Archive for the 'a challenge' Category

I think I’ve gone soft

I used to be an awesome traveler. But, as mine and Matt’s trip gets closer, I’m starting to second guess my travel skills. It’s been five years since I’ve done any travel that required a flight other than business trips and I think I’ve gone soft.

On business trips, I usually get put up in a posh hotel and I can often finagle AT LEAST one steak dinner out of the whole experience. But, for our trip to Europe, our budget is significantly smaller than my employer’s. We’re going the traditional young traveler route and staying in hostels most of the time. We don’t have a whole lot of spending money and plan on taking advantage of the kitchens in our hostels so we don’t have to eat out for every meal. We do have an apartment to ourselves for our stay in the Scottish Highlands, but most of our trip will be spent in bunk rooms.

On my last travel adventure, I spent 4 months in India and I grew accustomed to staying in accommodations that left a lot to be desired in the comfort, cleanliness and safety departments (also pretty much every other department, for the record). In once place in Pondicherry, we squished 5 to a room and everyone got bed bug bites. In another place in Rajasthan, I paid $1/night for a bed in a 12-bed room with one shower and a hole in the floor for a toilet. I also got used to squat toilets, carrying my own toilet paper and having showers using a bucket and a plastic cup (I even helped a friend dye her hair with this bucket/plastic cup method. Why someone would dye their hair while in India is a story for another day).

In fact, I once stayed in an actual shanty (sort of):

But, I have decidedly gone soft. Travel nowadays means business travel where I get my own hotel room in a reputable hotel with lots of fluffy white towels and room service if I so choose. I get a king size bed to myself and once, I stayed in a hotel that had those fancy sleep number beds where I got to play with the controller making the bed softer and firmer while I watched the Real Housewives of Orange County.

I had this view of Vancouver when I traveled there for a conference last year:

And now, I’m off to Europe and I don’t know how well I’ll handle bringing my own towels and bunking with 10 other people. I’d like to think I can still cut it and carry my backpack like a pro, but I worry that I like 400 thread count sheets and free wifi WAY too much for my own good.

But, I think getting a once in a lifetime chance to ride an old steam train through the Scottish Highlands (Hogwarts Express!!!), see Buckingham Palace and drink beer in an Edinburgh pub makes up for the fact that I may have to back some ear plugs and sleep in a dorm room.


Music meltdown

We’ve been driving a lot this summer. Matt’s family and my family live about 2.5 hours away and between pre-wedding events for my brother’s upcoming nuptials and Matt’s family get togethers, we’re on the road home many weekends.

It’s not a great drive; it’s not a bad drive, but it is a lot of hours in the car. With a lot of hours in the car comes a lot of hours of music. Although Matt and I don’t have the exact same taste in music we do enjoy each others favourites and there are rarely arguments over what to listen to. We have a pretty solid system where the passenger is in charge of the ipod but the driver has veto  on song choice.


But, it’s not all hunky-dory (why does no one use this word anymore, it’s amazing!). See, Matt is particularly particular about what type of music he feels like right this second.

For me, I choose my music based on my mood. If I’m pumped up and excited about the weekend, then my ipod play list features the likes of Gaga, the Ting Tings and the Black Eyed Peas. If I’m more mellow and relaxed, I’ll move to the Avett Brothers, Counting Crows or Dave Matthews. If I’m in between moods or undecided about my mood, I’ll go for something with a bit of an out of the box sound like Modest Mouse.

All of these choices seem pretty basic and self-explanatory to me. If you break it down, I pretty much find songs that fit the beat of my mood.

But, Matt is infinitely more complex in his music choices. What mood he’s in is important, but it is certainly not the only ingredient when he mixes his cocktail of “music I’ll listen to right this second“.

Nope, he has to make it all complicated and therefore he has to make my life complicated because inevitably I’ll pick the wrong music and be forced to find an acceptable alternative.

From what I can gather, Matt’s music falls into many categories and in order to get the right music you must have taken courses in advanced library sciences in order to figure out the appropriate cross-references that will lead to the perfect song or artist right this second.

First of all, the music must suit the season. There are summer songs and winter songs. Now, you’d think this is simply his aversion to listening to Katy Perry’s California Gurls* in November or his hatred of Here Comes Santa Claus in July. But no, the seasonal categories are deep and scientifically cataloged. Unfortunately, I can’t even find my way through the Dewy Decimal system let alone Matt’s catalog of seasonally appropriate music. He has entire albums and favourite songs that he only listens to for 4 months of the year.

So far, I’ve discovered that Weezer is most certainly summer appropriate. After that, I’m lost.

But, it doesn’t end there. Once you’ve nailed down the summer/winter schism then you have to cross-reference with the weather. Is it raining? Is it sunny? Is it humid? Are we about to get a thunderstorm? Are we in the middle of a thunderstorm? Yes, I bet the music for pre-thunderstorm weather is different from the music for mid-thunderstorm weather.

Finally, you have the time of day to fit into the shakedown. Is it early? Too early for raucous rock music? Or is it just the right time for some loud wake-me-up jams? Is it mid-afternoon? Dusk? Midnight? Do you want the music that will keep you awake while driving or are you awake enough but it’s just that right amount of dark outside that it’s time for some relaxing Simon & Garfunkle?

Gah! How’s a girl to navigate such a minefield of no that’s not quite right? Does anyone else pick their music like this? I know one of Matt’s brothers is the same way but the other brother picks his music more like I do – based only on what he feels like listening to.

How do you pick what to listen to? Is it half as complicated as this?

*Why do people do this! Why do they spell things incorrectly on purpose. It’s not cute. It’s not funny. It’s certainly not witty. In fact, it makes you look like a schmuck. I think Katy and the owner of the Krazy Karpets down the street from me need to review their word lists more carefully.

My first all-nighter (for a good cause and a great time!)

Every year around this time, I travel to my small, hometown to participate in a huge event with my rather large family.

I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with the Relay for Life but, just in case, I’ll give you the low down. It’s a fundraising event that starts at 7pm and ends at 7am the next morning. Teams of people sign up and at least one team member must be walking the track at all times. The track is lit with luminaries (white bags filled with candles) that are ‘In Honour of” or ‘In Memory of’ people who have fought cancer. There is music, games and food throughout the night and in the morning, you all find out just how much money you’ve raised. All proceeds go to the Canadian Cancer Society to support people with cancer and to support cancer research.


Like most families, mine is definitely touched by cancer. Both my mom and my aunt are breast cancer survivors (my aunt survived it twice, many years apart), my grandfather has beat prostate cancer and many extended relatives have died of the disease. So, this whole event is kind of a big deal for my family.

And since it’s such a big event for us, we do it up in style. We have a team of anywhere between 25 and 35. We set up tents, bring food and get our walking shoes on.

Not everyone lasts the whole night. Some go home for a few hours of shut eye before coming back early in the morning for the last lap. Others set up tents and grab a quick nap here and there. And then the real troopers, they stay up all night. They shift between walking the track and refueling with grandma’s cookies.

I am proud to say that this year, I was one of those troopers. I did not try for a wink of sleep until I got home when it was all said and done at 8am! This is kind of a big deal for me as I have never pulled an all-nighter in my life!

Before I get to the part where I tell you how much money we raised (it’s staggering and worth sticking around for), I have to tell you about my favourite part of the whole night.

My family is pretty close. My dad is one of 6 and all but one of those siblings live within 15 km of my grandparents (the one that’s not close is a whopping 2 hours away and comes to visit often!). I am one of 16 grandchildren ranging in age from 31 to 5. We are all loud and we all love attention. I love that we get together so often but because there are so many of us I don’t often get a chance to catch up with anyone one-on-one.

As the Relay runs over a full 12 hours, it’s a great opportunity to catch up with all my cousins and aunts and uncles. I can walk the track with each of them at least 5 times before the night is through. I learned all about my one cousin’s college program, my other cousin’s plans for college and another cousin’s Grade 8 Graduation dress (it’s purple and black and there may be cheetah print involved!). I quizzed my uncle on his trip to Switzerland as a kid (my grandparents first time on a plane) and about growing up being subjected to 80s music.

All around it was an awesome night. There were a few hiccups with a MASSIVE thunder storm complete with lightning and torrential rains (we went inside the high school for a while) but, all in all, the night was a HUGE success.

So, now for the money part. My town of 4,600 people pulled together 26 teams of 300 participants to stay up all night (in the rain) to raise money for cancer.

Those 300 participants were able to raise:


For a small town in a difficult economy, that, my friends is incredible.

I’m so proud of my town and my family (my family alone raised $7070).

There’s no turning back now

A few weeks ago, five to be exact, I started running.

I’ll take a moment and let that sink in.

The last time I ran was in grade 4 when I was on the cross country team. I ran in one race and I was more interested in smiling and waving at my mom’s camera than actually running the race. I finished it, but probably only because I knew there would be ice cream and more picture taking at the end.

I told myself all winter that I would try the Couch to 5k program once it got sunny and warm and then it got sunny and warm and I sort of pretended that I never remembered telling myself (or others) that plan. Unfortunately Fortunately, my boss (who ran a 1/2 marathon months after having a baby!!!) remembered my pie in the sky talk of running and started pestering me about it. Every once in a while she would email me info about different 5k races going on around the area and I deleted most of them. Then she sent me a link to one called the Hog Jog and for a brief moment I thought that a race named after swine may in fact be reasonable. In that brief moment I told her, “yeah, I’ll run that with you.”

Despite my horror at the words that came out of my mouth, I diligently started the Couch to 5 K program (which is a learn to run program over 9 weeks) and found that it wasn’t awful. It wasn’t fun or good, but it didn’t make me want to die.

On run 3 of week 4 (you run 3 times per week) I was visiting my parents and it was threatening to storm. The wind was howling, the sky was that wonderful green-gray that you only see before a thunder storm and the waves along Lake Erie rivaled those in that 1990’s movie White Squall (it starred that guy from Party of Five). But, I decided to run anyway (don’t worry, my mom promised to come get me if it started lightning).

Then, on run 1 of week 5, I ran in the rain. It certainly wasn’t thunder storm rain, but it was still wet.

On run 2 of week 5, I ran even though I was hung over.

Even though I wasn’t really all that gung-ho about this whole running a 5k race thing from the start, I’m kind of in it now. I mean, if I give up now and don’t run this race then I just raced against a thunder storm, ran in the rain and fought through the headache of too many beers at the bowling alley (yeah, I’m THAT cool) for No Fricken Reason.

I’m sorry, but I won’t let that happen! I will not let that pain be for nothing!

I will run that Hog Jog and it will be wonderful (mostly because I think they are serving pork-on-a-bun after the race!).

After that, I’m going to face my fears of open water and do a mini-triathlon in September (they call it a Try-a-Tri, nothing with that cute of a name can be bad, right?).

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love this whole running thing. My jaw still drops and my legs start quaking when I hear people talking about marathons and half marathons. But, so far, it means that I’m more active than I’ve been in a while and that’s always a good thing.

A convoluted and round-about story about taking on a challenge

Last week, I had the following conversation with Matt over the phone before I left work:

Matt: Can you pick something up for dinner on your way home, I’m going to be a bit late.

Me: Of course, what do you want?

Matt: Ummm…Ughhh….Hmmm…

Me: Well you have to give me something to go on.

Matt: I dunno.

Me: Do you want some pork chops?

Matt: No, not pork. I don’t want chicken either we had that a few days ago.

Me: Okay. What about some beef? Maybe some ground beef for hamburgers or some steak?

Matt: Nah, I’m not in the mood for beef.

Me: Pasta?

Matt: No, I don’t think so.

Me: Soooo, no pork, no chicken, no beef and no pasta. What the eff do you want?

Matt: I dunno.

Now, I realize that there is more to eat out there than pork, chicken, beef and pasta. But, it was a Wednesday night, I was tired, Matt was working late and I didn’t really want to be fussing with a new dish. Plus, I come from a real ‘meat and potatoes’ family, I am afraid of trying new things and I am no gourmet cook.

But, this post is not about food or cooking. This post is about the fact that I have tomorrow off (woo hoo!). Not only do I have a nice long weekend, but my mom is coming to visit and we are going shopping!

My brother is getting married this summer and my mom needs a dress. Being the mother of the groom is a big deal and the occasion calls for a fancy dress.

But, I’m concerned. I am suspicious that my mother is going to be just as picky as Matt was about dinner last week. In fact, I had my suspicions confirmed when she informed me that she doesn’t want taffeta, silk/satin or chiffon. Now, aside from going into the realm of cotton, polyester or wool, I don’t think there are that many options left! But, I think she did the whole polyester thing in the 70s and I don’t think she’s over a distressing experience she had with a wool dress and a rain storm.

Alas, tomorrow is going to be a challenge.

But, I’m excited. We have enlisted the help of my fashion-savvy cousin and aunt to point us in the direction of good shops that will hopefully hold a plethora of age-appropriate-but-not-boring-and-frumpy dresses because if there is one thing that my mother is not it is boring and frumpy.

I’m hoping that much like dinner that night last week*, everything will turn out perfectly. My mom is a fashionable woman and I’m certain we will find her something awesome tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

*In case you’re interested, we had breakfast-for-dinner that night. Simple, easy and delicious!

I shall not be nameless!

After months of living with name-lessness, I have decided on a blog name!

I have also decided on a new header design idea and big things are going to happen this weekend.

Luckily, I have enlisted the help of Erin to get this whole thing up and running. She claims she doesn’t know much about html or css or anything crazy technical, but if she knows even the most minuscule amount on the subject, she knows more than me. Plus her blog is pretty and simple and I’m all over that like white on rice.

Stay tuned for big changes this weekend. Or, you know, stay tuned for minor changes that include a smattering of colour and a minor name change.

I hope this doesn’t hype it up so much that everyone’s disappointed when they finally realize I am the least creative person ever. Maybe just pretend to love it when it changes. If you do that, I’ll love you forever and ever.

An adventure featuring sweat, dirt and blood (but not really)

I used to be an outdoorsy woman.

I once tackled a portage going up and down hills carrying the heavy food pack and the canoe while it was hailing and raining and I still shouted about how I was loving it. I once thought it was a good idea to wrap up a bunch of kids’ sleeping gear in a tarp and throw it off a cliff because it was the easiest way to get our stuff down to the beach for a camp out. I once lived in a cabin the size of my cubicle with a large, pregnant fox snake living underneath it for four months. I once survived a canoe trip with more portaging than paddling in June during black fly season in the swampy part of Algonquin. I once slogged through a ravine while hip deep in clay for no other reason than it looked like fun.

I used to do a lot of outdoorsy stuff. I was always up for camping, canoeing, hiking, rock climbing, or slogging through the underbrush.

Sadly, I think I’ve lost some of my woodland spirit (yeah, I just said that). I think I can blame my new career. It’s hard to rush off to a game of Capture the Flag in the mud pit when you are wearing dress ‘slacks’ and peep-toe wedges and that cute knock-off purse in faux patent leather is just not a practical substitute for a backpack full of bandaids and extra socks. Lately, I’m more apt to complain about my shoulder being sore from using my mouse (no really, it’s sore) than my knee being sore from that sweet-ass wipe-out I took on the fallen tree while pelting through the forest chasing the other team. LAME.

Some days I think I should have pursued a career as a summer camp director where I could replace my ‘slacks’ with cargo shorts and my cute patent leather bag with a backpack. And then I remember that I love my job and my slacks (although I hate the word ‘slacks’) and my cute handbag. I also remember that the aforementioned wipe-out, although spectacular, hurt so bad that I almost forgot my well-trained camp language skills and spewed forth a whole mouthful of foulness in front of some 9-year olds.

Don’t get me wrong, I still go out and do things. As you probably know if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, Matt and I like to cross-country ski and hike and visit nearby conservation areas. But, recently, all my activities have been missing something. They’ve all been a little too clean for my taste. There has been a significant lack of sweat, dirt and blood in my latest outdoor adventures.

I took a step to change that this weekend.

This weekend Matt and our good friend N went to a local conservation area on the Bruce Trail and the Niagara Escarpment. Matt and I have been there before but with decidedly less adventure. This time we went loaded with a picnic of pb&j, carrot sticks and cookies (shockingly we are all above the age of 5) and with a goal in mind.

N and I on the Escarpment

This conservation area has caves! Now, you can’t go in most of the caves because there is concern about a virus being spread to the local bat population. But there are a few less scary, less dark and less bat infested caves that are fairly accessible.

Friendly Caves

So we went spelunking.

At the mouth of the caves with Matt emerging from the depths.

We didn’t have any gear with us (like helmets, headlamps or rope) so we didn’t go very far. But it was exhilarating just doing something new. Although it was completely safe, it made me feel like a daredevil.

Holding the light and making Matt go first.

There was sweat (not enough). And dirt (could have been more). But no blood, although I did bonk my head real good a few times, so maybe pain can count. Or, maybe I was lying about the whole blood thing to begin with. It sounds good in theory, but is less appealing in practice.

Either way, it was a grand ole’ time and it has me searching for other adventures to tackle in the upcoming months.

I’m open to ideas.

Hi There!

I'm Claire. I like to write about ridiculous things.

I love chocolate but don't think cheese and cake belong together.

I often wish it was socially acceptable to wear glitter before 10pm.

If you want to chat, email me at clairesuzanne1 at gmail dot com.


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