Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Contest Win

It was very excited when I picked up today's Guelph Mercury.

There, on the first page was my short story. I was one of the finalists in the annual Christmas Short Story Contest sponsored by the newspaper.

I love writing inspiring stories about angels. And I feel their presence very strongly during the Christmas season.

Read and enjoy my story, Finding a Christmas Angel.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Fighter

The Fighter is based on the true-life story of American boxer Micky Ward. It examines Ward's early years when he lost several fights, retired for the first time and then began his comeback. It also deals with addiction issues and a large, dysfunctional family.

The four principal characters--Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams--deliver Oscar-worthy performances.  I was very impressed by Christian Bale's portrayal of Dicky Eklund, the former "Pride of Lowell," who battles an addiction problem and helps his half brother achieve success in the boxing world.

This is more than just a boxing film.

Watch the trailer.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Pleasant Diversion

Yesterday, I went to see this season's only romantic comedy--How Do You Know.

It was very light fare with a few witty and memorable comments.

Early in the movie, the Paul Rudd character, a failing businessman, gets dumped by his girlfriend. She says, "Let's hit the pause button so we don't waste our precious energy on stuff. We'll get together when we are problem free."

I enjoyed watching Reese Witherspoon and Jack Nicholson perform. And Owen Wilson is great eye candy.

Watch the trailer.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Inspired Lunch

On November 13th of this year, the shoppers at Seaway Mall in Welland Ontario received a big surprise while enjoying their lunches in the food court. A local choir created a Christmas Flash Mob while singing the Hallelujah Chorus.

I love watching it on You Tube.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sad News

I was very sad to hear about Elizabeth Edwards' death this morning.

I have always admired her strength of character and resolute air as she dealt with the tragic death of her first-born son, a challenging election campaign and her husband's infidelity. All she wanted was to last another eight years so she could see her two youngest children through the teen years. That was not meant to be.

We were both diagnosed with cancer the same year, 2004. I still remember listening to the announcement at the end of her husband's unsuccessful campaign. In many ways, I was relieved that she did not have to undergo treatments in the glare of public life.

She will be missed.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Inspired by Ella Russell

Last week, I read a story in the Waterloo Record about an amazing 70-year old woman.

Over 40 years ago, Ella Russell moved from Scotland to New Glasgow in Nova Scotia. The yoga and swimming teacher started her fitness career by teaching a few classes at the local recreation center. Along the way, she acquired additional training in belly dancing, Dancercise, Nordic walking and resistance training. She also ran two marathons.

At age 70, Ella teaches 14 yoga classes a week. She is an inspiration to everyone and can keep up with the grandchildren of her original students.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mixed Feelings About Love and Other Drugs

I was expecting a light, romantic comedy with two of my favorite actors, Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal.

The trailer looked interesting with Jake Gyllenhaal playing the part of Jamie Randall, a high-powered pharmaceutical salesman trying to have a relationship with free spirit Maggie Murdoch played by Anne Hathaway. Although that is the main plot, there is a darker side to this movie. Maggie Murdoch also has stage one Parkinson's disease.

This comedy-drama alternates between hilarious scenes with Viagra and Pfizer training sessions and deeper, more intense conversations between Jamie and Maggie.

Interesting but definitely not light fare.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Club Night

I enjoyed discussing Water for Elephants with the book club. 

It is so interesting to hear the different points of view from eight other ladies. Although we don't always agree, the conversation is lively and thought-provoking. I enjoyed hearing about one lady's brother who had actually run away with the circus in the early 1950s. And a few of us shared nursing home stories.

I would not have picked up this book, but I am glad I read it. 

Set during the early years of the Depression, the book traces the circus experience of Jacob Jankowski, a Polish-American veterinary student who runs away after the tragic death of his parents. 

There is also a second narrative--Jacob's present situation as a patient in an old age home. 

The author, Sara Greuen, skillfully weaves together the tragic and romantic aspects of Jacob's life in a fast-paced novel that gives the reader a shocking, but realistic, picture of the early days of American circuses.

A great read.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Inspired by Bea Levis

Today's article in The Toronto Star, "Aging Gracefully is all about Food," mentioned Bea Levis, the 92-year-old retired teacher who has followed a lifetime of healthy habits and, as a result, has aged painlessly. Aside from a touch of arthritis, she has a clean bill of health.

Her daily regimen is very doable. She eats a salad of greens and tomatoes, eschews red meat and walks at least 30 minutes. Bea keeps busy with her volunteer work, book clubs and family dinners.

Some interesting facts...
  • Follow the Okinawan diet--fruits, vegetables, soy, fish--and eat only until you are 80 percent full. 
  • If you restrict caloric intake, you will reduce the risks of age-related illnesses like heart disease, cancer and other age-related diseases.
Definitely food for thought!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Discovering Atlantic Turbot

I was disappointed to learn that there were no halibut fillets at my favorite seafood counter. Instead, I purchased a couple of smaller and less expensive Atlantic turbot fillets.

I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor and versatility of the fish.

The turbot has a firm, white and meaty flesh that does not usually darken while cooking. It can be prepared in a variety of ways: oven-baked, poached, grilled, steamed or microwaved. I used one of my halibut recipes and was very satisfied with the results.

An excellent source of protein, the Atlantic turbot also provides generous amounts of vitamins A and B12, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, calcium, selenium, iodine and iron.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Taking the Pledge

Last night, I watched the televised gala of this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize.

I was impressed by the five short-listed books: Annabel by Kathleen Winter, Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod, This Cake Is for the Party by Sarah Selecky, The Matter with Morris by David Bergen and the winner, The Sentimentalist by Johanna Skibsrud.

In the past, I have made a point of reading the winning book, but this year I decided to take the advice of emcee, Seamus O'Regan. He invited all Canadians to take the One Country 5 Books pledge. I visited the website and made a commitment to read all five books on the list.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dealing With BOSU

I had another session with my trainer this afternoon. In addition to weight resistance training, I am also spending time dealing with BOSU.

The name BOSU is an acronym which stands for "BOth Sides Up." The ball can be used with either the dome side or the platform side up.

Invented by David Weck in 1999, the BOSU ball consists of a rubber hemisphere attached to a rigid platform. It is often referred to as "blue half ball" because it looks like a stability ball cut in half.

I did not know BOSU existed until two months ago. At first, I was a bit apprehensive and did not enjoy balancing on either side. I am proud to admit that I can now balance on the dome side while doing squats or lifting 5 pound weights. As for the platform side...well I still need a few props or Rose's assistance.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Conflicting Egg Stories

I love my poached or scrambled eggs first thing in the morning. And I will often treat myself to an omelet or eggs Benedict for lunch or dinner.

I did not enjoy reading this morning's article about eggs in The Globe and Mail. A few days ago, Canadian researchers made waves when they reported that one egg yolk is worse "cholesterol-wise" than KFC's Double Down sandwich.

What is KFC's Double Down Sandwich? It is a product so meaty that there is no room for a bun. It consists of two thick and juicy chicken fillets, two slices of bacon, two melted slices of cheese and the Colonel's sauce.

Personally, I don't think the comparison is a valid one.

Later this afternoon, it was reassuring to hear Dr. Oz advise viewers to include one hard-boiled egg in their daily diets. He also informed us that egg yolks contain choline--a nutrient in the B vitamin family--which contributes to better brain health.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Down 10 and counting!!

In September, I decided to make physical fitness a priority.

Since retiring, I have taken up yoga and worked out on a treadmill each morning. But that was not enough. I needed to build up strength and endurance.

So, about eight weeks ago, I decided to hire a personal trainer. After a few false starts, I hired Rose Parr. For the first five weeks, I went to her in-home gym twice a week and learned all about weight resistance training, stability balls and the dreaded bosu. I now go once a week and work out on my own two other days. I can feel myself getting stronger and more balanced with each passing day.

I have also cut down on my carbs--no more pasta, potatoes or daily desserts. I had occasional lapses, but quickly got back on track.

The results, so far--10 pound loss in eight weeks and I can buckle my belt two notches over.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

All About Short Stories

Yesterday evening, I attended Sarah Totton's workshop on short story writing.

Along with nine other aspiring writers, I listened to a very entertaining and inspiring workshop. Sarah has been writing short stories for awhile and has entered a number of contests with varying degrees of success. She is very persistent and dedicated to her craft; she actually entered the Writers of the Future Contest 17 times!!

She provided us with a number of valuable tips regarding the submission guidelines and process. We also learned about flash fiction--short stories less than 1000 words--and the different payment schedules that exist.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that no query letter is required when sending out short stories. Sarah suggested that we find out the name of the fiction editor and send him./her the complete manuscript with a short cover letter that can be pasted into the email document.

Although I haven't written a short story in years, I am inspired to write one now.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sharing Recipes: Easy Halibut

As part of my new diet and exercise regimen, I have fish three to four times a week.

Yesterday, I tried the following quick and easy halibut recipe.



4 halibut fillets (about 1.5 pounds)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chervil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup margarine

  • Arrange the fillets in a square microwaveable dish.
  • Sprinkle with salt, black pepper and chervil.
  • Drizzle with lemon juice.
  • Cover tightly with saran wrap.
  • Microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Rotate the dish after 4 minutes.
  • Cook until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
  • Let the fillets stand covered for three minutes. Drain.
  • Microwave the margarine on medium for 1 to 2 minutes or until melted.
  • Pour over fish.
Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Riveting Movie--The Social Network

I am still thinking about the movie...six hours later.

I can't think of too many recent movies that have affected me to that degree.

I was fascinated by the characters and the story line.

Actor Jesse Eisenberg captures the abrasive, know-it-all personality that made Mark Zuckerberg an outcast at Harvard. The actor taps into the darker side of the world's youngest billionaire and delivers an Oscar-worthy performance.

Supporting actor, Andrew Garfield, delivers an outstanding performance as the best friend who supplied basic seed money but was cast aside once Facebook hit the big time.

Pop star Justin Timberlake plays Napster bad-boy Sean Parker and lures Zuckerberg to California.

As the movie alternates between the two lawsuits and the evolution of Facebook, we learn how a casual conversation and a broken relationship motivated a brilliant, insecure young man to create the most popular social network of our time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A 39-year old dream

At age 17, I dreamt of writing the great Canadian novel.  I planned to get a general B.A. and take a few years off to travel and write about my experiences.

But when push came to shove, I  gave in to my practical Italian side. Instead, I majored in mathematics and  pursued a teaching career. I planned to teach during the day and spend my evenings, weekends and holidays churning out best-selling novels.

How hard could it be? The school day ended in mid-afternoon, and I had 12 weeks of holiday time. That would give me plenty of time to devote to my true passion.

That was the dream.

The reality was very different.

Even though I had many satisfying and fulfilling moments throughout my career, I found the teaching profession to be a very challenging and demanding one. I never had the time and energy to start a writing practice.

Two years ago, I decided to take advantage of early retirement.

So far, I have no regrets. I am spending more time with family and friends and experimenting with a variety of hobbies and activities.

The writing dream is still alive and well. I write almost every day and have sold many of my articles and book reviews.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Starting Over

Since I retired, do-overs and start-overs have become a regular part of my life.

It seems I can't spend too long on any one activity. I get excited about something, go at it full blast, and then let it fizzle out slowly.

This is in direct contrast to my teaching career. While I took a couple of years off--one for leisure and another for cancer--I stayed on a linear path for 31 years.

This blog is also a do-over. I posted to La Frugalista for almost 18-months (my new commitment record) and have decided to change direction. Instead, I will be writing (and ranting) about my life and the many winding roads of retirement.

I welcome all your comments, especially those from fellow retirees.