Friday, October 26, 2012

Teaching 101



October, 12/ 2012
 So I've survived my first four days of placement, and I've really enjoyed it. The staff were incredibly warm and welcoming, my associate teacher included and I feel very much at home.
I have learned a lot in just the last few days, and still have piles more to absorb. I haven't really worked with children this young before, so it's been an enlightening, if not challenging experience so far.

 Being in a kindergarten class poses its own set of challenges; not so much the material being taught, but things such as having to break lessons up into smaller pieces because they can't sit still for an extended period, and all the physical things they need assistance with (i.e.: opening their snacks, zipping up their coats, etc). Another added challenge is having to learn twice as many names as any other class, because kindergarten students are only in school every other day, and alternating Fridays.

My associate teacher is well versed in this age group and is a wonderful teacher. I've started making notes of all the great ideas she has, in the hopes of incorporating them into my own teaching/ classroom management style. We planned the entire second weeks lesson plans together, and I will be teaching science, math and art which I'm looking forward to. We went on a field trip to the apple orchard and corn maze all the way in Picton for the afternoon on Thursday.

I've gotten to experience the entire day's routine, from coming in during the morning and hanging up backpacks and having a snack, to at the end of the day when we walk all the kids to the buses.

October 19th/2012
It's been a very busy week in the kindergarten classroom so the days have flown by. I got the opportunity to teach art (tissue paper apples that I put up on our new bulletin board outside the classroom), science (nature themed doing leaf rubbings with crayons) and math (measuring objects in the classroom with a balance scale) this week; all pretty basic lessons but challenging to a certain extent to organize. I have discovered that group management is essential in a classroom of young children because they haven't really learned to self-regulate yet. They tend to be impulsive and need constant reminders to stay on task, to remember to change their shoes, etc. The majority of the kids have finally learned my name and approach me frequently with questions and concerns.
  
While I enjoy working with the kids in the classroom, I think I have realized that I don't think I want to teach kindergarten. While I know this level of education is essential, I just don't think I'm cut out for it. There is minimal time to have breaks, I have been spending a huge amount of time stapling papers, making photocopies, assembling personalized key rings with letter sounds and/or sight words for each child, etc over the last week. This isn't a complaint per say because I love being busy but I feel that the amount of preparing required for a kindergarten class is higher than average. The level of the material being taught is not really as difficult like I would like it to be, and I get slightly frustrated when some of the kids are unable to identify the letters of the alphabet that are in their own name. I also think to a certain extent that so much more has to be prepared and planned when you are a teacher in a classroom of young children because they are unable to do a lot of things themselves.

My associate teacher has been putting me to good use over the course of this week, running errands for her because she is unable to leave the classroom. I really have no idea how she does it and she really goes above and beyond what is expected I believe as a teacher. She is very much a hands-on kind of person and exposes the kids to a variety of new experiences within the classroom. We made apple crisp this week for both the A and B day classes, getting the opportunity to use an old-fashioned apple peeler and slicer, measuring the ingredients, and finally at the end of the day, being able to sample what they had created. I don't ever recall doing that when I was that age.

October, 26/2012
                Wow, it's my last full day for the first block of practicum already! It's been almost a month but its flown by. I think I have come to the realization that I'm very much looking forward to the new year when I will be placed in one of the Junior grades (4-6). Not that I dislike kindergarten by any stretch of the imagination, it's just not an age group I have a lot of experience working with or that I think have the patience for long-term. They are cute as buttons and for the most part quite wonderful to work with. It is rather obvious though which ones are going to be the ones with social and academic issues in future grades. It's also unfortunate to see which ones are likely not getting any academic support at home. 

Before my little brother, sister and I went into kindergarten, mom made sure all of us could read. That being said, she was a stay-at-home mom and she had one-on-one time with us which was critical (more so in the case of my brother who had a hard time focussing in a classroom with other kids). This one-on-one time spent with each student is pretty much non-existent in a kindergarten classroom, when you are being pulled in 18 or more directions at once. There isn't really the opportunity to sit down with one child and work on their sounds/letters in their name until they understand. I can't remember how well I could write in kindergarten, but I know that I could identify letters and what sounds they made. It's very frustrating to me that there are several children in the class that are unable to even identify the letters in their own names. Admittedly I acknowledge the learning curve between the ages of 4 & 5 is massive, so even though some of the JK's may not be able to spell or read their names now, they possibly could at the end of this year. Teaching children is a long and slow process for sure.

I had the opportunity to teach a guided reading lesson on a Clifford the Big Red Dog book, work with small guided groups on word awareness activities, help paint, dress and build wooden scarecrows, as well as cut out hundreds of assorted fabric squares for our math unit on patterning and building quilts. While I love the child-oriented material being taught, I feel to a certain extent that I'm "dumbing myself down" with what I'm teaching. Obviously you talk to a 4 year old very differently than you would a 9 year old. Most of the experience I have working with children has been with kids between the ages of 8-13. It sounds awful, but I'd much rather be teaching more difficult material. Also, although I am in the P/J (Primary/Junior) B.Ed. program, I plan on getting my certification to teach older grades as well. With my undergraduate degree in French it will definitely help open up more job opportunities.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Top 10 Things That Scare Me


mercredi le 18 juillet 2012
                                                                                               
Being someone who has always been a relatively anxious person, perhaps I have more fears than most, but I thought 10 was a solid number, so here they are – my greatest fears…and no one better take advantage of this >.<

1)     Death/ Dying prematurely – until relatively recently this fear didn’t really surface. It was only after I was diagnosed with G.A.D. that this was the underlying cause for much of my anxiety. The idea of not being able to control when and where your life will end is a crippling fear for me. It’s not even so much just the thought of me dying, but also the possibility of having those closest to me pass away that is terrifying. I know it will happen eventually, and I have no doubt my reaction will be far from pleasant. I hate change, and death is a permanent change that you can’t undo. Most of the time I’m able to keep these thoughts at bay by keeping my mind busy and not allowing myself to dwell on these thoughts. I’ve already written a full-length post on this topic so feel free to read that…I won’t waste my time re-writing it and repeating myself.

2)     Being Alone – not just being alone in the sense of being home alone, but also being alone in life aka without a partner/husband/significant other. As a huge extrovert, I thrive around people and loathe being alone. While time isolated is both necessary and healthy, I don’t particularly enjoy it. Even as a child when I had to spend time alone, I would often talk to my mirror or my stuffed animals. Who am I kidding? I still do that :P

3)     Sharks – my fear of sharks started when I was 8 or 9 years old, after watching the movie Flipper. Yes, I know Flipper is about a dolphin and is also the source of my crush on the actor Elijah Wood, but back on track. There is a hammerhead shark aptly named Scar in the movie, and in a particularly vivid scene that I still remember over a decade later – the protagonist mistakes a dorsal fin gliding through the water for that of Flipper, when it is actually Scar. For nearly a year and a half after watching that film, I was terrified to have any part of my limbs dangling over the bed for fear that a mouthful of teeth would chomp them off. I remember having to go to the washroom in the middle of the night, and launching myself as far away from the bed as possible so that the “shark” that lived under the bed wouldn’t get my feet.

4)     The Dark – it isn’t so much the dark that scares me, it’s what is in the dark – the unknown. I remember having frequent night terrors as a kid, thinking that there was some big scary man lurking outside my window waiting for me to fall asleep so that he could pounce. These thoughts led to many sleepless nights as you can very well imagine. Watching countless episodes of American Justice, Cold Case Files led to multiple panic attacks thinking that I was going to get attacked and murdered in the shower or at night. I have always have had an overactive imagination and the fact that those TV shows were based on true crime cases didn’t help quell the horrible scenarios in my head.

5)     Horror films – I have always been a visual person. I believe what I see, so when I see one of these films logically I realize that they are filming it on a set somewhere with actors, but because I visually see it – I am unable to shake the images in my mind. Coupled with ominous music, horror movies have been the cause of many nightmares. I have only ever seen maybe half a dozen horror films in my entire life – including 28 Days Later and FearDotCom – almost all of which were at slumber parties when I was in my early teens. I have never been much of a fan of being scared. It’s not an emotion I’m a fan of. I tend to watch mostly comedies. I love laughing and am very easily amused…plus reality can be scary enough at times, having to constantly hear about the terrible things happening in the world (ie: war, child soldiers, honour killings, serial killers, pedophiles, etc.)
                                                                                
6)     My boyfriend lol…. While I am not serious about this one, a couple of my friends have claimed that my boyfriend scares the hell out of them :P No idea where this one comes from, but a friend of mine claims he has a “dark aura”…whatever the hell that means. Meh, I adore him anyways…despite the pain in the ass he is

7)     Failure – a pretty common fear I suppose, though this one doesn’t surface very often. I hate failing at anything, whether it’s a test I studied hard for, or getting a new job, or perhaps the newest romantic conquest. The feeling of inadequacy is not a pleasant one, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has battled feeling like they weren’t good enough. I want to be successful and the thought of not being able to reach that goal scares me.

8)     Losing / Forgetting Things – While this has rarely ever happened to me, the thought of forgetting my keys or wallet or perhaps a doctors appointment has struck my sub-conscious during dreams. I have woken up in a cold sweat in a state of panic thinking that I have forgotten to study for a final exam that morning, when in fact there was no such thing. There is also that mini-heart attack that occurs when I cannot find my cell phone.

9)     Fire – While I love candles, the thought of leaving burning candles unattended fills me with anxiety. Ironic I know, when people light candles to relax, and in my case it just ends up stressing me out more. Even when I know that there is nothing in the immediate vicinity that can possibly catch on fire, my imagination goes to work again and thinks up the worst case scenario. I’m not even entirely sure where this fear comes from – I’ve never had anything catch fire before, or had a house burn down.

10) Aging/ Growing Old – How very appropriate considering today is my 23rd birthday. I have often been told that I look young for my age, and I’d prefer to keep it that way. However, like almost everything on this list, aging is something I can’t control. The thought of being wrinkly and saggy one day both disgusts and saddens me. I know it’s a gradual process. I know I won’t wake up one morning 25 years older but the thought of my body and mind changing with age is a disturbing thought. I recently watched the movie Take This Waltz where the theme of the movie was “The new always becomes old.” While this was pertaining more to the romantic plotline of the film, the theme holds true with the human body. New relationships eventually lose their excitement and skin loses its firmness.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

June: A Month of Zen


I can’t believe it’s June already; the halfway point of 2012.

I am officially all moved into the new apartment. I actually got to move in a day early because of the weather forecast, which was shockingly accurate. It’s been three days in the new place and despite the fact I currently have no internet or television, I’m greatly enjoying it (I’m currently typing this from one of the many public libraries in Kingston). Everything is more or less unpacked and I’m still getting used to the fact that my two roommates and the three guys who live in the apartment upstairs won’t be moving back in until September.

Even though the move is over, there are still plenty of things on my to-do list. I need to re-apply for OSAP for the upcoming school year, get my police check done for teacher’s college, register for classes in July and eventually get the internet installed – just to name a few. It still hasn’t hit me yet that I’m going back to school in the fall. This past year has been the first year since I was in kindergarten that I haven’t been a student. While I have enjoyed my year off from studies, I’m relieved to finally be finishing up my schooling this year. I’m excited to be headed back because of the social aspect as well. Many of my friends I met in classes and through clubs while I was at the University of Ottawa, and when I left I had the added challenge of meeting new people here. I’m one of 450ish students entering the Education program at Queen’s and only one of maybe 25 looking to be a French teacher. I’ll be playing Quizbowl again this year, am hoping to keep playing intramural badminton and perhaps join a French club.

The boyfriend and I are getting along famously. He’s been over a couple of times since I moved and because he was unable to help with the move, he shall be meeting my parents hopefully in the next couple of weeks :P He’s such a doll. This weekend we had a pizza and movie date night. Movie of choice? The newest film adaptation of The Three Musketeers – don’t even get me started about how awful it was. As a massive fan of Alexandre Dumas, the screenwriters butchered the hell out of it. Storyline was similar I suppose, but three of the characters didn’t die like they should have according to the novel. The biggest part that threw me was the technology that seemed to exist during 17th century France – airships and security systems? I don’t think so. It just didn’t jive with the time and rest of the story. Perhaps just a pet peeve of mine as well, but they anglicised all of the names, most notably “Aramis” with a strong emphasis on the “S” when it is supposed to be silent. Personally if a name is French, it should be pronounced in French. Milady de Winter wasn’t portrayed as even half of the evil conniving bitch she was supposed to be. All in all, a pretty big disappointment but it was made better by the fact it was with my new squeeze – he makes many things tolerable. Unlike me, he didn’t mind the movie…but having read the book I was fuming the entire time.

The French Open is currently underway in Paris (one of the four Gland Slams on the ATP tennis circuit for those of you who don’t follow the sport) and as expected I’m rooting for Nadal. Upon moving into my new place I have one entire wall covered with exclusively photos and posters of the tennis player, which I have aptly called my “Nadal Wall”. Rafa is a 6 time winner of the event and if he wins this year, he will have the record for the most number of wins at that event in the Open Era. Both the boyfriend and I are massive fans and have been following it since it started. Currently on the men’s side they are in the round of 32. Nadal is still in contention. It’s funny to be dating a tennis player and fan – prior to him, none of my friends played or gave a damn about the sport :P He no doubt knows more than I do and it’s awesome to be constantly learning things. It will only help my trivia knowledge for tournaments this upcoming year when I play Quizbowl for Queen’s University.

I started reading the highly controversial new series “Fifty Shades of Grey” a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t realize it was a trilogy until I poked my head into the local Chapters bookstore. Currently I’m 70% done the second book. While it’s a pretty easy read, I can see why the book is raising some eyebrows. Not to give the whole plot away but to summarize it’s about a wealthy businessman in the US and how he falls in love with a woman he wants to be his sex slave (submissive). It is definitely geared towards a mature audience with all the detailed erotica. While I understand that sex is the underlying theme of the novel, after a while the detailed sex scenes get repetitive and lose the desired effect. I’m to the point now where I’m just skimming over them. Only the rest of the second book and all of the third to go.

I landed a fulltime job for the summer here in Kingston working at the YMCA so I’m relieved my job hunt is over and I can look forward to the rest of the summer. On top of working this summer, I will also be celebrating my 23rd *gasp* birthday in mid-July and going to the Roger’s Cup (tennis tournament) in Toronto early in the month of August with the boyfriend. He hasn’t been since 2006 and I’m pretty sure he’s more pumped than I am…well maybe. I had to miss last year because of my job last summer so I don’t want that to be the case this summer. When I did go in 2010 it was with a friend who lived in the Toronto area but who didn’t follow tennis at all. I think it will be a lot more fun with a fellow tennis fan/ my significant other :P

Signing off for now – I gotta grab a shower and run some errands. À la prochaine!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May: A Month of Tranquility

Upon looking up the word tranquility, one will discover that the word is synonymous with calmness. According to Buddhist texts, it is linked with a connection to the natural environment.

Because of the gorgeous weather we have been experiencing here in Kingston, I have been reaping the benefits by traveling everywhere by bike. I'm kicking myself for spending any money at all on a monthly bus pass :( Biking has got to be one of my favourite things. For one, you can get everywhere 4 times faster than walking. It's also an awesome workout! While Kingston as a city is pretty flat, there are occasional hills which definitely get your heart rate going and lungs working. My body is in a way built for biking. I've always had thunder thighs and using my legs so often has only built more muscle and toned my legs. I've been biking to and from work, doing groceries and sporadically visiting the boyfriend who doesn't have his license either. Biking also runs on fat and saves you money, and parking is a non-issue. The only real downside to biking is that miserable weather can make for one miserable bike ride. I've been taking advantage of this mode of transportation to explore Kingston and take piles of pictures.

All this additional time outside has tanned my legs and arms a little and I have a smattering more freckles on my arms and face. I have decided that I would like to work towards biking a marathon (well the distance of a marathon aka 42km ) around Kingston over the course of the summer. I've been making a lot of goals...this one will be a fitness/personal goal.

I'm moving to my new apartment in just under two weeks, and I will be starting the purge and packing process tomorrow on my day off from work. I have a pile of stuff to throw out and a bunch of clothes to donate. I figure the more I can get rid of, the less I have to move. I'm super stoked about the new place.

It's also been a month today since the bf and I have been together. I know a month isn't much of a milestone...but damn it went by fast. He's a doll and because he's a tennis player...I have learned far more about the ATP circuit than I thought I would. I've also decided to start doing a fantasy tennis pool as well, although based on my luck with the recent NHL hockey pool I did at work...I clearly suck at picking winning teams. Every single one of the teams I picked got ousted in the first round except for the New Jersey Devils.

I'm very happy with where life is headed and living in the present. There is so much to look forward to in the upcoming months, which has left me with a feeling of peace and contentment (gosh that sounds so corny:S). I'm just blissed out and so grateful for everything that has happened/ come my way in the last little while.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My favourite things ....continued, part 4

As an educated and relatively health-conscious individual, I like knowing what I'm putting in my body - both internally (food) and externally (body products, soaps, shampoos, etc). I, like millions of others around the world, shower, moisturize and primp. But how many people actually know what they are putting in their bodies? Skin is the largest organ of the body. Anything that is applied externally gets absorbed into the skin and as a result into the bloodstream. As a general rule, if you can't eat it, don't put it on your skin. I find it ironic when body lotions and various other body products carry the disclaimer "For external use only" when it winds up getting absorbed internally anyways.

Back in the Roman Empire, bathers would slather themselves in olive oil and then scrape it off. They didn't use soaps. It amazes me the amount of chemicals and unpronounceable ingredients in cosmetics, lotions and even hair spray today. Like what is "PEG-2 STEARATE" or "PG-PROPYL SILANETRIOL" or better yet "DIHYDROXYPROPYLTRIMONIUMCHLORIDE"? It really is mind blowing how these products have managed to get approval to sell in supermarkets and drug stores across the world. And you wonder why rates of cancer have spiked over the last several decades - look at the amount of toxins we are exposing ourselves to on a daily basis.

It is difficult to find any shampoo, laundry detergent, or soap that doesn't contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). This is the ingredient that causes the lather that most of us are accustomed to. It is also however a carcinogen, hormone alterer and causes ulcers, skin irritation, decrease in male fertility and PMS symptoms, just to name a few. http://www.natural-health-information-centre.com/sodium-lauryl-sulfate.html

At P'lovers (the organic/environmental store in downtown Kingston I blogged about a few months ago), I discovered a local and healthy alternative to the perfume laden and chemical filled products at Loblaws. Shiva's Delight is the brainchild of Casey Boyce, a young mother in Kingston. In her home, she manufactures and mixes soaps, body butters, body oils and serums, all with natural ingredients which are filled with good things for your skin. And imagine this - all the ingredients you can pronounce! From Olive Oil, to Shea Butter, to Sunflower Seed Oil all her products are chocked full of natural moisturizers and no foreign ingredients. I personally have purchased the Tangerine Chocolate Body Butter (the only thing that worked on my peeling and calloused feet), The Exotic Lime Body Oil (makes a great massage oil, or after shaving), and a bar of Chocolate Swirl Soap. They not only smell good...they do good for your skin. While shopping around her home, she also threw in a couple of Bath Bombs for showing her a couple of receipts from P'lovers and a free sample of Bog Mud Facial Wash.

As expected, Shiva's Delight is slightly more expensive than the products you would find in a Wal-Mart. But they are nothing ridiculous. I bought the Tangerine Chocolate Body Butter before Christmas for 15$ and I still have more than half of it left. Did I mention it smells like Terry's Chocolate Oranges? It's a small price to pay, knowing I'm not filling my body with unneeded toxins.

In addition to all of the wonderful bath and body products, she also has a large selection of beautiful sterling silver and costume jewellery. While she does have all of her products at her home, the general population can find her products at P'lovers (123 Princess Street) as well. Feel free to check out her website: http://www.shivasdelight.com/

For those of you in Kingston, or who will be in Kingston on a weekend should check out the local Farmer's Market at the Memorial Center. Shiva's Delight, and dozens of other local vendors will be there with their natural products and produce. On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/427777240574939/

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April: A Month of Clarity

And...sure enough, just like last month, I have been so occupied that I haven't taken a moment to blog. Gosh I really am bad at keeping on top of this. Life has only gotten more chaotic and more exciting as April has progressed.

I have finally figured out where I'll be living over the summer and into the Fall when I head back to university. I am absolutely taken with the apartment I found and can't wait to move in in just over a month. It's less than a block from where I currently work and right downtown in Kingston.

I also have a new significant other in my life :P Through a weird series of events we ended up seeing each other. I'm completely smitten and has only given me something else to look forward to and enjoy in life. He's a keeper and I am one very lucky girl. I shan't go into too many details as I don't want to bore you with my love life haha.

Now I'm on the job hunt for something full time for the months of July and August. All my plans for the summer I thought were finalized, but I have realized that things are rarely ever set in stone and I've been learning to deal with letting things go. Letting events unfold has never been something I've been good at. I like planning, organizing and to a certain degree controlling things that happen in life. But as I have recently learned, things happen for a reason.

Had I not started working for the Y, broken up with my ex, and moved back to Kingston...I would have never met my new squeeze. Acknowledging that I don't have control over alot of things is pretty overwhelming but this month has really opened my eyes to just letting things happen. In a way it's less stressful too..not even trying to steer and just letting go of the wheel. It's scary but exciting at the same time.

I've been altering my long term to-do list as the months progress, now I have it narrowed down to 5 things I'd like to accomplish by the end of the summer.
1) Learning Spanish I really need to start making more time for this...less TV and more language learning is in order!!
 
2) Write fan mail to a tennis player I have had even more desire to do this as in all likelihood I will be headed to the Roger's Cup this summer at York University. (Did I also mention the new boy in my life is a tennis player?? :P)
 
3) Check out Racquet Science (tennis/ badminton store) I visited the store a couple of weeks ago after a doctor's appointment. A tennis/ badminton/squash players dream! The tiny store was covered wall-to-wall in racquets, bags, tennis apparel and strings. I wound up buying some red grip tape to match my red badminton racquet and ended up getting an enormous tennis ball magnet for my fridge as well. Apparently the store is owned by some guy from Edmonton, but he had pictures of himself at the French Open a few years ago, and I was instantly envious.
4)Work on my Renoir 1000 piece puzzle Similar to #1, I really need to start poking along with this...I may start this afternoon.

5)  Start blogging en Français Comme beaucoup des choses dans la vie, il n'y a pas assez de temps pour faire tous ce que je veux. Malheureusement mon écriture en français a besoin plusieurs heures de pratique . J'ai appris il y a une semaine que mon chum a essayé d'apprendre la langue française pendant qu'il était à l'université en Pologne. Les leçons de français pour lui peut-être?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

March: A Month of Vitality


I know, I know it's April, but I've been so bogged down with work and lots of exciting things happening that I haven't really had the time to sit down and type. I currently am at my parent's place for the Easter long weekend, and just got in from a brisk morning bike ride. We're having our big traditional dinner/ lunch today...Pumpkin pie here I come!

I can't believe it's April already. 4 months into the year of 2012 and it's gone by like a blur...at least to me. Only 1/3 into the year and I already have so much stuff to look forward to.
Firstly...just a week ago, I found out that I was accepted into Queen's University to pursue my Bachelor of Education this fall! I have wanted to be a teacher since I was 12 years old, so the fact that this is becoming very real is hitting me very hard. Now I'm on the apartment hunt closer to the university campus.

Life is keeping me busy as usual...with work, badminton, trivia, yoga classes, chess club, working in the french classroom, and tutoring to boot. Now I've added volleyball to that list. I played when I was in Grade 8 on both the girls and co-ed teams and was a pretty decent player. To get back on the court is pretty nostalgic for me, and I don't think I'm doing too bad. I'm definitely not the worst one out there that's for sure. I have no idea why, but all the extra-curriculars I join are ALWAYS male dominated. I'm one of maybe 4-5 girls in any of the above activities. Now don't get me wrong, I love men haha, it's just difficult when you're one of the only estrogen-filled bodies in the entire gym.

I am headed back to the all-girls summer camp I worked at last summer, starting in late June. I will no doubt be wishing for some of that testosterone while I am there.

Back in February I made a list of things that I wanted to try and accomplish. Let's revisit that list shall we?

1) learn HMTL (I'm pretty horrible with technology and need to fix that) Totally didn't get around to doing this lol. It's not practical for me, so I'm going to change this to: work on my Spanish

2) write fan mail to a tennis player (I'm thinking Canadian Peter Polansky, his mailing address is on his facebook page) Haven't gotten around to doing this either haha, but it will be easy enough. I just have alot on my plate.

3) start collecting French postcards (I have seen some gorgeous ones of Paris, and just in general I love anything French) Again, I have the best of intentions, I really do...but it's kind of been put on the back burner.

4) write reviews about Racquet Science (tennis/ badminton store) and Le Chien Noir (French restaurant) I will be visiting Racquet Science at some point, likely this week to buy grip tape for my racquet/ a possible restringing. I have been to (and blogged about) Le Chien Noir...I was VERY impressed with the restaurant

5) Ask out the guy I have had a crush on since Grade 11 I did shockingly do this. When you have a crush on someone for that long, your brain kinda fills in how you want them to be, rather than how they actually are. This was very disappointing and I wasted alot of time thinking about this individual lol.

6) Work on my Renoir 1000 piece puzzle (I need something quiet to do that doesn't involve the television) It's still sitting in it's box, unopened. Oops. I shall get on this.

7) Start blogging en Français (since moving to Kingston I don't use my French enough, and writing is definitely my weakest area) I've been reading more in French, but still have to work on the writing area.

8) Read at least 3 novels (I have definitely put off reading to watch more TV) DONE. and done. I have been reading much more recently. Currently I am in the midst of Beloved by Toni Morrison.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eat. Pray. Love.


This is the most recent novel that I completed. As cliché as it sounds, it really is an incredible novel. Told through the eyes of a thirty some year old women who is going through a painful divorce and is attempting to rediscover herself by traveling to three different areas of the world (Italy, India and Indonesia). What really struck me about this book was the similarities between Elizabeth Gilbert (the author) and myself:

a) a love and passion for a foreign language and country (Italy for her, and France for me)
b) being a control freak
c) being a devoted yogi (practicer of yoga)
d) recently having a long term relationship ending (yes I know a divorce is not anywhere close to the same as what I went through, but many of the same emotions are there: anger, sadness, etc)
e) the same birthday: July 18th (this I found very eerie when I discovered it in one of the last chapters in the book)

The book is divided into three sections - one for each country that she visits. While in Italy most of what is mentioned is all the culinary delights she discovers while there. The descriptions are enough to make your mouth water and want to reach through the pages and devour what is in front of the author. I've never been to Italy but want to visit eventually. My passion has been French and anything French-related for many years. If and when I ever have the funds, I would love to spend 4 months in France and do nothing but enjoy all the French cuisine from all over the country. Dishes vary depending on the region you are exploring. While in Italy, Ms. Gilbert also signed up for Italian conversation classes as a way to better communicate and enjoy her stay overseas. I am already fluent in French and would love the opportunity of several months to do nothing but eat and explore the amazing country that has captivated me for years.

While in India, Ms. Gilbert endured hour upon hour of meditation and self-reflection at an ashram (a more or less glorified yoga school). The idea of attending one of these meditative schools is very appealing to me, but apparently the criteria for admission is very difficult to obtain. Reading this section was very much like a mirror looking into my brain. I have always had an overactive brain and a wild imagination...which is hard to keep at bay. Having a calm mind is a constant challenge, which is why I go to yoga classes three times a week...to keep me sane and allow my brain an opportunity to void itself of thought, even for 10 minutes at a time.

While in Indonesia, the author met the man that she would eventually call her husband, completing the title of the novel with the final section - Love. What she learned during her time in Italy and all the self reflection that she underwent in India allowed her to fall in love on her own terms, not out of desperation or the need for a man in her life.

The novel is an awesome read. I greatly enjoyed Ms. Gilbert's writing style and her witty comments thrown in randomly. Her frank and forward way of speaking is something that I admire and it felt like either a very blunt best friend recounting their life, or perhaps your conscience, telling you things you really didn't want to acknowledge about yourself.

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Favourite Things...continued 2





Le Chien Noir, one of the only french restaurants in all of Kingston, was definitely a must-see for me, being the Francophile that I am. Located at 69 Brock Street, this relatively small eatery serves mainly traditional French cuisine, with the majority of the dishes loaded with eggs, cream, cheeses and rich sauces. They also have a variety of traditional Quebecois dishes. Le Chien Noir also has one of the largest wine selections of any restaurant I've seen.

The building is decorated with gorgeous tables and chairs, and all the walls are covered in French posters. The ornate ceiling and chandeliers reminded me of the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. The atmosphere was incredible and this was before the food was even served.

I ordered a glass of Merlot ($8.75) to start (I've always been a big fan of red wines) and got to nibble on some crusty French bread and butter before the main course. For the main dish I opted for the Poutine ($16), thin cut fries smothered in gravy, shredded duck meat, and huge chunks of brie. It was absolutely incredible! Brie is a much richer and creamier cheese than the traditional cheese curd. *As a side note, I am a vegetarian, and did not realize that there would be meat in the dish as it wasn't stated on the menu*

For dessert I chose the Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake ($9). It was a very unusual presentation - comprising of a scoop of green tea ice cream fried in a crispy layer of tempura (the batter normally on veggies and shrimp), served on top of a layer of lemon cake, sitting on top of a creamy raspberry mousse. Devine. J'adore Le Chien Noir! I will be revisiting this adorable restaurante française in the future :)

Check out their full menu on their website! http://www.lechiennoir.com/

Friday, March 2, 2012

Eating Animals


This novel is the most recent one that I have completed, documenting the treatment and slaughter of animals (namely cows and chickens) in the United States. It was incredibly enlightening and disturbing. I was also pleasantly surprised as well to note that the novel has a philosophical slant, asking questions like:

Why do we eat cows and pigs, but not dogs?
What does free-range and organic mean?
Why do we justify the slaughter of animals? Purely for the taste?

The author Jonathon Safran Foer is himself a vegetarian and has many convincing arguments, justifying his choice of diet. While I live in Canada, the evolution of the farming industry in the US is astonishing, with over 99%of the meat coming from factory farms: animals living in unhumane and unsanitary conditions, unable to access the outdoors, and pumped so full of chemicals that the consumption of these animals is hindering human medicine to cure certain ailments.

I wasn't particularly aware of the proximity of humans to animals, but when you're consuming them on a regular basis you sort of become immune to it. The Spanish Flu that decimated an incredible number of people was a type of avian flu.

Other reasons to support a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle include reducing the effects of global warming (animal agriculture is the biggest culprit) and discontinued support of these factory farms and slaughter houses. They continue their practices because people continue to purchase the meat from them.

I was a vegetarian for a couple of years, a couple of years ago. It wasn't for health or moral reasons at that time. Now I have very real health concerns about the consumption of meat, and I will resume being a veggie again.

For those skeptics out there, pick up a copy of the book and educated yourselves. Or watch "Meet your Meat" http://www.chooseveg.com/meet-your-meat.asp People are in denial about where their meat comes from, making consumption of it far easier. Family farms are no longer the rule, they are the exception. To keep up with the demand of consumers, corporations have turned traditional farming into a production line, compromising both the quality and the health of meat being produced.

***Caution, the video is not for the weak of stomach***

Sunday, February 19, 2012

February - A Month of Balance



February is the month of balance according to my “Calendar of Tranquility”.

Balance by definition implies having a healthy mental equilibrium and enjoying equal amounts of work and play. It means having healthy relationships with family and friends, as well as balancing what you’re eating. Too much of anything is not a good thing. When balance is disrupted and tipped to either extreme it can be hard to correct.

This has become all too important for me. I know that I tend to do too much. I’m happiest when I’m busy and it’s hard for me to relax and take a day off. I’m up every morning at 6am, work my morning shift, come back home and watch whatever happens to be on A&E (usually CSI: Miami, or The First 48), I head back to work, and follow up with an evening of badminton, trivia practice, yoga or some combination of the above. I’m not home most nights until at least 9:30pm.

A couple of weeks ago, my body was clearly angry with me. I was fine in the morning, but as the day progressed, I started to get a fever and it was eventually too painful to even stand as all my joints and muscles ached. I managed to drag myself to yoga class, but had to opt out of going to badminton afterwards. I walked all the way home (about 30 min), made myself a cup of Neocitran, and passed out until I had to get up for work the following morning. The fever had broke thankfully, but it was kind of a wake-up call from my immune system.

Because I am currently not in school, my brain has this active desire to constantly take on new projects to fill that void. New things to try over the next couple months:

1) learn HMTL (I'm pretty horrible with technology and need to fix that)

2) write fan mail to a tennis player (I'm thinking Canadian Peter Polansky, his mailing address is on his facebook page)

3) start collecting French postcards (I have seen some gorgeous ones of Paris, and just in general I love anything French)

4) write reviews about Racquet Science (tennis/ badminton store) and Le Chien Noir (French restaurant)

5) Ask out the guy I have had a crush on since Grade 11

6) Work on my Renoir 1000 piece puzzle (I need something quiet to do that doesn't involve the television)

7) Start blogging en Français (since moving to Kingston I don't use my French enough, and writing is definitely my weakest area)

8) Read at least 3 novels (I have definitely put off reading to watch more TV)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Favourite Things...continued




I have now discovered my second "favourite place" in Kingston. Tucked right downtown, across from city hall is a quaint little coffee and dessert place, cutely named Sipps. I had seen listings on job sites advertising for this little shop, as well as a couple of kids at work mentioning the name of it.

I have always loved the smell of coffee, even though I don't drink much of it. I've never needed caffeine to function, but I do enjoy a really fancy schmancy coffee from Starbucks maybe once a month.

I took a stroll downtown yesterday morning because the weather was gorgeous and I've been meaning to take a pile of pictures since I've moved to Kingston. I decided to pop in.

Unlike Starbucks, Second Cup, or even Timmies...the shop was quiet. There were only two tables in the tiny cafe that were occupied; a pair of businesswomen in the corner with their laptops, and a pair of girlfriends catching up.

As I mentioned before, I am not a coffee drinker, so instead I opted for a hot chocolate (they have 5 varieties) and a tempting lemon square. Both beverage and dessert were piled high with whipped cream - I definitely felt like I was getting my money's worth. Grand total? Around $7.

Sipps has a huge variety of coffees, teas and other assorted beverages. They also have a wide range of delectable desserts. For someone like myself who has always had a sweet tooth, it was difficult to choose between brownies, slabs of assorted cheesecakes, biscotti, slices of banana loaf, etc.

I will certainly be making visits to Sipps a more regular occurrence.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Favourite Things







Since I have moved to Kingston, I have discovered one of the most original and exciting stores. P'lovers, located downtown, a stones throw from the Queen's University campus is filled with organic and all natural products. From beeswax candles, to soaps, to clothing made of hemp, to paper made of elephant poo, there is a large variety of products to choose from. The smell is absolutely devine when you walk in.

One of my best girlfriends from elementary school works there so I have a personal friend advising on me what works well and things to try. Personally I have purchased a beeswax candle, orange blossom toner and a really cool bracelet made of tree nuts that have been dyed with organic pigments.

As some of you may have read in my last blog post, I have been trying to purge toxins out of my life (from chemicals in my body products, to people who have had a toxic influence in my life). There are soo many wonderful scents available in the soy candles (see photo second from the top) to the bars of soap. Pop by the store to check them out! I can't even try to describe the aromas. I also discovered bars of soap that are shaped like slices of cake (complete with icing swirls on top). Products are pretty evenly priced and with the added benefit you know that they don't contain harsh chemicals.

Check out their website: http://www.ploverskingston.ca/

Thursday, January 26, 2012

January - A Month of Reflection


For Christmas, I got a 2012 calendar from my mom, titled "A Year of Tranquility". Each month has a different flower with a different thought. I figured, as it is nearing the end of the month, to reflect about the new year so far.

I have been happier over the last few weeks than I have been in many many months. Life is great. Work is fabulous as usual and all the volunteer hours I'm doing are keeping me more than busy. As of right now, I'm assistant coaching a badminton team, teaching badminton, teaching/ running a chess club, working in the french classroom, along with all the trivia related stuff I do.

There are a few badminton tournaments coming up in the next few months so I am getting back into competitive shape. I haven't played in a tournament since 1st year of university and am very anxious about getting back out onto the courts to compete.

I went back to Ottawa last weekend to visit. You don't realize how much you love something until it's gone. Ottawa is my home away from home. I love the city, the people, the location and the comfort I feel when I'm there. Ideally after teachers' college I would get a job there. Ottawa is like a comfy worn-in pair of jeans - it fits me well and is comfortable. I miss the transit system, and the bustle of downtown. I got inked again, got my alumni card from the university, hit up the Lululemon Warehouse sale and saw a handful of friends. I miss it already.

I patched things up with the ex, and now we are civil. I realized that staying pissed at him will accomplish nothing but make me bitter and resentful. Clearly he has moved on, so must I. I'll be seeing him in two weeks at the sectional tournament (him as a player and me as a moderator)...we'll see how that goes. I'm still happily single and actually loving it. It's still kind of a weird scenario for me - with Valentine's Day coming up, this will be the first one in the last 4 years that I'll be single. I haven't gone on POF in over a month and refuse to actively search for anything because things are going awesome and I don't want to screw things up by throwing testosterone into the mix.

I've been keeping up with my photo-blogging without so much as a hitch. You don't realize how much you do in a given day until you're motivated to document it. The only issue I'm having is remembering to keep the batteries charged so that my camera is always ready.

I've been trying to avoid using cosmetics and body products that contain SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulfate) and parabens. Damn those chemicals are in everything! I did manage to find a great smelling brand of shampoo called Bee Natural - the berry one is divine. I also picked up some Organic Orange Blossom toner from P'lovers downtown. My skin looks great! Kiss My Face has a great Vitamin A&E body lotion that I have been using, as well as a Citrus and Wild Mint shower wash that is a great "wake-me-up" in the morning. I also have been using aluminum-free deodorant. Everything I've read leads me to believe that aluminum based deodorants cause breast cancer and I'd like to avoid that at all costs. All these products smell incredible and aren't full of nasty chemicals.

Doing what makes me feel good and not having to factor anyone else into that equation is awesome. It's very liberating. I have always been an independent person, and am only now realizing I don't need a guy in my life to make me happy. I'm quite self-sufficient and resourceful as it turns out :P All of this must seem very cliché to those of you reading. It's very difficult for me to explain how much more aware I am of life in general and trying to live it to the fullest. I have seen the light I suppose haha. There are just so many things to look forward to on a daily basis and am staying motivated to continue on the path I'm on.

I have a to-do list that is constantly evolving and I never have enough time to get everything done. Currently I'm reading 3 books (La bête humaine par Émile Zola, Gerald's Game by Stephen King and House Rules by Jodi Picoult), keeping up with the photo blog, sorting out the remainder of the details regarding the two trivia tournaments next month and trying to finish the second crocheted fingerless glove in the pair. Sigh. And this is on top of everything else. Thank goodness I was blessed with great time management skills.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Plenty of Fish


I have an account on an online dating site and up until about three weeks ago I was on the site regularly. Gasp. Most people are pretty surprised when I tell them that, largely I think because I'm very extroverted and have no problems meeting new people. I guess my issue is that I don't like dating people in my social circles because of the drama and problems it can cause if things end badly. I also like the idea of being able to pre-screen someone before I meet them, as I tend to be on the picky side.

I first joined Plenty of Fish (POF) right before my nineteenth birthday. I had just completed my 1st year of university and I was working full time at a landscaping company for the summer. The very first guy I met off the site I ended up being in a relationship with for nearly two years. I'm not entirely sure what stars aligned that day, but it was very quick and within a couple of weeks we were a couple (Facebook official and everything). Another random tidbit: I have only ever dated one person that I didn't meet online.

I had tried another online dating site, OKCupid.com, with minimal success. I wound up meeting Mike, Scott and Stephen off that one, the latter of whom remains a friend. I have met a pile of people off the internet in person.The scary part is that I'm sure I can still name them still (cursed long term memory): Marc-André, Justin, Andrew, Andrew, Kyle, Paul, Tim, Marc, Kevin, Charlie, Shawn, Mike, Greg, Brendan, Clint, Christopher, Rob, Yannick, Ryan, and Michael. I obviously did not end up dating them all (and keep in mind that I met all these people over a three year period). In fact only a handful ever saw a second date. Most of the guys that I have met wound up being duds.

Oh the joys of online (and free) dating. Virtually anyone and their dog can make an account and post pictures. Alot of people also sign into the site with a pile of emotional baggage that you end of finding out about later on. This of course made me head for the hills. There are also guys who come across as interesting via text, and you meet them in person and the food on your plate is more interesting than what they are talking about. I like to consider myself a pretty interesting person - largely because I have alot of interests: I love reading, badminton, tennis, trivia and yoga, but I also have other hobbies like crocheting and blogging and taking pictures. One of the guys I met worked a full time job...and went to the gym - that's it. I was bored senseless.

The idea of meeting new people has never been a daunting one for me, which I suppose is part of the reason I have met so many guys in person after first crossing paths online. Job interviews don't really phase me either - it's like having a conversation with someone. Being an extrovert, I feed off other people's energy and its far more exhausting for me to be alone, than for me to be surrounded by others.

While I acknowledge that online dating isn't for everyone, it is a great medium to meet people who you would have never crossed paths with otherwise. For those of you who are toying with the idea of creating an account and perusing through hundreds of profiles should consider a few things.

1) In the space where you have to write about yourself and your ideal partner be as through as possible. Do you want someone who is the life of the party? Or would you prefer to date someone who is more of a homebody? Someone educated? Athletic? And describe yourself in the same way. Are you a family person? Independent? Love all the creature comforts? Highly religious? All of these things will help guys figure out who you are and what you're about (which also cuts down on morons messaging you).

2) Post only recent photos of yourself (within the last 3 months). Use photos that are well lit and show a bit of your body. There is no point hiding what they will eventually end up seeing in person if you meet.

3) Keep it on a first name basis (aka no adding to Facebook until after you've met.)

4) Meet in a public location (coffee shop, library, restaurant, etc). This is for your personal safety. Every person I've ever met offline was exactly who they said they were, but it never hurts to err on the side of caution.

Happy Dating :)