Category Archives: Life

Kyoto – Nishiki Food Market 2 Ways

I luuuuuvvvvv markets. I’ve been to markets on at least 4 continents and when I was in Kyoto and heard they had a FOOD market, it was a must see destination for me. These two photos show two different aspects of markets. The first is the gorgeous eye candy displays. Displays like these are wonderful for photography not to mention the foodie inside me. However, I have come over the years to be brave enough to photograph the scene in the second photograph – the action that brings the market to life.  While the barrels form a pleasing composition – slightly at an angle leading your eye towards the bottom left – and add lovely texture with the dark wood and the rope wrap; the interaction of the vendor and buyer capture a moment that encapsulates what markets mean!

DSC02774

DSC02775


From my journal: What the beginner yoga teacher was really thinking

Yoga classes are many things to different people. Some people come to sweat without the annoying “and one more!” of an aerobics trainer in their ear. Others love the balance and harmony that yoga brings to their spirit.  For some, it’s a break from their hectic modern, plugged in lives.  For the novice teacher? It’s 60 minutes of frantic mental gymnastics and acting cool.

I’ve done a lot (a lot!) of presentations before so I wasn’t really that nervous when I offerred to fill in for my injured yoga teacher one day. Plus, she was going to be in the room, so if anything went really off the rails, I knew she’d bail me out.

This was the first time I would be teaching a) a group of yogis who actually knew what they were doing and b) for a whole 60 minutes. Let me walk you through the sweat-dripping experience (and it wasn’t hot yoga).

I had a routine lined up and had just finished week 4 of the 200 level training so we had been running through poses and sequences ad nauseum to date. I remembered to tell the students they would need a strap and a couple of blocks (normal yoga props for all you non-yogis out there!) – all good so far.

First 5 minutes: put them in savasana and start their meditation. Crap! forgot MY strap and block – quietly run out of the room and grab some for me…DON’T drop the block…sit back down and make sure everyone is still breathing..Damn! I’m not wearing a watch and the teacher’s ipod is blocking the clock…quietly get MY iphone out of my bag and place unobstrusively behind a block.

Next 15 minutes: run through my kneeling sequence with them, remembering to look around and make sure everyone is ok.  WHY do they keep looking at me??? The downside of the kneeling portion of the class is that they are all facing you with these lovely looks of expectation and there is no where else to look except BACK AT THEM.  Which is why I forgot one of the poses and then I forgot what it was called.  Oh that’s why they are looking at me, I can just DO the pose and they will follow. On the other hand, when you aren’t facing your students and you hear a big THUD, be careful how you twist your own head to take a look (ow!).

Next 20 minutes: Teachers, the biggest clue that you are not cue-ing the moves right is when people start to fall down. I’m not saying you are doing anything wrong, but generally, there’s something you can do better at that point. So, when one of the yogis sort of fell over and had to put her hand on the wall, that should have told me to slow down or maybe go and stand in front of everyone rather than making them turn their heads to see me!!  Ah well, noone was hurt; lesson learned.

At this point, for all you math whizzes, I should be just past the halfway point in the class. So, as I look at my iPhone and see that I’m only 25 minutes into the class, my heart starts pounding faster (OMG, what am I going to do with them for an extra 15 minutes) and my mind starts to go into overdrive (longersavansanaattheendandmaybethrowinsomeomsandmaybesomethingelse??)

If you recall, my teacher was in the class and while everyone was resting in child’s pose, I look over at her and she gives me the big thumbs up!!!!  and I give her the face of panic!!!

All bets are off now, I pull out every single routine I can think of in the standing section and hold every pose extra and make them do every pose 3 times. I also notice that the class continues to face you in the standing section so you don’t have the chance to surreptitiously try the routine before you teach it!!! grrrrr (lesson learned – throw in a bunch of stuff where they are looking up or back or to the side)

By about 10 minutes to the end, I haven’t lost anyone, I haven’t made too many verbal flubs but I still have 10 minutes to fill.  I’m wishing I knew my arm balances better because those take a ton of time to do. Alright, so we’ll do a longer than usual meditation.  The class is great, they do all the breathing exercises and I keep checking my iphone’s clock just in case – time runs differently for the teacher than the class.  But when the students go really really still and quiet, I start to wonder if they have fallen asleep. I start to be afraid that the next sound I hear is gentle snoring. Then I start to panic that they are all totally bored and can’t wait to get out of there!  Quick! wake them up! make them do “om”s…..


Letters to strangers – the timid shopper

It was refreshing to see someone politely ask someone else to move a bit so they could reach something on the shelf.  Really, common courtesy is not common anymore, so good for you for not bashing your way into the checkout line to reach that 1 chocolate bar that you wanted!  I would suggest however, that when you ask someone to excuse you and move out of the way, it might be more effective if you did so louder than a whisper. And then, when that person either doesn’t move because he’s a rude boor or just didn’t hear you, it is perfectly acceptable to ask again, just a tiny bit louder so that you are, oh, I don’t know, audible. Then, may I suggest that if he did shift out of the way, even if it isn’t too far, if you have line of sight to that candy bar, go for it.  Just because it means that you will be putting your face near his butt is not a reason to hesitate since you have already skipped the entire check out line that will go right past this shelf anyway and left your basket in the middle of the floor. And I’d like to give a shout out to the shopper behind the guy who is “blocking” your path to the candy bar who reached down and picked up the candy bar for you, turned around, asked how many you wanted and went back to get the 2 others and handed them to you.  She was far more compassionate than most of us who were just wondering whether you were scared to reach in and grab it or if your tight skirt prevented you from bending down that far.

 

 


Spirit Bear Lodge – An overview, a teaser and what you need to know

I shared my photos with a number of friends (partially cuz I like to share, partially to reassure them that I don’t just work and ride my horse and that’s it) and the most common question I got back was “where was this?”.  Us poor Canadians really don’t know what’s in our backyard. So, first, it is here www.spiritbear.com and second, that is located here.  And the second most common question was about how I did this. I like to call it a Canadian safari.  You go to some place that you wouldn’t normally go to, people organize you into groups, they take you out to see wild animals and scenary, make sure you stay safe and are well-fed and you take photographs.  Of course, that description takes all the romance and adventure out of it.  An alternate description would be: you embark on a journey on little planes and boats to access a remote corner of the world that only a David Suzuki or a Richard Attenborough have gone before, put your life into the hands of experienced and well-trained guides, trek out into wild habitats to see large, potentially dangerous animals on their home turf, endure sometimes harsh conditions to get that perfect shot to bring home to show your friends. And, depending on your previous life experiences, it could be either the former or latter!

As you can see from my other posts on this subject here and here, what you see and the photos you get are truly magnificent.  Here’s another one for your teaser:

 

umpf! Got one!

umpf! Got one!

 

What You Need To Know:

The staff at the lodge are great. They know your name. They are friendly and professional and personable. They are also sneaky when planning a birthday surprise.

The food is very good, indeed! You don’t have a lot of choices – this is one place Starbucks has NOT found (although they do have locally roasted coffee up there), but the chef does not give you any cause for complaints. Plenty of food at all meals and I dare you to find a meal where you can’t find something you like. Breakfast is both continental and hot, cooked food. (mmm, bacon!) Lunch is a plethora of sandwiches (apparently the egg salad goes fast), snacks, fruit, veges, juices, pop and water. And Dinner always has a fish and meat option with plenty of sides a vege main. No choice in desserts but I’m not complaining at the carrot cake, strawberry shortcake, etc, etc.

The guides and boat captains are all extremely competent, friendly, professional and approachable. It must be tough to be all of that, all the time and watch out for wildlife at the same time – so hats off to them. Those that are First Nations are very willing to answer your questions and share stories with you.

Photo gear – see separate post coming up 🙂

Gear – their packing list has been well thought out and you won’t go wrong to follow it. The only alteration I’d make is that if you have your own waterproof boots that you are comfortable walking in on uneven, rocky shorelines, bring your own. There was only a couple of places that I preferred the lodge’s rubber boots over my own gear (if I had brought it!).  One strong suggestion if you have any type of walking issues (stability and balance) is to bring a walking stick.  Even one is helpful in a couple of areas we went.

Misc – you are on the boats a lot. If you are at all prone to seasicknesses, bring your own stuff for that. I was lucky and had perfectly calm seas the entire time I was there.

Lastly, I will say that they take care of you once you are there, so once you’ve packed and started your trip, don’t worry about anything else!


Was I ready for the Spirit Bear Lodge?

Those of you who know me personally…..which constitute the majority of my readers here….know that I obsessed about this trip I took (www.spiritbear.com) in this post. So much so, I had writer’s block here just before it started. So, was I ready for it?  Yes and no. The practical details of it I was ready for. I’m pretty agile, little boats don’t bother me (much), uneven ground is ok, and I still bounce (a little) when I fall. So most of the physical part of it was a snap; except for my camera equipment. I know perfectly well what possessed me to buy a camera (plus lens) that weighs more than more laptops these days, but I never realised that I needed to train so that I could carry it – even short distances!  or that my arm would start to ache after 2 days of lifting that thing (I highly recommend a tripod).

But my biggest complaint (other than that the bears didn’t get my memo that I would be there between 1000 am and 2 pm for their photo shoot every day), was that the beauty and grandeur of the last and largest temperate rainforest on the planet would give me a sinking feeling when I came back to the city and my life and job. Not once were there disclaimers about “this vacation may cause all forms of TV/internet entertainment to look dull and flat” or “your vision may be impaired when viewing all other, formerly majestic scenery” or even “may cause productivity to go down as you spend your time daydreaming about your vacation”!

The main attraction of Spirit Bear Lodge is, of course the white spirit bear with other bears coming a close second (blacks and grizzlies). But I was delighted by Stellar sea lions (the largest of the eared seal family), astonished by the lion’s mane jellyfish (the largest jellyfish in the world), over the moon about seeing humpback whales (not the largest whale) and completely chuffed to snap photos of bald eagles and ravens.

Was I ready for this trip?  No.  Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat.

More photos coming soon….

Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary

Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary

Korich Bay

Korich Bay

Carter Bay

Carter Bay


What makes a walk a hike?

About 10 minutes into the trail, I asked “is this a walk or a hike?” It was when a family of 3 with a very small child turned back and said to us “we were just out for a nice morning walk, not a hike!” My friend and I agreed there were certain elements that made it a hike and not a walk. Any one of these would elevate your exercise to a hike:

  • when the trail turns into enough mud that your shoes are in danger of being sucked off
  • when you have to pause to eat an energy bar (lattes at Starbucks do not count)
  • when that walking stick that you were just using as a balancing tool is needed to push bushes out of the way
  • when you require water and tools to clean your shoes/walking stick
  • bug spray becomes a necessity not optional

The following do not count in declaring that you’ve been on a hike

  • you sweat (you do this when you leave your house and are still on the driveway in Florida)
  • you go uphill (unless it is more than a 40 degree grade and/or requires climbing equipment – then it’s a climb, not a hike)
  • your feet hurt (check your shoes)
  • you get a blister (check your socks)

The following are signs that you are definitely on a walk, not a hike:

  • you can talk the entire way without losing your breath
  • you are wearing cute sandals
  • you don’t break a sweat
  • you have no provisions

Insights from walking hiking in Short Hills Provincial park


Do you know what’s in your closet?

It may not be monsters, but the state of your closet might be approaching monstrous!

You know the phrase “silent cry for help”? Well, my wardrobe was crying for help and not all that silently. Added to the fact that I certainly don’t shy away from asking for help and Kylie and Johnathan enter the picture. A friend had already worked with them to shop smarter (not harder) and recommended them to me. I needed more than that. Kylie patiently answered all my questions and we determined that I needed the whole enchilada. I started with their “closet clean out” to test them out; liked them so much we proceded to the shopping expedition and finished up with a lesson in outfits. Let’s break this down.

The Closet Clean Out.  I thought I was doing pretty ok with keeping my closet wearable. I have a small closet (condo living!) so if I bought anything new, I had to be sure I would wear it multiple times and something had to come out of a pretty packed closet. But all my main pieces were getting well loved and more than once a week, I’d find myself staring into my closet for 5 to 10 minutes without a clue what to wear. Kylie and Johnathan came over for 3 hours (yup, THREE hours) and went through most of my closet (did I mention it was pretty packed?). They critiqued every piece  for wearability (how many situations did it work for), age (yes, when there is more white fuzz than black on a black sweater, it’s probably time to go), fit (who knew there was so much to check around the arm holes?) and finally, suitability on me (did it showcase me to the finest – whatever that meant to me). When they were done, even with the pieces I kept for sentimental reasons, I had loads of room in my closet – perfect!
What I Liked About This: K&J didn’t critique for “style” or “fashion”. It was all about what the piece did for me and my body shape and lifestyle!
What You Need To Know: Go in with an open mind and tons of energy. You will do more wardrobe changes than a female host at the Oscars.

The Shopping Trip. So, the dreaded mall. Let’s face it people, even if you like shopping, purposefully going from store to store to store to store trying on things that continually fail to fit/look or feel good/fall within your budget without anyone getting you another size or colour is not everyone’s idea of fun (actually, I’ve only ever found one person who thought it was fun). Shopping with K&J actually approached fun for me. Sure, I had to see the inside of more dressing rooms than I ever wanted to, but I had instant feedback, experts to check fit instead of me doing sit-ups and squats and craning my neck to see if the trousers shaped my butt or made it look like a saggy elephant, someone to get me more sizes, styles and colours, AND someone to tell me it was ok to say “no” if it wasn’t perfect. If nothing fit, I’m sure that K&J would have been happier if I bought nothing than something that was just “ok”.
What I Liked About This: In 2 hours, I got more effective shopping done without even online pre-viewing than I ever have before.
What You Need To Know: see the closet clean out above

The Outfit Lesson. Now I had a bunch of “old” stuff and a bunch of “new” stuff and would stand in front of the closet wanting to wear a top and not sure what bottom would go with it.  Sound familiar? Did you ever keep putting the same two items together again and again AND AGAIN? K&J came back over and this time it was about pairing things together. They taught me how to blend patterns and colours – what works and what doesn’t – how jewellry will work with, against or just not work altogether. Even if you know what you like and how to wear it, it is great to get a new perspective from people that do this all day long!
What I Liked About This: They take notes and type them up for you!
What You Need To Know: Try it on before you say you don’t like it – you might be surprised!

The Result: I actually know what looks good on me and why!

Bottom line is that when you are a busy person and/or on a budget, your wardrobe can sometimes take second place (or third or fourth) in your mind. Could you do all of the above yourself? Maybe, with a ton of google searching. But if you think about how clothes can make a difference in how you feel and carry yourself, you start to realise what a great tool they can be no matter what message you want to send. If it’s that important, why not call in the experts?


My Jamaica is more than patties

My Jamaica is not just the beach. When I speak with fellow Jamaicans or when I am back in the homeland, the one thing that screams “I’m back ayard!!” more than the patties or oxtail or ackee is what we Jamaicans do to names. People’s names, street names, town names….anything is fair game.

When I was growing up far from the island, I always associated food with my culture. It was so different than the Canadian food – full of peppa (HOT peppers) and spicees and rich sauces and flava (flavour)!! Not to mention the exotic ingredients – cassava, oxtail (yes, real tail from real ox, not like the British toad in the hole which doesn’t involve any real toads), okra and plantain (the sweet fruit, not that leafy green medicinal plant).

The next stage was when I met my cousins and aunts and uncles who all still held onto their Jamaican accent. I still remember with some trepidation one of the first dinner parties where I could not understand a word Uncle T said. I had to find my mom and ask her if he was speaking a different language. Oh, how I wanted (still want) to speak like them! It was musical, intriguing and it was “home”.

But I realize now that more than the rum that leaks from our very pores (comes from having it poured on us every time it rains), it is the use of language that ties us together. This is what allows us to recognize each other as soon as someone walks through the door and you hear “Awhahappen?” But you know the soul of a Jamaican by how they use the language. We don’t bat an eye at names like Pretty (uncle) or nicknames like Plumby (uncle – spelling approximate as I’ve never actually seen it written – real name Ronald), Cutie (aunt), Evadne, etc. The absolute highlight had to be this gravestone we found in the cemetary. Only in Jamaica would you find:

DSC01211

We also use it to be a colourful descriptor. So while you can certainly find a “Main Street” (actually Avenue) in Kingston, Jamaica, you are just as likely to run across “Half Way Tree Road” or “Birdsucker Lane” or “Constant Spring road” or even “Red Hills Road”.  Each name conjuring up a visual or indicating that there must be a story behind the name. The most innocuous name I saw on my last visit was “Orange Grove” and even that makes you think of bright orange fruit with a leafy green backdrop!

However, it’s not all fun and interesting names. I was in my early 20s before I realized that one very ordinary and plain word was being used to indicate the staple of boiled yams and bananas in our diet. This, they call “food”.


Post-Christmas Gift-Giving Guide

Here’s how gift giving should work:

Person A gives gift to Person B

Person B says thank you(!) – exclamation optional depending on gift

the end

 


Just one hour

A friend and I were lamenting about how we had no time to ourselves anymore. Life was busy and work was stressful.  I had to take a vacation day just to get basic chores done. She had a brilliant suggestion.  Instead of trying to get a whole day, start with just an hour a week.  Just one hour. Something much more controllable yet gives you the sense that you actually got a rest and got rejuvenated.  So, I’m going to try that.  One hour a week that is not scheduled.  When that hour comes, I will not use it to do something that I didn’t get done in the previous 5 hours. I will pay myself first which will payoff later.  Watch this space, I will report back….