Here there be dragons...

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

I'm telling you stories. Trust me.

So the other night I went dancing w a girlfriend. Yes you read that right and no I’m not even kidding lol. Definitely high on the list of sentences I never thought I’d write outside of a #FridayFlash.

Yeah - didn't look anything like that ;-P

So where to start…. The idea was Latin dance at a sports bar. Hmmm def seemed a little sketch but ok? Dinner, lesson, dance.

So we showed up for dinner but given that all the tables were moved to make room for a dance floor, this was a very awkward situation and we opted out. On the way we met somebody who encouraged us to stay and/or come back. Which at least got us back. We went and found dinner, which unfortunately meant we missed the lesson.

When we got back the place was *packed* and the lesson was just ending. It looked like a lot of fun and if I did it again I’d prioritize joining the lesson if I could.

Actually had so much fun. It was so crowded that it was easy to blend - zero concern that anybody could care less what I was doing lol. I do think it would’ve been better with a partner but it was still fun w just us girls :). Apparently used to be normal at these things that no matter who you came with, you switched partners every dance. I suspect that’d be either brilliance or disaster lol

Also "used to be normal?!?!" In my entire adult life it never occurred to me that "going dancing" was a thing.  Like the closest equivalent in my experience was clubbing in uni, and - suffice to say - dancing was not actually the primary objective of that activity ;). If I gave any thought to it at all, it would've been pop culture references to the 60s or earlier, not current day, and probably not Latin ;).   I'm both sad and bemused that I didn't realise this was real life decades ago.  Or maybe it wasn't and is making a comeback?   Idk.  Google tells me it really is a thing in Toronto and some GTA.  Alas, does not appear to have made it to Niagara (I can hear C's relief from here).

I mean, what time period comes to mind
when you think of "going dancing"?

I don’t *think* I was the worst dancer there lol although Em (who actually knows how to dance) might disagree. It seemed to me there were some way more lost than I, although there were definitely a few songs that I struggled to figure out which dance would fit the beat - fortunately lots of good dancers made it pretty easy to cheat and get the right answer ;). Was definitely fun to just do whatever I felt like, but flip side, got slightly boring after a while cause I don’t have a huge repertoire to pick from. Also, was so crowded that had to basically dance on the spot which is less fun.  I like to spin ;-P

After a couple hours we noticed a distinct increase in us getting trampled or bumped into, presumably related to the amount of alcohol consumption. Em got stomped by a stiletto and shortly after that we noped out.

Seriously.  They're named after this for a reason!

Overall thought was a fun night, and even just fun to watch some of those who can really dance. Both the age and skill range were quite large and the gender balance was close to equal; maybe slightly more women but not hugely disproportionate. It did definitely recreate the feelings of “I wish I could dance” lol but at least I felt like I could do some of the very basics.  

So yeah - far far out of my comfort zone, and glad Em invited me to go. Was a fun night :).  We won't discuss the drive home where I was foolish enough to assume the 401 would be traversable at midnight ;-P

Introducing Bjorn the Narwhal

Our latest addition :)

Early warning - this post was written over multiple sessions so is both very long and may not be the smoothest of transitions; it's the "as I was going" adventure.

Okay as some of you may know, my mum knits amazing creations. And I LOVE the things she turns out, but for the life of me have not been able to create or sustain an interest in knitting. For all my random hobbies that one just doesn’t appeal. Fail.

But for whatever reason, a couple times I’ve tried crocheting. It’s literally the same concept but somehow it appeals more? Idk. My brain has always been weird ;). But still, it’s never stuck.

However, for whatever reason I began seeing targeted ads for Woobles. Little critters (I like little critters) to crochet (sure why not?) that are completely beginner friendly…. And eventually I clicked through.
It actually is pretty well that simple

Well I started with a “medium beginner” because I didn’t like any of the actual beginner ones enough. The fact that they have three phases of beginner was a good sign to me ;)

It comes pre started, and the videos really do literally walk you through stitch by stitch at the start, so I was pretty pleased. I had to pay a lot of attention, but my little narwhal was taking shape ;). I am really impressed at the 101 level of the videos. Like legitimately “I’ve never done this before” beginner safe - right from how to hold the wool (and both left and right hand versions of the videos)

So far, the switch of colour was the only video that I found not completely idiot proof. It mentioned a slip stitch and that hadn’t been taught yet. Fail. Had a choice of google or make it up as I went along - I made it up ;-P. My narwhal will be unique ;)

I also failed in the colour switch in that I cut the threads way too close, so my little narwhal is definitely fragile ;). The video *did* explain about how to tuck them in and stitch over them, but I was following as it went instead of watching the whole thing first and so definitely didn’t leave nearly enough wool.

Otherwise though it’s been awesome. You can definitely tell where my I got better as the tension between stitches varies wildly at the start, then got too tight for a bit. When it came time to learning to do decrease stitches those tight stitches just about did me in. Lesson learned for next one.

Also, there was a video right at the start about turning it inside out — but that also meant mirroring all the movements. I was way too new to risk trying that, but as I’m getting to the end, I am wondering how I’m going to turn it inside out now ;). We’ll see….

So - the inside out hit sooner than expected cause I had to turn it around to put on the eyes. Plus side - adding eyes is very easy. Down side - wow is my poor Bjorn ever very clearly a first effort lol. Room for improvement we shall say. And now I have to figure out how to stitch backward to finish him… hmmmm

For the record - in the finish video when it tells you to cut the yarn, it’s very clear how far away you should be ;)

Added video that would be useful - how to work the yarn so it doesn’t end up in a bit knot. I had no problem w the blue, but the white was a less than pleasant experience…

So now my Bjorn is a little blue and white ball with eyes. Fins come next - they don’t come pre-started, so I’ll be learning that piece shortly lol. I am loving the very gradual pace of this. I’m not loving how interpretive some of my stitches clearly were lol. Ah well — first time for everything. 

I made a thing!  Or at least this start of a thing :)

For those following the adventures of Bjorn - he now has fins! Lol these did *not* come pre-started. So the first step has the learning of how to crochet basic stitches and switch colours. The second step was how to start from scratch and attach pieces to one another. The first - not so fun. I definitely did it, but it definitely took more than one try. Significant improvement between the first fin and the 2nd though. The attaching was really basic sewing; after a couple years of xstitch and some occasional embroidery, this was not what we will deem a challenge. Next up - tail and horn. 

Starting to look like a real critter

Okay so there was a LONG break of a few weeks between sections, but BJORN now has a tail AND a horn! Woohoo! The tail was moderately confusing - a picture of the finished product would’ve definitely helped, but I followed the instructions and went with what I ended up with 😂 
Hard to get a good photo that shows the funky tail :)

And now I have a Narwhal! For the win :)
Hi Everybody!

And while it is very definitely a beginner effort and even I can see all the opportunities for improvement, I made a thing, it made me smile, and we’re deeming that a win! I have two more to make (a unicorn and a dinosaur) and there’s a phoenix that just came out that I may add to the collection some day ;). But not till the ones I have are made — which is likely *after* nice weather season.

Overall my summary would be:
- These kits are absolutely beginner friendly 
- They are cute, easy to make, and achievable in a short timeframe — easily could’ve been done in a weekend even with no experience. I imagine someone who knows what they’re doing could prob knock it off in an hour or two (less?). 
- If you actually know how to crochet, they are not cost-effective. But looking at the pattern alone (also included) would’ve been completely overwhelming to starting from scratch beginner. They DO teach you to read the pattern as you go so it’s not quite so scary in the end ;)

Transferrable skills from riding to dance? Sure - why not?

Dance Fusion class today.  I was, shall we say, not the least bit interested in going.  Lol I was not feeling super hot - really dragging getting going in the am.   AND it's the first nice weekend day since last fall.  Going to an indoor activity?  Not super high on my list.

I was definitely more in a chips kinda mindset ;)

But...  I'd already committed, and I do *really* enjoy dance class so...  🤷‍♀️ 

Pull into the parking lot like 5 mins before class starts and, it's empty?   Usually it's packed and the problem is there's no spaces.   Wondering if I'd missed a memo?   But as I walked to the door I saw two other people coming down the street whom I recognized from our Tues class so probably okay...   Open the door and it's packed?   Lol turns out everyone assumed there would be no parking and parked on the street.  Amazing.

Lots of familiar friendly faces when I walked in.  I give Michelle (coach) a great deal of credit for creating a very welcoming culture.   Changed into my fancy dance shoes and we got started right away.   The concept of the Saturday ones is a 2h session to learn choreography end-to-end for one song.  Could be any mix of styles.  Lol this one was something I've never heard of before and already forgotten.  Google is not helping me at all atm.  I'll find out and update ;). *edited later - oh the boss got back to me.  Apparently it's Cumbia.  Who knew?*

Anyways - was SO much fun.  Enjoyed this one a lot more than the last one.  It felt easier - idk if it actually was, or if I've managed to improve between the two lol.  Potentially both?   Either way, lots of fun.  Enjoyed that this one travelled a lot more -- most of the time we stay mostly in one place with the dances -- at least partially cause of the practicality of 15-20 people in a room, you can only move so far before crashing into people ;).   Not that there *wasn't* crashing into people in this one.  😂.  But it was entertaining.

We did an arm styling class last week that I entirely failed to apply today lol but overall did at least manage to move my arms more often than not and the footwork is definitely becoming easier.   With arms - getting better at including them, but it usually feels very awkward.   Or it feels awesome but then I have *zero* belief that it LOOKS awesome.   Some day ;).   It is fun though.   And I'm continuing to improv my mimic skills.  I can't really come up with anything on my own, but I'm getting better at doing whatever someone more talented than I does ;)

It's literally a meme.  Sheesh.

Interesting for me just this week was cluing in to 3 very distinct advantages from a lifetime of riding.   I had never realised before, but between Tuesday's class and today all kinds of people were struggling and eventually determined that's why I wasn't.   First is physicality -- core strength, balance, and posture (not sure if that's one or three, but for my purposes it's one).  That's kinda a given but it actually helps ;).  The number of people I've told to "drop their shoulder blades into their back pockets" in dressage and I literally heard that exact instruction given to the group on Tues.   The second is the ability to easily memorise a fairly long pattern and to pretty quickly apply what the mirror image will be is almost instinctual after decades of dressage tests.  And the last, for the win, "don't look down".  Lol the number of times I heard that, or "look up!", directed even at otherwise really good dancers, was a riot.  In riding, looking down has far more serious consequences than just missing a step ;).  So that was fun.   

I'm starting to not feel completely lost each time.  And I'm definitely no longer the greenest or least-coordinated person in the group.   Music lessons from a lifetime ago / piano this year likely help too (I feel it's more the ones from a lifetime ago realistically) -- with things like being able to find and follow a beat or phrase, and understanding syncopation reasonably easily (if you're syncopating anything on horseback, something has gone *horribly* wrong).  lol.   But to me, this is part of why both teaching adults and learning as an adult is in many ways more interesting -- a lifetime of random experiences contributes in strange and unusual ways...

So yeah, still having a ton of fun, and really glad I went in the end ;).  I will 100% have forgotten the whole thing by morning.

*updated to add* OMG there's video.  Lol and I'm thoroughly hidden in the middle so willing to share.  I had zero idea this was being recorded and I'm guessing was right after teh break - it definitely got better ;).  But if you're curious...

Fire burns brightest in the darkness

Writing blog posts by the campfire is just about as perfect as it gets for my introverted self.   Super relaxing and puts me in a pretty instant happy place.

Sashabear, quiet, and a fire.   Heaven.

Said fire was a bit of a splurge.  Which makes it all the more fun ;).  We were always intending some landscaping this year - gardens are the primary objective and 2 trees.  And in our plan there was a fire pit.  We were planning a traditional “dig the whole, put rocks around it” type of situation.  Which we have space for but may or may not technically be legal in suburbia (we hadn’t really investigated ;)

But then a friend sent me a pic of her relaxing w her new fire pit, including a recommendation.  This is not a friend who generally (ever?) suggests products without being asked her opinion.  And since it was a perfect night for such a thing and I like fires, I clicked through.

And discovered they’re on sale right now.   Flipped it to C who mentioned he’d looked into them before but usually too expensive.  But… sale - one that brought it into the same price range as our DIY plan.  They are also far more legal.  Win ;)

It arrived quickly (like 1-2 days?) and after finding a handful of firewood away I went.   We have the stand to put it on the deck but I haven’t been that brave yet lol. 

I don’t *love* the look of it - far more C’s style than mine.  But we’re going to get a surround for it so then that’ll solve even that “problem” ;)

Because there have been a lot of questions, I figured I’d try to answer them here:

  • advertised as smokeless.  This depends on how you interpret “smokeless” lol.  It literally smokes less than a normal campfire.  By a lot.  It is *not* smoke free.  At the start of the fire there is just as much smoke as always.  The difference is once it gets hot (10-15 min in) there is very little smoke.  And, what smoke there is in the start tends to be better funnelled so is easier to avoid.
  • It is light and easy to move around; slightly awkward because of the shape but I had no problem moving it myself.
  • It has excellent airflow so is both easy to light and easy to keep going.  Downside - that excellent airflow means it consumes logs *very* quickly
  • The outside stays cool to the touch longer than you’d expect (although it does get very hot!) and cools completely within about an hour of the fire going out
  • The fire is still “real” snap, crackle, pop, look and smell like a normal campfire
  • You are limited in size of logs.  This has not been an issue for us at all with “average” size logs donated to our collection (thanks Janie!) but if you’re doing the splitting be aware of limits
  • It throws a lot of heat - but said heat isn’t dispersed very far.
  • Clean up is quite easy; would’ve been even smarter if the *whole* bottom came out but it’s still quick and easy to do.   It’s smartly designed so that when it comes time to put it away, all the pieces (eg the deck/grass stand) can be stored inside it and it has its own carrying case.
  • You will need *some* tools - dropping a log in without tongs is seriously hazardous and given the small size a poker is pretty critical.   On more traditional campfires these things are also helpful but it’s easier to reasonably safely do without.   My poker atm is a stick I found.  Lol this has taught me that like the average child, I still drawing in the air w fire ;). Lack of tongs has burned me once already.  They will be here in a day or two.
  • Plus side - portable.  If we decided to move again, the deck and gardens have to stay here but the fire pit comes w us. 

If you decide you’re interested, the one we got is a SoloStove Bonfire 2.0.  It seems to be the midsize of their options.  Enjoy!