Smile, Open Your Eyes, Love and Go On

14 years ago, on February 24, 1998 at about 8:00 in the morning I was sitting next to my mother’s body, begging something bigger and more powerful than me to bring her back to life. I held her and hugged her and hoped and prayed and did everything I could possibly think of to keep her with me. The events of the 24 hours prior played out in my brain repeatedly and I found myself crying out of sadness and despair and guilt for not telling her that I loved her before I went to sleep the night before. No one responded to my wishes and she didn’t wake up. My mum was taken to the hospital and about an hour later my grandmother got the call to say that she was gone.

On February 25, 1998, I went to school. I was in the 8th grade and I went to the office when I arrived to give them a note and inform them that I had been absent on the day prior because my mother had died. While I was sitting in my first period class, I was called down to the principal’s office during homeroom and he asked me what I was doing at school. I told him that I didn’t know where else to be. I didn’t want to be at home, because we were staying with friends and I felt out of place. I didn’t want to be making arrangements for my mother’s funeral and I didn’t want to be left alone anywhere with my thoughts. School gave me a distraction and a great support system. I had a wonderful guidance counsellor, a fabulous homeroom teacher and a great group of friends. I knew where I needed to be, and if it was okay with him, I intended to stay.

It’s been 14 years since my mum died, and I’ve spent the last 5,110 days trying to figure this whole thing out. I am the person I am because my mum took her own life 2 months before my 14th birthday. And somehow, most of the time I manage to be pretty okay.

I think when something tragic happens to a person, you can go one of two ways: you can wallow in it or you can rise above it. I’ve always been one to rise above. In the years that followed my mum’s death, I went to counselling, talked openly about what had happened and in some ways distanced myself from other family members who were stuck in their grief, sadness and blame. I miss her every day and feel sad for all the experiences we won’t share, but I haven’t let it hold me back from the life I  have wanted to live. Her death inspired me to live life to its fullest potential and in the last 14 years I’ve done everything in my ability to do just that.

I work really hard to keep that spirit alive in me, but every year come February I watch that strength start to crumble. As the day approaches that sadness builds up and I never really know how it’s going to manifest itself within me. I’ve been coping with my mother’s death for a longer period of time than I got to enjoy her life and I’ve realized that it doesn’t ever get easier. I’ve spent a lot of this week trying to keep my shit together so I could go on with my regular life, but have found myself locked in bathroom stalls sobbing or crying myself to sleep more than once. It’s exhausting. And hard. But I know I’ll get past this too.

“You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she'd want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”

~ David Harkins

Today will be tough, but I know that tomorrow I will wake up and I will be finished with February 24th for another year. I have plans in the next 24 hours to see some of my very favourite people and I’m going to allow myself to feel whatever it is that I feel. It’s likely that I will cry, but I’ll probably smile too, because I know that that’s what she would have wanted to see.

xo

Nutball-A-Roos For Family Day

It was a holiday here in Ontario on Monday and I enjoyed the day by hitting the gym for a run, frolicking and laughing loudly and saying inappropriate things in the sunshine all afternoon with sweet sweet Reggy, and spending some quality time at The Rooster with a tea latte working on content for the blog for this week.

red

I wanted to make something delicious and relatively easy for dinner and came up with the following:

Nutball-a-Roos with Zucchini Pasta
(I’ve been adding the term “a-roo” onto a lot of things lately… cute-a-roo, hug-a-roo, you get the idea!)

nut ball-a-roos

Nutball-a-Roos (vegan, gluten free)
1/2 cup nuts, soaked (I used a mix of pecans & almonds)
2 tbsp sundried tomatoes, soaked
1 tsp mixed dried herbs (I used sage, thyme & basil)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tbsp wheat-free tamari
1 clove garlic, minced

Add all ingredients to a food processor and blitz until combined. You may need to scrape down the sides a couple of times. Make mixture into little ball-a-roos (I made 8 small, but you could make 4 larger)

Serve over spiralized zucchini mixed with basil pesto, cherry tomatoes and sprinkle with pine nuts.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

photo (4)

1 lb brussels sprouts
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400º F
Rinse your brussels sprouts. Trim off the ends, remove any sad looking leaves and cut in half. Toss sprouts with the olive oil, balsamic and add salt and pepper. Transfer sprouts to a pan and roast for 30ish minutes, moving them around every 7-8 minutes to prevent them from sticking or browning past the happy, crispy point. Remove when they are fork tender.

So much deliciousness!

How did you spend your Family Day?

Nourishing My Tummy in St. Lucia

Travelling to another country with any sort of dietary restriction can be a challenge, but going on a retreat with Meghan meant that I knew I would be taken care of 100%. I could probably go on about every single meal that I ate at Balanbouche, because Tania and Laila (who I went to nutrition school with!) took the most amazing care with every meal that we ate, but instead I’m going to give you the highlights.
 DSCN1261
Warning: Expect to feel hungry, curious and envious by the end of this post.

Green smoothies that just kept getting greener

DSCN1057
Meghan definitely introduced me to the joy that is the
green smoothie, and Tania made sure we got our daily dose of greens nearly every morning. The smoothies all week were delicious and filled with unexpected combinations of fresh organic greens and herbs from the nearby farm, coconut, aloe, garlic and many surprises. This incarnation included greens, parsley, cilantro, garlic, avocado and oj. Wonderfully refreshing and the perfect start to our brunches.

Fresh tropical fruit, picked less than 50 meters away

DSCN0870

Our mornings always began with wonderful tea and fresh fruit. Bananas, papaya, coconuts, citrus and mangoes that put any fruit that I’ve eaten in Canada to shame. The mangoes were quite possibly one of the most delicious things I’ve ever put in my mouth. Whenever we walked to the nearby beach I would enlist a tall person to pick starfruit for me, which had the most amazing combination of sweet and sour. I could have probably just been a fruitarian all week and have been the happiest girl on the planet.

Okra spinach soup

DSCN0899

Have you ever made okra at home? I sure haven’t. I had nothing against this often neglected southern vegetable, I’ve just never really thought much about it nor have I had an epiphanies on what the heck to do with it. This soup changed my mind and I really need to give okra some more love. It was brilliant, made creamy with coconut milk (as many things were) and enhanced with garlic and some simple herbs. Oh so delicious. Going to make and tweak Meghan’s version in the future and show my love for okra…

Laila’s cocoa pancakes

DSCN0925DSCN0927

Laila still owes me the recipe for these (hint, hint) but I know that she used a mixture of buckwheat, brown rice and legume flours. Some might be sceptical of a gluten free vegan pancake, but these little guys were out of this world. Paired with a cacao sauce and mango sauce (pureed mango with lime), I couldn’t get enough!! I’m running out of words for delicious, but these absolutely were. Can’t wait to make them at home for an extra special breakfast treat.

Cassava

DSCN1077

Prior to St. Lucia I don’t think I had ever heard of cassava, but little did I know I had been eating it for quite some time as tapioca. It’s a root vegetable and in St. Lucia it is often made into this amazing bread that is kind of like naan. It was all kinds of awesome. Tania also made it into a pizza crust for us one day, and it may have been the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to make this and blow other people’s minds with its awesome flavour and texture.

Green banana salad

DSCN1154

Similar to potato salad, but much more delicious and not as heavy with green bananas replacing the potatoes and coconut milk adding creaminess. Totally changed my opinion of bananas and reminded me that they don’t just have to be a sweet fruit!

Amazing teas

DSCN0842

It’s no secret that I love tea… so it was kind of heaven to experience wonderful, fresh teas from many locally grown ingredients including hibiscus, lemongrass, turmeric, ginger and cacao. Every tea was such a delight, and I brought back a couple cacao sticks so I can make it at home to remind me of St. Lucia.

Cacao Seed Truffles

DSCN1128

Cacao, almond butter, chia, maple syrup, vanilla and rum – do I really need to say much more? Bonus points for the presentation in the cacao pods.

Special mention go to: the banana flambé, the spiralized cristophine, the wonderful porridges, the vibrant salads, the plaintain sushi, the chilled cucumber soup and anything seamoss related. Oh. So. Good.

The food at the estate continually blew me away and I’m glad that I’m not committed to picking just one or two favourites! While the objective of the trip was for my soul to be nourished, my tummy was definitely nourished as well! More to come on some of the amazing superfoods that we enjoyed whilst on the island!

If you’re looking for some more travel food porn, be sure to check out Lisa’s blog post discussing the best of the best amid her travels through India, Bali, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii

What’s the best meal or food you’ve experienced while travelling?

I Wanna Be Famous for Falling In Love

Cue song… I can’t believe I missed seeing Cass McCombs in Toronto when I was away…

It’s felt like summer since I’ve been back from St. Lucia with lots of social events, merriment, debauchery and basically a whole lotta love. Which is fitting since Hallmark just told us that it was Valentine’s Day!

Last Wednesday I was Reggy’s date for the Dr. Marten’s #firstandforever launch party.

reggy & ash love

It was super squishy, but it was awesome to see some great prints by some very cool bloggers, check out the spring line and dance the night away with my hot date.

In the spirit of love and V Day…

v day desk

we headed to Love a Heart on Thursday where Reggy and Christine among others were being auctioned off in the name of charity!

redhead reddress

I had a blast being a total instigator all night. While I did a lot of bidding, I didn’t actually end up winning a date, but I did manage to help get Reggy to sell for $275, Christine for $300 and this fine man for over $1000. The evening raised more than $11,000 for the Heart & Stroke Foundation, which is pretty amazing.

reggy & ash love a heart

Congratulations to Miss Shannon for putting together a successful evening. If you missed the event, you missed some pretty great moments, like this one…

christine & ash love a heart

Oh dear.

It was great to have quality time with two of my favourite ladies and causing trouble as “Charlie’s Angels”. I’m so thankful for the social media sphere as without it, I likely would have never met these two incredible women along with many of the other awesome folks I hung out with all night. Huge win.

On Sunday I got to sing at a super special event at the Cadillac Lounge. My dear friend Megan (who wrote the musical Breadwinner that I was in a couple years ago) was turning 40, and to celebrate she put on an incredible show and invited some special guests to come perform along with her. Including me!

meganmegan's bday 1megan's bday 2

Wowzers that lady can sing. I had a blast singing a great Ryan Scott Oliver tune called To Do, with the ridiculously talented Ben Foran on guitar. It was such a pleasure to share the stage with some amazingly talented folks and to be a part of Megan’s special day. Happy birthday lovely!!

Finally, I hit up Tweetgasm at the Gladstone on Monday, which was an official Toronto Social Media Week event, where I was interviewed by the stunning Cynthia Loyst from InnerSPACE about flirting in social media and other fun stuff. We also played dirty bingo and laughed a lot. Amazeballs.

And finally Tuesday I hung out with two of my favourite ladies (Dani & Lisahave you read about her amazing trip!?) for a little lovefest at Fresh. It was so great to connect with such wonderful women and share our love on V Day!

love fest v day

So much awesome. So much love.

10 Things I learned Whilst Nourishing My Soul In St. Lucia

1. Everything will be just fine

I was so anxious the day before I left for St. Lucia. I woke up around 4:30am, and wasn’t able to get back to sleep and actually found myself crying. I wasn’t worried about the trip, but I was freaking out about all the travel leading up to my arrival in St. Lucia (thanks to my friends at Expedia and Delta, my flight went Toronto – Minneapolis – Atlanta, spent the night in Atlanta before flying to St. Lucia) I led two WW meetings in the morning before having a driver pick me up to take me to the airport. Little did he know, but that man calmed me down. We talked about everything but my trip really, and I arrived at Pearson feeling happy, calmer and excited. I was on my way to St. Lucia, how bad could things really be?

photo (3)

2. It’s a good thing to shut down

There was a big part of me that wasn’t sure how well I was going to deal with being without being connected to my world, but it was truly amazing. No iPhone. No Twitter. No Facebook. No email. Nada. It was incredibly freeing to be without my phone, only using it to blast tunes while I was in the shower in the mornings and to do a little bit of texting towards the end of the week when I was really missing my friends. I loved living in the moment and enjoying every single second that I was in St. Lucia.

DSCN0921

3. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, SPF 60 is my friend

I am a pale gal. I did not want to burn on day one in St. Lucia and spend the trip grimacing in pain as my skin turned a lobster shade. I accomplished this goal with the help of some SPF 60 and an amazing roomie who supported me in its application. Win. Don’t bother laughing at my non-tan, because I’m happy about it.

RSCN1126

4. Meghan Telpner is one of my heroes

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Meghan fan. I found Meghan’s blog very soon after being diagnosed with Crohn’s, enrolled in her cooking classes and she soon became a huge inspiration in my life. She was the person that I needed to meet and St. Lucia in 2012 was absolutely meant to be. I’m so thankful for her friendship, inspiration, guidance, encouragement and love, not to mention all the giggles that we share. The trip and Meghan’s talks just reinforced for me how far I’ve come from the time that I was really sick. I am that I’ve taken this journey to health over the last 4 years and that I’ve been able to lean on Meghan along the way.

DSCN1157

5. Just breathe

Even when there’s a cockroach on your toothbrush. Seriously.

DSCN0875

6. In with love, out with fear

I heard this in a yoga class once and the sentiment has stuck with me and it’s something I often meditate on. It’s incredibly freeing to rid yourself of fear and let love in. I reminded myself of this each morning during meditation and it had a profound impact on my mental state.

DSCN1087

7. The only constant is change

I knew that St. Lucia was going to change my perspective on things, but I didn’t anticipate exactly where those changes were going to come into play. After some thinking, dreaming, soul searching and pep talks, I walked out of St. Lucia feeling inspired and armed to make some changes in my life. Not crazy “I’m-quitting-my-job-ending-all-relationships-cutting-people-off-total-180” kinda changes, but ones that make a lot of sense for where I’m at in my life right now. I feel grounded, calm and happy to put these changes into effect as the weeks and months go on. Stay tuned.

DSCN1142

8. I have a pretty sweet life

While I’m ready to be making some changes in certain areas of my life (and in some areas have already started to make some shifts), I feel like I’m just doing some fine tuning. I’m in love with the life that I’m living and the people that I’ve chosen to surround myself with. St. Lucia solidified for me how awesome life really is and I came back feeling energized to continue enjoying every single moment. I was also so thankful to be in a place where I could leave my normal day-to-day and enjoy an incredible 8 days of sunshine, beauty, delicious food, new adventures and wonderful people.

DSCN1231

9. Make it happen

On our final day at Balanbouche, Meghan did a workshop on making it happen. She guided us through a meditation that asked us to find our ideal day in our ideal life, and through a series of exercises, we determined steps to push past our barriers and harness our greatest and absolute potential. It’s great to have ideas, hopes and dreams, but it really comes down to making them happen and this trip inspired me to keep reaching and working hard to get to exactly where I want to be.

DSCN1136

10. Twinkle, sparkle and shine

February is generally a very hard month for me. As I’ve already said, I came home from St. Lucia happy, calm, grounded, excited and loving life. People said I was glowing. While I usually pride myself on having a happy, positive demeanour, it felt so good to be coming back from my trip and starting the month in such a great place. I feel like the best possible me when I’m sparkly.

DSCN1162