20: Guest Post: Elisabeth from The Optimistic Musings of a Pessimist

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. Come join me. #nablopomo2023

Today I am delighted to be swapping blogs with Elisabeth (with an ‘s’). I wish I knew how I found Elisabeth but as so often, I rarely remember how I came across people on the interwebs that are now so dear to me that I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t know them. 

Elisabeth started blogging just over two years ago but recently lost her blog to the Internet gremlins and had to start fresh. While it was devastating to lose all her content, she made lemonade out of lemons, designed a beautiful, new blog, and cranked out a record number of posts in just two short months. Elisabeth is a great writer and has a lot to share. I am always looking forward to her thought-provoking and insightful posts. She also sprinkles her blog posts with beautiful pictures of her family, their travels and adventures, and lots of lighthouse pictures — now a signature part of her new blog logo. 

On the surface, Elisabeth and I live two very different lives. I am a childfree woman in midlife who works (mostly) from home, loves to sweat her heart out in her free time, and lives in a part of California that doesn’t really know winter. Elisabeth lives on the other side of the continent in beautiful Nova Scotia, only surviving the winter months because of magic bags and layers of warm clothing, and is an entrepreneur, a working mom of two, and deeply rooted in her faith.

Personality-wise, I feel we are kindred spirits. We’re both introverts, love planners and organizing, thrifting (although she’s much better at it than I could ever be), and have a minimalistic approach to life. I catch myself often nodding along when I read her posts, mouthing “me, too” along the way. It’s nice to recognize yourself in someone else’s writing. 

I am so excited that she’s taking over my blog today!

Take it away, Elisabeth!

Q: Which five words would you use to describe yourself? 

Driven. Self-doubting. Creative. Introverted. Blessed.

Q: You can have dinner with two people you respect and admire (and have never met). Who’s invited?

Gretchen Rubin. Nicole.

Q: What is your greatest fear?

Something happening to my husband or either of my children. The older I get the more I’ve watched people lose loved ones to illness or tragedy; the pain is unimaginable and it scares me to even think about the potential of having to say goodbye to them. [This is my greatest fear, too.]

Q: What are your biggest pet peeves?

  • When people put their toilet paper on the roll in the “under” configuration. I’ve blogged about this many times. Toilet paper was designed to be placed “over” – full stop. Case closed. Discussion over!
  • When people put a jar of peanut butter/jam/mayonnaise away with a teaspoon of food left inside. My blood boils when I open up the jar to find tiny remnants of said item; this means I’m now responsible for cleaning the jar out, have to get my hands all dirty to do so, and have to go find a new bottle in the pantry. If you finish it off, OWN UP TO IT AND CLEAN IT OUT.
  • I grew up reading an older version of the Bible (the King James). While I don’t read that version anymore (I prefer ESV and NASB), it really – REALLY – bothers me when newer translations/modern scholars don’t refer to Jesus/God’s pronouns with capital letters. To me, Jesus is Him with a capital “H.” If I get a handout at a church event and it says “him” I will cross out the small “h” and capitalize it.

Q: What is your favorite piece of clothing in your wardrobe and why?

Either of my sets of cozy pajamas. Bliss.   

Q: What inspires you?

Music. Photography. Books – especially non-fiction that makes me think; I live for a good quote. Paper, pens, and a planner. Writing.

Q: What dishes do you make best?

Sweet: Cinnamon coffee cake. It was a family tradition for Christmas morning breakfast growing up, but now I make it for brunches or even a post-meal dessert. It’s always a hit with kids and grownups alike. [I hope you share the recipe!]

Savory: Chicken mango curry, meatballs, homemade donairs (an East Coast specialty).

Q: What is your favorite family ritual?

Walking to school in the mornings. It’s a great way to start the day and I love that my kids actively miss that experience if we have to drive several days in a row because of rain or scheduling conflicts. And yes, we walk all winter, too!

If I got to choose a second favourite ritual (and I’m going to go right ahead and choose a second one), it’s lighting taper candles before supper in the winter. My brother and sister-in-law live in Denmark and gifted us a gorgeous set of Georg Jensen candlesticks. From the instant those candles are lit and we sit down to eat, I feel the stress in everyone start to fade away. The kids both love and look forward to this ritual, too.

Q: Are you a light packer or a I-should-take-everything-just-in-case kinda gal?

Light. This is likely more by association because my husband has a very firm rule about only taking carry-ons when we travel. Now that I’ve added packing cubes to my game, I can squeeze in a few extra things, but I am definitely a light (let’s call it efficient) packer. I plan my outfits in advance and think carefully about what I might need remembering that, in a pinch, there are almost always stores where we’re headed if I forget anything!

Q: What is something special you do to treat yourself? 

I think “treat” is all in the eye of the beholder and just about anything can become a treat if we view it as special. All that to say, I think my favourite “treat” is the weekly at-home date nights I have with my husband. We started this habit years ago; he was often away all week for work and we were desperate to carve out time to recharge together. The kids were still quite young and we would feed them early, put them to bed with an activity, and then my husband would prepare a meal for just the two of us. I look forward to this time every week. Years into this weekly habit I only love it more! I crave this time and it feels decadent to not cook, to not have to eat with the kids (family meals are special but hectic), and indulgent to watch a documentary or movie in pajamas. I enjoy this more than booking a babysitter, spending a lot of money on a restaurant, sitting in a cold movie theatre, and having to wear “real” clothes.

Q: Cookies, cake or donuts?

Cake – Unbaked Cherry Cheesecake is my all-time favourite dessert. I won’t say no to chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. But I also love – though rarely eat – a good old-fashioned sugared donut. Cookies are only Meh for me (but if I do have a cookie it should be either a fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie or a really spicy ginger cookie).

Q: What’s your favorite part about blogging?

I love it all, but my favourite part is the people – I have formed so many special friendships through this creative outlet. 

I have come to appreciate – and depend on – the moral support of others through the ups and downs of life. When I started blogging I assumed my writing would simply serve as a way of getting all the chaos in my head down on paper. Over two years later, it means more to me than I could ever have imagined! [I am so happy you started your blog and that you’re such an integral part of this community!]

Q: Share something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn about you. 

  • Some people might not know that I’m the youngest of four children, and my closest sibling is 8 years older than me. In some ways, I was a bit like an only child growing up.
  • My paternal grandmother had our family tree traced back directly to William Wallace (of Braveheart fame) – he is my great (many times over) grandfather!
  • When I was in Grade 11, every student had to take province-wide assessments (a bit like an SAT). I made 99.9% on my Math exam which ended up being the highest grade in the entire province. Why is this surprising? Because I am HORRIBLE at Math now. As a teen I was very good at memorization and had the ability to apply memorized skills to abstracted questions…but, at the end of the day, it was only a temporary understanding and as soon as the test was over – poof, my knowledge was gone. My inadequacies at Math are part of family legend and it’s a bit embarrassing to admit that, on paper – for a while – I was supposedly an exceptional Math student.

Q: If you had a time machine, would you travel to the past or the future?

To the past, specifically to the final year of my undergraduate degree. University was such a happy place for me and that year I met my now-husband. I lived in a euphoric cloud of joy – school was great, I was young and in love, and the world was my oyster. Things are wonderful now, but that was an especially magical and special time in my life.

Q: What’s a motto you live by?

The only way through is through. [Isn’t that the truth!]

Q: Which is your favorite movie and why?

White Christmas. I love so much about the Christmas season and about a decade ago my best friend – Joy – and I started having an annual viewing party of White Christmas. We dress in comfy clothes, grab cozy blankets, and settle in to sing – and commentate – on this movie. While I love so many aspects of the film itself (and can quote a large portion of the script from memory), it’s what it represents in our friendship at such a special time of year that really makes it unique. I look forward to this evening all year long.

Q: What is the most useless piece of trivia you know?

That antidisestablishmentarianism USED to be the longest word in the English language. Now it’s the second-longest word. For a while, it was the longest word and I was proud of knowing it, but then this summer a 12-year-old informed me it had been superseded by pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. Womp, womp.

I also know how to spell Joe Nieuwendyk’s last name. I went through a phase as a tween where I was obsessed with hockey and memorized how to spell all my favourite players’ last names. I’ve never forgotten it goes: N-I-E-U-W-E-N-D-Y-K (he was a Canadian playing for the Detroit Red Wings alongside Steve Yzerman…and yes, I knew/know how to spell his name, too).

Both items of trivia are positively useless…but you asked :)

Thanks so much for swapping blogs with me, Elisabeth.

Do you have a question for Elisabeth? What’s your favorite part about blogging? What inspires you?

  1. I bet, if you really wanted to, you could bring some of those math skills back to life. I feel like a lot of those skills we learned in school just get rusty because we don’t use them, but we can get them back with a little TLC. I mean, that assumes you WANT to do that.

    Reading Yzerman’s name really took me back. I was a teenager living in Michigan in the 1990s and even as someone who doesn’t follow sports at all, I KNOW that name and I knew how to spell it and wow! popular culture really is pervasive, isn’t it?

    1. Yeah…I have basically zero desire to be good at Math if it takes effort, which I would. Which is similar to how I feel about playing piano. I really wish I had kept up with lessons but, at this stage in my life at least, I have zero motivation to put in any work.

      That’s so funny that you knew of Steve Yzerman. I was a HUGE Red Wings fan, surpassed only by my obsession with the Toronto Maple Leafs. I used to have my dad quiz me on every player’s – even the reserve, benched players – jersey number. Oh to have the free time (and mental headspace) of a 10-year-old again!

      1. My goodness, yes! I used to have all the Bruins names and numbers memorized, and now I’ll see someone make a play and who is that again?

        1. Other than Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby, I don’t know a single player in the NHL now. Life moved on, but in that era of my life it was EVERYTHING to me.

  2. I enjoy Elisabeth’s blog, so it was nice to read her interview with you and discover your blog! And your interview with Elisabeth is also lovely!
    Is that Elisabeth’s wedding picture? So gorgeous!
    I enjoy blogging because it’s like a journal of my creative projects. I’ve enjoyed meeting people through my blog and reading their blogs. Blogging feels more real and in-depth than social media, which is lovely.

    1. Aww. Thanks, Michelle. My wedding dress is a bit of a loaded gun to me because it did not fit properly on the day of my wedding. So thanks for the compliment!

      And I’m so glad you met San via my blog. Her blog is such a happy space on the internet.

  3. Ha – I love that piece of trivia about the new longest word. What a bummer that antidisestablishmentarianism has been knocked off the throne! Maybe we should make a rule that medical/scientific terms are banned? ;-)

    What a beautiful wedding photo! And I am with you on the blood boiling when there’s barely anything left in the jar! Argh!

    1. At best, it sounds pseudo-scientific, no?

      I posted about this same pet peeve on my blog yesterday and two readers mentioned sometimes their family members but things away EMPTY. I’m not sure what would happen to my blood at that point. Spontaneously combust?

  4. I have loved getting to know Elisabeth over the last several years. We are such kindred spirits and I hope to meet her in person some day! The connections and friendships I’ve made are definitely the best part about blogging. The person I consider my bestest friend (Amber from BC, Canada) is someone I met through blogging!

    She is like my sister in terms of family placement. My little sister is the youngest sibling of the 5 kids in our family – I’m next oldest and am 7 years older than her. She was truly like an only child which is why she has an extra special relationship with my parents.

    1. I feel 99.99% certain we will meet in person one day, Lisa <3
      Yup – I'm like an only child and would say that I have an extra special relationship with my parents (I'm also the only child who lives within reasonable driving distance, too, so I see them far more frequently than my other siblings, two of which live outside the country).

  5. I loved this post <3 It's always so nice to see yourself in the writing of others. Despite our many differences, I've always held firm to the belief that it's important to communicate and learn about people who lead lives that are different from ours, so that we can develop a deeper understanding and more empathy towards others. Living in an echo chamber is terribly overrated :)

    Thanks for sharing Elisabeth was us today. Oh, dear. Her deepest fear (and yours too apparently!) is mine as well. I spend an ungodly amount of time thinking about losing the people I love. It's awful, isn't it? That wedding photo is so beautiful <3 And those taper candles are absolutely divine.


    1. I think these fears also just get more intense as I get older because I’ve seen tragedy happen – often suddenly – to more and more people I know/love. But I try to live in the moment and enjoy the now as much as I can. Does my blood still boil when people put away almost empty jars? Yes. But I also realize I’m so, so blessed to have a healthy family and try to cherish that.

      And those taper candles make me SO happy. Fancy candlesticks are not really my thing – or so I thought – but they’ve become one of my most treasured tangible possessions.

  6. I cannot even read the newest longest word…I get exhausted halfway through even though it starts on a high note with “pneumo.” And there’s the word volcano in it. As you can tell, I am writing my comment in the style of a 2013 Travis Kelce Tweet.

    1. Would you believe I had to Google Travis Kelce? I thought the name rang a bell…Clearly my love of hockey did not rub off onto American football.

  7. ELISABETHHHHHH I WANT TO HAVE DINNER WITH YOU TOOOOOOO! Honest to goodness, that made me tear up with happiness. Thank you! xoxoxoxo
    This was so lovely to read and I am IMPRESSED with that math score, even if you feel it was a short-lived talent! And I’m fascinated by the William Wallace trivia! Who knew? That’s so interesting!
    I love that wedding photo. It’s so gorgeous!

    1. Oh, I assure you it was a very short-lived talent.

      When I told friends in my new high school I was related to William Wallace and they thought I meant Mel Gibson. They didn’t think it was nearly as cool once I clarified I meant the really old guy who died 100s of years earlier and had his body spread around Scotland.

  8. Oh, to be a fly on the wall at that dinner party! I find Elisabeth (and San) endlessly inspiring and I love how different you both are but so compassionate in your writing styles! Thank you for sharing, Elisabeth (I’m also on Team Lose My Cool when someone leaves just a teaspoon (or less) of something inside a jar inside my fridge)!

    1. Team Lose My Cool sounds better than Team Blood Boil; I’m officially switching teams to be with you, Lindsay <3

      And to be found "endlessly inspiring" is one of the kindest things I've heard said about me. Thank you, Lindsay.

  9. Elisabeth, it’s so nice to run into you in a new place! This is a day where I NEED useless knowledge and you delivered! I approve of “making” your children walk uphill in the snow in bare feet both ways to school;-) No seriously, what a lovely tradition. Our family used to walk together to the bus stop down the street each day for school.

    1. Some days the complaints make it seem like they have to walk uphill both ways (in reality, it’s downhill one way – they don’t know how good they’ve got it :))!

  10. Yay Elisabeth!!!!!! Wow, you put together quite a dinner party- Gretchen Rubin and Nicole! I think I would want Gretchen’s sister Elizabeth there too : )
    I loved revisiting all the Elisabeth facts and traditions- the cherry cheesecake, White Christmas, walking the kids to school, the toilet paper pet peeve… and learning some new facts as well (Elisabeth is a closet math whiz!) This was a really fun post.

    1. I really just wish I could have ALL MY BLOGGY FRIENDS to dinner. Though I’m an introvert and most of us seem to be…so I’d have to think through logistics.

      Ha – closet math whiz, indeed. More like a math whiz con artist. It’s a bit embarrassing, actually. Really – my current math capabilities are pathetic at best!

  11. I so enjoy getting to know more about you. This is a great post idea. You’re an entrepreneur? What is it that you do?

    I started blogging because I like to tell stories, and my kids were supplying me with endless material that I wanted to record. It has morphed from there and, like you, I really do enjoy getting to know so many different people from so many walks of life with a variety of jobs and interests.

    I love the walking to school tradition and the candles on the table. Wow. I wonder if we did that if everyone would slow down and relax a bit longer.

    1. Stay tuned! I will be answering your work questions next week in my Ask Me (Almost) Anything answers.

  12. I love that you walk your kids to school every day. We did that as well for years. When I started working from home, I would drive part way, and walk the rest of the way, along with our dog, Genevieve. I have fond memories of those times. Now my husband commutes with her.

    I love both of your blogs, and really enjoyed the questions on both of your posts.

    1. I didn’t know you had a dog named Genevieve. What lovely memories <3

  13. How lovely to learn more about Elisabeth (the pet peeves, for example) from your blog, San. And fantastic questions, too. The dinner one is always a good one to ask. Not sure I could do the cherry cheesecake, though I do appreciate your love for it, Elisabeth. (My favorite dessert would probably not be favored by many others!)

  14. Lovely to learn more about Elisabeth and such interesting questions.
    Wow that wedding picture is beautiful!

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