Archive / May, 2011

TripAdvisor: Clean Sheets & Good Eats!

I’m a planner. I like to Google, cross-reference and double check all my details, no matter how minor they might be (aren’t you happy you didn’t live in my house the 10 months prior to my wedding? LX really is the calm, serene yin to my stressbunny yang.)

When it comes to travelling, I’m no different. And one of the best resources I’ve come across for checking things out before making any plans and/or reservations is TripAdvisor.com.

Not only does TripAdvisor have reviews of, essentially, everything – they’re written by people who’ve been there. Any place on earth you can think of that you might fancy checking out, you can look up and see what other folks think. Sure there are search/booking engines that will give you the advertising spiel written by the hotel/airline/cruise ship/restaurant/tourist attraction… but the candid reviews by users are what really count. You get honest opinions by anyone with an internet connection and a desire to share their opinions. That’s far more valuable than whatever the marketing departments of each respective property will tell you.

Of course, that said, it’s important to read these candid reviews with a grain of salt. There are alot of bitter, angry (illiterate) people out there who own computers. And if there’s one thing angry folks like to do… it’s complain. Loudly. But if you’re willing to take a few minutes to scroll past the nutters to read the valid posts, you’re bound to find enough of an even keel to help you make a decision on your next trip.

Since so many countless strangers have helped me plan weekend getaways & future vacation fun, I figured it was only fair for me to return the favour by contributing my own voice to this ever-growing hub (since offering up an opinion is something I’m really oh-so reticent to do. Heh.) of reviews, photos, videos, praise & complaints.

WeezieLTD is my profile name (just in case you feel like looking me up!)

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Idle hands and all that…

My job exhausts me. Whose doesn’t? Mine has gotten so completely & utterly tiring lately, that staying up until 10:30pm on a weeknight is starting to feel like life in the fast lane. Yeah. I’m a wild woman.

I’ve found, though, that when I can channel all my mental puttering (LX’s term) into something physical, it actually helps me sleep better at night. I don’t mean going out and pounding the pavement for an extra few kilometres or adding extra reps to a weight routine, either; I mean a more creative pursuit (in addition to the writing, photography and dabbling with recipes that already occupies much of my free time) with which to toil.

So, because I have SO many free hours in my days (heh – if only html had a sarcasm tag), I thought it might be fun to try my hand at jewelery making. I was mesmerized by the efforts of the artisans at this year’s Spring One of a Kind Show and found myself inspired to give it a go, myself. I mean – how hard can it be? Kidding. Totally kidding. The talent at the One of A Kind shows is overwhelming & magnificent. But it did inspire me in a creative vein much different than any of the others I’ve ever decided to follow.

And, with that here are my first few creations. They aren’t anything too terribly elaborate; not by any means. I thought keeping frustration levels to a minimum would be best for my (ok, LX’s) sanity. But it’s a start, right?

Attempt#1: Kid-sized & the height of fashion to a five-year-old.

Attempt #2: Simple seed beads, bugle beads & a lobster clasp.

Attempt #3: Double stranded beading & beads of varying sizes with a simple lobster clasp

Attempt#4: Earrings with faux pearls, silver spacer beads, Swarovski beads on silver-plated fishook earwires.

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Weezie’s Reading Roundup: April 2011

I seem to be posting these closer and closer to the middle of each following month. C’est la vie, I suppose. But it doesn’t speak highly to my organizational skills, that’s for certain.  In any event, there are few more in the Read pile now. For some reason, though, the To Read pile never seems to shrink. In fact, it seems to be growing… exponentially. Hrm. Interesting.

Madame Bovary
By Gustave Flaubert
(Gutenberg)

I can certainly understand why this novel is considered to be such a masterpiece. It’s an absolutely beautifully written, lushly descriptive story. But, seriously?  Emma Bovary is a dick. A truly spoiled, deceptive, manipulative bitch. She cheats on her long-suffering husband (who, previous to his wife, was pretty much his mother’s lap dog) and spends money they don’t have (then lies about it!) in order to (in her mind) escape from her boring and banal existence. Whatever. It’s hard to feel much sympathy for her. But she’s really not where the beauty in this novel lies. Interestingly, Flaubert was actually charged with obscenity when the book was first published. I suppose the subject matter of extramarital affairs and the blatant flouting of religion was considered to be pretty racy stuff in 1856. The Madame aside, I’m glad I decided to finally take advantage of the stash of classics that came pre-loaded on my Kobo. The intricacies & realism in Flaubert’s storytelling is nothing short of incredible.  And, given that this was a translation, I can only imagine how beautiful the language must be in its original French.


 
The Countess
By Rebecca Johns
(Crown Publishing Group)

I’ve long been fascinated with the stories of Elizabeth Bathory. So, when I stumbled upon this fictional account of her life, I jumped at the chance to give it a read. We all know the story of the Countess Erzsébet Báthory – who, in 1611, was actually walled up in a tower prison for crimes so gruesome she’s actually been called the first (and worst) female serial killer. But, what author Johns has done is create a fictional world where, perhaps Bathory isn’t quite as guilty as history would have her. Perhaps she’s simply been falsely accused by those more interested in absconding with a poor widow’s land and fortune. Perhaps. Told from Bathory’s point of view as she writes to her youngest son – who’s been kept in the dark with regard to the sinister tales surrounding her imprisonment – in an attempt to tell her version of events, the novel paints a different picture of the so-called Blood Countess. But, despite this sanitized version of events (“the dozens of missing girls and the bodies piling up in shallow, unconsecrated graves? Meh. Totally the maid’s fault. She didn’t take care of them properly after I rightfully beat them within an inch of their lives.”), the subtle viciousness shown is actually quite a chilling interpretation of how the Countess evolved from a sweet, innocent child into a brutal, murderous monster.


 
The Girl Who Played with Fire
By Stieg Larsson
(Penguin Group Canada)

Apparently people in Sweden eat a lot of sandwiches & drink a lot of coffee.  Or so Stieg Larsson would have us believe. I know it’s a weird thing to point out but I also know I’m not alone in having noticed. Odd & reoccurring culinary choices aside, The Girl Who Played with Fire is so, so fun. This, the second tale in his Millennium Trilogy, is even more twisty and turny than the first. Murder, mayhem, criminal bikers, sex trafficking, delinquent fathers and some seriously sweet computer hacking are part and parcel for this adventure. This time our hero/journalist Mikael Blomkvist has to help clear our bad-ass heroine/hacker Lisbeth Salander’s name when her fingerprints are found on a smoking gun (literally.) I’ve said it already, but it bears repeating that I would totally want to be friends with Salander, were she more than just a fictional character. Mind you, I’d pay particular mind to never piss her off. Because I’m pretty sure that, despite her diminutive stature, she could kick my ass. Do yourself a favour and pick up all three of these books – you’ll smoke through them in no time, but they’re a highly entertaining (not to mention an easy) read.

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A funny thing happened…

on the way to the Sporting Life 10K finish line.

I ran slower than last year (by almost two minutes!) And I had a blast doing so.

Who knew? Certainly not me.

In the beginning, I started running just to see if I could. After having determined that, yes, I could in fact run without going into cardiac arrest it became something entirely different. It became a constant competition, a constant comparison. I continuously looked at what I was doing and discounted it as unworthy when someone else finished faster or I didn’t better my time compared with my last run.

Now, let’s just look at things in perspective shall we? I’m not a 21-year-old former high-school all-star who’s carried the ideal body fat to muscle ratio her entire life. Not even close. So odds are (even if we flip into some crazy red-tinted alternate Fringe reality) I’m not likely to finish with the first 10 (or even 100) folks crossing the finish line. So, then, why bother?

Well, I’ll tell you why. Because I frakkin’ well CAN.

See, this year, during the 12-week training lead up to the Sporting Life 10k I got ill (not get-your-affairs-in-order ill or anything; just your bog standard flu.) And because of that flu, I was knocked on my arse for almost the entire week before the race. But I just couldn’t see bailing on a race I’d paid & registered for.

So, I girded my loins (I’m not entirely certain how, exactly, one girds one’s loins… but it sounds dramatic, no?), dragged my butt out of bed before the sun saw fit to rise and strapped on my trusty Asics Gels. I think the universe was in agreement with my decision because as I was hailing a taxi, I stumbled upon two total strangers willing to split with me cab fare to the start line.

The night before was a first for me, in that I felt no nerves or anxiety about this event. I wasn’t racing around in a tizzy making sure that my running gear was all perfectly laid out before I went to bed (in fairness: it was still in the pile of clean clothes that had yet to make it’s way out of the laundry basket, so I think, subconsciously, I actually knew exactly where everything was; hence the lack of tizzy.) I knew that I’d been sick and still wasn’t feeling topnotch, so I’d decided that just finishing was goal enough. And, for once, it actually was.  I went to bed and fell soundly asleep without the usual tossing, turning & frantic checking that  my alarm clock was properly set.

The morning was no different. The usual ball of nerves wasn’t there. I wasn’t looking to PB with this run. I simply hoped to finish. And it’s incredible how much pressure that resignation took from my shoulders. As a result, I ran with as much strength and determination as I could muster. And I enjoyed each and every step of it.

So, my time was almost 2 minutes slower than it was last year. It was also 6 minutes faster than my last official 10k. Granted the Island Girl Toronto 10k lacks the downhill magic that the Sporting Life 10k has, but – if I may borrow a phrase from The Lonely Island – STILL COUNTS!

Last year, the skies saw fit to spit upon my efforts. This year, they held off. I’m taking it as a sign to continue with my efforts toward improvement. Besides, I still have that half marathon in October… already registered for & paid-in-full.

If you’ve never entered a race but have ever toyed with notion, I highly recommend the Sporting Life 10k. There’s something so incredibly visceral about running with 15,000 other lunatics (really, can you think of a better word for anyone willingly out of bed and active that early on a Sunday?) straight down the middle of Yonge Street. We’re talkin’ Longest Street in the World, here, people. And the traffic is diverted elsewhere for the sole purpose of allowing you to run right along that yellow line.  It’s delightfully awesome, if you ask me. And, did I mention, almost the entire course is downhill?

And you know what else? No matter who you are or what you do… there will ALWAYS be someone who can best you. Even if you did place first in the Boston Marathon this year (if you did, incidentally, I’m totally stoked that you’re reading this; also: Hi-Five, Geoffrey!) You might not take it next year. But the thing of it is… it doesn’t matter. The only person you need to impress is you.

Celebrate the small victories. They’re more than worth it.

 

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