Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sept 30 - Photo a Day - You, Then

San Francisco 1983
Been thinking about this lovely Vietnamese lady a lot recently, as she was my very first English as a Second Language (ESL) student. 

I was sharing a six-bedroom, second-floor flat (usually with ten to twelve roommates) one storefront from the corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets: hippie central in San Francisco.

One of the sweet, chatty regulars at my mindless restaurant job told me about her daughter's new volunteer gig with Partners in English. A short, intense two weeks later, I began weekly visits to Nga's home.

She lived on Geary Blvd, one of the city's major east-west thoroughfares, in a tiny, packed-with-love, two-bedroom apartment. It housed four generations of her family, from Na-Na to Natalie, her infant daughter. No one but Nga spoke any English, and she was brand new to the language. Yet I felt warmly welcomed into this family, and was blessed to work with her and witness her amazing growth for over a year.

Today, nearly thirty years and a zillion experiences later, I've come full-circle. I am in the process of building an ESL tutoring business, and co-facilitating an Adult English Conversation group at the city library. It turns out, when mom told me in elementary school, that I should be an English teacher, she was right all along!

(P.S. While I look like a kid in this photo, I was actually 24!)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sept 29 - Photo a Day - Errand

Saturday Morning at Kanata Farmers' Market
If only all errands were so much fun! Our closest Farmers' Market is tiny... maybe 15 booths, but we're getting to know some of the dear, friendly sellers, and truly love supporting local, non-chemical (if not yet certified organic) merchants.

Here's our usual haul:
  • A mound of tomatoes
  • Herbed (or not) goat cheese
  • Free-range eggs
  • Sourdough and/or whole-grain and seed bread
And then there are the ocassionals:
  • green, yellow, and red peppers
  • green and yellow string beans
  • cauliflower (often made into "rice" or pizza crusts)
  • brussel sprouts
  • apples (honeycrisp again today... oh my!)
  • berries
  • and cilantro salsa (the recipe I tried--somewhat successfully--to copy this year.)

We put off the rest of our errands until tomorrow so we could enjoy this gorgeous weather (it looks grey, but there's actually a bright blue sky with just a few puffy clouds outside) and join some friends for a bike ride. Sooo... we're off, and you get a taste of my favourite errand of all!

P.S. This turned out to be a pretty fitting post for the night of the Harvest Moon! Hope you enjoy it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sept 28 - Photo a Day - A Good Thing

Poor, put-upon, just-bathed Copper and his quick sister, Penny
Our goofy, 85-lb/39 kg golden retriever is water-adverse. Having lived in a pen in upstate NY most of his life, he doesn't know the joy of the ocean, and thinks I'm insane when I try to talk him into a dip in a lake or river. Mules got nothin' on Copper.

Giving us the privacy to use the washroom is never a problem with this boy. He has only voluntarily joined me in there once -- in the midst of a directly-overhead thunderstorm, when he knew that my lap was the only safe place in the world. Otherwise, it is the evil room in our house.

On bath day, like this morning, it takes both of us to get him into the tub... me holding his collar so he doesn't dash, and Pierre doing the heavy, two-step lifting. Amazingly, once he's in there, he wags away, and doesn't even attempt an escape, even though it is clearly not his 'druthers.

After a few weeks of rolling in his favourite muddy spot outside the back door and eating delicious fish-based dog food, this pup gets... rank. Giving him a bath makes him look at me like this, both in the tub and for a little while after, but snuggling with a clean, sweet-smelling pupper is a very, very good thing. And luckily, the snuggles always seem to bring back his smile.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sept 27 - Photo a Day - Love/Hate

The Hooch Cabinet
Booze is a double-edged sword in my life. At times I love it.... perhaps too much. And at others, I hate its allure, its influence on my and others' lives, its sneaky way of trapping so many in its net.

Alcohol has been my drug of choice since I was a youngster. University years, especially, were soaked in clubs and parties. Socializing in my beloved home cities of San Francisco, Seattle and now, Ottawa, has almost always included liquor. Many of my most fun memories with friends and family have been enhanced with bottles of beer or wine, and shots of every hard liquor imaginable. I can count on three fingers the flavours I don't like.

In my early twenties, a boyfriend nearly died of acute alcohol poisoning. On that horrifying night, we learned that you can drink too much, and AL ANON became a regular Tuesday night stop. Some friends spiralled out of control and hit bottom: a terrible thing to see. A number of them joined AA along the way, reclaiming their lives, and making their loved ones proud.

I scare myself sometimes, falling into the unconscious habit of having a couple of drinks (sometimes more) every night -- not to the point of drunkenness, but still... it's frightening when I find myself looking forward to the taste and the buzz. I've seen what can happen when you're not watching, and while medical studies show that a little red wine is healthy, more is not, and we only get one liver. On occasion, to prove to myself that I still can, I stop. That's why, for the past month, we have taken back the reins and only sip a bit on the weekends.

Sept 26 - Photo a Day - Near

Nearly there!
Near bliss...

Receiving an hour-long massage from a therapist who really has the touch is a heavenly thing.

Massage therapy was my first official profession, and through almost 25 years of giving and 10 years of teaching it, I didn't get nearly enough!

Back in those days, I'd occasionally connect with a fellow practitioner in a workshop. We'd schedule a few trades before life would get too busy again, or one of us would move away. Months often passed between treatments.

Over the past three years when I was back in college, I visited the on-campus massage clinic, getting discounted treatments from second- and third-year students. Most of the massages were very good.

The last one -- oddly, also her final college clinical appointment -- was divine. One thing I've learned is to speak up when things are spectacular. Lucky for me, she had a lovely pink and green business card in her purse.

Today I walked through this beautiful door and upstairs to a warm, quiet room, where my newly-certified, ultra-talented therapist and friend, Emilie works. There, once again, I was treated by a true artist to the blissful practice of a profession that is near and dear to my heart.

Thank you, Em. May your work bring great joy....

The Fabulous Emilie at Body Poets in Ottawa

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sept 25 - Photo a Day - Frame

This old frame... homely, beat up, and well-traveled, has been with me for many long years. Belonging originally, I believe, to my Gramps and Gran on mom's side (though it could go back another generation), it was entrusted to me when they were still with us, and spry.

At some point, in their hands, I assume, the beveled mirror was reframed, and went from a much smaller, sharp-cornered block frame -- glued behind this -- to a gilded and bedecked slice of stained plywood.

 I've often wondered why they chose this particular upgrade, and what its original border looked like. I have considered reframing it more than a dozen times, and clearly, in each instance, sentimentality has triumphed.

Through many living-, dining-, tv-, and bed-rooms, it has reflected my homes' other belongings. My face has changed in it from a smooth twenty-something just out of girlhood, to a mid-fifty-year-old woman.

In its current placement, it reflects another frame, one which holds the words of Emily Dickenson: Dwell in Possibility... definitely my favourite place to live, and perhaps that of this old mirror.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sept 24 - Photo a Day - 3 Things

Normally, in-home laundry rooms contain two appliances. For some reason, the previous owners of our home left us an extra washer. (Penny is kindly pointing it out for you while using the bonus folding surface as a snack counter.)

We've never plugged in the center machine -- we're (possibly wrongly) assuming that it's busted.

 As I write, it's occurs to me that that assumption is rather silly. With laundry lines available in the basement and the back yard, plus the dryer, if that middle machine actually works, I could probably have all of the weekly loads finished in half the usual time.

Hmmmm... Bet you can guess what I'm doing tomorrow..... ;) Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sept 23 - Photo a Day - Before Bedtime

Maybe it was growing up as the daughter of a dental technician. Or maybe it's my vivid memory of a 1960's bubble-lettered poster mom hung in our bathroom during my grade-school years that read Don't Squeeze Toothpaste From the Middle of the Tube, and Put the Cap Back. Whatever the cause, going to bed without brushing my teeth is practically an impossibility.

Since learning of the chemical mixes of junk we've been unknowingly washing with and slathing into and onto our bodies, I've been doing my best to eliminate the unhealthy, crappy commercial products and replacing them with organic, cell-building, health-enhancing ones. Some of them, I make.

Homemade toothpaste is one of my concoctions.  It's super easy and fully customizable. Starting with a few online recipes, I've added a few extra drops of this (orange and peppermint essential oils), a little less of that (baking soda and salt), and use a raspberry-flavoured magnesium powder and xylitol rather than arrowroot powder and stevia. The base is organic cold-pressed coconut oil. It took a few days to get used to the non-foaming action, but I haven't had a canker sore in months, and my mouth just feels healthier.

For now... nigh' night... sleep tight... don't let the bedbugs bite. And make your tomorrow a Marvelous Monday!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sept 22 - Photo a Day - Up!

English and French Conversation Facilitators
Now THIS is a group of folks dedicated to lifting people UP! Volunteering at two of Ottawa's library branches and a community centre, these good people met this morning to share ideas, best practices, and laughs.

When I explained my reason for taking this shot (which was actually taken by our coordinator, since she insisted I be in it, too), there were a few quips: "Fed up?" "Shut up?" Ahh, how I love spending time with linguistic people who enjoy playing with words. :)

There's a runner up for today's photo, also. Pierre UPgraded my three-year-old- and his five-year-old cell phone! I went from my old Blackberry flip phone whose sim card had room for about five photos to the just-released tiny-but-mighty iPhone5. Yes... I have, at last, joined the twenty-first century.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sept 21 - Photo a Day - Sometimes

This morning I met a new tutoring student. After my shower, it felt appropriate to put on a little makeup, and while doing so, I realized that was the perfect photo for today's word: Sometimes.

When I was younger, I rarely went out of the house without makeup. At the very least, mascara and blush.

As an adult, I've been blessed to have had two long-term relationships with "natural" men... both of whom answered my question of whether I should wear it or not with "if you want...".

Sometimes I do want. Usually, I wear lipstick when I'm out, but skip the rest. When we fancy up, so does my face.

I don't think it's unusual for women to believe they're not beautiful without enhancement.  Everyday, though, I'm trying to love myself exactly as I am, and believe that our true beauty comes from within.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sept 20 - Photo a Day - Man-made

My lovely computah!
In 2006, my wonderful Aunt Jeannine emailed me a cartoon that says: "I love my computer because my friends live in it." That goofy-faced, smitten fellow, surrounded by hearts and squeezing his monitor, could be me. (Which is not to say I'm a goofy-faced fellow. Smitten, however....)

You may or may not know that I met my partner on the Internet. To be more precise, our tall, thin, gorgeous, perpetually 24-year-old cartoon avatars met in a virtual blues club on Second Life. Who'd'a guessed? Exploring a bizarre virtual world, meeting people from all over the world, certainly not looking for love, we found each other.

Later, (after hours and hours of Skype time) I moved from the Pacific Northwestern U.S. to Ottawa, Ontario knowing no one except Pierre. Again searching on my computer, via the magical man-made Internet, I discovered a newly-launched site called Girlfriend Social, sort of an online matchmaker for straight women looking for friends. On that site I hit the jackpot again, and met an incredibly fantabulous chiquita: Vickie.

Since moving here, I've met many more incredible people, most of whom I schedule get-togethers with via the 'net. My online time these days is spent between Facebook, email, and Skype (in that order) connecting with friends and family,  researching ESL materials and holistic health, and even conducting tutoring appointments. I use the Internet far more than my cell phone, and can hardly imagine living without the instant encyclopedia that Google has become.

Can you relate?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sept 19 - Photo a Day - Underneath

Buddhist monk, Bhante Kovida
One of my dearest friends works for Health Canada here in the capital city. Two weeks ago, she invited me to attend four Wednesdays of meditations and presentations by this sweet man, Bhante Kovida.

Today -- my first open Wednesday -- I sat on a beautiful wooden floor and listened to him speak about our relationships to ourselves, the world, our friends and loved ones, and those who challenge us. Reminders, once again, that what truly matters is not on the surface / ego level of life, but rather, that which is underneath.

The Buddhist path to living mindfully includes the practice of sitting in meditation. I was one of forty students -- mostly employees from the sixteen floors above our heads -- who sat silently for the first half hour in the gorgeous Iskatew Lodge. We breathed. In and Out. Noticed our minds drifting into "thinking, thinking, thinking," and brought them back to the breath. Released. Again and again. It is difficult and peace-filled and uncomfortable and calming. Next week, I hope to join them again.

 Here is a lovely paragraph from the page he shared with us...

"Only awareness can free us from our thoughts. In the moment we become aware that our thoughts are just thoughts rather than reality itself, we wake up from their spell and can return to presence. It is empowering to discover that we are not enslaved by our thoughts, by how our mind interprets reality. This sudden taste of freedom provides a glimpse of ordinary magic. It takes practice to wake up, to emerge from our mind-created worlds. Thoughts, images, and moods are not necessarily connected to what is actually happening in the present moment. That is why the Buddha taught us to be mindful of them before we are influenced or caught by them." {Those few sentences might be worth a second read.}

Namaste, until tomorrow. ("I honor the spirit in you which is also in me.")

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sept 18 - Photo a Day - Price

Today I went into Staples to replenish  printer paper (finally found 100% recycled!) and to look at price tags.

Wandering through the overstuffed store, I came across five different aisle-end displays of these "Poly Report Covers with Tang Fasteners." Forty-eight cents apiece. And, by golly, if  you can find an ad for 'em elsewhere, we'll match that dirt-cheap price!

I'm trying to remember the last time I saw anything for forty-eight cents in an office supply store. The simplest pens run around $1.25; there was a perilously leaning, green cardboard display of bins filled with a giant variety of junk--each costing a buck; even the candy at the cash was eighty-nine cents a bar.

The sticky on the back of each of these (which, as we all know, can never be completely removed), naturally, said Made in China. Staples had to have ordered millions of them.

Will they sell? How many students or office/government workers submit reports, studies, essays, or whathaveyous in cheap poly covers like these with don't-dare-bend-them-more-than-once aluminum "tangs"? What were the factory conditions like where these originated? And how many eons does it take for every one of them to decompose? Does anybody care? Or is "We Won't Be Undersold" all that matters?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sept 17 - Photo a Day - In my Fridge

Time to EAT!
What a mish-mosh of food there is in our fridge! I considered cleaning it all up for the photo today, then decided to just snap-it-as-it-is instead.

One thing that did was help me see what left-overs we need to toss out or turn into "glop" before they go bad!
  • I wonder how chow mein tastes mixed with a bbq'd chicken thigh and mushroom soup?
  • The little yellow crooknecks must be sauted for tonight's dinner. 
  • That giant cauliflower and in the crisper, a half-dozen eggs, and the huge bag of mozarella on the door needs to be transformed into pizza crusts this afternoon.
  • The honeycrisp apples are perfect right now.
  • Where can I find a bunch of organic jalepenoes for stuffing with cream cheese and freezing?
  • Grape tomatoes and broccoli sprouts...mmmm!
  • I don't think even one more thing would fit in this fridge! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sept 16 - Photo a Day - Strange

Glommed by a Thief in the Night :(

Perhaps for some of you, squirrel-eaten tomatoes aren't such a strange sight.

This year has been the first one that the rascally little critters have grazed on my year-long-anticipated crop. And as much as I love watching their uber-aware antics, this particular behaviour is not only strange, but definitely less than endearing!

Our local squirrels (mostly black, but a few grey and red, too) are clearly not just thirsty. We have a full birdbath and dog/cat bowl resting within eyesight and easy reach. Noooo... this isn't about survival... They're going gourmet.

These gorgeous, perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes (Sicilian Saucer) seem to be their preferred fruits. I've had my eye on the one on the left -- which was nearly six inches in diameter -- for the past week, watching its yellow-green skin begin to turn pink. It was gently propped up against the top of the garden fence, far from the ground where the {above right--which also got a minor chewing} fruit grew. This morning, however, the mondo tomatoe's usual resting place was bare. Racing out to the garden, this is the very sad sight that I found.

I hope s/he enjoyed it as much as I will. The washed and trimmed remains are soon to nestle atop a scrumptious slice of mayo-spread sourdough, and topped with a pinch of brocolli sprouts. And I'll thank the squirrel gods that those little pilferers' stomachs aren't big enough to devour the entire crop.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sept 15 - Photo a Day - First Thing You See

1. My Sweet Morning View
2. Pierre's View :)

The first thing I see -- most weekends, that is -- is my favourite person in the world: my wonderful, snuggled-in sweetheart, Pierre. (I am truly blessed to live with the LOML [love of my life] and very best friend.)

By the time my eyes begin to creak open on weekday mornings, Pierre is usually almost ready for work.

He, unlike me, was lucky to have been born with that sometimes irritating, often envied perky-morning gene. My view then, through half-opened eyes, is quite often a close-up of picture #2 above: the two fuzzy faces of Penny and Copper nuzzling, licking, drooling, meowing, whining, walking on me, and/or bringing in a treasured woobie.

These days I generally wake up surrounded by loved ones and overflowing with gratitude.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sept 14 - Photo a Day - Favourite

Addicted to Aritichokes!

Favourite... How in the world do you choose? In which category? Only one???

Remember those chain e-mails that hit our inboxes a couple of years ago...the Friend Surveys with a list of 50 questions, most of which started with "What's your favourite..."? Delete your friend's answers, fill in your own, and forward them on. I ran through those questionnaires a few times, dutifully filling them out, reminding myself of all of the fabulous, fun, delicious, and beautiful people and things that top my long list of favourites.

I always wound up with a goofy grin on my face at around the half-way point. Focusing on (and being grateful for) the good stuff is my favourite mood-lifter. Sometimes I even clicked Forward.

A couple of days ago in the grocery, I noticed that artichokes -- by far the most succulent, fun-to-eat vegetables -- have returned! When I popped in late last night to snap a photo and nab some for tonight's dinner, to my great delight, I found them top row and center in the Fancy Vegetable section. Obviously, the produce manager also realizes their true value, and places them in their rightful place. ;-)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sept 13 - Photo a Day - Table

Food Court Table at Hazeldean Mall
How's this for a brilliant way to keep your customers sitting (and hopefully sipping and nibbling) for awhile? This afternoon, nobody was taking advantage of the game-boards painted on the tables in the food court; however, I can imagine some serious championships taking place here. ;-)

My visit to this table was not to prove my prowess in chess, backgammon, or checkers. It didn't even include food or beverages, or shopping at the mall -- perhaps to the merchants' dismay. Instead, at this table I met a lovely, young Chinese woman: my newest ESL student! And a very fine meeting it was.

Today's theme got me thinking about the different tables I use at home throughout the day...
  • the bedside table whose top holds a lamp, clock-radio, a couple of healing stones, and my current book(s)
  • the entry table, usually overflowing with my notebook, a bowl of keys, a change basket, receipts, junk mail, and various eyeglasses
  • the end table between the couch and rocker, receptacle for a tall stack of to-do's: books, lists, forms to fill out, and catalogues, in addition to the lamp, Christmas cactus, and a few treasures
  • the matching, mission-style coffee table, home of a minimum of two laptops
  • the "patty o'furniture" table under a netted gazebo in the back yard--one of the most inspiring places to write
  • and the dining room table, a simple two-toned set, host of a number of warm, delightfully thought-provoking and love-filled dinner parties over the past three years, which sits patiently waiting for more.
 Sort of wild to think about all of the things that an elevated flat piece of wood makes possible, isn't it?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sept 12 - Photo a Day - Together

"Together:" our favourite place to be!

Here's our little family first thing this morning before work. Pierre and I each have a mouthful of coconut oil, swishing away, Penny is washing her daddy's hand, and Copper is trying to snuggle in as close as he can.

It's the beginning of another fabulous day....

Spread the love!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sept 11 - Photo a Day - Hero

Laura York - The Cancer Assassin!
This photo is a cheater... My biggest hero, Laura, lives in Portland, Oregon, so I can't physically take her picture.  However, I must share her heroic story with you, so I grabbed her newest Facebook profile photo, knowing that if I were there, I'd shoot one JUST like this!!!

Have you ever thought about what you would do if you heard your doctor say, "You have Cancer..."?

I imagine every one of us knows or has known someone--or many someones--who's heard that diagnosis (maybe it was you). Each person has had to fight it (or not) in whatever way seemed right for him or her. Cancer's an insidious, terrifying disease, and once the words leave the doctor's mouth, everything changes -- not only for the patient, but for everyone with whom the news is shared.

Oddly (because of our fab connection), Laura and I have only met "in person" once. A mutual friend bought her a massage gift certificate many years ago when we both lived in Seattle, and we just clicked. So, when I learned that this incredibly healthy young woman had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Liver Cancer -- the last stage, which is generally accepted as a death sentence--it literally rocked my world. (Which was nothing compared to what it did to hers.)

Over the past two years, I've followed Laura's journey closely via her blog and Facebook postings. She's certainly not the only one I've known to beat cancer (my personal list, thank God, includes both of my parents), but she is the only person I know who literally assassinated a deadly disease when it was at its worst. Of course she had lots of help, but the difficult choices she made and 100% committed to makes her a hero in my eyes.

Along the way she's been studying, researching, learning and sharing all kinds of things that support others fighting cancer, and can help keep the rest of us from ever having to hear those horrible words. Because, as Laura would say, "Cancer Can Suck It!"

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sept 10 - Photo a Day - Black & White

Copper and I Make Our First Batch of Salsa!
There wasn't much black and white in my day today, so I had to grayscale a picture of our big red gold-dog.

As a matter of fact, we've had a lovely blue sky, and inside it's been a day of outrageously bright reds, yellows, and greens as I pull together, clean, chop, and simmer the harvest from our garden and the farmers' market. It's my first attempt at making freezer salsa!  Copper isn't used to me spending an entire afternoon in the kitchen, so he's wandered in and out sniffing, wagging, and asking for pets (which is his job, after all).

I took a number of photos of him, and this one, with a blurry nose, seemed to fit the bill for a black and white mugshot. Whhheww! The smells of tomatoes, cilantro, serrano, green and yellow bell peppers, ancho chile, onion, garlic, chives, vinegar, and cumin must be a LOT for a dog's sensitive snout to handle. Luckily for me, golden retrievers don't know how to complain. And hey, it's food, isn't it?

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Sept 9 - Photo a Day - Something I Do Most Weekends

The Ultimate Diner - Ralph & Sons

Something I/we do most weekends... Eat Out!

Sundays around here are usually a toss-up between heavenly breakfast at "Ralphies" (as we so nerdily call it, borrowing from The Honeymooners/Looney Tunes) or a blissful lunch at Mucho Burrito.

For two great reasons -- we wanted to join Val for breakfast, and I'd snuck in a taco lunch at Mucho Burrito last Wednesday -- this was a Ralph's morning. The traditional diner is attached to a gas station/convenience store, where you pay on the way out, sometimes--like today--standing in line behind a four-time lottery-ticket winner!

The place has been family run for over 30 years. Our waitress knows us, and is always good-spirited about our "special order" brekky -- my half order of their incredible homemade baked beans, among other things. And she gets it right 99% of the time. Standing in line to get a table is customary, as people come to this west-end hotspot from all over the city. Sometimes the best things require patience, and since one of my favourite smells is breakfast food, hangin' out in that atmosphere visiting with good company is part of the joy of it.

Second choice, Mucho Burrito, it turns out, hails from my old neighbourhood -- Lynnwood, Washington! I may have mentioned somewhere on this blog that one of the most difficult things about moving to Ottawa was the serious scarcity of great restaurants. Luckily, that is changing, and the three branches of Mucho have added to that trend. Think of a super fresh Mexican-style Subway, where you choose-your-own goodies, (reminders of the most mouth-watering greasy spot in Oakland, CA years ago), and you've got it nailed. This one's spanky clean and actually healthy. There's also usually a line-up, but it moves along quite steadily, and as their website says: The wait has always been worth it!

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Sept 8 - Photo a Day - At Night

Three of the world's best people: Pierre, Mike, and Val

Having friends over for dinner is one of my favourite "At Night" activities. Tonight, our friends Val and Mike came and let me experiment with them by making cauliflower pizza crust with yummy toppings. Time to get back to socializing! xoxo More tomorrow....

Friday, September 07, 2012

Sept 7 - Photo a Day - Natural

Kardish at Merivale and Meadowlands in Ottawa, ON

Today's word is Natural, you say? Too easy! (...I type, as I munch down the most fabulous bulk bag of BEET chips--yep, you heard it here... slice you some beets, spray them with oil, sprinkle on a little salt and throw them in your dehydrator or in your oven at the lowest possible temperature and leave them alone for a few hours [or just buy them at Kardish!].) Ohhh man... these taste a little like slightly sweet, oily potato chips, but actually have the redeeming quality of being healthy! They are just as addictive, though.)

After attending my very favourite yoga class today (Tara's Friday YinYang at Rama Lotus), I had the great pleasure of introducing my friend, Dana, to the best healthy food store in Ottawa: Kardish. I'm a regular at my neighbourhood branch -- 20 minutes west -- and it was a treat to learn that this one was a mere four minute walk from Dana's house! She's hooked! :)

Every single time I walk into a place like this, I flash back to my San Francisco years when I first worked in Goodson's Health Food Store just a few blocks from UC campus, and then grew, produced and delivered wheat grass juice to a dozen stores in Berkeley and Oakland. 'Twas a great way to put myself through massage school. That time also instilled in me a huge respect for alternative medicine, as well as the simple wisdom of keeping life as healthy and close to nature as possible. I am so grateful that stores like this, farmers' markets, and organic foods are becoming part of more people's everyday lives.

Need a snack? If you haven't yet, give this a try: skip the Doritos and Diet Coke, and pop into your local health food store. Grab a bag of organic sesame sticks and a bottle of Alo Awaken and call me when you've touched back down. I'm excited to hear what you think!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Sept 6 - Photo a Day - Every Day

Here are three things that absolutely make my day!

In 1995, I was introduced to those little green pills in my supplement box: Super Blue Green Algae (Aphanizomenon flos-aquae) and have been taking them ever since. Articles and studies on the Internet will tell you that blue-green algae is everything from a miracle nutritional superfood that releases hordes of natural killer cells (which hunt down and destroy cancer cells), to a deadly liver-poisoner.

What I can tell you is that I consider them my healthiest addiction. They boost my energy level, keep my digestive tract happy (tmi?) and, at almost 54, I take no medication. (Except the occasional Naproxen when I fall off my bike!) The rest of the supplements in the box, plus some fish oil caps, help keep my skin, hair, and hormones balanced--as I mentioned, I am in my fifties....

Second on my Every-Day list is a cuppa tea. The only "negative" (?) side-effect that blue-green algae gave was that coffee began to taste bitter. So, surrounded by coffee-shops in Seattle, I quit! A few months later in England, tea became my morning beverage. P.G. Tips -- either hot or iced -- preferably in a big happy-memories cup or glass, helps this non-morning person lift out of the sleep fog.

And third, I "pull" with organic, extra virgin coconut oil first thing every morning while in the shower, checking email, or making tea. Oil pulling (just like swishing with mouthwash for five to fifteen minutes) is an ancient Ayurvedic practice with a zillion benefits. The main thing I've noticed is that my teeth have whitened without those expensive and sensitizing peroxide or light treatments. I trust there are many under-the-surface perks I'm gaining, as well. And in case you're wondering, no, it doesn't make me gag; the coconut taste is mild and delicious!

So, there are three of my must-do daily rituals. Feel free to share your thoughts or your own. :)

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Sept 5 - Photo a Day - Bright

Yoga in the Sun on Parliament Hill

Word of the day: Bright. And was it ever!

Although our evenings are beginning to feel cooler, and a few leaves have begun to hint at their neon autumn colours to come, today was a bright-blue-sky, beating-down-sunshine, perfect summer day to be surrounded by 580 Capital City yoga practitioners amping up their own beautiful brilliance.

I've always felt as though "hot yoga" would more closely resemble torture--or a one-hour visit to hell--than the delicious strengthening/stretching/relaxing practice that I've enjoyed over the past fifteen years. Working out to the point of sweating heavily is something I generally avoid. Dana has invited me to hot yoga classes in the past, which I've graciously (I hope) declined. Today, from noon to one o'clock, however, I soaked up the sun, drenched my t-shirt, and loved every minute of it. (And, admittedly, was blissfully grateful for the intermittent breeze.)

Next week is, unfortunately, the last of these events on the lawn surrounded by Canada's capital buildings. Unless it's pouring rain or five degrees hotter than today's 27C/81F, I will be there, stretching my body, opening my heart, and encouraging my light to shine. :)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Sept 4 - Photo a Day - In my mailbox

My mailbox...

How its life has changed over the years.

It remains the receptacle into which dedicated walkers and heavy-bag carriers tuck correspondence. However, the nature of its contents has morphed from a fine mix of delightfully anticipated cards and letters, and not-so-thrilling utility bills to the current packs of unrequested marketing flyers and a weekly community newspaper.

As email and online banking and bill paying has become the norm, my mailbox has changed into a barely noticed, temporary holder of pizza, roofing, pho, siding, real estate, tree-trimming, IKEA, and McDonalds ads. Occasionally the car dealership or vet's office reminds me to bring in a beast for maintenance. But usually, the beautifully graphic-designed bits of junk mail rest for a few hours in the bottom of this metal box before being deposited into the paper recycling bin which is shuffled to the curb each Friday.

When a book, cd, or other small packet from an online order arrives, the box takes on the nature of a Christmas stocking. And on those very rare and special occasions when a friend or family member pops a card or note into snail mail, and familiar hand-writing peeks above the bold, fancy typeset of the advertisements, my gratitude abounds for the rusty metal box that protects and cradles their thoughtful words. And I am reminded that, although its role has changed, the small mailbox next to our front door remains a valuable place of honour, if not everyday, then at least a few times each year.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Sept 3 - Photo a Day - Far Away

First Cousins 1962 or '63 Front row: Allison, me, and Craigy. Back row: Lindy, Kathy, Phyllis, Larry, and Stan

Today's theme is "Far Away," and my mind went to "... in both time and space."  Searching through photo albums, I found this perfect shot of my sister and I and the cousins we grew up with.

Mom was an only child, hence no first cousins on her side, but Dad's four siblings all had terrific kids: the twins, Linda and Larry and their older sister Kathy; Stan and his little sister, Allison; Craigy; Karen and Jennifer, Dad's youngest brother's girls, came along when the youngest of us were teens, so, sadly, I barely know them; and Phyllis and I. Through the magic of Facebook, despite being far away, we are all friends.

Naturally, in the photo, we're at Grampa and Grama's in Eastern Washington on a hot summer day. Behind this house was a wonderful place to explore, play, hide--and later, work in: Grampa's orchard. The trees were mostly apples and cherries, though I remember at least a few pears, peaches and plums. Those trees, along with Grampa and our parents' hard work raised a family of seven, and an endless number of barn kitties. You can probably imagine the incredible food that came from Grama's kitchen.

Everyone in this photo, except me, still lives within a few hours of each other in Washington State. It's a beautiful part of the world, and as much as I love my life here in Ontario, those towns -- and the people I love there -- call to me nearly every day.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sept 2 - Photo a Day - Father

Chrispy with his Corvette and John with his Honda S-2000

Today's theme: father.

My first two choices for today's picture turned out to be impossible...
I love my own dad dearly, and would have loved to have taken a shot of him, but haven't seen him in over a year because of that darned distance thing. Nine months and counting!

Couldn't get a photo of my partner and his son, as we were three hours from our town at Pierre's final car race of the season, so... that was out.

[Of course, I have old pictures of both of these relationships, but I thought that would rather defeat the purpose of taking and posting a photo each day.]

So, I tried something totally random...

Yesterday morning before heading to the track, I saw a young family at a farmer's market, the father carrying his darling, platinum-haired youngster (impossible to tell whether a boy or a girl.) Requested and snapped a picture to the daddy's delight, but the "who is this weird lady taking our picture?" look on the toddler's face discouraged me from posting it.

Then, this morning it occurred to me:

Two of Pierre's long-time fellow racers, John and Chris, are father and son. It was a packed-full race day, and both guys were clerking (directing the race) in addition to driving, so I didn't get this photo until 4 p.m. at the end of a long, hot, and very fun Labour Day weekend.

Bravo, to these cool guys for following their common passion and both finishing in the top ten!

Here was the runner up... another driver, Riaan, was wearing this t-shirt. :)

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Sept 1 - Photo a Day - Me, Today

Today begins a month of photos, inspired by Chantelle, author of the blog, Fat Mum Slim....

Me, Today
OK, so this is really me the day before yesterday, but it's close! :)

I am not an athlete... In fact, I'm more of a slug than I'd like to be.

However, I am a health nut (yes, I freely admit that). 

Moving my body not only makes me feel fully alive, but it also overrides my feelings of hypocricy when I sit on the couch talking about staying healthy.
And truly, I love my bike.

This trail (very similar to the Burke-Gilman in the Seattle area) runs throughout the National Capital Region (Ottawa, ON and surrounding areas), and it is glorious! Thursday, I rode from Bells Corners to Merivale/Meadowlands -- about an hour each direction -- to share time and a couple of beers with my gf, and fellow writer, Dana. It was only my fifth ride this summer, so needless to say, when I got home (after a lovely stretch) I passed out. :o) And a heavenly sleep it was.

If you live in Ottawa, I'm always on the lookout for bike-riding (or dog-walking) partners. And I'll do my best not to crash like I did on Tuesday. (oops!)

Have a grand Saturday!