Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Berries Photoshoot & An MMA Fighting Puppy!

Photography was supposed to help me blog more, but it looks like two photography courses, a new McGill course - and a slightly frantic search for a new semester of tutoring students - makes this two weeks since my last post! Squeezing what daylight I can out of my lunch hour, I'm snapping a few photos of a wintery wonderland and a soupy spring slush. All of these pictures were taken last week, although after this week's Photography class, I'm realizing I'm way off focus and need more practice zeroing out to the correct exposure. Note to anyone planning to take camera courses - take the in-person basics one first; it shows you how to focus properly and use those AF points the online course leaves a mystery. My pictures will get better,
I promise!

Good news, my neighbour is the local Dog Whisperer and has helped me get Kiara in the car, simply by standing tall and walking her in like she doesn't have a choice, and I mean it. Then lots of cuddles and treats and kind words once she's in! Stubborn puppy; she can definitely fight. Almost to the point where she's punching at you with those front paws - hey, I'm not the one teaching her Mixed Martial Arts skills!

(the first picture is a bit overexposed (and the other two, too dark) but they are the only ones where I got her still enough!)

Speaking of MMA-with bruised arms, sore legs and padded gear, I'm just a few weeks shy of Blue Belt! I feel obligated to start going to bars to watch the latest fights - $50 on pay per view, yikes!

(Here's a picture of the belt progression, since it seems that Jujitsu, Karate, Kung Fu,Tae Kwon Do and Judo have their own systems). It takes about 4 months to get a belt if you don't skip a single class, now that I'm a Black Belt Club Member. This basically means 2 regular 45 min classes and 1 brutal self defense class per week! Definitely a good stress reliever though - and wow, what a workout!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Come, Thou Tortoise & Other Plodding Thoughts

In the spirit of re-discovering everything I love (despite the minus 30 degree frozen hell in which I live), I've started my novel quest (on novels) - hehe, I love puns. Jessica Grant's Come, Thou Tortoise is first my book review for you this year. While I'm only halfway through, it is so fascinating I have to blog about my reader experience before it is complete. Narrated partially by a suburban girl who is thrown out of her routine life when her father dies and she must return home, and partially by her 100 year old tortoise who stays at home with friends, the story challenges the reader to place themselves directly into the thoughts of both characters

Grant's style is unique, as she presents a running mental dialogue of Audrey's journey from the airport to her hometown - and Winnifred's journey from her tank to her babysitter's apartment and freezer, in search of the complicated, controlled environment and perfect temperature in which tortoises must live. If they are too cold or too hot, tortoises just shrivel into their shell and appear dead. Check out this link on taking care of a tortoise! I couldn't figure out a way to embed it, unfortunately, but Click here. It's really, really cute, just click!

Plodding along in other thoughts, I've come to realize that there is a massive trade-off between income and warm weather. Singapore, Edmonton. London UK, Singapore. Edmonton, FortMcmurray. Hawaii, anywhere else. California, Calgary. Proven again and again by moves of friends and family - this frozen hell is worth it's weight in gold (or oil barrels). A ride on Fort Edmonton's sleigh ride will also confirm that the early settlers hated it here too - they stayed only for the price of fur in the Fur Trade!!! Really, family and money are the only reasons I've heard so far to stay- well, there are professional snowboarders and skiers, but they are in Calgary.

View Larger Map
A look at Google Maps UK confirms that while London itself is bustling, its outer communities lack the hardcore Martial arts studios, Bikram Yoga, shopping, parks, shops and all the right downtown wonders that I want from the city. Margate and Ramsgate by the sea look beautiful and have a renowned ESL school - but 40, 000 people? Is that still a tiny town when the next "town" is 2 minutes away?

Of course, every country has its quirks - steering wheels on the wrong side of the car, driving on the opposite side of the road, getting Kiara on the Tube, hours of traffic, an apartment the size of my old place for $320 000 (in GBP, of course), surfing in freezing cold water, decreased purchasing power and an increased number of pigeons. (I'll have you know one of them stole a cucumber right out of my sandwich in the 8th grade at Trafalgar Square! Ick!)

Pros: Cousins and grandma half an hour away, a vibrant, metropolitan city, $60 Ryan Air flights to immerse myself in French and Italian lessons first hand, leather boots without salt stains, Tate Modern (and other) museum memberships, rainy roads with no ice, decorative snow, European Christmas markets, hot wine, 6 weeks of vacation, Shakespeare, gorgeous Europeans, Hugh Grant and the sexy British linguistic flair.

Oh, e-town, what to do? Global warming isn't helping this part of the world...

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Here's to 2011 - A Year of Artistic Endeavours!

2011 will be an amazing, creative year. While we rang in the New Year with a quiet, delicious fondue party amongst friends, the year that follows will be explosive. Four relaxing days have given me some perspective. Since I turn 26 in just a few weeks, I've dedicated the first year of my late 20's (eek!) to re-discovering my passions. Funny that as you grow older, you have to set goals to accomplish what you love - reading, writing, music and art are no longer habits, but merely great ideas that fade into an abyss of lack of time.

In the words of French poet Victor Hugo,

"The future has three names. For the weak, it is the impossible. For the fainthearted, it is the unknown. For the brave and valiant, it is the ideal".

Inspired by a quote-infused Lululemon bag two years ago, I set short, medium and long term goals twice a year and review quarterly; two personal, two business and two health. While health goals dominated 2010, personal goals will flourish this year as I begin the novel I have always dreamed of writing, read as I did as a child and a little Music and Lyrics (2007) to my life.

Four days of time with friends, coffee and a seemingly random selection of six movies revealed my ideal course for 2011. (Kiara used, then chewed the t.v remote again - in fact, I came home one evening to find her nonchalantly watching Madagascar on a channel I have never watched).

Letters to Juliet (2010) (a reporter's quest for a story) & The Jane Austen Book Club (the idiosyncrasies of relationships) were lighthearted reminders that passions need to be followed and that when literature and writing surround me, I am happy.

Little Children 2006 -(follows the story of an affair on marriage
& Love Actually 2003 -(follows couples in Hugh Grant's humorous way) reminded me that couples are surprisingly different, relationships flourish and happiness can be found when least expected.

Due Date -2010 (a road trip of polar opposite strangers) reminded me that the uptight business gal needs a little unstructured fun and that structure and plans are not all bad. Lorina was home for Christmas and at a brunch with Cecilia and Maghan we hashed out the subject; don't worry, Maghan tells me - planning is overrated and it will all work out. I'll try!

Black Swan (2010) was a literary, creative masterpiece that followed the a young dancer's psychological obsession with perfection and the price she pays to live both the life of the beautiful white swan and that of her evil black twin. Perfection, it reminds us, has a dire price. It has my vote for Best Picture and Costume at the Oscars, for sure.

Expect a book review per month to become a (hopefully welcome) addition to my blog. I'll keep it analytically light, but I'd love to update you on the ins and outs of my quest to read more novels.

Here's the first, miniature slideshow of the year - a sliver of my free Saturday was spent photographing beautiful baby Alyssa. Facebook users, you know the drill - click View Original post on the note, or click here.

Happy New Year, everyone. Here's to valiantly creating your personal, ideal future in 2011!