Summer Plans

It’s summer! 9 weeks may seem like a long time, but between weddings, trips, and prepping for next year, I already know that these two months are going to fly by. In order to make the most of it, here’s what I’m putting into motion:

Setting a weekly focus

I have been following ANGELA WATSON‘s blog for a while and she wrote a post not too long ago called 6 SIMPLE STEPS TO THE BEST SUMMER EVER. I’ve followed her advice to create an end of summer vision and to assign a focus for each week. My three main goals are to (1) have my long range plans completed and an intro postcard/letter sent out to my students; (2) have a morning routine in place to maximize my day and ensure I have time for devos; and (3) have meal plans created for September. This week, my focus is on getting to know my curriculum expectations. I’ve taught all these subjects before, but I’m really hoping to do something a little different this year that allows for more authentic, integrated learning.

Explore something different every day

It’s easy for routine to become monotony when you have a toddler. So, we’ve committed to trying or visiting something different every day. Living in Kingston and in this part of Ontario, there is tons at our fingertips that we haven’t even scratched the surface of. We’re starting local, but we will definitely branch out as the summer goes on and as we venture to other parts of Ontario and North America. So far, we’ve visited a BERRY FARM, taken Andy to his first splash pad, and attended STORIES IN THE PARK. Tomorrow we are heading to the MUSEUM OF HEALTH CARE.

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30 day fitness challenge

This last endeavour is three-fold. One, I have not been going to the gym nearly enough, and my diet has been subpar. Plus, throwing out my shoulder when I wiped out while cycling has been a disincentive to any sort of physical activity. Two, we are heading to Bermuda at the end of August. Three, I am teaching 4 classes of phys. ed. next year. In summary, plenty of reasons to get into shape.

Outdoor time

I really like biking. And I really like being outside. These are things that I hope Andy will come to like as well.

Andy’s too small for his own bike at this point, but I did want to take him with me on rides, so Kelvin and I decided to invest in a bike seat for him. We opted for the WeeRide Kangaroo Ltd. Centre-Mount seat, which I installed this morning. I do have to ride a bit bow-legged because of the angle of the posts on my bike, and it is significantly harder than cycling without the added weight, but we both loved it. On our first trip out, which was really close to Andy’s nap time, we didn’t even make it out of our subdivision before Andy fell asleep. I opted to turn around. After a trip to the library, and lunch at grandma and grandpa’s, we rode home. Again, he fell asleep. This made me feel really good about getting the seat with the padded pedestal/pillow :)

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As for general outdoor time, we visit Lemoine Point regularly, and if we can’t make it down there, we go to our community park. Our backyard is currently nothing but a plot of grass (we don’t even have a deck, so if we opened the sliding doors from the dining room, we would fall straight down about 4 feet). Despite this, Andy and I sometimes spend our afternoon out there on a blanket, watching our neighbours’ dogs play. We also have snacks out there.

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We’ve had some crazy cold spells over the last little while, but here’s hoping this spring-summer weather is here to stay.

A Brief History of Community Building

I was fiddling around on YouTube just now and rediscovered some videos that I made a few years ago during a Culture Days weekend. That got me thinking…

First, a bit of background. Culture Days was actually one of the catalysts that led me to stay in Kingston for good (the main catalyst was Kelvin). It was 2011 and my burgeoning love for community building inspired me to organize a Culture Days event here in town called KINGSTON THROUGH MY LENS. It was essentially a 10-day, city-wide photo project that aimed to visually share community stories. That year, I also sat on the first Kingston Culture Days planning committee. It was great fun.

Fast forward one year, and I decided to participate in Culture Days once again. I was in the midst of planning our wedding at that time, so I wanted to take on something a little more low-key. Enter: THE HAPPY POST PROJECT. My goal was to collect a whole whack of post-its with things that make people happy written on them, and to then display them at my favourite west end park in Kingston. The day before the installation, I did a full-day bike blitz where I biked around the west end and asked people to write down what made them happy. I filmed a series of videos to document the day. I also live tweeted the whole event using #HappyPostYGK. Reading through those tweets gave me great joy.

This past September, after a few years away from organizing community initiatives, I spearheaded the development of EDCAMP KINGSTON, which is/will be an annual unconference around education in our city.

Kelvin mentioned this morning that I have an “entrepreneurial spirit”. And I’ll be honest, if it weren’t for my parents both being civil servants, I very well may have picked a more entrepreneurial route in life than teaching (though I did say that even within education, there is plenty of room for exploring uncharted territory). I inherited from my father a love for the city, and this has resulted in a tendency for me to develop random community projects.

Recently, I was listening to Episode 21 of THE SIMPLE SHOW, which featured this amazing community movement called NEIGHBOR’S TABLE. I’ve decided that I’m going to do a rendition of this in my own neighbourhood. I’m fairly inept on the cooking and hospitality front, so it’s going to be a much simpler version, but I’m really looking forward to it nonetheless. I’ve shared the idea with some of my neighbours already, and I can’t wait until the warmer weather to get my dinner organized. I have high hopes for this little initiative!

Commuting

My commute to work used to be 10 minutes by car. Now, it takes me about 35 minutes. If this were the GTA, 35 minutes would be merely peanuts. But in the Kingston area, 35 minutes often means you’re in a whole other world.

There are definitely pros and cons to this arrangement. Let me outline a few of them.

Pro: I get to listen to podcasts.
This was probably the thing that excited me most about my longer commute. I am terribly behind in my podcast queue and this has helped.

Con: The gas.
I used to fill up maybe twice a month. Now I fill up about twice a week.

Pro: The drive is scenic.
About 15 minutes of my drive is in town/on the highway. The remaining 20 minutes is straight up a county road until I get to my school. I slow down exactly two times, as I pass through two small towns. Only one of those towns requires me to stop at a stop sign.

Con: I get sleepy sometimes.
35 minutes is not an insignificant amount of time. One morning, I was really tired driving in, and to make sure I made it to school alive, I had to stop at a country store to pick up a shot of caffeine. I found it in the form of a Starbucks frappucino drink. It was mostly sugar.

It’s only been two weeks, but the drive is starting to grow on me. I find myself becoming more familiar with the landmarks I pass, and I’m starting to be able to list off the roads that come and go.  I pass the same black Q5 on my way to and from work (they head in the opposite direction), and occasionally I find myself right behind my colleagues who are also driving from town. I look forward to driving up the hill to the school parking lot and to walking down the hall to my little corner of the school. This is my new normal.

Random aside: we have the most amazing schoolyard.

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So I might as well be frank. Andy started to get sick during the tail end of our trip. And jet lag coupled with my return to work has not been kind to him. 

We had a good time in Hong Kong, and I think Andy enjoyed the hustle and bustle, but this return home was too stark a contrast. The flight back definitely had its low points, and we probably should have tried to come home earlier. Andy is in his first week of full on “daycare” and I am trying to stay awake on the drive home from work. Not always the safest. 

Hoping that this all passes soon enough. Not sure how long I can survive with the minute amount of sleep that I’m getting.

  

Hong Kong Top 5

So our Asian adventures have come to an end. Though I’m very happy to be home, I’m also feeling an inkling of sadness over having left the city of Hong Kong. Admittedly, Kelvin and I have both grumbled at one thing (people walking really slowly because they’re on their phones) or another (a general lack of service at regular restaurants), but there are also things that we really enjoyed about our time in Hong Kong. We loved the ease of transit and travel and the extensive underground and overground passageways. We marvelled at the baby changing facilities at some of the larger malls. We really liked our brief but wondrous car ride from Mong Kok back to Wan Chai. Beyond seeing friends and eating good food, these were the top 5 highlights from our time in Asia’s world city. 

  

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens 
Albany Road, Central, Hong Kong

Though known for its in fathomable density, Hong Kong actually boasts a fair number of parks. One such park that we really enjoyed was the Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Set on a hill just south of the Central MTR station, this little gem is home to a variety of birds and primates, including a family of orangutans! 

Visions 2050: Lifestyle and the City
Kowloon Park, Haiphong Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

We stumbled upon this completely at random. After lunch at Australian Dairy Company, we decided to walk through Kowloon Park to get to Harbour City. I’m drawn to all things related to urban design and architecture, so naturally the signage for this exhibit at the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre piqued my interest. It was a small-ish but truly fascinating exhibit looking at all facets of life in Hong Kong’s past, present, and future. Through a whole slew of different media, individuals depicted the Hong Kong they know and the Hong Kong they envision. I could have spent double the amount of time there, but alas crying babies are not conducive to leisurely perusing. 

  

Hiking on Lamma Island

Kelvin’s one request for the Hong Kong portion of this trip was that he wanted to do a hike. We decided to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a slower-paced excursion on Lamma Island. We took the ferry from Central to Yung Shue Wan and embarked on a morning-long walk across the island. We saw beaches, pavilions, and even visited Hong Kong’s only wind turbine. There were very steep sections but also some very flat, scenic ones. We ended up at Sok Kwu Wan, where we ate our lunch of Chinese bakery foods before heading on the ferry for home.  

  
Hong Kong Museum of History

Museums are always a great option for us when we are travelling. What’s even better – this place provides free admission on Wednesdays! We loved learning about the history of Hong Kong from virtually the beginning of time until present day. It was amazing to see the quality of some of the exhibits! The Museum of Science is also right next door, which we will hopefully get to next time. 

Star Ferry

Last but not least, we loved taking the Star Ferry. Riding it at night allowed us to see Hong Kong in all its brightness and glory. Plus it made for such an easy (and cost-effective) trip from TST back to our hotel. 

We stayed at the Novotel Century Hong Kong the whole 6 nights we were there, as we did when we last went to Hong Kong. Kelvin is very fond of their breakfast (especially the pancake making machine) and we all love the location. If and when we return to Hong Kong, we will likely stay there again. 

  

The Grit and Glamour of Air Travel

When you think about it, it’s unbelievable the distances that we can travel nowadays. Places that even a few generations ago seemed inconceivably far can now be reached by spending a handful of hours in a floating metal tube. But air travel isn’t all pretty – especially when you’ve been cooped up for 16+ hours. Here were some of the nice and not-so-nice moments from our recent flights.

Glamour: LOUNGE access complete with hot shower facilities, laksa and sesame balls. And lots of Andy-friendly food as pictured below. 

  

Grit: the state of once-clean bathrooms by the end of a direct YYZ > HKG flight


Glamour:
the baby set-up on Cathay Pacific, complete with bassinet, diaper care package, and baby food set (now if only Andy would actually sleep in the bassinet)  
  

Grit: questionable airline food. Especially when you see where it comes from in the galleys. 

Glamour: personal entertainment devices and catching up on fairly recent releases

Grit: having those same entertainment devices about 10 inches from your face because the person in front of you has reclined back so far

On the whole, our flight from Toronto to Hong Kong was quite smooth. Andy didn’t sleep all that much, but he was in really good spirits still. And I sat beside a really nice couple from Niagara who are chicken farmers and had a connecting 10-hour flight to Auckland prior to getting on a cruise. They were the best.

Sunset strolls

Even though it’s only late January, I feel like the frigid temperatures have been around for so long. We hit in the positives yesterday, so Andy and I decided to get outside and go on a walk at one of our favourite places. 

  
I rarely go to Lemoine Point at dusk, but man what a beautiful time to go. The orange glow permeates the landscape and it makes you feel like everything is right with the world. 

Most of the time, I listen to podcasts when I’m on a walk, but I opted for a bit of quiet this time. Fitting, since I had forgotten to charge my phone the night before and my phone died during the walk anyways. It’s sad to say, but I had forgotten how nice it is to just listen to the sounds of nature around you. The sound of Andy trailing behind me in his sled. The sound of squirrels scampering among the branches. The sound of my own boots crunching the snow beneath my feet. We so often forget about these things. 

 
So more about this sled, which is possibly the best thing ever. Andy and I borrowed it from our friends/neighbours on Sunday so we took it with us for the walk vAndy honestly had a blast. He sang the whole time. And when we went down little slopes the sled ran a bit ahead of me and he sang a little louder. I think it was a completely new experience for him because he had a full 360 degree view of the world around him. He wasn’t in a carrier or in a stroller, with partially obstructed views. 

  
It’s sad to think that my daytimes with Andy will soon be drawing to a close, and it’s moments like these that I’ll miss the most. 

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It’s been a really good week. Andy is communicating more with us, both verbally and with gestures. We can tell when he wants something, he is learning to wave, and he babbles constantly. He’s been saying “dada” for a few weeks, but now he’s saying “mama” too. At the start of the week he would only say mama when he was upset (because clearly Kelvin is the fun parent) but I am happy to report that sometimes he says mama now even when he’s happy!


Andy also had his first trip to the dentist this week, and we are getting into the habit of brushing after breakfast and before bed. He actually really enjoys this time because there’s something in his mouth, but we need to work on the whole concept of not eating the toothbrush. I think the berry flavoured toothpaste helps.


After a long hiatus, we returned to gymnastics, hoping that he’d be able to get more out of his time there. Alas, he is still not mobile enough for what they can do. I think we will hold off on going again until he is really walking steadily. He did enjoy crawling through the tunnel though, and kneeling on all fours on the trampoline.

In other exciting news, our house officially went on the market this week! And we tried out the new bubble tea place in town (it was great)!

Good eats: toast + jam

I don’t know what you’re like when you go on vacation, but when Kelvin and I go away, we always want to make sure that we try at least a few highly regarded eateries. This often entails a fair amount of time asking for recommendations, reading blog posts, and perusing the Internet, Yelp, zomato, or whatever tools we have at our disposal. We recently went on a day date to Ottawa, and during our brunch, Kelvin mentioned how we often expect restaurants outside of our home city to be at this next level because they have lots of ratings and reviews. More and more, though, we are realizing just how great the food scene is here. Back in our dating days, we dipped our toes into the food blogging pool, but that ceased rather abruptly once we both graduated from university. So, in 2016, we are committing to doing a better job of showcasing some of the places we’re eating in town and around. 

In this first post, we’re featuring one of Kingston’s newest spots – toast + jam, right next door (and connected via an amazingly beautiful sliding barn door) to established bakery Bread & Butter. Kelvin and my mother-in-law have become regulars at the bakery, stopping in almost weekly for goods or soups or sandwiches or their delicious apple crumble pie. Imagine their excitement when toast + jam opened up. Anyways, we headed over for brunch on Sunday, and here are our thoughts!  

 Walking in, we loved the space instantly. They’ve got a really open layout, and a wide variety of seating – two long bar height tables, a cozy fireplace and lounge area, and a smattering of tables around. We probably waited for 15 minutes for our table. In the meantime, I snuck over to bread and butter to sample some lemon squares. 

 

I ordered the Grilled Wilton, which was absolutely delicious and surprisingly filling! I opted for a side of roast potatoes, but one of our friends got the soup and she said it was great. We also ordered a side kale Caesar, which was okay, but I probably wouldn’t get it again. 
 
Kelvin got the Scrambowl, which was tasty, but I think left him hankering for a little something extra. A sizeable portion of the scrambled eggs also found their way into Andy’s mouth, which probably didn’t help. He said that he would definitely get a sandwich next time. I agree with him – sandwiches are the way to go if you want something that fills you up. 

  
At the end of the meal, we got our bill on a plate with these two delicious ginger cookies. That was definitely a nice touch. One that made me want more baked goods. How convenient that Bread & Butter is right next door! I ended up buying a blueberry lemon something or other that I devoured on the car ride home. 

All in all, a nice addition to the west end Kingston food scene. A touch on the pricier side for what you get, but we would come again. 

Tourists in Toronto

While Kelvin jetted off to Miami for 40 hours this past weekend, Andy and I had a chance to hang out with family and also see a few things in Toronto. Here are some shots from our escapades. 

   
Our original plan was to head to Riverdale Farm, but we drove by Evergreen Brickworks and decided to stop in there instead. It was quite quiet there, being a weekday, but the weather was gorgeous and we had no problem whiling away an hour. I’ve always really loved Evergreen’s mandate and we even considered doing or wedding there! (Alas the space wasn’t quite large enough for what we wanted) 

 
They’ve got a nice little trail and park behind the buildings and we walked around the quarry and ponds and up to lookout point. The nice lady at the information desk gave us a map of the trails in the Lower Don and we definitely want to explore that more in the future…perhaps on bike??

We then drove down to the Toronto Christmas Market! I’ve never been before so I was really excited to check it out. Perhaps it was my lacklustre bratwurst, or perhaps it was because I was too enthralled in conversation with a new friend that I was meeting for the first time IRL, but I didn’t find the market itself to really be that amazing. We were there on a weekday, so it was free, but I definitely don’t think I’d pay the $5 admission fee to bump shoulders with throngs of people on the weekend. I did have some pretty delicious smores donuts though from Uncle Betty’s Donuts. 

 
The next day we drove downtown again to do a bit of hopping around to fairs. We first visited the Foodie Holiday Pop-Up at Artscae Sandbox. We were only there briefly, but we had lots of samples and picked up some amaretti for my mother-in-law. Next we drove over to West Queen West for City of Craft, which was definitely one of the most amazing craft fairs I’ve ever been to. They had such a range of amazing artisans there and I wanted to buy so much. Like all the prints. From everywhere. After a short stop in to a presentation centre directly opposite where I parked (I am such a sucker for these!! I used to make up excuses to go and get floor plans when I was little so that I could fill them with furniture and dream about living there…) we stopped in to one last fair at the Gladstone, and then we were on our way. 

Not too shabby for just a quick jaunt in the city, I think. I’m heading to Toronto at the end of January for a conference sans-Andy and I am ridiculously excited for my one free evening. Weighing out options of what to do. 

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Black Friday has taken our family by storm. We were at Toys ‘R Us this morning and picked up a Diaper Genie and a baby gate, both 50% off. We then ended up at Home Outfitters and got a 60-piece dinnerware set for 66% off. When we got home, the shopping continued with CMFR’s 30% sale. After mulling it over all morning, I got a 1-year subscription to Darling magazine. You can get 25% off with the discount code blackfriday15! Parental Christmas presents will likely be purchased today also. I think we have shopped enough for the rest of the year…

  
As for Andy, he continues to strengthen his legs this week. He can now stand unassisted for quite a long time, and he is learning also to slowly lower himself down from standing instead of just releasing and falling. I sometimes find him testing himself, letting his hands go a little from whatever he’s holding on to. 

  
He also gives (really wet) kisses liberally. And sometimes leaves his mouth open for long periods at a time. It’s funny but also kind of strange. 

A cool thing from last weekend – we went to the Fat Goose Craft Fair and we picked up the sweet print below from local company Ironclad Graphics. I had bid on it during a silent auction but was unsuccessful so I was thrilled that I actually was able to get one! We also got this absolutely delicious mix from Janie & Pamalamalas to add to cream cheese for dip. I can’t stop eating it. 

  
It’s going to be a busy weekend, and then we are into December next week! How time flies!