Sunday, August 25, 2013

Miles and Hiking

On Tuesday I jumped a plane from Victoria to Castlegar to go visit the family for 6 days. For the record, flying home is SO MUCH BETTER than driving. Including driving to and from airports, time at the airport and time in the air, flying shaves off about 9 hours of travel time each way. An 18 hour travel time difference is a pretty huge deal. I am a fan.

My sister gave birth to my new little nephew Miles on the 18th (he's so cute!!!) so I very much needed to get back to Trail to meet him and see how everyone was doing. Getting to meet Miles on my birthday was a great present, so thanks Pam for having such good timing! The family all came over the house on Tuesday for a birthday BBQ in the backyard, complete with delicious bison burgers and a fresh bucket of slush! MMmmmmm MMmmm.

Here is some proof that Miles is the cutie that I claim him to be.

My heterolifepartner and her husband took me out to dinner on Thursday night. We always end up at The Flying Steamshovel up in Rossland, and I am not complaining. The food is always great and the atmosphere is casual and welcoming. What I love about that place is that they are always changing up the menu with fresh seasonal ingredients, so every time that I am there I can taste something new. I highly recommend the deep fried risotto (YUM!) and the cilantro lime salad dressing. Plus I am always there with Sarah so the conversation is always completely hilarious and Mike always drives home so we can get a bit goofy.

One thing I love to do and try to take full advantage of when I am here is go for nice long walks/hikes. Since my sister just had the baby and is she nothing but a feeding/burping/wiping/washing machine at this point, my dad has been going over with Axel and taking her 2 dogs for walks in the morning. One less thing for her to have to think about in the morning. So myself, dad, Axel, Splash and Sophie have kind of been our own pack the last few days.

The first morning we were out at Birchbank with the dogs, enjoying the cooler weather and letting the dogs swim in the river. At one point all three dogs went flying into the bush (we figured after a squirrel) and didn't think anything of it. A minute or so later they call came barreling out of the bush with a 4th "dog" chasing in the rear. All we saw was a beigy/yellow creature chasing them through the bush and it was gone before we had a chance to get a good look. We figured that another dog walker was on the other side of the island and had also lost control over his dog. Again, we didn't think much of it until we heard a howling on the other side of us, across the lagoon. I said to dad, "that sounds like a coyote," and sure enough it was. It seems that they were working in a pair to lure our dogs over to the other side of the lagoon for an attack, but when coyote #1 realized that there were 3 dogs and 2 humans on the other side, the plan was instantly derailed. There's no way 2 coyotes could handle the situation they were planning. Even though the dogs were slightly riled up and agitated by it all, they didn't wander off and listened when we told them to stick close.

Friday morning dad and I did the Red Mountain Red Top trail which is one of my personal favourites. It's not a hard hike but I like it because it doesn't take super long (2 hours round-trip with a break at the top), smells good, has a couple water spots for the dogs and there is a chance of scoring huckleberries at the top! Unfortunately the huckleberry situation was a bit sad because of the lack of rain that the area has gotten over the summer, so the berries were small and not really worth the time to pick. But the view from the top is always highly enjoyable.

This morning we decided to hike an area that neither of us had ever been to before. The hiking in Castlegar is an untapped resource for us and we really don't know why we have never ventured to that area before. Rossland just always seems to be the logical choice when we think of hiking. Why never Castlegar? So I researched the area last night and we decided to try the Brilliant Overlook Trail which is a 6 km round-trip hike with an intermediate/advanced difficulty rating. I must admit that I really enjoyed the hike a lot! It was quite steep in some places and we were definitely in a flop sweat by the time we reached the top. There were several areas on the way up which gave us views of the 3 valleys surrounding the mountain. I questioned the reasoning for the handrails along some spots of the trail, but they made perfect sense on the way down!

Axel ate a dead crow. It was disgusting. I am going to have nightmares for days about the sound of him crunching on bones and those nasty feet dangling out of his mouth as he chowed down as quickly as possible. Dogs are gross.

On the way back down we had another wildlife experience! For the 100th time on the hike, the dogs went flying through the bush to chase (what we figured) to be another squirrel. Splash is completely neurotic about squirrels and chases them every single time she spots or hears one. So as I mentioned, the dogs all ran up the bank in pursuit of a "squirrel". Dad and I kept on walking along the trail, again not thinking anything about it. We heard them crashing down the bank, much more loudly than normal, so I stopped and turned to watch them come down. First I saw Sophie break through the greenery, with a slightly panicked look on her face. Next came Axel, barking like a wildman. Next came a bear.

Yup, a bear.

"Oh shit, there's a bear," said me.

Lastly came Splash, who somehow got around the bear in an attempt to flee the scene. The bear started chasing the dogs until it saw me and dad, then it stopped in it's tracks. Splash and Sophie hid in the front of us while the bear turned and started coming back towards us again. Axel lunged at it, barking wildly and holding his ground, so the bear turned around and headed back into the bush. Our hero!!! Blue heelers are brave little dogs with little fear, so we were both happy to have him with us. Way to go buddy!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Made in 1983 - Turning 30

Well, the end of my 20’s has come. As of Tuesday I say “Sayonara!” to my 20’s and start the decade of the 30’s. Am I freaked out? Surprisingly not really. It’s not as though I will wake up on Tuesday and suddenly feel like a 30 year old. In my experience it doesn’t seem to work like that.

 However a lot of people tend to get squeamish about the idea of turning the big 3-0 because it seems as though the number means that you officially have to become an adult. The 20’s were meant for having fun, exploring the world, experimentation, learning about yourself and meeting Mr. Wrong (and surviving the imminent break-up.) But when you’re 30, you should be done with that “phase” of your life. You should be watching you finances, opening up all kinds of saving accounts and if you haven’t yet, settling down and start having those mandatory kids that the family has been hassling you about for the past 5 years.

“Cause you’re not getting any younger you know?”

Yes, I know. Believe me I know. That large crevice of a wrinkle in between my eyes reminds me every morning. I am lucky enough that my family doesn’t hassle me about the kid thing though. I think that they have come to terms that I am likely to never have kids, or at least they keep their hopes and dreams of my future procreation to themselves.

When I think back to my teenage self and where I expected to be at this point of my life, I am honestly not at all where I thought I would be. I figured I’d be married, done all the school crap and working my dream job (teenage me didn’t know what my dream job was but I was definitely going to working it by 30). I am beginning to get the idea that the majority of people don’t know what their dream job is or when they do finally get their dream job that it isn’t what they expected it to be. It seems that the 30 year olds are either still in school because they ended up not wanting to do what they went to University for in their early 20’s, or they never figured out what they wanted to do with their lives until after the 20’s were over. That whole experimentation and personal learning phase ended up sending them down a path they didn’t expect.

There is definitely a pressure for success and achievement that we are expected to reach by the time we reach 30.  One day you wake up suddenly come to the horrific realization that you’re in the 3rd decade of your life. What do you have to show for it? With my 3rd decade only hours away, I think about what I have to show for it. Am I proud of what I have accomplished? Have I accomplished anything up to this point of my life?

Well….I don’t know really! I sit here and think about it and I honestly have no idea how to respond to my own question. My 20’s seem to be a whirlwind of memories of obscene amounts of school and moving. I lived in Nelson for 4 ½ years and learned all about cooking and baking and loved my job at the bakery there. I will forever love the people I met and worked with in that city. I’ve lived in complete opposite ends of the country and traveled back and forth countless times. I moved to PEI where I didn’t know a single person and met friends that I will forever hold near and dear to my heart. Plus I got a BSc degree there, which I suppose it pretty cool. I applied for a job in Victoria that I never ever dreamed of ever getting, and yet here I am in gorgeous Victoria working that job.

I don’t know if “proud” is the word that I would use to describe my 20’s but I learned a lot about myself during that decade – most definitely. And truthfully, I am looking forward to my 30’s because everyone keeps telling me that they are the best! I think the rationale behind this is because you’ve survived so many things, learned from your stupid mistakes and know what you want in life (or at least what you definitely don’t want). At some point you’ve stood up for yourself or someone else and put out a voice into the world that may have never existed. You’ve had kids or have friends who had kids, and your appreciation for their innocence has given you a sweeter heart. You’re less self-conscious of your body not so hung up on the little things that make you “special”. You are caring less of what others think of you because you’ve come to realize that you’re pretty cool after all. You’ve likely dealt with love and likely some death as well and can value the world a whole lot more than you did when you turned 20. 

Like I said, I'm looking forward to this new decade. I can't wait to see what it has planned for me.

Alright 30. Come and get me. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sweatin' to the Oldies

This morning I was at the gym and the two girls who were working the front desk were taking complete advantage of the music selection. Normally the music is a satellite radio station playing either Top 40 Hits (which drives me bonkers because they somehow manage to play at least two Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift songs in the time span of just over an hour) or a more Classic Rock station (which I enjoy). Today the girls had brought in some old homemade CD that one of them probably found buried deep in the back of her closet in an old shoe box labeled “Why the 90’s were awesome”. 

Obviously they knew that the boss wouldn’t be in today. So in went the CD and out came big smiles to nearly everyone working out today. Most of us were even openly singing along. Oh! And for several songs, dancing occurred! Yep. When “Backstreet’s Back” and “Spice Up Your Life” came on, there were numerous girls dancing in a choreographed fashion in the middle of the gym. It was awesome!

Whitney Houston, Hanson, Backstreet Boys, TLC, Ludacris, Spice Girls, ‘N SYNC, Puff Daddy (before he was P. Diddy and all of those other names), Nelly, Toni Braxton, Vanilla Ice, Brandy, Monica,  Chumbawumba, Boyz II Men, J.Lo and so many more, all got us sweating to the oldies.

Marky Mark alone got us sweating back then.

As I sang to myself and grinned stupidly at nearly every song that blared through the speakers, I started thinking about my relationship with these ridiculous songs and why they make me so happy to listen to 15 years after their release. Granted, Backstreet Boys drove me crazy when they were huge because I hated the music; but hearing songs by bands that I never even liked stirred an emotional connection within me. With every song that came on today, I could go back in time and think about where I was then I first heard the song or a situation I was in that I could relate back to the song.

For example:

Spice Girls– Wannabe. It was April of grade 9 (2007) and I had the stomach flu. I was lying in bed with a puke bucket by my head when my sister came home from school. She walked by my door and saw me in all of my patheticness and said, “I’ve got something to cheer you up.” Then she went into her room (right across the hall), put in the CD and blasted Wannabe. She danced up and down the hall singing along while I clutched my tender tummy laughing. I doubt she even remembers this but I most certainly do.

‘N SYNC –This I Promise You. I don’t know the month, but it was grade 11 and I was at a high school dance. I wanted to dance with a certain guy to this song (him and I had a silly story with the song) but unfortunately he and his girlfriend (who he had just gotten together with) danced together instead. I don’t know if this guy even knew that I had a crush on him, but I totally did and I think of him every time that I hear this song.

Aqua –Barbie Girl. It was the spring of 1997 and I remember hearing the song on the radio and thinking, “what the hell?” but instantly loving it. A week or so later I was in the living room with my best friend when it came on the radio again and I said, “Have you heard this song?” and blasted it. I sang along at the top of my lungs while we danced and giggled hysterically. I remember these 2 young guys walking by the house (the living room faces the road) and hearing the commotion blasting from the house. They pointed and laughed but we didn’t care because the world was awesome at that moment in time.

ToniBraxton – Unbreak My Heart. This song takes me back to sitting on my bedroom floor with my friend, and me singing along in the most ridiculous Toni Braxton impersonator voice that I can come up with. She has this deep rich voice and my voice is deep too, but I still had to concentrate to keep it low enough to match hers. We were both laughing so hard that I was gasping for air as I tried with all of my might to keep in sync with the song.

So now I am wondering what are the songs of today that will inspire these wonderful pockets of nostalgia in 10 years? Honestly, it makes me cringe thinking about the hit songs that kids these days are loving so much and 90% of it is just noise to me. Apart from my massive love affairs with Bruno Mars and Pink, I really feel no need to be involved with what the kids are listening to these days. And the only reason I like "I'm Sexy and I Know It" is because every time I hear it I get to imagine Ralph with his shirt off (insert devious smile). 

 But then again, who am I to judge when the songs that made me so happy today were cheesy love ballads and bubblegum pop chart-toppers? We all have our faults I suppose :) 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Give What You've Got

If there is one thing that I feel very strongly about, it is that everyone should give blood (if eligible). On the radio yesterday they were saying that Canada is suffering great shortages of blood donations and will need at least 50,000 donations in the next few weeks to meet the demands for the rest of the summer. That’s a lot of needed blood!

I bet that every single person reading this knows someone who has needed blood. My family has been affected by automobile accidents, cancer and extensive surgical operations (heart & hip), all of which would need substantial amounts of donated blood. I mean, a car accident victim can need up to 50 units of blood to save the life! That means that 50 donors need to give blood just to help save one life. That might be your mom’s life, or your son’s, or even your own life.

A few years back, my friend and I went to the blood services clinic in Charlottetown to give blood. We were pumped! Neither of us had ever donated before and we were stoked to get the opportunity to help out our fellow man by giving the gift of blood (it’s in us to give). After arriving and filling out some basic paperwork, we were separated into private rooms for the more personal questions and paperwork (like how many prostitutes I had ever slept with) and into the big leather chair I went! After much poking and prodding, they deemed my veins too small and ridiculous to be able to donate that day. It was recommended that I go home, drink tons of water and come back another day. Hopefully my veins would be more cooperative with more fluid running through them.

Feeling slightly defeated, I headed back to the waiting room to wait for my friend. I was surprised to see her waiting for me there and quickly found out that she was unable to donate as well because of a heart condition that she had. We were both feeling very bummed out at this point. Two people who wanted to actually give blood were turned away because of a slightly faulty heart and teeny tiny arm veins.

When I went back the following week with a body crammed full of water, they were still unable to get much out of me and told me that I am not a candidate for giving blood. And to think I gave up getting tattooed for 2 years so that I could donate (now it’s only a 6 month wait).

We were the rare people who are not eligible to donate, but chances are that you are the part of the population who can! If you check out the Canadian Blood Service website, there is a list of requirements to be a donor. Go ahead. See if you can be a donor!

So why aren’t people donating? I am betting that the two main reasons that people do not donate are: 
1) Sissies!  
2) No time/do not think about it.

So you’re afraid of needles and don’t like to give blood. In the big scheme of things, is your comfort that important that it is keeping you from saving a life? Doesn’t it sound a little silly to say “Oh, I can’t save your dying sons life because I don’t like needles.” Yup….sounds pretty ridiculous. Think of all of the things that we do which are not enjoyable but do anyway because they are for our own health. Pap smears, prostate exams, dental appointments, colonoscopies…etc. Not fun or comfortable. But all can save a life.

You don’t have the time or you don’t think to give blood. Write it on your calendar or program it into your phone to set a reminder to make an appointment or to go online and fill out an application. Make the time. Think about it. Enough said.

Did I mention that you get cookies, cake and juice after you give blood? Yes, I am willing to add bribery methods to get you in there.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Strong is the New Fad?

A while back I wrote about how I was fully supporting the whole “strong is the new skinny” message that has been circulating around the watercoolers. I am still embracing this idea, but it seems that much of society is lashing out against it. So now I ask, why?

I have now seen two separate news stories claiming that this whole idea of being strong instead of skinny is probably just another unachievable fad for women. We women have been striving for this impervious level of skinniness which we work to achieve every single day by dieting, starving ourselves, saying no to dessert and hating the way the mirrors mock us every morning. We have created this new unattainable strive for physical muscle and hardness and the desire to be super-skinny has just been swapped out for being super-muscley. The new body image battle has begun!

While I completely understand the point that they are making, I can honestly say that I don’t agree with it.  In my convoluted brain, I feel like that the idea of being strong is not completely about the physical appearance. More than anything, this is about striving to meet and reach physical goals that you could never achieve from 60 minutes on an elliptical. When a woman can make a goal for herself, like squat her own body weight, and slowly increase her weight every week to meet that goal, that is what being strong is about. Working hard and making the goal. Going to the gym one day and bench-pressing 40lbs, then going the next week to find that 40 is suddenly too light, it a pretty awesome feeling. 40lbs may seem like a trivial amount of weight to a lot of people, but it definitely is not if it is more than you could do before.

Now this may come out wrong, but I feel like lifting weights is far more addictive than cardio equipment. Women are FINALLY learning that they can lift weights and not get all big and bulky. If this is a fad, then it is going to be around for a long time because being able to up your weight on a regular basis is an awesome feeling, both physically and mentally.

Maybe I have a different view of this because I am not a hard-core kind of person who has to be the best and strongest and ripest person at the gym. There will always be the gym extremists who need to be super-skinny or super-ripped. Those who want to be on either end of the spectrum will always be there, no matter what the hot trend of the moment is. The rest of us (the ones floating in the middle just trying to maintain a certain jean size and still be able to eat chocolate on a regular basis) really just want to feel good about ourselves. The message being spread around at the current moment is saying that being strong and having some form of muscle mass is going to make you feel sexier than being skinny. What’s so wrong with that? I don’t think this is the new unattainable body image battle. I think it's a hell of a lot healthier than being skin and bones and losing out female forms. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pickers Can Be Choosers

Last week when I was taking Tank for a walk, I came to the realization that the area that I am living in is completely surrounded by blackberry bushes. How I have never noticed this before is beyond me, especially when I had a mild blackberry picking addiction last year. The next day I went down with Tank again and brought a small sandwich bag and filled it up with berries. The berries were still quite tart but I enjoyed them nonetheless. Two days later I went down with an ice cream pail and filled it to the top. I ate some of them but froze the majority of them since some were slightly under-ripe and I figured I could sweeten them up by using them for baking someday down the road.

Nutrition Tip! Blackberries are loaded with beneficial antioxidants which can help fight against cancer, inflammation and the evil aging process. They are low in calories and are packed full of fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are also great for controlling blood sugar levels and even treat symptoms of gout.

Now even though I have plenty of berries stocked away in the freezer, it's as though there is a primal instinct burning away deep down inside of me, screaming to go get more berries. Knowing that there are millions of berries within a 5 minute walk from the house is eating away at my soul. Some of them will be eaten by wildlife (which is good) but the majority will be wasted from no one picking them, and that is haunting me.  So today I went down and picked another bucket.

And I am so glad that I did!

After giving them an extra few days to ripen, they are above and beyond any kind of fruit that I have ever picked in my entire life. And no, I am not exaggerating. They are so incredibly sweet and plump and juicy; better than any blackberry that I have ever bought in a store or picked off of a plant. I nearly died of happiness as I popped berry after berry into my mouth as I picked.

So after my multiple trips down the road and into the blackberry patches (technically they are called "brambles"), I have learned several important life skills and tips for anyone who ever plans to become a blackberry picker.

Pickers can be choosers: I found that the best blackberries fall easily from the bush. When picking a blackberry, if you have to tug on it to get it to detach from the bush, then it's not ripe and you should just leave it be. The most delicious and sweet berries will basically fall into your hand when you touch them.

Wear pants and long sleeved shirts: The first time I went picking, I didn't wander into the brambles and basically stayed on the outskirts. The second time, I went balls to the walls and just went for it. When my bucket was full, I was cut, diced and sliced all over my legs and arms. Most of it I didn't even feel and was shocked to see the damage that was done to my poor body.

You're going to bleed. Picking is not for the faint of heart. Whether it be your hands, legs, arms or face (the thorns will catch you when you least expect it), you're going to bleed.

Thorns can rip clothes. The thorns and branches have a way of hooking onto your clothes and refusing the let go. Today one of the branches had me so strongly that I started laughing because I was pushing quite hard to detach the branch from my shirt. The thorns of a blackberry bush can even tear denim. No joke. Just ask my jeans.

Pick in the early morning or heat of the afternoon. The second time I picked it was later on in the evening because the day was so hot and I didn't want to stand in the heat. However, I quickly learned that this was a terrible idea because I was able to single handedly repopulate the entire Victoria mosquito population for the entire summer in less than 30 minutes. My back, shoulders and arms were so chewed up that I looked like a pin cushion. An itchy...swollen....ugly pin cushion that wants to be scaled by hot water in the shower. Today I picked in the middle of the afternoon and even though it was warm, there was not a mosquito in sight.

Don't get emotionally attached. You're going to drop fruit while you're picking. Even though it is easy to say, don't get sad when some berries fall from your hand and hit the ground. They're not worth going after. Leave them be. There are more to pick.

You're going to get dirty so be prepared to shower afterwards. When you pick blackberries and disrupt the bush by getting in there and tugging on the branches, there is a horrible...substance...I don't even know the word. Tiny little seeds or dried up skin or something that comes off of the plant and onto your skin. It's itchy and irritating and you'll want to jump into a cold lake or the shower when you're done picking. It gave me the major heebie-jeebies, like my skin was crawling.

Bring lots of bags, buckets or anything to put the fruit in. Even though you think that your bucket is big enough, leaving a patch of blackberries is diffucult to do when the bucket is full. You're going to see tons more just taunting you, pleading to be taken home along with your already heavy load of fruit. Not having enough buckets is hard on your emotional well-being because you're going to want more. More! More!

Have adequate storage. With great fruit comes great need to storage. I already feel guilty enough filling half of the freezer with frozen bags of blackberries, but it's hard to stop when the picking is so good. I already gave some berries to the neighbour, but I still have tons of berries to deal with. You know you have an addiction when you contemplate going out and buying a mini freezer just to accommodate the blackberries.

So if you need some blackberries, give me a call! I can hook you up!

Plus if I give you some then that means that I can go pick some more!

I need help.