people that what they *felt* they were doing and what they were actually doing might not be exactly the same ;). AND, importantly, how to fix it.

So today I revisited my nightmare song with new learning in place.  One bar.  About an hour.  Slowed down to about 25%.  But I got it ;). And after I got it, I could speed it back up.  And eventually - was significant improvement over what I'd had before.  In an hour.  So I'm deeming that one a win and am actually fairly excited about it :)

#FridayFlash#77: Tonight

Do you ever feel like there’s a story there but it’s just out of reach? That’s what I had last night, and this is what we got instead. For the first one this year?!?! Ah well. Enjoy.  Also, slightly disappointed to realise this is the first one of the year :(   



Tonight is a night where morning is a reality that can be ignored; 
Tonight is a night for walking alone in the woods; 
Tonight is a night for watching moonlight shatter on a ripple on an otherwise still lake; 
Tonight is a night to listen to the sounds we can only hear when we stop; 
Tonight is a night to stare into a fire that cackles and throws shadows that dance; 
Tonight is a night for storytellers, dreamers, songwriters, and artists; 
Tonight is a night those without imagination sleep soundly, while those with are wide awake w wonder; 
Tonight is a night that if you pay attention, you just might glimpse magic rarely seen past childhood; 
Tonight is a night for memories of what was and dreams of what may be; 
Tonight is a night for questions without answers; 
Tonight is a night for mystery; 
Tonight is a night for calm, but also for magic and chaos; 
Tonight is a first for some, and a last for others; 
And on this night, of all nights, will you experience it, or will you be sound asleep?

Somebody else's next adventure?

Okay so here’s my new business idea. If I had time and money, I’d be all over it :). Alas, I have neither, and thus share the idea in hopes I can one day be a customer. 

I’m thinking a “silent resort” that is neither religious nor health based. A place for the introverts if the world to recharge in quiet that still serves awesome carnivorous food with savoury deserts. I want to come back from this retreat happy, relaxed, and 10lbs heavier ;). It’s not that there isn’t healthy food, it’s just that vegetarian and healthful aren’t the *only* options.

The resort shop would sell many many varieties of pens and notebooks ;). Probably artists' supplies as well. Possibly even a bookstore involved. 

The property would be rural and stunning. There’s be hiking trails - bonus points if they lead to a waterfall or swimming hole, maybe a beach somewhere. And the only sounds are those from nature.

It would be far enough away from town that light pollution is negligible and the stars and be fully admired at night.

If this resort is in a country that has winter, roaring fireplaces are a must. Snowshoeing and xc skiing would both be outdoor possibilities. 

Potentially a few stress-relieving critters around?   Cats, dogs, bunnies, etc?

Tablets, phones, computers, etc would be discouraged but not blocked - to each their own as long as no sound can be overheard (aka sound off or excellent headset).

A skilled RMT would be an excellent addition. Hot springs a lovely bonus if possible.   

Who’s gonna make this happen? Go on - tell your friends. Quietly ;)

This week's wtf (I mean, "learning") moment in piano

So those of you who hang out here on a regular basis will know that Spanishing has been going reasonably well of late. Alas, the same cannot be said of the piano. 

I am still very much enjoying it, but it’s being held back by two very strong forces:
  • It’s an indoor toy and it’s one of the few lovely months of the year, so I want to be outside 
  • I’m a beginner and beginner music is boring ;) 
So to combat the first, I need to be learning something interesting enough to be inside during summer. Tricky given the second ;). So I looked at the pieces that I really passionately want to learn to play, none of which are level appropriate, and picked the one which seemed most feasible.

It actually didn’t end up being either of the ones I would’ve expected but okay. Still all good. My feasibility scale was based on:
  • Is the tempo slow enough that I have a chance of ever playing it at speed? 
  • How much of it can I already play from having learned an easier version that was smart enough to use similar patterns to the real thing? 
  • How much musical theory is there that I have never seen before? 
  • Are there any parts I looked at and went wtf, how is that even possible? 
So the song I picked, I can play prob 75% going in. Win. To put in perspective, of that other 25%, I spent an hour tonight learning 2 bars. An hour. 2 bars. Hands SEPARATE. And it was a HUGE win at the end that I could do the “hard” hand *almost* correctly at 50% speed. And it fell completely apart when trying to add any of the other bars or the other hand in.

Musical notation there are two sections that I have no idea what they mean. I’m reasonably certain FB will provide an answer. One I figured out by context - I know the song and you can watch a person play it on the app so I figured it out, even though I don’t actually get it (aka if I didn’t know how it was supposed to go, there’s no way I’d know to make it happen). The second one I have no idea but have deemed it mildly irrelevant atm ;)

This is way better than the half a dozen in the other songs I wanted ;-P

Then there’s capability. Almost all of it, I’m confident I could get to. Except - there’s one part with THREE four-note cords in a row. Plus side, I can at least reach all the notes. Down side, neither my sheet reading nor my playing capabilities are at the point where I can hit that many keys simultaneously with any sort of accuracy or rhythm.

So yeah. In over my head? For sure. Harming anyone? Nope. And we all know I do better with the almost impossible challenge, so this is the approach for now.

If things go well, I will likely attempt to find a teacher (not so easy out here) when the weather turns. I *may* even have figured out this one song by then lol. Wish me luck!

Never growing up ;)

Right, so I had a lovely week at the cottage.  One of the things I noticed was how much my nails grew?!?! And I kinda put it down to not typing / playing piano / etc.  Then ONE day back into work four of my nails were torn down to the quick.  Not bitten, torn.  hmmm.  Perhaps something is not as it should be.

Now I don't actually care about having nice nails.  Lol I'm a barn kid at heart and they've always been v short, otherwise they just had tons of dirt under them ;).  Practicality win.   But I would like them to not hurt or bleed on stuff.

SO enter the adult fidget toys.  I googled: it's a thing.  Once I clued in a bit, it occurred to me that I used to always fiddle, like all work day long, with random scrunchies.  But since I cut my hair, I don't have them all around the house anymore.  Even in the before times in the office, it'd be with a pen, or my phone, or whatever.  So, I needed something that I could twist around and that was quiet.   I found two super cheap options on Amazon which made their way to me the next day.

This was after one morning?!?!

So the first one (see above) was a bunch of spirally, plastic rings.   They're stretchy, but not much.   They came in a pack of about 10, so I'm not too concerned about this morning's sacrifice.  😂 but it did justify to me that there is a use for them.   AND, while the morning meetings transitioned it from the before pic to the after pic, it's still useful as I spent all my afternoon meetings attempting (unsuccessfully) to detangle it.

This other one I got is definitely more durable!  The only thing I didn't like about it was it made my hands smell like metal.  It's not as much fun as the stretchy ring but still conceptually did what it needed to do.  And end result is I could focus on work without destroying my hands ;).  We're going to deem that an overall win.

So far, so good.  Hands are no longer bleeding.  Nobody can see my toys under the height of the video camera.  Fascinates me that this far in, I'm still learning random things about my own behaviour.  Compensation techniques for the win!

Misc Spanish Update

So I've been really enjoying my Spanish Adventures lately -- feeling like it's a bit on an upswing again, which is always a win ;).   That being said, pluses and minuses...   I found a new Spanish teacher I'm excited about, but went through a couple way less fun trial lessons before this one - one of which was super demotivating.  Booo.  

Sheesh - thanks Duo.

Anyways - this instructor sent me a few documents after our lesson; one was the notes from the class (all my previous instructors have just used google docs, but if he wants to do it this way that's fine too); one was almost a report card of the lesson?  This one was interesting as it had two examples in each of "red" "yellow" and "green" categories of things I said with the why it was or was not correct and how to fix it.  That, to me, is just a lot more work on his part, but moderately interesting (only moderately because my knowledge way exceeds my speaking ability so as soon as I see it, I know what's wrong).  And the third one was a summary of my objectives and level.   

So that last one, I wanted to clarify some details.  I debated whether to do so in English or Spanish 😂. I'm reasonably certain this instructor is fluent in English, but I haven't actually heard him speak it.  So I figured I should give writing in Spanish a solid try.   And I did, and I was reasonably pleased with it - if for no other reason than it was a decent length.  Most of my Spanish writing to date is a sentence or two at most.  

And then I got a response that was very long and all in Spanish.  😂. It's amazing how my brain just shut down at that. I've read literal novels in Spanish, an email w a few paragraphs is not, in fact, an issue.  But I def went omg that's way too many words.  Lol when calmer me, not standing in line on my phone, looked at it, it was a non issue to read and reply.   But I'm still amused at my immediate reaction.   Was also pleased -- he correct and returned my email and it wasn't NEARLY as bad as I'd expected it'd be ;).  Some minor things of course but they were conceptually minor.  So yeah - excited to start lessons with this teacher.  We shall see.

Along the same lines -- the Story Learning site that I generally follow just released an "Upper Intermediate" class (aka B2) that I'm *really* enjoying.  It's the first online one I've found that really helps hit the picky details that make a difference and makes me feel like I'm learning "new" stuff again instead of just trying to continue to improve the same beginner topics endlessly.

And then re beginner topics, I got re-hooked on DuoLingo when I was at the cottage; I tested out of the final one which opened the full tree and all the stories, but now I'm going through and testing out of each level individually.  If I can't do it w/ a score better than 90% I do the next step up too.   I figure this is getting me more review on the details I need in a moderately amusing fashion.  I'm loving the daily quests and the friend challenges.   It has more than doubled the size of the tree since the last time I did it, so I'm looking forward to the more advanced topics at the top of the tree.

The big gap remains, of course, speaking practice.   *sigh*.  It is the primary goal of my new lessons is to help bridge the gap between my comprehension abilities and my speaking abilities.   Fingers crossed.

So yeah - all the things :).   This is a hobby that definitely goes in waves for me, but on an upswing atm and really enjoying it.  We'll see how it goes...

Best week in a long time :)

Almost worth getting up early to see this

So the day after my bday, Sasha and I headed up to join most of our extended family (incl, of course, Bailey and Coco) at my aunt and uncle's cottage.   Still one of my top favourite places in the world, and definitely Sasha's top.  Where else is a leash a figment of the imagination, she can run and swim pretty much as much as she wants, and there're endless chipmunks to chase?   Heaven really.  Unless you're a chipmunk ;-P

On the "hunt".
If she ever catches something,
she just bops it with her nose to re-start the game.

A week of sunshine, dock weather, boat rides, waterskiing (?!?! SO much fun, but man the next day did I ever feel old :( ), "synchronised" diving (our record was five cousins at the same time, ranging in age from 9-me ;), other lake fun, watching the competitive gymnasts move in ways I could never have done even as a child, photos (I wish I'd brought my real camera), conversation, toddler making baby noises and wide smiles, lots of books, Duolingo (5 people in my family all doing it?!?! French (4), Spanish (2), Italian (1), and Chinese (1)), and all-round happiness.   Even the one rainy day was great as it led to a trip to town, including the dump (less fun usually but moderately entertaining in this case since it was temporarily closed due to "a really big bear in the bin".  Wouldn't close it for any bear, but this one was "really big" lol and they needed to give it a ladder so it could get out).  Then exploring the knick knack store (so much fun randomness) and, of course, a stop at the milkshake shack.

LOVE the "get up and go" feeling 
when you point this in a straight line and full throttle.

Came back relaxed and happy, with far fewer lines on my face, and a few extra pounds on the scale ;).  Didn't quite get to the relaxed enough phase where I'd actually start writing again (you know - fiction, not just "real" life stuff ;)).  But closer than I've been in a long time, so deeming that a win.

What a perfect way to spend a hot summer week.

On your birthday, calories don't count

Well it seems I've successfully taken another trip around the sun.  This year was really all about learning our new normal.  We moved here shortly before my birthday last year and both Chris and I got new jobs.   So getting the house set up (yeah new deck!) and acclimatising ourselves to our new area.   I made multiple efforts to fill the hole in my life left by a lack of horses and near-by friends.  Some more successful than others ;).   

Between us, we spend an excessive amount of time out here.

Let's see.   I tried volunteering for Big Brothers / Big Sisters.  Plus side, I'm now officially a volunteer.  Except...   They don't have anybody needing a match?   Lol which, I mean, actually awesome.  But it definitely defeated the whole giving back to the community idea.   Then I went to the library to see if there were any literacy or ESL programs for adults that could use a volunteer.   I have exp in both of those fields, and while I definitely don't want to do either of them as a job, a couple hours a week I'd likely enjoy.  And there is definitely a strong need for ESL within the immediate community.  But no.  Not, apparently, a public service.  Lots of tutoring type places, but that's not what I was looking for at all.

Okay so switching tactics -- how about a fun physical activity?  I looked for climbing first - I've enjoyed that in the past.  Unfortunately there's a grand total of one climbing gym anywhere near here and all they do is bouldering.  Yeah no, if I can't go up, why would I do it?   Sideways, way less fun.   Alright, well how about adult gymnastics?   Nope.  Nada.  Nowhere.  Fail.   BUT I *did* find Circus Arts, and promptly signed up for Arial Silks.   This was a riot.  I *really* enjoyed it.  But I got super frustrated by how slowly I could progress as a beginner who could only practice once a week.  Each week it was like starting over, I had to relearn everything we'd done the week before.  And it was a winter, after dinner activity.  So by the time work was done and it was dark, this was not something I really wanted to do.  Although to be fair, I always enjoyed it once I got there.

Alright, so can't be brand new unless it's something I can practice at home.   I don't know how I got to piano, but I randomly decided that's what I wanted to learn, did a ton of research in super speed, and soon had a digital keyboard (headphones!) with weighted keys (feels like a "real" piano), a stand, a bench, and an app.  Set.   This one, stuck.   I'm still really enjoying it, although I put less time in in the summer (shocker) since I'm outside every possible minute from the time work is over till the bugs come out.   So I'd say bare minimum practicing over the summer, but little by little...   Getting there :).   Only down side is it didn't solve the meeting people challenge.  But still really happy I found this one, and hopeful I might be able to take actual lessons in fall or winter.

And work?  It's crazy.  But I love it.   Great environment, totally engaged in and passionate about the work I'm doing.   The only other job I've ever been this into was GRS.  So, I mean, that's saying something.   It *does* mean I tend to put in a lot more hours than I prob should (hence the not enough time for all the hobbies), but other than that, all good.

So, as per almost always, I took Trip Around the Sun day off of work.  I stayed up quite late last night - cause I could ;) and slept in this am.  Chris got the vast majority of his week's schoolwork done in advance so he could join me for the day.  We went for a mini road trip to pick up pies from the Baking Twins.  These are actually for me to take to the cottage w me tomorrow, but it's a pretty drive and, well, if you're ever out here on a weekend, it's worth going to visit them (they're only open Fri-Sun).

We didn't actually pay to go into the fort,
but we did walk around it and answer some questions ;)

Then we went to Niagara on the Lake to do a Let's Roam.   The weather was perfect and the town is lovely, but the Roam was the worst I've ever done.  SO glad it wasn't our first, as I would never have done another.   Almost every checkpoint was nowhere near where the map told us to go, it was only partially a loop, and at one point there was a hugely long walk with no challenges or anything interesting.  So yeah, overall disappointing.  But it is absolutely a lovely town to wander around.  My original thought had been to go to Post and Pillar for massages and hot springs, but when I checked back in Feb, they were already booked :(   lol so this was a nice enough second.

The marketing and finishing touches on this small business impressed me

On our walk I saw this unique trailer and was fasciated.  Turns out it's a local business that creates high-end picnic lunches for people to have in the park.  And their picnic baskets (which look very much like the trailer) fold open into a table.  Very cute, great little business idea.  

Anyways - by this point we were hungry so we had lunch at the Olde Angel Inn, which we've been to before and enjoyed.   This time we got to be out on the HUGE patio, which was lovely.   

Since lunch was mid afternoon, neither of us were starving when it came time for dinner, so we had birthday cheesecake instead :). 😂 sometimes I love adulting.  Then took the dogs for a walk and mostly just chilled.   Facebook told me today the skittle cake was 9 years ago?!?!   It still wins for best cake ever -- if for no other reason than the amount of effort Steph and her sister Nicole put into making it.  Similarly, by far the most personal gift ever was the scrap book my mum made for my 40th.   Still love that one.   Lots of other great goodies (both baked and not) - I've been pretty lucky :), but those stand out as top two things.   Trips and activities can't be ranked - happy memories all around there.   There have been some awesome birthday activities :)

Anyways - it's now super-late and I'm definitely babbling, but - I'm on vacation :).  Sobeit.

More Spanishing

Sometimes Spanish vocabulary fascinates me. For instance, in the story I'm currently reading, I learned they have a verb for “it gets dark” in common usage. So “we arrived when it was getting dark” takes all of 3 words to communicate in Spanish: “llegamos cuando anochecía”. 

However, it took me the longest time to figure out wtf that last word meant since anoche = last night, and the ending told me was going to be a past tense ‘scene setting’ type verb, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to make a verb out of ‘last night’. Eventually I gave up and looked it up lol. 

This is why I keep going - cause randomness like this amuses me more than it should. Especially when combined w things like there is only ONE word for all three of: to hope, to wait, and to expect.   And it's the FIRST / most common word for all three of them.   Not like it's a synonym buried in a list somewhere; it's the one people without access to a thesaurus use.  And every time I have to use it I’m frustrated that it’s not quite right lol.

I couldn't make this up if I tried.  Source: Google Translate.
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