Outside there is a polar vortex and it’s been nearly MINUS FIFTY with windchill for the past couple of weeks. I am completely stuck inside and really been missing being able to go for my outside adventures in the forests to unwind a little bit.
But at least it’s toasty warm and I’ve been keeping busy doing all sorts of things that I love! Here’s what I’ve been up to lately:
♡ Decorating the house for Valentine’s Day (it doesn’t really take much to love it up ;))
Like most people, I have always wondered who am I REALLY?! Fortunately we are at a time in history where those answers are just a few clicks away.
You know you’ve watched too much tv when you’ve thought perhaps I was mixed up in the hospital at birth. Perhaps I’m secretly royalty! Where in the world am I from?! My gift to myself this Christmas was DNA testing from the service 23andMe so I could finally figure out those answers.
Note: This is a review of 23andMe based on my personal experiences. I don’t have any formal science background nor was I asked to provide any opinions. I just wanted to share what I thought should anybody be considering doing DNA testing themselves.
I ordered my 23andMe kit on December 18th. Within a couple of days of ordering, I received a DNA testing kit in the mail.
There are a couple of different options for purchasing a testing kit. You can either get the “basic” Ancestry + Traits Kit, which will provide the breakdown of where in the world you are from, and Traits (over thirty reports including potential hair, eye colour, hair photobleaching, whether you like sweet or salty foods and more) based on your DNA. There is also a slightly more expensive Health + Ancestry Kit, which also includes genetic predispositions, wellness reports, and carrier statuses. If you do pick the basic kit, you CAN opt to add on Health after for an additional fee.
I opened the box and did the testing right after I got my kit in the mail. The first thing you do is register the kit on their website with your unique code ~ which will track every single step of the process. You then take out the testing tube out for the most fun part of the whole process: permission to SPIT!! You have to fill up a vial with a not-insignificant amount of saliva that the lab will test. It took me a good five minutes to get enough spit to fill it to the line.
Finally, your body is saliva free! There are detailed instructions on every step, and how to repackage for shipping back to the lab. The return shipping is prepaid, and you simply resend the same box it came in so there is no stress about shipping labels or postage. You simply drop the kit back into the post box and it’s on its way! You will get a tracked shipping number and can follow your sample back to the lab where it’s on to testing!
A little part of you travels across the country to 23andMe’s testing labs (they appear to be located in Los Angeles and North Carolina – with mine getting the tropical LA experience!) You can follow each step on the website or through email updates as your registered sample moves through testing – it’s a very interactive experience!
The kit can take 6-8 weeks to test in total – but that’s very conservative. Each step has an estimated time-frame. Some kits are randomly chosen for quality testing in the Review stage, which apparently can take up to two weeks. I’m lucky that didn’t happen to me because my goodness I was impatient (they didn’t end up testing for that particular trait… phew)! As an FYI – this was my timeline:
Registered and shipped (in Canada): December 22nd
Arrived at Lab (in Los Angeles, California): January 4th
Prepped: January 4th
Extracted: January 8th
Genotyped: finished January 15th
Reviewed: January 15th
Computing Your Results: started January 15th
Results Ready: January 17th – results were “expected” February 15th, or up to March 1st
Then the most exciting day came! The email that my results were ready!!
Now the exciting part! Who am I?! Let’s take a look:
I’m more colourful than I thought I would be (my insides DO match my outsides)! The map is made up from the DNA where your ancestors are believed to originate from in the past 200 or so years.
Some results were not a huge surprise: my maternal grandparents migrated to Canada in the 1950s from West Germany – so the Germany results were as expected! My Opa (paternal grandfather) was born near Chelm, Poland – so makes sense that he had Polish ancestry.
My Dad’s side has always been a little “mysterious” and unknown! That side of the family has been in Nova Scotia for a number of generations and we knew that the family had originated in England and Ireland – which seems to be pretty accurate looking at this! But the “fun” family rumour is that somebody had an ~interaction~ with a ships’ captain a few generations ago. 😉 That originated because Dad’s family has an inherited blood condition called Beta Thalassemia (which is characterized by severe anemia, fatigue, and bone disorders.) Beta Thalassemia is also called “Mediterranean Thalassemia” as it’s prevalent more in those populations (Italians and Greeks). I tested negative as a child, fortunately, but it’s always been apart of who we were. Looks like the rumour was TRUE as there is a chunk of Southern European/Italian in there.
Some of the interesting pieces the testing picked up were the Ashkenazi Jewish (albeit a tiny bit!) and the Senegambian DNA (it has 90% accuracy too and shows up on my relatives’ tests, so not just “noise”!) 1% means that it was multiple generations ago, but I am very interested in understanding the history of this person.
23andMe definitely does not replace actual health advice. But understanding your genetic risks is still important. As I mentioned, I was tested for Beta Thalassemia as a child, so potential inherited risks is something that’s always been at the back of my mind.
The Health Testing feature provides insight into a number of Predispositions (like Macular Degeneration, BRCA, Celiac Disease, Late Onset Alzheimer’s, and Type 2 Diabetes, etc), potential Carrier Status (Beta Thalassemia, Cystic Fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, etc), and Traits:
I ended up not having any of the tested Beta Thalassemia variants (which I was already aware, but good to see!):
The test I was the most nervous for was the BRCA1/2 variant test which literally stands for “BReast CAncer gene” as it is a gene mutation known to cause a higher lifetime risk of breast cancer. BRCA gene has been in the news frequently over the past few years, brought into the forefront by Angelina Jolie who was found to have the gene and opted to have preventative surgery. Fortunately, I don’t have any of the tested variants. Again, not a replacement for healthcare and testing, but it still a relief and good awareness!
Some of the fun traits that your genetics can predict and 23andMe can tell you are such as dimples, eye colour, ear lobe type, hair colour, whether you have red hair, a widow’s peak, and ice cream flavour:
Now you know too much about my earwax!
The correct answer to the Ice Cream question is BOTH swirled together!
It’s worth noting, and 23andMe is pretty explicit in the tutorial you are required to take, that the Traits are “based on your DNA and data contributed by other customers.” So meaning, it’s only as good as the genetic information provided in comparison to other 23andMe customers with similar genetics, but it’s fun to think about.
You can OPT IN to find DNA Relatives (it’s not a requirement if you don’t want to.)
The site will show you your potential closest matches based on your shared DNA and shared segments, and estimate your relationship (I have over 1,500 matches)! I ended up finding a few of my Dad’s cousins over in Nova Scotia and lots of distant relatives. Doesn’t look like I’m secretly a princess or related to anyone who is going to stop the press! Boo!
You can then chose to message your relatives to get more information and build your family tree.
It appears that most users of 23andMe are North America-based, so unfortunately there are very few individuals from my mom’s side. Hoping that more of my family can do testing so our genetic picture becomes more clear!
In conclusion, DNA testing is very fascinating! I remember wondering about the possibilites when shows like CSI brought DNA knowledge to the forefront. Now it’s possible for ANYBODY to find out exactly who they are.
You do have to consider your own personal beliefs on privacy and whether it’s information you want to know and whether you can deal with potential outcomes (good and bad). But for me, this was a wonderful opportunity!
If you’re looking for more learning opportunities and experiences on 23andMe, I suggest checking out the 23andMe Subreddit!
I have seen a number of posts of people sharing their top games from 2020, and thought I would participate as well! 2020 was an ideal kind of gaming year: stuck inside with nothing but time and looking for a good escape.
I’ll admit, I didn’t really leave my “bubble” games wise, opting for some old reliable friends (nope, no crazy shoot-em-up apocalypse for me last year ;)).
Here’s what I played New Releases~
Animal Crossing New Horizons ~ obviously my most anticipated game of the year, and it didn’t disappoint! I would have enjoyed it no matter what, but escaping to a sunny island of happy animals during a raging pandemic made ACNH just a little bit more special. I love open-ended games with no pressure, and this helped me escape into a world of my very own.
Stardew Valley ~ I started playing Stardew on election night to distract myself a bit… It’s a farming simulator game much like Harvest Moon, but has a bit more a “mature” feeling to it. While it’s somewhat similar to Animal Crossing where you get to live a new life, there are more required tasks needed to accomplish more rigid goals (eg. farming, marriage, etc). But the graphics and music are beautiful and an incredibly calming game when you need a distraction from the real worlds’ craziness!
Pokemon Sword/Shield ~ The newest generation in the line of Pokemon video games, which was released at the tail end of 2019. I have been sitting on a draft post FOREVER about my opinions on the newer Pokemon games, but I will keep my opinions to myself for now… I really only started getting into the game at the very end of the year, but so far it is a vast improvement from Sun/Moon. The graphics are beautiful (especially the architecture of the towns!) and it has a very open feel. And of course one of my favourite Pokemon, Alcremie, who is a pile of whipped cream, was introduced.
Final Fantasy VIII Remaster ~ not a new game per se, but instead it is a remastered version of Playstation’s 1999 Final Fantasy VIII now released for the Switch with upgraded graphics. The game was a bit overshadowed by Final Fantasy VII, which was an actual remake and a much more popular title in the series, but it’s definitely worth checking out. The Junction system still remains a struggle, but if you can figure it out (pay attention to the tutorials!) the storyline and music are definitely worth it.
Pokemon Pearl ~ I usually revert back to the older generations of Pokemon, Generation 4 being a favourite! Journeying through Sinnoh is so comforting and I could replay this version a million times and not get bored. Forever hoping for a proper remake *hint Nintendo!*
Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure ~ I have some great memories of playing this Playstation game with my cousins in the early 2000s. It’s basically what it says on the tin: a pure adorable sappy video game slash musical! There are singing and dancing cats, frogs, and pirates, and a girl has to rescue a prince from a erm… rather well-endowed Evil Queen. It’s just sugary, simple, FUN that was perfect for a year like last year. To add to the fun, it comes with a soundtrack of the songs from the game. Here’s a taste of the music from the game!
Making another go at Crafting 365 in 2021! It’s an idea based on an old Flickr group where you share a pic of your daily creativity adventures (remember Flickr ~ an awesome photo-sharing community before Instagram?! Such good times!) The idea is just to do SOMETHING crafty a day and build creativity ~ whether it’s a couple of rows of knitting, a whole dang blanket, s batch of cookies, or rainbowfying something or another.
I’ve attempted this a few times, but usually don’t chronicle my adventures very well. In fact, I actually started this blog to start sharing my daily craft adventures. Hoping this year I will get a LITTLE bit better at sharing! But unlike other years, I’m not putting any pressure on myself this year like I’ve done before. I spent weeks once making an outlined list of all the things I wanted to accomplish back in 2019, and that’s just… NOT happening! I’m here for a good time, not a tedious tear-filled time.
So here’s week ONE of 2021! I’d be happy to never knit a blanket or hat ever again, and little projects are much more my thing. I was feeling adding some excitement to my life, so I went with Pokemon-themed knitted softies, which I love them because they are so colourful. And I could continue them for a million years and never be done knitting Pokemon (there are over NINE-HUNDRED Pokemon now…!)
I also started journaling (another long-time goal!), finished almost two rows of last years’ Mood Blanket, and even baked some bagels. So, pretty good start hey 2021?!
I have heard a lot of wonderful things about Moleskine and have always wanted one! They are very pricey but exceptional quality, and this years’ special edition includes some darling Maneki-neko (Japanese lucky cats!) so thought I’d treat myself! I made sure that the covers are made of synthetic material – not “mole skin” or leather.