Monday, September 28, 2009

Calling all mail lovers!

Niku Arbabi is accepting new participants for her monthly mail subscription service, The Lovely Letterbox! There are various options available: from two to six month subscriptions.

Niku is the mail artist & zine extraordinaire behind The Ephemeral Mailbox Museum, a wonderful little Etsy shop filled with delightful and sweet surprises. She describes the packages as follows, "Your mail treats will be loosely themed around the following: mail art, crafts, and zines. Supplies and ephemera, zines from my archive, and items that I create specifically for the Lovely Letterbox will be included".

If a subscription isn't your thing, please check out her other goodies at The Ephemeral Mailbox Museum. I've ordered Niku's zines in the past through her shop, as well as Parcell Press, and fell in love with her aesthetic! In fact, I carried her zines in my purse for months after receiving them and pulled them out to admire them whenever I had the chance but have since decided to preserve them at home with some of my other mail art treasures. (I was concerned about the wear-and-tear.) They make lovely gifts - for yourself and others - and are a great source of inspiration!

Thanks, Niku!

(Check out Niku's blog for more details about the The Lovely Letterbox and to learn more about her.)

Extra long weekend

When I woke up this morning, it was pouring out which made me smile because I had absolutely nowhere to be. Our class schedule this month is really nice because we frequently have extra long weekends with Mondays and Fridays off.

After J & H left the house, I made myself a chai soy latte and settled into my day. I decided to make the most of it by watching movies, baking bread, whipping up some potato salad, doing school work (well, sort of but not really) and as always, spending time on my computer. I felt productive but the pace was really nice and relaxed. Oh yeah, and the onion and "cheese" bread turned out really well. (I've shared the recipe below.) We're going to have some of it tonight with J's homemade split pea soup and kale chips. Can't wait!

I also had a really lovely conversation with someone very special from my hometown. I'm glad that we had the chance to catch up today. She's always so encouraging and such a positive person!

Back to school tomorrow. It's another short week but an exciting one. Lots of things happening.

Hope you had a happy Monday and a nice start to the week! Talk soon. xo
No Yeast Bread

4 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 1/2 cups water


Mix all ingredients in bowl and knead 5 minutes. Shape into a round loaf put cornmeal on the bottom and place on a baking sheet. Put in to preheated 400 degree oven and bake 40 minutes.

Makes: 1 loaf, Preparation time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: 40 minute

(Recipe courtesy of VegWeb)

I think I'm going to use this recipe as a foundation for other loaves. This time, I added 1/2 a package of onion soup mix and shredded some vegan cheese which I folded into the dough. I also brushed the loaf with melted margarine after about 25-30 minutes.

Just a few suggestions: the loaf was a bit dry so feel free to add a bit more liquid. Also, I kneaded the loaf to really mix the ingredients together but I may have kneaded it too much as the bread was a wee bit tough (but still incredibly flavorful and tasty). Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Autumn!

Today is the Autumn Solstice which marks the first day of Autumn! To celebrate, J made a really delicious, hearty stew of seasonal veggies and I made a pear and apple crumble for dessert. On the weekend, H & I might go for a walk in the park to collect acorns and leaves, then come home and make some corn bread. In the past, to celebrate other Solstices, H & I bought special little dainties and lit candles. We also put our crystals out on the window sill and put positive wishes on them.

I love Autumn! It's such a special time of year where the colors are bursting, the air is crisp, the produce is ripe and ready for harvesting and there are fun celebrations to be had. I think of apple picking, visiting pumpkin patches and Halloween. When I write about Autumn the words feel robust and full of richness. It's one of my favorite times of the year.

Happy Autumn to you! Hope you had a nice day! xo

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tree of Life

On Friday I went to workshop held by the Narrative Therapy Centre called The Tree of Life. The workshop was amazing and so inspiring! The Tree of Life is an arts-based narrative approach that was created as a tool to work with children who've experienced trauma or difficult times. Apparently, it was the result of, what they call, reflection groups that were working with children in Africa who had lost their parents to AIDS. She commented on how there would be up to 100 children, at times, and the wailing was so intense and deep. They developed this approach in response.

The facilitator, Angel Yuen, was excellent. She is a private therapist in Durham and a school social worker in Toronto. She's also one of the founding members and faculty of the Narrative Therapy Centre, as well as a member of the Dulwich Centre team in Adelaide, Australia. She was so knowledgeable and an amazing presenter as she shared her experiences through personal counselling in her private practice and in the school system (in the most marginalized area of Toronto).

We had opportunities to make our own trees and talk amongst our little groups. She also showed pictures of some of the children she worked with and examples of the trees they created, as well as share a booklet that the children had created to share with other children. The stories in the booklet broke my heart several times over but the messages were very powerful and inspiring.

The purpose of the exercise was to uncover a "Second Story" within the child's trauma, that is, to look at how the child responded to the experiences of the trauma rather than focus on the effects the trauma has caused on the child's life (which would comprise the "First Story").

By focusing on the "Second Story", the problem then becomes externalized and the emphasis is more on the child's "meaning making" skills which can be linked to their values, skills and knowledge they possess. These can then, in turn, provide a way of helping the child find an identity which isn't tied into the problem (which they may have externalized) but rather, help them not lose their sense of self by helping to empower themselves through their own stories.

Of course, the way I'm describing it is very simplistic (or perhaps, confusing) which may not show the richness of this particular exercise. The metaphor of the tree is broken down into it's individual components (roots, trunk, branches, leaves, etc.) which are then compared to various areas of a person's life. The exercise then looks at the Forests of Life and the diversity that exists within such as the different hopes and dreams present in the forest, how the leaves helped the children learn about the important people in their lives and of themselves, etc. The exercise then introduces the metaphor of storms in relation to the trees and in turn, how the children respond or have responded to the storms of their own lives.

I talked to the facilitator afterwards because I was so moved and inspired to learn more about narrative therapy. They're offering workshops and intensives through the Narrative Therapy Centre and the Dulwich Centre. There were a few books available for purchase and I bought one called Maps of Narrative Therapy by Michael White, one of the other founders of the Narrative Therpay Centre. During the workshop, I had a chance to network with some of the other attendees who were doing some amazing work in the community and planned to meet up with one of them in the future to chat further.

I felt so high afterwards. (Does this ever happen to you?) I just felt like I was moving in the right direction and so grateful that I had the chance to attend. I even thought of approaching the coordinator of the program I'm in to see if I could offer a little workshop to my peeps (fellow classmates) because I felt so passionate about it. It's the kind of metaphor than can be used with various populations and for different situations or reasons. I thought it would be a really useful tool to incorporate with career counselling and hope to someday.

Hope you're finding inspiration in your life - wherever it presents itself. Talk soon, friends. xo

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nobody puts Baby in a corner

R.I.P. Patrick Swayze (August 18, 1952 - September 14, 2009)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

School daze

I had a really busy week with settling back into school, volunteer training and my new little gig at the college. It was nice to see my friends at school and socialize with them again. It was fun catching up and taking in the different events happening around the college. One day, there were free hot dogs being given away, as well as snow cones and popcorn plus all kinds of shows taking place on the second floor rooftop. There were fashion shows, djs spinning music and live entertainment. It was bustling, loud and jam-packed, not to mention great for people watching.

As for the class I'm in - it's quite interesting. We've had different guest speakers talk about employment from different perspectives including homelessness and disabilities, as well as the agencies they represent. It's been very enlightening and informative.

Besides school, I also attended two training sessions for the volunteer work I'll be doing with women's programming at a health centre in the city. The facilitators have been amazing and the subject matter is really interesting. So far, we've learned about aspects related to sexual health, social determinants of health and health equity and the history of the organization. I love the way the material is presented - it's a combination of lecture and experiential learning (much like my practicum experience and schooling). I participated in some really creative and effective activities during the sessions which I'll keep in my arsenal for career counselling as some of them can work as energizers or other fun activities. I'm looking forward to the rest of the sessions and learning more about peer education.

Speaking of peers...I also had a shift at the college where I'm a Peer Advisor. There was quite a bit of traffic as students signed up for workshops, asked questions about the services provided or to gain refuge from the busy corridors filled with students. I met a group of students in the same program as me so I had a chance to tell them about my experiences and share any tips that I thought might be helpful.

We don't have classes tomorrow but I'll be going to the college to attend a workshop and then put in a couple of hours at the centre. The rest of the day will be spent working on a Powerpoint presentation for class.

Monday, September 7, 2009

To school

I can't believe it's time to go back to school - for both H and I. The summer just flew by and it seems like only yesterday I was starting my practicum. I have absolutely no complaints about how this summer was spent and am even quite excited about what this fall will bring.

When I was a child, I always loved the whole ritual of buying new clothes and school supplies. Back in the day, my Mom and I would go to Woolco (gosh, that's dating myself now, isn't it?!) to pick up things like Laurentian pencil crayons, a compass and protractor, Hilroy notebooks and paper and those pink gum erasers. I vaguely remember having to try on several pairs of Buster Brown shoes (way back when) and being forced to go to bed horribly early (as if I would be able to suddenly fall asleep after having spent the summer going to bed at grown-up hours).

Now, my little person is going through the same kind of tossing-and-turning I once did. The difference between us is that she's so much more practical and mindful than I was. She didn't feel the need to purchase all brand new, shiny school supplies that I had to have when I was her age. She thought she could recycle a couple of the things she used last year. AND...she felt perfectly fine only getting a few new things to wear as she felt she had enough already. She's such a conscientious and thoughtful person- it brings tears to my eyes.

It's been a long time (many moons, in fact) since I was a student starting classes in September. I always loved the excitement and energy that the start of the school year brought. I can't wait to see what this term will bring.

Wishing all the students going back to school tomorrow a happy day and a wonderful year. Talk soon. xo

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Time to purge

I'm in a purging mood this weekend. It doesn't happen often so I really want to capitalize on it while it hits. Tonight, I began by throwing things out in H's room. It felt good (real good) and I'm looking forward to filling more garbage bags as the days go by. It's time to get rid of old clothes, shoes and reorganize my papers.

(If you don't hear from me in a while, send help.)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Cove

I'm amazed at how passionate people can be. The film, The Cove, exemplifies this to a T. Activist and former dolphin trainer, Ric O'Berry, along with the OPS Team including director Louie Psihoyos, takes the audience on a journey to a small fishing village in Japan called Taiji where heinous acts occur, fueled by a 'multi-billion dollar dolphin entertainment industry and an underhanded market for mercury-tainted dolphin meat'. The documentary uncovers a heart-breaking and horrific story that is told in such a beautiful and powerful way. I was saddened, infuriated, mesmerized, inspired and changed somehow by watching this documentary.

If you get the chance, please watch it. It's an incredible film.

I ♥ Autumn

I go to sleep

Sweet dreams all. G'night. xo

I should have never started it

It was probably a bad idea to start up Pretty in Pink at 3 a.m. I never get sick of it and it sucks me in every time. Right now, Andie (Molly Ringwald) is waiting for Blane (Andrew McCarthy) to pick her up for a date and Duckie (Jon Cryer) is dancing around like a fool. I'm wide awake and will probably end up watching the whole thing. J is sitting beside me on his computer. We've been spending part of the evening organizing our computer files. Wooohoo! Wild Friday night! Teehee. Earlier this evening, we watched some Project Runway and Stepfather II with Terry O'Quinn. I love these kind of late nights.

H is having a sleepover party here with two of her friends and having some fun, too! They spent the evening playing games, giggling, chatting and even watched part of Some Like It Hot (H loves that movie - she's the coolest kid). Now, they're fast asleep...I hope!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Have a nice long weekend, y'all!

However you choose to spend it - hope your weekend's happy!

"She is like an energy-refuelling base"

An article from this morning's Toronto Star:

Japanese premier's wife claims alien abduction

TOKYO–The wife of Japan's incoming prime minister Yukio Hatoyama is a lifestyle guru, a macrobiotics enthusiast, a cookbook author and a retired actress.

Miyuki Hatoyama also says she was abducted by aliens nearly 20 years ago and taken to Venus.

She wrote in Very Strange Things I've Encountered, a book published last year, that she visited another planet before she divorced her first husband.

"While my body was sleeping, I think my spirit flew on a triangular-shaped UFO to Venus," she wrote. "It was an extremely beautiful place and was very green."

Her husband at the time dismissed it as just a dream. "My current husband has a different way of thinking," she said. "He would surely say, `Oh, that's great!'"

Hatoyama, 66, said she also knew actor Tom Cruise in a former incarnation – she says he was Japanese in a previous life – and wants to make a movie with him.

"I believe he'd get it if I said to him, `Long time no see,' when we meet," she said in a recent interview.

Hatoyama has appeared on TV variety shows to discuss topics ranging from spirituality to politics, and became an important part of her husband's election campaign.

She performed a moonwalk while campaigning for a Democratic candidate last month, a Japanese newspaper reported.

Yukio Hatoyama, who heads the Democratic Party of Japan, will be installed as prime minister Sept. 16.

Hatoyama, 62, once said of his wife: "I feel relieved when I get home. She is like an energy-refuelling base."

(From the Star's news services)

Ah, Japan...I sure do miss you.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


In the past two weeks, I've had visits from two very dear girlfriends. The first visit was very brief but jam-packed with fun including a trip to Anthropologie in Yorkville, two star sightings (Noah Wylie was one of them!) and a nice, long session of drinks, munchies and conversation on a patio.

For the second visit, I was fortunate enough to spend five days getting reacquainted and reconnected with a very special friend that I've written about in the past. M and I went to the same girls' school but really got close during our university years. We could spend hours with each other - chatting, laughing or playing pool. (We often joked around that we hoped to find a male counterpart who was just like the other.) We had a very special connection and one that I've been unable to replicate with another girlfriend. I could always be my crazy and wacky self around her. She just seemed to "get" me. Having M here reminded me of how much I missed spending time with her. It felt like old times and I was happy to see that we "still got it".

We went around Toronto and I introduced M to some of my favorite spots. She also had the chance to meet my husband for the first time and get to know both him and my little person. (Coincidentally, she was the very first person to find out I was expecting! It was in her bathroom that I administered the pregnancy test as we were on our way out to the movies!)

We dropped M off at the airport yesterday afternoon and found a thoughtful card on our kitchen table when we got home. (As if it wasn't enough that she treated us to a wonderful meal before she left and treats during her stay!)

Thanks so much for everything, M! I've missed you!

But oh! The blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

(Dinah Craik, A Life for a Life, 1859)

What you love

My practicum ended on Friday, August 28th. My supervisor took me out for lunch to a wonderful Thai restaurant and we exchanged gifts and sentiments. I felt incredibly fortunate to have been paired up with her as my supervisor for the practicum. She was an amazing mentor and gave me many opportunities to challenge myself. She provided every opportunity for me to debrief with her, gain constructive feedback, develop and apply the skills that I came with, cultivate new skills, explore avenues that might be of interest to me and inspired me with her professionalism and kindness. The rest of the staff were also very supportive by letting me observe and ask questions throughout my "stay". I always felt welcomed and part of the team. One of the other counsellors shared my love of paper and we had some very special conversations that I won't soon forget. I'm going to miss going in every day and seeing everyone but have been asked to work on a newsletter by the manager which is very exciting!

I learned first-hand about the many facets of the counselling process from intake to individualized counselling; assisting and co-facilitating with stand-alone workshops on job search techniques to formal group settings (exploring careers, self-assessment and dealing with transitions); one-on-one resume critiques to administering assessments, as well as report writing and creating action plans. I discovered how much I love one-on-one counselling, particularly because it's very much about hearing people's narratives and working with them individually. Despite being an introvert, I did enjoy facilitating workshops and found that I'm capable of modulating my voice but just need more practice. I'm looking into Toastmasters or some other group that I could join to improve these skills for the fall.

The most valuable thing that happened during my ten weeks was the re-evaluation of my decision to pursue Career Counselling and how I fit in as a professional in the field. I witnessed how the counselling process is capable of transforming lives and effecting change – whether it be by increasing an individual’s confidence, allowing a person to dream and explore different career paths or finding meaning in their lives (all of which have been the case for me). In this sense, I felt that my practicum has been life-changing. For this, I’m forever grateful.