Category: personal

Tea time!

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There’s a bit of a chill in the air, the leaves are starting to turn, and my favorite tv shows are returning to my tv screen. It’s fall! And it means my hankering for spicy, strong, hot tea is returning in full force and I find myself craving cozy cups of delicious tea more and more these days (the perfect excuse to pull out my favorite teacups). There really is something soul-soothing about sitting down with a good knitting project, a hot cup of tea, and something good on the telly. So I thought I would share some of my favorite teas for sipping and knitting on these wonderful autumn days.

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Most of these teas are from David’s Tea, but I am no way affiliated with David’s Tea. They just happen to have a shop right down the block from me, so I find myself getting in trouble there more often than I’d care to admit.

 

Glitter and Gold – This delicious black tea has just a hint of spice. It’s often the tea I grab first thing in the morning because I find it to be the perfect tea to give me that jolt to get going in the day. And it’s actually just a beautiful tea to look at, with small sugar crystals and delightfully adorable teeny stars sprinkled in with the tea and spice mixture.

 

 

Roasted Gyokuro – This is one of my absolute favorite teas of all time. It is so delicious with beautifully nutty notes that enriches the overall flavor of this green tea. It’s a bit on the pricy side for a tea, so I have to watch myself and make sure I don’t blow through my whole bag in just a few weeks. But this is a tea worthy of savoring.

 

 

Cream of Earl Grey – This is my go-to tea any time of the day. If I’m not sure what I feel like drinking, it’s so easy to just reach for this delicious black tea. It has just the right amount of bergamot for my tastes, and I love the smooth flavor the hint of cream provides. With just a touch of milk, these tea is one I routinely rely on.

 

 

Jasmine Black Pearls – This one is my newest favorite.It’s the best of both worlds, a lovely black tea with the flavor of refreshing jasmine.These delicious little pearls bloom as soon as you place them the boiling water, producing a lovely black tea with just a hint of jasmine. A great tea for sipping all day long.

 

What are some of your favorite teas? I’m always looking to add to my collection.

Finding that groove

Pearls on a String Socks by Brandy Velten

To put it lightly, the past couple of months have been bonkers. It’s been a roller coaster ride of anxiety, accomplishment, uncertainty, opportunity, growth, self-doubt, and success. It is very much the beginning of a big period of transition for Andy and I as we both work fiendishly to finish our Ph.D. theses (thesi?) this summer / early autumn and move on to the next things life has in store for us.

After a lot of hard work and a little frustration, I finally had my thesis approval meeting last week and was approved to move on to the big final oral examination. All of this means that for now, my thesis is complete and will be sent off to be assessed and critiqued by experts within my field. I still have a few more steps in front of me before being awarded my degree, but it really feels like the major hurdle is past me – my supervisory committee is confident that I am prepared to defend my research and prove my expertise within the field. So while I feel great about what I’ve managed to accomplish thus far, I’m already feeling the next wave of anxiety about my final defense at the end of August.

Pearls on a String Socks by Brandy Velten

While all that was happening, I felt like I was suffering a bit of a crisis of confidence creatively. I consistently felt like every idea I had for a new design just fell flat. Everything I had on my needles failed to satisfy that primal part of my creative being. Nothing clicked. Nothing provided that little magic glow that drives my passion for design. And each time I ripped out a design, I just felt the weight of the pressure I had placed on myself to succeed grow and grow. It just wasn’t working on the design side of things, so I channeled a lot of that creative frustration into Long Dog Yarns hoping that the color and yarn would spark that inspiration within me again and move me past this design block.

Pearls on a String Socks by Brandy Velten

I’m not sure I’m entirely there yet, but I’ve been knitting and dyeing and just being kinder to myself. With a bit more spare time on my horizon, I’m hoping things will click back into place a bit more and I’ll get my knitting mojo back. I am trying to take that self-imposed pressure off of my shoulders and remind myself that if it’s not fun, then it’s not worth my time. And I’m starting to feel the simple pleasure in turning my ideas into a design coming back. I’ve been working on a new design using my line of yarn, Sock (colorway pictured is Freshwater Pearl), that also utilizes the speckled yarns that I love to both dye and knit. One sock down and one to go…

San Diego

It sure has been quiet on the blog lately, but much less so for me. 2016 has started off in a sprint trying to get things in order at work to finish up my Ph.D. this semester along with working to meet some exciting knitting deadlines (I can’t quite share details yet, but soon, I promise). I feel like I haven’t had much time to catch my breath since arriving home from a trip to visit my parents in San Diego, but I’ve finally grabbed a few moments to go through my photos from the trip and wanted to share some of the sunshine I enjoyed during my trip.

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Thanksgiving 2015

I hope everyone in Canada had a lovely long Thanksgiving weekend. To me, it’s still a little weird to have Thanksgiving in early October, but Andy and I try to make the best of it.

We had a great weekend. On Friday, we spent the day at the ballpark, watching as our Texas Rangers won in extra innings against the Toronto Bluejays (sorry Bluejays fans, I know you guys want it really badly, but you guys are just going to have to lose today so the Rangers can advance). It was so much fun, even if Andy and I were the only happy ones to leave the stadium that afternoon. The rest of the weekend was filled with beautiful blue skies, puppy walks, and even a little Thanksgiving dinner for two. It was a really nice break from work – the last one until Christmas.

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Meeting Miss Findley

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A few weeks ago, Andy and I flew to Dallas to visit his family and meet our new (and first!) little niece, Miss Findley Jane. She was only a month old (still so tiny!) and I had great fun snuggling with her on our short visit. Next time I see her, she is likely to be so much bigger, so I had to get in as much baby time as possible. And you can believe lots of knitted goodies are in her future, not that Dallas has much of a call for knitted wear. I already have several adorable little dresses on my queue, though, just waiting for her to grow a wee bit bigger.

The trip really was a baby palooza. It seems like all the cousins in Andy’s family are popping out babies left and right. I am a little biased, though, and was very excited to meet wee little Keith, who is lucky enough to have our best man as his dad. That kid has good taste. Unfortunately, I was too busy cuddling to snap some pictures, but take my word that he is quite the handsome fellow.

Both Keith’s mom and pop are alumni of Texas Tech University, which of course means, they are giant fans of the Texas Tech football team. And that means Keith is a Texas Tech fan, whether he knows it or not (although Andy and I seriously take our responsibility to show him the light and make sure he chooses the best Texas university, Texas A&M). So I brought Keith his first Texas Tech swag, so he can support his team this fall.

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I used the Baby Sophisticate pattern (which is free and awesome) and then used duplicate stitch to add the double T. Can’t wait to see him sporting his sweater when he attends his first football game this fall.

Getting back

Last night, the strike came to an end after a month, the longest strike in University of Toronto history. Both sides decided to go to binding arbitration because we were at an impasse over the language of the agreement. Now it goes off to a neutral, third-party arbitrator and we wait to see what the outcome is. The whole thing ended up taking so much more time and effort than I had originally believed, that most days I found myself physically and emotionally drained.

The strike was full of frozen fingers and toes. It was full of warm coffee and fire barrels. It was full of new friends I would have never met. It was full of new understandings of the living conditions of my peers less well off. It was full of passion. It was full of fear. It was full of frustration. It was full of uncertainty. It was full of juice boxes and warm samosas. It was full of early mornings and late evenings. It was full of creativity. And it was even full of laughs. It had high points and low points. It had beautiful, brave undergraduates and faculty who stood behind us. It had misunderstandings and anger from those who wished to bring us down. But above all it was full of solidarity.

But now it’s time to try to heal and get back to our lives. And that means getting back to knitting. Here are some of the goodies I have in the works and on the needles. Hopefully with my free time back, I can get these finished up soon.

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On the line

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Just a heads up, things are about to get a bit political.

For most graduate programs in the US and Canada, students are required to teach as part of their funding package. One of the biggest difference I’ve experienced between grad school in the US and Canada is that graduate student teaching assistants and course instructors are unionized in Canada. This year, the collective agreement between the union and the University of Toronto expired. The union had been bargaining with the university for a new agreement, but last Friday the agreement proposed by the university was soundly rejected by hundreds of the union members. So, we are now on strike. And it is an experience.

I have chosen not cross the picket line and show solidarity with my fellow union members, so the courses I am a teaching assistant for this semester are having to adjust to my absence. And yesterday was my first day on the picket line. All of this a new and interesting experience for me, as I have never been a union member before, let alone a striking union member.

One of the biggest issues we are facing is an increase to our stipend. The university only guarantees us a take home of $15,000/year in one of the most expensive cities in Canada to live in. This stipend is mostly composed of teaching hours, with some research assistant funding included. But importantly, it is far below the poverty line of Toronto which is $23,000. And while we may only teach part time during the year, being a grad student is a full time job and, even if we had the time, we are often discouraged or prohibited from getting jobs to supplement our stipend. For me, I cannot get another job due to the restrictions of my student visa. Most grad students work far more hours than we are contractually obligated to, ensuring the undergraduate students receive the best education experience they possibly can. And we represent an important line of communication and support for undergraduates. I, personally, love teaching and interacting with students and take my responsibilities to heart.

Furthermore, grad school isn’t so much being a “student” as it is being trained to be the researchers and professionals the university relies on. In the sciences, almost all the research done at the university level is done by graduate students, who receive guidance and support from their advisors to build strong and relevant research projects. At the end of the day, the work we do increases the standing and prestige of the university, whose name is attached to all of our published work and is often used to recruit the best and brightest to join the program. But as things stand, the money we get paid to do work for the university has not increased in years, as both interest and cost of living expenses have increased greatly. The funding package provided by the university is starting to drastically lag behind other schools U of T hopes to compete with.

I can personally speak to having more monetary issues here at U of T than during my master’s degree in North Carolina. And it is a big source of stress. On top of that, as an international student, my tuition fees have increased greatly since I’ve been here, so that now over 50% of my take home stipend (which, due to a government scholarship is fortunately more than the $15000 promised by the university) goes to pay the outrageous international student tuition costs. As it works out, each year I have actually taken a $1000 pay cut from when I first began this program. And graduate students are required to pay full tuition costs even in their later years when they have finished their course load and are not using the same amount of university resources.

So it’s back out on the picket line for me every day this week. I would much rather be teaching my students than wandering around in circles out in the cold. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment. But it’s important that things change and the university acknowledges that we at least need increases to offset rising living costs in this rapidly growing city if it hopes to stay competitive in its graduate and research programs.