Learning How to Use Sketch Up 8

Had some extra time at the end of the day, so I decided to knock off a task that I’d been putting off a while: learn how to use Sketch Up.

Sketch Up is 3D modeling software that I first came across a few years ago. It was originally developed as an add-on for Google Earth, but eventually developed into a stand-alone product. I have no time for it in the general classroom, as I already struggle to cram the whole curriculum into the year, but as I have one student who is ahead on the course, I thought that 3D modeling would be a great extension for the Area and Volume unit.

I found a great 15-minute YouTube tutorial on Sketch Up 8, which is the paid version that is installed on all the computers at school. I followed it and tried to replicate all the functions shown in the video:

This was the end product. Not much to look at but I admit that it was fun. I’m not much of a designer, but I can see great potential for students to get creative. I’ll still need to come up with a written assignment, but my student will have great fun with it.



ToodleDo: Customizable Alarms

I’ve been using ToodleDo for several years, and started paying for a subscription as a silver member just over a year ago ($15 USD / year). Since September, I’ve been using my bullet journal as a daily planner instead. While I have not neglected my ToodleDo account, it acts more as a back-up system and also another place I can quickly jot down tasks – mainly through my cellphone – when the journal is not in hand.

ToodleDo has a wealth of functions. Every once in a while, I take time to learn another one, but I have to say, I still don’t know how to use most of them! Some of the features that I was personally interested, through the silver membership, were:

  • Writing subtasks
  • Using Habits
  • Having notes under each tasks (i.e. I often write instructions or post a URL)

So earlier this week, when I knew I had a few deadlines coming up, I decided to figure out to set up a customizable alarm – not available under the free subscription – so that I got a reminder at an appropriate time of day to tackle each one. Here’s a quick tutorial:

For tasks with due dates, I could set specific times; if there was no time set, the default reminder would be at noon. In order to get text reminders, I first had to set up up an email to an SMS gateway address and voila! It worked fairly well and I was able to see the texts as I was at work, telling me to complete X, Y and Z.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the email option to work, but it wasn’t necessary anyway because email isn’t usually where I go to for time-sensitive reminders. I should continue to explore more of the functions since I’m paying for this stuff!!

Year-End Pocket Stats

One of my favourite free apps I use is called Pocket. I use it to save text from news articles, blogs or websites so I can read it later offline. It’s quite convenient as I can use it as a browser extension as well.

Every week, they email recommendations or trending articles. I’ve come across quite a lot of good stuff that way.

Since it’s year-end, Pocket sent me an email with my stats. I was actually quite surprised to see that I was ranked within the top 5% of the readers!

Download Pocket for Android devices

Download Pocket for iOS devices

Download Pocket as a Chrome browser extension




The Downside of Being Offline: Using a Bullet Journal

I had a scare today; I thought I had lost my bullet journal, which is my personal organizer. I used it during a school meeting last night, but had no recollection of tossing it into my backpack. Thankfully, it had made its way home. I found it accidentally tucked under a vintage copy of A Clockwork Orange, which I had rescued from a pile of discarded books.

Since September, I’ve been using a #bujo planner*. I mainly use it to keep track of personal goals – weekly, monthly and annual. It’s become popular, partly because it’s therapeutic to doodle and draw, but also because it’s nice to just be offline. Yes, I still use my paid Toodledo account as digital notepad when I don’t have a pen, but pretty much everything** is in my bullet journal.

While I’ve used a variety of tools, including apps like Coach.me (formally Lift.do), to track my habits, I just felt that I needed a change when it came to writing monthly goals. I’d found that I would start fudging and editing the goals I had initially written down and delete ones I’d ignored, just to make myself feel better. It’s been working well so far and I can say that my bullet journal isn’t just a fad I’m picking up; it’s likely a tool I will be using for at least a couple of years. I enjoy drawing and laying out my new “weeklies” while listening to podcasting.

Some things will always remain online though, including net worth tracking via NetWorthIQ and fitness tracking on CodyApp.

Yet the ultimate issue with the bullet planner is that I have no back-up system. To be clear, I don’t intend logging everything on Toodledo so that I can check it off later. In my panicked state earlier this morning, I did consider how much I would be losing if I really could not find my planner.

My life wouldn’t be over. I’d likely be able to rewrite 50-70% of the active task lists that I had going on. Once monthly goals are complete, I published them on my blog. As for weekly habits, I really couldn’t care less.

And is there anything that would be so important that I’d actually forget entirely I’d have to do it?

Likely not.

So even as I did hug my planner with a sigh of relief when I uncovered it, I realized that I still don’t intend on backing it up. And that’s okay. It’d be like a piece of lost art. I would have enjoyed all the time that I’d put up with it, but I’d be willing to let it go.

*If you’re unfamiliar with bullet journals, check out this article from the Toronto Star, Bullet Journaling Will Get You Organized.

**For work, I keep a separate teacher’s lesson planner which I’d purchased (and expensed to the school board) from Staples. Keeping my work and personal life separate definitely gave me less stress; I found that I could appropriately put my energy to focus on work when I need to and have some space from it when I just want to enjoy my down time.

Monthly Goals – August

  • Gold Medal Bodies (0/5): Was intending on starting the “shoulder opening sequence”, but I’ve not been working out or going to the gym. Mostly I’ve been focused on getting back into work. Will push this to September.
  • Go kayaking (0/5):  The weather has been terrible. Super cold for this time of year … I managed to get on the water only because my sister was out and I popped in for 10 minutes. Hopefully it’ll warm up in September.
  • Walk instead of driving everywhere (5/5):  Since reading Katy Bowman’s book, I’ve decided I really need to be a more mindful mover. It doesn’t makes sense that I do glute workouts without walking to work. I mean, your butt is what allows you to walk! Been doing pretty well with this goal since it’s been warm. We drove about twice a week in August. This might change as the weather gets colder.
  • Pillowless sleeping (5/5): I’m pretty comfortable sleeping without a pillow now. The only issue was that I was squirreling towards my boyfriend’s pillow in the middle of the night, but once I put a thin fleece blanket under my head, I stopped doing it. Ha!
Teaching / Job-Hunting
  • Get equipment for a teen yoga club (5/5): I’ve been wanting to do this for a couple of years now, but I finally did it! Purchased some reasonably priced yoga mats from Treadmill Factory in at the flagship store in Markham, Ontario. So far, I’ve only run one session, but hopefully, I can get the club going once a week. There’s definitely some interest in the younger high school students. I also did some meditation with my students earlier this week!
  • Purchase new vegan make-up products (5/5): It took me 3.5 hours of research one day to figure out what was vegan and what was not. But now that I have a general sense of what’s out there, it’ll be much easier to buy products in the future. I gotta step up my make-up game if I’m going to be leaving the north, networking and going job-hunting. Applying make-up is generally slow and stressful for me, so the only way to overcome that will be practice, practice, practice. Been watching a lot of YouTube videos lately and trying to learn. It’s definitely intimidating in the beginning when you don’t know too much yet. Here’s a picture of my haul.


Media / Books
  • Podcasting (4/5): Yup, I’m back on podcasting. I’ve binged through about 8 or 9 episodes of Katy Bowman’s Katy Says  series. Really glad I got the app PocketCasts. It’s much better than the default podcasting app on iOS.
  • Learn a new stitch (5/5): I learned how to double crochet! But I stayed up for 5 hours straight and got knots in my shoulders from doing so …
  • Read regularly (/5): Finish Katy Bowman’s Move Your DNA* and also Sarah Silverman’s book. Been reading a few kids’ books too, as well as some graphic novels.



  • Cancel YogaGlo (5/5): Really enjoyed a bit of change doing so many Kathryn Budig classes, but ahhhh it’s back to using the classes I’ve purchased off of Cody.
  • Stop buying Cody plans (0/5): Yeah, I suck at this. I caved and bought two nutrition plans because there was a 30% coupon code. Hey, at least I use my plans!
  • Balance out expenses (3/5): The Honda CRV is my vehicle. It’s the biggest purchase I’ve ever made. I’ve not asked the boyfriend to put much money in, but since he’s off on vacation with the car, I’ve asked him this time to swap the winters on, get a tune-up and pay for a full detailing.

*I really fell in love with this book. Natural movement and biomechanics is so interesting! Might have to buy a few copies as Christmas presents.

Monthly Goals – June

I haven’t been paying much attention to my monthly goals lately. Ehhhhhh, I’m on vacation.

  • Research workout options (4/5): Booked a hotel in New York City that has a gym. Looked up yoga studios and places to try in Toronto.
  • Call Roadsport Honda about driver’s airbag inflator replacement (3/5): Still nothing. Arghhhhh …. they said July. Now they’re saying August. At the moment, Canadians have been placed on low priority due to the fact that the exploding airbag is more likely to be set off in hot, humid places. I try not to think about it when I drive, cause smashing bits of shrapnel in my face don’t really make me feel safe.
  • Renew Toodledo subscription $15/year (5/5): My favourite productivity app $35/2 years.
  • Register for credit card (2/5): The boyfriend applied for Tangerine’s cashback credit card. Haven’t heard anything back yet.
  • Look into replacing Visa without going through bank (2/5): Think I might be stuck with TD. Sighhhh. So many places don’t take American Express.
  • Look around for insurance (3/5): Hey, guess what? My insurance went up by another $20 for a month. YAYYYYYYY … not. Prior to the renewal date, which was the second week of July, I frantically called different companies – including CAA – to find a better rate. Even online quotes were giving me similar numbers and some companies just wouldn’t handle me because I spent the bulk of my year in Quebec. Frig. Guess I’m stuck with Meloche Monnex for now.
  • Two blog posts (2/5): Only made one post.
  • Reading Growing Success document (1/5): Yeah, I forgot about this.
  • Look into taking another AQ (2/5): Did some research and realized I can’t teach computer science due to lack of prerequisites. I could potentially get Senior Geography (I already have 2.0 credits) or Integration of Information & Computer Technology in Instruction Part 1
Professional Development
  • Learn about Crucial Conservations (3/5): Went on vacation and still need to finish a bit more.

Consolidating Apps: Switching from Coach.me

One of my favourite goal-tracking apps is Coach.me, formally known as Lift.do.  I’ve used this app for a couple of years now; the simplicity of the app and supportive online community are two features which have kept me on as a client. I’ve mainly used it to track – on a weekly and monthly basis – how often I’ve been lifting,doing barre work, taking my probiotics, calling my family* or reading a book.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 1.55.45 PM
However, in an effort to minimize the number of productivity apps I’m using, I decided to switch over to Habits on Toodledo instead. Don’t get me wrong, I love Coach.me and I’ve tried to encourage friends to use it, but it’s easy to get distracted when you are constantly switching from one app to the next. And since becoming a paying Toodledo customer last year**, why not simply consolidate my task list and weekly habit checklist?

Habits hasn’t been around for very long, it was only unveiled just over a year ago. It functions similarly to the Coach.me interface, but you must assign which days of the week you complete your habit. The other motivator is to build “chains”***, long periods in which you successfully complete each habit. Unlike Coach.me, there is a strong visual reminder when you’ve missed a day or have been slacking off on a particular behaviour.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 12.38.43 AMHere is a screenshot of the app interface. As you can see, it’s been a busy week and I didn’t manage to call my family during the weekdays:

You can access your habits by logging in through a browser as well. It’s simple and easy to read. I like that you can see it in a monthly calendar. There is also the option to mark if you have failed your task and it is highlighted conspicuously in bright red.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 2.40.30 PM

While I’ve only been using Habits for 2 weeks, I’m happy that I’ve transition over. I like seeing the “chains” and also seeing what I need to work on. While I’ve been doing yoga fairly regularly – I took a break for about 3 months – I didn’t manage to get on my mat because I was helping out with some night shifts at the local book fair.

Looking forward to going back to the gym through the whole week. As well, I’ll be getting back into barre work and using my standing desk more often!

Do you use any goal-tracking apps? Have you ever used Coach.me or Toodledo?

*As you can see, I’m not always good at calling my family. Of course, there’s no need to in the summer when I’m with them, or in December, when I’m home for the winter holidays.

**A Silver membership costs $15 USD/year.

***The only issue with this system is the inability to switch days. I normally go to the weight room Monday, Wednesday and Friday. However, if I switch over to another day, I can’t mark it on that specific calendar day without changing the settings and breaking my chain. The workaround is to just check off the habit on your last assigned day.

Reward of the #Commit2Fit Challenge

For the month of January, Cody App was running an incentives program called #Commit2Fit. As part of the challenge, you just needed to log all your workouts with the #Commit2Fit hashtag. At the end of the month, all participants got a free Cody plan of their choice.

I will make it no secret that I’ve spent approximately $1000 (~$700 USD) on Cody since September 2014, but I don’t regret any of it. It’s been amazingly transformative to my health, my fitness routines and opened my mind in many ways over the past year and a half. It helped encourage me to meditate, weightlift and do more bodyweight training, all aspects of health and fitness which I initially had no interest in or thought I would hate.

So in the theme of trying new things in life, I decided to opt for another type of fitness I would hate: crossfit.


That word alone makes me cringe, but it’s the idea of Olympic lifting that intrigues me. Cleans, jerks, split jerks. I don’t know too much about it and only realized it was a thing when I began watching videos on Instagram. Since then, I thought, if I’m lifting now, why not look into #olylifting?

So yesterday, I began watching some of the videos of my new Rise Strength plan, with superstar athletes Andrea Ager and Diane Fu. These ladies are definitely pretty awesome people – well-known and celebrated in their fields – and great instructors too. The videos are easy to understand; I reviewed them and took notes on Evernote.

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 11.42.42 AM

In a way, I know I’m not ready for this stuff … yet. It’s a long way off. Maybe 3 months, maybe 6, maybe a year. But having long-term goals in your perisperhal vision will help me subconsciously move towards that goal.

What are some of your long-term fitness goals?

Monthly Goals: October

Not any big goals this month, but not too bad.

  • Squat and bench press (1/5): As the plan to have a squat partner didn’t work out, I ended up getting a Cody plan to follow … doh, I only went once. It’s not my favourite thing to do; I need to push myself harder!  
  • Try two new recipes (4/5): Made yolos from Oh She Glows! by Angela Liddon. They are pureed dates wrapped in chocolate. Pretty good as a post-workout snack, but I need to use better quality chocolate next time. Also tried a sesame-tahini salad dressing from the same cookbook and learned how to make a London fog. Was also in Montreal for a week so I didn’t cook as much.
  • Complete 10-day mediation intro (5/5): Completed the free “Take 10” program on the app Headspace. I ended up continuing it and paying for a year-long subscription for approximately $100 CAD.
  • Research a new credit card (3/5): Looked for a new Visa but wasn’t quite happy with what was out there, so I am keeping my TD Visa Rewards Rebate card, even though the return isn’t quite so rewarding anymore. Canceled my old American Express and replaced it with a American Express Gold through the Ontario College of Teachers’ perks program. This will officially be my first charge card; in the first year, the annual fee is waived. With the bonus Amex points, I can cash in approximately $175 worth of gas cards. In subsequent years, instead of paying an annual fee of $150/year, I pay $100/year. So the card pays for itself for nearly the first 3 years. Travel points can be cashed out to other rewards systems and aren’t necessarily tied to specific programs like Aeroplan.
  • Increase donation amount (5/5): Increased my monthly donation from $15 to $20 a month with Plan Canada.
  • Download credit report (5/5): My one year free membership for Equifax ended! So I downloaded my credit score and it’s still floating around 800.
  • Cancel Audible membership (5/5): I will not renew my Platinum membership ($230). I’ve had the same membership plan for two years now and really enjoyed it but have not had enough time to listen to all my books. There are about 10 audiobooks just waiting for me!
Professional Development
  • Work on Mandarin (3/5): I reviewed 22 of Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese, which I’ve probably done three times now! Completed unit 23 but will need to review it before I go onto 24. Purchased units 1 through 15 of Phase 2 for the upcoming year! I am committed to learning more Mandarin!
  • Complete workshop (5/5): I ran my second workshop, Fixed vs. Growth Mindset, for my school board. It was very successful; there were 30 people in attendance  and people loved it! They stayed engaged the whole time, there was a lot of discussion and no one was playing on their cellphones (this is now a common problem in workshops). Not only that, but I was paid $250 for it, which wasn’t too bad! Never been paid to do a workshop before. I didn’t think I would be paid so that was a pleasant surprise.
  • Explore Digital Tools (1/5): Played around briefly with Asana but have no current need to use it. Didn’t review any other tools.

Trying Out Meditation: Headspace App

All last week, I was in Montreal for a school conference. We had some extra days before the workshops on Wednesday and Thursday, so I was able to have my mom fly in from Toronto and hang out.

I happened to start a free 10-day meditation plan through Headspace.com just before I left. The only thing you had to do was complete 10 days of 10 minute meditation; I stuck with it no matter which hotel I was sleeping at and finish the last day on Sunday. It helped to make set up all the conditions of building a routine; it was one of the first things I did in the morning – before checking into social media – and it was a great start to the day.  This morning, it felt a bit odd not to start my day with a meditation.

And of course, the first day coming back to work after a week on the road, there were glitches along the way. The Smartboard was not responding, a few of the Grade 10s were being unruly or I completely forgot to show up for my detention duty until a coworker asked where I was! Yep, it was a pretty typical day at school.

By the afternoon, I felt stressed and realized that it might actually be a good idea to see how meditation could take me in the next year. While I could not say that I noticed an extreme change of any sort, I did feel calm the past 10 days. It never felt like it was a chore and I always came out feeling better. In fact, it’d been getting easier and easier to complete the 10 minutes. I can honestly say that the past two or three meditations found me wishing that it was actually longer!**

So I decided to buy a year-long plan as an experiment. I’ve previously never had any interest in meditation, nor did I have a way to approach it. However, having done the 10 days and seeing how I feel makes me more curious. I mean, it’s backed by scientific data that meditation is beneficial! My main goal of trying this out is to learn how to better manage stress. I’m sure other benefits will come out of this too.

I really enjoy how Andy Puddicomb* runs his program. The app is very clean, simple and easy to use. The animations that accompany some of the meditations work as mini lessons and have good analogies to help you understand how to approach meditation more effectively.

I do also have to say that Headspace is very good at marketing, but I’ve learned that I don’t ever have regrets supporting good companies with good products. If you’re curious about the free “Take 10” program, click here for more info.

Have you tried meditation? How do you approach it? Do you have tips for how to be effective at meditation?

*Check out Andy’s Ted Talk on YouTube.
**Towards the end of the 10 days, I started feeling surprised that 10 minute had actually passed.