Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Reads: State of Change by Christopher Bulis (Doctor Who Missing Adventures)

In the fifth Missing Adventures book, the Doctor and Peri find themselves in Ancient Egypt in 41 BC watching Cleopatra sailing up the Nile to meet Mark Antony.  A presense is watching the TARDIS and as soon as it dematerializes, it pounces.  When the ship lands, they find themselves in Ancient Rome in the tomb of Cleopatra...but something is amis.  The paintings on the walls show technologies that are still over a thousand years away from being invented...and they soon find the Roman empire readying themselves for a war with weapons of the future capable of destroying the entire world.  The Doctor and Peri enlist Ptolemy Caesar to avoid utter devastation and to discover the secret of how these people have come to know so much about the future.

This is perhaps my least favourite of the series so far.   I found it a long, hard slog to get through and I almost gave up on it twice...out of boredom.   I give this one a fail...don't bother unless you are super deperate for something to fill a Doctor Who void..and even then - maybe your time owuld be better spent writing your own fan fiction about the Doctor instead.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Reads: The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

Oh look - I actually had time to write up a Friday reads for y'all.  I have a bunch to write so hopefully I can keep going.

Let me begin by saying that I never really thought much of Colfer and his role on Glee.  Sure, he had a difficult character to play, but I was kind of meh about him (back when I watched the show in the first season).  Then, I saw these books and was surprised to see he had written them.  Then they kept popping up on me in various forums I would read.  So, I decided to take a chance ont he first one...and AM I EVER GLAD I DID!

They are truly fantastic.  Like, buy them for every 10-100 year old you know, fantastic.  Colfer can weave a really great story.

Yes - they are Young Adult, but they are just a magical read that I think truly appeals across a wider age spectrum.

Here's the premise:

Young Alex and Connor Baily are twins.  They live with their mother, who was widowed a couple of years earlier.  Their fun grandmother travels a lot so is hardly around...but when she shows up to celebrate their 12th birthdays - she brings a very special gift with her.  The Land of Stories is the storybook their grandmother and father used to read to them.

Then, that night, Alex has the book in her room with her and it starts to buzz and glow.  Soon, she discovers that if she places an object on the pages - it gets sucked into the book...

Then, one day after school - she herself gets sucked into the book...and enters the Land of Stories (with Connor not far behind her).

Warning: The descriptions below may contain spoilers, though I will try hard to keep it pretty generic.

Book One: The Wishing Spell

After falling into the Land of Stories - Alex and Connor immediately embark on an adventure to get themselves home.  A man-size frog tells them about a spell called the Wishing Spell that will grant them one wish if they can complie all of the items on a list - things like Cinderella's glass slipper and a lock of Rapunzel's hair -and he happens to have a journal telling them exactly how to do that.  What they don't know is that an evil queen is also seeking the items for a wish of her own and it is a race to see who can collect them all first.   Along the way, they learn many surprises about their own connection to the Land of Stories and a discover about exactly who their grandmother and father REALLY were.

Book Two: The Enchantress Returns

Life outside of the Land of Stories is plain old boring for Alex and Connor.  Alex feels like she is not meant to be in the Otherworld anymore and would give anything to go back.  When, all of a sudden, their mother goes missing, their home in the Otherworld fills up with protectors to keep them safe since it appears the evil Enchantress who cast the sleeping curse on Sleeping Beauty has taken their mother - thinking SHE was Alex!  As the days stretch on - Alex knows she could help if only she could get back into the land of Stories and she hatches a secret plan to do just that.   Of course, she doesn't think Connor will be able to figure it out and follow her...until he does.

The Land of Stories looks much different than the last time they were there - it has become a much darker and scarier place under the threat of the Evil Enchantress, Ezmia.  With the help of their old friends, the twins embark on another quest to collect the items to build the Wand of Wonderment to stop the enchantress and Alex learns some surprising things about herself along the way that force her to make a difficult decision.

Book Three: A Grimm Warning

With the portal completely closed between the Land of Stories and the Otherworld, Connor and Alex are both engrossed in their own studies.  An opportunity presents itself for Connor to travel to Germany for the unveiling of three new stories by the Brothers Grimm, who had previously been locked away in a time capsule for the past 200 years.   Imagine his surprise when the first two are tales his father had often told him and Alex.  The third is the most surprising in that it contains a warning for the Land of Stories about an army who has been inside an enchanted portal since Napoleon's time with the intent of conquering the Land of Stories in the name of France!  Connor MUST get a message through to the fairies but no one is answering the enchanted mirror.  Finally - Mother Goose intercepts his call and is most distraught because her darkest secret is about to be realized.  

Connor and a classmate on the trip start an adventure of their own to reopen the portal and travel to the land of Stories to help.  Sure, it involves kidnapping an old lady and then accidentally causing a young german boy to fall into the portal with them...but they get there with their terrible news.   Reunited with his sister, now the twins can plan how to avoid this fresh threat to the Land of Stories.


***

Ok - that is all I can say.   I want to tell so many more spoilers than that, but I also want you all to discover this story fresh for yourselves.  Think of them as a "behind the scenes" on every fairy tale you have ever read or heard.  He also delves into feelings and experiences that are a part of growing up that I think any pre-teen would find help or comfort in - including feelings of isolation, emotional changes and difficult relationships, both with peers and of the romantic persuasion. These stories could only have been written by someone who truly loves and knows fairy tales.  The rich tapestry of the world Colfer creates is truly magical.  I loved reading them and I look forward to one day sharing them with my own twins.  I think they will love them every bit as much as I did..   I can honestly say that future books int he series will be on my Kobo the day they are released.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Five

Oh geez - I have had so many posts floating around in my skull and I can't seem to get my wits about me to get them written and posted.  Ah to have an eighth day each week, just for writing.

But - today, I want to take a moment to get a few thoughts out into the interwebs in case anyone is wondering where I've been or why I've suddenly vanished.

1) Running
Running was going so well those first two weeks I was back at it...and then enter Doodle the Buttsurfer.  One Saturday morning, the kidlet hopped up onto the bed, sat on my legs to wake me up and before I could stop her, she raked her bony little ass back and forth across my shins.   HOLY SHIT!  So much pain.  And pain that didn't fade.  I was so sure she had rebroken my leg.  I was able to get in a couple of pain-free runs on it (usually once a week) but then the next run would reduce me to hobbling back to the office.  Thank goodness for understanding run partners.  

I talked to Dr. Dale about it and he assures me my 40lb midget can't re-break my leg.  He tested it for me and all of the break tests he applied didn't bring any pain with them.  His conclusion is that she irritated the outer coating on my bone which is still trying to repair itself and that until the nerve endings have healed completely (and it could possibly take years!) that I can expect to have setbacks like this for a while.  So not good news but not bad news either.

I have taken this week off running and the shin sensitivity is already much better so I will attempt a run or two again next week and see how it goes from there.  Luckily, my upcoming goal races have nothing to do with running...

2) Relaying
Once again this year, I will be running Banff Ekiden with my beloved Little Bloggy Bluebirds.   All of the original members except Leana are returning (she would have loved to but had a prior commitment that our late decision didn't jive with).  So Tina, Michelle and I are all back in the lineup and we welcome two new bloggy members: Susan from Do Things Always and Lindsay from Strive to Stride.

We also have a brand spanking new logo for our revamped team!

I love it, but I designed it so I am obviously biased.  I think it fits our team really well and, as you'll see on relay day, it is a perfect fit.

I am "running" the shortest leg (around 4km) for obvious reasons.   My team has been awesome about my speed or lack thereof, just encouraging me to be there with them again this year.  So I would like to run 3:1 if I can, but if not - I'll power walk it and do the best I can.

On Oct 18 - keep an eye out for #littlebloggybluebirds!  Maybe this year we can get it to trend if enough people cheer us on!

3) Walking

It is just 3 weeks until I head to Vancouver for Rock n Roll Vancouver.   I am so excited and have been planning my whirlwind trip non-stop since last week!   So many people to see in a very short timespan.

As for the race - I was so sad to do it, but my body cannot handle a half marathon right now.  It has been one setback after another this year and I think if I tried to do the half - even if I ran it with people willing to go slow for me - I'd risk refracturing my shin.  I am NOT willing to take that chance.  Instead, I scaled back to the 10k.  I honestly think it will be the more beautiful of the courses because it is entirely around the seawall, but I was facing doing it alone after begging and pleading with a few unwilling friends to also scale back.

My reality is also that I will need to walk that 10k.  I am not trained to that distance but I can do a leisurely 10k no problem.  So - in a Sunday morning email conversation with my best friend (who lives in Vancouver), I proposed that she join me!   AND SHE ACCEPTED!!!  We had been trying to figure out when we could get together on this quick trip anyway and what better quality time can two longtime friends have than strolling along a 10k and stopping to dance at every band?   We are going to have a blast!  She isn't a runner so she'll make sure I walk it and I will make sure we are outfitted for the occasion!

4) Travelling
I am not sure I ever wrote about it, but last December, Impact Magazine had this 30 days of Giveaways that they did - giving away highly giftable things throughout the holiday season.  I entered a few of the prizes but hadn't won anything throughout the month and hadn't given much thought to it overall.  So, imagine my surprise when one night (just before Christmas), my Twitter account suddenly goes nutso with congratulatory messages.   I had won the grand prize...and it was a doozy.  Two nights in a lakeview room at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, complementary breakfast both days, ski shuttle, ski valet, lift passes etc etc.   Hubby and I are both of the non-skiing variety, but we thought we could take advantage of it late in the winter to snowshoe up at the top of the mountain and enjoy a kid free couple of days.

And then I fractured my stupid tibia.  And it took 7+ months to heal.   Finally, last month, I looked at the voucher and noticed it would expire in the middle of November!  Eeek!  We decided we'd better just use what we could and get that kid free weekend underway ASAP.

And so tonight, we are heading to the mountains!   Expect my Instagram feed to fill up with all kinds of Rocky Mountain beauty.  We are hoping to do one of the teahouse hikes and to sleep in (a novel thought) and just generally pamper ourselves in the luxurious surroundings and restaurants.

5) School
As for the real reason I have so thoroughly vanished recently...it is all about school.  Kindergarten, to be exact.  I never realized what a time hog having two kids in Kindergarten would be for me.  I almost feel like I have gone back to school!   Our little family is starting to fall into more of a groove with it, though, and I have a trillion blog posts milling around in my head that I plan to funnel out here soon.   Most of all, I think I have a few time management posts I need to write as I have learned so much about doing it all in the last month.

So that's where I'm at.  and I really am hoping I can be back in the game again really soon.  I miss blathering about myself blogging and need to get back at it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Rare Update on a Sunday

I've been suffering a bit of writers block lately.  Which is hilarious, because one of my main focuses has been trying to get my shit together so I can actual have dedicated writing time each day.   The getting my shit together part has been rather difficult, though, because I didn't expect a silly little thing like Kindergarten to throw me for such a loop.

Yep - my babies have started Kindergarten.  No, I didn't cry.  Yes, they love it.   What I didn't expect was that Kindergarten would become a second full time job for me.   Labelling clothing, having a freak snowstorm and having to suddenly label more clothing that shouldn't have had to be labelled for another 2 months, coming up with healthy, fresh snacks to send each day, trying to get the twins SEPARATELY through two identical homework assignments.   It's never ending.   And I really don't want to mess up that particular job - the one of making sure my kids get a great start in school.  It just hasn't left a terrible amount of time for me to get anything on my plate done.

As for my other full time job - the one that actually pays me - I've been flying solo for three weeks and been rather busy.

I've been using this weekend as time to actually pull all of my shit together and plan out the week ahead.  With any luck, by Monday, I'll have a clean house, prepped clothing and meals and a plan to forge ahead with.

But right this moment...I have time for an update.

Here's the one you are all most anxiously awaiting.

MY GLORIOUS RETURN TO THE WORLD OF RUNNING!

Ha!  Ok - I didn't know what I was facing when I started things up again on September first.  I've been pain free for several weeks now and I had to hope it would be all good to go.

Sept 1 was a holiday monday so I met a coworker in Chestermere to kick off my return to running and my coaching her into running.  Our plan was to start Couch to 5k and do the first 5 weeks to get us both to the point where we could just build onwards with 10 and 1s.

It didn't hurt to run.  I wasn't breaking landspeed records, but it didn't hurt.  I had a couple of twinges towards the end and a whole lot of aching after, but it was all good.  I was running again.

We ran again on the 3rd at lunch and, again, no pain during.  Just aching after.

On the Friday, I talked to Dr Dale and he told me the aching as normal.  My bones need to adapt back to the pounding so I will feel it for a while.

So I am proceeding with caution.   I have completed the first 2 weeks of the program and am looking forward to the next 3.

I am also looking forward to the reappearance of the Little Bloggy Bluebirds at Banff Ekiden Relay next month.  I'll be doing the shortest leg but I am so excited to be going back to this super fun event!

Now on to the next thing...

How's that Weight Watchers thing going?

Really, REALLY well.

Seriously.  It didn't take me long to realize after I signed up that if I tried to follow their points program, it would be like Sudoku for dieters. And me and Sudoku aren't actually friends.   So I chose to follow the simply filling plan.   I could eat anything off of the list and had a slush fund of "points" for indulgences.

The first week, I lost 5.6lbs.   The second week I had a few too many birthday celebrations for hubby and only lost 1.7lbs.   This past week, I was super good and am now down another 2.6 lbs for a grand total of.....9.9lbs!!!  Hooray!   Just call me the Incredible Shrinking Cori!

The biggest thing, though, is the inches.  I didn't take before photos.   But I did try on all of my work dress pants because I haven't been able to do them up in months.  I have been wearing stretchy skirts all summer because they were easier with my cast and quite a bit more forgiving.  I kind of wish I'd taken pics of the pants not coming close to buttoning.  Because this week, I pulled on a pair on a lark...and they buttoned up easily.  (In the nick of time too - since we had that freak snowstorm for 3 days this week!)

So I think this is going to work for me.   And an unexpected side benefit is that my kids are asking for salads when I have one.   Anything that gets more veggies into them is a-ok by my books.

So - things are going pretty well.   I'm on track and am feeling good.  I'm just a little (lot) busy.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Reads: The Path of Minor Planets by Andrew Sean Greer

Last year, I read a couple of Andrew Sean Greer's books (here and here) and adored them.  Somehow I just never carried on to read more of them and realized a couple of weeks ago that it was time to change that streak :)

This book begins on a small island with a group of scientists and grad students out to celebrate the return of Comet Swift - a comet discovered by a Californian professor.   The celebration is suddenly daarkened by a terrible accident as a young boy falls to his death on the rocks below.  The rest of the book bounces around this group and the effect this accident has had on their perception of the world over the next 25 years.  Through love and loss, trysts and trials.  These scientists grow their careers (or fail to) and characters come and go.  Then, all too late, they realize mistakes that were made.

I liked the book, but I felt like it was lacking in something.  Like it missed the mark somehow.  

It was so easy to get lost in the words of this book that I was well over halfway through it before I realized that I had no idea who the main characters were.  It was as though everyone was given equal billing but no one was given prominence.  Andrew Sean Greer has an amazing way of writing there incredibly eloquent and beautiful worlds.  He is amongst my favourite authors for that reason.  In this book, however, I feel like I missed something.  Like it was buried within that beautiful world and I missed the meaning.  Or maybe that was the point. That we are all minor players in this world and each have our own story to tell as long as someone is willing to listen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Workout Wednesday: The Journey


Once upon a time, I used to get asked for my story a fair bit...about how I lost 50lbs and ran a marathon (3-4 years ago).  And then I gained back 40lbs and people stopped asking.  For the past year, I have struggled - not only with that unhealing fracture, but also with my weight.  Last winter alone, I gained almost 20 of those pounds and the time has come to actually do something about it all.

Funny thing is that I knew what I was doing.  That I was enjoying the junk food I was shoveling into my mouth. I was enjoying taking seconds at dinner.  I liked sitting on the couch and nibbling my way through a bag of chips...or candies.  I REALLY liked my pilgrimages to the cafe at work for that XL latte everyday.  I'm not an idiot - I KNOW how I got here.  I'm not looking back saying "It was just yesterday I was skinny!"  I just figured when I recommitted, I knew what to do to make it budge.

That's the magic word right there "WHEN".  I pretended to start a few times.  I thought I could use my injury as time to refocus my energies in this way.  I didn't count on the depression and exasperation that would follow that injury and thwart my efforts.  I just count myself lucky that I kept the gain in check for those six months while I healed.   But muscle loss isn't a maintenance strategy.

This week, I took a pretty daunting step for me.   I don't like to ask for help.  I like to be the one who figures it all out.  The one who benchmarks her own success.   I don't like to NEED anything.

But I DO need help.  So, I signed up for Weight Watchers online.   Three months to kickstart some successes. I chose the online program because my life is NOT conducive to meetings and public weigh ins.  But it is enough to hold me a bit more accountable.  At $85 for 3 months, I actually thought it was a fairly reasonable price to pay.  If I don't feel it's working, and I've given it my best, then I won't continue with it. But for now, I plan to get my money's worth.

I'm on day two and am feeling pretty strong.   I'm also using the opportunity to clean up my family meals and introduce some new veggies to my kids.  Thus far, they aren't complaining...in fact I believe they loved their reintroduction to roasted sweet potatoes last night...at least that's what the lack of leftovers for my lunch today told me.

I am also using this as a chance to break away from daily weigh ins.  Somehow when I bought my fitbit scale, I became addicted to the instant charts.  So I would weigh in every day to chart my fluctuations and the only benefit that came of that was that I got to watch the graph line climb.   Not much of a benefit...


But September is a fresh slate.  I am feeling better, both about myself and my mental state.  I get to start running again.  I am cleaning up my eating. I'm planning for success. My journey is continuing.   I just need concentrate on one step...on one day...at a time...and it won't take long.