Listening recommendation: Week 3

Listening recommendation: Week 3

I will keep my listening recommendation for this week short and sweet. I am recommending one of the most popular and recognized podcasts out there: This American Life. If you are not familiar with this podcast but it rings a bell, you are likely remembering my Week 1: Listening recommendation, the podcast Serial. The creators of This American Life created Serial, giving Serial increased popularity in the podcast world. It’s a bit ironic that I actually learned about This American Life from Serial.

What I like about This American Life is that they cover a variety of topics and places through storytelling. Each episode has a theme and despite the name of the podcast, they really do cover anything and everything, from places near and far across the globe. Being an Anthropology major, I love it! Produced weekly, they are on episode 602 as I am writing this, and have been producing episodes since 1995. Needless to say, there’s a lot of listening material here.

To get you started, here are three of my favourite episodes so far:

Podcast Episode 560: Abdi and the Golden Ticket

Episode 587: The Perils of Intimacy

Episode 594: My Summer Self

Some episodes will make you laugh, some will make you smile and some will even make you cry, while others will make you mad, but I guarantee you will learn something new and gain a different perspective than you had before. Enjoy!

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Listening recommendation: Week 2

Listening recommendation: Week 2

What are you listening to? Here is my weekly listening recommendation…

For my second weekly listening recommendation, I am suggesting an audio book I listened to last fall. I enjoyed this book so much that, although I would primarily listen to it while running, I found myself also listening to it while sipping on a glass of wine on a Friday night and even before bed.

The book is called Before the Poison by Peter Robinson, presented by HarperAudio (HarperCollins Publishers) and performed by Susan Lyons and Toby Lennet Moore.  The story begins in present day, with the move of a successful Hollywood film music composer, back to England after the death of his wife. Moving back to his hometown in Yorkshire, the main character Chris finds himself in an old isolated house that he bought sight unseen. The house proves to be more than he bargained for when Chris finds out that a Book Cover of Before the Poisonprevious owner had died there sixty years ago and his wife was convicted and hanged for his murder.  As Chris gets pulled into the mystery and learns more about the characters that were a part of this event, we the listener find out about the life of a battlefield nurse in World War II and the serious implications that it had.

This story has lots of twists and turns. More than just the story itself, I truly enjoyed the performances of Susan Lyons and Toby Lennet Moore. If you love a good mystery with a bit of historical fiction, you will definitely enjoy this book as well!

You can find the audio book on Libraries on the Go, as part of the Southern Ontario Library Service (and I am sure others) or you can purchase it online. Happy listening!

The charms of the farm…

The charms of the farm…

Okay, so aside from the commute, moving to Milton really wasn’t that bad. I know what you are thinking; I mentioned several challenges in my Hello Milton… post.  One of those challenges was the farm. When I moved to Milton, not only did I move from downtown Toronto to the suburbs, but I also moved from an apartment into a farmhouse.  What I shared with you in that earlier post did not shed the most positive light on farmhouse living; and let’s be serious, I don’t want you going around thinking that it was all ceramic chickens and ‘Home is where your boots dry’ signs. So, here are some of the charms of the farm.

A space of our own.  One of the best things about the farmhouse was not the house itself, but the land around it. Our home was situated on 75 acres of beautiful and wonderful open space. Now that is something you won’t find in Toronto! With Taylor being a landscaper, our house was surrounded by plush gardens and a big open deck that wrapped around two sides of the house. From there our yard stretched out, what felt like forever. I have fond memories of bonfires, golf (Taylor had installed a mini golf course he called Par 3 out front), every lawn game you can think of, and the best part … endless parking (our own, much cheaper version, of the Green P).

Peace and quiet. One of the first things I noticed about the farmhouse was the absolute silence that came with nighttime. There were no city noises like traffic, honking, sirens, drunk people yelling at each other, street fights…I could go on.  Instead, it felt like any noise was sucked up by the expanse of space and any sounds that did reach our ears were the comforting sounds of nature.  On the other hand, if we were the noisy ones, that was okay – we had no neighbors to disturb.

The wildlife.  After a peaceful night’s sleep at the farm, waking up to birds chirping was not uncommon. If the sun was shining they were singing. There were several types of birds from doves to blue jays, chickadees, cardinals, one majestic blue heron that had claimed the pond as his home, and many more. One spring we had a dove build its nest outside of our bedroom window. Back in the city this probably would have been considered a nuisance, but at the farm it offered a A mother dove with her two babiesfirsthand viewing of the Discovery Channel. We watched as the mama bird produced two perfect eggs, nestled on top of them to warm and protect them, and got to see the babies after they hatched. I was mesmerized the first time I got to witness their dinner time and excited to see the babies develop into little teenage birds, ready to fly the coup.

Rustic charm. The farmhouse itself was really quite beautiful. It had original natural hardwood throughout the house, exposed wooden beams, a wood burning Wood burning stove at farmhouse.stove and a hidden back entrance up to the master bedroom, which used to be the servants’ quarters. Despite being cold in the winter the house actually gave off a
very comfortable, homey feel that I genuinely miss.

You can grow your own veggies! My favourite thing about farmhouse living was the option to grow my own vegetables. Taylor, being the green thumb he is, was all for it and we have kept a garden on the property since my first summer in Milton.

There is nothing like the satisfaction of making a meal filled with organic veggies that you have grown yourself and picked fresh. In the fall I love to have my Toronto girlfriends out to Milton for “the harvest,” when they get to pick some of their own favourite veggies from the garden and we make a big feast out of what we’ve picked.
Vegges from our first gardenWe have had some failures and some successes with the garden, and every year we learn something new. I will never forget the first time I went out to the garden to find green onion shoots poking their heads out of the ground. We have had great success with tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, kale, Swiss chard, onions, zucchini, spaghetti squash, raspberries, hot peppers and lots of fresh herbs. We are still working on our wish list of garlic, potatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and corn.  Got any tips? We’re all ears…..or not.

More on becoming a Milton-foodie in my next post.

Listening recommendation: Week 1

Listening recommendation: Week 1

What are you listening to? Here is my weekly listening recommendation…

I am going to start my weekly listening recommendation with a podcast. I know that I mentioned podcasts are my last ‘go-to’ as far as listening options in the car go, but this particular podcast is exceptional. Also, it was brought up in my Foundations of Digital Communication and Social Media class last week. My instructor played the start of an episode and the theme song alone brought back my obsession with it. Almost everyone I have introduced this podcast to loves it.

It was my friend Kate who recommended it to me and when I asked her where she would listen to it (she didn’t drive that much at the time), she said it was so good that she would listen to it any chance she got. Yes, it really is that good! For me, it was the beginning of the year and I had challenged myself to run 1000 km in 2016. Living in Canada, January was a rough time to get back into running outside; that is until I listened to the first episode of Serial.

Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life. There are two seasons, each telling a different true story. Week after week, the host of the podcast takes us through a chapter of the story, unfolding the mystery and introducing us to the various characters that come into play. We the listener, learn new details about the story, not long after they are discovered by the producers themselves.  What truly makes this podcast so great, is the host. A former newspaper reporter with a serious talent for story telling, Sarah Koenig uses her experience in journalism to uncover the facts. I could honestly listen to Sarah Koenig talk all day. She is amazing at bringing up and answering questions at the exact moment you think of them. It is like she is reading your mind. As my instructor Donna Papacosta so accurately put it, it feels like she is talking directly to you and only you.

I highly recommend this podcast to get you through your morning and evening commute. I suggest you start with the more popular Season 1, a completely captivating true story about high school love and a murder.

How do I play podcasts?

You can play podcasts on your computer by going to the podcast’s website and either streaming or downloading episodes. You can also play them on your phone, which is the way to listen to them while commuting. Most smartphones come with a default podcast app. On the iPhone it looks like this:

Podcast App Icon

It’s good to note that streaming episodes on your phone will use up your data, which could end up getting costly. A better option is to download an episode while on WiFi and listen to it afterwards.

How do I find Serial?

You can find Serial on most podcast apps by searching for it. You may get other podcasts that are about Serial, but they are not the original Serial. You want the one that looks like this:

Serial Podcast Icon

Be sure to double check the season and episode numbers, as the search results don’t always bring them up in order, and you don’t want to spoil anything for yourself.

That should do it! Enjoy. Oh and uh, you’re welcome!

What to listen to while you drive…

What to listen to while you drive…

In my last post I talked about steps to surviving your commute.  The one thing that really gets me through my commute is listening to something. I would even go so far as to say that I enjoy the commute, because of what I listen to. I am not a picky listener either. I will listen to pretty much anything and everything, but some things are definitely better than others!

My top three sources of pure listening entertainment…

  1. CBC Radio 1 – I LOVE this radio station. I promise they aren’t paying me to say this; they really do have great content. I love Matt Galloway’s Metro Morning and if I am driving early enough to hear him, I will tune in. For my evening commute back home, my go-to is CBC’s As It Happens at 6:30 p.m.. Carol Off and Jeff Douglas make me laugh, and sometimes cry, with their quirky rendition of the day’s events. While they can be serious with some of the issues they cover and seem to take a strong stance on controversial topics, they are enjoyable to listen to and interview some very interesting people from across the globe. I always chuckle to myself, both at the odd-ball stories they tell and the inevitable pun that gets delivered at the beginning of every episode.
  1. OverdriveOverdrive is an app I have on my phone that connects me to Libraries on the Go. Many local library memberships in the GTA give you access to Libraries on the Go, which hosts hundreds of eBooks and audio-books. If you live in a suburb and work in the city, you may be able to get a membership at both local libraries, giving you access to even more online books! I use Overdrive to download audio-books, which I listen to during my drive. They are more convenient than audio-books on CD and they are way more affordable. Of course, there are some additional considerations that factor into liking an audio-book or not, the narrators voice and style being major ones. I have enjoyed most of the books I’ve listened to. It’s like being a kid again, listening to a bedtime story… except they are adult books and they do not put you to sleep (hopefully).
  1. Podcasts – I listen to podcasts in the car a lot less often than audio-books or the radio, but there are some fantastic podcasts out there and they fill in the gaps between books. It was also a podcast series that got me through a winter of running outdoors last year. I’ve been hooked ever since. There are so many podcasts to choose from, and with millions of topics and stories there is something for everyone. They are convenient too; you can listen to a podcast episode right on your phone. Apple products come with their own Podcasts App, as do most other Smartphones out there. Many podcast producers also have their own apps from which you can stream or download episodes.

With coming up on four years of listening experience, I would like to share the best of what I have heard. On Sundays, I will start getting you ready for your week by posting an audio-book or podcast that I recommend, and if I happen to hear a good radio segment on CBC, I will share that too. My aim is to spread the word on audio-books, podcasts and talk radio, to help my fellow commuters everywhere find a bit of enjoyment in the ride.  Even if you don’t commute, maybe you run. Consider taking these audio gems out for a spin; they may just get you to run an extra kilometer or two.

What are you listening to?

Surviving the Commute

Surviving the Commute

One of the biggest adjustments around moving to Milton was definitely the commute factor. I opted to keep my job in Toronto for the sake of, well, sanity. Too much change can be a bad thing and the familiarity of my job was comforting. Plus it gave me an excuse to be in Toronto five days a week, keeping the friend comfort zone umbilical cord intact.
Author's rear view mirror looking back on highway.Now if you grew up anything like me, you have thought to yourself at least once in the course of your life – “Who are these crazy people that commute?” and something along the lines of “I could never do that.” Well as my fellow commuters and I have found out, the power of love and for many people the simple fact of affordable housing, combined with job security, benefits and a promising career flip all of those convictions upside down. It could happen to you. The struggle is real folks! Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, and in the end, it is worth it.

So how do you handle it? Do you curse the whole retched way and scorn the lengthy hold ups that crop up at every turn? Do you stress about every little hiccup that is going to delay you even more? Do you lash out at your fellow commuters for “walking too slowly” or, god forbid, not knowing exactly where they are going? The answer is a very emphatic… NO. You’ll drive yourself insane, rather than just to work. Instead, set yourself to a very reasonable standard of time that it may take you to get to work and you find a way to just enjoy the ride.

I have some steps to help you survive your commute; a warning that they are taken from the standpoint of a driver. You may recall from my last post that the cost of taking the GO Train was exorbitant, so I eventually switched to driving. However, in general, most of these steps can be applied to any mode of commute.

5 Steps to Surviving your Commute…

Step 1: Make yourself comfortable. Get your ride looking and feeling the way you want it to. If you are in the market for a new vehicle, keep in mind how much time you will actually be spending in it. If the answer is a lot, the extra money for conveniences and comforts will pay off. For example, I wouldn’t trade my seat warmers for anything, with maybe the exception of the automatic car starter that I didn’t purchase. Hindsight is always 20/20, so try and think what will make a difference to you when you have to get up in the morning to do your daily commute and its -20 degrees Celsius outside. Think of other things too… Do you need back support? Look into your options. Are your hands always cold? Buy driving gloves.

Also, keep your car clean, on the inside at least. It’s not pleasant getting into an odorous car or one so cluttered with junk or garbage (you know who you are) that you can’t find anywhere to put your stuff down.  Clean out your car every day and you won’t have this problem.

Step 2: Leave yourself time. Try to give yourself a reasonable amount of time when you get up in the morning to do everything you need to do, and then some. I know, easier said than done, and I still struggle with this. One way to cope is to find some flexibility. Talk to your boss about your working hours. Do you have to work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.? If your business isn’t dependent upon you working these exact hours, see if you can find something off peak. Maybe you’re a morning person and working 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. would be amazing or if you struggle in the a.m. like me, try working 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. These are off peak hours and yeah traffic will still be busy, but it won’t be at its worst and you will notice a difference most days. If these hours are not an option for you, at the very least speak to your boss about the unpredictability of commuting and come to an understanding so that you are not stressed the entire journey to work.Photo of sunset

Step 3: Calm down! There is no point in spazzing out over delays – especially if you are driving. Yes traffic will slow down for no reason. Yes some $#!^ driver will cut you off, swerve through traffic and ride your butt when highway traffic is flowing at 60 km/hr. But the truth is, you have no control over any of it, so just let it go. The best way to do this is to find something else to focus on (as well as the road), which leads me to…

Step 4: Take the time out for you. The reality is many of us find very little time that we truly have to ourselves. If we are not physically with other people, we are being texted or emailed or pinged by them. We are in a constant state of socializing and for those of us who lean slightly to the introvert side- it is downright exhausting. The commute provides us with an excuse to zone out, the opportunity to just be in our own moment and do something that we enjoy. I fall into this category. If you do too, go straight to Step #5.

For you extroverts out there, try using your commute time to do even more socializing. Catch up with a family member or good friend the old fashion way…over the phone.  Most phones are equipped with bluetooth now, helping us keep it hands free and legal. Many of us carry out some of our most important relationships via the typed word. And these aren’t even high value words like we used to put in emails, or for those of you who can remember, put on paper, with ink and sent via the mail (you know the stuff that goes in those metal boxes on the side of the street). A good person to call is Grandma. She’d love to hear from you and chances are she doesn’t ping or text, so hearing your voice might just be the highlight of her day and I’d be willing to bet – yours too.

Step 5: Listen to something you enjoy. My favourite thing to do during my commute is to icons-847264_960_720just chill out and listen to something awesome. Yeah, every now and again I’ll make a phone call to someone I haven’t talked to in a while and have a good hour long chat, but for the most part my preferred way to survive my commute is to just shut up and listen to pretty much anything. Oh, and occasionally, I’ll talk back to the radio, audiobook or podcast I’m listening to, and the best part is, they don’t argue back!  Next post I’ll get into the listening options out there and give you some specific recommendations. For now, work on steps 1-4.

…Hello Milton

…Hello Milton

I’ll say that my decision to move to Milton to be with Taylor was an easy one, and that is true for the most part. However, if I am honest, it was a big adjustment. Someone that knows me quite well may question this; after all I have moved MANY times and moving from London to Toronto was a gigantic leap into the unknown. But, the truth is I had become very accustomed to my comfort zone of close friends, easy access to work and my small life in the big city.

Living together the past few years, my roommate Kendall and I had blossomed into great friends. I also happened to have many other very good friends living nearby in Toronto. All of my close girlfriends from university days ended up living in various neighborhoods throughout the city. While my network in Milton was expanding and I actually had family here, it wasn’t going to be the same. But there is a bit more to it than that – Milton and Toronto could not be more different!

Some of the reasons my move to Milton was a big deal…

new-car
My new ride! (Nov 2012)

The commute… I kept my job in the city at Yonge and Bloor, so getting to work would now take two hours, rather than ten minutes and cost about $500 a month, instead of zero.  I started off my commuting life by taking the GO train; I hadn’t driven for two years and was nervous to get back on the road. But I was living in Milton! I had to have a car.  My time and money would become precious commodities and I would have to learn to be patient, finding ways to just enjoy the ride.

My new home “at the farm”… At the time of my move Taylor was living in his childhood home, a large 75 acre farm property just five minutes from downtown Milton.  Taylor lived in the farmhouse and worked out of the adjoining property next door. On paper this sounds like striking ‘suburban- living gold’ and in many ways it was, but there are aspects of farmhouse living that challenged the city in me.  Here are a few examples…

The farm ran on well water for plumbing, which could stop running (with very little warning) at any moment. Most often when my hands were good and lathered up with soap.

While relatively cool in the summer, the farmhouse ran on oil for heat, which turns out to be very expensive.  Being economical resulted in some cold mornings during the winter months, and water that felt like liquid ice coming from the taps.

And then there are the bugs. At any given time of year there is inevitably a species of critter that takes over the farmhouse – spiders, ladybugs, ants, bees, but the most annoying of them all were the flies! If you don’t know what a cluster fly is, be grateful. You can check them out here. For the record, in my experience they do not restrict themselves to unused rooms and they will make themselves quite at home in your bedroom.

farm
The Farmhouse

Access to food… Okay, this one might sound a bit dramatic, but I’m serious! If you learn one thing about me from my blog, it should be that I LOVE food. I enjoy cooking and trying out different recipes, but I also really enjoy eating out. Toronto has endless food options and I was coming from a neighborhood with literally hundreds of options to choose from, at any time of the day. You craved it, you got it!  While Milton has some hidden gems that serve up both delicious fast take-away options and quality sit down meals (we’ll get into those later), I discovered quickly that few places in Milton are open past 9 p.m. When you commute, getting home as late as 8 p.m. sometimes, this can be a huge disappointment.

New to town… By the time I moved to Milton I was still getting to know Taylor’s friends and their partners. I definitely had some networking to do.  While I am a people person, this can still be tricky even for the most extreme extrovert. It’s kind of like dating, except that you are dating lots of people and you want to have relationships with them all! It’s difficult to meet people in a new town and I am still working at it. This American Life podcast, Episode 587:The Perils of Intimacy Act Two “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” sums it up well.

Living with a boy… While Taylor and I have some key things in common, we differ as much as we relate. Plus, I had never lived with a boyfriend before and he had never lived with a girlfriend. To add to the mix Taylor is the baby of his family with two older sisters, while I am an only child. This was going to be interesting.