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.

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. 

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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!

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New fascinations this week: the cloth laundry hamper, and the spring doorstop behind all the doors (and I mean all the doors). 

  

The week started off pretty exhausting, but it has ended on a high note. We had some rough nights, and finally decided last night that it’s okay for us to just turn off the monitor (on our end) when we go to sleep. The development milestones continue to pile on, the pinnacle of which was when Andy stood unassisted for the first time yesterday! On the food front, he had mangos and yogurt for the first time this week. 

With colder weather imminent, I am on the lookout for options of things to do with Andy to replace some of our outdoor walks. We have every intention of bundling him up on some days, but on other days, we just need somewhere else to go. This will likely include going to various library branches (different board book selection!). Also, we took Andy to try out baby gymnastics this morning and it was a lot of fun! He was the smallest kid by far, and he wasn’t able to do a lot of the jumping/running activities, but he had fun nonetheless. Considering getting a multi-visit pass for him. 

  

Last night, I started reading how not to calm  a child on a plane by Johanna Stein, and I must say that I am really liking it. It’s a bit on the crass side, but I guess that can sometimes come with being candid and relatable. I literally laughed out loud during a number of chapters, and I am hoping that if I hunker down for another reading session tonight, that I’ll be able to finish it. 

Believe it or not, Christmas is just over a month away, so preparations are beginning for that time of year. I should peruse minted in search of desirable layouts for our annual virtual Christmas update. I should start planning the itinerary for our trip to Toronto. And then there is the whole thing about presents. We really want to get Andy a teepee for Christmas. I’ve been looking all over online and though we found some good options, I’m also entertaining the idea of making my own? We shall see…

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So much motoring around this week! Mostly for this things that roll. 

  
Also, I looked back at the baby book I made for Andy before he was born. I have been TERRIBLE with keeping up with it. As in, I’ve neglected to record half his milestones. #momfail

I was going to preemptively create something similar for our next child, but I think we will need to do something different because clearly this is not a good system. 

It’s been really chilly lately, and alas our little guy has succumbed to illness. It’s always the hardest thing when your baby is sick because you just want to make them feel better, but nothing you do provides any consolation. I think we’ve gone through half a box of tissues. Even though Andy absolutely hates it when we wipe his nose. 

Biggest news of the week, it’s our first milestone Homecoming reunion year! Crazy to think it’s already been five years since we graduated. So much has happened since then and huge waves of nostalgia hit when I look through old pictures. “Look at how young and impressionable we were!” I think to myself. But of course, a statement like that will hold so much more weight at our 25th reunion…or when we get inducted into the Tricolour Guard. The goal is to snag a spot on one of those Queen’s golf carts for the half-time parade. Maybe when I turn 80?

Anyways, we celebrated by heading to the homecoming game (sadly we were crushed) and by sharing food and fun times with some lovely folks who came to visit!  

 

 If Andy decides to go to Queen’s, he will be the class of 2037 😳

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So Andy has developed a propensity for edges. He loves all edges. Edges of tables, of sofas, of beds, of his change pad. He somehow managed to turn 180 degrees on his change pad the other day, and imagine his delight when he discovered all the things I had moved from the other end of the change pad…

With the slightly cooler weather (in the morning, at least…the afternoons are still ridiculously warm for the start of fall), we’ve been able to get out for walks more regularly. The falling leaves are a wonderful reminder that our favourite season is here. The season where we can layer our clothes and wear boots. I love fall.

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Today after lunch, we went for a walk to our alma mater. It’s our 5-year homecoming reunion this year, and we are really excited to be hosting our friends who are coming into town. We’re all going to the football game and so we needed to get some paraphernalia to show our Queen’s spirit (because all those cheapo t-shirts we got during sidewalk sale have seen too many days at the gym). We looked high and low for something for Andy, and eventually figured we could make him a cape with a Queen’s bandanna. Stay tuned for pictures. I think it’s going to be pretty hilarious :)

So this week I attended our quarterly 100+ Women Who Care meeting. I love being part of this group, because it allows me to learn about and also support some of the amazing charities that exist in our local community. As I was reading the reminder email, I discovered that they just started a brand new branch – 100 Kids Kingston! The idea is the same, but with a pint-sized twist. A commitment of three hours and $30 a year. Plus kiddies can learn to give their time to the community through the 100 minute challenge. Everything about this initiative is just wonderful!

Currently…
Can’t wait for the next instalment in the Limetown podcast.
I want to watch both The Intern and War Room.

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Happy Labour Day! 

It’s weird to think that I won’t be going back into the classroom tomorrow, but definitely excited for everyone (teachers and students like!) who will be. Maybe we will scope out the bussing situation in this neighbourhood. 

We did quite a bit of swimming this week. We went to family swim at Artillery Park and also met up with one of my friends from university and her two cutiepies while we were in Toronto for some backyard swimming. Andy is still not 100% comfortable in the pool, but he’s getting there!

  
While in town, we also went down to Ashbridges Bay for some beach time! There was such a nice breeze there and it made me realize why people love living downtown. Not having to drive back uptown after work and being able to just walk out to places like this might just make the insane house prices worth it. 

  

On the home front, our rug arrived, and we opted to put it in the living space rather than under the dining table. We need to get ourselves a nonslip mat to put underneath, though. 

  

I also learned a better way of storing my clothes thanks to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Now, we frequently order take out from this place in town called Little Kitchen, but we decided to try our hand at some Chinese home cooking. Made a few batches of Ma Po Tofu with the help of Lee Kum Kee and his many sauces. It was pretty tasty for our first go around. 

Also, the article I interviewed for came out this week. Now you can read all about Edcamp Kingston!

Kelvin and I are going out for lunch sans Andy. And then we may venture to Queen’s for some gear (because apparently Kelvin finds their t-shirts ideal for going to the gym). Is it a bad idea to do that when a few thousand frosh just descended on campus? Mm, we will see.