Category Archives: Fodor

Post-Colombia Time Warp

I’ve been in some sort of time warp for the past six weeks. Ever since returning from Colombia it seems that life has thrown one unexpected curveball at me after the other. My coping mechanism, of course, has been to read voraciously. There was one week where I was too sick to even hold a book (thank you stress, recycled airplane air and sudden temperature changes) but otherwise I have been using my oldest friend for some serious escapism of late.

The eight or so books that I ended up taking with me to the country that is home to: a cosmopolitan city set high in the Andes, remote jungles of the Sierra Nevada,  mountain villages, deserted beaches and coca plantations turned out to be just the right amount. When it poured non-stop for our first two nights in Bogota, we acclimatized by pub-hopping in the student-filled Candelaria district, reading, and enjoying a good dose of Colombian Netflix (so much better than in Canada!). I tore through the first two books with me – Sarah Winman’s When God was a Rabbit and Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility – but loved them both too much to leave them behind. Instead I guiltily wrapped them back up in Safeway bags and re-deposited them  at the bottom of my back pack (okay, Andrew’s back pack). The night before we set out on a 5 day hike through a remote jungle, destined to visit the 1,200 year-old Ciudad Perdida, I weighed (quite literally) my choices: One book? Two books? No books? I settled on one and although the humidity, strenuous climbs and suspect drinking water kept me from making much headway I still found the worn pages of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being to be a great comfort nestled next to me while I dozed in the hammock every afternoon. And then, three weeks were gone and as though planned to the tee, I found myself finishing the last couple of pages of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms as our plane landed back in YYC; thereby concluding my vacation with exaggerated solemnity.

I won’t go into the rest of my reads from that time now as a number of them deserve their own post (A Clockwork Orange, chief among them!). For now I’ll leave you with some pictures from the once shunned South American gem that is Colombia.

Fishing boats Taganga

Fishing boats Taganga

Clouds over the Andes

Clouds over the Andes

Young Kogi girl

Young Kogi girl

Traditional Kogi village

Traditional Kogi village

Ciudad Perdida

Ciudad Perdida

Kogi family at camp

Kogi family at camp

The guards of the Ciudad

The guards of the Ciudad

Colombian Starbucks

Colombian Starbucks

Fishing boats Cartagena

Fishing boats Cartagena

Soccer on the beach. Downtown Cartagena in the background.

Soccer on the beach. Downtown Cartagena in the background.

On the nightstand: The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre

Oh the dilemma

If ever there was a time to adopt an e-reader, it’s now. My sister-in-law gave me hers last year, saying that with two kids under the age of 4, reading was so far down her list of priorities that she’d never use it.

The reason I could (should!) use one now is that my husband and I are packing for our trip to Colombia. We leave in mere hours and will be gone for nearly three weeks. So, the dilemma is – how many books to bring! Or, take only one electronic device (well, in addition to my iphone and ipad) that can store over a thousand books!

I laid out the potential contenders on the floor the other day and hovered over them in consternation. Organized in four rows of four I figured I should probably cut the number in half… I asked my husband which ones he thought I should bring. He quickly looked over my shoulder and said “Easy. These.” while sweeping his hand, arrogantly, across the middle two rows. ZERO. THOUGHT.

I mean, doesn’t he realize that my selection has to be chosen carefully? A lot of thought goes into the mix. There needs to be a certain percentage of: classics, of counter-culture, of current, of non-fiction and even varying lengths.

So, while not yet finalized (and not immune to airport-additions, my favorite kind!), my list of travel books includes title such as:

  • White Album by Joan Didion (non-fiction)
  • When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman (current fiction)
  • A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway (classic)
  • Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (short!)
  • Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse (dense counterculture)

In other news, I snapped off two books last week taking my 2013 tally to five: the Cook by Wayne Macauley and Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones.

On a jet plane..

~ kate

New Year’s Resolutions

In my first post of the new year I mentioned that 2013 started off on somewhat bumpy footing for me (it turns out 2013 unfolded similarly for others). In an effort to change this and regain my footing I set about making some goals for myself (and maybe some for my husband too but that’s a different post!).

When I thought about goal-setting, about changes that I want to make in my life, they could all basically be divided into the following categories: family, health, financial, career and mental. I made at least one goal per category even if it wasn’t an area where I felt like I was failing or even tiring and I tried to adhere to the criteria for making “SMART” goals. SMART is an acronym often used in the corporate-world when getting employees to set performance objectives for the coming year.  The hippy, non-corporate part of me gags a little when I think of porting this to my personal life but hey, they use it for a reason and, intuitively, it does make sense. The acronym stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive.

For example, when I outlined one of my goals under “Health” it was not simply to “be healthy” but rather “to run a 10k road race before the summer”.  A 10k race is a specific target, the distance makes it easily measurable and since I am currently a casual runner it is definitely attainable and realistic. I added “before summer” because I figured it would be a good tool to get in better shape ahead of bike season – thus, the goal is also time sensitive. Another goal I made, under the “Mental” category, is to read 52 books this year. Obviously this is specific, measurable and time-sensitive but I have no idea if it is attainable/realistic. Reading 52 books means reading one a week which sounds easy but I’ve never kept track before so I have no barometer against which to measure this rate. I often read more than one book a week and when on vacation this rate probably doubles. However, I too go through periods of book-malaise where I simply cannot bring myself to read, succumbing instead to the mind-numbing comfort of Gilmore Girls (or currently Homeland!). I’ve seen similar goals floating around the book blogosphere lately so I thought I’d add it to my list – seemed like a good challenge and a good way to motivate me to get through the bed-side stack.

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Tumbling towers next to the bed

So, progress report. The third week of January has just come to a close and I am right on track with three books under my belt.

  1. Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards
  2. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
  3. Ru by Kim Thuy

Hands-down my favorite so far is Ru. I don’t know if it was the story – a family flees Vietnam before the implementation of Doi Moi and ends up in an idyllic Quebec – or if it was simply the language which was so simple yet poetic (the novel was translated by Sheila Fischman) that it was completely evocative of Hanoi but reading it felt like being walked through someone’s dream. It was painless, beautiful and serene.

Pigeon English and Ru were both Xmas gifts as was Mister Pip, the next book on my way to 52 reads this year. Only 10 pages in so far and it’s Sunday night, better go make some head-way!

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Teddy opening his Xmas present. Just cause. Cause I’m a little obsessed.

~ kate,

The Adventures of Coop Dawg

I think the love affair started about three years ago. It was during an unhealthy stage of my life where one surgery was followed by another which was followed by a complication and so on and so on. I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place: I was too sick to do anything but was starting to go crazy as a result of doing nothing.

Some dear friends of ours lent us their pocket-sized maltese/shih tzu cross named Cooper as a pick-me-up and we took him to Canmore for the weekend  for what would forever forward be referred to as our “re-Cooperation”. I fell head over heels for this little guy and he was the perfect non-active distraction for me; content to sit on my lap all day long or tag along for a very very short walk.

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I became so obsessed with Cooper that I started creating stories featuring the hero Coop-dawg – Coops Goes to School, Coops Goes Down Under, Coops in the Navy, Coops Does the Calgary Stampede – and in each story he had a new challenge and a new outfit to suit his adventure. His staples were, of course: a blackberry (Coops LOVES to bbm), a fanny pack (orange, made by Eastpak because he’s European) an mustache comb (for the ladies) and chapstick (because dogs have those little leathery-looking black lips).

One thing I know I am not is a visual/graphic artist. I can describe the world that goes on in my head using words; I cannot draw it. So, the other day while feeling inspired and invigorated (amazing what writing down goals can do!), I started Googling comic strip apps and, as you might have guessed, there are tons out there! The first one I tried (and liked!) was called stripgenerator. It is a free website with a bunch of ready-to-use characters, objects, text boxes etc and is super easy to use.

I’m showcasing my first ever comic strip here but don’t get the wrong idea – this is just a teaser, a snippit of how things might play out in the Adventures of Coop Dawg (and yes, Teddy got a shout out).

Adventures of Coop Dawg

~ kate

The Universe is F@#$ing With Me

The first month of a new year is often tumultuous: there are bigger than normal bills, resolutions and goals to make, and Christmas guilt from too much eaten, too much spent, too much family or not enough family. And all around us are signs telling us that now is the time to get our shit in order…

I have a friend who often says to me “the universe is telling you something”. Well, so far in 2013, the universe has been throwing all sorts of stuff at me: work has started in a slump, there have been a couple of unwelcome surprises in my life lately, I am riddled with fatigue (post-Xmas sugar low?) and only today did I finish the book I’ve been working on for over 2 weeks now! Needless to say, I’m feeling a little out of sorts these days.

A former hair dresser of mine used to tell me how “coincidence” and “serendipity” and anything of that nature was all a load of bull. She said then people just choose to pay attention to certain things. Like the person who insists they ALWAY sees 11:11 when they look at the clock. They’re simply ignoring the 47 other times in a day they look and the stars are not aligned.

And that’s the thing with the universe, she gives us all sorts of messages, challenges and successes, it is up to us to decide which ones to recognize and the law of attraction/the secret/attitude of gratitude/positive visualization/the leader who had no title would all tell us that like begets like – she gives back what we send out.

As the universe would have it (!), a colleague of mine gave a talk at work last week and her entire message was that attitude changes everything. That as soon as we change our mindset, the universe will return the favor. She summed up her message by rhetorically asking “why do racehorses wear blinders?” to remind us to stay focused on the positive, to stay focused on our goals and not get lost in all the daily distractions.

Which is why I spent my Saturday night at a coffee shop with pen and paper in hand, making 1 year, 5 year and 10 year goals, compiling lists of all the things that are good in my life and making one resolution – to start my days with an intention and a resolve to stay focused: I know where I want to end up, just not how I’m going to get there so I might as well enjoy the ride.

This is how I spent my Friday night

This is how I spent my Friday night

Happy New Year followers!

~ kate

Happy New Year

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I feel like I’ve been on my Christmas/New Year’s vacation forever and yet I can’t believe where the time has gone. It has been a wonderful holiday season for me this year replete with friends, food, fun activities and of course books. Santa delivered (too) many wonderful things to me as he does every year, chief among them eight out of the 11 books on my list.

In honour of a new year, the season of reflections and resolutions, I was going to do a “Top Five Reads of 2012” a la Globe and Mail and the like. Fitting though this would be for a book blog, there are two main problems: one, I rarely read books published in the current year and two, my memory is a bit like a sieve so if I didn’t blog about a book it tends to get lost in the chasms of my grey matter.

Alas, I’ve opted to post a different kind of top 5 – prepare to be enlightened!

Top 5 Positive Life Changes

  1. I quit my job.  My job paid very well but was no longer challenging, fulfilling or enjoyable so there really wasn’t a choice. Quitting was scary but probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made; it opened the door to a world of new possibilities.
  2. I travelled. I could put this down pretty much every year but 2012 had some pretty special moments. I headed into the year in Vietnam, spent a week in Hawaii for a very dear friend’s wedding, booked a last-minute soul-searching trip to Paris, spent more time in interior BC than ever before and took a two-week long road trip with one of my bestest friends that put a whole lot of things into perspective. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”  – St. Augustine
  3. I became a mom. Not to a child, but to a dog. People who don’t have dogs will shake their heads but those who do will understand wholeheartedly. Getting a rescue dog to start my summer of unemployment was, I think, pivotal to my happiness. Without Teddy I would have felt like I was wasting my time, I would have felt companion-less while Andrew worked and I would have felt selfish. Teddy gave me purpose, unconditional love and affection and seeing him come out of his shy skin has been a very rewarding experience.

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    Bless you T-dawg.

  4. I started blogging again. I started this blog back in 2010 and absolutely loved it. Life got in the way (or some other excuse) and it fell by the wayside but in the two years that passed without blogging I always felt like something was lacking. I tried filling the void a million ways but nothing really worked. Thoughts move a mile a minute in my head, the only way to slow them down (and sometimes make sense of them) is to write. Writing focuses me, is therapeutic and with each post I feel like a space for new ideas opens up inside me. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou
  5. I started a new job. After four months without a paycheque I started looking for work again in late September and through a series of strange events landed in a new career that is very different from anything I’ve done before and different from anything I ever thought I’d want to do. I have a feeling that is a recipe for success.

I’m not prepared to follow this “look-back” list up with a “look-forward” one. I can feel triumphant about these changes since they have already happened. To write down my goals for 2013 means that I have to follow through – a terrifying thought! While I work up that courage to etch my list in stone, I hope everyone has a very Happy New Year! See you in 2013!

~ kate

P.S. Has anyone noticed it’s snowing on my blog?? 🙂

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE

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Twas the night before Christmas, at readingpushkin’s abode

All the presents were wrapped, and outside it snowed.

Andrew sat by the fire with T at his side

Watching Love Actually, together they cried.

Ace counted the presents under the tree

She counted them twice, and counted with glee

There were big ones and small and some not wrapped at all

But a pile with her name on it looked like it could fall

“I better adjust them,” she said to herself

While settling in like one of the elves

She poked them and prodded

While Teddy looked on and nodded

“Oy, get yer feiving paws off those”

Said Andrew as he rose

“Caught red-handed”

He playfully chided.

And with a giggle and grin

He smiled and gave in

“You know what they are, I got the gist,

They are books, books from your list.

Then all of a sudden, a visitor appeared

Out on the lawn, a man dressed in red.

“It’s Santa!” squealed Andrew in delight

The pitch of his voice gave Ace quite a fright

They ran out to great him, to see him and meet him

But as quickly as he’d come he yelled out “my work here is done”

And over their heads he flew

Down the streets of Bankview

Behind him left, just one single gift

A small envelope atop the snowdrift

Inside was a message

Looking fancy and festive

With the moon as his light

Andrew read it aloud:

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night”