Thursday, October 31, 2013

Three Things Thursday - Halloween Edition

1) The girls costumes are ready and laid out to put on tonight.  We did a little fashion show earlier in the week to make sure everything was ready.

TinkerDoodle



I did have to make an emergency trip to the Dollar store yesterday for new wings.  I managed to break hers in the dress rehersal - boooo.

Lady Buggie




2) My own costume is ready and super awesome. and, no, I'm not going as BatMommy again. These are in progress photos before I actually assembled it.  I think the kids coming to the door will love it as much as my own kids do.


In case you can't tell - I'm going as iOS6 on an iPhone 4.  (What can I say?  The printables came out before the new iPhones and iOS7!)

We will also be covered in glow things and blinky lights as we work our way to the 7 houses the girls usually have patience for.

3) and our non-candy halloween treats are ready to go.  This year I went with bags filled with erasers, fake bugs, and a fruit juice freezie.   And the bags are sealed with a corny halloween joke.  I have a feeling these will be a big hit.


Buggie is so thrilled at her role in helping assemble them.  (and Doodle is so excited, she's bouncing off the furniture apparently)

Bring on the trick or treaters!


What are your kids going as this year?  
What about you?   
Do you give out treats?  
What's on the trick or treat menu at your house this year?  

I'd love to hear it in the comments!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Workout Wednesday: Nominate an Exceptional Woman

As you all know, I have been an ambassador for Chick'd Apparel for a while now.  One of the greatest things I love about this company is that it not only creates exceptional athletic wear - they also take the time to celebrate women and to help us see past the stereotypes.

Do you know a woman who is doing great things for her health or the health of her community? We want to celebrate these women and reward one lucky woman with $500 of amazing chick’d gear. Please email us at chicks@chickd.ca to nominate a special woman in your life.


The winner will be chosen through online voting in a couple of rounds. Nominations will be collected from Oct. 26-Nov 9 and first round voting from Nov 10-23 on Facebook

Then, the three nominees with the most votes will become finalists and further voting will take place between November 20-27 on the Chick'd website to decide a winner.  These three finalists will each receive a Chick'd #MyType t-shirt.

The finalist with the most votes will be awarded the grand prize of one of each of the items Chick'd makes (a $500 value!)

I've already nominated two women who inspire me greatly.  Can you think of any who inspire you?  Why not take a moment to write a few sentences about them and send them, along with a photo, to the Chick'd ladies at chicks@chickd.ca


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Techy Tuesday: NaNoWriMo Helpers


With National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starting on Friday, I thought it might be timely to pull together some of the freebie apps and websites that are out there to help reach that 50,000 word goal and keep a crazy writer on track throughout the month of November.  There has been so many advances since 2010, when I last won the challenge so it has been fun to play and get to know some of them.

There are also a lot of paid apps and websites but I wanted to keep it cheap ;)  I haven't been solicited to promote any of these - just my obsessive, inner researcher coming through for you.

iOS
There are a lot more paid apps for writers, but there are still a few good freebies :)

  • Write Chain - helps you reach your word count goals by allowing you to track your word counts for each writing session.
  • Dragon Dictation - thoughts coming faster than you can type - say them and have them transcribe for you.  
  • Simple Mind - Mind mapping

Android

  • Write-o-meter - fun way to keep yourself motivated to hit wordcounts.  Has pomodoro timers, reminders and rewards etc.
  • Writer - a simple wordprocessor app
  • Simple Mind - mind mapping
If you have a couple of bucks to spend, I do like the app Lists for Writers.  It keeps me from always having the dialogue be "said" - this is available for both Android and iOS.

Web-Based (and some also have apps)

Yarny
While I use Scrivener on my MacBook, I also love Yarny when I am away from home.  It is a bare-bones novel-writing website that stores your work in the cloud.  I've found it fairly reliable and usually just copy my work back into Scrivener from it when I am home again.

I reviewed it here.  It is apparently also an app now.

Google Drive
Everyone has a Google account, right?  Well, Google Docs to the rescue.  You can write and store all of your work and notes in Google Drive.  You can work offline in your favourite word processor and then upload to continue later...however you want to use it.  You'll only have basic bells and whistles but it is free and you probably already have access to it.

Evernote
Evernote is note-keeping software and is available web-based and as mobile apps.  You can use it to organize your notes or to write your actual novel, if you wish.  I tend to store ideas in it.

Widgets and Flair, oh my

NaNoWriMo actually has a bunch of blog widgets that are easy to add to your website to show everyone how well you are staying on track.

And, if you want to tell the world why you're so busy this Novemeber, you can also grab any of an assortment of banners and buttons to display. There's even one to use as a facebook cover.

NaNo is also heavily sponsored and there are tons of sponsor offers that participants can take advantage of throughout the month.

After NanoWrimo

National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo) - You spent November writing it...why not take a few months off and then spend March editing it!

Smashwords - Smashwords is a place where you can self-publish your novel once it is complete...they even have a special promotion for Nano participants

NaNo Winners Goodies - well, you have to win to see those...they usually post the list in early December.  It can range from free proof copies of your book to deep discounts on writer software.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cheer Crew: WOW Superheroes Run

Yesterday it was a beautiful day.  20C, sunny, gorgeous.

But this race was today...-1C and snowing.

Good thing we had lots of forewarning on that forecast.

Tina and I signed up a few weeks ago to volunteer for the Women of Wonder Superheroes Run.  Thanks to the online sign-up, we were soon on the volunteer list. Why didn't we run it, you ask...well, I'm a bit burnt out on racing right now and had been thinking I was ready for a short running hiatus to heal up that persistent hammock injury...and when I mentioned volunteering to Tina, she was right on board.

In fact, we almost immediately had ideas for superhero costumes.  That's the beauty of having so many sparkle skirts...makes it easy to come up with costumes on the fly.

All I needed to do was make myself a bat logo.  Thank goodness for Pinterest, permanent markers and fun foam.  Oh...and Value Village...girl can't sew so she has to buy a cape, y'know.


and a run wardrobe that consists of lots of black and sparkle skirts in a variety of colours (something I am convinced is VITAL to the spur of the moment costume creation)

When I woke up this morning, I could hear the rain...and by the time I hit the road...it was snow.


The car had a nice coating of slush by the time I got to Eau Claire.

But Batmommy (as Buggie had dubbed me last night) was ready to be a course marshall for the very first time!

SpideyFab arrived shortly after I did and we grabbed coffee, made costume adjustments and nabbed someone to snap our photo

We checked in as volunteers and were instructed on where we needed to go.  We were going to be at the turnaround for the 10k - way out at 29th street.  Originally, we had planned to run out there, but with the turn in the weather - we thought it better if we parked at Tri-it and walked the couple of blocks.  Better to stay warm and dry if we were going to be standing in falling slush for an hour.

Lucky for us, there was a group running out of Tri-it that let us pop in to use the washroom before we hiked in to our post.

We had been told to look for the big orange "candlestick"...I'm not sure if I'd qualify this as "big" but it was the right place.


I had a feeling a chunk of our job was going to be scraping the sign.

We knew the field for this race was pretty small (less than 30 runners in the 10k) so we spent a lot of time waiting and looking at this.


and this

The race started at 10 and the first runner got to us really quickly...so quickly it surprised us!   But soon we had a couple more.  And then we had another volunteer on a bike come by...and we were quick to ask if that was it!  We knew the race was small but were there really that many no-shows?

He assured us that he was just making sure we hadn't frozen to death.  Our feet were wet and cold, but we were otherwise warm.  Then he took some photos for us and told us he'd be back to relieve us after the last runner.

Soon, the main pack was on us and we were having fun cheering them on.

and then Batman showed up and I quipped about wanting a photo and he actually stopped for me :)  Guess that's the beauty of the fun run - no timing means you can have a bit more fun with it all.

Hey - don't judge my fannypack.  Even Batmommy needs a utility belt!

Soon, the lulls between runners were getting pretty long. So we amused ourselves with more snow photos and cheering on random runners who dragged their butts outta bed to run their long runs.



and then, when the stream of runners dried up, we waited until our toes nearly froze off and finally two cyclists arrived to relieve us and pick up our signs.

We dashed back to Tri-it and the warmth of Tina's car.  The runners who had let us use the washroom before were just packing up after their run and they were so enthusiastic about us volunteering in such nasty conditions that they gave us muffins!
mmm...peach oatmeal.  Tasted like heaven!
Then we headed back to Eau Claire to see the post-race festivities and enjoy our costumes in warmer conditions.

They had a nice little spread for post-race food.  Water (and Emergen-C, that as a first at a race for me), juice, pop, halloween candies, scones and muffins from Good Earth, coffee.  There was also a table selling jewellery in support of Servants Anonymous (the benefactor of the race).

ok - it didn't look this blurry when I snapped it
As a thanks for volunteering, they gave us race shirts and novelty costume ties
Tina gave me hers for the girlies dressup box
Short sleeve tech shirts (I'm wearing over a longsleeve)
All in all - I think my first race volunteer experience was a pretty fun one.   And this race - well it may be small, but it was super fun as a Halloween-season costume race.  Not everyone dressed up, but there was still a pretty nice showing of superheroes out there.   I loved that they had 5 &10k distances AND a 2.5k for the kiddos.  The shirts are nice and while the course is pretty standard Eau Claire fare, it is a simple out and back and, on a day where the weather shows up like this one did, it is good to know that when you turn around, you are officially closer to the finish than to the start.

And now I kinda hope the race runs again next year so I can actually RUN it! I'm already picturing my costume.

Until then...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Reads: Lost and Found by Chris Van Hakes

Chris Van Hakes is the Nom de Plume of blogger (and my self-professed internet BFF) Shalini of Reading and Chickens.  I have loved and related her blog for a while now and have been waiting on the edge of my seat since the day she announced that she planned to self-publish her novel.

Well, this week it finally happened!  Lost and Found hit the ebook world...and I rushed to buy and download as quickly as I possibly could!  After all - I love the way she writes on her blog - how could I not adore her novel (and, at $3, it is a total steal)

Here's the premise (from the virtual dust jacket):
Delaney Curtis just broke up with her boyfriend and moved halfway across the country to start her life over, a life that does not include men, especially not her perpetually grouchy neighbor, Oliver. He calls her ugly, hates her clothes, and has a trail of women leaving his apartment.
Oliver Webber can't seem to stop insulting his new next door neighbor, the unnervingly sweet Delaney. He plans to stay far away from her and everyone else and lick his wounds after unrequited love. Except he keeps running into Delaney, and she's so fun, and kind, and pretty. Before long, he's making up excuses to spend time with her. 
Soon they're in the middle of a blossoming friendship. But when exes come back to find Delaney and Oliver, they both need to figure out if love is a losing proposition, or worth the gamble.

I bought the EPUB version of the book on Smashwords shortly before Shalini posted this on Twitter


Meh - whatever.  The copy of LOTR I've been re-reading changes font sizes 12 times per chapter. I read A Million Little Pieces despite the fact that it had two words to a line.  As long as it has words, I'll read it.   I read the Smashwords epub mostly on Bookish and, while a bit cramped in the line spacing - it actually didn't bother me that much.

The book is fantastic (like I knew it would be).  Delaney is a quirky librarian to Oliver's distracted doctor.   While they hate each other on sight, it quickly becomes a struggle to keep them apart - each insisting that friendship is all that is in the cards.  I loved the banter between the characters - both between Delaney and Oliver and between Delaney and her girlfriends.

The story flows at a pretty quick pace and I read it in a couple of hours. Besides - any book that drops an f-bomb on the first page is bound to suck me in (So what? I loved Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist).  She manages to develop the characters quickly and gets right to the heart of the story.  I loved how she split the first-person time between Delaney and Oliver so the reader could see the feelings develop on both sides.  To see two people who have been so badly hurt by their pasts and how self esteem issues come into play was heart wrenching.  Watching them overcome them together to find happiness made my heart happy.  There were a few places where I felt some disconnects, but nothing world shattering and I didn't feel like it affected the story in any significant way.

Now, y'all know me and you know I don't read a lot of chicklit...it's kind of a guilty pleasure thing for once in a while with me...when I need a break from orcs and magicians...but I really enjoyed this.  So buy it.  Support a great indie writer so she'll keep writing wonderful offbeat, romantic escapes like this.

You can buy the ebook at the following places: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords (for pretty much any other format)

Support her - she's awesome!   and just to prove how much I think you should read this book - I am going to buy a copy of it for one of my lucky readers!   Yeah - I'm totally generous like that.  Throwing around $3 like it's burning a hole in my pocket!  Shalini doesn't even know I'm going to do it (well, I guess she does now...cat's outta the bag).  Keeping it simple - just enter on Rafflecopter below.  You can earn free entries everyday by tweeting about the giveaway.   I will send the book as a gift from whatever site the winner prefers.  Tell your friends so they can enter too.

Good luck and happy reading!  Contests ends October 31 - winner will be notified by email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Workout Wednesday: Running Beyond Yourself

I originally wrote this for the Chick'd Apparel blog, but thought I would reblog it here in case some of you missed it!

Most races support a charity of some sort.  You can usually decide to fundraise or, more likely, to not fundraise.  No matter what, the charity is being supported in some way through your participation and in your advertising them every time you wear that race shirt around town.

But what happens when you want to run beyond?  To actually make a bigger difference?

Let me tell you my story...
I was never a runner.  Didn't want to be.  Running was hard work.  It required you to step outside of your comfort zone.  To get sweaty.  To turn red.  To die after a few minutes.  Runners were skinny people.  They were fast people.  They were the exact opposite of who I was.

But my friend, Anna, was a runner.  She ran marathons.   She wasn't fast but she was dedicated.  I admired it, but I didn't aspire to BE it.

Until the day she told me she had cancer.  And the first thought that went through my head was the burning need to find a run for Lymphoma so I could fundraise and run in support of her.

WHAT?!?!

I couldn't even run yet and I was already running beyond myself.

Since that day, three and a half years ago, I have run two events for Team in Training (TNT) and raised over $12,000 toward research and patient support for blood cancers.   I have also put together a family team for the local Mother's Day run that supports the NICUs where my twins spent their first 8 days.  Both are charities that mean a great deal to me and my connection to them drives me to make a difference.  My dad was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and I am already making plans to run my next full for Team Diabetes. 

Knowing that I can make a difference by doing something I have grown to love is HUGE for me.  It feels great to give back and help others.  Running beyond myself has become a huge part of who I am.

So, sure, that's my story and now you are wondering how you can make a difference...right?

I figured it might be helpful to have a quick TOP TEN of things to consider when choosing a charity race.

10) Is it a race that is incredibly difficult to get into unless you have guaranteed entry through a charity?
A couple that spring to mind for me are Nike Women's Marathon and the New York City Marathon.  Many charities will offer guaranteed entry if you pledge to fundraise in return.  Some will even pay your travel expenses to get you there.

9) Do you have time for it?
Be honest. Training takes up a great deal of time in itself...but fundraising takes WAY MORE!  Especially if you want to surpass the minimum expected of you.  Make sure you have the time to give it your all to both things.  My first race was done while I was on maternity leave with infant twins and was extrememly time consuming.  My second race - those twins were 3 and I was working full time again.   I definitely felt a greater pinch the second time around.

8) Are you connected to the cause?
The greater the connection you feel to the cause, the stronger you will feel about following through with the commitment.  If you don't have a natural connection to the cause - are you prepared to foster one?  Chances are, you'll find connections you didn't know existed.

7) If you can't raise the funds by the cut-off date, are you prepared to have your credit card charged for the rest?
As long as you start early, that fundraising minimum, that felt so daunting at the beginning, will be met before you know it.

6) Do you think you will need a coach?
Most of the charity endurance running programs offer coaching assistance of some type.  With TNT, I had a dedicated in-person coach for my first race.  The second one, through TNT Flex, I had a coach that was remotely located.  Some offer online training programs. Some offer none at all.  Figure out what you need before you choose your charity.

5) Is there a local chapter?
Being able to actually interact with the people in the office make it much easier to build relationships, have a drop-off/pick up point for materials, and a place to drop off cash and cheque donations so they are processed faster.  I found this to be much easier for me than the race I did where the office was located across the country from me.

4) Do you have a good support system?
While training for a marathon is hard and time-consuming...adding dedicated fundraising into the mix is like training for two marathons - one of distance and one of money.  Your support crew needs to understand the time demands you will have on you.  They will also need to support you through the stress of both.  Make sure in advance that they are ready to do so.  I was so lucky to have a supportive hubby who not only handled all of the child care duties on my long back-to-back runs while training for Goofy...he also stepped up to make sure i could always be present for the large fundraising events my little local team put on.  This will not only take YOUR dedication...in large part it takes THEIRS as well.

3) Assess your ability to actually raise the money
I truly believe that as long as you start early and get creative, anyone can succeed in raising the many thousands of dollars needed for the programs.  Only you can decide if you have what it takes to commit to creatively raising the money...and this becomes even more important if you do not have a personal connection.   I will give one tip, though...don’t look at it as $4500...look at it in chunks of $200.  Every time you knock off a $200 chunk you are winning. - you have made more than you had $200 earlier!   Find ways to get people to unexpectedly donate more than once by spacing out your awesome fundraisers. And don’t be afraid to run with an idea - you might be surprised how many people will donate to a $5 Friday! 

If you have done it before - you need to be even more creative the second time because some of your go-to people will have donor fatigue.  You can identify this by seeing how many people seem to not “hear” you when you talk or write. Don’t take it personally - just look for different ways to engage them.

2) Do you have a group of friends who would want to do it together?
I put this one in here with caution.  Fundraising with friends can be a touchy subject - take it from me.   I went solo the first time around and then did my second event with a team.  On the team, one of the people definitely didn’t pull her weight and the rest of us felt so stressed trying to have 5 of us fundraise for 6 people.  It put irreparable strain on friendships that didn’t need to be there.  Discuss this with your friends beforehand and make sure everyone has a plan to get to their fundraising minimums so that it becomes a real team effort.

1) Are you prepared to be obsessed for six months?
Seriously.  It WILL consume you.  People will get sick of hearing you talk about it.  You will even get sick of it...trust me.  I had to quit Facebook after my first TNT event because I was so burnt out from talking about it.  But it was worth it.  Boy, was it ever worth it.

Running for a charity in a big way can be the most rewarding experience you ever have.   With that in mind - I have hopefully prepared you for some of the realities of running beyond yourself.   I still say every bit of it is worth it - and you never know...the money you raise, might just fund the research that finds the cure!

Monday, October 21, 2013

It Takes a Team - Banff Ekiden Relay Support

No sooner had I crossed the finish and sent Michelle on her way, than Leana handed me a little goodie bag! Turns out I wasn't the only one with a few tricks up my sleeve for the day!

Inside was an assortment of runner goodies, a pair of BMO Van gloves that she'd been hanging onto for me for MONTHS and my awesome new birdie socks that were to be part of our team uniform for the day!


I quickly changed in the washroom so I could get warm again and then it was onto cheer duty!



Aww...stupid thumb got in the way of an awesome selfie of Leana and I...

We had no real way of knowing how long Michelle's leg was going to be.  Leg two had to be altered at the last minute to accommodate a momma bear and two cubs who had taken up residence on the original course. We knew that she would be running most of the same as my leg one and then an add-on out to Bow Falls parking lot and back.

We tried to stay inside where it was warm for a while until we figured she would be near.



I came really close to dognapping a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy named Addi.  But that's just how I am.


This also gave me a chance to try to figure out why my iPhone was draining and shutting down so quickly.

Luckily I had brought an emergency power supply but it also looked like I had somehow broken the lock button on the top of the phone and that was contributing to the drain.  I wish we'd known that we would have access to plug ins - I would have brought a wall plug with me.  Note to future teams - bring your power cords...there are plug ins inside!

When it was getting close to an hour, we decided to go out and cheer for everyone while we waited.  Tina was raring to go:

...and then suddenly, she was there!


And then it was Tina's turn to run her two legs.  It felt like the blink of an eye, but our team was burning through the legs much faster than I'd expected.  We had no time goals - just fun goals that we were meeting at every turn.

While we were waitying for Tina to finish her first leg, Leana and I headed out to the road to cheer.  My buddy from SAIT caught up with us there and we spent the next little while getting all caught up on the last 8 years of our lives (well, really it was like the last 3 years since I left Facebook).  I love how close I still feel with so many of my classmates from that time.   We were all such a tight-knit group and it is like having a whole other family to care about.


Michelle and I rocked the headbands that Nikki sent us while we waited:



Then,. Tina was there...



I raced over to the transition area to capture her coming through the arch as she embarked on her second leg.


Tina's 2nd leg was slightly longer than the first so we had a rough idea of how long Leana had to get ready and eat beforehand.

We also took some goofy photos



We headed inside to the little piece of real estate we had claimed in the middle of the floor and Leana got herself all ready to fly.  I could hardly believe we were already at our last runner of the day! It was around this time that we finally bullied Michelle into joining Instagram :)




The birdie socks got a whole lotta camera time that day.


With about 15 mins to go, we headed out to the startline and took a few pictures before Tina arrived.




Then, I went out to watch for her on the road and cheered her up the hill.


and then she hit transition and the chip was handed off one last time...


Leana was on her way


Tina went off to freshen up after her legs and it was time to start winding down our day and to get ready to celebrate!

Leana had been sick all week so wasn't really sure how long it would take her to come in.  Luckily, she posted a mid-leg shot to Instagram with her distance at 8k so we were able to pretty accurately figure when to expect her.

In the meantime, we took a bunch of photos


I contemplated dognapping Addi again...


and we were ready and waiting with our pompoms when she got there


Michelle met her at the hill and ran her in...with Leana chicking a girl who'd been ahead of her for most of her leg as she came in for a strong finish:





There was much celebrating:



Our team finished the relay in just shy of 4:11...much faster than I think any of us have ever run a solo marathon!  This was a bit shy of the marathon distance, thanks to the bear detour...but it's still nice to see such a quick time - especially since we had firmly decided our focus was on fun and not finish times. :)



and then we headed off to find lunch.  The announcer had said it was at the Sally Borden building, but when we got there we couldn't find anything and there was zero signage.

We were all starving so we decided to just head into town and find a restaurant where we could properly celebrate our achievements of the day.  We ended up at Nourish Bistro - a super yummy, vegetarian comfort food restaurant that seemed to fit the dietary restrictions bill fairly well for us.  Hubby and I had eaten there on our Banff trip back in march and the food was every bit as yummy as I had remembered!



and I still had one more surprise up my sleeve for my fellow Birdies...




Knowing that Hosteling International doesn't do medals for most of their races, I decided to take things into my own medalwhore hands...and got my craft on for a special project.


I made these so they could be worn a couple of ways.  The hand stamped tags are removable so they can be just a special necklace...or left on so they can adorn a medal rack. However the Birdies would want to rock them.  I think the Birdies were quite surprised that I had done that.

I am so proud of our little team.  From it's humble Twitter beginnings of 4 bloggers who didn't really know each other well, through the excitement of meetups, planning and coordinating and on to the amazing, magical day the event ended up being - we truly embodied the spirit of the team.   This day will live on in my memory forever as being one of the most special of my "running career".  So freaking much fun.  I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Thank you, Birdies!  You truly rock and I am proud to count you among my friends!  Thank you for EVERYTHING!