A World Full Of New

New Year, New Island, New Eating Habits and New Fitness Challenges. That’s what hit me all at once yesterday, and I’m saying, “come at me, bro!”

Besides having to get used to writing 2013 instead of 2012, there isn’t much that is daunting about ringing in another calendar year. Sure, you could say that we are one year closer to several things – medical advancements, “Firefly” finally coming back on the air (I wish!), Marty McFly visiting our year, impending “big” birthdays, and for the pessimists, death. However, it isn’t as though time if going faster. It is still going at the rate of one second per second; just that we have arrived at a set time doesn’t mean much, unless your passport is now expired (Chad, you are so lucky you have a Swiss passport, because your Canadian one is expired now).

As for the New Island, last night Chad and I boarded the Superfast XII to Crete. We are used to trips on BC Ferries, which are 1 hour and 35 minutes long, on a boat that has comfortable enough seating for what you would expect, and overpriced “captive market” eateries (thanks for the terminology, Tourism diploma!). This was different. Firstly, it is about a 9 hour sailing time. People can choose to either stay on deck,or check into a room (being budget travellers, I’m sure you can guess which option we took). The people who check into rooms get bell men to take their luggage and direct them to their room. Bell men. In vests, jackets and bow ties. The decor was also really nice, and if you didn’t want to eat with the riff raff in the 2-3 different self-serve locations, there was a fine dining restaurant. I snuck a picture and kept going before the saw the huge holes in my jeans.

Superfast XII Dining

For us regular Jo’s (I spell it without the “e,” one, because I am a girl, and two, because it is the short form of my Mother’s name, Joanne), there was a wide selection of coffee beverages, alcoholic beverages, sandwiches, rolls, and salads. Unfortunately, I had no idea what was in the one salad on the list that might fit my new dietary habit, and didn’t want to hassle the attendants. This is why I packed water, almonds and apples for the trip, and Chad had a cheese roll of some persuasion, as well as a really tasty looking milkshake.

Speaking of New Eating Habits, I’ve decided to follow a pretty basic idea for this month’s intake:
honey & cinnamon (and other various spices/herbs as the mood hits me)

This means no pasta, bread, meat, cheese or alcohol. Although I hope to eventually make the switch to being vegan permanently, travelling is not the time to make that switch. However, since we are in the same place until the end of January, and we are trying to keep our budget down, this restrictive diet will help to ensure we don’t dine out so much (unless there is a vegan restaurant in town I don’t know about).

I know that when we get back to the UK and are moving around a little nomads, it will be much more of a challenge to eat this way. I also know when we visit Grace in February that the no alcohol thing will go right out the window (ditto for St. Paddy’s day in Ireland) but I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m just wanting to really jump-start my weight loss to help speed my fitness goals.

On that note, New Fitness Goals: I have been doing a 6 week workout program by The Get In Shape Girl that I really enjoy, because everything is laid out for me and I don’t have to think about which exercises I should do every day. I’m midway through week 4, and after it is finished, there are tons of programs I have found online that I can follow, to keep in the groove. I’ve also found a ton of fitness challenge calendars for the month of January, and have decided to do the challenges on those every day (each calendar has something small, such as “10 sit ups, 5 push ups, 15 squats” each day, and I’m doing about 4-5 calendars, so that gives me variety while also building on my current routine). I’m also slowly working through the 100 Push Up Challenge (most I have been able to do is 30, although Chad says I’m not doing them right), so that is exciting. I’m also making sure I listen to my body. If it thinks it is hungry, I give it some water (thirst often presents as hunger). If it is still hungry, I feed it. If it is tired, I let it rest (but that doesn’t mean I sit on my butt all day and do absolutely nothing). Today was a rest day, as I didn’t do my usual program, but we did go for a walk to find a grocery store (all together over 6km of walking around town today) and I did the challenges on my calendars. That is enough to make sure I keep going but don’t over do it. I don’t want an injury getting in my way.

So, what’s new for you?

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Happy 2013

When I am in Europe around this time of year, I delight in doing exactly this:

Dear Friends and Family back in Canada (and in the UK, for that matter),

I am now in a completely different year than you. Take it from me: 2013 is filled with optimism, challenges and excellent times either spent with you, or thinking of you. Many exciting milestones will happen, many tests of strength will occur, but I am confident that it is going to be an excellent year.

Personally, I hope to overcome personal obstacles, relearn my potential and renew some confidence in myself that has whittled away so slowly over the years that I didn’t know it was leaving me. I’m not saying it is going to be easy, but I know that if I don’t give up, it is going to be worth it. I hope each and every one of you has personal goals that will make 2013 a personal triumph.

I was feeling down because my particular goals aren’t easy to measure on a day-to-day basis, and after losing yet another game of Chess (I have never won a game, to my recollection), I felt defeated. Surely, if I am as intelligent as I am supposed to be, I could win just one, right? My ever awesome best friend pointed out that she has been playing Chess with her Dad since she was 8 and has never won a game (and I know she is smart). She said, “I have a theory that it’s not a game for everyone, doesn’t matter how smart someone is”. I have to remember that I cannot be excellent at everything, especially not right off the bat. So I’m going to keep trying (and apologies to Chad when my competitive self gets angry and weepy in the future – I’m going to work on that, too), because just because I don’t excel, doesn’t mean I should give up completely.

Happy New Year 2013!


(P.S. Friends in New Zealand, Australia and one not-so-wee brother-in-common-law Kyrgyzstan, 2013 holds excellent times either with you in person or in memory, as well.)

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Grumpy Girl Fitness Guest Post

I recently answered a call for people to tell a fellow blogger about our own reasons for wanting to be fit. Although I have several, I shortened the list and my responce is the first of a series on the Grumpy Girl Fitness blog. Check it out by clicking the link.

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Setting Up For Success

I had a lovely walk today on the nearly deserted streets of Athens, which, if you’ve ever been, is quite a treat. I didn’t have to contort mid step to get around colliding with people walking in the opposite direction. I didn’t have to mutter under my breath at people walking too slowly or completely blocking the sidewalk for little or no reason. I was only yelled at once in a language I couldn’t identify, but since this has never happened while walking the busy streets with Chad (who stayed up late last night and elected to stay home during my walk), I’ll call it a fluke. Or someone who just hates girls who wear sunglasses (I have no idea what he said – for all I know, he was just really loud and gruff about liking my t-shirt or was astounded that I wasn’t bundled up like everyone else; Canadians for the win – it was 19 degree weather and everyone else was in jackets).

Since I enjoy the process of getting there, I decided to visit the square where the Athens Free Tour starts. It looked like half the people in town where there, shopping at the flea market, since nearly everything else in town was closed (Boxing Day is more of a North American thing that has only creeped into some parts of Europe). Before I ran away due to claustrophobia, I did see some break dancing Santas.


That made braving Monastiraki Square totally worth it.

Upon arriving home to be buzzed in by my very sleepy boyfriend (who still hadn’t been to bed in fear of not hearing me buzz in and essentially locking me outside forever since you need a key to lock the door and we only have one – and leaving the door unlocked is not an option), I had a sandwich and realized I wasn’t feeling very well. Really not great. Was I just procrastinating and didn’t want to do the workouts I have scheduled today?

The unscheduled two-hour nap I fell into while trying to rewarm my body proved that I wasn’t just procrastinating. I mentally pushed my workout schedule back, which I hate doing, but when you are actually sick, you need to take care of your body and listen to what it is saying.

That being said, I hate missing a workout, especially since I am so determined to look awesome at my brother’s wedding in April. I decided that I would still move the bulk of my workout to tomorrow, but since Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays are my Hundred Pushups training days, I decided to at least get Week 3 Day 2 done. The program consists of 5 rounds with a short rest period between each, and according to my schedule, I was meant to do 14-rest-19-rest-14-rest-14-rest-AMRAP (as many reps as possible). I delighted myself by accidentily doing 20 reps while my mind wandered off in the second round. I also took some extended rest periods, to make sure I wasn’t pushing my body more than it wanted. When it came to the AMRAP round, I told myself that I wasn’t going to do the minimum (which, according to the program, in this case was 19). Too often I’ve used that number as my goal instead of telling myself that I can surpass it.

So that’s what I did. I decided to try to do more. The most I’ve ever logged in one set on Fitocracy is 25, but those weren’t in a row (part of a HIIT challenge). I decided to try for 26, just so I could have a new high score.

A funny thing happened. I got to 20, which was more than the minimum, and I was still going. I got to 25 and knew it was just one more than my goal. I got to 26 and said, “Screw this, I’m doing 30!” (In my head, because I can barely breathe with proper form, let alone talk while doing pushups.)

And 30 is what I did. I couldn’t believe it. It used to be for the longest time that all I could do was 10. The thing is: I probably could have done more – I had just never tried.

After a break, I tried again to see if I could hit 30. I did it again!

For anyone who wants to rain on my parade, sure, I could probably work on my form to get a little lower than I currently do. I’m also horrible at tighter grip pushups, and prefer having my legs slightly apart (it feels like I engage my abs more) than right tight together. I could be a pessimist and get caught up in those details, but for once, I am going to be excited about this achievement. I am very used to being a failure at fitness, and this success feels really good. It has my mood elevated. I even decided to toss in a few burpees and squats while I’m at it, taking lots of breaks to listen to my body.

If there is one tip I can give anyone who is trying to achieve a goal, any type of goal, it is this: don’t be happy with doing the bare minimum. That doesn’t mean that you should set out to break world records on your first try, but if you want to get better, you need to work at it. Aim to get better every time you try, because it is not about perfection, but progress.

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Not Home For The Holiday

We knew since we started planning this trip over two years ago that we wouldn’t be home for the holidays. Only in the past few months had we decided exactly where in Europe we would be – Athens, a city full of ruins, history and as many pigeons as people (and being that it is the second most densely populated city in Europe, that is a lot of birds who occasionally try to fly at Chad’s head). After receiving a very generous money transfer into my bank account from my lovely mother, Chad and I decided to use a small portion of it for purchasing the following for our Athens flat apartment: two bottles of Baileys, spanikopita, wine, juice and sandwich supplies. We already had some chocolate covered honey treats for munching, and made coffee cubes to go in the Baileys.


We made sure to set up a Skype date with my parents, which unluckily for my Dad was 6am their time (4pm Greece time – my Mom is a nurse and makes a lot of overtime dollars when she works on Christmas, 7am-7pm).

Parents on Skype

Other than that, we spent the day watching “Home Alone,” “Home Alone 2,” and “Love Actually.” I hadn’t seen the first two in about a decade (and hadn’t seen “Love Actually” since last month).

To throw a little Greek into our Christmas mix, we had Spanikopita for dinner:


Very tasty!

We decided against getting each other gifts, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there is no way to leave the apartment while Chad is sleeping, because you have to quadruple lock the door, and if I locked it as I left, he wouldn’t be able to leave in an emergency. Secondly, we have a baggage limit. Thirdly, there isn’t much we need besides socks (Chad) and jeans (me). We’ll grab those things when we can find them for cheap/when we find ones we like.

I’m glad we’ve been able to connect with some of our family and friends over the internet, and glad that pictures of my new neice’s first Christmas are starting to slowly be uploaded (and my Mom promised to take many more after work tonight). I miss and love so many people, but feel very fortunate that they are only a few clicks on Facebook away.

Happy Holidays!

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Sick But Determined

Chad and I both managed to wake up with some variation of sickness yesterday. We must have looked like high-functioning Zombies when we ventured to the supermarket for soup (unable to find any in a can but found some that you make in a cup by adding water that was delicious – Tandori Chicken), juice, and things that just made us feel happy (pitas, feta and, from what we can figure out from the label, chocolate covered honey). The market is getting busier and busier as the holiday approaches.

Once we ventured home and started the sickness regime of drinking tea and soup, Chad and I decided to catch up on “How I Met Your Mother”. Since we were a season and a half behind what has aired, this took until 6:30am, but was totally worth it. However, it means my sleep schedule is still very weird to me considering I got out of bed at 4pm (although this is generally normal for Chad). If I were at home and kept these hours in that time zone, they might make a little more sense (6:30am bedtime would be 8:30pm at home, which is 10 time zones behind – a little early, granted, but I’m sick – and 4pm wake up would have been 6am wake up – which also seems early unless I’m getting up to work out before the day really starts).

Speaking of working out, the worst part about being sick, outside of the symptoms, is not being able to work out. I’m working pretty hard to keep to a schedule, and yesterday was my second rest day of the week, which wasn’t supposed to happen until Sunday. This means I have two more workouts to do from the Get in Shape Girl Holiday workout plan before I dive directly into week 3 on Monday. Today will be Week 2 Workout 4 – HIIT Cardio and Abs, and I just hope I can do it without feeling like I am going to throw up.

I have faith in myself though, because I just completed this challenge:

It is supposed to be an at least six week training regime to get someone up to doing 200 Squats in a row. I skipped weeks 1 and 2, knowing that I was pretty close to already being able to do this based on the Ten Minute Squat Challenge I did a while ago for fun (as many squats as possible in 10 minutes – I did 282 with a few short breaks; unlike on a treadmill, ten minutes goes by really fast when you are trying to do AMRAP – as many reps as possible). Today I did the end of Week 4 Fit Test, which is really just doing as many reps as possible to see your progress. I easily did the 200! I think I’ll keep doing the “training” for it, mostly because I am also doing the Hundred Pushup Challenge, and use the squats as my rest time between rounds of pushups. I’m not nearly as good at pushups, although I was able to do 20 in a row today, which is progress, so I’ll take it.

Well, I need to go work up the nerve to start 3 rounds of High Intensity Interval Training (and also look up a couple of the moves – like Boat Pose; good thing the guide comes with instructions for all the moves). I know my pace has been slowed, but I am not going to give up.

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Alright, what is the next Global Phenomenon that we are supposed to fear? Seems we have kicked Y2K and the end of the Mayan Calendar.

In other news, I didn’t lose the last game of Chess I played with Chad last night. (I’m new to Chess, because it makes me feel stupid, so I haven’t played it very much, because I hate feeling stupid.) He was down to just his king, penned in by four pawns, a rook, a bishop and my queen, but no one had ever told me about the stalemate rule – since it was his turn and he couldn’t move, no one won. If I were a jackass, that board would have been flipped. As it stands, I spend a lot of time swearing when I play Chess, and am grateful that Chad knows it is not at all at him (I love you, Chad).

Next, we find something I’m good at so I can raise my self esteem a little, okay?

So why was I up after realizing that Athens was not going to be set on Fire or some such nonsense? I really did try to fix my broken sleep pattern and go to bed just after midnight, but then I got a sore throat so bad that it kept me up another four hours. I tried to fix it with non-caffeinated tea with honey and lemon, and suggested playing a game of Chess while I drank my tea (don’t do that when you are trying to keep stress-free, silly!).

Miraculously, I am up before noon. I haven’t quite figured out if I am sick or not. I have a few body aches, and might have slept a little funny when I did finally fall asleep. My throat is less sore, but not better. At least I know where I can from some Strepsils, if I need them, but I’m really hoping nothing hurts so much that I need to consider the pain killers I got the other day; they eventually decreased my joint pain and headahce, but replaced them with terrible nausea. You win some, you lose some.

Which is why I want to play another game of Chess when Chad gets up. There’s no way to get better without practice/learing, after all.


P.S. I waited for midnight to come (which would obviously dawn the apocolypse) by listening to “Save Yourself” by Joey Clarkson. You can find her music, for free, here, or visit her Facebook page.


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It’s All Greek To Me

As Chad can vividly attest to, I get pretty upset at times when I don’t particularly feel smart:

When I keep getting us lost because I can’t figure out what is wrong with the streets in Athens.
When I’m feeling sick and my mind goes to mush.
When I sabatoge my diet because I’m sick in favour of getting comfort food because I am sick, but take ten minutes to located the English writing on the label.

I just have to say – thank goodness countries in Europe are really small compared to Canada – otherwise, I highly doubt that manufacturers would put instructions in several languages on their packages. I also feel incredibly lucky to have grown up in a primarily English speaking country, because that is the language, besides Greek, that I can find most often.

A great example would be the new Acropolis Museum – their video displays play over and over, althernating Greek with English subtitles and English with Greek subtitles. I would probably feel even less intelligent and able to handle the situation if I had a different first language.

Speaking of the new Acropolis Museum, it is absolutely brilliant. I highly recommend visiting, and visiting the Acropolis itself if you ever have the means. Seeing all those replicas of the different pieces that originally adorned the temple was breath taking. The floors in many areas are glass, so you can look at the ruins (or people, depending on where you are) below. Visiting this attraction is probably not the day to wear your new skirt, though…

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What more can you say to views like this?

Theatre of Dionysis
Take that, first year Theatre History class!

The Parthenon is currently undergoing restoration work. It was amazing to see the original after spending so much time at the National Monument in Edinburgh (aka the Athens of the North; the monument is also called the Shame of Scotland because it is only half finished, and likely never will be finished).

This is one of my favourite views of Athens.

I enojy that we are living on 4.5km from this site. It is so different from what we are used to seeing at home (although we sometimes miss the mountains). Once Chad’s feet are better (I’m made the poor man walk a little too much, it seems), I look forward to many more visits. We still need to hit the inside of the New Acropolis Museum, which is going to be amazing.

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Athens Free Walking Tour


After getting lost the first time we tried to take the tour (it was all Google Maps’ fault; we went were it said, but that took us to the wrong place), Chad and I tried again yesterday and found it.

Our group was small but lovely – a couple from Australia, and a couple from New Zealand joined us. Our guide, George, was awesome. It was great to walk around with a local, and I had no idea that the people of Greece had a manditory 1 year military service when they turn 18 (that being the first of many things I learned on the tour).

We started in Monastiraki Square, which is the centre of a huge flea market, and worked our way around the sites from there, learning about occupations over the centuries. I was delighted to find out that when we get out tickets for the Parthenon, we will actually have access to 6 sites in the area, and the ticket lasts for 4 days (which is a fantastic deal at €12, with a dicount for students, and free to students studying in the EU). Restoration work in underway to rebuild many of the marble sites around Athens, and they are even getting the marble from the same location as the original buildings. Chad and I will be visiting those sites in the next couple of days.

We also went into the first building specifically built for the modern Olympics, and saw the “finish” line of the first ever “Marathon” (look up “Battle of Marathon” in 490AD if you don’t know the story). We also got a beautiful view of the city from Ares’ Hill (Hill might not be the right word, but it is definetely named for Ares, and sometimes called after Mars, as he is the Roman equvilant and the Romans occupied for a long time). The city is completely filled with graffiti.


I’ve seen a few pictures on the internet of Greek monuments that have been tagged and since repainted (and I don’t agree with graffiti on momuments, but the amount of art around the city on what would otherwise be plain walls interests me).

I also had an old man pour seeds into my hand so I could feed pigeons (his ultimate hope being that I would pay for a photo). Chad snuck one while I tried to explain that I didn’t want him to take a Polaroid of me.IMG_3715

They have sharp beaks, but I came away unscathed. Chad was also “pigeoned” and then reacted in horror when he used his pigeon hand to wipe his face. “That guy should just charge €1 for the photo,” he exclaimed. “And €5 for hand sanitizor!”

All in all, if you are ever in Athens, take the Athens Free Walking Tour. Be sure to e-mail ahead of time, to make sure the tour is running on the date you want to go. The website also lists a different start point at current, because they are trialing a new one, so make sure you go to the right place. Tell George that we say hi 🙂

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