cars.

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My husband and son like to talk about cars, just recreationally discuss them. They enjoy watching shows about cars on T.V., and going to car shows in real life. It’s fun for them to spend hours and hours messing around with cars, fixing them up just how they want them. The things that can be done to cars to make them do car things in better, louder, faster ways are endlessly fascinating to these two people I know and love.

I generally just tune out such talk and activity as background noise. They’re happy, that’s enough. On the rare occasions when my son kindly involves me in such conversations, I try to be a good listener because I love him. But I suspect that my eyes glaze over despite my best efforts. In short, I’m not a car fan.

That said, I am convinced that cars (and by cars I mean motorized vehicles of various kinds, including ambulances) have saved countless lives. And not just directly; how many places in the world are able to have necessary supplies on a regular basis because of trucks? And I don’t have to wonder how many people would miss out on countless experiences and opportunities without the ability to get from one place to another in a relatively short time, without cars.

I love the mountains, lakes, and beaches. I’m able to access such places to go hiking and camping only because of the invention of the automobile. I also love my grown children and sisters and parents and cousins and other relatives. I’m able to live hundreds of kilometres away from these dear people and still see them fairly often thanks to cars.

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Also, grocery shopping. Errands. Going to IKEA. Church. Dates. Late-night movies. Doctor’s appointments. Library visits that end with large stacks of books. Apart from vacations and extended visits with far-off friends and family, there are thousands of little, practical ways that cars make our day-to-day lives so much more convenient and comfortable.

Where I (and a lot of other people) live, most things are more accessible by such vehicles. People who don’t drive, whether out of necessity or by choice, still benefit from buses, rides in cars, and things being delivered to shops etc nearby, usually by truck or van. It’s how we get to the farmer’s market, the hospital, the bank, and the ski hill. And it’s how Amazon gets to us.

In my heart I sometimes yearn for the long ago or far away walkability of being able to get around without cars; I’m not going to lie. And when we lived in England, I enjoyed a lot more of that. But even there, castles in the country were easier to get to by car.  

Any way I look at it, I can’t get around being grateful for the blessing of cars. They help.

So blessed,

Leah 

 

camera phones.

Practical things. Like sending a friend pictures of seeds for our shared garden during a text conversation. How handy is it that we always have a camera on us?

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And how much handier is it that whatever image we capture at any given moment, we can instantly send or share it with anyone else?!

Clearly this picture never had the potential to change the world, but how many times have I been at the store and wondered if I was looking at or holding the right item. Not a problem; I just take a photo of it and send it to whoever I’m texting with or talking to. Right then and there.

This reminds me of a concept I’ve heard about; hedonic adaptation. This term just refers to the way we quickly absorb the waves of happiness that good things bring to our lives; at first we may be tickled pink to enjoy a new pleasure or convenience, but not for long. I’ve only had a camera phone in my hand for about half of my life, but it’s so easy for me to forget how much of a privilege it actually is.

And speaking of privilege… 😉 a couple months ago, shortly before COVID-19 closed things down, I treated myself to a gel manicure. My natural fingernails often behave like puff pastry and think they should shred and peel at the slightest provocation. I know; I need more collagen. I’m working on it. In the meantime, I’d gone in to a nail studio for a quick fix. It was a busy place. While I was waiting, I took the opportunity to choose the colour I wanted, to save time once my appointment actually started. Snap. I was ready with my image when my nail technician asked. Just so. Then, as I was about to leave, I saw a sign which promised that if I posted a photo of my nails in the salon, I’d be entered in a draw for a free manicure. Accordingly, I quickly took a little picture of my much-improved hands, and posted it to my instagram feed, tagging the nail shop.

Again, not earth-shattering. Still, for every such innocuous example, there must be dozens out there of camera phones to the rescue on matters of much greater import.

So blessed,

Leah 

p.s. Did I win the draw for a free manicure? This remains to be seen; there must still be a remote chance that I’ll get a call once business gets back underway. It’s possible…

French Your Way.

I love listening to the charming and pretty voice of this passionate French language teacher!

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“To have another language is to possess a second soul.”
Charlemagne

I don’t know if I can go quite that far, but I do agree with the basic sentiment; language expresses so much culture! And I do find the French language beautiful and fascinating.

I’m studying with the University of Calgary to become a professional English language teacher, for people who have a different first language. So I think it’s key for me to come back to studying my second language. Being on the learner end adds essential perspective. Empathy.

If you, like me, took French classes in school, and have some extra time on your hands, maybe you’d like to take a listen. If so, here’s a link to Jessica’s podcast webpage:

French Your Way podcast

I initially found French Your Way on the apple podcast app in my phone, but to start at the beginning, and get the very earliest episodes I went to her website. This was serendipitous; online I found Jessica’s free articles and worksheets full of helpful tips and opportunities to practice. She’s  a very experienced professional, so anything I can learn from her is a gift!

I’m sure there are countless online resources for learning other languages, but this one is a favourite of mine. This lovely lady is a native French speaker who studied for 7 years in University before embarking on a language teaching career that allowed her to travel and work in various places.

She eventually settled in Australia, where she now lives with her husband and baby daughter. Once or twice while listening to a podcast I’ve caught a tiny baby voice in the background, which is very sweet to me. Because- babies are adorable. I hope that as her little girl grows up speaking her mother’s beautiful language, I might hear her again.

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Orlova Maria (unsplash)

High-quality, free French language-learning resources.

So blessed,

Leah 

city parks.

“In merging nature and culture the most successful cities combine such universal needs as maintaining or restoring contact with the cycles of nature, with specific, local characteristics.”
― Sally A. Kitt Chappell, Chicago’s Urban Nature: A Guide to the City’s Architecture + Landscape

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This afternoon my love and I took our bikes out for a beautiful ride along the river… It wasn’t as warm outside on the cycling path as I’d optimistically hoped, so I stopped after a few minutes to put on my light sweater jacket. And zip it up. A bit breezy. But that’s ok; I’m still feeling celebratory about venturing outdoors without mittens, or even gloves.

We pedalled east, along with the flow of the beautiful blue-green Bow River… and it didn’t take us too long (maybe half an hour?) to arrive at our destination; Prince’s Island Park. It’s actually right downtown, and all the people were out enjoying the spring weather along with the two of us today. Well-spaced out. (Thanks, COVID-19.)

We saw Canada geese (some of our nation’s most unfriendly inhabitants), other cyclists, dogs (making us wish harder for one), and people in bikinis (seriously) and hammocks, walking, sitting, and lying on the grass. I had a sudden urge to feel my bare feet in the warm grass, which is starting to show signs of turning green. It felt SO good!

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Country living is a dreamy ideal, a memory from my childhood, but not realistic for me now. Clearly, I’m not alone; most people live in cities. I really appreciate city parks that give us beautiful and free access to nature, even in the middle of urban places.

So blessed,

Leah 

happier.

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” ~Gretchen Rubin~

This is one great podcast. It’s the first one I ever started listening to, and still a favourite.

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This woman is brilliant. Actually a genius. She left a promising career as a Yale-trained lawyer to become a writer who researches happiness. Also, her smart and funny younger sister, Liz, joins her; the podcast episodes are a dialogue between the two of them, with occasional guests interviewed from time to time.

Most episode include these cute little sections: “Try This At Home”, Happiness Hack”, and “Demerits and Gold Stars” (pretty funny, t.b.h.). These two. Anyway, there’s a huge community of listeners, many of whom write and call in with questions, answers, and sometimes rather amusing arguments.

I’d read some of Gretchen Rubin’s books, beginning with The Happiness Project, and Happier at Home). Eventually I read her newer offerings, and wrote little blog posts about these two: Better Than Before and The Four Tendencies. When I learned she had a podcast, I was excited to hear her talking about all these ideas. But when I heard their voices I was surprised; they sounded so down-to-earth. I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe more cerebral-sounding voices?  Anyway, I find their unabashed openness and vulnerability super relatable.

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Liz (l) and Gretchen (r)

When I first started with the Happier podcast, I was binge-listening for a while as I started at the beginning and gradually ‘caught up’. Now, of course I just listen to them as they’re released. They often make me laugh, and I always learn something or at least get a little vitamin-shot of motivation to look at things a bit differently, and I think it does make me happier, in real life.

So if you’re interested in listening in on this fun little world, here’s where you can find it:

Happier Podcast

Or you may just want to check out this little list:

Best Of Happier Podcast

Enjoy, my friends!

So blessed,

Leah 

p.s. I always do something else while I listen; often ironing or putting away laundry.

sourdough.

I first cultivated my rambunctious ‘starter’ culture years ago, and it’s still going strong. I haven’t named it until now, but I think I’ve just hit on the perfect appellation for this happy and healthy little creature; I’ll call it Baby.

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This is hardly an original thought, now that I think about it. My family and friends have teased me about my ‘bread babies’ for a few years. I can see why; both are soft and squishy, smell delightful, and are ever so satisfying to nurture. Both babies and Baby like to be touched and need to stretch, and grow especially well when tucked up in a cozy warm place for frequent naps. Both have within them innate qualities; given the right conditions and enough tender loving care, both turn out more wonderful than the mama or the baker can really take credit for…

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When my children were in high school and my house was full of my little dayhome children, I baked 2 loaves a day. At lunch hour, the house seemed to fill up with teenagers who obligingly devoured homemade sourdough bread, helped heartily by the half dozen cute little people who populated it all day with me. Those were the days…

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Sourdough baking is an addictive behaviour, as many will attest. I once saw a man’s twitter account introduction in which he described himself as a ‘pathological sourdough baker’. I could write an entire blog on the subject; many enthusiasts do. But I’ll stick to an occasional post here and there on the topic of my wild-yeasty friends and their exploits.

Again, this is another sweet and simple thing that enriches my life every day, including now, during the pandemic. It makes me happy; making it, seeing it grow, baking it, eating it, and sharing it.

So blessed,

Leah

 

security.

We’ve got it so good. Do we really know how good we’ve got it?

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Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

When I say security, I’m not talking about a security system or security guards. I’m more talking about the comfort we have knowing we’ll be ok for home and food, etc.

Those of us who are so blessed as to be sure of our homes and not worry about feeding ourselves and our families for the coming days are part of a very small minority of people in the world. In the oft-repeated words of Precious Ramotswe, one of my favourite characters in modern literary fiction, written by the brilliant Alexander McCall Smith, (The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency):

“This is a well-known fact.”

Like many other Canadians, and people in most parts of the world, I’ve been unable to go to my work since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Like so many others, I’m healthy, and would be glad to work if only I could. But since my employment is on hold, so (of course) is my income. This is a first for me, and let me tell you; I’m so grateful to live in a place where there is financial assistance available through the government to help us ride this crazy wave.

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Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

Because of benefits like this, millions of people who would otherwise suffer loss of homes and food insecurity are able to pull themselves and their families through times of economic instability. We can concentrate our pent-up energies on doing our part to keep ourselves and our communities healthy.

So blessed,

Leah 

 

 

 

dutch blitz.

I’m not really one for card games. But this one is definitely an exception.

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Little did I know what good times I was bringing home to my family when I picked this up randomly, shopping one day several years ago. You may wonder why I haven’t gotten rid of this poor old box, and just wrapped the deck of cards in a rubber band. This is why:

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While I appreciate and admire those talented individuals who can ‘do accents’, I am not one of them. But when I read the little ditty on the back of this box, I think I actually sound a bit Dutch. Maybe not, but it’s fun to try. 

It’s simple, even straightforward to understand how to play. The hilarious intensity is because it’s played all at once! No turn-taking. No dull moments in between turns. No mind-wandering. Nope.

Each player gets one of these sets (from the main deck). If you want to play with more than 4 players at a time, there’s an expansion pack you can buy. Personally, my attention is spread to full capacity with four players. One of our adult daughters has A.D.H.D., and playing Dutch Blitz with her is enough to make my head spin. She’s definitely at an advantage in this game!

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The general idea is to make lots of red, blue, yellow, and green stacks of cards in the centre of the table, each stack beginning with a 1 and ending with a 10. There’s a pattern to how and when to use the cards in each players’ hand, and it’s fun.

Don’t take my word for it, though. I’m pretty sure you can order it on Amazon. During this pandemic, a lot of us have extra time at home with our families (or housemates), and this is just one more way to enjoy it.

Here’s the official Dutch Blitz website, which has a video you can watch to see the game played:

 
The craziest, and best memory I have of playing this is from last summer. My husband and I were out car camping with our two adult daughters. It was cold and pouring rain there in the majestic mountains of Banff National Park, so we all squished into the back of our little Subaru Forester to play a few rounds of Dutch Blitz. In all honesty, we didn’t actually fit. Oddly though, we all cheerfully contorted ourselves into pretzels in order to laugh our way through this silly game together. Good times. 
 
So blessed, 
 

Leah