Quite the Adventure: My Bags are Packed and I’m Ready to Go.

I have been planning this trip for quite sometime now and it has just come to fruition. The dream was a winter out of the snow and somewhere near salt water, sand and sunshine.  I am only semi-retired and not independently wealthy so there was a financial challenge to overcome.  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…..how to have it all????

I questioned my friends and acquaintances, scoured websites, and sent my prayers out to the Universe.  I’ve been very intrigued with the concept of Workaway. Take a look at  their website – so many opportunities around the world.  In the end, I found an opportunity through a good friend of my mine with her sister in Mexico.  For the next 4 months, I will be volunteering in Rocky Point, Mexico helping with their AirBnb business.  Check it out here.

The first hurdle was to get there without spending a lot of money.  Travelling across the USA for free.  There had to be a way.  I found it with Toronto Drive-Away Service.  I applied online in September and heard back from them promptly.  Early in October they gave me my assignment.  I drove a brand new Honda CRV to Fort Myers, Florida for a couple of elderly snow birds.

Honda CRV

It was a great adventure – driving across country on my own with the radio cranked high singing to the Beatles and a variety of 60’s music and other pop era’s.  Yowza!!!  This is not for the faint of heart.  I hit every type of weather – lots of rain on and off, snow in West Virginia for a few kilometers, bright and blinding sunshine and then absolutely torrential rain on I-75 just a half hour from my hotel.  It was terrifying as traffic slowed to nothing and no one could see.  I quickly exited the highway and waited it out in a parking lot.

I drove 12 hours on day one and spent the night at the Holiday Inn Suites in Beckley, West Virginia that I easily booked on Hotwire and left a 5 star review on Yelp.    I slept well and was up and on my way to Athens, Georgia very early the next morning.  I arrived there 6 hours later.  I spent a lovely day with my friend and mentor, left my luggage and drove another 12 hours to Fort Myers the next morning. Spent the night at the Hyatt Suites, met the couple (whose car I was) delivering at an airport shuttle office, took the shuttle over to Southwest’s Terminal and flew to Athens an hour and half later.  Read my reviews of the Hyatt Suites and Southwest Airlines on Yelp.

Choosing what to pack and how to limit my luggage took lots of my brain power.  I need warm clothes for the drive down and for my stay in March in Connecticut, boots and water shoes, clothes for being around the stables and clothes for fun, clothes for meeting clients………….I love my clothes.  I had to limit myself to luggage I could manage solo and also the limitations of the airlines.

Bags are packed

I know this is the time for me – time to get healthier, face my fears head on, ramp up the adventure meter and experience something new everyday.  There’s no stopping me now.

My Mother’s Day Rant – Wishing you Joy and Happiness

It’s Mother’s Day and my birthday.  I am such a lucky woman.  Totally blessed with loving daughters, a lovely little apartment, a small pension, a great little job that I can do from home (teaching English to children in China online) and more than enough.  My cupboards are generally filled and I am able to have a few of those luxuries that make me smile and add to my contentment.

 

Some people don’t think I have a lot but I have everything that I want and need. To others I have a heaping helping of abundance.  I have so many friends that have been devastated from the military occupation of Palestine – homes destroyed, children murdered……that is what the opposite of my life can look like.

But my joy and sense of abundance is not in comparison to others, it’s just what I feel.  Nothing works more successfully for my sense of joy than writing out my Gratitudes.  This is a habit I acquired more than 20 years ago.  I was inspired by Sarah Ban Breathnach in her Simple Abundance book, by Oprah, and by the Secret (book and film).  I write out 5 things that I am grateful for from the previous day.  If I get off this path and I start to feel lousy, I reboot with this practice and quickly am restored to my grateful and abundant self. I always urge others to just give it a 14 day trial and just see how it feels.

simple-abundance

I love a little self indulgence – cosmetics, having my hair coloured and styled (yup, folks, I am not a real blonde!!), acquiring new clothing (at least, new to me), dressing up my living space, flowers, plants…………..I love surrounding myself with “pretty things” and I love delicious, fresh and healthy food!  I also totally adore my daughters and my grandson!

 

 

I know there are so many people that just can’t acknowledge Joy – they feel so deeply the hurting in our world.  I understand it but if I don’t indulge myself, if I don’t create balance for myself, I won’t have the energy to help others and to be a dissident voice on this planet. I am all about balance.

Now on my Priestess path – my ordination as a Kohenet is just a year away – I believe that we are created in the image of the Divine.  I am so blessed to feel that Love and Inspiration. I encourage those of you who can find that Presence to embrace it – to Love yourself.  I encourage you to acknowledge your Gratitudes, to indulge in what you love, to smile even when it hurts.  “Fake it til you make it, Baby.” The People are rising – let’s change this world.  Let’s make a difference!  Let’s spread love and respect.  This is your day!

Be Mine Valentine (committed to me)

 

I am no relationship expert.  Although, I have had many – I have had more failures than successes.  Well, I suppose many would sum it in that way.  I, however, look at back them as experiences, learning opportunities and mostly, a lot of fun.

Just days away from Valentine’s Day and I am getting excited.  My beloved and I have been making plans for weeks.  We’ve been married since the summer of 2012.  We?  Me and me.  I and I. Self-love.  I married myself and I highly recommend it.

I planned a lovely, simple wedding on the beach (my favourite place) in the evening.  The whole day was leading up to my ceremony was fun with a bit of shopping and a delicious meal.

July 2012 I promised to love myself.  I promised to honour and protect me.  Now as Valentine’s day approaches I see it as a day to recommit.  I want to have a day to honour Love, in general , and to honour a commitment to the one person who  will be with me until I die.  The one person who I want to love and take the best possi ble care of.   I am proud to say I love me. My commitment to my health, my safety, my well being and contentment is all part of my “marriage”.

I am also blessed to have wonderful people in life that I love,  my grandson, my daughters, their partners and my amazing friends.  However, my life changed the day I married myself.  Something flipped in me and a new contentment washed over me.  It has stayed with me over the years.  There was a moment when I realized I really wasn’t alone.

Whether you are in relationship or not, I invite you to explore making this personal commitment – to love, honour and respect YOU.

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off and Start All Over Again

So here’s the thing.  I love writing and I love my blogs.  I was so excited about my Sixty in the City idea.  I couldn’t wait to get started.  Ideas flowed in my head and my heart.  When I was out ideas, words, sentences, paragraphs, and pictures poured in.  This is my passion.  I love sharing ideas and hopefully inspiring others. Ok, so what happened ….why did I stop?  Why do I have lists of blogging ideas in my “To Do List” and why haven’t I written in months? Why?  What stopped me? Hmmmm…… time to explore the usual suspects.

loose-cassette-tape-650x280  The old tapes I suppose.  What do I mean by the old tapes?  Those are those thoughts that flow through our mind.  Crap that other people told us or crap that we repeatedly tell ourselves?  Can’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t.  Yowzers!!  How did that stuff get into my head?

 

half-fullI pride myself on a cup that is more than half full and often spilling over.  I think that I am a “take charge, get it done, kind of Womyn”.  I never leave dishes in the sink or laundry unfolded.  I plan my meals, plan my grocery list, take time to cook healthy from scratch food, keep my home neat and tidy, stay in touch family and loved ones, remember birthdays and special occasions, make lists and check things off. Yup, you got it….I can busy myself with a lot of mundane details and tell myself that I was too busy today but tomorrow….no the next day….ok no….next week….  I’ll do it….cause I love it.  What’s going on????

Looking back over the years (and when you are sixty, there are a lot of years to look back on) I know that many times when I was on the brink of following my passion to have my own business as an Alternative Healing practitioner. My passion for facilitating groups to inspire womyn to create the changes they want for themselves and for the world…..I didn’t follow my own advice but instead took a different path.  Consistently a solid, dependable job or contract  would come my way and how could I say no to stability and normality?   I am not criticizing those choices.  I was a sole support parent with 2 amazing daughters who I wanted to provide for.  I am certain that isn’t all there is to this pattern, though. My daughters have been self sufficient and stable on their own for over a decade.

Last spring I found a great inspiration partner.  We both wanted someone to keep us on track to achieve our goals.  We met every other week and we created a whole system to keep us motivated.  It was so exciting and so organized.  sunraysWe called our goals sun rays and each ray was a stream that we wanted to pursue and follow.  In this time I got my licence to marry couples and started officiating weddings.  I was blogging very regularly and many of my ideas were unfolding .  I started my training to become a Kohenet (Hebrew Priestess).  I was doing it!!! And… Then…I …Stopped !!!!!!!!!  Right in the middle of doing what I was sure I loved and what I am still sure I love.  What happened? One thing only….I got in my own way.

The really awesome part of all this is that it’s ok to stop and it’s ok to start again.  The old but timeless song, “take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.” Listen hear

fred-and-ginger

What have I done?  I found my old mentors again …..Sarah Ban Breathnach, Louise Hay and Sark.  I dug out my vision journal and I have enjoyed looking at it again.  (some photos from my old vision book)

Today I am going to start working on expanding that vision journal with my new visions and discoveries.  Sarah Ban Breathnach suggests that you get piles of old magazines and cut out pictures that you are drawn to, putting them into separate piles for the various parts of your life.  Here is a description from one of her books.

You can usually find Sarah’s books in second hand book stores.  I suggest starting with “Simple Abundance”. Currently I am using “Something More” as my guide.

I am ready to commit to me again…..that means healthy choices and exercising, it means writing out my gratitudes from the day before, giving thanks to the Goddess, reading something inspirational.  It means making a commitment to my personal success by creating an action plan and following it though.  For me it means stepping out of my usual comfort zones.  It means finding joy in all the little spaces like walking barefoot on the beach in November in Nova Scotia or wandering through the Allan Garden Conservatory in Toronto on Boxing Day when it is cold and rainy outside.

 

 

 

What does it mean for you?

Living Large in My Tiny Space

I do live in a tiny space and I love it.  I found this apartment 9 years ago when I moved to Toronto after 2 years of living in Haifa.  I didn’t think I would be here almost a decade later but I knew the minute I crossed the threshold that it was home.  It is just 500 square feet including the 100 square feet  of balcony.  I use that balcony in the warmer months and it was one of the non-negotiable items on my must have list – clean building, public transit, balcony, wooden floors and bathtub.

When I left Canada in 2004, I sold the house and most of what was in it.  My daughters took what they wanted for their first homes and I kept 3 antique pieces that I had inherited from my Grandmother, a coffee table my father had commissioned and 5 boxes of books and other treasures.  I safely stored them away in my brother’s home and travelled with 2 very large suitcases of clothing and shoes.

I purchased a few new pieces when I moved in – a Beddinge sofa bed from Ikea, a bookcase and a chair from Pier One and an Ikea cabinet I found on Craigslist.  The rest, I have to admit, I have found or inherited.  Yup, found, fabulous pieces set on the curb in my neighbourhood.

table find
This is a table I had many pictures of in my vision book and there it was on the street looking for me.

In my space I have created nooks – a reading nook, an office nook, a dining nook, sitting nook.  My space has a separate kitchen, a huge walk-in closet, linen closet and entrance.

My living room converts to my bedroom with a quick flip of the sofa bed.

bed

…………and my kitchen space

I added  a baker’s rack to my kitchen and it holds extra bowls, baking pans, cast iron frying pans. I  have catered from this little space, held dinner parties for up to 10 and cooked daily for myself.

This year as I prepare to train as a Kohenet (a Jewish Priestess), I have added my altar.

altar

I love to nest wherever I land.  Do you?  How do you live in a tiny space?

 

 

Embracing February

February is never an easy month for me.  I am ready for spring………. well quite honestly, ready for summer.  I am a summer woman.  I love the heat, love the sun and really don’t mind humidity.  Winter takes more work to stay balanced and positive.  I intend to do it, though.  Every year I stop wearing socks in February, bring sandals to the office, ignore my sweaters, and wear my spring clothes with my big red coat over them. Big shawls and furry winter boots help because the older I get, the more I feel the cold.

Red Coat
An outing with my awesome daughters

Yesterday was one of those challenging February days – the morning started out well – waking up without an alarm clock, writing in my gratitude journal, yoga stretches for my lower back, and a walk to work that includes a challenging incline that leaves me exhilarated.  My office is now only 500 metres from home eliminating public transit but also my 40 minute walk.  I decided that I need that walk so I am taking advantage of my awesome neighbourhood.

Lee Street
Feels like walking a mountain

A little pampering goes a long way.  If you have a health insurance plan that allows for massage therapy, acupuncture or any other healing therapy, I strongly urge you to take advantage.  For those who don’t, I recommend schools for Registered Massage Therapists, Chiropractors, Estheticians, Hair Stylists and more.   The prices are extremely low in comparison and the treatments usually take longer therefore giving you a little extra pampering time. I have been taking advantage of our beauty schools for almost a decade.  Colour, cut and blow dry for around $30.  A simple wash and blow dry is only $10. Pampering on a budget for sure.

This week I visited my favourite manicurist for the best pedicure EVER.  I have been going to Mary for Manicures and Pedicures for about 9 years.  She changed locations in the Beaches3 times and I along with many others have followed her.  A pedicure with Mary compares favourably to any high end treatment.  She puts her all into her work and has a thriving clientele.  She knows I am having trouble with my knee and really spends extra time on the massage.  You can ask for extra massage and pay only $1 per minute at many salons in Toronto.  I really recommend finding someone you like and becoming a regular customer rather than just dropping in.   A mani/pedi at the many salons in Toronto are usually on $35.  It is just one of the luxuries that I give myself every 4-6 weeks when possible – for me, it is definitely living life abundantly.  You can find Mary at Professional Nail and Spa, 2221 Queen Street East, Toronto, Ontario, 416-694-4111.  Tell her Sandra sent you. (this is not a paid commercial just friends sharing great ideas)

Admittedly I am not a person who loves exercise and I really cannot motivate myself to join a class or go to a gym.  I really do enjoy getting out to a pool and I am fortunate to have one only a few kilometres away.  We are so blessed in Toronto to have community pools in every neighbourhood.  Lane swims are very reasonably priced and leisure swims are free across the city. Spending 30 – 60 minutes moving about in the pool really is a great attitude adjustment.

Stiff joints always feel worse in the winter (at least for me) and I have been faithfully doing yoga stretches for the past 2 weeks every morning.  What a difference it makes! I am concentrating on the lower back, sciatic area, hips as well as neck and shoulders.  I really appreciate the videos by Psyche Truth on YouTube.  I am really blown away by the difference I am feeling this week after being consistent.

Here are a few youtube videos that I really like but I find I need to try a variety to keep it interesting.

How To Yoga Stretches for Low Back Pain & Sciatica Relief by Jen Hilman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f1Y4OV3QlA&list=PLdMcHk9t7WxMgmmIFj-0Won6m8uSjrExk&index=3

Neck Stretch Exercises For Pain, Tension & Stress Relief, Jen Hilman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaPRFm3EZWY&index=5&list=PLdMcHk9t7WxMgmmIFj-0Won6m8uSjrExk

Stretches for Back Pain Relief, How to Stretch Routine, Beginners Home Yoga

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaPRFm3EZWY&index=5&list=PLdMcHk9t7WxMgmmIFj-0Won6m8uSjrExk

Yoga Workout | Low Back Pain Stretches Routine, How To for Beginners, Total Wellness Austin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue_vHLkMgzg

For years I went to tanning salons in the winter for the tan and for the warmth and the light.  It really worked for me but I don’t recommend this.  The dangers’ of tanning beds outweighs the benefits, in my opinion.  I have never tried sun lamps to help with the lack of sunshine but it might be a great idea.  I take my Vitamin D every day, get outside for a walk and dream of summer sun.

Tulips on the table

Spring tulips on a table, visits to a garden conservatory, green house, butterfly conservatory, art gallery, museum or even a night in a local hotel ( look for great deals online).  Take a drive on a bright sunny day to a neighbouring town – visit a Farmer’s Market, Antique Shops and more.  Don’t have a car?  Rent one for the day, hop on the Go Train but get a change of scene this month.   I once spent an adventurous day at Ikea during a blizzard.  Travelled there by subway (had to change trains 3 times) and we were among the very, very, very few shoppers.  We ate in their restaurant and the staff were offering us samples of different foods since there were only 2 other customers.  It was a full day outing and I think all I bought were some bright yellow candles to go with my February tulips.

What are your secrets for a great February?

Returning to Greece aka going home

Being back in Greece feels so comfortable….of course, I don’t speak Greek and of course, I still have no sense of directions….I can walk 1 km and have no idea how to get back but I don’t care……always possible to find a solution somehow.   There are so many things that are different here – the little elevators that hold a piece of luggage and 2 people maximum, turning on the hot water 20 minutes before a shower,  metal shutters over the doors and windows that always challenge me to operate.  The apartment where I have been staying in Athens has been completely renovated and the shutters work off a remote control.  Best of all I love hanging my laudry outside on the clothesline and bringing them in smelling of the hot sun.  It is a smell so delicious that I cannot stop breathing in the intoxicating fragrance.  In Toronto, I have a rack that I put out on my balcony hoping that my building manager won’t knock on the door and tell me to remove it.  It isn’t the same though.  I think there is a special scent  from the Mediterranean sun.

2014-05-19 20.10.03-1
My beautiful apartment in Athens, Greeece

Today I had lunch in a restaurant in Illiopoli.  I ate there once before and I remembered that the food is like home- cooked Greek fare.  Today I had Pastitsio with a half order of steamed Swiss Chard.  Pistitsia is a noodle dish cooked in a tomato meat sauce and covered in a Bechemel.

Pastitsio and greens
Pastitsio and greens

 

I am writing now on board a ginormous ferry that will take me from Pireaus to Heraklion on the island of Crete.  There I will cross the street and board a bus that will take me to Aghios Nikolas where I will catch a taxi to the Dulac Hotel. At this moment I am drinking my first Mythos beer – a cold mug of draught and it is delicious.  At least it is in Greece.  I lived at the Dulac for 5 weeks in 2011.  When they asked me what I did, I said I was very lucky to be able to do my work on the internet.  It was somewhat true.  Later when they learned what I was really doing in Crete (see previous blog), they were very supportive of our project – The Canadian Boat to Gaza – to break the illegal siege on Gaza.

 

Accommodations on board the ferry

F/B Crete II

The past 2 days I traveled 700 kilometres to the north with my wonderful friends Anna Stamou and her equally wonderful husband Naim Elghandour.   Anna is a candidate in the European Elections which are this week.  She is running for the Eco Green party.  She wears a hijab,  is a true Feminist and believes that women must be involved politically to make changes.  She is so intelligent, so caring and never stops working for change.   I know that I would not have been as successful with the preparations for the Canadian Boat to Gaza without their help.  We went to Xanthi to speak with women and men about the upcoming elections.  Xanthi has a Muslim community that has been there for centuries.  Until only recently, this Muslim minority was not able to obtain building permits to renovate their home or to build new homes.  They worked as farm labourers.  The women I met I had been educated in Turkey – sent to boarding school at 12 years of age because of the prejudice that surrounded them from the other Greek communities.  Today they are stronger and the laws have changed to allow all Greeks to own their homes and renovate them.  Today their children are educated in Xanthi and mothers and children do not have to cry at night because they are separated.  Meeting the women of Xanthi was wonderful.  We went to the center square where like all Greek communities, people of all ages gather in the evening.  One of the women is an English teacher and she speaks English very well.  She and her husband met while they were students in Turkey.  Now they have 2 adorable children – a girl 3 and a boy 1 ½. She invited us to her home that night for a late dinner and an informal conversation with several women.  Dinner was delicious- cucumber and tomato salad, lentil soup, fried potatoes, small meat patties and a traditional pastry – filo dough filled with potatoes and rice.

new friends in Xanthi  The wonderful women of Xanthi.

The trip was long traveling 7 hours each day but it was such a rewarding experience.  I got to spend some quality time with my friends Anna and Naim and I have made some wonderful new friends in Xanthi.

setting up the booth in northern Greece for the Anna Stamou, Eco Green party.  European Elections in Greece are May 25, 2014

Aside

Story of commitment, a boat, justice and peace

Ten years ago, I planned a 1 year sabbatical to travel as a volunteer to 4 different countries.  The first stop was Palestine and it was there that everything changed.  I chose to stay for 2 years and become part of the struggle for a just peace for Palestine.  It was very important to me as a Jewish woman.  If you are interested in this story go to my blog at Sandra for Just Peace and read the archived blogs listed from January to June 2006. They tell the story from December 2004 – June 2006.  http://miriamswell1.wordpress.com/  I refer to this time as unpeeling the onion as I discover the atrocities inflicted on the Palestinian people.

Women in Black
Naomi O’Hara and me, Women in Black, Haifa 2004

I have been very fortunate to have traveled to many destinations but most of that travel was through work – as an activist and also back when I was a travel agent and travel instructor.  I travelled on fam (familiarization) trips with groups of agents and also as a Tour Escort.  When my daughters were growing up, our holidays usually were car trips to the east coast (New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island) or to Clearwater, Florida.  We did spend a summer in Oslo, Norway selling t shirts, costume jewellery and African crafts but that is a whole story in itself. Later I travelled as a peace activist.  This 3 week holiday is just that – a holiday- to visit an area I have fantasized about and to open a new chapter in my Life Story. Ten years later, I am still passionate to see this Just Peace become reality but it time for me to change how I am walking in the world.  I am rebirthing my business as a healer and teacher, “Miriamswell Healing Care” in Toronto.  I am a Reflexologist and a Doula who uses a variety of  healing modalities in my practice.  I facilitate workshops in foot massage, aromatherapy, homemade beauty products, homemade cleaning products, vision books, meditation and more.

Imagehttp://miriamswellhealingcare.com/

I came to Greece in March, 2011 for the Canadian Boat to Gaza.

The steering committee realized the only way to complete our project was to have someone on the ground in Greece.  They sent me to buy a boat.  The boat needed to be refurbished to take 45 activists from Aghios Nicholas, Crete to Gaza, Palestine.   I hired a captain and a crew. I hired a lawyer who we could trust.  Together he helped to open a company and a bank account. We chose a country to flag the boat.  We purchased insurance.  I found help to plan a menu for 45 people for 10 days and then purchased the food.  I also purchased $30,000 in medicines to take to Gaza.  Everyday involved a huge learning curve.  I was away from home for 5 months.  When the Greek government locked down our boat refusing to let us leave the port, we decided to stage an escape in protest.  The Greek coast guards captured our boat after about 20 minutes.  Everyone on board in a great Spartacus moment claimed to be the captain.

Image
Awesome international Tahrir team of Canadians, Australians, Danish and Belgium with our Greek crew

The Greeks were reluctant to arrest 35 foreigners so they arrested me instead since I was the registered owner of the boat.  I was arrested with two others, convicted and given a 30 day suspended sentence.

Image
Released from detention and overwhelmed from the support of my friends, Aghios Nicholas, Crete, July, 2011

Eventually the other activists left and I stayed another month in Aghios Nicholas living on our boat “The Tahrir”. Finally we had permission to leave and I sailed with the captain and 2 crew members to Turkey.  I even got to drive the boat for an hour or so, on my own.

Tahrir 010
Me on the Tahrir, July 2011

Now I am back in Greece and this time I am a tourist.  I am here to see Greece without an agenda.  Greece holds many memories. I made lifelong friendships.  I am here to remember and I am here to appreciate this wonderful country.

A little more Provence

The past few days in Provence can only be described as delicious……………delicious scenery, delicious food, delicious smells from roses, lavender, orange blossoms, jasmine and the burning leaves.  That is an awesome memory smell for me – burning leaves and branches from the olive trees – for me that is the smell of Palestine and it evokes some of the best life memories.  The sun is so bright and the past few days the sky has often been cloudless.

We visited a huge Friday market in Valbonne where they sell clothing (mostly Italian), soaps, pottery, linens, herbs and some vegetables and fruits.  I bought an Arnica cream(Baume a l’Arnica pour les Articulations Douloureauses) that is effective on aches and pains – great for my creaky knee.  I also bought some lavender soap and some mountain honey (Miel de Montagne).

window in Valbonne

Greta is an awesome tour guide and has made sure that I get to see everything.  She has taken amazing care of me. Hmmmm…..how can I possibly say thank you enough?!?!?!?

I took a leisurely walk through the village of Bar Sur Loup – there is not much there but it is just so picturesque.

Bar Sur Loup 4it Bar Sur Loup 9Bar Sur Loup 8Bar Sur Loup 18

Today we had lunch at a neighbour’s home.  This villa is exquisite and I could not do it justice with my words but it was exactly how I would imagine my dream home………pictures of ships and beach scenes, African art and furniture, beachy, breezy, and comfortable. The table set outside was just beautiful and the food and wine….ahhhh….delicious and abundant.

lunch in Provence

In true Provencal style we ate and ate and ate….and then ate some more.  The starters were tomatoes and cheese on toothpicks with a salad of cucumber and creamy cheese similar to sour cream.  Everything made with fresh herbs from Greta’s herb garden.  We had garlic bread hot from the oven, bread with green olives, and another baguette.  Then came the main course….I thought we had it…..forgetting the multitude of courses.  We had a delicious Italian pasta covered in olive oil, basil and parmesan cheese.  We then grated more parmesan over it.  Next was a platter of cheeses and a salad of mixed leaves.  Wine and more wine…………. and then dessert which was a beautiful platter with a variety of pastries.  We were almost too full to walk home and naps were all we could manage.

More Provence, My birthday

My 58th birthday and I am just where I want to be –physically (in Provence with friends), mentally and emotionally.  Ahhhhh………..so Blessed. I always enjoy living in community.  This week I am doing just that.  We are 4 women  in this magnificent villa.  We range in age from 58 to 80.  We have a lot in common – radical crazy- ass activists, independent, self supporting, mothers, travellers, passionate about all we do.  Greta is the perfect host -so generous of her time, her home and her spirit. The days seem to flow organically with everyone moving at their own pace. Yesterday Greta drove me to Gourdon –a breathtaking village set high up in the mountain.  It has little touristy shops and a few lovely cafes.  I bought  jasmine eau du toilette –an  intoxicating fragrance that I love and always reminds me of the Mediterranean.

view from Gourdon
view from Gourdon

2014-05-12 14.20.03 Earlier in the morning we went to a nearby Farmer’s Market.  We bought fresh fruit, vegetables, sausage, bread and cheese.  I am shopping for the perfect market basket – serious business that will probably take me the whole visit to find!

Shopping in the farmer's market
Shopping in the farmer’s market
Perfect market basket
Seeking the perfect market basket

Today we had a beautiful birthday breakfast with Greta’s famous Swedish scrambled eggs ( a recipe from her Grandmother), crusty baguette, and delicious melons with banana slices. Of course, the usual pots of coffee and glasses of juice.  The table was covered with a very traditional Provencal print with matching cloth napkins in the outdoor dining area where we seem to spend a lot of our time.

Villa dining area and master bedroom balcony
Villa dining area and master bedroom balcony

My friends – Greta, Audrey and Mary gifted me with a huge bottle of pure lavender essential oil that I will have great fun when I get home making bath salts and bath bombs, eau du toilette and other cosmetics, room fresheners and cleaning products.   I will scent my  homemade beeswax candles and look through my book that my daughers, Raya and Tovah, gave me for my birthday more than 10 years ago “Lavender and Lovage” for more ideas.  At midday we drove to Juan les Pins – a sea resort where I swam in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time in 3 years.  The water was cool but not for a Canadian from the east coast…..pure bliss!!!  Cold beer in a cafe outside under the bright spring sun………………can you feel my JOY?