Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Goals Recap

Another year is coming to a close. So, here's a final check-in with how I did on my 2012 goals:

1. 20 books + review
I missed the mark on this one and only finished 15 books - and just under the wire too (I finished book 15 this morning). To see the list and reviews (review of last book to come in the new year), check out my books page.

2. Finish afghan
Didn't do well on this one either. I have a total of four completed sections out of eight. So, at this rate, it will take another two years to finish it.

3. Re-evaluate financial portfolio
We did well on this one. We moved some smaller investments into RRSPs, increased our mortgage payment and opened an RESP for Evan. We were able keep our "rainy day fund" at a very comfortable level even though we did a few projects around the house and traveled out west in the summer. We've decided we'll re-evaluate our portfolio and budget every January.

4. Be more thankful, stop complaining
Hard to measure this one - I do think I complain less (though DH might disagree), but that might be for lack of time than anything else. I certainly didn't do anything proactive about it.

5. Work on "big plan"
There are a couple of "plans" that are running around in my head, but nothing concrete yet. I have been updating notes and ideas on both throughout the year, but they will be years in the making - if they don't fall off the radar completely. 

6. Try two new recipes per month, and take a baking or cooking class
I tried 19 new recipes this year and took a cake decorating class. Not too bad, but didn't reach the initial goal.

7. Incorporate strength training
As usual, exercise was on and off this year. I started the year with doing 10 push-ups a day. By March it fizzled out, so I started a daily weight circuit, which I kept up for a couple months. In September I got some new exercises for my back, and in October I started Gillian's 30-day shred, a yoga DVD, and the couch-2-5K play - all of which died when I got pregnant.

8. Monthly date nights
We ended up doing a date night about every two months which, honestly, worked pretty well for us. Anything spaced closer than that seemed right on top of each other!

9. Be more assertive/take-charge at work
Another hard one to measure, but I think I did well with this one. I'm being more straight forward, asking for what I want/need, and have tried to stop worrying about if others at work "like" me.

10. Keep up with deep cleaning
Did pretty well on this - at least to our standards. We're thinking of getting a steam cleaner so we can stay ahead on that one a bit more. I'm also going to put a cleaning schedule together for next year.

11. Fix up front patio and do landscaping in front yard
This was done! We also got to a couple other projects, like the roof, fence, and fireplace.

12. Less TV and internet
Nope, but I'm okay with this. I've come to the realization that these are things I enjoy doing to unwind, and it's not the end of the world. I enjoy keeping up with Facebook and my blogs, and I began to use Twitter - which has actually streamlined a lot of my web surfing. I plan on starting to use Pinterest to organize some of my ideas/to-dos. With TV, I generally only watch shows I want, but need to try and stick to that rule a little better.

Overall I think I did okay on my 2012 goals. Some were harder than others - either to do or to measure - but having the list at least brought them to the front of my mind. I made some attempt at all of them, and some will continue into next year even if they're not on my goals list.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Rules and Routine...

...apparently go to hell over the holidays. Evan's regular routine is so screwed up that we just let so much stuff go in order to keep some sort of peace around here. He eats on the living room floor, watches way too many cartoons, barely goes outside, and has dessert before dinner.

I assume - hope - we're not the only house going through this?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ready for Christmas

I'm really happy with our decorations this year. We amped it up a bit by adding garland with lights on the mantel and it makes quite the statement, especially with the new fireplace.

Our tree also looks fantastic. Now that we've been together for 6 years, we have amassed a nice collection of decorations that are full of meaning and memories. We both have decorations from our parents and grandparents as well, so the tree is a wonderful focal point for our living room.

We are hosting both sets of parents over the holidays - DH's arrive first and stay about a week, and mine arrive on Boxing Day and also stay about a week. They will overlap for a couple of days, so it will be a full house! We're ready though:

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to everyone!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Things I Miss

I've been thinking a lot lately of things I used to do and was really good at - either in my childhood or later on - that I really miss now. 

1. Dance - I've always been a dancer at heart, but I took jazz dance lessons from the ages of 8-16, and then ballroom dance lessons in my mid-20s. I'd like to find some adult jazz and/or hip-hop dance classes.

2. Music - I played concert clarinet from grade 7-12, and jazz tenor/baritone saxaphone in grades 10-12. I adored music so much, and was pretty damn good if I say so myself, that I even auditioning for a university music program before deciding to go into astronomy/physics. After high school, I still played in an adult band for a couple years, and joined a university ensemble during my MSc. I'd like to get back into music, but not sure if I want to pull my clarinet out of the closet and join an ensemble here, or take up a new instrument like piano.

3. Golf - My dad started me golfing when I was about 6 and I played on a pretty regular basis until I was about 15. I took lessons, played in tournaments, and was pretty decent. In my adult years, I've played from time to time - usually a few times per year - but it would be nice to get back into it in a more meaningful way. 

I'm hoping 2013 will allow me to get back to some of these things that brought me so much joy at one point or another during my life.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I'm still shocked and heartbroken about yesterday's events in Connecticut. I just weep for those children who were so scared, for the families who lost young innocent children - either to the gunman or because they had to witness something so frightening - and for the entire community who will never live life the same way again.

I think about the parents who had to go home last night to half-opened advent calendars, to Christmas presents unopened, to the cereal bowl left on the counter, to the toys left on the floor in the living room. How can they move anything, change anything, and get on with their lives?

It's unimaginable, what those families are going through. It was a senseless act that will terrorize hundreds or thousands of people for the rest of their lives. I feel like I can hear the screams of the children and the sobbing of the friends and families every time I think about it. I just don't understand how our world can be so horrible.

I feel strange about going back to normal life - like it's minimizing the tragedy and the grief of the families. No wonder we all put our heads in the sand when something like this happens. We can't internalize the grief of everything bad in the world, or we would just be paralyzed.

One thing I'll be doing is sending a sympathy card to the school. It may sound trite, but I figure the least I can do is let them know I'm thinking of them, as millions of us are. I urge you to do the same.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The M/C Saga Continues

Thank you to everyone for all your kind words and thoughts. 

This miscarriage has been far worse physically than the last one. It started on its own on Thursday, which I was relieved about. However, come Saturday morning, the bleeding got out of control and I ended up in an ambulance to the ER.

I spent 9 hours in the ER. My hemoglobin levels dropped about 30 points in that time (125 to 96), and it was decided I needed to undergo a D&C. At least that meant I got to go to a more private ward, but I had to wait another 5 hours before being called to surgery at about midnight.

Thankfully, the surgery went well, the bleeding has pretty much stopped, and my hemoglobin levels were rising again. I'm still feeling pretty awful today, but mostly because I have a brutal cold and my muscles are really stiff (from all the IV fluids going in and out quickly, or maybe from my blood levels?).

Here's hoping I'm finally on the mend.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

History Repeats Itself

About three years ago, I had a miscarriage. It was devastating, and something I would never wish on my worst enemy. 

So, here we are, three years later, going through it again. 

We found out we were pregnant about a week after Evan's 2nd birthday. The timing weirded me out a bit because it was so close to when we had our first miscarriage (I know it shouldn't matter, but all logic flies out the window after you have a miscarriage), but I was having strong symptoms and my beta levels were doubling on schedule. Everything was pointing toward a healthy pregnancy.

That is, until last week, when I had an ultrasound. I scheduled one early - at about 8 weeks - because that's what we did with Evan to make sure things were going okay after the first miscarriage. When we got the results (baby measuring a week behind, low heart rate of 86), we were saddened, but still weren't counting ourselves out. After all, u/s dating at such young fetal ages can have large errors. We could explain things away.

Then we had a follow-up ultrasound this week, and the results were conclusive: the baby had stopped growing at about 7 weeks and the heartbeat was gone. 

Then the world crashes down. Again. The worst thing this time around is I still have pregnancy symptoms, my temperatures are still high, and I have had no bleeding or cramping yet. I'm experiencing a missed miscarriage, where your body doesn't realize the baby has died. If I didn't have my ultrasound, I would be thinking that everything was perfectly fine right now. I might have to either take medication or have a procedure done to "assist"the miscarriage along.

With this, all the worries crop back up, along with some new ones: this is two miscarriages now, what does that mean?  Did I wait too long to have children? Will I be able to get pregnant again? Will I be able to stay pregnant again?

I'm thankful that we have Evan this time around - to keep our minds off things, to force us to keep some sort of normalcy in our lives, and to know that we have at least one amazing, healthy, crazy child to love.

Please send any positive thoughts you can spare along to us - we're in need of them right now.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Embrace the Cold

This winter, I really want our family to embrace the season instead of hiding out and waiting for it to pass. After all, it does last about 4-5 months out of the year - we shouldn't be wasting that time!

One thing we need to do is make sure we're all prepared to spend time outside. We have everything Evan could ever need - two different winter jackets, splash pants, full-on snow pants, snow boots, and a variety of hats and mitts - but not so much for ourselves. 

Last year, I invested in a decent pair of snow boots (and actually never wore them because it was unseasonably warm last year and we barely got any snow!), but I definitely need another layer for my legs (not sure if to do under- or outer-wear) and a good pair of heavy ski-type gloves. DH also needs some winter clothing.

So, any tips on what we need to stay warm out there? Any secrets (besides a thermos full of coffee and Bailey's)?

Our first winter outing: feeding the ducks by the river.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Back to Reading with Baby Proof

I've been in a reading rut lately. I just could not get in to our latest book club choice - Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler - even though it was my pick. I got to about page 30 before giving up completely. Granted, I wasn't the only one: only one of the girls read the whole thing, and we've decided to watch the movie at our next meeting instead (on the advice of the one girl who read the book and has seen the movie).

After easily reaching and surpassing my reading goal last year (10 books) I thought 20 would be a piece of cake this year. After all, I was still at home for the first half of last year with Evan - this year I would much more free time! But, either I wasn't as motivated to read, just didn't pick enough books that were that riveting, or didn't have as much free time as I thought, because I'm only at 13 books with a little over a month to go in 2012.

Anyway, to get my reading mojo back, I ordered Baby Proof by Emily Giffin for my Kindle. The easiest way to get back into something is to start nice, light, fun, and easy, right? I was right - I tore through the book in 3 days. 

Typical of Giffin books, it was a fun story with love angst, wrong decisions, misunderstandings, heart warming moments, and - of course - a perfect ending. It was exactly what I needed and I just might eat up another chic-lit book to keep things going. 

What are your fallback genres or books to get you reading again?

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I love that Evan is talking more and more, and his vocabulary and pronunciation are getting better by the day. Before he's talking like one of us, I just wanted to jot down some Evanisms that make this time so cute:

Pibbow = Pillow

Armpit = Elephant

Peas = Please

Moke = Milk

Shub up = shut up (yes, he says this, but only when the cats meow)

Geen = Green (this is probably a common one, but cute nonetheless)

He also has some words & phrases that are totally our influence:

G bar = granola bar

PB, PB&J = peanut butter, peanut butter and jam

Headbutt (along with action) - thanks to DH for this!

Gampa? - said every time our computer makes iChat like noises (we often iChat with my parents)

Fuff = cat (that's mine from when I was a kid)

Fistbump, Boom! ("boom" after the fistbump is complete) 

Games he likes to play:

Boom = a game we play in the bathtub where we bump two bath toys together over and over (and over and over) again.

Ramp = daddy makes a ramp out of cushions and books for his cars and trains. Sometimes there are tunnel requests as well.

Fote (fort) = cushion forts, of course!

Race = he squats down, points to the floor/ground next to him, and says "race" until one of us squats beside him. The race is done when he squats down and says "race" again.

Jumping Bean = he says this over and over as he jumps up and down on whatever furniture he's standing on and/or jumps onto us.

I hope to keep track of the funny and interesting things he says and does more, because these are the things that make him his own little person and I want to remember it all when he's older

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Parade Preparedness Fail

Last weekend we took Evan to the annual Santa Claus parade (yes, on the 10th of November - crazy, right?). As we sat our butts on the cold cement and looked around at the other families with their blankets, chairs, thermoses filled with hot chocolate, games (for the hour long wait before the parade started), and even full-size pizzas, we realized we were grossly under-prepared. 

As we walked back to the car, stiff from sitting in the cold on even colder cement, we swore we would write a list of what we needed to do/bring next year to make the parade a bit more enjoyable. 

- At least two blankets - one to sit on, another to cover us up
- A hot beverage, perhaps with an added "bonus" for the adults
- Snacks - pizza's a bit extreme, but having some granola bars on hand couldn't hurt
- Diversions for Evan - we can't escape the need to get to the parade early in order to get a good spot. We should bring something to occupy him besides running around like a madman across the road and back.
- Wearing extra layers of clothing and bringing extra gloves/hats/scarves - even though the weather seems warm, sitting still for 2-3 hours means being colder than one would think!

Any other tips?

Regardless, we still had a great time at the parade this year! Evan wore himself out running around for the first hour that he sat nice and still during the parade. We particularly enjoyed the steel drum band and Santa of course!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

33 vs. 23

Meme I saw on Ella's blog: what are 10 things you care about now that you didn't care about 10 years ago?

1. Politics

2. Getting to bed at 10pm

3. Kid-friendly activities

4. Following a budget

5. Feminism

6. Wearing sunscreen

7. Wearing a bike helmet

8. Recycling

9. Warm winter boats/hats/coats

10. Good cheese

What would your list look like?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Refuse to Go Back

I hate going backwards. If I miss a turn while driving, I won't turn around - I'll take the next one. I hate making corrections to things that I thought were "finalized". I would rather leave things the way they are, even if they're not perfect, just because I hate redoing work.

I don't really know where this comes from - is it from laziness (not wanting to repeat work), a control thing (it's fine the way it is because I did it), or am I just laid back and don't get worried about the small stuff? 

My guess is that it's situation-dependent, and sometimes it's a strength (knowing when things are "good enough" and not wasting time on making them perfect) and other times it's a weakness (things could be better with just a little bit of effort).

Lately, I find that it's been cropping up more on the negative side of things, and it seems that I don't pay attention to detail, or that I half-ass things, or something.

Like introversion, this is a trait of mine that I've become more aware of lately. Unlike introversion, I'm not sure if this is something I should accept about myself, or if it's something I need to work on.

Anyone else hate going back?

Monday, November 5, 2012


Life seems to be full of unbloggables right now, so I'm a bit at a loss for what to write about lately.

One fun thing is we decided to get a gas fireplace installed this fall! The ancient wood-burning one was taken out last week, we chose new tile for the hearth and surround, DH took out the old hearth tile, and he installed the new tile. Next Monday, the new fireplace gets installed, then we put up the new surround tile. I'll post before/after photos when we're done.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Driving Mr. E-Dawg

A couple months ago, when Evan started his new daycare, he was having problems falling asleep - both at night and during nap time. What used to take < 5 minutes was taking about an hour, including some huge tears/wailing/getting out of bed/etc..

Night time sleeping went back to normal relatively quickly, but the nap did not. We thought maybe he didn't need a nap anymore, but it was clear that wasn't the case. For one, he would nap just fine at daycare (he even puts himself to bed!!). Second, when he finally did fall asleep, he would nap for 1.5-2 hours as usual. So, he was just having a hard time falling asleep.

One day, while driving back from the grocery store, he fell asleep. We were able to bring him inside, put him in his bed, and he slept for his normal nap. So, since then, we've been doing this to get him down for his nap.

Yup - that's right - our 2+ year old son needs to be driven around to fall asleep! We've never had to do this until now. I know we should try different things but, honestly, it's just not worth the fight. Soon enough, he won't need his nap, and this will all be forgotten.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shorter Slacking Intervals

Trying to incorporate exercise into my life has been up and down. I often go through spurts of feeling very motivated, then into valleys of laziness.

I'm starting to realize this is okay. Following EcoGeoFemme's advice on a post of mine a few weeks ago, I'm trying to keep in mind that adding exercise to my life is an on-going process, not something that happens over night, and not something that has to be all-or-nothing. Some weeks are better than others.

One thing I've noticed is that the time interval between my motivated periods (i.e., the length of my lazy periods) seem to be getting shorter. There is only so long I want to be lazy before wanting to exercise again. 

Another thing that I'm doing is modifying my routine to something I can maintain. At the moment, I'm trying to fit in one yoga session and two aerobic exercise sessions (either Gillian's 30-Day Shred or a couch-to-5K walk/run) in per week, and it's going well.

I recently became motivated again because of a blog post written by Sam B over at Fit, Feminist, and (almost) 50 (a blog written by two of professors at my university, and it's really great!), She talks about research that says sitting is pretty much the new smoking, and how getting daily physical activity isn't enough to offset the risks. Seriously - go read it (and the rest of their posts)!

As exercise is slowly becoming a part of my regular life, I have set a goal of running a 5K. Not sure when right now - this will depend on a few factors - but it's on my bucket list!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The "Right" Way

The other day, we bought Evan a bunch of stickers from the dollar store. When we got home, we would give him a couple, he'd stick them together, then ask for more. In my head - and even out loud once - I said "but you're not using them right!". Apparently, in my head, there are only specific ways one can use stickers correctly.

I had to bite my tongue and just let him play how he wanted. After all, we always say how we want to foster his curiosity and experimental side, as long as it's free from danger. Also, what harm does it do if he doesn't play "the right way" with the stickers? 

It's funny how doing things "right" is so engrained in us.

Take the cake decorating class I'm in, for example. Each week, we learn how to do new designs using the different tips. Often, when I feel I've had enough practice, I'll start playing around, seeing what else I can do. Or, I'll try a different technique to achieve the same look. The teacher will come over and either tell me I'm "doing it wrong", that "it looks awful", or ask me "what the heck are you doing?". I usually reply with "just experimenting - it's okay! The world won't end!" and keep going. She doesn't often interact with me anymore.

Now, in a community class like this one, I don't expect a high level of teaching. I know she's not trained and is doing this as something fun to do on the side. It doesn't bother me, because I know how unimportant the class is in the scheme of things. And I can also learn all the things she's teaching without positive interaction with her (however, it is making me NOT want to show her a photo of the cake I decorated for Evan's birthday).

But...transfer those same words to an elementary science or writing class, and you've got a serious problem. All of a sudden, you're squashing that innate curiosity and need for exploration we are all born with. Students start following and memorizing the instructions like a recipe, without knowing why, and stop experimenting and asking questions.

This is why we can't say "you're not doing it right" to our children at this stage. However they want to play is their "right" way (again, as long as there is no danger to themselves or others). It's their way of learning about the world around them, and they need to do so in a safe environment free from ridicule and correction. 

If we can do this for them, then - at the very least- when they're in their 30s they'll feel confident with experimenting with the #13 tip even if their decorating teacher tells them to stop.

Friday, October 19, 2012

2nd Birthday

Today is Evan's 2nd birthday!

Warning: gushy mom-talk ahead...

Evan, I can't believe how much you have grown, changed, and learned in the past two years. Starting off as basically a sack of potatoes that ate and pooped, you are now a little man with your own personality, emotions, likes, dislikes, and interests.

You're incredibly independent - you will walk away from us and not look back. We love that about you, and it worries us a bit too sometimes!

You love counting things, but only by two's (though I've heard you count up to 7 before (and apparently 9 as of this morning)). 

You love making piles - of anything - and then, of course, destroying those piles only to start all over again.

You love your trains - so much so that they're regular props in our family portraits this year.

Your vocabulary astounds us - you can pretty much say anything, so we have to be careful!

We love it when you give us hugs and kisses, especially after you've gotten in trouble ;)

There are thousands of other things we love about you, and I'm sure there'll be thousands more in the next year. We can't wait to see what you'll learn or do next.

Happy birthday, Evan-potamus!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Book Review: Quiet

Long-time readers of the blog know that I'm an introvert - I scored 100% on the I side of the I/E section of the Myers-Briggs personality test. Since taking that test, I have become much more accepting of myself, how I spend my time, and who I spend my time with.

A few years ago, I read (and reviewed) The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, and found many of the tips in the book to be useful. So, when I heard about Susan Cain's book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Just Can't Stop Talking, I was very excited to pick it up.

Quiet is a lot different than The Introvert Advantage. The latter is more of a self-help book, with tips and tricks on how to deal with certain situations, while the former was more of a review of the psychological and neurological research done on introversion versus extroversion. For a great review of the content, check out Bee's review of the book on Backreaction.

I'll admit, this book was a bit drier and a more difficult read than The Introvert Advantage, but was incredibly interesting nonetheless. Even though the book didn't include a lot of specific tips for how to thrive in an extrovert world as an introvert, except in the last couple of chapters, it did validate many of my thoughts, feelings, and actions. 

For example, I know I have a socially demanding job in science outreach: I share an office, I attend a lot of meetings, and I go into classrooms 2-3 times a week to give presentations and do activities. I can do all these things while showing my pseudo-extrovert side, but as soon as the day is over I just want to crash in front of the TV or computer and be "in my head". It's my way of recharging in order to thrive at work the next day.

I'm feeling more and more comfortable in my introvert skin. I understand my limits, and know when I'm pushing myself too hard. For example, I know to make sure I don't have social events two evenings in a row, or more than one social obligation on a weekend. It works for me, and I'm getting better at not apologizing for filling my needs.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who's interested in the research side of things on this topic --- which would mostly be interesting to introverts ;) --- there still is a lot to learn, but I hope that it opens the doors to more conversations about how to address the needs of introverts as well as extroverts at schools and in the workplace. I give this book a 4/5.

Check out Susan Cain's TED talk about her book (and, yes, she's an introvert and gave a wonderful TED talk). 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Athletic Disappointments

It seems like every time I turn on the news lately, there is another world-class, record-breaking athlete admitting to doping (the latest athlete in the spotlight is Lance Armstrong).

These people amaze us with their abilities, we are proud of them because they show how must faster and stronger humans can be, and hundreds and thousands of people are inspired to join a specific sport or to get fit in general because of their performance. They're continually pushing the limits, and it's amazing to watch.

Then we find out it was all because of chemical enhancements.

Some don't care - regardless of how they did it, the athletes still inspired a lot of people, and they didn't sign up to be role models, right? Lance Armstrong probably raised millions of dollars for cancer research - are all those people who donated money because they were inspired by him now angry? Do they feel slighted or betrayed?

I don't know, I find I get really disappointed. I think it's so exciting when someone comes along and shatters world records, completely dominates their sport, and leave everyone in their dust. No matter what the sport, I love watching people at the top of their game, like Tiger Woods, Sidney Crosby, or Michael Phelps. It shows that (extremely) hard work and dedication can make you better at something than everyone else on the planet. But, when it comes out that doping was involved, it's just such a disappointment to find out that maybe people can't be that good without interventions. That maybe you can only achieve average athleticism without it. That we're all just destined to achieve mediocrity. Plus, there are some serious health dangers that come with doping - shouldn't we want to protect our athletes from that, just like we want to protect them from getting head injuries?

There's just no way to know who's doping and who's not - at least not for a few years until the testing catches up with the doping methods (which is why we often find out about these occurrences years after the fact). How can we make every competition a fair one if this is the case? Should we just allow any and all doping, since that's the way it seems to be going anyway? Maybe we should have doping and dope-free Olympics?

What do you think? Is doping in sport a big deal, or is it just part of it now?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Roof

We sprung for a new roof a couple weeks ago. We were sad to see the slate go, but with a price tag of $75K to replace, or the same price tag as a new asphalt roof to "patch" it, we went with the asphalt. 

Here are a couple of before-and-afters:

Now that the roof is replaced, we're starting to think seriously about what to do with the great attic space!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend in Pictures

DH and I started the weekend with a date night - we took in a London Knights game and it was really fun!

Saturday we did a lot of work around the house. Here's Evan helping Daddy raking the leaves.

Sunday morning we went to the Children's Museum and Even had a blast!

And on Monday, we went to an apple orchard/pumpkin patch.

It was a great weekend, with many reminders of what we should be thankful for. I'm so lucky to have a wonderful husband and a darling son, both of whom can make me laugh until my stomach aches!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Exercise & Eating Better Screws with Body Image?

Here's a brain teaser: I actually tend to feel worse about my body when I'm exercising regularly and/or keeping track of my eating habits.

I think it's because I'm focusing on my body when I'm changing my exercise/eating habits, and so I tend to look critically at myself more often. When I'm not doing those things, I'm not thinking about my body, therefore I don't look at it in detail much.

I hate this, because it can negatively impact my progress and attitude and I start the downward spiral: Shouldn't I feel and look better if I'm being healthy? If I don't, then why do I bother? Quitting soon follows.

This time, I need to fight this. I'm not sure how, other than to just try my best to ignore it.

Does anyone else have this problem? How do you combat it?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Show & Tell

I saw this meme over at Livin' the Dream, and thought - since I've been low on blog fodder lately - I'd go ahead with it.

1.  tell us about your five favourite memories in your life.

In no particular order:
- Our wedding day. Specifically being outside the hall in the lobby, chatting with DH, with music and laughter flooding through the doors.
- The day we took possession of our house. I remember walking through the front door with so much excitement and nervousness!
- One family Thanksgiving dinner where 8 of us went through 10 bottles of wine.
- Evan: so many, it's hard to choose one. One of my recent favorites: having a leaf fight at a nearby park. I could listen to him laugh all day.
- On our trip to South America in 2009, jumping off a sail boat and swimming in the warm tropical waters near Rio.

2.  show us three of your favourite beauty products.


- Body Shop Shea Body Butter: I use this on my feet every morning and they are so soft!
- Eyelash/brow brush: I use this to brush my eyebrows - weird, but I feel more put together.
- Pur minerals make-up brush: I use this to put my foundation on. It's very luxurious, even if I'm only putting that on for the day.

3.  tell us what your favourite tv shows are to watch.

In no particular order: Big Bang Theory, New Girl, Grey's Anatomy, Dragon's Den, Modern Family, Top Chef, House Hunters, and NFL. 

4.  show us two of your favourite pictures.

5.  tell us your favourite things to do during "me time."

I'd like to say knit, read, and workout --- but these days it's more like veg out in front of the TV while surfing the net. I need to get my priorities straightened out!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

1/2 Back on the Wagon

I managed to get up early on Wednesday and went for a walk. It was quite nice. Then, I came down with a cold/flu bug on Thursday night. I still managed to get a decent walk in on Friday afternoon though.

Now that it's dark in the morning, I don't feel okay with riding my bike on the road --- even if I had lights and was covered in reflective tape. I just don't trust drivers around here that much. However, walking works because I'm on the sidewalk. So, my plan is to continue with that, and even amp it up a bit and start the Couch-to-5-K plan (I even downloaded an app for my iPhone that will give me sound cues on when to change between walking/running). 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Morning Makeover: Off the Wagon

I completely fell off the wagon this week. I didn't wake up early once to exercise. The most I did was buy an exercise DVD and yoga mat. 

I have a lot of excuses why I didn't do anything - but no good reason, really. It came down to wanting to sleep longer. 

I realize that it would have been easier to start this kind of thing in the spring when the mornings are getting lighter and warmer, not the other way around. I did find that I missed it though - I like getting the fresh air and just being with myself. So, that's a positive, right?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Breakfast Boredom

I generally have the same thing for breakfast every morning - especially during the work week: toast with peanut butter and honey, a piece of cheese, and a piece of fruit. I might sometimes do a fruit smoothie or fruit salad with yogurt instead.

I'm bored of all of this though - so, any great, fast, ideas for breakfast? Two limitations: no  straight-up milk or eggs.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Morning Makeover Check In (3)

Monday: missed
Tuesday: 30 minute bike ride
Wednesday: 30 minute bike ride
Friday: missed 
Saturday: 30 minute bike ride

This week was a bit hectic at home and work. I think the first time I took a breath was at 3:15pm on Friday afternoon. Thankfully, I did get in my three workouts, just not when I was supposed too.

I missed Monday's workout because I felt awful the night before with terrible allergies (which I rarely have) and a middle-of-the-night headache. I made up for it on Tuesday morning. Friday I missed because I had Evan in the bed with me after a rather rough night. I made up for this one on Saturday morning.

It works, though! I'm still finding it very easy to motivate myself in the morning...much easier than in the evening. For example, I was going to make up the Monday morning missed workout in the evening, but I couldn't convince myself when the time came --- but Tuesday morning was no problem.

Tuesday and Saturday morning were cool enough that I needed to wear gloves. I'm also getting a bit bored going on a bike ride each time. So, definitely need to find some other options for weather and other reasons.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bayer (Maxidol) Response

Last week, I posted about the Maxidol commercial that was offending women across the nation. I emailed Bayer, and heard back from them today. This is what they had to say:

Dear Alyssa,

Thank you for sharing your concerns about our advertisement for Maxidol®. 

Over the past few weeks, we have heard from a small group of concerned consumers, such as yourself, and have taken this feedback to heart. After closely reviewing the matter, we have decided to withdraw our advertisement. This decision will take full effect by September 14, 2012.

At Bayer, we’re proud to help women live healthier, more empowered lives and sincerely regret if our advertisement suggested otherwise. We value the loyalty and opinions of our customers and hope that our actions demonstrate this commitment.


Amanda C. RN*
Bayer HealthCare
Consumer Care

Well, shit --- taking a stand does work sometimes! Kudos to Bayer for knowing when to own up to a screw up and actually fixing it. Hopefully I never see that ad again.

*Last name shortened for privacy.

Monday, September 10, 2012

NHL Boycott

With the NHL season looming, DH and I have made the decision that we'll be boycotting the league this year (although they might be doing it themselves if things don't get straightened out).

It's a tough decision - we used to love watching hockey. But, in the last couple of seasons we've found it has really gone downhill with the lack of consistency with penalties (especially those involving headshots and unnecessary violence) and the "old boy" feel of the game commentary (calling players girls/pussies/gay because they don't fight, etc.). Raising a little boy has really made us become more aware of how bad it is, and we don't want that around him.

Even after a Calgary ruling to increase the age at which hockey players are allowed to bodycheck, junior leagues across the country are still allowing children as young as 11-12 years old to do it during a game (source: Winnipeg Free Press). This is even after a study came out that found hockey players younger than 13 were 3 times more likely to suffer concussions or major injuries if bodychecking was part of the game.

It's now well-known that concussions are incredibly serious injuries. They are cumulative over a lifetime and can have troubling long-term effects:
There are an increasing number of retired athletes who have been diagnosed posthumously with a degenerative disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  Researchers at several centers around the country are studying this disease, its cause and progression.  The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy in Boston states that CTE is the only preventable form of dementia.  Ninety percent of confirmed cases have been in retired athletes. Athletes who have a history of multiple concussions have a higher incidence of dementia and dementia-related diseases later in life.
(source - emphasis is mine). In addition, it seems that concussions are much more harmful to a teenage brain, when it's still deep in development mode.

Crosby's concussion - a result from a hit from David Steckel during the January 2011 Winter Classic - seemed to be changing things in the minor leagues, but Steckel himself was not punished for the hit. Crosby ended up playing a few days later, even though he was injured, and suffered another headshot from Victor Hedman (also not punished). A year later, he was still not concussion symptom-free. Yet, even though it's talked about in NHL circles, nothing seems to be changing. Hell, even one of the main page features on the NHL site is about the "biggest hits" from last season.

For us, enough is enough. We'll stick with sports where unnecessary violence is taken seriously and penalized appropriately.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Morning Makeover Check-In (2)

Sunday: 30 minute bike ride
Tuesday: 30 minutes of yoga
Thursday: 30 minute bike ride
Saturday: 30 minute bike ride, in the pouring rain

This week was pretty easy, since 3 out of the 4 days I actually didn't have to wake up early. Thursday was the only day I had to set my alarm. I pressed the snooze alarm once, but woke myself up before it went off again and was out the door on time.

I don't know if I'm just more positive in the morning, or I just don't have the energy to talk myself out of things, but I've been surprised how easy it has been to motivate myself. I mean, I even went for a bike ride this morning in the rain. If you know me, that is a huge accomplishment. It would have been a perfect excuse to let it slide, but it was easy to talk myself into it.

The rain this morning is making me think about what I'll do come the time where it's too dark and cold to exercise outside. I'm contemplating buying a spin bike and/or fitness videos. My one big problem is where will I exercise? We only have one TV, which is in the living room where DH and Evan start their morning (there's no way Evan will let me workout if he's up and in the same room). So, doing exercise videos there won't work. There's no way I'm ugly-ing our living room up with exercise equipment (all the toys are bad enough). Our basement is awful...maybe the office?

Any tips or suggestions would be appreciated!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Maxidol Commercial

Last weekend, as I was enjoying an action flick on TV, I was bombarded every commercial break with the latest Maxidol commercial that made me more angry every time I watched it.

I've tried searching for it online, but have come up empty-handed so far.*  But, if you search for "maxidol time of the month commercial", you'll see I'm not the only one annoyed by it.

The commercial starts with a view of a woman's work desk, and the narrator saying something along the lines of Poor Susie - she's off work today because of cramping, bloating... --- you get the idea. As the list goes on, the commercial cuts to a scene of a woman shopping to her heart's content and leaving the store with both hands full of bags.

If you can't figure out why this ad pisses me off, here's a list of things it implies:
1. Women are unreliable when having their period
2. Even if women feel okay during their period, they'll use it as an excuse to get out of work
3. When women do skip out of work, it's to go shopping
4. Women love to shop, especially when having their period
5. Women can't stop themselves when shopping and always over-indulge

I don't know who's idea this commercial was, or who let it air, but join me in telling Maxidol (Bayer Canada is the parent company - email is contactbayer@bayer.com) that they should go to hell!** And, no, I'm not irritable because of PMS. I'm irritable because this sexist shit is apparently still acceptable.

*If anyone has a link, let me know.
**I sent them an email on Tuesday - will update if I hear anything back!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Daycare Transition

Last Friday was the final day at Evan's old daycare, Cantara. After months of the unknown, followed by more months of counting down, the daycare and associated teen pregnancy centre is now closed for good.

It was a bit sad in the last few weeks, with another child leaving every few days. By the end, there were only a handful of kids left and four staff members. It was incredibly tough to say goodbye. Evan was very close with some of the other children and staff, and they will all be missed dearly.

Today is Evan's first full day at his new daycare. He visited every morning last week, and he did progressively better each day. So, hopefully he does okay today and continues to get used to the new routines, kids, staff, toys, and everything else.

We really like the philosophy of the new daycare - it's very much child-led, inquiry-based learning. Each child has their own portfolio which outlines what they're learning and are interested in. There is also a lot of room for parents to get involved, either directly (going into the class) or indirectly (adding stories/photos/etc. to the portfolio, taking part in family events, etc.). 

We hope that it will be a good fit for our family. Though we'll always have a special place in our hearts for Cantara.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Morning Makeover Check-In

Earlier this week, I wrote about how I was inspired to take advantage of early morning hours, when I tend to be more motivated and positive about trying new things. My main goal is to re-introduce exercise into my life.

Each week, I'll update how I'm doing. This will be more for my own benefit than for my readers, because writing it down for people to see might keep my motivation up.

Week 1 goal: actually waking up early and getting my butt moving somehow.
Monday: 35 minute walk
Wednesday: 30 minute bike-ride
Friday: 30 minute walk

Yay for achieving my weekly goal! I think I'll keep this goal for the next week as well, to keep things realistic. Some thoughts on the process so far:

- It's getting darker each morning, so I need to get a jacket with reflective tape - or buy reflective tape to put on a jacket I already have.
- I need a digital watch so I don't have to bring my iPhone.
- Even if I'm feeling crappy in the morning, getting out makes me feel better (this happened on Friday morning)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back-to-School Nightmares

I finished my PhD over three years ago and haven't taken a class since 2006, so you'd think I'd be done with school-related anxiety - yet last night I had a back-to-school themed dream.

I was in the middle of a calculus class and realized that the people sitting beside me had an assignment handed back to them which I had no idea about! So, I got a big fat ZERO on the first assignment. Then, the prof tells the class that all the remaining assignments - which consist of insanely complicated mathematical derivations - are to be done in class in 20 minute periods. Because I hadn't been paying attention in class or taking notes, I had no idea what I was doing, and had to either fail or drop out of the class.

Interesting how all my school-related dreams share the theme of being completely unprepared. 

Do you have back-to-school dreams, whether you're actually going back to school or not?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Before Breakfast

A while back, Cloud at Wandering Scientist wrote about how she had changed up her morning routine after she read a short book called What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings--and Life by Laura Vanderkam. Her post motivated me to buy the book, and I finally got around to reading it this past weekend. 

The book - which took about 30 minutes to read - gives some great advice on how to make the most of the time before breakfast, and why we should take advantage of that time. A couple quotes to summarize:

"...tasks that require self-discipline are simply easier to do while the day is young."

"...willpower, like a muscle, becomes fatigued from overuse."

"There seems to be a general pattern that major self-control failures and other bad decisions occur late in the day."

The more I read, the more I could really understand where Vanderkam was coming from. I have all sorts of motivation in the morning to want to try new things, to bring exercise into my daily routine, to take up drawing, or the piano, or running. But, everything falls to shit once I get home from work and get through the dinner/bath/bedtime routine. Who hasn't started off the day feeling like you can take on the world, only to end up on the couch at 7:30pm, exhausted, with a big bag of chips and some M&Ms nearby? It just makes plain sense that, if you want to incorporate something new into your life, to do it when you're feeling the most positive and motivated.

Vanderkam overviews five steps to take to start spending your time better:

1. Track your time - how do you spend your time? Are you using it efficiently? Are there things you can do to free up time? Are there mundane tasks that can wait until later in the day so you can do the more important things earlier?

2. Picture the perfect morning - what would you do with your morning time if money, logistics, or anything else wasn't an issue? 

3. Think through the logistics - once you know what you want to do, how can you make that happen?

4. Build the habit - start slow, so you don't burn yourself out. Begin by introducing one activity for about a month before doing another. Wake up 15 minutes earlier for one week, then continue to wake up earlier, so as to not shock your system. It's okay "to use bribery at first." (I like that one!) :)

5. Tune up as necessary - Life will change, and so might your new routine, and that's okay!

This book as inspired me to try this out. My big goal right now is to introduce exercise back into my life, and I've had a hell of a time doing it. I have all the good intentions in the world, but fitting it in during the workday doesn't fly when I have impromptu meetings, TAs that need help, or teachers wanting to talk about our programs. After dinner doesn't work because, let's be honest, I'm exhausted and just want to crash with a book or in front of the TV. 

So, my plan is to utilize the mornings that DH wakes up with Evan (we alternate mornings). On those mornings, I plan to get up at about 6:20am - which is actually quite reasonable - and go for a walk or bike-ride. The other mornings, I will spend with Evan as I normally do.

Not sure what I'll do when it starts to get dark and/or cold, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there. I'll update in about a month with how I'm doing at the end of each week with how I'm doing!

As for the book - I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking to make the most of their time. I give the book a 4/5, because I wish it was longer :D

Edited to add:
A friend of mine started waking up earlier in the mornings to work out. Now, she uses that time to do all sorts of things - like prep for that night's dinner, do laundry, and clean up the house. Here's what she has to say about it:

"I'm totally a morning convert now. I always used to sleep til the last possible second, but no more!! I'm too addicted to how much easier nights are with less to do."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Book Review: The Lost City of Z

Our latest book club choice, and my tenth book of the year (only 10?? I need to get my act together if I want to reach my 2012 goal of 20), was The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann.

This is a non-fiction book that is mostly about the adventures of a 20th century explorer, Percy Fawcett, and his experiences in his search for evidence of an ancient civilization in the Amazon. He never returned from his last expedition, and 100s of people have tried to figure out what happened to him and his team (which included one of his sons).

Interwoven with Fawcett's story is the author's own story of how he became interested, then almost obsessed, with Fawcett and the Lost City of Z, and how he ended up going on his own adventure into the Amazon.

The books was an interesting read, but got kind of boring in the middle because of it's repetitive nature (Fawcett goes on new expedition, some of his men get sick or die, he has no sympathy, they come out of the jungle, repeat). However, the last 50-60 pages got very interesting, when Grann (on his own adventure) finds out what has happened to Fawcett and whether he was right about Z. 

I would have preferred less time spent on detailing Fawcett's expeditions and more time on what has been found in the Amazon. This is why I'm giving the book a 3.5/5.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Office Upgrade

When I started my new job, we were in a pretty decent office. No windows to the outside, but we did have windows along to walls facing into a hallway (they were frosted so people couldn't see in). Unfortunately, that space needed to be used for someone else, so we had to move to this:

Fig. 1: Our old office - 2 people in a box less than 10'x10' with no windows.

It wasn't great, but we made due. Around here, one has to be thankful for any space. But, we could only use it for a few months until some new post-docs arrived (poor schmucks).

Our bosses worked tirelessly to get us a better, permanent, space. And, boy did they come through:

Fig. 2: Our new office. Windows to the OUTSIDE!! Enough space for two desks AND our stuff!! There's even a place (from where I took this photo from) for a small conference table!!

Sometimes it's worth it to suck it up and put in your dues to get something really amazing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

4-Way Stop: A Review

Depending on the route I take, I can hit up to 5 4-way stops on the way to or from work. I would say about 80% of the time people have no idea what to do, especially when two or more cars arrive at the intersection at the same time. Then you get into the "you go" "no you go" dance, kind of like this insurance ad, or it looks a lot like this:

Fig. 1: The 4-way stop reality (source).

I find it so frustrating, and just wish people would follow the damn rules we all learned in driver's ed. So, as a public service, here is a review of the rules of a 4-way stop:

From Ontario's Ministry of Transportation website: At an intersection with stop signs at all corners, you must yield the right-of-way to the first vehicle to come to a complete stop. If two vehicles stop at the same time, the vehicle on the left should yield to the vehicle on the right. 

Bonus information for London drivers: a red light means stop, not speed up. In the last week, I've seen about 5 cars blow right through an intersection when the lights for the other direction were green for at least a couple of seconds.

Pass it on!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sucking at networking (and that's okay)

One thing I learned about myself at the conference last week is that I absolutely stink at networking in person. Seriously. Worse networker ever.* I cannot go up to groups of people (large or small) and weasel my way into the conversation. I can try to convince myself to do it all day long, but it's just not going to happen.

That being said, I am okay with going up to people who are also on their own. Maybe it's because they're not as threatening, or maybe I feel "in tune" with them more. Regardless, I can do that all day long and feel fine. I'm also very good with carrying on a conversation with people who approach me.

I'm not a huge fan of going to social events at conferences. I do try to stretch myself and go to a couple, but there's no way I'd force myself to go to all of them. In this case, there were four, so I went to two. That's pretty good in my books. 

I think my networking suckage was exaggerated by the fact that I did not know one person at this conference going in. It also didn't help that it seemed that everyone else at the conference has known each other for a lifetime.**

In the end, though, I've decided it's not something I need to work on and/or worry about too much. After all, this is who I am and I'm okay with that. I know it takes a lot of energy out of me to interact with others. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy it (I do outreach for a living!) - it just means I need time to recover before heading back in. Plus, I still get lots of great ideas and contact information of people who would be good collaborators or otherwise - and, for me, that's really the point of conferences.

It's nice to be happy with the way I am.

If this sounds like you - or someone you know - I would recommend the book The Introvert Advantage. I also have Quiet in my to-read pile, another book written about and for introverts.

*I'm not looking for any advice on how to become a better networker here - I know all the things I'm "supposed" to do. I've read the articles and books - it's just not in my nature.

**And before you say it's in my head, the vast majority of the speakers were introduced by saying "and you all know this person, so they need no introduction **insert inside joke here**" followed by laughter of 95% of the audience. I actually wrote about this in the feedback survey because it was so common.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Unique Conference Experiences?

I'm on the organizing committee for a science education conference that we'll be hosting next July. We hosted the first one last summer, and it was a big success.

One of our goals is to be different from the typical scientific conference. For example, we have lots of time set aside for discussion within each session, we have workshops and 30 minute presentation times, all meals are provided and everyone eats together, and we try to bring fun and humor into the mix when we can.

There are a couple of regular conference events that we'd like to make a bit more interesting:

1. Welcome reception
Most conferences have a welcoming reception where people stand around eating finger foods and drinking wine. We'd like to have some sort of an ice-breaker activity in addition to this. Ideas that came up were things like geocaching or a building competition.

2. Banquet
Last time, we had a great speaker at the banquet. It was nice, but very "status quo". We're trying to think of some sort of entertainment we could bring in. Ideas for this that were thrown around were a stand-up comic (who talks about science, of course), a rock/jazz band, Cirque du Soleil (might be a bit over our budget, but an idea nonetheless).

Have you seen something cool done at another conference that might work, or do you have any ideas? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Never Easier?

I'm sitting at the Chicago airport, waiting for my connection down to Tucson for a conference on science education.

I miss Evan and DH already. In fact, I missed them the moment I walked out the door at 5am this morning. Every time I travel for a conference or otherwise, and have to be away from them, my heart just breaks.

Will it ever get easier to go away?

Luckily, I still am able to take full advantage of the alone time!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mars Curiosity Landing

Back in November, the newest Mars rover was launched from the surface of Earth. Now, right on schedule, it will (finger's crossed) be landing on the surface of Mars inside Gale crater on August 6th at 1:31am.

Here's a great video explaining why it's so cool*

NASA will be showing a live feed of the event on NASA-TV starting at 12am (Eastern) - tune in to witness history in the making!

*Sorry for the video not showing up in the post. For some reason it just won't embed!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Lately, I've been bummed out by how I've been choosing to spend my free time in the evenings. Usually I end up watching TV or surfing the web, and then all of a sudden it's time for bed and I feel like I wasted my time.

There are all sorts of things I imagine myself doing instead: reading, knitting, biking, taking tennis or swimming lessons to improve my abilities, taking a cooking course, starting a couch-to-5k running program, taking up my clarinet again, cleaning, doing things around the house, baking....so many things.

So, why can't I get off my butt and do these things? I seem to have a never-ending list of excuses: I'm too tired, I just ate, I deserve to "relax", and I'm not feeling well (headache, stomach ache, or achy neck/shoulders are the usuals) are all the reoccuring favorites. What it comes down to, though, is I just don't have the motivation to climb out of my lowest energy state. 

Another problem is how I define "relaxing" - for some reason, I think it means to basically turn off, tune out, and dumbly stare at a screen. Then I feel like butt later. When I do something more productive, I always feel so much better. For some reason, though, I just can't connect that feeling to motivating me later on (this is the same with working out - always feel great after, but that never helps when I have to do it the next time).

Do you find yourself in motivational ruts? How do you get out of them?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Space Camp

This past week, I had the pleasure of running a space camp for 18 8-11 year-old kids. It is the first time we're offering such a program, and I really wasn't sure how it would go, but it sounds like they had a lot of fun!

We partnered with the university recreation program, who offer a huge range of summer camps throughout July and August. I approached them last fall about developing a space camp program for them, and they jumped on the chance. They have loads of sports camps, but are always looking to add non-sports camps too. 

So, the kids went on a solar system walk, made their own solar ovens and refracting telescopes, held meteorites, mined cookies, designed and built space landers, and completed a rover mission. 

One thing I learned was that my expectations for what could be done in our time was too high. Usually, when I go to classrooms, I'm supposed to fill up the entire time with activities, slide shows, demos, etc.. In this case, there was a lot of time dedicated to snacks, bathroom breaks, and games to break up the day. Once I realized that, the rest of the days went much better.

I'll be doing it all over again in a few weeks, and I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

5 Years Later....

Fig. 1: Not even engaged in 2007.

Fig. 2: And 5 years later.