Circus report – 12 weeks

Finished my 12th circus class last night and I’m still having fun. For both better and worse, my body is showing the effects of regular training.


Muscles – Yes indeed. Especially arms.

Abs – No one’s more surprised than me to see abdominal definition on my forty-something post c-section torso. I’m still miles away from a six-pack, but it ain’t a keg either.

Taller – Not really, but stretching has lowered my shoulder position making my neck look longer.

Energy – Feels like my body is defying the first law of thermodynamics some days.

Mood – Have I mentioned how damn happy I am?


Bruises – I’m flailing around on a steel hoop once a week, identifying bruises in weird locations is how I spend the other 6 days.

Man hands – Callouses and veins are part of being able to hang on.

Wear – I will have to pay close attention to twinges if I want to prevent them from turning into actual injuries. I tweaked my shoulder in class last week and am now learning to focus on correctly engaging my muscles to keep it from becoming a problem. I suspect this is only the first of many.

Nauseating – Hanging upside down on the hoop while it is spinning: internet wisdom says I’m just going to have to suck it up and get used to feeling a little queasy.

Both better and worse is the drive I have to improve. My enthusiasm makes me want to plunge into the deep end, but the grown up side of me knows that pushing too hard will only lead to injury and take away all my fun. Instead of signing up for more classes, I’m sticking with training once a week and continuing with running, stretching and conditioning between classes. I can always drop in at Skyzone for some trampolining if I need an extra circus hit during the week.


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Me, myself and more me.

I’m sure everyone has times in life of feeling ‘not like yourself’. I’ve had several phases like that. Most of 1997 (when I lived in Pennsylvania and had almost no friends) and the years preceding my divorce certainly come to mind. I look back and don’t fully recognize the person I was.

These days I’m experiencing the exact opposite. At 42 I feel so completely comfortable and happy with the my current place in life the universe and everything that it is a little concerning. Any more of this and my state of stupidly happy runs the risk of annoying everyone around me. In many ways, the birth of my daughter and death of my marriage allowed for a complete overhaul of what I wanted my life to be. It has taken many steps and a long while to get here, but most every step/choice over the last 5 years or so has let in the right direction.  I’m not saying that life is perfect. Talking about real life here where there are plenty of things to cause stress, worry and discomfort. I think the difference is that I feel so very much myself that I feeling like I’m enjoying the ride of day to day life to its full extent.

The very last part of the process has been bringing my physical body to the same state where I feel comfortable in it. For me this means being strong enough to do the gymnastic type activities I’ve loved my entire life. I let excuses like work, traffic, depression and general life get in way for the last decade, but I’m now rediscovering something that makes me incredibly happy.

I started a running/strengthening program last year. Took a few months off for foot surgery, built back up for our surf trip this winter and tweaked my eating habits in the spring. Three months ago I started aerial circus classes and I’m still brimming with new convert enthusiasm. Full steam ahead!

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If I manage to stick with blogging long enough for anyone to read it it will easily become apparent that I am a dilettante when it comes to hobbies. Sewing, knitting, rock climbing, writing, running drawing, origami, circus, skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding and trampoline are just a portion of my hobby list. Often with crafty type activities I will complete one big impressive project and then move onto the next shiny sparkle that catches my interest. At this stage of my life I’m mostly unapologetic of my jack of all trades approach. It was a concern in my first 2 years of university when I registered in 4 different majors (psychology, drama, english, and engineering) but I’ve successfully stuck with the last one since 1992 without waffling. I’m committed to my husband and my child, but see no reason why I should pick a lane where my spare time is concerned.

If I sound defensive, it’s because this has been held out as a character flaw. The older I get though, the more I’ve come to see it as a strength. Maybe it doesn’t show exceptional dedication, but it does show range, flexibility and a willingness to try new things. Or maybe I’m just refusing to admit my own flakiness. Whichever it may be, I’ve now got a freshly sharpened pencil and the urge to do some hand lettering right now.

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Coming Soon (sadly, not tomorrow though)

Coming June 28th

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Tomorrow Wendell by R. M. Ridley, available June 28, 2014

Tomorrow Wendell by R. M. Ridley, available June 28, 2014

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Tomorrow Wendell by R. M. Ridley, available June 28, 2014

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Tomorrow Wendell by R. M. Ridley, available June 28, 2014


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Internet Diet – Conclusion

My internet diet finished last friday. Having reached my goal I’ve spent the week since gaining back most of the virtual weight.

Time now to find a balance. Like any part of being healthy the all or nothing approach won’t work long term. There is a time for guilty pleasures that rot my mental teeth, but they shouldn’t be the bulk of what I’m consuming.

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Internet Diet – Status Report

Keeping with the spirit of my internet diet, I spent last weekend fasting. Two days without an email, status update or cat video. Not even a single solitary tweet. We get the Saturday Globe and Mail delivered so I wasn’t forced to go entirely without my outside information hit, but I tried to put some real effort into spending a measurable chunk of time unplugged.

Overall the weekend’s accomplishments were more or less the same amount I manage normally. I brought the kid out to her grandparents, worked out, walked the dogs, watched movies, folded laundry and spent some quality time at the local brew pub. The difference was that none of it was broken up with the little facebook/newspaper/email checks. These internet hits have become such a regular habit of my everyday life that I barely noticed how much I was doing it until I stopped. The moment I did, however, I couldn’t help but notice how much more relaxed I felt.

I’ve never been a good multi-tasker. I don’t listen to music when I work or study for the exact reason that I have trouble concentrating, so I don’t know why I’m surprised that random internet notifications, checks and updates make me stressed. Taking away the temptation to interrupt the day with small distractions really allowed me to be more present in whatever I was doing and it felt really great. I did one thing at a time, got the exact same amount of stuff accomplished, and came out of the weekend feeling genuinely refreshed.

When I found myself standing in line or waiting for my date to return from the washroom I looked up and paid attention to my surroundings instead of checking my phone. What I saw was a whole lot of other people looking down at their own phones.

It would be stupid for me to even consider parting with my smartphone, I need it for work. Ironically, I did in fact, upgrade it this week. From a personal standpoint, I enjoy social media and generally find my friends are informative, interesting, and hilarious (frequently all three). Besides, how else would I learn about all the beautiful, fun and amazing things going on out in the world? I need to challenge myself to find a way to ensure I am using it as a tool to improve my life instead of letting it invade like crab grass.

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Rolling with the Cabbage

The internet diet continues. Two weeks down, about a month to go.

My cynical gen-X self finds hipsters with their huge beards, tight pants and chevron everything an easy target for mockery, but where food is involved the truth is that I’m right in there with them. Both Simon and I like to cook and we usually eat pretty well. Organic vegetables get delivered once a week. Meat comes from the butcher down the street. I regularly make stock from vegetable peelings and roast chicken remains while drinking from our stock of craft beer. The whole lorganic shebang.

Since I work from home, one of the benefits to my reduced slothing is more time to putter in the kitchen. I’ve always been intimidated by cabbage rolls. Love eating them, but I generally don’t like cooking dishes with lots of steps. An abundance of cabbage in the vegetable delivery this winter and a short-cut courtesy of the butcher finally convinced me to give them a try and wow were they yummy. I really didn’t like boiling the cabbage and handling the hot wet leaves, but thankfully the internet provided a much easier freezing method. It requires planning ahead, but is so very simple. And with that, I present today’s project:

Hipster Cabbage Rolls

Makes about 10 (3 roll) servings


  • 2 small/med (or 1 large) heads green cabbage
  • 6 cups tomato sauce (I make my own because tomato sauce is crazy easy)
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 4 cups stock or water
  • 1kg package uncooked smoked beef brisket meatloaf (Butcher By Nature partners with a barbeque place to make a loaf with smoked brisket ends. The smokiness makes these cabbage rolls incredible, but I suspect that any yummy meatloaf should do the trick.)
My secret ingredient.

The secret ingredient


Place the cabbages in a plastic bag and stick them in the freezer. The night before you want to make cabbage rolls, take them out of the freezer and leave them on the counter overnight to defrost. This makes the cabbage leaves easy to peel off and roll-up without having to ever boil an entire head of cabbage.

Make tomato sauce:

  • 2 12oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2tsp each oregano, thyme, and basil.

Stick it all in a crockpot for the day or simmer in a pot for an hour or two.

Actual Preparation:

  1.  Cook the rice and stock/water in a rice cooker.
  2.  Mix the cooked rice with the meatloaf in a big bowl. This will be the filling.
  3.  Core the cabbage with a small knife.
  4.  Oil up 2 – 12cup baking trays (I use cooking spray). I like to make two 4-serving casseroles and freeze one, but the size of the container doesn’t really matter. Use a big dutch oven and stack the rolls up, or go with smaller trays and make a bunch; it’s all good.
  5.  Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce in the bottom of each casserole dish.
  6.  Begin rolling: For each roll, peel off a cabbage leaf or two and spoon 1/2 cup or so of filling onto the centre. Fold up the sides, roll up the leaf, and place it seam side down in the casserole dish.
  7.  Pour the remaining tomato sauce over top of the cabbage rolls.
  8.  Cover and bake at 350F for 2 hours.
Assembled cabbage rolls

Assembled cabbage rolls

Ready to bake.

Ready to bake


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I went trampolining last night. It was amazing!

I grew up doing gymnastics. Had a backyard trampoline and discovered it was an actual sport in university. I’m even a certified coach in both. All this is to say I have a reasonable amount of innate talent for this kind of stuff. Took up circus classes around 2002 and gave it all up cold turkey when my knees developed a persistent desire to buckle (accompanied by searing pain) during activities that involved jumping. I started running and rock climbing because they didn’t hurt my knees. Rock climbing got limited during the early parenting years, but I’ve stuck with the running.

That in and of itself has been a big personal accomplishment for me since I have very little natural talent for it. I’m a bit of a show off and it takes serious effort for me stick with things where everyone else seems to be better at than me. This has been one of my biggest growing up lessons. Completely middle of the pack grades in engineering school did an excellent job of teaching me that hard work is well worthwhile even when you aren’t at the head of the class.

I headed to the trampoline place with a lot of fear. Were my knees up to it or would I find myself limping away with an ice pack? Just how ridiculous will I look bouncing my middle-aged self around in a room full of teens and 20somethings? Am I too old for this? Am I crazy?

Apart from the first and actually valid concern, the answer to all of the other questions is “Who cares?!’ — Where’s the interrobang key when I need it?– Who cares if everyone else in the room is younger, fitter, more whateverthehell than me? Trampolining is something I deeply enjoy and as long as me knees don’t take issue I’m going to keep doing it. I’m hopeful that running has helped strengthen the surrounding knee muscles to reduce the probability of buckling – all I can do for that is keep my fingers crossed.

I was flying. Can’t wait to do it again.

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Along with most of North America I’m very much looking forward to spring. In October, I made a commitment to combat the winter blues by eating well and exercising. I followed through (mostly), but the misery of this winter certainly tested the strength of my willpower. Entering the final stretch, I’d say the plan worked. Just like everyone, I have my down days, but managed to avoid falling into any deep dark holes this winter season which has been really nice. Admittedly, two weeks in Costa Rica smack in the middle of the January-February deep freeze didn’t hurt either and those strength training workouts made my time on the surfboard even more fun.

Looking at the weather report for this week, it seems the worst may be over. Last week’s snow dump proves that nothing is certain, but I’m getting my hopes up any way. As well, the head cold dragging me down for the last week is finally abating and I’m feeling primed to get out in the world. Even did some socializing! After dropping kiddo with her Dad and Grandparents for the weekend, Simon and I dragged our cold infected selves out with a few friends. From the sticky floors of Lee’s Palace for the Lemon Bucket Orkestra party on Friday to dressed up dinner with a multitude of cocktails at the Toronto Temperance Society on Saturday. Late nights, good company and many drinks later, I have no words to describe how very thankful I was for the ability to take naps this weekend. Going out two nights in a row is an extremely rare occurrence these days, but it seems to have started a snowball effect. I now have plans to go trampolining with a friend tomorrow and am signed up for a weekly circus class that starts next month. Spring fever perhaps?

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Internet Diet – Week 1 Progress

I meant to check in yesterday, but winter decided to hit us with one (final?) monster snowstorm and I spent much of the day driving 60km/h under the speed-limit instead. 1 week and 1 day on the internet diet and I’m not sure how I feel about my progress. The first few days were great. Lots of walking, writing, and catching up on home/office tasks that I tend to neglect. I cleaned the office, filed, shredded, worked out and cooked a few fabulous meals. But then I caught a cold, the weather turned back to crap, and the shiny of my new project started to fade. I’ve managed not to fall off the wagon, but I’m definitely exploiting loopholes in my own made-up rules and not very happy about it.

Thankfully, the benefit to this kind of project is that I’ve still got 3 weeks to go. Work is picking up, my cold is abating and the weather looks like it should improve for at least the weekend. Next step is to put together a book list that I can fall back on when I want something non-productive to do instead of clicking Facebook for the zillionth time.

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