Friday, March 23, 2007

Skating lessons 4, 5 and 6

Well, I've been lazy with the skating lesson descriptions... so it's time to catch up!

My fourth skating lesson was quite uneventful if I remember correctly. We didn't do anything new as we kept trying to get my outside edge on my left foot to go round and round in a circle. I told her that I had the distinct feeling that something's not quite right, only I didn't blame it on the blade/skate, I blamed it on myself. After I told her how hard it is for me to make the blade move on an outside edge, she got down on the ice and watched me skate in a circle. She then figured out that the blade was so positioned on the boot that it pulled me towards the inside edge, so I couldn't get the outside one, even if I wanted to!
Needless to say, I was very excited at the prospect of this not being my fault at all! LOL All kidding aside, she told me to go back to Scott (the guy who fitted my skates when I bought them) and to tell him that the "left outside edge pulls to the inside". I even wrote it down in my little notebook that I carry with me so I wouldn't forget. We continued the lesson and did some more of the same stuff, spins (she was impressed that I'd managed to get some sort of spin going), more two foot turns, swizzles, glides and a lot of brakes.
The Monday after that lesson I went to Cookes' and showed Scott my little notebook and what Christina had said. He took a look at me walking in my skates (like he had when he first fitted me) and did the same thing he had done when he adjusted my right blade all those weeks ago. He just unscrewed the left blade from the boot, put a little piece of what looks like leather between the boot and the blade and screwed it back in place. I walked back and forth for him to see and I did tell him that it felt different, like my left foot wasn't leaning in so much. Then I asked him to sharpen the skates. Oh if I'd only known.

Come Thursday, and lesson 5, I had gotten one practice session in my newly sharpened and adjusted skates in. And I was totally and completely lost. It felt like I could barely move on the ice for some reason and all the things I had learned in the previous weeks seemed extremely hard, if not impossible to do! I was very frustrated to realize that I literally couldn't skate all that well without making a superhuman effort.
So when I told Christina before my lesson, she looked at my blades and told me straightaway that they were sharpened way too much and that with these I'd be going to the 2010 Olympics! LOL She then got Richie (the guys who maintains the ice rink) to look at them and he told me to literally "wipe" my blades against the plastic that guards the ice on the inside of the rink. So that's exactly what I did for about 5 minutes, trying to dull the blades a little so I could skate halfway normally.
Once I'd managed to do that we started the lesson. I did all the usual stuff again and then we tried to do backwards glides on one foot. Weeeeeelll... that wasn't happening no matter how hard I tried. There is something in me that goes against the feeling you get when skating backwards. I can't quite put my finger on it which is very annoying because I pick up new things really quickly when I skate them forward but backwards is a complete disaster. She told me to keep practising gliding backwards on one foot and then showed me how to pivot.
Pivoting is the same general motion as the spin only instead of keeping your centered blade flat on the ice, here you stick your toe pick in the ice and put your entire weight on that. At the same time, you move your outside leg around in a circle. It looks so simple but trust me, it's not. First of all, my toes were hurting when I put all that weight on them and second, I was not able to control the width of my circle for my other leg. So I'd go waaaaay out with it and then couldn't bring it back in. Again, that was something to work on. Then we tried the outside edges on my left foot again and Christina seemed to notice that while it was a bit better than it had been before, it still wasn't right. So she made me glide a few more times in different directions, on different edges and then asked to write in my notebook so I could take it to Scott.
When I went to see him this Monday, I gave him my notebook and he read through Christina's instructions which included "the blade seems a bit warped" and "she's leaning in too much". It took a good half hour to get the whole thing straightened out but eventually I got into my skates, walked up and down and it seemed much better. He also put some soles into the boots to make my left foot fit better inside the boot as it felt a bit more flaky than the right.

Today was lesson 6 and I was kinda dreading the new changes because I hadn't had the time to see how the skates worked before my lesson. Getting on the ice though was a whole different story this time. I skated around the rink once and then immediately got onto the hockey circle on a left outside edge and boy, was it different! Suddenly I could glide on my left for as long as I could on my right! It was very cool.
I showed Christina and she was happy for me too - we did the usual stuff again to warm up, then tried over and over and over again to get the backward glides going. It just isn't happening for me at the moment. That move doesn't feel natural to me and I tense up so much trying to put my weight onto the front of the blades that my feet hurt like crazy! It's definitely the main thing I need to work on, no doubt. It doesn't make it easier of course, that whenever I do practice it's during public skating hours and there's lots of unpredictable people around so I can't count on them watching out for me. I could pay $10/hour to do VERY early morning skating at a great ice rink but that would not only make me poorer, but also late for work twice a week and I already feel guilty for taking longer lunches than usual when I go ice skating.
The new thing we started today was forward crossovers. Just hearing the word almost made the hairs on my neck stand on end. As she was showing me how to do them, I kept thinking "This is the biggest leap of faith ever!".
The basic idea behind a crossover looks so incredibly simple that you can't imagine it being so hard. The idea is you are, for example, going in a circle on your right foot. That means you're on your right outside edge. The crossover is called a crossover because you then basically pick up your left foot and whilst still on your right outside edge, you move the left foot across, or over, your right foot, set it on the ice so that you end up being on the same circle but on your left foot's inside edge. I know this sounds complicated but believe you me, it's nothing like having to actually DO it! That split second that you're on your outside edge and then move that other foot across and set it down is the most terrifying thing. For me anyway!
Once the actual lesson was over I still had about 20 minutes to practice so I started working on the crossovers. Needless to say the more I did it the more confident I became. When I finally got to the point where I actually pushed off on my right outside edge enough so I had some good speed, the crossover didn't seem too hard anymore. Of course I'm far from actually doing a real, good looking crossover but at least I'm getting there!

I guess the main problem I see at the moment with my skating is the fact that, as ridiculous as it may sound, my thighs and legs are so FAT that they don't allow me to do a lot of things easily. So I suppose I need to work on minimizing their size! LOL We'll see how that goes! LOL

Ok, enough of this for now - more next week! :-)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Cakes and other things

Whoa, long time no write!
I shall try to catch up but get ready - it might be long.

Two weeks ago I started a cake decorating class. I'm sure you'll think "Weight Watchers and cake decorating? Are you SERIOUS?"
Well, I am. And it's great fun! It's only a four week course, making today week three but there's some follow up classes that I will sign up for so I'm really looking forward to that! As far as eating is concerned... after you've dealt with all that icing all the time, it makes you sick to your stomach so the temptation just isn't there. Perfect!

I suppose I should start with the basics... the first lesson was all about how to bake a cake (tips and tricks on how to make sure it browns evenly on all sides, how it doesn't stick and so on), then how to ice it and how to make your own butercream icing, and then some little demo of all the kinds of decorations we would be learning in class. So the first week we didn't do anything, just watched.

Last week we were supposed to bring in a cake (I did a white package cake and filled it with vanilla pudding and pineapple pieces - YUM!), ice it and then start practicing decorations. Of course the whole icing of the cake took a really long time so by the end of the lesson we had an iced cake but hadn't yet done any decorations on it (we had practiced stars and other stuff on our practice board though). So in a real hurry, we mixed some of the white icing with the colors we had bought the previous week and started decorating.
We learned how to do the famous "Wilton rose" but to be fair, I was so crap at it I left it and chose to decorate the cake without it. I am going to practice it and eventually get it, I just need more time.
So my idea for the cake was to honor my old company. And since I was going to bring the cake into work anyway (because I REFUSE to eat it myself!) it seemed like a cool idea. So I got started on mixing that orange that we have in our logo and I had planned on doing the black too but time ran out. To make a longer story much shorter, I ended up taking some icing home and decorating the rest of the cake at home. And here's how it turned out.




People really liked the taste of it and were very complimentary of the "design" lol. Needless to say, it made me feel so much better to put in "caking" what I keep saying - our good ole company was fantastic compared to crappy IBM.

This week we did some more practicing new things like shells and hearts and the cake I made this time is chocolate with vanilla pudding filling. I meant to color the icing brown, so you couldn't see the brown cake crumbs in the white icing but I forgot so if you look closely you'll see the brown specs in it. Good lesson learned here! LOL

So here's a pic of today's cake (the roses in the middle are courtesy of another woman in the class who did them for practice so I "adopted" them ;-)



Much more going on at the moment but I shall keep it short. Choir rehearsals are going great, I can't even tell you how much fun I'm having! I could literally do this everyday for hours on end. A lot like ice skating actually. That subject will get its own post later this week as there's lots to tell but I will spare you for now.

It snowed like crazy on Friday/Saturday - so much so in fact, that my car was half buried in snow. It was interesting and fun to try to dig it out and especially to try to move it so the snowplow could clear the snow away from the parking lot. I'm getting slightly more confident driving in snow now but that doesn't mean I want more of it! It's spring, let's bring on the warm weather!

I'll be going into Boston on Friday night - hard to believe that I've been here since July and have NEVER been into Boston. Well, apart from going to the airport but that doesn't count. The reason I'm going Friday night is because the Boston Symphony is staging "Fidelio", which is Beethoven's only opera. And since I am currently totally obsessed with Beethoven, I thought I should really go and see it. It shall be an adventure to drive to the "T" (which is what the metro is call here), leave the car there and get into town and then back on a Friday night. But I bet it will be well worth it, I can't wait!

So... time to go and make some chilli so I can freeze it to have something to eat in the next few days. Yum, yum!

More later this week! Buh byyyyeee!!!!!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Lottery

Well... I've now officially wasted $12 on lottery tickets over the past week.
The jackpot of the Mega Millions was up to $370 million today so after not getting any numbers rights on Friday, and nobody else winning the jackpot, I decided to give it another try. Needless to say, I didn't win.
Should the jackpot still be around for this Friday's draw, I shall give it yet another try but what can I say - lucky in finance I've never been!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Skating lesson 3

After a two week break in skating lessons (the first one due to snow and me being too chicken to venture outside my apartment and the second one due to school holidays closing down the ice rink as it's part of a high school) I finally had my thrid lesson on Thursday.

I had had a full two weeks time to practice braking and the two footed turn and doing half swizzles on the hockey circles. I am astounded at myself and at the discipline I seem to have when it comes to skating. I go regularly, without fail. Even when I know it will be busy on a weekend, and I won't be able to practice as freely as I'd like, I still go.
Through pure and stupid repetition I eventually managed to brake with my left foot. Not coming from high speed, but still, I'd managed to brake. I was also disciplined enough to not only concentrate on the side that feels easier. I wanted to make sure that I practice braking with my other, weaker foot as well. So I continued the repetition until I finally managed to kinda brake with my right foot too. I'm still miles from being able to use it as I do my other foot though.
Same happened with my two foot turn. I swear, it looks so damn easy but it's so hard. Again... repetition did the trick. And a bit of faith in myself. I was initially taught to try it without moving/gliding first. The two foot turn is a move where you glide forward on both feet, then stretch your arms out front and back, bend your knees slightly, move your weight to the front of the blade, push yourself off just a little, swing your hips into one direction and move your body with your hips so that you end up gliding backwards. Or if you're doing it the other way, you obviously start gliding backwards, then turn on both feet and end up gliding forward. So anyway... I was taught to just hang on to the boards with both my arms outstretched and then swivel my hips left to right, right to left until I got a good feeling for what the move meant. I got that but obviously finding the faith to let go off the boards was a whole different story.
With persistence, I eventually tried it. Over and over and over again. I never even managed to turn halfway! Very frustrating. What helped was above mentioned faith in myself during practice. I figured maybe the actual motion of gliding would help me out. So I started very slowly skating near the boards and trying the move whilst moving. I struggled to overcome the fear of falling but eventually got it! I can't tell you how triumphant I felt! Not to mention the fact that I had proved to myself that practice makes all the difference! Excited about my success I went further and tried to turn into a different direction from the one that felt more comfortable. By the time I showed Christina my results on Thursday she was well impressed.
So what new things did I learn on Thursday. We did more of the skating on one foot and she again noticed how much better and more confident I had gotten at it. She even cracked a joke that next year I'd go to the adult sectionals!!!! NO THANKS!!!!!! Or do you picture me in that flimsy, sparkly dress they have to wear? I don't think so!

Anyway... we took the one foot glide a bit further this time and she asked me to go around in a circle on one foot. An outside circle. My mental block kicked in immediately. Outside circles means using your outside edge. And without a doubt, it's the one thing I fear most about skating. I don't trust my outside edge because I don't really know if I have "found" it yet. I keep asking Christina if I'm using it and it seems that I'm getting closer and closer but obviously, I'm still extremely cautious. I managed to let go of some of my fear and ended up skating on my outside edge on my right foot for a brief period. So that was a success. Needless to say, I knew this is all just preparation for the crossovers which are the most beautiful thing in skating to me, and at the same time I dread them the most. But for now that's still in the future.
She also started teaching me hoe to spin. Again, it looks so damn easy when she does it!!! In reality, it's ridiculously hard. You'd think being on ICE where you just need to move in one direction without intending to you'd be spinning involuntarily. Well... that's not the case at all. So trying to make a simple double footed spin just didn't work for me at all. You start off putting your weight on say the right foot. With the left foot you draw a circle around the right foot. As the motion becomes faster, you bring in the left foot into a kinda V shape to the right foot, and at the same time, you pull in the arms to help with the rotation. Well, I get the putting my weight onto one foot, making the circle with the other but when it comes to bringing in the circling foot, I'm lost. I sometimes manage to do it but by the time I've put all my effort into that, I have stopped spinning altogether. So, I foresee a LOT of practice to get this down. But it should be fun.
I can't even say how lucky I am to have the Burlington Ice Rink so close to work for my lunchtime skating. It's a crappy rink, with a broken Zamboni that makes the ice all wavy and uneven (kinda like skating on a pond!) but at least there's never more than 6 or 7 people on it and I get to skate all I want without crossing too many people's paths.
Not like the Conway Arena in Nashua where public skating at the weekend is pure suicide. Yet I braved it today and was only angry for 95% of the time. I swear kids should not be allowed on the ice. Not at the same time as adults are on there. In general, kids should not exist as far as I'm concerned at the moment. No kiding, they go out there on the ice with their stupid little plastic crates in front of them and don't care about a goddamn thing in the world. I blame the parents, of course. Can't you control your child? Can't you tell your child to stop looking right and left and look forward for other people? Can't you teach your child to be CONSIDERATE? Of course not... why should you? It's a lot more work, you can't really be bothered. Not to mention the skate guards who should really enforce the well known "skating etiquette". People who can't skate, stick to the sides. Those who wanna practice their figure skating, stay in the middle. Those who wanna skate fast have the rest of the space. But they don't seem to have that here at all which is very frustrating. Obviously, you can see the dedication in me if I subject myself to the 95% of anger. See how long it lasts!

More skating practice tomorrow and Tuesday and skating lesson 4 on Thursday! YEY! Can't wait!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

When I am rich - part 2

When I am rich...

... I will buy/build a big house and the first thing I will have built right next to it is an olympic sized ICE RINK!!! Then I will be able to skate whenever I want, for however long I want. I can choose whatever music I want to hear and how loud it should be. I will have my own private Zamboni and Zamboni driver who will be at my disposal at any time of day or night to clear the ice. I will have a private teacher who will spend hours trying to teach me stuff I will find unbearably hard to learn LOL I will have multiple cameras installed so I can record my progress and review what I have learned over time and what I can improve on.
I will be able to invite friends over to have ice skating parties and skate for free to their heart's desire. And every now and then I'd have a local community skating time, also for free, for all people in my "neck of the woods" to enjoy skating and having some fun, even in the midst of summer!
And of course I would make sure that all the energy that is needed to manage the rink would come from a windmill/wind pump in order to make it as environmentally friendly as possible! :-)

To being rich!