March Madness

Just enjoyed my first week of March Break in Ontario! It was nice to take a work break and spend a little time in Toronto. Here are some of the highlights:

Fitness: Subbed in for high school friends’ indoor beach volleyball league on Monday. I’m happy to say I’m finally starting to spike this year! Went bouldering on Sunday with some of my yoga teacher training crew. It was nice to have fun off the mat.

Reconnecting with people: Went to check out the pussy hut last weekend with B., whom I have not had a chance to hang out with for a few weeks. Got to see J., whom I haven’t been able to chat with for nearly two years. Normally, I see his wife a few times a year, but sometimes you gotta squeezep in the other half! Went to a baby shower for K. this weekend. Oof, having friends all over the place is tough because I’m constantly driving everywhere. However, I’m not complaining. After living north for 4 years, I’m thankful to be able to visit friends so easily. And on St. Patricks’ Day, we had a small high school reunion on the Danforth and enjoyed Greek food.
Family: Celebrated my mom’s birthday with my sister at our favourite Italian restaurant, Il Fornello. It was a belated birthday celebration because I wasn’t able to see her on her actual birthday; I had another YTT 3-day weekend and was mostly in the studio. Had a nice Thai lunch with my Gramma too.
Taxes: I have a super Mom! She helped me get all my papers in order and we filed my income tax. This time in Ontario. Goodbye, Quebec … I ain’t ever coming back. Also in the process of moving my pension back to Ontario with OTPP.

Books: Finished Caitlin Flander‘s The Year of Less, after purchasing it on Kindle for $1.99. Still struggling to finish Tiny Little Things. It’s such a heavy book that screws up so many emotions it’s not easy to read. I’m soooo close though! Will start on The Lonely Hearts Hotel soon.


Getting organized: In between, I managed to vacuum my room and wash all my bedding. I need to do this more often, ugh. I do not have a schedule! Also managed to clear our a couple of Bunz trades that had been pending since December. I picked up a blackboard/whiteboard, some eyeliner, a pair of turquoise Uniqlo jeggings, a well-loved Kate Spade wallet, a Somersby cider and a couple of Gap t-shirts. Super happy with my recent acquisitions! It always feels lighter when you clean out items you no longer use and get what you need and want.

Food: Check out this amazing vegetable pie I had at BarHop! I haven’t been taking as many photos these days. Trying hard to be present and always thinking about the Note to Self challenge, because it’s important to experience where you are and not just document. I had to snap this gorgeous looking pie though!

Great week over all! Working in Cambridge tomorrow.

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Monthly Goals – Fast February

No big goals this month, as I was out of town for 2 weeks in Alabama and Florida.

Health and Fitness

  • Set up another rockclimbing gathering (3/5): In the works, and trying to finalize a few things.
  • Get pap smear (5/5): There are no family doctors in the Kitchener-Waterloo and while some people might think this is TMI to write on a public blog, I feel that this should be a more common public discussion. I’ve briefly taught sexual education in the past, and hope to encourages others to get their cervical cancer screening because 1) it’s covered for Ontarians every 3 years and 2) it’s important to take responsibility in our sexual health, both of ourselves and for our partners. I was tested two years ago while living up north, but the entire file was lost – ugh – and I never found out about my results! Finally getting this done, as it was tricky to find a gynaecologist and had to wait for a recommendation.
Teaching
  • Keep working on Teacher Librarian AQ (4/5): I handed in assignments one day late about two times now, but am enjoying the course.
  • Download OCT license and pay for my annual fee (5/5): Business as usual.
Professional development
  • Finish books (2/5): I’ve been doing badly with reading. Mainly been relying on audiobooks while I’m driving between Tiny Beautiful Things and put I Hear She’s a Real Bitch on pause. I also have a lot of reading from my course and keep getting distracted with other eBooks that I am intrigued by! Will continue to refocus and finish up books in March.
Auto and Financial
  • Check RRSP contribution room (4/5): I have maxed out my 2017 contributions.
  • Cancel Cody membership (5/5): Thought I would use it but really, I have not.

February Update

Trip to the US: Went to Alabama and Florida for 10 days. Flew to Mobile for $198.46 CAD, took a Greyhound ($85.50 USD) to Jacksonville and then hopped on a Megabus ($17.50 USD) about 2.5 hours away to Orlando. Flew back by Delta via Detroit ($220.24 CAD). No hotels or hostels as I stayed with friends the whole time. Had a great time; as the trip was primarily reconnecting with people I rarely see. It was also nice to play with some kiddies and have paper airplane competitions at 10 am in the morning!

As I get older, I’ve learned that some trips don’t have to be about hitting tourist stops* and be more focused on rebuilding long-distance connections that are often maintained through social media.

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Substitute teaching: After two weeks without work, during the exam period, I was going bonkers from cabin fever. I tried to substitute teach as much as possible before I took off for my trip and was really happy to return to work afterwards. These things put it into perspective that I do enjoy my work!

Books: ARGH! I’m in one of those moods where I start different books and don’t finish any of them! I need to refocus on the following:

I also picked up a copy of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking  from J. while visiting Alabama, but trying to set that aside until I finish the others first!

Online Dating: Shut down my apps when I left and putting this on pause right now, because …

Courses: I’ve now devolved into either doing assignments for my YTT homework or my Teacher Librarian course homework. I handed in a couple of assignments late so I feel I need to buckle down and refocus. Just handed in Module 3 of my TL course on Wednesday and need to prep my YTT #5 assignment for this coming Sunday!

*I did spend a day at DisneyWorld’s Animal Kingdom to see Pandora. I missed it last time I visited. Enjoyed the beautiful 24 Celsius weather.

November Update

Lots of life updates. Here we go ….

Yoga Teacher Training: I won’t write so much here. I tend to microblog important notes on Cody, since that’s where other people discuss anatomy and yoga with me. Otherwise, this is the third weekend and it’s going well. The studio director, L., spoke with me privately yesterday. She knows that I have been feeling going through an emotional rough patch (still dealing with my break-up), but at the end of the night, she told me that she’s very glad to have me in the program and in Waterloo. It was really sweet and it meant a lot to me.

Also, can you spot which one I am?

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Accepting compliments: I used to struggle with accepting compliments and brush them off / deny / deflect. Over the years, as I spotted this behaviour, I worked on it. I am better at receiving them, which includes simply looking at the person who said it, smiling and saying thank you.

As I’d mentioned above, the director gave me a HUGE compliment last night. Today, I also got several compliments. 1) The (same) yoga director said that she liked my pineapple tank top, which was nice on a cloudy and dreary day, 2) a classmate that I ate lunch with said that I was smart, attractive and charming and lastly, 3) another peer said that my teaching instructions were spot on and that I was a natural at it! Internally, I can still have difficulty accepting these as truths, but I want to embrace that this means I am valued and worthy, which isn’t a feeling that’s consistent when you are living in a new place and still trying to make new friends.

Occasional Teaching: Hard to believe but I’ve already hit the minimum 20 days I need to apply for the LTO list next year. So far, I’ve worked about 30 days. I took this week off as a much needed mental health break. I only worked a 0.5 on Thursday. And that’s fine. No need to shame myself for taking a break.

Career options: On Friday, I went to EdTalent, which is an annual job conference held in Toronto by Apply to Education. I got a chance to say hello to the Cree School Board and chat with my friend, E., who is now a vice-principal. We gabbed for 15 minutes and it was really nice just to say hi to a friend. But I still have wanderlust that will never ever die, and after sticking around Canada for 5 years – yes, I did travel during the holidays – I still want to go somewhere. I spoke with a few UK agencies. They will do anything as short as one month but I was considering a 2-month term.

Reading: One of the optional books to read for Yoga Teacher Training, is The Gifts of ImperfectionBe compassionate with yourself, according to Brene Brown. As I’d mention above, shaming myself for taking a mental health break is not productive. I used to do it but I don’t anymore. Over the past 4 years while working in the north, I took days if I wasn’t physically sick but was emotionally overwhelmed and needed a recharge.

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Employment Insurance: I need to apply for EI for Christmas! My classmate, N., tipped me off as she also works for the same school board. She said you can often get more money from EI than a summer job.

Financing my car: I paid off my car in 52 months, instead of 5 years! This is 8 months ahead of schedule as I threw several years of tax returns at the balance. I am feeling very proud about this! It helps too as I’m not making very much money right now.

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Book: The Little Book of Hygge

If you like self-help books, you may have heard of this book, The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well. This little hardcover book been incredibly popular and for good reason.

Any introverts will be able to appreciate this little gem and the philosophy around hygge will help you feel less guilty about skipping out parties and cozying up with your cat on a Saturday night, ha! Check it out if you get a chance!

Getting Back into My Books

The past few years, while living up north, I made it a habit to read a lot. I was a voracious reader growing up, but, like most adults transitioning into working life, the habit fell by the wayside.

The north was a perfect place for reading. Lots of time, lots of silence, lots of solitude. And with my full time job as a high school teacher, it was helpful to have enough disposable income to afford an Audible.com membership. I found a lot of new books through this company and got into books by comedians (i.e. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jim Gaffigan, Mindy Kaling). I consistently surpassed my goal of 15 books a year, and marked it on GoodReads.com:

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And then 2017 rolled around.

I struggled with reading. I couldn’t sit and get through a single book within 2 weeks. I kept seeing more books and would start them without finishing the others. Soon I had a giant stack of half-finished books and a wave of anxiety that there was no time to read them all. Needless to say, I felt frustrated.

I attributed it to bad habits. I had trouble focusing. Well, it’s probably because I’ve got so much going on this year – new job, moving out of the north, moving to Waterloo, adjusting to a new city, etc. etc. The excuses went on and on.

Deep down, I knew I had time. I always had time for a book because they so beautifully fill in the cracks to our days, but I blamed my lack of focus and left it at that.

And then I read this page out of Manoush Zamorodi’s Bored and Brilliant* and it – figuratively speaking – scared the poop out of me:

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So it wasn’t just me.

Even famous journalists, writers, literary artists, scientists, politicians and neuroscientists were suffering the same fate. I wasn’t the only one who was having issues with deep reading. I was not alone in this.

And a couple of weeks ago I vowed to dive back into reading.

Deep reading. Everywhere reading. Reading on a daily basis. Reading for short bursts. Carrying my books to read when I was waiting in a line. Reading when I was waiting to be addressed at a service desk. Reading during a meal. Reading in the morning. Reading before bed.

And magically, I felt my focus come back.

It was alarmingly fast and yet noticeable. It was shocking the difference I felt. Not only that, but the wave of anxiety was not replaced by a wave of great relief. Relief that that part of me didn’t die or disappear altogether. Relief that I still love reading. Relief that I learn so much from these books and that I get joy from it.

Well, I better damn well get my act together if I am going to get through Lena Dunham’s Not That Kinda Girl, Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist and Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers before the end of November. 

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Gotta run, I have a book to read.

*The book is based off of a series of interviews from the WNYC podcast, Note to Self

Indian dish of the Day: Rajma

Back in January, I bought the Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen cookbook. I’ve made spiced roasted tofu and vegetables (p. 48)*, Dad’s favorite cauliflower potatoes (p.60) and easy curried green beans (p. 84). Tonight, I tried making rajma for the first time, otherwise known as kidney bean curry (p. 124).

Unfortunately, I was missing amchoor, dried fenugreek leaves and carom seeds. Several websites I found suggested that carom seeds can actually be substituted with thyme instead!

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I used canned kidney beans and canned tomatoes, since I didn’t have time to soak beans and fresh tomatoes in the north are very expensive. The preparation was fairly straight forward and the final product was still tasty; J. was a bit fan and had a hearty serving. This was a success – simple and nutritious. I could easily make a big batch of this for my workweek.

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I’ll have to retry this recipe with all the ingredients, just to see the difference.

*I made this recipe with cow’s milk yogurt as I didn’t have vegan options

 

Aloo Gobi and Raita

Decided to try a new recipe from the Vegan Richa cookbook, which I had purchased back in January. Last month, I tried two recipes, but had been busy the past while and hadn’t touched the cookbook again.

Flipping through the cookbook, I wanted to make sure I had every ingredient for any recipe I tried. Generally, I enjoy aloo gobi at Indian restaurants, but had only attempted to cook it using random recipes off the internet. On the couple of occasions, I’ve  not had success with a solid recipe that I really liked.

I was cautious and not feeling confident that this would be any better, but this recipe was pretty spot on!  Here is the end result, with garam masala and fresh cilantro sprinkled on top:

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I also ended up making some (non-vegan) raita too.* We made some brown rice, plus some (microwavable) pappadums and sliced cucumber as an informal salad. I also wanted a second dish and not having the energy, just heated up some instant vegetable curry from a bag. It was a pretty good spread!

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*Argh, I forgot J. doesn’t really like raita and the fact that this has black salt, which makes a sulphury/eggy smell, he definitely was not going to eat it. Guess I will have to finish it on my own.

New Indian Recipes

On Sunday afternoon, I tried two recipes from Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen cookbook, which I purchased from Indigo a few weeks ago.

First, I tried to make Spiced Roasted Tofu and Vegetables, which uses a tandoori-like yogurt marinade*. It is then oven-baked (or grilled) to get the flavour into the tofu and vegeables. I didn’t end up making the dipping sauce, but the yogurt marinade itself was amazingly delicious and I found myself dipping everything into it!

Secondly, I made the Easy Curried Green Beans, which was fairly simple and fast. Both recipes turned out well and I must admit that the flavouring was quite spot on.

For now, I don’t think I’ll repeat either of the recipes. They were alright but I wasn’t in love with it. I’m just happy to find more recipes that require black salt because I had only ever had it on hand to make tofu scramble!**

It was a pretty chill evening, since I finally finished my Additional Qualification course last night (around 2 a.m.). J. and I ate our dinner while watching the first episode of WestWorld.

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*Ashamedly, I ended up unveganizing this because I didn’t have non-dairy yogurt on hand. 

**Black salt has a strong sulphurous smell. In Indian cooking, it can also be used to mimic an egg-like smell or create a sour taste in dishes.

Taking Steps Towards Budgeting

On Wednesday night, feeling restless and unable to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, I sat on the couch with my laptop and stumbled across Cait Flander’s Mindful Budgeting Planner ($40).

I recently heard about Cait through one of Jessica Moorhouse’s podcast and was also impressed with Cait’s articles, namely one on the privilege of financial advice; I’ve since admired her and have been following her on Twitter.

Even my personal definition of what minimalism means to me is a privilege. Being able to decide what adds value to your life and letting go of what doesn’t – how fortunate am I to be in the position to apply that to any area of my life!? If my diet is making me feel bad, I can walk into a grocery store and buy better food. If the work I do is leaving me unfulfilled, I can find other work. If I need/want to learn a new skill, I can take a class. The list goes on and on.

Since then, her blog has intrigued me.

And seeing her planner, I suddenly wanted it. At the moment, it felt a bit like a sleep-deprived impulse buy, but given the impeding changes coming up in 5 months, moving back south, I’m going to have to start budgeting … soon.

I’ve never really budgeted and hated doing so. I really just spend as much as I feel is necessary, occasionally buying a treat for myself (i.e. leggings, bath bombs). Even when I travel, I don’t budget.

Anyway, I ended up ordering the planner, which is printed on demand and then shipped in Canada. With the shipping charges, it was a bit steep at $58. I balked when I saw the price and nearly changed my mind, but the biggest draw for me is to have an online Facebook community where I can share thoughts and tips as I being using the planner.

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Other the past month, I’ve really been enjoying participating in Jessica Moorhouse’s Facebook group, Money. Life. Balance. and also got included in a recent group chat with some old high school friends on investing (I got roped in due to the posts I’ve been sharing on social media). It’s the social support that I need the most. I also occasionally bounce ideas with family and friends, but love the diversity of information that comes to me when I can connect with people of different backgrounds, situations and privileges.

Really looking forward to the planner. It should, hopefully, arrive here by next Friday. Fingers crossed!