Belle: Movie Review and Netflix Time Saver

I love Netflix but of the time I spend on it, half is dedicated to actually picking something and I know I’m not alone. Allow me to ease this first world problem.

Belle, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is a story based on this painting:

Lady Elizabeth Murray and Dido Belle, once attributed to Zoffany

The painting depicts Lady Elizabeth Murray in the foreground and her cousin Dido Elizabeth Belle behind her. Dido was born to a naval officer and an enslaved woman in the West Indies. Her mother died and her father brought her to her great-uncle’s home to be raised. Confusion and anger and love ensued.

I loved this movie. Here are three reasons why:

1. The discussion of race and class and how to raise an English lady that wasn’t white. Both aunt and uncle were very matter-of-fact about Dido and what to do with her. There was never a “maybe people would just accept her” or “it doesn’t matter what others think.” Dido was without a doubt loved but was made to eat dinner on her own. To sit with the servants would have been beneath her but to eat with her family would have be going against the ever important ‘tradition’.

2. The Zong Trial that happens concurrently throughout the story. Dido’s great uncle was the chief magistrate of a case where a slave ship unloaded their cargo (read: slaves) during their journey because they didn’t have enough water to provide said cargo. The ship then went on to claim insurance on the cargo that they discarded. Really though, they packed the slaves in the ship so tightly that they all were sickly and would dead before arrival and the company didn’t want to go with a complete loss. Everything about the paragraph I just typed makes me sick.

3. The discussion of how women were given really shitty life options. Dido is given a substantial amount of money from her father but who is going to want to marry a black girl? Her cousin has no dowry and who’s going to marry a poor girl? So, Dido is groomed for the old maid, lady of the house, keeper of the keys gig and her cousin is forced to parade herself around and marry the first man who will overlook her poverty. HOW ARE THOSE THE ONLY TWO OPTIONS?!

Bonus: The main male love interest is easy on the eyes. Realllllly easy.

Moving to London: The Budget Anxiety


So I’ll be moving to London at the end of June which is like, tomorrow. The semester feels like it’s been moving at breakneck speed and between juggling a relationship family, friends, work, the gym, and planning a big move, life has become pretty overwhelming. My current cause of anxiety is finding a place to live, finding a job and figuring out what I can afford.

The cost of living in London is not cheap. At all. We’re looking for either a studio or a 1-bedroom flat with good access to transport. I would prefer to live in a 1-bedroom a bit further out if it means not having to do everything in one room. It’s ridiculous what passes as an apartment.


When your bed doubles as the dinner table

When your bed doubles as the dinner table. And a desk. And a couch. 

I also need an oven. I refuse to cook for a year using a hotplate and a microwave.

We’re both hoping to pull in a salary in the mid 20’s (the going rate for teachers in the UK is between £22 000 and £37 000). At this point we’re going off of what Ross remembers prices being along with some research. Here is what we came up with with regard to monthly expenses:

  • Rent £500
  • Utilities £80
  • Food £120 ←Ross thinks this is enormously over estimated. But I really like food.
  • Cell £25
  • Oyster Card £144.10 ← This is for zones 1, 2 and 3
  • Internet £20
  • Gym £50
  • Council Tax £50 <– like a city tax that you pay monthly

Which brings our monthly grand total of necessities to about £990.

If we both make   £24 000, that bring us to £1600 net per person, per month after taxes (I used this handy calculator). That would give us about £800 extra per month to use for extras be it eating out, traveling shopping for all the things  and any other expenses that come up.

I’m pretty new to adulthood and this will be my first time wearing the big girl panties in all aspects of life and without the option of taking them off and giving them to my mom to launder. I’m scared and worried and excited.

lets go

List O’Things, The Second

Happy Friday!! There are 24 more school days left until exams, not that I’m counting or anything.

Here are some fun things from this week:

Grace and Frankie

This Netflix Original show is about two older couples whose husbands leave their wives. For each other. It stars Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. It’s only a few episodes so I can justifying binge watching it this weekend:)

High Park Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossom Time: AKA Peak Season for People Taking Pictures In The Park

Cherry Blossom Time: AKA Peak Season for People Taking Pictures In The Park

So, the cherry blossom trees in High Park are a big deal in Toronto. They were gifted to the city by the Japanese and only bloom for about 5 days and people. Go. Nuts. I went before work today (I live nearby and I’m a morning person) and by 7:30am, the park was full of people taking pictures and getting their cherry blossom on before they disappear. If you’re in the city this weekend, they really are worth a visit.



This s’more was made with a chocolate topped digestive. We don’t mess around.

I know there is over a month until official summer but we bbq’d last night and had s’mores. We sat outside and were generally filled with joy and all of those feeings that come with sun and green grass.

This 8Tracks Playlist

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 5.10.16 PM

I no longer have the time or care required to make a workout playlist. I love that I can go to a website where I can piggy back on someone else’s (link in picture).


Also, I aspire to look that good in Spanks.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up


You guys, I think I found my Japanese sister from another mister.

I have always been a tidy person so when I saw Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing at the bookstore this winter I knew I needed to read it. I went to the library to put it on hold and there were almost a thousand people on the waiting list. Ain’t nobody got time for a wait like that.

Last week Eric, a colleague and friend, came in with it and said that he had finally received this really cool book about tidying and that he had waited forever for it and did anyone want to read it before it expired? Omigod MEEEE.

And so I settled in and began to read her wisdom and realized that Marie Kondo is pretty awesome but also kinda crazy.

Things I read that made me say ‘YASSSSS':

  • I am a crazy person when it comes to organization. We don’t need all the stuff we have and I’m pretty good at parting with said stuff. However when I help friends clean out their places, sometimes friendships are threatened because some people want to keep three very similar bath robes. Kondo’s remedy to this is hold every object and ask yourself ‘does this spark joy?’ if yes, keep and if no, discard.
  • She is also a huge believer in not tidying a bit at a time but to go big. Take all of the clothes out of your closet, take all the books down from your bookcase. Essentially make a huge mess before your actually see any real results. This totally works.
  • I came to a paragraph that spoke about how she would tidy like a mad woman the day before an exam which obviously led me to exclaim “omigod, sistersssss.’ My room was always at it’s neatest if I had an essay that needs writing. Her thoughts are that we clean what’s around us to create control and order when other areas of our lived are disorderly.
  • ‘Don’t be fooled by the word ‘storage” it will turn your house into Monica’s closet. Just get rid of your stuff.


Things that brought out the lol’s:

  • She has a section called “Don’t Let Your Family See”. I can’t tell you how many times my mom has yelled at me for getting rid of useless stuff only to keep it herself and add it to a junk drawer. When your significant other wonders where their “really cool” fringed jacket from the 80’s went, plead the fifth.
  • Marie Kondo reallllly cares about her socks. In a section on how to organize your sock drawer she warns against the perils of balling up your socks. “I pointed to the balled up socks. ‘Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you think they can really get any rest like that?'”
  • She thanks all her stuff. Everyday. As in “thank you for your hard work today, purse” and then she puts it where it belongs.
  • This book is translated to English from Japanese and you can really tell in some of the delivery. This testimonial made me giggle:

Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don’t. So I got a divorce. Now I feel much happier.

She’s serious though. I feel like she wrote this book while drinking green tea and floating under a cherry blossom. I get the feeling that she doesn’t actually walk but glide from place to place.

Full disclaimer: I skimmed this book. I didn’t feel that I needed to pour more time into it because I already do what she’s preaching but if you’re messy and want to fix it and can take some of her ideas with a grain of salt, I would give this book a read. And if you want some giggles, it’s good for that too.

You’re Going to Read This Book and You’re Going To Like It, Dammit

This week I assigned my classes, both ESL and English, their culminating activity for the semester. I essentially gave each class the same assignment with the appropriate modifications. Their task is to read a book, any book* and sell it to me and a few other students in a small group ‘Book Talk’ at the end of the semester. I used this document as a template and tweaked it a bit here and there.

I’m 100% sure they could hear my students moaning in Siberia when I pitched it to them yesterday. Some gems (keep in mind that these are 16-19 year olds):

“Miss, I’ve never read a book”


“Can I please watch a movie instead”

“How many chapters does this book have to be? I want this one because it’s short.”

“Ohmigod that book is HUGE”

“No you can’t read the ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ ”

I spent an entire day explaining that short yet boring books can feel like you’re reading something akin to a Bible, that I believe that we can find the right book for each student  and that no, they can’t watch a movie instead.

I don’t remember the last time I saw so much teen angst.


The marks buy-in is this: come to class every day, read for 20 minutes without talking or looking at an electronic device (save for music) and you get 10% of the allotted 30% for the end of the year activities. Today was the first day of reading and it went swimmingly in every single one of my classes. My most challenging class is usually a zoo. It is a group of wonderful, annoying, unmotivated, chatterboxes. They’re good kids but they are expert button pushers, like, elite level, and they were reading. Really and truly reading and then they went on to say that they were enjoying they stories that they were reading.

Maria knows my joy

The claaaassroom’s alive….with the sound of reaaddinggg. Preach it Maria.

One of my wild new arrivals from Portugal is reading “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” and she didn’t look at her phone and she was the quietist of the lot. Judy Blume, I knew I could count on you. I’m so, so pleased and I wish I had done this sooner. Plus when they’ve settled down for 20 minutes, it makes teaching my lesson that much easier. All of the experienced teachers in the land are saying “duh” in unison, I know this.

I realized midway through the semester that the only time I really have the full attention of my students is when I’m reading. Who doesn’t love a good story? I know I can get their attention but I want them to know that they can become readers. I want them to know that books are not just a collection of bound pages but that they are mini brain-vacations that they can carry in their pockets.

I just want them to love books, okay?!

*the books did have to be vetted by me– I had to stop a few capable gr. 11’s from reading Wimpy Kid and Archie Comics, among others.

Read These Books: Red Rising and Golden Son


I hope you have a bunch of spare time on your hands because if you decide to read these books (and you REALLY should), you’ll need it. Pierce Brown has written books that make me want to call in sick to finish them. R tried to interrupt me in the last 10 pages of Golden Son yesterday and I looked a little like this:

Ummm IT


I swear I’m usually a reasonable and kind and patient person. Except for when a book is about to end.

I read Red Rising last year and really liked it but it was one of those books that was so fast paced and had so many twists that I just wanted to get to the end and know what happened. When I went to read Golden Son, I couldn’t really remember what happened in the first book so I had to re read it.

I’m so glad I did.

Red Rising is set on Mars, in a world where society is divided by colour, with Gold running the show and Red being the basest colour with mining being their main industry. Being a Red is no better than being a slave. They are a warm people that like dancing and spending time with their families but they are the poorest in society, and because of their environment they die young and often in vain. The easiest way I’ve heard the series described is the Hunger Games in space but that’s such an insult. Yes there are similarities in the way the worlds work on a caste system and that it’s dystopian and futuristic, but that’s about it.

I won’t go too much into plot because the best part of the book is not knowing what to expect.

What I will talk about is what a masterful writer Pierce Brown is. This guy know’s what’s up. And he’s cute.

Oh, hey Pierce Brown, don't mind if I do...

Oh, hey Pierce Brown, don’t mind if I do…


I like Brown’s writing for two reasons: his characters are so wonderfully written and watching them grow, especially Darrow, is so satisfying. Where Red Rising is about rage and revenge, Golden Son is about change, understanding and trust.

When the series starts Darrow is very Reds Need Revenge! Golds Suck! but as his story continues he realizes that to paint everyone with the same brush is to be no better than they people he is fighting (duh).

“There is no morality to him. No goodness. No evil intent when he killed Eo. He believes he is beyond morality. His aspirations are so grand that he has become inhuman in his desperate desire to preserve humanity.”

Along with beautiful little bits of philosophy on human nature, Red Rising and Golden Son contain a great deal of history and mythology which this history nerd loved.

“Tradition is the crown of the tyrant.”


List O’Things


These last few weeks have been rough with report cards being due and planning lessons and trying to get to the gym (it helps me to feel better about eating my face off all the time. I can’t help it that I require a chocolate inclusion at every meal).

You guys, I love Friday. So much. Here are some other things I love:


2. Being able to walk home from work.

IMG_2663I know this isn’t exactly news but Canadian winters suck so the moment there is no biting wind or snow, people rejoice. Like full on Alleluia choirs wearing shorts and holding beers.

3. This song

I don’t watch True Detective but I’m obsessed with this untitled, unreleased song by Lera Lynn. Though, I do love Rachel McAdams so I’ll probably end up watching this.

4. Panera

Turkey Avocado BLT and Chicken Soup. So good.

Turkey Avocado BLT and Chicken Soup. So good.

Panera, while it’s been around for a while in the US of A, is relatively new up here and it’s a great place to work and have something substantial to eat. I went to Starbucks yesterday and had a tall, skinny, Cinnamon Dolce latte and a bag of the nuts they sell because I was trying to make a good decision while avoiding the saucy gaze of the ginger cookie. The bill was just over $7. SEVEN DOLLARS for coffee and a handful of nuts. Moral: I should’ve had the cookie, obviously. Anyway, I like that Panera offers healthy food choices and substantial portions and free tea refills (the ginger peach black tea is yummy) and comfy seats and wifi. Suck on that, Starbucks.

5. Amy Schumer. That is all.

Just like my BFF Tina Fey, Amy doesn’t know it yet but we’re also best friends.

I leave you with those nuggets. Have a great weekend y’all!

So You Want To Teach In London?


In June I will be embarking on a well thought-out adventure to London, England. Though the thought of just gallivanting around Europe seems like best idea ever, I’ll probably need to earn some money for things like shopping and traveling food and shelter and given that I have a degree that travels well and that I’m going to an English-speaking country, teaching is a no brainer.

I will give myself absolutely no credit for this idea though. The job landscape for teachers in Ontario has been dire since I graduated with my BEd in 2011 and many British teacher placement agencies have sniffed out the abundance on this side of the pond, recruiting Canadian educated teachers for their understaffed schools. I was getting emails for guaranteed supply teaching with the promise of long-term and even permanent jobs before I even graduated.

Many companies will even send over scouts to hire teachers en masse and are usually present at job fairs with the message usually being “come travel Europe and actually use your degree” They are well aware of the fact that many Canadian teachers go on to get jobs that have nothing to do with teaching until a job comes along (hello, two years of retail. I don’t miss you at all). So, they encourage you to spend those years gaining experience elsewhere and I mean, it’s England so it’s not exactly a hard sell. Clever. Veeery clever.

Here are the steps I took in looking for a job once I knew my trip was a done deal.

1. Finding an agency. I researched a number of agencies at Rate my Teaching Agency and I spoke to some friends that are currently teaching in London. The supply jobs are interesting in the UK as they go through agencies, so you can get called to whichever school that agency works with– private, public, primary, the whole lot. She would get last-minute calls from her agency at say, 7:30 and would have to be at the school for 8am. However the school would be across the city and she would inevitably arrive late which would reflect poorly on her. Needless to say, it wasn’t right for her but with the large number of agencies, she was able to find a better one. You don’t have to go through an agency but it makes it everything much easier and it’s free!! The schools pay for it:)

2. Picking an agency. I met with an agency called Prospero Teaching that has an office here in Toronto. It isn’t the highest rated agency but there was someone I could talk to in person and I liked that she would help me set stuff up on this end. By ‘stuff’ I mean a free Oyster travel card which is where you put your money to travel around London on the Tube, phone SIM card (apparently getting a phone plan will be hard. Credit history doesn’t transfer over. Sad trombone), a UK bank account and National Insurance number. The less bureaucratic red tape I have deal with, the better. I’ll fill you in on how it goes with the agency when I get there:)

3. Deciding when to go. The woman I met with said that some UK schools don’t finish until the second week of July and school here in Toronto finishes on the 26th of June. She said it was worth it to go over for those two weeks because schools will often offer to pay you for the month of August if you are willing to come back in September. They’re that desperate. Once I knew when my leaving date was, I applied for my visa.

4. Applying for a visa. Because I’m Canadian, the visa was super easy to get. I’m going under a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa and the requirements are listed in the link. It’s pretty easy to follow the online application system and costs about $500 cdn.

5. Getting a police check. Prospero organized a back check for me through a website called It was easy and cheap but some organizations want a police check from the country in which you live so look into one asap– they take forever.

6. Applying for QTS. National College for Teaching and Leadership is the governing body for teachers in the UK so you need to be recognized by them before you can actually teach. If you’re from Canada you need to fill out a QTS (Qualified teacher Status) form– it’s an easy online application.

7. Sit pretty until you have to leave. Also, try not to freak out over the fact that London is the most expensive place in the world to live. Cat food for dinner err day.

When Good Teachers Teach: Grace

These will be posts where I fangirl over my colleagues and try to figure out how to be them when I grow up.

I’ve been at my current school since early February and I’m already sad about leaving in June. Sure, the kids are tough and on most days I don’t teach anything that I’ve planned but I am growing as a teacher and I am surrounded by people from whom I can truly learn.

When you witness a good teacher in action, what you are really seeing is magic and I get to see it all the time. Allow me to tell you about one of these amazing people.



Upon graduating from teacher’s college, you are encouraged to become a less fun version of yourself. You come out with tidbits of advice like the following:

  • Don’t have a social media presence!
  • Don’t tell your students anything about you unless it’s necessary!
  • Have a ‘teacher’ persona and a ‘you’ persona
  • The less personality you have, the better! Boring is best!

Ok, I made the last one up but basically that’s the point.

My Department Head is in her mid-forties and she is the antithesis of teacher’s college in every way. She spends the budget on books that we are passionate about and doesn’t force ‘Of Mice and Men’ on anyone (for this, I love her. So much). You can hear her laughing with her students from down the hall and she talks about how she refuses to be anyone but herself inside and outside the classroom. She wears cat eye glasses and has a wardrobe of scarves and sweaters that I want to steal. She is so cool.

Nobody likes a wet blanket and why should teachers have to become one? I totally understand boundaries but I’m not a celebrity so when my students ask me about my personal life, I’ll answer (as long as it’s appropriate).

Do you have a house? Nope, I live at home.

Do you have a fancy car? If you want to call my minivan fancy, sure.

Are you married? No, but one day I’d like to be.

These are things that make us human beings and not just lesson spewing robots. It’s a lot easier to breed compassion when you know someone’s story and that goes both ways. It’s also a great way to teach a lesson on social graces.

Grace has taught me that it’s okay to be myself and how much value it holds as a teacher.

When Life Throws You Awesomeness, Go With It

So, a little while ago I met R, who is swiftly becoming my other half. We met, I heard his English accent, swooned and now I’m moving to England in July for a year. A whole bunch of stuff happened in between but that’s the gist.

His visa expires in June and instead of going through the ordeal of a long distance relationship, I’ve been granted a leave of absence for a year and am going to teach in London.

It took me two years to get the job I have now and part of me thinks I’m crazy for leaving (even with permission) and the other half is exhilarated and all ‘Eff you conventionalism, you can’t tell me what to do!’

Behold how I make decisions.


  • I get to live with and travel around Europe with a guy I love (ya, I said it)
  • LONDON. Think of the field trip options!! MUSEUMS ARE FREEEEEEE. I can’t even deal
  • I get to be a real life version of the movie ‘About Time’ but without the time travel. Or the obsession with Kate Moss. That girl needs to eat some sandwiches. If you haven’t seen this movie, drop everything and go do that. Now. Unless you hate predictable rom coms, in which case, maybe sit this one out.


  • There is an abundance of teaching jobs in London and the surrounding area. Three cheers for degrees that travel! More on this in another post.
  • Things like polar vortexes don’t happen over there.
  • I’ll have soooo much to blog about, you guys. And by ‘you guys’ I mean my immediate family and colleagues upon which I have forced this blog.
  • I get to try my hand at a completely different curriculum and student landscape.
  • Teaching in Ontario is very precarious these days with the buzz words being ‘cuts’, ‘closures’ and ‘low enrolment’. Next year’s ripple effect could mean that I would have to go back to day-to-day supply work.
  • Depending on where I end up teaching, it is very likely that the year will count towards my years of experience when I come back.


  • My board is very much seniority based, so a year away will probably mean that a year’s worth of people will climb above my name on The List. When I come back, long term jobs will come to me quite bit later, if at all.
  • With everything being so weird with teachers, I worry that I’m putting myself at risk of losing my job. Right now I have amazing benefits, great pay and a certain degree of stability– I’d be gutted if that all went away.
  • London is expensive. I’m a money saving ninja so the fact that I won’t really be saving any money is a hard pill to swallow. I really want to house. What is it about immigrant Italians and their kids that makes them allergic to renting?
  • I’ll really miss my family. I’ll miss my niece’s first day of school and a bunch of other milestones, I’m sure. This is #4 because my parents have travel industry benefits and it’s only a year. <– this sentence is here for my Mom. Hi Mom!
  • I’ll have to be fully independent. I should be more embarrassed to admit this but my mom is a really good cook and I’m a really good eater. Basically I’m ‘meh’ about having to cook for myself, sigh.
  • I go to an amazing and affordable Crossfit gym here in the city. I checked prices in London and they having me wondering if I’m signing up for a gym or a country club.  I’d rather spend £200 on clothes or traveling or food. Essentially what I’m raying is that I’ll probably have to pay for two seats on the flight home.

Annnnd the Pros have it! Sometimes you have to throw sensibility and caution to the wind if it feels right. All of the negatives, though sensible, are things I can look past. Would it suck if I have to start over when I come home? Yes. Will it take me that much longer to buy a house? Yes. But, opportunities like this and people like R don’t come around often and I know that if I passed this up because of money or seniority I would regret it. Also R has an English accent, so….