Friday, May 29, 2009

My Friend, Tom

A light has gone out in the world. A dear friend of mine ended his life last Sunday. I first met him 19 years ago, and was honoured to be able to call him "friend".

I have been struggling with this since I was told on Monday. I have my own beliefs regarding suicide, which I will not bring into this writing as this is about Tom, not me... Tom has touched so very many people throughout his 42 years. It's hard to believe he's gone - we've had so many wonderful conversations and adventures, I thought we had a lifetime's worth of conversations still to have. There is still so many things I want to talk to him about. There is a hole in my life. I can honestly say that the last 4 days rank as equaling one other event for the saddest in my entire life.

I first met Tom at a party at the apartment of the man I was dating at the time. I was totally mesmerized with this man who was obviously very intelligent and had an interesting way of looking at everything. He really could see every aspect of any given situation. I remember telling my boyfriend and his roommate how charismatic Tom was. And if you saw Tom on the street you wouldn't give him a second glance. He was short (maybe 5'6" or 5'7"?), very slender, scarred face, a laugh that would wake people up on another floor (I loved that laugh, by the way). But his personality filled the room and hearts of everybody that knew him. He was a beautiful person.

At this party, I knew right away that Tom was different than other guys. We were playing a game called Spoons. I was a rather feisty young lady, who liked to win. And I was tough. But every guy I played against wouldn't fight very hard, and I could tell they were letting me win - perhaps because they were afraid they would hurt me, I'm not sure... But not Tom. He fought me tooth and nail for those spoons. He played like we were equals, even though he was stronger than I was, he regarded me as an equal. We both ended up with bruises and teeth marks from those games.

Another time we were having a very interesting conversation. He was likening boyfriends (and girlfriends) to toasters. You might have a fancy-pants 4-slice toaster with all the bells and whistles, and be miserable because as fancy as this toaster is it just doesn't toast the bread the way you like it. What you might be happier with is a little manual toaster than only toasts 2 slices of bread, doesn't have a darkness selector, looks kinda beat up, but it makes perfect toast every time. Just one of the many memories I have of conversations with Tom.

We went back-country camping in Keji. One long weekend of canoeing and camping in the middle of nowhere. Tom and another friend, Brad, didn't have a tent (the rest of us did), so they really roughed it sleeping in the open air (and yes, the bugs were baaaad). But it was an amazing weekend that I will never forget.

Tom has travelled to many places - on his motorcycle when he had it, as well as backpacking. I remember his stories of his travels through Britain, and the story of the mead :) He almost had his pilot's license - if I remember correctly he was only a few hours of flight time from getting it.
He worked in the movie industry in Halifax. I remember his allergies (who is allergic to lilacs???).

Tom would help people just because he could. He never expected anything in return. Although he didn't help me paint when I moved (he said that he's absolutely horrible at painting, and this has been confirmed by other people), he did help me move - more than once. He put his own dreams and ambitions on the back burner because of a promise he made to help somebody. You could tell him anything, and if you asked him not to tell anybody else he wouldn't. Period. He helped people physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He and I had a lot of similar spiritual beliefs. He was a bit of a flake, just like me :) In a good way, of course!

As smart and as intuitive as Tom was, I don't think he had a clue as to how important he was to so many people. If he knew just how many lives he made better, he wouldn't have ended his life. He has left a hole in so many hearts and lives.

The memorial service is tomorrow afternoon. I'm writing this now because, even though I've been crying since typing the title, I'm afraid that if I don't get it out somehow I will be an absolute mess tomorrow afternoon. I don't have any digital photos of Tom on my computer, although I think my husband does on his laptop. The only photo I have access to is the one that he had on his Facebook profile.

May he have found the peace that he must have been looking for. My life is better in so many ways for having known Tom, and yet now there is this emptiness...

I'll see you in another lifetime, my friend. And perhaps I will be in a position of being able to help you as much as you have helped me in this one ...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A "Me" Day at Crescent Beach

Today was an absolutely beautiful day here in Nova Scotia :) The forecast was calling for a high of 26C here, and I decided to get out of the house all by myself while the kids were in school and take a little road-trip! It was glorious! I do enjoy taking the kids on mini-adventures so they can see all of this beautiful province (and so I can see it fresh through their eyes), but going on a solo road-trip is a different experience altogether.I decided to go to a beach I've never been to before. It's called Crescent Beach and it's in Lunenburg Co., just outside Petite Riviere. There was a bit of delay getting there, as there was a road crew re-paving a section of Highway 103 and it was down to 1 lane of traffic. But the wait wasn't too long. I stopped shortly past the re-paving at a bridge to take some photos of the Mushamush River, then headed on. I actually got lost trying to get to the beach ... I was following the directions that Google Maps gave, and ended up on a dirt road that brought me back to the highway going back the way I came from! So as soon as I realized the problem, I turned around and stopped following Google's directions ;)When I got to the beach, it practically took my breath away! It was an amazing sight - unlike any other beach I've seen in NS. It stretched farther than I could see with gorgeous sand. I wish I had gotten on the road a bit earlier so I could spend more time there. It's definitely a place I'd like to take the kids to later.Crescent Beach is a 4 km crescent of sand, and it forms a natural causeway to the LaHave Islands. It was weird, though, as I noticed a car drive right down onto the beach as I was getting out of the van. Perhaps in the summer, when they are more people on the beach, the cars can't get on the sand. I certainly hope so, anyway... And the wind off the water was perfect. I like it warm, but even 29C is a bit too hot for me, but the wind off the Atlantic waves cooled it down just enough that I was comfortable.

I hope you enjoyed the little tour :)
Until next time,

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"You don't have to fight or struggle to gain happiness."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Natural Dishwashing Liquid

Here's another recipe for a natural dishwashing liquid. It calls for citrus seed extract. I'm not exactly sure why? Citrus seed extract is often used by "natural product manufacturers" as a "natural preservative". Citrus seed extract made from grapefruit seeds is not in itself a preservative and has no antimicrobial properties. When commercially prepared samples of citrus seed extract have been laboratory-tested by 3rd parties, the following substances have been found in different samples: benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, triclosan, or methylparaben. None of these substances are found in grapefruit seeds. So I will include the citrus seed extract in the following recipe and you can use it if you want to. However, please keep in mind that any antimicrobial activity comes from the additives the manufacturer included in the processing.

Alternative Dishwashing Blend
liquid castile soap
20 drops lime essential oil
10 drops sweet orange essential oil
5 drops citrus seed extract

Fill 22 oz plastic squirt bottle with castile soap, add essential oils, and shake before each use. When I make this, I will not be using the citrus seed extract...

In my search for certified organic ingredients, I have found organic liquid soap in bulk. It is not a castile soap - which by definition the only oil used is olive, however it is a natural liquid soap and not a synthetic detergent. It is made using organic sunflower and coconut oils. You can find liquid castile soap and essential oils at your local health food store as well as some grocery store chains. I also have them available, and if you'd like to pick some up let me know and I'll bring them to the Elmsdale & Enfield Farmers Market on Saturdays starting June 6.

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"Feeling you should be happy when everything inside you is telling you to be unhappy is like trying to correct nature - be unhappy and patient and happiness will come later."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Day Trip to Queensland Beach

This is the May long weekend. But it's supposed to be rainy for most of it. So today I decided I would take the kids on a short daytrip to a very popular beach. Queensland Beach is just on the Halifax side of Hubbards. Beautiful sand, but when the tide is in there isn't much room. Lots of young adults go there in the warm weather - it's "the" beach to strut your stuff! Before leaving home, we packed a picnic so the kids wouldn't get cranky from hunger. Pita bread and tortillas, peanut butter, carrots, and juice. Even though it was overcast, it was quite warm - 16-18*C. I was a bit overdressed, as I thought it might be a bit chilly from the wind coming off the ocean. I didn't try the water, but the kids took off their shoes, rolled up their pants, and dove into digging the sand :) They had such a blast, we're looking forward to making a trip to another beach as soon as we can. I'm not keen on going to the beaches when they're crowded with people, it's just too noisy and hard to keep track of the kids... But during the off-season, beaches are a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours :)
On the way home, we dropped into a lawn & garden center - it was the first weekend they were open this year :) I chatted with the owner (I love dealing with small businesses) and he gave me a bit of gardening advice. I bought mostly herbs and edibles - basil, parsley, lemon thyme, sage, oregano, mint, yellow cherry tomatoes, roma tomatoes, romaine and mixed lettuces - along with a couple of monarda (bee balm) plants and a small-leaf rhododendron. I didn't take pictures of them yet. I will try to do that tomorrow before transplanting them. The herbs will be going into pots so I can bring them into the house in the fall to use into the winter as long as I can. I will probably put the tomatoes into large pots as well, as I don't have my raised beds built yet.
Do you have any beaches that you like to go to? Are there any spots in Nova Scotia that you'd recommend to take a family for a daytrip? We're kind of in the middle of the province, so it's not more than 4 1/2 hours or so to anywhere in Nova Scotia. I'd love to hear of your favourite spots to take the family, that isn't overly touristy :)

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"The path to happiness may be paved with tranquil solitude."

Organic Agriculture

Over the last little while, I've been doing lots of reading and research on organics. I started a couple of years ago, reading a bit here and there. But the last few months it's been really important to me to get as much information as I can.

A good website to check out is the website run by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). There is a lot of information to read there, including links to organic producers. And this is an international group, so it has information for many different countries which is great!

Being located where I am, it's difficult to choose what food to eat. Ideally, local organically grown food would be available as it's important to me to support local producers as well as eating food that is grown/raised without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. During the winter months, it's next to impossible to find fresh local food, so when I can I usually choose certified organic food, even though it's grown in the US or another foreign country. However, if I can choose between an organic item grown in a different country and one that isn't certified organic but grown in my own province, which should I choose? I waffle back and forth on that issue every time I go grocery shopping :(

Luckily, one of the vendors (East Coast Family Market) at our local farmers market will have certified organic vegetables this year (I'm so looking forward to our opening day - June 6!). ECFM also has meat available, but I'm not sure if the meat is certified organic or not. But I do know that the animals are humanely raised, and even though I haven't asked them yet, I'm sure that if they feel it's important to grow certified organic veggies that they will also be raising their animals in an organic way.

On the organic topic, I've decided that I'm going to produce a line of organic soaps. I have on hand certified organic carrier oils and essential oils that are either certified organic or organically grown but not certified. I hope to have this line ready for market no later than September. The soaps themselves will not be certified organic, as I am not certified. But all of the plants provided the oils I use will have been grown organically so I know that I'm helping to support organic agriculture, which helps keep our Earth healthy.

Is organic agriculture important to you? Why or why not? How do you ensure that you are buying food that is healthy for both your family and the Earth? I'd love to hear what other people think!

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"Now is the time to be happy. This is the place to be happy."

Friday, May 15, 2009

New England Clam-less Chowder

In the search for some yummy meatless meals that the whole family will enjoy, I found a recipe for New England Clam-less Chowder. I haven't made it yet, but I plan on doing so this weekend for supper. I'll make the veggie stock today to use as a base, and I'll make the soup tonight. I'm hoping to take the kids on a mini-adventure to a beach tomorrow if the weather co-operates, but it is supposed to be drizzly so a good pot of hot, homemade soup will be the perfect pick-me-up when we get back :)

New England Clam-less Chowder

1 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp soy sauce or tamari
4 oz firm tofu, finely diced
1 tbsp margarine
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
4 cups vegetable stock or water
3 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced
3 cups corn kernels
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried summer savory or marjoram
2 cups low fat milk or soy milk, or as needed
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat oil & soy sauce or tamari slowly in medium-sized skillet. Stir diced tofu in quickly to coat, then turn heat up to medium high. Saute, stirring frequently, until browned and crisp on all sides, about 12-15 minutes. When done, remove from heat and set aside until needed.
In meantime, heat margarine in soup pot. Add onion and celery and saute over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle in flour a little at a time. Slowly stir in stock or water, then add potato dice, corn kernels, and dried herbs. Bring to simmer, then simmer gently, covered, until potatoes are tender and corn kernels are done, about 20-25 minutes.
With back of wooden spoon, mash small amount of potatoes to thicken base. Then add milk or soy milk as needed; soup should be semi thick but no overly dense. Slowly bring to gentle simmer, then season to taste with salt and pepper. If time allows, let soup stand off heat for an hour or two before serving, then heat through as needed.
Serves 6-8.

I'm looking forward to making (and eating!) this - it looks pretty darn tasty, eh?

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"Try to find happiness with as many different people as you can."