Tuesday, November 22, 2016

No Rest for the Wicked

My parents instilled in me, at a young age, that participation in school or work was critically tied to being successful in that class or career. I hence became that guy that attended every class and even accepted (for a time) the unspoken "norm" of going into work while sick, at my previous place of employment. It was never outright stated that it was expected of us, but simply by example (which usually just got the rest of us sick like dogs) and the response intonations when we called/emailed in sick.

Boss cat makes it funny but it wasn't funny :(

I have since changed that perspective and no longer put someone else's expectations over my own needs--especially if they were not in my best interest. After all, nobody's gonna care about you more, than you. Not because they're bad people, but because they don't see it from your perspective and they're thinking from a economic standpoint.

Semesters are actually quite short; you get 4 months to fit in an exam schedule, 3 weeks of exams and midterms, assignments, papers, labs and the lectures themselves. Trust me, this is an awful way to learn but it's the only way available at the moment. That said, I was determined not to fall ill for any reason and got the flu short--something I have never done because I'm not a firm believer in the flu shot (not because vaccines don't work--they do work. It's just this thing about strains... a conversation for another time). Getting sick was something I was working at avoiding... like the plague (har har! see what I did there?).

The semester is coming to a close and I'm still behind on some lectures because I just haven't found the time to get to it. But, I was getting progressively sicker and sicker last week and I surrendered by Wednesday afternoon and booked an appointment with my physician to see her on Thursday. I didn't actually think it was going to be all that involved... a quick in and out appointment, deal with the infection and I"d be back on my way to classes on Friday. I was wrong.

Strong like bull... until I get sick

I underestimated the severity and ended up at home lying around trying to not aggravate the infection and what a colossal waste of time that was! I intended to catch up on lectures and notes and start my exam studying but none of that happened because I just couldn't physically manage it. So now, I'm scrambling to catch up, understand the new stuff while I still don't understand the old stuff, sort myself out enough to pose questions in class (#stillwaiting) and find time to see the profs during office hours.

But, that's the thing about adulting life, isn't it? You spend all your time trying to stay afloat and work like an ox to get yourself some chill time only to be knocked out by a virus/bacterial infection when you least expect (or need) it but you can submit to the poopiness or you can suck it up princess and get 'er done

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Public Announcement

I had to... because this is literally me lately:

Good news, I didn't actually take an online quiz about what flavour potato chip I am but I did pull together the Pinterest account I associated with this account. Still building it but got a strong start! And, with exams peeking over the horizon, I expect I'll be spending more time blogging or pinning or taking online quizzes.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

First Leg Finish on the Horizon!

Now seemed as good a time as any to check-in by a blog post after being entrenched in school work for 2 months. That, and I needed to do something constructive after hearing about the US electoral results which I will NOT get into detail further other then this one reference because, although I don't live in the US (thank heavens), as a Canadian, I can't stop hearing everyone's opinion about it. And, I might have a new house-guest for the next 4 years with an option for an additional 4 year stay. HA HA HA. Okay, not funny, at all.

Going on, I have been busy keeping up with my studies and finding myself even more motivated, curious and engaged then I have ever been. Seriously. When I first started my undergrad, I just knew I liked biology and science in general and was curious about it. But, at the time, I didn't really know what I was doing or why I was doing it. I was also closed to getting into certain subjects just because I didn't think they were worthwhile.

This semester, I have gotten myself into Human Metabolism, Animal Physiology, Moral Issues, Embryology and Developmental Biology and Advanced First Year Chinese (Mandarin). The two courses that I was prepared to struggle with for 3 months and cry a small river (daily) learning about was metabolism and embryology. Then I thought that I'd be bored to tears about philosophy and Mandarin. Quite the contrary, the course I find most engaging is moral issues! I have never enjoyed philosophy more.

Unfortunately, with the broken leg and the packed schedule, I haven't had much time to consider returning to riding and while I am sad, I don't really have much time to actually be sad. I have though, been getting occasional doses of equine related activities like volunteering for the Ontario University Equestrian Association (OUEA) show hosted by UW the last weekend of October. The format of this type of showing is very different than I'm used to seeing where a rider works with their mount for months or years perfecting the relationship. Instead of riding your own horse, you ride a random horse drawn for you on the day you're showing. They do flat and jumping/hunter classes for a range of rider levels. I admit, not really my cup of tea but an interesting experience to see what that is all about. Unfortunately, due to my mid-term schedule, I had to miss the opportunity to learn to drive miniature horses (I know. CUUUUUUTE!!!). Another time.

I did get to get out to The Royal to support one of Gosling Stables riders show pony jumper in the A's with her rescue pony. She totally deserved it considering the amount of work she's put in. I also had the opportunity to chat with a Hereford rancher about his love of the job and how he's already "retired" four times but can't seem to keep himself idle long enough! Such inspiration.

Reversing a bit, the leg is completely healed and I'm on my own to make it better completely. I still limp if I have to rush somewhere as the quadricep muscles just aren't what they used to be. You probably couldn't tell there's anything wrong until you challenge me to race you to the end of the block: #nothappening. I am glad that I don't need the crutches but I just wish things would go back to normal, faster.

Finally, my brother has taken on a side project and transformed his love of coffee into a viable business in the Distillery District of Toronto and let me tell you, if you are in the area, you have to make it a point to go, not just because I said so, but because you will not be disappointed. It's currently one of my happy places not only because it's a break from studying, but because I get fuelled with the best coffee I've experience. So much love, experience and care goes into each cup that it makes me warm and fuzzy both figuratively and literally!

In the meantime, when I have time, I will make a point to getting around to other blogs, some more reading and another post. Until then, I hope y'all are enjoying yourselves doing whatever it is that you're occupied with :)

Monday, September 5, 2016


Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.--Unknown

I've rarely given much thought about being able. You know, not having my abilities hindered either physically or mentally. That is, until my Summer of George, which has given me a lot to think about with respect to a reduction of mobility in general. I've always acknowledged the risks involved with riding and have fallen multiple times; as well, seen others do it and break their own bones. I've never thought twice about getting back on. Maybe I reconsidered at the time b/c I was shaken up and probably feeling a little tenderized but never post lesson/riding.

After I fell off, I wanted to get back on but the pain was telling me otherwise. Enough, that I relented to the suggestion by a "barn mom" to get to the hospital to get x-rays; you know, just in case. When the news was broken (ha, see what I did there!) to me, about the wrist and the knee/leg, I was devastated, embarrassed and annoyed. The physician informed me that I had a wrist fracture and would be casted for the usual 6 weeks (pending healing abilities) but the leg/knee break would require surgery *sob*. After the emotions subsided a bit, my immediate thoughts were: when would I be able to ride again and what I needed to tell my bosses.

My priorities were short-sighted. I neglected to consider all the things I take for granted: getting from bed to the bathroom, personal hygiene, eating... the list goes on. It wasn't until I was brought home that reality smacked me in the face, and then some. I had to collect my pride, independent nature and anxiety, then replace it with patience, humility, a positive sense of perspective, and some heavy pain medication.

The last three months have challenged me, and been the source of some of my most important lessons.

The most obvious lesson I've acquired in the last three months is the reality of a physical/mobility related limitation. But I failed initially to understand how it affected others around me; I understood it affect the obvious things like being able to ride that horse, or get from place to place, but a single limited individual depends on the support of others around them, to get things done. I would never have been able to get to my doctor appointments, have proper meals or even keep the house (the yard is a whole other story thanks to this summer) in a somewhat respectable manner without the help of others like my family and +ADW. Depending on others was difficult for me to accept because of my independent nature.

Another lesson I took from the accident itself, and apply both to my riding and to other areas of my life: make the best of what's been thrown your way, adapt and persevere. If I've made a commitment to do something, I just have to follow through. The reiteration of this concept is particularly important at this time because I will be starting a journey that won't end in a one hour lesson... I am returning to school to upgrade my marks in order to apply for vet college, and IF I get in, I'll be focusing on the schooling to get me to that end goal. Mental endurance and keeping that eye on the prize will be my focus.

An unexpected lesson arose as I was getting better and more mobile. My first trip out of the house (other than doctor visits) was to the mall by wheelchair. Once I got a taste of some of what I was missing, I wanted to go out all the time. Alas, that was not my fate and I have been trying not to fixate on the time passing to see when ADW would return and we could do something like go out or watch TV. The simple fact was I was surprised at just how bored I could become with a whole day of doing nothing but sitting on my butt writing, reading or watching. It's clear that I will need to incorporate an activity into my day too.

The experience as a whole has been eye opening and though not exactly wanted or planned, worthwhile to look through different perspectives to gain a better understanding of myself and others around me. I just hope that this never happens again b/c the last lesson outlined above was probably the most difficult to gain!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Review: Mockingjay

This is the last instalment of the popular trilogy, the Hunger Games. I read books before catching the movie so I can be sure I get the intent of the author, because movies are generally edited to fit the budget, length or even audience taste. The Walking Dead is the perfect example of the comic and the show having few commonalities other than zombies and Rick Grimes.

I breezed through this one just as fast as the other two and found it easy to get back into the story. Despite being another youth novel, I didn't struggle to get pulled into the story and followed right along. In this book, Katniss' character is changing more and more, and she's questioning her own motives and even behaviours. The fact that she's struggling to maintain her connection with Gale is a pivotal piece, in my opinion, because they both fed off one another throughout their youth. Even her little sister Primrose is no longer the whiny screechy kid sister and learning her own trade. This instalment is a sort of turning point where each characters' coming of age is evident. The story happens in more detail and at a much slower pace than the movies, which I appreciated.

The mockingjay flies free

Darker themes such as war, poverty, effects of war are more prominent in this book; giving it a darker tone than the previous two. The characters are plunged into darker versions of themselves when forced to confront the sadistic retaliation of the Capitol not evident in the first two. Difficult decisions are made and hard consequences are apparent. Our heroine reluctantly faces these new found situations and strives to maintain a sense of dignity and humanity. Reading the book gives you the inner dialogue of the characters that is impossible to gain from watching the movie and this story is best told in the written medium.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've likely seen the visually enchanting trailers for this book turned movie, directed by Tim Burton. The premise of the book is based on the author piecing together a story with the help of a collection of eerie vintage photos that might have been double or triple exposed... or are in fact real images of peculiar children with peculiar abilities.

The book is geared towards a youth audience, with a (logically) teenage protagonist. Jake's life is a sort of perpetual limbo from his birth with all the wealth he'd ever need and no need to do anything but eventually "take over the family business": he's a trust fund baby. But he's bored. He sees his parents and their dull pointless lives and is unhappy and helpless to accept his. That is, until something happened to change everything. I guess everyone can relate to the mundanity of daily life with going to work, interacting with your family and friends in a very normal fashion all the while without real direction, purpose or any idea about what to do with yourself. Adults generally are busy adulting or raising their kids so I don't think they get lost in the same thoughts of boredom as Jake.

The thing is, as an adult who's not currently doing any adulting, I should naturally fall right into the book's story and be excited. I read with determined vigour searching for the hook in the book that would pull me in and sell me on getting the other two books of the series. I think that the years of adulting have left me with little imagination or interest to go off on a fictional journey. I think it's a good read for the target audience because I do believe that there are plenty of kids these days who lead rather dull existences and want to discover that they're special and go on an exciting and risky adventure. I can't speak for the movie as I didn't watch it but as with all movies from books, better to read the book before watching the movie just because the original is always better!

Without giving more of it away, I would say the book is worthy to be picked up by a youth audience and would be a good read for them without getting into subjects that are way over their heads (like adulting). It's a good coming of age story about a boy that many could relate to and see a part of themselves in him and go on an exciting journey to seek out their place in this world.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Review: The Legend of Zippy Chippy

I judged this book by its cover, grabbed it (scanned at the library) and ran (this was before I broke my leg and wrist). I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read because I was so entertained by it! I know little about sports and even less about thoroughbred racing. But Canadian author William Thomas moulds the narrative life of racehorse Zippy Chippy in the most amusing fashion: by utilizing Zippy's life story to instill a sense of perspective about our own lives through the eyes of this lovable (and often ornery) equine.

Regardless of a reader's actual knowledge about thoroughbred horse racing history/industry, one would be able to take away tid-bits about life and sports history that can help us gain perspective about life's many struggles and failures while maintaining a positive outlook. I'm not saying that it's all rosy and rainbows and butterflies (because it's not), but it's really practical and honest in its tone. Each chapter follows a portion of Zippy's life and presents a moral and includes a brief about another similar subject that further drives the concept.

There is just enough humour, fact, moral and fun to keep the reader turning the pages and wondering what was the next bizarre turn of events that Zippy Chippy would get into. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions and reading parts to my other half about the antics which seem unbelievably silly and outrageous. Even through the silliness and the humour, I still found myself nodding in agreement about the practicality of what could be taken away from the turn of events which made the reading so satisfying!

Without giving it all away, I would highly recommend this read for anyone in any circumstances because the truth is, everyone can learn something from this ornery retired racing legend.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Review: As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child & Avis Devoto

I picked this book up after watching Julie and Julia, then reading the autobiography of Julia Child, My Life in France because I thought it would be an interesting perspective through a collection of personal letters between Julia Child and her friend, Avis DeVoto. The decade long collection of letter correspondences between Avis and Julia start with Julia reaching out to Avis' husband, Bernard (a American historian) about a knife, through fan mail. In place of Bernard, Avis' response sparks the start of a life-long friendship and culinary/literary collaboration.

Avis is not only Julia's good friend, but she was critical to helping Julia publish Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julia herself is known as American chef, author and television personality. Julia brought authentic French cooking to American tables in the 60s through television and cook books. In the age of social media where relationships are created or ended in the blink of an eye, the collection of letters between Avis and Julia is very much the opposite: a lovely marination of two women's common interests and perspectives over years. While they surely had telephone correspondences on occasion, the essence of their perspectives is evident when you read the letters--both women are learned and capable in their own rights.

Avis, left and Juia, right working on... something!

I liked that the sections were prefaced by a summary of sorts to give the reader an idea about what turn of events (without giving it all away!) were about to unfold. Reading the letters feels like you're embarking on the same emotions and events Julia and Avis are, from their daily mundane struggles to the more lofty subjects like political atmosphere. Neither woman is dull by any means and the lives they lead are more than enough adventure for a reader. I enjoyed living through them by their letters as letters are generally not hidden behind several layers of editing or censoring by the writer, which makes them even more lively and enjoyable.

This is the first collection of letters I've read... it helps that I had some background from the other two books even though the editor made efforts to include lots of footnotes with explanations and clarification. Aside from the biography/autobiography slant, the book touches upon the political and cultural subjects of the time, giving a time-capsule feel where it's easy to lose yourself in their conversations. Other than the intimate insight into creation of one of the most well known and reputed French cooking books, if you enjoy history, this can be an interesting read as well, especially regarding the US political atmosphere of the 1950s.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Reflecting on my 'Summer of George'

My bad habit finally caught up with me and was amplified with a poor decision. Or maybe that's two bad habits that seemed to come together, only one has a change in the usual suspect...? Ladies and gents, I have been holed up at home for the last ~3 weeks because (wait for it...) I broke my knee (tibial plateau fracture) and wrist. My biggest baddest habit is looking down when riding a jump, which means my upper body collapses and follows. My other baddest habit is bailing last minute; except in this case, I actually bailed my mount. I'm neither happy or proud at the outcome.

I was riding on a Tuesday afternoon and been riding a horse who's attention span is maybe 10 seconds. He's capable, agreeable and a big suck so a good ride if you can sort yourself out with him, but I have been struggling with him after the BSJ and been unsuccessful. All the bad habits and fears and paranoia rears its ugly head when I ride him. But, I didn't take the tumble from him... it was from another bombproof solid been-there-done-it-all hunter mount. The line approach was perfectly fine but my upper body went down, my mind stopped riding, and I decided that it would be better to bail than pull myself together.

My own version of "summer of George"

After knee surgery and a hot pink fibre-glass cast, I have been forcibly admitted to my own "summer of George"; spending days indoors (not a bad thing with the temperatures we've been having), permanently in my pyjamas in the same chair getting caught up on a lot of TV and blogging. But, I had so much planned this summer and all of it has been dashed to pieces. Needless to say, I've been depressed on several occasions and I regularly have to be reminded by the ever patient and supportive +ADW that "LIFE HAPPENS" and at least I'll be getting better day by day--it isn't permanent, he'd add.

With all the new found free time, I have been reflecting (see, obsessing) about why I'd have two falls within a small time-frame. I'm not implying I was an amazing rider previously, but I was far more willing and confident about jumps, courses and anything else that was thrown at me when I rode. I rarely refused to ride a jump and wanted to learn everything and anything and a greener horse was not usually something that unsettled me either.

I tell myself it's not that I am incapable of riding... a few things come up though:
  • Not reflecting on my lessons to determine what went well and what needs improvement--I've gotten complacent and stopped blogging regularly this year.
  • Ignoring my developing physical limitations that hinder me, and not righting them with more fervor.
  • Allowing negative self-talk to interfere with my self-confidence when riding.
  • Expecting perfection without more work from myself.
I'm sure everyone can relate to at least one of the thoughts above, getting in the way of their own successes. It is my unwavering goal that I will take this lesson with enormity and rectify the 'wrongs' that I have let creep in. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sao Miguel: Lists

Making the most of a trip requires proper planning and research. I divided this post into three lists: research, advice and truths. Getting a general idea about the Azores is our first objective. Certain facts that we considered include:
  • Currency: Euro
  • Language spoken: Portuguese (and some English in certain tourist areas)
  • Seasonality*: 
    • Peak season: June, July, August, September and October 
    • Rainy/off season: January, February, March, October, November and December
    • Warmest month: August
    • Coolest month: February
    • Wettest month: January
    • Driest month: July
  • Temperature hi/low, not taking into account, the specific season: 12C - 25C
  • Precipitation: variable, even during the favourable months
  • Main industry: agriculture, dairy farming, ranching, fishing, tourism
  • Primary settlement/"capital": Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel
  • Cell/mobile Service: available readily; will be roaming for most
  • Electrical outlet/plug voltage**: 220-240V (US/Canada are 110-120V); europlug
  • Crime rate: low
  • Socio-political situation: nothing of note, at the time we went except Euro-cup being a potential distraction
  • Tipping etiquette: tipping is not necessary but appreciated
  • Vaccines: confirm at least 4-6 weeks prior to travel. Other than being UTD on standard vaccines, it's recommended to get hepatitis B. Check the CDC or a local travel clinic for details.
  • Common phrases:
    • Good morning: bom dia
    • Thank you: obrigado
    • Good evening: boa noite
    • Hello/Hi: olá
    • Wash/bathroom: banheiro
  • Experience features:
    • Food and drink: particularly seafood/fish and beef/dairy and wine (from Pico preferred but from Sao Miguel is good too)
    • Nature/outdoor excursions: hiking, bird watching, golf, horseback riding, landscape scenery, snorkelling/scuba diving, boating, whale watching, surfing, yachting, paragliding, big-game fishing, gardens/parks, natural thermal pools, cycling, canoeing/kayaking
Advice based on personal experience include:
  • Dress appropriately; layers are your best friend--like light and medium weight merino wool shirts. Even visiting during the more favourable time of the year, we experienced ever changing weather, including intermittent rainfall almost everyday so it's wise to bring appropriate rain gear:
    • Back-pack/bag cover
    • Light rain coat/jacket with hood
    • Light weight wool socks
    • Good hiking/walking shoes that can keep water out and are comfortable
    • Umbrella
    • Water repellent pants (seriously--I wore these the most. Mine are cycling ones but it doesn't really matter... any outdoor clothing/supply store is likely to sell them).
  • Though we didn't do a lot of hiking or even walking, bringing folding hiking poles are helpful.
  • If you're up for it (and capable), see to schedule a horseback riding excursion (or two! And if you want to do more, check out Quinta da Terca or another equestrian facility) to take in the island's natural beauty by a different perspective. Some rides are planned at different locations like Lagoa das Sete Cidades.
  • A lot of excursions can be booked in advance, over-seas and generally make things less stressful but you can also do it when you arrive.
  • If you like to golf, do it! I was told by an avid golfer that there are some really nice greens.
  • Rent a car for transportation; while they have a public system, you're on vacation and it's just less stressful and you're likely to want to be able to pick up and go at your pace.
  • Google maps/GPS works well so add a roaming package and you may want to increase data as well, to one of the primary cell phone and the other(s) can tether by wifi.
  • Our primary communications back home was email and the roaming cell phone.
  • Credit cards are acceptable in many locations but travelling with cash is simply easier--especially at restaurants. Some financial institutions also require notification prior to travel so you don't get shut out of your credit card when you try to use it. How much euro you take depends on your habits. We took ~750 euros as we figure we'd be modest as often as possible but didn't want to get stuck and anything remaining would be squirrelled away for next time.
  • Whale watching scheduling can be a bit finicky. Schedule early in your trip so you have opportunity to reschedule as needed.
  • I should add that anything relating to a water (ocean) activity should be researched in advance because conditions can hamper or cancel your outings.
  • If you like the nature and science of things, check this listing for the various institutes that might be of interest.
  • Although there are 9 islands, each is different both culturally and with different features. For me, I wanted to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites (there are 2) but they were each on another island where travel was either costly or time-consuming for a single feature visit. If there is something specific, incorporate earlier so you can fit into your stay without doubling accommodations or otherwise.
  • You can budget food and water a bit by visiting local grocery stores.
  • Good souvenirs can be found all over the island but I wouldn't recommend the airport. Ponta Delgada has some good shops and places you visit, as well.
  • Try the fizzy Kima drink that is both made and bottled on the island.
+ADW enjoying Kima on one of the many occasions...

Some of the unusual or usual truths included facts such as...
  • Animals all have a job here. They are generally not companions of leisure. For example, if you're horseback riding for fun, you'll get a few looks from the locals.
  • Roads are twisty, narrow and thrilling. Drive safe and enjoy yourself.
  • Food and drink is great value for the quality and quantity so enjoy.
  • Tap water is generally not potable; usually bottled water is provided/offered.
  • Flora is lush, green and amazing everywhere and the views are breath-taking.
  • The most commonly planted flower (that thrives across the island and is often considered the official flower) is the hydrangea but it is not native to the region.
  • There are no natural 'top' predators on the island.
  • A lot of the flora/fauna is endemic to the region and being threatened by invasive species.
  • English language knowledge is generally serviceable but be prepared for the occasional non-English speaker.
  • Weather changes on a dime... one minute it's sunny and clear and the next, you're caught in a down pour or thick fog.
  • Portuguese people make mouth-watering gluten-y bread products *drooling*
  • The airport is small; nothing like Pearson or O'Hare but well laid out in my opinion.
  • Beach consistency range from fine sand to chunky (and sharp) volcanic rocks.
  • There is plenty to keep you busy for a week, at a leisurely pace.
These lists are pretty exhaustive but I doubt they're absolute. Hopefully they'll give you a good idea of what to consider if you're planning on visiting!

*Information from Weather and Climate
**A good website I found online for voltage/electrical plugs includes images
A tourist information website called Visit Azores is really helpful
TripAdvisor is a valuable source for information from other travellers

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sao Miguel: Culinary Highlights

When travelling, I make it a point to immerse in the culture through food (and drink). In high school a Portuguese classmate joked that their Canadian cousins must be Newfoundlanders because of their shared love of seafood. While most of us are familiar with fish, various shellfish and crustaceans, the introduction of sea limpets was the highlight of my seafood experience. These molluscs have a texture between calamari and mussels. Azoreans eat them raw as well as cooked; we had 'em grilled with butter, garlic, wine and spicy chilies with a squeeze of lemon. While it's no surprise that seafood is a staple of the Azorean diet, the other (that was a surprise to me) is beef and dairy.

On-site milking done in the fields and a cow in pasture
Most of the cattle raised is exported and they make A LOT of cheese. Every restaurant features fresh white cheese and Sao Jorge cheese as appetizers; one custom we were not familiar with before dining in Sao Miguel is that upon being seated, the server brings a plate of cheese (generally the fresh white one kind) and spicy sauce with bread--whether you ordered it or not. If you're not going to consume it, I'd recommend you tell them that, before being seated or it'll be added to the tab.

The countryside is intensively sectioned into walled plots of mixed farming, by lava stone, ranging from small residential gardens, to beef/dairy farming, to pineapple or passionfruit "orchards". Driving around the island, it is common to see holstein cows grazing on the sides and tops of hills as well as people's front yards. But as history has it, the original major agricultural export was oranges, until a disease wiped out the island's crop. Wine grapes are another crop grown but the best wine in the region is that from Pico Island. Another notable super drink cultivated is tea, with two plantations still active: Porto Formoso and Gorreana, from the inception of the cultivation in the 1870s. Gorreana is a functional museum where visitors can learn about the process and sample the tea.

Tea fields of Gorreana
Dining in Sao Miguel is quite the experience and you will not be disappointed. My most memorable meal is the Caldeirada de Peixe (and my mouth waters reading the linked page describing the dish in all its amazingness) at Restaurante Mariserra in Ponta Delgada. Yes, we are wearing bibs; be fore-warned not to wear any light coloured clothes or you'll be redecorating that shirt.

Restaurante Mariserra
The first meal of the stay was a little less memorable but one we still enjoyed: a steak sandwich and fries, and fried sardines (*yum*) at a cute hotel Solar do Conde near our own hotel. This was our first exposure to beef on the island and it was really good so expectations were high.

Hotel Solar do Conde
The only place on the island that topped our beefy expectations, was the farming coop (Associacao Agricola de Sao Miguel) which also has a restaurant on site, open to the public. We enjoyed our meals here so much that we went twice and both times, it was a full-house. The signature dish is the Portuguese steak: a fried steak with an egg on top. An unusual combination was the blood sausage and pineapple but worth it!!

TravelAdvisor rates them high
Our first meal out on the town was at a Portuguese restaurant (and accommodations) in Ponta Delgada established in 1908, called Alcides. We over-did ourselves this time since we hadn't been informed about the cheese and bread custom. But boy did we enjoy ourselves! Conger eel stew and fish egg scramble/fry.

Fish egg fry/scramble and Conger eel stew!
Another specialty dish is cozidos. Foods cooked with the heat of the geothermal energies of the Furnas area. Pots of ingredients, generally meats, potatoes, vegetables and rice, are buried in the ground and then dug up several hours later. It was at Tony's where we first tried sea limpets accompanying the cozidos and deep fried forkbeard fish.

Cozidos in Furnas
Despite going out to explore different tastes, we did spend one dinner at the hotel we stayed, Pedras do Mar, and had a lovely night in, with a fresh salad, cod and grilled octopus.

A night in, at Pedras do Mar

We couldn't forget the best way to spend our lunch after horseback riding at a little seafood place by the ocean called Bar Caloura. This unassuming place took advantage of its location by the ocean and the catch of the day menu changed daily. You'd just pick a fish you wanted, they'd grill it up for you with access to the salad bar. Very relaxing and wonderful way to spend lunch after a ride.

A photo posted by Deborah (@my_examined_life) on

Food and drink is always such a highlight of our travels but being prepared for the trip is pivotal for a good experience. Coming up next, preparations and other thoughts about making the most out of a trip to Sao Miguel!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sao Miguel: Just Passin' Through

+ADW and I saw and did everything we could in Sao Miguel: we climbed mountains, braved the ocean, walked into the mouth of a (sleeping) volcano... Actually, the entire island is a series of lush volcanic craters so that doesn't really say much other than we're crazy and the people who choose to live there are even nuttier than we are! We stayed at an unassuming modern zen style hotel recently constructed on the north-western coast that boasts quite the facilities; few of which we bothered to get acquainted with--if we wanted spa services, we wouldn't have travelled so far for them.

The Azores boasts a variety of active excursions as well as those for the less actively inclined. For those wanting to get out and about, activities range from water to land and everything in between; there is certainly something for everyone; some of it seasonally dependant such as surfing. For those who are less inclined to trek into the wilderness (so to speak), you'll find that the food and drink is pure and unadulterated--fresh in a sublime sense--it still brings envy (and a bit of drool) to realize that this is the standard; as well, many of the island's landmarks or 'museums*' are easily accessible by car--something I highly recommend for one travelling in the Azores.

*I use this term broadly since I can't quite find the best word to describe places of scientific and historic exhibition, discovery and research.

Instead of organizing my posts in the typical day-by-day adventures I've composed previously, I figured visitors might not be limited only to Sao Miguel; after all, there are nine islands. We start with my list of top 5 must do areas/features for a shorter length of travel on Sao Miguel.

1. Lagoa das Sete Cidades
This is probably one of the most popular image in a Google search of the Azores. These two visually distinctive lakes, located in the western third of the island, are situated in the crater of the civil parish of Sete Cidades and attract visitors and locals alike, to take in the stunning landscape. It's a view that simply can't be captured on camera and I'd say, one of the most breath-taking views I've witnessed in person and there are many look-outs. The views are so amazing that someone thought to cash in on it by building a hotel (Hotel Monte Palace) that overlooks the lagoas but didn't take into account the view is only viable when it isn't covered in fog--which is often--and today, the hotel stands abandoned.

For those looking to head out into the wilderness on foot, day hiking around the lagoas is an excellent way to see the natural landscape. An alternative would be to contact one of the equestrian companies of the island to see if they have any tours on horseback.

Not far from the two lagoas, there are natural thermal ocean pools that are a great trip for (what I consider) the brave: Ponta da Ferraria. The link is quite extensive so I won't go into detail, but stress that this feature is VERY MUCH dependant on weather and time of day. Go at the wrong time and you may be dragged out to sea or smashed against the rocky shores. There is no admissions for the natural pools but the (safe) man-made ones charge bathers.

2. Furnas
For me, this was my favourite area to visit. Not just because there is volcanic activity and a clowder of friendly felines:

A photo posted by Deborah (@my_examined_life) on

Located in the eastern-centre of the island, Furnas features huge calderas, fumaroles, geysers and hot-springs throughout the civil parish. The region is also home to one of the top hotels in Portugal: Terra Nostra Hotel, styled in art deco fashion and built in the 1930s, to attract "monied" visitors. The hotel is also keeper to a stunning gardens ground that is a must to check out (charge admissions). On the other hand, if you don't end up staying in Furnas, you could spend a morning taking advantage of the mineral hot springs--something we didn't feel inclined to do (in this instance).

Instead, we wandered into the parks area of Lagoas das Furnas where we thought we were going to take a brief stroll around the park but discovered a research and monitoring facility of Furnas: Centro de Monitorizacao e Investigacao das Furnas. Much of the island has been heavily burdened by the increase in agriculture practices that put the indigenous flora, fauna and fresh water reserves at risk but the government is taking steps to right poor practices that threaten the unique environment. I highly recommend visiting, in addition to the gated garden (you can get combo admissions to both but just make sure you have enough time to do both and are dressed appropriately).

We also visit the parks where the locals utilize the unique geology to cook food, by volcanic activity: cozidos. At this point in our trip, I was missing my two fur-babies and it was as if fate just knew (as always), and the moment I stepped out of the car at the park, a tortoiseshell kitty happily trots towards me in hopes of getting a hand-out. It doesn't surprise me that stray cats decide to populate this area since it's likely they'll get a meal. There are several restaurants that feature this menu and we visited one of the most well-known: Tony's.

One place we didn't manage to fit into our schedule (and I REALLY wish we did) is the Microbial Observatory of the Azores because I am a proud microbiologist by education, indirectly through my various forays into home fermentation and by work (seeing as many diseases are caused by microbes).

3. Ponta Dalgada
Ponta Delgada is the largest, most populated municipality and administrative capital for the region. If you're looking for some souvenirs and have a little less than a day, you could check out Fort de Sao Bras:

and wander the main part of the city and pier area. If you're looking for a more adventurous excursion, make your way to the pier see if you could sign up for a whale watching outing. This is unfortunately, highly weather dependant and it's tricky to tell from land so if you want to do this, try to book it early and if you need to re-book, there's still time to reschedule. Unfortunately for us, ADW was quite the sad panda since we didn't have that chance to head out. #nexttime

4. Vila Franco do Campo
If you're a history buff, this one would interest you because while Ponta Delgada is the current "capital", it wasn't always the case. Vila Franco do Campo was the main settlement until October 1522 when a violent earthquake shook the region, causing landslides that killed more than 5,000 of the inhabitants--many who were buried alive. The area has since been re-settled but has never regained its prominence as being the primary "capital". That said, it's still worth seeing because from here, you can visit or view (depending on the time of year and your interests) a crater islet about 1km from the south shore with indigenous flora/fauna and a small crater lake where visitors can swim and snorkel.

Bottom of the chapel steps
As we discovered about the Portuguese, they are a religious bunch and one of the most incredible churches we visited is the Our Lady of Peace Chapel, where this chapel is situated high on the top of the hill, providing an amazing panoramic view for any who visit, along with the beauty of the chapel itself. Be prepared for a hike well worth it and don't look back/down until you get to the top so you can be wowed.

There is also a regional cookie/cake made here that is worth trying when you're wandering around and looking or a snack.

5. Nordeste
The eastern third of the island shows visitors a more raw and untamed section of the island--full of death-defying mountain side roads and what appears to be more of the indigenous flora and fauna. Driving out to explore this area is a driver's dream come true with narrow winding roads carved into the sides of the mountains or passing over deep forested gorges.

Farol Ponta do Arnel
A highly recommended stop over here is the lighthouse on the most eastern point: Farol Ponta do Arnel. It's a functional lighthouse that is occasionally open to the public (usually a Wednesday) and worth seeing. The hike down to the house is steep so be sure you're prepared with the right shoes, water, endurance and clothes (hiking sticks help too) because going down is one thing, but coming back up is entirely another. Pack a picnic and you can chill out near the parking lot before or after your visit.

One of my favourite things about the island is the various gardens and look-outs along the roads where you could stop to enjoy the view, the company and a snack. One of the prettiest ones we visited was Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada.

Friday, May 27, 2016

ar·chi·pel·a·go: Azores

+ADW and I are off again! We've elected to travel to the Azores, a set of 9 green volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. The Azores are one of two autonomous regions of Portugal (the other is Madeira). 

The 3 main cities of the Azores are: Ponta Delgado, Angra do Heroísmo and Horto. All the islands are of volcanic origins but some have not had any recorded activity since being settled here. The first islands were discovered in the early 1400s during the Portuguese Age of Discovery (1415-1542) and helped settled by Gonçalo Velho Cabral. The islands' climate is mild and sub-tropical considering its northernly location but is affected by the Gulf Stream and location relative to continents. Temperature ranges are temperate ranging from 3-30C throughout the year with a distinct "rainy season". The main industry on the islands is agricultural in nature; São Miguel's current agricultural yields are dairy and beef, pineapple and passion fruit and Pico's wine is fantastic.

As any opportunity I have to travel, the top of my travel bucket list is to visit as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible but the two in this area are on the islands of Pico (Landscape of Pico Islands vineyard culture) and Terceira (Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroísmo) but we won't be heading there this time... since there is already plenty to do and see on São Miguel.

Check in to see what we are up to, through the Instagram account and I'll be sure to give everyone proper updates whenever I have a chance to do so :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Mental Game

I used to have way more confidence about going over course work but lately, I've been second guessing myself a lot. I'd ride into jumps that were more of a challenge than previously... maybe with a tighter approach or a higher rail. But, I started hesitating and checking out, last minute. For weeks, that hasn't been an issue as I would sort it out and get over it. Was I nervous? Every time, I approached the "big scary fence" (BSF) and you could see me tense and just second guess myself as I push to go over.

Both my instructors have said that it's mostly a mental game, to get through a course or whatever it is. An experienced instructor can make the assessment about whether or not the rider can actually accomplish the said jump/movement with the horse, so it's really just left up to the rider to get over themselves. The thing is, communication is split second fast so you really need to know what you're doing up there. When +ADW found out that I fell, he knew exactly what happened: I lost my nerve, hesitated and chickened out last minute.

The course work for the day was modest and I started the lesson with really good spirits and felt confident that the course was flowing. The first four jumps were great--I felt in control, knew where I was going and Bonsi followed me right through and it was fantastic. But, coming off the third jump, I knew I was getting nervous about that last jump--first mistake. Second mistake, I started to feel unbalanced and out of control and was panicking about bringing us back together. Third mistake, I checked out mentally and let Bonsi take over. You can see from the diagram below, the sequence of jumps laid out. I started panicking after jump 3. Then, the pink line shows where I deeked out last minute, instead of following through with the purple. I did manage it a few times prior, at the trot but the canter just freaked me right out.

After deeking out at E, I don't know what I was thinking (I wasn't) and we cut across the arena and then I wanted to go right but Bons knew that he simply couldn't fit between the wall and jump at B so that's where we parted ways and I flew into the wall and he continued towards M and C...

I'm physically tenderized and still recovering from the soft tissue damage sustained, when I slammed into the wall with my right shoulder and torqued my left knee. But the biggest challenge has been getting over BSJ mentally. The most recent lesson got me on Ariel and we were doing a couple low key jumps and again, I chickened out with a narrow jump that tests the accuracy of the approach (usually jumps are wide enough that there are few options to avoid them) and while nothing happened, it was definitely a flash of emotions and thought processes. I have gone over and over again, in my head, the approach of that BSJ that unseated me and I know I could have gone over it just fine... if I just committed to it and rode through. It isn't the first time I've had to recollect myself after a messy jump.

My heart wants to do it but my logical brain is repeatedly reminding me "oh no you can't! That's scary." I'm reminded of another part of my life where the goal is long-term and I have to keep my eye on the prize and not get distracted and make any last minute decisions away from my goal. Sure, the "jump" might not be pretty, but I have to try and do it anyway. If it's an epic fail, so be it. I gotta get into the (mental) game.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Tomatoe, tomato

I am not a hugger.

The thought of wrapping my arms around another is not my idea of a happy social exchange (a hand-shake will suffice, thank you!). But, the things I've been learning with Bonspiel is the way he prefers to communicate--particularly important for our right sides. Unfortunately for us, we are both weaker on the right side and need work and focus. Meet my new buddy, Bonspiel:

A photo posted by Deborah (@my_examined_life) on

Sheri told me I was gonna work; I wasn't working hard enough and that was the problem. We're talking not hard at all apparently. Horseback riding isn't easy no matter what non-riders will yap about. It's also (as riders know) not so much about what you do with your hands as it is your seat and/or legs.

First, warm-up require more transitional work and bending lines to get us warmed up properly and limber. Exercises like alternating walk to trot, each with a known number of steps while being as precise as possible as well as keeping our impulsion at each transition is key. With a horse like Bonspiel, when things don't go right, it's very clear that it's the rider's botch up because he is trained impeccably to do exactly what he's told. If you don't get that canter just right, that's the your fault. WOMP WOMP. Other exercises include balancing at the trot in a standing position without using our stirrups as crutches and focusing on actual lower leg support to steady ourselves.

It's reiterated that with this horse, it's about support with your legs at every step. "He needs it", Sheri tells me, "you gotta hug and support him so he can do it right. Otherwise you're just dropping him and that's why he falls out of (in this case) the canter". As I pointed out earlier, I'm not a hugger, but I have to learn to 'hug' with my legs--from my thigh to the lower leg without pinching at the knee while maintaining a fluidity through the hip and back. At first I don't really get what she means but when we canter around both in the whole arena and the 20m circle, it is evident when I "drop" him: we see that my right thigh actually is the culprit and that is the part of my leg hug that is dropping Bonspiel and not giving him support to continue to canter around. I do test the comment and pay attention to my leg position and notice that he immediately drops from canter (at the right) when I lose momentary contact with him at the thigh. Unfortunately,  my movement with him isn't 100% and in the canter movement where he is moving down and forward, I am already moving back on "up".

These are all things I had difficulty with when I was riding Ariel and still sorting out what it meant to rider her proficiently. I am seeing that while these two horses require a different "touch", some things will remain constant. I figure it's like learning a language but understanding the different "accents" of those speakers.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

An Interruption to the Regularly Scheduled Posts...

Hey y'all! I know I've been kind of MIA lately but I haven't forgotten about blogging. I just need to get over whatever it is that is going around b/c I still feel pretty slow. But, one of the things on the internet that has been regularly cheering me up is this little fellow:

มันเวิคจริงๆเมื่อเอากะบะทรายมาทำอ่าง ฟินไหมสังเกตุหาง / ปิดหูกันน้ำเข้า/ enjoy ชีวิตเหมือนมีโซกันนะครับ 
Posted by สำนักงานแก๊งค์เหมียว on Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hope he brightens your day too. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

At the Vet!

Since I'm postponing my return to school, I've resumed working and am getting more experience and exposure to the different sorts of conditions and situations and people that I'd meet in a veterinary setting. +ADW says that I always have the most interesting stories when I call him from the car on my way home. I pointed out that I wanted to "take opportunities to learn at work" so I thought I'd start a series, "At the Vet" about the experience I come across on a regular basis that seem like common sense to my colleagues and I as well as the new and interesting things I learn online while exploring something from work.

In the past, I've worked at a local clinic that I currently take Bucky and Stanley to. I have been going there for nearly two decades and the clientele demographics is less diversified than what I see now. At the time, I was in high school and working as an evening animal care attendant but now I'm no longer in the back doing the grunt work and am on the front-lines assisting the doctors and patients. From what I've experienced, most people have limited experience and exposure to this field but so many of us have pets or companion animals in some capacity.

Bucky says, get engaged in your pet's health care! Understand what's happening.

When I decided I wanted to be a vet, I was only a kid and didn't know what that all meant. It was glamourized in my mind that the doctor gets to interact with cute cuddly animals and do awesome fun work like basic vaccines and pet them and help them get better if they're sick. My perspectives have changed considerably as I have gotten older and these opportunities have further clarified what it means to be a medical professional (not just for animals!) and help those who need help. I honestly have never been more convinced that I just want to help educate the human guardians so that they may give the best care for their companions. Because the reality is vets have to be educators, surgeons, nutritionists, business people, translators, scientists, grief counsellors, advocates for those unable to speak and doctors to multiple species--all through a human guardian who may or may not understand what's happening!

I don't claim to be any expert in the area of animal care or veterinary medicine but I do know that I am always looking to do what's best for my animal friends and will explore the trends, science and other details out there. It is my hope that this series will give me the chance to learn more about the various aspects of the veterinary profession as well as providing pet guardians out there who want to do right, information to help them critically choose the best thing for their companions.

Disclaimer: all stories and details of this series will be composed based on personal experience and does NOT replace the advice or knowledge of a licensed veterinarian or registered vet tech. These posts are meant to open minds (mine especially) and get pet owners to get engaged and thinking about their pet's care, in order to better understand what is being prescribed and why. I highly recommend all pet owners to get involved in their pet's care and ask their veterinarians questions when they don't understand something being discussed with them about their pets.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Social Media Updates

As I posted previously, I am returning to school while continuing to work at the clinic and keeping up all the other things I already do. So, in an effort to keep things fresh, you can now follow my adventures through Instagram and see what Bucky and Stanley are up to, on their very own Facebook page!!



Follow Bucky & Stanley!
Follow the adventures of Bucky & Stanley!

It might seem like old people trying to use technology for a while but Rome wasn't built in a day. Get social with me, on the right hand nav bar and see what I'm up to when I'm not in front of a computer composing a blog post!

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Chapter: 2016 Revived and Revised

I like to think that each year brings new opportunities and chances to improve upon the previous year's shenanigans. I wanted to make this year even more special than it is and track my progress and share it with others to keep myself accountable.

I am returning to school for 2 semesters, then I'm going to apply to vet college to see if I can get in. I thought about it while I was off work but the thoughts only realized themselves during a conversation with Dr. N and EB at work; where we were talking about our perspectives on careers, as children. After EB and Dr. N each discussed a few professions, the words rolled off my tongue without any prior thought, "I've always wanted to be a veterinarian." I wasn't prepared for the statement to be so firm since the end goal is really far away and I've been discussing back-ups and "what ifs", as well as not attaching my brain to the concept of being disappointed if I don't get in. But, that doesn't matter because I know my goal, I know my limits and my abilities and I have an amazing support network.

In addition to going back for full semesters (commuting and not living on campus), I will continue to work at the clinic and learn as much as I can and get the exposure I need. I will also be keeping up the household chores and responsibilities, including my two fur-babies. My goals for this year are...


  • Efficiently use the time I have in between school or work and make good decisions about when not to go to lecture--see snow storms/white-out conditions.
  • Get really interested in what I'm learning about--even if it's about something that's boring. I love math!! *groan*
  • Take opportunities to learn at work.
  • Make school the priority.
  • Don't sleep-in on the week days--use the time.


  • Extend the chain-link fence along the busy road so that I can keep Bucky and Stanley somewhat contained in the backyard.
  • Keep up on house chores.
  • Cook as often as possible.
  • Continue Stanley's training and desensitization: goal to go for non-traumatic car rides and have him around people when company is over.
  • Train Bucky to leash walk down the street and back (this might be a little ambitious but let's give it a try! He already goes about 1/3 of the block like a dog would then starts to get distracted with other things.)


  • Be okay with riding once a week while in school, if that's what it takes.
  • Don't get too down if progress slows this year; keep up with stable life in other ways.


  • Hang out with my family at least once a month for dinner/lunch--this should be easy considering I live on the kitty corner.
  • Regularly get in touch with my brother.
  • Make an effort to visit my IL's at least once a month and not complaining the entire time--it's really not that bad... I'm just being a baby about it.


  • Reduce the frivolous social activities that don't add value to what makes me happy and aids in my personal growth and progress.
  • Try to move into another section of the cat rescue I volunteer with to try something new.
  • Say "no" and don't apologize or feel bad about it.
  • Make the effort to get together with IG, TW, BM and DB in the new year (first half of the year) at least once.


  • I'll take finishing the Christmas book I'm reading now, the "choose your own adventure" gift I got and I'll take whatever I can fit in, from my previous lists but won't get too upset if I don't get around to a lot.
  • Seriously consider Scarlet's proposal at a book club and see if/how I can fit it into my schedule but accept it if it's not possible.
I think I've got quite the year ahead of me and all these goals are rather ambitious! I am looking forward to my new adventures and hoping that the universe will assist me in getting to where I want to be.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My Two School Masters

For my first horsey post for the year, I wanted to review my recent transition of changing horses and what my thoughts have been. I have returned to ride Ariel a couple lessons ago after riding Bons for several weeks. I honestly didn't think that there would be such a difference or adjustment mentally but I was surprised. I started jumping on Bons and doing a few very short (like 3 jumps) courses because I was still nervous. He's the complete opposite of Ariel in the way he rides where there is a lot more horse in front, underneath and even behind--it's like driving a bus. I did mentally graduate from needing to wear my riding vest but I still struggle with several other things.

Upon returning to ride Ariel, I immediately felt the difference: Ariel felt like a pony beneath me. Her neck is short and she's shorter in general. It suddenly felt odd and strange but I didn't take long to get back into the swing of things: they felt comfortable and practiced.
  • Ariel will take that little X like it's a big X even at the trot. Bons will scoff at it and trot over like it was a trot pole.
  • Ariel is excited to see me and comes to the paddock gate. Bons will take one look and walk to the far side of the paddock.
  • Ariel is social and enjoys the company of humans. Bons could care less and would likely rather be doing his own thing.
  • Ariel changes gait on a dime. Bons takes half the arena long side to transition down.
  • Ariel is an 'uphill' horse and doesn't drag me down and forward. Bons is a 'heavy on the forehand' horse and will drag me forward without me even noticing.
  • Ariel has the attitude of a typical female. Bons is a compliant gelding.
  • Ariel hates face contact and prefers a rider to use their seat/leg. Bons likes seat/leg but doesn't get all worked up with facial man-handling by yours truly.
  • Ariel is trained well but Bons is trained impeccably from birth.
I consider both to be fantastic school masters and I am learning differently from each of them. I have had a lot of time with Ariel and I look forward to continue riding her but I also recognize that Bons will push my learning and get past some of the other subjects like rein contact and the floaty warm-blood gaits. So, as this year starts up, I will be moving forward with a mixture of the old and new.

A photo posted by Deborah (@my_examined_life) on