Coasting on the Coast

Quinoa with yoghurt and blackberries

Quinoa with yoghurt and blackberries

I have just returned from a week in the Maritimes.  Safe to say that although I loved the adventure and the taste of winter, (-23, snow, rain and flash freeze) I much prefer our mild, west coast weather.  To celebrate being back I wore a 3/4 length sleeve jacket and rode my cruiser bike to town in the glorious sun to do errands.

Upon my return I noticed that the visit to winter has allowed me to shake the slow, winter, solitary state I was feeling and I am ready for spring.

This means, different decor, different clothes and best of all …. different food.

I started today with quinoa, strained yoghurt and blackberries. I think lunch will be a salad loaded with organic lettuce, kale, avocado, pears and cranberries and for dinner I am going to conjure something up with Flank Steak.

I am going to braise the flank in some sort of rich sauce with leftover beer I have in the fridge as well as some poblano chillies and lime juice.  I am not sure of the recipe yet but I will post it after I create it.  As well, I saw a recipe for warm lentil and potato salad on one of my favourite blogs, Smitten Kitchen and I thought I would give it a try. I am craving real, food and the combination of potatoes and lentils with all those herbs looks delicious.

To round the meal out I will make another salad because after a week of dining out in the Maritimes I am craving green and fresh.

I am not sure what I will do for dessert yet but I think it may include limes as I have a whole bag of them.  Perhaps a lime frozen yoghurt or lime, ginger shortbread.  Hmmm, must get cooking.

Why Fear Death?



Sproat Lake, where we have many fond memories with the Zundorf and Johnson Families.

Why are we so afraid of a dying person?  After all, we will all be that person one day.  I know death is painful for those left alive and that watching a loved one die is excruciating.  The thing is, there are many things in life that are excruciating but we get through them.  Why do we try to avoid this natural part of life?  Death is  as much a part of life as birth, which can be extremely painful and does not always turn out joyous, yet we go through it.  We take the risk hoping for the possibility of joy.  So why cant we do the same in death?

At this time a neighbor from my childhood is in the last stages of this journey we call life I feel compelled to visit the family or at least make contact and yet I am afraid.  What am I afraid of I wonder.  Is it that I do not feel I have earned the privilege to share this family’s grief?

In an interesting series of circumstances the grandson of this man became my son’s closest friend.  I feel so privileged that this man and his family became part of my family through my father and then through my son. 

The elderly man is a German immigrant and one of my fondest childhood memories is of visiting their home at Christmas.  They were simple living folks who knew and appreciated what was important in life.  They did no live in an ostentatious home filled with elaborate furnishings.  They had functional, simple décor but if felt good.  When we would go there at Christmas to visit they would always have cookies and treats that had been sent to them from Germany and I marveled at the different shapes and flavors of the cookies I was allowed to sample.  It was at their house that I tasted my first liqueur filled chocolate.  I also remember how beautiful their tree was. It was the only tree I had ever seen with candles rather than electric lights on it, a tradition I now know is very German. 

            I also recall how my parents went out for a Christmas ‘drink’ one year when I was a teen and did not return home that evening. I was shocked (but somewhat proud) to know that my parents would drink so much that they were not able to get themselves home, especially my Dad; he never got drunk. 

That is the great thing about this man.  He is so accepting that he allows others feel able to let down their guard and lose some of their inhibitions, while enjoying the moments in his company.

Much later when I had my own children and they were entering their teen years my son became friends with a very good-humored boy from his hockey team.  They ended up in the same class in middle school and the rest is history.  At 22, these boys are still the best of friends.  My son’s friend is the grandson of this wonderful man.

My son has also had the privilege of experiencing the openness and love of this dying man’s family.  He taught my son lessons that he could never learn in his own family because of our different backgrounds. (Like smoking cigars, haha) From this man my son learned, that life is not meant to be all toil and hardship.  Sure there are times when we are not comfortable and there are things we must do but really, we must be true to ourselves, and indulge in simple pleasures, or it is all for naught.

This man had first hand experience with this as he immigrated to Canada from Germany and married the love of his life, which his family did not approve of.  He had the courage of his convictions and lived as he saw fit and I admire him for that. His family learned the importance of love and acceptance and I saw that in them as my son became welcomed and included in their lives.

I am so glad that we were fortunate enough to cross paths with this man from Colgne, Germany. I cannot think it is an accident that a man coming so far from my birthplace and settling in our small town on Vancouver Island should have such an influence on our family.  There were long stretches of time where we were distant from each other but none of us has forgotten what an amazing soul this man is.

I feel honored to hold in my soul, great memories of the kindness and generosity of this man and his family. I am also lucky enough to be blessed with a material piece of evidence of our connection, in the form of a gorgeous amber necklace that belonged to Sigrid his wife. 

I was at one of my son’s and her grandson’s hockey game several years ago and she said, “Lauraleah, I have something for you.  I am going to give it to you at the next game.”  I was taken aback and wondered what it was that she would want to give me.

 As promised, at the next game she showed up with a beautiful string of various sizes of amber.  I loved it instantly but questioned her as to why she would be parting with such a beautiful piece and why to me?  She told me that her brother had given it to her when she still lived in Germany but she had never worn it much because they were too big.  She said I was the only person she knew that could pull them off and I took that as a compliment. (Even though it meant I too was big.) I love that necklace and I wear it all the time.  I get compliments on it every time I wear it and I get to tell the story of how I came to be wearing such a beautiful piece to anyone who asks about it. In this small way I feel I will pass on a piece of this man’s story and again I say, what a privilege and an honor.

So, back to my initial question, why are we so afraid to reach out to a dying person or their family? In writing this I believe I have answered that for myself.  We are afraid we are not worthy of communicating with the family because they are grieving.  We are scared that we may offend them or cause ourselves to look foolish.  We are afraid that we will cry or lose our composure.  At the risk of doing all of the above, I am going to face my fear and offer this story to this man and his family.  I pray they will accept it in the spirit of compassion and honor, it was written in.




Rejuvenating the Soul

After a full week’s work last week and plans to be busy working next week as well, I felt a need to do something to recharge my batteries, so to speak. As I reflect back on what I filled my days with this past weekend, I see evidence that I am living authentically; that is, the the things I did on the weekend can be found on my list of ‘what brings me joy.’ This in itself, brings me more joy.

Sometimes I get so busy trying to do what I didn’t get done during the week, that the weekend turns into another ‘workfest.’  In our busy, accomplishment driven society I feel it necessary to be mindful of what makes me feel that I am honouring my authenticity and not just measuring up to the somewhat misguided ethos of our society.

So this past weekend I spent time with my parents Saturday morning.  We went to the Swale Rock for breakfast and I indulged not only in their company but also in a giant slab of Fisherman’s Bread complete with poached eggs and melted butter.

After breakfast we met up with friends and headed out on the logging roads to get to Nahmint Lake, where we took in the old growth forest and had a shore lunch on the beach.  We roasted moose sausage made by our friend  while enjoying  the great conversation and standing in awe of the natural beauty of the lake, mountains and forest all about.

Saturday evening was spent by our home fire sipping tea and knitting while watching a movie.

Sunday we were up early after a great night’s sleep and headed out for walk/jog by headlamp light.  It was amazing to be outside witnessing daylight dawn over the ocean.  We had two cups of coffee while relaxing on our porch and then headed out to do errands.  Within an hour we were back home to enjoy the rest of the day doing whatever we pleased.

I filled my day with knitting, weaving baking, cooking and a little reading. By the evening I had made a delicious steak and salad dinner, with a recipe I used from the Donna Hay magazine ( from local library). It was the 2013 black and white issue and I used the recipe for Garlic, Anchovy and Rosemary Beef Rib Roast, and adapted it for the  rib eye steaks we had.

winter salad with kale, carrots, dried apples, cranberries and sunflower seeds

winter salad with kale, carrots, dried apples, cranberries and sunflower seeds

From the same magazine I made Ginger and Blackberry slice and I will send some to my daughter who is away at university and give some to my parents.

Ginger Blackberry Slice (Donna Hay)

Ginger Blackberry Slice (Donna Hay)

For part of the remainder of the day I started knitting a vest for myself finally.  I chose a bright variegated wool so that I could add a blast of colour to my black and grey winter wardrobe.

starting the vest

starting the vest

With the help of my partner, I finally got the last of the warp threads tied on my loom and wound it on.  I am still using material from my stash and this project is going to be a wool rug made from the many small balls of wool I have in my cabinet, as well as a box of wool skeins that my friend accidentally partially felted while trying to wash some old yarn.

box of partially felted yarn

carpet warp wound on

I also finished another knitted headband and I will send them to my daughters in the mail so they can have a little something from their Mom and be fashionable at the same time.


headbands for the girls


For the third recipe from the Donna Hay magazine, I will have Bircher and Berries for breakfast this morning.  This is a lovely combination of oatmeal, chia seeds, berries, almond milk and yoghurt.

All in all, I would have to say that I had a fantastic weekend and am well charged and ready for another week.  Happy Monday!

Changing My Perspective

I have been working on call quite a bit lately and so I am experiencing what it is like to try keep up a blog and work outside the house.  I miss writing and wonder how I will fit it in when I go back to work, which leads me to that illusive thing called time again.  I read last night that from a human perspective, time only exists because we exist. The meaning of time is only what we attach to it.

Sometimes it drags while at other times if flies.  We waste time or try to buy time and we describe something as boring when we feel time is going slow or we find things hectic when we find time going too fast.  But time is time.  How can it be any different than what it is.  A minute is a minute, an hour is an hour.

So it is we that attach meaning to this thing called time. We try to manage time when actually it is more likely that time is managing us.  I have a perfect example of that.  I feel like a bad time manager these days because I get up early to get ready to go to work, I use time to groom and then relax with a coffee.  I drive to work, spend the day there and drive home again.  By this time I feel a little unmotivated, as if what I had to do is done and now I can ‘waste’ time.

After dinner preparations, dining and clean up I feel it is time to relax and so by bedtime I am feeling like a bad time manager because I didn’t do the things I love like read, walk, knit, weave, bake, call friends, etc.  But can I really manage time?  Who or what is actually being managed if I schedule everything precisely and follow that schedule to a tee?

I think what I need is to ponder what living a quality life actually is.  Unfortunately, like most other people I am caught in the net of measurement through accomplishing.  I compare myself to others or to what I used to be able to get done.  When I have a big list of accomplishments I feel good and when I have frittered hours doing things that I felt like doing I feel bad.

Perhaps it is time to throw the accomplishment measurement stick out the window with the scale that weighs me in pounds.  So much measuring and managing time makes me dull and no fun.  I wonder why I can’t just live each day and accept whatever I do or don’t without assessment?

Maybe it is because I am a teacher or because I had a busy hectic childhood?  Who knows.  Actually, writing about this is probably just another way of measuring something about myself, as if completing  a blog post and working today makes me a better time manager and a better person.

After work today I am going to do whatever I feel like at the time.  I might walk, I might read, I might work or bake or knit or just look out the window.  Who know?  Whatever it is I will try to choose my thoughts wisely and remember that today is meant for me to live, which does not have to include measuring or weighin in.

You don’t alway…

You don’t always need a plan, sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens.

I came across this quote and it seemed to resonate with the space I am in lately.  Isn’t it strange how humans seem to have a need to want to know exactly how things are going to end up before anything even happens?  What is life if not a series of events, feelings, emotions and adventures that we get to anticipate but not control or predict?  Why is that so scary to many of us?

Today I am going to let things unfold as they may.  Although there are many things I could gesticulate on or agonize over, I will not choose those thoughts today.

Today life is an adventure waiting for me to take part in.  I have no idea what will happen but I do know that whatever unfolds, will be exactly as it should!

Inspiration Board

Currently Loving Board

I have heard on more than one occasion that my blog posts are rather long so I am going to try to keep it short today.  I thought I would share one of my New Years projects with you.

In my kitchen I have a large blackboard that I like to doodle on, write inspirational quotes I come across or just jot down things I need to remember to do. After my New Year Day theme was erased I replaced it with a ‘Currently Loving’ list.

I use colourful chalk and jot down lists of things I am enjoying.  The list includes anything from food, music and activities to just plain old day dreaming.  This playful activity is a pleasant reminder that there are far more enjoyable and joyful things in my life than there are worries.

If I find myself not able to add to the board one day I know it is time to go get out my ‘worry list’ and discard the thoughts that are causing me to fail to see the joy and goodness in my life.

So what would you put on your ‘Currently Loving List” today?

Another New Beginning

Simple Advice

So it is officially a new year for me now.  The school holidays are over and since I am a teacher, the first day school is open after Christmas is what I consider ‘the new year.’

I don’t know about you but I am filled with leftover feelings of the past, excitement about the present and hope for the future.

I feel torn about my leftover feelings of the past year, as if they were a plate of leftovers in the fridge; still able to be consumed but really past their appetizing appeal  and needing to be composted, fed to the dog or thrown out. Many of these feelings center around family traditions, as well as transitioning to not living in the same city as my grown children in addition to changing how we celebrate Christmas.  As of this morning, am discarding the leftovers which are no longer providing the sustenance I need.

At the same time I feel stirred with excitement from deep inside me.  I have read many self-help books over the past few years, listened to all kinds of lecturers and motivational speakers and taken in my fair share of CBC Radio talk shows.  From these resources I have found a list of great ideas that I believe will enhance mine and other’s days.  Some of these ideas the I am going to embrace follow.

From the One Sheepish Girl blog I got the idea to keep a ‘happy moments jar.’  Like ‘sheepish girl’ I am going to keep a jar that I drop little notes in as I experience particular moments that bring me joy throughout the year.  At year’s end I will empty the jar and read through the joyful memories and celebrate them as the year closes.

From CBC Radio I am adopting a practice  from a caller, who said she keeps a jar which she contributes a dollar a day to.  At the end of the year she takes the money and distributes to charities or causes of her choice.  What I great idea. I have challenged myself and my partner to each contribute a dollar a day.  Already, I am excited about how we can use the money to help food banks and charities in our community.This pleases me and fits in with my ‘support local’ mantra.

From a book I read, Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow, by Karen Casey, I am practicing ‘change’ one minute at a time.  I am learning to accept that change is up to me and I can always choose.  I relate this to the Christian principle that God has given us ‘free will’ and we can choose to listen to the voice inside that embodies our spiritual nature or we can listen to the ego.  The ego is much easier to hear I have discovered but I am going to practice being still so I am  able to quiet that loud voice (ego) and hear the gentle voice of God.

Also, from the same book I have learned that change is a gradual process that we can choose the pace of. Giving myself the option of changing my mind one moment or one day at a time seems manageable.  It also seems realistic to recognize that at first I will not always choose change and will resist at times. This book helped me to accept that resistance is ok too, and that change is never comfortable to us at first.  Just as comfy slippers that are worn and tattered are hard to discard when the soles are still good, so too are habits that are not necessarily beneficial, hard to give up.  Its all ok.

my grateful, worry journal

my grateful, worry journal

From many of my readings and studies in the past year I have begun a gratefulness journal.  In this I try to add something each day that I can choose to be grateful for. Listed is everything from a warm, creamy cup of coffee in the morning to the blessing of my three gorgeous, amazing children.  In the back of this same journal I have created a Worry List where I write down everything I am worried about or see as a problem.  Following that I state the problem or issue, jot down a lesson or opportunity that could come from the problem and then list an action that I think may alleviate the problem.  After that I leave the worries and issues on the page and more times than not, when I look back at the list, the problems have resolved themselves and the worries have dissolved.

Finally, at the start of this new year I feel a desire to ‘get clean.’ This includes more than my feelings and emotions and so as is normal for me, I look to the kitchen when needing to work something out.  For the month of January I have decided that eating from an Asian perspective is going to feel clean for my body. No more heavy eggnog, mashed potatoes, decadent desserts or heavy fare.  I feel the need to lighten up and have chosen to look to the East for my inspiration.  I pulled two of my favourite cookbooks off the shelf and will wander through them to find recipes to make.

When I rummaged through my freezer this morning for some frozen mangos I noticed that the contents of the freezer included many packages of pesto and grape juice that I stored away in August and September so I think I will make February ‘Italian’ month, based on my need to eat from the freezer and what we have stored in the pantry. Who knows, maybe I will create a monthly theme throughout the year?

Book that inspires me

Book that inspires me

I love this book

I love this book

Finally, I have been wearing a Fit Bit for the past week and I love it.  It tracks your steps in a day, your sleep cycles, active minutes per day and distance walked.  I have not been come obsessive or compulsive about it but I really enjoy knowing how far I have walked in a day and have set a small goal of achieving between 10,000 to 15,000 steps each day depending on what other activities I do each day. I have discovered that dancing causes you take a lot of steps as does a few short walks to the woods or to the mail each day.  It is all just fun and a pleasant way to be more active.

  1. After beginning the year with a Mexican feast shared with family and friends, I have now embarked on my Asian epicurian journey and look forward to sharing recipes and daily experiences here on my blog.