February 6, 2017

Bright Spots

A box of beautiful citrus - lemons and clementines.

I am aware that we haven't had a long and hard winter so far, but I really do miss summer. In all of January, we've had no more than two total days of sunshine, one at the beginning and one at the end; the rest of it was entirely grey. Needless to say, it was starting to really affect me and, despite my efforts, my mood went way down. Thankfully, February has been a little brighter so far. Although it's still mostly grey, we've had peeks of sunshine that have really helped me out a lot: there have been a few sunny mornings already and there was also that one day last week with beautiful afternoon sunlight coming out from behind the clouds just in time to shine down on us for a little while before sundown. Even this morning, as I'm writing this, the sun is coming up into a bright blue sky, peeking out from behind the house on the other side of the street and giving me the energy and happy vibes I need to start this new week off on the right foot.

A brightly coloured cup for my next hot concoction.

I miss summer. I miss the warm weather, the mostly sunny days, and most of all, I miss the sights, sounds, and smells of the season - birds chirping, flowers blooming, grass growing... all the little things. I think one of the hardest parts of winter for me is the lack of colour. On a bad day during this end of January - beginning of February period, when winter has been here for long enough already but I know that it will still be here for quite a bit longer, I feel particularly discouraged. On these days, I make sure to do a couple of things that help me feel better: for one, I try to stay away from my Instagram feed, that every year seems to be filled with pictures of sunny and warm (sandal-wearing warm!) places that seem so far away from my current reality. Second, I do my best to fill my indoor life with as much colour as possible; it might seem silly, but it's incredible how much a little bit of colour - whether it's in the form of a cup, a piece of fruit, or a shirt - can do for my mood.

New drawer organization that's making me smile more than anything else right now.

For now, I'm thoroughly enjoying this sunshine that's now falling directly on my face and later on in the afternoon, when, according to the weather channel, we'll have some more snow falling (and, consequently, more grey skies), I'll hold on to the thought that last week, most groundhogs across Canada predicted an early spring.

I'd love to know, do you prefer summer or winter? How do you cope with all the grey winter days?

February 2, 2017

New and Better

This week, after much procrastination, I finally started working on my health coaching website again. I originally launched it last March, as a very simple version with just 4 basic pages. It served me well for a while, but last fall I started developing my vision for what I wanted it to become, and realized that the simple site I had was no longer going to work, so I started researching, planning, and mapping out my vision, as well as creating content for it.

The first version of my health coaching website

Of course, since the actual website makeover is not something I know much about, I've been avoiding actually making the transition for some time now. Well, I finally got myself to start working on it this week and so far, I've really been enjoying the process. It's been very different from the first time around, when I was stressed for the most part - it was quite the learning curve working with Wordpress for the first time!

I found a new theme to use, the drag-and-drop kind that is much more user-friendly for someone like me who doesn't know much about web design, that I'm very happy with but that also means that I am basically starting from scratch again. Despite that, and thanks to everything I've learned in the past year and all the research I've done to prepare for this, I'm actually feeling more excited than stressed this time around. Besides working on the design, I'm also re-organizing the content that was already there, and adding more - there will be a blog too from now on, along with some other new sections I've cooked up.

A tiny sneak peek behind-the-scenes 
I'll be sharing more updates and news about the re-launch through my newsletter

My vision for this website is to not only be a place where someone who would like to work with me can find more information about me and the services I offer, but also a resource for all of us who want to change the way we approach our health, to make it a priority and the first step in the journey towards our big dreams, whatever they may be.

I'm so happy to finally be turning all those ideas in my head into something real, but even more so, I'm hopeful that what I'm creating will help people stay healthy and feel their best, so they can go after their big dreams fearlessly.

I'd love to know, what do you think about health coaching? Are you familiar with it? Is it something you'd be interested in trying?

January 4, 2017

A Season Like No Other

Today is the first day back to my regular routine after the holidays - and what a wonderful break it's been, spent quietly at home with my family. It was all about filling the hours with lots of eating, laughing, movie watching, and couch surfing, without having to rush or stick to any sort of schedule.

There was something different about this holiday season for me. Usually, I would have this inner pressure sitting heavy on my heart, telling me that I haven't done enough, that I've let another year slip by without moving towards my big dreams, and that I have to get really clear on my next steps right away so I can hit the ground running once that calendar on the wall changes, and never let it happen again. This year, however, I didn't feel any of that. Instead, I felt so at peace, and I was so much more immersed into the celebrations, quiet and simple as they may have been.

To be honest, these holidays haven't been picture perfect: a bunch of the dishes that we had been looking forward to making for our celebrations didn't happen, the holidays cards didn't get mailed until three days before Christmas, my desk, which hasn't seen an inch of clear space in months, actually became even more cluttered and, as a literal last bump in the road, we spent a chunk of the last (freezing) morning of the year assessing damage and filling insurance paperwork after a minor car accident; and yet somehow I was able to thoroughly enjoy this break, more than I have in a very long time.

I realized that it wasn't the season itself that was different from the ones of past years, but that the difference was inside of me. I really believe that, through all the work I've had to do on myself, 2016 really changed me and taught me so many precious lessons. It made me stronger, and it showed me what - and who - matters most. Ultimately, it painted the picture of how I want to live my life clearer than I've ever seen it, and I can't help but think how sweet it is to recognize, looking back, that the hardships and struggles of these last 12 months were all for good reason.

Even more, this inner change also allowed me to see December 31st and January 1st for what they actually are, two regular days coming one after the other, no different than the 363/4 other ones in the year in anything besides their potential to offer us a beautiful blank slate to use however we like to slowly create our own masterpiece day after day.

I hope that, whether 2016 was a great or difficult year for you, that you were able to enjoy a holiday season filled with love, laughter, and relaxation, and that you're looking forward to this 2017 that thankfully comes, like all years do, one day at a time.

November 8, 2016

Fired Up

Late last month, I watched Leonardo DiCaprio's new documentary, Before the Flood, about climate change and what can - and needs! - to be done about it. The tone throughout the movie was quite pessimistic, but I think it came from a deep desire to make clear the urgency of the situation and the need to take action right away. By the end, it left a really strong impression on me. In some way, I think it came at the right time: for the last few months (actually years, if I'm being really honest), with trying to find my way in the adult, working world, I have been quite focused on myself and my day-to-day tasks and to-do lists; because of this, I've put a bit aside one of my biggest passions, the one that convinced me to start this blog in the first place, and that was at the core of most major decisions I've made in this time: a passion to contribute to better health and wellness for our planet and for all of us humans living on it.

Photo via Inhabitat

In this sense, seeing this documentary was a much needed and very welcome reminder to shift my focus again to include more than just my own little world in my big, lofty goals for the future, because the truth is that my world (and any of our worlds really) wouldn't exist or be possible if the world at large, our planet, is not well. I've been aware of most major issues talked about in the movie - the exploitation of the oil sands happening right here in our own country (Canada), the melting glaciers, the damage caused by palm oil production and cattle raising, the Paris Agreement that was signed last December - but to be able to learn more details and see the sobering images in a way reignited that urgency in my heart again to start doing something and truly contributing to the wellness of our planet - and of our own lives along with it.

I know that for many of us living in developed countries, it is hard to fully grasp the impact of climate change yet, seeing as there haven't been too many shifts severely affecting our quality of life, and the movie was a good reminder for me that the people who do the least harm to our planet, are the first and most deeply affected by these changes - and that, although we may not be able to see it in our day-to-day, it doesn't mean that the change isn't happening.

Watching the documentary really motivated me to start taking action. I'll start with the easier and more straight-forward changes I can make: being really mindful of all the products I buy to make sure that they don't contain any palm oil and further reducing our consumption of meat, especially beef (although that is already very minimal), but I plan to keep going much further. I really believe there is always room for improvement in everything we do, so I think that a good way to make progress in this case is to constantly ask myself, "Is there a better way - one with a smaller negative impact or, even better, with a positive impact, on our planet?" and use the answers to make changes in the things I use, buy, and create.

One of the main points that stuck out to me thanks to Leo's film is the need to speak up and work together towards better ways; to speak up and ask for better things that will benefit rather than harm our planet; to speak up and ask for better solutions, more mindfulness, and a heightened awareness - because, as with most anything, if we don't ask for it, it will more than likely not be given to us. While I've been passionate about this for a long time, I generally conduct my life by the idea "live and let live" which, coupled with my shyness and introverted nature, has meant that I haven't been very vocal about any of my passions so far, and have only shared with the few people I've come across who are just as interested as me in the same things. Over the last few months though, it's become clear to me that keeping things to myself isn't going to produce any changes, so it's time to start finding ways to be more outspoken in ways that respect my own personality. Not only that, but there's also a big need to work together to create change, because we won't go nearly as far as we could by doing things separately, each in our own little corners.

So, I'll end this post with the following thought: if you've seen Before the Flood and/or are just as passionate about creating positive change for our planet, reach out and let's talk about whether we can do something together to make it happen.

I'd love to know, have you seen the documentary? (If not, it's now streaming on Youtube.) What did you think about it?

October 28, 2016

On My Plate

Part of feeling better over the last few weeks has meant that I've been back in the kitchen, cooking and trying out lots of new recipes from my favourite food blogs and cookbooks. I wanted to share here a few of the things I really enjoyed making - and of course, eating too.

We found some beautiful (almost) local peaches towards the end of the summer, so buying a box of them every week and making this peach oat smoothie every weekend became the norm for several weeks in a row. I don't think I've used oats in my smoothies before, but somehow, paired with all the other ingredients in the recipe, they made the creamiest smoothie I've ever had. This will definitely be in regular rotation next year, as soon as peaches are in season.

Chia pudding is easily one of my favourite treats, and though I usually make it with cacao, coconut water, and a bit of stevia, I've been eager to try other combinations as well. This newest favourite of mine came together last week, when I was craving a sweet treat but couldn't be bothered to prepare much of anything, so I thought that mixing some of the homemade apple sauce I had in the fridge with chia seeds would be the easiest option. After trying out a small portion in a bowl and loving it, I just added chia seeds to the rest of the applesauce jar, and had a yummy treat to grab any time I felt like it for the following few days.

These double chocolate chip cookies always satisfy my cravings for cookies - they remind me of the store-bought chocolate chip cookies I used to eat almost every day in my teens, but without the guilt of having something that's not healthy. I dreamt of these for several weeks before I got a chance to actually make them, and once I did, I made a big mistake - doubled everything but the sugar! - yet they were still deliciously crumbly and completely satisfying, especially when paired with a matcha latte as a mid-morning snack.

I love mac and cheese, but I'm no longer crazy about the ingredients that usually go in the recipe. Over the last couple of years, I've gathered several gluten-free, dairy-free alternatives to try, but had yet to make any of them. Once I saw the Creamy Butternut Squash and Shells version in Candice Kumai's Clean Green Eats* cookbook (currently one of my favourites), I couldn't resist anymore. Not only was it one of my favourite things to eat, but while I was cooking the squash, I couldn't help thinking that it was also one of the prettiest things I've ever cooked too. I skipped the bread-crumb topping and, since I grew up eating mac and cheese as a dessert, poured a little bit of honey on top of it on my plate, and it was honestly so good.

This raw nectarine cake came together quicker than any other one I've made before. It was almost 5pm when I realized that I had to make something with the few nectarines we had left over before they went bad, so I looked through a few of my cookbooks and settled on this recipe right away: the Peach Perfection Pie from Fresh*.  I made a few substitutions - I used dates instead of raisins for the crust, and nectarines and bananas instead of peaches for the cream - so I could use what I already had in my pantry. Although we had to let the cream gel for a while and couldn't dive in that evening, it was so worth the wait - the light, refreshing cream was the perfect complement to the sweeter and heavier crust. My only note about this is to make a larger amount of cream than called for in the recipe. I made almost double and still didn't completely fill the thick crust.

I love roasted sweet potatoes - fresh out of the oven are best, and I can never help myself from eating a bunch of them straight out of the pan - but when I want something different, I make this mix instead: celery root, butternut squash, and apple chopped to about the same size - the apple pieces can be a bit larger since they're softer and cook up quicker. Even though it all adds up to a big, full-to-the-brim pan by the time it's ready to go in the oven, somehow it never seems to be quite enough and disappears in the blink of an eye (seriously! I had no more than a spoonful of leftovers to enjoy for lunch the next day).

I've been wanting to make some energy balls for a long while, but this was again one of those cravings that went unsatisfied for weeks (maybe months?). Once I found Jamie Oliver's recipe for these cacao pumpkin energy balls and realized I had just enough puffed millet to substitute the puffed brown rice/quinoa called for in the recipe, I had to try it. It was so delicious that all four of us had to restrain ourselves from finishing the entire plate of them the same day. I definitely need to make more soon, but after reading Olivia's post about puffed cereal, I'm not sure I want to use this ingredient again. Instead, I'm thinking that roasting some buckwheat and using it as a crunchier alternative could be a nice replacement.

I keep trying more and more healthy and delicious recipes that I'll be sure to share again here (I also shared past ones here and here), but in the meantime, I'd love to know, what have you been cooking and eating lately?

*Disclaimer: The book links used in this post are affiliate links.

October 14, 2016

Falling for Fall

Fall is definitely here and, while I'm not thrilled about the dropping temperatures, I've actually been really enjoying it. I love that, unlike the past few years when the whole season seemed to go by in a flash, the transition this year has been much slower and smoother. Granted, it was bittersweet to see the leaves on a few trees start turning red in the middle of August, but the colourful show is still going on now, almost two months later, and it feels like every day they're only getting prettier. It's really been an autumn more beautiful than I've ever seen before here in our corner of the world. Needless to say, it's been a treat to go for walks around the neighbourhood lately, and attempt to capture a fraction of the beauty that can be seen with the naked eye.

I'd love to know, what is the weather like where you are? Are you enjoying an equally beautiful fall season?

PS: A few of my favourite sights from past autumn seasons: 2014 and 2015.

October 4, 2016

On The Rise Again

Here we are at the beginning of October already. I could talk about how I can't believe that this year is already three quarters over and how, with each year, time seems to speed up, but everyone seems to be aware of it by now. Besides, I'm feeling quite happy - in spite of the cooling temperatures - to be here now, and I'm putting as much energy as I can into enjoying the season, the day, and the moment.

September for me was a month of shifting seasons that brought along all kinds of subtle and not-so-subtle changes in my daily routines and life. In our corner of the world, it felt like almost as soon as the clock stroke midnight on September 1st, the temperatures dipped to bring us crisp nights and mornings instead of the constant heat and stifling humidity (which I didn't enjoy nearly as much as this description makes it seem). The autumn equinox brought along even more cool air, to the point where most days now we are in the single digits until the sun gets high up in the sky. I can't say I'm enjoying waking up to a cool house - in fact, it's throwing off the nice morning routine I was just getting into and was so enjoying. At the same time though, it feels like a new beginning, a fresh start. There is a lighter feeling in my heart, along with a newfound sense of purpose and excitement I thought I had completely lost, and I am definitely enjoying that.

Summer, as much as I adore it and mourn its departure every September, wasn't as kind to me this year. It brought to the surface a lot of struggle, plenty of dark days, and all kinds of intense feelings so, this time around, the hot days, the abundance of colours, and the sweet gifts of the season that I look forward to for nine long months were not thoroughly enjoyed, but merely noticed here and there. I am thankful to be turning a new leaf now, both outside and inside, though I will admit to ever so often still wishfully thinking of what these short, glorious months could have been had I been able to fully savour them.

I'm not naive to think that this all happened unexpectedly, and without my playing any role in it. When I decided just over a year ago to be brave and make the choices that I have been making over the last dozen months, I expected hard days ahead. I knew that all the fears, limiting beliefs, and demons that I held inside would come rushing out, and that this time I could no longer make excuses and brush them aside, but rather that I would have to face them. I thought however, that the work I had already done until then would help me through - of course it did - and I couldn't imagine their depth or extent at the time. In hindsight,  I'm glad I didn't because, my goodness, I might not have been so brave, and that would really have been such a shame, because the truth is, despite the crippling fear, doubt, and aloneness I have felt these last few months, I'm happy with where I am right now.

Over the last few weeks, I've felt myself starting to come out on the other side of this stormy wave, and getting stronger than I have been in a long while. I'm once again excited and inspired by my work, and I'm looking forward to (rather than dreading) bringing it out into the world. I've started to find and use tools that help me keep going, that bring the lows a little higher and end them a little sooner, so that I'm enjoying life and most days again, and am doing much better at taking in the beauty of the little things.

This summer wasn't at all what I expected but, looking back, I think it was exactly what I needed. It taught me so many valuable lessons that I hope will help me rise higher than I ever have before, live my purpose, and go after my dreams.

Here's to a wonderful and kind October!
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