Bullet Journal: I LOVE IT!

If you’re a teacher, chances are you love to organize and you love making lists.  Every September, I look forward to purchasing a brand new agenda for the school year.  I colour coordinate school events, personal appointments, kids’ activities and our family social calendar.  Until Christmas, my agenda has perfectly round bullets, neat check marks, and perfect stickers. By Christmas break, it’s no longer worthy of themed stickers and cute doodles.  It’s a mess.

One day, a friend mentioned bullet journaling to me and I couldn’t stop looking at all the results on Pinterest.  This entire phenomena is devoted to lists, creative designs, and jotting down memories.  I can write down future events and happenings.  I can decide my own layouts all the whole using cool new tools like washi tape and stencils.  What!  Where has BUJO been all my life?  It’s also a great place to write down things my kids do (I have a few pages devoted to each kid), wish lists, and future to-dos (a lot of it is for work for next September or for the house).

I came across this new hobby just around the time I turned 40.  Not sure if this is a midlife thing or just another new hobby, but anytime I get into something  (e.g. stamp collecting, Cricut, Instant Pot, etc.), I’m all in.  I mean, I go HARD!  I want all the tools, research all the tips, and Google all the sites – usually in a week.  LOL.

So after purchasing my bullet journal from Indigo on my birthday, within the week, I also had the fine liners, pencil crayons, stickers, and metallic markers.  I also went on the hunt for cute washi tape, correction tape, and the perfect ruler and pencil case.  I began to lay out my monthlies and weeklies, all the while keeping in mind what my friend said.  “Don’t worry if you make mistakes!  I did for the first few weeks and it’s okay.”  Clearly, she knows how Type A I am!  This BUJO not only gives me a chance to design my own layouts and pick my colour scheme for the pages (much like a scrapbook), I also have an exercise in retraining my mind and keeping my mental health in check.  It’s almost like gratitude journal, Smash Book, and agenda all rolled into one.  What fun!

Last week, we were in Niagara Falls so naturally, we hit up Target in the dollar section (my fave).  Amazing finds including mini-stamps (the Starbucks coffee cup got me), washi tape, and planner stickers.  For $3, you can’t go wrong!

Since I started, a couple of my friends are now interested in it and started to gather their materials for their own bujo.  I can’t wait to see their layouts and what other ideas they came up with.  I mostly modify inspiration I see on Pinterest to suit my needs.  Each month, I’ve switched out my weekly layouts to keep it fresh.  I’m going to have this current bujo until the end of 2017 and then get a new one for January (it’s hard – my mind has a Sept to June calendar because of work, but I also work on Jan to Dec time).  My middle child really wants one for her birthday so maybe she will get a Birthday Bujo.  It’s already in my planner.  😛

Ice Ice, (Cry) Baby

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    Wah wah wah.   Cry me a river…oh wait, it’s frozen. At least it was until last weekend.  Thank goodness for the warmer temperatures last week because some online discussions where parents are complaining about how their little ones are upset that they can’t go outside for recess was starting to irk me.  I get that they miss running around the field.  They miss building snowmen and playing tag.  These livid parents are saying that their little angels are bouncing off the walls and going nuts at home due to the lack of physical activity at school because of increased indoor recess due to the weather.

    Know what I miss though?  Quiet recesses to do marking.  My empty classroom so I can do a quick sweep before the next period. Time to organize and discuss what needs to be done with my grade eight helpers.  For the parents complaining about their one or two kids bouncing off the walls at home…multiply that by 30 or 15 and you’re in my shoes.

     At our school, the field was frozen over.  We had indoor recess for most of early January when we returned.  Last week, we had a rotational outdoor recess schedule in place.  The students went outside, but not for all three recesses.  The teachers weren’t thrilled, but we get it.  There wasn’t much asphalt to stand on so each division got a recess. It was fair.  It wasn’t ideal, but it worked.

     Now what strikes me as funny is that these rules are implemented for safety reasons.  The same parents who were in disbelief that we couldn’t just send them out and who’d say, “Just let them outside and deal with the ice…it’s Canada!”  I’m pretty sure those would be the first ones to say they’d sue if someone slipped and fell.  Stay inside and we lose.  Go outside and someone gets hurt, we lose.  See the pattern?

   Hopefully we get some good news in a couple of weeks and that darn groundhog gives us a prediction we want to hear.  If not, I’m ready to give that tradition the cold shoulder.

EATS REVIEW: Thai Basil

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    After hearing a few reviews of Thai Basil, we had an opportunity to grab a quick lunch last Saturday. The darker ambience was wonderful and we were immediately seated at noon.  There were several other patrons, but it didn’t take long for the food to arrive.

    Hip Teacher Dada and I both ordered the Lunch Special. I ordered the Yellow Curry Chicken and he ordered the Pad Thai.   Both came with a small bowl of Tom Yum soup and a little spring roll.

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   I was so excited to try my curry, but the first thing I noticed was the lack of colour.  It was certainly curry-coloured, but besides the chicken and huge pieces of potato and onion (slightly undercooked), there were no other veggies in sight.  I raised an eyebrow to HTD and said, “Not even some carrots?” It smelled divine, but when I took a spoonful, it was barely lukewarm.  Not okay.  I took a couple of bites to be sure and yes, definitely cold.  HTD’s food came and hot steam was clearly visible.   When the waitress came over and asked how everything was, I had to say it.  “It’s cold! Can you please warm it up for a minute?”

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     I’m not usually the type to complain about food (yes, I’m totally paranoid about what the kitchen does if you send food back), but it was -10C outside and I had come in for a HOT meal and dammit, that’s what I was going to get.  She reheated it and it came back warmer, but certainly not hot.   The taste was great, but temps are a huge deal for me when it comes to food and drink (I will reheat my hot chocolate several times if necessary).
The Pad Thai was tasty and we gobbled that up quickly.

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      I’d give Thai Basil 2.5 stars mostly because I really liked the ambience and the flavour of the food, but hot temp was definitely lacking.  The curry chicken needed a variety of veggies and hot food is a MUST especially for a warm dish like curry.

      Have you tried Thai Basil?   What did you think?

Thai Basil is located at 1070 Major Mackenzie Drive E. #F103 (inside the Smart Centre at Bayview Avenue and Major Mackenzie Drive). 905.780.8788

Toronto Christmas Market 2016

      We were lucky to go on a relatively warm day last weekend to check out the Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District.  The entrance fee is $6 per person on weekends and Friday evenings.  We were so excited to attend, but due to a fussy toddler, things didn’t go as planned.

      We were fortunate to find easy parking right across the entrance by the Young People’s Theatre.  It cost $12 for maximum time.   We entered right where the five giant snowmen were.  Surely it was a sign that this event was made just for us!  Christmas is our favourite holiday so attending this annual event was right up our alley.    We waited a few minutes to take a family photo, but due to the crowds, there was no way we could get an unobstructed view of all five snowmen without halting all the visitors so we just picked a corner and quickly snapped a shot of the two older girls.

     As we wandered on the cobblestone streets (love that part of the district, but not so much Baby C as she bounced up and down on her stroller), the spirit of Christmas began to wash over us.  How could we not get caught up in the excitement?  There was a giant countdown to Christmas clock, string lights adorning each cozy cottage booth, the scent of mulled cider in the air, and everyone just buzzing with excitement.  We were tempted by the giant pretzels, hot Campbells’ soup, and poutine, but resisted, simply because the lines were too long and we just ate lunch.  I’d recommend checking it out during the weekdays (closed Mondays) when it’s free, but also less crowded.

        I was so happy to see all the little booths there.  From Burt’s Bees to crochet crafts to Santa artwork, there’s tons to see for the artisan and foodie in you.  The Distillery stores were open as well, but already jam packed when we arrived. It was the same with the restaurants.  I believe the busiest time to be Friday evenings and the weekends so again, I would try and go after work on a weekday to see the beautiful decorations, but avoid the crowds.  Walk around with a gourmet hot chocolate and a grilled cheese sandwich, shop at your leisure, and it’s what I’d call a perfect night out!  We couldn’t see all that we wanted to because Baby C was fussing pretty much the whole time.  She was distracted a bit by the ferris wheel and some girls dressed up as dolls, but other than that, she was pretty unhappy.  We ended up carrying her as the stroller didn’t provide a good view other than the backs of people in front of her.  She was enchanted with the many doggies who also attended the event so any minutes those pooches bought us, we were grateful.

       There were lots of prime photo spots so if you’re into snapping pictures and making memories, this market is for you!  Not only was Santa there, a beautiful angel walked around as well as Santa’s elves.  We had to grab the angel for a picture, of course.  There are a few lit marquis signs around the area to take pictures in front of and of course, the giant Christmas tree next to the stage.   There was a section of hot pink trees and a heart shaped display.  My favourite was the giant JOY sign sponsored by Glade.  Performances range from singalongs to carolers throughout the day.  It is a wonderful family event so make your way down to the market before December 22!  It’s guaranteed to get you in the holiday mood if you aren’t there already.  Keep toasty and if you see Santa, tell him Hip Teacher Mama sent you.  It’ll guarantee you a place on the Nice List.

         For more information, please visit the Toronto Christmas Market website.

HIP TEACHER MAMA MEETS THE WIGGLES

      Talk about a dream come true!  Not sure who was more pumped for this day, my girls, Hip Teacher Dada, or myself, but we managed to pull ourselves together and enjoy the spectacular concert after an awesome interview.  All the nerves went out the door as the awesome foursome fielded my questions with smiles and ease.

     Thanks to Anthony (Blue Wiggle), Simon (Red Wiggle), Emma (Yellow Wiggle), and Lachy (Purple Wiggle) for the interview.  My girls were starstruck!  They still can’t stop watching the interview.  A special thanks to Lachy for his funny faces to Baby C.  She can’t stop giggling and no sound is better to my ears (well, except for maybe The Wiggles’ songs).

HTM: A lot of your songs have a huge kinesthetic component to them.  It keeps the young ones very engaged.  Do the actions come to mind first or the music and words?

YW: It’s probably a bit of both really.  Songs like “Rockabye Your Bear” marries the words and actions.  It’s such a classic even for me.  Some songs are just plain dancing.  A lot of the music starts before the movement comes into it.

RW: It usually starts with the music first, I think.

HTM: You create fun songs with social messages about acceptance such as “I’ve Got My Glasses On” and current health topics about allergies with the song “Peanut Butter.”  How do you decide which trending topics are important to address?  Kids do get self-conscious about things like wearing glasses so it’s great that you draw attention to these things.

BW:  Funny you should ask that.  They are personal.  My daughter, Maria, has astigmatism so she’s been wearing glasses at at early age.  I wanted her to be positive about wearing glasses so we wrote a song.  My little boy, Antonio, has anaphylaxis.  When he suffered his first episode, we realized how serious it can be.  The “Ooey Gooey Allergies” song for example is a good one.  My nephew, Dom, also has anaphylaxis.

HTM: Do you have your Epipen with you? (turning to Dom who is also in the room)

DOM:  Yes, I do.

HTM: Good job. (thumbs up)

BW: It’s very important to address these issues, but if you make it fun, like the healthy eating and fruit salad.  You’re just getting kids excited about eating fruit salad instead of like chocolates.

HTM: When I was first pregnant with my eldest, my craving was fruit so luckily, when she came out, she just loved fruit.

THE WIGGLES: That’s great!

HTM: Last question.  I know you all have a musical background.  Which instruments would you recommend for kids who are just starting out?

BW: If you mean preschoolers, I’d say rhythmic instruments – let them just hit and bang around.  After that, I think it’s all about what they like.  It’s also about singing…so mi la…

Purple Wiggle and others sing out a variety of notes.

HTM: That’s great!  Thank you for taking the time to chat.

THE WIGGLES: You’re welcome.

*The Wiggles concert was amazing.  Not only were they entertaining from start to finish, they were humourous and included adults in their presentation.  Quick timing, wit, and a special Canadian mention of Tim Horton’s in song and in “Tim Horton’s Mode” made the hour and a half show fly by.  What impressed me the most was how attentive they were to their audience.  They went out into the audience several times to sing their songs and to collect the roses that audience members brought for Dorothy the Dinosaur and bones for Wags the Dog.  It made everyone beam with delight when Lachy broke out into the latest Justin Timberlake song as well as an impromptu song as he sang the words on huge signs that people had created.

You can tell The Wiggles LOVE their job and it’s fun just watching them have a good time.  It was an amazing experience and by far the best kids’ concert I’ve ever attended.  I’m thrilled to have met them and honoured to have had a chance to sit down with them.  Thank you, Wiggles, for educating so many generations of kids through song, dance, and play.  Learning is so easy when it’s done right.  Can’t wait for the next 25 years of Wiggles’ songs and creativity.

HUNGER GAMES: BATTLE OF BOYS VS GIRLS

      What better way to celebrate a kid-free evening than to don used foggy goggles and shoot each other with rubber arrows?  I kid you not.  This was one of the best evenings I’ve ever had on a Friday night.  Planning an adult-only evening isn’t easy, partly because of babysitting issues (not many people will step up to watch three kids so thank you, in-laws) and everyone’s busy schedule, but the 9 o’clock slot suited the ten of us just fine.

          We arrived slightly earlier to fill out our forms (yes, there is liability involved…I know because I was shot in the face and ribs many times, ha ha) and to give the place the once over.  It’s pretty far out of my usual Markham bubble, but we had enough time to make it there in North York.  Driving out there was a little worrisome at first because it seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere (you’re just playing among storage warehouses).

         We were in awe at the wall full of Nerf guns and masks overflowing on the shelves.  There was a shelf full of dainty dishes, beer bottles, and knickknacks ready to be abused in the Rage Room.  There was a birthday party going on in another room so we checked out their lounge which was essentially a couch and some video games set up.  As our friends began to arrive, we ventured furthered into our playing room.

           We were introduced to our host, R, and she was a blast.  She taught us how to use our weapons and laid down the safety rules.  We all wore the optional chest protectors.  We all had wrist guards as well as masks.   The bows and arrows took a bit of getting used to for me (I used the 18 weight).  We spent the first half-hour aiming at dangling targets such as ducks and squirrels.  Finally we were ready to go into the arena for battle.

         R taught us several games including Infection and Capture the Flag.  It was essentially Archery Dodgeball.  We had decided before the evening to do Girls VS Boys and our girls held our own.  It was challenging to load our bows quickly before becoming victim to the opposing side.  The music they play is awesome too and really gets your heart racing.  I felt quite Katniss-like and my everyday braid added to that effect, I’m sure.  We had to figure out how to attack and defend our pylons.  There’s not much space to hide in the arena despite the few blowup decor they had set up on both sides.  She even introduced us to the rubber axes so one game we ditched the bows and arrows for something a bit easier to handle.  I think by the end of it, we all could shoot faster and more accurately.  It was a wonderful active evening for sure.  I know my competitive side came out and I could totally understand how heated my students get when they play dodgeball during gym class.  I have to say that a few times, some people I shot did not take themselves “out” and reset.  I guess there are those out there even more competitive than I am.  🙂   For the last game, we played stronger defense and managed a sneak attack to grab the boys’ pylon first (I had previously been the runner, but was taken out each time).   Y and I both guarded our pylon with our lives and happy to say C ran in there and back with theirs!  VICTORY!  Girls rule!  LOL.

     It was definitely a great set-up and fun game.  Would love to do it again.  R was an awesome instructor and extremely patient with our questions, suggestions, and sarcastic comments.  Kudos to her for putting up with us and not shooting us in the back with an arrow.  I’m sure she was tempted.

      Check out Battle Sports for yourself and a group of friends you’d like to nail in the ribs.

EATS REVIEW: IT’S A BAO TIME

 

          Anyone who knows me, knows I’m always up for trying new food.  What’s better than a delicious local bao (Chinese steamed bun)  on a Friday night?  Reminiscent of Bahn Mi Boyz in downtown Toronto, this local casual dining restaurant, It’s a Bao Time, serves up some trendy small plates featuring pork belly and duck confit.  We sampled a variety so that we can report our findings accurately  (of course).  It’s a hard task, but someone had to do it.

         We tried the pork belly bao, bulgogi taco, jerk chicken banh mi, popcorn chicken, and kimchi fries.  The pork belly bao had just the right amount of bite and came out juicy and warm.  The bulgogi taco was quite saucy which we liked. We couldn’t stop eating the popcorn chicken with the spicy mayo dip.  The kimchi fries were good and we saved the bahn mi for last.  I didn’t think we’d polish off so much and was saving it for a midnight snack, but we inhaled our food so we had the banh mi for dessert.  I wasn’t a huge fan of their jerk chicken, but it wasn’t bad.

           The airy restaurant is spacious and bright with many tables to serve their customers.  The service was friendly albeit a tad slow for my liking.  Luckily, they had a large TV to keep customers entertained while they wait.   All in all, it’s pretty good for a local bao place.  Will definitely bring the kids to try some more dishes.  They have daily specials like Taco Mondays where any taco is $4.

It’s A Bao Time is located at 230 Commerce Valley Drive East, Unit 2A.

THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK

tumblr_mhozbd6guo1rlae0wo1_1280My students did a presentation for science today on animals they created.  They designed their own unique animal while adding structural and behavioural adaptations that were beneficial to their animal.  They had to classify this creature, list the prey and predators and give details about the habitat.  It was a fun activity with some creativity and artwork while also basing it on some scientific research and application of knowledge.  The presentations were going well (though they needed more practice with eye contact) when near the end, one huge disappointment occurred.

One student designed an owl and said that this owl had nine lives with nine large feathers to represent each of the lives.  Another student asked why then were there only seven feathers present on her bird.  The student who asked is a kind boy and I’m sure his asking the question was not out of malice, but simple curiosity or he wanted to show he was really paying attention to the presentation. However, the look on the creator’s face spoke volumes.  She shut down, sat there, and had her back to me.  I could hardly focus on the next presentation because I was also upset because I thought it was an unneccessary comment, but the next presenter had gone up and I didn’t want to distract him.

Afterwards, I spoke to the class about what we had discussed earlier in the week.  We said that this classroom was a safe place.  It was a place for us to learn, to make mistakes, and not be harshly judged.  It was their first presentation of the year so of course, we would allow for errors and make suggestions for improvement.  It really struck a chord that all the presentations had gone relatively smoothly until this.  As her tears streamed down her face when I approached, I found myself welling up.  I asked the class to do their agendas, but the student was overwhelmed.  As sensitive as I am, it was all I could do not to lose it (I was unsuccessful).   I grabbed us the box of tissues and sat with her.

A part of me was embarrassed and yet not at all.  Teachers are human and I’m pretty emotional to begin with (as my girlfriends and HTD can attest).  At school, the students become my kids and if one is hurting, it’s pretty safe to say that I feel it along with them.  It was actually very sweet for some students to come up and ask if I was okay.  (LOL.)  One boy even said, “It’s okay.  I’m very emotional too.  I cry when I see people cry.”  Talk about a safe environment!  An 11 year-old boy admitting this in front of thirty classmates?

This reminded me how important it is to encourage our children and students to  always be kind and respectful.  Words hurt and you can’t take them back.  Although the boy apologized of his own accord afterwards, I’m sure it’s something that will weigh her down for the next bit and perhaps the next time she does a presentation.  I hope after this, my students will take a moment before saying what “they have to say.”

LET’S GO TO THE FAIR!

 

Every weekend before Thanksgiving, the annual Markham Fair takes place at the Markham Fairgrounds located at McCowan Avenue and Elgin Mills Road (about 30 minutes north of Toronto).  It starts on the Thursday and continues through Sunday night, where each night ends with a round of amazing fireworks to cap the day’s events.

This year, I was fortunate to spend all of my Friday there.  The weather was decent enough and the rain held off.  We had a pleasant morning and an even warmer afternoon and evening.  When the wind died down, I was thrilled!  It made for a perfect fair environment.

We did everything we possibly could do at the fair.  We saw the Superdogs show and the horse show.   The big girls grounded flour and made oil.  We learned about composting and saw worms in actions.  We saw the livestock and witnessed the mother pig feeding her young.  The little piglets rushed her and climbed all over each other to get their spot.  The baby chicks were fluffy and so adorable.  Baby C loved seeing the animals.  We feasted on the blooming onion (must try and even Big H who isn’t an onion fan gushed over this fried treat) and poutine.  We bought some $1 beer nuts for later.  We went to the craft area and saw all the cool art pieces including some plasticene art that I plan on doing sometime with my students.  One of my favourites was a huge paper mache giraffe.  We even saw our friend’s winning photos on display.

One of my favourites is always the incredibly huge vegetables that people manage to grow.  We ran into my friend, another teacher, whose daughter had grown some cucumbers all on her own.  It was amazing to see the sketches and collages made by school-age children.  So proud of our Markham talent!

Outside I was able to catch the Lincoln Leapers (double-dutch is fascinating) and gymnastics performances.  There were many food trucks and kiosks lined up on either side of the path so if you were feeling for hamburgers, hot dogs, or chicken fingers, you didn’t have far to look.  Tim Horton’s even had a truck here with proceeds donated to charity.  The girls tried their hand at a basketball game (of course) and Big H sank two of her three shots while Middle A got all three in!  What?!  They both picked Minecraft-type swords and were thrilled.

Baby C couldn’t last more than a few hours and soon it was time to head home.  We did this outing sans stroller and it was quite successful!  She enjoyed holding her big sisters’ hands and exploring.  I had to carry her a bit of the way, but how can I resist when she says, “I love you” and pats me on my back?  She had an odd fascination with pumpkins and couldn’t stop touching them.

We left just as it was getting dark so we didn’t catch the fireworks there, but were lucky to see the show from our house!  Big H’s bedroom was the perfect viewing grounds for the spectacular fireworks show.

We loved the fair and cannot wait to go back next year for more learning, exploration, and innovation.  All that talent right in our backyard.

Have you been to the Markham Fair?  What’s your favourite activity?