28 April 2015

A Journey We Will Have

This past month took me from Winnipeg in the middle of the country, to Salt Spring Island on the West Coast, and then off to Portugal.  There were planes, trains, and automobiles, awesome weather, new sites to see, and amazing people to get to know.

At the end of March, I hosted my first yoga and meditation retreat under my company name, Journeys on the Mat!  The retreat took us to Stowel Lake Farm on Salt Spring Island where we practiced yoga, meditated, and ate our fair share of delicious and amazing food!  The people who gathered for this retreat were incredible and I feel so fortunate to have had this experience.  I'll be posting more pictures from that experience on the JOTM website soon!

When I returned from the retreat, I had less than 24 hours to get ready for our next adventure!  Dave and I were heading to Portugal to have an early celebration of our fifth anniversary.

Some people have asked us, "Why Portugal?"  We chose it after scouting out Airbnb spaces in Japan.  A little cottage popped up on the site randomly and we saw it was in Portugal.  A little more digging and a few more quaint cottages later and we were sold!  Three solid weeks of being in the country allowed us to savour the culture and our time together.

We started our journey in the Esperança region of the country, staying in an idyllic little cottage surrounded by farmland, goats, and chickens.  Getting there was a journey unto itself.  We traveled from Winnipeg to Edmonton to London to Lisbon.  All good (even with slight delays).  We had landed in the afternoon and picked up our rental car.  All good.  We jump in the car and begin driving as Dave re-familiarized himself with a standard.  All good.  Next thing we know, as we are making our way around a roundabout, the car starts acting weird and the left front wheel begin smoking something awful!  All not so good!  We quickly made our way back to the airport and had to get another car issued to us.  As a result, we got on the road much later than expected and ended up trying to find our space in the dark with no cell phone reception or GPS navigation!  We eventually pulled up in the pitch black of night, shutting off the engine, and suddenly becoming enraptured by the blanket of stars that greeted us overhead.  We tumbled into bed that night...

In the Esperança region, we were only 12km away from the border with Spain. We took time to decompress, take in the surroundings, and enjoy being in a remote location to kick off our adventure. We visited Arronches, Portalegre, Elvas, and other small villages and even took on a 16km 20km hike that took us through pasture, forest, and highway, over the the Spanish border and then back again.  We loved going to the local supermarket and discovering the plethora of amazing breads, cheeses, and wines the country has to offer.  Our five days there were magical and I would recommend our space and that region to anyone traveling to the country.

Orange and lemon trees were in abundance, along with cork trees!

The border with Spain

Our next stop was Óbidos, a very old walled city located near the coast of Portugal in the West.  The town and area are absolutely gorgeous and there was so much to do and see!  We walked the wall around the city, took time to peek into shops offering a variety of wares, and then made time each day to go visit a different place.  We visited Fatima (location of the apparitions of Mary to three young shepherd children), Batalha (the site of one of three gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage sites - a large monastery), Nazaré (the site of some of the world's largest waves and where Steve McNamara holds the record for the largest wave ever surfed), Tomar (the site of another of the UNESCO WH site monasteries), Peniche and Buddha Eden (a wild and crazy space where a huge number of Buddhas and other sculptures are being kept), Alcobaça (the site of the THIRD UNESCO WH site monastery, and my favourite for the stories it told of love, loss, and jealousy).  We also took time to hike around the Lagoa de Óbidos.  A gorgeous bay that has tons of walking, hiking, and biking trails around it that all lead to the sea where you can catch fisherman casting their lines, hoping for something to bite.  We had incredible weather the entire time we were there and our little cottage just outside the walled city provided just the space we needed to recharge after each day.

Along the coast
Just one of the many Buddhas at Buddha Eden
The view from the wall
Monastery views

Cobblestone that can turn any ankle
Hoping for a bite

Our third stop was in Porto, supposedly one of the most romantic cities in Portugal.  We did a lot of walking around town along the waterfront.  The space we stayed in was absolutely incredible with views of the bridge and of Gaia just across.  One evening, we walked across the (very!) tall bridge and into Gaia where old Port houses still remain standing.  In Porto, we enjoyed exploring the pedestrian mall, popping into shops selling local goods, and having dinner along the water.  Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse during our time in Porto and our last day was filled with rain.  The skies mirrored the emotions of fans of the Bayern Munich football club who had just lost to the local team.

View from our space in Porto.  That is Gaia across the river.
Cable car

Portugal is known for the tile work.  This building was no exception.

Finally, we made our final stop in Lisbon.  We drove back to the airport, dropped off the car, and then made our way by train into the city.  More specifically, we were staying in the Alfama district (the oldest) of Lisbon.  We were greeted at our little apartment by the owner and then set off to see what we could find.  We popped into shops, did our laundry (which we had to hang just outside the apartment windows to dry! I loved it!), and toured the cobblestone streets that made up the district.  At night, you could hear Fado music pouring from the restaurants and one evening we dined outside. On our last day, we took time to wander some more, enjoying our last day in country and packing up for our long journey home.

09 February 2015

Winnipeg These Days

I realize I haven't blogged much since everything came down to us moving to Winnipeg this summer. There never seems to be time - or inspiration - to get a blog going.  Or at least a blog post that I feel would be at all interesting for me to read in ten years (because let's be honest...that's who these words are really for...the "in-ten-years-from-now-Heather" who will want to reminisce on those long days forgotten).

So, I'm ready to make another concerted effort at blogging here.  If anything, to leave my mark on this little space of the web and on the story of my own life.

To be fair, Winnipeg has been a challenge, but in a good way (at least I like to think so!).

Part of that challenge is that I don't really feel like I arrived here until the end of January (I was on the road in November and then we were gone for a good part of December and then was gone for almost two weeks in January).  That made it difficult to settle in and get to know the city a little better.

Another piece at play is our finances.  Dave and I successfully managed to erase our consumer debt when we first got married in just under 18 months.  To say that is something we are immensely proud of is an understatement.  However, we also have big plans moving forward and, as such, we don't give ourselves a lot of "fun money."  When you live in a city, "fun money" is part of the equation when it comes to seeing all there is to offer - museums, art galleries, restaurants, concerts, etc.  Instead, we choose to save our money for what we know is to come in the future and therefore feel a touch of the cabin fever, especially during this dark and cold time of year (there are only so many walks one can take when the windchill is -40 out, okay?).  

It has meant however, that we've explored some lovely spaces like Assiniboine Park and Bird Hill.  When we do get outside, we like it to be a bit unique and not just continue tromping the same path through the same neighbourhood night after night.

It's been difficult to get connected here...in part of what I mentioned above, but also because the work I am doing currently is all online.  I recently started as the Communications Director for the School of Sacred Arts and am focusing on my business, Journeys on the Mat.  However, because all of that is online, the face-to-face interaction has been a bit...well, lacking.  As a result, my rare day working from the coffee shop results in an almost lengthy conversation with the baristas as they have been my only source of conversation during the day.  Thanks to the baristas at Little Sister Coffee Maker and Thom Bargen over the past week.  They probably don't remember me, but I remember them because they made me feel as though I was a part of something bigger than myself.  

Ah, that pesky need for community and connection!  :-)

On the flip side of that, we have amazing friends here - both old and new - that have made the transition here much easier.  It's meant homes to visit, meals to be shared and conversations to be had.  We are incredibly fortunate to have the friends we do have here and it's made our days brighter because of it. 

The weather.  Ah, how could I post about Winnipeg and not post about the weather.  After a slight warm up in January, we are back to good, old-fashioned winter.  It's been snowy and cold and my morning yoga routines find me with woolly socks, a touque, and three layers on top.  Luckily, the sun is coming up earlier and setting later, so the lengthened daylight is bringing up our spirits.  The cold here has affected my Raynauds to a point where my "dead" fingers and toes are a regular occurrence...even in our little abode.

Speaking of abodes...our little home is one of the best parts of being here.  We knew we wanted something smaller than what we had in Moose Jaw...and we got it.  585 square feet of nesting goodness.  It made us pare down (a practice we continue) and determine what was essential...especially as we move closer to our goal of building and owning a tiny home on wheels.  Our space is minimalist, clean, calming, and forces us (in a good way!) to work more closely with one another.  Living here has made us even more anxious for the transition to be in a tiny home!

All things considered, there is so much good stuff on the horizon...

Dave and I are adventuring in Portugal soon!

I'll begin teaching yoga and meditation in Winnipeg at the Dragon Arts Collective space in April.

The first Journeys on the Mat yoga and meditation retreat is taking place at the end of March on Salt Spring Island!

Dave will be getting back to Moose Jaw - to fly and see our awesome friends.

We have big plans for cheap camping excursions this summer!

Until next time...stay warm!

05 February 2015

And...January Came to an End

And, then there was January...

It's amazing how quickly time seems to be going these days.

January was a whirlwind of travel, illness, family, and warm(ish) temperatures here at home.  

Dave and I returned home from a wonderful trip to Vancouver Island over the holidays.  We visited Comox, Tofino and Courtenay.  We saw friends, ate amazing food, enjoyed the sunshine, walked along the beach and just tuned out so we could tune into each other...much needed after a busy year.  

We went snowshoeing and even got to know Salt Spring Island.  A gorgeous little island off the coast of Vancouver Island.  I'll be hosting a yoga and meditation retreat there this March and wanted to do a site visit to Stowel Lake Farm, the gorgeous and magical space the retreat will be held.

We returned home and right away I was on another flight down to the States to see family and to run my second Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge (39.3 miles over two days).  I was still feeling run down from my time in Bali, but I managed to crank it out with the support of Mom and Dad.  Thank goodness they were there to keep me fed, warm, and well-motivated!  We enjoyed time in Florida together, visiting the Magic Kingdom, riding new rides, and just hanging out!  

I also got quality time with Melissa as we enjoyed some tea at the awesome Queen Bee Coffee Company.  We talked and laughed and just savoured the moment, enjoying our down time in that quiet little corner of McDonough, Georgia.  Go visit the cafe if you are in that neck of the woods!

From Georgia I went up to Pennsylvania to spend quality time with my grandmother and godmother.  We toured the shops, had a lovely lunch, and my grandma and I even made soup together!  It was fun getting some alone time with each of them without the hustle and bustle of a holiday surrounding us.  My aunt and I just chilled out, watching Top Chef and eating takeout food!  Perfect ways to spend cold days in PA!

And now...Winnipeg.  I've been busy serving as the new Communications Coordinator for the School of Sacred Arts (the team that I earned my yoga teacher certification from back in April of 2014) and continuing to build my own business, Journeys on the Mat.  I'm getting excited for my retreat and can't wait to start teaching yoga and meditation here in Winnipeg beginning in April!

So...just a quick re-cap, but that's the news from the Moose Jaw Minute!

18 December 2014

Happy Holidays and A Reflection on this Amazing Year

I love this time of year...it's no secret...I am such a fan of the twinkling lights, the music, movies like Elf, It's Wonderful Life and Love Actually, catching up with friends old and new, the mugs of hot cocoa I make three times two times once per day, and the general belief that the world really does get better this time of year.  Call me a sucker...I'll take it all...with bunting and bows on the side.

I spent the first part of this holiday season in Bali with Ganesh, serving as an assistant with the School of Sacred Arts on their 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in Ubud.  It was an awesome and exhausting month that was finished off with the grande finale of watching 28 students graduate and enter the yoga community as teachers!  I had the chance to reconnect with my amazing teachers - Simone MacKay, Cat Kabira, Bex Tyrer, Randall O'Leary, Tina Nance, Dr. Brown, Eka Sabeh - and friends.  I ate delicious vegan food every day, sipped nut milk lattes under the blazing sun and monsoon downpours, enjoyed immersing myself in yoga culture again and re-igniting my passion for the love, unity and understanding this practice fosters.

It was a little odd beginning the holidays with palm trees and temperatures in the upper 20s (80s) and tons of humidity, but I now realize it was the perfect way as it stoked my inner gratitude fire.

Ganesh in holiday glow.

In retrospect, this has been a year of immense growth and change for me.

January kicked off and it was the first time since the age of thirteen that I didn't have some semblance of a paycheque coming my way!  I had left my job as the National Manager of Diversity & Inclusion at the YMCA of the USA's headquarters in Chicago at the end of December 2013 after much deliberation.  As such, January meant I found myself at The Yoga Loft in Moose Jaw day in and day out, working out my time off on the mat and pondering what my next steps in life were going to be.  I knew I had my 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in Bali coming up in April, but that was really the next thing on my radar.  Dave and I had time to get re-acquainted with each other living under the same roof (finally!) and we spent time taking walks (yes, even when it was -40 out!), cooking dinners together and just enjoying being with one another.

February brought more of the same and we took a little vacation to the magical land of Canmore.  We enjoyed our mini-break by snowshoeing, hiking in the snow and I even tried my hand at cross-country skiing (read: FAIL).  We spent many a night by the fire, watching the 2014 Winter Olympics unfold, cheering on both the US and Canadian teams (the women's hockey match was devastating for me and a joyous occasion for Dave) and sampling as many dark and luscious craft beers we could find!

Canmore Mountain Goodness
By March, we were both tired from the winter weather and ready for some respite.  I was beginning to get things in gear for my Bali adventure and Dave was looking forward to the end of April and the beginning of May when he would join me for a week in Indonesia.  We spent Dave's birthday weekend (the coldest weekend of the winter) in Saskatoon at the beginning of the month and spent another weekend visiting friends in Winnipeg (little did we know what was in store for us later this year!).  

In April, I boarded several flights taking me from Regina to Ubud, Bali where my yoga teacher training unfolded at The Yoga Barn.  I've written enough about the adventure, but suffice it to say, this training has such a profound impact on me - emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.  I made new friends, learned so much and experienced a space I never imagined I would ever visit in my life. Ubud has crawled its way into my heart and I was so excited at the end of the training when the co-Founder and one of my teachers, Simone, asked if I would be interested in coming back to assist during the November training.  As you well know, the answer was yes and I knew when I departed that it wouldn't be for very long.  At the end of the training, Dave joined me and we ventured into the more mountainous region of Bali to stay at a lovely little spot called Heaven in Bali.  It truly was.  Every morning involved breakfast looking out over a ravine and every night ended on our little porch sipping wine and reflecting on our adventures.  It was a great opportunity for us to share and reconnect after yet another month apart.

Lotus Studio at The Yoga Barn.
At the beginning of May, we returned to Moose Jaw and I then quickly took off again for a US tour to see family and friends.  The trip took me to Illinois, Oregon, Arizona, Georgia and DC where I got to catch up with and hang out with my amazing family and friends.  It was a whirlwind, but one worth being caught up in!  At the end of the month, I began teaching at The Yoga Loft in Moose Jaw (thanks to Robyn Cunningham, the amazing founder and owner).  I love teaching and enjoyed every class and every interaction with the students.  I felt so grounded and so excited to start sharing what I learned and was even more excited to continue my role as a student, learning from the other instructors there and learning from every person who walked in the door of the studio.  As winter turned to spring, Dave and I took more walks and spent more time in Moose Jaw as conversations about where we would be going next heated up.  It was at that point we discovered that we wouldn't be going anywhere but would be remaining in Moose Jaw for the foreseeable future.

June heralded warmer temperatures and yet another opportunity for us to tackle another adventure.  At the end of the month, we made our way to hike up to Abbott's Pass, a climb Dave had done the previous summer with a group of friends, but one I hadn't yet experienced.  It was major!  The weather was quite fierce for that time of year and while the bottom of the climb was sunny and warm, by the time we reached the hut, it was blowing and snowing like it was the middle of winter!  We had a great time there, chatting with fellow climbers, drinking hot chocolate (who doesn't like that?!) and watching the snow swirl outside.  We made it down in one piece and celebrated our adventure in high style by making our way to Canmore to enjoy a "hero beer" and a hearty meal.

July brought major changes as the military opted to send us to Winnipeg!  At the end of the month, we took a week-long venture to the city to determine where we wanted to live and to begin the process of securing our housing for when we arrived at the end of August.  In addition, that meant cleaning up our place in Moose Jaw and getting it ready to put on the market!  Whew!  Our house in the Jaw sold after it's second showing and we found a lovely little spot in Osborne Village in a converted church that we now call home.  

August was moving month and we packed everything up and loaded it on to the U-Haul.  After many goodbye dinners and outdoor picnics, it was time to say goodbye to the place Dave had called home for over 10 years.  There were tears, hugs and lots of laughter as we reminisced with our military family.  We drove out of Moose Jaw on the 28th of August heading East toward the bigger city life that awaited us in Winnipeg.  Bittersweet, to be sure...but, new adventures are always fun.

Moving day...UHaul Fun!

September brought yet another change for both of us as Dave began his new position and I found myself minus work again.  We quickly set up our new place together and I began working on starting my own business, Journeys on the Mat.  Throughout September, my training for the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge (happening in January) ramped up and I was able to explore Winnipeg on foot logging many 30+ miles on the weekends with Dave as my pit crew!  I jogged, ran and weaved over trails and pavement exploring parks, rivers and neighbourhoods.  We spent many nights walking the streets, getting familiar with the city and adjusting to our new surroundings.  Moving is always a challenge and it can cause quite the strain on relationships, but by always keeping priorities in order, anyone can make it through!

October was a quiet month for us.  I continued getting things set up for Journeys on the Mat and was officially registered in Manitoba as a business!  We made new friends and spent time at our local pub as well as with our military family here in the Peg.  I was getting myself ready to return to Bali and Dave continued to settle into work, taking a trip or two to the Jaw to get some flying under his belt.  

And there we have it!  The year in review!  As you know, November had me back in Bali and December is winding down.  For the holidays we are heading out to Vancouver Island (Sidney, Victoria, Tofino and Comox) to spend time with friends and with each other in the place we love the most.  We are looking forward to long walks on the beach, hiking awesome ocean-side trails and taking in the sights, smells and sounds of the season.  

Ah...Tofino life!
I'll end with this...

Yoga means "union" and I fully understand how important this concept is as our lives continue to move faster and we can feel less connected.  This union is what helps us all remember where we have come from, where we are now and all the things we have yet to understand and experience.  I wish you "union" for the New Year - with connection to yourself, connection to family and friends, and connection to those experiences that feed your soul and fuel your inner fire.  Thank you all for your support and love this year...

I wish you nothing but joy, love and peace during this time of year and even more so as we move into 2015. 

23 November 2014

A Little Love Note from Bali

'Tis the season for tinsel, mashed potatoes, hot chocolate and...

young coconuts, tank tops and flip-flops.

I'm back in Bali!  While I am sorely and deeply missing the snow and cold of Winnipeg (seriously, I'm not kidding), it is a certain kind of wonderful to not be freezing constantly and having to wear five layers all day (and that is while I am in the house).  

I am living in Ubud for another month while I assist on a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training with the School of Sacred Arts.  It is a fantastic gig and so great to be back in this town, diving back into my old haunts and reconnecting with this beautiful and mystical island.  I've already been here two weeks and I have two more to go...

The days are full with asana (physical yoga practices), lectures, coordination of students and supplies and meditation.  I am so fortunate to be connected to his yoga community and am looking forward to remaining invested and involved.  I'm a lucky gal!

My hearts go out to those in New York who are sitting under all the snow...I am sending warmer vibes (minus the flooding) your way.

03 November 2014

Nature Wonderland

Dave and I love getting out of the city when we can.  Over the past weekend, we met some awesome people in our building and one of them mentioned that we might enjoy Birds Hill Provincial Park, just outside of Winnipeg.

So, we went and it was fabulous!  I can tell this will be our new escape plan when we need a little respite from the hustle and bustle of the cars, buses, trucks, buildings and other things the city offers up on a daily basis. 

We walked, talked and held hands.  
We watched little birds swoop around us and took in the setting sun.  

We appreciated the big prairie sky we found ourselves under.  
We appreciated having this little space of nature to enjoy whenever we desire.  

And...most of all...we appreciated how lucky we are.

17 October 2014

Our Little Neighbourhood

Dave and I are a little over a month into our new home of Winnipeg and I'm excited to report that we couldn't have found a lovelier part of the city to live in.

Our home is in Osborne Village and, as Winnipeg Tourism put it..."Boho and artsy meet kitsch and cool in the community of Osborne Village—recently named ‘Canada’s Greatest Neighbourhood’ by the Canadian Institute of Planners."

We live in "Canada's Greatest Neighbourhood!"  Too cool.  

We have bakeries, mom and pop shops, pubs, restaurants, parks, the Assiniboine River, Legislature, and events galore, all within walking distance.

Here are few places we've checked out over the past month....

Munson Park
A gorgeous little gem that hugs the river and speaks to my heart.  We often go for walks in the evening and it has become a staple that we walk through it.  We saw it in the summer when we came for our house-hunting trip and I fell in love with its towering trees, dazzling flowers and cozy little pathways.  As summer turned to fall, it delivered an array of reds and yellows that stunned and lured you into the next season.

We just went to this neighbourhood pub the other night.  Awesome space with incredible woodwork inside, the friendliest bartender I've ever met and just an overall awesome vibe.  They have special on until 7 and Dave and I quickly realized we would be coming back much more often!

A hidden little tapas joint off the main road of Osborne.  We celebrated our anniversary with dinner here a few weeks ago, noshing on patatas bravas, a cheese plate and some absolutely incredible fried beets.  The wait was long, so if you are planning on heading over - get there early!  The atmosphere is dark and cozy, perfect for long winter's nights when snow is blanketing the ground outside.

So, if you come to visit, just know there will be plenty of things and places for us to do and see!