Saturday, 31 March 2012

Gadget girl ...

I am afraid that I take after my father ... I am a gadget girl.  My latest gadget is a Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS running watch.  Prior to last week, I didn't even know that you could get a GPS running watch.  I had taken a trip to the Running Room to buy a new heart rater monitor since my last one died.  The question of whether or not I wanted GPS as well stumped me so I went home and did some research.  I thought it was so amazing that you could track each run using GPS so I headed back to the store and bought myself the most basic Garmin model. 

Not the daintiest of watches

After charging it, I used it yesterday for the first 'long run' of my half marathon training ... a 10km loop around the Bow River.  The watch was super simple to use - I just waited for the satellites to be located, pressed start and off I went.  As I ran, I could see how long I'd been running for, how far I'd run and my current pace.  Pretty neat.  The run itself was pretty easy and I managed to run the 10km 10 minutes faster than I'd planned to.  When I returned home, I plugged the watch into my computer and hey presto!  All my running data appeared ... a map of where I'd run, several charts - timing, elevation, heart rate, my speed for each kilometre, total elevation gain/loss (I also learned that Calgary is just over 1000 metres above sea level).  How awesome is that?!  For some reason (probably my lack of technological skills) I can't work out how to insert the charts here but if you're interested in what the page looks like, you can check it out here.  I just know that this latest gadget is going to keep me motivated for my training ... there is no cheating when all the data is laid out in front of you. 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Red Deer News, 1910 ...

I'm currently sitting at my computer (obviously) putting off the task of writing my final assignment for the much begrudged 'Women of the West' unit I'm completing as part of the teaching certification process in Alberta.  I find myself sitting here with such a negative attitude and a level of stubbornness that I didn't even know I had ... I feel like a child who is digging their heels in when they don't want to do something.  I simply do not see the point in this assignment - a 6500 word research project analysing how women were depicted in the Red Deer News (Red Deer is a town about 1.5 hours north of Calgary) in 1910.  Why the Red Deer News?  Well, there were a number of choices, it just happened to be first on the list ... I could have chosen the Prairie Grain Growers Guide.  One of the most frustrating, and incomprehensible, things about this assignment is the relationship between the word limit and the weighting of its mark ... 6500 words for a 40% assignment, where as the last assignment was 1500 words worth 30%.  It seems a little out of whack to me.

As a motivation for finishing the assignment (and the course), I have planned (another procrastination tool) a day of celebration which will include browsing the local bookstore and buying a new book (I already have one in mind - Geraldine Brooks' Caleb's Crossing); reading the said book in front of the fire at my favourite local cafe, The Higher Ground; having a massage; and then returning home to finish the book with a glass of wine and a puppy on my lap.  Now all I need to do is get cracking on the assignment.  But for the minute, there a couple of other 'urgent' items on my list like sewing up damaged dog toys, searching for a second hand bike to purchase, planning my half marathon training and picking up the dog poo in the back yard.  Me?  Procrastinate?  Not at all!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Snowy runs ...

Abbey thinks a post-run stretch is a great opportunity for some fun play time
I just got back from a run.  It was a chilly -4 degrees.  Probably colder if you consider the brisk wind coming off the Bow river.  I was pretty proud of my efforts in luring myself away from the open fire, pot of tea and good book, but as always, I felt amazing when I'd finished my run.  Running here at this time of the year (and more so in the middle of winter, I'm sure) is challenging on a number of fronts.  Firstly, the footpaths are often covered in snow, ice or slush which makes for a mentally challenging run as you must think carefully about where you place your foot in order not to slip.  Next, there is the challenge of what to wear.  I still haven't mastered this, but I'm getting there.  On my first run back in Canada, I stupidly headed out in tights and a single long sleeved t-shirt.  That was it.  Now, I wear the same tights and long sleeved tee, but have added a singlet to keep my core warm, thermal gloves and a woollen headband designed for skiing.  I always run in sunglasses because the glare off the snow and ice on the river makes my eyes hurt, as does the wind whipping off the river.  Timing your run when it is so cold outside is also something important to consider.  Run too early or too late and the footpaths are super icy, as well as being just a tad too chilly.  Warming up and stretching are asking too much of me when it's so cold and my motivation is waning.  I find it best just to get out there, warm up on the run and have a good stretch when I return home.  Despite all these challenges and my occasional reluctance to hit the pavement, the most important thing is that I'm just out there running because a half marathon is not going to be a fun experience if I've spent the preceding months in front of the open fire with a mug of tea in my hand.  Which is precisely what I'm off to do now.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Driving in the snow ...

Highway 22 to Millarville yesterday morning at 7am (yes Mum, I know I shouldn't have been taking a photo while driving)

When I returned to Calgary, I had planned to undertake a short winter driving course to get used to driving in the snow and ice.  However, I was thrown in the deep end yesterday when I awoke to snow and the prospect of an hour long drive to Millarville early in the morning.  I survived the drive perfectly well but did look like a grandma as I gripped the steering wheel and leaned forward with concentration whilst I drove well below the speed limit.  Thankfully the snow has gone now but I will still be looking out for a good winter driving course to complete at some point.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The new ipad ...

A few weeks ago, I decided to buy an ipad as I thought it would be a good teaching tool to experiment with (well, that's what I told myself ... I've secretly been hanging out for one for ages).  But, I thought I'd have to wait for ages until the Apple-mania died down.  So, you can imagine my surprise when I turned up to the Apple store on Friday (wanting to buy an HDMI cable to connect my Macbook Pro to the TV), expecting there to be a huge line up for the new ipad on 'launch day', to find a line of just 1-2 people.  I quickly joined the line and within about 5-10 minutes, I was standing at the back of the store with the Apple staff cheering as they handed over a shiny new 64GB wi-fi + 4G black ipad.  The shopping experience was unreal.  Apple certainly know how to market things and create such a positive, enthusiastic encounter in the store.  After making my purchase, a staff member helped me set everything up and then sent me home to 'play'.  And that is exactly what I have done ... procrastination tool number 104 - buy an ipad.  I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the number of apps available and no idea which ones to choose.  So far, my favourite downloads have been 'The Age' and 'The Australian' newspapers and I love that you can save articles to read later.  Plus, the quality of the image on the screen is like nothing I've ever seen before.  However, I need your help, my friends.  I need some suggestions for which apps to download.  I'm interested in anything reading or health and fitness related and, since I bought it to use at work, educational apps.  Please, leave a comment or send me an email with some suggestions!

Abbey checks on the new ipad

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A working woman again ...

 As some of you were aware, I was slightly stressed at the prospect of being in Calgary with no work lined up.  But, as my mother reassured me, things worked out.  Beginning this week, I'm currently working 15 hours a week providing tutoring for two families.  One, about 4 hours per week, is a relative of the family I've recently left and I already knew the two boys, aged 8 and 9, so that has made it a very easy transition for both parties.  That tutoring gig simply involves basic maths and writing catch-up and homework help.  The second, larger job of about 11 hours per week is of a more unique situation.  Three days a week, I will spend the morning at the Millarville Community School working one-on-one with a 10 year old boy who has some difficulties with his literacy development.  I had my first day there today and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The student is great - very eager, switched on and a lot of fun to work with.  It was so lovely to walk into the school, already knowing the staff and a lot of the students; I was welcomed so warmly, it was a wonderful feeling.  I know that I'm going to enjoy the balance of being back in a school setting as well as having the time at home to work on my thesis and spend time with our dear little puppy.

Monday, 12 March 2012

A puppy's day out in Banff ...

Sitting on the river bank

It seems to have become a bit of a tradition for me to visit Banff on one of my first weekends back in Calgary and I decided to continue this yesterday with an afternoon wandering along the river in Banff.  This time, we obviously had the puppy with us and it was great fun introducing her to the wonders of the snowy river bank.  After a stroll along the river, we browsed the shops on the main street.  It took longer than normal because we couldn't walk more than a few metres without someone wanting to stop and say hello to the lovely Abbey.  Finding a lunch spot was a little tricky given it is still winter and many places don't have their outdoor eating areas open yet.  However, the Banff Grizzly House were kind enough to serve us on the patio and it was there that we enjoyed a cheese fondue followed by a chocolate fondue (and left feeling several kilos heavier!) whilst Abbey kept guard over our table.  It was a lovely way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon and maintain a tradition of getting that mountain fix upon returning to Calgary.
A stroll along the river

Mmmmm, cheese fondue!

What's better than cheese fondue?  Chocolate fondue of course!

Zonked out on the way home

A very comfortable puppy dog

Friday, 9 March 2012

Introducing ...

... Ladyleigh's Abigail is So Posh.  Yes, it's a ridiculously long name for the new addition to our house, but isn't it so fun and quirky?  To us, she is simply Abbey.  Since picking Abbey up on Vancouver Island and bringing her home (the journey of which included her first ever plane ride), C and I have found so much joy in introducing Abbey to the wonders of life in Calgary.  She has been a dream puppy so far - no shoes have been destroyed, very few 'accidents' have occurred in the house and she simply rolls with whatever you throw (not literally!) at her ... bikes, babies, car rides, children, wheelchairs, noisy dinner parties, construction workers at the house, other dogs etc.  No matter what situation Abbey is put in, she just takes it all in and loves it.  We feel very lucky to have such a wonderful puppy in our lives!  Enjoy these pictures of Abbey's first week with us ...

Check me out!

Such a kisser!  The first cuddle, closely watched by mummy, Meg

First plane ride

Late night bubbles to welcome Abbey

Heading out for a 'carry' around the neighbourhood

Discovering snow for the first time

Yum!  Raspberry canes

Woohoo!  Snow!

Naughty?  Me?

Abbey and her squeaky sheep
And with her 'cigar'

New trick - climbing on her carry bag

Evening snuggle

Ah, it's a dog's life

Look how my two ears stand up!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Victoria in 24 hours ...

Celebrating the February birthdays ... Thane, Tom and myself

Our time in Victoria was short but jam packed with a variety of activities.  We managed to show Tom many of the sights of downtown Victoria, despite the rain - Dallas Road, with its great views across to Washington State; the beautiful Parliament buildings; the magical Empress hotel; and the lovely downtown buildings.  However, our primary reason for being in Victoria was to make the hour long drive north of Victoria to collect our new puppy.  Tomorrow, I'll share the photos of the lovely new addition to our household.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Ferry to Victoria ...

For several reasons, I was super excited about catching the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, on Vancouver Island, last Thursday.  Firstly, I'd never caught the ferry, being lucky enough to have my sea plane fare paid by my employers each time I travelled to the Gulf Islands.  Secondly, I was obviously excited about meeting C on the other side, after about 8 weeks apart.  And lastly, it meant we were one step closer to picking up our lovely little puppy.  The ferry terminal on the Vancouver side is a fair distance from the downtown core, so we caught a bus there, only to be delayed boarding the ferry due to a 'police incident' which we later found out referred to someone going overboard (intentionally).  As we wove our way through the Gulf Islands, Tom and I thought that life would have to be pretty bad to willingly go into those waters ... in the middle of winter.  After dwelling on that sadness for a moment, we turned our eyes to the beautiful scenery of the Gulf Islands.  There is something truly mesmorising about that part of the world.  The islands have a magical light about them.   However, it's not easily captured in photographs ... well not my photographs at least.  But, I took a few snaps as I counted down the long 95 minutes before I could disembark and see C for the first time in a while ...

Another ferry coming through the Gulf Islands

Lighthouse en route

Sun shining through clouds

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Stanley Park and Coal Harbour ...

Totem poles in Stanley Park

One of the 'must-do' experiences in Vancouver (according to the many bike rental places across the city as well as myself) is a bike ride around Stanley Park.  Thankfully, our second day in Vancouver brought no rain and even a little bit of sunshine.  We promptly took advantage of this window of opportunity, hired a couple of bikes (a mountain bike for Tom and a cruiser for me) and set off around Stanley Park.  Along the way, we stopped at the various sight-seeing spots and information panels before reaching English Bay and stopping to soak up some Vitamin D for a little while.  In the afternoon, we wandered through Gastown and Chinatown before ending up in Coal Harbour to enjoy the sunset.  After our uninspiring culinary feast in a mediocre setting the night before, we wanted to find a special place for dinner on our last night in Vancouver.  On our way back to the hotel, we stumbled across Cardero's, a beautiful restaurant right on the water and serving a delicious menu featuring lots of local seafood specialities (and the best creme brulee I've ever tasted).  The restaurant didn't disappoint and I'll definitely be a return visitor on future trips to Vancouver.  Whilst it was a whirlwind trip to Vancouver for Tom, we managed to hit a lot of the 'hot spots' and by the time we hit the sack that night, we were ready to head off to Victoria the next day.

Stanley Park

Looking back to English Bay

Enjoying some rare Vancouver winter sun

Coal Harbour at sunset

Sea plane coming in at sunset

More sunset

Coal Harbour and mountains