An eco-friendly dog birthday party

Yes, you read the title right. An Eco-friendly doggie b-day party happened a few days ago for the Nickster’s 8th birthday.

What made it eco-friendly and why am I having a birthday party for my dog? Good questions.

I’ll start with the why question. I never had kids and totally missed out on the fun of having little rugs rats running around, excited and on over-drive from a chocolate cake sugar buzz. Now that I’m a dog mom, I get to invite my friends over for wine and cake and get to see a bunch of excited pups run around barking and chasing each other. Close enough.

And how did I make my fete eco-friendly? In so many ways that I’m excited to tell you about.

Here are the top ten:

  1. The (super elegant) crystal stemware I used is from craigslist
  2. The beautiful turquoise bowls were from Salvation Army
  3. The chocolate cake was vegan
  4. I asked for the plastic to be removed and re-used when I bought the flowers
  5. I picked some of the flowers from an abandoned lot
  6. The (people) menu was vegan
  7. The only gifts allowed were edible, ie. treats
  8. I asked that guests didn’t use packaging for the gifts
  9. The wine and sparkling wine were local, from the Okanagan
  10. The napkins were from the Salvation Army

And, with all of this eco-friendliness, the party was still very chic, and very easy on the budget. Simple is elegant, easy on the earth and cost effective too. xo

BC Day

I was a little outdoorsy when I arrived in BC from Ontario in the late 90’s but…only a little. Living in this beautiful province has, slowly but surely, turned me into a devoted, treehugging hiker and nature lover. And becoming these things has transformed both my physical fitness and emotional health. I cannot even imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t moved to BC and experienced the breathtaking beauty of this province’s mountain and forest trails.

I’m also forever grateful to this stunning province for teaching me a few lessons in peace, happiness and what life is all about.

Here they are:

1. Getting outside and working up a sweat makes you healthy and happy. Hello endorphins!

2. Taking the time to question the craziness of our stressed out society. And, when you do, you’ll probably reach the conclusion that the slow pace of the natural world is where to find true contentment.

3. And, last but not least, that hugging and old growth tree in the middle of a forest makes everything better.


Loving and thanking you today British Columbia ❤

A Halloween Smoothie

I like to describe myself as a lone wolf. That sounds more glamorous and dangerous than saying I’m an introvert who lives alone (which is what I’m really saying). I don’t have children or a hubby or any family living on the West Coast and I find that I tend to miss out on a fair amount of family-type traditions. So when my friend Robyn told me she was visiting a pumpkin patch with another friend and her daughter, I found “Ooh, can I come along?” coming out of my mouth before I even realized it.

I guess I miss those family traditions a little more than I like to admit and, really, what is October without the ritual of a trip to a family farm and pumpkin patch?

I grew up in the country, surrounded by farms and I had definitely forgotten how much I miss hanging out with chicken, sheep, horses and how much I like the smell of manure. Yes, like the smell of manure. You can take the girl out of the country but….

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It’s said that All Hallows’ Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin – and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright. – Erin Morgenstern

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 frozen banana
1/2-1 cup unsweetened almond milk, or other dairy-free milk
2 T. agave or maple syrup (optional)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ginger
Small pinch of cloves
Small pinch of Himalayan pink or sea salt

Blend and serve.

Note: I made this smoothie twice. Once with almond milk and all of the above ingredients and it tasted exactly like a liquid pumpkin pie. The second time, in a hurry, I used coconut milk, a splash of water, pumpkin insides (with a few raw seeds too), banana and cinnamon and it was like a tropical version of the recipe with a subtle, natural sweetness.

And, in the spirit of zero waste, the pumpkin seeds were roasted (yum) and my sweet, little jack-o-lantern will be composted when the time comes. Waste not, want not and keeping food scraps out of our land-fills.

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Wishing you a fun, creepy and treat-filled Halloween! xo

Birthdays, Aging and Rene Zellweger

Rene Zellweger’s face seems to be everywhere I turn these days. Twitter, Facebook, TMZ, E-News. You’d think this was the first time a celebrity was noticed having a little nip and tuck done. It’s weird and it feels a little to much like bullying. It looks like she had an eye-lift, yes, but is that really a cause for social media hysteria? It seems like everyone preferred her eyes the way they were before but…so what? Aren’t there way more important and, quite frankly, interesting things going on in the world than the state of Renee Zellweger’s eyes?

Personally, I think she looks great. Who knows? Maybe she never liked her eyes and finally did something about it. Good for her if that’s the case and if it’s not, well, it’s really none of my business anyway. I cannot imagine being a 40 something or, even worse a 50 something female in Hollywood. If you don’t get plastic surgery, you know you’re going to end up on the cover of a tabloid with the caption “She Looks Shockingly Old!” and if you do get plastic surgery, you’re going to end up on the cover of the same tabloid with the caption “Too Much Work Done”. I’m amazed that more stars don’t shoot themselves in the head.

Smart, kooky Russell Brand sums up the situation here. Amen Russell.

And, on the subject of aging, I’m turning 52 today. I haven’t botoxed, injected or lifted anything yet but, never say never. I love the idea of aging gracefully and naturally but, let’s face it, we live in a youth-worshipping society and everyone has to decide how they are going to wrangle this collective fear of aging as the years go by.

I had a birthday dinner on Saturday and I created an event on Facebook that I jokingly titled “The Second Anniversary of My 50th Birthday”, subtitle “I’ve decided I’m not really into getting any older so please help me celebrate the anniversary of my 50th birthday”. One of my friends laughed about it and said she was so excited that we are both turning 50 this year but another friend didn’t see the humour in my dinner party title and expressed her opinion that we should be proud of our ages and not try to hide them even in a joking way. So, on that note, I’d like to share a piece I wrote a couple of years ago when I turned 50. Like most people I’m definitely influenced by the media and images of photo-shopped perfection so I always like to re-read this on my birthday and remember that getting older has some really great benefits and that the ultimate thing to do is be brave, be proud of your age and don’t worry too much about what others may think.

The Journey

birthdayToday is an interesting day. I’m turning 50 today. Yep, 50. And I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fact that being a fifty-something can have some negative connotations in our youth worshipping culture. The phrase “over-the-hill” being one that immediately springs to mind. I always find it simultaneously flattering and insulting when someone looks at me and says incredulously, and in a loud voice, “I can’t believe you’re fifty!!” So, yes, thank you for saying I look good for my age but what do you think fifty is supposed to look like? Never mind, I don’t want to know.

Happily, I don’t feel like I’m too much past my prime (well…most days). That’s not to say that I haven’t slowed down a bit. I have. Or that I don’t have wrinkles and a few patches of sparkly, silver hair. I do. And some days I look in the mirror and think “ÒMG, my face has fallen and it can’t get up!” But the feeling passes and I don’t feel that my life is over or that it even has lessened really. It has definitely shifted but I’m finding that I like the changes and my life actually feels richer because of them. I’m not so interested in shopping as a sport or late night parties any more and I’ve gotten into nature in a very big way. Also, when I was younger and living in Toronto, I drank and partied enough for a few lifetimes so don’t feel that I’ve missed out on a thing. No mid-life crisis required.

Deep down I feel pretty content with my age, good with where I am in my life and excited about where I’m heading. When I let myself be influenced by the media though, things can shift rapidly. What I really grapple with these days are the never-ending beauty ads, doing their best to keep women unhappy with how they look at any age and especially unhappy when you reach “a certain age”. You know, the airbrushed, photo-shopped, almost unrecognizable faces of models and celebrities gracing various anti-aging products. All of the shadows, lines, and even pores, whisked away by computer technology. Use this product, the ad implies, and you too can have a face that looks like a perfect, blank, and ever so slightly inhuman mannequin. So we look at the flawless, porcelain faces in the ads, then look in the mirror and think, OH MY GOD!! Better run to the drugstore and buy (insert cream du jour) right now!! Since modern day marketing is so pervasive and slowly, subliminally, saturates our brains, these are the ads that I avoid at all costs.

My friend Louise, a fabulous and lovely fifty-something, and I were discussing the subject of aging gracefully at a cocktail party the other night. Our “what not to do” list included the overly filled lip syndrome, also known as “trout pout” (so loved by a certain “Real Housewives” kinda gal), as well as the frozen face look, courtesy of too much botox and too many fillers. This look, unfortunately, is becoming more and more prevalent these days as even dentists have started administering botox. As we talked, I found myself getting quite heated about the whole “be ashamed of and hide your age” message that our society sends on a regular basis. Louise and I both agreed that we feel so much more content and at home in our skin now than we ever did in our 20’s, 30’s or even 40’s and that is, by far, the biggest gift of getting older.

I think my main issue with trying desperately to wipe out our wrinkles, sags and bags is that by doing so we aren’t honouring ourselves or the journey that got us all to where we are now. If we feel happier and more self assured in our 50’s, why wouldn’t we celebrate everything about that? Why would we try to erase any of the years of our unique journey from our faces? Wouldn’t it make more sense to embrace the way we look now and the beautiful, painful, joyful, funny, tragic life experiences that have made us who we are today?

So, ladies (and gentlemen), here’s the moral of my post: Eat right, work out, laugh a lot, especially with good friends over a glass of wine. Get outside, go on an adventure, use a great moisturizer and maybe even get a little injection of botox for that special occasion but don’t try to erase the journey that has made you the uniquely beautiful person you are now. Love your wrinkles, especially if you acquired them doing something great, ie. laughing or lying on a warm, sandy beach.

Don’t hide your age. Be proud of it. Be an inspiration to everyone following in your footsteps and revel in your glorious, wise(r), fifty-something self. When you think about it, why would you want to do anything else?

HAPA birthday

Coffee, Chocolate and a Whole Lotta Love

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Picture yourself walking into a room with high, vaulted ceilings, exposed red brick walls and beautiful dark wood accents. The air is filled with the rich aroma of cocoa beans mixed with the irresistible scent of fresh, organic coffee and everything is blanketed in an atmosphere of love. Are you there? Yes. Then you’ve just imagined what the atmosphere at East Van Roasters is like. Located in the ground floor of the Rainer Hotel, this is a very special place.

I found out about East Van Roasters from an article in a local magazine and the piece not only made me drool with their description of the cafe’s artisan chocolate but also explained how they hire women in the DTES with “barriers to employment” ie: drug addiction, alcohol addiction and emotional issues. Working at East Van Roasters gives women battling these challenges the helping hand they need to get back on their feet and maybe even transform their lives. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

So when I also found out that the cafe hosts volunteer nights every other Wednesday, I signed myself up. The volunteer nights are called “Winnow Wednesdays” and winnowing means taking the hard shell off of cocoa beans. All of the volunteers sit together at a long, communal table and get down to work. We’re a bunch of strangers, sitting side by side and learning how to remove the sometimes finicky shell from it’s cocoa bean but working together helps the conversation flow easily and brings a lovely camaraderie too.

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During the volunteer evenings, East Van’s Director, Shelley, explains to everyone what the cafe is all about. East Van only buys fair trade, organic beans and pride themselves on the relationships they have built with their suppliers around the world.  She also tells us that the only pre-requisite for a shift here is to show up clean and sober. Then she explains that sometimes it’s just not possible for someone to show up clean and sober. So they are sent away and told to come back the next day, clean and sober. And if they don’t, they are told to come back the next day and the next day…until finally they do show up clean and sober and get a shift. She says that sometimes we all need a lot of chances and East Van Roasters is the land of 1,000 chances.

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The description of the many chances at East Van touched a place deep in my heart. My sister, Inga, and my niece, Crystal, both lived in the DTES (my niece got out but my sister spent the last years of her life here) and I know how much we all need a number of chances at times but residents of the DTES, in particular, need 1,000 chances and a lot of love and patience to go along with those chances.

Love, patience and a chance can be hard to find in our world so places like East Van Roasters are so special and so necessary. If we ever hope to create a functioning, compassionate society, we need many, many more places just like this.

 East Van Smoothie

  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 2 organic bananas
  • 1 T. cashew butter
  • 6 East Van Roasters cocoa beans

Blend together (with love).

Serve.

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Vancouver Ran for the Cure

This was my first Run for the Cure. Have I mentioned that I’m a totally emotional being and cry both easily and a lot?

You probably know where this is going. I was a sobbing mess as soon as the survivor’s parade started at 9 am. But, after wiping away my tears, I latched on to the beautiful vibes of the day and ran my little heart out for the cause, stopping only to take advantage of the pretty in pink photo ops along the way.

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I aked this gentleman if his cat was happy perched on top of his head. He told me that they’ve been doing the walk for years and the kitty-cat seems to enjoy the ride.

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the last stretch

finish line!

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.” – Gilda Radner