Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Plumbing Edition

One of my goals for 2017 was to learn 12 new things – an average of one per month. I didn’t decide on what those things needed to be – I figured I’d be inspired throughout the year with things to learn. And my first source of inspiration was the discovery of some water on my bathroom floor, which turned out to be coming from a leaky toilet supply line. The toilet supply line, for the uninitiated, is the tube that runs from your wall into the bottom of your toilet tank and it’s how the water gets into your toilet tank so you can flush your toilet.

It looks like this:

toilet supply lineIMG_5016

So anyway, mine was dripping water, which is not a thing you want your toilet supply line to do. I did some googling and figured out that (a) that tube is called a toilet supply line and (b) it’s relatively easy to replace. You just need to turn the water off with that handy dandy handle on the bottom, flush the tank so there’s no water left in it (and it won’t get refilled because you turned the water off), then unscrew the metal nut at the bottom and unscrew the white nut at the top, and then replace it with a new tube, which you can buy for $7. So I thought “Excellent! I can fix this myself for $7 (as opposed to having to pay for a plumber’s visit) and I’ll learn something new in the process!”

New toilet supply line ready to be installed

A shiny new toilet supply line, ready to be installed!

I followed the instructions and while the metal nut at the bottom was hard to unscrew, I managed to get it undone after some hard work.

Step 1, unscrew the bottom part of the toilet supply line

Step 1: Unscrew metal nut at the bottom

The white nut at the top, however, was a much tougher job. I tried and I tried and I tried… and then instead of the white nut becoming unscrewed from the toilet’s fill valve, the fill valve just cracked right off! I guess my toilet supply line was just so old that it had pretty much fused to the fill valve!

Step 2, try to unscrew the toilet supply line, but break the toilet fill valve instead

Step 2: Break things

At this point I may have freaked out a bit, because I had only googled how to replace the toilet supply line – I had no idea what that piece I just broke was and, since I like having a toilet that can flush and I only have one bathroom in my apartment, I needed to figure out how to get this fixed quick! I did some googling and managed to find a company called GVA Plumbing1 that had a good rating on Homestars.com and the main guy happened to be heading into Burnaby (from Langley) for a job and was able to drop in to fix my issue for me that same day!  Mehmet was super friendly and even, upon my request, explained what he was doing as he replaced the toilet fill valve. It was actually not that complicated and I probably could have done it myself, had I not been too freaked out by breaking something and thus afraid I would break something more. At any rate, after $200, I had a newly installed toilet supply line AND a newly installed toilet fill valve, and now nothing is leaking. Hooray!

Also, I would like to point out that the exact wording of my goal was to “learn 12 new things (1 per month). They can be small things, but just something I didn’t used to know!” It does not say anywhere in the goal that I have to successfully execute the thing that I learned. So I have learned something about toilet repair: how to replace a toilet supply line and a toilet fill valve! And now I only need to learn 11 more things this year to achieve my goal!

  1. As per usual, I have no affiliation with this company other than that I paid for their service and I thought they did a really good job. []

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Goals for 2017

I’ve been hemming and hawing about what to do about my goals for 2017. I typically do a lot of the same things – earn a certain number of race medals, knock a certain number of items off my 101 list, and perennial favourite goal that I never manage to achieve (run a sub 2-hr half marathon), but given my abysmal performance on my 2016 goals, I’m wondering if I should shake things up? I do have my three things that I’m not prepared to blog about just yet (two of which lend themselves to goals) brewing, but since, as you may remember from earlier in this sentence, I’m not prepared to blog about them, I can’t really set them as publicly stated goals on my blog, now can I? #VagueBlogging. Wait. Unless I write #VagueBlog goals (and then I’ll have to write myself a private note somewhere else as to what those actually mean!). Of course, this plan means that I’ll officially be the most annoying person ever for the 7 people who actually read my blog1. So perhaps I’ll write some specific ones and some vague ones and I can either fill those vague ones in once I’m prepared to blog about such things, should I become prepared to blog about such things at some later point in time.

OK, here goes:

New goals:

  1. Learn 12 new things (1 per month). They can be small things, but just something I didn’t used to know!
  2. KonMari my condo. Just started reading Marie Kondo’s book on organizing and I think it’s worth giving it a try.
  3. Do yoga at least 2x per week (either at home or in a class). I think I’ve done enough stretches to rehab my injured hip and it’s time to work on building up my strength and flexibility.
  4. Establish a weight training program and actually do regular weight training, where “regular” = at least 2x per week for at least 3 out of 4 weeks per month. Building up my strength should also be helpful to prevent re-injury (not to mention improving my running (when I get back into it) and hockey!)
  5. Get back to journalling regularly (where “regularly” = once a week).
  6. Travel somewhere awesome. Haven’t made any vacation plans yet this year. Need to get on that!
  7. Get gum graft surgery done. I’ve been putting it off – I should just bite the bullet it and do it already!
  8. Get a Nexus card. Been meaning to do that for a while.
  9. Send an actual physical birthday card on time to all my family members and close friends. Step 1 will be to make a list of when everyone’s birthday is!

Classic goals:

  1. Bring my lunch to work 80% of the time.
  2. Complete the 100 push up challenge. See above re: getting stronger!
  3. Submit 5 papers for publication. I have one that is almost ready to go and another one that I’ve done a lot of the research for (plus I have someone who said they are willing to read it and provide suggestions for me), so then I just need to come up with 3 more!
  4. Read 17 books.
  5. Make 17 new foods and/or drinks that I’ve never made before.
  6. Write 117 blog postings!

Vague goals:

  1. Finish the plan for mystery thing #1.
  2. Finish the letter of intent for mystery thing #2.
  1. If you are one of those people and actually want to know what the hell I’m talking bout, feel free to email me 🙂 []

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Items I Knocked Off My List of 101 Things To Do List

I set a goal to knock 16 items off my 101 things to do in 1001 days list during 2016 and while I failed spectacularly at doing that, most of the 5 things that I did were pretty awesome. In level of increasing awesomeness, they were:

21. Get rid of the fake trees my condo’s previous owner left on my balcony

This one wasn’t awesome, but I am glad to have it done. When I bought my place, the previous owner left these gaudy fake trees in extremely heavy pots on my balcony, claiming they were part of the condo because they were tied with twine to the balcony railing. They were ugly and they took up valuable room on my balcony, but the aforementioned extremely heavy pots stopped me from getting rid of them until I got a message from my strata that they would be power washing all the balconies and everything had to be taking off our balconies during that time.

35. Go for a ride in a float plane

I spent some time on Salt Spring Island this year and on one of the trips, I took the float plane back so that I could spend one extra night there and then just fly into Vancouver for work in the morning. Super fun.

47. Go to Newfoundland

Visiting my 10th of 10 Canadian provinces was a milestone this year. Not that many people can say that! Plus I went to an awesome conference and got to hang out with my sister!

43. Go to NYC

I <3 NY. We had such a good time and now I want to go there again!

37. Present at a conference at an international location (not including USA)

Definitely the highlight of the year was my trip to Australia! The conference was fantastic and I really enjoyed all the places that I went!

So while I didn’t knock a large quantity of items off my list, I’d say that the quality of the ones I did do were A++.

My current 101 things to do in 1001 days is slated to end on April 9, 2017 and I’ve only achieved 34 (!). I should probably take a hard look at the remaining items to see which ones I can feasibly do in the next 3 months. Surely I can do better than 34/101!

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New Foods I Made in 2016

Like my book goal, I managed to achieve my goal of making 16 new food items that I’d never made before – in fact, I surpassed my goal by 1 item.

1 Cream puffs 28-Feb-2016
2 rice krispie easter nests 24 Mar 2016
3 Asparagus and Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breasts 14-Apr-2016
4 breaded zucchini 9-May-2016
5 macroons 14-May-2016
6 macarons 23-May-2016
7 sauteed garlic scapes1 16-Jun-2016
8 crushed salt & vinegar potatoes 17-Jun-2016
9 BBQ’d country style pork ribs 25-Jun-2016
10 grilled zucchini, green onion, and lemon salad 25-Jun-2016
11 fig sauce 24-Jul-2016
12 blueberry jam 24-Jul-2016
13 apricot jam 24-Jul-2016
14 garlic parmesan breaded chicken breasts 24-Jul-2016
15 chirizo stuffed zucchini 1-Aug-2016
16 chicken schnitzel 10-Oct-2016
17 banoffee pie 25 Dec 2016

Taking up canning this summer helped my cause, as I made three things with my new canning set: 2 successful jams and one failed jam that was re-imagined as a sauce2. I also see a trend of making breaded things, with three different kinds of breaded chicken and one breaded vegetable making the the list.

My favourites of all the things on this list are macarons (super time consuming, but so delicious) and the crushed potatoes.

Garlic scape

Why did no one tell me that garlic scapes were a thing before 2016?

  1. Also BBQ’d garlic scapes on June 25, 2016, but didnt’ think it was different enough from sauteed ones to count as a different item. []
  2. Note to self: next summer, try making raspberry and blackberry jam, jalapeño jelly, pickles, and canned spicy green beans! []

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Books I Read in 2016

I set my goal to read 16 books in 2016 and I started off strong with books I was reading for fun, but the decision to take on teaching a new course meant that come the summer, when I did my course development, the type of book I was reading was predominantly textbook. Also hampering my reading was the launch of PokémonGO, as I used to do a lot of reading on my commute to work, but once I got hooked on trying to catch ‘em all, I ended up spending much of my commute either catching Pokémon or grabbing stuff from PokéStops as I whizzed by them on the bus or train1 or doing my Pokémon inventory management2.

Anyway, I did manage to surpass my goal of 16 books:

I read 21 books in 2015!

The books were:

2016 Books

2016 Books 2

2016 Books 3

This list includes:

  • 4 fiction books
  • 8 non-fiction books
  • 9 textbooks

I think my goal for next year should be to read fewer textbooks!

Looking at the list, the book I most enjoyed this year was the Voodoo Killings, followed by Dear Committee Members, and the books I learned the most from were the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and The Spirit Level. The book I liked the least was Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking3

In terms of stats, I read 7,711 pages of books4 in total, with book lengths ranging for 181 pages to 704 pages.

2016 books - stats

Not surprisingly, the most popular book I read was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the least popular book was the textbook I assigned to my class. Apparently only one other person on all of Goodreads read that textbook, which I’m hoping means none of my students are on Goodreads!

I’m not planning to teach any new courses next year, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be reading more books for fun!

  1. Back before they changed the game so that you can no longer get stuff from Pokéstops when you are travelling at fast speeds. []
  2. For the uninitiated, you only have room for 250 Pokémon in your PokéBox, so once you’ve caught that many, you have to free up space by transferring some of the Pokémon to the professor in exchange for candy. This takes some work, as you need to figure out which Pokémon you have extras of and then figure out which is the lowest value Pokémon so you know which one to get rid of. []
  3. And that includes all the textbooks I read! []
  4. I also read some unholy number of pages of journal articles. I wish there were a site like Good Reads where I could track all my journal article reading! []

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Easter Treats – My First New Food Item for 2016

Due to my immune system having gone MIA for the first 3 months of this year, I’m rather behind on many of my goals. Including the goal of “Make 16 new food or drink items that I’ve never made before” for which, up until Thursday, I have made a grand total of 0. But now that I’m mostly healthy (just waiting out the remainder of my 100 day cough – which isn’t infectious, it’s just irritated lungs), I have made my first new food item of the year, just in time for Easter!

Easter treats

Easter treats

One of these eggs is hatching!

This treat was super easy to make and combines three awesome things – Rice Krispie squares (or nests, in this case), Mini-Eggs1, and Peeps.

  1. I’m generally a chocolate snob, preferring to eat high quality dark chocolate, but for some reason the combo of milk chocolate and whatever heaven they make that candy shell from makes Mini-Eggs one of my exceptions. See also: Reese peanut butter cups. []

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New Food #1 for 2016: Cream Puffs

It’s almost the end of February and I’m totes behind on all my goals (And I just realized by looking at the date that it’s my Uncle Harry’s birthday and it’s too late (in Ontario, where he lives) for me to call him – Happy birthday, Uncle Harry!). Well, I guess I’m doing OK on one goal: bringing my lunch to work 75% of the time – I currently sit at 76%, so I’m on track for that goal so far! But I ended up being too sick to start training for the UBC triathlon and the Delta triathlon (in March & April, respectively), which means I’ve made no progress on my triathlon goal, very little progress on my run/bike/swim 1000 km goal, and no progress towards my sub-1:50 half marathon goal, plus I *gained* a few pounds instead of losing (thanks to not being able run), though the food poisoning seems to have taken care of those pounds, at least for the moment. I haven’t knocked anything off my 101 list, nor painted a room, nor done most of the rest of the stuff on my goal list.

However, today I managed to make one new food item that I’ve never made before, meaning that I’m 1/16th of the way through the goal of making 16 new food or drink items that I’ve never made before. Cream puffs!

Last night I made a steak and carrot pie for dinner, using half a package of puff pastry for the crust, which meant today I was faced with the eternal question: What should I do with the other half of the package? On Friday my business analyst at work was telling me about this place she went to that has amazing cream puffs, and I guess that was stuck in my brain so I decided to make some of those.

I know it’s a bit of a cheat to use frozen pastry dough, but I decided to make the custard from scratch, which I’ve never done before. It was actually surprisingly easy and it tastes shockingly good.

Cream puffs

The picture doesn’t really do them justice – I think they almost look like scrambled egg sandwiches! I use free range eggs and so the yolks are very yellow, which makes the custard very yellow. I guess if I’d used caged hen eggs, where the yolks are super pale, the custard might be prettier, but I much prefer free range eggs. And it tasted great, which is what’s really important. I think next time I’m going to try making the dough from scratch.

The custard required three egg yolks, which meant I was left with three unused egg whites. I used one of the egg whites for glazing the pastry, which means now I’m faced with the eternal question: What should I make with my two egg whites?

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Goals for 2016

Unlike last year, when I’d been working on my goal list for a month and a half at this point, this year I starting working on this list on today (Dec 31!). I mean, I’ve had some thoughts about it during the year, but they’ve been fleeting thoughts here and there, not a real list. I decided to structure it off of last year’s list and see what I come up with!

Health

  1. Run a sub-1:50 half marathon. I’ve been aiming for a sub-2 hr half marathon for quite some time now and last year I was close twice, but not quite close enough. So I think that aiming for 2 hours isn’t leaving me enough breathing room – any little thing1 can make me miss the 2 hour mark. If I’m training for sub-1:50 and I miss it by a few minutes, I’ll still get the elusive sub-2 hour race accomplished.
  2. Run/bike/swim 1000 km. I ran 800 km in 2015, which involved solid training for two half marathons. I’m not 100% sure of what races I’m going to do this year, but see my next goal for why I’ve decided to including biking and swimming along with running!
  3. Run a triathlon. I’ve been wanting to do one of these for years and I think I just need to bite the bullet and sign up for one. Signing up for races is always the best motivation for me to get training!
  4. Add 6 new medals to my collection. I got 5 this year, so let’s up it to 6 for next year. Race medal inflation should help!
  5. Complete the 100 push up challenge. Didn’t do this one in 2015, so I’m adding it to the 2016 list!
  6. Bring lunch to work 75% of the time. In 2015 I only did just over 50%, but I think I can do better!
  7. Lose those last 5 lbs that I gained during my MBA. Maybe triathlon training and significantly more homemade lunches will help?

Wealth

  1. Pay off 16% of my mortgage principal. Seems like a good goal for 2015. Also, I should probably clarify I mean my original principal, not my remaining principal. Last year those were pretty much one and the same, as I only bought my condo half way through 2014 so hadn’t paid off a tonne by the start of 2015, but since I paid off a lot in 2015, this year the distinction is required.

Misc

  1. Submit at least one article for publication. It takes a long time to get through the whole publication process, and since I have nothing currently in the pipeline, it’s probably not reasonable to have something published by this time next year. But I can certainly get something submitted!
  2. Complete 16 items from my 101 list. I did 15 this year, which means there are fewer easy ones left on the list to choose from, so this might be a challenge. Challenge accepted!
  3. Paint a room. I want my bedroom to be a different colour than it currently is. Is anyone good at painting and wants to help me?
  4. Get screeched in. I’m planning to go to Newfoundland for a conference in June and since it is the last of the 10 provinces that I need to go to complete my quest to go to all of the provinces2, it seems like a screeching in ceremony is in order!
  5. Make 16 new food or drink items that I’ve never made before.
  6. Write 116 blog postings.

So there are my 16 goals for 2016!

  1. Like my GPS watch being less than perfect a la BMO Vancouver or a long wait on a freezing bridge before the race causing a need for a pee break a la Montreal. []
  2. The bigger quest is to go to all of the provinces and the territories, so I have my sights set on the Yukon and Nunavut too! []

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All the Books I Read in 2015!

I started tracking the books I’m reading on GoodReads this year and it made a nice summary of the 18 books I read (i.e. surpassing my goal of 15 books), so I just stole screenshots from that report. #Efficiency

GoodReads 2015 - part 1
GoodReads 2015 - part 2

The above list includes:

  • 4 books that I read for one of the courses that I taught
  • 5 books that I read for my book club
  • 1 book that I read for work
  • 8 non-fiction books that I read out of interest

Wow, I just realized there isn’t a single fiction book on that list that I just chose to read myself. Good thing for my book club or I wouldn’t have read any fiction at all!

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All the Things I Completed From My 101 List in 2015

Here’s a summary, by month, of the items that I completed from my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, during 2015:

Month Items Completed
Jan 58. Ski at Whistler
66. Take the Peak to Peak gondola in Whistler
Feb 27. Update my address on every account I have by the time my mail forwarding ends
Mar 28. Update my budget to reflect my new financial situation
Apr 64. Go on a Paddle Wheeler cruise down the Fraser River
May 89. Increase the amount of money I loan out via Kiva by 100%
93. Get a book chapter published
46. Go to Nova Scotia
Jun 56. Go to Bowen Island
69. Create a balcony herb garden
86 Decorate a cake in a creative and awesome way
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct 91. Paint something worth hanging on my wall
Nov
Dec 4. Create a computer simulation model.
92. Get a journal article published
38. Write a will