Life Update – January 2021

Hi everyone; I’ve missed hearing from you, and I hope you are as well as possible during these times. I am relying on my American readers to play whatever big or small role you can in restoring democracy and kindness. You’ve certainly learned that every vote counts!

My biggest news is that Link has returned to NS from Toronto permanently, and will be living at home with us for the medium term. After 4 months with us in the spring and summer, Link went back to Toronto in July, hoping Covid restrictions would ease. Instead, the city is having a second wave that shows no signs of abatement. Link lives alone and the isolation was getting to be too much. Friends were, understandably, reluctant to see each other in person.  Link did a lot of soul-searching about their prospects in the area and decided it wasn’t essential to be there. It isn’t easy for a younger adult to give up their independence. We’re confident we can make things work here, as long as we need to.

Link came back in early December. All 3 of us completed a two-week quarantine in plenty of time to get together with extended family at Christmas. We were allowed close social circles of up to 10 people. Since then, local Covid cases have remained very low.

Since I last blogged in August, I’ve continued to mostly work at home, but the library and its offices are open. I go in 2 or 3 days a week and have some tiny, careful in-person meetings. The rest of the time is Zoom, Zoom and more Zoom. I have stopped dreaming about spreadsheets every night so they must be background noise for me now!

Throughout the year, our family has been working on a challenge – to try every restaurant within 4 km (about 2.5 miles) of our house. We chose that distance because it is roughly the boundary of our suburb. We get weekly take-out, and sometimes go out for coffee or ice cream besides. We have visited 27 eating establishments in our neighbourhood, and my research shows there are 29 more! – of which 12 are pizza spots and 2 are fast food chains, so they were lower on our priority list. I am happy with our progress!

I have a personal challenge on the go. Nova Scotia has its own wine varietal called Tidal Bay, a white blend of NS grapes. We have a cool, coastal environment. Most of the wine ratings for Tidal Bay note its “minerality” and crispness – it is not sweet. I am working on trying a Tidal Bay from every winery. There are about 15 and I am only on #3. Anyone want to come over and help me? 😊

In my last post, I talked about hiking with my sister. Since I didn’t travel in 2020, I took a day off every week. I did 10 hikes over the summer and fall; my sister probably did 4x as many. As a result, I have irrevocably fallen in love with the forest and being outdoors. It is no exaggeration to say it has changed my life. For the last 15+ years, I have joked about my love for the Great Indoors, but now I’m an outdoor convert. The local landscapes are scenic, and it’s remarkable how many well-maintained trails are close by. Most of all, I loved the sensory elements – the fresh air, the crunching leaves, the taste of huckleberries, the rushing streams, and the smell of black earth. Back indoors, I feel the absence of all these things.

I had fun recording every new plant I saw on iNaturalist, and I ended the year with photos of about 200 vascular plants seen between July and December – so not including mosses, liverworts, fungi, lichens and seaweed (algae)! I’m already looking forward to spring so I can take photos of all the April to June plants I missed.

Our city had a drive-in shredding drop-off where you could bring loads of documents to be shredded. I cleaned out my filing cabinets and showed up with 4 large bags of papers. But there was such a huge turnout, the trucks filled up and they had to close early! I had to bring all my documents back home. I took care of them a few sheets at a time with my personal shredder. It took a good while. But it was surprisingly freeing to get rid of so many old bills and receipts and records of my past. I wish I had done it sooner.

Link brought a fair amount of belongings with them. We have space. It has been tempting in the past to say that Link’s stored items take up a lot of room in the house. When I cleared out a space for their stuff, I removed all my stuff and put it in a different room. There was a lot! I really had to acknowledge my contribution. It may take the rest of the winter to clear it up, since some items are worth listing and selling. I’m not looking forward to the process, but I will like the results.

Bathrooms Mini-Reno

I planned and shopped for a small bathroom renovation this year. Both bathroom sinks and both faucets, as well as the lighting fixtures, were badly corroded. They were all original to the house, age 25.  After considering all options, I decided to replace the countertops. I thought about replacing the vanities entirely, but they aren’t stock sizes, so that would have called for replacing flooring and repainting. I made a point of buying everything locally, and my brother did the installation. Nice limited-scope project.

I have seen my brother, sister, nephew and parents often throughout the year. We are few enough to be in each other’s bubbles (limited social circles), and we all live close. My parents both turned 80 this fall and at least we could celebrate as a family.

To end the year, I made a new budget (lots of changes due to different Covid lifestyle!) and started a new bullet journal. I had attempted a journal last year but gave up after two weeks. I redesigned my system and it’s going well. I will blog about it!

Thanks for reading, thanks to everyone who checked in on me, and I hope to be back more often. I owe you a round-up of my 2020 grocery spending!

I would love to hear how your life is going.


  1. It’s so nice to see a post from you!

    Your photos from your hikes are beautiful. And your wine adventure sounds like a fun “project” for the new year.

    I, too, am making budget adjustments due to COVID impacts. We spent more on groceries in 2020 than we ever have, I think. But our transportation budget went down (though not significantly) and our “disposable income” spending changed. I’m trying to figure out how to predict our 2021 needs with the current situation. It’s a challenge!

    Your vanity looks great! I had my carpeting replaced on the lower level of my house in 2020. I need to get new trim and paint down there when time and money allow. I’ll be upgrading my kitchen countertops in 2021 and hopefully getting a new dishwasher as well. (Again: budget!)

    I’m glad you are doing well. Happy New Year!

    • Happy New Year! It sure has been a time for home projects of all kinds. We need more work done but will wait for next year unless something breaks down! I had a hard time setting my budget for the coming year – for example, I will save a smaller than usual amount for travel, but I don’t expect to do any this year!

  2. Juhli

    I was just wondering today if you were well since you hadn’t posted! Good to see you back and that you have been spending your time on so many satisfying activities

  3. I was glad to read your post. It’s hard for our young adults these days, so it’s wonderful that Link was able to return to NS for now, and I hope you enjoy your time together. It’s likely that Toronto and the rest of Ontario will be locking down even more soon, so they definitely made the right choice. Happy winter and stay well.

    • Hi Lillie, It’s good to hear from you. Hope you and your family are well. I feel bad for areas under strict lockdown and I hope we behave well enough for our laxer regulations stay in place.

  4. Jamie

    I feel such relief to hear from you, Dar. I have to admit, towards the end of last year I feared the worst.

    It’s summer here in Australia, though until this week it has been pretty mild. Today I’ve been outside working on a new retaining wall, and walked through some long grass to pick some apricots from a nearby street tree. I feel gritty and itchy. At this moment I wouldn’t say I love the great outdoors, but your photos appear to my eyes to be from a damper climate. Perhaps that would suit me better than dusty and dry!

    Life continues on much as usual for us here. My husband’s work at the hospital continues, our sons are in their 10th year of homeschooling and our daughter is still studying at uni by distance, as she has for a few years now. I have 4 subjects left to complete on my library degree.

    I am starting to get to the point where I’m dreaming about a holiday. Really, just a road trip to visit family, or a weekend at the coast with my husband and our kids. We are only a little over an hour from a lovely beach, but our plans were thwarted last summer with the bushfires, and again this year with Covid cases in the area when we had the spare time for a day trip. Hopefully we will get there before the weather turns.

    I’m so glad to hear you are all well, and hope you get in some enjoyable time with Link while the opportunity is there.

    • Hi Jamie, Thank you for checking in! Happy New Year! It has been a year of extraordinary privileges. I feel guilty about how well I’ve been doing! The worst that could have happened to me this year is spending too much time living life and not enough writing about it! I do I crave writing, though, and miss it when I take too much time off. Rom’s job is fine and after reaching a decision point, Link is content to be here. As home schoolers, do you feel your kids are better adapted to the current situation? Not that anyone should feel 100% happy giving up their former life patterns!

  5. So good to hear from you and may I say I can hear the changes you have made to your life in your blogging voice – the great outdoors really suits you and you seem to have risen to the Covid challenges and come out of it very well. I think we have all learned a lot about ourselves – for some people it is that they don’t cope well and don’t function as an individual but you have embraced the situation and I feel have come out on top. Your post has been very motivating just what I needed. All the best for 2021.
    PS lovely that Link is back at home with you for a while.

    • Hi Vivien, Happy New Year! I was thinking of you and supposing you weren’t able to celebrate Hogmanay. I’m glad you were able to continue traditions with decorations, cards and gifts. I can’t wait to see what you did with your kitchen!

  6. PK

    Love the update, the mini reno looks good. I have been tempted several times to redo the floor in my tiny bathroom but I think I have to wait a little longer. Looking forward to hearing about your 2021 budget and journaling. The beginning of the year always seems so hopeful. 🙂

    • Hi PK – Happy New Year! It has to be better, right? I love the turn of any year and the feeling of a fresh start (I miss that about the academic year). I have been using Quicken for budgeting for over a year now. I hoped to run it with no separate spreadsheets “on the side” but of course I ended up creating a few. The journal is a medium effort, not as arty and elaborate as some, but not minimalist either! I am feeling cautiously optimistic about 2021.

  7. Thanks for the post. The photos look fantastic. Makes me want to hike if it wasn’t so freezing right now!

  8. Lovely to see you back again Dar. It sounds like you’ve had all sorts of changes to adjust to (I guess like most of us one way or another). I imagine it is both wonderful and challenging to have Link back living with you again. We miss seeing our sons and their partners more than anything, but I’d have to admit I would find it hard having them live with us again. I hope your family back in the UK are all ok. Must be hard not being able to visit now.
    All the best for 2021, whatever it brings us. So far little sign of it being better than 2020, but there’s always hope!

    • Hi Deborah, yes, it looks like 2021 will be more of the same for a long time. I’m happy Link is safe here; Ontario is not so good. Rom’s parents are well, but not going out at all. We miss them terribly. Wishing you a good year with lots of the activities you love (and especially, good food!)

  9. Nice to see you writing again. I loved the photographs of the area around you. Walking is such a pleasure although I rate cycling too. Not speed butjust cycling around looking at things and stopping to view and photograph. Living in Cumbria England makes lockdown bearable. Good to hear Link could come home. Its so hard dealing with separation from family and friends. Hopefully this year will go better for us all. Christine

    • Hi Christine, Nice to hear from you! I had no idea you were in Cumbria. Not a bad place to tolerate a lockdown. I envy people like you who are into cycling. Too late in life for me, I think! We’re all hoping for a good year. Like most people, I think the improvements will be gradual.

  10. Mary

    Good to hear from you. How fortunate you are to have such gorgeous scenery nearby and to make such good use of it, too. Sounds like Link made a good decision–though I’m sure not an easy one. Not sure there are too many ‘easy’ decisions these viral days except the ones that involve staying safe. Take care.

  11. Love this idea of eating at every restaurant within 4 kms. Might have to steal it. Your pictures are beautiful. Glad to read you are enjoying the outdoors. I’m excited that Link is back with you especially in these times. There will hopefully be time down the road for them to return to T.O. when this virus gets under control. Then you can come visit and we can get BBT! 🙂 The bathrooms look fantastic. Almost makes me want to start my own renos.

  12. Hey Dar! Glad to hear you’re doing well! Have you heard of 1000 Hours Outside? The tracking aspect seemed like it would appeal to you 🙂 My goal has been 3 hours outside per day (as a family) since 2019 when I read Barefoot and Balanced and that’s nearly the same as 1000 hours per year. I also crave being outdoors, sunshine especially, and always have. (At work I’m always that crazy person with the blinds all the way up, working with the sun in my eyes, haha)

    • Hi Amanda! It’s good to hear from you. I haven’t heard of it, so thanks for sending the link! I have loved being outdoors so much. It makes me happy to think of you and your young one being out in nature 🙂 Sorry I just found your comment; for some reason it had gone to spam 😦

  13. Fiona

    Hi Dar! I’m sorry I missed the return here but so very glad to hear from you & hear that life is going well! I’m so glad to hear that your parents are well & that life, while more local than ever, sounds bountiful. So glad your parents & Rom are well & that Link is back with you for the duration.

    I drank in those photographs of Canada! What an astoundingly beautiful country! I am thrilled to bits that you’re enjoying the outdoors & to hear such dramatic words as “it changed my life.” 🙂 I still love everything outdoors & am completely here to see photos of hikes etc.! 🙂

    I will have to fire up my blog again. Haven’t felt much like writing as we had a long year of it in Melbourne last year. Things are great now but quite a few changes over the past 12 months. Update soon!

    • Hi Fiona, All the pix were taken within a 1-hour drive of my house (plus several hours of hiking). Under Covid restrictions, we’re allowed to travel freely throughout the province, but I haven’t gone very far. In Nova Scotia, everything except the ocean is small-scale. We don’t have towering craggy mountains or vast plains. Almost the whole province is forested and it feels “closed in” except for the coastline. But because we’re almost an island, the coast is everywhere, with its beaches and cliffs.

      I hope you do return to blogging. It would be great to hear how your life is going!

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