Wednesday, July 31, 2013

School's Out for Summer

I am officially finished my stats course! Whoop whoop!

I happen to loath numbers.  Figuring them all out makes me grumpy.  With the exception of simple math like tube feed calculations, energy, fat, protein requirements and other various work related equations, I avoid doing math whenever possible.  That’s likely the reason I did so poorly in stats the first time I took the course in University.  I should have known better.  Of course I would need a decent stats grade to get into a Master’s program.  Of course I’d have to take the course again to get a decent mark before starting my Masters.  But hindsight is 20/20 I suppose!

I actually enjoyed this stats course!  I never thought I’d think those words ever.  This course was designed specifically for health care professionals, and the content dealt with creating surveys and comparing results to determine if intervention outcomes were statistically significant.  Which was perfect because that’s essentially what I do.  As a community RD, I design programs with the goal of creating positive outcomes and behaviour change in my clients / the community.  And now I have a way of measuring outcomes and determining if my programs need a little work or if they’ve been successful.  This is the first time I’ve actually been excited about math!  I love when things are useful.  For the first time, a course took the mathematical skills required to pass and made them relatable and practical and applicable to my everyday life.  University of Victoria HLTH425 for the win!

The best part?  All the numbers were crunched using a fancy computer program so I didn’t need to multiply, add or crunch numbers during the course!  The only downfall was that the computer program was only compatible on a PC and I only own a Mac Book.  Luckily work has a PC lap top that I was able to use and bring home whenever I needed to do homework.  Minor detail.  The course doesn’t end for another 2 weeks but since I’m leaving tomorrow for Canada Games and can’t bring the lap top with me, I had to finish it all early this week.  Not the most eventful weekend but luckily the weather cooperated and rained all day Saturday while I got it done.  And now I’ve got a month of summer left to enjoy without assignments!

The rest of the weekend was spent puttering around the house.  The house we’re renting is for sale so I’m trying to keep it immaculately clean at all times so that I don’t have to mad rush and clean when people want to come view it.  Which admittedly isn’t very difficult when you’re either home alone with the dog or have only 2 adults and a dog living in the house.  Plus I’ve developed a dislike for ‘stuff’ so we don’t have a lot of it.  I’m guessing, at some point in the moving every year since starting University and 3 times since moving to NWT, that my dislike for stuff is a result of my dislike for having to move stuff.

I also got in a nice 10 km run on Saturday morning.  Our Run Club numbers have seriously dwindled.  Most people are on vacation, or went on vacation a month ago and fell off the wagon.  Only 2 of us showed up on Saturday.  It was extra disappointed because it was the last run on the training program.  Sarah and I ran 10 km, which was a personal distance record for her! High Five!  I'm going to just assume for now that everyone else continued running but that Saturday mornings just didn't work for them.

Now that's school's done for the next few weeks, hopefully I'll have time to update this blog more often.  I'm hoping to have lots of fun stuff coming up from Canada Games in Sherbrooke,


Monday, July 29, 2013

Mid-Work Workout

I have a really hard time sitting still at a desk all day.  In fact, it drives me nuts.  I'm lucky enough to have a job that doesn't always require 8 hours a day of sitting at my computer, however, there are definitely many days that do. This summer has been really bad for it.  Since the schools are out, many people are on holidays, I took holidays etc, I don't have much community programming going on July and August.  My main priority has been organizing and preparing for our Diabetes Group Sessions we have once a month off site.  This means I've been sitting at my desk, on the phone and at my computer for almost 2 months.

I try to get up and walk to the cafeteria for water, send my printing to the printer that's farther away, and walk over to people's desks when I need to talk to them but it never really feels like enough.  The more I sit, the more I want to sit.  It makes me lethargic and lazy and fidgety all at the same time!

In an attempt to break up the monotony of a desk job, I've been taking active coffee breaks.  If it's nice out I'll walk around the block with a coworker, I'll do some exercises in my office or I'll head into the gym in the hospital for 10 minutes of exercise.  Getting the blood flowing makes me so much more productive too!  I'm lucky enough to share an office with only one other person who happens to also be a Registered Dietitian and totally game for doing planks, wall sits and squats in the office with me.  We get a few funny looks when people walk by sometimes but we just smile and invite them to join us!

Today I challenged myself to do some sort of 5 minute exercise every hour of my work day since I knew I'd be at my desk all day.  And thus, the below workout was born!  It wasn't too bad this morning, but it's getting a lot tougher as the day goes on! Give it a try and enjoy!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Baby Showers and Cross Canada Adventures

Hello Friends!

The last 2 weeks have been a little bit crazy.  Leaving for vacation is always a mad-rush of getting things done before you go, packing and last minute running around.  In my case, the last minute running around meant getting caught in a torrential downpour at the beach with my stand up paddle board and Luna, and then having to carry my board 2 km back to truck, and a helping hand backfiring.  I'll fill you all in tomorrow with that story.  It makes me laugh just thinking about the ridiculousness of it but it's probably not actually funny.

The day before we left, we had a going away / baby shower lunch for a co-worker who left for a year of maternity leave.  The diabetes team at work was assigned a fruit tray for the pot luck and the 3 of us went in together for a gift.  Luckily I'm not the only crazy person on the team and others were willing to go all out.  Cue Pinterest surfing for all fruit and baby related items.  I have to admit, I was proud of our work!

Fruit Tray
Diaper Cake
The next day we were off to Toronto for a few days.  We had a 5 hour stop over in Yellowknife so we walked around and explored Pilot's Monument and went for lunch with a friend.
Pilot's Monument, Yellowknife
We were only in Toronto for 2 full days.  The mission of the trip was to pick up Earl and a car load of my stuff, and then to drive my sister's car back home to NWT.  She had the car at University in New Brunswick but it was too costly to insure in the city.  The Earl saga seems to be never ending! (Until now!).  We've tried a few times to get him here to the North but I couldn't find an airline that would let me take him.  Driving him up was really the only choice.  And it's about time too, my poor parents have been stuck with him at home for way too long.  Plus he's pretty awesome and I wanted to have him here.  I had acquired a 100 gallon tank for him since I moved here too which had been sitting empty in my living room for far too long.

Acquiring my sister's car was terrifying!  It's a standard, and I had never driven standard before.  So I had to learn while driving across the country.  I would have been nervous driving an automatic across the country, never mind a standard.  I'm not exactly the worlds best driver. Plus practicing and learning around my parent's neighbourhood was sketch, and involved a lot of stalling out in intersections and left me very, very frustrated.  I felt bad taking the car, I know my sister loves Speeder and was bummed I'd be taking it.  It also took an entire day to get a special permit for the registration in order to be able to drive it across the country. Which was unfortunate since we only had 2 days home.

Handing over the keys
Learning to drive...oops

We did get to do some fun stuff while we were home though!  We went for a nice supper at the CN Tower and explored the glass floor.  Chris had never been and I had only ever been once so it was fun to be touristy.  We also had lunch at Stoney's in Oakville, which is one of my favourite spots - they have the most amazing lamb sandwiches!  I didn't see very many friends, but we had a chance to stop in and see JP for a few minutes and then literally had to sprint to catch the GO train home.  After 2 days in Toronto, we loaded the car and headed to Ottawa for a night to see TJ and Lauren.  As usual we had a delish supper a la TJ, plus a nice walk through the experimental farm near their new house.
Glass Floor at the CN Tower

The road trip itself was fun...would have been more fun though if we had had Air Conditioning since it was about 40 degrees the whole way home.  We saw a wolf and a moose though while driving through northern Ontario.  We also stopped in Edmonton and got to meet our new puppy!  We've still got a few more weeks to wait until we get to bring him home though.  But we already love him and can't wait until he's home.  Fingers crossed Luna will love him least as much as she loves Earl.



New Pup (who's still nameless)
Luna and Earl...Love at First Sight

We also went to Drumheller, Alberta to explore the Dinosaur museum.  It's pretty unreal there.  You drive down into a valley and it's like driving into a whole new world.  The entire landscape changes so drastically and so quickly it's unbelievable.  The first thing I remember learning about in grade one is dinosaurs, so I've always had a bit of a soft spot for them.  Chris had been before but a long time ago and I figured if we were going to drive 5000km we might as well throw a little bit of vacation adventures in there.  The museum and entire town was soo busy! It was awkward trying to take pictures while dodging other tourists, plus trying to get GIANT dinosaurs into the picture frame was pretty much impossible.

Awkwardly posing with a T-Rex
Drumheller, Alberta

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Making Friends

I had a pretty uneventful weekend!  Mostly just got a few things crossed off the never-ending to do list like mopping, laundry, an inferential statistics assignment, a solid long (ish) run and some reading.

My coworker and I started a run club here in Hay River.  Last summer, when I was training for my marathon solo, I would have LOVED to have people to run with!  I guess there used to be a run club but it disbanded as people moved away, lost interest and the organizer stopped organizing it.  We've got 2 groups; a couch to 5 km group and a 10 km group.  We had about 15 people initially but our numbers have dwindled significantly.  Luckily (for me) we've still got a core group of about 8 of us that run consistently.  I've been doing most of the runs with the 10 km group.  This Saturday, we ran 9 km.  The pace is a bit slower than I would run on my own but it's worth it to have company while running!

My favorite part of run club is seeing how many people are excited about running!  We've got people who are brand spankin' new to running, people who haven't run in years and are remembering why they loved it back then, and people who have been running consistently for their entire adulthood.  I think for a lot of us, it gives us that extra push of motivation we need to lace up our sneakers and get out the door.  personally, I spent the first half of the summer only running with run club and not doing any runs on my own. But since starting run club, I've really fallen into an "I love running" groove and have been doing 4-10 km about 5 days a week for the past few weeks.

Adventure Walk with Luna
As much as I like to 'blame' run club for my newly regained love of running, Luna is equally to blame.  With the mechanic up at the mine 2 weeks of the month, Luna is at home by herself during the day while I'm at work.  I've got a serious case of dog mom guilt and hate that she's cooped up in the house all day.  We try to get out for either a 1 hour walk or a 4-5 km run every night so she can stretch her legs, and run like the wind.  She's become one of my favorite running buddies!  She'll run ahead to chase a bird, fall behind to investigate a shrub, but always finishes the run right with me at my feet.

Evening Beach Stroll

Another reason I love run club (I could go on forever!) is that it's introduced me to a whole bunch of new people!  I have found it really difficult to make friends since moving here.  I ended up being very close with the other dietitian when I initially moved here because we worked together, were both fresh from internships and University and we were close in age. We got along soo well and I was really sad when her term ended and she moved back to Newfoundland.  Hay River can be cliquey, and since she left, I've had a hard time making friends.  I know a lot of people, and say hi to tons of people in town, but I haven't quite been able to progress from the acquaintance / running buddy to the hang out on weekends / good friends stage.

I have to admit, I have definitely had quite a few 'feel like a loner' moments! Most of our friends are actually the mechanic's friends, and few of them have girlfriends so when he's gone at the mine, so is a lot of my social life.  I always just assumed I was a bit lame but as I learned this weekend, the whole making friends as an adult thing is actually difficult for a lot of people!

Up until adulthood, most people's friends are a result of being in the same class at school, on the same sports team etc. But then you grow up and all move away from each other, find significant others that become your main confidant, have your own family and your priorities change.  I love my girlfriends from the canoe club and University, but everyone is so spread out! Newfoundland, PEI, Nova Scotia, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, San Diego, North Carolina, Alberta. It doesn't help that I myself moved up to NWT after school to pursue my career and ended up loving it (and the mechanic) and staying.  It makes for a lot of Skype dates, phone dates, and texting.  It's always soo nice to chat with friends, and I could not be more thankful for technology that allows us to maintain "virtual" relationships but it's not a replacement for good ol' one on one friends.

I was reading an article in Women's Health Magazine about this exact same issue.  Turns out that it's so common for adult women, particularly young adults who have relocated for jobs, had friends relocate, have reached a new stage of their lives etc to feel like loners and have a hard time making new friends.  There is actually a whole website devoted to bringing women together as friends. It's like online dating but for friendships, called Girlfriends Circles. Not only was there an article in Women's Health, but also in the Huffington Post and Canadian Living.  Each of the articles provides advice and recommends steps to take to make friends.

It's funny how something that comes second nature as kids, becomes really difficult as we get older.  We over think things and let the fear of rejection prevent us from making the first move in making a new friend.  Hopefully I'm not the only loner out there!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Evolving Bucket List

Yesterday I learned that I passed my Diabetes Educator exam!  
Woo hoo! Go me!  
I wasn’t so much excited to pass, but relieved to pass.  

I wrote the exam way back in May.  I studied a lot, but when it came time to write the exam I felt like I was over thinking absolutely every detail and failing to apply the knowledge from the study binders to the case study situations provided on the exam.  After almost 2 months of studying and a $500 dollar exam fee, I was rattled to say the least.  I felt really confident doing the practice exams the week before, but during that week, as the exam deadline loomed closer, I began to get more and more questions wrong on practice quizzes and became less confident in my knowledge.  During the exam, I was so antsy and uncomfortable I actually had to stand up, do some squats and stretches a few times just to try to refocus.  Even while writing, I could not keep my mind on the exam. What was my mind pre-occupied with? I have no idea.  I ended up finishing writing in about half the allotted time.  Having heard from coworkers that they used every last second of the exam time provided, I assumed that I must have rushed and not read questions carefully enough.  But by this point, I was so sick of the material. So sick of studying.  So sick of writing practice exams. At that point I just decided to trust my intuition the first time I answered the questions and to not go back and read over the exam.  So I packed up my bag, left the exam room.  

I drove home and we loaded up the trailer with the quads, and the truck with a cooler,  my stand up paddle board and Luna and we hit the road to Sandy Lake for a weekend of camping with friends.
SUP board loaded in the back of the truck
Relaxing by the Campfire

Luna loaded into the Truck!

Sandy Lake in the Midnight Sun
A few years ago, at some point during University, I began verbally listing the things I wanted to do before I died.  When things came up in conversation, I transitioned from saying “oh, I want to try that someday!” to “that’s on my list of things to do before I die!”  And from this unconscious verbal change, my Bucket List was born.  At some point, likely while I should have been studying, I wrote out my bucket list and have kept the list on my lap top ever since.

At the time, I assumed that this list would be added too, and scratched off but that the act of taking something completely off the list was equal to failing to accomplish it, or failing to try to accomplish it.  However, since then I’ve learned a lot.  Life is so much more fluid than a list.  This is probably shocking to hear me write since everyone who knows me knows how much I love lists and that I have a list for absolutely everything.

Passing the exam and obtaining my CDE designation was definitely on the bucket list, but wasn't really on the radar until last year when I started my current job.  Professionally, the next few Bucket List items I’d like to eventually cross off include completing my Masters of Public Health, completing my personal training certification and eventually perhaps, starting my own consulting / personal training / freelance writing business as a dietitian.  However, these professional bucket list items are relatively new.  I’ve learned that there is no way of knowing how your path will change.  The ebb and flow of life doesn’t follow a tidal pattern.  Will these things still be on my buckets list in 5 years if they have yet to be completed? I can’t say.  Will skydiving still be on my bucket list? I have no idea if that will still appeal to me in 20 years if I haven’t done it before then. (Better reason to do it sooner rather than later!)  I’m slowley learning that just because it’s written down, doesn’t mean it has to happen.  Why constrict myself to the arbitrary list I wrote 5 years ago? Why not allow myself to tweak it as I go, as my priorities shift and as I redefine what I want my life to be.

My current bucket list is definitely not complete, and I’m sure some of the items will be discarded and replaced a few times before I die.  Some things that I want to accomplish at some point in my life can't be measured or crossed off a list.  To stay active for life, to never stop exploring, to stress less and laugh more.   I'm slowly learning that those are the things that matter more than having a bucket list with everything crossed off.

Question of the day: What's on your Bucket List?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Quilter's High

The one (and only) consistent theme to my 'crafting' is that I always start projects with a particular person in mind.  My finished projects almost always get completed solely because I am making it for someone in particular, and my big fat mouth already told a bunch of people I was making it.  It's too late to back out by then!

I had been wanting to take up quilting, and re-teach myself how to sew for a while.  I even had a coworker lug my sewing machine back from Ontario with her on a road trip she took in the fall.  But, just like it had at home, it sat in a closet collecting dust for months.  Until we found out a friend and his girlfriend were expecting a baby this summer!  I love homemade gifts, and always love being able to give them. So I figured it was the perfect opportunity to finally get into quilting.  Baby quilts are small, which would be a good beginner project, and at the time, I had months to figure it out and make it happen.  Plus I had pinterest to help me find patterns and instructions.

The pattern I ended up picking was this one to the left.   You'll notice it's much prettier than my quilt.  You'll also notice that my quilt doesn't even follow that pattern really other than the chevron.  I ended up accidentally following my sister's advice on this project: cut once, measure once, redesign.  I had a couple of "oh shoot" moments (that sounded much more colourful in real life) that resulted in redesigns but I was able to troubleshoot enough to figure it out eventually, which is more than I can say for a few of my unfinished knitting projects!  The pattern calls for the fabric to be in 'fat quarters', so thats what I looked for when ordering fabric.  Confession: I had to google a fat quarter - I had never even heard the term.

About half of the fabric I bought
My second favorite part of the whole project was shopping for fabric!  It probably took me a week to pick fabric and order it.  There are soo many online fabric stores.  One of the challenges living in NWT is that almost everything you buy needs to be purchased online, and shipping can definitely set you back some moolah. I ended up stumbling on a family run, Canadian site that has a wide variety of organic fabrics too.  Needless to say, it was impossible to choose just one quilt worth of fabric! The colours! The patterns! And free shipping on orders over 100$!  It's called Fabric Spot.  I highly recommend it and will definitely be ordering from them again!

Once the fabric arrived, I was pretty eager to get sewing.  I had some scraps of old fabric in my sewing kit that I practiced on to make sure I remembered what I was doing before ruining any of my pretty new fabric.  Once the fabric came, it was just as hard to pick the fat quarters I would use as it was to pick out the ones I bought.  Meanwhile, they found out they were having a little boy so that narrowed down my choices.  I also had to purchase a rotary cuter, a ruler and a cutting mat.  Confession: I should have done my research!  I bought cheap stuff at Walmart during a trip to YK and am already planning on buying a new, bigger and better mat and ruler for my next project.  The joys of learning as you go!

Final Fabric Choices...Ready to Cut!

You'd think something as simple as cutting fabric would be a no-brainer, but I quickly learned that it's a) very time consuming, b) important to get all your pieces square and c) hard to get pieces square!  I also learned that I need an ironing board.  I ironed on the kitchen table and have a whole new appreciation for good quality irons and ironing boards-my iron is a cheap Walmart purchase. Confession: I've only ever used the iron for quilting, and in the 19 months since I've lived here have not ironed a single piece of clothing. I also have a whole new appreciation for rooms devoted to nothing but sewing that some hard core people have in their homes. It would be soo much easier not to have to set up and pack up every time you wanted to work on your project!

It took me one full weekend to cut the fabric and sew the blocks together to create the quilt top.  Once it was all sewed together, it was very obvious my sewing skills were in as rough shape as my fabric cutting skills.  It was definitely not perfectly rectangular, and my chevron (chevrons?) zig zags didn't always end up perfectly matched up. Oops.   Then I packed all my sewing stuff and quilting stuff away for a few months until I had the chance to buy backing fabric and batting. Oh and learn how to quilt / bind the thing.

The actual quilting and binding was the part that made me most nervous.  When sewing the blocks together, it was easy to seam rip and fix things.  A mistake made at the quilting / binding stage meant either ruining to whole thing or a long slow process to fix it - in my mind anyways. I ended up hard core googling quilting and binding instructions, and man am I glad I did!  I found this awesome website that had a "Quilting 101" tutorial series that I pretty much used as my bible from this point on.  I just wish I had found it sooner!  For anyone interested in learning to quilt...check it out...seriously!

It took one more full day to quilt and bind.  I probably could have finished sooner if I hadn't had a trusty side-kick who was enjoying the quilt before it was finished.  I was originally planning on using the backing as the binding, which was a suggestion made by the lady at the quilting store in Yellowknife where I bought the backing. (If you're in Yellowknife, and a quilter, check out The Quilter's Getaway.  The lady there was super nice and very helpful!) But of course I wasn't thinking when I pinned and quilted it all together before I realized that I pinned the quilt top and batting on crooked and didn't have enough backing fabric on one side to bind with it.  *face palm*  I ended up using fabric from the stash I bought to bind it, but I needed more than 1 fat quarter of fabric to bind the whole thing and didn't have more than 1 fat quarter the same colour.  I ended up using alternating green and blue to bind it and I think it actually looks kind of cute.  I ended up messing up the corners of the binding and having to go back with a needle and thread and patch them up by hand.  I wasn't about to rip it all out and start over.

My absolute favorite part of the quilting process was being finished!  I LOVE that I now have a fully finished, functional and cute quilt as an end product of all the work.  It's nice to hold a finished product in your hands and have something to show off to everyone you know.  I want to add a little personal touch just for baby when he arrives in August (once he has a name etc), but for now it's finished.  I'm already looking at patterns for the next project I want to tackle!  I just need to find the time!  I'm thinking quilting might be a tough hobby to take on in addition to working full time and going to grad school full time.  We shall see though!

For any of you runners out there, imagine a 'runner's high' times a million, because 'quilter's high' comes right back to you every time you look at your finished quilt.  I think I'm officially a total dork!

Finished Quilt!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Inner Martha Stewart

Those people who know me well, in particular my University roommates and friends, know that I secretly wish I could be Martha Stewart (even despite her stint as a jail bird).  I love when things are pretty, particularly when food is pretty.  I love when every thing has it's place and is organized in aesthetically pleasing containers with colour coded labels.  I'd love to be the person who is on top of every holiday and  birthday with homemade cards, and who has pretty and delicious contributions to every pot luck.  However, my attention to detail is severely lacking (I'm definitely more of a "big picture" type of person) and I have a hard time being patient enough to finish projects.  So essentially I like the IDEA of being Martha Stewart, but not the painstakingly meticulous work that it requires.

In University I used to spend hours decorating cookies and cupcakes to look just like the pages of Martha's Cupcakes cookbook.  Mostly around exam time as a way to procrastinate or for swim team swim meets.

Sometimes the idea of crafting is enticing enough that I decide to actually try it.  I've dabbled in sewing, crocheting and knitting. The number of finished projects is dwarfed by the number of started projects that typically end up in a knotted mess of yarn.  Or in most cases, end up spread across the entire house with bits of scrap fabric and crochet hooks in every room. As I get older, and once I started a grown-up job and had free time that wasn't completely consumed with homework and assignments, I decided that perhaps I was mature enough now to be patient, to finish projects and to finally discover my hidden talent for all things crafty and pretty.

I was half right.  I did in fact finish a few projects (go me!), however none of the hobbies ever stuck.  In Kenya, I learned to crochet and made a blanket for my grandma for Christmas. (sorry for the picture grandma! It was the only one I had of the blanket).  To be fair, this blanket was crocheted over 2 years and mostly during my summer in Kenya and my last year of University.  But it did get finished which is a win.  I'd like to note that my family has an insane talent for flukey Christmas' in the hospital and we are insanely good at celebrating in hospital rooms.

Last winter I learned to knit, and finished 2 whole knitting projects, which is a record.  My first project was the green basket weave scarf on the right.  You can see where I got lost in the pattern near the fringe and messed it up.  I like to think I recovered well though, since the rest of the scarf seems to be mistake free.  The hat on the left is technically my third finished took me a few tries before I successfully knit a toque that was remotely wearable.  The first attempt had holes, the brim was big enough for  a sasquatch and the hat itself would have had to stretch to fit an infant.  Needless to say, it was a learning curve!  The hat was for my brother for Christmas, it matches his pond hockey jersey.  My original intent was to knit one for each member of his team (I think 6 in total?) but in good ol' KP tradition, I only finished one...but bought enough yarn for 6 and subsequently left the yard out for 2 months thinking I was indeed going to finish 5 more toques.  It's still on the to do list....

Which brings me to this weekend!  (Drum roll please....) I finished my first quilting project!  And this time, instead of finishing frustrated and sick of the project, I'm actually so proud of how it turned out and already looking forward to the next project!  Which is a good thing because I ordered enough fabric for 6 quilts when I purchased fabric for this one, assuming, like always, that I'd unleash a secret aptitude for quilting.  So stay tuned!  Tomorrow I'll have an entire start to finish quilting update.

Question of the day: Any quilting, knitting, crocheting, or cupcake decorating tips?