“There's a race of men that don't fit in, A race that can't sit still; So they break the hearts of kith and kin, And they roam the world at will. They range the field and rove the flood, And they climb the mountain's crest; Their's is the curse of the gypsy blood, And they don't know how to rest.”
- Robert Service

Wednesday, 23 October 2013


 Last weekend, Mike and I headed to southern Ontario for a double-header of awesome. In fact, all that fun almost made up for the fact that it takes forever to get out of Sudbury and down to where the action is.

Saturday morning, we got up bright and early for the Colour Me Rad race. After Tough Mudder finished, I have been looking for fun and interesting things to keep me in a "Fitness is Awesome!" state of mind. This race seemed like a great match! 5km, they don't keep track of race times (they advertise "just finish before dark"), and volunteers throw bombs of brilliantly coloured corn starch at you every kilometer. A good time was had by all!

This is the moment Mike ripped open a bomb of powder with his teeth and instantly regretted it. I'm told its akin to the cinnamon challenge....
 But the best part of the race was that I did it with Mike. Yes, truly, as sappy as it sounds I'm most excited that we did it together because we've never done a race together. Mike remains so, so, so much faster than me, but when I started all of this fitness stuff the goal I had in mind was to be able to do more fun, awesome, active things as a team. So consider me ready for more!

After dusting off all that dye, we drove up to Hamilton where an amused hotel clerk checked us in. Later, our friends told us: "Yeah, the lady at the desk said that some people covered in paint were looking for you." Thankfully, it scrubbed off well* in a hot shower. I was definitely glad for that, because I ready to spiff up in the dirndl I'd sewn for the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany!

After some creative purchasing, we had our hands on tickets for our group to get into the hottest - sold out-  Bavarian club on the circuit - the Concordia Club.

Inside of the tent. This was early in the night and I'm sure there were a few hundred more people join us later.
 It was definitely an awesome place. I particularly liked the live Bavarian band, but there were also some very awesome appearanced by some local dancers. Let me paint a picture for you of one dance I liked best:

Imagine a strapping young man wearing lederhosen picks up his buddy by the ankles so their navals touch. (Upside down, facing together.) Now imagine that the upright young man walks around the circle of dancers, and those other dancers take turns drumming the upside-down lad on the bottom. BUT, not to be left out, the upside-down lad also has his face and shoulders between the upright young man's legs and is also drumming the upright young man's bottom. So much fun, ja!?

I could not make that up if I tried. This was an actual thing that happened during a dance routine.

Mike in a pirate hat that we don't know where came from...or went. Me in my dirndl! (hard to see but the skirt is black and quite full)
So, check that off of the bucket list! Been to Oktoberfest, brought home another lapel pin for the collection...

*Except that today - 5 days later- I still managed to find green paint in my ear.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Can You Spot Mike?

You'll have to look closely....

Autumnal Appreciation

Thanksgiving has wrapped up (Literally. There's about 40 lbs of food wrapped up in my fridge), and I have been granted an unexpected day off work to spend some time getting soul-satisfied. Actually, I thought I was supposed to work, but upon my arrival I realized I'd made an error on my schedule.

I am thankful for unanticipated time to myself.

Last night, I was finally able to have some friends over for a real dinner party on a real dining room table. It was f&%#ing rad. The whole meal was delicious and included some stellar dishes provided by my guests (including their homemade broccoli salad, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and caesar salad). I was especially happy with how my organic, 14lb turkey  and apple and blueberry pies turned out. It was exactly, perfectly right.
 I am thankful for the cornucopia of wonderful foods I have been able to try in my lifetime. Food! Glorious food!

And when I think about the last two years, I remember the adventures I've been on. Surfing and skiing and sunsets and museums and oceans and, and, and... When I talk to my colleagues at work, I hear that one is in the labout and delivery room (during my shift), waiting patiently for her adopted son to be born. This is as I hear another colleague is just divorced in the same year her brother and her father pass away. She tells me she's very interested to see how her "new" life unfolds, and hopes that she can move on in a positive frame.
 I am thankful for the gift of opportunity - opportunity to explore our world, to alter our lives when we want, and to beat our own trail when the usual one is blocked off. 

Friday, 20 September 2013

Think About What You Say

Often at work I find myself a cheerleader. I mean, yes, sure one of my primary functions is to will children from illness to health, but being that they're young people it's not unusual that I have to really bring out the "big inspirational guns" to convince them that a) they can get better and that b) sometimes they also  need to put in work to get over the barriers preventing them from ragaining their 100%. I once sat with a teenaged boy for 30 mins, like some movie-style football coach trying to bring him to the realization that he needed to break his cycle of laying in bed all day in order to get out of hospital. It was something like: Yes, your leg hurts and you're sad because you can't plays chool sports at all this year now, but if you don't get out of bed to do physiotherapy you'll also not get out of hospital. If you don't work at this physio, you might not recover well enough to play sports at all. You might get benched for a very, very long time rather than just this season because you didn't take some responsibility for working your way back.

That's the cliff  notes, anyway. For the record, he was 17 so I could dish some stronger words than if I was just trying to get a 7 year old to do the same thing.

Anyway, recently I've found myself doing some similar coaching, except I'm noticing that what I'm saying really applies to a lot of situations - including some things I'm working on myself. Not to toot my own horn, but I'll offer something up, and then think "Jeeze, that shit it solid gold. You could learn something from yourself!"

This one is pretty much my favourite, and I've used is in many ways for a while.

Yes, what you're about to do is hard work. Have you ever been skiing? Well, I remember the first few times I hit the slopes. I was terrible, and I fell down pretty much more than I was upright. But I had this good/crazy/expert skiier friend help me out. Early on she said "Let's try a double-black diamond run (The Headwalls)!" After I picked my jaw up from the ground she told me something to the effect of "I'll be ok. Just take your time and have fun!" Well, we did. That run was stupid and way out of my comfort zone, but we rolled down and played in the powdered snow around the trees and at one point I think we just slid on our bums like we were on a giant playground slide. It was by no means pretty, but I made it to the bottom alive and proud! But most importantly, the next time I ventured onto an easy run I was able to say "Wow! This is so much easier than the headwalls! I can so totally ski down this!" It's the same for you. If you just hesitantly keep taking the easiest route, that's all you'll ever be comfortable with and you certainly won't progress further. But if you push yourself -even into a place where you're positive it won't look good or go smoothly - you'll be able to look back at what you've already done and be able to say "Wow! That other stuff isn't as difficult as it used to seem. I can get through this."

Lately when I tell this one - or a version of it (like You are about to be challenged. Do your best, because in order to move forward, you will have to at least meet them. You don't have to do it well, but it does take work to get the things we want), I find myself repeating it in my mind. Especially now that I've registered to run the Tough Mudder race in just over a week. I set this goal a few months back and I've been working hard at it but frankly it still scares the ever living shit out of me. And the training had been hard. For a person who has long proclaimed that she and running "are not friends," I have been doing a lot of running. I even (successfully) tackled a long run with a very, very long uphill climb which at the beginning of the summer I would never have believed I could manage. As they say, I may have been slower than a herd of turtles running through peanut butter, but if I didn't try it, even ungracefully, I might never have known I could do it. And as a plus, all of my shorter, flatter runs seem so much more achievable!

It's a pretty sweet example of "don't dish it if you can't take it" - and I totally believe in it.
p.s. Thanks, Mandy for being the crazy one and deciding it would be a good idea to try the Headwalls on my second day at the slopes. I have since returned many times.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Balcony Bounty

So I told Mike that when we picked out an apartment in Sudbury it had to have a balcony or outdoor space so I could garden. I really wanted to grow something!

Well, after 4 months of growth, I decided to pull up my carrots...

Ilse and Pépé - being garden gnomes came to inspect my bounty. Though not impressed, they are satisfied. For the record, I do have more carrots - they're just small.


Seeing as we made a pilgrimage to the far west of Canada in the spring, it was only fitting that we also visited the most eastern bits in the autumn. Some of you may have followed the adventures of a friend of mine - Ilse the knitting gnome - because she stowed away in my luggage and then insisted upon having her picture taken at every turn. She's a maniac. I also took photos, and I'd like to share them with you.

We started our trip in Newfoundland. Constrained by time, we stayed close to St. John's. Still, it was easy to find good sea air -
Part of the East Coast Trail near Cabot tower required a chain-handle. Good views!
And good cheer!
I was offically Screeched in! Kissed the cod and everything!
We stayed for three nights in St John's, and I would definitely consider going back. There's a lot to see on that rock, but much of it takes many days to get to and from. The residents are friendly and the landscape is delightful. We spent  one good night getting to know the fine establishments on George Street, and listened to some very authentic local musicians.

 On Tuesday, we flew to Nova Scotia, and rented a car so we could drive the length of the province (in the pouring rain) to Sydney where I have family. One of our primary destinations was to Fort Louisbourg which we visited under cover of fog. I'm told that like all things at the Fort, the weather on that day was extremely authentic. We visited just at the start of shoulder season so many of the buildings were closed, but there were still plenty of places to poke around in, and we indulged in a fresh baked loaf of hearty bread. nom. Fun fact #1: Despite almost all of the buildings being made of stone, there are only two masons employed there. Tough gig. Fun Fact #2: We learned that because the fort was well defended from the sea and the surrounding area was pretty well all bog, the French weren't suspecting to be attacked. Too bad the English thought it was a good idea to haul heavy artillery through a bog for 6 weeks. But seriously? How shitty would that job be, the guy stuck hauling cannons through a bog for weeks?
foggy view of Fort Louisbourg
Giant Fiddle in Sydney!
For those of you who laugh when I tell you that my family (the Ball family) are from Ball's Creek, Nova Scotia!
After a good stay in Sydney, we thought to go and visit Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Then we realized that the drive from Sydney, through the park and down to our next destination (Halifax) would take 10 hours, we opted for the cliff notes version (Ha! Cliff-notes? get it? Because there are cliffs in the park!) whereby we drove just up to Ingonish.

After a goodly drive along the winding road of many elevations next to the ocean, we were happy to stop for a picnic lunch on the beach.We considered swimming, and then we realized that the water was SO FREEZING.
 More adventures on the drive to Halifax:

Discovered a giant roadside lobster trap!
I saw my very first live wild porcupine! ...sadly he did not see us.
There was no rest for the wicked in Halifax, and we spent two days doing absolutely everything there was to do - from a tour in an amphibious vehicle, to the old Citadel, to the Alexander Keith's brewery.

Speaking of Alexander Keith....
His tombstone in Camp Hill cemetary
On our last night, we decided to drive out to Peggy's Cove, most notable for its lighthouse. On this day, however, the sky was perfectly clear and the sun was setting like a giant golden medallion blazing in the sky and the sea - oh! The sea! - was churning and crashing! This could easily be named my favourite moment of the entire trip. With each wave-smash the air became salty and the wind blew the most glorious sea-winds and I felt wonderous in it all.
"As Queen Triton, I command you, great waters - RISE! bwahahahaAHAHA!"

Friday, 16 August 2013

Do You Even Sled?

Workin' hard at the gym...
Pulling Thomas on the sled. Easy Peasy.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

How Awesome is this Earth of Ours?

Mike and I took the Cup and Saucer Hike on Manitoulin Island on the weekend, and it was great!

This photo was so, so dangerous, in retrospect.

Summer Camp!

Most of you are aware that I spent two weeks in July nursing at summer camp. This was something I'd been looking forward to since January, and I wasn't disappointed! Though I often found myself quite busy (and would occasionally cloister myself in my little room for a nap), I couldn't believe I'd be getting a paycheck after two weeks of sunshine, fresh air, and lukewarm lakes. I highly reccomend it to any nurse seeking a little professional inspiration...
The health centre. My new home! The room on the left is where we'd treat lice and any other more sensitive issues (like whole body rashes). My room was at the end of the hall on the right. Ours (mine and the student RN's - Andrea) was one of the only cabins on site with electriciy, running water and a flush toilet and shower!
view from my little window. Quite homey.
Two canoes on their way out of camp for a wilderness trip. Kids always came back dirty and covered in inset bites, but very, very happy!
The lunch line-up. Thank goodness for Nurse priviledges. I threw up my elbows and made the kids eat after me. (Moreso because there'd be a lineup of kids waiting to be seen right after lunch)
"No failing at Sailing!" I had a great time out on the water in the boats.
One afternoon, a big storm blew some trees down and took out our power. No power for 48hrs! Thank goodness for a nurse's over-preparedness. I got lots of use out of my headlamp, doing dressings in the dark... This particular tree crashed into the small vegetable patch.
The early morning view. I loved this time of day.

I would definitely consider camp nursing again if the opportunity arose. Most often when I mentioned I was going to camp to other nurses, they'd say "What kind of camp? Diabetes? special needs?" Nope - just conventional, healthy girl camp. I really was looking forward to working in an area where it might not seem like work - where I might get re-inspired by a profession that's usually pretty heavy. I got all that I wanted to out of this experience (except that I never did get the girls at Woodcraft to teach me how to build a fire in under 5 mins), and though I can definitely say that I was ready to come home at the end of two weeks, I can easily say that I hope I can come back.

But next time, I'll bring a book about diagnosing weird, unexplinable rashes and ear infections...

Why wouldn't you go out for a 6:45 am swim, with a view like this!?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Potatoes, Lobster and High Tides

I'm sure I've said it before, but Mike's current job has some truly excellent perks. One of those perks is a week off every 4 weeks. That's how we've managed to surf at Tofino, see The City That Never Sleeps, ski the Rocky Mountains, breathe fresh air in Haida Gwaii, and road-trip Georgian Bay this year. Not bad!

Let the streak continue! Recently, Michael and I visited New Brunswick and PEI. Because there's just so much of the East Coast to see we decided to focus on these two provinces now, and then do a follow-up adventure to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in the Fall. I'd say that Part I started off well!

First in Shediac....
First encounter with the maritimes: getting eaten by the Giant Lobster!
....we exact our revenge not long after...
There's always fun to be had when someone installs a sturdy set of stocks!
Then we drove on to PEI over the Confederation Bridge....

No trip to PEI is complete without a visit to Anne of Green Gables house! It was closed.
We spent a couple nights in Charlottetown with appropriate levels of antics. Sir John A MacDonald is a sassy dude!
..more antics
Went for tea at Dalvay by the Sea- or The White Sands Hotel if you're a Road to Avonlea fan!

For the record, PEI has the prettiest ditches around!
 ...as an aside, Mike determined that the provincial pasttime of this province is lawn-mowing. Everyone has a massive lawn (even farms), and they're all meticulously mowed...and oftentimes cross-hatched.

 While visiting the Charlottetown Art Gallery, a helpful lady told us just how to get the best lobster supper around. "Don't bother going to a restaurant!" she says. "Go to the Atlantic Superstore. Buy two cooked lobsters each from the seafood counter. That'll cost you $25. Then buy two rolls baked in-store. Then get Johnson's potato salad from the deli counter. Not the pre-packed stuff. Get the stuff in the bulk case. Get some butter (we found a small bar of garlic butter, even!), too. That'll cost you maybe $35-40. Far less expensive than the restaurant, and I just did that for myself earlier this week!"

She was mother effin right.
Just one example of delicious lobster revenge.
After a few good days on the Island, we returned to NB. One of our most interesting stops was to the Bay of Fundy and to the Hopewell Rocks. The bay has some of the highest tides in the world, so we came back twice - once to see the water in action, and again at low tide to much about on the bay floor. We later stayed in a little town called Alma, where the boats have little buffers on their bottoms so when the water all runs away at low tide their boats don't fall over!

The signs say "Danger, falling rocks. Do not enter." We read it as "Danger, extreme yoga in action"
so muddy!
At low tide, there's another 5-8 feet of rock to be seen below those pillars, and you can walk on the "beach"
We drove mostly along the southern edge of NB and visited the Bay of Fundy National Park, Frederickton, St. John, and Sussex. Lots and lots of wonderful Canadian landscape to see!

Cape Enrage Lighthouse. Yet another landmark we visited after hours...
View over St. John, which is also the location of the "reversing waterfall" - really, it's where the tide rises so much that the rapids level off and then flow inward. If you miss the middle part, it isn't nearly as interesting...
Yet another example of lobster revenge. This time, in the form of a McLobster! (fyi, probably the only item not cooked or fried)
This is the Public Market in St. John. We wanted to check out this building for it's nod to the local ship-building industry in the ceiling.

We put over 1300km onto our rental car that week. Just as many cool things, too! One of our favourite days was hitting up the Cavendish Beach at PEI National Park. It was a beauty of a sunny day and even though  the water was super cold we made sure to go for a quick dip (and everyone was saw after that dropped their jaws). The beaches themselves were totally worth the visit, though, for their pristine white sand and dunes that stretches for ages. I imagine they're quite busy in high season.

We also opted to stay in a hostel in Charlottetown - always a great idea if you're feeling social - and we met up with a group doing trivia at a local pub. Mike nearly went nuts because the trivia was really, really hard.

Mostly, though, we stayed at B&B's or with family - who I'm greatful for! Some of them I haven't seen in a very long time and it was kind of them to open their homes to us. (Plus the home-cooked dinners while travelling were a treat!)


Monday, 24 June 2013

Looping the Georgian Bay

While Mike and I don't see a long settlement in Sudbury, we've so far had plenty of fun exploring around while we've been here!

Over May long weekend, we did a road trip around Georgian Bay, something that looked a little like This. Michael was under the impression that since it was May, it was about the right time to go for a beach holiday. Yes, we did visit several beaches. We swam only once. "Swim" is also probably not the greatest way to describe what we did though. It was more like jump-into-the-water-and-then-gtfo-as-fast-as-you-can-because-the-water-is-cold-enough-to-suck-the-living-air-from-your-lungs. But damn it was pretty looking water! I just couldn't let it go to waste!

This was at Bruce Peninsula National Park. I don't think I've ever seen water so pretty as this in Canada. It is now a favourite park of mine.
the rare image of me bracing for a frigid swim.
Yes, this is as dangerous as it looks.

Atop the overhang at the park. There was also a super cool grotto to clamber down into, with the clearest turquiose water I've seen in a very long time.
Le grotto. Note awesome aqua.
We also took a glass-bottom boat ride into Fathom Five National Marine Park where we visited giant rock flowerpots and sunken wrecks! It is here that I notice that perhaps one of the reasons the water is so clear is because there really isn't much plant or animal life going on in there....I don't recall seeing fish or water weeds...
Mike blending in.
Awesome sunken ship!
These sailors needed some maps, i think. The two boats were only meters apart.
Giant flowerpot!

On our drive through Manitoulin Island, we made sure to stop at Gordon's Park. Michael has been playing a rather fun tune by the Arrogant Worms called The Mounted Animal Nature Trail for some time, so obviously we had to see what all the commotion was about!

The Interpretive centre...
Three Bears
a Jackelope!
But enough of the interpretive centre! We wanted to see some mounted animals on the nature trail!!

Sadly, we left disappointed. There were no taxidermied animals along the nature trail.

Interestingly enough, though, the park is also a designated RASC dark sky preserve. Their website says:

"The dark sky preserve offers exceptional dark skies, darkest in Ontario, 360 degree observing, horizon to horizon, no light pollution, a 7.5+ magnitude and a Sky Quality Meter reading of 21.96 (best is 23) Thursday nights in July and August are Astronomy Nights at Gordon’s Park."


Here are some other awesome things from our trip:

Checking out the rocks in Lion's Head
Le provincial flower of Ontario (found during our hike to Greig's Caves), the trillium
We drove through Wiarton specifically to visit the famous albino groundhog Wiarton Willy
Wiarton must have been hiding, because he wasn't in his designated pen. But we did spot two groundhogs in the window of the information centre...two that might be more comfortable over at the Mounted Animal Nature Trail...
Such good fun!