April in review

Last August, I started to publish a list of things we’ll do this month in an attempt to mix a little fun and adventure into our boring old to do list. We spend so much time at work and sometimes it feels like we spend the rest of our time running errands and shopping for groceries, taking out the trash and folding the laundry. I thought that if I had some entertaining tasks on my list, it would make pleasure a higher priority and separate work from play.

April feels like a lifetime ago, but it’s fun to look in the rearview mirror and remember the fun we had. Here’s a report card on the things that were on my list of intentions at the start of last month.

  • Talk about version two of our wedding and *try to* come up with an answer for everyone’s second question: so, what are you going to do now? (Their first is: “is everything okay???” – I barely got a post about version one written so this was definitely a no go.
  • Carve my soapstone bear (Barb, you are on my agenda!) – I got so close! but now I feel like just giving up.
  • Plan my summer gardens (Three this year – our balcony garden, my remote garden and our garden plot at the apartment!) One is well underway. The other two are questionable at this point.
  • Plant seeds – Tons. As usual, way more than I will need for my balcony. Interested? Let me know!
  • Hang all of our artwork – Nada.
  • Fill all of our picture frames (Am I the only one who is terrible at printing photos in this digital age?!?) – I had such great intentions and even started on them, but never followed through. Hmph.
  • Host an Easter celebration Yesssssssssss!
  • Plan a trip to watch baseball – Not *yet*
  • Meal plan – Nope
  • Go hiking – I thought we did, but I can’t find any proof!

Here are some things we DID get done.

What made April special for you? 

The podcast I wish I’d created

I wrote yesterday about how I’d listened to Elizabeth Dehn on the Being Boss podcast episode 123 last week and that I really liked her vibe. The truth is that words can’t really describe how much I mean that. From the very start of her intro, I knew that she was someone who was going to have a big influence on me if for no other reason than that we are so very similar. Now, we certainly don’t have the same roots (she is the founder of a very successful beauty website while my interest in cosmetic products is of the strictly functional variety) but we got to the same place which is a pretty mainstream lifestyle with a seriously non-traditional wellness bent. Or, as she puts it in her bio on BeautyBets.com, “a hippie disguised in J.Crew.” I identify with that so much and have for so long. I was friends with all the super jock dudes in high school who called me Moonbeam because I could talk sports with them in class, but the rest of the time, I was their little flower child. An interesting dynamic to say the least, but one I’ve cherished as it’s come up from time to time throughout my life. Kevin loves that Moonbeam story and I think it’s because he can totally identify with it. Though I never dated those guys. You know, just for the record.

So, yes, Elizabeth Dehn launched Beauty Bets and it became and continues to be a huge success. Her most recent expansion took her into the world of podcasting and a sharp veer from the discussion of brushes and lipsticks. (Although, she really is so darling that even a non-makeup person like me can actually enjoy reading her makeup stuff.) It’s with the first season of her show called HEALERS where she welcomes a different guest onto each episode and gives the audience a thorough introduction into their particular specialty.

She had me at hello.

The day I made my discovery, I went home and downloaded every episode of the podcast. I was so thrilled that I made a sacred ritual out of listening and only played it when it could have my undivided attention (i.e. on my way to and from work, but not in the office or at home while I was doing something else and could get distracted.) Still, I was through the whole ten episode series in little over two days. It was fascinating and fantastic and I could have listened to one hundred more episodes. From each one, I learned, I was inspired and I had at least one takeaway.

There was an astrologer, a nutritionist, a, intuitive medium, a therapist, a pagan priestess, an aura photographer, a colonic therapist, a breathworker, a money & happiness guru and a home & life organizer. Doesn’t all of that sounds so great? Well, it does to me. And throughout each episode (35-45 minutes per) I felt – and I know it sounds hokey to say it, but – home, at peace, surrounded by people like me. And I don’t feel like that all that often.

Almost all of my medical care is naturopathic and I feel blessed that the specialists that I deal with are not only supportive of that, but actually encourage it. I’m open to many things and I usually jump at the opportunity to try something new. Acupuncture? I’m a regular. Floats? I love ’em. Hypnotherapy? I’ve even tried that. I think one thing that really excited me about this podcast was the chance to be able to add a few more things to my bucket list.

I loved the astrology episode the best (and I am actually in the process of booking a meeting of my own with Stephanie Gailing.) The episode talking to the founder of Less Mess. More Life. gave me some inspiration to tackle the bedroom that I haven’t really unpacked since our recent move (while giving me a lot to chew on about why I haven’t already…) and the chat with the founder of Move Colonics even has me seriously thinking about colon hydrotherapy.

As the world of functional medicine grows and we hear and read more and more about different kinds of non-traditional treatments and therapies, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and not know where to begin. HEALERS opens the door to new things and makes it really comfortable to go inside, learn more and, most importantly, answers the question: where do I start?

BONUS: Don’t miss the Healers Handbook that breaks down show notes from every episode while adding actions and activities to enhance the topics and make it easier to bring them into your life.

What kinds of non-traditional care do you use? What kinds are you curious about?

Want to start a blog? Just write.

How was your Mother’s Day? Did you do something to celebrate either with your mom or as a mom with your little ones? Or both? Is Mother’s Day a day that brings up some complicated feelings for you? I found this image floating around my social media and I wanted to share it because I know that it’s a day that isn’t easy for many and for many very complex reasons. Whatever your relationship is with Mother’s Day, I send you compassion and hugs. ♥♥♥

We took the Skytrain over to see my folks in the morning. We used a brand new extension to the existing lines and this was only the second time we’ve been on it, but it was pretty convenient and it made me feel deeply envious of the kids growing up near where we did. It would have been a dream for us to have such quick and easy access to so many areas when we were young! They’re done a great job so three cheers for Translink!

Many moms want to go to brunch to celebrate Mother’s Day or they want a new book or jewelry or perfume. Mine? She wanted to climb a mountain. So that’s what we did.

It was a pretty challenging hike, but the scenery was certainly worth it.

***

I’ve been talking to a few people lately who’ve expressed that they’re interested in blogging. As someone who has blogged on and off for many, many (early thirteen!) years, my immediate response is: YES! DO IT! YOU’LL LOVE IT! I love blogging and I tell everyone they should have a blog. Even if they’re not expressing an interest, I’ll sometimes bring it up. You know, if they have a cool story (who doesn’t?) or if they’re tackling some really interesting feat… “Hey, have you ever thought about blogging?” I nag encourage all of my friends who used to blog back around the time when I started to take it up again and I try to force motivate others to get started. The returns from blogging have just been so rich that I want to share those rewards with everyone. I’ve met new people, established decades long friendships, I’ve learned about myself and about others, developed new skills. Heck, I’ve been published in a writing textbook at Ole Miss! Since I discovered blogging, I’ve rarely (if ever?) not had one on the go.

So, on my way to work one day last week, I was catching up on my podcasts – and thank god I walk for a couple of hours each day because I would never keep up with them if I didn’t – I listened to a new episode of a podcast I hadn’t heard in a while: Being Boss (a podcast for creative entrepreneurs.) They talk a lot about interesting aspects of the sometimes delicate balance between business and creativity, lots of marketing stuff and topics the personal side of running a business.

On this particular episode, they were interviewing a woman named Elizabeth Dehn, the creator of a website called Beauty Bets. She’s a woman I’d never heard of running a website I’d never seen. But, hey, that’s why I listen to this stuff, right? To discover new things. Long story short, Elizabeth runs a successful beauty blog (she took a pretty interesting path to get there so I do encourage you to listen to the episode) and I really dig her vibe. (But more on that tomorrow…)

She started as a blogger just casually writing reviews of makeup and cosmetic products and grew it into a much bigger project. Her site now includes a few more contributors and covers a variety of topics primarily beauty, style, spirit and wellness. When talk on the podcast turned to blogging, whether for the first time or reviving an old one (as one of the hosts revealed she was considering) Elizabeth had a few things to say including:

First, I want to commend you on doing something purely because you want to do it and not because it has some sort of quantifiable productivity driven end game.

To which she added:

The act of doing something that you enjoy for no other reason is a beautiful thing.

And, most notably, was this simple advice:

Just write.

There is so much truth to those two simple words. If you want to start a blog, just write. It’s really easy to get caught up in overthinking themes and schedules and topics and tones and all of that can be exhausting. It is worrying about the future and thinking too far ahead when what you really need to do is just write. And keep writing. And writing. And writing. It comes together. It works itself out. Your voice becomes clearer. Your theme emerges as does your voice.

This is advice that I wanted to share with people who have told me they’re considering starting their own blog and those who have told me they are stalled with the one they’ve already got. I feel it, sisters and brother. I really do. My stumbling block is having a theme. I don’t have a neat common thread that weaves its way through my posts. I don’t do the same thing all the time, nor do I want to. That isn’t me and I’m a firm believer that you should be yourself in your online space (this is my blog – if I can’t be me here, where can I?!?) but at the same time, all that I am can’t always be tidily filed into an existing category. And I get hung up on that. It paralyzes me. And then someone tells me, “I love how you cover so many different topics on your blog” and I don’t believe them at first, but then I think about how that’s what I would want to read, too. Huh.

Other hang-ups?

  • Not having a name/title. I get this. I’ve been there. The great thing is, you can always change it. Trust me, I’ve done it. A thousand times.
  • Nerves. This comes out in procrastination and excuses (no time, no topic) or just honest fear. It’s totally understandable, but it’s also getting a little ahead of yourself. When you publish, you’re going to have a few readers. Probably just your family and a handful of friends. In most cases, it takes a heck of a long time to build up a readership that is going expose you to real live strangers. By that time, you’ll be rocking this blogging thing.

I’ve found that the real key to overcoming any of the obstacles that are keeping you from writing or growing your badass blog is really very simple and Elizabeth Dehn nailed it:

Just write.

What gets in your way of blogging? Have you thought about starting a blog? If so, what’s stopping you? Let me if you do have an up and running blog – I’m looking for new ones to read!

What happens when you cancel a wedding

So, since we decided to cancel the wedding plans we had made, I’ve learned a couple of things. First, I need to find a better way to say that. I need to be more sensitive. When people ask how the planning is going, I laugh and blurt out, “Oh. Hahahahaha. We cancelled it!” and this deep look of pain and concern crosses their face and they get all awkward and they don’t know what to say and I let it go on for about a second longer than I probably should before I clarify “Oh, no. We’re still getting married, we just aren’t getting married when we were planning to get married.” They say, “So, you postponed?” Sure. Okay.

We were in the midst of planning the wedding so I still think cancelling is the right term, but postponing seems to make other people feel better and, let’s be honest: the less I have to talk about wedding planning, THE BETTER.

Did I give you a different impression? Here? Or maybe here? Yeah, I can see that. When it came to the details, I was interested in them and I had fun considering them, but I still wasn’t sold on the whole actually having a wedding part.

I never dreamed of having a wedding. Not in all my life. In fact, I was the opposite. I remember saying to myself at a very young age – perhaps inspired by the wedding of Charles and Diana, but more likely by one of my mom’s episodes of All My Children – I am never getting married because I will NEVER kiss someone in front of all those people. (Evidently, I had strong feelings on PDAs early on as well.)

I learned a lot in the process of planning half of a wedding and I learned a lot in the process of tearing one down. Things like:

You lose your deposits. 

We were lucky with this one. We’ve surrounded ourselves with amazing and talented people who were willing to step into some of the heftier costing roles involved in making a wedding happen just for the honour of being a part of ours. We had a super talented photographer and a warm and loving commissioner who we know personally and, though it was sad to have disappointed them, both understood when we told them we weren’t going ahead with our plans.

As far as our venue goes, we got lucky with this one, too. We had signed a contract and in our contract, we were committed to pay 50% of the estimated revenue from our event. That cost increased to 75% if we crossed the 90-day prior to the date mark. When we initiated this discussion, we were about 94 days out. That made it that much more important for us to commit either way and to do so quickly. In the end, the kind and generous manager at our venue, offered to knock it back to 25% again. Bless your heart, Kacia.

As far as flowers, cakes, everything else was concerned, we had already picked our providers, but hadn’t yet committed to anything so we were off the hook there. I do still have my dress which I’ll have to decide whether to wear or to sell (or to both.)

You have invitations to recall.

Recalling the invitations is etiquette’s cute little way of avoiding saying that you’re canceling your wedding.

If you’ve sent invitations or even save the date cards, consensus says that you have to go through the process of recalling them. You are not required to explain why or even to go heavily into the details of whether it will happen at another time or not at all, but etiquette says you can’t just leave already invited guests hanging.

At the time when we cancelled, we had sent save the dates, but I was in the process of agonizing over ordering invitations. (Phew!) We had such a small invitation list (22 in total, six of them children) that we mostly told everyone ourselves, but since we had sent a formal communication, it only felt right to send one correcting the original. Our save the date cards had been pretty casual (deep sigh – how I loved our save the date cards…) so our recall cards were equally low-key. We sent these thank you cards (because we truly were feeling grateful) with a photo of us and the following printed on the back.

Thank you for your love and support while we planned our wedding in Long Beach. We have since decided to rethink our plans – not our marriage, just the ceremony. Our wedding for June 11th has been cancelled and we will update you when we know more about how, when and where we will proceed. xo

If your wedding was more formal, a more formal recall might be in order. (For example, something from your parents vs from you directly.) There’s a lot of information online. Here are some of the most comprehensive and helpful posts I found.

A few things we didn’t do: make a public announcement (although, maybe this counts) and return the wedding gifts we had received. I followed up with the gift givers and told them that we would be returning them, but all insisted that we keep them. (Pleasure delayer that I am, they are all on a shelf in the closet because it doesn’t feel right to use them until we are actually married.)

You have a lot of explaining to do.

People ask without really asking. And once they knew that we were still going to get married at some point and there hadn’t been some catastrophic revelation about our relationship, they asked outright.

The truth of it was that it wasn’t shaping up to be what we had anticipated. Our vision was of one where our families would meet for the first time, spend time together, get to know one another and develop some relationships. We anticipated spending time with this mesh of my side and his side and making these amazing memories with our blended family.

Time revealed that, while my side was planning to travel and spend a whole week with us leading up to and following our Sunday afternoon wedding, his side was not planning on spending more than a day or two with us. We calculated the amount of that time that we would lose for wedding preparation and nonsense (because there is always nonsense) and if we were really lucky and timed it perfectly, we *might* get to spend one meal with everyone together. From there, the calculation of cost – for us and for travelers and every single person involved was traveler – it didn’t meet that standard everyone lectured us on from day one to uphold: WHAT WE WANTED.

So, we let go. And everyone understood.

You will feel better about it. 

I mean, if you’re like us you will. Though, it was under very different circumstances, this bride-to-be wrote the following in her account of the things she wishes she’d been told when she cancelled her wedding. I couldn’t agree more.

The important factor is the wave of relief that washed over me when I thought about canceling my nuptials. Relief is different from excitement…

I felt relieved. Honestly. When we made our decision, we had a much better gauge on how we wanted our wedding to play out – the things that were wants and the things that were needs, the whos, the whats, the wheres, the whens. We still don’t have that all figured out, but when I asked Kevin what he learned, he replied with the following (over several text messages.)

That you really have to follow what you want and envision and if doesn’t feel like that’s what you’re getting then don’t settle. Because it should be a one time thing and it’s about the two people getting married not about anyone else.

Plus, no matter how tiny, it’s way too much  – emotional and financial investment – to not have the memories you want to have.

You have to decide what to do next.

Oh, man, this is the tough one. We still aren’t there yet. We look at elopement and tiny wedding packages at all kinds of destinations all the time. We go to places and say, “we could get married here.” It’s equally possible that we’ll end up at a courthouse – in BC or somewhere else. I think the biggest lesson we learned was that the minor details weren’t really important to us. All that really matters is that we are there together, that the setting is one that we both enjoy and that we are happy. Considering that’s basically how we’ve lived the last six+ years of our life, I’m confident we’ll figure it out on our own time.

Ginger mock chicken

When people talk about comfort food, I mostly understand what they’re talking about, but I don’t really get it, to be honest. I don’t know – I think I’m just not someone that really values food in the same way I see others value it. I have friends who truly LOVE food and I love going on foodie adventures with them and trying new restaurants around town and I truly do appreciate when food tastes really good, but they just have a totally different kind of appreciation than I do. They fall into worship for it, but I just kind of move on. Sometimes I wish I was more like them – that I could love the food the way they do or that I could feel the way a good meal appears to make them feel, but sometimes it’s plain old depressing. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t had a good meal in ages and I chalk that up to not having deep feelings for the food that I eat.

Here’s something about being vegetarian/vegan. There are some amazing and wonderful recipes out there, but there are also some pretty lame ones. I’m for ingredients lists that contain whole ingredients no matter what I’m cooking. I get it from my mom, but I’m not really into the whole can of mushroom soup, packet of french onion soup cooking style. I’m also not big on subbing in those processed stand-ins like veggies burgers, dogs, salami, pepperoni, etc. Most of the time.

There is one recipe, however, that gets me every time. I make it maybe once a year because it isn’t all that healthy – I mean the main ingredient is JUST THE GLUTEN after the starches from wheat flour have been washed away. But it serves as such an amazing stand-in for chicken or any meat, really. (If you’ve heard of seitan, this is it.)

I can’t claim this recipe as my own. Back in March of 2009, Sarah Kramer sent me this recipe to test. I have no idea if it eventually made it into one of her cookbooks or which one, but I’ve continued to use it ever since. And to this day, I have no idea who Linda is.

Linda’s Ginger “Chicken
This recipe has served as comfort food in the Sperling/Cuddington household for many, many years. It is good for colds, stomachaches, and bruised psyches. Enjoy! – Linda

The Mockchicken” can be made in advance of the Ginger dish to save on time and will keep in fridge for 6 days or freezer for 6 months.

MockChicken
1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
1 cup water

Broth
4 cups water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery salt

Ginger Dish
3 – 3 inch pieces of fresh ginger, washed and sliced paper thin (approx 1 cup)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup dark soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2 green onions, finely chopped (garnish)

In a medium bowl, stir together the wheat gluten and water until it becomes elastic. Knead for 5 minutes and set aside. In a large saucepan, bring all of the broth ingredients to a boil. Slice gluten into 1-inch chunks and drop carefully into broth. Reduce heat, cover with lid, let simmer for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until broth has reduced. In a large pot on medium-high heat saute the ginger in oil for 3-4 minutes or until ginger starts to soften and change color. Add “chicken” and saute 2-3 minutes more, stirring often to prevent sticking.  Add the soy sauce, cover pot with lid and turn down heat to medium. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the sauce evenly coats the ingredients. Once “chicken” is cooked, in a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and water. Add into pot and stir together well until sauce is thickened.

Makes 4-6 servings.

This is a recipe that I’ve kept entirely to myself until recently. The first time I made it and offered some to Kevin (or at least the first time he actually braved trying it) he was astonished and said, “that is REALLY good.” Um, yeah. When I made it again last night, we devoured it.

I serve it with rice and a side of broccoli. Perfection.

My gift giving style: bits & pieces

When I was in grade seven, I went to another girl’s birthday party. It was at her house and I think she had a pool so that was probably the main event. We got through some kind of meal like hot dog and chips, cake, etc. then onto the gift opening. There were a lot of us there, more than any birthday party that other girls our age were throwing. I don’t remember the present I brought her or any of the others except for one. Her best friend (at the time – of course, bestie status is fluid in seventh grade) gave her a deep square box that rattled when she handled it. When she opened it up, it was filled with bits and pieces of grade school girl treasure: scented erasers, barrettes, bracelets, earrings, cute pens and pencils. It was a box full of baubles and trinkets the likes of which I’d only seen in one place before: my Christmas stockings. And my Christmas stockings were (and still are) my favourite of all the gifts I receive. I love how all the tiny little pieces fit together to make something bigger. I love that there are so many bits that combine to show thoughtfulness and care.

2017 Easter bucket-baskets

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to more thoroughly enjoy the act of giving and that includes creating these multi-layered gifts for the people I am close to. I jump at any excuse to contribute to someone’s Christmas stocking and I’ve started putting mini versions together and into baskets at Easter. A bunch of little things satisfy my giving and receiving joy perceptors more than single bigger (or smaller) things. (I could expand on how this theme presents itself in other areas of my life/preferences, but that’s ore for a therapist’s couch than a blog post…maybe. I like lots of things more than I like single things. So sue me.)

So, I’ve started to give bunches of small things by packing them into Christmas stockings and Easter baskets (or buckets, as you can see in the photos), but also gift bags, plant pots, fancy boxes, basically anything that can serve as a vessel for presents. I used a diaper bag at a girlfriend’s baby shower last year. It’s so much fun to give and (I find) it’s so much fun to get!

One challenge, however, is in being aware of your recipient’s preferences. For example, I have a number of people in my life (fiance, mother, brother’s girlfriend, friends) who are on the cleaner side of health conscious. Also, I am. It’s tempting to choose candy and junk food fillers to make up the gaps, but for them it just isn’t suitable and I don’t really like to promote that. (As you can see, I can never resist tucking at least a few treats in…)

Another big challenge can be managing the cost. Little items aren’t necessarily cheaper and especially not when you collect a bunch of them together. I always try to keep a target cost in mind through the process, but I’ve found that it’s been possible to keep the costs within budget.

Here are a few of the ideas I’ve been excited to come up with over the years. Self five. (Awwww. National High Five Day was April 20th. This is four days late.)

  • Fold-up reusable shopping bags
  • Lip balm
  • Hand cream
  • Travel sized toiletries
  • Aromatherapy rollers or blends
  • Single serving packs of almond butter, honey, etc.
  • Sport gels
  • Energy bars
  • Gum or mints
  • Travel packs of tissues
  • Packets of seeds (for gardeners and for beginners)
  • Gift cards (I like the seasonal ones from Starbucks)
  • Golf balls (only for the golfers in your life – I would hate you for this)

For bigger containers, here are a few of my go to additions:

  • Books – for reading or for writing or for colouring
  • Pens, pencils, markers or other writing utensils
  • Small piece of clothing – t-shirt, socks, scarf, gloves, hat
  • Photo frame (with sweet personal picture, of course)
  • Bottle of beer, wine, sparkling water

2016 Easter bucket-baskets

As I was writing this, I was reminded of a podcast I listened to yesterday afternoon. It was episode 113 of Happier with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft (my favourite) and one of the topics was Is Your Birthday Important to You? For me, the answer is yes. My birthday is important to me – I want to do something special that day, I do NOT want to work on that day and I want to spend it with people who are close to me. I do NOT, however, want to be wished a trillion happy birthdays from people who only remember my birthday because they saw a notification on Facebook. Nope. No, thanks. Without going too far into their discussions (listen here) I will say that they got to a point where they were talking about birthday parties and surprise birthday parties and they cautioned listeners to know their audience when planning the latter. Basically, a surprise birthday party is great for a person who likes surprise birthday parties, but there are plenty of people who would hate the idea of a surprise birthday party.

Why was I reminded of that this morning? Well, because I wondered if my gift giving concept above is something that I am so enthusiastic about because I love it. Am I not considering a broader audience of people who don’t want a bunch of useable things, but instead would prefer to be given a single, bigger gift.

What do you think? Do you like the gift bag idea that appeals to me? Or would receiving something like that drive you nuts? 

Somewhat on topic…

I’m super stoked to be a part of the Spring version of the Sweet Progress Box Swap put on by Dean at Mrs AOK and Ashley at Happy. Pretty. Sweet. It’s my first time participating in this swap, though it has been on my radar for a while. It has only just opened up to Canadians and, I believe I am the first. As you can guess, I love a good swap. (Laura and I have kept in touch ever since we were matched up on a foodie swap back in 2012!)

I’ve spent the morning putting the finishing touches on my swap package and having a great time doing so. I’ll take a trip out to the post office this afternoon and it will be on its way to my partner by the end of the day.

If you’d be interested in joining us, let me know! I’ll be sure to connect you with the group next time a swap comes up!

2017 Stanley Cup – round one – part two

Was last night a crazy hockey night or what?!? Four games, four overtimes. And all but one ended the way I wanted it to, but the one that didn’t was so tragic it was hard to be happy about all the others. I know. Woe is me.

I would happily torch this entire bracket to be wrong about a few things…

Yesterday, I shared my thoughts and feelings on the four NHL playoff match-ups that had already played game three in their best-of-seven first round series. Then I watched hockey all night long so that I could write about the remaining four series that caught up in their own series. Phew.

calgary flames vs anaheim ducks

Anaheim leads 3-0
Who I took: Calgary in 7

Let me start by acknowledging that, yes, I don’t know them off the ice and I would probably think they were perfectly fine if I met them in real life, but boy do I dislike the Ducks. Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Corey Perry and the man who is like sand in a bathing suit to me, Ryan Getzlaf to name just a few. The only Duck I actually like is Antoine Vermette, but that is probably just a hangover from his days in Arizona and will go away sometime very soon (and especially if their playoff run carries on the way it has started…) and John Gibson showed me a side that I actually didn’t mind. I know the CBC crew didn’t like his response to getting chased from the net, but I did.

Let me also say that I have zero tolerance for complaining about refereeing. I think it’s the cheapest and ugliest way to absolve responsibility for losing. Want to beat the referees? Put the puck in the net. If you consistently do that, THEY CAN’T STOP YOU. However, I have seen a few instances in this series when I thought the refs weren’t really living their best ref lives. And it went mostly in the favour of Anaheim. I’m just saying.

And I like the Flames. I really do. I have a soft spot for their young and talented, hard-working group. They seem to find a way to (sometimes) make wine out of water. Just not in the first couple of games of this series. Last night was a different story and they came out firing, but they just couldn’t keep up the pace. The Ducks caught them and then won in OT. I was pretty sad when I saw the post-game commentary because I was feeling pretty proud of this squad. They played their best hockey of the series so far and they came up short.

What I’ve loved: Really physical, bang and crash hockey.

Also, the Flames are saying all the right things.

“Just kind of live in the moment. Don’t think about yesterday or tomorrow. Live for today. Any mentor I’ve had has said the same thing: You can’t control everything. So control what you can, come with a smile on your face and do what you’ve prepared your whole life for.” – Goaltender Brian Elliott

What I’ve not loved: The talk has counted the Flames out since day one. I can’t see this series going much longer and my prediction is still technically possible…

boston bruins VS ottawa senators

Ottawa leads 2-1
Who I took: 
Ottawa in 5

You want to talk about jerky fans? (Okay, maybe YOU don’t, but I did yesterday. Twice.) Bruins fans take the cake. It’s so easy to want them to lose when you listen to the people who want them to not lose. Vancouver is really sensitive about Boston because of the whole 2011 Stanley Cup series. That doesn’t apply to me as a non-Canuck fan, of course, but, boy, do I get it.

I’ve been trying to like Ottawa more. They’ve always been a club that, on paper, I should like. Then they traded for my favourite player. Then they started sitting him. It’s been a roller coaster. In the end, I just don’t really care that much. Other than the wanting the Bruins to lose.

But, let me profess that I like Brad Marchand.

Things I’ve loved: The Clarke MacArthur returns to the game storyline. Tears of joy.

Things I’ve not loved: My indifference to this series.

nashville predators VS chicago blackhawks

Nashville leads 3-0
Who I took: 
Chicago in 6

As you can see on my bracket up top. I expected Chicago to go (almost) all the way. But I support the hockey hero from my hometown (he’s from Port Moody, not Vancouver, thankyouverymuch) and that makes me a Preds semi-fan. I also like the Preds because I think their “Keep the Red Out” campaign from a few years ago is genius. Prompted by this exact playoff match-up, the Predators put a block on out of state credit cards purchasing tickets to their games at Bridgestone Arena. They wanted to Grow the Gold in their home arena and keep people traveling with the visiting team away. I love it. As someone who has seen visiting fans obnoxiously take over a host arena (I see you Leafs fans in Buffalo, Oilers fans in Arizona and pretty much every team that visits Vancouver’s fans) and hated it, I really liked their efforts. Have they worked? I’m not sure. (And my opinion will probably change when I one day try to catch a game there.)

I wasn’t the only person to predict that the Blackhawks would be there. In the weeks leading up to the playoffs, I heard people predict Chicago representing the west in the Stanley Cup more often than I heard any other team. Back in February, they and the Washington Capitals were the favourites.

The Predators shut the Blackhawks out in the first two games. In game three last night, they spotted them two goals and still came out on top in OT.

Things I’ve loved: The underdog story.

Things I’ve not loved: Almost no coverage for this series. I guess that’s what happens when five Canadian teams make the playoffs.

toronto maple leafs VS washington capitals

Toronto leads 2-1
Who I took: Pittsburgh in 7

All of my own feelings about hockey aside, THIS is the series of the season in our house. You see, if you weren’t already aware (and you clearly don’t know Kevin if that’s the case) I am engaged to  and live with a lifelong Maple Leafs fan. And if you weren’t already aware, it’s been a long road for Maple Leafs fans. I’m not a Leafs fan necessarily, but I do have a soft spot for them. (And I’m totally baffled by the west coast OBSESSION with them. Seriously, many Canuck fans are more preoccupied with disliking them than they are with liking their own non-playoff squad – sorry, had to. I can’t believe it took me this long!)

I would like to pause and say this: no matter what happens in this series, this season has been a huge success for these young Leafs. They weren’t even planning on making the playoffs, you guys. Getting there and getting two wins is a huge victory.

Toronto has won the last two games in sudden death OT and it has been incredibly exciting. And totally nerve-wracking. My usually calm and laid back partner has turned into a total stress case.

I was thinking that I don’t really have any feelings about the Capitals, but then I saw an intermission interview and remembered that I LOVE TJ OSHIE. My other feeling for the Capitals is that I hate all the hate they’re getting. Everyone is all, “Haha! Presidents’ Cup trophy winners can’t win in the playoffs AGAIN.” Which is lame. But Don Cherry has a point about Evgeny Kuznetsov. Maybe he’s got some karma to play through.

This series is far from over and could very well go to seven nail-biting games.

Things I’ve loved: The Leafs winning brings a very celebratory tone to our home. I like that.

Things I’ve not loved: Well, nothing really. Go Leafs go!

Some of these series will start wrapping up soon. When they do, I’ll be back with some thoughts on the second round.

What have you thought of round one so far? Is your bracket/prediction still intact?

Old, new, Easter & blue

On Friday, I discovered (rediscovered? I somehow have a feeling that this isn’t the first time I learned it…) that Easter isn’t a big deal in the USA. I mean, I’m sure it’s a big deal for some, but it isn’t a widely observed holiday like it is here in Canada. Here, it’s a holiday on Good Friday AND Easter Monday. For our neighbours to the south, nada. (Sorry for rubbing it in there on Friday, friends! I’d feel bad if you didn’t seem to prioritize holidays like the day after Thanksgiving instead…)

We had a little tea (actually coffee) party-esque Good Friday get together and that was a lot of fun. We bought an amazing loaf from Fratelli Italian Bakery (lemon and raspberry – two of my favourites, but taken to a whole new level!) and got out the good dishes (some – most! – of which had actually already been unpacked a put away) and welcomed our first visitors to the new place. We are far from finished unpacking and settling in,  but we’ve made enough progress that it was good timing. (Also, having just moved lends a certain amount of freedom to be messy that suits me perfectly.)

I was thrilled with this gathering – a lot because I enjoyed spending time with our guests, but also because it was the first significant coming together of something I’d been envisioning for a while. Last year, I started rounding up the vintage dishes that were circulating throughout the homes of family members on both sides. There were plenty in existence, but they were scattered throughout hutches and cupboards of my mom and my aunts. So, I started to ask around and it turned out that it was a common feeling that somebody wished someone would use the stuff, it just wasn’t going to be them.

It’s a funny thing, isn’t it? We all get our hands on these pieces that used to belong to the people who came before us – whether they’re dishes or anything else – and then we just keep them someplace without ever putting them to use. This is, of course, a practice that is becoming more and more antiquated as time passes. We are in a time when people are certainly more motivated to minimize and only keep the things they use or, rather, to use all the things they keep. Like others, I’m working to get better at that. For now, it’s antique dishes. Next, I’m going to get my grandfather’s vintage typewriter refurbished. Yay!

But, back to the dishes. This party was the first time I actually put into practice what I have been dreaming of using old dishes with new accents to create an eclectic feeling when hosting others. This was the first time I remembered my first chance to execute my vision using my great grandmother’s dishes, my grandmother’s tea set and my own silverware plus a few modern pieces that I’ve collected myself. I was so happy!

Today, we spent the day mostly at home until we made a run downtown to pick up dessert for Easter dinner with my family.

I’m going to level with you here: I’m not that into desserts so asking me to be in charge of desserts is not the best idea. It’s probably the worst part of a meal to depend on me for. But we came through after picking up some minis (tiramisu, passionfruit & strawberry cheesecake, macaroon, lemon, salted caramel, london fog) from Trafiq Cafe and Bakery on Main Street.

I also picked up five of the most oddball ingredients – for me – at the grocery store to put together a recipe that is totally out of my wheelhouse, but one that is rich in family history. This was one of only a few things I have memories of my mom’s mom making and it hit my radar because my pal Laura over at Real Momma shared it on her Facebook page earlier in the day: Ambrosia Salad. Five ingredients (only one of them fresh), one action (mixing them all up), a final weird soupy marshmallow concoction that you’ll be forced to admit is delicious in spite of the fact that it is so very, very weird. (70s “cooking” at its finest…)

We aren’t a super conventional family when it comes to holiday meals, though barbecuing has become our own tradition in itself. Be it Christmas, birthdays – summer or winter, Easter and even Thanksgiving once, we light some charcoal and grill. Tonight was no different with beef, fish and plenty of veggies on the menu. If you get the chance to spend time together, does it really matter what you eat?

What are your family’s Easter traditions? What’s your go-to when you’re put in charge of desserts? What family heirlooms do you try to collect? Which ones do you avoid?

A little thing that is kind of big + my first chowdery

Oh. My. Word. I sat across from a woman using a new rose gold MacBook at Starbucks the other day. So compact. So pretty. I don’t often suffer from electronic envy, but whoa.

***

Yesterday was a pretty good, fun and definitely unhibernated day. We got up and ran some errands (with the move so recently behind us, it seems like we will never be short on errands to run!) then we got ready and headed downtown. We had family & friends in from back east and since we didn’t get it together enough to have overnight guests yet (the screws that hold the guest bed together have got to be around here somewhere…) they got a hotel room in the city instead. We were all heading to the hockey game, but en route to Rogers Arena, Kevin and I decided to take a detour and get something to eat before the game. I love my Maui Fire Veggie Dogs, but I knew they weren’t really jiving with my recent commitment to clean eating. Besides, a new chowder shop had opened up this year in Kevin’s work neighbourhood and he’s been wanting to try it for a while.

We took the four-ish block walk from Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station and found our quaint little Crab Park Chowdery close to the heart of Gastown. It is a cute little restaurant with a lovely warm glow. I opted for vegan chili while Kevin had the clam chowder in a bread bowl. I adore their presentation on wooden board complete with a logo and spoon holder. The chili was good and served with a few small slices of bread on the side. I snuck a taste of Kevin’s chowder, though just enough to determine that it has a unique flavour to it, though not enough to name it. He raved about it. (We only found out later that they have some scrumptious looking desserts. Probably a good thing.) We drank water, but they had craft sodas (including, of course, Dickie’s.) Find Crab Park Chowdery on Facebook or Instagram. Or in real life at 221 Abbott Street.

***

March was a big month for us. A big, long, life-changing month. Sure, we’re mostly over Nick proposing to Vanessa instead of Raven and we’ve managed to move onto bigger and mostly better things. In point form:

  1. We moved into our new place.
  2. We cancelled our wedding.

Point one: this place is bigger, brighter, prettier, higher up and a million times better, but you already know about that.

Point two: from the moment we got engaged, all anyone said was, “do what YOU want to do.” One day, a few weeks back, we reflected on what our wedding was becoming and asked ourselves, “is this what WE want?” and “IS this what we want?” The best we could answer was “sort of?” So, we scrapped it.

I’ve seen four distinct responses so far.

My family: “What? But we wanted to be at your wedding…”

His family: “That’s okay. We get it. Do what you gotta do.”

Others: “What??? I’m so sorry.” And then when I laugh about it, they look like they’re going to cry and then they eventually come around.

Amy: Totally, completely, 100% support in action. (I’m not really sure she even said a word.)

Honestly, we’re good with it. And someday I’ll probably tell you more.

For now, back to the drawing board…

Hibernation

I have just spent a week alone in my apartment in what is best described as total hibernation. It was incredible.

I know that saying that likely conjures an image of me laying in bed all day, watching soap operas or other crappy tv, eating junk food and just generally being lazy. It was actually the total opposite. Okay, I did get more than enough sleep – sleep was, in fact, one of my most focused goals of the week – but it was more closely aligned with circadian rhythm than a party all night, sleep all day kind of pattern.

My other big goal was re-righting my eating habits. We’d thought we’d hit the jackpot with a two week window for moving – and, mostly, we still feel that way – but, it did prolong some of the inevitable and more hairy parts of the . Most notably, that came in the food department. When I told Kevin that for the month of April we would only eat food we made at home, my statement was met with a resounding and enthusiastic “YESSSSSSSSSS.” We’d been relying on restaurant bought food to get us through a schedule of working our day jobs and our side hustles and moving and maintaining all the other parts of our lives and, man, it was getting old. So, I spent the week referencing and channelling Ella Woodward, Angela Liddon and Joy McCarthy because as much as my naturopath might recommend I do something different and as much as I might try to make her happy, vegan is my comfort zone and when I feel my best on the whole.

So, when I wasn’t getting as much sleep as I could and researching, preparing and eating whole, clean foods, I was, of course, tackling the move. The people who lived here before us weren’t what you’d call thorough when it came to cleaning up after themselves so that took some sorting out and, though that is not my forte (seriously!) I did it anyway. I had to sort out all new appliances and I made a conscious effort to take my time in setting everything up in our new space. I wanted to choose the perfect – or at least one of the better – places for our things and decide the most convenient spots to store everything. In our new apartment, we have the luxury of almost twice as much space as we’d grown used to and I wanted to take advantage of that as best we could. Being able to tackle all that at my own pace made it an almost enjoyable undertaking – it was even kind of meditative.

My hibernation (or how a serious introvert vacations): During the mornings, I took long luxurious baths while reading. During the days, I set up our new home with care. During the evenings, I wrote, then read more.

(In case you’re wondering where Kevin fit into all of this, he was away at a conference all week.)

I finally broke my hibernation when I met a friend to watch the Gonzaga game yesterday. And, then today, we woke up and it was like spring!

Here are a few of my favourite things from last week.

I started using this Turmeric Ginger Tea recipe every morning. It’s delicious either way, but I prefer it with a splash of almond milk.

Danielle LaPorte has a new book – White Hot Truth – coming out on May 16th, but I snuck into the Launch Team and got started early. This is a lot of what I read and reread all week. Check this link to download a free chapter, join the free White Hot Truth book club, pre-order the book (and then download the audio book TODAY when you do!) or check out some videos. Like this one.

After the new season of Grace and Frankie was made available on Netflix and my mom and I exchanged all caps text messages confirming that, I swore I wasn’t going to watch it all at once. So, I only watched the first nine out of thirteen episodes. So fantastic.

I read this post by Cait Flanders called A Home is Meant to Be Lived In, Not Looked At and I gave it an internal three cheers. We were moving at the same time and had commiserated about it a little in the thick of it. After the (literal) heavy lifting was done, I was excited to see she’d written about her experience. I’ve never been hung up on having a style of decor and I’ve never been apologetic about that, but it’s nice to hear for once that I’m not alone. It’s a great piece in which she tackles the idea of creating a home, how it is a work in progress and, along the same lines as the title, includes the tweetable, “Your home doesn’t need to be ready to have its picture taken.

So, I’m not going to share pictures of my new home. … But here is what I will share: stories about what happens in this home. The friends who come to visit. The things we do. The memories we make. And the adventures we go on, when we walk out and lock the door behind us. That is what life is all about.

I turned to sleep and clean eating to help me rest after the stress of moving. What do you do to find balance in times of turmoil? What have you read, eaten, made, drank, watched, loved lately?