Personal

Personal: September Update of My 2021 Goals

Obviously, I haven’t checked in with you – or myself – about my 2021 goals. Mid-way through September seems like a good time to review them – and revise them!

  1. Eat more vegetables. I’m keeping steady with this goal. I don’t eat salad every day, but I do eat vegetables regularly.
  2. Travel. Sigh. Should I just remove this from my list? I did spend a week in Ottawa in August, so I guess I did make a bit of progress with this one!
  3. Save money. Ha ha ha. Funny considering a big move in June! The good news is though that expense tracking continues! It was a useful practice for me on my own, and it continues to be useful as a couple.
  4. Pass on magazines/books/clothes/puzzles. Yes. I have passed on so many things over the last few months. It’s been great for me and appreciated by the recipients (I think!).
  5. Crochet a blanket. Hmm…this project was put on pause as we went through the house drama. I have just a few months to finish it before winter arrives.
  6. Reduce social media consumption. I think I’ve reduced consumption without really thinking about it. Mostly, I think, I’ve reduced consumption because it’s been summer, and I’ve wanted to be outside with people instead of online.
  7. Play games. Oh yes! Bananagram tournaments galore! We played with three new people over the last couple of months, so that’s been fun! And, oh yes, that good ol’ pickle ball. I played that this summer. Once.
  8. Edit my magazine subscriptions. I’ve done well with this goal in 2021. I especially appreciate my subscription to Veranda.
  9. Read more. Yes! I have been reading. I finished Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour (really really really enjoyed it!) and I’m just starting Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library. I never did finish listening to Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. I’ve also read a couple academic books: Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning edited by Susan D. Blum and Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It by James M. Lang.
  10. Blog. I’ll keep this on my goal list, but I recognize that I haven’t been reaching it.
  11. Bike ride regularly. Because of the move, I didn’t bike for much of the summer. I rode it only once in August.
  12. Cross stitch. I’m deleting this from my goal list until I’ve made more progress with my crocheted blanket.
  13. Have fun! In between some stressful days and weeks, I have been having fun. I had an awesome birthday party with a handful of friends in our new house, we took a road trip to Ottawa, we hosted friends here in Waterloo, I have enjoyed morning walks in the park (and recovered from the dog attack way back in June!), and I’ve baked new things (like peach torte from Ina Garten’s new cookbook which was gifted to me!). Let the fun continue!

Previous updates: January, February, March, April, May & June.

Hello, World!

Hello! Remember me? The blogger who loves white? It’s been a long while, hasn’t it? Is anyone still out there?

How are you?

Really.

How are you?

I’m curious about how you’re doing. What you’re reading. What you’re doing. How you’re coping. What’s making you smile. What you’re thankful for. What you’re interested in. What activities you’re doing. And if you feel happy.

I’m curious about all of these things, dear readers! Please share!

As for me? Well, I’ve experienced some changes. For the better. Although there have been mountains to climb and very stressful days.

Today, though, I feel good. Great, in fact. Minus my sprained ankle which is currently elevated as I type from the comfort of my couch.

I don’t have a dramatic story to share about my ankle. I sprained it (light sprain, I think) playing pickle ball. You know that sport which is like tennis and which is popular among seniors in Florida? Yes, that pickle ball. I rolled my ankle. My beau carried me princess style to safety, so I could rest in the shade while the pickle ball tournament continued. A friend subbed in for me, so that my 12 year old partner could continue to play. So, yeah, that’s the short story of my ankle.

Beyond that, my major news is that after eight years of living in my own home (my first home!), I moved. That was major. Double major because my beau and I moved in together. Woah. Big news, yes. It wasn’t a smooth process, unfortunately, but we’re settling in just fine now. He cleans out the sink drain (one of my least favourite chores), so that’s handy! I’m even trying to learn to live with a touch of colour. He liked my red office chair in the new living room, so we left it. Luckily, he’s okay with white, too, and we have many overlapping images on our Pinterest boards. Yes, he has Pinterest boards. Luckily for me, he hasn’t pushed too hard for neon lights in his music space.

Like others, I’m tired of the pandemic news. Can we all get vaccinated and move on with life? Give me a third dose and a passport please, so I can travel. I miss travel. A lot.

We’ve done some local travel, though. Cottage life has been a nice reprieve. A week in Ottawa with friends was fun. It was great to be a tourist!

I haven’t seen my nephews and niece (and sister and brother-in-law) in two years. Two years is too long. I miss them. Everyone has changed. I barely know what they’re interested in. Facetime is fine, but it’s not sufficient. When borders open, I’m heading south. Or they’ll come north. Or we’ll meet in the middle.

Work life is great. I am so so so grateful for my job. I love it. I connected with students last year in ways that I never had before. Many of my students had such a hard year. So many challenges. Sad stories. Trauma. It was a lot. This was the first week of classes for the fall term, and I just hope that everyone has a positive year and that they learn a lot!

And blogging. Where does this fit in these days?

Obviously, it hasn’t fit in my life over the last few months. But I miss writing. I need to make time for it. I’m not sure when and how, but I need to. It makes me happy.

And I want to continue to do things that make me happy.

Oh so simple.

I’ll be back, dear readers, and I hope you will be, too.

Personal: May and June Update of My 2021 goals

Better late than never, right? Phew – how did June get here so fast? And leave so fast, too? Since I missed my May update, I’ll combine the two months into one update post.

How did you do this month with your 2021 goals?

Here’s where I’m at with my goals.

  1. Eat more vegetables. I know I didn’t get enough veggies in me in May, and I was feeling terrible. I ate too much fast food and take out, and I didn’t make enough time for grocery shopping and cooking. I changed things in June, and I got back on track with lunchtime salads and veggies at dinner.
  2. Travel. Still on hold.
  3. Save money. Not quite. I had a major life change in May/June (I moved!), which meant that my expense tracking went out the window! Now that we’re in our new house, I’m back to tracking our expenses.
  4. Pass on magazines/books/clothes/puzzles. Sort of. I did a major clean-out (on account of the move), so I had plenty of boxes for donation. It felt good to pass things on that are high quality but no longer needed.
  5. Crochet a blanket. I made some progress at the beginning of May, then put it on hold. For now, I have a great child-sized blanket.
  6. Reduce social media consumption. This one is still a challenge for me. I scroll Instagram for no reason.
  7. Renovate my bathroom. This one is now off my list because, you guessed it, I sold my house.
  8. Play games. Games have moved to the park these last couple of months – frisbee and soccer, mostly. I’m eager to break out the croquet set though!
  9. Edit my magazine subscriptions. Getting there! I didn’t renew one magazine recently.
  10. Read more. Yes! I listened to My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite on audiobook, and I really enjoyed it. I read Elena Ferrante’s The Lying Life of Adults, and I thought it was fine. It wasn’t nearly as good as her Neapolitan novels. I also started to listen to Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. He narrates the audiobook, which makes it even that much better! I made it through a few parts before my borrowing time was up at the library. I’ll request it again to continue to listen to it.
  11. Blog. It was really tough to keep writing in May/June.
  12. Bike ride regularly. Not quite. I took a pause from biking, for much of May and June, but now that my bike is at my new house, I’m using it regularly.
  13. Cross stitch. No progress here. I may have to move this to my 2022 goal list.
  14. Have fun! There have been some very stressful days these last couple of months, and it was tough to find time for fun. Move-in weekend, however, ended up being quite fun because friends came to help!

Previous updates: January, February, March, April

Personal: April Update of My 2021 Goals

Who else has drafted a list of goals to accomplish in 2021? What’s on your list? How did you to this month?

April has flown by in a flash. End of term kept me busy at work with early mornings and busy weekends. The spring term is right around the corner, so I’ve been prepping for that, too. While March had me down for so many reasons, April – and several days of sunshine – meant for some happy days (in between terrible Ontario lockdown restrictions again). I’ve had a decent amount of downtime to work on my hobbies like crochet and reading.

Here’s this month’s update of my 2021 goals.

  1. Eat more vegetables. Sort of! I’ve made a few delicious salads each week (mostly with whatever veggies I have on hand + hard boiled eggs). I’ve also done so many roasted veggies, and they’re just delicious. These blistered green beans have been in heavy rotation. I’d like to get back into the habit of going to the market on Saturdays…I went to Kitchener market last Saturday after I hadn’t been in over a year. (Here are the gorgeous tulips I picked up at the market.)
  2. Travel. Nope! Ha ha. It’s basically a terrible joke that I have this on my goal list, isn’t it?
  3. Save money. Yes! I have continued to track of my spending for the most part.
  4. Pass on magazines/books/clothes/puzzles. Yes! I passed on a stack of magazines early in the month. I also sorted through stacks of magazines and books I was hoarding, and I have been slowly going through my closets (very slowly). Items have been or will be thrown out/passed on/donated once Ontario’s lockdown is over.
  5. Crochet a blanket. Yes! I’ve made decent progress this month (see my blanket progress). It feels and looks so nice. I still have another 274193 hours until it’s done!
  6. Reduce social media consumption. Sort of! My aimless scrolling doesn’t last too long these days, but I know I can do better. Does anyone have any advice? Delete the Instagram app over the weekend, for example?
  7. Renovate my bathroom. Nope! No progress here.
  8. Play games. Yes! Bananagrams continues to be a go-to game. Nintendo and the weekly crossword, too, have kept my mind busy.
  9. Edit my magazine subscriptions. Nope! Like in the last two months, I didn’t need to edit anything this month because none of my subscriptions were up for renewal. I haven’t signed up for any new subscriptions, so I think that’s a goal achievement, too.
  10. Read more. Yes! I finished Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (part of my faculty book club at work). I also moved quickly through Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour, and I quite enjoyed the audiobook version.
  11. Blog. Sort of! I started off slow at the beginning of the month, then picked up regular writing mid-month. It always makes me feel good to write blog posts – even short ones!
  12. Bike ride regularly. Embrace cross country skiing. No need! Snow is gone! I’ve replaced my winter goal with a spring/summer goal – bike riding. And, yes, I did go for a few rides this month. It’s been a good way to see friends at a distance.
  13. Cross stitch. Nope! No progress.
  14. Have fun! Yes! I did have some fun in April…but I could have more in May!

Previous updates: January, February, March

Personal: Things on My Mind

I have a long list of things on my mind for you today. There are plenty of interesting links for you to peruse over the weekend.

  1. Jacques Pepin making a fried egg is a good video.
  2. A couple of months ago, I started meeting my nephews and niece on Zoom for a short French lesson each week. It’s been a very fun part of my week (and I hope the same is true for them). Even though it has taken a pandemic to get us here, I’m so happy! If they weren’t in virtual school/homeschool/half-time school (so many variations this past year!), and I wasn’t working from home, and Zoom didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be having these lessons. I find it very cool.
  3. I made this acorn squash stuffed with chicken dish from Half Baked Harvest, and it was an easy and tasty recipe.
  4. I did the 16 Personalities test, and my results were pretty darn accurate. Any guesses as to my personality? (Executive: ESTJ – Part of the Sentinels personality type: Observant and judging personality types known for their practicality and focus on order, security, and stability.)
  5. I need to do this historical walking tour of Waterloo.
  6. This video from the Marsh family “Totally Fixed Where We Are” is fun (if you can laugh about the reality of lockdown life). Watch their other videos, too!
  7. Speaking of music and creative people, you’ve got to check out Damien Robitaille on Instagram. He makes me smile with each video. It’s hard to choose a favourite, but his version of Daft Punk’s Around the World could be it.
  8. And Korean acapella group Maytree’s acapella jingles are impressive, too!
  9. What have you been watching on Netflix/Prime/Crave/Disney+/etc.? Here’s what I’ve watched in the last little while (with brief ratings): Ginny & Georgia (fine), Little Fires Everywhere (good), Parks & Recreation (so funny), Margin Call (very good), The Big Short (very good), and Criminal (fine).
  10. I keep going back to this list of recipes I’ve tried and loved. Pasta alla vecchia bettola, potato leek soup, roast chicken, and chicken broth have been on a weekly (or near weekly rotation). Yum!

Personal: March Update of my 2021 Goals

Who else has drafted a list of goals to accomplish in 2021? What’s on your list? How did you to this month?

March has been a tough one on my end. There’s been a lot on the go personally and professionally, so I’ve had little to no time (a) for leisure time and (b) to remind myself of my goal list.

That said, here’s this month’s update of my 2021 goals.

  1. Eat more vegetables. Sort of! While I haven’t had many salads this month, I have had a few delicious ones, and I made some veggie stir fry dishes to get some veggies into my diet.
  2. Travel. Nope! I didn’t leave the Waterloo region at all this month.
  3. Save money. Sort of! I have continued to keep track of my spending for the most part.
  4. Pass on magazines/books/clothes/puzzles. Sort of! I have a stack of magazines ready to pass on.
  5. Crochet a blanket. Sort of! I’ve made quite a bit of progress, but mid-month, I put the project on hold due to lack of leisure time. I still have another 274193 hours until it’s done!
  6. Reduce social media consumption. Sort of! I know I can do better, but I haven’t been scrolling aimlessly through Instagram as much lately.
  7. Renovate my bathroom. Nope! No progress here.
  8. Play games. Yes! Throughout the month, Bananagrams has continued to be on heavy rotation. And I do really enjoy tackling the weekly crossword in the Globe & Mail, too.
  9. Edit my magazine subscriptions. Nope! Like in February, I haven’t edited anything this month because none of my subscriptions were up for renewal. I did pass on a few deals for new subscriptions that came my way.
  10. Read more. Nope! I really let the ball drop with books this month. I still have Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer on the go (for my faculty book club at work). I started Mary Lawson’s A Town Called Solace, but my library borrowing time expired before I could finish it. There are a few good audiobooks and paper books stacked waiting for me.
  11. Blog. Sort of! I was definitely on top of things at the start of March, and then my rate of blogging declined. Shoot!
  12. Embrace cross country skiing. No need! Snow is gone! Spring weather is here (and I hope it’s staying). It’s time to pack up my skis!
  13. Cross stitch. Nope! My planned project is waiting for me.
  14. Have fun! Yes! I did have some fun in March, even though there was a lot on the go!

Previous updates: January, February

Personal: February Update of my 2021 Goals

Who else has drafted a list of goals to accomplish in 2021? What’s on your list? How did you to this month?

Here’s an update of my 2021 goals.

  1. Eat more vegetables. Yes! I’ve had a salad for lunch nearly every weekday. That should be good enough, right? I also made this acorn stuffed with chicken recipe, which seemed healthy enough.
  2. Travel. Nope! Unless you count traveling to see my parents for a day.
  3. Save money. Yes! I’m continue to track my spending (mostly on food these days!), and I even met with my bank representative to chat about a few things. I find our discussions quite helpful.
  4. Pass on magazines/books/clothes/puzzles. Yes! I passed on magazines and a puzzle this month. A friend passed on a puzzle to me, too. Fun!
  5. Crochet a blanket. Yes! I’ve started my blanket project. In another 274193 hours, it will be done!
  6. Reduce social media consumption. Nope! Not really. Why is this so hard?
  7. Renovate my bathroom. Nope! But I have made progress in terms of ideas, fixture options, and layout.
  8. Play games. Yes! It’s been a Bananagrams-heavy month! My beau and I now give each other new challenges like words on a theme or number of 5+ letter words. We’re bananagrammers now.
  9. Edit my magazine subscriptions. Nope! There was no need to edit anything this month because none of my subscriptions were up for renewal.
  10. Read more. Yes! This month, I listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking To Strangers on audiobook. He narrates it and there are snippets from others, too, so it was an enjoyable audiobook. I’m also a fan of Gladwell, so I appreciated his presentation of research about how people meet, communicate, judge, and trust one another (and how they don’t!). Chapter 5 was a difficult one to get through because it deals with the topic of sexual abuse, and there are audio clip testimonies from courtrooms in the audiobook version. I’m also just about finished Nick Hornby’s Just Like You (on audiobook), and I’ve enjoyed it (but I’ve always been a Nick Hornby fan). I’m also one chapter into Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer for my faculty book club at work. We’ll be reading and discussing it over the next few months.
  11. Blog. Yes! I have blogged regularly this month. I like being back in regularly contact with my own blog and others, too.
  12. Embrace cross country skiing. Sort of! I got out once this month. Not bad. Not great.
  13. Cross stitch. Nope! I planned out my project, but that’s it.
  14. Have fun! Yes! I did have some fun in February, even though there were some challenging days.

Previous updates: January

Personal: Reflections on Life in the Age of COVID-19 – Part 3

It was over one year ago that news broke about an uncontrollable disease in China (January 2020). Little did we know then, right? Exactly one year ago (February 17th, 2020), I received a text from my dad with news about the COVID-19 outbreak in Codogno, Italy, and soon after that, news that my relatives who live in this small town tested positive. My uncle began a 40-day stay in hospital. So much was unknown at the time, and I spent days (and days and days) glued to the news and my phone.

By the time March arrived, COVID-19 was heavily present in Canada, and on March 17th, life changed locally. The university closed a few weeks before the end of term, and chaos ensued while my team and I sorted out new procedures. I wrote my first COVID-19 reflection post in April and a part 2 update in August. Now, as we near the one-year mark of when the pandemic hit Canada, I’d like to take another moment to reflect.

WORK

As you may remember, I started my new position at a new university in July. The time has flown! I have been so happy with the work that I’ve been doing and with the collaborative projects I’ve had with my new colleagues. I continue to feel very fortunate for the work that I do and the contributions I can make at the individual level with students and colleagues and at a group level with my university community and national organizations. My work keeps my brain very active! I am lucky. I find my work so fulfilling, and I go to work (down the hall to my office) happy every day.

While, yes, I’ve been very positive about my new job, there have been some dull days, too. Even though I had a successful first term of teaching virtually when everything was new (course, unit, department, university), by December, I was more than ready for a break. Since I spend most of my days on Zoom, I, like many of you, I’m sure, was so tired of the routine of logging on to my computer every day and sitting in front of a camera. Post-Christmas break, I was more energized to start the new term, to meet new students, and to make progress on my research. Things have been moving along at a decent pace, all things considered.

Overall, I have been enjoying my working from home life. I’ve had a fairly set routine from September on, and because I previously spent years during grad school working from home, this new reality hasn’t been such an adjustment in terms of time and workload management. I do miss casual collegial connections in the hallways, chit chatting in the coffee line, and getting involved in live campus events (speakers, art shows, theatre productions, etc.). University campuses are vibrant and energetic places to be and work!

PERSONAL

I miss my friends. I miss dinner parties. I miss lazy brunches. I miss loud family celebrations. I didn’t realize that I missed these things so much until more recently (lockdown life part two + winter blues). Yes, I have connected with friends over Zoom, and I make more phone calls now than ever before, but I miss seeing friends in person and other friends who I don’t connect with as regularly. Some days, I just don’t want to call/talk after a day of being online for work. There haven’t been porch visits and outdoor gatherings as there was in the warmer months, so I miss those opportunities to get caught up. I miss hugs.

I have been spending a lot of time outside this winter. More than ever before, I think. I used to dread walking to work in the snow or constantly watching the winter weather changes and considering how the weather would affect driving conditions. Now, I feel more grateful for the time I can be outside as this time becomes a welcome break during my Zoom-heavy days. I’ve been cross-country skiing with a friend, ice skating at a nearby frozen pond as well as at the charming rink at Kitchener’s Victoria Park, and walking with confidence on snow and ice because of my recent investment in these Icers.

I see the same six people fairly regularly in person. My bubble people, if you will. My beau and I laugh about our big date nights now consist of going to our parents’ houses for meals. Ha ha. It’s always fun, and I’m thankful we have parents who we can still visit with. It is of course still awkward to visit at a distance, avoid the double-kiss greetings (the Italian way), and barely offer a hug, but it’s still good to be with family. (I think they like being with us, too.)

Beyond date nights with our parents, leisure time during evenings and weekends include outdoor activities, a lot of movies and TV shows, cooking, crocheting (I’ve started my blanket), games (Bananagrams!), and puzzles (I’m just about to start a gradient puzzle…wish me luck).

In other personal news, I started French lessons on Zoom with my nephews and niece. We’re just a few weeks into our routine, but it’s been great! I get to see their sweet smiling faces, which makes me so happy! Beyond that, I get to speak French for 30 minutes (I’m taking a full French immersion approach to my instruction), and I get to see them giggle as they’re trying to pronounce words, repeat after me, or understand what I’m saying. They really were amused when I imitated the sound of a bird (un oiseau). Ha ha. So cute! They’ve been in virtual school (and more recently homeschooling) since last February, so I hope our French lesson will be a happy memory for them when they think back to pandemic life.

MENTAL

I was cranky quite regularly in January and February. A lot of things Everything irritated me. I think this was partly because of the pandemic life, but I also think the weather had a huge part to play! I was sad that the sun barely came out. I was tired of winter. I was bored of wearing so many layers to stay warm. I did what I thought was best to get through the month of January (and this month, too): daily walks, activities outside, dinners with my beau, happy light, healthier eating, etc. When February came, I thought I felt instantly better. But I didn’t. I was so darn irritable.

I recently read the article It’s Not Just You. A Lot of Us Are Hitting a Pandemic Wall Right Now and this short piece about coping skills. I found both pieces informative, and each shared good reminders about healthy habits (e.g., eating healthy, getting sleep, having time to unwind).

Now, though, as we approach the end of February, I feel MUCH better. I feel more like myself, and I’m back to being positive about life in general. We’re one month closer to warmer weather! Hooray!

HOW TO HELP

There are so many places that could use our support. The Food Bank remains a good place to send funds now and always. The Region of Waterloo has additional suggestions for ways to help. If you’re not in the region, I encourage you to look at your government’s website to discover organizations in need.

If you’re not able to provide financial support, other acts of kindness go a long way. Kindness, patience, and conversation are always appreciated.

Be well, everyone!

Personal: January Update of My 2021 Goals

Who else has drafted a list of goals to accomplish in 2021? What’s on your list? How did you to this month?

Here’s an update of my 2021 goals.

  1. Eat more vegetables. Yes! I did fairly well this month with my veggie intake. I made soups and salads regularly.
  2. Travel. Nope! TBD.
  3. Save money. Sort of. I continued to track my spending this month, but I had a major car expense (ugh!). A positive result of that expense though is that my car is now safe and quiet. I also couldn’t resist clicking “buy” on the spring Jilly Box (a Jillian Harris project). I won’t get it until March, but I’m hoping it’ll be a cheerful mail day when it arrives.
  4. Pass on magazines/books/clothes/puzzles. Yes! I passed on magazines to a friend, I added clothes to my donation box, and I have a puzzle ready to give to my parents as soon as I can see them.
  5. Crochet a blanket. Nope! I haven’t bought yarn for my future blanket yet. I wanted to buy it from a store, but because of the lockdown, I think I may have to buy it online just so I can get going on this project. I did crochet a new LOVEly pot holder.
  6. Reduce social media consumption. Nope! I still consumed a lot this month. Aimless scrolls through Twitter and Instagram are the worst.
  7. Renovate my bathroom. Nope! No decisions made here. I’m hesitant to do any work until the lockdown is over. Even the planning of the reno isn’t exciting me at the moment.
  8. Play games. Yes! This month, I had fun with crosswords and Bananagrams.
  9. Edit my magazine subscriptions. Yes! I cancelled one subscription (Architectural Digest). I also signed up for a new subscription (Vanity Fair). One in, one out?
  10. Read more. Yes! I finished Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. It was first published in 1948, so the language is definitely not 2021-approved, but the concepts are very helpful. I’ve underlined so many passages and pieces of advice. I’ve also started back on audiobooks, and I’ve just finished All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin (it was fine). Two books in a one month – yay!
  11. Blog. Yes! I’ve achieved my aim of publishing 2 to 3 posts per week this month.
  12. Embrace cross country skiing. Sort of! I skied twice this month after a great snowfall and on sunny days. The weather conditions have to be just right for me to get out there. Check out this snapshot of me on my skis at Explore Waterloo Region!
  13. Cross stitch. Sort of! I have semi-planned my first project (from my hand-me-down embroidery floss collection). All the needlepoint scenes in Bridgerton has sort of served as motivation.
  14. Have fun! Yes! I did a lot of things each day (e.g., cooking, Zoom calls with friends, walking, FaceTime calls with family, buying flowers) that made me happy.

Personal: Memories of a Backpack

In preparation for an upcoming post, I came across this (non-white) backpack.

Why am I sharing it here if it isn’t white? Well, it’s because this is the exact backpack I used throughout my childhood, and it brought back happy memories. I had the red version, and my sister had the yellow one. They were from Italy and from an unknown brand to all of my Canadian friends. Invicta. That was a cool Italian brand back in the day (and now, too), and my backpack (the one you see here!) was The Best! The pockets were perfectly placed and functional, and the drawstring for the interior opening made sure all of my supplies stayed in place. Also, I loved (loooooved) the top flap’s plastic closures. I thought they were so unique. Our Invicta backpacks are still at my parents’ house, so I see them every time I open a closet. And now, this model – the exact model from the 80s – is available for purchase once again. How very cool.

Am I the only one with fond memories of a childhood backpack? I have similar memories of pencil cases, too. Who is with me on this?

Personal: 2021 Goals

In 2020, I wrote (maybe for the very first time in my life) a list of things I wanted to do/see/eat/learn/etc. for the year. The monthly updates reminded me about what I did and didn’t accomplish, and honestly, I liked writing those updates. Some of you, too, may have been encouraged to write your own list of goals and to track your progress.

Considering all of this, I am going to craft a list of goals for 2021. At the moment, I have 14 goals (some of which, you’ll notice, are carried over from last year) at the moment, and I may add to this list as the year evolves.

  1. Eat more vegetables. For various reasons, I am including this at the top of my list this year. Maybe I’ll commit to having at least one salad a day. Thoughts?
  2. Travel. When things open, I’m going to get traveling again. There are places I want to go and people I want to see. 2021 just has to be more open to travel than 2020. Right?
  3. Save money. I’m carrying on with this from 2020. Since tracking my money, I’m so much more aware of frivolous/unnecessary spending. I am going to try to make improvements in my spending habits, so I can achieve my goals.
  4. Pass on magazines/books/clothes/puzzles. I generally already do this, so I’ll continue in 2021. I’m hoping this will encourage me to clean my closets more regularly (and also perhaps make me more mindful of random online clothing orders!).
  5. Crochet a blanket. I now have a decent handle on crochet and numerous stitches. Now that I’ve (mostly) mastered pot holders, I feel that I should try something more challenging this year – a blanket. I have an idea of what I want to make, but now I need to buy the yarn and get started.
  6. Reduce social media consumption. I spend far too much time on Instagram. I have considered deleting it altogether, but before I do that, maybe I’ll just try to reduce my time on the app. How much time do you think is appropriate? I haven’t yet finalized my limit. I also use Twitter regularly, and I can try to cut back on my time with it, but I’m not going to delete it as I learn quite a bit from it, and I use it for work, too.
  7. Renovate my bathroom. I hate my bathroom. 2021 has to be the year that I give it a major makeover. It just has to be!
  8. Play games. This can include board games, crosswords, puzzles, and outdoor activities. This will be an especially important goal if lockdown life continues.
  9. Edit my magazine subscriptions. This may mean that I unsubscribe and subscribe to magazines. I’m not yet sure.
  10. Read more. I read a decent amount, but I also have stacks of books that I haven’t yet read. I’m going to aim to read one (non-work-related) book each month.
  11. Blog. My 2020 posts were sparse, I know. But I want to write and share more in 2021 like I used to. Design, art, travel, fashion – I want to write about what I find interesting and inspiring in 2021.
  12. Embrace cross country skiing. I bought my skis and joined a nordic ski club last year, and I’ll be embracing this outdoor activity once again this winter. Last winter, I only went out a handful of times, but I’m hoping I’ll get out more regularly this year.
  13. Cross stitch. When I gathered my crochet material from my mom a few months ago, I also ended up with all of her cross stitch materials. I have a couple of projects in mind that I’d like to complete this year.
  14. Have fun! If I continue to do things that make me happy, I know I’ll have many fun days ahead!

Personal: December Update of My 2020 Goals

Back in January 2020, I drafted a list of 20 things I wanted to do/see/eat/think about/read in 2020. At the end of each month, I’ve shared an update with you about what I have (or have not) been doing. Here’s the original post, and here are my updates for January, February, March, April, May, June, July. August, September, and November. Here is my final update of the year, if you’d like to know.

***

1.Complete the challenges that my family and friends set for me for my 40th birthday.
While I didn’t tackle anything specific this month, for the year, I did make a good amount of progress

2. Travel.
I took a little trip to the Niagara region this month. I know there are many people who are/were against traveling, but I took the trip. I felt safe, and I didn’t do anything wild or risky. It was a nice little getaway, which I was very fortunate to have, before the province-wide lockdown. While in the region, I ate at Prime, Ravine, and Noble. I had a spa afternoon at Christienne. I watched Niagara with Marilyn Monroe. I also enjoyed walking around the falls (brrr…). I recommend all of the above.

3. Learn more about the Waterloo region.
While I didn’t necessarily learn much about the region this month, I did shop locally at Benjamin Tree Farm, Harmony (jewelry), Hello Again (clothes), Gifted (gifts), Up Market (home decor), and Clay and Glass Gallery (art). I recommend all of the above.

4. Experience more art.
See above! I enjoyed a visit to the Clay and Glass Gallery shop while I was shopping for Christmas presents, and I watched a Laurier student string quartet performance online.

5. Play more board games.
I dusted off my old Boggle game earlier this month, and I’ve been doing crosswords in the Globe and Mail. I’ve also recently started a new puzzle (almost done it, too!)

6. Master my mom’s signature cake.

I made my mom’s cake several times this year, and I’m happy to report that mine are nearly as good as hers!

7. Wear more dresses.
Yes! I have been wearing dresses…even during my work-from-home life.

8. Consider adding more colour to my wardrobe.
Besides my red slippers, and my colourful glasses, I haven’t added too much colour to my wardrobe this month (or this year). I think I’m okay with this. Why force it?

9. Save money.
I have tracked my earning and spending for several months now, and I’m continuing to do so in the new year. I have things that I’d like to save up for, so I really need to continue to make a concious effort to track my money. December, I can tell you, was a heavy spending month! (And I didn’t follow any kind of budget.) Yikes!

10. Plan a major bathroom reno.
It’s on hold, but I think I may able to tackle this in 2021.

11. Eat more vegetables.
Yes, I have eaten more vegetables…mostly in the form of salads, fajitas, and soups. I made decent progress throughout the year, but there’s room for improvement.

12. Buy more fun socks.
I didn’t treat myself to any new fun socks this month. I bought some Christmas novelty socks for others though.

13. Connect people.
I connected two people earlier this month, so that was good. Another connection may happen soon, too. I’m still at it!

14. Clean closets regularly.
No progress this month, but my closets are FULL.

15. Trust my gut.
Yes. It’s still happening.

16. Get a facial.
No progress.

17. Embrace soup.
Now that I’ve got a handle on potato leek soup (yum), I embraced a new-to-me soup this month – potato broccoli cheddar. It’s quite good, and I’ll make it again.

18. Clean up my shoes.
I didn’t have any progress to make this month. Throughout the year, I do think I made progress on this task, but more can be done. And I really need to stop buying shoes because I do think I have enough to get me through until this pandemic is over!

19. Pass on my magazines.
Yes. I have done this regularly throughout the year. Yay! (My current favourite magazine subscription is Veranda, if you wanted to know!)

20. Have fun.
Yes! Even though we’re in a pandemic, I have been having quite a bit of fun (via work, Zoom and phone calls with family and friends, walks, Netflix, cooking, baking, crochet, and puzzles). I am very grateful.

***

And there you have it – my year of 2020 goals has come to an end. I think I’ll create a list for 2021, too. Stay tuned!

Personal: November Update of My 2020 Goals

Back in January, I drafted a list of 20 things I wanted to do/see/eat/think about/read in 2020. At the end of each month, I’ve shared an update with you about what I have (or have not) been doing. Here’s the original post, and here are my updates for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August and September. I completely forgot about October, but here is my November update (I’ve selected the items where I’ve actually made some progress).

***

4. Experience more art.
I took a little tour of the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery this month. It was such a pleasant visit. I really should go more often.

5. Play more board games.
I played Catan a few times this month. And Nintendo. That was a great purchase I made at the beginning of the pandemic, I have to say!

9. Save money.
I’ve been tracking my spending for four months now, and I still think it’s a helpful exercise. I’m mostly keeping to my budget, too, which makes me proud.

11. Eat more vegetables.
I ate a salad nearly every day for lunch this month, and it feels like a healthy thing to continue to do.

14. Clean closets regularly.
I didn’t clean any closets, but I did clean my pantry.

17. Embrace soup.
My mom gave me some of her homemade potato leek soup, and it was so good! Today I was motivated to make a batch for myself (using this recipe), and it turned out well.

18. Clean up my shoes.
Ha! Instead of cleaning them up, I’ve opted to add a new pair of gold sneakers (can you ever have too many pairs of gold sneaks?). You know – for the one day a week I go grocery shopping…sigh.

19. Pass on my magazines.
Yes. I’m happy to continue doing this. I have to take stock of my subscriptions one of these days and decide what I’ll keep and what I’ll end.

20. Have fun.
Yes! Despite the pandemic, the new lockdown in Toronto, and the new red zone designation in the Waterloo region, I’m still managing to have fun!

***

And there you have it – my November update. I’ll have a full update next month, and then maybe even a new list for the new year. What do you think?

The Friday Five: Things on My Mind

  1. Watch. On Disney+, I’ve recently watched Moana, Lion King (the new one), and Mandalorian. On Netflix, I’ve watched Trial of the Chicago 7, Holidate, Emily in Paris, and The Queen’s Gambit. It’s an eclectic selection, I know, but I’ve enjoyed them all!
  2. Read. I’ve been reading So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo for a faculty book club I joined, and Creepers by David Morrell. I’ve also been reading my usual stack of magazines. Veranda, in recent months, has become a favourite!
  3. Eat. I made this easy pulled pork recipe in the slow cooker a few weeks ago, and it was delicious. I ventured out to Kitchener’s Grand Trunk Saloon to get a taste of southern cookin’. My mom made paella when I went for dinner this week, and it was so good! Heck, fall meals are off to a good start!
  4. Do. I’ve been helping to renovate a powder room, and one of the most satisfying parts of the reno (besides painting the wood trim white…I know it’s a no-no for so many people, but it was a necessity in my honest opinion!) was polishing up the brass window hardware. Since the house was built in the 1930s, this hardware is old! I love it!
  5. Do. I watched this “how to crochet for absolute beginners” video, and I picked up crochet needles (and a ton of other crafty goods) from my mom this week. I’m ready to hunker down and get crafty! Now I just need to figure out what to crochet! Any ideas?

Personal: 20 Free and Cheap Things to do During a Pandemic

It’s about time that I compile a list of free and cheap things to do during this pandemic. The ideas have been trickling in, and with cooler temps arriving, I think now is an ideal time for a list like this.

FREE

  1. Go to the library. Do you have a library card? Great! If not, why not? It’s free! And the library has so many amazing book, video, and game options! Locally, check out the Waterloo Public Library.
  2. Read. Read a book or magazine. Listen to an audio book. Leave your reality behind and escape into another storyline.
  3. Go for a walk. I know this might seem boring to some, but it’s not. You get fresh air. You observe your surroundings. You see people (at a safe distance). Walks are great! You can explore new neighbourhoods while you’re at it, too. Locally, for easy walks, I suggest Uptown Waterloo, Waterloo park, Downtown Kitchener, Victoria Park, trails around St. Jacobs, and a drive to and walk around Elora. For trails, check out this Waterloo Region trails page.
  4. Call a friend. I think I have talked with friends and family on the phone more than I have in my whole life. Conversations pass the time and (sort of) mimic face-to-face interactions. I often call people when I’m out walking, and I love the break from texting, FaceTime, and computer work.
  5. Tune in to an online performance. Symphonies and theatres are inviting people to attend online performances. While I haven’t done so yet, this is on my to do list. The Stratford Festival, the KW Symphony, and the MET Opera have offerings listed on their websites.
  6. Take a drive. Have a change of scene. Explore some new-to-you trails.
  7. Plan an at-home spa. Make a face mask. Have a bath. Paint your nails. Take an afternoon or evening to pamper yourself.
  8. Meditate. I was meditating briefly but consistently a long while ago (it’s likely been a year), and I’m getting back into it now. I use Insight Timer which offers so many meditation options (time, type) for free. If you’re looking for alternative meditation options (at a cost), locally, the Dharma Centre offers several online meditation options; this is the organization through which I did a one-day silent retreat last September.
  9. Prepare a budget. Now (and probably always) is a great time to revisit your spending and saving habits. Prepare a budget so you know how your money flows and where you can and want to spend or save it.
  10. Live adventurously. I watched Alistair Humphreys’ video about #MicroAdventures on Swiss Miss last week, and it reminded me to try new things…which don’t have to cost a dime!

CHEAP

  1. Make a nice meal. Cooking or baking is a great past time, as it does exactly that – passes time. The plan, the shop, and the execution can take hours! And the best part is that you’ll get to reward yourself with a delicious meal (and leftovers). Drop off extra portions at a friend’s.
  2. Do a puzzle. I have bought puzzles from HomeSense, Indigo, and Amazon for under $25. Locally, Gifted in Waterloo and The Art of Home in Cambridge have artistic selections for around the same price point.
  3. Knit or crochet. Knitting a basic scarf or blanket isn’t too complicated. I’ve seen a kit at HomeSense for $40. It has everything you need to get started on a small blanket. Purl Soho offers a lot of free tips and instructions (as well as packages) online. Locally, I don’t have experience with crocheting, but I have heard it’s even easier and quicker to pick up than knitting.
  4. Sewing. If you don’t already have a sewing machine, then this option might be out of your price range. If you already have one, then this is a relatively cheap hobby. Locally, I get fabrics at Lens Mills. The selection is vast. Prices are competitive.
  5. Play a board game. Board games are relatively affordable and provide hours of entertainment for you and your bubble people. Monopoly is a classic option that is always fun to play. Newer in my board game rotation are Sequence and Catan. Both are very enjoyable and pose new challenges every time I play.
  6. Try a new subscription. Whether it’s a new magazine subscription, food delivery service, or a TV streaming service, trying something new could provide hours of entertainment. I added Disney+ (about $10CAD a month) to my subscriptions way back in March, and I’ve enjoyed it. I’m still making my way through the Star Wars movies, but I have also watched the full Mandalorian series (how is Baby Yoda so darn cute?), Moana, and Hamilton – all shows I would never have watched otherwise. I’m not sure if I’ll keep it forever, but for now, this service is working for me.
  7. Treat yourself. Some days are harder than others. If you want to treat yourself (retail therapy often works for me!), but are watching your budget more carefully than usual, opt for something small. A candle, a lipstick, a new shampoo, a coffee, a new book, or a new top are small options (often under $20) that could help to brighten your day (or several)! Locally, buy a book at Words Worth Books and a coffee at Seven Shores Cafe in Waterloo.
  8. Learn a language. Through online options like DuoLingo (free), italki, or language teachers offering online instruction, learning a language would be a fun way to pass time. Choose a language of a country you’d like to visit once the borders are open to travel and tourism!
  9. Try an outdoor activity. With winter coming, it might be a good idea to think about how to enjoy being outside in the cold. Buy a cross country ski set, snowshoes, or shoe grips (e.g., crampons, Yak Trax, icers). If you buy these items used or on sale, they can certainly fit in the “cheap” category.
  10. Visit another town. There are so many places to see, and a day out doesn’t mean a big expense. Grab a coffee and wander around towns who may need an extra visitor or two. Wear your mask. Pack your sanitizer. Here are some easy day trips from Kitchener-Waterloo: Stratford, Elora, Bayfield, Kincardine, London, Port Stanley, and Caledon. Small towns and small shops (everywhere) need our support!

Design: Covered Couches

In the October issue of House Beautiful magazine, two couches stood out to me because they had been treated in the same way, and I hadn’t seen this look too often before. These couches were covered with throws. And not just a throw tossed over the edge of the couch in a haphazard fashion (nothing is haphazard in styled photos), but sort of in a slip cover approach. Have a look.

I quite like this look. The throw as a semi-slipcover accomplishes several goals: (a) adds warmth, (b) adds texture, (c) adds colour, and (d) adds a layer of protection. In addition, like throw pillows, the throw cover can be changed seasonally and can be washed regularly. Given these advantages, I opted to give this look a try in my home. What do you think of these three options?

Monochromatic

Pattern

Colour

Look at how the red throw changed the colour in the room. I took these photos on a very sunny day, and the combination of the sunshine and the red throw made the room rosey! I love the red throw, and I think I’ll save this for Christmas time.

Do you like this look? Would you try it in your own home?

Personal: September Update of My 2020 Goals

Back in January, I drafted a list of 20 things I wanted to do/see/eat/think about/read in 2020. At the end of each month, I’ve shared an update with you about what I have (or have not) been doing. Here’s the original post, and here are my updates for January, February, March, April, May, June, July. and August. Here are the updates of what I have been doing during the month of September, if you’d like to know.

***

1.Complete the challenges that my family and friends set for me for my 40th birthday.
No progress.

2. Travel.
I traveled to Blyth, Ontario for the first time in my life to enjoy a meal at Cowbell Brewing Co.

3. Learn more about the Waterloo region.
No progress.

4. Experience more art.
I went to the Main Street Gallery in Bayfield, Ontario, and I finally treated myself to a bowl by ceramist Jennifer Graham.

5. Play more board games.
Board games, no. Nintendo, yes. Classic Nintendo. Wii. I’ve spent quite a bit of time on Nintendo systems this month!

6. Master my mom’s signature cake.

Done!

7. Wear more dresses.
Yes! Done!

8. Consider adding more colour to my wardrobe.
Do these red slippers count?

9. Save money.
I’m on month two of using a budget and tracking my spending. It’s an interesting exercise, and I (sort of) think it’s helping me save money.

10. Plan a major bathroom reno.
Completely on hold.

11. Eat more vegetables.
Most of my veggie intake this month has been via fajita and taco nights. A few tomatoes here and there count, yes? I haven’t had a salad in a long while. Terrible, I know!

12. Buy more fun socks.
No progress.

13. Connect people.
I gave a few recommendations to a friend who has recently moved to Waterloo.

14. Clean closets regularly.
No progress. I watched Get Organized with The Home Edit, which makes me want to clean every closet in my house.

15. Trust my gut.
Yes. It’s still happening.

16. Get a facial.
No progress.

17. Embrace soup.
No progress. I might try a few of these soup recipes now that colder weather is here.

18. Clean up my shoes.
No progress. I have a closet full of shoes that aren’t being used during these #WorkingFromHome days. All summer, I rotated between my gold Birkenstocks and my Hoka runners. Now that it’s fall, I’ll switch to my gold Adidas sneakers.

19. Pass on my magazines.
Yes. I’m happy to continue doing this.

20. Have fun.
Yes! This is still an important goal that guides me through all of the above goals, too!

***

And there you have it – my September update. Thanks for reading!

Personal: Things on My Mind

1.Netflix. I have watched a lot of Netflix these last few weeks. Here’s what I’ve watched (and recommend):

The Social Dilemma. This documentary gave an interesting look into social media, its roots, uses, and impact. Like other viewers, it made me want to delete everything and monitor more closely what I do online. That said, I haven’t yet deleted Twitter or Instagram. So…

The Duchess. I laughed throughout every episode of this show. And the fashion is fun to watch, too.

Cobra Kai (season 1), The Karate Kid (with Jaden Smith), The Karate Kid (original). My arm was sort of twisted to start watching Cobra Kai. I liked it, so then it was all-karate-all-the-time. Cobra Kai season 1 was good. Season 2 was was a bit too teen drama for my liking. Surprisingly, I really liked the new Karate Kid movie with Jaden Smith. And, I can’t believe I had never watched the original Karate Kid. Wax on. Wax off. Quite good!

Venom. I thought I was going to hate this one as I’m not so into alien movies, but I liked the acting, music, plot, and special effects, so it was a win.

***

2. Shopping. I really don’t like adding more reusable bags to my already big collection, but I couldn’t resist the vibrant print of this Baggu bag on a recent trip to Indigo.

***

3. Learn. I’m not starting another degree (but never say never), but I did want to take a biology (focus on plants) course this year. Considering I started a new job, I’ve put this on hold for now. Instead, however, I’ve settled on attending online lectures on architecture hosted by Athabasca University. The first lecture I attended was focused on architecture in South Africa, and the second was focused on architecture in Africa. Both lectures were fantastic. I think I’ll share some of what I learned in an upcoming post.

***

4. News. Obviously, the pandemic is still top of mind. This article about the University of Illinois’s massive COVID-19 testing initiative was interesting, and it demonstrates that testing isn’t enough. Stay at a distance. Wear a mask. Closer to home, cases at universities have been reported, and increasing case numbers makes me nervous.

***

5. Hobbies. It’s usually about this time of year when I start signing up for a whack of new activities. Last year, I opted into flamenco dancing and cross country skiing lessons, for example. This year, I’m hesitant to join anything (on account of the pandemic), so I’ve been thinking what non-group activities I can do as the fall and winter come. Here’s what I’ve come up with: puzzles, jogging, cross-country skiing, and sewing. I’ve made slight progress on three of these things already. Any other suggestions?

***

6.Charity. On Sunday, October 4th, I will be jogging in the CIBC Run for the Cure. You may remember that I’ve been doing this for several years now in Kitchener-Waterloo. This year, the event has gone virtual, which means I’ll be running alone (or with anyone I see wearing pink running in my neighbourhood). It’ll be a different experience, but the cause remains the same. I hope that even more money is raised this year to support needed research and support for the Canadian Cancer Society. If you’d like to donate to the cause, please do so here. I appreciate your support!

Personal: August Update of my 2020 Goals

Back in January, I drafted a list of 20 things I wanted to do/see/eat/think about/read in 2020. At the end of each month, I’ve shared an update with you about what I have (or have not) been doing. Here’s the original post, and here are my updates for January, February, March, April, May, June., and July. Here are the updates of what I have been doing during the month of August, if you’d like to know.

***

1.Complete the challenges that my family and friends set for me for my 40th birthday.
Although my birthday has come and gone, I am still working on my list. This month, I crossed two more movies off my “must watch” list: Fargo and Gosford Park.

2. Travel.
July was quite a busy month of travel-during-a-pandemic (Ottawa and Langdon Hall), so I stayed close to home in August. I love my home, and the weather was amazing in August, so no complaints on my end about the lack of travel!

3. Learn more about the Waterloo region.
No progress.

4. Experience more art.
I went to campus a couple of weeks ago, and I was so pleased to see some outdoor art by Jemima Wyman.

5. Play more board games.
No progress.

6. Master my mom’s signature cake.

Done!

7. Wear more dresses.
Yes! Done!

8. Consider adding more colour to my wardrobe.
Yes, I’m trying! And this reminds me that I haven’t posted an outfit photo on Instagram since June!

9. Save money.
I created a budget for August and updated my spreadsheet regularly. It’s accurate, and I liked seeing where my money was flowing. I’m going to do this again in September.

10. Plan a major bathroom reno.
Completely on hold.

11. Eat more vegetables.
Yes. With summer veggie season here, it’s been easy! My favourites are grilled zucchini and caprese salad (or any variation of tomato and chesee).

12. Buy more fun socks.
I bought fun socks for other people this month. Does this count? Honestly, my sock drawer is full, and I’ve gone sockless for months. I don’t think I need any more!

13. Connect people.
No progress this month.

14. Clean closets regularly.
No progress. I think my closets are in decent shape at the moment. That said, my shoe closet could always use some work. Who wears shoes anymore?

15. Trust my gut.
Yes. Yes.

16. Get a facial.
No progress.

17. Embrace soup.
No progress.

18. Clean up my shoes.
I did this in previous months, but I think I could do it again now that I know I won’t be wearing so many shoes this fall (#WorkingFromHome).

19. Pass on my magazines.
Yes. I’ve been passing on magazines (and books) as I finish them.

20. Have fun.
Yes. Yes. I’m still at it!

***

And there you have it – my August update. Thanks for reading! Have a great week, everyone! Here’s to a happy September!

Personal: Preparing for Round 2

Is it too early to think about a second lockdown during this pandemic? With numbers rising in places around the world, and the return back to school closer to home, I don’t think it’s too early to have “wave 2” on our minds.

Although living in a pandemic at any time is just plain terrible, living through it in the summer has been mostly manageable for me. Sunny days mean that I can spend time walking and biking outside. I have a little garden to tend to. I can talk to neighbours and friends at a distance on my driveway. There’s some normalcy. (And, yes, I have sad days, too. Those are the perfect days for Netflix binges.)

The arrival of cold months and another potential lockdown, however, is making me think about how the heck I’m going to get through it. I hate winter to begin with. Socializing with friends outside is going to be non-existent. No more backyard meet-ups at a distance. Considering the arrival of colder temperatures and another lockdown, I’m now thinking about what I’m going to do to stay busy and mentally (and physically) healthy.

Here are things that I’m considering:

  1. Work. Work will keep me busy. Yes. Very. Maybe I’ll write more.
  2. Quilting. I’m thinking about trying something new. I regularly try new things (last year I took flamenco dance lessons, remember?). If I’m not able to leave my house, I thought I’d have to try something new at home. Quilting has been on my mind for many years ever since I saw the work of Toronto quilter Lindsay Stead. Her quilts are graphic and modern and lovely! I’ve been reading up on quilting and Purl Soho has been a useful resource.
  3. Puzzling. I think I’ll continue to puzzle. A new one is on its way from Ravensburger. I’ve seen some modern puzzle designs at HomeSense and Indigo.
  4. Cooking. Yes, I guess I’ll continue on the cooking train. Might as well continue to carbo load and make some comfort food.
  5. Cross-country skiing. Last year, I took cross-country ski lessons. I went out 3-5 times in total. I have all the gear. If lockdown part 2 comes, I can get in some more cross-country ski practice. I might even be able to do this with friends at a distance. It could be an ideal way to socialize and exercise simultaneously. Maybe.
  6. Reading. This is always a good option. Although I have a ton of unread books in my house already, I may use time now to look out for good books to add to my collection. Audio books (and e-books) from the library are always a great option, too, if libraries and bookstores shut down again.

Things that I might consider investing in:

  1. A deep freezer. Hey, why not?
  2. A Kindle or Kobo or some other reading device. This would make e-book borrowing from the library a breeze!
  3. Toilet paper. You can never have too much!
  4. Shelving for my storage room. This would make stocking up on food much more organized!
  5. Flour & yeast. We all remember what happened in March 2020, right?
  6. Cleaning supplies. Being at home 24/7 means that my house gets messier than ever before. More at-home time means more cleaning time!

I really, really, really hope a second lockdown doesn’t come our way. But since we’ve been through one, the second time around should be easier. Right?!

Personal: Reflections on Life in the Age of COVID-19 – Part 2

On April 22, 2020, I wrote this reflective post on life in the age of COVID-19. At that time, news of COVID-19 had been around for more than two months. The January news of the China outbreak surprised a lot of us. And when it moved to Italy in February, it hit closer to home (for my family at least). By March, the disease had spread to Canada, and by mid-March, the world around me completely changed. As of March 17th, I was working from home, navigating the online teaching and learning environment, and training and managing a team of undergraduate and graduate students. The days passed quickly.

By the time I wrote my mid-April post, I had lived the WFH (Working From Home) life for a month. It’s now mid-August, and I want to write about what has been going through my mind since my April reflection.

WORK

Well, I started a new job! It’s been really quite exciting even if I haven’t met any of my colleagues in person or stepped into my new office. Heck, I don’t even know where my office is, and even if I did, I don’t yet have an access card to get into any buildings on campus. In the pandemic era, some processes are slow going. Others, however, are absolutely normal. I regularly meet with colleagues online. I’ve attended committee meetings, info sessions, and new faculty orientation workshops. Course prep is in full swing for online teaching this fall. The work continues. I have found that people around campus (wherever they may be Zooming in from) are helpful and generally seem more patient than usual. My mind is getting exercise, and I’m actually quite pumped for September (one of my favourite times of the year!).

I also just wrapped up teaching my final course at my previous institution. It was all online (May to August), and it worked out well. Student participation was high, guest speakers joined with ease, and I enjoyed the topics that we were able to learn about over the 12-week course. My students’ presentations were all COVID-19 related (they’re economics students), and they explored so many economic perspectives/impacts of the pandemic (real estate, job market, retail spending, education, sports). It was fascinating, in fact! Teaching online worked out just fine for me, and I found it less mentally draining than in-person teaching. The end of this course made me sad, however, because it was such a big part of my work at my previous institution. I developed the course from scratch and taught hundreds of students over the last several years, so I was sad that it ended. I’ll be teaching different courses now, but maybe I will revisit the possibility of teaching a similar course in the future.

So…as far as work goes, I continue to be so so so grateful. I am fortunate to do the work that I do. Yes, the work environment has changed, but this has forced me to learn and try new things. My brain is active!

PERSONAL

I spent much of the first few months of the pandemic alone or with my beau. Those months were filled with weekly Zoom calls or distanced porch chats with family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues. Even though my face-to-face social circle was non-existent, I felt quite social. And it felt sort of normal. Sort of. I also love my alone time, so I embraced days when I didn’t “see” anyone.

In May, I made a surprise visit to my parents’ house for Mother’s Day. I wasn’t sure they would let me in the house, but they did. 🙂 That had been the first time I had seen them in person since February, and it felt good. I think this short visit gave us all a break and a change of pace at the time. There were no hugs (weird) or kiss-kisses (double cheeks, Italian way), but we chatted, yelled, interrupted, laughed, and ate…all the things that we love to do!

As Ontario started to open up, I started socializing regularly in my backyard (at a distance) and in cottage country. Outdoor patio visits with groups of less than 10 people positioned at a distance became the norm. I served up Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer at every gathering. My friends seemed to get used to me taking sanitizer breaks and spraying their hands. Of course it was weird, but it was good, too. My face-to-face social circle grew, and it felt so good to see people in real life!

By July, Waterloo (where I live) had hit the Stage 3 mark of opening, which made me extra happy because it was my birthday month! So, I got to have a birthday with friends and family, and it was fun and special and just about normal! I loved the day I spent floating down The Grand River, having a pizza party, and eating my mom’s delicious gnocchi. There was cake, too! I also escaped to Langdon Hall for a luxurious 2-night birthday getaway. I felt spoiled and lucky!

Friends remain distanced at gatherings, and hugs are minimal or non-existent (still weird). If a second wave does come this fall, outdoor social time is going to be difficult. Maybe it’s time to invest in outdoor heat lamps?

Beyond social time, there has been SO much to celebrate for my family and friends – milestone birthdays, pregnancies, births, jobs! In the midst of a pandemic, there has been so much joy to share. These moments have been amazing!

MENTAL

In general, my mental state has been okay. Work has helped me to stay happy and so has social time (online or in real life). For the first few months, I grocery shopped once (or maybe twice) a month. I really hated it. Now, it’s okay. I am in and out of grocery stores as quickly as possible, and I only go when I have to (about once a week, I’d say). I don’t like touching things. I still wash just about everything that comes into my house before I put things away. I’m not sure if this is needed, but I still do it. I follow the arrows in the store to avoid colliding with other people, and it annoys me when other people don’t follow them. I smile at people as I pass them, and I have a little chat with the cashier on my way out. It’s a fine experience, but I don’t love it.

When I walk around Uptown Waterloo, I am reminded of my trip to Japan. We may find it odd to wear masks now, but the Japanese had been wearing masks for a long while pre-COVID-19. On my trip there last April, masks were the norm. I even brought some mint-scented masks back for my Dad, and now I wish I had bought more while I was there because the selection was so diverse. It is now more normal to see people in masks here, and you can’t enter stores without wearing one. The initial weirdness of wearing a mask has just about worn off (but I’m still trying to manage the eyeglasses fogging up part of it).

Sad days come, too, naturally, especially when I think about the state of the world, the unfortunate circumstances that I see in my own city, and the troubles family and friends are going through (childcare, work, schooling decisions – so hard!). I try to stay positive, looks for things that I can change or control, and stay in touch with friends to share some happy stories and laughs to get us through tougher days. At the moment, I have a video of my niece belting out a song from Hamilton that instantly puts a smile on my face. It’s a great video to go back to when I need a laugh.

Although Waterloo (and Ontario) are slowly returning back to normal, I do think it’s wise to proceed with caution because the future remains unknown. In Italy, reports are showing a jump in the number of cases. And Auckland, New Zealand is now in a 3-day lockdown after a new COVID-19 discovery (after a 100-day period of COVID-19 free). Things can change in an instant. Just like they did in March.

HOW TO HELP

The Food Bank remains a good place to send funds now and always. The Region of Waterloo has additional suggestions for ways to help. If you’re not in the region, I encourage you to look at your government’s website to discover organizations in need.

If you’re not able to provide financial support, other acts of kindness go a long way. Kindness, patience, and conversation are always appreciated.

Be well, everyone!

Personal: July Update of My 2020 Goals

Back in January, I drafted a list of 20 things I wanted to do/see/eat/think about/read in 2020. At the end of each month, I’ve shared an update with you about what I have (or have not) been doing. Here’s the original post, and here are my updates for January, February, March, April, May, and June. Here are the updates of what I have been doing during the month of July, if you’d like to know.

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1.Complete the challenges that my family and friends set for me for my 40th birthday.
Well, my 41st birthday just happened, so I’ve had a chance to reflect on the list of challenges my family and friends gave me for my 40th one year ago. I LOVED having new challenges from my family and friends. Each challenge was well-suited to the person who gave it to me, so I enjoyed learning new things with them in mind. I accomplished quite a bit, which is great, but I still have things left to do (movies to watch, books to read, things to do and see in Italy). I’ll keep the list close at hand, so I can check things off in the year ahead. In July, I checked off “visit Shannon in Ottawa,” which was great. My friends hosted a fun (socially-distanced) lobster fest at their new house, and I was so pleased to attend!

2. Travel.
This month I traveled to Ottawa for two nights to visit family and friends (see #1), and it felt great to have a change of scene. The weekend was very low-key. I also enjoyed an incredible 2-night vacation at Langdon Hall. I am so grateful to have made this possible this year. I took advantage of LH’s 2-night special rate, and it was well worth it. The scenery, food, and service remains top-notch, and I’m already eager to return (no surprise there, right?). Now that I’ve experienced the 2-night stay, this might be what I have to continue to save up for! It was so special.

3. Learn more about the Waterloo region.
No progress.

4. Experience more art.
I have been keeping an eye out on special pieces of art to buy, and I have been a fan of 15-year old Juliet‘s fruit art since she started posting them on Instagram not too long ago. I was fortunate to snap up this resin piece before she even posted it to her online shop (her pieces sell quickly!). It arrived last week, and I was happy to add it to my fruit art collection in my kitchen.

5. Play more board games.
My Dr. Mario skills remain strong, but beyond that, I haven’t made much progress on board games or my puzzle this month.

6. Master my mom’s signature cake.

Done!

7. Wear more dresses.
Yes! This has been such an easy goal to accomplish in July. I find them so easy and versatile. I ordered a few colourful dresses from a new-to-me company, too.

8. Consider adding more colour to my wardrobe.
See #7. My dresses are colourful!

9. Save money.
This is so hard to do when you’ve quit one job, haven’t started the next job, and spent two nights at Langdon Hall. Eek! #workinprogress

10. Plan a major bathroom reno.
Completely on hold.

11. Eat more vegetables.
Sort of making decent progress

12. Buy more fun socks.
No sock purchases this month.

13. Connect people.
I was happy to introduce two people in real life after they had only communicated in online/text contexts. That was fun. I also connected a friend to my young artist cousin, so he could commission a piece of art. That was fun, too

14. Clean closets regularly.
No progress.

15. Trust my gut.
Yes, I’m still doing this. I feel good about trusting my gut.

16. Get a facial.
I was close to booking one this month, but I didn’t. It’s on my list for the fall/soon. This will not help me with #9.

17. Embrace soup.
I haven’t made any soup this month.

18. Clean up my shoes.
Done (previous months).

19. Pass on my magazines.
Yes. I continue to pass on magazines. This has been an easy goal to work on each month.

20. Have fun.
Yes, I’m still at it! I’m finding reasons every day/week to celebrate happy moments and make happy memories with family and friends!

***

And there you have it – my July update. Thanks for reading! Have a great week, everyone! Here’s to a happy August!

Personal: June Update of My 2020 Goals

Back in January, I drafted a list of 20 things I wanted to do/see/eat/think about/read in 2020. At the end of each month, I’ve shared an update with you about what I have (or have not) been doing. Here’s the original post, and here are my updates for January, February, March, April, and May. Here are a few updates of what I have been doing during the month of June, if you’d like to know (I’m only listing items I’ve worked on.).

And if you’re annoyed by my lack of posts or my goal-focused posts, stay tuned, because I think I’m just about ready to get back into regular blogging.

***

1.Complete the challenges that my family and friends set for me for my 40th birthday. I have so many movies still to watch, so I doubt I’ll be able to watch them and complete all the other tasks (some travel-related) by my July birthday. That’s okay. I’ll keep at it!

2. Travel. We all know I love to travel, but with the pandemic, I obviously haven’t done much with this goal. I’ve been staying around the Waterloo region mostly, but I have traveled to Toronto and Lake Huron for family visits. I have a couple of travel-ish plans set for July, so if all goes well, I can fill you in!

5. Play more board games. I’m still on a bit of a puzzle kick, and I have one on the go right now that is a photo of ice cream. Yum! This one is much easier than my first puzzle (Starry Night) because there are a lot of colour variations, and the puzzle pieces are different shapes and sizes. And, yes, I’m still playing Nintendo quite regularly. I still feel proud of my Dr. Mario skills! Now I should work on Donkey Kong.

7. Wear more dresses. It has been so easy to wear dresses now in the warm weather. I love them all, and I find it so easy to throw on a dress and be ready for my day!

8. Consider adding more colour to my wardrobe. I did add pink eyeglasses to my collection. Does this count?

11. Eat more vegetables. I have done okay with my veggie intake this month. And I’m excited for what’s to come in July as the lettuce, kale, and tomatoes in my little garden will be ready to eat!

12. Buy more fun socks. I bought fun socks for other people this month, which brought me joy. Check out these jar socks. Aren’t they fun?

13. Connect people. I made some connections between guest speakers and my students this month.

14. Clean closets regularly. I cleaned out two big closets this month, which was SO satisfying. I’m happy to share that I’m no longer a hoarder of empty boxes or bubble wrap.

15. Trust my gut. Yes, I’m still doing this. I feel good about trusting my gut.

18. Clean up my shoes. My shoe closet is so tidy now! Yes!

19. Pass on my magazines. Yes. I continue to pass on magazines. I’ve added books to this goal now, too.

20. Have fun. YOLO (you only live once), right? I’m still doing things that make me happy!

***

And there you have it – my June update. Thanks for reading! Have a great week, everyone! Here’s to a happy July!

Get Educated

Deaths. Riots. Protests. Deaths. Deaths. More deaths.

The news has been overwhelming. I’ve had to stop scrolling through my Twitter feed because it’s just too much. But ignoring what’s happening isn’t productive. Shutting off the news isn’t useful.

At this time, I also can’t stop thinking about This is America by Childish Gambino. Anyone else? It was released in 2018, but it seems that the images could have been taken from the news clips of this week. Terrible. Just awful.

It’s no secret that I value education. I learn from school, texts, books, friends, news, articles, professors, etc. I try to stay informed by reading a variety of sources, thinking critically, and reflecting on my own biases.

Given what’s happening in the USA, and what happens in Canada, regularly, too, regarding racial wars, I’m trying to learn more and fill in the gaps of my own knowledge, education, and experiences. Perhaps you are, too. The lists of educational resources that have been shared online are overwhelming, but these sites seem to be well-curated. It’s a starting point if you and your families want to learn more about racism, implicit bias, and anti-racism work.

  1. Anti-racism resources
  2. 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice
  3. A detailed list of anti-racism resources

If you have other resources to share, please do so.

I believe education is one of the best gifts we can give children around the world. Education tests our perspectives and our previous understandings. Education helps us to make sense of the world around us. Education gives us power, language, ideas, and skills to effect change. Two organizations that I have worked with who provide great education opportunities for black children and youth are:

  1. Leadership by Design – Part of the Lifelong Leadership Institute, this Toronto-based program gives African-Caribbean youth opportunities to develop and practice their leadership skills. The group of highschool students who I met in 2018 were impressive to say the least.
  2. Pendo – Located near Nairobi, Kenya, the first Pendo school opened in 2019 with a focus on providing early childhood education and nutrition to young Kenyans. Pendo means love in Swahili.

If you know of other educational programs, please share them in the comments.

I shared a similar message with my students this week because I know I can effect change through my work at the university.

Be well.

Personal: May Update of 2020 Goals

Back in January, I drafted a list of 20 things I wanted to do/see/eat/think about/read in 2020. At the end of each month, I’ve shared an update with you about what I have (or have not) been doing. Here’s the original post, and here are my updates for January, February, March, and April. Here are a few updates of what I have been doing during the month of May, if you’d like to know (I’m only listing items I’ve worked on.).

***

4. Experience more art.

I’ve had a peek into some museums via this link. I also participated in two Empty Bowls fundraisers for the Food Bank of Waterloo Region where I got to view the creations of local potters. I’ve added three new bowls to my growing collection of pottery from this event from years past.

5. Play more board games.

I haven’t played Sequence – or any other board game – for quite some time! But I did finish a puzzle, and I have been playing on my new Nintendo (Dr. Mario is my current favourite game). Do those count as board games?

6. Master my mom’s signature cake.

Yes! I’ve got this goal completely under control! I baked my mom’s cake and surprised her with it on Mother’s Day! It was my first visit to my parents’ house since February, so it was nice to mark the occasion with my mom’s signature cake!

7. Wear more dresses.

Most days, I’ve been wearing jeans or pants. But in the last few weeks, I’ve pulled out a couple of dresses to wear. I love dresses!

13. Connect people.

I made a few work-related connections in May.

20. Have fun.

With so much awfulness in the world, I try to celebrate the good things in life regularly. Recently, I’ve started having a friend or two over for backyard drinks. We maintain a distance, disinfecting wipes are always present, and we find reasons to laugh amid all the uncertainty and chaos we’re living through. It’s good fun.

***

Have a great week, everyone! Here’s to a cheerful June!

Personal: April Update of 2020 Goals

Back in January, I drafted a list of 20 things I wanted to do/see/eat/think about/read in 2020. At the end of each month, I’ve shared an update with you about what I have (or have not) been doing. Here’s the original post, and here are my updates for January, February, and March. In March, I only worked on three goals, so I had high hopes for April even though the month started off with more self-isolation. Here’s what I have been doing, if you’d like to know.

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1.Complete the challenges that my family and friends set for me for my 40th birthday.

The month started off with a Star Wars marathon. I have watched five movies this month. There are so many! I have watched the movies in the order of release and I go back to this chart (see method 1) to make sure I’m on the right track. So far, the first one (released in 1977) – Episode IV: A New Hope – is my favourite.

2. Travel.

All travel is currently still on hold on account of the ol’ Coronavirus. Once the province is out of self-isolation, I am off on a road trip. Somewhere. Not sure where. Anywhere. Suggestions?

3. Learn more about the Waterloo region.

I have taken a lot of walks around my neighbourhood, and I while I haven’t really learned anything new, I have been enjoying observing the architecture of the houses and buildings in my community.

I also read Losing the Signal by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff. It tells “the untold story behind the extraordinary rise and spectacular fall of Blackberry.” It was interesting to learn more about the evolution of RIM/BlackBerry.

4. Experience more art.

I have been dreaming about art I’d like to own one day. Caviar20 is one of my go-to spots for art dreaming.

5. Play more board games.

Over Zoom and FaceTime, I’ve played euchre, Yahtzee, and war (the card game) with friends and family. Good times.

I also got hooked on a challenging puzzle, which then motivated me to place an order for another one. It should arrive any day now, and I have a second one added to my wish list.

6. Master my mom’s signature cake.

I tried to minimize my sugar intake in April after a very sugar-heavy March, so it was a no-go on mom’s cake.

7. Wear more dresses.

I love wearing dresses to work. Now that I work from home (and it’s still cold), I only wore a dress once this month.

8. Consider adding more colour to my wardrobe.

No progress.

9. Save money.

I have made a decent amount of progress on this goal because everything is shut down. While I haven’t spent money at restaurants, bars, cafés, and clothing stores, I have spent more money at the grocery store and online. I have made a few new fun purchases, but since shipping is slower than usual these days, I don’t have any of my purchases in hand quite yet. When I do, I’ll update you!

10. Plan a major bathroom reno.

Zero progress.

11. Eat more vegetables.

Yes! It has been easy to increase my veggie intake via salads, soups, and side dishes.

12. Buy more fun socks.

No progress.

13. Connect people.

I was able to make some connections for my students. Yay!

14. Clean closets regularly.

I spent one weekend cleaning out two spaces: my linen closet and my tool/storage room. I’m happy to report that I cleared out quite a bit and there’s now empty space in both closets (ready to be filled?)!

15. Trust my gut.

I had a few decisions to make this month, and I’m happy to have trusted my gut as I made them.

16. Get a facial.

I didn’t have a facial this month because all the spas are closed. I have, however, used up just about all the fancy product samples that I had collected. Does that count?

I’ve also put my Clarisonic back into my morning routine, and my skin feels so soft. It’s a good little gadget.

17. Embrace soup.

I didn’t try making any new soups this month, but I did eat soup that others made for me.

18. Clean up my shoes.

I’m happy to report that my shoes are no longer scattered all over my bedroom floor. I have cleaned out my shoes, and my closet is looking much more organized.

19. Pass on my magazines.

Yes! I did this a couple of times in April! I currently have subscriptions to Architectural Digest, Style at Home, and House & Home.

20. Have fun.

Zoom meet-ups with friends and family have continued to be fun in April. Weird times, but we’re managing to stay connected to share some laughs. I hope you are, too!

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Have a great weekend, everyone! Here’s to a positive May!

Personal: Reflections on Life in the Age of COVID-19

I haven’t felt much like blogging. I haven’t felt like writing about kitchen design and cottage dreams as I have in the past. I still like reading about what other bloggers are writing about, but I haven’t felt much like contributing. I’m sure I will again in time because I do think reading and writing about non-pandemic and non-work related things is fun and interesting not just for me, but for readers, too.

What do you have to say about this? Do you want some non-COVID-19 content to break up your days? Fashion, travel, art, food…are you craving these distractions? Should I get back to writing regularly about things I am dreaming about?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been heavy on my mind since mid-February when I learned of the outbreak in my relatives’ small town in Italy (the epicentre of the Italian outbreak, which I still find hard to believe). After 40 days in two hospitals in a neighbouring town, my uncle returned home just after Easter. We are grateful for his recovery.

Once March rolled around in Canada, everything went topsy-turvy! We’re now into week 6 of the working from home / self-isolation life, and I’d like to take a moment (or a few) to reflect on what’s been going on because (a) I want a written record of what I’m doing and feeling to look back on (yes, someday), (b) I think writing is therapeutic, (c) I want to share my gratitude, and (d) I want to reconnect with my White Cabana community (hey, that’s you!).

WORK

I’m incredibly grateful for my work.

I teach at the university. As of March 17th, the university moved just about all of its operations online. I do wish the university gave everybody a couple of days to breathe/regroup/plan before it moved everything online, but it didn’t. As such, the first two weeks were incredibly taxing. It was hard to keep up with emails, Zoom/Teams/Skype meetings, new programming options, and new platforms for teaching and learning. It was a lot. Overall, the last six weeks have been non-stop action, and I have been tied to my computer perhaps more than ever before (yes, even more than when I was writing my PhD dissertation).

My students were appreciative that my course continued as per usual (just about). They did presentations and group work online and managed the change incredibly well. We shared stories of successes, challenges, and some laughter, too, in our virtual class. It’ll be an end-of-term to remember!

The university has since announced that the spring semester will carry on online, too. As such, the prep work continues. This new learning environment has given me new challenges and opportunities to learn, and for that, I am grateful. I don’t like being stagnant in my teaching approaches. I have the sense that the fall term will be online, too, which means a rethinking of program offering and course delivery. It’s an interesting time!

There are many challenges ahead for Canadian universities: enrollment concerns, international student attendance, and faculty training to teach remotely. There are incredible challenges for our students, too: learning in a completely online environment, socializing at a distance, lack of summer jobs, residence closures, and maintaining good mental health. At this point, the list of challenges seems to be never ending.

That said, we are in this together.

Students, staff, and faculty have adapted and are creating new ways to teach and learn. New communities online have developed. I attended a meet-up organized by my academic association a couple of weeks ago, and I was able to “meet” people in my academic community whom I had never encountered before. It was a rich, informative session, and it reminded me that I am part of a group of committed educators. I have learned more about the research and best practices about online teaching environments, and it’s been good to stretch my brain in new directions. (I do love learning, remember).

I am excited about the work that I do. For that, I am so very grateful.

PERSONAL

The biggest change in my personal life is the lack of face-to-face interaction with family and friends. I know you can relate. I am absolutely okay to be alone (I have lived alone for a really long time!), but I do miss the freedom of going for walks with others, inviting people over for dinner, and visiting my parents.

In addition to Zoom parties with friends and family, I have had a coffee date with my neighbour on our respective porches, and I spent three beautiful weeks at Lake Huron. Friends have left baked goods in bags hanging on my front door. These interactions with family and friends – although brief and from afar – have been special.

I know there is a lot of chatter online about people taking up new (or old) hobbies. Sourdough and bagels seem like top picks! So is mask sewing, painting, and spring cleaning. Because of my work life, I haven’t had much time to explore new hobbies…or even return to old ones. I haven’t jumped on any COVID-19 hobby trends, and I haven’t taken up TikTok dance challenges. That said, I have made more meals than ever before, enjoyed quiet hours of reading, and tried a few new recipes.

I know there are so many recipes floating around online, but these are the new to me recipes that I would highly recommend: this pasta dish, this roast chicken, and these nodini (bread knots). So good! So easy!

MENTAL

I haven’t been so concerned about being alone because I am committed to maintaining a decent social life (Zoom parties every week!), and I connect with my family a lot. But when I step out into the world, I feel uncomfortable. I go for daily walks, and I stay far away from others. I say hello and smile at passerby, but it’s from a distance, and it feels so weird. Six weeks in, and it still feels weird. It seems that everyone is scared of everyone else these days.

I avoided stores for as long as possible. I had no desire to go to the grocery store. I didn’t love grocery shopping pre-pandemic, and I really don’t like it now. On my last trip, I told myself I would buy enough food for a month, so I wouldn’t have to go back. I think I have two more weeks to go. Fruit and veggie supply is dwindling, I have to admit. But I’m determined to eat up everything in my house before I have to go back to the grocery store. Hello paranoia! It’s terrible! Does anyone else feel this way?

A simple task from the past has turned into one that I really do dread! Why? Well, I think it’s because I don’t like seeing empty shelves, the grocery store is quieter than usual, there are stricter rules to follow (e.g., aisle directions), and I get lost in thoughts about how many people have touched the grocery items. When I came home from a big grocery shopping trip two weeks ago, I washed everything. Every item got at least a rinse. I’m not sure if this is necessary, but it made me feel better.

It’s ridiculous that I am so dramatic about making trips to the grocery store. I am lucky to live within walking distance of three well-stocked grocery stores, and I haven’t had to be so concerned about what to buy and prices. I’m grateful. Others, many others, are struggling with even finding access to food. Affording food. It’s a basic human right, and people struggle. It’s terrible at any time. It’s terrible in this uncertain period.

HOW TO HELP

I know I am fortunate. I have a beautiful home. I have plenty of food. I work. I have great friends and family. I know there are many others who are less fortunate.

I have chosen to donate to The Food Bank of Waterloo Region because I want my community to be nourished. There are so many organizations and people to support during this challenging time, so, if you are able, I encourage you to look within your community and donate to areas of need.

THANK YOU

I am grateful for all the people who are working in our essential services. I thank them as I’m being assisted, and I am more patient with them (and line-ups) than ever before.

A sincere word of thanks or an extra few minutes of conversation does seem to make everyone a bit happier – even if it is through plastic barriers and face masks.

Be well.

Personal: March Update of 2020 Goals

Here’s the original post, my January update, and my February update if you’d like to get caught up. If not, here’s how I’m making out with my 20 things I’d like to do/see/eat/think about/read in 2020.

March has been quite challenging (you know, the ol’ COVID-19 pandemic). I haven’t accomplished much on my list at all! I have only worked on numbers 11, 12, and 20 (so I’ve only included them in today’s post). Three items? Here’s hoping I’ll do better in April!

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11. Eat more vegetables.

I have continued to eat more veggies! I continue to have salads in heavy rotation, and the other day I made broccoli with bacon. Yum!

12. Buy more fun socks.

I picked up this trio when I was at Winners early in the month.

20. Have fun.

Regardless of where I am or what is happening in the world, I am still trying to have a bit of fun every day! I have been fortunate to be at a cottage for just about three weeks, and I consider daily beach walks fun! I’ve even started a new rock collection to remind me of this place and this time.

***

So there’s my brief March recap. I’m ready for spring and an interesting April (but maybe less world-wide pandemic kind of interesting!).

Personal: February Update of 2020 Goals

Here’s the original post and my January update if you’d like to get caught up. If not, here’s how I’m making out with my 20 things I’d like to do/see/eat/think about/read in 2020.

***

1.Complete the challenges that my family and friends set for me for my 40th birthday.

Two movies got crossed off my list: Manhattan (I liked it) and Die Hard (I liked it, too). There are non-movies on my 40th-challenges list, but I haven’t accomplished the others, so nothing else to report.

2. Travel.

No progress. My dreams of traveling to Singapore and Italy in 2020 are currently on hold on account of the ol’ Coronavirus.

3. Learn more about the Waterloo region.

Last month, I let you know that I read Blackberry Town by Chuck Howitt. I have since met him in real life, and we’re meeting again soon. I love that KW is small enough that you can meet people online and offline, too.

4. Experience more art.

No progress. I didn’t attend any shows or exhibitions in February.

5. Play more board games.

It seems that anyone who comes over to my house has been forced wanted to play Sequence with me. I like the game a lot. I played it with friends when they were over for dinner at the beginning of the month.

6. Master my mom’s signature cake.

No progress. I was going to make it for Valentine’s day, but I made these sugar cookies instead.

7. Wear more dresses.

I’m still doing okay with this one. I cleaned out my closet and got rid of a bunch of old ones. Now I have more space to add a few more dresses to my wardrobe!

8. Consider adding more colour to my wardrobe.

Nope. I still haven’t made progress. I was sort of close to buying a pair of royal blue pants recently, but I ended up passing on the purchase. Maybe spring will inspire me to wear more colour.

9. Save money.

I have made a bit of progress here. I’ve created a spreadsheet. That’s something, right? I’ve also made some changes to my savings and spending habits.

Last month, I wrote about a drastic decline in my Starbucks visits. I went 5 times in January (spending about $18). In February, I went 2 times (spending about $12…including a time I treated someone else). I haven’t yet tracked non-Starbucks visits, unfortunately. I think I grabbed a coffee out and about maybe 3 times in February.

I ate out a lot in February – lunches, dinners, ordering food in – and I’d like to focus on reducing this in March.

10. Plan a major bathroom reno.

Zero progress. I fear this reno is still a long time away.

11. Eat more vegetables.

I’ve continued to add salad into my daily meals, which is good.

12. Buy more fun socks.

No progress.

13. Connect people.

I connected two more people this month. That was fun.

14. Clean closets regularly.

I did a pretty good clean-out mid-month, which resulted in a big donation. Yay!

15. Trust my gut.

This remains a kind of daily affirmation. I think it’s definitely helping me make decisions.

16. Get a facial.

Zero progress.

17. Embrace soup.

Yes, I made potato leek soup this month.

18. Clean up my shoes.

Zero progress.

19. Pass on my magazines.

Yes! I did this a couple of times in February!

20. Have fun.

Yes! I did a lot of this in February. I’ll definitely continue this in March!

***

So there’s my February recap. I’ll aim to post another update in March if you care to follow along my progress with me.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Here’s to a great start to March!

Truth Talk: A Weekend of Work

I have quite a bit on the go at the moment, which means that books are piled, pillows are not fluffed, and the coffee table could benefit from some Windex. That said, the sun shone all weekend long, and I loved working away in my very bright home.

Truth Talk: An Obvious Choice

What do you think of my new mug?

I think it’s awesome! Some of my coworkers think it’s awesome, too. Others think I’m just being obnoxious.

I get called “Miss” a lot (from students, mostly), and it drives me crazy. Now instead of correcting them, I can just show them my mug. Subtle, right?

Personal: January Update of 2020 Goals

Phew – this week just flew by! I didn’t have a chance to finalize any of my draft posts for the week. And now? It’s the end of the month! February is going to go by in a flash because it’s a short one. Then we only have one more month of winter. Hooray! I’m already looking forward to April’s sunshine (or showers?). I’m so so tired of the cold! Heck, I’ve been tired of the cold since November!

Moving right along. I was reviewing some of my January posts, and my 2020 “goals” post had me reflecting on what I have/haven’t done with this list. Here’s the original post, if you’d like to read it. If not, here’s how I’m making out with my 20 things I’d like to do/see/eat/think about/read in 2020.

***

1.Complete the challenges that my family and friends set for me for my 40th birthday.

I’ve knocked two items off of my list: watching Annie Hall (I didn’t love it.) and 7 Days in Hell (so absurd).

2. Travel.

I don’t yet have a major trip planned. Singapore has moved down on my travel list on account of the Coronavirus. I did book a long weekend getaway to Kingston last week, so that definitely counts as travel!

3. Learn more about the Waterloo region.

I read (and actually couldn’t put down) Blackberry Town by Chuck Howitt. It was fascinating to learn (or be reminded of, in some cases) about the growth of tech – and Blackberry – in the Waterloo Region.

I also read a mystery novel – Murder as a Fine Art – by David Morrell. He’s a KW native and was the author behind Rambo! It was excellent. I’m looking forward to reading another one of his books soon.

4. Experience more art.

I did a lot in January, which made me very happy! I took part in a flamenco masterclass with Los Aurora and then watched their concert. I also went to the KW symphony (Mozart), and saw Rochelle Rubenstein’s show at the Robert Langen Art Gallery at Laurier.

5. Play more board games.

After spending New Year’s Eve playing Sequence, I went to Chapters-Indigo to grab my own game. I played it with friends when they came from brunch a few weeks ago. I’m eager to play it again!

6. Master my mom’s signature cake.

Take 1 is done! The cake turned out well, but I have a few tweaks to make for the next round.

7. Wear more dresses.

I’m doing okay with this one. Here’s one of my black dresses that is on nearly weekly repeat!

8. Consider adding more colour to my wardrobe.

Nope. I haven’t made any progress on this one. The only colour in my wardrobe these days is my yellow coat.

9. Save money.

While I drastically reduced my Starbucks intake in January (yay!), I spent a lot of money on travel, eating out, activities, etc (oops). This is still a work in progress!

10. Plan a major bathroom reno.

Zero progress.

11. Eat more vegetables.

I’ve upped my intake of salad this week. That’s about all.

12. Buy more fun socks.

Yes! I have two new pairs to get into the Valentine’s Day spirit!

13. Connect people.

I was able to do this twice in January. I’m not sure if anything will come of the connections that I tried to make, but I’ll keep at it.

14. Clean closets regularly.

Zero progress.

15. Trust my gut.

This is kind of like my daily affirmation.

16. Get a facial.

Zero progress.

17. Embrace soup.

I made Ana-Maria’s carrot and tomato soup recipe, and it was so good! I made a huge batch, so I froze a lot of it, and it was so handy to have soup on the go for busy nights. This reminds me that I should make another batch this weekend.

18. Clean up my shoes.

Zero progress. Instead of getting rid of some, I added another pair to the mix. Oops. But they’re from a new-to-me brand, Hogl, and they may just be the most comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever owned!

19. Pass on my magazines.

Yes! I did this a couple of times in January!

20. Have fun.

Yes! I did a lot of this in January. I’ll definitely continue this in February!

***

So there’s my January review. I’ll aim to post another update in February if you care to follow along my progress with me.

Happy New Year!

Well, well, well. Here we are! A new year. A new decade. It’s exciting, isn’t it? How are you feeling going into the new year? Are you making resolutions, setting intentions, stating affirmations? How do you move from one year to the next?

I rarely set goals for January 1st. Instead, I set goals around my birthday and/or the academic school year. These dates make a bit more sense for me. That said, I seem to be setting (and revising) goals fairly constantly, especially when I’m feeling a little disorganized in certain areas of my life.

I’m looking forward to 2020. Here are 20 things (in no particular order) that I do hope to do, see, think about, read, explore, and experience in 2020. I guess these are goals of sorts!

1.Complete the challenges that my family and friends set for me for my 40th birthday. They keep adding more, so the list seems to be never ending.

2. Travel. Travel is always on my must-do list. I have a few trip ideas in mind for 2020, but I don’t have anything booked. I’m on constant flight watch though, so when the price is right, I’ll book!

3. Learn more about the Waterloo region. The more that I read about this region, the more excited I get about it. There’s history at every corner, and I find it fascinating. I think I’ll keep a look out for walking tours in the warmer months.

4. Experience more art. I feel like my life is pretty art-filled as it is, but I want to see and learn more. I want to attend more shows anywhere and everywhere that I may be.

5. Play more board games. Has anyone else out there noticed an increase in people “our age” playing more board games and card games? I played euchre and Sequence over the holiday, and now I just want to keep playing.

6. Master my mom’s signature cake. My mom bakes a marble cake that is a crowd favourite. I think I have only made it once in my life. I think this might be the year that I try to master it.

7. Wear more dresses. I mean, I already wear a lot of dresses, but I want to wear more. I will continue to add little black dresses into my wardrobe (they’re too hard to resist), but I’m going to be on the lookout for unique prints and shapes.

8. Consider adding more colour to my wardrobe. This is still a “consideration” point. I’m not going to commit to adding colour to my wardrobe because I’m not sure if I want to. Wearing black and white just about every day is really easy. And I like easy.

9. Save money. Who doesn’t add this to their ongoing list of goals? Do I have strategies for this? Sort of. I need to do more. One thing I know I can/should do is spend less on unnecessary things like random kitchen gadgets that I don’t need and Starbucks. Oh, Starbucks. Saving money will help me with #10.

10. Plan a major bathroom reno. Okay. This still might be a plan and I don’t yet know if I can bring it to fruition, but I really hate my big bathroom with its ridiculous jacuzzi tub. I know I’ve been saying it for years, but this may just be the year that I tackle the project. It would be so satisfying to rip out the old fixtures.

11. Eat more vegetables. I was on a salad-for-lunch kick for a long while (mostly in the warmer months), and I need to get this routine back into my life because if I eat at least one salad a day, I will feel like I’m eating a lot of vegetables. I don’t eat enough vegetables.

12. Buy more fun socks. I came back from Japan with many (many) pairs of fun Japanese socks. I know I’m supposed to be saving money (#9), but maybe I can make an exception for fun socks that make me smile.

13. Connect people. I’m going to continue to try to connect people when I can. This could be for business, for relationships, or for friendships. If I think two people I know might get a long, I’m going to connect them.

14. Clean closets regularly. I think I have been pretty good at clearing out unwanted items from my closets regularly, but there’s room for improvement. I keep (hoard?) too much for “just in case” purposes. I have a much-too-large collection of ribbons, for example, and the pile never seems to go down. Don’t even ask me how many empty boxes I have. It’s embarrassing.

15. Trust my gut. I’m reminding myself to trust my gut more in 2020.

16. Get a facial. Maybe one. Maybe more. I have only had a facial once in my life. I feel like I need to give another one a try. I think I would enjoy it. I think my skin would, too.

17. Embrace soup. I rarely eat soup. I think I need to eat more of it. Maybe I should make batches of vegetable soup more often (to tackle #11, too).

18. Clean up my shoes. I have so many shoes. Not too many, but so many. I have them stacked at my office at work, and they are nearly in every closet in my home. And my small foyer is overwhelmed by them. I need to keep them tidy, and I think I should polish them more often while I’m at it.

19. Pass on my magazines. I have a few magazine subscriptions, and I tend to keep issues long after I have read them. Why? Not sure. I rarely go back to read them. I think 2020 is the year that I keep passing them on for others to enjoy.

20. Have fun. Life is short, right? I will continue to have fun and do things that make me happy.

I wish you all a healthy, happy, and productive 2020!

Saturday Edition: Things on My Mind

I am so excited about today. Why? Because I’m doing nothing. I’m just hanging out at home and catching up on life. I’ve had a busy fall (as per usual because of my work schedule), and while I’m grateful that I have friends and family who plan awesome events, dinners, parties, and outings, every so often, I need space. My space. To feel organized. To clean my house. To make a real meal. To spend time being lazy. Today is the day.

1.Music. I’m still a big fan of Lizzo. Here she is doing a music challenge with Elle magazine.

2. Living. Looking for a few ideas to increase your sustainable living ways? Read this.

3. Decor. If you’re looking to know about the best white paint colours, read Jacquelyn’s post.

4. Pet. I got a fish this week. I almost wrote that I got a dog. But, it’s a fish. A fancy betta fish. It’s not white, and I’m perfectly okay with that. Its colouring is lovely. Right now, his name is JC. The dog decision is on hold for a while until I figure out my allergy issues. Sigh. For now, if you need a dog sitter, let me know.

5. Charity. One of the events that I attended last week was Daniela‘s fundraiser for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation; the event raised $14,000 for the foundation, which is absolutely amazing! Congrats, Daniela!

6. Books. I finished Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. I didn’t love it. It was long. I wasn’t fully engaged. It was the first Margaret Atwood book I have ever read. I’m open to reading others. Any recommendations (besides Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments)?

I started Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbour this week. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m liking it so far.

7. Waterloo. Last night, I attended the Arts Awards Waterloo Region to recognize artists in our region. I amazed by people’s creativity. And I’m so glad there’s a strong community of people who support the arts.

8. Food. When the weather turned cold, I picked all the green cherry tomatoes that were still growing in my garden, and I put them in a bag. I’m happy to report that they all turned red. I am roasting them now, and my kitchen is smelling so good.

I hope you have a great Saturday doing whatever is that you love and need to do!

The Friday Five: Things on My Mind

1.Read. Do you have a favourite day of the week? Perhaps you should consider Thursday as the best day.

2. Bake. I made these cookies for my colleagues this week. People devoured them very quickly. It’s definitely a repeat recipe.

3. Fashion. I’m on the hunt for a pair of patent leather oxford heels. I’m considering something like these or these.

4. Travel. People seemed to really like the post I wrote earlier this week about Detroit. Thanks. If you’re curious about this city, read the post for a small glimpse into what I observed.

5. Charity. Thanks to the support of family and friends, I was able to raise $402.26 for the Canadian Cancer Society this year. Hooray! Anytime is a great time to donate, so if you’d like to, please donate here. October is #WhiteCabanaWearsPink month and Daniela and I posted a few of our favourite pink things: pink gifts for you, pink for kids, pouffy pink fashion, and little pink houses.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Personal: Something Fun to Do with Kids

As many of you know, I have a background in education, and I have taught kids of all ages all sorts of things in my life. These days, I teach young adults, so I don’t have many opportunities to interact with young kids. I love watching young kids learn new things, and I also love to challenge them! I had the opportunity to observe my sweet (super sweet) nephews and niece trying new things when I was in North Carolina a few weeks ago, and I caught some of this learning on time-lapse video. Once I showed them the first fast video, they all wanted to be video-taped, so I now have a collection of videos that make me smile. Here are three of my favourites. I just love the kids’ facial expressions as they work through their activities.

First up is Duke. He was building a whale from a Japanese mini-lego-type kit I brought him.

Next, we have Holt who is a little inventor and needed help crafting a plastic helmet for his hedgehog who was taking skydiving flights down the stairs all morning.

Finally, we have Gigi who was writing a thank you letter. She’s putting so much thought into carefully spelling out words.

Time-lapse video is an easy and fun way to capture kids’ learning as well as their very cute facial expressions!

Oh, I almost forgot…Happy Halloween!

Experience: Meditation

At the end of July, for a couple of reasons, I started to incorporate meditation into my day. I began using the Headspace app for 3-, 5-, and 10-minute meditation sessions. The 5-minute guided sessions were the easiest to incorporate into my end-of-day routine, so I went through (and then repeated) the free 10-day cycle. At the end of each day, the guided meditation session helped me to calm down and think about my mind and body.

Because I wanted to learn more about meditation, and because a couple of friends added “silent retreat” to my 40th-year-challenges list, I signed up for a 1-day silent meditation retreat here in Waterloo. Silent. Yes, silent. As in…no talking from 9am to 3pm. Curious about this experience? Read on!

While friends and family were curious about if I could stay quiet for the full day, I knew that wouldn’t be a problem. I was more concerned about being bored and sitting in one spot for six hours. An experienced friend prepped me a bit, but we never chatted about the possible schedule of the day.

My 1-day silent retreat was led by Sue of the Waterloo Riverview Dharma Centre. The Cedarcliffe location was serene with a lush garden and plenty of beautiful views of the Grand River. I walked into the space and felt excited to learn. After a few minutes of mingling while we waited for all the participants to arrive, Sue explained the organization of the day. We’d participate in a variety of meditations – silent, guided, movement, walking. Lunch, too, would be in noble silence. As soon as Sue tapped the singing bowl, silence was expected.

The day looked something like this:

  • guided meditation
  • movement meditation
  • silent meditation
  • walking meditation (short path)
  • lunch – mindful eating, rest, walk
  • guided meditation
  • silent meditation
  • walking meditation (wandering)
  • metta (loving-kindness) meditation

Each meditation session was between 30 minutes and 1 hour in length (e.g., lunch). In between, we took short breaks to stretch, go to the bathroom, and drink water. The day went by quickly. I thought a lot…and I didn’t think at all. I was challenged by mindful eating. I took a brief nap after lunch. I noticed things in the garden – leaves, shapes, plants, sounds – that I hadn’t ever paid attention to. Towards the end of the day, I spotted branches on a bush that, if you looked at them in just the right way, they formed the shape of a heart. I was so calm. Truly calm. The day was a welcome pause.

I’m glad I signed up for the 1-day meditation. I learned more about the practice of meditation, and I challenged myself. Did my never-ending to do lists cross through my mind at all during the day? Of course! But the guided meditation sessions helped me bring my mind back to thinking about my breathing and my body. My to do lists could wait for another day!

To continue my meditation practice at home, I have since moved from using the Headspace app to using the Insight Timer app (thanks for the recommendation, Chris!). It has the largest free library of free meditations, and you can filter by type (e.g., learning to meditate, coping with anxiety, improving your sleep) and by time (e.g., 5 minutes to 30+ minutes). I have listened to a 4-minute sleep meditation before bed a few times, and I have had the deepest sleeps.

Do you practice meditation? Any advice?

Two for Tuesday: Flamenco

As you may remember, my family and friends gave me a whole list of challenges and things to do during my 40th year. My cousin suggested I take a dance class. I was open to the suggestion, but didn’t have anything in mind until I went to see a Flamenco show in August here in Waterloo, and it clicked!

I saw my first flamenco show when I was 25 and traveling in the south of Spain with my pen pal*. The show was powerful, dramatic, and beautiful. I loved it. For a few Halloweens, I sewed my own flamenco costume. I have been a forever fan of flamenco!

So after I saw the show in Waterloo, I signed up for classes immediately. A friend lent me her flamenco shoes and skirt (so beautiful), and I’ve taken two classes so far. I love the drama, the music, the clapping, and the stomping (careful, thoughtful, purposeful, rhythmic stomping, I might add). It’s been a highlight of my busy back-to-school weeks to be honest.

Sara Baras – via

I haven’t even mentioned how gorgeous the outfits are! The women look beautiful and fierce, and the men look strong and serious. I love watching the dancers “speak” to one another through their movements.

I’m so glad I was challenged to take a dance class (thanks, M!). I wonder if there’s an end-of-term recital. 🙂

*Yes, I had a pen pal…who is now really an email and Instagram pal. We’ve only met in person less than a dozen times in our lives!).

Personal: A New Venture

A little while ago, I mentioned that I’ve been working on a new venture. I’m ready to share it here, and I would love your honest feedback! Starting something new is definitely a touch scary

Many of you know that I’m a part-time blogger. I am passionate about design, art, style, and the colour white (of course). Beyond this, though, I have always been interested in language learning and teaching. I have a PhD in applied linguistics, and I have been an educator at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels for many, many years. I have most recently completed an MBA degree because of my growing interest in business, and, more specifically, business communication. I’m now ready to take on another project that combines my formal education, work experience, and professional interests. 

I’m starting a business.

Why not, right?

I’m starting a consulting business. As a consultant, I’ll lead workshops for organizations on how to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing. These professional development workshops will help help employers and employees refine their communication skills. I cannot even count how many times I hear people (a) complain about the quality of their employees’ communication skills or (b) admit that their own communication skills are weak. I’m here to help!

In my workshops, participants will develop their skills in the areas of report writing, blog writing, email writing, verbal presentations, and more

Here’s a peek at my website, if you’d like to see. I’m happy to take your feedback!

If you know anyone (in Waterloo region, preferably) who may need my services, let me know

Thanks for your support, dear readers!

Comment: Memories of Technological Advancements

On the recommendation of a friend who attended the True North tech conference in Waterloo a couple of months ago, I listened to the book Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations written by Thomas L. Friedman who was a speaker at the conference. The book was interesting. In it, Friedman talks about the intersection of three major forces affecting current and future generations: globalization, technology, and climate change. The book has made me think about how I use technology every day, how I wish I could use it, how I avoid it, and what I may experience in the future. 

Things, as we know, change rapidly these days. Just a few weeks ago, I ran into an issue with my DVD player…as in, I hadn’t used my DVD player for 6 years, so when I tried to use it to watch DVDs I took out from the library, I couldn’t because I didn’t have any cords to connect the DVD player to my TV. Cords? Wires? This felt like an ancient set-up! A friend lent me a bunch of cords and in this pile, I found the one I needed. Colour-coded pieces of plastic on either end of the cords…one set to hook into my DVD player, the other set for my TV. It felt like an unncessary challenge even though not too long ago, this was our only option to watch movies at home. 

More recently, when I was cleaning up my office, I came across one of my first ever cassette tapes – The Minipops – and I thought, what am I going to do with a cassette now? I don’t have any way to play it! So did I get rid of it? No, of course not. How could I get rid of The Minipops? I’m holding on to this tape for nostalgic purposes.

So Friedman’s book, combined with these two recent experiences, has had me reflecting on other defining memories of technology in my life.

In elementary school, I remember when my dad brought home an electric typewriter. I actually remember its arrival into our home. It was white and grey. Typing seemed to go at lightening speed! I typed short stories and reports for school on that thing. I felt so fancy. I think it may still be in my parents’ basement. I wonder if it’ll feel fast if I go type on it now.

If you lived in Canada in the 1980s, and you banked at Canada Trust, then you may remember the roll out of the Johnny Cash machine…an automated teller. I remember the Johnny Cash machine because my mom worked at the bank at the time, and talked all about the Johnny Cash machine and how it was going to change the work of tellers. I remember her talking about setting up, using, restocking, reconciling the “Johnny Cash”. Oh my goodness, just thinking about it makes me laugh. Watch this Johnny Cash machine commercial for a walk down memory lane.

In Grade 13, I remember sitting in computer class (not typing class, but actual coding class) and my teacher was teaching us about the world wide web. We explored Yahoo. During that same year, I had a friend who was quite tech savvy and taught me about ICQ, which was an online space for chatting. At night, when we were at home, instead of calling, we’d meet on ICQ. It would take what felt like hours to get the computer and modem in my parents’ basement up and running. And then my friend and I would be on ICQ chatting about nothing in particular. No phone calls. Just online chats about homework and such.

When I was graduating and applying to universities, I applied to computer science programs, just barely knowing what computer science was all about. My sister’s friend was finishing her degree in computer science, and everyone told me that there would be so many jobs if I had a computer science degree. I took computer science in my first year at university, and I remember learning computer coding like JAVA to get little worms to move across the screen. I remember spending hours in the computer lab trying to figure out code. I liked it, but didn’t love the non-social aspect of my program, so I dropped it and continued on with French, which had always been my major. Coding now? Kids can do it on apps! Oh, how things have changed!

When I was studied in France in my third year of university, I walked down the street to the Internet café or public library to send emails home. It was part of my daily or weekly routine. I sent letters, too, at the time, but emails were immediate, so by the time anyone received my mailed letters, they were full of old news. I remember creating a new email address just to categorize the stories from France. My parents printed every email I sent. Every single email. They gave me the stack of emails on my return. Printed emails. Can you imagine? Now my parents are more into texting on WhatsApp and using FaceTime than they are into emails.

It was also in France that I got my first cell phone. It was dirt cheap to buy and maintain. I’m not sure if it was because I was in Europe, but text messaging at the time was called SMS (which stands for short message service). People would say, Envoie moi un SMS (Send me an SMS). I loved my little portable (cell phone). It was blue, and the buttons were squishy. I think I still have it stored away in my parents’ house. I should really find the little blue cell phone and store it alongside my old cassette tapes.

In about 2006 or so, I was doing my masters and one of my friends introduced me to this thing called Facebook. At the time, it was a messaging system that was only for university students to communicate with other university students. It was such a closed community! He told me about “some guy” who started Facebook in the United States, and it was only now being rolled out into Canadian institutions. I think I felt privileged to be a student, so I could have access to it. It was during my PhD, about seven years after I first joined Facebook, that I deleted it completely. I have been without Facebook for about seven years now, and I don’t miss it.

I remember when my friend Johanne started Fashion in Motion, a fashion blog, in about 2007 or so. She posted about her blog on Facebook at the time, and I was intrigued, but confused. I remember having coffee with her somewhere in Toronto where she explained to me what a blog was. I thought it was so interesting. An online platform to share ideas. I ended up writing a weekly column on Fashion in Motion, which then gave me the confidence and know-how to start White Cabana in 2010.

Most recently, just a few months ago actually, Kitchener-Waterloo launched the region’s light rail – the ION. This has been a major piece of news for the Waterloo region for years. I feel that the ION has made our region modern, efficient, and ready for future growth. Unlike Canada Trust all those years ago who hired Johnny Cash to be the face of the automatic teller machine (ATM, by the way!), the ION did not launch with a celebrity. It may have been fun if Justin Bieber came back to the region as the face of the ION. Imagine!

These are some of the strong memories I have of the impact of technology in my own life. I know it’s cliché, but it really is hard to believe how fast technology changes. It does not seem so long ago that I was playing The Minipops on my yellow Sony sport walkman!

Personal: Remembering Lisa

In July 2016, Lisa, a friend and colleague, was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. She received treatment, but the cancer metastasized. She had brain surgery and more treatment. She stayed positive. She worked hard. She was brave. Last week, at the age of 47, Lisa left us.

Anyone who has completed a PhD knows how challenging, intense, and competitive it can be. It can also be very isolating as you’re doing solo work much of the time (in many disciplines). So when you find someone you connect with, you’re really grateful. You’re grateful to see that person when you walk into the university building because you know that any point in the work day, you can take a break and chat about something non-academic and not be judged.

Lisa was one of those people who I was grateful to see every time I stepped into our PhD office in a portable building adjacent to the main university building. In the beginning, our conversations were PhD-related as she was a couple of years ahead of me in the program, and I asked her a lot of questions about each step of the PhD journey. No matter how busy she was, she took the time to share her advice.

Soon after, we bonded over bloggers and clothes. She loved J.Crew, and while I was wearing black and white every day, she was always wearing colours and mixing patterns. We’d come to our offices in the portable and discuss what we thought of our favourite bloggers’ recent outfits. Lisa was one of the few people in my academic life who knew I was a blogger, and she was always supportive of what I was doing. She was a daily reader. 10 years later, she still read White Cabana on the daily. This may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re an academic, you’re judged for everything. And when you’re not spending time on academic work, people may question why. Why are you reading a fashion blog when you should be reading the latest book by so-and-so theorist? Why are you writing a blog when you should be writing your dissertation? Lisa was not judgemental. One minute, we could have been discussing the intricacies of a research methodology, and the next, we could be talking about a sale at J.Crew. It was awesome!

The conversations that brought us much laughs were focused on “the sackpack”. You know – the backpack purse? We called this a sackpack. Not sure why. Maybe it’s what her husband called it. I can’t remember now. Well, let me tell, you, the day Lisa came in wearing a leather sackpack, she couldn’t stop raving about how it was the best invention. She loved using it because it allowed her hands to be free for other things – children, groceries, keys. She was so excited! Me on the other hand? Well, I laughed because it seemed like a 90s fashion accessory that wasn’t as chic as her J.Crew totes. Over time, Lisa acquired a few more sackpacks, and each time she showed me one, she raved! When sackpacks actually did make a comeback, Lisa said “told you so.” I sent her links to sackpack options all the time. She sent me links to white ones, leather ones, designer ones, fashion bloggers wearing them. The sackpack was an ongoing thread in our conversations no matter how far away we were from one another.

When my sister was having her first baby, Lisa shared in this excitement, and without knowing my sister, shared book lists and “must-have-for-baby” lists to pass on to her. So thoughtful! On my sister’s only trip to see me during my PhD life, we ran into Lisa after breakfast, and I was happy that they got to meet, since even though they didn’t know each other, they certainly had heard of one another. The encounter was meant to happen!

Post-PhD life, Lisa invited me to join an academic writing retreat she was co-organizing. During this time, it was great to write, of course, but it was also awesome to hear about Lisa’s news about her kids, job, and life in London, Ontario. She made everyone in the group feel welcome, ensured we had caffeine and treats to keep us going, and hosted us for dinner at the end of the writing retreat. She was warm and inviting as were her husband and two kids.

From this writing group, a few of us gathered to conduct a research project. It was Lisa who guided us through using a methodology that the rest of us were really only slightly familiar with. In all of our research team meetings, she was patient and calm. She listed to everyone’s ideas. She contributed thoughtfully.

It was during the time of this research project when we found out that Lisa had breast cancer and was going through treatment. We were sad for her, for her family, for all the challenges they now had to face. Lisa worked on the project for as long as she could. At one weekend retreat, she told us that she had been in the hospital the days just before. She taught us, she shared with us, she opened up about how she was feeling. She talked about her kids and her husband. We listened. We learned. We hopefully offered an escape from the every day life of her cancer treatments when we talked about our research findings, writing projects, and our lives in general.

Regardless of how she was feeling during those days, she supported the team, and she was determined to work with us in any way she could until the end of the project.

When Lisa reached out to ask me about blogging, I was thrilled. She wanted a place to write, and she thought that a blog would be a good outlet. She started it. She wrote regularly. I followed along. Breathing in Breathing Out is a collection of Lisa’s writing on books, food, and family life. She wrote about her cancer journey, too, both on her blog and in this Globe and Mail article where she wrote about conversations with a partner when you have cancer. I encourage you to read both. Learn. Share.

Lisa accomplished so much in her short 47 years here. She was kind, thoughtful, intelligent, supportive, reflective, concerned, critical, and curious. I am grateful to have known her, to have learned from her, and to have shared so many laughs and conversations with her over the last decade.

In keeping with Lisa’s wishes, I have made a memorial donation to my local FoodBank. I encourage you to make a donation to a cause that is important to you in honour or memory of someone you love.

The Friday Five: Things on My Mind

1.Gift Guides. Last week, Daniela shared this awesome Father’s Day gift guide for White Cabana readers. I love that she focused (as per usual) on Canadian brands. Go back and look at it if you’re still on the hunt for a gift idea as Father’s Day is this Sunday. And if you’d like even more ideas, browse these guides by Jacquelyn Clark, Katie Considers, Rambling Renovators, Rachel Parcell, and Oh Happy Day.

This week, Daniela shared an impressive gift guide for teachers. It has been the most popular gift guide yet! If you missed it, have a look at it here.

2. Netflix. I finished watching two seasons of David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. I hope more seasons are in the works. My favourite interviews from seasons 1 and 2 were with Ellen Degeneres, Barak Obama, George Clooney, Malala Yousafzai, Tina Fey, and Lewis Hamilton.

3. Food. I made this quiche last weekend for lunch guests, and it’s a winning recipe. I’ve made it before (and it was a winning recipe then, too). Asparagus is now in season, so it’s a perfect time to make the quiche!

4. Books. I’m reading Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. It’s an easy read, so I’m going through it quickly. In between my reading time, I’m thinking about her stories. What would happen if you started saying yes to things that made you nervous/uncomfortable/move out of your comfort zone/anxious? You’d face and overcome new challenges, and be open to opportunities for learning new things. This is one of the messages that’s coming through the book so far.

5. We the North. The Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship game last night. And if social media is any indication, many Canadians are very excited! As for me? Well, I tuned in last night when the score was 91-91 and there were about 10 or 15 minutes left in the game. I figured I should keep watching, so I did. That has really been the extent of my viewing of basketball this season. I liked following along the commentary on Twitter, too. And I’m grateful to my friends and students who kept me informed throughout the season.

Have a great weekend!

The Friday Five: Things on My Mind

1.Watch These Videos. Oh my goodness. Who loves James Cordon’s Carpool Karaoke? I love it. And this latest one with Celine Dion just made me smile and laugh. She’s such a character.

If you want to be impressed and you’re okay with tearing up, watch Kodi Lee‘s audition on America’s Got Talent. So good.

2. Netflix. I’m slowly watching David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. Kanye West was the first guest on Season 2. I’m not a huge Kanye fan, but I thought it was an interesting interview. I also liked watching Letterman try on Kanye’s Yeezy clothes. Episode 2 was with Ellen Degeneres. I have always like Ellen, so I really enjoyed this interview. She’s candid, likeable, vulnerable, and funny (of course).

3. Food. Rachel Parcell shared an Instastory of hootenanny, and I had no idea what it was. So I looked it up. It’s a breakfast food that is kind of like a mix between pancakes and French toast, but not really. Here’s one hootenanny recipe, but there are plenty of others online.

4. Read this. I liked this list of 22 tiny things to do this summer to feel joy.

5. Beauty. Are there any fans of shellac nail polish out there? I love (love, love) how it looks and how it holds up for extended periods of time, but I hate (hate, hate) how it leaves my nails once it has been removed. I had shellac on for my trip to Japan for April, and my nails are still healing. It’s awful. Does anyone else get annoyed by the poor state of your nails after shellac polish has been removed? What do you do about it?

The Friday Five: Things on My Mind

1.Netflix. A friend recommended I watch Gad El…’s stand up comedy show, so I did. And I laughed out loud. His show revolves around cultural tendencies of the French and American. I hadn’t heard of him, but apparently he’s big in France. Huge. And now he’s got a Netflix series based on this, too, called Huge in France. So, of course, I started watching it, too. Pretty funny. Especially if you know anything about the French people or language.

2. Japanese wares in Canada. After conversations with Tim about all the gorgeous kimonos and housewares I saw (and bought) in Japan, I started looking around at where to buy authentic Japanese items in Canada. So far, I’ve come across Murata for gorgeous kimonos and tableware. The store is in Vancouver, but it also has an online shop. Oomomo for kitchenware, beauty products, and organizers. The store has locations in British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, and Alberta (opening soon).

3. Habits of luck people. I saw this list on Swiss Miss, and I like it. I’m not certain they’re habits of lucky people, though. I think they are habits of hard workers and good people.

Vala Ashfar via Swiss Miss

4. Brownies. Do you have a favourite brownie recipe or brownie mix? When I make brownies, I like Ghirardelli. But now that I’ve read this article, I may have to try some other brands.

5. Eyeglasses. I ordered two new pairs of glasses from Polette after I had a huge try-on session at the Paris store. I bought a few pairs over the last few years from Polette’s online store, so I was happy to have the opportunity to try them on in person. Polette certainly does have some unique options. Here’s a look at my new red specs. The shipping took so long with this order, but I’ve usually never had a problem.

The Friday Five: Things on My Mind

  1. Paris. Paris is about 2 weeks away! Eek! I can’t wait! And I have much to do before then. It’s a work trip, so I have lectures to prepare. I added on a few days to my work trip, so I’ll have some vacation time, too. I cannot wait to eat croissants, wander the 6th, and find a few treasures, too!
  2. Netflix. What are you watching on Netflix these days? I haven’t watched much recently, but a friend recommended You. So I started it. And then I continued with it. It’s interesting (but disturbing, too). Have you seen it?
  3. Design. I’ve been helping a friend with the full renovation of her main floor for the past year or so. It’s coming along beautifully, and we both can’t wait for her furniture to arrive soon. She has a great art collection, so I’m eager to get it all placed, too.
  4. Brunch. If you’re looking for an easy brunch option to feed a crowd, I suggest this egg sandwich recipe. I made it a few weeks ago, and it was a hit! See #WhiteCabanaCooks for more.
  5. Coffee. Do you ever switch up your coffee routine, or are you completely consistent? For the last little while, I’ve been a latte-focused lady, but I recently switched back to drip coffee, so my Cuisinart coffee maker is back in action. It’s a great machine, and I like having a new coffee routine.

Personal: The 10 Year Challenge

One of the newest hashtag crazes on Instagram is the #10YearChallenge whereby people post side-by-side photos: one from 10 years ago and one from recently. Many photos, as you can expect, are of people’s faces or bodies to show how they’ve changed – more wrinkles, fewer baby faces, more weight, less weight. Captions are generally amusing or introspective.

I, too, got on the 10-year reflection bandwagon. The side-by-side collage brought back so many memories and made me think about the last 10 years. It was a full decade to say the least.

10 years ago – September 2009 – I was on Amherst Island at one of my oldest friend’s wedding. She and I met when we were 7 years old when our families traveled to Madeira Beach. Each summer, we’d reunite and be kids under the Floridian sun. As we got older, we started getting together in Canada, too, no matter where in Ontario each of us lived. Fast forward twenty years later from our initial meet-up, and I was her Maid of Honour. So fun! I loved the navy dress I wore. The wedding ceremony, party, and weekend on the island were great. There were many jumping photos taken that weekend, and this is one of my all-time favourites of all the jumping photos I have taken over the last 15 years!

The photo on the right was taken by one of my other best friends in August 2018 at Madeira Beach (still going and still loving it!). This particular jump came at the end of our long walk on the beach, and the rainbow had just come out. It was a cue for me to start jumping under it. You can’t see all the laughs my friend and I have had over jumping photos, but, trust me, there were many! It was actually with this friend that the jumping photos really got going about 15 years ago – in the Canary Islands of all places! So many happy memories.

And in between these photos? I had so many beautiful moments and experiences to celebrate. I have celebrated marriages, babies, and home purchases with friends and family. My three nephews and niece were born. I traveled as much as I could solo and with friends and family. I started and finished my PhD. I started and finished my MBA. I bought my first home. And it was featured in a magazine. I have learned so many renovation skills. I moved cities twice. I got a great job. And then some other challenging work, too. And a few other projects because why not!? And then there was a book! My brain is always getting its exercise! I started and have continued my blog. And I have met so many great people because of it. I have much to be grateful for.

Of course, there were less than stellar moments, too. Cancer caught multiple people in my family, my last two grandparents passed away, and my aunt lost her battle with cancer. There were breakups, and there was work stress. There were sleepless nights and worries. There have been challenging days, weeks, and months with me, my friends, and my family. As cliché as it sounds though, these experiences have made me more thoughtful, more aware, more confident, more reflective, and more trusting of my gut.

Overall, the last 10 years have been pretty great. I feel lucky. I feel proud. I feel happy. And I can only hope that the next 10 years bring me similar joy. And 10 years from now, I hope I am still jumping!

Personal: 6 Things on Mind

1. Books. I finished another Haruki Murakami novel a couple of weeks ago. It was called Dance Dance Dance, and it was great. I also finished The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham. I’m now onto another Somerset Maugham – Of Human Bondage – and I think it’s going to take me a while to get through as it’s quite long. I’m just about to start Nudge by Richard Thaler to break up the line-up of British and Japanese literature.

2. Christmas Market. It’s Christkindle Market in Kitchener this weekend. It’s a great time to be outdoors, take in the Christmas crafts, and munch on traditional German food (and mulled wine, too)!

3. Holiday dresses. I love that so many bloggers are sharing round-ups of lovely holiday dresses. But why oh why are so many of them $1000+? I’m on the look out for more affordable options. Are you interested in a posts of (affordable) holiday outfits?

4. T&T Supermarket. Oh my goodness. The T&T supermarket (focused on Asian foods and products) opened up in Waterloo yesterday. A friend and I went after work, and we couldn’t believe the chaos. The parking situation was a mess. And there was a massive line up to get in. We were surprised. Needless to say, we had no desire to wait in line for groceries, so we left. I’ll check it out in a few weeks. Has anyone been? Do you have a T&T in your city? Do you like it?

5. End of term. The term is over. My class is done. I have final papers to mark this weekend. My students worked hard, and I look forward to seeing how they translated their ideas into their final writing task.

6. Music. I recently heard Lisa LeBlanc on the radio, and I’m hooked. Lisa is a 27 year old singer songwriter from Montreal. I’ve had her new bilingual album – Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen – on repeat for weeks.

Personal: A Walk Down Memory Lane

It’s happening. It’s finally happening. After years of saying “I really need to go to Japan,” it’s actually happening. I booked my trip a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been reading anything and everything in preparation. I have 6 months to plan and finalize details of my trip as it is in April 2019. I.Am.So.Excited!

I haven’t been to Japan since I was about 5 years old, and you can bet I’m going to try to recreate some of these photos from the 80s.

What are the chances I can find this place?

(side note: I used to love my Cabbage Patch t-shirt)

I’m pretty sure these are supposed to be for washing your hands rather than for drinking. Does anyone know?

And I had to include this one of my dad. He carried around that Beta video camera everywhere we went. Could you imagine doing it now? Luckily, a few years ago, we transferred all of our family’s Beta videos and slides (yes, slides, too) and 8mm film (yes, that, too) into electronic forms, so we were able to see photos and videos that we hadn’t seen in 30 years!

What are the chances I can find any of these places? They’re likely all from Kyoto. Wish me luck!

And if you have any recommendations about Japan, leave a comment, please!

Event: #WhiteCabanaWearsPink 2018

As I told you last Monday, to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer, once again this October, #WhiteCabanaWearsPink. What does this mean exactly? Well, a few things. Let me share:

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Donation of Ad and Affiliate Income

I will be donating all income generated from affiliate and Google ads this month to the Canadian Cancer Society. Click on all those sidebar ads and links to products (and buy stuff if you’d like). The more you click (and buy), the more that I can donate! Easy, right? I’ll try to highlight the affiliate links when I include them in my posts this month, so you can get extra click happy!

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CIBC’s Run for the Cure

Yesterday, I ran (more ran-walked) 5K for the CIBC Run for the Cure in Kitchener Waterloo.

I’ve been doing this run on-and-off for the last decade or so, and this was my third year at the Kitchener Waterloo event. It’s a great event with that exudes support and positivity among all the emotions of sadness, gratefulness, and happiness. You can see more on Instagram at #WhiteCabanaWearsPink.

If you’d like to donate, please do so on my personal #WhiteCabanaWearsPink fundraising page. Every little bit helps, of course, so if you could forego a coffee or two this week and donate the money instead, I would be so darn thankful!

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#WhiteCabanaWearsPink Series

Every Monday, #WhiteCabanaWearsPink here on the blog!

Yes, this blog has an all-white aesthetic. But every so often, it’s great to explore another colour. So, just like the last two years, every Monday in October, I’ll explore pinkness in the design world. It’s going to be fun!

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Thanks in advance for your support, dear readers.

See the #WhiteCabanaWearsPink series from years past, if you’d like.

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