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!

July 13, 2016

Out In The Garden

After another early morning walk today, we took some time to check on the garden. We've had loads of rain over the last week, so it had been a few days since I went out there, and I couldn't believe what I saw this morning! There has been so much growth happening during these last few days. The beans and peas are climbing up our homemade trellis with a vengeance, the sweet peppers have grown a few tiny fruits and the hot ones are filled with them, the cucumbers and zucchinis are getting established, the strawberries are flowering once again and, what makes me the happiest among all, the tomatoes are growing big and strong and doing really well. They were still quite small when we transplanted them a couple of weeks ago and we worried that we might not be picking any fruit until well into fall. They're already so much bigger though, and we even spotted a few tiny green tomatoes on the vines, so the prognosis is getting better. It also means that there will be lots of extra work to do this coming weekend, tying them up for support, in addition to the original plan of sowing more seeds.

I didn't take any pictures today, but I remembered taking a few at the beginning of the month, after we had planted everything that is there now, so those are the ones I'm sharing here. I'll bring my camera out again this weekend, and I already know there will be such a big difference!

Watching this slow and steady growth in our garden always makes me think of that tendency so many of us have to overestimate what we can do in a short amount of time, but underestimate what we can do over a long period. A red, juicy tomato will not grow in a day, but give it a few months and you'll be amazed by its beautiful colour, wonderful aroma, and incredible taste. In the same way, it might not feel like I'm accomplishing much in a day (it doesn't), but give me a year or two, and you might be surprised by what I can make happen (I am too). I just need to keep doing, keep trying, keep growing - slow and steady. Slow and steady.

July 11, 2016

Mornings In The Neighborhood

This summer, we've made a habit of taking Toby out for a walk early in the morning, since it works best with our schedules. We always go for about an hour, each time taking the same route. Last week, I brought along my new Narrative Clip 2 camera, and clipped it to my waistband for the entire walk. I didn't know what to expect while downloading the pictures, but I was so happy to find a few real gems.

I have to be honest and say that I'm not always thrilled by the idea of going for an early morning walk, so getting to see these pictures has helped me to appreciate this little routine in a new way, and reminded me just how nice it actually is: the sun is high up in the sky already but the temperature, although warm, is comfortable instead of sweltering, and maybe the best part (for me, at least) is that the whole day is still ahead of us.

That particular morning was so beautiful - the bright blue of the sky, the lush green all around - and I am so glad that these pictures managed to capture it, along with the quiet and stillness of the early morning. Seeing them helps me to look at the places we go through in a different light and I couldn't help but reflect on this idea and relate it to life in general: it always helps to look at things in a new, more positive light.

June 15, 2016

Reading, Listening, & Learning: May 2016

A couple of hours after publishing my previous post, I realized that it was the day that my blog turned 6 years old. At first, I couldn't believe that I had forgotten about it, and felt a little sad and guilty for not publishing something special to celebrate it, as I've done almost every year so far.

Truth be told, I'm currently in a place where I'd rather focus on more doing and less talking about doing, so I think the best way to celebrate this blog birthday is to just keep blogging. Besides, I've already talked and written time and time again (in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015) about how much blogging and this little piece of the world wide web means to me, so I can think of no better way to prove that - to myself and everyone who has been reading over the years - than if I just keep going.

So, with that, I'll turn my attention to what I had planned on writing about today. I wanted to share a few of the articles, podcasts, and videos that I have read, listened to, or watched last month - the ones that made me think and influenced me in a positive way. I mentioned a few weeks ago about how I wanted to write more about the things I find in addition to the things I do or think about, because they fuel me, help me keep moving forward, and show me new perspectives on life.

Below are a few of the wonderful pieces of content that I enjoyed in May:

Connie Chapman's Awaken Radio podcast: Although I've been following Connie's blog on and off for a few years now, back in April I listened to one of her podcast episodes that really made me think, so last month I wanted to try out a few more. The one that really stuck with me was episode 31, Manifest with Less Hustle and More Flow with Erin Stutland. I loved Erin's story and what really stuck with me until now is her way of turning negative thoughts into mantras and affirmations to help her transform, turn weaknesses into assets, and go after her goals. It's something that I want to include in my own life as well, whenever I'm having a bad day or find myself in a negative mindset, because I can already imagine how powerful it could be.

If Plan A Fails, Remember That You Have 25 Letters Left by Chris Guillebeau: I just recently bought Chris' now famous book, The $100 Startup*, but a few months ago, I added his blog to my reading list as well, and this post in particular served as a great lesson and reminder. As a new entrepreneur who is trying to get her business(es) off the ground, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everything I do has to be perfect and bring results (or else it's not worth doing), and get paralyzed about my next step in the process. It was really comforting to realize that if something doesn't work out one way, there are so many other options that I can try out instead of giving up. Reading about Vanessa's thought process was inspiring, and served both as a wake-up call to the way I approach doing business, and a much-needed reminder that backup plans are important.

Aquafaba: The Magical Vegan Ingredient You've Probably Been Throwing Out by Mind Body Green: Coming across this article was a real case of serendipity for me! The day before, I had soaked and cooked a big pot of chickpeas and, just as I was getting ready for bed that night, I remembered reading about the miraculous properties of the cooking liquid from the chickpeas (and other beans) a few months before, but could not, for the life of me, remember what it was called. The next day, I had completely forgotten about it but, as I was browsing my Twitter feed, my eye stopped on a link to this article. Needless to day, I won't be forgetting the name again anytime soon. I didn't get a chance to use the liquid from this batch before it went bad, but now that I know exactly where to find more information (and recipe ideas!), I'm looking forward to experimenting with the next one.

What I Eat In A Day by Mimi Ikonn: I've been watching and finding inspiration in Mimi's videos for quite a few years now, and this particular video was a great reminder that healthy and delicious food doesn't have to be complicated. I love reading food blogs and getting recipe ideas from them, but the often long ingredient lists sometimes intimidate me and make me think twice about whether they're worth the time and effort that they require. Throughout this video, Mimi did so well to show plenty of healthy meal ideas that are not only tasty but can be put together quickly, on days when you haven't had time to think about, research, or plan what you'll have for your next meal. I'm still thinking about her sweet potato puree almost every day.

I'd love to know, have you found anything new or interesting through these links? Also, what articles/videos/podcasts have you come across recently that influenced you in a positive way?


*Disclaimer: The book link used in this post is an affiliate link through the Amazon Associates program. This means that I may receive a small commission if you purchase something through it. I only use affiliate links for things that I love and have bought myself, but if you are not comfortable with this and would still like to take a look at the book, you can always go directly to the Amazon website and type the name of the book or author in the search box at the top.
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