Snapshot of Myself

Sometimes, you can lose sight of yourself in the hustle of life.

uploads_dc5a17f1-6e85-4662-b8f8-bb58653a7014-AmericanHustleBannerNo, not that kind of hustle.

Facebook has been the most interesting social experiment. Phrases such as “Facebook official” are now a thing. For example, “Kate and Dylan are engaged, and today Kate made it Facebook-official.” I was also listening to someone just yesterday tell a group of people how she is “never on Facebook; who has the time?? I just post pictures for family.”

…I am on Facebook, all the time. I honestly love it, because it is a safe forum where people can share kids’ pictures, life events, personal accomplishments, rants or articles/events that interested them.  I love that! I love the freedom that people have of sharing a music video that touched them, or an essay about something that spoke to their heart, or a Bible verse that is helping someone through a tough time.  I love the forum that we have created together.

What has been interesting to me has been to watch how different people interact with it.  I actually avoided it for many years, until we moved away from some friends, and a very good friend who I trust sent me a Facebook friend invite. I said…oh, all right. Just for her, because she is sweet and I like her.

So then I had one friend.

Now, I have about 150 friends. Which is a big number! I didn’t have 150 people at my wedding…far, far less than that actually.  But these days, numbers mean something different.  150 now means that I am very selective with whom I share my kids’ pictures and my life’s events.  Other people I know have 700-1,000 friends. Which, on one hand, boggles my mind. That feels like an audience, not a group of friends. But on the other hand, it means those people are much more open to share their lives with people, and that is an admirable quality that…I just can’t do.

I say as I post my life on a blog.


There was a Facebook analysis quiz from Cambridge that will “tell you who you are by what you like on Facebook.”

And I thought, hmmmmm…..

That is very interesting. Because even the word “Like” means something different now. I “Like” things because I want to be supportive of people I know; it does not reflect so much on my own personal “Likes” and interests.

So, I took the test, and it was pretty interesting!  Apparently I am more Catholic than Lutheran. I am a little, tiny bit Jewish, a big hunk of Christian and not at all atheist.

My political views are almost even across the board, which was very interesting…since I am so extremely opinionated and very deliberately lean one way with my own personal values.  But apparently, I am accepting of other people’s viewpoints for the purpose of working together to make the world a more loving place. (until we get in the voting booth, and then y’all are goin’ down)

So, here we go: A Facebook Snapshot of Myself.

This is a prediction of your psycho-demographic profile based on your Facebook Likes. It uses a snapshot of your digital footprint to visualise how others perceive you online and therefore may not be an entirely accurate picture of who you really are. You could take more psychometric tests as well and compare the results!

Screenshot 2015-09-11 07.42.27
If you want to try this out, then click here!
(and if you read my blog, I’m sure you know that I don’t do affiliated links. So Cambridge is not rewarding me for posting any of this. They don’t even know I exist.)
Okay, so who am I, according to my Likes on Facebook:
I am a woman…which is a good start, and I am in my 30s.
Screenshot 2015-09-11 07.21.43
I have a ton of Liberal and Artistic friends, since apparently I am Liking all their stuff.
I am more spontaneous a person than a strictly routine person (which is great).
I do not engage much with the outside world, which means I’m a contemplative introvert. I’m glad that came through loud and clear.
I am also not easily riled up.  Because if you piss me off enough, I’m just going to unfriend you and ban you.  Done and done… and moving on with life.
Screenshot 2015-09-11 07.22.14
Apparently I am intelligent, but not too intelligent. Which is a good balance. There are some people who are too smart for their own good, and can’t see the humor in life. Those people need a farting machine for Christmas.
I am also pretty satisfied with life.
But, I also live in a forest. On an island.
My “satisfaction with life” may have just jumped 5million points.
Screenshot 2015-09-11 07.22.21
I don’t think I have lesbian tendencies, according to this. 3% lesbian is pretty low. I don’t think that even counts on the gaydar.
Screenshot 2015-09-11 07.22.41
This was the most interesting, just because of how many wildly different churches we have been to in the past few years.
According to Facebook, I am Christian. I am not really Lutheran, but I like the Pope, and I am only slightly Jewish. The rest of the time, I keep my relationship with God to myself. Because we’re tight, and I like Him.
Politics: who knows.
Screenshot 2015-09-11 07.22.46
Finally, my relationship status.
This one was the most interesting to me, because I like to think that I keep my marriage off Facebook…but sometimes, you never know. My relationship with Ben is actually very private. I don’t tell people about little things we talk about, or arguments we may or may not have, and I don’t rant about anything online just as I don’t brag about anything, either.  And, according to this…that is pretty much what I’ve done. According to Facebook analytics, I might be married. I might be in a relationship…but I’m probably single. Since I don’t talk about my relationship all the time/at all.
Some things are very personal to me, and I keep those things off the internet.
I hate to say it, but there really is a time and a place for things.
My marriage is not internet fodder, and no one else is invited to vote on my relationship with Ben.
Same with the kids.
Boundaries, people. Healthy boundaries.
Screenshot 2015-09-11 07.23.06
So, there you have it! I’m a history-buff who is not a lesbian, or a Lutheran, and likes the Arts and I’m in my 30s.
According to Facebook.

The Most Important Spot: A Reading Room Of One’s Own

“Literature is strewn with the wreckage of those who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others.

-Virginia Woolf

Despite Elizabeth Taylor’s infamous play, the actual script had nothing to do with Virginia Woolf.  The author, Edward Albee, had written the play and was still struggling with a title for it.  He actually saw some poor Lit major’s frustration scrawled into the wall of a restroom, that said, “Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Now she lives in infamy through Albee’s play.  And if you know anything about Woolf, I’m sure you can imagine how delighted she would be by this.


“There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
Virginia Woolf 


That all being said, Virginia Woolf is one of my favorite writers and thinkers. I remember when I first read some of her essays in college, and reading the societal frustrations she railed against.  While reading her essays, I was appalled to discover that although women were granted the right to vote only in 1920, which in my opinion has been a blemish to the history of our country; but, women were continually forbidden from libraries well into the 1970s:


So, there is no space for women in the library. I’m sorry, there are just too many women who want to be well educated! If we took one in, we would have to take them all in!

They also simply do not have enough books to fulfill the needs of women. However, the boys are still allowed into the girls’ library, since “boys cause less disturbance in a female environment than vice versa.”

And finally, the official Harvard opinion in 1966 is that the men at Harvard were not emotionally ready to be around women yet.  Even though “boys cause less disturbance in a female environment.”

However, women may be allowed in the library from 2 to 5am. That makes sense. I have no idea why some women have been upset over silly things.  Like being allowed into a library.


“Like most uneducated Englishwomen, I like reading–I like reading books in the bulk.”
Virginia Woolf


Reading is not only very important, it is crucial.

It is crucial to becoming a well balanced person, and especially a person who has the desire of education.

This is why I take my kids to the library once a week. This is why I am constantly finding good literature to download onto my Kindle for us.  This is why we have a sitting room with big squishy chairs for reading.

The love of reading doesn’t come easily to everyone, though. So many people have been stuck with literature in school that never spoke to them, and the stories just became “words on a page.” And the thing is, there are thousands of books out there…more than enough for everybody!  There is literature out there that speaks to every individual. Sometimes you just have to have someone else show you where they are; and invite you in.

Which is where I come in…

This is my kids’ reading corner.

I was displeased with the way the schoolroom felt…it just felt like a room. No life to it. So, I took all of my boxes of fabric from out of the closet and the kids helped me pick out some decorations, and we created their own reading space. It is well lit, has comfy pillows with matching reading mats, plus a reading cupboard handy for the books they are going through.


This opens the room up, so instead of being a large box…it is now a reading environment!


Now the kids have their own special place to read, and they have been super excited about designing it with me.

Making a reading room for one’s own is vital to creating a safe place to let your mind explore. It doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive.  It just has to be comfortable and inviting; and with many, many books available.

I would heartily recommend a reading room of one’s own for everyone.

16 Reasons Why I Know He Loves Me

1009767_10201504985608570_2015118780_nSee that smile on the groom’s face?

That smile is for me.

Love seems to be an oversaturated concept, sometimes.

What is love? Who do you love? How do you know if you love someone? Do you love them, or are you “in love” with them? Can you love someone less over time? Is it still love at that point? What if you love someone more over time…what does that look like?

I’ll tell you what it looks like: it looks like believing in someone so much that you are completely vulnerable with them to handle your joys, your fears, your anxieties, your success and your failures.

And there is nothing you would enjoy more than to share theirs with them.

I know Ben loves me because…

  1. When he smiles at me, it is a very different smile. It isn’t a polite smile, or even a happy smile. It is a huge smile that goes down to the pit of his soul, and I love it. And it is just for me.
  2. He rubs my head while we watch “Halt and Catch Fire” together.
  3. He has the kids pick out what flowers to bring mom when they are at the store together.
  4. He goes to Costco all the time, because I hate it. (the experience, not the store. I love Costco. I hate crowds.)
  5. He loves my cooking.
  6. 16 years, and he is still wearing kilts. Granted, he likes them already….but I love them.
  7. He listens to my crazy ideas with an open mind, and even agrees with some of them. For some reason.
  8. He never mentions that I am behind on laundry, even when he can’t find a clean towel in the morning.
  9. He will dance with me anywhere.
  10. We still have epic plans for the future.
  11. He looks incredibly hot chopping wood. In a kilt. Life is very good.
  12. He tells me all his ideas, on everything, and I love listening to them.
  13. He shares his best Islay scotch with me, even though I don’t appreciate it like he does. (#bourbon)
  14. He understands me better than anyone, especially myself.
  15. He always makes sure I am wearing “good, sensible shoes.”
  16. He sincerely thinks I am the most beautiful woman on earth.


Love has a lot to do with trusting someone to love you, and trusting yourself to love them with everything you got.

16 years of marriage is no easy ride, regardless of how much fun we’re having along the way. We have built a home  for ourselves. We have gotten cars together, and broken cars together. We went through college together…well, we also graduated High School together. We have stayed up late talking about our relationship with each other, and we have stayed up late talking about our relationships with God with each other.  I understand that he really (really) hates clutter on the floor, and he understands that I will keep bringing home little animals for as long as there are little animals on the earth. We have discovered life-altering, incurable diseases together. We have spent nights, and days, in the ER and hospitals (mostly me).  We have brought 5 incredible lives into our lives together. He believes in me, and I am so proud of him.

And when he smiles at me, I am still struck with how happy he makes me every day.

Here’s to the next 84 years discovering life together 🙂

glassesCheers, dahling 🙂

5 Completely Unhelpful Parenting Books. From The Devil.





Which Publisher is responsible for these hot messes?


It’s like learning how to parent isn’t hard enough as it is.  Finding a book about pregnancy and parenting that fits any person’s particular situation, needs and values is ridiculously difficult.

How do you deal with pregnancy? “With chocolate and warm hugs!”

What if you find out you are allergic to pregnancy hormones?

“…with…chocolate and warm hugs..?  Here, have a gallon of calamine lotion. I’m sorry.”


How do you deal with newborns? With toddlers? With texture food issues? With discipline? With your marriage…with yourself??

It takes a mighty strong person to make it through the first 9 months of pregnancy, and that strength helps toughen you up for the first year.  After that…it’s smooth sailing! Just toddler years, preschool, elementary school, growth spurts, first loves, college and grandbabies after that.


Easy peasy.



Unfortunately, we have to sort through books of this caliber of nonsense before we get there.


1) What To Expect When Your Wife Is Expanding


I would like to be left in a windowless room for 10 minutes with this author.

Because it isn’t hard enough growing another life inside me, dealing with bloody noses, swollen feet, 30 (see: 50) extra pounds on my gut and hormones that just won’t quit…we have this book.

The sequel to his book should be, “Foolish Men: How To Build The Doghouse of Your Dreams!”


2. What The Heck Were You Expecting? A Complete Guide For The Perplexed Father



Another gem from this author.

15 minutes in a windowless room.



3) The Caveman’s Pregnancy Companion: A Survival Guide For Expectant Fathers


It’s like there is this complete lack of domain knowledge for fathers during pregnancy. Weird.


4) Expect The Unexpected When You’re Expecting



Hey, one for the ladies!

This opinionated handbook solves the expectant mother’s fashion crises (including the Protruding Bellybutton Dilemma and Outgrown Maternity Clothes); gives you 1,001 (well, maybe six) ways to avoid sex in late pregnancy; helps you select the least wimpy name for your baby; tells the truth about just how much the “nesting syndrome” will cost you; and much more than you’ll ever need (or want) to know!

Just from my POV: all the hormones in coitus helps initiate labor/birth. Which might be helpful…particularly in the last stretch of the pregnancy. Just sayin’. Don’t knock it till you try it.


5)  Heck With It…

“Guide to Pirate Parenting: Why You Should Raise Your Kids As Pirates, and 101 Tips on How to Do It”



Chuck it all, and raise them as pirates.

Hey, what’s the worst that could happen?



Reasons You Should Take Your Brain On A Romantic Night Out

 This article originally appeared on Ravishly.

The Writer’s Struggle: A Peek Inside The Quest To Get My Brain Back


We’ve all been there, writer or not. Burnt-out, blank, and bitter. I spend hours staring at the screen, doodling on paper meant for jotting notes, and wondering what I am going to have to do for the rest of my life now that my brain refuses to work anymore.

There comes a point in every writer’s life when their brain just refuses to work.

At one point, we remember fondly, it worked like a well-oiled machine. You asked it to come up with brilliant writing ideas, and boom, out came a dozen A+ titles and ideas. Words made sense when you put them together to form coherent sentences, and your thoughts rolled off the page in a cascade of intellectual brilliance, leading your readers down beautifully landscaped rabbit trails and into a field of dreams fulfilled.

Unfortunately, after being A+ quality for enough time, the poor ol’ brain just gives up the ghost. No more brilliant ideas. No more quirky, funny idioms to follow along a riveting tale of life that brings tears to your readers’ eyes.

It could. It did. But it doesn’t.

My brain refuses to work anymore.

We’ve all been there, writer or not. Burnt-out, blank, and bitter. I spend hours staring at the screen, doodling on paper meant for jotting notes, and wondering what I am going to have to do for the rest of my life now that my brain refuses to work anymore. I have even tried quick dates with your brain, hoping to jumpstart it back into its usual, fun-loving self! I tried taking it on a quick lunch date at Taco Bell, but it brought along the voice of my old Creative Writing professor (who is never invited). I tried taking an evening stroll, but it just reminded me how out of shape I am, since my profession is basically sitting and not moving for a really long time. Once, I even tried to get a smile out of poor old Brain after I took her out for sushi by putting chopsticks under my lips and pretending to be a walrus. Somehow, this avenue didn’t work either.

Nothing seemed to work.

But I persevered, and I am here to share with you my brain-boosting secrets.

Have no fear, my weary, brain-dead friends: It is on this day when you must find your well-functioning hands. Get to work at serenading your poor, tired, weary brain — Romance her back into your life.

Lightbulb! 4 Brilliant Ideas For Revitalizing Your Brain, From A Writer’s Perspective:

1. Ice Breaker

You have been holding it all in for a while . . . it is time to let it out.

It’s time to have a heart-to-heart (brain-to-brain?) with your headspace. Let it know how you’re feeling:

“I feel like I am the only one working on our projects, and I think the balance in work is completely unfair. I know I have not been the greatest listener for you, and you are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I am throwing at you. But when you clam up like this, it makes me think that you don’t even want to do this anymore. And that hurts me. I don’t want to go back into real estate — we both wanted to be a writer, remember?”

This is how the healing begins.

2. Listen

Now that you’ve said your piece, listen to what your brain has to say. Your brain might tell you that even though the expectations for being a writer are on the table, what she hears is all the other things she has to do during the day as well. By the end of the night, she is so enveloped in planning, scheduling, and working that she can’t even think of a good, solid metaphor for how tired she is.

Don’t try to fix it. Yet. This is the time to listen to her side without dismissing what she has to say.

3. Body Language

Once you have finished listening to her side, it is time to do some body language analysis.

Your shoulders are tight, your back is sore, your legs are bouncy, and you have had a headache for five days — Motrin is just a placebo at this point. You won’t be able to think clearly until you start stretching, unwinding, massaging, and treating that headache. Do you need a better pillow? Or is it the fact that you have been drinking black coffee and Diet Coke for a few weeks, and completely forgotten where the water faucet is? Go hydrate yourself, eat a well balanced meal with protein and carbs, and get a pillow that supports your neck better so you won’t wake up with a crick in your shoulders every morning.

This is a perfect time for some physical relief: the batting cages, a solid bike ride, a lengthy swim, some rowing machine action, or a genuine stretching session will get your blood moving again, and it’ll get the kinks out of your joints.

Now limp your way to the bathroom and take a bath to soak those bad-attitude toxins out of your skin.

4. Recovery

Remind yourself: Hemingway didn’t write everything perfect the first time, either. Austen had drafts and revisions, as well. The Brontë sisters were their own worst critics.  You are peers amongst them all, and you can do this.

5. Wine Yourself Back Into Love

You are now ready for the wine. This is obviously the most important step.

Get a quiet room and light some tea candles on your desk. Fill your glass with wine and open your laptop. We are going to begin with one article, and only one article.

When we have finished that one, we can move on . . . but no pressure.

Chances are, at this point, you are damn ready to get back to it, and your fingers are only too eager to comply with your freshly-reinvigorated brain — which is back online! A pun! We have arrived!

Just keep the wine bottle close so you don’t have to get up too often.


“Rowing Is The New Spinning”? Don’t Mind If I Do!

Apparently, I can’t just wish my body into excellent shape.

I know!! Trust me, I’ve been trying.

The truth of the matter is, I was starting to get in excellent (well, “good“) shape last year from roller skating.  I was on a schedule, and I skated a half-marathon a year ago. I was starting to look pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself.


oneyearOne year of roller skating.

Unfortunately, now that we have moved onto dirt roads, my days of just throwing on my skates and getting a good skate in is over.  We do have skating parks nearby, but those are for adventurous kids who don’t mind breaking something (see: ankles, legs, willpower).  What I need for skating is a long, smooth path to just make time on.

What to do, what to do.

Hugh Laurie is a smart guy.  He will have an answer for me, I’m sure.


Rowing!  That is a fantastic idea!

There are so many benefits to rowing.  According to Harper’s Bazzar:

” Die-hard spinners are jumping off their bikes and on to … rowing machines? Yes, it’s true. Call it the fitness trend that no one predicted, but suddenly boutique rowing studios are opening at a fast pace across the country and loads of converts are swearing off cycling classes. “I drank the Spin Kool-Aid like so many—but after a year I plateaued and no longer saw the results I wanted,” says Hilary Rainey, 26, a manager at a nonprofit. She’s a regular at New York’s CityRow studio, going twice a week, and has lost 11 pounds in just under two months. Jessica Luftig, 38, a project manager, has gone three to four times a week religiously since February in lieu of TRX Suspension Training and barre-toning classes and dropped 25 pounds. “I can’t get enough,” she says.”


I have never Spun, so I have never seen any results from getting on a stationary bike. But rowing?  I am all over that. And I am loving these testimonies.

“Here’s why: Rowing just might be the most efficient exercise ever. “With each stroke, pretty much every part of the body is used,” says Stella Lucia Volpe, an exercise physiologist and professor of nutrition sciences at Drexel University in Philadelphia and an avid rower. And it may let you skip crunches—for good. “A big part of rowing is core strength,” she adds. “People think it’s all arms, but rowing is much more legs and core.”


So there is only one thing to do in order to get back into shape.  Buy a rowing machine.


My own personal, exclusive Rockwood Gym Members:





So, let’s get started 🙂

Who Are You? – Shalt Thou Takest This Realm By Storm…Or By Grace?

Welcome to Monday.


It is time.

It is time to find out what you are really made of.

Princess. OR QUEEN.  Honestly, I haven’t taken the quiz yet, so I’ll probably get something aspirational and flashy.  Like “Wet Nurse.”


Are you ready to start this week off with some pizazz??  Of course you are.

Grab a cup of Monday coffee, and let’s go!



1) What Type Of Princess Are You?

After this weekend…I can’t exactly disagree.

The Adventurer
You are the Adventurer princess! You love it when things get dangerous, or when you overhear a secret being told. Again, like the Warrior princess, many people frown upon your possibly-improper behavior, but who cares? You’re too busy to think about that at the moment, what with riding to the rescue and all of that good stuff…You are smart and know what a plan looks like. Not only that, but once you have a plan in your head, you can actually complete it without too much of a problem. The surprising part is this: you never find adventures when you’re looking for them – they find you when you least expect it! But even when that happens, you’re always prepared. There are hardly any other princesses around who are as smart, sharp, loyal, and daring as you, so don’t stop adventuring, my friend!
So, basically I’m Merida.  Or Mulan.
Well…I could have called this. I think I am pretty ambitious with what I have in mind for myself, and I am certainly passionate about what I believe…without being a jerk about it. That claim might be a little prideful, but it’s my goal at least.
And, if I do say so myself, my taste in men is pretty fantastic.
You Are Passionate And Ambitious
Your inner-clock is always ticking and makes you strive toward specific goals. You’re a fighter, not afraid to confront challenges, setbacks, and disappointments. When you reach an objective, the next one is already in the works, and before long you’d begin the journey toward it.Above all, you’re extraordinarily creative, and a sensual, passionate lover. That is why People envy you!




3) Which Famous Seductress Are You Most Like?

I’m shooting for Bette Paige on this one…

I’m probably going to get Donna Reed.

Cleopatra!!  Oh, why not 😉


You are a real queen, just like the infamous Cleopatra! As one of the most irresistible and badass leaders in history, she was able to rule Ancient Egypt all while seducing men like Marc Antony and Julius Caesar! Like Cleopatra, you are a natural born leader who is cunning, resourceful and did we mention, GORGEOUS! You’re definitely going to make history, girl!
HA! Did not see that coming!! Well, what other ancient queen am I?

4) Which Ancient Queen Are You?

(I have no idea who this is…yet. But I like her style)

The Aramaic Queen!3 interesting facts about Zenobia:
1) Zenobia was known as the “warrior queen”.
2) Zenobia was described as the most beautiful and noble woman in the East.
3) Her feet were adorned with shackles of gold and her outfit embellished with so many gems that she could hardly bear the weight to walk.

5) Which Time Period Do YOU Belong In?

Hard work and equality are essential to you, and you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves to get the job done.”

That is absolutely the truth.

Medieval Ireland
You belong in Medieval Ireland (400–1400 AD). You value tradition, family, and honor. You are strong and resilient, and you believe in doing what’s right. There is a softness inside of you, but you reveal that only to those closest to you. Hard work and equality are essential to you, and you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves to get the job done.

6) What Is Your Strongest Mental Ability?

Pretty much the only thing I have goin’ on….

Your strongest mental ability is creativity. You’re a creative, entrepreneurial and ground breaking thinker. You’re problem solving skills are unique and you always find new and creative ways to approach old problems. You’re thinking is out of the box, making you an essential voice in any creative endeavour. You see the world through a rare lens and you beat to the sound of your own drum. You can’t be forced into any boxes and you’ll always strive to shake things up with you’re creativity!

7) Who Is Your Mask And The Person Behind it?

Final question!  Behind the social facades…who are you, really?

What many people do not see is the side of you without your mask. You crave to let go of control and not think so logically about things. When events reach a tipping point you rebel and can take a spontaneous trip some place you’ve never been, or do something wild and quite out of the ordinary. When that intimidating mask of strength comes off you are playful, carefree, and free-spirited!

That’s about it in a nutshell! Road trip…anyone?


Strong + In Control/Rebellious + Carefree
When you step out your door, the world knows you as strong, in control, and able to handle anything that comes your way. This is your dominant side, and you have been through enough challenges in life that you do have a strength about you that is inspiring to others.

Is This The Canada I Expected? Hardly.


[spon-tey-nee-uh s]
1.coming or resulting from a natural impulse or tendency; without effort or premeditation; natural and unconstrained; unplanned.


This is the word that summarizes yesterday.

We are an exploring family, by nature. I wouldn’t call us “adventurers,” since that gives the impression that we enjoy adventure.  And we don’t. You see, adventure means “a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.” We don’t want to take a risky, hazardous trip with uncertain outcome.  We want to explore! We want to see new lands, taste new foods, experience new cultures and, most importantly, learn new ideas.  That is what we crave in life. 

So yesterday morning, while Ben and I were laying like sunbathing seals on our giant bed, wondering what we were going to do that day…Ben said, “let’s go to Canada.”

And I replied: “YES.”  The thing is, my family is from Canada.  Kind of. Briefly. My family has been oddly-nomadic, so they have lived inNova Scotia, Minnesota, Saskatchewan, LosAngeles…and now Washington.  I have always been curious what Canada was like, trying to get back to my rather flimsy roots, so I was all over this idea.

This all took place at 10:50am.  We were in the showers and out the door with everybody to make the ferry at 11:30, and we just made it (only because the ferry was running a few minutes behind). Into Seattle, out of Seattle, and on to Canada!

It really was that quick.

We have been wanting to cross the border ever since we moved here…because it is right there.  The Canadian border is about 3 hours away from us, which is the equivalent to our previous house’s distance to Lake Tahoe; and we loved visiting Tahoe when we could, so visiting Canada would be a snap!

Okay, are you ready for a visual experience of Canada? Because I took pictures.  Lots, and lots of pictures.

We were decked out in Passports and a spirit of exploration, and we took a deep breath….and crossed the border.


I think this is the Peace Arch. The big white thing on the corner of the picture that I couldn’t get a decent picture of, even though it is a million feet tall and standing in the middle of an open field.


The end of the United States of America, as we know it.


Whaat??  METRIC.  Okay, fine.

Now, I want to explain something first.  I expected Canada to look like this:

It didn’t. Not even remotely.  Because it looked like this:


I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed.  And then it just kept getting weirder.


Every house was for sale for blocks and blocks.  Like…every house.  I have never seen the kind of exodus out of a large neighborhood like this.  What on earth happened here?!!


Lots of plains. Flat, flat plains.  Very lovely plains, but still…not exactly what the brochure says.


It was a little difficult getting a good picture of this, while driving, through 2 guard rails…but these are logs in the river. Call me old fashioned, but I loved seeing logs in the river for some reason.  I grew up in LA…where both “rivers” and “logs” were merely something I read about in history books, so this was a momentous occasion for me.  I saw a few of these in other rivers we had passed, and this was just finally the picture I was able to get.

Okay…this is where everything started going downhill for me.

This is what I could see while entering Vancouver.  The amount of giant apartment buildings stretched far beyond what my little camera could get.  What was weird for me was that it looked exactly like Hong Kong.  Exactly like Hong Kong.  This didn’t look like Canada, it looked like a tropical Asian island.  It was so bizarre….let me show you what I mean:
This is entering into Vancouver from the bridge:


This is what it looks like to enter Hong Kong from the bridge:

That is what I remember when I entered Hong Kong. It was tall apartment buildings everywhere, and especially on little stand-alone islands in the water.  So, entering Vancouver that looked like Hong Kong was extremely trippy.

Now, after that we kept driving through and were looking for the Gastown district, and so we went out and around the backside of Vancouver…and this is when things were starting to go to a bad place for me…and I don’t have any pictures from this part because it was depressing.  We went through the faux-Hong Kong, and it confirmed without a doubt that all the travel brochures photographers are definitely not from around these places, and into Hastings Corridor… where there were miles and miles of dilapidated buildings, empty houses, barred windows and doors and blocks and blocks and blocks of homeless communities.  To say that there is a homeless population in Vancouver is completely minimizing how widespread the community extended across the city.  I was shocked at how rampant, and especially how completely settled in, this was.

Looking on trip advisor sites reaffirmed my initial reaction to the darker side of Vancouver:

Vancouver is a beautiful and interesting city, but the Vancouver advertised by the tourism industry, is not the whole picture. It is a sad story, but like a lot of beautiful places, Vancouver has a dark side. The city has the highest population of drug addicts, and homeless people in Canada. During our visit to downtown, we encountered several homeless people, drug addicts, and beggars. Teenage girls younger than me, were standing at sky train stations, asking for money.”


Yes, Downtown Eastside (DTES) is an eyesore, an embarrassment, and a ghetto. But that’s what it is, a ghetto, meaning that the junkies, dealers, and prostitutes are all congregated into several blocks on East Hastings, east of say Abbott street. If you don’t wanna witness this, then just don’t go there.”


“While Vancouver is undeniably pretty from a distance, up close it has become an appalling stew of junkies, beggars and scavengers that is unrivalled in the developed world. It is easily the most annoying and depressing city I know to walk around in. You will be hounded for money from one end of the city centre to the other, you will see countless drug deals taking place under the incompetent eyes of the local police, and you will see the full effects of failed drug policies. This city has the highest crime rate in North America, so don’t ever, ever leave anything in your car or it will most certainly be broken into or stolen. I suggest you delay any planned visits until the city gets its act together, or you will be truly astonished by what you see.

The Huffington Post might have a permanent residence there, with the amount of articles they have written on this subject.  I had to laugh at how ridiculous the mayor’s statements were:

VANCOUVER (link)– The goal by Vancouver’s mayor to eliminate street homelessness by 2015 hasn’t been reached, but Gregor Robertson says progress has been made.While the final numbers for the annual, 24-hour homeless count won’t be in for a few weeks, there are indications that the problem has spiked.Robertson says he counted 10 people who spent the night on the street as he walked several city blocks while taking part in the homeless census.”

10 people!?!!!  10!!!!  I counted hundreds.  Hundreds of people sleeping on the street and selling garbage in order to fend for themselves.  It was unbelievable to see.  I have never seen homelessness on this scale before.  Not in LosAngeles. Not in SanFrancisco. Not in NewYork. Not in Beijing. Not in Seattle.  This was just….heartbreaking, and sickening, and sad.  This was not the clean-shaven Canada that makes it to the front pages of newspapers in the States, that’s for sure.


At this point all of my aspirations to maybe find “my people” were gone.  Absolutely gone.  This wasn’t the Canada I expected.


We finally found Gastown, which still has gas lamps in the streetlights. Ben had spent some time in an office here a few years ago, so it was familiar territory and he swore it was “much nicer” than Hastings Corridor.  And it was. Brick streets, tourist shops, Pubs, restaurants…the train from the airport took you straight to Gastown, and you don’t see the rest of Vancouver on that line.  Which is probably the best if you want to get tourists into Vancouver.  There really were a ton of people in this area, and everyone was very clean-shaven, pleasant and friendly. Although, at this point all I can think is, “it’s all a lie.”  But we had to keep going…we came all the way up here to explore new ideas. New cultures. New experiences.  So, in a way, we were certainly getting our money’s worth.




Keep Calm and Play Dead. Kind of sums up Vancouver for me, at this point.

So, we walked around Gastown for a while. We went into a designer dress shop that was selling a coat for $900, and had hand-embroidery from some design shop in Ukraine.  Of course, my head instantly thought about the turmoil in the Ukraine right now…but I was just in a dark place at this point.


Ben tried to take us to Gotham for dinner, but they were booked up…so I mentioned the rotating UFO restaurant that I had seen on the way in, and we went there. I can’t believe we got a table, but we did….and the city started to redeem itself.


From up here, we could see the whole city, not just Hastings Corridor.

We were in a rotating restaurant, and from up here we saw the neighborhood of homes, the schools, the areas of industry.  We saw how beautiful the ports were, and watched the boats sail in.  I saw the other side which had homes nestled into the amazing mountains.  I saw how much bigger Vancouver was than this little part I had visited, and it was actually very beautiful.  In the time it took to have a full view of the city, I was able to see what would draw people to this place.  Our server was Ivan, and although he was born in ElSalvador, his family moved when the civil war began and they went through the Canadian embassy in Mexico to move to Vancouver and raise their children.  He said he has traveled to Scotland, England, Costa Rica, Guatemala…but to him, nothing compares to the beauty of Vancouver.

And this is when I could really appreciate the beauty of Canada.













After dinner, we grabbed some doughnuts at Tim Hortons, and headed home.




A little stop off at Duty Free to gaze upon $5000 bottles of Camu.


A very interesting sculpture as we passed through immigration…


And we’re home.


The Mighty Conflict for Celiacs: Beer


I see you sitting there, just waiting for a conversation. With me.


There are many things I cannot eat.

Doughnuts. Pizza. Sandwiches. Scones. Crumpets. Eclaires.

My journey into Celiac territory has always been interesting. Not only do I get to enjoy foods that are naturally gluten free, such as steak, sushi, ice cream and wine, but I also get to explore new ways of cooking in order to still enjoy recipes that traditionally use flour.

I’m lookin’ at you, gravy.


However, I have always enjoyed beer.

Whaaattt….beer?? But…beer is made from wheat, rye and barley?! You can’t drink beer.

What if I told you I have never had even the smallest reaction to beer.  Ever. Because beer is gluten free.


 mind. blown.



Here’s the deal: there is science to back this up.  I am going to be quoting many places which have the results of what the question is, what it means, how it compares to other products…and then we can all continue to enjoy Irish Death in peaceful harmony.


Thank you.

1) What is gluten, and why do beer companies claim their products are gluten free, if they are using rye, wheat and barley? “There have been numerous claims that traditional barley-based beers are gluten free or that all beers are gluten free. Unfortunately, the area is very grey and substantiated on technicalities. The purpose of this post is to eliminate the confusion about gluten as it relates to beer.

Gluten is an umbrella term used to describe a mixture of individual proteins found in many grains. Celiac disease (celiac sprue or gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity) is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by the ingestion of some of these glutens. People with classic celiac disease are intolerant to the gluten proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and a couple other lesser known grains. All these grains have a relative of the gluten protein. Interestingly, corn, rice and sorghum also have gluten proteins but are not toxic to celiacs. Herein lies one of the fundamental problems; the use of the term gluten intolerance to cover only certain gluten containing grains is confusing for consumers and food manufacturers alike. Unfortunately, it seems that the inertia for using celiac disease and gluten intolerance as synonyms is unstoppable. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of both consumers and manufacturers to make sure the terms being discussed are defined and understood.

As this relates to beer, there is a gluten protein found in barley. This protein is known as hordein. Wheat gluten is known as gliadin. Rye gluten is known as secalin. Presently, assay tests (or lab tests) are only commercially available for the testing of gliadin. We are unaware of any tests for hordein or any manufacturer that presently tests for hordein (Note: If you know of anyone that does in fact test specifically for hordein, please let us know). Therefore the idea that a barley based beer can be considered gluten free based upon the lack of testing is very difficult to fathom. It should be understood that a company using an assay test for gliadin to test for hordein will not return accurate results.

There has been widespread speculation that the brewing process eliminates these hordein proteins making all beers gluten-free. Although commercial assay tests for hordein are not available there is conclusive evidence that the brewing process does not degrade hordein to non-toxic levels. A research study in Australia on improving beer haze shows that hordein is still present in beer after the brewing process ( Therefore, claims that hordein or gluten is destroyed in the brewing process is unsubstantiated and clearly, based upon the Australian research, is highly questionable.

Based upon the continuous claims by beer companies that beers are gluten free, it is clear that the issue is misunderstood and, as always, it is up to the consumer to educate them on the facts. Hopefully, the information provided here will give consumers and manufacturers alike the ability to discuss these gluten issues intelligently and effectively.”



2) So, why can people with Celiac have 20ppm of gluten, if gluten is technically a toxic entity in their bodies?

Gluten Free Dietician: “In 2007 Catassi and colleagues assessed the effects of consuming capsules containing 0, 10, and 50 milligrams of gluten on the intestinal morphology of persons with celiac disease who reportedly were compliant with a gluten-free diet (Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:160-166). During the study participants maintained a strict gluten-free diet  and were only allowed to consume specially marked gluten-free cereal foods containing less than 20 parts per million gluten. Gluten intake from the diet was estimated to be less than 5 milligrams. Researchers found a significant decrease in the villous height to crypt depth ratio in the group taking the 50 milligram capsule. No significant change was found in the vh/cd ratio in the group taking the 10 milligram capsule.”

So, we can have up to 20ppm of gluten in one serving of food before there are any adverse affects to our bodies.


3) How much is 20ppm, for those of us who are not science-inclined?

Gluten Free Dietician: “To break it down, 20 parts per million is the equivalent to 20ppm per kilogram of food. An average slice of gluten-free bread containing 20ppm of gluten (which is all of them- link to results) would contain 0.57 milligrams of gluten. Even if you ate ten ounces of foods containing 20ppm gluten, that would be just 5.70 mg of gluten. This level is just over half of the 10mg found by Catassi’s study to be a safe level so you would need to eat a whole lot of 20ppm food each day to surpass the “safe” level.

We must also consider that 20ppm is the highest level of gluten that foods can contain to be considered gluten free so most of the products you are eating will contain less than this amount.”


The Chameleon’s Tongue: “Fasano’s study tells us that 50mg of gluten per day damages the bowel of coeliacs, even though it doesn’t cause symptoms or show up in blood tests. That’s about as much gluten as 1/100th of a slice of standard wheat bread contains. A normal western diet contains 10–20g of gluten each day, which is 200–400 times the minimum amount of gluten that damages the small intestine of a coeliac patient. Fasano’s work also showed that there is a lot of variation between coeliac patients, and some experienced symptoms with as little as 10mg of gluten daily.”

My tolerance to gluten is definitely going down, the older I get and the longer I have been on a gluten free diet.  My tolerance level, at this point, is at about 40ppm until I start feeling anything, so it is roughly the equivalent of 32 slices of Udi’s bread. But I figure I’ll be having a lot more problems than gluten reactions, if I go that route.


4) So, how much gluten is in beer?



“My impression is that many beers (including craft, of course) have pretty darn low levels of gluten, say around 10-15 ppm. Many obviously have a lot more (stronger, fuller-bodied, wheat beer etc.).”


  • 10-15ppm of gluten is 0.01mg of gluten.
  • A 1oz slice of white bread contains about 3.5g of gluten.
  • 10-15ppm of gluten is equal to half of 1/100th of a piece of bread.



“You also have issues with how much a person can tolerate, under 20ppm is typically considered safe for someone with celiacs, however there are people who still react even at those low levels.”


5) Finally, just be careful. No matter what science says.

Food Republic: “If you have a food allergy that isn’t life-threatening, try carefully fiddling with it like one lactard friend of mine does with aged cheese — cream cheese would bring her right down, but a little grated parmesan on her pasta is fine. Another friend who’s allergic to most fish discovered that salmon doesn’t affect him the way shrimp would, due to its lower iodine content. Now his hair is super shiny from all the salmon he’s been eating. You’re stuck this way for life, friends, and allergies have their quirks, so find a silver lining. Or in my case, a silver bullet or six.”




So there you have it folks.

Beer has the same amount of gluten, if not less, as the average gluten free product.

Which is why beer is gluten free, in the same manner that Udi’s Gluten Free Bread is gluten free.


I don’t always spend all Friday looking up scientific research,

but when I do,

it is so I can drink beer.


But, Does It Cost More Than Disneyland?

This article originally appeared on Ravishly.

Featured on:Ravishly-300x102

Disneyland: The Expensive-ist Place On Earth

Once in a while I will be around families who are talking about their upcoming summer vacations.

Destinations like camping, Mexico, Hawaii, visiting family in New York, or Disneyland might come up.

I am definitely more of the camping-oriented vacationer. I want to find a flat place to pitch my tent in the middle of the woods, preferably next to a stream, wake up in the morning and get coffee going in my Coleman percolator, and then stoke the morning fire in my double-lined flannel jacket while my brew percolates.  Quiet. Some birds in the distance. Trees towering above you in a canopy of nature. The brink of dawn creeping through the pines. The smell of a firepit happily flaming away. How can you not absolutely love everything about that??

But it seems some people prefer a hotel. Which just boggles my mind. Don’t you want to wash yourself in the morning with biodegradable, nature-friendly soap in the deep part of a stream flowing with snowpack run-off?? You would seriously prefer to sleep in a bed, rather than find the one comfortable spot on the hard earth in between rocks and twigs?!  Unfathomable.  But, it is what it is.

Now, I am a frugal miser who enjoys canned tamales heated over the wild flames of a pit, so it is difficult for me to see the joy in having to go to a restaurant when you are on vacation. From my eyes, a vacation is getting away from it all, which includes restaurants. They take soo looong. It takes an hour or longer to get in and get out of a restaurant. That is an hour I could have spent staring at the billions of stars while resting in front of a campfire curled up in my army-green fold-up camping chair.

Be that as it may, I have to admit that with a family of 7…maybe a few days enjoying Disneyland’s firework show could be more enjoyable than throwing pinecones onto the fire. Maybe. Although it certainly claims to be the happiest place on earth, it is also a pretty chunk of change. Especially for a family our size.

We also haven’t been on a proper vacation for 2 years, and it certainly isn’t happening this year after our huge move out of state…so maybe I am just more sensitive to hearing where people are going, these days.  It seems to me like Disneyland is definitely the crème de la crème of vacation destinations.

I cross-reference and cross-check prices on everything. From canned beans to trips to Disneyland…there is a budget spreadsheet just waiting to be created.

So, I ask myself: “Self, how much would you spend at Disneyland for a 3 day trip?” and then I would counter that with, “Self, how much could that money get you…anywhere else?”

Let’s go!


Fortunately, Priceline cannot calculate a trip to Mordor.

Your Vacation…

3 Days@


1 Week@

Scottish Highlands/Islay

7-9 Days@

Cruise Ship


Tickets 4 adults, 3 kids= $1612 7 seats= $2,597 round trip $899/person is the cheapest…so we’ll say $6,300 $25/campsite, $200/total gas to get there
Cost of 3 meals/3 days $280/meal...= ~$2,520 $120/meal = ~$1,080 I think it is included… Hot Dogs, marshmallows = ~$10
Hotel &379×3= $1,137 300×7= $2,100 Included $0
Socialization Economy 0-10 (a scale for vacationing introverts) 10 7 10  0
 Total =  $5,269 $5,777 $6,300 $235


This is why Staycations were invented.

And camping!