Increasing My Step Count

Two months ago, I started checking my daily step count.

Embarrassingly, I was hitting well below 5000 a day. I drive a lot for work and am at different schools every day. Essentially, I am traveling from one parking lot to another, since I don’t live near the gym or the yoga studio. I decided that I should try to improve this aspect of my life.

Along with half a dozen other friends, I am using the Carrot Rewards app.  While I currently do not have a pedometer, the Google Fit app on my smartphone counts my steps and uploads the information to Carrot Rewards. If I hit my daily goal, I get anywhere between 2 to 6 Scene points*. I also collect points for completing surveys (~40 points) and inviting friends to join (100 points). Other friends are currently using it for Aeroplan points.

I’ve actually been doing much better the past month, being able to see how my friends are faring. Social pressure is great and works well for me (when it’s people I care about)! You can pair up with friends, complete 10 step goals together within a week and get more points of your choice.


A few of them who work downtown hit well over 10,000 each day. My daily step goal has increased to 5200 – it is determined for you and you cannot change it manually – from 3600 last month. Some nights, I have to do an extra walk to the local convenience store or a loop around the park to hit my goals**, but the fact that it’s changed my behaviour immensely is a great thing. I’m well aware that I need a lifestyle change and I’ve been working on it!

The only issue is finding a balance with carrying my phone around. I do try to set it down at home, while I’m cooking or running chores, so those steps aren’t counted. My workouts at the gym and yoga aren’t included either. I’m still trying to get my hands on a FitBit through Bunz, so this will help a lot!!

Do you use a pedometer or have a daily step goal?

*A thousand points gets you one free movie at Cineplex Odeon theatres.
**Tonight, I spent 20 minutes milling about the supermarket after dark. I didn’t want to walk through the park by myself when it’s late.


Boomerang for Gmail

How did I not know about this?!?!? My cousin, J., who was visiting from New York City. I must learn how to use Boomerang for Gmail because this would make streamline my workflow and also allow me to organize my life much better!

Ok Google Commands

I’ve recently started exploring Ok Google commands. Here’s a list of fairly useful commands from CNET. Personally, I started using it while driving and have been using the following while navigating:

  • “Open Google Maps”
  • “Go home” (after you’ve set a specific address as “home” or “work”)
  • “Increase / decrease volume”
  • “Stop navigation”

Other commands that seem to be working, other than doing a Google search:

  • “Define antidisestablishmentarianism.” (our grade 5 teacher forced us to learn this word by heart and spell it as fast as we can)
  • “Continue the podcast.”
  • “What is the weather in Toronto?” (it can also recognize the word Waskaganish!)
  • “Show me my messages.” (also great for driving)
  • “Start a timer for two minutes.” (for steeping my Earl Grey tea)
  • “On Spotify, play Sorry by Justin Bieber.” (the screen tends to get stuff and the song doesn’t get played … argh)
  • “Show me my calendar.” (been using Google Calendar since 2007)
  • “Make a note in Evernote.” (have a paid subscription)

I have to say it’s pretty handy although I find I’m struggling to get it working smoothly with Spotify. I’ll have to keep practicing using it, although it probably eats up a lot of my battery.

Have you used Ok Google commands?


Mindset Around Grocery Shopping

Since living in the north for the past 5.5 years, I stopped paying attention to prices at the supermarket. I never spent a great deal of money, and already having a restrictive diet as a vegetarian, I wanted to make sure I purchased what I wanted and needed.

Running the credit card at the checkout without thinking about the total was pretty normal. Mind you, I did consider prices as I picked up items but I knew that if I wanted to make tacos for dinner, I was going to have to pay for peppers regardless of the price.

Yesterday, I grabbed a bunch of salad items and some veggie burgers for lunch at home. This $26 bill up north would probably be something like $40 or $45 up north. Occasionally, we’d buy online through IGA – it was delivered 7 hours away from Amos, Quebec – but even then, we rarely thought too much about the price.


As I will be living in the city again this coming school year, I am going to be more aware of food prices and try to shop for better deals. It’s a habit I need to develop again. I downloaded Flipp to explore – an app that shows savings of major retailers – and try to make mental notes of items I purchase frequently*.

*Avocados, tomatoes and apples are staples of mine

New Steam Games and Steam Summer Sale

I had purchased Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes ($15) off Steam back in the fall; I had received a recommendation for it by a Grade 5 teacher when looking for games in the classroom. I hadn’t gotten around to testing it until J. and I finally started playing it last weekend, after report cards marks were submitted and I felt a giant weight off my chest.

If you’re looking for a quick game to help with your communication skills, this is perfect for that. You need at least two players. One person looks at the instruction manual, while one person works on the bomb (the laptop screen) as the defuser. The defuser starts off by describing the individuals modules, and the other person then looks through the manual and gives instructions on what to do. Each module is a puzzle that has a specific set of rules and changes with each new bomb. You are allowed 2 strikes (errors) within 5 minutes (or less), before the bomb explodes and you lose the game.

As of Friday, J. and I worked through the first two sections and have a good handle on the basics. We haven’t yelled at each other (yet), but he seems to do better deciphering and giving me instructions, while I describe and work through the puzzles. I hope that one day I’ll get to play this in a classroom!


And of course, this is the time of the famous Steam summer sale! The prices ae amaaaaazing. Games that might normally go for $15-30 can be purchased for just a few bucks. Of course, while I won’t be gaming much during the summer, I decided to purchase a few items off my wish list.

The one I was most hesitant about was Car Mechanic Simulator 2015, but since I would like to learn more about cars – honestly, I don’t even know where my air filter is – I decided that $3.29 was a steal, even if I don’t make use of the entire game.

Pretty excited about these purchases!


iOS Apps: Monument Valley 2

Two years ago, I purchased Monument Valley, a beautifully designed puzzle game for the iPad. ustwo Games Ltd finally realized Monument Valley 2 ($5 USD/$7 CAD). I haven’t bought any iOS games in over 6 months – this was intentional – and had to reset my password so I could get it.

Just finished chapter 5 today and I am enjoying it as much as the first one. Here’s the screenshot:


Highly recommended, if you’re looking for a light puzzle game.


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 (formally, 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.