My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Art Assignment 44: Caption Contest

So I watched this video on my lunch at work and I thought I’d download the image to print it later. However, for some reason when I tried to open the file, my work computer defaulted to Word. It opened the file but converted it to a series of symbols and text, most of which I’ve never seen before. The entire document was 39 pages long. I find it interesting that a one page image broken down so a computer can understand it takes up so much room! You can view the Word doc by clicking on the link below if you’re so inclined. I’ve also included a photo of one page of the document.



I decided to transfer some of this random text onto the image. I like the idea of the image becoming bits of text and then superimposing itself back onto the art. Rathman’s original is the image as we see it and the text is how a computer reads the image. Word also automatically titled the file ‘unspecified’ so I am going to call my final piece Unspecified. #theartassignment



Psst…cancel some plans

So in an earlier post I talked about how giving into my more introverted side helps me control my anxiety. Most of the time I am a go, go, go kind of person. I do yoga every morning. I have an incredibly busy job teaching students with special needs. I attend a lot of meeting on my lunch hour or after school. I hit the gym, make plans with my husband or go out to see friends most nights. However, I cannot (and should not) maintain this pace when I am feeling anxious. I’ve done this in the past and I have made myself sick. So now, I watch my moods more closely and sometimes I preemptively cancel some plans.

There’s nothing more satisfying than doing nothing when you were supposed to be doing something. Once I’m through the awkwardness of actually cancelling plans, I feel a real rush that’s equal parts relief and  self-indulgent joy. Luckily for me, my friends and family all know I have generalized anxiety disorder, so if I need to cancel plans because of anxiety, I can just be honest and they understand.

The dos and donts of gracefully canceling plans

So I want to set a challenge for all the over-worked, burnt out extroverts and introverts. Take a look at your calendar for this month and consciously decide to cancel something. Don’t pick a major event, (please don’t skip your sister’s wedding or refuse to pick up grandma at the airport.) Pick something you don’t really need to attend and call or email to cancel. Want some help gracefully cancelling some plans? Check out this article from The Frisky. Most importantly, once you’ve cancelled that plan, DO NOT schedule something else. Leave that time free for yourself. Do something by yourself. Do nothing by yourself and enjoy.


Time Limits

Right now I feel like there is a time limit on how long I can be around other people. When I’m done work, I’m ready to go home, put on some comfy pants and relax. Let me explain; usually I describe myself as an extrovert. I am very comfortable around groups and I love the company of others. However, I have learned that one of the ways to overcome my anxiety is to become introverted when I am especially anxious. Confused? Check out the comic below for an explanation of how extroverts and introverts recharge differently:

Image courtesy of

So extroverts generally get their energy from spending time with people and introverts get their energy by spending time alone. One of the quirks of my anxiety is that I switch from extrovert to introvert. Actually, one of the ways I can tell if I’m becoming too anxious is when my time with people saps my energy. If I come out of a meeting or a social engagement feeling sluggish and cranky, I know I’m struggling with my anxiety. When I can’t wait to get home after a long day and enjoy the quiet of my house, I know I’ve had a high-stress day or week… or month. In these situations recharging alone is exactly what I need. I need that time to rest and reflect.

I used to see this need to be alone as a weakness. I tied any introverted tendencies I had to my anxiety and made it part of my illness. I thought I had to be extroverted to be happy. I’m starting to discover that this just isn’t true. I actually kind of like being alone. I can do whatever I want. No one is putting demands on me. My time by myself feels like a decadent treat. Plus I’m married to an introvert, so he really digs this time where we can enjoy our time without constantly having to “do something” together.

Image courtesy of

This approach may not be for everyone but it’s working for me. Hey extroverts, we get tired too! Maybe try letting your brain do its own thing for a little while. Try not being “on” for a change. You might just like it.

Art Assignment 43: Constructed Landscape

Pet Fish


My constructed landscape contains:

  • Black craft stones from Michael’s,
  • 4 larger stones from the river near my house,
  • One trimmed branch from my bonsai tree,
  • 3 fish made of craft paper,
  • 3 bamboo skewers and 3 pieces of thread to elevate the fish.

I like the juxtaposition of items from nature with items I purchased and made. I chose my favourite photo to display but I’ve included all the shots I took below so you can see this landscape from all angles.




Let’s Talk Day

If you’re like me, you give to a lot of charities. I donate to Veteran’s charities, as well as charities that research diseases that have affected those close to me, (cystic fibrosis, cancer and MS.) I’ve done the Terry Fox Run and a number of charity 5K runs. Most notably, I volunteer for charity events at the school to raise money for community foundations such as Toys for Tots and the Women’s Shelter. However, I notice I don’t have as many opportunities to give support for mental health research and wellness programs. Solicitors don’t call or come to the door for donations. I don’t see donation boxes in my neighborhood that support mental health causes. I don’t even see many commercials raising awareness for it, (although to be fair, I don’t watch a lot of TV either.)

Bell Canada (not a sponsor,) has been trying to change that with their Let’s Talk Day. I mentioned it last year, so I thought I would share it again and encourage you to talk to the people you love about mental health. See the details below for how you can participate in 2016.

Today (January 27th, 2016,) Bell will donate 5¢ to mental health initiatives for every text message sent, every mobile or long distance call made, every Tweet using #BellLetsTalk, and every Facebook image shared. You can also Tweet Let’s Talk at @Bell_LetsTalk or by using #BellLetsTalk

Please visit to learn more about the anti-stigma, care and access, workplace health and research work Bell is funding.



Art Assignment 42: News Photographer

I used this article from The Star about a student at York University who received accommodations for her exams without disclosing her mental health diagnosis. I was drawn to this story because I work with students with special needs in a high school. Recently I have been setting up the exam accommodations for my students, (for example, alternative testing rooms, assistive technology, and so forth.)

I  was especially struck by a researcher in the article who identified, “the need for faculty to have more information about mental health and the accommodation process. Faculty said they really do want to help students in crisis but don’t know the limits of what they’re supposed to do.” I work constantly to educate my coworkers on how to best help students with special needs.

In photographing this, I had to be careful not to include any pictures of the students for privacy reasons. However, I wanted to show how much effort we put into accommodating students’ needs in my high school. Not easy to show without the students, so I took these pictures of some posters outside our extra help room.



Students: read these posters and believe them. #theartassignment

Art Assignment 41: Present Perimeter




I call it Pop Up. #theartassignment


Thyme Roasted Pecans


Some of you might have seen this recipe in my last Art Assignment post.


I thought I should type out this recipe to make it easier to read.

Thyme Roasted Pecans


4 cups pecan halves

2 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


  1. In a bowl combine salt, oil and thyme.
  2. Add pecans and toss to coat.
  3. Pour onto a lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  5. Cool and serve. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

The last time I made these was over Christmas. They are salty and sweet and my family loves them. These pecans also look great in a mason jar for a hostess gift.



Found Recipe: Oatmeal Cookies

So in my last post, I added some of my own recipes to a recipe journal I found. Now I’m going to try one of the recipes that were already in this cookbook.


I decided to try making the oatmeal cookies. This recipe must make a small batch as it only calls for 1/2 cups of flour and rolled oats. There’s also no egg, which is unusual. Maybe the person recording this recipe had an egg allergy.

I gathered my ingredients.


I combined the dry ingredients in a bowl.


The I creamed the butter, shortening (used here instead of lard,) and the sugar.


I added the dry ingredients and the boiling water with the cream mixture and stirred until just combined.


Then I added dark chocolate chips because they make cookies better.


I scooped the batter onto a lined baking sheet.


Then I baked then at 350F for 10 minutes.


Weird looking but not bad tasting.


Because of the lack of egg and the low flour content, these cookies are soft, like too soft to pick up, have to eat them with a fork soft.


If I was going to make these again, I would either tinker with the recipe to make the cookies a bit more firm, or I’d make them crumbly and serve them as a crumble topping for ice cream.


Art Assignment 40: Object Empathy

So when we moved into our house, I found this book on one of the basement pantry shelves.


It looks like someone started a recipe book. This book is beautiful and sad. It’s both weathered and unfinished. Check out the gallery below to see the recipes I found inside:

I wonder who started this recipe journal and why they left it behind when they moved? Did they abandon it or was it forgotten? Does the original owner still wonder where it went? I guess most people in my situation would just throw this book away but I just couldn’t bear to do it. It’s been sitting on the shelf with my other cookbooks since we moved in. Now I have a reason to use it.

Here is my fix for this sad book: I’m going to add my own favourite family recipes into this book.


That already looks much better. I better finish up this post so I can keep adding posts to my new/old recipe book.

For the curious chefs out there, I will be trying one of the original recipes in my next post.

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