Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

By

Gymiversary

Another thing I’m behind on blogging about is my gymiversary! March 3 was my one year anniversary of having joined Strong Side. I’ve blogged a few times about my gym experience and it’s mostly for lack of time to blog that you haven’t been subjected to me talking about how much I love my gym.1 I remember thinking when I signed up “am I really going to be able to do this gym thing on the regular for six whole months??” (I signed up for the 6 month commitment to start because it gets you a better monthly rate than if you just sign up for a three month commitment). And now here is it more than a year later and not only have I regularly gone to the gym three times a week for an entire year, but I actually really love it.

As I’ve mentioned before, part of what I love about it, in addition to the more obvious I-am-getting-stronger reason, is that it’s an easy way for me to be mindful. It really helps me disconnect from my work and all the other things that one has to deal with in life as I focus intently on my form and my breathing. In fact, Friday evenings are one of my favourite times to work out – I find it really helps me to separate from my busy workweek and get ready for my weekend! I love to hit the weights on Friday after work and just work out all the stress of the politics, emails, and deadlines.

Another part of what I like is the social nature of the gym. I’ve gotten to know a fair number of people there – and there are people that I knew before I started going that I’ve discovered go there too (or have joined since I joined) – and everyone is really down-to-earth and supportive of each other. You’ll regularly hear people catching up and joking around and cheering each other on when someone is doing something really tough. It’s a nice feeling to walk in and see friendly faces and people who know your name.

The other day I was there and a person I didn’t recognize came up to me and said, “I don’t want to sound creepy, but I just wanted to tell you that you look really strong! I saw you lifting and I thought “I want to look like that!” Honestly, it was so out-of-the-blue and such a lovely compliment! We chatted for a bit – she’s relatively new to the gym and I told her that I’d been coming there for a year and that it really does work! If you’d told me when I started that I’d be able to lift what I can now, I’d have said you were crazy. But it’s amazing what you can do with consistent work and a program tailored by people who know what they are doing!

When I started going to the gym, I was just getting past my year of injuries and I’d put on some weight from not having been able to run (which was how I’d been keeping somewhat in shape for the past decade) and I wasn’t feeling too great about that. But now, despite the fact that I weigh more than I’ve ever weighed in my life, I’m actually a lot happier with how I look and feel, because the weight gain has been muscle. I’m slowly coming to grips with the fact that I have to get rid of some of the clothes that I haven’t been able to fit into for quite some time but had been hanging on to because I was sure I’d someday get back down to my pre-MBA weight, because even I manage to bring down my body fat % a bit, my quads won’t let me get into those pants and my shoulders and back mean those shirts won’t comfortably fit – and I don’t have any intention of losing these muscles, so I’m OK with that.

As you may recall, one of my goals for this year was to deadlift my own body weight, and I actually managed to do that on January 30. I decided on wanted to capture it on video and since in my current program I’m doing deadlifts where I do 6 reps, then up the weight and do 5 reps, and so on until I’m down to just 1 rep. So I got this on video the other day where I deadlifted 68.5 kg (or 151 lbs), which is more than my body weight for 2 reps2

Deadlifting 68.5 kg. That’s more than my own body weight!

A post shared by Beth Snow (@drbethsnow) on


For good measure, I’ve also managed to back squat more than my weight. Here’s me back squatting 70kg (or 154 lbs).

Squatting 70 kg – more than my own body weight!

A post shared by Beth Snow (@drbethsnow) on


My other goal for this year is to do a full pull up or chin up without the assistance of any resistance bands (basically, you hang a resistance band off the bar you are hanging from and step into it and the band takes off some of your weight so you do the pull up or chin up motion, but without having to lift your entire body weight). When I first started going to the gym, I needed three different bands to do pull ups, but I’m slowly but surely working my way towards fewer bands. Like with the deadlifts, my current program has me doing 6 pull ups with a couple of bands, then 5 with fewer/smaller bands, and so on until I reach 1 rep. I tried to do my last rep with the second smallest resistance band, but couldn’t quite manage it, so had to do it with a slightly bigger band, but I was still pretty happy to be able to do that. Definitely made progress, but still have a ways to go. Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have done one on my own!

  1. If you’ve had the misfortune of seeing me in person in the past 12 months, you’ve likely been subjected to me waxing poetic about this at length. My apologies. []
  2. I decided not to video my 1 rep, because I wanted to see how heavy I could go and I knew there was a good chance I’d fail. I tried to do 70 kg, but I couldn’t, so I was glad I didn’t try to video that one. I backed it off to 69 kg and did that for 1 rep. Maybe I’ll be able to do 70 kg this week! []

By

Hawaii

You know that thing where you go on vacation and then you come back and not only did all the work that you didn’t do while you were away not get done, but it seems to have made some new friends while you were gone so you now have about eleventy billion emails to deal with and decisions to make and meetings to present at and assignments to grade? That is officially my excuse for why this blog posting about my trip to Hawaii is coming 25 days after we arrived back how!

Anyhoo, I’ve managed to mostly catch up so now I’m just back to my baseline level of crazy busy, plus it is a 4 day weekend, so I have found some time to sit down and tell you all about our trip to Hawaii.  Spoiler alert: it’s amazing and I didn’t want to come home.

Sunday

We arrived in the afternoon on Sunday, after an uneventful flight from YVR to Seattle and another uneventful flight from Seattle to Honolulu. We’d booked our trip through Costco1, as it was the best deal we found, and the package came with transportation to and from the airport. The person greeting us also had leis for all, so here’s a selfie of us at the airport”

Scott and I upon our arrival in Hawaii

In what would become a theme for the trip, after a day of flying, my hair looks like crap.

The rest of Sunday was basically just getting checked into the hotel (the Aston Waikiki Beach hotel) and then wandering around to get the lay of the land. Since we got in around 2pm, which meant we didn’t have much time to see stuff before the sunset because omg, the sun sets early. I knew that Hawaii was near the equator, but I hadn’t really thought about the implications of that in terms of sunrise and sunset – it’s pretty much sun from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm every day, all year long. I’m used to living quite far north of the equator and so my brain thinks summer weather = suns sets at 9 pm, so it was kind of trippy for it to be 27°C and have the sun set at dinner time! Fortunately, it stays warm even after the sunset, so it’s still nice to wander around even after the sun goes down. If you’ve never been to Honolulu, it’s basically just all beach and open air malls, with an ABC store every 12 feet.

Monday

We decided to start the holiday off with a bang by taking a surfing lesson. As long time readers may recall, I have been surfing only two times in my life and had only managed to get to a standing position for about half a second on one of those two surfing days. And that was more than a decade ago. So I figured that an actual surfing lesson, which I didn’t do the last time, was in order. We found a Groupon for lessons through Moku Hawaii Surf Shop, which was close to our hotel, so we decided to take our lessons with them. And I’m happy to report that having a surfing lesson resulted in a much more success in the amount of standing on the surfboard! We had a fantastic instructor named Jennifer, who was the only female instructor we saw in Waikiki. She went over the safety basics and the basics of how to surf, and told us that the hardest part of surfing isn’t getting up on your feet – it’s all about timing – picking the right wave and then figuring out when to start paddling and when to jump up. We headed out to the beach and then Scott and I basically took turns getting some help from Jennifer – she helped us pick a good wave, helped us with timing when to start paddling, gave us a little push to get going, and yelled “up” to let us know when to pop up. Once we got the hang of that, she helped us with timing but without the push (which made me realize how much the push helped!). She also had a GoPro camera that was on my surfboard for the first half of the lesson and on Scott’s surfboard for the second half. She also remembered part way through my time with the Go-Pro to tell me to turn the camera off when I was just walking/paddling back out to the waves, which meant that there were a million photos of me walking/paddling back out from before she told me that, but no photos of Scott like that. We got footage of a few of our runs each, but of course none of my really good runs were captured on video!

Waiting for a good wave:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Starting to paddle – you have to make sure you get up enough speed before the wave gets there so you can catch the wave:
Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then you have to pop up:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

First up on your knees:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then pop up to your feet:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then you are surfing like a pro:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Until you fall off:
Beth surfing in Honolulu

We had an absolute blast! Jennifer said that most people don’t last the full two hours, but Scott and I did. I credit all the hard workouts we did leading up to our trip2.

The water was pretty shallow and the reef was very sharp and what with all the falling off and getting knocked about by the waves, I managed to rip up my foot pretty badly:

My foot got wrecked by the reef when we surfed

It looked worse in person than that photo, if you can believe that.

Also, this picture is awesome:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

After our lesson ended, we spent the rest of the day lounging on the beach. It was at some point on this day that I said “Let’s send for the cats! I want to stay here forever!” Sadly, the reality of not having jobs there or a place to live there or the necessary citizenship to do that quickly quashed my dream, so I had to just make do with 6 more days.

Here’s a video of me surfing (you really only need to watch the first couple of minutes – after that it’s just me sloooooowly walking back out to sea as I didn’t know I was supposed to turn off the camera!):

And here’s Scott – this video actually includes him surfing twice:

Tuesday

We had so much fun surfing that we decided to do it again the next day. Since we’d taken lessons from Moku, we were able to get a discount on renting boards the next day. We were just going to rent for a few hours, but they gave us the whole day, so we spent the day surfing, then lounging on the beach, then surfing, and repeat.

We also tested ou snorkelling gear3 in the hotel pool.

Wednesday

We rented a car for a couple of days because we knew we wanted to check out more of the island – and because I wanted to go swimming with sharks and you have to go to the North Shore to do that. So Wednesday we drove around the island, including stopping by the beach at the Turtle Bay resort to do some snorkelling. The water was pretty murky, but we still managed to see some cool looking fish. Sadly, there were no turtles!

We also managed to find Ted’s Bakery, which my friend Heather had recommended that we check out. They make some pretty fantastic pie:

Ted's Bakery - pies

Thursday

Thursday was the day I’d been waiting for since we’d decided to go to Hawaii – swimming with sharks! When my sister went to Hawaii ages ago, she did this and it sounded so cool that I wanted to do it too! We found a Groupon4 for a trip with North Shore Shark Adventures, but then I discovered that if you book directly with them online, you get the same price as the Groupon, so I just booked directly. The concept is simple – you get on a boat, go out to a place where there are sharks, and then jump in a cage that’s floating off the side of the boat and snorkel while you watch the sharks swim all around you. Apparently the sharks are attracted by the sound of the boat because they go out to an area where people fish for crabs and the sharks have become accustomed to the crab fishers dumping their used bait out of the crab traps there, so the sharks hear a boat and think “dinner time!”5. The sharks in the area are mostly Galapagos sharks, with some sandbar sharks. I totally thought that Great White sharks were common in Hawaii, but the crew told us they are not.

We were supposed to be on a 10 am trip, but we got a call from the company a day before saying that forecast was for really choppy water so they were going to cancel the 10 am trip, but we could go on the 7 am one instead. Despite this meaning we had to get up at like 5 am to make the drive from Waikiki to the North Shore, we decided to do it ‘cuz we really wanted to swim with the sharks!

Here I am on the boat:View from the shark boat

Here’s the cage:

Shark diving cage

And here are some of the freaking sharks, as seen from the deck of the boat:

Sharks!

There were 12 people on the boat who wanted to go in the cage, along with some crew members, and a few people who were just along for the ride. So one group of six went first while the rest of us watched and then the second group of six took a turn after. Here’s the other group after the ropes had been loosened to allow the cage to float a bit away from the boat:

Shark diving cage

While the other group was in the cage, one of the women popped her head up and asked the crew “What’s the little shiny silver shark?” One of the crew members said “Is it about this big [holding his hands about a foot apart] and kind of pointy?” When she replied “Yes”, he said “That’s a barracuda. You should watch out for that. It can get inside cage and it will bite”.

After the first group’s turn was up, we got to go into the cage. I was the first one in our group to get in the cage. It was such a cool experience! The sharks were so beautiful – so graceful swimming by, all around and beneath us. Some of the Galapagos sharks were quite big – the biggest one we saw was probably 10 ft long. I really, really wished I had a Go Pro camera of my own as  it would have been amazing to capture it! I wasn’t scared of the sharks at all – there was no way they could have gotten into our cage and they really seemed pretty docile. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to stick my hand in their mouth or anything, but being in the cage felt totally safe. The barracuda showed up while we were in there and honestly, I was more afraid of him, because he could totally have swam into the cage and taken a bite! And he just sat their next to the cage, staring at us with his cold dead eye. I found this photo of a barracuda on Wikipedia and this is just what he looked like:

Great Barracuda close-up, western Puerto Rico

Scary barracuda is scary!

As I mentioned, the water was pretty choppy and eventually it got the better of me and I totally puked from sea sickness right in the cage! So gross! But I did feel better after losing my breakfast, so at least there’s that. (I also found out that several other people also got sea sick while we were in the cage – they were just puking off the side of the boat!) As much as I hate puking, it was totally worth it to see those sharks!

Also, while I didn’t have a Go Pro to capture this, some other random people who did the same dive as us on a different day did and put it up on Youtube. So check out this video and imagine that Scott and I are in that cage, because this is exactly what it was like:

After we finished with the sharks, we decided to head back to Turtle Bay for more snorkelling and lounging on the beach. Still no turtles!

Later that day, we hit the Dole plantation. We decided to go on the aptly named “Pineapple Express” train that goes around the plantation and features a narration that tells you about how the Dole Food Company is the most successful and generous company on the planet, pineapples are the greatest food ever to have existed and probably can cure cancer, and James Drummond Dole could walk on water6.

Tickets fo the Pineapple Express

 

IMG_8372

We did get to see some cool stuff, like how pineapples actually grow on bushes on the ground – I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I’d kind of assumed they grew in trees, like coconuts!

IMG_8396

I also didn’t know that pineapples aren’t native to Hawaii – they were brought there from South America in the 1500s.

IMG_8395

In addition to pineapple, the Dole plantation had a bunch of other stuff – sugar cane, lemons, limes, avocados, cocoa, coffee, coconuts, bananas, etc.

IMG_8382

After we finished our Pineapple Express trip, featuring the musical stylings of a band that was willing to record a song called “Pineapple Express”, we checked out the shop to get some delicious Dole whip, which is basically like ice cream except that it’s made of pineapple instead of cream. I have to admit, it was pretty delicious. We also stayed for a pineapple cutting demonstration, during which the demonstrator took about 20 minutes using a special pineapple cutting knife while repeating “So easy!” over and over and over again. I will admit that it looked pretty cool when she was done, but I don’t think I’ll be adjusting my pineapple cutting ways.

How to cut pineapple

Scott as a pineapple

Scott is a pineapple

After we were full of Dole whip and indoctrinated into the cult of Dole, we decided to try to find a waterfall that you can hike to at the Waimano Public Hunting Area. I was a wee bit concerned to start a hike that starts with a sign that says I might be hunted with a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun, a knife, a spear, and/or a bow and arrow (should I be mistaken for a pig or goat of either sex).

Waimano Public Hunting Area

Also concerning were the angry looking clouds in the sky and, not fancying the idea of driving all the way back to Waikiki in soaking wet clothing, we decided to just snap this pic of us with the scenic background and head back to the car without getting to our destination. I guess this is why they say don’t go chasing waterfalls.

As usual on this trip, my hair is a mess. But I had to fight off sharks and a barracuda earlier that day, so I guess it is to be expected.

Friday

On Friday we jumped on the city bus and headed to hike Diamond Head, which is a 300,000 year old crater.

Diamond Head hike

It’s not a super tough hike, thought these stairs at the top were not my favourite:

Diamond Head hike

but they get you to pretty cool views;

Diamond Head hike

Diamond Head hike

I don’t know what that lighthouse is called, but I’m totally adding it to my upcoming blog posting “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”7

Diamond Head hike

Since we’d already paid for a day pass for the bus8, we decided to head to the other side of town after our hike and checked out what was going on over there. Highlights included, this turtle who was hanging out in a fake pond by a restaurant:

In a fake pond by a restaurant

these beautiful birds that live at the Hilton:

and possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten:

Possibly the best ice cream I've ever eaten

It was surprisingly difficult to find ice cream in Waikiki. You’d think there would be an ice cream shop on every street corner. But you’d be wrong. We had to go all the way to the other side of Waikiki to find it.

waikiki map

Another reason we had decided to go to that side of town was that every Friday night the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort has a fireworks show. So after strolling around to see the various sights and eat the various ice cream that was on the side of town, we strolled over to the beach to watch the fireworks.

Yet again, my hair is craptacular! Given how much time we’d spent in the ocean on this trip, I’d pretty much given up hope that I could do anything with my hair by this point.

We followed up the fireworks display with a meal at Morton’s steakhouse, which was super freaking delicious. We were also somewhat amazed that we could walk into a restaurant on a Friday night without a reservation9.

Saturday

On the advice of my uncle Harry and my friend Sarah, neither of whom have actually been10, we visited the USS Arizona Memorial. The USS Arizona is one of the ships that was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbour and it still sits where it sank, with the 1,177 who died that day still on the ship. In addition, some of the survivors of the USS Arizona have decided to have the ship as the final resting place of their remains when they subsequently died, making it both a memorial to those who died in the attack and an active military cemetery. When you visit, you first watch a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbour, complete with footage of the attack and some explanation of how and why the attack happened. Then you go on a navy boat to the memorial, which is basically a platform that sits astride the remains of the ship.

USS Arizona

The white structure in the background is the memorial, as seen from our boat as we headed towards the memorial.

 

USS Arizona

Parts of the remains of the ship.

 

Oil still leaks from the USS Arizona

Oil still leaks from the ship, more than 75 years later.

 

USS Arizona

There were some divers going into the water near the ship. I’m not sure what they were doing.

 

Divers at the USS Arizona

Divers in the water near the oil leaks.

 

USS Arizona

Names of the men who died on the USS Arizona are written instead the memorial

It was very sobering to see so many names – 1,177 men died just on this ship, let alone all the others who died in various other parts of Pearl Harbor that day – and to think about how young they all were – just boys, really, and their ship was sinking, and then exploding, before they even knew what happened. Today, there are only five remaining survivors, ranging in age from 94-96 years old.

After the navy boat brought us back, we wandered around a bit to see the other things that were around, like this nuclear torpedo:

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor

And read the various signs with more information about the event:

Pearl Harbor

After that, we headed back to Waikiki to do more wandering around, eventually hitting Duke’s for dinner:

Drinks

Delicious drinks at Duke’s

and then stumbling upon a hula show that was going on at the beach:Hulu show on Waikiki Beach

Sunday

Sunday was our last full day on Oahu and we decided to spent it at Hanauma Bay, a beach on a bay that was formed by volcanic activity about 32,000 years ago, It became a very popular tourist destination because of its beautiful beach and amazing marine life, with about 400 different species of fish living there. They state has turned it into a nature preserve and when you first get there you have to watch a movie that basically just says “Don’t touch any of the living creatures, including the coral. Hey, did you know coral is alive? Well, you do now, so don’t touch it!” Then you are allowed to head down the hill to enjoy the beach.

Hanumba Bay was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, which is saying something because I loved pretty much everything about this trip. But the snorkelling here was amazing! The water was so clear and there were so many different kinds of beautiful fish! I was really regretting not having a GoPro while snorkeling here. You can see some of the types of fish that we saw on this Hanauma Bay Education Program Fish Identification Card – ones we saw included Bluespine Unicornfish, Bird Wrasse, Hawaiian Sergeant, female Spotted Boxfish, male Christmas Wrasse, Moorish Idol, many types of Parrotfish and tonnes of Reef Triggerfish and Convict Tang. There was also a giant purple fish that I think was a type of Parrotfish and it was so big that you could actual hear it eating when you were underwater with it!

I found this video on Youtube from someone who had a similar experience – it’s a different colour of fish, but you can see what I mean about hearing the fish eating:

Apparently there are sometimes reef sharks in the bay, but we didn’t see any. I would kind of loved to have seen one because sharks are awesome, but even knowing that there has never been a shark attack in the bay and reef sharks don’t feed on humans, I may have freaked out if I’d actually seen one because OMG SHARK!

We basically spent the whole day there, alternating between snorkelling and lounging on the beach. On one of our later times out snorkelling that day we finally saw the second thing (other than sharks) that I wanted to see in the wild: a turtle! We were just snorkelling around on the opposite side of the bay than we’d been before and Scott called me over to where he was and pointed down into the reef. And there was a beautiful green sea turtle, just swimming around and eating from the reef! Again, I was kicking myself for not having a GoPro! I did find this photo on Flickr of a turtle that looks just like the one we saw:

Sea Turtle @ Hanauma Bay

I spent a bunch of time just swimming around following the turtle – he was just so cute11!

Here’s a video from someone who was smart enough to bring a GoPro with them while snorkelling there (this is pretty much exactly what my day was like, except for the soundtrack):

Also at the beach were a whole bunch of cats, who apparently live, feasting on garbage and having somewhat of an uneasy truce with a bunch of mongooses.

At one point, Scott was petting the kitties and a little kid who was probably three or four years old and had clearly paid attention in the “don’t touch the wildlife” video admonished him “Don’t touch them!!!!!” Of course, not touching the feral cats is probably more of a safety rule for you rather than the cats, but he didn’t end up getting bitten or scratched, so I suppose we’ll call that a win for all.

Monday

And just like that, the trip was over! We got one last morning in Honolulu, where I snapped what is probably the nicest photo I took on the whole trip, and from the restaurant in our hotel, of all places!

View from the restaurant in our hotel

On top of being a super amazing awesome fun time, my trip also allowed me to knock two items off my 101 list: #1 – Cage dive with sharks and #91 – Go to Hawaii. And as soon as I hit publish on this posting, it will put me 1/6th of the way towards achieving my 2018 goal of having “published at least six [blog postings] that are long form  (minimum of 3000 words).”

In conclusion: A++, would Hawaii again.

Image and Video Credits: The barracuda photo is from Wikipedia and the Green Sea Turtle photo posted by FHKE on Flickr with a Creative Commons license. All the other photos are mine or Scott’s. The two surfing videos are mine and Scott’s and for sources of the other videos, follow the links to YouTube.

  1. I’m reasonably sure that I’m slowly drifting towards an entirely Costco-based life. First it was just for food… then clothing… and now travel! []
  2. I told my trainer for January & February to give me a training program that would help me with surfing and/or looking good on the beach. So she gave me some crazy tough workouts and I think it really helped! []
  3. Which we bought at Costco (of course) before we left Vancouver. []
  4. Are you sensing my cheapness? []
  5. Apparently some companies will chum the water to attack sharks, but it’s controversial as it can affect shark behaviour and even lead to sharks equating humans with food, which is not a good thing. []
  6. Honestly, the whole time I kept thinking that the narration should have been done by Troy McClure. []
  7. Note to self: write that blog posting that you’ve been meaning to write since forever called “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”. []
  8. As a day pass is the same price as going somewhere on the bus and then returning, we decided just to get the pass to get to the hike and back, and then use it to travel around town some more. Because frugality. []
  9. Not something you can really do in Vancouver. []
  10. Though Sarah did plan a visit for her parents when they were in Hawaii and thus was able to give me detailed instructions of how to get there, get tickets, etc. []
  11. I’d also stalked some fish throughout the day – I’d find an interesting looking fish and then just follow it around to see where it would go. It got me wondering what the fish and turtle think about all these snorkelers – do they just think we are some weird looking fish? []

By

Five New Foods, Two Books, and One Hell of a Deadlift

After last year’s pathetic display of accomplishing so few of my goals, I’ve decided to come out of the 2018 gate strong. In fact, I’ve already made 5 new foods/beverages that I’ve never made before (of my goal to make 18 new things year), finished 2 books (of my goal of 18), and deadlifted my body weight!

The foods are:

  • chicken florentine – I had a bunch of spinach I needed to use up, so I picked this recipe.
  • grog – this was the house drink at my birthday party. It was pretty tasty!
  • slow cooker lasagna – made this for my birthday party. I’ve made lasagna a million times before, but never in a slow cooker.
  • kale salad from a recipe from Savio Volpe – Scott took me to Savio Volpe for my birthday and since the reservation said it was my birthday, there was a birthday card waiting on the table and in that card was a recipe for their kale salad. Which is delicious. And which I’ve made several times since then!
  • herbed goat cheese-stuffed chicken thighs – I had a bunch of goat cheese, leftover from my birthday party, that I needed to use up (do you see the trend?), so I google “goat cheese recipes” and found one for stuffing chicken breast with goat cheese that you’ve mixed with herbs. But I did it with chicken thighs. Pretty good stuff.
Making slow cooker lasagna

Making lasagna in the slow cooker

Kale salad

Kale salad

The two books I’ve finished so far in 2018 were:

  • The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker – I started reading this massive tome last year and it took me about eleventy billion years to get through it, but I finally did. The gist of the book is that violence has decreased over human history and Pinker puts forward his theory as to why. Often people think that we are living in particularly dangerous times – probably at least in part because we hear about violent events on the news on the time, but that’s actually a skewed perception, as the news covers the most sensational events (If it bleeds, it leads). Overall we are at much less at risk of being a victim of violence than in any other time in human history1 There’s a tonne of data illustrating the decline in violence and we can see it also in what is considered acceptable – e.g., it used to be legal and considered acceptable by society for people to keep slaves, for a man to rape his wife, for parents to beat their children, to people to brutalize animals, for example2. Pinker presents a pretty extensive theory as to why violence has declined and I’m not even going to try to get into describing it all. You’ll just have to read the 800+ pages to find out for yourself!
  • Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline – {SPOILER ALERT – Don’t read this if you don’t want the book to be spoiled for you!} After reading such a long, dense book, I decided I needed to have a quick and easy read as a bit of a palate cleanser for my brain, and Ready Player One fit the bill. Plus, there’s a movie version of it coming out this year and so I figured I should read it in case I decided to see the movie. I know a lot of people *love* this book, but I thought it was just OK. I mean, I enjoyed reading it but I got the exact same feeling from reading it as I did when I read the DaVinci Code – I was compelled enough by wanting to see how the various puzzles would be solved to keep reading, but the writing is so flat3 that it was kind of a painful, if easy, read. He does a tonne of name dropping of 80s games (game dropping?), movies, and music. Having grown up in the 80s, most of these were familiar to me (especially the movies and music), but the excitement of “hey, I remember that” gets pretty old pretty quick and then it just becomes annoying. And most egregiously, the Deus ex machina of Og showing up to give them a completely impenetrable fortress from which to complete the end of the game was just too much.

And then the one that I’m most excited about: I deadlifted more than my body weight! One of the challenges to doing this was that my body weight has increased due to the muscle mass I’ve put on from all the weight training4. I’d thought I’d lifted my body weight one time last year but then when I got home and weighed myself to confirm, I found that I’d been just shy of my weight.

In this month’s training program, one of my exercises was to do bar bell deadlifts where you start with a weight you can lift for 12 reps, then you up the weight and do 9 reps, then you up the weight again and do 6 reps. Then you start over at 12 reps, but with the weight you used for 9 reps the first time through, then you do 9 reps with the weight you did for 6 reps the first time through, then you do 6 reps at a higher weight. As you can see from my record sheet, on Jan 30, 2018, I did 6 reps of 67.5 kg!

Untitled

Since I’m of the generation of Canadians that still thinks of our body weight in pounds instead of kg, I had to do the conversion to confirm that this was, in fact, more than my body weight:Untitled

And I do, in fact, weight less than 148 lbs, so hooray for me – goal achieved!

  1. Of course, this is not to say that there is no violence or that the violence that does happen is not horrific. []
  2. Again, this is not to say that these things don’t still happen or that they aren’t legal in some societies still today. But they are legal or accepted in far fewer societies today than in the past. []
  3. Full disclosure: I saw the description of the writing in this book as “flat” in a GoodReads review and it totally fit with the feeling I had about the writing that I couldn’t find the right word for, so I totally stole the word! []
  4. Also, it’s kind of cool that after several years of setting, and failing to achieve, a goal of losing the 15 lbs I put on during my MBA (I’d get part way there from half marathon training, but never quite lost it all), I’m now actually happier with my body size despite weighing the most I’ve ever weighed, because it’s all been muscle mass gain. Don’t get me wrong, I still have some fat mass I’d like to lose, but I’ve got some kickass muscles that I’ve never had before! []

By

Stuff I Learned This Year: Home Repair Edition

Hey remember that time more than four months ago when my kitchen cabinet door fell off? I *finally* got around to fixing it. I was really gung-ho to fix it when it broke, going so far as to buy replacement hinges at Home Depot right away. But then I got busy and somehow four months went by before I got around to trying to actually attach the new hinges to the cabinet and, as it turns out, the hinges I got were not the right ones. I’d bought ones that looked like the old ones, but when Scott and I attached them, the door wouldn’t close – it was off by like half an inch. My friend Heather’s husband Dwayne came over to help out and discovered what the problem was – the hinges I had gotten from Home Depot were made by Blum, but the hinges in all my cabinets are Ferrari. And apparently there is no standardization among different manufacturers, so you can’t just use a Blum hinge to replace a Ferrari one. After running around town, I managed to find someone who could sell me the right hinges, which Scott and I used to fix the cabinet yesterday and now I am the proud owner of a kitchen in which all the cabinets have doors on them!

And while we were in a fix it kind of mood, we also tightened the toilet seat, which was starting to become a bit loose. For this, we went to YouTube and found a video that showed us how very easy peasy this is to do:

So now not only can I successfully hide the contents of my kitchen cabinet with a fully functioning door, but I also will not slide off my toilet due to a loose seat. Hooray!

By

Goals for 2018

Since I performed abysmally on my goals for the past two years, I’ve decided to shake up how I’m writing my goals this year. As I was googling to get some inspiration for goals for this year, I saw some articles with tips on how to write better goals. One of those tips was something that I know very well from my work-life – making SMART goals!

  • Specific – it should be clear exactly what you are trying to achieve (e.g., rather than say “eat healthier”, you need to specify in way, like “eat more vegetables” or “consume less sugar”)
  • Measurable – it should have an indication of how you will measure if you achieved it (e.g., eat a minimum of 5 servings of vegetables at least 4 days a week)
  • Achievable – it should be something that is within your control1 and realistic enough to achieve2 – though you don’t want to make it too easy to achieve – it should be somewhat of a challenge so you have to work to achieve it.
  • Relevant – it should be something that matters to you, otherwise you won’t be motivated to work towards it.
  • Time-bound – it should have a date associated with it so that it’s not just an open-ended “well, I haven’t achieved it yet, but maybe someday it will happen!).

All of my yearly goals are, by definition, time-bound since they are to be completed within the year and I’m usually good at making them measurable and specific, but I’ve done a double check on this year’s goals to make sure they met all the elements of SMART.

The other idea that I saw was to phrase the goals as if they were already achieved – a technique that I’m familiar with from writing vision statements and learning objectives. So I’m going to give that a try!

By December 31, 2018:

Health-related goals

  1. I have deadlifted more than my own body weight. I’m close to having done this, but never quite got to my own body weight (I thought I had, but then went home and weighed myself and discovered that I’d put on my weight than I’d realized due to building up all this muscle from strength training!)
  2. I have done a chin-up or pull-up without the help of any resistance bands. I’ve had some training programs where I’ve been doing chin ups or pulls up, but I’m not yet able to lift my own body weight, so I stand in resistance bands that are hung from the bar, which takes a bit of my weight. I started with three different resistance bands and now I’m down to one or two. I think within 12 months I can get to doing them all on my own3
  3. I meditate at least once per week.
  4. I have written in my journal at least one time per week, on average. – I think I set my journal writing goal too high in 2017 and then got discouraged when I got so far behind that it felt like I’d never catch up! One a year seems more realistic.
  5. I have brought my lunch to work at least 75% of the time.

Personal growth-related goals:

  1. I learned 12 new things and wrote a blog posting about each of them.
  2. I read 18 books – and written a review of each. I failed miserably at my book reading goal in 2016, but I’m hoping that my work team gets moved to the new location we are supposed to be moving to – which is transit accessible – soon in the new year, so that I’ll be taking the Skytrain and bus more, which will provide me with more time for reading! Also, my book club is getting a reboot4, so that will help motivate me too!

Crafty goals:

  1. I’ve sewn 5 items. I really enjoyed the sewing classes I did last year and want to do more sewing. I’d like to take the zippered pouch class and perhaps make a few more tote bags.
  2. I’ve made 18 new foods and/or beverages that I’ve never made before – and blogged about each of them. I have ideas for some things I want to try making and I’m sure I’ll be inspired with other ideas throughout the year.

Professional goals:

  1. I’ve submitted 3 papers for publication. I have one that is almost ready to be submitted and ideas for two others and I’m really need to dedicate the time to sit down and write them!
  2. I’ve set up and implemented a performance planning and review system for my team at work. Now that I have a team (that is more than just me and one other person), I think it’s high time I set this up.

Getting organized goals:

  1. I’ve applied for a Nexus card.
  2. I’ve finished Konmaring my condo
  3. I’ve painted my condo.
  4. I’ve bought a freezer. I currently only have the small freezer on the top of my fridge and I feel so limited by it. I want to be able to make big batches of things (like lasagna or chili) and then freezer them to have for lunches. So my plan is to clean up my office enough to

Miscellaneous other goals:

  1. I’ve donated blood twice.
  2. I’ve published 118 blog postings. That’s just a little more than one every 3 days, on average, or about 10 per month.
  3. Of those blog postings, I’ve published at least six that are long form (minimum of 3000 words). I feel like I should write some more thoughtful pieces, so I’m going to give it a try.
  1. Of course, sometimes things happen that make something that was achievable no longer so – such as if you set a goal to run a marathon but then got injury. But it shouldn’t be something that is clearly outside of your control or you can’t work towards achieving it. []
  2. I mean, as much as I’d like to make $1 billion this year, it’s pretty damn unlikely to happen, so then you are just setting yourself up for failure! []
  3. Some people at the gym do chin ups or pull ups while wearing a heavy chain – or a chain with weights attached! – that’s going to be a longer-term goal for me. []
  4. Thanks to Cath for rebooting us! []

By

Books I Read in 2017

As I mentioned recently, I’ve done absolutely abysmally on my goal of reading 17 books in 2017. I did managed to finish off two of the books I was reading when I wrote that last posting1, so I upped my total number of books read in 2017 to four instead of two, but it’s still pretty sad.

2017 reading challenge

For the record, the four books were:

my 2017 books

And here are some stats that Good Reads gave me on those books:

books stats 2017

I have high hopes that 2018 will be a better year for me for reading because (a) four books is a pretty low bar to set, (b) my book club is getting rebooted, so that will give me several book reading opportunities/motivation, and (c) I’m hoping that my office will get moved to a more transit-friendly location soon in the new year, so that I’ll have more Skytrain book reading time in 2018 than I did this year.

Anyone have any good book suggestions for me?

  1. I did read a chunk more of Better Angels of Our Nature over the holidays, mostly on during my flights too and from Toronto, but I didn’t manage to finish it off. But I’m sure I’ll finish it soon in the new year, so at least that will get me off to a good start on my 2018 book reading goal! []

By

New Foods I Made in 2017

So I guess now is that time of year where I do all my year-end wrap up postings! Decided to start with one of my 2017 goals that I actually accomplished: Make 17 new foods and/or drinks that I’ve never made before.

In fact, not only did I achieve this one, but I surpassed it by 8!

  1. chicken parmesan casserole
  2. pork tenderloin in bourbon – this was bourbon-licious
  3. cedar planked salmon – thanks to cedar planks that I got from Costco
  4. cedar planked chicken – because I got the cedar planks from Costco, there were eleventy billion of them
  5. oat fudge bars
  6. BBQ pizza
  7. zucchini chocolate chip muffins – these were a big hit when I brought them into the office
  8. maraschino cherries – I made these from cherries I picked up in the Okanagan and a cherry liqueur that I also got in the Okanagan1
  9. amaretto cherries – I decided to try making these in the same way that I made the maraschino cherries (i.e., soak berries in booze). When I tried then after about a week in the booze, the maraschino cherries were delicious, but the amaretto ones didn’t seem like they’d absorbed any of the amaretto yet, so I’ve now left them for
  10. tarragon vinegar – with fresh tarragon from High Garden
  11. BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili–Peach Glaze – I had some fresh peaches and made a pretty delicious glaze to go with BBQ chicken
  12. cauliflower tots
  13. broccoli tots
  14. Garlicky Butter Chive Parmesan Pork Chops – not gonna lie, I did not leave these
  15. pita bread – my friend Steph made these when I was at her place and they were so good that I asked for the recipe. And she was like, “these are so easy, I don’t even use a recipe.” So I tried making some (with a recipe I found) and they were, in fact, really easy!
  16. raspberry jam
  17. figs pickled in balsamic vinegar – with figs from Tig & Pat’s annual fig party
  18. fig infused balsamic vinegar – this may or may not have been the left over balsamic vinegar from when I pickled the figs
  19. pickled spicy beans – sooo good
  20. pickles – nor these
  21. pickled beets – haven’t actually tried these yet
  22. sautéed beet tops – since I had the beet tops from the beets that I pickled, I tried sautéing them, because I read that was a thing to do. Didn’t love them, but they weren’t terrible, so would probably make them again should I be in possession of beet tops
  23. jalapeño jelly – nor these
  24. bitters – from the “make your own bitters” kit my sister gave me last Christmas
  25. vanilla sugar – from vanilla beans that had previously been making vanilla extract
My first ever batches of spicy pickled beans, pickled beets, and pickles!

Spicy pickled beans, pickled beets, pickles

Making jalapeno jelly

Making jalapeño jelly

Cedar planked salmon

Cedar planked salmon

Cedar Planked Chicken

Cedar Planked Chicken

Oat Fudge Bars

Oat Fudge Bars

BBQ Pizza

BBQ Pizza

Zucchini chocolate chip muffins

Zucchini chocolate chip muffins

BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili–Peach Glaze

BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili–Peach Glaze and grilled peach and veggies

Broccoli and cauliflower tots

Broccoli and cauliflower tots

Sauteeing beet tops

Sauteed beet tops

  1. So they aren’t technically maraschino cherries, which should be made with maraschino liqueur, but I figure they are close enough. []

By

Stuff I Learned This Year: Make-Up Expiry Edition

So after more than a quarter of a century of wearing makeup, I recently learned that this symbol exists:

Makeup expiry symbol

It’s not on all makeup, but when it’s there, it’s a symbol of how long the make-up is good for once you open it.

This mascara is good for 6 months after I opened it.

Mascara
And this moisturizer is good for 12 months after I opened it.

Moisturizer

Now I just need to actually know when I opened all my make-up and I’m good to go!

By

Stuff I Learned This Year: Short Cut Edition

Speaking of stuff I learned from Cath, at the same time that I got her to sign my copy of her book, I also learned that you can create a calendar event from an email in Microsoft Outlook by dragging the email into your calendar, like this:

Possibly everyone else already knows this, but it was new to me!

When I told a colleague about this, she was like “yeah, I knew that” and I said, “I knew about creating a Google Calendar event from an email in Gmail, but I didn’t know that shortcut in Outlook. To which she replied “you can?” (In Gmail, if you have an email with a date and/or time in it, you can click  on it to create a Google Calendar event. Or if there isn’t a date, you can just select “More” and then “Create Event”.) It’s funny how we all learn various shortcuts with software, but then don’t learn others. From that same colleague, I learned that in Excel, if you cell is set to date format, you can just type the numerical month-numerical day and it will fill it out as the current year (e.g., you can type 01-11 and it will fill it in as Jan 11, 2017.1. This may not seem like a big deal, but when you are doing 300 chart audits that require you to record as many as 100 dates per chart, that’s a huge time saver! You know, as a completely hypothetical example. But then I taught her that you can type CTRL+; in an Excel cell and it enters the current date (and do the same thing but with CTRL+SHIFT+; and it enters the current time).

This reminds of the time that I learned my favourite ever computer shortcut: Format Painter. It was many years ago and I was working on a document with a group and we were writing it as a group, which is quite possibly my least favourite thing to do2. Anyway, we were sitting watching someone type and she wasn’t using any of the normal short cuts – like, instead of hitting “CTRL-C” to copy something and then “CTRL-V” to paste it, she would go up to the menu bar at the top of the screen, click “Edit”, then “Copy”, and then put her cursor where we wanted to paste and go back up to the menu bar, click “Edit”, then “Paste”. I would have even taken her using the “copy” and “paste” buttons on the toolbar which, while not as efficient as the keyboard short cuts, is at least better than using the menu bar! Anyhoo, we are sitting there trying to co-write this thing while watching the excruciatingly slow typing and then all of a sudden, when the person typing wanted to change the formatting of something, she did something I’d never seen before. She clicked the button with the picture of the paint brush on it (which I’d honestly never paid attention to before) and it magically changed the formatting of the text she highlighted. I (and another colleague) were both “wtf was that???” And that was how I learned about Format Painter, which is now  my most favourite things in Word:

If you already knew about Format Painter, my apologies for boring you to tears. If you didn’t, you’re welcome!

  1. And then I was playing around with it some more and found that you can type 11Jan and it will do the same thing! []
  2. I would much rather draft something up and have people respond – or have someone else draft something up for me to respond to – than sit in a group and watch someone type while we try to co-write something. Excruciating! []

By

Stuff I Learned This Year: Canning Edition

And speaking of stuff I learned through books I read: this year I learned about home canning!

Last year, I made some jams. But this year, thanks to a book that my friend Linda gave to me, Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments & More, I actually learned more about the science behind making jams, jellies, and pickled things. This also allowed me to add seven new food items to my list of new food items that I made in 2017 (this year’s goal was to make at least 17 new food and drink items that I’ve never made before):

  • raspberry jam
  • figs pickled in balsamic vinegar1
  • fig-infused balsamic vinegar2
  • pickled spicy beans
  • pickled beets
  • pickles3
  •  jalapeño jelly

Making spicy pickled beansScott and I just opened a jar of the pickled beans yesterday and they are super tasty, if somewhat sour. I gave Kalev a jar of the jalapeño jelly, but haven’t tasted it yet myself. The raspberry jam, of which I made a tonne thanks to buying an entire flat of raspberries at one of the local farms, has been enjoyed by many as I’ve given it out to a number of people. The pickles and beets and figs have yet to be tested.

There’s still a number of things that I want to try canning – blackberry jam comes to mind as, for the second year running, I failed to go out blackberry picking again this year. But that book has a number of other cool recipes that I’d like to try, such as peach-bourbon jam, mulled cider jelly, red pepper jelly, pickled carrots, pickled asparagus, roasted tomato-lime salsa, spiced figs in syrup, Dijon mustard, and applesauce. Not in the book, but which I want to try: plum sauce. Looks like I have a good list of potential new food items to make for my 2018 goal of making 18 new foods that I’ve never made before!

My first ever batches of spicy pickled beans, pickled beets, and pickles!

Beans, beets, and pickles.

  1. Yes, the figs did come from Tig & Pat’s annual fig party. []
  2. Yes, the fig-infused balsamic vinegar is the vinegar that was left over from when I made the pickled figs. []
  3. Why don’t we call pickles “pickled cucumbers”? Everything else we pickle, we use “pickled” as the adjective followed by the name of the thing we pickled. []