Monthly Archives: August 2011

Nature Walk: Four Lake Trails

This post could also easily have been called A Plague of Frogs or Spot the Wildlife or the Walk that Became a Hike.

Given that it’s summer and I can move again, I’m endeavouring to get outside and see parts of my local scenery that I haven’t seen for years or ever for that matter.  Yesterday’s walk (ha!  Minimal elevation changes, the website said, minimal elevation changes the park sign said, you know what I say?  HA!  It may not have been up a mountain, but it wasn’t that minimal of an elevation change–of course, the wrong turns didn’t help) or make that hike was the Four Lake Trails hike at Alice Lake.


As I mentioned, I took a wrong turn right off (didn’t even start on the main trail) but that meant I got to see some random little wildlife:

He came out a little blurry, but you get the idea.  Poor thing, almost stepped on him before I realized what I was seeing.  There were a multitude of great trees.  I particularly liked this hand reaching out to grab unwary passerbys:

There were also a couple of exposed root systems from upturned trees that were unusually twisted and knotty.

And pretty much everything was covered in moss.  And yes, that’s why I took this next picture, because of the moss, no other reason at all.

Of course, much smaller things were also interesting.  There were mushrooms galore. Baby mushrooms, strange mushrooms, pretty mushrooms, rotting mushrooms.  I’ll spare you the rotting mushrooms.  🙂

And now it’s time for:  spot the animal!

This one is easy, a handsome woodpecker decided to stick around long enough to have his picture taken.

Yes, that was easy.  But this next one isn’t.  There was a veritable plague of frogs in a couple of places.  When I put my foot down, the ground started moving, skittering away from me in all directions.  I had to look close before realizing that it was a slew of frogs.  So cute!  The frog is pretty much in the centre of the frame.  I swear.

This last ‘can you find’ picture is about stones, not animals.  And a pretty easy one.  There are some stone piles (or cairns or whatever you call them when they’re stacked and balanced on each other).  And there are three of them.  I tried to make it easy for you…

Alas, there is no spider to be found (well, not that I noticed) in this picture, but it was a great spiderweb nonetheless.

For the most part I was enclosed in forest and so lacked much of a view.  But when I came out into a small riverbed

I did get a great view of some unknown mountain.

Despite my extra meanderings (oops!) there was one trail I did not take.  For some reason it didn’t sound appealing…

And then finally I was at the last lake, Stump Lake.

After that it was stumble back to the car, finally get lunch and head home to relax (i.e. lie exhausted on the couch for the rest of the day, I really must remember I’m still recovering and can’t easily do as much as I used to).

Happy summer!
~Samantha

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Losing Weight & Eating Anything I Want

Wow, sounds like one of those really annoying ads, doesn’t it?  This post is NOT intended as a weight loss promotion.  Yikes, what a horrid thought.  Nope, just sharing what my experience has been (and I get asked what I’m doing now and again so I’m sharing it here for anyone else who is curious).  Oh, and I just think it’s awesome that I’ve lost weight while still enjoying everything that taste has to offer.

While my actual number loss has slowed (I’ve increased my activity levels so I’m putting back on a bunch of that muscle that I lost, yeeeha!), the changes in my body have not.  I look different, I feel different….and I’m loving it.

But the really fun part is this lifestyle change I made (which at its heart is to be reasonably active and keep track of what I eat with an eye to try and keep the calories at a semi-reduced level to encourage weight loss) makes it possible for me to eat, GUILT FREE, any and all of:

  • chocolate bars
  • potatoe chips
  • fish and chips
  • black forest cake and all kinds of other desserts
  • wine, MEAD and all kinds of other drinks
  • regular starbucks trips
  • and snacking of all kinds of natures

I’ve been to potlucks, restaurants, bbq’s and NOT sat on the sideline eating something “healthy” while everyone else indulged.  Hell, no.  I indulged.

In moderation.

That’s been the key, well, one of three keys.  The first key is that I have stuck religiously to my one and only rule:  I will record everything I eat (I’m using the iPhone app for the My Fitness Pal program).  That’s it.  That’s my one and only MUST DO.

The rest is what I want to do.  I want to lose weight so I choose to keep my calories down.  I want to keep my calories under the 1500 mark so that I’m likely to lose weight. And to do this we come back to key number two:  moderation.

In order to not feel deprived, if something comes up in the moment, and I really want it, I have a small piece of it.  And record it.  And then adjust the rest of my day accordingly.

If I want to have a glass or two of wine in the evening.  I plan my eating for the day appropriately (mind you, I do eat healthy and strongly believe in eating REAL food, not just processed things, I just balance things so that I can sneak in that wine).

I have had anything and everything I’ve wanted.  Some things I got in the moment but in a reduced amount.  And some things I had in full, but just not in the moment I initially wanted it.

Because there is a third key.  And that is, once a month I get to eat whatever I want (though I still tend to track it, but that’s cuz I have compulsive tendencies) and it’s on a fixed day so no emotional picking of the day!  I think that’s very important, actually.  If you give yourself one day a month that you can pick at random and you decide on say Friday that that is going to be your eat anything day, you’ve most likely chosen it based upon emotions rather than reason.  By having it be a fixed day, I can look forward and plan it, but can’t fall into the bad habit of every time I’m emotional and want to eat everything in sight, that it is okay to do so.

So by using these three keys, eating whatever I want but in a planned time, I have lost over 14 pounds and feel far better about my body.  And I’m not stressing about where I want to get to.  I’ve got my pattern of behaviour going, it’s working for me and I’m just going to keep trundling along with it and see where I end up.

And now, I think it’s time for that glass of mead I’ve been planning for all day…

Just keep writing

WIP:  Goth Girl and the Queen Cobra
Words:  ~1000

Many, many long (and frequently unpleasant) moons ago, I made a promise that I would blog each day that I write up until my trip to Mexico.  Well, then I entered the period of my incarceration (the not moving due to herniated disc in back).  And while I did not blog each day that I wrote, I also didn’t write much.  (Sitting and computers for any length of time were not an option).

And my trip to Mexico got delayed for a year since I couldn’t sit on an airplane and the thought of lying around all day was horrific (that was all I was capable of doing for the first three months of this year, and I crawled my way out of that situation very gradually, yuck).

But now I’m working on getting back in the habit.  Getting the writing juices flowing.  Insert any type of familiar metaphor you like into this spot.

It’s not my first day back writing.  But it’s my first really owning up to it.  It’s like getting back on that bicycle.  You may never fully forget how to do it, but boy is it uncomfortable if it’s been a long time.

I feel uncertain and clumsy.  But better that than staring blankly at a screen.

It probably doesn’t help that this new project is in a new style for me.  It’s a fun, dark romp though. And with that, it’s time to close up shop for the night

Happy writing, joyful reading!

~Samantha

Time Accountability

Thanks to my recentish iPhone purchase, I’ve discovered that these days it is much easier to be accountable to myself than ever in the past.

Because there are apps.  There are apps that make it ridiculously easy to track your food intake (more on that in a later post), to track your money, and to track your time.

Now I recently took a RWA (Romance Writer’s of America) course through their Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal online group on Writing as a Business.  And much of that course boiled down to:  act professional, look professional and keep track of your stuff as a professional.

One of the specifics then from this was the recommendation to keep track of your time.  Should the nightmare happen and you get audited, you have a stronger case if you can show how much time you actually spend on this second job (with it’s typically horrible hourly wage of next to niente).

Well, keeping a log is effort.  And not fun.  And those two things combined typically kill something for me.

But with my recent iPhone acquisition and success in taking control of other aspects of my life by using the tools it offers, I had to know, was there another tool out there waiting for me?

Why yes, yes there was.  Hours Tracker is its name.  Tracking jobs is its game.  So I entered in all of the different stories I’m working on and the typical other work associated with writing, such as blogging and email management (gods, how I loathe email, but that’s neither here not there for this post).

And when I start working on something I tell the pretty little app that I’ve started and on what.  When I’m done, I turn it off.  And it keeps track for me.  Tallied by project and possibly by month (but I haven’t been using it long enough to tell).  And it’s exportable.  So at the end of the month I just export the data, print out the report and file it as my physical backup.

So easy.  So lazy.  So fun.

So suddenly noticeable as to how much time I’m actually spending writing.  Okay, sure, I can still use the ‘recovering from back injury’ excuse.  And it is true, but the reason is disappearing in direct proportion to my physical improvement.  And I’m left staring at the number, or lack thereof, of hours spent actually working on specific stories.

That leaves me only one question.  Am I going to change my behaviour and get writing more?  Or not?

Sh*t or get off the pot, as they say.

So when I…you know, this analogy is starting to disturb me.  So let’s go with, when I start logging hours on writing that isn’t blogging, I get this happy, positive reinforcement from seeing the hours start to add up on the app.

Accountability and reinforcement.  For me they are wonderful tools for getting me off–no, wait, that would be on my ass and writing.

It’s amazing what a little awareness will do for our behaviour, don’t you think?  And being accountable, even if only to yourself, of how your time is spent.  Well, it got me in my chair tonight typing rather than on the couch watching Hot Fuzz.

Anything that helps me with writing is a win in my book.  Okay, I couldn’t resist the pun which is a clear sign it is time to get some sleep!  So I will stop now but would welcome hearing what self management techniques have working for you!

Writers, may your words flow onto the page; readers, may the stories delight you.

May we all dream in technicolor,

~Samantha

SnT: Body Expressions via V for Vendetta

Yes, this is another Showing Not Telling post.

Today’s focus is on the body, not the face.  How do we, as people, express ourselves by our body’s movements?  It’s so easy to concentrate on the eyes, the mouth, the chin and forehead.  We’re drawn to faces, after all, it’s the first thing we want to look at.  (Just did a google search on “study attention first face” and boy, are there a bunch of psychological studies involving faces on the internet, but as most of those are pdf’s, I’m afraid you’ll need to do your own search rather than click on links from me as I don’t like to download other’s work.)

It’s also an easy thing for us to focus on as writers.  Raised eyebrows and pursed lips are familiar tools.  How do we show emotions in someone’s body?  It is not necessarily as easy to do.

So let’s use an example where we can focus on that particular skill:  V for Vendetta.

I’ll be using some youtube clips to illustrate points but if you have not seen this movie yet, I strongly recommend watching it in its entirety as the clips will be spoilers. Even reading this post further will include spoilers!

The reason I recommend this film to study the expression of emotion strictly through the body is that the main character, V, (played by Hugo Weaving who does a stunning job, imo), is wearing a mask, wig, and rather stiff clothing that covers his whole body.  There are no facial expressions whatsoever, and even the other bodily hints such as straining tendons in the throat, are not visible at all.

Everything he expresses is through tone of voice and physical movement.  And he conveys it so well, that he is captivating.

Yes, Natalie Portman does a great job as well, she’s jut not the focus of this post.  🙂

Because there are no other indicators of emotion, we are forced to focus in different arenas for those emotional clues.  As writers, this is a great exercise.  Especially if you turn off the sound (mind you, with sound you can concentrate on how he is using his voice to substitute for those subliminal facial cues we’re so used to).

To start off with a bang, there is this “god is in the rain” scene.  This one is even subtitled, so turn off your volume and watch what happens.  Natalie Portman’s character, Evey, has just gone through a massive psychological death.  Watch her body, not her face!, as she enters the room.  What does it convey?  How does her movements, position of her body, her arms, her hands, make you feel?

Watch V react to her, does he move slow or quick?  Turned to her or away?  Head up?  Head down?  Placement of shoulders?  How is he holding his torso?  What does he do with his hands?  How do you react to all of these components?

When you feel an emotional response, what has just happened?  What have they done that elicited that response?  That, my dear friends, is the motion you want to capture in your storytelling.

In this dance scene there is at least one moment where I’m convinced V loves Evey and is expressing it in just the way he’s holding her.  Do you feel it too?  What is it about how he moves that makes me so certain?

For fun, here is the V speech which just for the sheer use of ‘v’ words, is a veritable, well, wonder.  I’m not as good with my thesaurus, clearly.  ;D  Here V is rather light and playful, attempting not to frighten while still maintaining an aura of gentle menace (is that even possible?  perhaps I’m just deluded and overcome by that pile of v words, you be the judge…).  Everything he is conveying is through tone of voice and movement.  How much of it is in the voice?  How much in movement?

Hugo Weaving also manages to do an evocative death scene, in mask, barely moving.  The emotion is in his breathing, the tilt of his head, particularly in how he orients to Evey.  “But surely the emotion is in his voice?  His words and how he says them?” you say?  Watch it again, without sound.

Any movie can be watched for how the actor conveys emotion, intent, purpose via movement, but it can be tricky to dissociate the body from the face (our natural inclination is to watch it primarily for cues to what people are feeling).  This movie provides eliminates our ability to cheat.

Hat’s off to Hugo for a great job of acting.

~~~

Addendum:  was just checking the links and as I watched snippets of them again I realized there was one other comment I wanted to make.

Despite the fact that the character is so limited in how he can express himself, he doesn’t overact the movements.  They’re not exaggerated or serving as a substitution for the face in the sense of compensation.

Or at least, so goes my opinion.  ymmv.  🙂

Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins

With mini chocolate chips, in mini size.  So tasty!  So very simple:

Dry ingredients (combine into bowl):
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c white sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
(I usually mix at this point and then add the chipits and remix)
1 c mini semi-sweet dark chocolate chipits (the mini ones work better than the large ones)

Wet ingredients:
1 egg (mix it up with fork)
1/3 c melted butter
1 c milk

Mix dry ingredients together and make well in centre.  Mix wet ingredients in their own bowl.  Add wet ingredients all at once to dry ingredients and stir until just mixed (don’t over stir and absolutely do not use beaters).  Spoon into greased mini muffin tin (yes, you can use regular size, but I like these sweet ones to be nice little bite sized pieces).

Bake ~18 minutes at 375 degrees.

Yield:  ~22 mini muffins

NOM straight out of oven.  NOM NOM NOM.