About Min Min

Torontonian lost in the woods of Quebec, Canada | high school science and math teacher

Fixing a Blown Fuse

When I was in Kingston a couple of weeks ago, at the math conference, I picked up a nail in my rear right tire. I didn’t know this had happened yet, and only noticed that my tire was losing air.

Thankfully, I had a portable air compressor with me. J. and I bought this a couple of years ago. While it has been helpful in emergency situation, the problem with the compressor is that it actually blows the fuse on the cigarette lighter charger!!! I didn’t have a pair of pliers on hand – the little things are tricky to pull out – so I finally managed to fix this today*.

Nice way to spend my Victoria Day. Wrapping up some loose ends and chores at home, plus some of season 6 of Call the Midwives.

IMG_20170522_161636441_HDR

*The other barrier was not knowing which fuse it was. The numbers on the interior fuse box vary between different years of Honda CRVs.

Life Update

I haven’t been blogging as regularly as I used to. It’s likely because Cody and Instagram have become other platforms for microblogging. I’ve decided to take a break from those two platforms for a bit and refocus on writing here, where I can write longer passages with more thought and clarity.

Having said that, here are some life updates:

  • Professional Development: Right after returning from Goose Break in a snowstorm, I drove straight back down to Kingston, Ontario for the annual math conference run by OAME. I did my first presentation at an Ontario conference, which was attended by my mentor, T., and also a friend; it went well and I made a few new connections too. This conference is particularly important to me as I am often feeling demotivated at this time of year; the energy and excitement I get helps to reinvigorate my passion for teaching. Not only that, but I got to meet Gail Vaz-Oxlade, as she was one of our keynote speakers!IMG_20170512_222256882
  • Netflix: I’ve been obsessed with Call the Midwife lately.  I’m late in the game – the show is currently at season 9 – but I finally finished season 5 last week and am now scouring for torrents of season 6. There are very few shows that show such a wide range of amazing women and be able to present a variety of important and sensitive topics. No need to worry about the Bechdel test here.
  • School: Had another visit from Science Travels, which is the third or fourth year in a row. They are always graduate students from the University of Ottawa. I’m always happy to welcome a group of nerds and just have some fresh conversation. This keeps me busy for 4 days straight, as I end up picking them up at the airport, going out for dinner with them and showing them around the school. It was fun, as always, though I didn’t spend as much time with this group as I did in previous year. Also busy with Elephant Thoughts as a new crew of 3 is in and helping my Grade 10 and 11s with studying and examination prep.
  • Bullet journal: Still using my first #bujo since September. The black hardcover grid Peter Pauper Press journal has worked well. I use it regularly for my weekly tasks, although I’ve officially started working on my new Leuchtturm 1917 (~$20) and setting up the new layout. It might take a while, but I hope to transfer to using it daily by July.
  • Sharing financial advice: A couple of female friends have been inquiring about financial advice lately and I’ve been really happy to share. I’ve mainly been explaining the differences behind using your RRSPs and TFSAs for investing and teaching friends about roboadvisors and why they’re a great place to start.
  • Make-Up: I dropped a couple of hundred of dollars on make-up in the past year, with the goal of learning how to do the basics. I invested in good vegan products, such as Tarte. YouTube tutorials (free!) have helped me learn the process and I can do a winged liner decently with some basic contouring (although I often forget the nose). I decide I wouldn’t be spending anymore on make-up as I have what I need and don’t need to go down a slippery spending slope. During the break, I did indulge in just one more item, a blending brush for my liquid foundation (~$10) from eyes. lips. face at Shopper’s Drug Mart. It was starting to feel ghetto using my fingers to apply … I had been looking for a foundation brush and nearly put in an order with Sigma, but remembered that, as of last year, e.l.f. finally switched over from horse hair to synthetic fibres on their brushes.

    IMG-20170511-WA0001

Honda Finance Car Loan

Thought hard about what I would do with my federal tax return and decided to put it towards my Honda CRV. Just recently, I sent off $2000 to Honda Finance. That means I only have a bit more than $2000 left on my 5-year term.

At this time, I’m still waiting for some travel expenses back … I haven’t fully decide yet, but I might actually just pay off the last $2000 before the beginning of July and just get rid of that debt! If so, then I would have paid it all off within 4 years.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 10.40.32 PM

Back to the North

What is normally a 14-hour drive spread over two days turned into a three day drive. The first night, we overnighted in Rouyn as usual and then expected to make the last 7 hours, pulling in on Sunday evening.

Now, I knew a snow storm was coming, but I didn’t think it was a huge issue. Thankfully we still had our snow tires on and it helps to have J. with me to swap when one of us gets tired. But the problem was actually the fact that the James Bay Highway did not have enough trucks for snow removal, since the contract ends April 30th. There were still plows on the road, but it meant that everything took a little longer. Thankfully work was canceled today.

Back home now and watching season 5 of Call the Midwife!

IMG_20170507_153225997 (1)

Monthly Goals – April

Health and Fitness

  • Start lifting and strength work (2/5): Worked on front squats for a day. Also did some deadlifting and squats too. It’s a start!
  • Try new recipe (5/5): Made African peanut stew and the potato and asparagus salad.

Teaching

  • Get reference letter signed (5/5): One of the three reference letters I had were not signed. I noticed on one of the school board job postings that they required signatures on all the letters. Chased after my former VP and got a reply within a week.
  • Create a teaching portfolio (0/5): Slacked on this and it fell on the backburner.
  • Work on OAME presentation (1/5): Also slacked on this.
  • Continue job applications (5/5): Signed a job offer with Waterloo but also applied for Ottawa-Carleton at the end of the month*.

Finance

  • Inquire about moving process (3/5): Even though I am on sabbatical, I am entitled to having my personal belongings moved. Haven’t pinned a date yet though.
  • Watch 3 Canadian Investors Conference video (5/5): Watched Janine Rogan, Robert Farrington and Rob Carrick.
  • Get J. investing (3/5): Made a start as he set up a Tangerine Investment Fund account for TFSAs.
  • Evaluate first quarter expenses (4/5): I don’t enjoy writing everything down, but at least it gives me a snapshot of what is happening with my money. It was also fun to learn how to make pivot tables.

Other

  • Caulk the bathtub (0/5): This was a rollover from March. Didn’t get to it… again.

*Job applications for public school boards in Ontario are not often on an ongoing basis. We can only apply when they are posted once a year.

Putting Gramma First

As I’d mentioned earlier last week, I am currently on Goose Break. In the past 5 years that I’ve been teaching up north, my holidays were used often for overseas traveling and catching up with friends around my home province, Ontario.

This time, I’ve primarily focused on getting paperwork lined up for my new teaching job, as well as taking care of my maternal grandmother. My aunt and my mother are currently traveling around New Zealand with their friends. Since I’m not around Toronto very much, it’s only fair that I put the hours in to spend time with Gramma and help her with chores. I recognize that everyone around me has quite a regular workload driving her around, feeding her and getting her to her check-ups regularly; I’ve missed out on this responsability for many years now. I feel lucky that, despite my prolonged absence from Toronto, she – at the age of 98 – is still exceptionally strong and able to walk for 10 minutes without needing to sit and rest. She’s a great conversationalist, has a warm sense of humour and is a loving figure to everyone in our family.

My mom is having a grand time, as my sister and I get photos and updates from her through social media. I’m also happy that my mother is healthy, strong and exuberant about life in her retirement years; I could only hope to be like her, although we know that the idea of retirement will be radically different for our generation.

As for myself, it’s been a week where I’ve not been great at self-care. In the north, I go to the gym regularly, after school many times a week, but the past week I’ve made sure that Gramma comes first. I’ve only been downtown once to go to the allergist, otherwise staying close to home, inviting our cousin over for dinner one night and only visiting friends in the area for no more than 2 or 3 hours at a time.

While everything had been going smoothly, late Thursday night, or Friday morning, rather, Gramma and I were alarmed at a pungent smell in the house. It smelled like melted plastic but we could not figure out where it was coming from. It was becoming unbearable; Gramma felt nauseous and I began breathing through my mouth. We could find no smoke; no alarms were going off and the carbon monoxide detector was still properly plugged in. We packed up a few things and left the house around 3:30 am, driving over to my aunt’s vacant townhouse, just 2-3 minutes away.

I made sure Gramma was comfortable first and then quietly found a room to call 911 without alarming her. I scooted back over to greet four firetrucks (really don’t think that was necessary, given our situation) and some *ahem* attractive firemen. Altogether, one fire warden, four firemen and I went all around the house, trying to find the cause.

Confused, we stood in the kitchen, scratching our heads. We concluded that the smell was the strongest on the main floor, absent in the basement, and not coming in through the ventilation system when we put our faces to the vents. I realized that the smell seemed strongest around the fridge as we stood around it; one firemen pulled the machine back and caught sight of a wisp of smoke, plus a few sparks! The most likely conclusion was an overheated compressor, melting the casing and/or wiring; the plugs were promptly pulled and everyone sighed in relief. There was actually no fire, but the thought of what could have happened was definitely very frightening.

IMG_20170428_171554986

The next 2-3 days were quite tiring, as we ran around, back and forth, looking for a new fridge, moving some of our food out of the current one and making sure Gramma had her 3 meals. We had help from family and friends, of course, but the whole of Friday, after a total of 2 hours of sleep – one before the incident and one after the incident – I had to make sure all my energy and every decision that I made, in my deteriorated mental and physical state, was for the well-being of my charge. I laugh when my sister asked me about minutiae that day, whether some of the fridges I perused had a nice interior on the lower rack; I was more worried that I was driving safely and fully alert while on the road! Thankfully, I did manage to get 12 hours on the following night, and my sister and brother-in-law were present to help the two of us out look for a new refrigerator.

Currently we have an old ice chest for a few items in the kitchen; however, because it doesn’t seal well, the ice seems to be melting faster than usual. No need to bore anyone with the fine details, but it’s been a pretty hectic past few days and we are only settling now. A new fridge has been purchased and will be delivered from Home Depot on Friday.

Knowing that things were lining up, I decided that I need to pin some time for myself. I’m not stressed, really, but I just have not given my body any love of late. Last night, I paid for a yoga class up front and will be headed out later this morning. Then I’ll stop downtown to continue working on a job application for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB)* and then meet up with a few friends at Planta, a high-end vegan restaurant**. I’ll see a few more friends this week too before I leave, but I’m looking forward to some time by myself.

*Not to get confused with the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB)
**My sister will pop over after work to hang out with Gramma.

RIP: Domo Travel Bug

Back in 2013, I launched one of my first travel bugs through geocaching. It was a plush Domo* which I really liked. I sent it off and marked the goal as getting to Los Angeles, California, so that my friend, A. could pick it up. He was the first person I knew who geocached, although I didn’t actually go on my first trip until I was invited by a group of German Couchsurfers who were visiting Toronto, waaaaay back in 2008.

I haven’t really gone geocaching much in the past 5 years, but was sad to get an email notifying me that Domo had been archived. He had bounced around Whistler and Alaska and there were some photos to along the way. I was even envious that he made it to the original geocache, in Oregon, USA. Ultimately, he ended up in California, north of Los Angeles, around 2015 and then was never heard of again.

Sighhhhh. It’s likely I’ll never see him again. Unfortunately, over the years, many geocache coins have been stashed (kept so that they are no longer circulated) and so it doesn’t surprise that a TB might get lost as geocaching loses its appeal over time. He had a good life.

Who knows, maybe I will go geocaching again in the future. It’s just so much easier playing Ingress and not getting your hands dirty!

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 2.14.52 PM.png

*For you who are not familiar with this Japanese cartoon character, he was a claymation character that was developed and became very popular on the internet. 

Goose (Hunting) Break

Currently on my two-week holiday. In our school board, we do not have a March Break; instead, we have a much later holiday known as Goose Hunting Break. This makes everyone go crazy because the January-April period is just sooooo darn long.

Everyone goes out “into the bush” to shoot Canadian geese as they fly back towards their summer nesting grounds. The whole town shuts down and all the non-native teachers go back down south.

So far on my holidays, I’ve done a few things:

  • Signed a offer letter from my new job
  • Watched Logan
  • Ate Indian food with my sister and her husband
  • Started setting up a second roboadvisor for my RRSPs
  • Got my provincial tax return of $2,857.15
  • Had my cousin come over for dinner
  • Purchased the physical therapy bundle on Cody
  • Got my teeth cleaned at the dentist
  • Attended a YTT info session at Queen Street Yoga
  • Went to see an allergist
  • Cooked dinner with Gramma
  • Ate a vegan tamale

I still have a bit more than a week left and there’s still lots to do! Happy to have this paid holiday!

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 12.38.20 AM

Using Pivot Tables to Analyze Expenses

Back in February, I bought Caitlin Flander’s Mindful Budgeting planner. I hadn’t done any analysis or looked at how much I was spending yet.  I spent the first 3 months, simply collecting data, but decided to use my long weekend to do some analysis as Q1 comes to a close. This afternoon, I punch all the data points into an Excel spreadsheet and tried my hand at pivot tables and charts.

I actually have no experience with pivot charts or pivot tables, so I worked my way through a tutorial by Excel Campus off of YouTube. I found it fairly straightforward and produced two bar graphs.

Graph 1 – Personal Expenses by Category: This chart summarizes my total spending, including shared expenses for both J. and I. The Daily category includes mainly day-to-day expenses, but is comprised mainly of groceries. The Fun category includes shopping, alcohol and eating out. Transportation covers car expenses, including my financing and car insurance, but also travel. Unfortunately, I did not split the shared expenses, so the total value is slightly inflated. Here are a few observations:

  • Transport was high in Feburary as I paid for some tune-ups at the Honda service centre ($709), as well as a plane ticket to go to the job interview ($1077).
  • Health expenses are mainly Cody app plans that I purchase. There is a negative value from a refund that I received.
  • The professional category was higher in February because I had to pay my annual membership to the Ontario College of Teachers ($130) and I bought a lot of food from my own pocket to cover a few classroom parties.

expenses

Graph 2 – Shared Expenses by Subcategory: The data source is actually the same as the first graph, but the information is filtered to show only the expenses that I share with my boyfriend. Unfortunately, there are still some discrepancies from the numbers we calculated on Sunday, specifically under groceries, but ultimately, it`s not about the details, it`s seeing the trends that is most important. Some more observations about this data:

  • We had a party in March and went out a few times, therefore spending more. We also wandered in and out of the grocery store out of boredom after work.
  • We don`t eat out very often, but I know there is at least one meal out that I forgot to mark down because J. paid in cash … I shall be more diligent next time.
  • J. pushed me to walk more to work, so we use a lot less gas now. Mind you, we only use one tank of gas in a month. It`s about $65 for a full tank up north, and you only have one gas station to go to, so you can`t be fussy about prices!

 

expenses

All in all, this was a fun exercise. I still don’t really care to create a budget, but like observing my data. The only area that really might need to be reeled in a bit are groceries, but we cut back in the other areas that I feel like we need a bit of give there.

Anyway, I’m happy to have done this. It’ll be interesting to see how my spending will change when I go south in a couple of months!

Handstand Progress: Single Knee Tuck

I haven’t worked on handstands much, even after having completed a half-day workshop with Kathryn Bruni-Young last summer. I have a better understanding of what is required, and if one wants to be effective and efficient, that means about 45-60 min of warm-up before you even go upside down.

It’s tempting to skip the warm-up though. But after completing a couple of online classes with Carling Harps, I felt that my bandhas were on and willing to take on the challenge.

I just did some single knee tucks, a good precursor to full handstand, since it’s an easy way to maintain core and pelvic alignment. I was pleasantly surprised I was able to get some great balance for 7-8 seconds. I know one of my bad habits is to kick up too hard, so I’m really kicking myself that I have to undo the urge to do so. Pretty happy with this small amount of progress. Once the weather warms up, I will have to practice in the yard without Paul the Wall!

Handstand Training – Single Knee Tuck #8 from Min Min on Vimeo.