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Life….Celebrate it!

How often have you saved  a certain outfit for a special occasion? I’ll bet more times then you can count. There have been many times over the years that I have been guilty of doing the same.

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Now I’m not sure if it is the wisdom of growing older, or just the overall appreciation of life, or a little of both. But in recent years I’ve learned that being mindful of the present and living life to the fullest is more important now than ever.

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There is never a need of a “special occasion” to go somewhere or do something. When the staff at Maison Blanc day spa asked my daughter and I what we were celebrating, I didn’t hesitate in answering: Life. I loved seeing them break out in smiles and nod in agreement.

For the afternoon my daughter and I donned our make-believe crowns and attended a catered High Tea that was a lovely addition to our afternoon of pampering treatments.

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Ordinarily, we have attended High Tea exclusively for special occasions. I decided that life itself was a special occasion and so was spending time with my daughter.

We were asked to come early so that we could relax and enjoy our High Tea. We were warmly greeted by the Spa Director and shown to a private room for our tea. The table setting was perfect and the arrangement of our sandwiches and desserts were so pleasant and classy on the tray. Tea lights added such a classy touch that made us feel that we were transported to Paris for the afternoon. The atmosphere was perfect.

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We loved having the time to chat and eat before our services. The staff at Maison Blanc went out of their way to ensure that we had everything we needed, checking in on us frequently throughout the afternoon.

It was a relaxing afternoon from beginning to end.

Don’t ever wait for a special occasion! Pop that bottle of champagne, wear that new outfit, use your special china. Because life is meant to be lived.

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Canada, I love you eh!

This month,  is the 50th anniversary that Canada opened her arms and welcomed my parents and myself. It would be amazing if I could just remember what that was like, I was a baby and the nervousness and excitement of it all was obviously lost on me.

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With changes to legislation regarding who could be admitted to Canada, the 1960’s saw a wave of immigration. Canada welcomed smiling faces from a variety of countries ranging from the lush green landscape of Ireland, to Africa, India, England, the West Indies, South America and many more places. Thankfully, my parents and myself were among these new immigrants that landed on Canadian soil. I can’t imagine how exciting yet scary it must have been for my 20 something year old Mom to have left the only home she has ever known with a baby and husband. Or for my Dad, to be bravely leading the way to a new and better life.

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Let’s be honest, most people would probably say that they live in the best Country in the world. I would of course agree with them, if that Country is Canada.

As a child I had the opportunity to embrace and experience the diversity represented among the people of this country. Growing up, my classmates were from different Countries around the world. The excitement of learning about their cultures, visiting their homes and quite simply calling them friend was wonderful. We were different, but we had one thing in common and that was the fact that we called Canada home.

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I’m incredibly grateful that my parents made the best decision to choose Canada as their home. I often tease my Dad that I wish he had chosen a warmer Country, but truth be told I love this Country! I could list at least 100 reasons why Canada is a wonderful place and why I am grateful to be living here, but I instead I will try to sum them up into three reasons that make Canada great:

  1. From coast to coast, Canada is simply beautiful. Every single province has its own beauty about it that makes travel memorable. For example: British Columbia has the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, and the easy going friendly and down to earth nature of Maritimers and the amazing abundance of fresh seafood.
  2. Often envied, our healthcare system is something I am always grateful for. While it isn’t perfect, it is better then some equally developed Countries.
  3. Racism is a word that is far removed in the vocabulary of Canadians alike. Sure, it exists (hey – nobody’s perfect) but on Canadian soil it is far less threatening and aggressive than in other countries. It is not nearly as corrupt as some other neighbouring countries.

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Thank you, Canada, for all that you have brought to my life, excellent education, the start of my own family and a future that continues to shine a beacon of bright light.

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Happy 1st birthday Maryse’s Pieces!

This year I have celebrated a pretty exciting birthday. Happy Birthday Maryse’s Pieces!! You are officially ONE YEAR OLD!

Shortly after my 50th birthday I wondered where all the other 50 something year old women were in cyber world. I was interested in hearing other perspectives on what they were experiencing now that they were in the 50’s club.

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I began by looking around on Instagram. I was happy to see that there existed an abundance of other women like myself who were celebrating the 50’s, in fashion, in writing, in food, in religion, in basically any way that appealed to them! Without a moment’s hesitation I created a more social and public account while still maintaining the privacy around my other account which was strictly for family and friends. I was surprised to see the interest and “likes” my pictures generated on my public account.

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Friends and family encouraged me to start a blog. I had no idea what I was gong to write about or even what I would name it. I could talk your ear off but…write? I was unsure about it. Through research and Facebook groups, I got to know other bloggers who advised me to find a niche and go from there. I remember thinking a niche? As in, write about only one area of me?? That would be like telling me to talk just a little bit. I couldn’t quite do that, there were so many pieces of me that deserved equal time in my blog. As a Wife, Mom, Daughter, Sister, Aunt and Friend. I had more roles in my 50’s then ever before, and I wanted to share them all!

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So, my blog was named “Maryse’s Pieces” and almost immediately I had subscribers and followers! I was floored. I thought that my target audience would be women aged 50 and over, but I was pleasantly surprised that my stats consistently showed a demographic both of men and women, 30 years and older. Here I was worrying about being a boring old lady writing meaningless posts!

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The support of my blog has been enormous and has come from all sources. My family has been behind me every step of the way, my sister Holly took pics, gave advice and opinions. My daughter was forced to proof read my posts (and still does), she also receives a constant barrage of photos to review to help me decide on the perfect one. Together, they both provided important initial feedback to help me create the casual tone that I wanted in my writing. They quickly let me know if I was sounding too essay like, or too much like a novel. My husband, happily reads my blogs and I will always receive positive feedback from him.msblog-1-2

Friends have continually supported and cheered me on, not just by the customary “like” on Facebook but also by sharing my blogs. I love receiving texts and messages from so many of them who tell me they can relate to something I have posted.

In the coming year, readers will on occasion read a different side of “Maryse’s Pieces” through my posts, as I strive to cover a variety of topics that are requested by different people. I have also decided that this year, I will start publishing posts from fellow guest bloggers!

Thank you for helping my first year be as successful as it has been. Please keep reading, sharing and above all I love hearing from you – so keep your messages coming!

The best is yet to come xo

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Winterlicious 2018 – Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill

Winter can be a long process in Canada, the days are short, and darkness comes early. Heading to the movies, socializing with friends and dining out becomes the way of entertainment during these frigid months.  This is when the foodie in me tends to come out!

Toronto’s Winterlicious is an exciting time when restaurants offer lunch and dinner price fixed menus.  It’s the perfect opportunity to try out new restaurants or visit old faithfuls.

This past Saturday, Hubby and I chose to visit Oliver and Bonacini Café Grill in Bayview Village. As many of you already know the O & B restaurants are some of our favourites. Hubby and I have began dining at one of their first restaurants Oliver’s in the Eglinton area some 30 years ago.

Reception

Winterlicious can be an incredibly busy time for the participating Toronto restaurants. We usually brace ourselves for the rush at reception but at the same time I look for the professionalism that should still be evident despite the bustle. We were not disappointed. The ladies at the front welcomed us with big smiles and a friendly Danny introduced himself and took us to a beautiful table in the back by the window. He took pride in telling us that on that particular night they were the second busiest restaurant in the city with Canoe in first place.  Another O&B classic restaurant.  Amazing so far!

Service

Danny advised us that our waiter was Arshia. Arshia came over promptly and brought us water while we perused the drink menu. He gave us an appropriate amount of time to come back and take our drink order and food order as well. He was incredibly energetic and interested in how we were finding everything all weekend. His attention to accuracy and details as well as his pleasant personality contributed to a lovely evening. Arshia is perhaps one of the best waiters we have ever had in that particular establishment. Well done!

Atmosphere

Casually elegant, the cleanliness of the dining room and upscale décor are perfect. A wonderful atmosphere for lunch, tea, dinner or even private events which can be held in their private room. Despite the business of Winterlicious the staff contributed to this atmosphere with their bright smiles and hellos.

Drinks

The restaurant was currently running a promotion with Estrella Damm beer, according to the menu when you ordered one you received a ballot to enter a contest to win a trip for two to Spain. Enticing! I’m not a beer drinker so Hubby ordered one. I was intrigued by one of their featured drinks LA DOLCE VITA. Comprised of Argento Cabernet Sauvignon, triple sec, orange juice and lime. Surprisingly though our drinks took quite a while to arrive. That was a bit disappointing because with the absence of a bread basket we were left with water to simply sip and wait. When our drinks arrived, Arshia apologized and explained there was a backup at the bar. My feature drink was very good.

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Food

Appetizers– Both of us ordered the crispy curried potato pierogies with cilantro lime yoghurt for dipping. It arrived quickly at a great temperature and was delicious. The curry did not over power the taste which was a concern for me, delicious!

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Entrée

Hubby ordered the Tuna Poke Bowl, it was beautifully presented and tasted amazing according to him. He found it very filling which was interesting because you would think based on looks it was just a salad with tuna, not so! Consisting of: avocado, sticky rice, cucumber, pickled ginger and sesame seeds and tuna. There was egg and we are convinced some sweet yam or potato as well.

 

I ordered the rigatoni verde. Described on the menu as having kale pesto, oven roasted cherry tomatoes, zucchini, edamame and grana padano. The size of the serving was huge, it arrived at an excellent temperature and was beautifully presented.  It was yummy and the sprinkling of edamame throughout the dish made it so much fun to eat. The only criticism I had was that the pesto had just a bit too much oil. Other then that it was a tasty dish.

Dessert

We both decided on the Baba Rhum with Chantilly. As always dessert is the crowning glory of any meal and we waited with anticipation. The Baba Rhum was a cupcake with chantilly cream decorating the top, we eagerly dug in to find that it was dry in the inside and the outside edges were hard, it was disappointing. When Arshia came by to check on us and get our thoughts we explained our observations and showed him the hardness on the outside of the cupcake and the dryness inside. He was disappointed by this, but he did not want us to leave dissatisfied, so he hustled back with the other two desserts on the Winterlicious menu for us to try. The Aged cheddar dish with spiced raisin compote and cranberry and seed toast. The cheddar was good, and the spiced raisin compote was perfectly spiced and left you wanting more! The cranberry and seed toast that accompanied this dish was perfect. He also brought us the Artisan black forest cake, which was moist and delicious. A solid ending to our dinner.

 

I would give this visit 8.5/10 marks lost for not receiving a ballot for the contest, an unusually long wait for our drinks and lack of bread basket as well as a disappointing experience with dessert.

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Pampering and professionalism at Maison Blanc Day Spa

Let’s face it, us ladies love the idea of an awesome manicure, pedicure or body treatment in a real spa like environment. While I am a huge fan of St. Anne’s Spa in Grafton Ontario, it’s not a place I can get to on a regular basis. Still, I craved something similar in a day spa.

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Late last year I realized that my needs had changed with regards to the type of environment I needed for manicures, pedicures and body treatments. I was at the point that craving this type of environment was something at the age of 52, I felt I deserved. What was I looking for?

  • A quiet spa like atmosphere
  • Happy, highly professional and knowledgeable estheticians
  • Pampering from the minute I walk in the door, while waiting for my appointment, and during my appointment

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So, I put out the word and asked around, I tried out a few places. Many places consisted of staff speaking different languages while providing services.  For me, that’s a NO.  Or loud music and blow driers and hair cuts happening a mere few feet away from me. Another NO.  One place consisted of pure gossip, all about other staff members and owners. NO.  At other places the spa feeling was just lacking. Another NO.

At long last my daughter received a recommendation and was told about Maison Blanc Day Spa located right in Whitby! What? Right downtown in our hometown? My daughter booked an appointment and had an amazing experience. Her shellac manicure was beautiful, and her experience was top notch! She returned a few weeks later for a manicure and pedicure and was blown away by everything.  They had an extensive list of services offered even body treatments! She told me that it was time for me to visit this spa.

This past Saturday I booked a nail polish change for both my daughter and myself. I was curious how we would be treated with this very simple and inexpensive service that I booked.

From the moment we entered the Spa we were greeted by friendly smiling faces. Our coats were hung, and boots put away and we were given comfy slippers to wear! I was totally surprised. A simple finger nail polish change and the pampering was already outstanding. We were taken to a cute seating area and offered cappuccino, tea, lemon water or cookies. Impressive. Get this! It wasn’t make your own, they made it for us!

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At appointment time we were introduced to our estheticians who were working out of a spotless, airy and beautiful room. Both ladies showed us different lines and colours of nail polishes. I was impressed.

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Application of our polishes was expertly done, and conversation was pleasant. The atmosphere was relaxing, and we enjoyed our service immensely. No gossip, nothing about their personal lives, no language barrier, pampering and professionalism was all we experienced!

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I don’t typically review somewhere after booking such a small service, but that in itself represents the irony. Regardless of how small the service was, the staff at Maison Blanc Day Spa, treats you professionally. Big props to the owner and staff, I have pre-booked services already for my next two visits! Hope to see you there!

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Slow cooked pulled pork tenderloin

My family loves pulled pork tenderloin! This tender lean meat is a joy to cook with and I love making it because I know it’s a healthy filling dinner. Check out my recipe below and give it a try, you’re going to love it!

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Ingredients

2 lbs pork tenderloin

2 large onions diced

3 pieces of garlic

3 tsps. black pepper

1 lime

2 tsps. salt

2 tsps. red pepper

¼ cup soy sauce

3 tbsps. Worcestershire Sauce

I bottle General Tao Sauce

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

Using  lime juices and water, rinse out the pork tenderloin and set aside

Rub salt, black pepper, and red pepper onto the pork tenderloin

Add onions

Add minced garlic

Add Worcestershire sauce, soya sauce and ¼ bottle of General Tao Sauce

Mix thoroughly, I prefer to get right in there and rub all the ingredients in with my hands

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Once the pork tenderloin is fully seasoned place in a covered roasting pan with approx. ¼ cup of water, and put in oven

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It is important that the tenderloin is allowed to slowly cook approx 2-2.5 hours

Check frequently and baste with juices in pan, it may be necessary to add a little bit of water

During the last 45 minutes add the remainder of the general Tao sauce and baste frequently with pan juices

After cooking, the pork will easily come apart with a fork

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You can serve this yummy pork on a tortilla, a bun or simply on its own which is what my family loves. I usually make scalloped potatoes and a tossed salad to go with it.

Enjoy!

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GREASE…is the word!

“I solve my problems and I see the light, we got a loving thing we got to feed it right. There ain’t no danger we can go too far, we start believing now that we can be what we are… Grease is the word.”

-Frankie Valli

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I got you singing, didn’t I? Possibly evoked some memories of fun times singing songs from Grease over the past few decades? The original Grease is an iconic movie that most of us grew up watching.  John Travolta and Olivia Newton John succeeded in making us feel as though we were a part of Rydell High. So, I was super thrilled when my daughter purchased tickets for us to see Josh Prince’s Toronto production of Grease at the Winter Garden Theatre!

Review of Grease

The Winter Garden Theatre is absolutely gorgeous and just the opportunity to visit it was exciting! I was particularly excited that my daughter purchased a VIP package that included wine for us! Does she know her Mama or what?

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Slightly surprising was the confusion among staff at the Winter Garden on how to direct customers, control crowds and answer basic questions. Anyway… The musical itself was enjoyable with excellent props, costumes—pink ladies and t birds in their familiar jackets. We sang along to all the songs we knew so well, surprisingly there were a few that we didn’t recognize. That kind of threw us, when it comes to remakes I do like some of the basics to still be there.

Along the plot line, there were a few things that confused me, the break ups and getting back together between Sandy and Danny was unclear, numerous and nothing like the original. There were also frequent mooning moments by characters and a bit of vulgarity that I don’t recall from the original. Don’t get me wrong I know this is 2017 and all, but could we not keep to the actual events in the movie?  There was a lot of dancing, hence yes it’s a musical but at times it seemed as though there was too much. Almost as though the choice was made to have more dancing and singing then dialogue.

In addition, I wasn’t totally convinced of the chemistry between Danny and Sandy.  Disappointingly, that should be the first thing that the audience feels. Let’s face it, John Travolta and Olivia Newton John had it! Casting of the two main roles is paramount in my opinion. All in all, It was a pretty good attempt by a young and energetic cast and I was happy that a few Canadians dotted the cast.

Review of the Day

My daughter went out of her way to make the day special for me, even by making my fave breakfast that morning- pancakes! We got ready, dressed in our pink ladies’ jackets, scarves and 50’s style sunglasses, I have to say we looked amazing!  We were pretty stoked for the musical, and my kind Hubby happily gave us a ride downtown. I think he regretted his decision within a few minutes of being in the car because we immediately launched our Grease play list and much to his disappointment we sang every single song all the way downtown!

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Upon arriving at the theatre, I noticed a few pink lady jackets and a few poodle skirts. We were complimented by many and one amazing lady even thought that my daughter was my sister! God Bless her!

Our seats were an amazing choice by my girl, smack dab in the middle of Orchestra, just where I like it! We sang and laughed at the jokes. A gentleman behind us asked if he could take a pic of the back of our jackets- pink lady crests. We obliged of course feeling like celebrities…hehehe!

At intermission we took professional photos all dressed up which was part of our VIP package and enjoyed our wine.

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I loved spending the day with my daughter and quite frankly  Grease the Musical was simply a backdrop to the memories I made with her that day.

Ratings

Grease the Musical                                                  Memories made with my Daughter

7/10                                                                             Priceless/10

 

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Cusa Tea- Premium Instant Tea Review

I love tea, but I don’t love the inconvenience of fiddling with a tea bag in hot water while driving in my car or even the hassle and mess of loose leaf tea. So, when Cusa tea sent me two packages of their assortment of instant teas, I was more than curious as I had never tried an instant tea before!

History

After living in Asia for a few years, Founder and CEO Jim Mancusa was inspired to create a great tasting instant tea that was both, convenient and high quality. Hence, Cusa Tea was born.

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Ingredients

Cusa Tea uses high quality tea and fruit in their products. The company works with farmers who exclusively harvest USDA Organic approved tea. Quite a bonus is that, all the teas have zero calories, no preservatives and no artificial fillers.

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How were these teas created?

Technology

Scientists were able to use a cold brew tea steeping process that preserves the taste of the tea. They combine a vacuum crystallization method that results in a pure sugar free tea with no additives.

Flavours

  • Organic Oolong tea
  • Organic English breakfast tea
  • Organic Green tea
  • Mango Green tea
  • Lemon Black tea

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Directions

Rip open a tea stick and dissolve the instant tea powder into approx. 14oz (350-451ml) of hot water. For cold tea, add a little of hot water before adding the cold water. I chose to pour my tea in different amounts depending on the size of the cup I was using.

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Tasting time

Organic Oolong – I tried this tea first thing in the morning and not only was it delicious, but it also packed quite the wake-up punch that was needed on this particular morning! The powder dissolved instantly and tasted heavy, full bodied with a strong nutty type of flavour. I recommend adding a little bit of water until you reach the taste that you desire or sweetener.

Organic English Breakfast – I loved this tea and particularly enjoyed the smoothness to it. It dissolved instantly and was comforting but at the same time had a personality, if you know what I mean. I would recommend a little less water for a nice even flavour.

Organic Green – I have a confession. I am a… self-proclaimed green tea connoisseur. I must say, this one was awesome! It was light but still had that classic, delicious green taste to it that was enjoyable. There was no bitterness to it and the overall taste was truly superior to many other green teas I have tried.

Lemon Black – I know I sound like a broken record but honestly, I cannot get over how the scientists behinds this completely perfected the dissolvable nature of this powdered tea. There was no sight of anything crunchy that left unwanted grainy bits behind. It was super lemony and made me think it will be great for a cold or flu. I found it a little too strong and had to add a little more water.

Mango Green – I tested this one as an iced tea and didn’t bother adding hot water to it first, it dissolved nicely just like the others. It was absolutely amazing and my favourite of all the teas! It was light and refreshing, offering that fresh summer taste on a cool fall afternoon. There was no shortage of the delicious mango flavour that was in every sip! YUM!

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Concluding Thoughts

Overall, Cusa Tea was excellent! I enjoyed the convenience of a little tea stick to open that dissolves beautifully. There is no need to worry about steeping time, under steeping or over steeping is a thing of the past! This is the ideal tea for anyone on the move from students to parents or those who endure a bit of a lengthy commute. Great tasting, superior quality tea that is easy and convenient to make? Sign me up! There is no need to juggle tea bags! I appreciated the different varieties and loved trying them all. The box they came in provided nutrition facts and caffeine content which was easy to read and helpful. I would highly recommend Cusa Tea,  and would encourage you to visit their website  to place your order. Pricing begins at $9.99 USD. www.cusatea.com 

 

Disclosure: Cusa Tea was sent to me in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.

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I’m picking up good vibrations…

I noticed that I’m dragging it lately. IT being ME. Could it be the change in the weather? Hmmmm. I don’t think so, although Fall is showing more and more signs of itself. Leaves changing and cooler weather. It is my favourite season. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sad, down or depressed. I’m just plain dragging myself.

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So, I did a little research. I discovered that my vibrations are low. If you’re as muddled as I was when I first heard the term “vibrations” let me explain.

Looking into the universe you will find that everything is made of matter and beyond that there are quantum particles and light energy that we are all made up of. Light can move at low frequencies and high frequencies and it has a vibrational tendency that we can see or feel through our senses. Quite simply we feel it though our emotions, and as a result our thoughts and feelings create a vibration that dictates areas of our lives. Some of these may include our relationships, health and happiness.

Wow! That is as scientific as I can get! For those of you that know me, I’m sure you’re impressed. Anyway, if we are on a certain frequency it can affect everything. Whether it’s a positive or negative vibration depends on us! If we are happy, we see nothing but happiness and positivity all around us. If we are upset or sad, then it will be only negativity that we see or feel around us.

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We all have that friend who is so lucky. Everything seems to work out for them. Life is always good. This person has high vibrations. In the same way, what about that friend that is always unhappy and complaining that nothing ever works out for them? They are always sick or sad. Guess what vibration they are on? You got it. LOW.

I’ve been all about positivity this year and making sure that is where my thoughts are. So where did things start to change? Or have they changed?

I started thinking back and realized it was happening right after the Las Vegas shootings. An absolutely awful event in history and myself like most people…I was glued to CNN watching and learning, early in the morning and late at night.  Everything was urgent, there was always a special report as newer details emerged! Fear and sadness was all I felt. My vibrations were being affected.  Our thoughts and behaviours dictate our frequency.  Okay so now that I figured that out and perhaps you are in the same boat. How do we change it? We want and need higher vibrational thinking and feelings.

Be Grateful– Practice saying out loud what you are grateful for. I promise you no one ever feels negative when they are naming all that they are grateful for, in fact you will feel yourself smiling.

Surround yourself with positive people– Positive people will automatically make your vibrations go up. Excuse yourself from those who exude negativity all the time. They will quite simply bring you down.

Activity– If you can’t get to the gym, go for a walk or anything active that will get your blood pumping it will raise your vibrations!

Nature– Take a few moments to notice the beauty of nature, it could be the changing colour of leaves in fall, a rain storm, or just simply bird watching.

Meditation– It’s no coincidence that I noticed my meditation had dropped and my vibrations were affected. Take a few minutes to clear your mind, even just simply deep breathing will help.

Electronics- Do you really need to check face book, twitter and email as many times as you do? Consider limiting this to a few times a day. Instead of all the time. Trust me I know because I was guilty of this.  Consider removing your notifications on things such as Facebook, WhatsApp and twitter. Do you really need to immediately know when someone posts something?

Television- This obviously is an electronic and could be included in the above section on Electronics. But, I wanted to handle it separately. People don’t understand the draining power the news can have on us. The television electro magnetic frequencies are one thing and we need to minimize our exposure to them, in addition the frantic need to be in touch with the news all the time and to be updated on breaking news is not necessary and drains us.  The television can drain our positivity and instead instil fear in us. Work to appreciate your life and what is around you instead. Don’t let the television distract you from doing more positive things.

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There are so many other things I can suggest and if you need more info, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would be happy to help.

In the mean time, pay attention to how you feel around certain people and environments. Work to keep your vibrations raised and take the steps necessary to get there. You are important.

Be Selfish.

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Brian lives under a tarp

Libraries give me the heebie jeebies. I’m not gonna lie.  While studying for both my degrees, I couldn’t handle libraries and you would often find me in places that were ‘happening’.  I needed background noise; the deafening silence of a library drove me up a wall.

Fast forward to today, and one of my fave places to blog has often raised my daughter’s eyebrows and she would warn “I don’t know how safe it is there Mom, go into the library like an ordinary person.” Much to her dismay, I would blog in the foyer or atrium of the library and entertain myself by people watching.  She’s always surprised at how friendly, her brother, dad and I are even towards people we don’t know. She is quieter and much more cautious. I will readily say hello if someone greets me, anyways…

One particular blogging day, a dishevelled young man of no more than 30 years old sat down at a table a few feet from me. He had a rather worn coffee cup with him and a dirty plastic bag of clothes.  I kept typing on my laptop but surreptitiously noted that he was dressed in a faded long sleeved grey top, beige cargo shorts, black and white running shoes, and blue baseball cap. Dangling from his neck was a plastic black cross.  He was homeless. I kept typing.

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Eventually the young man and I began talking about the weather…always the safest of topics among strangers. We talked about the Indian summer we were currently experiencing and our hopes that it would continue for a while. Periods of silence would follow our short conversations and eventually he would tell me that he was homeless, and I feigned surprise. I didn’t think it was right to tell him that I already knew that.  He had only been homeless for a few weeks, he introduced himself as Brian.  I smiled and nodded. He started to tell me his life story, I hadn’t asked:

Brian talked about his childhood, how good things were growing up with his sister and that his mom was a good person “most of the time.”  But he had lost touch with both. He didn’t even know where they lived. He said his dad was pretty much non-existent and an alcoholic. He hated him. He spoke about his years in high school and that he enjoyed it most of the time, he also at one time had an amazing girlfriend.

I kept listening as he announced that he eventually got carried away with alcohol. He told me about rehab and thinking he could conquer alcohol and every time he stayed sober, something would happen and he would be drinking again. He happily said that he was 10 days sober and I congratulated him. He stopped, smiled apologetically and said, “you know, I know you’re busy and I have no idea why I just told you all of this.” I said it was ok.  I gently asked, “how did you end up homeless?” He explained that he had been staying at his ex girlfriend’s place but found her poor parenting skills and overall laziness frustrating and he couldn’t live there anymore. I thought to myself “hmmm he has standards.” So, he went to live in a trailer park with his aunt. He helped her do everything she needed, fix things, clean up etc. Before long, he said management asked him to either pay $40 a day to stay there or leave. He didn’t have money, he didn’t have a job. He said he tried to reason with them, suggested being a handy man, but it seemed that they resented all the work he was doing and said no. So, by early August he was homeless. I asked Brian about local shelters, and he said “yep, I used to rush there and sometimes I would get a bed, other times, I wouldn’t.” Even if he did get a bed, he had to watch his back in “places like that.” “Hmmm” I thought to myself, “he’s smart” There were a few times he got there and the lineup was long and he didn’t get a bed. He told me about one time, when staff suggested he find a spot and sleep outside and gave him a blanket. It didn’t last, because in the middle of the night the cops shone a light on him and told him to move it, “go to the waterfront” they had suggested.

So, he did. He told me he set up a cute little spot with a tarp and some crates. He smiled happily and told me that it was “cozy and really it could be much worse.” His positivity impressed me and made me feel guilty as I thought about some of the first world problems I complain about.

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“So, what’s next for you?” I asked. He said he was currently waiting for someone he met at the waterfront. A guy who told him he may be able to help him get in contact with some good friends in Nova Scotia. He wanted to ask them if he could come out there. He needed a fresh start he said, even if he had to hop from train to train to do it. He laughed.

He stopped talking and gazed out a nearby window.  I quietly went back to typing. I struggled with my thoughts and my blog because I realized that Brian was the first homeless person I had ever spoken too. I mean, I have given food to homeless people that I would sometimes encounter on the street but we never spoke. I never give money because I never want to contribute to any type of addiction. But this was the first time I ever spoke to someone who was homeless and learned their name and their story.

I kept waiting for Brian to ask me if I had any spare change, I was positive he would ask. He didn’t. I kept working on my blog, but thinking of this homeless young man seated a few feet away, really bothered me. We read about the homeless, the young, the old, the squeegee kids, across our country. We see it on tv and we question why does it happen, people drop money into their metal cans. Listen for the clink and move on, on to their lives.

But I have never actually SPOKEN to someone who is homeless, and on this day, I learned a few things from Brian:

He will keep praying for a miracle

He won’t give up

He’s determined to make it

It makes me think about some of our first world problems and the general sense of entitlement many of us feel.  Myself included. “oh my God look at the price of gas!” Brian doesn’t have a car. “seriously leftovers for dinner again?” Brian doesn’t know where his next meal will come from.” The house needs cleaning!” Brian lives at the lake…under a tarp.

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That’s when the guilt kicks in and the sense of wonder, how can something like this happen to our fellow humans? And, if it can happen to them it can happen to me. I wonder how I can help this young man.

A few minutes later, Brian stood up “I don’t think he’s going to show up” referencing his friend. “I’ve also taken up a lot of your time” He smiled apologetically. “It was really nice to talk to you. “I look down at my computer and at a banana I have sticking out of my purse. As if reading my thoughts Brian held up a can of chicken. “They say this is pretty good, I even have some mustard here to go with it… I’m going to be fine. “ I felt totally helpless as he walked away, I told him to take it easy, to take care and good luck.
He smiled and said “everything will be ok, I just know it. “I sat there and thought about that for a while. A homeless young man with his world in a plastic bag, a can of chicken and a bottle of mustard just old ME that everything would be ok.

After he left, it was impossible to go back to the blog I was working on. I decided to google some recent info on homelessness in Canada. A recent CTV report said that there are approximately 235,000 homeless people in Canada! Some of the causes are addiction, mental illness, unemployment, family hardships and broken relations. I had just spoken to one homeless person, he was smart and very nice. There are 234,999  more of him out there and the thought just sickened me.

I found myself thinking back to the days that I used to assist with meal prep at a local soup kitchen. I never met any of the people that came in, because I was usually prepping stuff and setting tables. I was often gone by the time they came in to eat. A good sense of satisfaction came with this volunteer position, it may be time to go back to something similar. I realized that it’s not just about dropping off food at the food bank a couple times a year. It’s more about making a consistent difference.

I guess that’s why I met Brian.

 

TV-http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/homelessness-in-canada-key-statistics-1.2819986