Category Archives: Life’s in the Living

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

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…

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

Completion of a Cycle

6 months ago I started upon a new adventure.

I decided to learn how to make my own honey wine, a.k.a. mead.  This weekend was the completion of this adventure.  Well, the ending of the first round as I will certainly do it again!

After waiting and waiting and, yes, more waiting, it was finally time to put all that lovely liquid into their own individual bottles.  There they will rest and age for probably another three months before the drinking starts but I can tell you now that the flavors turned out better than I had expected!

I had four batches on the go, two 1-gallon jugs (beet & rose) and two 2.5 gallon carbuoys (raspberry/pomegranate and mild orange spice).

Isn’t it great when something turns out better than you hoped for?  Talk about some feel good moments.  And tasty sippings.  Not to mention all the future drinking.  After bottling, this is what my wine rack looks like:

As all good endings contain the seed of a new beginning, this ending has brought the opportunity to get some new meads started.  Yay, more mead!

Pumpkin pie is bubbling away in one bucket (primary fermentation) and mango in another.  Can I wait another six months before getting to enjoy them?  Absolutely.  Because I don’t have a choice.  😉

May you enjoy your favourite beverage this week.

~Samantha

My Fitness Pal

A couple of weeks ago I joined the iPhone generation.  Or am I supposed to be generic and say smartphone generation?

Naturally, the immediate discovery I made was the wonder of apps.  There really is an app for everything.  Well, almost everything.  Of the ones I downloaded on that first day was My Fitness Pal.  (Yes, they have a website and no app is required to enjoy this product, it just makes it more convenient.)

My Fitness Pal is a fitness, food and goal tracker.  And I’m in love.  For the first time making a concerted effort to manage my food is easy.  About eight years ago I made a concerted effort to lose weight and I lose about 50 pounds.

I was not, however, at my ‘goal’ weight.  I’ve always wanted to lose more but could never seem to really move anywhere.  During my recent incarceration (stuck at home due to herniated disc), I lost several pounds since I ate very little for many weeks (making food was too difficult and I wasn’t hungry anyways, yay drugs?).  This inspired me to want to make another concerted effort to lose more weight.  (Sadly, the weight lost during my incarceration came right back when I was able to enjoy food again.  Ah, well.)

The effort wasn’t getting me very far.  And then came My Fitness Pal.

First, it has a huge database of foods, so when out for a bite to eat it’s easy to get at least an approximation of what I decide to eat.  I’ve done meals from Pho to sushi, fast food burgers to cafe sandwiches.  Just a few seconds typing the query into the phone and I’ve got a selection of meal options so I can decide on the best match to what I’m eating.

Second, I can type in my own recipes and it will calculate what that meal (or meals if I’m making a large batch of something) has in the way of calories, fats, proteins and carbs.

Third, well, for third there’s all the other great things.  I can put it exercise and it calculates calories used.  It bitches at me if I eat too little.  I can copy meals from one day to another.  It encourages me to pay attention to my water intake.

I think I finally have a method of managing food that I can actually work with.  I hate counting calories.  I hate anything that makes eating ‘work’.  And this app makes it easy.

Now this isn’t meant to be an ad for the program.  No, it’s a celebration of finding something that works for me.  A tool I enjoy using to take control of an aspect of my life that has always felt like it is just outside my reach.  So far I’ve lost 5 pounds.  Yeeha!

You may have noticed that I’ve not used the word ‘diet’.  This is deliberate.  I don’t believe in diets.  I believe in habits, healthy and otherwise.  I believe in life choices.  I believe that I want to eat in a way that is healthy for me and that is permanently sustainable.

In this case, I’m deliberately lowering my caloric intake to encourage weight loss.  But I’m still eating in a healthy manner that will continue after I’ve reached my goal weight (which is a whole other topic, because becoming fixated on a number can be very hazardous to your health, physical and mental).  Sure, this is probably dieting, but I hate the word and what it implies.

There’s no guarantee, of course, that this will all work to perfection, that I’ll never break this happy cycle I’ve got going on (daily tracking for 2.5 weeks now), that my body will slip down to my goal weight without argument.  But I doubt there will ever be an easier road to take towards this goal.