Best Material Possessions in the Past 1.5 Years

Before I start, I want to say that it’s not a sponsored post. This is just what I have found to be extremely useful to me for my first year in Canada. When you move to a new country, you figure out what material possessions need to help you through your first year. In some ways, I regard these things as more of an investment than just buying things. Here’s my list of what has been invaluable to me and why.

Hardshell Suitcase:

Best Material Possessions
Hardshell Suitcases are LIFE!

I just happened to buy this the day before I moved to Canada. I was at Target trying to look for a luggage carrier. Things were getting desperate, especially since the amount of travel stuff was unpopular and overpriced because of COVID-19. I bought the largest hardshell suitcase I could find for a decent price. I was able to fit ALL my check-in luggage in there, plus some extra stuff that I wasn’t originally planning on taking with me.

When I got to the airport, I realized how maneuverable it was. The spinner wheels are sturdy and able to turn a full 360 when necessary. I didn’t have to worry at all if my things were going to be safe. I sometimes wish the suitcase I bought wasn’t exclusively for my check-in baggage. At the end of a long moving day, I looked at the suitcase and said, “Where have you been all my life?! I would sure like to shake hands with the genius that invented you!”

These suitcases come in a set of various sizes. You can get ones small enough to put in your overhead or possibly under the seat (depends on the brand). Hardshell suitcases are also available at Walmart so before I move to the Netherlands, I’m going to buy the smaller sizes! The brand I got was American Tourister. I love the colour and the product! It’s clean, protects your stuff, has an inside pocket within the inside pocket, and is efficient when you’re at the airport! As a TCK who loves travel, I’m positively drooling over hardshell suitcases! When I was waiting for my Dad at the airport last October, I ran into someone else with a hardshell suitcase and said, “That suitcase is amazing, isn’t it!” She agreed with me!

Handwarmers:

Cozy Handwarmers

These are the simplest and yet most effective things I have found to keep my hands warm when it’s below -10 C. They are little bags of what feels like sand and something else that turns warm when you shake them. Just shake them ten minutes before you step outside, put them in your parka pockets and you’re ready to go! I also put my cell phone in the same pocket as these warmers because extreme temperatures are not good for cell phone electrics.

I’m wondering if I can take a bag of them with me… remains to be seen.

Incandescent Lightbulbs:

Another moment where I said, “Where have you been all my life?” Or at least during my time in London. I talked said in my Winter: London vs Calgary post that discovering incandescent lightbulbs was like

I'm sorry. I just hallucinated.

It has significantly helped with SAD during winter! I can’t live without them now. It also helps that Calgary is super sunny, even in the winter. I know in the Netherlands it’s going to be cloudy a lot. I have already resolved that if I can’t find incandescent light bulbs there, I am going to find some in Sweden or Norway!

PROPER Winter Clothes:

As the saying goes, “There’s no bad winter, only bad clothes.” Okay, I made a mistake with getting boots. Overall, though, I listened to all the advice about layering and when to do so. I ended up with some quality pieces like proper pants when it’s below -10 C and a wonderful parka! Not to mention Canadian toques (beanies in the US) are amazingly warm! I’m definitely going to be taking these items with me because the Netherlands is humid which makes things feel colder. Plus, I’m planning to travel to the Alps and to the Scandinavian countries.

Memory Foam Mattresses:

After some trial and error with past memory foam mattresses, we finally found ones that are wonderful for people who have musculoskeletal issues. It took some research to find them. Now there is no way I am letting mine go. I swear to wear it out! I don’t have too much to say because this speaks for itself!

Reading Socks:

Reading Socks

I ran into these accidentally. I went to an Indigo bookstore for Christmas shopping and I stumbled upon these reading socks! A realization hit me when I saw them. These work so well in cold weather climates! So, I bought matching pairs for myself and my Mum for Christmas. You know that trend of families getting matching pyjamas at Christmas? Well, we did matching reading socks. In order to stop people with a foot fetish coming onto my site, I am not posting a photo of me wearing the socks, but here’s a photo of them.

I noticed when I put them on how soft they are on the inside! Mum and I describe it as “bunny soft”. Anyone who has had a rabbit as a pet knows what I am talking about. I refuse to walk around in those socks because I don’t want to interfere with that softness. The best thing ever is to lie in bed with a good book and my bunny soft socks.

Triangular Leg Pillow:

Triangular Leg Pillow

I love propping my legs up while lying down, but I left my triangular leg pillow behind in California. Eventually, I caved and bought another one at Bed, Bath and Beyond. This one has four different ways you can set it up depending on what you need.

We made an interesting discovery about the leg pillow too. If you are having digestive discomfort while lying down, use the pillow to prop yourself up! It ended up being an invaluable life hack when my Mum had appendicitis and the hernia complication afterwards. Now, Mum uses the pillow full-time, but as long as it works for her, I don’t mind at all. Now, a leg pillow is a priority item for moving to another country!

Footbath:

My birthday came around a few months after moving to Canada and I asked for a footbath. Little did I know how valuable it would be! I was already in the middle of my first winter but hadn’t reached the point I was dealing with Winter Foot. Anyone who has lived in sub-Arctic climates knows what I am talking about. Once a week during the winter, I use my footbath for an hour and then take a pumice stone to my feet. Winter can mean too much dead skin, so this treatment isn’t optional.

I’m also going to get a pedicure when I am finally out of my winter boots (around May after Victoria Day Weekend). There comes a point where I CAN NOT wear my winter boots anymore! Fortunately, the footbath helps delay that time.

Additionally, I find the footbath helpful in the summer because my feet get hot and blistered, even when wearing sandals. So, it’s been a good year-round thing to have!

Proper Chairs:

Best Material Possessions
Proper Chairs Are Everything!

After years of struggling with chairs in our own ways, we FINALLY found some great chairs to meet our needs! Guess where they came from? A physiotherapist’s office was closing, so we bought their waiting room chairs for a significant discount. We looked them up online. We got them for 1/6 of the retail price and they are generally very dear, as we say in England! There’s only so much pain and musculoskeletal problems you can take until you buy proper chairs. They aren’t going anywhere!

Computer:

After 6 months of living in Canada, I needed a new computer. My laptop was dying and it was cheaper for me to get a desktop thanks to the demand for desktops being high. Plus, my circumstances had changed which made a desktop more suitable. My general rule for moving to a new country is to take whatever technology I need with me and if I need to replace it, do it! Additionally, I tend to wait until a store has a holiday sale. I waited until the Victoria Day sale to get my desktop, and it wasn’t a brand new computer, so I got a discount on top of a slashed price! Boom!

Sometimes, it’s not just about getting a great product that you genuinely need, it’s about being strategic to get a good deal! This isn’t about encouraging materialism either. There are material possessions that are essential while in transition.

Have you found with moving either domestically or internationally that there are certain things you need and consider them an investment? Let’s chat about it!

Park #7: Prince’s Island Park

Date visited: August 21, 2021

Location: Downtown Calgary

Best Time of Year To Visit: This was a good time to go because everything was in bloom, but I do think it’s a good choice for winter or any time the Bow River isn’t high.

Wow! This post is LOOOOONG overdue! This park was kind of selected randomly. Originally, we planned to take a walk through the centre of Calgary on this walkway called the Plus 15. I will do a post on that in the future. It didn’t work out, but we were near Eau Claire, so we decided to check out the area, including Prince’s Island Park (say that three times really fast!). I will say more about Eau Claire later. There were so many trees that I knew I had to go back when the leaves started changing. Plus, there is a park there called Eau Claire Plaza, so that’s another post.

Bridges in the Area:

Peace Bridge:

This was my first time crossing Calgary’s iconic Peace Bridge! I have seen many photos of it, and this cool video a cyclist did with a GoPro Max. So after 10 months living in Calgary, I was DYING to go on the Peace Bridge for myself! I love how there are pedestrian lanes and cycle lanes on it. By the way, don’t look up for too long. You’ll start to think you’re high! Another name for the Peace Bridge is the Finger Trap Bridge because it looks like a finger trap.

Jaipur Bridge:

I thought at first this was a new bridge because of all the construction, but no. It’s being rebuilt because the last one had some structural problems. It’s due to be completed soon, but who knows if I will still see it in its full glory before I move.

Jaipur is one of Calgary’s sister cities and I think it’s quite a touching thing to build a bridge in honour of sister city relations and commemorate what the cities did for each other. You can read more about rebuilding the Jaipur Bridge and the history between Calgary and Jaipur as sister cities here.

Onto Prince’s Island Park:

You would think by now I could pronounce it correctly, but no. I recently went to Eau Claire and I saw a street construction sign that spelled it, Princess Island Park. Glad I’m not the only one who has problems with it!

The air felt particularly fresh with this park since it’s on the river. Summer is clearly the best time to see it in full bloom! I love the balance of city views and river views! It’s a great place for kids and events. There was a stage there, which I figured was used for concerts before the pandemic.

The Sculpture Garden:

Just when I thought this couldn’t get any better, there was a sculpture garden! The first four photos here are pictures made out of marbles. I find that works beautifully with the feather, the fishtail and the dragonfly wings because those are naturally iridescent. I’m not entirely sure if the marbles work for the flower though. I sent the photo of the trilobite to my Dad. He’s so into fossils!

I had descriptions of the other sculptures, but I lost them! So, if you want to know what the other sculptures are, I say, go see them!

Challenges:

Prince’s Island Park is hard to pronounce correctly! Haha! Okay, I’ll stop joking around.

The bridges getting to Prince’s Island were a little weird. I can’t wait until the Jaipur Bridge is complete. Additionally, my Mum found it difficult to navigate the more hilly parts of the park with her mobility issues.

If you end up there at a busy time, save the visit for later. It was semi-busy but manageable. Also, beware of homeless people hanging out there. They are a more common sight than at the other parks I have been to (so far).

Additionally, I had to use the public washroom at the park. This was the first one I had used since 2019. Let’s just say it wasn’t the most hygienic place. I recommend not forgetting your hand sanitizer.

If you miss any of my future posts on my challenge or want to reread my past posts, you can go to my page Calgary Parks Challenge. You can also find more photos from the parks on my Instagram page here.

See you at the next park in my challenge!

Learning Dutch I: First Impressions

I have been learning Dutch for almost a month and here are my first impressions of the language, and Dutch culture.

My Learning Plan:

When you learn a new language, especially for moving to a new country, you HAVE to have a learning plan! Of course, plans are a work in progress, but here is my plan so far.

  1. Daily lessons on Duolingo. At the time of this writing, I am currently working through all the lessons on Level 1! I have reached mastery level on the very first lesson. I have to pass a challenge to reach Level 2, but I feel like I am almost there! IMHO Duolingo is the best for learning a new language. I introduced it to my Mum, and she loves it too! She and I are used to learning languages the old-fashioned way. Yes, when I learned Russian, I did it the old-fashioned way. Now, we both say, “Bring on new ways like Duolingo!”
  2. Listening to Dutch radio. My favourite news station is BNR Nieuwsradio. It mainly focuses on national news, but it’s also helpful to hear international news. Funny thing is, I understand international news better in another language because there are certain terms reporters use that are universal.
  3. Watching Dutch comedy. I watch De Avondshow met Arjen Lubach clips on YouTube. I watch clips with both English and Dutch subtitles for the sake of both listening and reading Dutch.
  4. Have a Dutch Immersion Day once a month. If I’m going learn Dutch to a level where I am prepared to move there, it’s important to know that I’m going to hear Dutch all the time. Plus, I will have to adapt accordingly. My first Dutch Immersion Day is going to be in late March, when I am, hopefully at Level 2 in Duolingo.

More About Learning Dutch:

I’m going a bit beyond my first impressions here. I have an ultimate goal in mind, and that is to be able to read The Girl with the Pearl Earring in Dutch. Here’s to hoping I can make good progress on that goal this year!

One thing I do when I listen to the radio is close my eyes. That way, I can let my ear adjust to the pace of the language. I know when I move, I am going to need to ask people to speak a bit slower. Hopefully, getting used to conversational Dutch from the radio and Arjen Lubach’s comedy show will help me adjust quicker. I’m grateful that these days, you can get lots of media in another language. It’s something I never had learning a language in a classroom. There is a large gap between the classroom and the real world in a new language, and I am hoping greater access to media is helping learners to bridge that gap quicker. The good news: I have been doing this for less than a month and I am already picking things up!

After I move, I will have times when I am overwhelmed with Dutch. It’s normal, and I have to learn what to do during those times. I can feel overwhelmed when I am tired, sick, or anything. That’s why I am going to do a Dutch Immersion Day once a month (at least to start). I am still at a basic level, but we’ll see what happens.

Dutch vs German vs English:

Here are two things people ask me. 1. Does it help to know some German before learning Dutch? and 2. How socially acceptable is it to speak English? Here’s what I have found from my research and experience.

I took a German class for a term in school and picked up a bit by osmosis because I lived in an EU country for over a decade. It does help a bit to know some German, but there are significant differences in pronunciation. Fortunately, pronunciation is a strength for me. Every language teacher I have ever had has told me I have perfect pronunciation and the penny drops when I tell them I was a bilingual child. However, I am careful to NOT slip into German pronunciation. The standard advice I have got is this. If I forget a Dutch word or Dutch pronunciation, say it in English! It’s more socially acceptable to say it in English than in German.

There is still significant tension between the Dutch and the Germans after the two world wars. I want to respect that as I am learning Dutch. If my Mum or I catch each other with German pronunciation, we correct it! I’m pretty sure I will pick up German by osmosis again, but I might also pick up Flemish. In any case, I am considering learning German once I have moved to the Netherlands and I have a good grasp of the language. We might be living near the German or Belgian border because it’s cheaper. So, I will get what I will get!

Have you learned Dutch, or moved to another country where you had to learn a new language? Let’s discuss this in the comments!

If you want to see how I am progressing on Dutch and moving to the Netherlands, feel free to go to my page Netherlands for my posts on that (it’s new at the moment lol).