Friday, February 16, 2018

The Reflection of Shadows: Wind and Time

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

Wind and Time

Golden-red, the leaves are plenty,
Hanging by a thread with care.
Waiting for the music's rhythm
'Till they dance with you in air.

Playing in a nearby meadow,
Lifting here and there a tune,
Rising up and plunging downward,
Dancing to a deaf man's tune.

Branches creek as you blow by them,
Knowing now it's time to rest.
All their leaves have left them lonely,
Now they welcome snow and mist.

Children hurry off the playgrounds;
With your strength you bring the cold.
Tiny swirling crystal moments
Flutter down to those below.

All the shivers, all the moments-
First the fall and then the night,
All the whispers that you've stolen
Captured in the breath of time.

Monday, February 12, 2018

All Around the World: Victoria, B.C.

Victoria, B.C. 

You know how you can go to a place just once and enjoy it so much you decide that one day you might just live there? That's how Victoria was for me. I loved everything about it. Not too big, not too small. Delicious food, great shopping, amazing views. Nature all around and just the right amount of city. It's easy to see why people come here. It's easy to see why people decide to retire here. It's gorgeous.

Things To Do in Victoria, B.C.

Shop! Shop your heart out and then casually stroll back to your hotel because everything is so freaking close. The shops are unique and fun, filled with all kinds of great finds.

The best areas for shopping are: Lower Johnson Street (LoJo - Johnson Street between Wharf and Government). Fan Tan Alley is famous and worth a visit, but I have to say that the Market Square area was my favorite. To be fair, it was decorated for Halloween, so that's an automatic win for me. It was so wonderfully weird and awesome.

Saltspring Soapworks (in Fan Tan Alley)
I found the yummiest smelling body scrub at this place. The product is so fresh you have to use it within a month or it goes bad. Now that is some serious attention to quality and freshness. But here's the kicker: the item (Cranberry Orange Body Gelato) had gold shimmer in it. I came out of the shower shining brighter than a diamond, just like Rihanna always says to do. They only make it once a year (fall) so if you want to get your hands on this baby, plan accordingly.

Silk Road Tea
This store is for everyone. There's tea, body products, and a spa all at this magical little piece of heaven. My favorite thing about Silk Road Tea is the sample sizes. Can't decide which one to get because so many sound good? No problem. Get yourself the little two ounce tins and get as many samples as you want for a reasonable price.

Don't let my love of shopping make you think that's all there is to do. Oh no, no no no. Walking around Victoria is an experience all by itself. The visuals, the nature, the ooo-ing and ahh-ing you'll do. For example, these things:

Ogden Point
Holy wind, this is one heck of a lookout. My recommendation: Walk here in the late afternoon/early evening before sunset. Have yourself a snack or cup of tea at the restaurant right next to walking path, and then head on out to the point at sunset for some amazing views.

Galloping Goose Trail
Rent yourself some bikes and ride along the Galloping Goose Trail. It. Is. Beautiful. The city did one hell of a job creating this walking/biking path. You can go for miles on it, easily, with views almost everywhere you look. It was a highly enjoyable experience.

Fisherman's Wharf
Three words: Awesome boat houses. I'm talking houses floating on water of all shapes and sizes, decorated in all kinds of ways, right on the wharf. That, plus a few dining options, ferry tours, a little bit of shopping, and oh, hey, did I mention the adorable boat houses???

The whole harbor area is amazing, night and day. At night, in particular, everything lights up. The city is a gorgeous sight to behold. The Empress, the parliament building, and of course, the harbor area are all must-sees.

Russell Books
When I say this place is jam packed with books, I'm not lying. They are stacked from floor to ceiling on every level of this place, and there are many levels. Head on in for an adventure in book searching and finding.

Alright, you guys. I saved the best for last...

Sunsets at the Beach Along Dallas Road
First of all, this is not your California Movie beach. It's different, but beautiful. You want to get here for the sunset. You really, really do. Get there early enough to scope out the best views because you have a LOT of options.

Market Square...or Scare for the holiday
Russell Books
Boat Houses

Galloping Goose Trail

Gluten Free Dining in Victoria, B.C.

The Empress - High Tea
I'm going to start you out with my most favorite thing ever: tea tasting. I love, love, love trying out high tea/afternoon tea when I travel. Every place is different and every experience is amazing. The Empress took care of me in every possible way from a gluten free (GF) perspective, too. I didn't miss out on a single experience and, I have to give them credit, because the scone was impressive. Normally, GF scones can be really tricky aka hard and crumbly. But not here! The scone was soft, sweet, and delicious. The selection of teas available was impressive and - I love this -  they support their local tea store, Silk Road Tea. Win-win in my book. Note: Make sure you give them advance notice that one (or more) people need gluten free options so they can be ready.

Nubo Japanese Tapas
There are some pros and cons to this place, but the pros definitely win. There are a good amount of GF options, but finding the right server that knows them is the tricky part. However, once you do find the right person, you'll be delighted with the various options. There aren't as many as I'd like, but I still had a great time trying all kinds of new and delicious things. Make sure you get here early or you'll be waiting for sure.

This place was an unexpected open faced sandwich surprise of awesomeness. The menu is unique and mouthwatering and they have a lot of GF options, which always makes eating somewhere way more exciting. I enjoyed this place so much that I think about going back to Victoria just to eat here. No joke.

Blue Fox Cafe
Yet another amazing place with a boatload of GF options. The service is also noteworthy. These people take care of you. The hubs and I both got the french toast because it was so original and one-of-a-kind sounding that we had to try it. I should note, they are VERY popular so be prepared to wait. It's worth it.

Ohmygoodness, this place was not only yummy but also super cute. I had a killer steak and veggie dinner here with an excellent grilled octopus starter dish.

Crust Bakery
A must for a snack or baked breakfast goodie. All my GF friends know this: baked goods are the trickiest. So when you find a place that has multiple ridiculously good GF baked goods, you know you've hit the jackpot.

Nubo Japanese Tapas

I'm working on the pictures still, but I'll get the good ones loaded to my Society6 page soon for those who are interested.

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Reflection of Shadows: Once Again, Again Once More

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

Once Again, Again Once More

Once again, again once more,
Memories of you wash ashore,
Memories of you flood my dreams,
Dark and light and mixed with steam.

So real, so fake, so strange and odd-
It's like you're here and then you're not.
You morph, you shift, you change in shape,
My heart - it stops, it hurts, it breaks.

Each dream is like a sharpened knife-
It cuts me open, side to side,
Confronting what I've known so long:
For you, I'd hurt the ones I love.

I've tried to find my happy ending,
Tried to fill the vast and empty
Gaps and holes and spaces in me
With these broken, shattered memories.

Then you come, in dreams so rare-
It's like a trap, a trick, a snare,
A flame within my heart ignites-
I can't forget your love, your life.

I've tried to break, to tear, to undo
All the love I've kept here for you,
Though the torment held me down,
My heart refused to let you out.

I begged, I pleaded, on bent knees,
I couldn't tear your love from me.
I tried to find my heart a cure,
But never, never, nevermore.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Monday Mantra: When All The World Is A Hopeless Jumble

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: One day you'll wake up when the clouds are far behind you
LostFog Co.
Three day weekends. I love three day weekends. There's something about having that extra day that's legitimately thrilling. One day to be lazy, one day to get things done, and one day adventure? A shopping spree? An eight hour back tattoo? One day for whatever the heck you want.

On a recent three day weekend I had plans, you guys. PLANS. I was going to sleep in, clean my office, arrange my next vacation, and have some bubble bath and face mask time. It was going to be stellar.

Except it wasn't. Every single second of my glorious 72 hours went to hell and back again at least three times. Let me set the scene for you.

My brain was freaking out again (see this story for more thrilling details). We recently discovered what I've been suffering from all these years are vestibular migraines. They're caused by a load of things that are impossible to avoid for the most part like heat, crowds of people, looking around a room too fast, chocolate...see what I mean? Long story short: they suck, there's no cure and, oh yeah, hey, they suck.

On top of that awesomeness, I'd also been feeling under the weather with some weird stomach bug that seemed to be coming and going at will and this strange copper taste in my mouth that I couldn't shake. It was so odd that I actually thought I might be pregnant because my symptoms matched up pretty doggone well, which was not the plan right now, no no no, not at all. Needless to say, I was a mess.

On Saturday of my beautiful, glorious, three day weekend my husband came home from a football game hunched over, hardly able to walk. He'd messed his back up (again) and was in a good amount of pain. Throughout the day we iced his back and had him taking Ibuprofen, thinking that would help, but it didn't. By 6pm he was in excruciating pain, laying on the living room floor, unable to move. An ambulance was eventually called and they had to dose him with 20 mg. of morphine just to make a dent in the pain before taking him to the ER.

At the ER I had to chill in the waiting room where I was surrounded by people who were very, very, very sick with the flu. It was horror movie gross in there, friends. Because it was so jam packed with people we ended up being there for hours upon hours while they treated my husband, finally able to go home at 4am. That was Saturday (plus the wee hours of Sunday morning).

Later, on Sunday, my migraine was pretty bad (it ebbs and flows between nothing at all, manageable, and holy crap). My neurologist (aren't I fancy?) gave me some meds he wanted me to try when the migraine became unbearable, which had only been happening on and off recently. So, in an attempt to help myself so I could help my hunchback hubby, I took one of those suckers.

Flashback to one week prior: I'd been having a case of the crazy brain and, up to this point, hadn't taken any of the pills my doctor had given me. I hate medicine and really try to avoid it as much as possible, but I decided to take one and see if it helped. Later that night I became violently ill, which I chalked up to a potential case of the flu coming on thanks to this gloriously terrible flu season. My tummy was unhappy on and off the next week, but I was completely fine outside of that. This is where all of those "Oh crap, am I pregnant?!" concerns came in. Back to Sunday.

About four hours after I'd taken the pill I started to feel odd. Odd turned into downright terrible, which turned into Holy Shit I'm Dying. At first, I thought I'd caught the flu from all those folks at the ER. It was the only thing that made sense at this point, after having ruled out the pregnant thing (because seriously, if you're that sick when you're pregnant then it is not for me, people. Not. For. Me). But then I started thinking about that stupid dizzy pill I'd taken and a little light bulb went off in my head. Now, mind you, the side effects listed on the bottle said very mild things could happen, like being tired. I went to the source of all information, Google, and low and behold, in severe side effect cases you could get allllllll the symptoms I had, plus some bonus ones that showed up in the wee hours of the morning. Yay me.

Sunday came and went with me awake until 5am and my husband all jacked up in pain. Monday was a blur because both of us were so sleep deprived and still feeling terrible that we lost sense of time.

Bye-bye, beautiful three day weekend.

Sometimes, when life hasn't handed me lemons, but thrown them straight at my face, I get a little "woe is me"-ish and miserable. But I know I do this, so I try very hard to make sure I also focus on the good that's happening around me, even if it's very small.

While it was a legit awful weekend, when I was certain I was on death's door (so dramatic) and my husband wasn't able to walk (so legit), there was still good to be seen and acknowledged. I wasn't pregnant (whew - also, apologies to all my friends who really want me to be pregnant AKA Nichole), I got caught up on Black Mirror, and I got some serious puppy snuggling in, to name a few things. When we were both feeling a little better, we even finished the plans for our next adventure.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: On the cloudiest days, it serves us all to remember that the clouds will, and always do, pass. The sun is out there, somewhere, shining. And if all else fails, Netflix has your back.

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Reflection of Shadows: Meditating / Waiting

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
Meditating / Waiting

Quiet, still, the silence roaring-
All I know is I am here.
Sitting, thinking, my heart beating
Guided steps through love and fear.

Who's the one and what's the name
And why did I begin this game?
Why'd I rush through what I've done
Just to want to break and run?

Quiet, still, the silence roaring-
All I know is I am here.
Sitting, thinking, my heart beating
To the questions in my ear.

Still I'm waiting, still debating
All my thoughts and questions fading,
Trying to hold on, get a grip
Of all my thoughts before they slip.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Monday Mantra: A Plan Without Plans

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: What if you just lived and let life happen?
I'm been re-visiting old memories. Old plans made with old friends based on what we thought our futures would look like. What we hoped out lives would turn into.

My friend, Ben, had a very specific future mapped out. The details were so breathtaking and so specific that when he asked me what I thought my future would look like, I was embarrassed. At that point in my life, the future seemed so terrifying and so uncertain that I didn't actually know what I would do or who I would be or how anything would turn out. Anytime someone would ask me a question about the future, I would default to the Every Person Five Year Plan: Go to college, get a job, get married- the norm. The safe answer. The answer people expected.

Ben's answer was the compete opposite. Unexpected and beautiful. Thoughtful and hopeful. My "plan" was nothing in comparison to his mountain and his house, his rocking chairs and his one-day grandchildren. I remember how exact this future, his future, was. How peaceful and serene. How, as soon as he started describing it, I could see it all as clearly as if I were watching a movie. I could see the sun setting, the children playing with kites out in a large field of wild grass. I saw the pale blue gray porch, the white wooden rocking chairs. I swear I could even feel the breeze on my skin.

Even now, I can recall in exact detail the picture he painted for me all those years ago. So crystal clear that I have to remind myself it's not a memory of something I actually experienced, it's merely a memory of a thought of someone's beautiful future plans.

That picture has never changed for me. It never changed for him either because his life ended not long after that night. His beautiful plans didn't stand a chance against what life brought him instead.

My life kept going. My unplanned, terrified of growing up, boring life. And, as life will do, it surprised me. Some of it was as expected: I did go to college, I did get a job, I did eventually get married. But many, many other things happened that I never would have dreamed, that would never have even occurred to me to consider.

I did not expect to live a life full of adventure. Not once did I think I'd travel all around the world time and time again, so smitten with this planet that I literally can't get enough of it. That no amount of destinations ever seems enough. That the more places I go, the more I cross off my list, somehow, someway, the list gets longer and longer.

My life is ordinary in many, many ways. In ways I probably could have assumed, so long ago. But I think the beauty in the unexpected ways is just that: I didn't expect a single one of them. No amount of planning I could have done as a teenager would have brought me here right now. And trust me, eventually I became a planning machine. But what I'm learning is that life has a way of going on without the plans you've made, taking you where it will, how it will, without your say.

So maybe the lesson here is having a plan without plans. Maybe the lesson is to simply live and, eventually, live your way into a life you most likely never would have imagined in the first place. Maybe it will resemble something you had imagined or maybe it won't. Maybe it will be better, maybe it will be worse. Maybe it will be both at times, as life tends to be. And maybe, just maybe, that's the way things are meant to be; uncertain, undefined, mysterious. Rebellious against all of our silly human ways of trying to control things we know nothing about, like the future.

I'm trying to tame my planning ways to allow more space for life to unfold as it should, without my interfering. Without my attempts to control it all the time. I'm trying to live life with a little bit more uncertainty, a little bit more openness to what may come.

I'm trying to embrace the greatest plan of all: the one that doesn't exist.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Reflection of Shadows: Rust

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments


Take my heart; love it,
Break it.
Shape it in the way you
Hate it.
Mold it in a form that
You choose.
Smother it in lies that
Suit you.

Lift it up, then leave it
Leave it begging while you're
Leave it aching, hurting,
Walk away with your new

Take my heart that's filled
With trust,
And kill it with your
Toxic rust.
Drown it in your
Poison lies,
And watch it wither, wilt
And die.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Practically Paleo Valentine's Dinner

Dinner is Served!

Want to impress that special someone with something delicious and (mostly) healthy? Look no further, friends. This won't take you much time at all.

First up, something to snack on.

Honey Drizzled Walnuts

 - 1 egg white
 - 1 TBSP water
 - 2 cups walnuts (halves and pieces)
 - 1/2 TSP apple pie spice
 - 1/2 TSP cinnamon
 - 1/2 cup honey

1. Preheat over to 225 degrees.
2. In a bowl, combine egg white and water. Beat until foamy. Add walnuts and toss to coat.
3. In a Ziploc bag, add spices and nuts. Seal and shake vigorously to coat the walnuts.
4. Place parchment paper on a pan and spread mixture evenly. Drizzle honey on top in zig zag pattern (approximately 1/2 cup).
5. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Remove and let cool. Coat with a little more honey, if you so desire.

These are great snacks, but they also work really well in salads!

Easy Crockpot Ribs

 - 2.5 lbs of ribs (I use grass fed)
 - 1 quart container of mushroom broth
 - 1 quart container of beef broth - (I use Pacific Natural Foods for my broths)
 - 1 diced onion
 - 1/4 cup Stubs BBQ Sauce- Original Flavor or 1/4 cup Better BBQ Sauce

Sprinkle in a little bit of the following herbs and spices: Garlic pepper (or dice up garlic cloves), cardamom, sea salt, paprika, pepper, ground mustard, chipotle, dulse, kelp, thyme, cumin, and basil. A lot, I know, but trust me. *wink wink*

The variety of herbs will not only make your ribs taste delicious, but they'll make you feel great as well. Each one does it's own special thing to help digestion, remove toxins, and promote better immune health.

1. Combine broths, spices and herbs, onion, and BBQ sauce in crockpot. Mix well, then add in ribs.
2. Cook ribs in crockpot on low for 6-8 hours, checking occasionally.
3. That's about it. I told you they were easy! Pull them out and eat, when ready.

If you like BBQ Sauce, I highly recommend using this Better BBQ Sauce recipe with these. Or with everything- it's that good. If you don't have time to make it, buy the version I mention, above. It's a healthy alternative to the homemade one.

Pair these with the Veggie Salad with Very Easy Vinaigrette or some roasted carrots (1 bag baby carrots, 2 TBSP's olive oil, 1 TSP rosemary. Mix together and bake in oven for 30-45 minutes, depending on how crunchy or soft you want them!).

This next recipe is easy, as it requires a prepackaged bag of gluten free cornbread mix from Pamela's. One thing I want to bring your attention to is that the bag states that it is dairy free, however, the recipe itself calls for butter. While it offers it's own variations on the bag, I have reformatted it slightly, below. Additionally, please excuse the lovely paper plate and plastic spoon picture. Fancy, I know. We're high class folks up in here!

Honey Cornbread 

Original Recipe taken from Pamela's Cornbread and Muffin Mix

 - 1 package of Pamela's Cornbread and Muffin Mix
 - 1/2 cup of honey
 - 2 large eggs
 - 1 cup water
 - 7 TBSP's of olive oil

1. Lightly grease an 8" square pan and preheat over to 375 degrees.
2. In bowl, combine mix, honey, eggs, water, and oil.
3. Pour into pan and bake for 23-25 minutes.
4. Serve warm, with some additional honey drizzled on top.

These are really, really, super-duper incredibly good. They could technically be considered dessert, but I have an alternate idea for you- up next!

This dessert is easy and delicious, but it does require an ice cream maker and needs to be made a day in advance.

Homemade Raspberry and Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream

Recipe taken and altered from The Ice Dream Cookbook by Rachel Albert-Matesz

Vanilla Ice Cream Base
 - 1/3 cup cold water
 - 2 tsp's agar agar powder (not flakes) or unflavored gelatin
 - 1/4 cup honey or agave (I used honey)
 - 1/4 to 1/2 tsp pure stevia extract powder or 1/2 to 1 tsp clear stevia extract liquid (start with less and add more as needed)
 - 1/8 tsp finely ground sea salt
 - 3 1/2 cups (or two 14 ounce cans) unsweetened, regular coconut milk (not the lite version)
 - 1 TBSP pure vanilla extract

Raspberry and Fudge Mix
 - 1 small container of fresh raspberries
 - 1 gluten free brownie, cut into small squares

Options: Add whole berries with fudge squares directly to ice cream or blend raspberries in blender with a TBSP of honey.

1. Add 1/3 cup of water to small saucepan. Slowly sprinkle in the gelatin or agar agar. Let stand for 2-5 minutes to soften. Warm over medium-low heat without stirring, until it dissolves. Scrape mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Add honey, stevia, sea salt. Blend. Add coconut milk and vanilla and blend until smooth. Do a taste test and add more stevia, if needed.

3. Pour into one or more wide-mouth jars. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before churning. Make sure your ice cream maker is ready to go as well, by placing in the freezer overnight.

4. Once the appropriate time has passed, scrape the chilled mix into the ice cream canister. Churn according to manufacturers instructions. 

5. Once ice cream has reached the soft serve stage, add the raspberry and fudge mix, churning until it is fully mixed, about 2 minutes.

6. Serve immediately or freeze in freezer safe containers. If you freeze, it, when you're ready to serve, take ice cream out of the freezer and place in the fridge for 30-45 minutes, to soften, or on the counter for 15-30 minutes. 

Alternate Recipe: Cherry Vanilla Ice Dream
 - 1 cup frozen, unsweetened Bing cherries, placed in a bowl while frozen and allowed to thaw
 - 1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
 - 1 TBSP honey or agave nectar

1. Drain the cherries, saving the juices, and chop them on a cutting board.
2. Add cherry juices that were saved, honey, and lemon to cherries and mix.

3. At step 5 with the original vanilla base, add the cherry vanilla mix instead.