May 27, 2016

Growing More

This is our sixth year planting a vegetable garden here in our backyard, and each year we've learned more about the process, and grown our garden a little big bigger and wider than the last. Of course, this year is no different. In fact, my brother and my dad spent a big chunk of this past long weekend building three more raised beds for our veggies.

This week, the new beds are getting filled with soil, and by the weekend we should be able to add the plants that we started inside and the seeds that we'll be sowing directly there - if, fingers crossed, the weather cooperates. We already have quite a few eggplant and pepper plants started (we've never had much success with any of them in the past, so this is new and exciting territory!) and, if it's even possible, even more tomato plants than last year, so the additional space will be very welcome.

Another new thing that we're doing with our garden this year, besides adding more raised beds, is trying out both spring crops (seeds and starts went in the ground mid-April) and fall crops (that we'll be planting mid- to late summer). These are all those veggies that don't do very well in the high heat of summer, things like lettuce and all sorts of greens, spinach, kale, beets, radishes, and cabbage.

Speaking of spring gardens, last night we picked our first harvest of spring crops from the garden: a small batch of Ovation Greens that we mixed into a salad with some sliced red onion, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil - it was delicious!

I'd love to know, are you growing any of your own food this year?

May 24, 2016

Our Loyal Winged Friends

It was the middle of April, the early evening hours of a beautiful Sunday, and the end of the first day of the year warm enough to allow us to work outside. I spent some time both inside, helping my mom file our yearly income taxes and outside, helping my dad and my brother do some garden prep work. My brother pruned our apple tree, my dad cleared our raised beds of the dried plants left over from the fall and prepped them for this year's plantings, while I raked some of the leaves we didn't get to before winter came, to uncover a few bits of green that had already come up underneath and to bring a little colour to our yard.

It was the end of the day. My parents were now both inside, getting dinner ready, and my brother and I were still outside, finishing up our first seed sowing session of the season. We were sprinkling lettuce seeds when we heard a loud noise, of flapping wings, behind us. If I'm being honest, to me it sounded like a bird was rapidly falling to the ground, erratically flapping its wings in a struggle to stay above ground. We turned around quickly to thankfully realize how wrong I was (and, apparently, how little I know about birds) and to see that not one, but two birds had safely landed into the little pond of rain water and melted snow that had formed on top of our covered pool. At a closer look, we realized they weren't just any birds either, but rather the same sweet duck couple that has been visiting us every spring for the last few years. We had completely forgotten about their yearly visit, and once again, it was such a beautiful, unexpected weekend surprise to see them literally landing into our backyard for their fourth consecutive short stay.

I grabbed my iPad right away and started snapping pictures and videos, while the neighbours living in the house behind ours, after hearing the loud noise as well, were lifting their small kids up to see the ducks over the fence and pointing to them. The pictures and videos I took weren't the best, I knew, but I didn't care. I just wanted to have a snapshot, no matter how blurry, of this moment in time, of these shy, beautiful creatures who chose us once again as the family whose yard would serve as a well-deserved stopover in their journey.

Our whole family - quietly, so as not to startle them - gathered around to see them for their quick visit, knowing that once we went inside to have dinner, we'd have to wait another year to get a glimpse of them, as they would already be gone by the time we were finished eating.

I can't say that living in this house, in this neighbourhood, in this town, has been my favourite, but seeing these two beautiful pals each year, however briefly, will be one of my favourite memories of this place once we do move somewhere else.

In the meantime, we hope to see you next year too, sweet friends!

I rediscovered these pictures now, just over a month after taking them, and the story of that beautiful day came rushing back into my mind and pouring out of me, so I wanted to jot it down to help me remember it, with all its beautiful little details, even a long time from now. I learned a while ago - in big part, thanks to this little space of mine here on the Internet - that the beauty of life is in all the little things, and I haven't done a great job of stopping to notice and take them in lately, so I think it's time to change that.

Tell me, what little things have made your life beautiful lately?

April 19, 2016

The Things I Find

For the last couple of weeks, I have been at a bit of a loss for what to write in this space. It's ironic since, for the longest time, I had plenty of ideas and not enough time to create them, but now that I've made more space for blogging in my life, all those ideas seem to have dissipated into thin air.

The truth is, ever since I started this blog, I set a goal for myself to have the majority of the content be original. I left some room to share the works of others that inspire me, but they were always meant to be sparse. The wrinkle in this plan is that most of my time is currently spent behind a computer screen, reading, learning, planning and working on a business or other, but not as much creating, experiencing, or taking pictures of things and moments that I could share here.

Thinking of this, I realized that there is a big part of my life that I haven't been sharing, but I would like to. It's a part that not only takes up a considerable amount of time and space in my life, but one that I absolutely love, and that makes me the person I am. I simply wouldn't be me if I didn't spend as much time researching, reading, and learning about all the things I'm passionate about or that interest me at some point or another. It's how I understand and make sense of the world. So, I thought I'd start sharing more of the things - thoughts, ideas, articles, books, and so much more - that I come across through my never-ending need to learn.

It won't be my original content, but it will be my (respectful) take on that of others, which I suppose makes it original in its own way. Not only that, but it feels like every day I come across so many things that change my perspective, make me think and grow, and become a (hopefully) better version of myself, that I thought there could be great value in sharing them here too, for the chance that it will have a similar effect on somebody else.

With that in mind, I'll be back soon, sharing more of my own life and of the things that I find and learn from.

April 7, 2016

Water for Health

As I was browsing my favourite websites this morning, I found out that today is World Health Day. To be honest, I don't keep up with many of these commemorative days, and rarely give them much thought, so I had no idea this day existed. That being said, a day that brings awareness to one of the most important parts of our lives - and one of my favourite topics - is worth joining in my book.

After doing a little more reading, I found that this year in particular, World Health Day is putting the spotlight on the alarming rise in diabetes, by highlighting the need for increased prevention and treatment efforts. While I can't speak much of the treatment aspect, prevention of this, and any other, disease is something I'm very passionate about, and the concept that I have built my entire health coaching practice around.

I wholeheartedly believe in prevention and in making small adjustments to our diets and lifestyles that, in the short run, have big positive impacts and that, in the long run, help us avoid negative health outcomes, as is the case of chronic diseases like diabetes.

There are plenty of little changes that each of us can make to maintain our health and prevent future illnesses, suited to our unique lifestyles, but one of the simplest and most effective ones, that I work on with each of my clients, is drinking more water. Giving more attention to how much water we're drinking every day and making it a point to drink enough of it can have the most wonderful outcomes. Over the past year or so, I've witnessed, in both myself and others that I've talked to, everything from relieving headaches, having more energy, a smoother voice (particularly important if your voice plays a big role in the way you make a living), and reducing cravings for not-so-good foods. In fewer words, I've learned not to underestimate the power of a glass of water!

Of course, drinking more water is a piece of advice we hear about everywhere and from everyone, but we all know it's not always easy to follow through with it. Actually, one of the reasons I wanted to write about it today is because I noticed that I haven't been drinking enough water over the last couple of weeks. So this is my way of reflecting back on some of the tips I've used in the past to get back on track.

What helps me the most is simply having water with me at all times, which means that, if I'm going out for more than a couple of hours, I bring a bottle with me, and when I'm at work, I have one or two of them out on my desk, where I can always see and easily reach for them. If I'm at home, I'll fill a glass and leave it out on the kitchen table so that every time I pass by it, which happens quite often, I see it and I'm reminded that I should take at least a few sips.

This is what I'll be focusing on over the next few days to make sure I stay healthy and well-hydrated, and I hope that, if you're struggling with it yourself, you'll give these tips a try and let me know how they work for you.  (...and if they don't work, I'd be happy to chat more about that too.)

Are there any other tricks you use to make sure you're staying hydrated every day? Please share them in the comments below.

March 31, 2016

Life Currently // March 2016

The last few days and weeks have been filled with a lot of...

watching the men's tennis matches from the Miami Open

wishing I was on a tennis court with a racquet in hand

launching the website for my new health coaching practice (!!!)

finishing up a knit blouse I've been working on and off for almost 3 years now

thoroughly enjoying the arrival of spring (snow melting, geese returning, flower buds popping out of the ground)

listening to new favourite podcasts from the first episode - 100 Not Out specifically, which is so good!!

reading this life-changing book

getting back into the swing of things on Twitter

starting new seedlings for this year's garden (or actually, I should say, gardens)

trying out new recipes (like this vegan lasagna and this buckwheat banana bread) that were a raving success with everyone in my family

What has been going on in your life?

March 21, 2016

Back to Books

I think I've mentioned this before, but I've always loved reading. I actually learned how to read from my grandma, before I even went to school. It quickly became one of my favourite pastimes, and it has stayed that way for my entire life so far.

Last year around February though, I realized that I wasn't reading many books anymore - almost any, actually. I had a couple of them started months prior but they were just gathering dust on my nightstand. Sure, I was going through plenty of articles, blogs, and other online content every day, but it didn't feel the same as sitting down with a book, turning page after page, and getting lost in a good story. And I really wanted to change that. Easy to say, but hard to do: with a hectic schedule, where I was rushing everywhere and felt like I didn't even have enough time to sleep as much as I needed to, I wasn't sure how I was going to bring reading back into my life. I was so exhausted most of the time that I didn't think I would be able to successfully add even one additional task to my already-filled-to-the-brim days, no matter how much I enjoyed it.

I knew that, whatever I would come up with to help me get back into reading books had to be really simple. I wanted to set a daily challenge for myself, but I knew that I normally don't do well with them; I almost always abandon them several days (maybe weeks, if I'm really trying) in. So, in addition to being simple, this challenge also had to require as little willpower as possible.

I decided to try this: every single day, I would read one page from a book every night before going to sleep. While reading just one page wouldn't get me too far even in a year, I just wanted to establish a habit of reaching for a book regularly again. Of course, if I felt up to it, I could read many more pages in a sitting, but I knew that reading just one page wouldn't take longer than a few minutes so, no matter how tired I was, I didn't have an excuse not to do it. To make it even simpler, I didn't even care if the next day I remembered what I read, and I gave myself permission to re-read that same page as many times as it took to "make it stick" in my brain.

While in the back of my mind, I still didn't fully trust that I would follow through long-term, I actually surprised myself. While there were some days when I didn't read at all, those days were few and far between. Instead, most days I read several pages, which motivated me even more. Of course, since I read mostly at night, right before going to sleep, there were also several days when I struggled to stay awake for that one page, but I still kept at it for close to a year.

I did eventually stop keeping track of whether I was reading every single day, but not before the challenge fulfilled its purpose. These days, since my schedule is very different from what it was a year ago, I don't always read every day anymore, but I do read regularly, usually for larger chunks of time.

Looking back, I'm so glad I did this. Although it was a very small and simple challenge, it had a big impact on me. For one, it helped me confirm for myself a concept that I learned as a student at IIN and that I use with my health coaching clients: as founder and teacher Joshua Rosenthal explains, if we aren't following through with a goal, that is because the goal just isn't small enough. It doesn't have to do with an inability to follow through or a lack of desire to reach that goal, but rather the goal itself is too big and too overwhelming - it needs to be smaller.

Beyond that, it helped me to think about goals in a different way: start small - so small that you have no excuses to not do it - and then build on from there. It's a great reminder that every big goal is made up of small steps just like this, and I am definitely the kind of person who needs this reminder constantly. So often, what keeps me from going after the things I want is starting, so if I can make that first step as small and non-threatening as possible, I know that I can do so much more of what are now just dreams.

Needless to say, I've been thinking of other areas of my life where I can apply this valuable lesson, but I'd love to know, is there anything you think that it can help you with as well? Is there any aspect of your life where you really need to start small if you are going to make any progress at all?

March 15, 2016

Knotted Beauty

A few months ago, I mentioned on Instagram that I was spending the afternoon taking pictures of a few scarves that my mom had crocheted. Thankfully, after a couple of hours of photographing, I got to see the results of my efforts and I was actually pretty happy with how they turned out, so I wanted to share a few of them here as well, because this is not a frequent occurrence in this camera-challenged girl's life.

Like I mentioned, the scarves were all crocheted by my mom, after learning this beautiful new stitch called "Solomon's knot", as a way to use up some of the yarns we have around the house and to stay busy during her long commute to and from work.

The reason I was photographing them is because we decided to list them on Etsy. As much as we love a handmade scarf, we really don't need so many of the same, and we'd rather share them with others who will appreciate their beauty and softness just as much as we do.

Besides, after seeing how beautiful this pattern looks, I've requested a larger, shawl-sized scarf, that I can drape over my shoulders and wear during all 4 seasons, not just the 3 colder ones that these scarves are perfect for. To this day though, I'm still debating what colour or yarn I'd like my shawl to be crocheted with (maybe one of these neutral, lighter yarns that we have in the shop?), which always seems to be the hardest choice for me when it comes to handmade projects. Usually, when I pick the material first, I know almost instantly what I would like to make with it, but when I pick the project first, I have the hardest time settling on the material.

Does this only happen to me? What is the hardest choice for you when starting a new project? And also, speaking of Etsy, what are your favourite shops there?

PS: Naturally, I had my whiskered assistant along with me for the picture-taking, to make sure everything was in order!

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