Melancholy Monday Mood

To those who know me on a personal level and those who read this blog on a regular basis,

You understand that I normally write and post about happy events and occurrences, humanitarian affairs and at times a touch of the absurd.  But I’m at a loss right now to continue with my normal pattern without first telling you about another important recent loss in my life and that of many others.

One week ago today I said a tearful goodbye to my longtime dear friend my bestie Colleen Kohse.

Colleen with Bandit
Colleen with CBC News host and MC Gloria Macarenko at the 2017 CF 65 Roses Gala

She passed away the week before. And even though I saw her just before leaving for California and spoke to her over the phone every other day while away, it just doesn’t seem real. Or fair.  And yet, she suffered off and on from a life threatening illness her whole life.  She had cystic fibrosis (CF) and was coming up to her 30 year anniversary of a double lung and heart transplant. I met her before her transplants. Even so, she remained one of the most optimistic, generous, fun, witty and voted friend most likely to….(fill in the blanks).  If she was your friend you were lucky.

She lived by the motto you may not feel great, but always look great!  And being one of my most fashionable friends, she did.

I traveled to more places with Colleen over the years than any other friend. When I had to make a last minute decision about a deal trip to Hawaii she was the first person I called.  She said “yes” without hesitation. When my husband had business in Jamaica she stayed with us in Negril for almost a month.  One day we accompanied him to one of his outings close to the Appleton Rum factory.  We asked him to drop us off. He came back later to pick us up only to find us dancing around after having sampled a bunch. While in Jamaica we flew to Havana where Colleen taught me how to smoke a cigar in a local restaurant. Once!  The thing is Colleen never really smoked, she just knew how.  We were just havana good time.  Basically she could do practically anything.  I relied on her for many things. Especially driving.  She said she was hoping I could at least navigate but realized she’d have to do that too.

We visited a friend in Savannah, Georgia and went on a scary nighttime ghost story pub crawl.  Then off to Charleston, S.C.  Another time to New Orleans where we took a cooking class, a joint birthday cruise with another friend out of Miami to Cayman Islands where we swam and fed tons of manta ray and then a stop in Cozumel, Mexico. Key West, Disney World, Palm Springs, Santa Barbra, Malibu, Paso Robles and San Francisco followed. I might be missing a few.  Colleen was a Foodie and an Art History major. We went to the J. Paul Getty museum in Los Angeles where she impressed upon us her knowledge of Greek and Roman Art.

I was looking forward to many more adventures.

Colleen was one of the longest CF survivors in the world and a true inspiration for those battling the disease and their families. But the limitations of CF did not hold her back and I can definitely attest to that.  Her life may have been challenging but she found deep fulfillment through her many contributions towards the fight against both CF and Kidney Disease, in support of Organ Donation and as a role model and friend for other patients with similar health issues.  She accompanied me to Vancouver Hospice just last year to inquire about end of life full time care for my late husband Don.  Don adored Colleen and she was a huge support during that time to both of us and for me after he passed. As they say, life goes on….but it will never be the same.

A little bit of history taken from the obituary posted in Saturday’s Vancouver Sun Newspaper:

Colleen Kohse was the embodiment of a true fighter and in 1988 she made a bold move. With her mother as support, and her friend and CF co-patient Brandy, she travelled to England in hopes of a life-saving heart-lung transplant. Transplant medicine was still in its infancy and survival or recovery was by no means certain, recovery would mean a lifetime of evolving anti-rejection drugs and many physical limitations. Failure however, meant never coming home. Fortunately, her transplant was a success and after almost a year of recovery and loving care by her mother she was able to return to Canada. Sadly, her friend Brandy did not survive her transplant recovery period.
Colleen gave her heart away, literally! As part of her miraculous heart-lung transplant process her own heart was transplanted into another patient. That unknown patient received the heart of a lion! A decade later Colleen once again received another transplant, this time a life-saving kidney. Colleen was always grateful to those good people who signed organ donation cards and donated organs.
Colleen became the longest living heart-lung transplant patient in Canada, if not the world, and she used wisely the 30 extra years her transplants gave her. She mentored, befriended and supported many others with CF, particularly those needing possible transplants. She helped organize the annual CF Foundation Gala to raise funds and awareness and being the gregarious outgoing person that she was brought many supporters into the cause.
One of her more remarkable talents was the ability to synthesize knowledge of medicines and treatments for transplantation, organ rejection, diet and related drug reactions into a body of medical understanding about CF patients she was able to use to prolong her own life and well as those of many others.
Colleen loved travel with friends and family. A recent trip to Italy and France turned into a culinary delight punctuated with an over abundance of ancient churches, museums and art galleries. The trip was one of her and her family’s fondest memories.

On behalf of Colleen and her family we thank the wonderful medical professionals who contributed so much care to Colleen’s life.

They ask that you kindly consider organ donation.


Culture/Film: Mightier than the Sword

Film for Thought

When you believe in something that’s bigger than yourself you fight to make yourself heard.

Journalist Roberta Staley is fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan.  Having traveled  undercover to Afghanistan on several occasions,  she took risky chances trying to create positive change.  She’s responsible for the award winning documentary entitled  “Mightier than the Sword” which has helped enpower women over there by giving them a voice to be heard.  A major accomplishment.

Rahibib Rahimi (L) and Roberta Staley (R)

I first met Roberta in a Spanish class over coffee in 2012 and was intrigued when she said she’d be leaving for a few weeks to go on assignment for Elle Magazine. In Afghanistan no less.

The Story (in brief)

Roberta went back to Afghanistan three years later to tell the story of Mozhdah Jamalzadah, a regular person here and a superstar in Afghanistan, where she’s a powerful voice for women similar to that of Oprah.  The Vancouver raised woman is actually referred to as the Oprah of Afghanistan.

This 48-minute documentary focuses on Afghan female journalists and filmmakers and their impact on gender perceptions and gender equality. In Afghanistan, a significant advance since the fall of the Taliban has been the entry of women into the media as reporters, directors, writers, producers and authors.

Excerpt by Lucas Aykroyd from Vancouver Magazine:

The powerful debut by Vancouver filmmaker Roberta Staley examines the impact of female media personalities in Afghanistan’s fight for gender equality. Staley, an award-winning editor and longtime contributor to Vancouver magazine, created the new 48-minute film to complete her Master’s degree in graduate liberal studies at SFU. After spending three weeks in 2012 in the Central Asian nation on assignment for Elle, she returned there in 2015 to shoot Mightier Than the Sword in 35 C weather during Ramadan. Staley remortgaged her condo to finish the film, which cost her more than $80,000. “That’s what you do when you believe in something,” she says. “I was obsessed with telling this story about the media and how it was changing gender perceptions and gender equality.”

View Trailer:

More to come

Feel-good Friday: Fleeting Farewell

Giving you a little heads up that I’m going on a California dreamin’ stopover before heading back to Canada. 

It also happens to be very superstitious writings on the wall, etc.  Friday the 13th.  Did you know that every month that begins on a Sunday has a Friday the 13th? You learn something new every day. 

I’ll be posting sporadically until the end of April, but plan to be back here after that with a few fresh story ideas. Collaborations are in the works as I’ve been exploring hidden hideaways, little lux resort style lodgings and cool places to eat, drink, shop and chill.  So I’m doing just that. Catching my breath while taking care of business and catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.

This pretty much sums it up
Catching up with Natalia, my fellow ex Montrealer friend who now lives in L.A.  She designs the oh so comfortable and stylish leisure/athletic wear line Garbe Luxe. We both worked at CBC (Vancouver + Toronto) in another lifetime.

Why not have a little fun in the sun?  Life is too short to not ride a cruiser wearing a cowboy hat or sundress. See you soon.  XO

Healthy Alternative: Homemade Coconut Milk

photo: the happiness kitchen

I’ve been pouring store bought coconut milk over granola, oatmeal and adding it in place of water to smoothies for a looooong time. That’s before I knew how so much more delicious and easy it is to make my own.  Trust me,  bought coconut milk does not compare to homemade. It’s great for smoothies, but after making your own you’ll realize how watery it is in comparison because they use more water to coconut ratio. I prefer coconut over almond milk.  It’s my tropical side coming out.

When you make your own it’s almost like cracking open a fresh coconut.  Really!

Ingredients (for about 3 cups)

  • 2 cups shredded or flaked unsweetened coconut
  • 3-4 cups water (use less water for thicker, creamier milk!)
  • Pinch salt
  • Add optional: 1 Tbsp maple syrup, ½ tsp. vanilla extract or scrape half a vanilla bean for added sweetness.  fyi: I have not added any extras so far


  1. Add coconut, 3 cups of hot (not boiling) water, pinch of salt (I like himalayan), and any additional add-ins (optional) to a high-speed blender. Top with lid and cover with a towel to ensure it doesn’t splash. Blend for about 2 minutes or until the mixture seems well combined.
  2. Pour the mixture through a sieve over a large mixing bowl. Save pulp for smoothies, baked goods or add it to oatmeal. You won’t waste any and it gives added coconut taste.
  3. Transfer to a sealed container or glass bottle and refrigerate. Will keep in the refrigerator for about one week. Shake before use, as it can separate in the refrigerator (due to no preservatives!).  Some recommend squeezing the milk through a cheese cloth after using sieve but I didn’t need to do this.


And if you want to go one step further try making your own coconut milk creamer.  I’ve been using So Good fat free Coconut Milk Creamer with French Vanilla which works really well to sweeten up coffee instead of adding sugar.  But I can’t find it easily in Vancouver and I’ve tried all the other brands which don’t compare in my opinion. I still like sweetener (that’s not gonna change) so I’m now making my own.

Homemade Coconut Milk Creamer

Homemade coconut milk creamer for coffee is also super easy to make. All you need is quality coconut milk and a healthy sweetener like honey and natural vanilla extract. Full fat coconut milk contains the healthy medium chain fats that are in coconut oil.


  • 1 Can Full Fat Coconut Milk
  • 4 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract


  1. Blend the coconut milk, sweetener of choice and vanilla extract together until the creamer is mixed well.
  2. Pour desired amount into your coffee or tea and store the remaining creamer in the refrigerator.
  3. Make sure to shake the creamer well before using. Enjoy! This creamer will be good for up to two weeks.

 Sooooo Good!


Music/Culture: OPERA in the PARK

Opera unites music, poetry, drama, and spectacle in the most elaborate of all art forms.

So it was an absolute pleasure to finally attend “Opera in the Park“, the Palm Springs premier cultural event in April .  This is the first time I’ve stayed here this long.  Usually I’m gone by the end of March because it gets too hot here, but this time I decided to stay a little longer. The event takes place at Sunrise Park which is a very short drive from where I live (part-time of course).

I originally had a spot reserved under the big white tent but decided to sit on the grass just outside it in a shady area with my lawn chair and the lunch I packed because I wasn’t sure they’d have food.  But they did have food and drinks.  And souvenirs. Most people were sitting outside the tent. It was lovely.

This live concert with arias from operas by Bizet, Delibes, Donizetti, Gounod, Mozart, Puccini, Rossini and Verdi draws thousands of people from all over Southern California every April in a celebration of great music with a professional orchestra conducted by Valery Ryvkin. In addition, a special tribute to Leonard Bernstein’s Centennial featured music from West Side Story and Candide.  It also marked the 20th Anniversary of Opera in the Park.  Oh, did I mention that it’s free? 

The Palm Springs Opera Guild Orchestra performed from 1-4 pm with famous operas including  Carmen, Rigoletto, Madame Butterfly, La Traviata, Faust and more.

There were food vendors from well known establishments offering delicious sandwiches, salads, platters, wine, beer, and cocktails.  You could even pre-order online from Trio restaurant.

Presenting Sponsors: The Augustine Foundation and

*Newman’s Own Foundation

Using the power of philanthropy to transform lives*Newman’s Own Foundation is all about supporting people doing great things.  People whos stories inspire us.

This month there’s also Coachella, a more famous and  enormously profitable music festival with a great long lineup.  A lot of musicians whom I’m familiar with and many I’m not.  But it was actually Opera in the Park that I really wanted to go to.  Coachella maybe another time.

Have you been to either?

Opera in the Park: Music Director: Mona Lands.  Artistic Director: Andrew Eisenmann.

Feel-good Friday: Fido Friendly Fitness

Well here’s something refreshingly fun. 

We already know they’re more dog friendly than most places in and around Palm Springs but here’s a place where you can actually work out with your pooch.  It’s called Venus de Fido and it’s in Palm Desert.  I mean I’m not sure my two are up for pilates or anything like that, but Layla is bugging me to get a membership to this place.

Not only that, but they have a specialty retail doggy boutique that’s dedicated to offering stylish, high-quality, unique products.    After your work-out you can check out the fashion-forward designer apparel, carriers, accessories, eco-friendly grooming and spa care products, novelty toys, premium pet foods, treats to share and other fabulous dog gifts and goodies.  Oh; now I see…that’s probably what Layla really wants.

Fido & You Fitness Class

The Fido & You fitness class combines light cardio, with yoga and core strengthening exercise for you while providing agility and trick training for your dog.  You can check out Fitness Class/Workshop Calendar for dates and times.

These classes are reason enough to move to Palm Desert:

Make Over Monday – All Day Spa Special and Happy Hour (4-6p)

Trunk Show Tuesday – Happy Hour (4-6p)

Wine Down Wednesday – Happy Hour (4-6p)

Yappy Hour Thursday – Happy Hour (4-6p)


The thing is, will you be able to keep up to your canine?



Style: California Cool

Inside a stylish box featuring California-founded brands.

It’s always special to receive a seasonal box filled with a carefully curated selection of luxury fashion and beauty products by Rachel Zoe, the fashion force behind the box of style. This California edition was delivered to me recently and I love it all.  It’s what’s inside that counts.  


According to Rachel nothing epitomizes California glamour like an effortless duster in a playful print. It’s the ultimate ode to West Coast cool.  As I’ve discovered, it can be worn a multitude of ways; to the beach, belted over a slipdress or as shown in above photo.

COCONUT ROSE TONER which by the way smells heavenly.

These playful sunnies are a little bit Audrey Hepburn and a little bit Twiggy.  They suit a variety of face shapes.  I have lots of sunglasses but these round out (ha,ha) my collection.

Kopari Lip Lovers coconut oil and shea butter lip balm (not shown).  Love this super hydrating balm which goes on silky but not sticky. Truly one of the best I’ve tried to date.

This simple-yet-stunning lariat was designed exclusively as the ideal finishing touch which can compliment anyone’s style.  Came in gold but they have silver too.

A little glitter goes a long way especially to dress up your tresses.  This one is designed by Rachel’s friend and hair genius Jen Atkin. It also works well around the neck as a choker or on the wrist.
Images: The Zoe Report
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Super Food: Moroccan Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Sweet meets Savory

This healthy & hearty salad made in one pot is hard to beat. It takes maybe 30 minutes to prepare and it’s a delicious vegetarian meal packed with protein which comes in handy for lunch. Non-vegetarians can enjoy it for dinner served as a side along roast chicken or fish. 


  • ½ tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetarian broth (or water)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ⅔ cup dried cranberries
  • ⅓ cup finely diced flat leaf parsley
  • ½ cup sliced toasted almonds


  1. Add coconut oil to a large pot and place over medium heat. Once oil is hot add in onion and sauté until onion is translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the following spices: turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and salt and pepper; cook for 30 seconds more.
  2. Next add in broth (or water) and quinoa; bring mixture to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low and cook for exactly 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from heat and fluff quinoa with a fork.
  3. Stir in chickpeas, cranberries and parsley to the quinoa and mix until well-combined. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with toasted almonds and extra parsley. Serves 4.
  4. To serve: Place in mason jars or meal prep containers for lunch throughout the week. Garnish with extra toasted almonds.

Quinoa: with 8 grams per cup, this gluten-free seed-like grain is a fantastic source of protein, magnesium, antioxidants, and fiber.

Recipe & Photo: