Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas in My Little Town ...

This is my little town. 

 It snowed last weekend, and the trees were laden with beautiful, pristine snow. It was so pretty.

We had rain last night, so much of the snow is gone today. But no one in Newfoundland complains about no snow: we manufacture it here!

This was the library and city hall last night as I drove home after our work Xmas dinner. 

I've been in a Christmas-y mood since last weekend when I had my first opportunity to do some Xmas food prep. I made cranberry sauce -- one bottle to share with everyone round the Xmas dinner table at my daughters ..... and one bottle for me to hold on my lap and spoon into my eager mouth between the turkey and stuffing.

I made a traditional German Stollen. I've made the yeast versions many times with great success. But my last German student's grandma sent us stollen; and it was magnificant! This one doesn't use yeast, but it was rich and dense and moist! Yummy! I tried to follow Grandma's recipe as closely as possible. But you cannot buy 'quark' in Corner Brook NL (substitute cottage cheese). And although she doesn't add marzipan (and I adore it), I grated in a log of it. It needs to cure. So fingers crossed that it will be even a fraction as tasty as Grandma Holsts' stollen. 

And then because there was still a smidge of glace fruit and slivered almonds left, I cooked up a few apples and made a sort of poor-man's version of mincemeat. I'm the only one who likes it in my family.

I've started to make dates with myself for baking and my favorite sappy movies. (Do you folks do that?) Trying to get the most I can out of this season!

So, what's on your baking list? Share a recipe (or a link to) if you wish. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

You Can't Shut Us Up!

This is a difficult day for women, especially those who have lived or are living with violence and those of us who care or work with them. 

The lead up to today has been a display of "What Were You Wearing", part of our 16 Days of Activism re violence against women. We at the Women's Centre co-ordinated it with community partners. Hanging up tiny little shorts and t-shirts along with adult sized sweats and baggy jeans not only brings home the fact that it does NOT matter what you wear or how old you are, but it brings home the fact that everywhere, women are experiencing sexual violence -- even in your own little home town. 

It's been a difficult couple of weeks! 

How lovely it was to come back to the office, sit with my coffee, open up Facebook and find this post: 



Friday, December 1, 2017

Rabbit Rabbit! OMG! It's December!

Rabbit rabbit everyone! I hope you have good luck all month.

Last weekend, my house was a hussle 'n' bussle of Xmas decorating. I was having friends over Monday evening for potluck and cards, so what better excuse to decorate early. 

It was a lot of work! I'm in a new place, so I had to rearrange furniture (and re-rearrange!!) in order to find the best possible location for the tree. Then it was "Where will this particular item go?" And "What would look nice in this particular location?" Phew! I was extra pooped by the time I was finished. But it does look soooo pretty! Much prettier than last year's apartment. I love the way the tree lights reflect off the walls and create a kaleidoscope effect!

Last Xmas, everything was upside down; my Mom was very ill in hospital and the family was consumed with that worry.  I'm grateful that this Xmas will be different from last. I'm grateful for my daughter hosting  Xmas dinner so those of us without partners will be with family. And I'm super grateful that she wants my help with dinner; we all need to be needed, right! 

Xmas has always been my favorite holiday. In NS, the children and I created Xmas traditions we all loved. And then each international daughter added to our special brand of Xmas. Being all alone now and inserting myself into other people's Xmas means, of course, that everything is different. I especially miss our Xmas Eve and Xmas Day meals together; no matter how old the girls became, we all loved to be together to feast! Now I'll be creating new memories and, I hope, new traditions. 

Another one of the hardest things about decorating was tree. I now have a small, artificial tree, so only the most special ornaments are chosen. Some were given to me by my lovely Ex before the children were born. A few came from my girls; and many were given to me by my international children. And I have a wonderful collection of ornaments that I purchased on the very few, very special vacations the girls and I were able to take. But each ornament that went on the tree holds a special memory: I decorated alone and there were many smiles and some tears shed. It was a happy/sad event! 

Yes, as I've said before, change is hard!

But I shall forge ahead with hope in my heart ... which brings a (tentative) smile to my lips .... and sometimes adds a spring in my step. 

Happy December to you all! 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Time Keeps on Slippin', Slippin', Slippin' .....

How fast does time fly these days! Remember when we were younger and the days spread out before us like a never-ending road. Now when you blink, a week has past! How does that happen (especially when you're NOT having fun)?

I do remember though how I've told myself for the past couple of years to get certain Christmas chores done early because time does creep up on me. 

  • So, I've composed my annual letter and sent my packages overseas ('cause Canada Post is so expensive, one must use the "surface" mail and it takes 6 weeks!). 
  • I've addressed my Xmas cards (and now they're ready for their individual 'personal' notes and to be stuffed into envelopes). 
  • The few gifts I buy these days are purchased.
  • And I've baked and wrapped my Xmas cakes. 
But every year, American Thanksgiving comes and I'm running round the house saying "OMG! Only one month until Xmas".  I don't stress about it; after all, my life has gotten a lot simpler these days and less is expected of me at Xmas. But it does motivate me to make my list of Xmas Musts and try to make a time schedule. And I think we all can agree that all sorts of additional stuff crops up at this time of year that will take our precious time in other directions.  So, I try to be as organized as possible.

But I still haven't found a way to slow down time. I've read quite a few articles on this subject and have adopted suggestions such as these by becoming more mindful. I don't overfill my days; I've culled my Facebook list of 'friends' and I limit time spent with the negative people in my life that can't be cut out (read 'family'!). I've organized and simplified. But time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' ... into the future.

The passage of time is one of the few things in life that we can do nothing about! We can only find ways to enjoy the ride as much as possible. I'll just keep on trying.

I hope you do too. In the meantime, let's hear a little Steve Miller.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Gettin' "hygge" wid it!

Note: Just this once, "Hygge" is be pronounced as I read it the first time I saw it = "higgie". (Will Smith would be proud of me.)

I do believe that winter will come to us soon. It's about 4℃ today (39℉), grey and overcast with the threat of rain. But temperatures will drop this weekend to 1 degree and continue that way for all of next week. Thank goodness my studded winter tires are already on the car.  We get a lot of snow here on the west coast of Newfoundland.

Since moving back home, finding this amazing job and deciding to rent rather than own, my life has become more simple and less stressful. My job allows that when the schools are closed, the office is closed as well; so I've no pressure to get to work on storm days. Also, in true chivalrous manner, my landlord shovels and plows which leaves me with the easier task of just cleaning off my car. Driving is quite tricky here in winter; city streets are plowed but they're never really clean; there's just too much snow falling too often. But I drive slowly and calmly and don't worry about going anywhere quickly. I'm pretty laid back about the winter thing.

Living alone can be lonely, especially when winter forces most people inside. But I'm discovering all the time that living alone has so many unforeseen perks. And these are what I choose to embrace rather than think of possible days of grey, emptyness. Apparently, I've been practicing the Danish art of "Hygge". 

Hygge (pronounced "HUE-gah") is a Danish and Norwegian word which can be described as a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture). 

When I became a single parent of 3 small children, I realized the need to take care of myself first -- to try to create a place of quiet and peace so I could be a better mother, friend and employee. Candlelight bubble baths with soothing music (and wine 'n' chocolate) were a necessity for me. Now that I'm on my own, Hygge is something that I practice daily.
I come home to my (sometimes) neat, quiet home and greet my apartment with a "Hello honey! I'm home!" I turn on my TV to the Spa Music channel, and as I take off my work clothes, I relax and attempt to "take off" the cares of the day. I prepare dinner and try to be mindful as I eat. I don't answer my phone while I'm doing this.

Depending on the day of the week, most evenings I have a relaxing bath in dim light, listening to quiet music OR I'll sit in my PJs and revive my tootsies in a Eucalyptus soak. Candles are lit, tea or mint water is poured, magazines and my crossword puzzle book is by my elbow, and I already know my lineup of favorite TV shows for the evening. I have a lovely faux fur throw nearby when the evening turns cooler, and I spend a few moments just being grateful for the NOW. I only answer or make phone calls when I feel I'm ready. 
Weekends I take a walk outside in the crisp air. And if I want a fire, I turn on the fireplace channel on my TV; I don't have to worry about ashes or embers on my floor AND I swear to you, the apartment feels warmer. Hahaha!
So, all these years, I've been gettin' "hygge" wid it without realizing there was a name for what I viewed as an indulgent necessity.
I hope you practice Hygge! It's good for the soul!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Yeah! This makes me feel better!

Ah, the joys of aging! 

Have I mentioned the issue I have with scent? For the past 3-4 years, I've slowly developed a severe sensitivity (allergy?) to scent: perfume, after-shave, hand creams, etc; detergent, cigarette smoke, gas and diesel. I can actually feel those things in my nose and throat and at times, all the way down to my lungs. I get an immediate headache and stomach ache; and if I'm exposed too long or the scent is very strong, my sight will be affected and I will develop a migraine that could last for days. It's a serious issue.

I've also been developing noticable respiratory problems over the past 2 years - wheezing in my chest, persistent cough and clearing of my throat (which is never fully cleared), and recently, some added difficulty in breathing. But after 6 or 7 years, I finally have a family doctor. I'm on the list to see a specialist; but in the meantime, he's prescribed asthma meds; one for emergencies (like when I climb mountains) and a daily puffer, Symbicort.

By Day 2, I had to cut the Symbicort dose in half to 1 puff 2x a day. The side effects are more tolerable then. AND it's working already! I can breathe easier, no chest congestion, even my singing voice has improved. (Now I only have what I call the old lady tremolo, so I only sing in the car with the windows up!)

Side effects, you say? 

Well, there's the headache, nausea, leg cramps, heart palpatations, constipation, flu-like aches, terrible back ache (additional to what I already experience from my injury), constipation, killer heartburn and bloating. AND I hear I'm in for some additional weight gain! Ain't that grand!

(If anyone has any advice to pass on, please do so.)

So, while for my body to adjust to the meds and come into greater balance, I search for more natural ways to deal with the above and ways to make myself feel better. This week's weather has been a bonus: we've had sunshine and high temperatures (for the region and season). I've been taking extra care with my diet; practicing mindfulness, prayer and meditation; and trying to get enough sleep. (My sleep patterns are also affected!) And I'm being more careful about my dress; we all know how wearing something we love can alter our mood. 

Yesterday, I put on my comfy thrifted leopard print shoes, my double strand of sparkly purple glass beads, and a newly acquired, thrifted floaty top in a rusty-red color. 

The color helped to brighten my day and put a smile on my face. You can't even tell that my head hurts, my arms ache and my bloaty belly hurts.

After all, it was 18 deg C (64 deg F) and sunny. 
What's not to be happy about?

  • So, how do you deal with those downer days?

(Now excuse me: I have to go drink my daily glass of prune juice.)
Ahhhhh! The joys of aging!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Just Breathe!

Yes. It's important to work at taking care of one's self, especially if you are an aging woman such as myself and no longer enjoy the resiliency and vigor of youth.

But it's equally important to not do it all; to stop sometimes and make a conscious effort to hear what your body and your mind are really saying.

These are the times we need to actively rest. (Is that an oxymoron?)  Times when we need to block out the rest of the world - the news media, social media, TV, even friends and family - and find a quiet place of sanctuary -- rest, read, whatever relaxes you and feeds your soul -- and just breathe. 

Stay there as long as is necessary. Treat yourself well. Allow yourself to "be" without criticism or negativity of any kind.

PS - I shall be breathing all weekend! 
        And cleaning my home because that brings a sense of calm 
        and order to my sometimes overwhelming life.
        But mostly breathing!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I have a Man in my Mountain!

Autumn is in full swing here in Western Newfoundland. And even though Friday night's heavy rains brought a lot of leaves down (especially the gorgeous reds), my world is still ablaze with color. It's no wonder so many people love this season.

I took part in what may be my last hike of the season. I climbed the "Man in the Mountain" trail just outside Corner Brook. I've hiked worse (Hello Coppermines!), but this one was still quite challenging. You began by climbing (lots of roots, rocks, fallen trees and rotting leaves underfoot), then mercifully it levelled out. We hiked round #1 of 3 ponds that we'd pass until we reached the biggest challenge, an area called The Switchback. This was a steep, hillside climb (as opposed to hill-slide down into that pond); it was slippery and there were no ropes to grab; you had to hope that tree branch would hold! But look where you came out at the top.  
See the parking lot in the center?
We're only half way there!

 But this is just the top of a small mountain. We have to continue hiking .... and climbing .... and thankfully, stopping to rest at conveniently placed benches and natural stone seats. There were partridgeberries growing along the way -- a tart, cranberry-like berry which is a favorite with Newfoundlanders. 

The path was sometimes a riot of fall colors; and then there was this small clearing which was surrounded by beautiful red foliage. And the smells were unbelievable! It almost smelled like partridgeberry jam cooking, this sweet, tart, juicy fragrance! Yum!  

But finally we reached the top -- 984 feet up! Wow!

On my right is the Humber River and the highway leading to Corner Brook and the outer Bay of Islands.

And on my left is again the Humber River (showing Shellbird Island) and the TCH (Trans Canada Highway) which leads across the Island, past Marble Mountain Ski Resort, through the lovely Humber Valley.  

There's only one man in this mountain. The smaller circle shows the location of the "Man"
 and the larger circle shows the "man" in greater detail. 

Yep! We were at the very top of this mountain. And if I had been dangled off the side, I could have seen the actual "man in the mountain"!
 ..... but I just took my hiking guide's word for it! 

I defeated the Man in the Mountain, 
and I have battle wounds to prove it!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

All this Change (Jangling 'round in my Pocket)

This was a non-hiking weekend:  #1 because my knees were still a little sore and #2 because it was my birthday weekend. I ALWAYS have a whole weekend rather than the traditional 1 day birthday. I'm an adult -- I can do what I want!

Friday, I went thrifting in a little town 45 min away and scored some great deals. Saturday, 2 girlfriends and I went to an awesome yard sale and had coffee and treats afterwards. Then we dog walked for almost an hour and a half. Sunday, I had an amazing prime rib dinner with my Dad and brother. Because we'd done a turkey dinner just 3 weeks ago for my Dad's birthday, he and I decided against having a family Thanksgiving dinner. I'd have had to do all the work anyway, so I reasoned that I wouldn't miss it at all. 

But come Monday when I was home alone watching the rain and seeing FB posts of golden turkeys (the people and the fowl!), I was sad. I longed to be sitting with a large, happy, grateful group, overeating traditional Thanksgiving fare, comparing stuffing notes and setting up for a game of Skip-Bo afterwards. But I remind myself that this was MY traditional Thanksgiving get-together; it is NOT my NL family's traditional Thanksgiving get-together. (There's much more cussing and snarling at my NL family's traditional Thanksgiving get-together!)

It's mostly on holidays that I find myself torn: torn between being happy that I'm home in NL with my family and yet desperately missing the wonderful traditions I had built-up with my extended family in Nova Scotia. I miss knowing what to expect. I miss the familiar. I miss the closeness.

The jury is still out on whether moving home was a good choice. The transition is very difficult -- for me as well as for my family,  I would imagine! During my 41 years in NS finding my own way, my family were here in NL chipping away a comfortable spot to function in it's disfunction; then I come home with my Norman Rockwell ideals and all these wonderful ways of how we can love each other more and get along better! How dare I disturb the status quo!

(Many of my prayers are for acceptance and perserverance and the wisdom to know when each is needed.)

Yes, the jury may still be out, but I made a choice to move home a year ago. And although I will allow myself the sadness that comes with the occasional nostalgic memory, and I will not waste my time focusing on what I miss about NS. 

I will focus on all the great things that are to be had here with family and old friends. I will focus on how fortunate I am to have this opportunity to connect once again and the beauty that can come from change. 

PS - I got to eat Thanksgiving leftovers yesterday with my dear friends Ed and Judy. It was delicious!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Coppermine Mountain Trail

Autumn has not only reached us here in western Newfoundland, we are experiencing quite cold mornings and evenings; so the leaves are changing color rapidly. It sure is getting pretty(ier) outside. 

This weekend's hike was up another mountain; and apparently 3.5 km straight up the side of a mountain on a narrow, root 'n rock filled muddy path is it! My limit, I mean. This hike was a killer! 
We hiked the red line.
Now, don't get me wrong: I loved it! But I'm sure if you were anywhere near me on the last leg of the climb you could hear my brain repeating my climbing mantra: "Just one foot in front of the other, Sandy. Just one more foot." We started the morning early in roughly 4 deg C (about 39 deg F) temperatures with the vague threat of a shower in the afternoon. There were plenty of rest stops and lookouts to take advantage of. And as is usual here in NL, we went from forest to bracken to barrens until we finally reached the top. 

We've reached the top, right?

What do you mean, no?

We have to cross that other field of bracken and climb the hill to the top of THAT mountain? 

"One foot in front of the other, Sandy. One in front of the other!"

On one side of us was the mouth of the Bay of Islands looking out to the Atlantic Ocean. And the other three sides were hills and trees and mountain and ponds: it was spectacular, even in the overcast weather. We did experience intermittent misty showers; and when we finally reached the cairn at the top of Copper Mine Mountain, we were tired and hungry, ready for our lunch rest.

But man! It was cold up there! Probably only about 2 deg C. And as we huddled behind the cairn munching on our sandwiches (and dreaming of hot tea), tiny flakes of white stuff fell momentarily from the sky and landed on my backpack!

The return 3.5 km took just as long as climbing up did because it was so steep, muddy, rocky/rooty and narrow. But oh what bliss to finally reach the bottom and exchange my hiking boots for sneakers.

When I finally got back home, extra time was given to my aftercare; lots of stretching and a huge mug of warm tea in my fragrant scented epsom salts bath. I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening relaxing and napping. I need to regain my strength!

Hmmmm? I wonder where we'll hike next weekend?


  Sorry! I thought I could return to a normal schedule. But my sense of 'normal' has changed. After the past 5 years of various ailm...