Wednesday, July 1, 2015

iceland in four days

After our short time in Paris, we had another stopover on the way to Toronto in Iceland. It was such a cool place. We didn't stay in Reykjavik but sort of between there and Keflavik, and our hotel was actually very near the Blue Lagoon and in a lava field. It was surreal - very much how I imagine other planets would look. I happened to be reading The Martian while we were there, too, which was more than fitting! (Very cool book, by the way, and soon to become a Matt Damon - great choice! - movie.) 

While it wasn't as cold there as you might expect, it did take Mara some time to adjust.

One of our first food stops was at a fairly new restaurant right in Reykjavik called Public House
It was delicious, but had very small portions.

Icelandic wool

 Another place we happened upon was Kol and it was really, really good. 
A great place to get a cocktail before your meal.

Mara got to ride an Icelandic horse! Fun facts: these horses are the purest breed in the world as they've never been cross-bred and they have five different gaits, where most horses only have three.

A stop at Micro Bar for some craft brew (apparently one of the best 11 bars to go to in Iceland).

Traveling with a baby meant that there's a ton of stuff we couldn't do, so we'd definitely like to go back to tour around more - touch some glaciers, see some hot springs, and hang out with some puffins. Iceland Air gives up to 7 nights as stopover without fees, so we're actually thinking of taking the Europe route again another time we're flying back to Canada!

We did get to have a hot dog, though, the One Dish to Eat in Iceland...

Friday, June 26, 2015

off the bookshelf: hausfrau by jill alexander essbaum

I picked up this book on a whim for our trip to Bali. I'm glad I did and read it in about four days.

Admittedly, this book is a bit racy. It's the story, though, that pulled me in. Anna Benz is an expat living in Switzerland with her husband Bruno. They have three children and she is, as the title suggests, a housewife. From this, though, comes her discontent, her boredom, her isolation. A number of affairs leave her unsure of what to do next, and unsure of who she is, as if she feels increasingly separated from who she thinks she might be or should be.

This book is beautifully written. I felt compelled to read it with every turn of the page. I was still thinking of Anna's story long after the story ended. It made me think, it made me question, it made me reflect. I think I was trying to connect with Anna the whole time, and there were times I could, but it was both difficult and made me wary. I wanted to yell at her, at her stupidity, and I wanted to break down and cry with her, offering her a hug as though we were longtime friends. While the cover illustration makes it look lovely at first glance, Hausfrau is a sad and heart-wrenching story of a woman lost, one that played with my emotions and that I really enjoyed reading.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

paris in two days

On our way back home we detoured a little from our stopover in London to spend two short days in Paris. Most of what we did was dictated by our tiny travel companion, but we were still able to wander around a lot and get a glimpse of this beautiful city.

Sacre Coure

my favourite shot of the trip!

Arc de Triomphe

Eiffel Tower

another favourite!


guess which day we went...

One day we'll go back!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


We just got back from quite the adventure with our 13-month old! From Manila: London, England - Paris, France - London, England - Iceland - Toronto. As you can see, she was a bit shocked with the temperature change when we arrived in Iceland.

That first fifteen-hour plane ride was so long. If I thought Mara wouldn't eat it, I definitely would have made this for the flight. Maybe she'll have matured over the summer so I can make it for the flight back? ha.

Instead, Jeff bought a bunch of plane-friendly (quiet) toys that we wrapped up for her! Every few hours there was a new surprise + some of our favourite author's books on the iPad. They're really, really well done.

I'll be looking to make this flourless cake when we're back in the land of mangoes in late July.

Before we left we finished Fortitude. My big question throughout the series: What is this show trying to be?? It was the very last episode that brought it all together.

Even though we're finished school for the summer, this is great: How to Escape Education's Death Valley.

Need to buy a cast iron pan so I can make us these.

The Internet has made me so excited about cooking. I've never cared, really, but now I get happy about trying new dishes. This was one of the latest great dinners.

I was just reading a post about capsule wardrobes - 37 pieces is supposed to be magic. I probably have 37 of each of the usual wardrobe pieces - 37 dresses, 37 tops, 37 sweaters... you know. On that note, we're off to do some shopping for the day.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Did I mention that I played golf? First time ever. It wasn't terrrrrible, but I'll be honest, it wasn't great. It was fun, though. Also it was blazing hot (Philippines.) and the price of the round included a caddy, so I was told exactly what club to use, how hard to swing, and where to aim. (Aim. hahah.) Anyway, I think I sprained my thumb. This was weeks ago and it still hurts to put a shirt on.

I don't mean to brag, but we have the absolute best mangoes ever here. I made a chia pudding on the weekend, added some chopped mango = the best.

Speaking of vegan-friendly (depending on your milk choice with the pudding), we went to Susi around my birthday and it was so great. Vegan, gluten-free, and organic. Even Mara enjoyed bites of our meals. (I say that like it's unusual...) We're about to live right around the corner...!

We got new toothbrushes. They're black... charcoal bristles. I'm into all the hippy-dippy natural stuff, but brushing with charcoal is not something I'm into. It seems very wrong.

I've been reading this for awhile now. It shouldn't be taking me awhile, but it is. Jeff got me this for my birthday and I'm looking forward to the change to adult again.

Also for my birthday, a day at the spa! Wonderful.

These cookies are the best I've ever made.

And I love kimchi fried rice and finally tried it on my own: so. good.

Lots of controversy (again. still.) over Ontario's new sex ed curriculum. I have to say, for the record, that I support the 2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum. It's important. As a teacher and as a parent. A local news company hosted a quick, simple poll: Do you support the new curriculum? Yes or No. This is astounding:

Saturday, May 2, 2015

let the kids do the teaching

Throughout our short geometry unit, we've had a big emphasis on vocabulary. After a lot of examining related words, the class wanted to make definition cards that we used to create a word wall. They all signed up for a couple of words and then used a Mix-Freeze to teach the words

After I posted all the words for the kids to see and asked them to make a T-chart. They wrote down at least five words they confidently understood and could explain in one column, with words they needed to know in the other. With a quick check as they walked out the door, I marked off all the words any kids were still confused about. Later, we looked at this list again and they "signed up" to teach one another:

I'm telling you, this is the easiest teaching ever. They decided on how they would teach the terminology, set it up, and then taught! They were taking notes, really listening to understand, and filling in the gaps before the unit progressed any further. 

I even said to the kids at the end that I felt useless in the class but was so happy to hear them communicating their understanding and taking ownership of their learning. Pretty good for final quarter craziness!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


This little lady turns one this week! Amazing. 

We've been having great light dinners lately: fruit, cheese, bread, olives, chorizo, and wine. Followed up with one of these bars and it's perfect!

Also, lots of breakfast for dinner. Jeff has been making these cornmeal pancakes with added flaxseed and they're so so good. I top mine with butter and some fresh mango - no syrup needed. I made a version of these bacon cups one night, too, and he was impressed with those! I don't know how I feel about arugula, though.

These spicy garlic noodles (with pork or, next time, tofu!) will definitely be making it into dinner rotations more regularly. SO SO SO good.

I would also like to try to make this homemade ketchup, but we don't tend to eat enough of it...

At the market we've been getting a little pot of this ice cream. Chocolate flame is our go-to: dark chocolate and jalapeno chili. It really is seriously good.

Okay. Enough about food.

I got new glasses. Getting new glasses is not easy. When you can't see well, trying to decide on what looks nice on your face is like putting on makeup in the dark. (I couldn't think of a gender-neutral comparison.) Even if there are photos of each new frame, they never do justice to the real thing - the super reflective lenses are never realistic.

I am surprisingly into this show. I keep imagining it as comic frames, which helps remind me it's about superheroes and villains, not real people.

By far my favourite baby books author: Sandra Boynton. I love singing these books to that little almost one-year-old up there.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

tuning in: communication systems

To continue our initial launch of the final unit, each of our seven grade three teachers hosted a Tuning In learning experience last Friday morning. Classes spent fifteen minutes in each room, noticing and wondering about different aspects of our Communication Systems unit. 

The kids came back buzzing about their ideas and questions, and I hope we'll host more of these next year!

Browsing folktales, fables, myths, and legends

Visualizing the message of a song

Finding the message in silent films

Finding the meaning of colour

Figuring out signs and symbols


Intro to sign language

Friday, April 24, 2015

our beautiful mess

We're starting our final unit of inquiry for the year: Communication Systems.

Before our April break, we were lucky enough to attend our PTA Cultural Show, which showcased a dozen countries with countless talented performers. To begin tuning in to the unit, we made a quick mind map based on what the noticed during the show:

I took a quick snap of the map and printed it out for the kids to categorize the ideas. We didn't even brainstorm the categories, but the kids did a phenomenal job of classifying terms using their own ideas and understandings:

We haven't done a lot, really, but set the stage for understanding when it's all done. The kids made sense of the commonality by choosing a sentence and putting it in their own words - and not just by replacing words with synonyms, but by finding the essence of the text and truly understanding. They've determined that our unit will be about the messages we share and the ways we communicate these messages.

From here, we pulled out some key vocabulary and ideas so that we could search our library for books related to Communication Systems. We checked them all out and spent some time browsing the many different books they found: everything from fables/folktales, the history of music, colours, and culture to symbols, signs, languages, and hieroglyphics. They came up with categories of personal interest and we taped sign-up sheets to the board so kids could decide what they're most interested in learning about. This was great because it gives me, as the teacher, a jumping off point with immediate engagement and sets us up for later independent inquiry. I'm sure these lists will be ever-changing!