Thursday, March 21, 2013

Also, just a note

I have neglected this blog for several months now and would like to get more active on it. That probably won't happen too much in the next five weeks or so since starting Monday I'm finished with spring break and will still have five more weeks of mean, classes on top of working full time. In my absence from this blog, I was suddenly inundated with spam in my comments, so I have had to reset the settings so that you may have to sign into google to comment. I'm sorry if this is an inconvenience, but I'm really tired of the spam! (Ick! Spam!).

High Lane - the French version of an adventure gone wrong...

High Lane

Like, what could possibly go wrong here? *points up*

IMDB says: A group of friends on vacation decide to venture onto a trail high up in the mountains that has been closed for repairs. The climb proves more perilous than planned, especially as they soon realize that they are not alone. The adventure turns into a nightmare.

This is why we people who like horror and suspense movies can't have nice things. This movie could have been SO MUCH BETTER than it was. Once I got over the bad dubbing (I would have rather heard the French and seen subtitles), I got into it. The beginning was actually delightfully suspenseful. A few friends drive into Croatia to hike in the Balkans on a hike that has been shut down and blocked - what could possibly go wrong? Some tension in the group (ex-lovers, a new boyfriend, a reckless leader friend), some very near misses as far as very long falls off cliffs/treacherous footbridges, not bad. I watched with vicarious horror since there's no amount of money anyone could pay me to get on that bridge in the picture. 

Things start to go dreadfully wrong when one of the party gets caught in an animal trap and a few of the others are dangling off the side of a cliff. Well, the people off the side of the cliff are saved, but the dude in the animal trap? He's dragged off by a cannibalistic orphan who lives in a cave. Yep, you heard me right. And it just deteriorates from there. Actually it was very similar to the last Vacation Gone Wrong movie I posted (the Chernobyl Diaries).  Mutant cannibal sets traps and goes after tourists. Blah, blah, blah.

The main problem with this movie that I have, I suppose, is that I really didn't like or care about any of the characters except just maybe the main character woman who was the last one standing. She was the only one who wasn't either willfully putting her friends in a dangerous position or stepping into someone else's relationships or being whiny/wimpy.  Once in awhile, though, she would have this random flashback to a patient she had (I guess she was a doctor?) who did not survive in her hands and she had obvious guilt over it. But seeing how she was unable to save any of the lives of her friends in the slaughterfest that this movie became, I was not sure what it had to do with anything.

Vacation Gone Wrong Factor: ***** Yeah, pretty much nobody survives to tell the tale. Caution: If a hiking path is closed, there MAY just be a good reason for it.
Did I care about the characters factor: ** From the guy who tricked his friends into going on a dangerous hike that was closed to the whiny self-absorbed boyfriend of the main character to the badass ex-boyfriend who may have just let the boyfriend die toward the end, just. . . no.  Perhaps the cannibal did the main character a favor by getting rid of her friends for her.
Verdict: *** Not bad for the suspense, at least in the first hour. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The title post of SHAME


Yes, it's been a great while. I'm ashamed to admit that I actually sort of forgot that I had a blog. I would LIKE to get better at this.

Consider this one of the many goals I have for this year that is all mixed in with running a marathon, finishing my book, surviving the school year combined with having to take multiple university courses, figuring out my life post-divorce, etc.

Halloween approaches, and we all know how intrinsically creepy dolls are. I offer you:

I challenge you to try to get that tune out of your head...;D

Happy Halloween, you all!

(I have about a million Vacation-Gone-Wrong movies to review! Let's see if I can knock some of those out before Halloween!)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Eccentric Auntie's Most Excellent Adventure

So, I'm going to talk in multiple parts about my Excellent Vacation (one that did not go wrong) that I took to Calgary, Canada, Seattle, and L.A. over a 2 1/2 week period of time. Today I am going to focus on Calgary!

This will have lots of pictures, so be forewarned. :D

So I visited a friend, let us call her J., who lives in Calgary. She was kind enough to pick me up from the airport at midnight as well as leave me a google map so that I could find a nearby plaza with cafes, etc.  while she was at work!

The first day I was there, I found this place, a perfect writer's cafe, not to dissimilar to Espresso Cafe:


A nice, sunny atmosphere, lovely tomato-feta scone, and much writing brainstorming!  I grew restless after a time and decided to seek out an ATM to get some Canadian money. What did I learn? Canadian drivers, at least where I am, are really, really polite to pedestrians. I was hovering on the side of a busy street with no lights in a short distance, with a road that sort of curved around so that if I went for it, I would likely take my life in my hands.  And what happened? FOUR LANES OF TRAFFIC stopped for me so that I could cross. The difference between that and where I live? Where I live, I would stand there all day because even if some nice person stopped to let me cross, nobody else would. Or I'd get honked at. And not only did all this traffic stop, but I noticed after I came out of the atm that there had been a proper pedestrian crossing only about a block away and all the traffic was STILL nice enough to stop for me. :D  Okay, so after that, I wandered about for a long time. I grew hungry in time and wanted to eat something locally, so I found a Brewery/lunch place and I went in.

Here was my lunch:
A pale ale mushroom soup (YUM!), a salad, and a local ale with raspberries in it. I couldn't finish it since I didn't want to be tipsy that early in the day, but it was good and I don't even like beer.

So I headed back to J's house, at which time I decided that I would meet her downtown, which involved following her map to the train station. This time I got a little turned around. In this town, in each neighborhood, streets are named very much the same. Let's say "Forest" was the name theme in a particular neighborhood. Well, then you would have "Forest St.",  "Forest Blvd.," "Forest Crescent," "Forest Drive" all in the same neighborhood. So this can lead to much hilarity in getting lost. I think the city planners have a good laugh over that one.

Here's a random pic of a park I passed on that walk when I was on the wrong street:

Next I took the train into downtown Calgary. It took about 30 minutes, but it was a great tour. I met J and then we walked around the plaza:

We took the train back to J's area. I got a running tour guide as we went on. And I learned something else. People in Calgary think that a building that is 75 years old is historic.

The next day, we went to Banff National Park.

I had decided that since I was in Canada, that I MUST see a Mountie.

J and I set off into the blue. Then I saw mountains for the first time in a LONG time.  Not since 2009 or so, the last time I was in California. These are impressive Rocky Mountains, with unique shapes and towering cliffs. We reached the park, and well, hmm, here we come upon a Ranger Hut where they will be very stern about letting us pass if we don't buy a day pass to the park:

Our first stop was one of the gems of the world, Lake Louise, a glacier-fed lake. Parking was a madhouse as everyone else in the world had the same idea as we did.

We parked and walked down to the lake, and behold the humble beauty. Yes, I'm going to show you multiple pictures of what I think might be one of the most beautiful spots in the world:

Take 2:

Take 3:

Proof that I am actually there...:D But what was missing?...Oh yes. Still no mounties.

Next stop was lunch and then Johnson's Canyon.  This was about a mile hike on a scary catwalks to see some waterfalls.

Over the edge:

There is a sign that says "Do not run on the catwalk." Ya think?

Here are the falls. There were so many people swarming around the area that I turned down the opportunity to climb through the muddy cave-tunnel to go out on another observation deck that was closed in, small, and wet, with little kids scampering about in a precarious manner.

Mounties would have been impressed by my strength here, but alas, they were not here.

We left and went on down the road. Along with mounties, I had been hoping to see some kind of wildlife, such as grizzly bears, of which there are many in that area.

We did see elks:


We did what any smart people do. We got out of the car and got super close to LARGE WILD ANIMALS with antlers and took pictures. Give us some credit, though -- they were calm, chomping away on food, totally aware that we were there and unimpressed -- and they were not grizzly bears.

Another wild animal friend:

So we met some friends of J's and went to a restaurant with a roof patio in the village of Banff called the Rose and the Crown.

The sun would be setting soon at the late hour of 10 p.m., and still I had not found a real mountie.

And then...THEN...THEN:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The End of an Era

I think I didn't want to chat too much this summer on this blog until most people in my life who might possibly look at this blog knew the huge and enormous news in my life, that I just got divorced from my marriage of nearly 19 years.

There is sadness, yes, and I'll go on a serious note and write something that I expressed a while back:
I've known M. since I was 20. We met at the college fountain one evening, and we lost total track of time for the rest of the night. We connected on some deep soul level, something that I don't think will ever go away between us. That first year, we were the cheesy couple that you see being lovey-dovey at a restaurant table, holding hands and staring into each other's eyes. When we first got married, we were one of those couples who did everything together. My oldest friends became his friends, etc. We went through so much together over the years, some good, some bad. We made bad choices at times, but we really enjoyed life, had adventures, and had our simple pleasures and traditions, like our Saturday movie night where we would rent two cheesy horror movies and get food from this certain food place with great Greek salads and cheese fries. We would cook together, dream our glamourous future together where we were going to be nomadic, traveling the world, working for one place in an exotic South Pacific island for a few years before moving on to another place, just as wild and wonderful. We did indeed live in three different towns in Illinois, one city in Florida, and two other countries. We had road trips and mini-adventures. 

We were not always perfect, we had our problems and dysfunctions, but we were us. Our bond was indestructible, bound together for better or worse, facing the world together and who knows what other adventures. Certainly there were ups and downs, but everything for sure changed after May 2008. I couldn't function, he didn't give me what I needed, I left, and things broke. broke to pieces and then when I came back together again, things could never be the same. He didn't know me anymore and I didn't trust him on the same level. We still loved each other so much, and we still love each other deeply. Nobody in the future will ever love either of us as much as we loved each other, I'm convinced. We still had summer adventures for a few years, but our tie was frayed, no longer strong and golden, but ethereal and wispy. 

I just never thought it would break. When he agreed so readily to what I knew was inevitable, it was such a shock to my system. I think a part of me thought that no matter what, we were bound to each other, that we could TRY to end things but we wouldn't really be able to. So while this is a necessary thing, a relief, a breaking off from a toxic situation as things have stood the last four years, it still hurts on a deep soul level, where we were bonded. 

Yeah, we weren't perfect, but we were us.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Intermittent Fasting

Oh, fasting my old friend, you are back and I love you.  I have talked about fasting before, but it's been difficult to get into a routine, especially during the school year. Mostly because food is such a social event, and I tend to hate being the center of attention when I'm doing something a little "off."  I abhor being interrogated about my eating habits.

Eating in most cultures is so fraught with emotion and cultural habits. In other words, eating is not something you do in a bubble. It's everyone's business when an overweight woman buys ice-cream, a skinny person doesn't eat, whether you take seconds or not, whether you eat dessert, or whether you choose to eat only natural foods or no bread products or no junk or all junk.  People want to know if your eating habits have a purpose -- are you gluten intolerant or have other allergies? Do you want to lose weight? Are you sick? People are concerned about eating disorders. You're not eating? You must have anorexia. You're eating too much? You must have a binging disorder.  Food is love and sharing. If someone makes food for you and you refuse it, it's the ultimate rejection. I have been guilty of that kind of thinking before, ranging from feeling extremely annoyed when someone doesn't want to share something with me and has an almost pious snobbery about a certain food (omg, that has HOW many calories/fat grams/carbs?) to feeling bad when someone doesn't want to try something I've made.

This happened to me on the very last day of school. We had all brought food to share and I had brought the one thing that is my signature dish -- hummus. Among friends and some family it's a beloved dish.  In general, it did not go over super well at a potluck filled with people mostly of midwestern background who far preferred the typical midwestern fare of potato casseroles and three-bean salads and lavish desserts to something that is known as "health food." I did catch myself feeling offended when people didn't seem to be spooning MY food up or even trying it.

So yes. What you eat seems to be everyone's business.

When I've done intermittent fasting in the past during the school year, I must have about five people asking me every single day at lunch, "What? Aren't you eating? Why not? Isn't that unhealthy? Oh, I could never do that."  And if it was only one time, I could handle it. But when it's every single day. ("What? You're still not eating?") it gets so annoying that I want to throw my hands up and say, "OKAY! Uncle!!! I will eat a fricking salad!"

It doesn't matter if I try to explain the health benefits of fasting for me -- better hormone regulation, more energy, mental clarity, more time (think how much time is focused around food, preparing meals, contemplating what to eat next, etc), more money, better regulation of blood sugar (ironic, yes?), endorphin highs on and off throughout the day (just all things I've noticed for myself -- do your own research if you're curious for more scientific explanations of benefits of fasting), better exercise energy, less bloating, weight regulation.  Everyone is caught up in the whole breakfast is the most important meal of the day myth that the nutritionists brainwashed by the cereal makers have touted for a long time. And all this b.s. that your metabolism is stoked all day if and only if you eat frequent meals.  What in the world did humans do for all the many years that we didn't have the privilege of having so much food available to us twenty-four/seven? The metabolism being stoked thing may or may not be true. I suspect there is truth to it but that it's too minuscule to truly benefit us on a major level. What's more important is that a slower metabolism might actually be better for longevity and better health and the slowing down of aging as proven in some studies with mice with highly restricted calorie diets and low metabolisms as a result of those low-calorie diets (google stuff on CR studies and mice, there's a lot of research out there, as well as people who are trying to live that lifestyle).

So here is what I do:

I let myself a small eating window from about 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Some people do 36-hour fasts. I've tried that once before and it's simply not for me. While I was proud of myself for doing it. It's too hard to not have any reward the whole day. So anyway, I do a 22-hour fast.  It's important to distract yourself when you first do the fasting. It takes a few days or even weeks to fully get used to it, and you WILL feel extreme symptoms from your body begging you to eat, eat, eat, especially at your previously usual meal times.  Your stomach might growl at embarrassing moments. You might feel headachy. You will feel irritable. Your body is not in danger. It's just being a brat. It hasn't learned yet that you WILL feed it, but later.  Drink lots of tea/coffee/water, even diet soda if you like (diet soda is questionable because of the fake sugar which I am suspicious of and it could screw up your blood sugar while fasting). Seltzer water is a good friend.  The fizz fills you up and it's just water. When it's time to eat, eat what you want. Don't yet worry about carb counts, fat grams, or calories. That can come later, if you choose to continue this as a lifestyle.  I always eat healthy stuff first (gazpacho made with farmer's market veggies - YUM, and fresh raspberries), then eat whatever you've been desiring that day. Eat until full. Notice I said FULL, not stuffed. You're not binging thoughtlessly, you're not stuffing yourself when you're full. You eat what is pleasurable to you UNTIL full, not while full.  If you want cake, have cake. If you want cheesy enchiladas, have those.  Be satisfied both physically and mentally. Nibble a bit before your eating window closes. Then stop. If you drink alcohol, wait until you've had food in your stomach to partake. Later you can tweak your diet so that it's more balanced/healthy etc. Right now, just get used to using the eating window to satisfaction.

So it's gone great the last few days for me. I feel better, and more importantly, I feel accomplished and disciplined, like I can follow through on something and do it. This is the first step of many in my quest to end my ADHD mind and live the life I want to live.

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or nutrition expert. I'm just my own guinea pig. Fasting isn't for everyone. Do not attempt if you have diabetes or other major health issue, have a history of eating disorders, are pregnant or nursing, are a child or teenager (still growing), or have other issues that might be aggravated by fasting, like migraines. If you try it and get dizzy or faint, eat something! This is not supposed to be torture or a way to end up in the hospital. Fasting might not be for you at all or you might have to start small (start skipping breakfast for awhile until your body gets used to that then increase by an hour every day).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chernobyl Diaries - when Extreme tourism goes wrong....

Chernobyl Diaries

IMDb says: Six tourists hire an extreme tour guide who takes them to the abandoned city Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. During their exploration, they soon discover they are not alone.

I saw this movie in the theater and I had a lot of fun with it. I went in with absolutely zero expectations, since well, the title says it all. I knew ahead of time that the characters would likely be whiny American tourists for whom I would have little sympathy making dumb mistakes. In truth, the best part about this movie is the build up and character development. Okay, maybe not stellar, but for a horror movie, pretty awesome. I actually liked the main female character and actually connected quite a bit with her.

Things go dreadfully wrong when the shady tour guide's van doesn't start just as sun is beginning to set on this creepy, abandoned city.  The atmosphere is everything in this movie and it is indeed CREEPY. I had goosebumps. I was even saying to myself, "This has to be one of the scariest movies I've seen!"  Because I had gotten to know the characters, I was right there with them, feeling more and more trapped and freaked out as the sun went down. And there ARE things that go bump in the night. Major radioactive bump.

However, the movie ultimately disappoints.  The last third of it made very little sense, there were bizarre plot holes (like why, why, why was one of the girls able to get away one or two times when all other victims were ripped apart or taken away right away? Hint: Probably because she was blond and pretty and helpless.).  

The ending was horrible and dumb and well, rather laughable.  It ruined the whole movie for me.

Oh, there was a random bear at one point. Random bear was random. I just had to throw that out there, especially for Saturday Sequins and Mr. Sequins. 

Vacation Gone Wrong Factor: ***** Starting with random bear and ending with, well, ending, nobody gets out alive. Extreme tourism? Extreme ways to meet your maker, I'd say.
Did I care about the characters factor: **** Yes, for the most part. At least the main character. I so wanted her to live.
Verdict: ***  Yeah, those writers should be sent on an Extreme Tour of sitting on their butts in front of the computer to come up with an ending that doesn't suck. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

oh my gosh, has it actually been this long?

There is a big reason for my silence, and all will be revealed soon, but let's just say in a very cryptic manner that huge things are happening. As a result, have not been much in a blogging mood.  But as I would like to get back into regular blogging, I am going to organize some thoughts and pick something to blog about every other day, even if it's the minute and boring details of Mo and I's six-mile walks.

But today I am doing something amazing for myself. This will sound like the silliest, cheesiest thing ever, but I am creating a big poster board filled with pictures of things that I truly love in my life and that I want in my life. The only problem is that my printer is only black and white and so I find these amazing pictures of my future cottage by the sea, for example, and it just doesn't look as impressive on my posterboard without the turquoise sea in the background. I think I would suggest that anyone who is  depressed, grieving, or at a big life crossroads or even if you just have a vague wish for something specific for the future, this project is amazing and it makes me feel amazing to do it. I just keep looking at it and thinking of other things that I could add to it. Eventually I'd like to figure out how to make the pictures colorful and how to write my comments on it in something other than scribble-scrabble handwriting (never my forte, never my forte). Then again, I suck at scrapbooking, and this is essentially like scrapbooking, only it's like you're making a wish for your future instead of scrapbooking things that have already happened.  I will never show this thing to anyone, ever, so no pictures.

Hope everyone is doing well!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer vacation starts today!

And yes, I'm as excited as the kids.

Oh, the possibilities. Now, as I've said to some other friends recently, my muse has been on a lovely tropical vacation and has been refusing all communication with me.  She did promise, however, that she will return when Mo is here and settled and school is out. So I'm holding her to that promise.

I have done some deep cleaning in the house. Kitchen on Saturday, living room and front area on Sunday and started the dining room area.  Today I need to at least do the bathroom because SS and Mr. SS are coming over and they don't deserve the horror that is my upstairs right now.

Hopefully when the muse returns from vacation, my entries will become a bit more interesting than blah-blah-blah-cleaning-blah-blah-blah-yayvacation. :D  Stay tuned...

Friday, May 18, 2012

3 1/2 more days!

Yes, I just have 3 1/2 more days before the school year ends. I have been craptastic at updating in this blog, but I promise to be better, especially because PinkAudrey is gone for the summer *CRIES*, and the only way she can hear my brilliant words of brilliance is if I keep writing in this blog. Because I know she is waiting on the edge of her seat. :D

 One of the reasons that I'm having difficulty writing in this blog regularly is that I feel like this blog needs a bit of a consistent theme. Yes, I have the "when vacations go dreadfully wrong" theme (and I have a list of movies built up in my head to critique on here, especially a really bad one from the Lifetime channel I watched recently!)

 But I feel like mostly I babble in this blog a bit without purpose, and I think blogs that are actually followed by more than your immediate circle of friends and family actually have something to teach the world on an interesting topic. But I am literally ALL OVER THE PLACE. Hmmm...So I will need to think on this when I have the time and inclination to think (which is in THREE AND A HALF DAYS! Did I happen to mention that I'm done in 3 1/2 days?)

 Also Mo will be coming home a week from Saturday, so that is weird and exciting and fun all at once.