Archives for category: Random Thoughts

Oh travel adventures, how I miss you and look forward to having new ones again.

This is the longest I have been in one place in over seven years. I’m grateful for the time to “nest” and be still. And yet, I miss the adventures – the excitement of experiencing something new, meeting new people, or going back to old favourites. So as I sit here waiting for the pandemic to end, and to be able to travel again, I can’t help but look back on some of the trips and times abroad. So many discoveries, adventures, beautiful moments, and experiences that were a little out of the ordinary – ones that still make me give my head a shake – and smile. I love these quirky moments.

Here are some of my favourites.

Me, just before my departure to London. This is the hat that came with me to the UK. Wish I still had it!

1.First trip abroad – London. Warm and fuzzy airport arrival (not so much!).

I was 19, and it was the first time I got onto an airplane. I was London bound. At the time the IRA was active and Thatcher was still in power. When we landed at Heathrow and the plane came to a stop, I got up out of my seat still half asleep (a quick overnight flight from Montreal) and made my way to door. I was surprised to see that we were still on the tarmac – close to the terminal, but not actually at the terminal. We had to walk down the mobile stairs and make our way in. And what was there to greet us? The British Army, lined up, with their machine guns in hand. Yikes! Not exactly a warm and fuzzy welcome – somewhat intimidating for this kid from Canada. I was suddenly, very much, wide awake.

2.Meeting my first friend in London.

After a short mini panic session, I got out my backpackers’ guide and figured out how to get to a youth hostel. You see, I got on the plane without any idea of what I would actually do and where I would go upon arrival. I knew I would head to a hostel, but hadn’t figured out which one, nor pre-booked anything. I found one that was fairly close, and accessible by Tube. It was too early to get into the room (they shut them during the day, and you had to be back in by 1:00am, if memory serves). So I sat on some chairs with my hat over my eyes trying to nap, until I could go in and get settled. The chairs were set up by a pay phone, in a quiet corner away from the desk.

Suddenly I could hear the following: “I’m fine, mum, just send money…… I’m fine. I’m fine mum, send money. I’ll see you next week.”

I opened my eyes, and was greeted by a smile and a “mums!” (said with a shrug and a laugh). My introduction to JB, who was in London on his way back to Detroit, having sailed across the Atlantic with a Polish tall ship. My first week in London was his final week of adventure before heading home. It was the perfect way to arrive – spending time with someone else who wanted to discover the city.

3.Bail money?

Still in my first week in London, I met two Irish guys and another Canadian girl at the youth hostel. One evening we headed to a small, posh pub in St. John’s Wood. Just before last call (which was 11:00pm), a crowd came in – so they could be seen to have been at the pub, though they could only afford one drink. All of a sudden there was a rush towards the door. I stepped onto the stairs that we were standing in front of, so I wouldn’t be swept away, and looked left. There was a fight starting – a “skinhead” and a “new wave”. Police were quick on the scene, and as they walked past us, one of the guys I was with said “We need to leave now. See the skinheads outside? Do not make eye contact, just walk past and keep going”. There were five skinheads standing by the pub entry with sticks and bats in their hands. They had sent one member of their little gang in to pick a fight, while they waited for the unlucky target to come out, at which point they all would gang up on him and beat him. The idea of this being a way to pass time still makes me feel sick. The two guys I was with would have been considered “new wave”, so no eye contact was key. Once we were far enough away, one of my Irish friends said that he had heard a police officer quietly mutter “anyone who doesn’t leave now, will be taken in.” Can you imagine? Me in my first week, calling my mum and saying “I’m fine, but can you send bail money?” Ha! Thankfully that did not happen.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

4.More pub fun.

My second week in London. I was in another pub, this time near Piccadilly Circus. It was still afternoon and we had stopped for some food. A man came in and went to the bar, but was refused. He was already drunk so the barkeep decided not to serve him. The man didn’t say much, and left. A few minutes later….a brick came flying in through the window about three feet away from my head.

Seriously, all of the above in my first 10 or so days in London – my first time out of Canada! Was this a test? A challenge to see if I would stay? I did stay, and I didn’t see anything remotely like this again. If it was a test, I guess I passed.

5.Confusion over my accent when I speak French.

Well into my time in London now. I was living with four other people in a house in East Finchley. We decided to have a house party, as one does. While out the night before, one of my roommates and I met a rugby team from a Parisian economics school, who Alison invited to our party. They all showed up. I was surprised and somewhat impressed that they were able to find their way to our house. While talking with some of them, in French of course, this….this eventually happened:

Dude: It’s very odd…. (with an utterly confused look on his face).

Me: What?

Dude: You speak like a peasant……….but you do not look like one! (still a very confused look on his face).

Me: Um, yes, well….probably makes sense if you think about it. Who left France in search of a better life?

Seriously dude… So freakin’ funny! The look on his face was just something else.

6.Ferry ride to France.

Alison and I decided we wanted to go to Paris for a weekend. We took the train, which also involved an overnight ferry ride from England to France. At the time the ferries were run by a French company. As we tried to get settled on board, it was dark and cold out. Yet all the seating was partially outdoors. We made our way around the boat and eventually found an indoor room – a dining room all set up, but completely empty. The sign on the door said “No Entry”. Hmmm… I decided that wasn’t going to do, so I started chatting with some of the guys working on the ferry. I’m telling you, this is not the only time speaking French and being from Canada has helped me on my travels. We were soon invited into the dining room, and when one of the guys said he was worried they would get into trouble for letting us in, another said “It’s okay, we’ll just tell them she’s my cousin from Quebec.” Yes, yes we will! The next thing I new someone else showed up with a bottle of Malibu and juice. Not a great drink, by any means, but we emptied it, and spent the ferry trip chatting in the coziness of the “no entry”, indoor room. We arrived in France warm and happy, said thank you, and off we were.

I love to travel, and if I can help it, there’s no need to go without at least a little comfort, even if I don’t have any money 🙂

Friends, roommates, parties, travel around the UK, goofy times….lots of wonderful memories. Unfortunately the camera I had was crap. Fortunately the memories never fade.

I hadn’t intended on this being all about moments during my first time abroad, however the more I thought about it, the more I remembered. There are so many more fun, quirky stories from various trips. I’ll have to keep them for another day.

The things you experience, the people you meet, when you go beyond your day-to-day routine, comfort zones and country borders. No wonder this broad loves to go abroad!

London is still one of my favourite places to visit. I’m looking forward to being back there again.

If you have any favourite quirky travel experiences and feel like sharing them, please do so in the comments. I’d love to read about them.

Or what I like to call “Reinventing My Wheel

Transformation. Re-invention. Re-definition. Mid-Life Crisis. Call it whatever you like. There are times in one’s life when one decides they want something different. There’s something about a new calendar year that can prompt these thoughts. This year, with the “slow down and breathe” aspect of the pandemic, it might even be more of a thing.

I have experienced a few of these moments – not all of them coinciding with a new year. Allow me to speak a little about some of them.

I graduated high-school at 16. Living in the province of Quebec that would normally mean two years of CEGEP before going to university. But that wasn’t for me. I knew what I wanted to study – Journalism – and I knew where – Carleton University in Ottawa. If I could get into university and study what I wanted, why spend two years of my life in CEGEP? 

It’s not like my high-school years were so fantastic that I wanted to extend those. I was awkward, a little nerdy, shy, and lacked confidence. One day the boy I thought was the cutest in school asked me why I wasn’t going to CEGEP in Lennoxville, “that’s where everyone’s going,” he said. I just looked at him and replied “that’s exactly why.” 

I don’t know which one of us was more surprised by my answer (he knew how I felt about him).

Even at 16 I was aware that I could go to a different city, away from those I had spent my high school years with, and completely change who I was – nobody would have any pre-conceived ideas about me. And I liked that.

Time For A West Coast Transformation, via London…of course…

After my three years at Carleton University I decided to go on a UK adventure and spent a year in London (I fell in love with the accent in grade five when I saw an English movie called “Melody” on t.v. – I’m still a sucker for the accent). It was a fabulous year of discovering a new city and country, hanging out with friends, going to nightclubs (mostly The London Hippodrome by Leicester Square, which has since been turned into a casino…yuck), and experiencing my first real love (did I mention I am a sucker for a British accent???).

I was able to enter the UK on a “working holiday” given that I am Canadian and part of the Commonwealth. The money made really mostly went to hanging out with friends in pubs and going to nightclubs…and hair product (clearly!).

I remember the moment I decided it was time to come back to Canada – I was at a Brian Adams concert at the Hammersmith Odeon theatre. As soon as he and his band came onto the stage wearing jeans, t-shirts and boots I thought to myself “it’s time to go home.” But I didn’t want to go back to Ottawa, the Eastern Townships in Québec, and I didn’t want to go to Montréal.

So with a bag of clothes and $200 cash, I flew to Vancouver. I had never been, however it just seemed like the place I wanted to be.

New city, new life, “new me”.

I stayed in Vancouver for over 20 years; gathering new friends; getting married (and divorced); working in the art world, design world, and eventually the world of the Olympic Games. 

Taking advantage of the West Coast and Vancouver’s lifestyle, I developed a love for swimming. I had always loved being in the water, and decided to take swimming lessons so that I could improve my technique, and actually know what I was doing when it came to swimming lanes. I also started running with a group of friends, and managed three half marathons. I started working out in a boxing gym, which I miss like crazy (don’t worry, I do not spar, as I detest striking humans, but give me some pads to punch and kick and wham!). And of course I got into yoga. I used to say that the combination of boxing and yoga kept me in balance – one to take out my frustrations and another to get ‘zen’. 🙂

Kits Pool – my favourite spot. 137.5 metres of swimming bliss.

Nobody who knew me as a child would have described me as “athletic”, including myself. I loved all sports, was an avid fan, knew just about everything there was to know about them, but I wasn’t any good at them – the proverbial “last one picked for the team.” This was definitely a “new athletic me” (and I still do all of this as much as possible).

International Adventures.

After 3 ½ years with the Vancouver 2010 organizing committee, I decided I liked the nature of working in events – you work hard for a pre-determined amount of time, the event is delivered, and then you can take as much time off as you want before moving onto the next event. So for the past 7 years this is what I have done.

This time the “new me” was an international events specialist, and I was able to discover new countries like Turkey, Azerbaijan, UAE, Qatar, Argentina, Columbia, Greece, Russia and Japan. Seeing so many different countries and cultures really does enhance one’s overall life experience – giving new perspective and appreciation for a great many things (not the least of which is the sheer luck of having been born a Canadian).

Sunset over Sultanahmet. I started calling Istanbul “the love of my life”. I get back there as much as I can. Well, pre-Covid I did. Now I wait until I can do so again. If you go deeper into my blog you will find many on this city. I can’t seem to write enough about L-Istanbul.
I was fascinated by Moscow’s onion domes the first time I saw them on TV. It felt surreal to see them in person. So beautiful! See my Moscow blog for more info – if you feel like it.

Covid-19 Induced Transformation.

With Covid-19 and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games to 2021, the project I spent a year working on came to an end. 

This time I chose to come back to Montréal, and found myself contemplating my next “re-invention”. 

I decided to take some writing courses. I’ve always enjoyed writing and have wanted to get back to this blog, which I started some nine years ago (but wasn’t really writing in, at least not consistently). When I first looked at the courses offered by Concordia University I saw that writing and sharing one’s writing for review and critique by the class was part of the programme. 

Oh oh…what???  People will read what I write and critique it…to my face? Not sure I am comfortable with that idea! 

The thought of this really made me nervous and uncomfortable. However, I have come to see that it really is quite fun. We all write and share, and there is a lot to be gained from having people react and comment on what you have written. You also gain as much by listening to what others write.

Although much of the work is done on computer, I still love the physical act of putting pen to paper.

While I still continue to be involved in events, I feel the winds of change. So the question is “what’s next”? In my previous re-inventions, I have always had a clear idea of where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do. This time, not so much. 

So I am concentrating on doing things that I enjoy, and will see where that leads to. Sometimes you just have to jump and see where you land.

If you are feeling the itch to change things up again, here is what I “know” – based on my experience:

  1. When you hear a little voice inside telling you to make a change, try something new, try something you have always wanted to do – do it. Follow that voice. 
  2. Do NOT follow the voice in your head that doubts, questions and tells you “you can’t do that!” Although it sounds like that voice is trying to protect you, it’s really only curbing your potential. 
  3. Talk to a few trusted friends. We all need a few key people to be our supporters, cheerleaders, and sounding board.
  4. Some people will tell you what you are doing is crazy – and that is just fine. Lots of new things are viewed as crazy. And remember, we all have different values and comfort zones.
  5. If it feels a little uncomfortable, that’s okay. Moving through that discomfort is what helps you grow and see what you are really capable of.
  6. Do it safely – on your terms and in your time. 
  7. As long as whatever you are doing does not hurt you or anyone else…it’s all good.
  8. Know that the only person that gets to decide who you are is….YOU!

At the end of the day, you are not actually becoming someone “new” – you are tapping into one of the many wonderful things you are. No need to label it.

I heard something recently that put a smile on my face… If you don’t try, then you will never know where try will lead you. So give it a try…see where it leads you and have a shit load of fun along the way!

On the ferry from the Europe side to the Asia side of Istanbul. If I hadn’t listened to that little voice inside that said I wanted to try working on events (instead of a “steady” job with a company) I would never have discovered the beauty of Istanbul. I would not have the amazing friends I made there – and what a shame that would be.

Happy New Year everyone!

I may be a little late in saying that – it’s because I have been struggling somewhat with this post – what to say, how to say it.

It seems there is more to ponder this new year than in previous. 2020 has been a challenging one for many. I have heard and seen a lot of “good-bye to the worst year ever” type of messages and posts – and mostly from people who do not have to struggle to put a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and who don’t have to worry about whether or not they will make it back alive and unhurt, every time they leave their homes.

Perspective…. Perspective is key.

I know that this is different for all of us – and whatever our feelings and fears are about this pandemic we need to understand each other.

As much as it is okay to say you are scared and depressed and need help, it is also okay to say that you are doing quite fine. I spoke with the Ladies Who Dine last weekend, and when I said that for me 2020 was actually a pretty okay year, one said she was happy and relieved to hear me say that – because it is the same for her. Why can’t we say it’s been an okay year???

Every year has its ups and downs, struggles, delights and lessons learned. Every year has moments of “the worst ever”, “the best ever”, and everything in between.

It certainly didn’t end up being the year I thought it would be – with the project I was working on coming to a halt and a return to Canada much sooner than expected in April. Thankfully my circumstances are still very good. And I am keenly aware that I am very fortunate. I have also not lost anyone to Covid-19. I know a few people who have caught it, for some it was really rough, for others not so much. Yes, I am indeed lucky. And I am grateful.

I have been working full-time since I graduated from university at 19. I’ve worked hard, been lucky, have seen and done a lot, and met many amazing people – in many wonderful places.

So as I look back at 2020, I see in it the gift of time.

Time to just “be”, relax and restore.

Time to get back into the regular, morning, practice of breath work and meditation.

Time spent with family and friends – all physical distancing precautions taken when in person, and lots of video chats.

Time out in nature – walking, running, cycling – moving my body and marvelling at the beauty around me.

Time to do things that I enjoy and am curious about – like writing, taking a few courses and heck, why not try some voiceover coaching sessions? It’s fun.

Time to read…actual physical books, which has always been my preference. With travelling so much the past seven years, my tablet was best for reading – but it’s just not the same as holding a book in my hands.

Time to have all my “stuff” taken out of storage, unpacked and put into place – which is leading to precious moments reliving what I have been calling my “charmed life” for years now. Ooohhhh the 80’S!!!

Time to just slow things down for a little while and enjoy things like canning fruit, baking, a little home DIY, and of course some quality (and not so quality) streaming of movies, shows, etc.

It is my hope that we can all remember to slow down a little, enjoy and be grateful for the many blessings we do have – the so-called “little things” that are much greater in meaning and worth than we sometimes remember. When things “get back to normal”, let’s remember to stop every now and again, and enjoy and be grateful for what we have.

Let me leave you today with two of my favourite prayers/meditations. I highly recommend taking a few quiet moments regularly to just sit, breath and repeat these words to yourself. It creates positive, loving energy – and there can never me too much of that! Let’s face it, the world needs a lot of it right now (and not only for pandemic-related reasons…).

1: Buddha’s teaching on loving kindness:

Whether…

Weak or strong

Long, medium or short

Tiny or enormous

Visible or invisible

Nearby or far away

Born or unborn

…May all beings, without exception, be joyful and happy

2: Loving kindness meditation. Think of someone, see them clearly in your mind’s eye and send them the following thoughts/wishes:

  • May you be safe and protected (repeat 3-10 times)
  • May your body be healthy and strong (repeat 3-10 times)
  • May your mind be clear and at ease (repeat 3-10 times)
  • May you be loved (repeat 3-10 times)

You can do this for: someone you really love, of whom the mere thought fills your heart; someone you love, maybe not quite as much as the first person; someone to whom you feel indifferent; someone who really challenges you; yourself (don’t forget to do this for yourself too!). You can do all of these, or a combination, or one of them. You can even just send this out to the world, without focussing on anyone in particular.

Then sit with the loving energy you have just created, and take that with you for the remainder of your day or night.

Stay safe, be smart, stay healthy.

Let’s work together to move past the pandemic.

Let’s work together to create a world where EVERYONE feels safe, seen, heard, cared for and given every opportunity to have a wonderful life.

And let’s get to a point where this single lady, living alone, can hug her friends again! I miss hugs….

As I’ve written before, I love me some HGTV. And when I can’t find something I like there, you might just catch me watching something on the Food Network, or The Great Canadian Baking Show or The Great British Baking Show. I have always loved cooking – be it a main course or dessert. I think I was about six years old when I baked my first cake by myself (mum wasn’t far, but I did it alone). So I guess it’s no surprise I love a good baking show. For that matter, I also love watching Nailed It, where people who can’t bake…try. It’s so funny, and I have to give them props for attempting the crazy stuff they are asked to bake – I’m not sure I would!

A few years ago, I spent the better part of a three-day bone broth cleanse watching the Food Network. I couldn’t eat anything, but I sure could watch people cook and bake all day! No wonder I came out of that cleanse and immediately made brunch for about 20 people – even though only ten or so were actually in attendance. Oh, I do make myself laugh.

I went a little crazy with the baking when I got back from Tokyo – taking full advantage of having an oven once again. Thankfully I calmed down a bit on that one (eating too much of it myself!).

This summer, a friend mentioned the desire to can peaches — I was all in. I love peaches, and when they are in season – so amazing. So why not try to preserve some of that summer goodness for cold winter days? We looked online to see what equipment we needed, and find instructions. Couldn’t be much easier – a massive canning pot, pot-lifter, and jars – lots of jars.

Although I am saving most of the peaches for the dead of winter…I did open a jar. I must say, they are DELICIOUS! The only mistake we made was not canning enough of them. Next year, three times as much!

While working on the peaches I mentioned that I have another friend who married into a large Italian family, and they can tomato sauce every year – and I mean A LOT of tomato sauce. V was interested in doing this too, so I called A.M. to get the details on what to do. This also seemed easy enough. All we needed to get was a food mill – and more jars, of course.

When I saw these bushels of roma tomatoes at the Atwater Market I got super excited! I wasn’t going to be doing 15 bushels like A.M. though. One, let’s start with one bushel, and see how that goes.

The process here is a tad more involved and laborious than the canning of peaches.

1) Boil the tomatoes until the skin cracks.

2) Put them in a colander and press out the water (so the sauce won’t be too liquid).

3) Run them through the food mill to remove the skin and seeds. Our one bushel took four hours of food milling…manually cranking the mill for four hours! Next year I’m definitely splurging the $100 or so for an electric food mill.

4) Once all the tomatoes have been put through the mill, cook up some onions and garlic in olive oil, add the tomatoes, some salt, and let it simmer for a few hours.

5) Put some fresh basil in the bottom of the jars and fill with sauce while it is still super hot (when you put the piping-hot contents into a jar, you don’t need to boil the jars to seal them).

6) Place the jars upside down on the counter and let them sit for at least 12 hours.

There’s something very satisfying about hearing the ‘pop’ when the jars seal.

Fresh tomato sauce is now ready for pasta of all kinds. And let me tell you, it is pretty damn tasty!

I’ve been making my own apple sauce for years now. I have it almost every day with oatmeal or granola for breakfast. Normally I’d be making it every weekend. But then with all the jars I have, I thought to myself why do this every weekend? It’s apple season, get a bunch and can it!

All in all, pretty pleased with the canning this year. And looking forward to doing more of it in future.

While doing the canning, I found myself thinking that our ancestors really were on to something. Okay, I know a lot of it was out of necessity, however having the freshness of available fruit canned and at the ready for consumption during winter is just smart. Plus it feels good to make this myself and reach into the pantry to get some more once a jar is done. Next year I’m adding pears to the mix. Yes, it’s “convenient” to buy it at the super market, but it does not taste like this! It is also very satisfying to see the fruits of your labour.

Now that we are well past the canning season, and with Christmas around the corner, you know that means — time for baking! Even though Covid-19 means Christmas won’t be quite the parade of dinners and time with family and friends it usually is, you can still bake and share that love. So V and I decided that we would bake, exchange recipes and baking. Because I am in V & P’s bubble, and they are in mine, we decided to bake together. Also, I live alone, so for sanity reasons am allowed to visit someone or have someone visit. I mean, I love my own company, but even I get tired of hearing myself talk sometimes! It’s great to throw in another voice or two every now and again.

A quick chat revealed we wanted to make:

  • Chocolate Chip Butter Balls
  • Candy Cane Cookies
  • Date Pinwheels
  • Ginger Cookies
  • Lemon Cookie Sandwiches with Lemon Curd and Meringue filling
  • Caramel Candy
  • Shortbread Cookies
  • Hello Dollys

This was a two-day endeavour. Next year we will start sooner and spread it out more!

The lemon cookies are delicious – however they take a while because of the lemon curd and meringue. I strongly recommend making the curd the day before (which we did, thankfully). And although the recipe says you can make the meringue the day before too, I’m not sure I would – putting it into the piping bag when it’s a day old and has been in the fridge overnight might be a little messy and challenging.

The caramel candy – well that was another story. Day one’s batch became some awesome caramel sauce to have with ice cream. Day two saw V headed to a local kitchen shop in search of a new candy thermometer as the one we used the day before was cheap and not so good. Day two’s batch was a success. Woop woop!

Day one’s results!
A quick look at all the different items baked. Some from my childhood, some from V’s, and a few new recipes thrown in.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been in the same place for a while and I’m nesting – big time – but it’s feeling really great to do all of this. Makes this woman want a little house with a little land, enough for a veggie patch and hopefully a few fruit trees (what kind will depend on where I find this little bit of paradise). An old barn or church or house that needs some loving, preferably close to water, would be perfect. I know that sounds like a lot, but why not ask for a lot and see? Things to ponder…. We shall see what happens next.

Almost seven years ago I packed my belongings and put them into storage while working abroad. At that time it no longer made sense to keep a home in Vancouver as I wasn’t going to be there for a year and a half. I had no idea then that my stuff would be in storage for so long.

Having decided to make Montreal home (for now…), it was time to have all that stuff taken out of storage and delivered. Time for me to look through the boxes and remind myself what was in there. For the most part I knew what was there – it’s just that when you haven’t seen something for a while, well, it’s exciting to see it again. After all, I gave away or threw away a lot, and packed only the items I really wanted to keep.

In no particular order…here are the items I found myself most excited to see again.

Ohhhh my vacuum!

I’m not sure if it is funny or sad that I was (and am) so happy to have my vacuum cleaner again. My home has hardwood floors, as you can see. I know plenty of people prefer a broom and a swiffer or mop, but not me. To me a broom just moves dust and dirt around. I much prefer watching the vacuum suck it all up. Knowing that this was on its way I didn’t want to buy another, so I made do with a broom until it got here. Now I can vacuum to my heart’s content!

What feels like a few lifetimes ago, I worked for the Buschlen Mowatt Gallery in Vancouver. My years there saw me work most closely with a handful of artists from France, and one from Montreal. I knew these pieces were safely tucked away and one of the reasons I wanted to paint all the walls before the shipment arrived was so that I could unpack and put these up immediately. During my time at the Gallery I was fortunate enough to travel to Paris and other parts of France to visit the five artists we represented. Bernard Cathelin was one of those artists, and a generous soul. It was impossible to leave a meeting or visit without him insisting on gifting a piece, or two. I have a few framed and up on the walls, and these two are among my favourites – a little burst of colour in the kitchen, and a little café corner, which reminds me of the many wonderful times and meals shared with Bernard and his wife Régine.

Then there’s Chaki. He was really the only Canadian artist I worked with regularly, as most of my time was focussed on international artists. Lucky for me, Chaki’s studio is about a 10-minute walk from my apartment here. I always visit him when I am in Montreal, and now it’s so easy….well, when COVID-19 doesn’t throw a wrench into things…. I can’t visit him these days, but I stay in touch. Chaki recently had a show open at the Musée des Beaux Arts here in Montreal. Unfortunately it had to be a virtual opening, however the plus side of that is you can all have a look. This is important work and near and dear to someone that is near and dear to me. I won’t say any more here, as I could never do it justice.

Then there’s that one piece that I took out of a box and thought…what? Why is that here? It’s not mine….Yikes! I took and photo and sent it to my friend Sherri and asked her if she was missing her piece. Long story about how it got mixed up with mine. All I will say here is that it was a big surprise, and made me laugh. Now all I have to do is get it back to Sherri in Vancouver.

Fond memories of buying the three photos on the left with my brother J while in Merida, Mexico. An amazing city! I literally walked around a corner and almost bumped into a woman who looked exactly like the one in the top photo. Gorgeous. And the photo on the right was taken by an extremely talented photographer, whom I was lucky enough to work with on a few occasions, Rick Collins. This image is from a trip he made to Pakistan. I LOVE it.
Aaahhh, my Corrine Hunt pieces!

I met Corrine Hunt while working for Vancouver 2010. She created the artwork that was used as the design on the Olympic and Paralympic medals. We also ended up gifting the athletes a printed piece – that way if you were an Olympian competing at Vancouver 2010, you received the print in your room at Olympic Village. Then if all went well on the day of your competition, you received a medal with a crop from the print. Each medal was a different crop. Oh man the lengths we went to (just ask the designer who had to create all those crops…)! All worth it though, for sure! I finally got these two prints framed and now they are on the wall, along with another Corrine piece called Flow, that she created for my super-talented film writer and producer friend Carla, to help fund the making of her short film Bona Fide. Clearly I now need to take Flow to the frame shop to have the glass replaced with anti-reflection glass so we can actually see this piece!

And there are more pieces – more art – each with its own story. What a gift.

I am also really happy to see my kitchen stuff again. I didn’t keep a lot – good pots and pans, some wine glasses, my cutlery – you get the idea.

I’m not sure what it is about these dessert cups….but for whatever reason they just bring a smile to my face.

My Starbucks mugs – I have more, but they are at my brother’s in Germany… One day I will be able to go back for a visit, and pick them up.

Every now and then I like a little champagne (Veuve Clicquot s’il vous plait!), sipped in the old, traditional glasses.

As the quote on the package of bath salts says, sometimes you just need to take the plunge! A friend gave me these and yes, I’ve used the bath salts. I hold onto the packaging because it is beautiful, and a good reminder to be someone who takes the plunge instead of wades…

This one both warms my heart and makes me giggle. Oh to be 19 and living in London! What a year that was. I turned 20 while there, and found out that those whacky Brits like to celebrate Guy Fawkes (who tried to blow up parliament) with fireworks on November 5th. Worked well for me as it meant there were fireworks on my birthday, marking the end of my teens with a bang! As I write this, I think I should go back to London for my birthday again – maybe the next milestone one. I mean, why not take advantage of the fireworks!

After posting this photo on social media a friend called and told me how much he loved my “Duran Duran” photo. Funny, and fitting, as I taught myself how to put on eye makeup by looking at photos of their keyboardist Nick Rhodes. True story people, true story.

And that is pretty much it for the items I “rediscovered” while opening my boxes. Thanks for the trip down memory lane (or lanes….).

It seems that COVID-19 has made us pause, look, listen and reflect a little as our “normal” daily life has been interrupted, upset, stalled, sent into spiralling — some or all of that and more. Looking through my stuff intensified the reflection – both on what was, and on what might be going forward.

Most of all, it’s been another great reminder of how privileged and lucky I have been to have a kick-ass family, amazing friends, the opportunity to work in really creative industries, and to travel for both fun and work. I am humbled and grateful. #charmedlife for sure.

Those of you who know me know that I love me some HGTV. I am always happy to watch a good renovation show. My faves are:

  • #HomeTown – really makes me consider actually living in a small town in Mississippi!
  • #GoodBones – love that this is a mum and daughter team, and they run the rehabs.
  • #FixerUpper – although that’s only reruns now as Chip and Joanna expand their little empire to include their own channel, “Magnolia”, which will debut in January 2021. I’ll be watching you Chip & Jo!
  • #RestoredByTheFords – Leanne’s designs are just crazy cool.
  • #StoneHouseRevival – Um, yes please. Jeff Devlin and beautiful old homes. #Winning!
  • #LoveItOrListItVancouver – Jillian and Todd are just cute. Plus I like seeing the various parts of Vancouver and guessing where the houses are.
  • #PropertyBrothers and all their various spin-offs. In fact, “Property Brothers – Forever Home” is streaming as I write this.

That’s a lot of favourites, I know. I can’t help myself.

I think this love of home renovation shows was seeded when I was young. My dad used to have books and catalogues of home designs and floor plans. I have fond memories of sitting on his lap and looking through them with him. I’d even look at them on my own. I still love looking at house plans. So clearly, my love of housing projects comes quite naturally.

It’s funny then that I haven’t really ever done anything other than paint some walls.

Until now!

Now don’t get too excited. I haven’t gutted and completely redone a house – we are talking baby steps here.

First up – the leaky kitchen sink. When I got to my initial Montreal home, there was a bucket under the pipes of the kitchen sink, and it required emptying regularly. A quick look revealed a pipe was slipping, not remaining properly tightened to the copper pipe coming down from the sink. One of my brothers was by and tightened it. But that didn’t last. Clearly I needed to replace part of the pipe. Now, I don’t have any tools and wondered if I would need a wrench to be able to take it apart. I figured I’d give it a shot and see. It didn’t really want to move. But I wasn’t going to give up that easily, so I told myself to properly get down on the floor so I could really put some strength into it. A few minutes, and it was off.

Luckily there is a Rona store close to me. I walked over with the piece in hand. I was greeted by someone asking what I was looking for and then directed to the counter downstairs where someone could help me. Knowing really nothing about anything when it comes to plumbing, I showed the man the piece and told him I needed a new one. He wanted a little more information, so I told him the top bit wasn’t staying tightened to the copper pipe. He looked at me, said he wasn’t sure they had the exact piece (yikes!) and asked me to wait for a moment.

I watched as he looked at some little pieces in small shelving units behind the counter. He then handed it back to me telling me he had replaced the “washer”, as it was stripped. This should work. He even told me I didn’t need a wrench or anything to tighten it, that it just needs to be securely tightened using regular old arm strength. The replaced washer cost me $3.43. Now that’s my kind of solution to a plumbing problem! I came home and then struggled to get the damn thing on. It has to be a tight fit, but man, I thought it wasn’t going to fit at all. Again, I was determined. I properly got down on my knees, fiddled and finally, it went on. I tightened it at both ends, and Voila! I’m happy to report that there has been absolutely no leaking since.

And best of all, not even a hint of “plumbers crack” was seen. Phew!

Next up: dining room chairs. There are six and only two were solid. The other four had issues with either the seat, the back or both. I saw clamps in the closet and picked up some wood glue. I used a generous amount of glue, some new, longer, joint inserts (those provided with the chairs were short and I thought the piece should actually fill the joint holes), put on the clamps and let it sit for a good 12-24 hours.

One of the chairs also had an issue with the legs – the support piece that runs horizontal was out. I found a random piece of wood, picked up the hammer and gently got it back into place by hammering the random piece of wood placed on the chair leg – so I didn’t damage the actual chair. We now have 6 usable chairs!

If only I could have people over for dinner…. Although this was a super easy fix, it really felt very satisfying. All we have to do now is wait and see how long it lasts. These chairs look good, but they are not exactly solidly made.

Then I moved to the apartment above, which is where I am now. Why I moved from the second-floor apartment to the third-floor apartment is a story for another day. All I’ll say now is I’m very lucky.

Having been renovated some 20 years ago, the apartment is in pretty good shape, but needs a bit of a refresh.

One of the dining room walls had been painted a dark chocolate brown by a previous tenant. Why??? This place gets some really lovely light, especially when the afternoon sun floods into the living and dining rooms. But even that light just died when it reached the wall. It was a dark space in the middle of the afternoon. No thanks. It needed to be white. Then I realized the other walls were taupe and the ceiling an off-white. So that meant a complete paint job.

Luckily I enjoy painting!

“The wall where all light goes to die” is what one of my brothers called it.
So I headed back to Rona and bought some painting supplies – including a primer for the chocolate wall.
Then I picked up some more of the pure white paint that had been used for the second floor apartment (why not use the same?). And you can see here why the ceiling really needs to be painted white as well…..

I have time and am not in a rush. The thing is though, when I start something I generally really like to just get it finished. So it’s a challenge for me that I’m not yet done (there are other things that need to be tended to!), but I’m liking the results so far. All the walls and the columns are done, and next week I will be able to tackle the ceiling. It will be fun dealing with all the beams!

White is starting to take over!

One of the things I needed to do which took me away from the painting was …. the shower stall. It will eventually be redone, and although it’s still in pretty good shape, it really needed cleaning up. I’ll let the videos speak for themselves…

Shower stall – before….
Shower stall – after

Okay, it’s not a brand new shower – but it is soooooo much better!

The hose and shower head also had a fair amount of mineral deposits and residue from the water on them. Rather than going out and buying a new one, I decided to remove it and throw it in the bathtub with some warm water and vinegar. This worked really well and all that mineral deposit is gone.

I have to say, I felt pretty good about that one too! It doesn’t take much folks, it doesn’t take much…. 🙂

I’m now wondering what I will do once I have painted the ceiling and the bedroom. Well, other than sit back and wait for HGTV to offer me my own show (obviously!!!)….

PS: Shout out to the Rona on Notre Dame. The staff is incredibly helpful, knowledgeable and so very nice. They don’t wait for you to come to them to ask for help, they make sure you are taken care of.

Photo by Juan on Pexels.com

How many times have you looked up at the sky and wondered what else is out there? Or just stood there in awe thinking about how vast it all is? Have you ever felt so small looking up at a night sky filled with stars, and at the same time felt so connected to something far greater than yourself? I know I have.

And recently I came across two news articles that brought these questions up again.

Closest Photo Of The Sun Ever

One was about how we have received photos from the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter satellite mission – the closest photo of the sun ever taken. The photo in question was taken a mere 77 million kilometres from the sun’s surface (we are about 150 million kilometres away). The image is quite spectacular, showing a number of smaller fires within the sun’s sphere. 

Scientists are hoping to understand more about the sun’s environment by obtaining more images over the next two years. They also hope to be able to understand why the sun’s outer atmosphere (called the ‘corona’….yikes!) is hundreds of times hotter than the actual surface. I am looking forward to seeing more photos as they are made public, and to reading about the findings.

If you are interested, here is a link to the article:  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/this-photo-of-the-sun-is-the-closest-ever-taken/

China Mission To Mars

The other piece that caught my attention was about China’s first solo mission to Mars. If successful, the mission will collect information about how water ice is distributed on the planet and its physical evolution and habitability over time. Scientists believe that water once flowed on Mars’ surface, and hopefully the data this mission collects will be able to confirm that. 

It is amazing to me that someone out there (or rather, a team of someones) can figure out how to send a spacecraft, lander and rover to Mars, have it hover in its orbit until a safe time and place to land present themselves, and then land safely. I mean, wow, what kind of brain works all those details out? Certainly not mine! 

And I love the spacecraft’s name “Tianwen-1”, which means “quest for heavenly truth” (also translated as “questions to heaven”).

“Tianwen-1” was launched on July 23rd, and is scheduled to arrive in Mars’ atmosphere in February 2021. Here’s to hoping the mission is success so we can see what images and information comes of it.

And from what I’ve just read, this is only one of the missions to Mars currently happening – so hopefully lots of new information will be coming our way.

If you want the full article, you can find it here:  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/chinese-spacecraft-poised-for-first-mars-mission1/

And here’s another article with more details about what the mission hopes to accomplish as well as info on the other Mars missions: https://www.space.com/china-tianwen-1-mars-mission-launch.html

An Early Childhood Question

Like many, I am intrigued by the thought of there being other habitable planets out there, and other living beings. I grew up watching Star Trek and have enjoyed movies like The Martian (though I’m not a big fan of Planet Of The Apes). And my favourite cartoon character is Marvin The Martian.

My Marvin The Martian keychain – I have had this baby for many years now and it has held onto keys from many homes around the globe.

Lately though news like this leads me to thinking about the bigger questions of “who are we, really”, “what else is out there”, “how do we fit in all of this” and ultimately “what does it all mean?”. I wonder if it’s because of my age – is it a question that we ponder more and more the more birthdays we see?

Or maybe it’s not that unusual for me. I had similar thoughts early in life – and I do mean early!

I think I was about seven years old when my older sister brought home her school class’ pet hamster. I’m not sure how long we had it, I think it was over a summer, but my memory is a little foggy on that. What remains clear in my head is that one morning I found myself looking at the hamster as it ran on its wheel in its cage. And what thought pops into my little head? Well, it was…..

”I wonder if we are all just running on a big wheel that someone or something else has put in a cage. What if we are just someone else’s ‘hamster’?”. Holy crap. 

I have no idea where that thought came from, but it scared the living daylights out of me. I ran out of the room and pretty much stayed away from that hamster from then on. I didn’t say anything to anyone, didn’t ask my parents what they thought, nothing. I shoved it aside – it was way too much for my little head.

That memory and thought remained locked away in the back of my mind for some time before it resurfaced.

Now I think back on that memory and laugh – I mean really, how many other seven year-olds ask themselves that question??? When I start telling people about this most think I’m going to say that I wondered if the hamster was going to die…nope. Not me. I came up with an existential question. 

Existential Questions Make My Brain Explode

So as space missions get closer to other planets, moons and the sun and bring back more information about our galaxy, the universe, and whatever else is out there, I find myself wondering again…how does this all work? Who are we? What does it all mean? What? How? Why?

Then my yoga teacher training and related courses kick in and there’s another voice in my head that says “it doesn’t mean anything”, “none of it is real”, “don’t be attached to any of it”. 

And I realize that the hamster wheel is quite firmly located between my two ears….working hard and running fast….

Time to be back on my yoga mat and meditate to calm myself down!

What about you? Are these thoughts you have or do you steer clear of them? Any comments, feedback, thoughts, anecdotes are welcome.

Live Long And Prosper!

Getting back on my mat helps calm the hamster in my brain

PS: if you are interested in reading about my yoga teacher training experience, here’s my post about that: https://lisezfaire.com/2019/01/30/a-broad-abroad-yoga-teacher-training-and-life/

What do they Signify?

I have been going out for a run or bike ride pretty much every morning since my return from Tokyo. I spent the first four months back in Canada in the Eastern Townships, in Granby. It was wonderful to enjoy spring and summer and discover parts of the the area I’m not super familiar with, even though I lived there as a child (I didn’t get out much then). Watching mother nature do her thing and bring green, flowers, leaves to life has also been amazing. It has been a while since I lived somewhere where the seasons are so pronounced.

I have kept up the running and cycling since my arrival in Montreal. New location, new discoveries.

On many occasions I have had white butterflies cross my path. I started wondering what their meaning is and so I did a little research.

The first few results of my search were:

  • In Chinese symbology a white butterfly symbolizes the soul of a departed one. It also means angels are watching over you and that you are being protected.
  • Other mythologies say that if a white butterfly crosses your path or enters your home it will bring good luck and is a sign that you will have a good life.

Given the nature of the butterfly and its transformation from a caterpillar, I had expected to find more about it being a symbol of transformation.

Butterflies, in general, are thought to represent embracing change and new ways of being – which at this point in my life would definitely apply. This Covid-19 pandemic has given me the gift of time on my hands and has lead me to trying new things and taking some writing classes (which I have wanted to do for a while). It also lead to me deciding to make Montreal my home base – at least for now.

Some of my findings, well…I’d rather not go with – in some areas it is believed that if a white butterfly flies into your home it is a sign that someone in the family will die.

Nope, no thank you.

At least I haven’t seen any fly into the apartment in Granby, nor into my current abode, so that’s good. One can never be too careful. Ha!

Overwhelmingly though, the meaning attached to white butterflies is one of peace, tranquility, happiness, good fortune (as in you will have a good life, you are on the right track) and connection to loved ones lost.

There’s even a Christian point of view on this beautiful little creature. It is said to represent the angelic forces we hold in our hearts, and that they are connected to our own internal peace and tranquility. I like the sound of that!

So…if a white butterfly wants to fly alongside me as I run again (really…they have been at my side for a good 200-300 metres before flying off!), what I will choose to believe is that my spirit guides are close by (I have and do feel them…a lot!), continuing to keep an eye out on me and telling me that all is and will be well. That I will continue to have a good life – whatever I choose for it to be.

Hard to get these guys to pose for a photo! And my mobile doesn’t ever do it justice. I can only seem to get a photo when they are still, feeding off flowers.

Where to call home?

I pretty much always “feel at home” wherever I am. I’ve always thought this to be a good thing, and it is. It also makes picking an actual “home city” a bit of a challenge.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been lucky that work has allowed me to go to other countries and cities and discover more about what this awesome planet has to offer. That means I am also fortunate enough to have amazing friends all over the place. So if “home” equals being surrounded by friends and family…well…I’m not sure that narrows the question down for me!

Sometimes I think “I’ll meet a guy, and that will decide where I live”. Or “Work…I’ll find work that excites me and means I have to live in a certain place (for more than a year…), and that will decide where I live”. So far, neither of those “plans” have worked out very well.

So…I keep going back to places that really feel like home for me, and that is:

1.Vancouver – I  have called this city home for over 20 years now. I have amazing friends and people I consider family there. I know who my “maintenance team” (doctor, dentist, TCM, chiropractor, massage therapist, workout trainer, etc. etc. etc.) are. I know where my gym is (kick-ass boxing workouts at Contenders…ouch…and so good!), and I know where my pools are (Kits in the summer and Hillcrest in winter). These are people that can not be “replaced” and who make time for me when I get back to Vancouver – no matter how long I’ve been gone.

2.Montreal – well, Montreal and the Eastern Townships, to be precise. This is where I grew up. I have tons of family here, and I have some pretty amazing friends here as well. Having moved away when I was 16, my time spent in this part of my country has recently increased, and as I get to know it more, I love it more.

3.Germany (my brother’s house, to be specific). Definitely a home away from home – with the added bonus of spending time with my brother and his family. You spend that much time with little ones and its harder and harder to leave. Doesn’t hurt that they live in a beautiful little village, and it’s easy to get to.

4.Istanbul….you didn’t think I’d forget about my beloved Istanbul did you??? I’m not sure how to describe my love for this city. I also have some amazing friends who live there and who welcome me back every time I visit. Last year ago I spent 6 weeks in Istanbul. Glorious. When I do that again I really need to take some intensive Turkish lessons. The little I know gets me by, but it isn’t enough.

Meandering through Istanbul’s neighbourhood streets early on a Sunday morning.
Kahvalti – Turkish breakfast – my absolute fave! Especially the menemen (eggs scrambled in tomatoes with peppers) and bal kaymak (heavy cream drowned in honey) – delicious!

I spent much of the past year in Tokyo – getting to know another city, another culture. So in my little head, Tokyo was “home” for a little while (cut off short by the Covid-19 pandemic and an early end/postponement of the project I was working on there).

My Tokyo abode – At just under 400 square feet – no waste of space in this apartment! All of it very cleverly thought out.
This space quickly became my little sanctuary. And then…believe it or not, two of us worked at that table for a few months. Good thing we know each other and like working together!
I loved discovering “little streets” away from the high rises and main avenues.

Which brings me to now….I find myself back in the Montreal/Eastern Townships area with time on my hands and thoughts in my head about “home”, and the desire to take what little I own out of storage. I don’t have a ton of possessions, but I do have some and for the most part they have been stored in Vancouver for the past seven years.

Given the current Covid-19 realities, Montreal is my pick for now. Making the move into the city next weekend, and looking forward to discovering more about what the city has to offer and creating my home base. Then the unpacking and rediscovering of the items I put into storage will come. Fun times ahead!

Montreal’s Atwater Market – soon to be my neighbourhood.

PS: while looking back through photos and picking those to go with this post I am reminded of what a charmed life I lead. Massive smiles on my face and gratitude in my heart!

LWD_the ladies2

Ladies Who Dine – in the Okanagan

It all started the summer of 2005. For over a year I had been spending a fair amount of my evenings out at the Lumière Tasting Bar in Vancouver (sadly, it no longer exists). After hearing about one of my evenings there with some friends, two of my newest (and soon to be closest) friends decided they wanted to go as well. That first evening at Lumière started something that the three of us had never imagined. Twelve years later we still get together regularly for dinner, drinks, heartfelt conversations, laughter and the love that three close friends share.

Oh how I wish I had written all of it down. I can see it so clearly. When we started on this road we had three rules:

  1. We do this once a month (at a minimum)
  2. We go to a different restaurant every time (what a great excuse to experience Vancouver’s immensely diverse and wonderful food scene)
  3. NOBODY ELSE JOINS. Admittedly we did have a couple of ‘guest appearances’ in the early goings, but we quickly decided against those. It completely changes the dynamics of the evening. So it’s a protected evening (or lunch, or tea) now. Nobody else is allowed in.

And eventually we started calling ourselves The Ladies Who Dine.

What I should have done from the outset was document the restaurant, the food, the wine (or other drinks) and the conversation. Looking back now I believe all of this would make for a great read. Each evening its own chapter. We’ve covered just about every topic over the years.

There have been tears shed over a multitude of life’s challenges: relationship issues; we all lost our mothers; one of us lost our father; fertility issues; the agonizing decision of whether or not to have children; being told that bearing children is not something you will ever be able to do; being a busy mum of a beautiful little autistic girl; health scares (thankfully nothing serious); you name it.

There have also been many a celebration of life’s achievements: new jobs; travels to various parts of the globe; anniversaries; birthdays; books we have enjoyed; new discoveries that put smiles on our faces; again, you name it.

There are increasingly discussions on the state of the world and what we want for our lives – not only for ourselves, but for everyone and for the planet.

And there has been laughter. Oh so much laughter!

We even took the Ladies out on the road. Our first trip was to BC’s Okanagan region, for some wine tasting. Our first weekend away gave us an even deeper glimpse into each other’s little idiosyncracies – one of us travels with our own blanket and pillow; one of us is a very light sleeper; one of us occasionally snores; one of us sleeps with earplugs; one of us doesn’t care about showering and walking around the rented apartment naked. And the best part is, we are comfortable being ourselves because we know there’s no judgement, just acceptance. Well…with a well-timed joke here and there!

That first road trip ended up with my little Escape blowing up on the highway in the middle of nowhere, on our trip home. After what felt like an eternity on the side of the highway with cars speeding past us, the tow truck showed up and the 3 of us huddled into the front seat with the driver. We asked for the finest hotel Merritt had to offer (it was the closest town) and we were taken to a motel where the morning breakfast area was also a pizza joint by day/night. It’s the only time in my life I have seen a hotel room with 3 queen beds…all lined up in a row. After asking the tow truck driver which hotel was the best in town, Lady1 asked him “and does it have a spa?”. We broke down laughing, but the driver, not so much. It remains to this day my only “trip to Merritt”. I don’t think I could top it! And I certainly couldn’t top our rescue. I am extremely lucky to have many wonderful people in my life. Two I call my “surrogate parents”. They allowed an 18-year old university student to live with their family as a live-in babysitter my last year of university, and they remain my second family to this day. I’m a wimp when it comes to car trouble. I don’t know the first thing about mechanics and I always think it’s obvious and I’m being taken advantage of. One call to David and he offered to come and pick us up – that is a 4 hour drive to get us, help me sort out getting my car back to my trusted mechanic in Vancouver, and drive us home. He was our knight in shining armour that day, we told him so and we still refer to him as such.

On our second road trip we discovered that we need more than one room in a hotel – after one of us spent much of the night sleeping in the bathroom tub (she insists it was quite comfortable) while another snored away. Suffice it to say that we booked a second room for the following night.

Over the last 5 years this lady has spent much of her time working internationally. So our Ladies Who Dine evenings have become less frequent. We get as much time as we can  when I am in Vancouver – it could be dinner, lunch, tea, even a movie. The LWD outings are one of the first things I schedule when I book my trips back to Vancouver.

And now we approach road trip #3! The Ladies are Dining in New York City! Next week we take on NYC for four nights. One of us has put together a spreadsheet outlining our daily itinerary. There is, of course, a broadway show. There is a comedy club night. There are dinners with friends (it is a welcome exception for someone two of us know, and don’t get to see very often – and well, over 4 days we can include a guest or two to some of the outings). And there will certainly be stories to tell (hmmm, and quite possibly some to keep secret). Stay tuned!

SO MUCH LOVE FOR MY LADIES WHO DINE!