Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Devotin' full time to Floatin'

"Darling it's better down where it's wetter, take it from me"
Who knew a small red crustacean could give such good advice. Under the sea, is where I spent day two of my family Bajan holiday away from rainy Vancouver and will spend tomorrow as well. It was my third time scuba diving, and to my excitement, it's everything I remembered and better. Even more motivation to get my PADI done so I can dive on my own. 
We've been going to West Side Scuba Center, run by an older European couple who escaped the cold winters to spend a life under the sea. They run an awesome business with the best instructors who make you feel very comfortable diving, and make the whole expedition a blast. 
We've done a reef and 5 ship wrecks now, venturing about 50ft deep. The sea life and diversity is like candy for your eyes. The brightest colours of coral and fish, eels and shells. There's never enough time to see it all. Which is why I'm so excited to get back down tomorrow.
This year in Barbados, the weather is noticeably cooler and it rains a lot more than I was used to. But under the ocean, while the biggest tropical storm I'd seen here was happening, we had a peaceful, clear and relaxing dive. Rather upsetting to surface with pouring rain, cold wind and lightening. Adding to the number of reasons of why I love diving; it's the perfect rainy day activity!
I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to get informed and try a Discover Scuba Diving Course and be a part of a world you've never dreamed of. If only Ariel knew how good she had it, I'd trade these, what do you call them...feet, for fins any day!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gypsy Who?

Where has the fever gone? Who have I become? If not a gypsy anymore, what adjectives can I use to describe myself now? Student, designer, Vancouverite, home-body, Quiksivler lifer...wait a moment, I was always these things, even when I was a Gypsy (except Vancouverite!). I was a student of the world, a designer of my density (and blog), a home-body in several homes, and a Quik Enthusiast forever! If the math is correct, that means that if I'm all these other things now, I am still a gypsy, just a different kind. True, the backpack has been filled with books rather than all life's possessions, and I get my kicks from weekly neighbourhood chili cook-offs rather than weekly neighbourhoods, but the fever is still present.
So what's this traveller been doing now that she's been in one city for 10 months? So much has changed, but all generally on track with the life plan I've always had set out. I spent a great summer getting connected to the lush lands of greater Vancouver suburbs as a landscaper. Braving the rainy spring days was well worth the nearly two months we went without a drop of precipitation, and the blazing sun for beach days. I made some great friends and had a pretty good few months. The middle of the summer saw a few bumps in the road. No wait, that wasn't a bump. That was me on my bike that you hit on your way to work. Yep, after a triumphant return to cycling and mastering 26k per day, I was rapidly sent back to public transit after getting hit by a car on my way to work one morning. With a mangled bike, and a few injuries (noting serious!) my summer took a bit of a turn. It was mentally hard to get back to the high that biking had given me. Luckily I had good friends to keep my entertained for a while. September saw a Seattle pin added to the travellers map for a weekend to Bumbershoot music festival and PAX, the biggest gaming convention in the world! And I had more fun at PAX than Bumbershoot, imagine that! Taylor was the driving force behind that trip, and it was amazing to have him out in Vancouver. The quest to get him to actually move out here still lives on. We get closer all the time. As well, an impromptu trip to Forks WA with my old roommate from Brisbane who was visiting the States. We were completely Twilighted out.
Eco Fashion Week- 3 little words that took over my life for two months. In August, my lovely roommate Kaleen propositioned my to assist her as a volunteer coordinator for the event to be happening at the end of September. What we both thought would be a pretty easy job ended up taking up all of our free time and sending us both into stress overload. But come the time of the event, we had met some amazing people in the industry that were making tracks toward a more sustainable and Eco friendly way of conducting business. The week was a great opportunity and I look forward to more in the future.
Just before the cold weather set in here, I quit my job as a landscaper and took on role of STUDENT! Indeed I am back at school taking a one year intensive course called Design Essentials. It's meant to set me up for the big bad, cut throat world that is graphic designing. It's something that I've been saying I want to do since I finished college at Fanshawe. I bit the bullet and luckily squeaked in the last minute. The course is at BCIT and Emily Carr University of Art and Design. I'm only 6 weeks into the program, and it is intense like they said. It's a lot of work crammed into the 12 week terms. I'm also still a Quik lifer and have been promoted to supervisor (again!) where I'm trying to earn some green to live and study. This week, not going so well. But all a balancing act I need to get used to.
Last sort of update, Devin Henderson is coming to visit tomorrow! YAY!! She'll be here for a week, where I will be working and going to school almost every one of those days she's here, but I've lined up some things so she'll never be bored.
And lastly, lastly...I've deleted Facebook. It's only temporary, but it was seriously interfering with my school work. What a waste of time it is look at someones photos of their dog 3 times. It was getting a bit ridiculous, so it needed to go, for the time being. But not even 4 hours later, and look what new distraction I've found. I think this is a better way to procrastinate, don't you think?!
I hope this catches you all up a bit better than my lame status updates. But you can still follow me on Twitter for that. Just come back here to read the real juice, I promise, I'll get some juice!
Gypsy- maybe not moving, but always shaking things up.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


This piece was written in the front of the cookbook and it highlights some of my ideas I'd like to explore with the Lowville Recipes; betting back to basics, cutting down on meat, not taking food for granted, making food a priority, and using food to bring people together. 

On Burnt Offerings and Cooking in Bible Times
Rev. Wayne Irwin
In bible times the simple gathering and preparing of good was one of the major occupations in life- the alternative being starvation. Nevertheless, food was not considered solely a means of sustaining life; it had great social and economic significance as well. Any pact or covenant was always sealed by participation in a common meal- to refuse was to express contempt for the other party to the agreement and to rupture the fellowship. And foodstuffs, therefore, were among the most important items of foreign trade- very useful in exerting pressure on international relations.To prepare special food and to present it as an offering to honour a guest was among the more common and more respected of the social graces of the day. And the offering of one's best animal be burning it upon an alter, it's sweet smoke rising to the heavens was a gesture of homage for God- a gesture understood to place God under obligation to be peaceful and forgiving. Perhaps from this emerged the precept that "the best way to the heart is through the stomach."Meat was not a regular part of the diet in those days. The chief reason was the scarcity of domestic cattle, particularly when any such animals were the family's providers of cheese and curds and milk. Meat then, was generally obtained through hunting, and then mainly pigeons and turtle doves and sometimes locusts, with lamb and goats being used at festival times. The wealthy lived on veal.Meat was most commonly boiled in water, or otherwise roasted in an oven, barbecued on a spit or fried in oil. It was always almost overcooked so it could be easily pulled from the bone. Chicken was unknown in Old Testament times; and fish was rare; although by the time of Jesus, fish was increasing in popularity, being mainly prepared by broiling over coals.Vegetables were scarce because of the climate. Beans and lentils were most common, either being eaten in their natural state or boiled into pottage. Sometimes they were mixed with flour to increase the yield of bread. The husks of the carob tree, generally regarded as the animal fodder, served as  emergency food. And the most important fruits were olives, grapes and figs with the occasional inclusion of apples, pomegranates and dates.Honey was the sugar of antiquity and the main herbs were thyme, mint, but the one item eaten at every meal was bread. No matter what else was being prepared, bread was made ready as well, often being dipped in olive oil and then swished through some ground spice and herbs to provide variety of flavouring in what otherwise could be very monotonous meals. The bread was made from barley and emmer (a primitive form of wheat), occasionally from millet, and once in a while from spelt (the plant often serving as a border for the field). The grain itself was sometimes consumed uncooked, sometimes roasted in a pan, sometimes simply parched in a fire. It was also made into a porridge, to be seasoned with salt or onions or leeks and garlic and to be sprinkled with seeds such as anise or coriander or cumin or dill.Food itself was considered a gift from God, a gift not to be presumed upon, a gift not to be taken for granted- a symbol of God's providential love. In out present day we share an abundance of foodstuffs undreamed of even by the ancient royalty, for their land of milk and honey was a wasteland in comparison to ours.And so it is that Lowville United Church publishes a collection of favorite recipes- tested instructions for the preparation and presentation of special food in our day. May the enjoyment of the tastes and textures of these offerings being enhancement to your times with others, and may their sweet and savoury smells rise up in contemporary gesture of profound gratitude to God.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tastes Like Home

I wanted to start this off with a bit of a bang, so I called the buddies and staged a good old home cooking and games drinking night. I found a decently priced pork roast at the market down the street, and with BC Apples being in season, I thought it would be a great dish to enjoy on a rainy Saturday night. I'm also preparing BREAD! I seem to bike by bakeries no matter where I'm cycling to in the city, and I wanted that smell to fill my house. So let's get down to business.

Trip to Donald's Market

Makes 8-10 servings  WW Points= Appr. 7pts/serving
Pork Roast- appr. 4lb
1 1/2cups applesauce
3/4cup red current or cranberry jelly
(I chose to grate the apples I had bought from the market and use cranberry jelly instead of red current. )
4tbsp beef broth
1/4tsp allspice
Place roast in shallow pan uncovered in 325F oven for 2.5 to 3 hours.
Combine all other ingredients in saucepan to heat. Add half of the mixture to roast half an hour before it's done. Save the rest to be added when served.

Makes 3 loaves, or 3 dozen rolls    WW Points= 35pt/loaf  3pt/roll
1cup lukewarm water
1tsp sugar
2tbsp yeast (2 packets)
Let mixture stand for approximately 10 minutes or until yeast has risen to surface.
Into yeast mixture stir:
2cups lukewarm water
1 heaping tsp salt
1/2cup shortening
Beat or stir together, then stir in 1 cup at a time of 8 cups of flour.
Once mixed, knead for several minutes on a well floured surface. Put back in bowl and let rise, covered, for 1-2 hours. Dough should be double in size. Knead again and divide into three equal parts, or 36 rolls. Place dough in well greased and floured loaf pans, and let rise in a warm spot until the dough is over the top of pans. Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes.

The pork roast turned out amazingly. It was very moist and flavourful. The apple sauce was a perfect addition to the roast and had a great autumn feel to it. The bread was a hit and there were no rolls left at the end of the night and I was really happy with the way it turned out.

Both of these items were pretty time consuming, but the actual preparation was fairly simple. I would definitely make the roast again on any night, and I'm quite excited to make some different variations of the bread. What a success!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where It Begins

When I was a kid, I attended Lowville Church in Waterdown Ontario. My Grandmother attended the church for many many years, as did members of my extended family. Every few years or so, they put out a collection of recipes in the form of The Original Lowville Country Cook Book. 

Throughout my childhood, my mother and I would often reference this book for easy, delicious, and kid friendly recipes. It was my favorite cook book and I'd always planned to nab it from my mom when I moved out. 
Well the time did come when I moved out, and as a 19 year old girl, the cook book was last on my list after shoes and matching handbags. A couple years went by and I had still yet to take the cook book, but better so since I made the decision to forgo all of my material possessions and take a trip across the world- a cook book was not going to fit in my backpack. Luckily my dad convinced me not to get rid of everything, but rather store it, just in case there were things I was interested in down the road.

Down the road we are now, and upon my return to my hometown, I was able to revisit box after box of these things I thought I may be interested in. The handbags and shoes were maybe not too important now. But in the special box that mom had always kept for me; you know the one- kindergarten drawings, grade 8 diploma, photos of your first cat; there it was, The Original Lowville Country Cook Book. I thought it was the one that we had used all my life, the one with the dirty pages and fingerprints, but it wasn't. It was a clean copy, with all its pages intact, and a simple inscription on the first page.

"1991          With Love to Laura on her 5th birthday, From Grandma"

If you know me, you know what happened next...I cried...a lot. Grandma passed away in 2008 and seeing this book almost felt like she knew me better at 5 years old than I know myself now. 
Since moving to Vancouver and settling down a little bit, I've been changing my ideas on food; not just how it nourishes our body, but how it nourishes our soul. In a world of fast food, fad diets, microwave meals, and food that travels 30,000km to get to my kitchen, I wanted to rethink it all.
My challenge is to buy locally; take time out of my day to make food that is healthy, homemade, and delicious; and still lose weight on Weight Watchers.

What's not a challenge is to make the meals my grandmother made and fed to her children. Get back to basics, and share it with the people I love.
I invite you to follow along as I document my journey through this book and my reconnection to Grandma.

This is Laura and Lowville- Lo vs Lo

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Eat Pray Love" this Book

Sometimes a book, a movie, or a radio show can pass through your day without a thought, but others can change the way you think forever. That was Eat Pray Love, for me. I began reading this novel at the start of my travels, but did not finish it. It was not until 6 months later, which was half way through my journey and my falling in love with a life of wandering, did this book have such an impact on me.

"An autobiographical account of Liz Gilbert, a 30-something recent divorcée travelling the world, this narrative takes the reader to Italy, India, and Indonesia; through heartache, healing and happiness. Relatable to almost every woman, it is a heroic account of Liz’s journey to find the balance of faith and pleasure in everyday life, loving yourself before anyone else and taking something from everyone you meet."

This particular book was so relevant to me not only because of my travels, but because of the ability to relate to the inner thoughts that I did not know others had, as well as finding that balance in life. One of the hardest parts of travelling is to be happy when you are perpetually lonely or the outcast; finding your ground while up in the air, and staying true to your own beliefs.

After reading Eat Pray Love, I had the incredible urge to see Indonesia; Bali to be exact. I was ever so fortunate to make it there and share in the same experiences that Liz did. I will not spoil too much of the book or my trip to Bali, but stay tuned for that in another post.

In the mean time, pick up Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert if you’re looking for inspiration, support, or just a great read!

It’s Called a WORKING Holiday for a Reason - Part 2 : Canada

Since working is such a big part of living abroad, I have decided to go more in depth with places to search out jobs.  It can be very overwhelming to come to a new city in a new country and have the pressure of finding work right away.

Below I have listed some more great websites to check out.  Some are my own discoveries, but others are from what the lovely people at the YWCA have put together.  Go to the YWCA website for a more in depth look at finding work in Canada, tips on building a resume, and much, much more.  This month they are holding hiring fairs, interview prep, Job Club Café, and career exploration just to name a few.

* Fun Facts from the Backpack: Go into job agencies or temp agencies ready with your resume. They’ll be able to give you all the help you need.

Job Bank (Government)

Canadian Tourism(List of hotels and resorts)
Tree Planting (tree planting can be great for summer work, you can make a lot of money, and it’s outdoors!)

Vancouver is dubbed the Hollywood of Canada, so make your working holiday interesting by working on a set of a big time movie, or a unique Canadian show.

*Some of these resources are specific to Vancouver, but others are Canada-wide.  Search job agencies in any Canadian city that you are in, and you will be sure to find the means you need to start making some dough.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Minimum Wage=Minimum Holiday

One of the things I do love about Vancouver is the mass number of Aussies I meet here. It's always good to reminisce about hot weather, good beaches, Vegemite, and how good the pay rate was! 
When looking at a prospective country to participate in a WHP, pay rate doesn't usually rank at the top of the list of priorities, when in fact it's very important. Most young adults can't save enough to sustain themselves for 12 months living/travelling, so working is usually inevitable. Put together living costs including rent, food, transit, etc, and try to save to travel, you're going to be looking to make a good dollar. Even virgin backpackers get the idea fairly quickly where you can cut costs to save the most money, but when you're only making minimum wage to begin with, it can be quite a challenge. 

Australian Minimum Wage: $16.87
Canada (Vancouver) Minimum Wage: $8.00

It doesn't take a lot of calculations to see what a difference that is. My personal experience saw my wages around $20/h, a significant hike from the usual $10 I've made in Canada. 
Don't be fooled at rumors you've heard about living costs in Australia either, they are practically the same here. Talking to other Australians coming to Canada agree with these facts. Coming back to Canada, while an exciting new experience is a struggle. I often wonder how I'll be able to save at all. 
My advice for backpackers of any nationality coming over to Canada to travel, is to do your sightseeing first, especially if you've got the funds right away. Sticking around in the city is only going to drain your bank account and the hard earned money you've spent so much time trying to save, that really, you won't get back in Canada.
Stay tuned for information on ways to get out of the city, save on accommodation, and do more travelling for less!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It's Called a WORKING Holiday for a Reason

Money doesn't grow on trees, and since I need a lot of it to keep travelling, I've sought out the best resources to find jobs until burying my $20 bill will work one day. Hey, advancements in genetic modification have come a long way, a girl can dream!
The internet has by far delivered me the best results, and where I've found 90% of my jobs. Especially if you haven't arrived to your destination yet, it's a good way to see what the market is like, or even secure a position before you get there.

Top Internet Sites for Australia
Gumtree- a division of Kijiji, Gumtree is a classifieds website like Craigslist organized by regions. Gumtree is used all over the world.
Harvest Trail- a government website indicating harvest work all over the country. Really good for backpackers looking to obtain their second year visa. But don't just rely on the wesbite, make sure to call for unlisted jobs.
The Job Shop (WA)- a great site dedicated to finding backpackers work in Western Australia. Sign up for free and they'll even do the work for you by sending you jobs that are fit for you.
Seek- A more professional website if you're looking for something in your field, but nonetheless, a great work site with many postings.

Top Internet Sites for Canada
Craigslist - The ultimate classifieds website. Hundreds of jobs listed each day. But don't get caught up in e-mailing resumes; get an address and show up in person!
Go2- a site specializing in tourism jobs; everything from a hotel housekeepers, to hotel manager, servers, and tour guides.
Extreme Jobs- a developing website posting jobs is several sectors.
The Backpacking Site- An informational website about the different fields of work ideal for a backpacker in Canada. Well worth the read!

Best Advice for Anywhere
Get out on the street with a hand full of resumes, look for those Help Wanted signs, and TALK to people! The best way to convince someone to hire you is to flash that beautiful smile and take advantage of your foreign accent. It does the trick every time!

These have just been a few suggestions, but hopefully it'll get you on the right path toward making money grow on trees, oh I mean, making the most out of your working holiday!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sustainable Travel


What is sustainable travel?
Something that I've learned over the course of my travels is that the cost of travelling is much more than your airline ticket and price of your hotel. There’s a more costly environmental impact than I think most travelers realize they are leaving behind. If you sit back and think of the last trip you did, ask yourself a few questions.
Did I fly to my destination?
What other mode of transportation did I take?
How much locally grown fare did I eat and did I support local economy and businesses?
Did I learn about the culture?
These are issues that need to be brought to the table as we enter foreign territory, and these are the questions I’ve been asking myself for a while.
Backpacking across Australia was a trip of a lifetime, but I think it was getting out of western culture and experiencing a lifestyle so unlike mine via Bali, Fiji and Barbados that has raised curiosity in my mind. I can choose to be a mindless backpacker looking for the next pub, the sunniest beach, or the best party hostel, or I can make my travel experiences more fulfilling and meaningful. Now this is not to say that I will never look for the best pub on the sunniest beach, but there a time for throwing your cares away, and a time for examining them. As a person who would like to make travel an integral part of her life and career, I’ve been hunting for ways to develop a sustainable and conscious way of travelling.
GAP adventures, the leading Canadian travel company for sustainable and adventurous travel, offers great trips involving voluntourism; a combination of touring and volunteering. Packages that can take you to Nepal, Kenya, Agentina, the Galapagos, saving wildlife, teaching children, or cleaning up a beach. Together with the help of Planeterra, a non profit organization, more people are choosing voluntours as a means of travelling.
To make your next trip a meaningful one, check out GAP adventures.

Coming Back

So what do you do when you come “back”?
I once read a fellow travel blogger's article on coming home, and no matter where you come back to, who you see, or what you do, it’s always different, but rather, you’re always different. Coming home was something I was always afraid of. What would my old friends think, would I end up in the same old routine? So instead of really going back, I opted for a different path. I came out to Vancouver, a place I’d never been, to continue my travels, yet still come home. But there’s something off, something’s not right. I feel different, and it’s not something I’m enjoying, sadly to report. While I was hoping that I could treat this move like the last year and a half of my life, it’s become more of a settling than a transition. I find myself looking for more than making a quick buck and journeying to the next destination. There were things I wanted to accomplish here that would take more than 12 weeks. I have to stay. But the cost of it seems not worth it, metaphorically and literally. Here are my dilemmas;
The cost of living is so high in Vancouver, and I’m working 2 jobs that only pay me $10/h, half of what I was used to in Australia, where the living costs were the same. How can I live, let alone save in this kind of economy?
I need to save to accomplish the goals I’ve set for myself, but I don’t want to take 2 years to afford one thing. Example- going back to school, getting my PADI, taking trips around BC, travelling, doing extra curricular activities.
I don’t want to live the same life I did in Toronto- go to work, go out, make no money and spend it all.
As far as going back to school or attaining a more stable, meaningful job, I have to figure WHAT I want to do so that my time won’t be wasted.
Things in Vancouver are not going as planned and feel like a struggle. Part of my wants to just leave like I usually do, to another city, another country, anywhere. Where do I draw the line at actually proving that I can commit to something to better my future, and totally sacrificing my happiness and quality of living?
It thought that blogging might make me feel better, but the questions are now just written so I can read then, not answer them.