Flying Hugh’s Music Time Machine

Music Time Machine

Thank you to Hugh at Hugh’s News and Views for giving me the distinct privilege of flying his Music Time Machine. After revving up the engine, I initially headed out with gusto to a time far, far away. Being a novice pilot, I tragically lost control and crashed straight into 2016! Want to see where I landed? Please check out Hugh’s site. If you could leave a comment there, that would be hugely appreciated!

Check it out here.

Sunday Guest Post Series: Lisa Dorenfest – One Ocean At A Time

One Ocean at a Time

I mull over the contents of this post as I soak in a traditional Red Zao herbal bath while overlooking the resplendent mountains of Northwest Vietnam. My entire being is filled with gratitude for every moment in my life that got me to this one; both the good and the bad for they are what shaped me and made this moment possible.

One Ocean at a Time
Herbal Bath – Ta Phin Village, SaPa, Vietnam

I begin to recount how I got to this place since shutting my office door for my first ‘Sailbatical’ in April 2011, and my gratitude increases exponentially.

I’ve had the good fortune to live my dream of circumnavigating the globe under sail. I’ve traveled nautical miles to SE Asia across two oceans and into a third, sailing from The Netherlands to Malaysia with a yearlong stopover in New York between oceans to replenish the cruising kitty and treat a bout of breast cancer.

One Ocean at a Time
Amandla In Paradise – Taveuni, Fiji

I joined my partner, Captain Fabio Mucchi aboard his sailboat Amandla at the beginning of my second ‘Sailbatical’ in February 2013. I had planned to return to work after sailing to New Zealand, but here I am, almost five years later, still traveling and loving it.

One Ocean at a Time
The Captain Provides – Pacific Ocean En Route to French Polynesia

With Amandla safely dry-docked in Malaysia, The Captain and I began a bit of land traveling SE Asia by bus, train, boat, and on foot, visiting Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. The Captain returned home to Italy in September to promote his new book on his early travels, and I continued onward to Vietnam.

One Ocean at a Time
With My Guide Man Mây – Lao Cai Province, Vietnam

Here, I added motorbikes to my list of transportation modes, riding as a passenger along the streets of Hanoi and through Northwest Vietnam from Mai Chau to Pù Luông, and over the past 36 hours, from Lao Cai to Lai Châu and back.

The Captain and I will meet back aboard Amandla at the end of October to start preparing for our Indian Ocean transit in 2018.

One Ocean at a Time

Some might call this retirement. I call it living life to the maximum! You can read more about the journey here.

Thank you, Donna, for giving me the opportunity to share my story on your blog. I find your wonderful posts as well as the stories shared by others here in your ‘Sunday Series’ to be an incredible source of inspiration for anyone contemplating a lifestyle change whether it is retirement or a trip along the road less traveled.


From Retirement Reflections

Don’t you want to drop what you are doing and immediately join Lisa and The Captain aboard the Amandla for a sailing adventure? I know that I do! This is an incredibly inspiring example of ‘living life to the max.’
While Lisa has us primed to think ‘outside of the box’, please join me next week when Molly takes charge and (humorously) revises her retirement plan!
Do you also have a ‘retirement’ or ‘lifestyle’ story to share? Just leave a comment and I would be happy to include you as an upcoming Guest Host.

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Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Kanab, Utah

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Welcome Sign for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Welcome to something wonderful!

At different times in my life, I have come across something that seemed ‘too good to be true’…only to discover that it was even better than I could have possibly imagined. My most recent example of this is Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. I had heard about Best Friends through a couple of people at our local animal shelter. Their descriptions were so incredible that I thought they might be embellished. Still, the Sanctuary has been on my bucket list for the past year. With our current five-week home exchange to Palm Desert, California, my husband and I decided to add two days in nearby Kanab to our itinerary.

Peace Pole at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
This is the third International Peace Pole that Richard and I have seen within the last three months (Finisterre, Paris and Kanab).We look forward to seeing even more.

Best Friends is an animal welfare organization with a unique history and vision. Set on thousands of acres of stunning landscape in Angel Canyon, this no-kill Sanctuary is home to over 1700 animals. The goal of this organization is to have all animal shelters in the  United States be no-kill by 2025. Best Friends also supports a multitude of partner organizations who share the same objective.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Views
Everywhere that you look the views are absolutely incredible!

When we drove up to the Sanctuary, Richard and I were both awed. The property seemed to be unending.  The buildings were immaculate, the staff and volunteers were welcoming, friendly and extremely knowledgeable. The fact that this was all set on stunning landscapes with unparalleled views was almost too much to fully comprehend. We began our initial visit with a (free) Grand Sanctuary tour. Jennifer, our guide, was the ultimate ambassador. Radiating warmth, energy and a wealth of information, she offered an outstanding introduction to the Sanctuary. A convert herself, Jennifer had seen a documentary about Best Friends over a year ago, scrapped the necessary money together for transportation and accommodation and volunteered each day until Best Friend finally hired her.

Cory the cat at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Cory (and a few other Sanctuary cats) was born completely paralyzed in his hind legs. That didn’t stop him from going for a walk with me. He doesn’t use a leash…but he was FAST!

Part of Best Friends’ unique vision is to allow people from all over the world to sign up to volunteer for a half a day or more. The area is en route to many popular tourist destinations (most notably, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon), offers incredible hiking opportunities, stunning scenery and is the setting of many movies and westerns (old and new).  This all adds to the ease and appeal of volunteering here. In addition, any volunteer may take a dog or cat on a sleepover to their pet-friendly accommodations (including cabins that can be rented on site).  For our second day, Richard and I signed up to volunteer together in Dog Town in the morning. For the afternoon, Richard signed up to volunteer in Horse Haven, while I booked myself into Cat World. The staff that we met were each welcoming, and extremely devoted to the animals that they served. All of this combined to make our volunteering an incredible experience.

Horse Haven, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Richard in Horse Haven.

The living quarters for each of the animals were spacious, clean and focused on the needs of the animals. Each animal that we saw seemed to be very comfortable and secure in his/her Sanctuary home. The first animal that we interacted with was Hurley. Hurley is a nine-year-old Black Labrador who had been in a shelter in Texas that was closing its doors. He had been at the Sanctuary for less than a month. Calm and easy going, Hurley was an excellent choice to invite for a sleepover.

Late that afternoon, after our volunteer shifts were completed, we took Hurley back to our (dog-friendly) motel. As we had only booked our accommodations a couple of days in advance, and there was a huge event in the area at the time, we had secured the last available dog-friendly accommodation. Saying that our room was “incredibly basic” would be a vast understatement. “Hurley’s going to think that we’re cheap and wished that someone else had him for a sleepover instead,” we joked. Thankfully, Hurley did not seem to see it that way. Being nine-years-old, and a Labrador, he possessed the perfect energy level and temperament for this sleepover. He loved his walks, loved to play tug-of-war (although he did cheat…repeatedly)! More than anything else, he LOVED his tennis balls and loved to pretend he was a lapdog and lie at our feet (or beside us on the bed….shhhh, don’t tell)!  Hurley had eaten his dinner and treats before leaving the Sanctuary, and would eat his breakfast there as well. We were instructed not to feed him anything but water during his visit. That, along with the loving care he receives at Best Friends, made it easier on him, and us, when returning Hurley from his sleepover.

Hurley, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Hurley, the Black Lab, joined us for a sleep-over!

From start to finish, our entire experience at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary was more reassuring and gratifying than Richard and I could have ever thought possible. We will definitely return soon and will find other ways to be involved.

For anyone interested in potentially adopting a new Best Friend,  the Sanctuary is currently waiving the adoption fee and cost of the flight home (USA and Canada) for ‘solo artists’ (dogs and cats that they recommend to be the only animal in the home). The adoption fee for dogs eight-years+ and cats ten-years+ is also currently being waved. You can find out more information here.

The End of Our Camino Experience: Arriving in Finisterre

Day 32 – Arriving in Finisterre – 17 km.

As we walked our final kilometers to Finisterre, we became poignantly aware of all of the lasts that we were experiencing. Our last morning in an auberge (desperately trying not to wake those around us), our final glimpses of stunning Camino scenery, and the end of our trail breakfasts. We had a good seven kilometer hike before we spotted an open ‘restaurant’. As good fortune would have it, we eventually found a very rustic, ‘by donation’ spot that we absolutely loved. Although basic, they do have a Facebook page — which is one of the many delightful contradictions of the Camino. Shortly after we resumed our hike, we ran into our ‘2017 Camino Angels’, Tundie (from Budapest) and Caroline (from New Zealand). We had first met them in San Bol, and then saw them each day until we stayed the extra night in Leon. They were just leaving Finisterre and were headed to Muxia (the more common order). They said that they were hoping to see us again. We were delighted to see them as well!
Other than knowing that Finisterre had long been considered ‘the end of the world’ (and predetermining that we would burn a sock or two here), we had few expectations for this destination. As soon as we spotted this city in the distance, we were delighted by its bright colours, and brilliant ocean views. After spending our first night here, we knew that we would want to spend extra time in this fascinating place.

Aug. 24 – The final 3.5 km.

Although we arrived in Finisterre early yesterday, and considered that to be our last ‘walking day’, there were still 3.5 kilometers to go to ‘Cabo Finisterre’ and the famed ‘Lighthouse Faro’ where the Finisterre Camino Trail officially ends. We had a very relaxed, ‘backpack-free’ hike there this morning. If you look closely at the attached photo, you’ll notice the ‘0.00 km to go’ on the sign post. That means that we have now completed 720+ kilometers of the Camino Trail in a thirty-three day time span (two of those days, plus today, being rest days)! The feeling was bittersweet. Then suddenly, everything just came together. As we looked around, there was a marker honouring the 2008 visit of Stephen Hawking (whom I greatly admire). There was also a ‘Peace Pole’ planted by the International World Peace Project. There are currently many ‘Peace Poles’ around the world. They are intended to be an internationally-recognized symbol of the “hopes and dreams of the entire human family, standing vigil in silent prayer for peace on earth.” What more appropriate message could there be for the end of the Camino? As planned, we also followed the pilgrim ritual of burning something in the fire pit (me, a well-worn pair of hiking socks, Richard a note). The symbolism behind this is letting go of things that no longer serve us, including fears and behaviors that are destructive to ourselves and others. We didn’t realize it until now, but our 700+ kilometer trek was very similar to the moral of The Wizard of Oz. Viz., We all have more presence of mind, more bravery, more physical abilities and more compassion/understanding than we realize until we get out there and do it! Richard and I have decided to stay in this inspiring and thought-provoking city for two more nights.

Aug. 25. Finisterre – Continued.

We already miss our walking routine. So many things that we love, and thrive upon, were automatically built into our time on the trail. Time together. Time spent in nature. Time getting lost in our own thoughts. Fitness and excercise. Meeting interesting people. History. Culture. Spirituality. Mindfulness. It was all naturally there…without trying to find a way to fit it all in. Our challenge now is to to maintain as much of this as possible as we return to our ‘regular’ lives. As we begin to readjust to life off of the trail, we have enjoyed being able to immerse ourselves in one city…and Finisterre has been a perfect place to do just that. This morning, we took a long walk on a quiet, tranquil beach. We then wandered through a busy and colourful Friday Market. After lunch, we had a long siesta. Research indicates that the Spanish are one of the top fourteen longest-living nationalities–and some of that is attributed to regular walking, olive oil consumption, and afternoon naps. Why would we not follow suit?

Aug. 26 – Final Night in Finisterre –

.. It is a common tradition for pilgrims to splurge on something (often a seafood platter) at the end of their Camino. When we arrived at the ‘0 km’ marker in Cabo Finisterre the other morning, we knew what we wanted our ‘reward’ to be. Overlooking the famed lighthouse at the ‘end of the world’, is a small and very unique hotel. Yes, it was significantly more expensive than any of our other room costs in Spain. But, it was quite in-line with average hotel prices in Vancouver. And, if you add up all of our accommodation costs on the Camino and divide by our number of nights here, it was really one heck of a steal! (Yup, I can justify just about anything!) We had a lovely (and reasonably priced) lunch. For dinner, we made the five-kilometer round trip to the nearest grocery store. We then had a sunset picnic on the point with views that left us speechless. It was a perfect ending to an unforgettable adventure.
As we still have almost two weeks left before our booked flights to Vancouver (via Paris), our dilemma is what to do next. Head out to France and stop in some unique places along the way? Take a side trip to Portugal? Return home early (our tickets are changeable)? As amazing as the world is, as everyone knows, there’s truly no place like home! What would you do? Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted.

Post Cards From The Camino Trail 2017 – Week Two

When I left you last, Richard and I were in Burgos (lingering in a restaurant that offered free WiFi). Burgos is home to the only cathedral in Spain that has independently been declared a World Heritage Site. So, we decided to have a peek inside. Two hours later, we were completely overwhelmed and had barely scratched the surface of all that there was to see. From its incredible architecture, to its exquisite paintings and sculptures, to its intricate and lavish decorations, including heavy use of real gold (that seemed to go on for endless rooms) it was often simply hard to comprehend. An unsettling question was, “where did all this money and gold come from?” If any readers have visited this cathedral previously, I would love to hear your points of view.

Day Five – Burgos to San Bol – 26.7 km:

Never trust your guidebook completely. Seriously! Just about twenty-six kilometers into this walk, I was over it! Honestly. Done. Richard had it in his mind to continue an extra five kilometers to Hontanas when I saw a sign for a small hostel in San Bol five hundred meters away, but off of our path. Richard was skeptical. His guidebook called the hostel “medieval” and stated that “almost everyone” prefers to travel on to the next town. Never one to conform to the “almost everyone” mold, I started walking off the trail to the nearby albergue. “They may not have food”, Richard called after me. I was not deterred. When we arrived, it was an incredible oasis! It had a large garden with a natural spring pool where you could sit and soak your (very tired) feet in the cool water. You could also do your laundry in the outdoor spring (very National Geographic)! We were one of nine guests that evening. We were served a community dinner of homemade chicken paella, salad, crusty bread, wine and vanilla pudding….all for only twelve euros each (including our beds). If traveling this section of the Camino, I highly recommend staying here!

Day Six – San Bol to Itera de Varga – 22 km:

The annoying thing about my iPhone camera is that it does not adequately capture the steep climbs that we have faced so far. So when I start whining about today’s climb, for example, you’ll probably glance at the photo and think that the path was no big deal. Wrong! We ascended over 100 meters in less than one kilometer. Okay, it may not be Everest, but in the extreme heat, with our packs, it seemed huge!

Day Seven – Itera de Varga to Villalcazar de Sirga – 28 km

Where have all the pilgrims gone? In the last week, we have always seen at least a few pilgrims during the course of our walk, and we have always seen several pilgrims when we have stopped for breakfast and lunch. On today’s walk, we saw no other pilgrims walking on route or during our rest stops. Richard’s theory is that most other walkers leave before our usual 7:15 a.m. start time and are following more traditional beginning and ending points than we are. My theory is that they all took the bus today, and got off just before their destinations. That’s my theory and I am sticking to it! (And after a hot 28 km walk, a bus ride does sound lovely!)

Day Eight – Villalcazar de Sirga to Calzadilla de la Cueza – 22 km

We seriously need to ditch our guidebook. Its forecast for today’s walk was “flat, monotonous and hypnotic”. But we quite enjoyed it. (Who doesn’t love ‘flat?’) We also had the chance to walk on this very cool road that the Romans had constructed and trod upon. We also came across two young (very fit) parents walking the Camino with full backpacks…and a ten-month old (very smiley) baby in a pram. They are planning to walk all the way to Santiago from Burgos…and have been staying in regular hostels like most of the rest of us. Seriously, I can’t even imagine attempting such a feat. But, the three of them seemed to be happy, relaxed and content!

Day Nine – Calzadilla de le Cueza to Sahagun – 22 k

Last evening there was a debate between my upper back and my legs. I have been pleasantly surprised (shocked actually) how well my body has responded to suddenly being immersed in this intense fitness boot camp (…at least so far). But it was Day Nine and although my pack is relatively light, my back was voting for a ‘rest day.’ My legs, however, were feeling stronger than ever and were eager to continue. Being the consummate libra, I compromised…and had my backpack transported to this evening’s hostel in Sahagun. It’s easily done. Put five euros in an envelope, label the envelope with the address that you wish to pick up your bag later that day, trust in the Camino, and your pack magically shows up at your desired destination by noon! The funny thing was, that even though we walked slightly fewer kilometers than usual, my back was still equally tired at the end of our walk! I now blame my water-bag. Water is crazy-heavy!! This got me thinking that perhaps I should quit being such an overly prepared nerd and carry only the amount of water that I need for each portion of our trek. That would make sense, wouldn’t it?

Day Ten – Sahagun to Reiligos – 26.5 km:

Ask and the Camino answers! Today we had the choice of taking the regular trail, mostly alongside main roads, or walking an extra kilometer or two and taking the ‘scenic route’. The catch was that for seventeen kilometers straight, there would be no options to get food, water or any real shelter of which to speak. We had done something similar a couple of days earlier and we had ample (i.e. too much water and extra food) so we believed we would be fine. At the last town before our long ‘wilderness’ trek, we had full breakfasts and ordered two vegetable sandwiches to go. (Who knew that tuna and eggs were vegetables)? Richard filled up his litre bottle with water and added an additional bottle as an extra. With my new ‘sensible’ water plan, I only partly filled up my water system (3/4 litres). That would make my pack lighter and we would still have plenty of water. Half way into our trek, we stopped underneath a rare (and skinny) tree to eat our lunch. That is when Richard’s full litre bottle of water spilled and drained completely (up until then he had been drinking out of the back up bottle…that was now almost empty). Why is it that whenever I consciously decide to quite being such a Girl Scout, something calls me back to my roots?

Day Eleven – Reiligos to Leon – 24 km:

We have now arrived in the major city of Leon and are considering a potential rest day here tomorrow as there is so much to see and do. I will keep you posted as to whether we stay or continue on. Something else from this week that I want to mention before I close, was an encounter that we had earlier. Richard and I were alone on the middle of a trail, when we suddenly saw an older (our age?) local Spanish wonan who literally rushed up to us. “Did you know that the top fastener on your backpacks can be used as whistles?” Strange opening question, but actually we did not know that. “Make sure you protect yourselves — keep covered, have lots of water and pieces of fruit”, she continued. Finally she advised “Most importantly, you will need much patience to be successful in your journey.” How did she know that I am sometimes lacking in that particular area? Camino Angels are everywhere!

My sincere apologies for my extreme lack of proofreading on my Camino posts, and for my long delays in commenting on my favorite blogs. Reliable internet has been a definite challenge…combined with the additional challenge of sheer exhaustion at the end of each day. I will attempt to do a big catch up when I return home!

Shout out to Dr. Creighton Connolly on his 29th birthday 🎉 today!

Almost Wordless Wednesday: A Week in the Life of a Retiree

The most common question that I have been asked since retiring is “What do you do all week?” The short answer is “no two weeks look alike”. Here’s a sample from this past week using an Almost Wordless Wednesday format. (I do realize that it’s Monday…and this post is not exactly wordless…thus the ‘almost’!) I’ve also included both weekends to give you a broader cross-section of possible activities and events. Enjoy!

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Saturday Coffee
After a week-long stay visiting family in Kelowna, we made an overnight stop in Vancouver. There are so many great places to linger with a coffee and a good book, like The Boulangerie La Parisienne in Yaletown.
Wordless Wednesday: Sunday Walking Group
The Mid-Island Walking Group meets Wednesdays and alternate Saturdays/Sundays. It’s a perfect way to get outdoors, get some exercise and engage in great conversations. Just ask Jake (who has taken the lead)!
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Meeting of artists/crafters
Meeting of Artists, Crafters, Photographers…and a Blogger! This newly formed group seeks to have surrounding companionship, inspiration, and unbiased opinions while working on art-related activities.
Tuesday: Yoga, Dog-Walking and Dinner
Morning yoga, afternoon dog-walking for the SPCA, and evening “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner'(a monthly feature of our Newcomer’s Group). Busy day!
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Hiking and Book Club
A shorter hike today with our Walking Group (5K) followed by Book Club. These are two of my favorite things to do (as long as they include coffee and snacks afterward). BTW – Please do not ask why it looks like I am praying in this photo…I honestly have no idea!
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Euchre and Board Meeting
Today I officially ‘graduated’ from our beginners’ euchre clinic and was ‘accepted’ to join the regular Monday euchre league! The excitement must have made me forget to take a photograph (both of this historic event and the Newcomer’s Executive Meeting later that evening). Being resourceful, I made due with similar photos that I had on file. In the bottom photo, simply ignore Richard, the excessive wine glasses and the seasonal cards/lighting and you pretty much have the image of today’s meeting down to a tee!
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Coffee after Yoga, Bookfair and Happy Hour
Another busy day in the life of a retiree. Coffee after yoga followed by volunteering at the SPCA Bookfair, followed by our neighbourhood Friday Happy Hour. Somebody’s gotta do it!!
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Flea Markets, Coffee Tasting and Dinner with Friends
Spring on Vancouver Island is abloom with bright colours, flea markets, and cool/quirky events. Today I took a quick browse at our neighbourhood rummage sale before heading back to work at the SPCA book sale. During my lunch break, I snuck off with friends to a local coffee/tea tasting. Richard and I then topped off the day by having dinner with a couple that we met in Palm Desert this past October and feel we have known forever. (I LOVE when that happens!)
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Pajama Day
A common saying among retirees in “when did I ever have time to work??” For me, this past week was a great example of this. Hence, I have unilaterally declared today to be ‘Pajama Day.’ I seriously need to catch up on my rest, reading and computer-related stuff like ‘Blogging Grandmothers’!
Almost Wordless Wednesday: Blogging Grandmothers Network
Yes, you read correctly. I have been asked to be one of the co-hosts for ‘Blogging Grandmothers’ twice-monthly blogging link-up. Our recent link-up just went live. Although you do need to be a grandmother to add a post, you do not need to be a grandparent, or even a parent, to read the links found there. The posts include great stories and tips for all. Some of these ‘grandmothers’ just may surprise you! Click on my last post to take a peek!
So how was your week?
Photo collages made with Canva .

Blogging Frustrations

You know when you work and you can easily pop next door and have Madeleine or Muhammad (or their counterparts) help with your tech related problems? I so miss that– especially when running a blog!

An ongoing area of blogging frustration for me has been finding the best way to let readers know when I have replied to their comments. Since this comment notification feature is standard in the free version of WordPress, this should be easy to add to a (not so free) self-hosted WordPress site, right? Wrong! Very wrong!

Being a risk-taker, I tried a popular comment plug-in called ‘Discuz.’ Perhaps it was just my site (or my set up?), but for me, Discuz included an overly active captcha. This meant many readers could not comment on my posts at all. That kinda was the opposite of what I was going for!

Being nothing if not tenacious, I tried again.

A few bloggers that I follow have been using CommentLuv. With this plugin, readers can leave a link to their most recent post. What was not to love? Well…a few things actually. Although readers could leave a link, the free version of this plugin has not been updated in WordPress for almost a year. And although I am sure I read a review otherwise, readers still were not notified when I replied to their comments.

Ahhhhhh!

I tried additional comment plugins. On some, readers wrote to say that they could no longer see where to comment on my site. (I am very thankful when readers take the time to let me know these things.) Other comment plugins, which seemed simple enough, had a confusing ‘must subscribe’ email checkbox. That would definitely prevent me from commenting if I saw this on a blog.

I tried writing on help forums. Nada. I tried asking other bloggers what they used. (I discovered that I have many blogging friends who either do not use WordPress or use the free version with that wonderful comment notification feature already included…lucky them!) In the meantime, I received numerous comment-related emails from readers (thank you again!). Some said they still could not find the comment section on my site. Some said that they assumed I was not replying to their comments (I honestly was)! Others asked what the heck had happened to CommentLuv (turns out that many readers did like that feature)!

Insert Me: Banging head on desk.
Insert Richard: “Why don’t you just do things the easy way, and switch to the free WordPress version?” (Seriously, has he met me before?)

Rarely doing things the easy way, I researched. I looked at some great blogging sites (like this and this). I kept on trying.

So where did I end up? For now, I have installed “Comment Approved Notifier,” which automatically sends an email to individual readers once their comment has been approved. Since I always reply to comments at the same time as approving them, this will be my sign to readers that I have replied to their comments. And, since this plugin plays nicely with others, I have also re-added CommentLuv.

Please, let me know what you think. Does this solution work from your end? Or is there a better alternative that I should be trying?

And what about you? What are your blog-related frustrations (as either a reader or writer of blogs)? Perhaps we can help each other (or better still, perhaps there are ‘tech experts’ reading this blog right now who are willing to help us.

Yoga Nidra

If you’ve read my recent posts, you already know that I am a bit of a ‘Savasana disaster.’ I am totally aware that all true yogis (and yoginis) out there will cringe at such a phrase – but it’s true. When the rest of the class settles down so seamlessly into their final pose, lying on their backs in perfect stillness, I fidget. I discreetly try to put on my socks (can I help it if my feet get cold?). In the process, I accidentally knock over my water bottle. I think about reaching for my extra sweater, but I fear that will end in another disastrous consequence. I suddenly can’t remember where to position my hands. I then peek down and notice that my tank top has slipped significantly below my bra-line. My mind starts racing. How long has my top been like that…and who has seen what? And so it continues… until the teacher’s voice softly suggests that we begin to move our toes gently. At least I am on-track there–both sets of my toes, as well as my adjoining feet, have been wiggling non-stop for quite some time.

After this confession, I have no explanation why I recently signed up for a Yoga Nidra class. Yoga Nidra is a bit like an hour-long Savasana. (What was I thinking?!) It’s a relaxation technique where yoga students recline in complete stillness. They are then guided by their teacher’s voice to focus on their slow, relaxed breath, engage in guided visualization and completely let go.

The benefits of Yoga Nidra are said to:
• help consolidate our body’s energy and relax the nervous system
• calm the mind
• release tension
• promote deep rest and relaxation
• counteract stress
• help relieve depression and anxiety
• reduce insomnia
• increase awareness of the connection between body, mind, and spirit
(Source 1, Source 2, Source 3)

Everyone of all ages and ability levels can participate in Yoga Nidra. In order to enhance your practice, it is recommended to:
• wear loose, comfortable clothing
• use props (bolster under knees, neck pillow, eye mask, blanket) to increase comfort
• practice in a peaceful environment (calm, comfortable, clutter-free)
• allow a couple of hours between your last meal and your yoga class
• if there is no Yoga Nidra class offered in your area, you can practice at home with one of many free or purchased audio guides (example). Source 4

So with all of my ‘savasana-related baggage,’ as well as being a bit ambivalent about most things ‘meditation-related,’ I attended my first Yoga Nidra class last weekend.

What was my experience?

It was amazing. My body and mind relaxed instantly. Everything slowed down. For the first time that I can remember my mind quit preparing and rehearsing productivity lists. I experienced the immensely satisfying feeling of being in a deep sleep…while still awake. Instinctively, I turned my palms down and pressed into the floor to prevent the sensation of floating away (totally strange but true). I left feeling more refreshed, rejuvenated and relaxed than I have for quite some time.

After class, a fellow yogini invited me out for tea and pie. A Sunday afternoon simply doesn’t get any better than that!!

“It Always Seems Impossible Until it is Done” (Nelson Mandela)

Last January 1st I made a single New Year’s resolution. I resolved to begin a blog containing my reflections as I transitioned into retirement. When I first moved to Beijing in 2001, I started a small journal that I emailed to friends and family. I, unfortunately, didn’t maintain that log for long, and always wished that I had. So many stories and newnesses from that period have been lost or modified over time.

I love to write, to wonder, to discover and to share. I now had a second chance with another new chapter in my life. Would I have any readers? I tried not to think about that part. I once again took a leap of faith.

If a crystal ball would have told me that within one year I would have written 71 posts, had 5,526 blog visitors (from 95 countries), 13,479 post views and 922 comments (plus an equal amount of blog comments on other social media links) I would have determined that the ball was broken! I realize that for the big and even medium-sized blogs out there these numbers may seem minuscule, but to me, they are a miracle.

As I continued to write and to read other people’s blogs, I began to discover what, for me, lies at the true heart of blogging. Keeping in touch with friends, building new relationships along the way, sharing ideas, connecting, reaching out, and inspiring each other have by far been the most rewarding part of the on-line writing experience. It is you that has allowed this to happen–and for that, I am both humbled and grateful. Blogging has also allowed me to process sorrowful events that have taken place for me this past year. Your kind words and sharing of your own experiences have deeply touched both me and my family.

In honour of this blogiversary, I have decided to shake things up a bit. I have updated my About Page (which you can check out here). I have also switched to a new theme (bye bye WordPress TwentyFourteen, hello TwentySeventeen). After my last comment update fail, I was hesitant to mess with my comment section, but I have added a feature that automatically allows other bloggers to link their most recent post. Fingers crossed that it works this time! I am also toying with the thought of switching to https (Secure Sockets Layer) but so far have remained firmly undecided on this move. If you have any feedback on any of these current or potential changes, I would love to hear from you. Also, if you are a blogger who uses WordPress Twenty Seventeen, and you have any cool tips, please share!

If you check out this blog even semi-regularly (or mean to) and have not yet subscribed, I would be grateful if you would do so. It is quick, easy and free (and you can do it by email or WordPress reader). Signing up helps you to ensure that you never unintentionally miss a post. And for me, it helps me to know that you are out there.

I am now off to choose my resolution for 2017. I am aware that resolutions do not work for everyone, but for me, a single, well-chosen New Year’s goal can be very powerful. I am finding my final selection to be much more difficult this year. In choosing, I hope to keep Nelson Mandela’s wise words in mind. Please stay posted!

Feature Photo created with: canva.com.

Thursday Doors: Christmas on Vancouver Island






I’ve been looking more closely at doors lately. Inspired by Montreal blogger, Norm Frampton, who hosts a weekly link up called Thursday Doors, I’ve begun to see the entrances to buildings in a brand new light. These shared posts, by bloggers from around the world, have taken me to new and intriguing places. They’ve also returned me to familiar places with fresh eyes. My favourite door posts so far (here, here and here) have done just that and have provided rich and intricate details of my own country’s architecture.

I became absorbed in these posts and wanted to join the collaboration. Several weeks ago, filled with enthusiasm, I went bounding outside with my camera ready. On that first outing, I came away empty-handed. It wasn’t as easy as I had thought. Many of our town’s most interesting buildings tend to have Home Hardware-like doors. I sucked back my initial disappointment. Silently I have continued my lookout. That door post remains a work-in-progress.

This holiday season has offered a playful spin on my endeavor and has provided me with much latitude for experimentation. It has also allowed me to give you a small teaser of some of our mid-Vancouver Island buildings (plus a couple of shots from Vancouver snuck in for good measure)!

Doors offer or deny access and connection. Welcoming or excluding they make a definite statement about their interiors…and about the people who dwell inside. In the spirit of the season, I kept my eyes focused on entrance ways that were festive, colourful and joyful. I looked for doors that simply or elaborately sent positive vibes and made me want to explore their buildings further.

In order of appearance (on the side column), here are my top picks. Vancouver Islanders – how many of the buildings do you recognize (without reading below)?

Crown Mansion Boutique Hotel, Qualicum Beach, BC. Originally built in 1914, and graced by such visitors as Bing Crosby, John Wayne, and the King of Siam (source) much effort has gone into preserving this home’s original grace and beauty. If you are in the vicinity, its restaurant, Butler’s, offers a first-class dining experience.

Tigh Na Mara, Seaside Resort, Parksville, BC. Founded in 1946, its name is Gaelic for “house by the sea.” This luxury resort with 192 handcrafted log guestrooms and cabins has evolved from humble beginnings of a single tent. Its spa was named number one in Canada (source).

Hospice Society at Oceanside, Qualicum Beach, BC. This 1913 home has been used by our local hospice society for over twenty years. Whenever driving by, this building makes me want to stop in and volunteer…especially at Christmas time.

Bear Lodge, Mount Washington, BC. In the 1970’s, Mount Washington became the first comprehensively planned ski resort in British Columbia. The resort village has continued to expand since then while remaining relaxed and affordable (as ski resorts go!). This pic was taken early morning when most other skiers were still fast asleep. Don’t the warm lights make you want to step inside from the cold?

A Bute Street Residence, Vancouver, BC. The next two photos stray slightly from my Vancouver Island theme. When walking down Bute, a residential street in Vancouver, I was immediately captivated by the elaborately decorated doorways of several houses in a row. This supports my deep belief that the spirit of the season is contagious…and that our neighbours do influence us more than we sometimes realize. This first Bute Street home shown is one-hundred and fifteen years old.

Ashby House Bed and Breakfast, Vancouver, BC. Also on Bute Street, this heritage-designated house was built in 1899. Converting this home into a bed and breakfast (1986) has allowed the owners to restore and preserve many of the home’s original features (source). The colour contrast between the building and its lighting quickly caught my attention and has put this B&B on my wish list of places to stay when in Vancouver.

Milner’s Garden, Qualicum Beach, BC. The piece-de-resistance of our area, and the feature photo of this post is this heritage house surrounded by 60 acres of woodlands and ten acres of garden. Visited by Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Lady Diana, Milner’s Garden (since gifted to Vancouver Island University) has quite the history. Every December, the gardens and its buildings are transformed into a winter wonderland (with festively-lit trails, a Teddy Bear’s cottage, and Santa’s Den) bringing out the inner child in all of us.

Be it with a simple wreath, or more elaborate lighting/ornamentation, have you decorated your front door to welcome in this holiday season?

Wishing you warmth and peace this Christmastime and the whole year through.

Thursday Doors is a blogging/photography challenge hosted each Thursday to Saturday by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0. If you are a blogger/photographer why don’t you join in?

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