Lessons in Crocheting: Zig-Zag Blanket

Been a busy week with the OCT photoshoot, as well as hanging out with the photographer, M. Since I finally got some time to myself, I decided to go through the giant bag of acrylic yarn I’d purchased in the fall and look for a new pattern to try.

I’m still fairly new at crocheting and I am not a natural by any means or an avid DIYer, but I enjoy new challenges and learning. I did a search for easy blankets and decided to try a chevron / zig-zag pattern using this pattern from The Crochet Crowd.

I started quite late last night and didn’t sleep until 2 am. Creating a chevron with a single crochet means that you have to count a certain number and then skip so that you can create the bend up or down. I ended up trying a few rows on the recommended 180 stitches, although really only ended up with 173 by the next row. Ugh. That’s expected when you’re learning something new. You make mistakes.

In the morning, determined to give it a second go, I unraveled the whole thing and started anew. Seeing the plan and rewatching the YouTube tutorial, everything was much clearer after a night’s sleep. I wrote out the stitches on scrap paper.


I decided that using bobby pins would be a good way to mark my stitches. It was an idea I came up with own my own and I felt proud that this might be the hack that I need. It worked for the first couple of rows and then stitches started disappearing …. again! This was no good. It meant that my blanket was going to be a trapezoid or a triangle.

After two hours on this endeavour, I officially called it quits and tossed in the crochet hook.

It was a good challenge to wrap my head around a new pattern, but to be honest, I’d prefer doing a straight line of double crochets. I like zoning out and being able to listen to a podcast or music. However, when I’m working on the chevrons, needing to count every 11 stitches, I need to work in complete silence. By the end of the 2 hours, I felt a bit exhausted (not exactly ideal for a weekend). A learning moment, nonetheless.

I will attempt some other crochet projects, but have decided that zig-zag blankets are not for me!

New Annual Goal: Media Expenses

Two things I really like to spend money on are Cody App fitness plans and books. I know that while I don’t go crazy, I will have to cut back if I move down south.

For this year’s set of annual goals, I thought I would try to track how much I spend on these two things. I thought I would put a personal budget of $750 and added this to the financial trackers on the side of my page.

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I didn’t plan on spending money right away, but on the weekend, I did a bit of shopping on Indigo and bought these books:

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I’m hoping that my friend will give me her old Kobo and that I can figure out a cheaper way to access books (without stealing them from authors, still paying them so that they make money). I might also have to cut back on buying audiobooks, as I have a stash right now that I need to work at.

If you have any tips on how to purchase, please let me know!

Exciting News

Some exciting news, which a few of my friends know about, but I haven’t shared with too many people yet …

The Ontario College of Teachers is doing a small article on my classroom in the “Tech Class” column! They flew a photographer up north a few days ago and we spent yesterday doing the shoot with three students. It was super fun, although a bit tedious.

The way this all came about is funny; I offered to be interviewed by phone with a journalist who was looking to speak with teachers. I had no idea that he represented my licensing board. I didn’t hear anything for several months and was contacted in December by the media company that OCT contracts. We set up the appointment and now it’s done!

I’m really hoping that this will help me with my networking and job-hunting in the future.  The article won’t be posted until March 2017, but I’ll post more info then!

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Considerations for Leaving the North

Lately, I’d been considering whether I should leave the north or not. I’ve had a few students ask me if I am staying on for next year and have told them that it wouldn’t be likely.

While I know I am seeking new challenges and know that one will never truly be ready for change, there are many aspects of the north that I know I will miss.

  • Cheap rent: I pay about $1000 a year as my housing is mainly subsidized.
  • Minimal commute time: It takes me less than 5 minutes to drive to work and only about 12 minutes to walk. It’s easy for me to pop in on the weekends or the evenings if I’ve forgotten something or would like to catch up.
  • Lots of free time: Related to having a minimal commute time. If J. is running late, I could still walk home or just head to the gym by myself.
  • Accessible and affordable gym: The gym is literally the building next to my school. For my membership, I pay approximately $120 for the entire year. And mind you, I drop a lot more dollars on Cody app fitness plans, but those have always been an investment in my health and knowledge. The other thing is that I’ll never have again is a fairly unused squat rack where there are no line-ups.
  • Being able to sleep in: Again, related to the short commute, I can sleep in pretty late.
  • Having time with J.: Since we currently work in the same building and have the same start times, we travel to and back together. We are able to have lunch together and eat dinner at the same time.
  • Being able to save money: There is no place to spend it. If you spend money online and order items, you have to put some thought into it. There is no place to buy alcohol, so going out for a cinq-à-sept after work instead of the gym isn’t something that happens.
  • Having a big, fat classroom budget: I am currently able to spend $2200 a year for my classroom. That’ll never happen again in a public school “down south”… sigh.

Ultimately, I have to finalize a decision by the end of February. I have to sign a piece of paper and give it to my principal to declare whether I am staying or not. I’m trying to screw up the courage to do it, but at the same time, map out my future with J. It’s tricky and am just trying to figure out how we are going about things.

So just to support myself emotionally and mentally, I’m reminding myself that people quit their jobs and do new stuff all the time. Even awesome and inpsiring ladies like Jessica Moorhouse is able to take the leap and quit her job to try something new and that sometimes you just have to put yourself out there.

I’ve also been re-listening to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. I’d read it a few years ago, but since my friend V. got me listening to the Dear Sugar podcast, I decided to revisit her book. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, it’s about a woman who decides, during a very difficult period of her life, to do a solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. Reading about all the hardships of hiking in the wilderness alone – not stepping on rattlesnakes, running out of water, losing a hiking book off the edge of a cliff – helps me put into perspective my own hardships (which there are very few of).

Anyway, it’s still Thursday. I have a spare first period, so it was nice to find this time to blog, but I need to keep my feet on the ground and head out for work soon!

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The Questioner

I’ve been podcasting a lot the past few months. One of my all-time favourite podcasts is Note to Self, from WYNC.

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I can’t say I’ve listened to a bad episode. The newest episode, The Four Tendencies: How to Feed Habits, was pretty interesting, especially if you are either interested in goal-setting or making New Year’s resolutions. This episode is an interview with a writer, Gretchen Rubin, who has a theory that there are four personality types when it comes to how we perceive internal and external expectations.

I took the online quiz and discovered that I was a Questioner, which I would say, is pretty accurate:

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Typically, this is the way I like to think:

Questioner: “I do what I think is best, according to my judgment. If it doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it.”

Of course, according to Rubin, a Questioner can still have aspects of a Rebel or an Upholder. Obviously, I tend to lean towards the latter. As a public school teacher, I feel very strongly that I need to be a positive role-model.

But on a personal level, how is this information useful to me if I want to set new habits?

  • My drive is based on my inner expectations, so when I build a habit, I must make it specifically towards my needs.
  • I like justification. I need to know why and how I should take on a habit, so I will do research on the benefits and efficacy of the aforementioned habit.
  • I only take suggestions from people I respect, so I will look for sources of information that are reliable (i.e. published books, scientific evidence).
  • I will sometimes spend too much time on research, creating “analysis paralysis”. This has happened when I was deciding on a fitness goal. I would overthink, rather than simply taking action.

In teaching, we called this self-analysis metacognition. This could potentially be a fun exercise to do with my older, mature students. I’ll save this resource as a future project at work!

Do you know which of the four personalities you are? What goals are you setting for yourself for the new year?

 

TD Reward Rebate 2016

It’s January! That means I get my cash-back rebate on my TD Rewards Rebate Visa credit card. It’s not the best reward card, but here are the conditions:

  • Earn a 0.5% cash reward on the first $3,000 in net annual purchases charged to your Card
  • Earn a 1% cash reward on your net annual purchases over $3,000 (to a maximum annual purchase limit of $25,000)

TD no longer issues new cards for this no-fee program. I have been itching for a replacement but have not been able to find another Visa program that would be better right now.

This year, I received $133.39. Not a huge hunk of cash, but it’s always a nice boost at the beginning of the new when you’re feeling poor!

Checking in on TSFAs

The past few months, I’ve been trying hard to get back into managing my finances better, especially on the investing front. Investing has been a weakness of mine, an area that I ignored for a looooong time, despite the fact that my late father basically did investing for a living*.

I’m confident that I’m getting a better sense of the “couch potato strategy“. I had heard the term a lot when I first started reading PF blogs, but never really made an effort to learn about it until the past few months.

To be honest, I am still stunned by how amazingly simple it is. With the sudden availability of roboadvisors, even dummies – like me – have no excuse not to invest.

So currently, I am in the process of selling off the last of my mutual funds and rebalancing everything. It’ll likely take a few more months before I feel good about having everything lined up.

For now, I’m reassessing how much TSFA contribution room I have left. When the Conservative government initially started TSFAs in 2009, I had no problems maxing out each year. This year, for 2017, Canadians will have a total of $52,000 contribution room. That’s a whackload of money that can be invested tax-free and is definitely a privilege for the privileged.

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The past few years, with my lifestyle inflation – obvious by my many international adventures – have made it a bit harder for me to max them out. I currently only have contributed $41,050**.

Of course, I’m not looking for pity. Having the ability to purchase plane tickets and try new foods in far away lands makes me very, very happy. It’s one of the few joys in life that have to give up when my financial situation won’t be so stable. But for now, even if I’m not maxing out my TSFAs, I’m happy to spend some money for some far-off fun.

Also, as there has been a lot of money moving around – paying off my credit cards, resettling debt with my travel buddies, liquidating MFs – I’ve decided to hold off on calculating net worth for December. I don’t normally skip any entries, but if it happens here or there, I’m okay with it. I’ll recalculate in January.

Do you contribute to TSFAs? How are your finances in this new year?

*I am still the only person in my family who has never worked in finance.

**I received free $50 from opening a WealthSimple account back in 2016. I like to keep numbers round so it’s easier to track.

Monthly Goals – December

This is a bit late, since I was on the road so much for Christmas/winter break.

Health and Fitness

  • Finish Pilates plan (2/5): I started learning about Pilates this year, specifically in November. I wanted to continue my plan but didn’t get very far. It’s become more enjoyable – I hated it initially –  and I appreciate that the attention to detail in the pelvic floor just isn’t there in yoga. I look forward to learning more.
  • Start new GMB’s Focused Flexibility program (0/5): I did one day and then I injured my neck. Put this on pause.

Teaching

  • Reopen ATE account (1/5): I got my password, but have not upgraded the account yet for long-term storage. Transfer goal to January.
  • Stay on course with the AQ (5/5): Odd to write a goal that is basically, ‘Do your homework’, but sometimes it’s necessary when things get busy. This went well.

Finance

  • Research more about WealthSimple account (0/5): Was going to break down my ETFs and analyze them. Didn’t happen. Transfer goal to January.
  • Start Udemy course on investing (2/5): Did half of the course, but started to realize this was counter-intuitive if I am going to follow the Canadian Couch Potato method …
  • Listen to more financial podcasts (5/5): The month of December was finance month for me. Listened to both Canadian Couch Potato and Jessica Moorhouse. It was great!
  • Research Tangerine investments (5/5): This was a goal added later on after listening to so many financial podcasts. Bought $10,000 each of the Tangerine Balanced Portfolio in RSPs and Tangerine Equity Growth Portfolio in TSFAs. Will continue to look at other investments rather than let it sit at 0.8% interest.

Other

  • Finish books by Caitlin Moran, Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat (5/5): Sometimes I have to just get things done. I try to start too many books … it gets to be a problem.
  • Buy travel insurance and prepare for Israel and Jordan (4/5): This was a bit last minute. Bought insurance through American Express for approximately $47

Day 7 in the Middle East

Yesterday, we had a lovely time exploring the desert of Wadi Rum. This morning, we woke up in the beautiful sunrise over the sandstone mountains. Left our host camp at 6:30 am with the smell of wood smoke still in our hair. We traversed up the Dead Sea coast again on the Jordanian side.

Immigration through the West Bank was definitely a unique experience. There was a lot of hustle and bustle, but it was business as usual for many. Approximately 400 km later, we settled in downtown Jerusalem. Running multiple loads of laundry at the rented apartment and catching up with social media.

Now enjoying the street singing as we are getting close to the countdown towards 2017.

Happy new year, wherever you are celebrating (or not)!

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On Holiday: Floating in the Dead Sea

Merhaba from Jordan!

It was a lot of work figuring out this trip and the first three days were quite rough, as two of us managed to get sick right off the bat. There were several moments where I wished we were simply at home with our respective families. Yet despite three days of bitter, hard rain, in both in Israel and Jordan, and our little trip ups, the sun finally came out today and day 4 of our trip was just really wonderful!

This morning, we enjoyed a lovely stroll around the Roman amphitheatre in Amman, walked around Mt. Nebo and floated in the Dead Sea. In the evening, we enjoyed a Turkish-style hamman to wash off the salt and filled up on a traditional Jordinian style dinner of spiced rice, potatoes, carrots and onions.

The internet access has been spotty and some of our clothes feel perpetually wet, but we are really glad to see such a special and unique part of the world. Looking forward to seeing Petra tomorrow!

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