Saturday, 28 December 2013

Enter OneNote

I'm so disorganized.  It's sad.  I remember something -- something I need to do, say, bring with me-- , then ten minutes later, it's gone.  It's so far gone that I don't even have that "oh, I know I'm forgetting something" feeling.  And I have a lot to remember.  I've never been good at keeping a routine or an organizational system, I'm not good at time management, I'm also sloppy.  Recipe for disaster, especially considering I'm a teacher, which not only includes the teaching and assessing, but the extra-curricular stuff (guitar club- easy, putting on a musical- not so easy), and helping the 100 or so students I teach to become awesome adults.  Oh right, I'm also a mom, so I have to plan meals, drive people places, make doctor's appointments, and there's usually a small person demanding my attention, so my focus gets pulled from "what was it I needed to do after work today?"

The one organizational task I can manage is writing and checking off lists.  I love the feeling of crossing items off of a to-do list.  When I have a large project, I usually procrastinate by making a list.  I love paper lists, but they are less practical, wasteful, and easy to leave on my desk at home when I need them on my desk at work (or vice-versa).  I have been on the lookout for a "system" I can get into, and I've decided to try out Microsoft OneNote.  I stumbled across it while checking out my school laptop.  It is a note-taking (or notebook) system which could have many applications, but I'm trying to keep my ideas, to-dos and reminders there. 

Maybe "Redecorating" should be changed to "Fix this damn condo"
A screen capture of one of my notebook pages.  I can easily make a table, a check-off-able to-do list, add web content, whatever.  I just click wherever, and start typing.  It auto-saves, too.

 What I love about this application:
  • Everything in one spot.  There's an iOS app in the AppStore.  It's a bit clunky but it exists!  That means I have access to my notebooks on my phone, iPad, my work laptop, home computer, or wherever, since it's web-based.  Downside:  I had to sign up for a Microsoft account.
  • Unfiled notes.  I can just open up a quick little note, write something and file it later.
  • User-friendly.  Just click and go.  This application is not picky at all.  You can draw, make tables without hardly thinking, drag and drop documents, anything.
  • Sharing.  I could share a notebook with whomever I wish.  I could picture a family sharing a notebook, or co-workers working on the same project.
What I don't love:
  • Signing up for yet another email address and account.  I'm trying to simplify my life, not remember more passwords.
  • The Apple and Microsoft incompatibility.  They work together, but they really don't play nice.

Also: what's up with the time stamp?  I am certainly not doing this type of thing at 2am!
Here we have supposedly the same notebook page on my phone as above.  Note there is NOTHING ON IT. Maybe it's slow to sync (even though I tapped "sync now" a couple times).
So that being said, I tend to stick to working with OneNote on my laptop.  The only downtime organizational time I typically have is at work, so that seems okay.  I'm going to try and stick with OneNote for a while and use it regularly and in various ways.  Maybe it'll really click with me, and I'll have to do a follow-up post.
What systems do you have in place that really work for keeping you organized at work and at home?

Friday, 25 October 2013

Progress to My Inner Beyoncé Part 1

This is where my life turns around.  I'm ready to get myself back.  I feel like I lost a lot of myself becoming a mother.  That probably sounds resentful or bitter, but I needed very much to focus on being a mom, since not much of it came very naturally.  Anyway, our life still pretty much revolves around little O, but I have decided it's time to scrape little bits of myself back again.  I have my son to thank.  It's very possible that I would have no motivation to improve myself if it weren't for him.  He has to have a happy, healthy mommy so he can be happy and healthy himself and so he can learn about what real women are.

First:  Fitness
Okay, this doesn't really count as "getting myself back" since I was actually NEVER in shape to start off with.  However, I'm hoping this is the time I actually stick to a fitness regimen/goal/program/whatever.  I'm making a commitment to get active, and it's HARD HARD HARD, but I'm hoping by writing about it and posting about it, I'll stick to my guns.

I read that Beyoncé lost her baby weight (that concept is so weird and uncomfortable to me, but still) with 90 minutes of working out a day.  Technically, I guess I could do that, but I would rather start with a half an hour every other day.  I also read that "No matter how slow you exercise, you're lapping everyone on the couch".  That's more my speed.  So I decided to start running.  It doesn't require a membership, I don't have to go to a special location at a special time, I get more time outside, and since I can't run with my glasses on, I can't tell if people are looking at me funny.  Which they probably are.

I went to Aerobics First, got fitted with some running shoes, a sports bra, and a couple long-sleeved running shirts, and downloaded a couple apps to get me from the couch to running.  I would highly recommend Aerobics First, a smallish shop on Quinpool Road, Halifax.  The staff are knowledgeable, friendly, and truly want to get you what you need.  They were exactly what I needed: accepting of me being a completely out of shape running n00b.  There was another store I tried first for a bra (will remain nameless), and the employees didn't quite know how to help me, being a beginner and large-breasted.  I left there less-than-happy.  Normal stores just aren't for me, I guess.  Oh well, I got what I need!

I got out and started running using the Couch to 5k app, and the tech has been a bit unreliable so far, but with the advice of a couple people, I think I'll have that under control, too.

Today's supposed to be a running day for me, but I might rest today too, since I did some pretty tough (for me) yoga today (including a handstand, people!).  Tomorrow looks good for an evening jog/pant/swear/sweat/sing/hobble.

What makes you get up and go?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Hostage Situation

I have this feeling like everything to do with sleep learning with O, my two-year-old, I missed or did wrong. We had nothing to go on, no one we felt could help us, a tough sleeper and no capacity to listen to crying. 

But through it all, O has been reliable at letting us know when he's ready for the next step in sleeping. Whatever we used to do just stops working. This boy is still probably the worst sleeper in the universe, however. But we have gone on to the big boy bed. We chose this bed for a few reasons:
It's big enough for him to grow into. Also big enough for the precise cuddles A will be forced to deliver at various intervals. It's low to the floor so rolling off and hurting himself is less likely. 

Here's how it goes down:
We fight through the bedtime routine. "Time to brush your teeth, buddy!" "No brush!" "Come put on your pyjama pants!" "No pants!" Etc etc. It winds up being an hour or so of us doing every silly thing he demands and then stopping when he inevitably decides he no longer wants it less than a second later. "Blanket! No blanket" and "bye mama, sit mama" are common refrains at our house between 7-8 pm.  

For two years, the person O wanted at bedtime was me. Within the past month, O insists on laying with his daddy, but not too close, of course. I consider this a promotion even though I'm not allowed to leave the room. I do get to read my news feed on my phone while sitting in the rocking chair, though. Sometimes I get a high score playing Drop7.  

When I'm sure O is good and asleep, I wake up my husband and we sneak the hell out of there. We then hope he stays asleep for at least three hours before we have to go back in. 

Everyone learns to sleep eventually right!?!?!?!!!?!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

On Buying New Spices

I have been cooking.  I have been watching every cooking reality show on YouTube.  I have been making lists of tricky foods I want to make someday (eggs benedict, chocolate soufflé, pommes fondants, among other things).  I have been excited by Gordon Ramsay's campaign to "get women back in the kitchen".

Yes, Gordon Ramsay is a class-A dick.  He uses the word "stunning" far too often.  He has this weird idea that he's not a celebrity chef.  He's ugly as hell, and in every show he's on, they make a point of how he's sexy in some weird way.  I can't say I get that.  And now this sexist-sounding campaign?


He knows food.  And, he wants people to fall in love with cooking again.  So he got me on that one.  I think feeding my family is one of the most important things I do every day.  I want to make it count.  I want to teach my boy a thing or two about food, and that involves more food prepared by mama, and less food delivered to our table or door.

So I decided to give Indian food a try.  I didn't attempt anything too authentic, I am sure tonight's supper was a very Westernized rendition of Butter Chicken (I mean, I don't even use chicken--we eat it with this fake chicken sort of stuff which is uh-maze-ing!), however it is tasty and tasty and tasty.  Andy goes mental for it, which pleases me infinitely.  It's the look of complete pleasure on my husband's face while he eats that keeps me happy to be in the kitchen.

Anyway, when I first decided to try to cook these new dishes I had reservations.  I didn't want to invest in a bunch of new ingredients if it turned out poorly, or with too much difficulty.  Every look at the spice rack would become a reminder of that time I tried something and failed.  Well, I didn't fail.  We have a new favourite dish.  I like having the aromatic smell of my cooking filling up our condo.

I was thinking about taking a picture of what I made for supper tonight, but for anyone who has had butter chicken before, you know it just looks like lumps of stuff in an orangey slop-sauce.  If you can't smell & taste it, the look is nothing special.

But, you know, come by and smell and taste it sometime.  No kidding.

What have you been cooking lately that you're proud of?  What would you like to attempt some day?

Friday, 30 August 2013

Connecting Over Food

Something I've struggled with since becoming a mother is having nice conversations over food.  We eat out somewhat regularly as a family, but there's something about being a parent that makes you become a fast eater.  I have really missed the long, slow meal, with the long, easy conversation.

Wednesday, I met my mother-in-law for lunch.  I haven't spent much time with her one-on-one, so I was worried that we might have a hard time with conversation.  When I showed up at her workplace, she brought me inside and introduced me to her co-workers.  What struck me most about that was how proud of me she seemed to be.  She seemed truly excited to go out to lunch with me.  I don't know the last time someone introduced me with such pride.  Has it ever happened?  Wow!  How in the world did I deserve that!?  Anyway, we got on our way and went to a lovely restaurant downtown, where we talked and laughed and talked and enjoyed our food (and dessert).  We took our time, and it was nice.  I think we both needed that.

Today, I met up for lunch with a close friend.  I've known him since we were taking a math degree together, and I think he may be verging on "old friend" since it's been over 10 years.  Anyway, throughout our friendship we have always made a point of eating good food together; he is my steak buddy when my vegetarian husband is not around.

This is the last week of my summer vacation, and I will soon be back at work.  While I won't be able to meander downtown for my loved ones' lunch breaks, I will have a longer lunch break at school.  I plan on using it to connect with students, connect my students to their learning, connect with my staff and connect with myself.

All this thinking about connecting over food got me thinking.  If I could choose what to eat for my last meal, what would I choose to eat, and who would I eat it with?

I think I would make a spaghetti with a spicy tomato sauce, with some sliced grilled "chicken" breast and fresh Parmesan on top.  I'd make a marble cheesecake for dessert.  I would want to eat it outside with A & O, my two main men.  They'd like to eat this meal as much as me.

What would you want to eat? And with who?

Friday, 23 August 2013

Hello, Cruel World

I picked up a couple books today at Venus Envy, Halifax's lovely, friendly, sex-positive boutique.  Of particular interest was Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws by Kate Borenstein.  By the title alone, I felt like I could have used this book last year, when so many of the students I teach came to me with serious, real problems.  I picture myself lending this book out, perhaps buying a few more copies and letting them be dog-eared and filled with post-its.

As I sat in the restaurant by myself for lunch (not sad at all-- in fact, very relaxing) I got through about 50 pages of this little book.  Yes, I'm a fast reader, but it's a fast read, too.  It was about gender and sexuality at first.  But then it was about why there are bullies, and how bullying is a huge part of our culture.  And who knows what it will be about next.  It's serious, and funny, and eye-opening and uplifting.  I know so many kids who need desperately to know it gets better.

I need to read more of this book (and others) to say much more, but I knew straight away that I had to recommend this book to virtually everyone.  Particularly those who know young people, or those who fall into the category of freaks, geeks, weirdos, or other outlaws.  Because I believe everyone has fallen into that category at one time or another.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

On Painting

When I was 17 I got my first retail job at a paint & decorating store.  I didn't realize how much I'd love it.  I bought my first paintbrush then and learned to use it from some of the wizened painters.  I have since used that brush on every room I have painted.

My First Paintbrush

When I was 27 Andy and I moved to our condo when we were still engaged.  We were renting at first and didn't want to paint.  We made the place home in other ways.  The colors are nice (classy looking tan, different tan, red dining room, more different tan-- it all goes very well with our wood floors) but I found we were constantly checking out brighter and brighter light bulbs. Picture us in the hardware store:

"Only 75000 lumens!?  How will I read a book in that dim light!? I can hardly see to find a shirt in the morning!"

Duh.  The paint is too dark.  So we picked out a white color.  It will look clean and open and our artwork will stand out.  We're going to paint the whole place this color:

Behr's Gallery White

I set out to paint the easiest spaces to tackle because I have precious few hours where O is at daycare and I still have the day-to-day stuff to accomplish.  Here is how to pick the easiest-to-paint room:

The easiest space to paint is not necessarily the smallest (ie bathroom)

Consider the following:

  1. How much furniture is up against the wall?
  2. How many things are mounted on the wall? (ie what do you need to take down and then put back again?)
  3. How many door/window openings are there?
  4. How many corners are there?
  5. Is there a logical place to start and stop?
These questions will help you weigh out how tricky the paint job will be.

Here are some other shortcuts I like to use when I can:
  1. Paint everything the same color, if not with the exact same paint.  No kidding, ceiling, walls, trim.  When you can paint everything the same, you don't have to be as picky with where the paint goes.  
  2. The flatter your paint is (not glossy), the more imperfections it hides.  Invest in a decent can of paint which will still provide some durability.
  3. Skip the painters' tape and learn to use a brush.  I like results like RIGHT NOW and taping for hours does not deliver for me.
  4. Have some baby wipes handy for splatters, drops, whatever.  A drop of latex paint can be picked off when dry, but a smear can't as easily.  It's best to wipe it up straight away, and baby wipes do the job so easily.
I went with painting the hallway.  Lots of impact, no furniture against the walls and a not-too-big space for me to tackle first.  I finished the second coat this morning.  

It looks and feels like we just took all the blackout curtains off all of the windows.  White paint is underrated.

Have any painting tips/tricks that you'd like to share?  I still have every other room in my place to do!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


My first blog post, my first blog.  I'm convinced I'll fall into more of a style as I continue to post, but I figure the best way to get somewhere is to just start.

My aim for this blog is to share the ways I use the two months of the summer to make changes that will positively effect my lifestyle, my family's health, my parenting, my home, my relationships.

And a bit about me:  I'm Rhea, I'm 29 years old, I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  I've been married to my husband Andy for 3 years so far, and we have a two-year-old son, Oskar.  I am a public school teacher from September to June, and that's why I've got these two months every year to make focus on improving things in my life.  I value kindness, music, calm, peace and fresh air.  I like food, reading, writing and performing music, and teaching adolescents.  (Reading those last two sentences, I sound like a real bore-- I'm actually frazzled, funny, honest and crass, sloppy, passionate, lazy and awkward).

I don't know if it's getting older, being a home owner, being a wife or becoming a mom, but something in me has changed.  I need to really become that woman I want to be, and I know myself;  I need to take baby steps.  I'm fickle and results-oriented, so I need to use this blog to stick me to my guns because I won't get skinny by just eating a salad for supper.

I want to work on:

Painting the inside of our condo.

De-cluttering and organizing.

Getting my ass to the gym regularly.

Trying new things in the kitchen.

Being a fun mom with lots of energy and patience.

Staying romantic and connected with my husband.

Using my bicycle more for errands (someday I'll commute by bike!)

I have already made a couple steps in the right direction on practically all of those areas, but there is much more to come.  I hope you will be able to relate to my experiences and share yours.