Here there be dragons...

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

After 9 Rounds of 9 Round

So I've had 9 workouts at the 9 Round adventure and overall am definitely enjoying it.  I've had two workouts that I would've classed as excellent, one (discounting the first) that was a complete waste of showing up, and the rest are somewhere in the middle.  I am definitely seeing physical changes already, although to be fair, I was so out of shape that *any* program would show difference at the start, so I'm not sure that's a great measure lol.

I love that the 30 mins really is exactly 30 mins.  Some of the trainers are definitely a better fit for me than others, but to be expected.  There's also one station that's always trainer-reliant because they hold the pads you kick/punch.  The quality of this varies greatly depending on the skill and strength of the trainer.   There's one that it's a waste of 3 minutes because she stands too far away to reach and needs a break after every round -- I'd rather just workout against the bag.   Conversely there's one who's excellent and pushes me way more than the bag ever would because he pushes the speed and strength just a little each time.  With him, I'm generally struggling by the end of the 3 minutes.

And yeah - 3 minute sets (with the last 30 seconds sometimes something different) are just about right.   There've been a couple that I've found too short, but as often as not, I'm wiped by 2:30 and good to go to something else ;).   The one that killed me today used the sideways bag and was 10 double punches (both hands together), four shin kicks, and three burpees.   Rinse and repeat.  I was dying by the time the bell rang.   It doesn't sound that bad at all, but somehow...

My rhythm and coordination are improving on all the bags.  I really enjoy the speedball although tbh I think it's the least useful from a workout perspective -- and I suspect I'm not the only one who thinks so because it's last (before abs) and usually paired with burpees or something equally unpleasant.   I strongly dislike both knee and elbow work - I don't have any power, they don't seem to be working specific muscles that aren't otherwise addressed, and they hurt.   Conversely - all the others are all kinds of badass - especially the roundhouse kick.  lol. I'm glad there aren't more mirrors, because I'm quite certain my reality is nowhere near my imagination ;)

I'm starting to get a better feel for the "point" system and could see it being useful. I do find it frustrating at times though as it's entirely heart rate based and if there are too many non-cardio exercises in a row my heart rate drops quickly.   Some days they nail the balance, but some days are almost all strength and that doesn't really work as far as points go.  I do like my email summary, although the app is a waste of bytes.   It's a shame because they could make it something interesting fairly easily.

Anyways - we'll see how it goes, but for the moment, all good.

Be brave enough to suck at something new

Stumbled upon the title quote today and love it.  Especially as it totally fits with my day ;)

So there's a new gym around the corner from me that just opened today - 9 Round (it's a chain, you can google).  It follows a premise of circuit training with -- you guessed it -- 9 stations.  Each station is 3 minutes, with a 30 second miscellaneous exercise in-between.   And what's different is that it's a kickboxing focus.

Boxing.  Like with boxing gloves.  Which I now not only own, but know how to wrap my wrists to support ;).  Hint -- it's *significantly* easier than wrapping a horse's legs *g*.  What's not easier is doing up the second glove while wearing the first one ;).  Also, I learned quickly to remove rings before starting.  Ow.

So the equipment stays the same every workout, but the exercises change daily.

Round 1 is skipping.  How many of you have tried skipping any time past the age of 12?  Lol yeah - way harder, and more exhausting, than I remember.   I distinctly recall skipping for HOURS in Jump Rope for Heart.   Today...   I made it to the three minutes, but had to fight for it.  And that was with "breaks" that were caused by getting tangled in the rope.  The worst was getting it tied in my pony tail?!?!  I honestly don't think I could do that if I tried.   But... Magic ;-P.  I figure my cardio will improve faster than my coordination.

Round 2 is weights -- today's exercise was weighted squat kicks using a kettle ball.  Okay that's a pretty standard exercise, so nothing interesting.

Round 3 is when the gloves go on and a had a smaller ball held in place at about eye level.  It had enough swing to it that I stood back so it wouldn't punch me in the face, but not free swinging.  This one was fun in that today's exercise was just punch with one hand and then with the other.  They showed me how one is theoretically supposed to do this.  My form, I'm sure, was ummmm questionable.  It was fun though and moderately entertaining (read horribly embarrassing if anybody were watching).  While I don't think I actually missed the ball at any point, I definitely struck it well off centre sending the ball bouncing wildly in all directions and a good thing it's literally tied down, and also had challenges with rhythm and timing (eg - hitting the ball as it's going away).

The whole picture is worth 1000 words thing:  Round 3 on the left, Round 4 on the right.
All pictures stolen from Google
Round 4 includes a "normal" punching bag.  I say normal because it's what I, in my completely unknowledgeable state, think of when I think of a punching bag.  Big, solid, taller than me, bag.  It was used for a backward lunge into front kick -- mine kicks were about shin high *g*.  Lol now these I've done before too, just never with a bag.  Added an interesting twist in that if you got the timing with the rhythm of the bag swinging it flowed really well, but if you didn't it was arguably better exercise because you had a lot more push back.  And thankfully my balance is solid so the times when it spun out sideways (cause nobody is surprised I can't kick with any accuracy!) I could stay upright.

Round 5 was a GIANT ball.  lol this one was a series of uppercuts, then duck and shuffle under the ball and uppercuts on the other side.  Again - proper form was demonstrated.  What I did, I'm quite certain did not even slightly resemble it ;).  But moderately entertaining.  And the last 30 seconds was just punch as fast as you can, which was more fun than it should've been.

This needs a person for scale ;)

Round 6 was by far the most fun.  It involved one of the trainers with punching pads -- he would tell me what order to punch in and meet my punches with giant pads.  Fun both because it took my lack of coordination out of the picture -- he accommodated for it ;).  And also because it gave way more complex combinations (utilizing all the punches I'd learned in the previous rounds).  It also ended with a "as fast as possible" in the last 30 seconds.
This looks like fun, but it is not :(
Round 7 I really disliked.  It was a sideways bag and the idea was to bring your leg up underneath it and hit it with knee/thigh.  After about 30 seconds, my hips were killing me.   So random.  Very definitely not supposed to be what was sore from that, but of course I would involve random body parts.  So I didn't get much out of this, because I couldn't get past that enough to work the muscles that were supposed to be.  It was bad - trainer even asked me if I was recovering from an injury?!?!  So pathetic.  Nope.  Just work at an office job and am completely inflexible.

Round 8 I think will be my favourite once I get good at it.  Today was not that day.   It's a tiny ball that bounces really fast.   But today's challenge was to hit it on every third bounce...   I'd get the rhythm for five or six times in a row, but then I'd miss it horribly and take a while to reset.

Round 9 is abs.  Today was just weighted situps.  Nothing exciting and nothing horrible.  Followed by 30 seconds of plank which, I admit, I failed at.  lol ah well, going to say that means I did the rest of it well.

So yeah - this is my new challenge.  Going to give it a month and see if I like it.   Overall, I think there's potential for it to be a good workout -- mine wasn't particularly but that was mostly due to being slowed down due to lack of coordination and needing explanation at each station.  That should get significantly better quickly.  

They make decent use of technology -- I was given a heart rate monitor and stats are on the screen while you're exercising.  The goal is to say in the "yellow" or "green" areas -- which basically means you're working but not at top level.  They also give you a score based on your ability to stay in that area.  The trainers seemed very happy with my score of 80 (I guess target score is 60) but given the lack of cardio beyond the skipping this didn't really mean much to me.   I also got an email summary later that evening which I enjoyed more than I should.   Yeah dashboards :)

The only thing I really don't like is the cutesy culture.  They want everybody to pick a "fighter name" which is so not my thing and that they insist you ring a bell when you finish the round.  And worse, ring once for good workout, twice for a great workout, and 3 times for an amazing workout.   Well not only do I have zero interest in doing this, but I find it aggravating to hear the bell constantly ringing as others finish.  It's a little thing, but it might make the difference overall.

My timing was good as when I got there there were people at most of the stations, but nobody came in after me, so by the end I was the only one in the gym with two trainers.  Slightly awkward, but at least pretty sure they'd catch if I was doing something stupid.

So we'll see.  Go back tomorrow to see if anything is any better on day 2.  Cause you know, coordination improves greatly when one's tired ;)

Virtual Reality getting Real Results?

So I tried boxing in VR (Knockout League)...  And...  Interesting experience...

I loved the name creator -- you pick an adjective or title (Mr, Mrs, The, Wicked, Incredible, etc) and a noun (Princess, Beast, Weapon, Pancake, etc -- yes, pancake was an option.  Yes, I considered it.). Some of the combinations appealed to my sense of humour.   Then a brief tutorial and you're off.

So it's boxing -- like in a ring face to face with someone else trying to hit you.   It turns out that I'm not okay with even virtual people trying to hit me.  Lol.  I was so uncomfortable with it that I had to fight the instinct to physically step back to get more distance from him.

Then, to make matters worse, I'm also not okay with hitting somebody.  Okay - not quite true, once was okay.  But then when he's not quite there, to keep hitting him was not okay.  Especially once his mouth started bleeding.  Ugh.  But the whole "knockout" thing means you keep going.

But -- on the plus side, the game is clearly balanced to skill.  I imagine if I were any good, the characters would fight a lot harder and faster.   Mine took his sweet time telepathing with long windups which hand he was going to use and on what angle, so by the end I knew exactly where to go to dodge and then come up swinging.

Other plus -- it's by FAR the best VR workout I've found yet.  My cardio went way up (maybe partially due to fear of giant people hitting me but hey - result is the same ;). And my quads were sore after from all the dodging, so I'm deeming that a win.

I also discovered that not only can't I block (I either go too early and it doesn't work or too late and it also doesn't work) but in the midst of things, it doesn't occur to me to block.  Hit or dodge are the only two options my brain registers.

Not sure I'm going to keep this one.  Liked the workout but didn't actually enjoy the experience.   Will try it once more and see.   But was definitely interesting to try.

Wonderful Whales

Woke up to a gorgeous morning - sun rising on the water outside our window, boats bobbing in the distance, all round stunning.

Then Mum and I were heading to breakfast and I hear “Lauren Cude” - uh what?!?!   Lol it was Debbie, my ‘barn mom’ from Pony Club days who used to invite me to join her family for holidays (Thanksgiving etc) and who had the most personable horse I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.   I missed connecting with her in Fredericton, but here she was!  She’s here moving her daughter (former student of mine) to school.  Amazingly small world and what a great start to the morning.

After a breakfast it was off to whale watching.  We were warned it would be significantly colder out on the water so I was wearing three layers and carrying a fourth.  It seemed excessive.  It was not lol.

There were multiple whale watching options but I really believe we got the best one.  Went out on a catamaran, so didn’t waste a ton of time getting there.  But then it was a big boat we could move around and only about 20 people on the tour (half of what they max at - so there was space for everybody to see no matter where the whale was).  The boat had two levels and there was a biologist on each floor helping spot and giving info between sightings.  The captain also had a speaker so would announce critters as they were seen.

We ended up in an area where we saw four or five different humpback whales - several times.  The only reason I know how many there were is because the biologist could tell them apart (and had named them ;).  Part of her job is tracking which whales are where so I guess telling them apart is critical.  Her version of the ten bay TBs in the paddock.  I learned the tail markings are all individual so that was cool.

Anyways - it was incredible!  Some were amazingly close, others obviously farther out.  Also saw puffins and seals.  Got some great photos that I’m looking forward to seeing in big :).  The experts were both knowledgeable and personable and despite the fact that it’s nearly the end of the season, still engaged and enthusiastic. So that was excellent.  

On the ride home we were treated to hot chocolate (did I mention it was *cold*) and chocolate chip cookies.  Win :).  One of the hosts also did a mini lecture about little ocean critters (star fish, crabs, etc) which was not a bad way to pass the time driving back.

Once back on land we ditched a few layers of clothing in the car and then wandered around the very pretty St Andrews for a while before leaving the whales behind for Saint Stephens where we’re spending our last night.

On the way there, we took a mini detour to visit the historical site of St Croix island - where the first European settlers tried to colonize and failed horribly.  And while interesting reading about what they did, I struggled to get past “why tf did you choose a tiny island to settle on right before winter when there’s a ton of land on either side?!?!”  Lol poor life choice clearly.   Was interesting though that it’s an International Heritage Centre - so dedicated by both Canada and the US.

In complete randomness, everything out here is blueberry - blueberry muffins, timbits, pie, tea, beer?!?!, wine,...  the list seems impressively endless.  And while I do enjoy blueberries, esp in pancake form, this does seem to be far more of a Thing here than I’ve ever seen.  Did not feel the need to try a blueberry bath bomb.

Anyways - a quiet evening and tomorrow we head home just ahead of the incoming hurricane.  Got insanely lucky with the weather this trip!  Was supposed to be meh all week but other than damp for our driving day and foggy for the trail it was pretty much perfect.  Today’s weather was amazing - blue skies and sunshine.

Sad it’s almost over but thrilled with what a great trip it’s been!

Foggy Fundy

So today’s adventure was the Fundy Trail.  We had the Park pretty much to ourselves, which was absolutely lovely.  

Unfortunately I’m sure that was at least partially due to the insane fog.  Lol we skipped all viewpoints but did go for a hike to the captain’s graveyard where the fog actually lent ambiance to the experience.

Continuing our drive, we managed to drop below the fog for a bit and went for a walk over a suspension bridge.  There were stairs to a lookout - but we already knew by that point all we’d see is cloud, so we skipped the trek.  The tidal river below was mostly out and the rock bed was a great mix of pale pink, blue, and yellow rocks.  Nature’s gender reveal party!

We continued our adventure climbing above the clouds to where we found sun.  This lead to some really amazing photos - it was a really stunning and unique vantage point.

Here it was sunny and 10 deg warmer so we went for a hike which was gorgeous.  And again - no people anywhere.

Alas, on our trip back down we again crossed through the clouds to find ourselves back in heavy fog.  Slightly disappointing, but was so gorgeous up above that it almost didn’t matter.  Spent some time playing with my camera at a waterfall - making the water freeze or blur and playing around with depth of focus.  We had some time since the vast majority of what we’d planned to see couldn’t be seen.  Even with that though we managed to spend a good five hours there.  Can imagine how long it’d take if the weather was good.  Or if you were waiting for other people.  Or if you chose to do any of the dozen other hikes we skipped ;)

We’re now in St Andrews for the night.  Super cute town and I can’t wait to poke around all the little stores after whale watching tomorrow.   No pics tonight as still very foggy and it’s supposed to be perfect tomorrow.   Also our inn is about a block from the downtown strip such as it is - so we walked in for dinner.  Very cool.  And on the water - we have amazing views from our balcony.  Win!

Lots of driving with a couple mini adventures

So this morning we finished off the Cabot Trail — even in the drizzly rain, it was stunning.  There was a great myst that added to the ambiance of it.

Then we drove through a heavily Gaelic area of Cape Breton - complete with bilingual signs and the Gaelic College.   Really enjoyed poking around some of the touristy places there cause I’ve always been a fan of all things Celtic :)

Throughout yesterday and today was having flashbacks to the days of discmen (dating myself here) as the satellite radio kept skipping, or at times giving up entirely.  Lol really off the grid with no cell and no satellite.  The only reason we got anywhere was car GPS.  Well, that and the fact that there’s really only one road ;).  It’s moderately challenging to get lost following a single trail.

On the way through Cape Breton we stopped for a short visit with my aunt who lives there - including yummy blueberry muffins.  Win!  Lol so that was a nice chat AND she had both her and her daughter’s dogs there so got in our pet fix.

Next up was Peggy’s Cove.  We got there at almost exactly 5:00 - when the entire town shuts down.  So there was no visiting of shops to be had.  I say the “entire” town, but for perspective sake, this is maybe 20-30 houses, of which probably 10 are tourist shops.  It is *tiny*.  Really tiny.

Plus side, the rain stopped and the sun came out just as we got there.  Also since after 5 on a mostly rainy day after tourist season, there weren’t a ton of people there.  Definitely a good number, but if you were patient you could easily get a tourist-free shot of the lighthouse (or anything else).  

I wished I’d had more of my lenses with me.  I had picked my most versatile (and my phone of course) and worked with that.  But with even one more, I could’ve spent hours taking pics around the town and enjoyed every minute of it.  The colours, lighting, and play off the water is just stunning.  Not to mention the giant boulders that are fascinating all on their own.   But we left before the sun set so that I could take a few pics from a lookout we’d past earlier so I was super pleased to get that in.  Esp as the light came on in said lighthouse at that time - I took *many* photos in an effort to capture it (light was rotating) - won’t know till I get home if I was successful.  Fingers crossed!

After that just the drive back to Moncton for the night.  It certainly seems in the maritimes all roads lead to Moncton *sigh*.  About 9h driving all in today - it’s amazing how tired you can get sitting still.   Had fun making a road trip playlist out of Mum’s phone songs lol - mostly from the 60s.  My main criteria were fast, upbeat, something that didn’t annoy me, and the sillier the better.  Got us through a couple hours anyways ;)

Anyways - definitely ready to sleep now.  Night!

The Cabot Trail

Today was good but very long.  An early start to catch the ferry (lol my autocorrect is determined to spell it fairy - I actually love that my world is more fantasy than reality).  On boarding process was quick and painless as was disembarking afterwards - they really have it down to a science.

The trip itself was uneventful.  It was quite chilly w a pretty intense wind that did an amazing job of tying my hair into a giant knot, so we spent most of it inside sitting by the window. Did go up on the top deck at the start and end though and got some great photos.   Also a random plane was flying around quite low and went right overhead, so got some good pics of that too.

Stopped at Tim Hortons to fuel up for the rest of the day - apparently it’s the first Tims after the ferry.  The washroom lineup was significantly longer than the food lineup lol.

Then was off to Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail.  Drove about the first half of the trail today, parts of which are absolutely stunning.  Also hiked the Skyline Trail which due to some faulty map reading we ended up hiking significantly farther than we’d intended lol.  Ah well - tomorrow’s a car day so good to get extra steps in today.  The first half was honestly kinda meh.  Good footing but just bush, no signage, no views, just meh...  but the second half was fairly stunning.  Which at the end we discovered we’d gone the wrong way around.  And it also looks like they’re adding signage etc cause after a certain point there was all the usual stuff you’d expect to be able to read about (and answered some of the questions I’d had earlier).  Sadly, but not unexpectedly, didn’t get to see any moose :(

We’re staying tonight at a super cute B&B - The Island Inn.  Exactly what you might think of if you imagined a maritime B&B, up to and including pretty bright yellow house, cat greeting us on the front porch (although he’s not allowed in guest rooms in case of allergies), and a second floor wrap around balcony.  We had dinner at a similarly epitomic restaurant- mostly seafood although the burger I had was also amazing.  Lots of people even though a tiny town on a random Monday.  And just cozy home style wonderful yumminess, complete w apple pie and ice cream for dessert.  Win.

Looking forward to a sounder sleep tonight!  Tomorrow is mostly transit but hoping to at least poke around in some touristy areas.  

Island Adventures

Amazing, and incredibly long, day today.   Combine that with the fact that I haven’t really slept in days so am somewhat incoherent and definitely incapable of writing concise prose, and imagine how long this blog post might be as a result.  Consider yourself forewarned.

So we started off in the historic part of Charlottetown, which I absolutely loved.  Couldn’t get past the colours of the houses (most of which have plaques with who lived there way back when...) - just stunning, esp with the sun hitting it just right.  Got some amazing photos that someday will get shared.  Today is not that day.  

So we started the day with a scavenger hunt. This was SO much fun.  It gave us a picture of what we were looking for, some info, and the general direction.  Then when we found it, would ask some questions about it that could be answered by looking at the object in question (eg no trivia knowledge required), give us some more info, then send us on the way to the next one.  Occasionally with random challenges like “take a photo of X”. 

So one of my favourite examples - find hotel X, with pic of building.  Okay great.  Once there it asked about the two troublemakers sitting - and sure enough a fun statue.  First was what was interesting about their names; well the informational plaque said they had the same name.  Okay.   So then it said, there’s a party - what time is it and who’s not invited.   Lol so the plaque said who wasn’t invited, but no sign of what time the party started. Mum found that part carved on a slip of paper one of the characters was holding (as part of the statue).   Very creative.

A friend from uni lives not far from Charlottetown so he, his wife, and their very smiley little person were going to meet us for coffee.  Well our scavenger hunt took us right past the coffee shop we were going to meet at about 10 mins before we were going to meet.  Fairly ideal really.   Had a really nice coffee break and catch up chat at Receiver Coffee and then continued on the quest.  There was one building closed for renos but somehow we managed to get the right answer with a “best guess”.  And at least once I asked a random stranger to point us in the right direction.   But all in, tons of fun and just about the right length (it tells you what percentage complete after each one).  Lol in the end we finished with about 15000 points and a new high score!   Now to be fair, I’m not sure how many people have done this one but hey - still good :)

Afterwards we wandered around the touristy area for a while (I got my trip picture frame - those who know will be pleased to hear ;) and then was off to the land of the green gables.

This was a gorgeous drive!  Some really stunning homes and farms.  At one point I commented “Wow that’s gorgeous.  It kinda reminds me of what the views were like in Scotland.” Then not 10 seconds later we drove by a sign for New Glasgow.  Lol guess I wasn’t the only one who thought that!

Anne of Green Gables House itself was as you’d expect - little early 1900s farm house with ALL the floral prints (walls, ceiling, everything) lol. But what they’ve also done is created some really nice walking trails through the areas described in the books so those were great to hike along.   There was of course also the obligatory gift shop, which we browsed but didn’t feel the need to bring anything home with us.   Also lots of photos/historical details/etc to help tell the story - along the trails, in the barn, and in an information centre they’ve built between the parking area and the house.  So all kinds of info if you wanted it :).  We skipped the info centre as it was busy but read most of the rest...

We followed this with a trip to the nearby Cavendish Beach.  This was...  disappointing.   A nice enough beach for sure, but not really the famed “red sand”.  The dunes were stunning and I was overly fascinated w them lol.  There was a moderately interesting looking hike, but it didn’t seem to overlook the beach and we didn’t have time (or tbh inclination) to do the whole thing so we skipped it.  Also everything surrounding the beach was unbelievably touristy and *packed*!  I honestly didn’t think there were that many people on the whole island, not to mention all in one place.

However, since we shorted that, we had some extra daylight left, so we took one of the suggestions from coffee friends and took the scenic route home (which again was stunning) and through Victoria.  This was the most random experience.  A tiny little town with very little in it - pretty but really nothing there, that had a ton of people for no apparent reason.  Lol we poked around some shops, went for a bit of a walk, and had some ice cream.  I also had fun playing with my camera for a bit.  All good.

Eventually drove ourselves back to the city part of Charlottetown (historic part is cool old buildings, waterfront, no chain stores, etc - we even saw a market there today; the rest is a very typical modern city with everything you’d expect) - had a nice dinner and now just sorting out tomorrow’s adventure.

I really loved it here.  Also - extremely jealous of real estate prices.  But pretty sure they don’t get amazon prime ;).  Lol and if the do don’t disabuse me of that notion as it’s keeping me balanced right now.

Seriously though - was an absolutely amazing day.  Still smiling :)

Tell me what you see...

New therapy analysis tool - instead of look at this ink blot and tell me what you see (side note - the one time I tried that, my answers were so far off expected it was as though I wasn’t looking at the same card.  Who’s surprised by this? Lol).  Anyways - instead of the ink blot test, the Hopewell Rocks test...   Today we saw two elephants, an angry mother-in-law, a giant, a flowerpot, women dancing, penguins, Jay Leno, and...  I can’t even remember the others...   And I didn’t come up with any of it!  Lol for just this once I just went along w what everybody else saw.

So yes - today we left Moncton to drive to Hopewell Rocks in the Bay of Fundy.  The whole way down we drove along a river.  It took me longer than I want to admit to figure out that the reason the giant but water-free banks were wet was because it was a tidal river.  I know, I can hear teenage me’s eyes roll with a condescending “duh”.  But yeah - I was thinking it hasn’t rained, but that mud is very shiny...  Weird mud?  Right, Occam’s Razor anybody?   To be fair to me, I’ve never lived where tides are a thing, and my little mind only associates them with oceans, not rivers.  But still - gold star to me ;-P

So we get to the Rocks for low tide and wander the ocean floor.  In some ways the experience was similar to the wildebeest migration in Tanzania.  No, I haven’t had anything interesting to eat ;). Remember- my brain doesn’t always see the same pictures as everybody else, but stick with me here and I’ll talk you through it.   Before going to Africa, I’d seen multiple Nat Geo specials that included various clips of the migration.  And yeah, moderately interesting but not necessarily my number one priority.  Sort of a “happy to see it, but not devastated if I don’t” kind of thing.  And then the reality was so mind blowingly beyond anything I’d ever imagined that I struggle to even reconcile how wrong my original thoughts and expectations were.  In this case I actively wanted to see it, it was right at the top of my list of things for this trip, but it was so amazingly above and beyond what I’d expected.  Even though it very much matched the photos, the reality is so much more powerful.  And a ton of fun running around taking photos, finding interesting lines and angles to tell the story, and trying to time it so there weren’t extra people in the shorts (well, except when I wanted them there for scale of course).  It was, in its simplest form, really really cool.

There is, of course, a time limit.  So we were shooed off the beach as the water started creeping its way back up.  We hiked to a couple lookouts, got some food, and then headed down for our high tide kayak adventure.  We got warned that it would be a workout - today’s currents and weather were not conductive to a leisurely paddle, but we were still in.  We got a quick lesson on paddling and steering the two-person sea kayak and away we went.   Took a bit to get the hang of steering, and at least once we were paddling and going nowhere which was less fun.  But other than that it was very cool.  We were at the end of high tide so not quite as dramatic as it might’ve been, but still fascinating to paddle around where we’d been walking only a short while earlier.   We also got to paddle through the rocks  and some areas we couldn’t walk earlier, so yeah - generally amazing.  The guides were great, both knowledgeable and personable, as well as moderately amusing story tellers, so all in it was a really positive experience.

Once we finished up and changed into dry clothes, it was back into the car for the drive to Charlottetown.  I think this was about 2h?  A little fuzzy on time - but involved driving back to Moncton and going from there...  The bridge to PEI is an engineering marvel - it must’ve been a nightmare to build!   And I’m reasonably amused by the fact that it’s free to go to the island but you have to pay to leave - very Caribbean of them ;).  Scenery was dramatically different as soon as we crossed, and the drive to Charlottetown was fairly stunning.  We had absolutely perfect photography light, but it had been a v long day and Mum’s not quite as addicted to her camera as I am, so we just enjoyed the sunset on the drive and went to the hotel - which I think is the nicest one yet.

So yeah - amazing day.  My Fitbit is proud of me.  And maybe that means I’ll sleep tonight :)

A trip down memory lane

It’s Labour Day wknd and Mum and I are driving from Oakville to Fredericton (about a 14h commitment for those not familiar with the area ;).   For several years of my life this was an annual trek each year as I relocated to uni.  This year, it’s just for fun ;).

When I was at uni, I was mostly broke and definitely did not have a car, which meant little to no exploring happened.  So this year, Mum and I are doing a short Maritime road trip.  Woohoo!

The drive out was fortunately uneventful.  We crashed for the night and then visited some old haunts in Fredericton.  I even got myself a UNB sweatshirt - which I always regretted not doing when I was a student, and am disproportionately pleased to have remedied this situation *g*

After Fredericton we drove to Magnetic Hill, outside of Moncton.  Here gravity works backwards.  You drive down this hill, put the car in neutral, and it pulls itself back up the hill.  Both creepy and unbelievably cool at the same time.  Science says it’s an optical illusion and in-fact the hill is reversed of how it looks.  Blah on science - our car definitely went uphill, backwards, by itself.  Lol I have video to prove it.   But yeah - I did not expect that to be anything worth mentioning but it was a very impressive example of how unreliable our senses are.

We had been tentatively planning on heading to Charlottetown tonight, and on the way home were going to visit Hopewell Rocks, which I’ve always wanted to see.  Well one of the cool things there is to kayak at high tide- but google said that’s only an option until Sep 1.  Hmmm perhaps, given that it’s like an hour from here, we should go there first - while it’s still August ;).  So first step I called (actually called - like found and used the phone portion of my cellular device) the kayak company to see if we could get a spot.  Well both the normal tours are full, but this is one of the few days of the year with an extra long high tide, so they’re running a third tour and it has space!  Win!  So booked into that, moved Charlottetown reservation by one day, and found somewhere to bunk in Milton for the night.

Super excited :)

In search of words...

Right, so I failed my Spanish exam the other day.  Pretty disheartening :(.  It was to cover the last three chapters and we were told to review direct/indirect objects, imperatives, and present subjunctive.   Okay so I did that.  I made a serious effort at that -- up to and including drilling all the exceptions to all the rules.   I both know and understand it.  So A, pretty pleased at that.  And B, should be ready for an exam right?

Except that where I went wrong is the exam is actual application.  So all the study exercises of the "conjugate verb X in the sentence" variety, or rewrite sentence in subjunctive, or any variation thereof goes out the window when it's "read this article and respond".   Frig.  So my vocabulary still sucks.  Which means that even though I understand the article well enough to respond, know how to respond and which tenses etc to use, I can't use them if I don't know the words to apply them too :(.  So that effectively wiped out both the reading comprehension and the writing portion.

Listening, as per last time, was a complete disaster.  On the plus side -- I at least understood parts of it this time (progress over last time).  On the down side, none of the parts I understood were relevant to the questions asked.   AND part of the question was essentially "write a synopsis of what they just told you".  Well I could barely figure out what they were telling me, much less reiterate it back in Spanish (again, vocabulary).   Given a ton more time and a pause button I could've done it, but not at rapid fire speed with only one repeat.   Fail.   Only thing that made me feel slightly better is that student peer with significantly better vocabulary (although zero grasp of grammar?) who spends a lot of time in Guatemala, said he can carry on conversations on the phone in Spanish with no problem, but he couldn't catch that.  So at least I'm not alone.

Then the grammar section, which I should be good at, half of them I couldn't understand the question.  Again - fried by vocabulary rather than lack of knowledge.   And of course there's no vocabulary list for the course -- you're just randomly supposed to know things.   I spend a ridiculous amount of time learning words, clearly I need more words, but would be really nice if I could point that in a useful direction *sigh*

Lacking a useful direction, my latest was that I'm learning a lot from Harry Potter, maybe I should make a vocabulary list for that...   But then that seemed excessive...  So maybe somebody's already done it?   LOTS of somebodies already have done it.  Varying degrees of quality but eventually found a list with useful vocabulary to learn that seemed correct.  lol.  Other than that, all my lists come from my self-teaching textbooks (which DO have vocabulary lists)...

I keep telling myself it IS much better than it was and I AM learning.  And I know that I learn best when I'm at the bottom of the class.  But is it ever hard on the ego to be there :(.  I'm not a fan of feeling stupid.

Ah well - mini victories...  Harry Potter is at least getting easier to read.  Lol still painfully slow, but that's got to count for something right?

#FridayFlash 73: The Check List

Just one long to-do list after another.   Lizzie sighed and considered the multitude of things on her list for tomorrow.   It was the weekend, a time she once looked forward to, but now seemed to consist only of the chores she didn’t get done during the week.  Adulting was not turning out the way she’d once dreamed.  Nothing was really.

-      Laundry!   The situation is becoming desperate.  Clean underwear is not optional.
-      Tiny (remember, you’re his whole life.  Play ball, take him for a walk, something!)
-      Get groceries (all that’s left in the fridge is wilted lettuce.  You don’t want wilted lettuce for dinner)
-      Put gas in the car (or the groceries won’t make it home)
-      Exercise!  Those last 2 lbs aren’t going to lose themselves.
-      Bake cookies.  After all, you just exercised.  You’ve earned them.  Lemon ones. Pick up lemons when you get groceries.
-      Study.  Something. Anything.  Preferably something related to work you’d like to do.  It’s the only way you’ll get out of the work you currently do.
-      Vacuum.  It’ll be a great way to avoid studying, and Tiny’s hair is all over the place.
-      Mow the lawn (maybe can count as exercise?). Unless it’s raining.
-      Weed the garden.  Seriously.  It’s starting to look impressively junglish.
-      Nap.  But set your alarm – you don’t have time to sleep all day (see above!)
-      Buy bday gift for nephew.  Something noisy and obnoxious.  Revenge is best served cold.
-      Mail wedding RSVP – it was due last week!  Bad guest.

She shook her head looking it over, knowing she was forgetting something but not sure what.  And not sure she could bring herself to care.  It had been a very long week.  With a smile, she added a few more things hoping to spur her memory:

-      Win the lottery (buy a ticket?)
-      Find soulmate
-      Plan dream vacation

With thoughts of her “one day” Africa trip in mind, and no idea what she’d forgotten from the list, Lizzie closed her app and dismissed all thoughts of tomorrow’s chores from her mind, pouring herself a glass of wine and settling in with a book she’d be moderately embarrassed to be caught reading but fully planned to enjoy every moment of.

The next morning she started with a long bath.  Just because she had a ton of things to do, didn’t mean she shouldn’t start the day out right!   Then with a sigh she reluctantly opened the list and started ordering things. Laundry first, it could run while she was doing other things.  Oh and she should probably do dishes at the same time.   Groceries would have to wait – once she went out, she knew her productivity would plummet.   Tiny could go for a short walk in the am and be sure it happened or a longer walk after everything else was done – but she might be too tired then.  Or both?   She looked to her great dane to judge his thoughts on the matter, but he was still sound asleep.   Afternoon it is.  

Exercise.  She should probably do that now.  But she just got out of the bath.   Not good timing to get sweaty again and then have to shower again.  She could exercise later.

Executive decision that lawn and garden were both getting bumped to Sunday.  She didn’t have anything on tomorrow anyways and this list was ridiculous.

Can’t bake cookies without getting groceries.  Studying is definitely an evening thing.   

So.  Laundry and dishes.  While they’re doing their thing, vacuum.  Then go out and buy all the things.  Put groceries and dishes away, put laundry in the dryer.   Bake the cookies.  While the cookies are baking, wrap the birthday present.  Rescue cookies from oven and taste test, put laundry away, and then the nap.  The wonderful nap.  Highlight of the day really.  

After the nap, a quick workout, then take Tiny on a walk to the mailbox to send the RSVP, maybe farther if things are good.   Study a little before dinner, and then freedom for the evening.  Maybe time for that dream trip planning (optional).

Feeling pleased with herself for having sorted a workable plan, Lizzie tackled the list with far more enthusiasm than she’d written it. She even picked up a scratch and win lottery ticket – couldn’t guarantee it’d win, but at least she could say she made a solid effort at that part of the list.

All was going well until while walking the usually impeccably well-trained Tiny through the park, he suddenly tugged on his leash and bounded away.  Lizzie was so stunned by the behaviour she dropped the leash; not that she could’ve done much about it – Tiny weighed as much as she did.  He stopped only a few feet away, head down on his front paws, peering under a bush.

She didn’t bother to call him, just went over to see what he’d found.  Telling him to leave it, she gave the strongest wait command she could and then bent over to see for herself.  The bush scratched her face as she lifted the bottom branches to see underneath.  And found a tiny black kitten, no bigger than her palm.  It stared back at her, didn’t seem scared – after Tiny, she surely seemed the better option.

She reached out and got swatted for her efforts.  Rolling her eyes, she tried again, catching the now angry kitten by the scruff of the neck.  She backed up out of the bush, bringing the kitten with her, only to find Tiny right beside her, eagerly nosing the kitten.  The dog had no maliciousness in him, only curiousity about the tiny fluff his person was holding.

Keeping the kitten close to her chest so it would neither claw her nor run away, she took both critters home, deciding she would keep an eye out for lost kitten signs, but suspecting she’d just inherited a new pet.

Tiny was fascinated.  Lizzie watched him carefully as she put the kitten down, he nuzzled her, so gently she didn’t even topple over, then followed protectively as she wobbled around the floor.

Watching the kitten explore her new home with her giant shadow, Lizzie scratched her lottery ticket.  $5.  Woohoo!  Enough for another lottery ticket.  She laughed and reached for her textbook.

Looking up after forcing herself through one chapter, Lizzie smiled to see that the kitten had curled up in the middle of Tiny’s massive bed for a nap, and Tiny lay on the floor, with his head on edge of the bed still watching the kitten.

And as Lizzie started to think about what her Africa dreams might look like, she realized even her completely unrealistic list items had been accomplished.  She HAD won the lottery – just not the prize she’d imagined.   And she HAD found a soul mate, from the looks of things, it just happened to be Tiny’s.

Pulling out her app, she started a new list for tomorrow.

-      Write more ambitious list.

Not my dog; not my kitten

Found this pic *after* writing the story -- but you have to admit, it fits well :)

I wonder how many calories I burn tossing and turning?

So I got home from teaching, fairly wired.  This is not unusual and one of the reasons I enjoy teaching on Friday nights (a time slot I bitterly resented at first) as I can be wired late at night and it really doesn't matter the next day.

Got home and decided I'd burn off some steam in VR.  Did a rather disappointing boxing round that was all squats and dodging and very little punching -- kinda defeats the purpose.  So then played some Beat Saber which was way more fun (I'm sorry but you really can't help but feel awesome slicing away at things w/ light sabers!), although I was off tonight which is frustrating, even in game world.

But more of an issue was that Chris, who has to work tomorrow and thus be up early, was ready for bed, and Sasha was even more wired than I was.   So while my games, being entirely contained AND in the basement, aren't likely to keep him awake, Sasha running around and bringing me each of her toys individually in an attempt to entice me to play, might.

So my solution to this...   I'll take her for a run :).  I love the night -- esp warm summer moonlight nights such as tonight.  And, weekend.  So win.  So we go for a run, but we're both wired so there's no pacing, no intelligence in this at all really.  Just booked it till very unfit me was not capable of moving and breathing at the same time.   Then we walked the rest of the way home.  Fortunately Sash isn't terribly fit right now either so it did at least take the edge off so she was more willing to chill when I got home.

But now I've got teaching high, exercise adrenaline, and the magic of a summer's night flowing through me.  Sleep is so not happening anytime soon.  I'd actually love to have Alexa blare some music while I clean the house but, well, sleeping husband.   (Side note -- did I mention Alexa moved in last weekend?  And I love her!!!   I've had more interaction with her in a week than with Siri and Google combined in all the time I've had them.   Unrelated -- anybody want a fully functional but slightly useless Google Home?)

So I decided I'd take physical energy and see if it can be turned into creative energy.   I even started sitting out back, which was awesome except that it turns out Night Magic (tm) isn't strong enough to counteract mosquitos.  Ugh.   So I have retreated indoors.   The dogs are now in bed.   And I'm in my cozy library which has actually become my favourite room in any house I've lived in to date.   It's tiny, but I love it.

Anyways - it's still technically Friday, so my challenge is to see about a Friday Flash ;).  And it will be deemed Friday until after I sleep, regardless of what the clock may say.  This buys me more time for said Friday Flash.   Wish me luck!

A stolen moment

It’s a little after midnight and the dogs wanted to go out.  Rather than just send them, I followed and snagged one of our lawn chairs.   So I’m sitting in amazing warmth with the subtle glow of our decorative solar lights keeping it just light enough to navigate the patio with a soft blue tinge.  

Sasha and Tucker are thrilled to be out here and it’s warm enough we seem to be bug free.  Sasha stays near me although doesn’t understand why I won’t throw anything for her (too late to risk excited play barking) while I’m occasionally granted glimpses of Tucker’s shadow when he strays by a light in his yard patrol.  

There is really very few simple pleasures better in my world than a hot summer night with no mandatory wake up time the following morning.  It’s the kind of night where fairies run wild and magic happens.  Instant happy place.

Sweet dreams.

Happy birthday to me :)

So it was an amazingly perfect summer day.  So I was pretty pleased to not spend it at work :).   As per my norm, I continued the trend of taking my birthday off work.   Enjoyed a lazy morning that then became remarkably productive.   Lol did a ton of Spanish, some laundry (not so fun, but necessary), painted my bathroom, finally dragged a dead light out to the curb, and even did some running around.  Crazy for my day of nothingness, but resulted in me feeling completely justified in doing nothing more strenuous than throwing the ball for Sasha while I sat outside with my book all afternoon.  It was fairly perfect.

Birthday flowers to make me smile :)
So the last trip around the sun has been pretty good -- Africa of course was amazing.  It'd be pretty hard to beat that.  And we're pretty happy in our little house -- it's almost a year since we moved in.  Sasha's sleeping beside me on the couch right now.  Things are good.  Work is the only meh -- super frustrating, lacking in challenge, and disappointing.  Childhood me would not be impressed.   I'm working on fixing that, but it's definitely taking longer than I like.  Hence the intense Spanish efforts -- I need something to keep my brain going!   As for what's coming up, super excited Mum and I are going on a road trip this summer.   Pretty stoked.  Where?  No idea as of yet :).  Suggestions?  Drivable from Toronto -- not planning to fly first.   Stay tuned!
The next adventure...

Setting the bar low...

So I'm at that point in my Spanish studies that is mostly frustration.  I understand the vast majority of the concepts, but basically just need a ton of practice and vocabulary.  I cannot consistently apply several concepts correctly (most notably the two forms of past, extraneous usage of direct and indirect objects, and anything beyond the real basics of subjunctive).  I can speak and understand if done painfully slowly, but not at speed -- resulting in failing my last listening test horribly.  Blah.

So looking for things to keep life interesting and still grow my abilities and got the brilliant idea to go to a teacher supply store, where I found:
Sadly, this is actually about the level I'm capable of...
lol yup, I'm working my way through grade 4-6 science ;).  The premise of this one is for teachers with bilingual classes.  So it basically has a unit in English and then the same unit in Spanish.  Each unit has about two pages of reading and then a few pages of exercises.  And so far, this is working out for me.  It's moderately interesting since it was a *long* time ago that I did core science and I'm enjoying the refresher.  The grammar usage is well within my capabilities.  The vocabulary is a stretch.  lol I'm still working on basic conversational vocabulary, the periodic table of the phases of cell division really haven't been priority.  But it's interesting for just that reason.  And the length of the reading is about right for my capabilities ;-P.  Sad though that may be.   And if I really get stuck -- the same exercise is available in English just a few pages away.  Lol haven't resorted to that yet, but may be useful.

Also still working my way through Harry Potter.  It is definitely the stretch goal of the year, but slowly making my way through and some of the vocabulary is slowly sinking in.  So I have to feel that's a win.

To improve the listening I've found "Gritty Spanish" which is moderately entertaining.  Basically Spanish overheard on the NY subway system.  I'm also working my way through the duolingo podcasts which are exceptionally well done, but they speak very slowly.   Awesome, cause I feel brilliant and can understand pretty well all of it, but less helpful when it comes to understanding at real speed.  And then of course there's Netflix, which is all the amazing.   Spanish shows with spanish subtitles.   At the moment I still understand more by reading than listening, but even the reading practice is a win in this case because of the speed required.

And of course old-fashioned grammar exercises.   I make sure to work those in too, but trying to mix it up.  Haven't done duolingo in a while -- I tend to go back there when I need to feel like I've actually learned something ;).

And all the flashcards.   It's probably the most used app on my phone at the moment.  lol

Ah well - the battle continues.  At least my brain is busy :)

Ruff Mudder

Adventuring Aussie's
So Kerri, Mum, and I -- along w/ our respective dogs, went and did a "Ruff Mudder" on Sat :).  Lol this was as much fun as it sounds.

You've heard of the Tough Mudder?  Extreme obstacle course racing?  Well this was the significantly-less-extreme "take your dog to work" version.   There were people obstacles and puppy obstacles and some obstacles which could be navigated by both.
Ready to go
To be honest, I was a little concerned going in.  There were several very dodgy things involved in the sign up (a "parking" fee that's per person not per car -- when I asked I was told "it's going to charity, everyone has to pay it".  Ummm why not just include it in the fee then?   A "discount" link that didn't give a discount to those who clicked it.  A note that "if you sign two other people up, all three of you get a small gift".  Complete radio silence about this when I asked - even when they answered a different question in the same message.  Just left me w a generally slimy feel.
Orange paw-prints lead the way
Then there was the concern that any event with a large number of dogs raises -- namely, I don't trust a large number of dog people.  And if they can't control their dog, my dog is at risk.

However - it was all good.  Other than being asked for yet more money as we arrived, the number of dogs was manageable, and, remarkably, they all seemed under control.  I was super impressed.   They were doing waves of people/dogs on course every 15 mins, but after about the 3rd obstacle, other than occasionally being passed, we were pretty much on our own.  Which was all kinds of awesome :)
Puppy Pairs!
The course itself was amazing.  Alternating between a field and the woods.   Multiple river crossings (and one river wading!), the "real" swamp you could opt out of -- but we went through it.   There was a cut back point at about 3km mark that you could skip the rest, which included the rest of the swamp.   Things to crawl over, under, and through.  Things to climb -- even a rock wall to traverse.
The second half of the rock wall was significantly more challenging than the first
There were people to guide / assist at intelligent points on the course.  While we often felt we had the whole place to ourselves, there was never any question of being lost or off course -- always people to direct as needed.  And safety was clearly a concern as obstacles were being modified based on conditions (sadly the slack line was out of order by the time we got there due to structural challenges).
Kerri and Bo emerging from the tunnel
Overall was all kinds of fun in perfect weather.   The lack of showers at the end was made up for in part by the availability of ice cream :).    Sash I think was still feeling a little sore -- she wasn't a big fan of the jumping obstacles, which usually she loves.  But otherwise lead the way through the whole thing.  Bailey just wanted to catch up with Sasha lol.  And Bo was a complete superstar.

Bo didn't want to sit for his photo