What I’ve Read: First Half of 2022

We’re already 6 months into the year and my Goodreads account tells me I’m 8 books behind on my reading challenge. Off to a great start. If you’re new to Goodreads, they have a reading challenge each year, and participants can choose how many books they’d like to get through in 12 months. I try to set relatively high goals but clearly this year I’m not winning yet. 

I’ve had a very mixed bag of reads this winter/spring. You can find all my 2022 choices here.

Best of the bunch

Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck – 5 stars

This was by far the best book I’ve read all year, perhaps even beating out last year’s reads.  Erpenbeck is a German author, and her story follows an older German man who becomes embroiled in the refugee crisis as it spills into Germany, gradually befriending African refugees. The sparse and poetic prose delves into the international refugee crisis in a human and touching way as Richard learns more about the men he comes to think of as friends, and the inequities and barriers that the German and other European governments put in their way. Incredibly sad if you already have empathy for refugees around the world. Incredibly timely and pointed if you don’t. 

Best for: The family member who doesn’t understand refugee issues

Second best of the bunch

Misconduct of the Heart by Cordelia Strube – 5 stars

Similar to Go, Went, Gone there’s a definite refugee/asylum seeking theme running through this one, but also a cranky protagonist, child welfare and PTSD plotlines, and a Canadian city as a setting! What more could you want? Not exactly cheerful reading, but dry and witty. 

Best for: A fiction-lover who doesn’t mind a bit of angst. 

Most Inspirational 

Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Frugal Living by Elizabeth Willard Thames – 5 stars

Though not a complicated premise – own less stuff, buy less stuff, save money – this was an oddly inspirational memoir of a family who did exactly that and got the life they wanted. They ended up living in the woods which is not quite what I’d be looking for, but it served as a good reminder that owning less and buying less saves you money and stress in the long run. 

Best for: The “Shopping is my entertainment” friend or family member.

Best Young Adult Novel

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan – 5 stars 

This was such a cute, quirky little novel – it starts out with a tragic bang but really does get better. It also has a bit of an immigration theme going on (clearly I’m on a roll with this!) and some really lovely interactions between funny characters. Reminiscent of Misconduct of the Heart but for young adults, I -not a young adult- really liked it. 

Best for: The mature young reader who likes people and their foibles (and perhaps gardening).

Biggest Let Down

The Dazzling Truth by Helen Cullen – 1 star

I really wanted to like this one. I’d seen it on social media receiving great reviews – set in Ireland, with an artsy theme … seemed like a good bet. But both the plotline and the writing was simplistic and predictable; I raced through it, but not in a good way. It was a feel-good story, and perhaps would have made a good beach read but wasn’t the hard-hitter I was hoping for. 

Best for: Someone looking to lie on a beach and not work that hard. 

Currently I’m working through The Strangers by Katherena Vermette, a sequel to The Break which came out a few years ago. It’s an in-depth look at a fictional Metis family in Canada, and the intergenerational trauma and challenges that affect their futures. It’s heavy subject matter even for those of us familiar with it, and I’m moving through it slowly. 

What’s next on your reading list? Did you have a favourite title from the first half of the year? 

Seinfeld and the LSAT

I was watching Seinfeld tonight and he did a bit about physical exams at the doctor, and how much he wanted to ace the exam. Obviously, he’s a comedian, so he could have been joking. But I am not joking when I tell you: I get far more stressed about my success on the annual eye exam than I felt writing the LSAT.

Eastern Newfoundland: A Road-Tripper’s Guide

Many tourists book their tickets to St. John’s or Deer Lake or Gander, and then announce that they’ve set aside a week to “see Newfoundland.” Newfoundland is physically a very large province. If you drove from one side to the other, without stopping, you could be driving for about 12 hours. And that wouldn’t be much fun because there is loads to see in the middle of the province, making it tempting to stop frequently – and so you should!

Canada 150 Bucket List - Outer Battery - One Red Phone Box

That being said, there are plenty of things to do and see in seven days, and if you divide up the province, they can even be done well. This itinerary will cover the easternmost side of Newfoundland to get a taste for the cosmopolitan city life, as well as the small-town, quaint bits.

St. John’s

Fly into St. John’s International Airport, located about 20 minutes from downtown. If you’re lucky, the pilot will take you the scenic route, coming in over the ocean and the cliffs. Spend at least three nights in the city, if you can, to have enough time to see the sights, particularly if hiking is part of your plans. Take in various outdoor activities, including Signal Hill (from the Battery walk, and via the road) and Quidi Vidi Lake. Watch the sunrise from Cape Spear, the easternmost point in Canada, or coming in the fall to see the leaves at Rennie’s River Trail and Bowering Park.

Looking toward the Narrows from The Rooms

Have brunch at one of the many restaurants on on Water Street- either traditional fish and chips, or higher end fare is available. The chip truck – Ziggy’s – parked near Atlantic Place is always a good choice. Pick up souvenirs and local goods in the independent shops on Duckworth Street, and take in a show at LSPU Hall or at the Arts and Culture Centre. Dinner at any of the other many restaurants downtown will leave you satisfied with local flavours and products, many of which are sourced directly from the producers, farmers, and fishers. Post-pandemic many restaurants have changed hands and started fresh, but there should be no shortage of options, from local cuisine to international dishes.

Visit The Rooms museum for Newfoundland history and ideal views of the Narrows, and the Craft Council on Duckworth for locally, and lovingly, made arts and crafts. Visit one of the many historical churches in downtown St. John’s, and get your picture taken in front of the jellybean-coloured row houses (just head up from Duckworth, away from the harbour, toward Gower Street, King’s Road, or others). And if boats agree with you (they don’t with me) by all means head down to the harbour and take one of the highly thought of tours to see icebergs, whales, and various other oceanic sights. Let me know how it is – I’ll be on land with a coffee or a drink (at The Rocket or Bannerman Brewing).

Restaurants and shops on Water Street

Spend a day touring the Avalon Peninsula. From St. John’s, you are minutes from Middle Cove, Outer Cove, and Topsail Beach. Various East Coast Trail starting points dot the peninsula and even without a car the taxis and day tours will take you to the highlights.


Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador

Drive less than three hours from the city to reach Trinity, a small village on the water full of historical buildings. You’ll want at least two nights, to accommodate both day trips and the various activities in town. The main highlight of Trinity is Rising Tide Theatre Festival, a summer festival of Newfoundland classics and historical pieces, featuring a majority of Newfoundland actors. Spend a day at the Festival to take in the Pageant – a roving theatrical production outlining the history of Trinity and the surrounding area – the dinner theatre, and a main stage production in the evening. If you wish to meet the actors, or locals, they can most likely be found at the pub – you’ll find it. Trinity Coffee Company is roasting small batch coffee in a very small town, and you’ll want to pick one up before heading off on the Skerwink Trail, near Port Rexton, an award-winning hike with spectacular views of the ocean, cliffs, wildlife and sea stacks.

Accommodations in and around Trinity are lovely, and limited – so book early, particularly if you’re traveling in August and September. Stay right in Trinity at the Artisan Inn, or at Fisher’s Loft in Port Rexton, just a few minutes down the road from town.


Port Union

Just under 30 minutes from Trinity, this historical town plays an interesting and important role in Newfoundland’s past, and the Fisherman’s Protective Union. The entire town appears locked in the early 1900’s. Tour the Port Union factory building and see the printing press, as well as archived pieces and historical tools and household items in the museum. The surrounding area is picturesque and worth visiting once you have explored the town itself.


Another 20 minutes or so from Port Union is Elliston – home of the puffins. One of the highlights of Newfoundland is wildlife. If you didn’t get a chance to see any puffins on your boat tour in St. John’s or Trinity, don’t miss a stop at Elliston. Bring your own binoculars, or, once you’ve parked your car on the side of the road, borrow a pair. You will be able to see the puffins – birds smaller than you might imagine – on the adjacent rock. Bring a blanket, or sit in the grass and enjoy the view. Stay all day if you wish – it’s not remotely corporate, and no one will ask you to leave.

 Traveling to Eastern Newfoundland - One Red Phone Box Travel Blog


Bonavista is day-tripping distance from Trinity (less than an hour by car), or another spot worth spending a night, depending on your schedule. First on the agenda is a tour of the Matthew, a replica of John Cabot’s ship, appropriately located at his first landing place. From Cape Bonavista Lighthouse Provincial Historic Site, you may be able to spot an iceberg, and you’ll get a taste of Newfoundland history in the quaint downtown.

Take in the cliffs, the fishing boats, and the rugged coastline, before heading twenty minutes down the coast in the direction of Newman’s Cove to Bonavista Social Club at Amherst’s Cove for lunch (open during the summer, only). The self-sufficient restaurant produces and grows their own products for breads, soups, salads, and pizzas. You could even do the loop in one day from Trinity, to Port Union, Elliston, Bonavista, and back to Trinity in time for dinner.

Even more?

Eastern Newfoundland

If you manage to cover this segment of Newfoundland in a week, you’ll have been very successful (and potentially overwhelmed). But, if you still want more, carry on west to Gander (now famous for its starring role in the Broadway musical Come From Away), Fogo IslandTwillingate, and Terra Nova National Park. I would recommend taking as much time as you possibly can free up to see as much of the province as possible. Nothing you see will be remotely close to mediocre, and may even make you question your eyesight. Seeing that many cool things in a week can have that effect.

The Five Minute Trick: How to Stop Procrastinating and Reach Your Goals

Everyone has things they want to do. You know, the wish list that comes to you in the middle of making dinner, or between drafting emails at work – I want to speak Italian; I wish I could embroider cool things; I’d like to be a writer; I want to have toned arms…. On and on. 

But you’re busy, and there’s work and meal prep and school work and by the end of the day it’s just easier to put on Netflix and veg out. Or maybe you say, oh, I’ll do those things on the weekend. And then the weekend comes and there isn’t the mental energy to start a new hobby or work on something that we know might be good for us but doesn’t really rank in terms of priority. 

There’s hope though! You can solve this problem and break out of the cycle of procrastination with only five minutes a day of work. Five minutes! We all have five minutes at some point in the day, don’t we? 

I love the five minutes a day trick because it works for almost everything.  Here’s the trick:

Do the thing you want to do for five minutes. You must do five minutes a day. If you do more, great. If you fall off track and don’t do a day, don’t beat yourself up, just get back on track the next day.  Just do it. Five minutes.

No way can I do these things I want to do in five minutes – is what you could be thinking. And it’s true – some things you really won’t get better at doing just five minutes of it each day. But you will do it, and then some magic happens: Doing it for five minutes sometimes becomes seven, or ten or sixty, and all of a sudden you are getting better at that thing you’ve always wanted to do. Or, maybe you aren’t improving (cause we don’t need to do things just to be good at them) but we can see personal growth by engaging in the same activity daily. 

This can’t work for everything – is another thing you could be thinking. Cool, no problem. Let’s try it. 

I wanted to learn Spanish. In fact, I want to learn lots of languages, and I chose Spanish because it was close to French and because I’d like to go to Spain. Learning a language is a lot of work and I have other things to do and I get bored easily and on and on with the excuses. Until I said, No. Five minutes. 

So I tried different five minute methods – reading in Spanish. Learning new words. Trying different apps. And with all of these things I started by saying I would only do five minutes, right before I went to bed. I eventually found a method that worked for me. Some nights I would only do five minutes. Others I might do seven or ten. Am I going to become fluent with five minutes a day? Maybe. Not quickly! But I’m doing it. And some nights I think, hey I’ll just keep going, and do even more. Most importantly, I can’t say it isn’t happening. I can’t say I wish I could learn Spanish. It’s happening. 

What about other things? Embroidery? Five minutes a day quickly becomes 30! Dog training? Five minutes on YouTube and you’ve learned a new thing! Want to work on your TikTok skills? Five minutes, hammer it out. Baking? Exercise? Tech skills? Five minutes! 

What if I really don’t have five minutes? 

Sure, that’s fair. Sometimes the day just goes. How can we find five minutes when we feel like we don’t have it? 

Make it easy for yourself. Try to do your five minutes at the same time every day so it becomes a habit, not work. I decided that my evening routine is pretty set, so adding five minutes there was a regular addition I could keep up with. It might be first thing in the morning when you wake up – rather than scrolling mindlessly, do your five minutes. 

But I missed my five minutes and now I’m off track! 

Yup, that’s going to happen. At least one day a week I mess with my schedule and my five minutes disappear, despite all good intentions. The joy of the five minute trick is that you haven’t lost anything by missing that one day. Nothing bad has happened. You haven’t gotten out of shape, or lost all you’d learned. Your clarinet will still be there tomorrow even if you didn’t give it five minutes of attention today. Don’t sweat it. Just do it tomorrow and get back on track.

What have you been waiting to do and putting off? Try the five minute trick and let me know if it works for you!

4 Considerations When Setting a Price for your Rental

So you’ve taken the plunge and decided to rent out your house or unit. Renting a property can be a great way to earn some passive income, assuming that your costs can cover your expenses. Figuring out how to price your rental can be tricky – you don’t want to lose money, you want to make as much as you can, but also get a good tenant, and not have to work too hard to maintain…. So much to think about. Check out this list for the top four things to consider when pricing your rental.

  1. What are your expenses and how can you cover them?

Owning a rental property is just like running a business, and it helps to think about it like a business so expenses don’t get out of control. In my case, I had already put money into renovations and repairs, so it was important that I start to get some money out of my unit rather than putting more in. Expenses could include:

Upkeep and maintenance (shovelling, mowing the lawn etc.). You can sometimes discuss with your tenant who will be responsible for these things. 

Repairs and refreshing between tenants. Every time a tenant leaves, the unit needs to be cleaned, sometimes painted, and refreshed. This costs money and time, whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do it. 

Utilities. You may choose to share expenses with the tenant, or have them cover wifi and electricity. Other items like oil or a water bill, are sometimes paid by the landlord. If you can figure out the monthly cost for these items, then you can better assess how much a tenant should pay to live in the unit, and benefit from those things. 

Property taxes. You will be responsible for the property taxes for the unit. Divide the annual bill to see what the monthly amount will be. Property taxes can be higher than anticipated, depending on where the house is. 

Income taxes. Income that you earn on the rent is taxable. You will also have expenses that can go against the income, but keep in mind that the more income you earn, the more tax you may have to pay. 

  1. Location + Market 

These two factors are almost entirely out of your control, but will absolutely impact what you can charge. 

A good location, like near a hospital, university, or a downtown core, or even in an area where there isn’t much housing, can up the price you can ask for your rental. If your unit is more rural, sometimes this can be a good thing – maybe there aren’t many places available to rent in that area. But if renting isn’t common in the area, charging a high monthly rate may just price your unit out of reach for most people living in the region. 

That being said, the market – the number of renters versus units, and how popular a particular area is – can be a huge factor.  In an area with very few units with many people wanting to rent, you certainly could charge higher prices. It helps to research the area and find out what other comparable houses or units are going for. Charging more doesn’t always equal less work for you! 

  1. What kind of tenant can pay your price

After researching the market and the location, you might have a pretty good idea of what you think your rental should be worth. You may even believe that you can get top dollar for it – what a deal! The next thing to think about is what kind of tenant can pay the price you want, and whether that’s the kind of tenant you in fact want to rent to. 

When I was a renter, I expected more from the landlord and the building whenever I paid more for rent. When I was paying relative peanuts for a shared historical (that is, old and cold), perhaps somewhat illegal unit in a university town, I was content to let things slide, versus paying more than half my take home for what should be a well cared for downtown unit where I expected things to be taken care of, addressed quickly, and to live comfortably. 

As a landlord, knowing that charging a lot more for a rental means the tenant will likely expect better service may take away from your ability to make this truly passive income. And that could be okay! Some landlords are capable of doing their own handiwork and repairs, or have a single family home with few disruptions to rent out and don’t expect to be called on often. 

The price you set will also often have an impact on whether the tenant is able to live there alone, or needs to get roommates or a partner to share the space. More people = more wear and tear = more maintenance during or between rentals. 

  1. Long term versus short term renters 

Obviously if you’ve got this far, you probably aren’t considering a short term vacation rental sort of situation! Short term rentals can be great money makers, but require a lot of work in between guests, and to manage bookings. If you aren’t living right on top of your vacation rental, hiring third party help may be the best option, but it still can get pricey. Since we want to avoid the work of switching out, looking for a long term tenant can reduce the turnover and less turn over equals fewer times you’re in cleaning up, painting, and advertising the unit. 

A regular lease runs for a year, and some renew automatically while others will have to be renewed by both parties. Alternatively, some people prefer to offer a month to month lease, with the option for either the landlord or tenant to bring the relationship to an end under certain conditions. 

A shorter term lease can be good if you are wanting to use the property more often between tenants, as a cottage or vacation space, or if you’re considering selling in the future. If not, it makes more sense financially to rent it for a longer term, and reduce the turnover between renters. 

Simple right? Four tricks to setting the right price for your unit.

  1. Expenses
  2. Location
  3. Tenant
  4. Rental Term

5 Important Things to Know Before Becoming a Landlord

I became a landlord in my twenties, after buying a cheap house, living in it for a while, and then relocating for work. Rather than sell the property, I decided to rent it out.

Choosing to rent out a house that you’ve lived in and love is not an easy decision. I had put time and sweat and money into making my house a home for me – with the paint colours and finishes that I liked. It wasn’t a fancy house, but it felt like mine. Offering it to someone else felt very… personal, like inviting someone into your space and never being able to ask them to leave.

As an introvert, renting was also a bit more challenging. I knew I would likely have to advertise, post pictures of my home on the internet, and talk to lots of people about their situations in order to find a good tenant. Just by fluke, I ended up getting a tenant through word of mouth instead, so I didn’t have to worry too much about it this time around! But I know in the future that putting myself and my house in the public eye is a risk I have to accept.

Read more: How I flipped my $90,000 house into a $210,000 investment

Having tenants ended up being a very positive experience. Financially, it’s really nice to have that little extra income coming in each month, and the rent covers the mortgage payment on the house. But also, because I’m renting a house in a rural area, it feels good to contribute to the housing stock, and give a safe and clean place to live to other young people like I was when I bought the house.

Whatever your motivations for renting out a property or becoming a landlord, so many negative situations can be avoided with good preparation, relationship building, and clear expectations.

Here are five important things to know before becoming a landlord.

Building a relationship with the tenant can create a positive rapport. Understanding where the other person is coming from, and being prepared for what might bother them in the future, sets up the relationship for success.
  1. Write everything down. If it isn’t in the lease, or in the attached schedules, then it doesn’t exist.  It isn’t that you don’t trust your tenant; trust is important in the relationship. But things can happen, circumstances change… other people are unpredictable! Writing everything down, and being very clear in advance about your expectations can help build the relationship on solid footing.
  2. Choose your tenant carefully. I was really lucky – I knew personally and professionally the tenant who ended up renting my house. It’s easy if you live in an area where housing is scarce, to have many many applicants for a house or unit, and to get bogged down in choosing. Some factors to consider include obvious things like, is the person employed, do they have pets, do they seem responsible… But less obvious things can be who they choose to give as references, do they have small children who are likely to go wild with the crayons on your freshly painted walls, and even thinking about how long you expect they will stay. If you’re looking for a year after year tenant, maybe someone with a family and a job in the region makes sense. If you want to have access to the property again though after a year or so, perhaps someone who seems likely to move again, or someone with a more transient job would be a better choice.
  3. Pricing your rental can make a big difference. This feels obvious – of course, the amount of rent you get for your unit or your house can have a direct impact on your back account, or your financial comfort level. But the price you set can also dictate who is able to rent your unit, and who would want to. I knew I was renting my house at a time and in a place where there was not a lot of choice for tenants. There were very few options, so I knew I had a captive audience for my unit. I could probably have hiked up the rent, and forced tenants to have roommates, or really narrowed my possible tenants to wealthier people. But I wanted to consider the kind of tenant I wanted; I knew I might not want someone for more than a year. I wanted some flexibility. And I didn’t want someone who was going to be very demanding about maintenance. It can help to make a list of the qualities you want in the tenant, and then price accordingly. Just because the market can handle a really high monthly price, doesn’t mean that those are the tenants you want!
  4. Being a landlord can be profitable on a month to month basis, but can also be time consuming. One of the big fears I had going into this whole landlord situation was the amount of my time that could be taken up with it. While I knew I would make some money off the rent, I didn’t want my role to take up so many hours that the price wasn’t worth it. I felt confident that if I needed work done on the house, or maintenance, that the tenant would let me know and I could access those services. But if I hadn’t been so sure of that, I might have felt that this whole situation would take up way too much of my down time! Fortunately, there hasn’t been much need for the tenant to contact me, but when things happen – the power goes out, a window cracks, whatever – you have to be available. Make sure you feel ready to take on that commitment.
  5. Everyone is self-interested. Tenants care about what matters to them! They want things in the house to work. They want the apartment to be well cared for. They want the landlord to be responsive. They don’t care about the things you, the landlord, might care about. Recognizing that reality, how can you create systems and a relationship that protects both you and the tenant, and your different priorities? Building a relationship with the tenant can create a positive rapport. Understanding where the other person is coming from, and being prepared for what might bother them in the future, sets up the relationship for success.

Have you ever considered being a landlord? What fears and concerns do you have about the process?