Tuesday, December 06, 2011

An Island MEAL

In less than 48 hours a second edition of M.E.A.L will be taking place The Farm Centre, 420 University Avenue, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, Plant Earth. To say I am excited,would be a substantial understatement. The way things seem to be shaping up, this is going to be a fantastic evening. To summarize by letter:


What is MEAL all about? I've been asked this question umpteen times over the past month, as I've tried to subtly sneak it into conversations at every opportunity. It's a valid question and every time I've been asked it, I've been able to provide an answer. That being said, it wasn't until today, when Shannon and I were hashing out what we'd say during a CBC interview tomorrow, that I think I finally solidified the answer in my own head. So here is what I think MEAL needs to be about and what it needs to communicate:

MEAL is, ultimately, about Eaters starting to actively participate in conversations about the food system we all depend on daily. For too long the onus has been on our farmers to wave the flag for sustainable agriculture, to lobby the government for investments and appropriate policies, and to try to educate the masses about the many issues that farmers are facing and which, ultimately, will affect eaters.

So the key is the eaters. We are all eaters. Every single person on this island is an eater and if we are ever to affect change in agriculture and our food system., then we need to get on board with our farmers (who make up 2% of the population).

I see MEAL as one of many emerging opportunities for eaters to let farmers/food producers know that they are valued and appreciated. MEAL provides for dialogue to occur outside of the transcation-based interactions that eaters and farmers typically encounter each other at (e.g. the Farmers' Market). This is our opportunity, as eaters, to say 'Thank you and we are ready to stand with you and help develop a food system that will sustain all of us and the environment that we depend on.'


When Shannon and I first got together back in October to discuss the possibility of having another MEAL, we both agreed that the food sampling was a key part of the event and that we absolutely, without a doubt, needed to secure a Chef if we were going to go through with this crazy plan. Alas, our head Chef from A Local MEAL, Christine Farkas, had since departed PEI for the big city lights of Toronto, so the search for a new Chef began. As luck would have it, the search didn't take long, as we were tipped off that Chef Dave Mottershall of Red Shores Racetrack and Casino was a huge proponent of local food and an all-round awesome guy. When we explained what we were doing, Chef Dave agreed without hesitation. He also peppered the entire conversation with very enthuiastic 'this is AWESOME's and the such. Exorbitant amounts of energy seems to be a theme amongst the chefs I have met in the past year - Dave, Christine, Jonah, and Jared.

So, with our Chef lined up, we went about with planning other elements of the MEAL. We correctly anticipated that getting food donations would take a lot of legwork, however, what we did not anticipate was how amazingly generous everyone would be. We've been repeatedly overwhelmed our Island food producers. Without hesitation, everyone we have approached for donations of everything from lamb to cheese to beef tenderloin to turnips to wine has answered with an emphatic 'yes'. A lot of emails, phone calls, and accosting of folks (not really) took place over the past month, but the efforts were most certainly worth it!

Over the past week we've finally been able to get a visual of how much food has been donated, and all I can say is that I do not think we will be wanting for deliciousness at the Farm Centre on Thursday night. I just can't wait to see what Chef Dave creates from all the foodstuffs we've delivered!!!


A big component of MEAL is learning. I have found, in my travels and observations, that the best educators are the story-tellers. Rarely does an audience react to a fact-based, emotionless lecture, but they will almost always get behind a person who invites the audience into a slice of their life. With that in mind, we will have seven presenters sharing stories about food/farming from their unique perspectives. I'm pretty excited about the diversity we have - including a chef, an organic farmer, a conventional farmer, a documentary filmmaker, and a pair of vodka distillers.

The learning doesn't begin or end with the presentations, and it is our hope that MEAL will serve as a venue where eaters and food producers can have a dialogue about the challenges and opportunities facing us as we work towards shaping a local, sustainable food system. There is plenty to learn, plenty to do, and little time, so let's get together and get going!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pieces of the Past

Lately I've been writing a lot. I know what you're thinking, so let me qualify that. Lately I've been writing a lot...in my head. Every day, I have tonnes of absolutely amazing thoughts running through my mind. Often they are even in the form of coherent, interesting sentences. Unfortunately, two things seem to present rather large hurdles when it comes to getting my writing onto paper (and by paper I mean computer screen because, let's face it, it's 2011 and paper is so 1999). The first hurdle is that these thoughts come to me at rather inopportune times, like when I'm at work or in the shower or playing dodge ball, and even when they come to me while I'm sitting around in my apartment or sweeping the floor, I just can't seem to bring myself to open up Word or Blogger and 'get 'er done' as they say. Which brings me to the second hurdle and, most likely, the reason I don't make much of an effort to get myself to a screen when wondrously amazing thoughts are streaming through my consciousness - because it seems a blank page acts as a very powerful repellent to these thoughts. Words dancing and swirling around in my head suddenly do a disappearing act the minute I sit down to write a blog. It's kind of like those mornings when you wake up after a night of intense, vivid dreams that you know were mind-bending, but can't recall the slightest detail. All you are left with is this fleeting sense that you were on the brink of something that would change everything.

As a result of the above, recurring experience, I have approximately a gazillion (give or take a few zillion) partly drafted blog posts that I've abandoned because I didn't feel they were inspired, or because I got tired and went to bed, or some other lame excuse. And now I'm thinking that this whole 'not good enough' attitude that the vast majority of us have of the things we think, write, create, do, say, etc. is rather ridiculous. And I really don't think I need to elaborate on that much. It's ridiculous to strive for perfection and reject anything that you don't deem as 'perfect'. So, in an effort to purge myself of 'imperfect' blog posts and, perhaps, share some musings that make me feel rather vulnerable and exposed, I've copied and pasted a good chunk of excerpts from posts that never got published - all the way back to 2004 and up to 2011 (in no particular order). Most, surprisingly, aren't about food!


on this occasion, whilst I'm well lubricated with red wine, dark chocolate and classic vino movies, I shall attempt to be clear...chardonnay clear: I have come to the conclusion that I have been severely limiting myself in most facets of life due to a lack of confidence in my own abilities and a parallel fear of failure. I know I am not alone in experiencing such limitations, but I feel like I am straddling a chasm right now.


I am no stranger to change, having taken many leaps into the unknown during my twenties, with faith that I'd land on my two feet (and I always did). It wasn't always easy or comfortable, but in the end I was always amply rewarded by the universe for being willing to let go of the familiar and embrace the unknown. And each time I took a leap of faith, it got easier. I had more confidence in myself, I knew I'd be able to handle the lows and highs, the fears and challenges, and eventually I'd find my way to the rich rewards (sidenote: Read The Alchemist by Paulo Cohelo).

But there is a difference between change that you choose to undergo and change that is thrust upon you suddenly and without any say in the matter. That's when one's resiliency is really tested. There's no time to take an extra big gulp of oxygen, no time to relax the mind, no time to reassure one's self that everything's going to be alright. And so the task of dealing with this disturbance falls squarely on your unsuspecting shoulders, or perhaps it's your heart. And how you handle that disturbance is a reflection of how resilient you are. And how resilient an individual is, in my opinion, comes down to their capacity to deal with fear of the unknown and to adapt to change.


At our first session Allison asked me if I wanted to go on the normal weight loss plan I'd been on previously or lose the weight faster. Clearly I wanted to lose the weight faster. So she put me on a high-protein, low carb plan - I was eating two eggs every morning, 6 oz of meat/fish at every meal, lots of veggies and a sparing amount of select low-sugar fruit. No starchy carbs for me, no sugar, no tropical fruits (boo). Well, after 5 weeks on that meal plan I'd managed to lose a WHOPPING 1 pound. Mind you, after we did an ELG to determine my body composition, it seems I'd lost 5.5 pounds of fat and gained 4.5 pounds of muscle. So that was a bit better, but still, the scale wasn't giving me the results I wanted and Allison was a bit perplexed. Mind you, she also observed that I wasn't sticking to the 'no tropical fruit' rule (I can't help it, I love pineapple and grapes...which are not actually tropical but kind of high in sugar). It struck me that this plan she had me eating on was very similar to the Primal Blueprint that I'd been trying out while in Kingston during the winter. That hadn't gone so well either.

So two weeks ago, Allison decided to put me back on my old, normal plan - one where I could eat certain cereals for breakfast (Kashi Go Lean, Oatmeal, Fibre 1), rice, potatoes, pasta, tortillsa, etc., as well as tropical fruits (yay!) and smaller portions of protein. Lo and behold after one week, I FINALLY saw a two pound loss on the scale!! Woot! Allison told me I was one of the 'lucky few' that needs carbs in order to metabolize proteins... Um, OK. I'm completely thrown off to be honest. I was almost 100% sold on the Primal lifestyle as being legit, albeit difficult to adhere to. And now, here I am feeling just healthy and fine and eating starchy carbs and losing weight. I really don't know what to believe any more. Nutrition is a mystery. What I know, without a doubt, is that nature provides food the way food should be eaten. Eating as close and clean (i.e. organic) to the source as possible, eating in moderation, and listening to your body will never lead you astray.


Am feeling more like travel agent than high-flying data entry career woman as of late. Have been booking flights, trying to find cheap deals and considering how long I can endure Scottish ‘winter’ before hightailing it to sunny locale where I can sip margaritas and work on my never-present-tan. Have had some luck with cheap flights in Europe so am all booked to go to Dublin & London in the upcoming months. Have had no luck finding cheap flight home at Christmas…in fact, cheapest flight I could find was with Continental, flying thru NY to Halifax for $1000 return. Not bad I suppose, but nothing compared to the $140 direct flight I got coming over….


A friend of mine emailed me last week and asked me, in perhaps the most succinct and direct email he has ever written in his life, whether it is possible to love someone even if you don’t respect their decision(s). Now, before I go off on a linked tangent about whether it is or is not possible, I need to make note of something – I have been asked for advice on love matters a number of occasions over the last few years.

I’m not talking those simple questions like ‘do you think he likes me? I mean he did text me to ask what’s up?’ OK, I do get those questions , but come on girls can’t help but analyse and overanalyse every little thing that may, but most likely does not, have some deep, hidden message. I’ve been asked and asked those type questions countless times.

But these other questions about love, the more serious and substantial ones, come to me just when my own life has been thrown out kilter by something to do with the L-word.
For example, just two days after I had ended my first serious relationship, my friend/roommate comes to me for advice about what action/inaction he should take with regards to his love life. I mean, he’d never even broached such discussion with me before. What was up? Was I wearing some sort of sign that said ‘I Have All The Answers Despite Just Having Broken Up with Long-term Boyfriend'? I mean seriously – I’m the one people came to when they wanted ‘help’ with their homework (or just to copy mine). Never would I have considered myself qualified in any shape or form to give advice on the course of action someone should take with regards to their love life.

And yet I have done so a number of times over the last few years. Know what I’ve discovered ? It’s a hell of a lot easier giving advice than it is taking it. And it’s a lot easier to see things clearly when you are outside the situation then when you are completely immersed in it. That is what makes it utterly frustrating - when you are on the inside and contending with logic versus those much less understood things called emotions.

Oh, how tricky the heart & head can be. Why must they be at odds so often? Your heart telling you one thing, your head (and all your family, friends, acquaintances, etc.) telling you something else? This particular scenario, in case ye hadn’t guessed, is my current debacle.

The simple answer to above query, I believe, is this: If your head and heart are not in sync, then the particular dish of love you are currently consuming (or debating the consumption of) is, ultimately, going to cause you a great deal of pain.


So I'm sitting here (still on the farm) and it's kind of late. The wind outside is ferocious - the farm sits in a valley, which acts like a wind tunnel. Everything bangs around outside and, that coupled with the dogs barking and the cat thumping around on the roof, sometimes gets me a bit antsy. Speaking of ants, this place happens to have a lot of them. The house sits on stumps (in Australia no one has basements) and the cracks between the floorboards are basically an invitation to any creature that can fit to come on in and fend for themselves. Plenty of food, water and shelter to go around.

But really, it's not the wind or the ants or the domesticated animals that are keeping me up. It's my thoughts. I've been thinking a lot about my thoughts lately - how much power they hold and how little we choose to wield this power for our own happiness.

Fear and doubt- the most crippling emotions we can let ourselves experience and, yet, we are so conditioned to doubt ourselves, to fear failure and rejection that we subconsciously bring about that which we are so afraid of.


A truly free market will, by its very nature, seek to be as efficient as possible, which is to say it will produce as little waste as possible because waste is inefficient and expensive. And what are pollutants if not waste? Already many multinational companies are adopting more energy-conscious and less-polluting practices and technologies and are reducing their costs of business dramatically. IKEA was a pioneer in this regard, adopting The Natural Step framework to effectively reduce its ecological footprint.

There still exists this engrained idea that the economy and environment will always be at odds - that for one to be robust, the other must suffer. This has often been the backbone of arguments against instituing policy changes that are favorable to the environment. This is, of course,a false premise and, in fact,the opposite is much closer to the truth - there is money and jobs to be made/saved by reducing waste and harnessing the powers of nature. Positive changes in business will not come about because companies suddenly to decide to be altruistic, they will come about because they make the most business sense.

That being said then one could argue that if a free market economy will naturally lead to waste reduction, gov't should not have to introduce any policies that induce change because companies will naturally adopt whatever practices are in the best interest of their bottom line. Of course, that argument presupposes that a free market exists and, of course, it doesn't. Perhaps if govt's were only to cut off all the subsidies and incentives that support the oil businesses and allow for a free market to reign then we could make some real progress without gov't involvement. Because, really, change will only come when there is a collective agreement within the global community that it is time to pull the red carpet out from under the oil companies and cartels that govt's will react to public outcry for their own short-term survival. They may not listen to one or two voices singing, but they will not be able to ignore an entire choir of voices singing in harmony. That global community is made up wholly of 'yous' and 'mes'. We can effect change, we have that power within our grasp, so start singing.


As it happens, there's not a whole lot to write about on ol' personal life. Being a student is exhausting at times and I've spent the majority of the past three months doing the following things: working out at the gym, making meals, sleeping, reading academic journals, trying to write academic papers, getting frustrated by failed attempts to write academic papers, procrastinating on finishing academic papers, stressing about meeting deadlines for academic papers, going to Thursday night trivia instead of finishing schoolwork, and, well, I think you get the idea. There have been a few highlights over the last few months - most obviously the highlights in my hair which have been red, purple and now...a shade of red again. Other less literal highlights have included a trip to a maple sugar bush, where I learned how maple sap becomes maple syrup and then indulged in some pancakes drenched in maple syrup. (I've skipped February events because they are basically a blur at this point, but I can't recall any standouts in any case). I also booked plane tickets for May - I'll be heading west to Vancouver/Victoria and then East to Pittsburgh/State College, Pennsylvania.


So, what have been the upsides of being single for big chunks of time in my twenties? Well, I'll admit, it made leaving Canada and traipsing around the world a heck of a lot easier. Come to think of it, this might have been one of the reasons I broke up with my only L-T boyfriend - he was not supportive of my need for independence and passport stamps!

Another upside, related to traveling, is that I have gotten to know myself very well, and I've been working, endlessly, at improving and evolving. I know who I am far better than I did when I was 21, and I'm not sure that all of the discoveries I've made about myself would have happened if I'd been wrapped up in a relationship and working a 9-5 job somewhere in Canada. Traveling has, admittedly, been my significant other for a good chunk of my 20's.

Another bonus of being single is that I can make decisions (day-to-day and big ones), based solely on what I think is best for me. This might sound selfish, but caring about what's best for one's self is not a bad thing. Neither is compromising when one is in a relationship, but too often one person ends up doing the majority of the compromising.. You can get lost in another person's journey.

Having an amazing group of fabulous friends is also something I am not sure I would have if I were not single. Oh, I'd have friends, but would we be as close and have as many shared memories if we both had significant others?? I see it already - when people pair off, friends start to become secondary. It's not intentional and it's not malicious, it's just the natural course of beginning to forge a family of one's own, to which friends often become peripheral.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the magnitude of the untapped potential that lies dormant in human beings, about the amount of energy and time we waste both individually and collectively on utterly trivial matters. It bothers me a lot. I feel like we are simultaneously creating an Orwellian 1984 and A Brave New World. Most people seem to be living a life of complacency and struggle, quite unaware of their own power to determine their destiny and create a better future for themselves and the children of this Earth. Hedonism seems to have become the temporary band-aid solution for the empty feeling one experiences when they are not living the life they were meant to. It seems like most people are 'living for the weekend' and trying to find ways to make sure they are comfortable and surrounded by things or pleasurable experiences. Others use their energies to hate, hold grudges, and generally be angry and vengeful.

I know none of this is new to the world, that humanity has a history steeped in hatred, struggle, and hedonism, but I'm not a fatalist nor do I think that humanity's history is quite that one-sided. Surely there is also a history of empathy, compassion, and comraderie.


Americans expend <%10 on food and over %17 on medical bills. We are what we eat!

It boggles my mind that adults actually eat at fast food restaurants and are willing to sit down to a dinner that's from a box and has been cooked in under two minutes in another box called the microwave. Do people not have taste buds? Do people not cherish their own bodies enough to at least allow themselves to spend more than %10 of their income on food? In the long run, of course, they pay the extra price via medical bills, prescription drugs, diet potions, surgery (in some cases) and, most importantly, a lower quality of life.

It seems to me that by spending just a giving a bit more thought and spending a bit more money on good, REAL food, eaters can reverse this lose-lose situation into a win-win one. They can go from eating tasteless, unhealthy food while watching tv/driving around suburbia AND then
becoming overweight and unable to fully enjoy life (b/c, let's face it, it's hard being heavy) and potentially being diagnosed with Early Onset Diabetes, high blood pressure, or myriad of other


One of the most brilliant things about life, perhaps even THE most, is that the future need never be a reflection of the past. Each moment that presents itself to us offers an opportunity for a new thought, a new feeling, a new action. This is a simple yet powerful truth that many of us forget or maybe never came to know in the first place. Instead we seem, for the most part, to live as if we are character in a short film that's spinning round and round on a spool, the same things happening, again and again. We make the mistake of thinking our current experiences are somehow an unchangeable reality when, in fact, they are simply a result of our past thinking. If we realise this and change our thoughts, redirect them towards the experiences we want, rather than the ones we are currently experiencing, and believe enough in our new thoughts to take action on them, then we begin to change the film. Instead of being in a short film, that is infinitely repeating the same story, we find ourselves in a seemingly never-ending story, filled with challenges and triumphs

Monday, October 24, 2011

Confession of a Meat-Eater

Often when I meet someone and tell them I'm a foodie and quasi-environmentalist, they eventually, with great hesitation, get around to asking me the inevitable question "So, uh, are you a vegetarian?". Well, that is unless I've already regaled them with tales of my lamb dinner in Vermont or shared my 'bacon makes everything better' philosophy. In any case, I find the assumption that environmental-foodies are likely to be vegetarians quite an interesting one. In most cases, when I assure the questioner that I am, indeed, a meat-eater, I note a slight look of relief wash over their face. This is particularly so if the person is a male and possibly interested in dating me.

I have no shame in admitting that I am an omnivore. Recently I spoke as part of a panel on environmental issues. I discussed the importance of strengthening our local food system and developing sustainable agricultural practices. During the Q & A period, a woman in the audience asked me what my opinion was on the environmental impacts of the Western world's obsession with meat eating. I'm not always clued in to whether someone has an agenda when they make a query, but it was pretty obvious that this woman was a vegetarian and had a particular dislike for the meat-eating ways of most North Americans and, indeed, most humans. And in some respects, I can completely relate to her stance. The way we are going about raising most livestock for consumption these days is, at the very least completely unsustainable on an environmental level and, more notably, disgustingly inhumane. The current system is terribly unhealthy to the animals that are being fed foods they were never meant to eat, given excessive antibiotics, and made to exist their entire lives in deplorably cramped, dirty conditions. This state of unhealth and sickness is then being transfered to those of us that choose to eat meat from these cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, etc. And this meat is everywhre, it is pervasive. It's not just the meat you get at fast food restaurants, it's the meat you get in the frozen foods section of the grocery store as well as the fresh meat section.In many cases it's even the meat you get at some butcher shops, and 'real' restaurants.

All of that being said, I still believe there's a place for meat in our diet. This post is a sort of 'coming out', a confession to eating habits that I've been afraid to admit to for the past few weeks. You see, I'm testing out this new way of eating, most commonly referred to as the Paleo diet.

In a nutshell, the Paleo diet requires the elimination of all grains, legumes, refined sugars, and dairy products from one's diet. It emphasizes vegetables (minimal tubers like potatoes), meats, fats (from meats and certain other sources), along with consumption of ltd quantities of fruits, nuts, and seeds. The basic thesis behind this diet is that we have not genetically changed since our predecessors, the hunter-gatherers roamed the Earth. Homosapiens have been around for over 2 million years, we've only been farming for (at most, in certain parts of the world)10,000 years. That's a pretty short time in the spanof human history and for some people (e.g. native tribes, Western europeans), farming took hold much more recently or not at all (e.g. Inuits). So how is it that over the past 50 years or so, some scientists have determined that the optimal diet is rich in whole grains and low in fat? It doesn't really make sense to me, so I'm going against the grain (pun intended) and trying Paleo thing on for size.

But I've been reluctant to announce it to the world. I don't mind admitting to being an omnivore, but for some reason admitting I've cut out grains and eat animal meats high in fat seems to throw people off. A lot. Also, I've discovered, through keen observation of lunchrooms, dining rooms, etc., that people don't like to have their own food choices questioned. While I'm happy to have my choices questioned, even the mere mention of my choices could make someone else feel that I am judging their food choices to be subpar to mine. This is a tricky thing. As a budding holistic nutritionist, I naturally want to help people become informed about foods (although, of course, it must be noted that at this point, my nutrition decisions are not being formed from my nutrition program, as I just started this week). On the other hand, I don't want people to have a negative attitude towards eating/food or feel discouraged that what they 'think' is healthy for them, might not actually be all that healthy for them. So, for the most part, I've kept my diet choices to myself unless necessary to inform a dining partner or if someone directly asks me why I'm eating spaghetti squash instead of pasta.

I'm coming out now as a meat-eater, because I just don't feel like hiding it anymore. And because I think it's important not to feel guilty about eating a diet that, at first glance, may seem indulgent and environmentally unsustainable. But therein lies an important part of the Paleo diet. Adherents are meant to consume meats and vegetables that have been raised in natural ways, which would equate to free-run chickens who get to eat whatever is on the ground, grass-fed cows, pastured pigs, organic vegetables, etc. It is imperative to differentiate between a diet that is merely high in meat/fats (remember the Protein Power Plan), and one that emphasizes naturally raised/grown foods.

I'm not trying to raise the whole Vegetarian vs. Carnivore/Omnivore debate. I respect that each of us has to make diet choices based on our own health beliefs, values, cultures, etc. That being said, I expect I will return to the topics of meat-eating, grains, and vegetarianism at regular intervals in the future. There is much to be said and much to be questioned about the conventional wisdom surrounding diets and what is good/bad for us. I'm looking forward to being further educated via my holistic nutrition program of study. For those that want to learn more about the Paleo diet, here are some resources to get you started:

http://missinghumanmanual.com/ (check out the resource links on this site)

As a final note, after 3 weeks of eating 'mostly' paleo (I don't believe in being so strict about eating that it takes away the joy or makes socializing difficult), I have noted the following:
  • Elimination of sugars and grains has resulted in having no hunger pains. Ever.I have gone 7 to 8 hours after eating a relatively light lunch (perhaps 4 oz of pork tenderloin with a large salad) and felt no stomach growling or pains to signal hunger. This is, I reckon, due to lack of blood sugar highs and lows that result from eating foods with high glycemic load (e.g. sugars, breads, rice, pastas, etc.)
  • I don't feel tired at all during the day. Actually, this hasn't been a problem for me much in the past five or six years, as I've not tended to eat a lot of grains at any one sitting. There were, however, times when I would eat a lot of sugar and then feel sooo tired after a couple of hours.
  • I've lost a few pounds. Some people lose quite a bit of weight when they start eating paleo, but the fact is that the past 3 weeks have been extremely stressful for me, and I often cling to weight when stressed, so am not surprised my weight loss has been minimal.
I am sure there would have been more noticeable effects of my switch to paleo if I'd previously been a carb-addict and went from eating toast at breakfast, pasta at lunch and a stiry fry with rice at dinner to my current regimen of eggs for brekkie, a salad and meat for lunch, and sauteed veggies and meat for dinner, but I really didn't eat many grains/starchy carbs before. For me, the transition has mostly been about eliminating sugars from my diet and getting away from the oatmeal breakfast.

I have a feeling I'll see more results in my body as time carries on. Now that I'm back at the gym, I'm hoping for more muscle definition and, ultimately, more fat loss. It's hard to report any health impacts, because I have a clean bill of health, thus this way of eating is a preventative measure that I'll not necessarily ever be able to measure the impacts of (since 'not' acquiring a chronic disease is hard to attribute to a certain lifestyle choice on a case by case basis.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Never Say Never

I'm going back to school.

Wow, I really never thought I'd utter those words again. But here I am, waiting on the arrival of my new Visa Aerogold credit card so I can reap some Aeroplan rewards from this slightly daunting decision. Yes, that's right, I'm actually fronting my own cash for tuition, which is a first for me. And after watching too many episodes of 'Til Debt Do Us Part', I figured I'd best find a way to make the outlay of money work for me. And given that I have a rather extensive list of travel destinations for 2012, collection of aeroplan miles seemed rather fitting.

To cut to the chase, the end goal is to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. The program I am enrolling in is through the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and students have the option of doing the program in class or through distance ed. Since there are no classes held on PEI and since I think it's *probably* wise of me not to quit my job again to go back to school, I've opted for the part-time distance ed option. I'll be starting my first course the week following this and I am beyond excited. Indeed, I daresay I'm ecstatic.

I've been thinking about this for awhile now, probably with real seriousness since the past winter. Unlike my other degrees, which I sort of jumped into in Las Vegas wedding-style (let's hope for the best!), I've actually spent time researching this decision and thinking a lot about whether this type of career path is right for me. I visited a career counselor. After our first hour-long meeting, she basically told me that I was not in need of counseling (career-wise anyways), as apparently I'd already done most of the exercises she would have recommended. I told her my Myers-Briggs type was ENFJ, which apparently made me ahead of the game as that's a test they recommend people do. So she looked up my type in one of her many career books. Listed amongst the professions that would be of interest to my personality type was 'holistic health practitioner'. I also spoke with two of the most well-established RHNs here in Charlottetown, as well as one that I used to visit in Kingston and all of them were extremely encouraging. The two who knew me as a client seemed to think it was a great fit (but, of course, what else would they say right?!) Still, I was encouraged, especially when I learned that they all did their program through the same school as me.

I think this is going to be a great adventure, both career-wise and personally. I'm really looking forward to studying the linkages between mind, body and spirit. It will be such a fantastic opportunity to apply what I learn to my own health journey. But what really served as the deciding factor in my decision to pursue this career path is that I now know that in order to be happy in the workplace, I need a job where I am working with people and helping them. I am motivated by a desire to help others reach their full potential. In my every day life I seem to gravitate towards counseling, educating and/or motivating others. It's something I don't even realize I am doing most of the time, but it is definitely where I get my energy and drive from. It only makes sense that I embark on a career where I am able to educate and counsel people who want my help in becoming healthier.

So, there you have it. I'm going to be a student yet again. When I finish this degree, I'll have 9 years of post-secondary education to my name. Hopefully, 9 is the magic number that leads me to a career that I will enjoy and excel at!

Oh, and as a final note, it is also my intention to start posting more regularly here over the coming months. Some posts will serve as reflections on my course and what I am learning, but for the most part I'll aim to continue blogging as per usual, but perhaps with more brevity (is it obvious that I'm attempting to turn over a whole bunch new leaves at once ? if it's not clear, it will soon become abundantly so).

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Open - An Easy Drinking Wine and an Excellent Life Philosophy

Although no longer a student, I have found myself thinking 'it's a new year!' on several occasions this week. Perhaps it's because I work at UPEI and am thus surrounded by back-to-school proclamations, and throngs of eager and not-so-eager students. The business building has come alive again after a summer of hibernation. Yesterday, as I biked to work with my backpack on, I couldn't help but muse that I fit in nicely with the students traipsing around campus. From a distance anyways. Upon closer inspection of my face and hair, I'm sure the best I could hope for is a 'mature student' label. Well, in any case, I am heartened by the thought of a clean slate. Really, every day, every moment is a clean slate, but sometimes tis hard to remember that and one needs a reset of seasons, a holiday away, or a set of new circumstances to be reminded of this.

There are several reasons I've not written this entire summer, or to be more precise, that I've not published anything on this blog. No need to reel them off, but anyone who knows me well will correctly assume that wine, sunshine, food, and friends proved to be mighty fine distractions from the task of blogging. Then there was, of course, the 'onwards and upwards' that had to be done. The passage of time, as most people can attest to, has proven to be of great assistance, however, much contemplation and conversing also aided in the process. I will not delve into this subject much more, however, I will share three things of particular note that I have learned or been reminded of over the past couple of months...lessons that, really, apply to every area of life. First, never ever ignore your intuition. Red flags, no matter their size, need to be checked out thoroughly. Only after reading some journal entries from last winter, did I finally acknowledge that my intuition had been speaking to me early on, I'd just chosen to dismiss it. Secondly, if you start to feel the world is closing in on you, rather than opening up wider and wider, that's a sign something isn't right. Figure out what it is, do something about it. And, finally, if you want to extend your lifespan, keep filling your days with new experiences and new people, rather than making each week a rerun of the past one, because that will get boring and, eventually, soul-destroying. In conclusion, I am doing grand and see the world opening up wider and wider!

And enough of that. Insert awkward transition to much more fun-filled topics, such as food, wine, and holidays.

So this year, I was able to get on the much-coveted customer list of Jen Campbell's CSA (community supported agriculture) program. What an amazing woman and tremendous farmer/business person! I have been blown away by the amount of time and energy she puts in each and every week to keep her CSA members informed and educated. She sends out a really engaging email each week with plenty of details about the harvest, farm happenings, etc. She also includes recipes so we know what to do with our produce! Then she proceeds to write an entirely different account on her blog each week, with photos of the fields and her twin boys (yes, she's got toddlers and acreage to look after!). Every week when I arrive for pick-up, she's there with a smile on (and often rubber boots) and gives instructions to each customer regarding vegetables in the week's harvest. Of course, I'm saving the best for last, which is the bountiful harvest she delivers each week. It's just astounding to me that I only had to spend $11 per week (I went splits on a full share, which was $22 a week) to get a mountain of organic produce that would most certainly cost me at least 1.5 to 2 times as much if I bought at the market or grocery store (like I'd ever buy at the grocery store during the summer, but I digress). I've had CSA shares with three different farmers now, and took over my friend's egg share with another farmer. It just struck me tonight that in every one of these CSA operations, the driving force (i.e. the main farmer) has been a woman. Two of them have been young farmers, while the other two were a bit older. I think that's pretty awesome. There are, of course, many men also involved in the sustainable agriculture movement, but it is nice to see a new crop (no pun intended) of farmers that is more diverse in age, gender, etc.

This summer I made a point of packing in as many new restaurant experiences as possible. On August 13th, I found myself at Ship to Shore (Darnley, PEI), which is housed in an unassuming building that was probably a community hall in the past. Everything about the experience was delightful. I'd made a reservation on-line through Open Table and cheekily added in the comments section that I wanted the best table in the house (followed by a 'just kidding. kind of.). Well, our dining party arrived half an hour before the reservation and they'd already prepared our table so we were seated quite promptly and it really was the best table! The menu is hilariously quirky and quite extensive. With so many choices, we were quite torn as to what to order, so we looked to the table beside us for inspiration. In the end, I shared two main plates with my friend, so we could enjoy land and sea. The smoked rack of ribs were sooooo tasty and fell off the bone, while the scallops were huge and fresh. The portions were ridiculous. I'm not kidding. As far as value for money, Ship to Shore outshines any other place I've been on PEI. We were treated to a complimentary dessert thanks to our insider-chef connection. Divine!

Other out-of-town restaurants that I've enjoyed this season include Shipwright Cafe in Margate, The Dunes in Brackley, The PEI Preserve Company in New Glasgow, and Maplethorpe in Bedeque. I do believe I've just listed them in order of 'most enjoyed to least enjoyed', although none were by any measure un-enjoyable.

One of the best dining experiences I've had as of late, however, was this past weekend when I took my visiting friend, Suzie, up to Abram's Village for an Acadien-style lobster dinner. The event was being hosted alongside the Evangeline Agricultural Exposition and in conjunction with Fall Flavours. We arrived before the dinner began and toured the grounds, enjoying a classic 'rubber boot toss' competition and wandering through outbuildings filled with vegetables, fruits, baked goods, quilts, etc. that had been adorned with ribbons. We also checked out some of the livestock on display, including a lot of poultry, a donkey, rabbits, cows, horses, etc. It was so quintessential country fair and, truth be told, I kind of loved it!

Dinner was served at long tables that had been set out for the four course meal. Suzie and I were amongst the only people in the crowded dining hall with naturally colored hair. A fiddler and pianist were on stage, playing music while guests got settled. Then Chef Corbin of the Food Network came on stage (he looks like a younger version of Tom Hanks!) and, along with Georges Arsenault, served as host of the evening. We were first presented with a bowl of chicken fricot (soup consisting of chicken and potato). Then while we waited for our next course, Chef Corbin picked people from the crowd to come up on stage. Sadly, I was not amongst the random picks. These lucky people got to do a taste test between the traditional Acadien meat pie and rapure, and Chef Corbin's takes on these dishes. Happily, we then got to enjoy our own taste of the traditional versions. Next up were stepdancing lessons with more audience victims, again I missed out! Then the piece de la resistance was delivered to us...fittingly lobsters were piled high on red lunch trays and we just had to pick which one we wanted. I was delighted that Suzie got the real lobster experience, rather than the tourist one, where the restaurant cracks the lobster open for you. We worked our way through the beady little guys and then moved on to the final course, bread pudding. I was stuffed by this time, thanks to a rather large bottle of Gahan Honey Ale and the previous three courses. Somehow I managed to make it through to the end though. On the way home we drove through Kensington, but unfortunately all I could do was point out the Frosty Treat to Suzie, as there was no room for any ice cream delights.

Prior to touring PEI with Suzie, we checked out Halifax and Cape Breton. The weather was amazing during the entire trip, save for Hurricane Irene, which happened to blow through whilst we were driving from the city to the Cape. We arrived at our accommodations in Cape Breton around supper time. Checking into Bear on the Lake Guesthouse we were informed that there was a Hurricane party planned for the evening, which would involve a BBQ, white russians and the promise of good times. I was excited, because in my experience, hurricane parties are pretty much incomparable (mind you, I'd only been to one hurricane party prior, but it had been excellent). The record now stands at 2 - 0 for rockin' hurricane parties!

We spent three full days in Cape Breton. On the first day we toured the Bras D'or Lakes area. I was in desperate need of a nice, sandy beach to lie down on and nurse my slight hangover (such a curse of getting older). Alas, while we were able to find sandy beaches, none offered salvation for the weary, due to the blasting sands carried by post-hurricane winds. On the upside, this meant fierce and fantastic waves, which Suzie and I let ourselves get pummeled. I was only up to my knees and my hair got soaked!

On the second day, we did the entire Cabot Trail. An Austrian girl from the hostel joined us, and off we went to check out the 300 plus kilometres of rocky cliffs and spectacular vistas. I couldn't help but find myself reminiscing about Scotland, and oh how much I miss it even six years later. We ended our day at The Red Shoe Pub in Mabou. The pub is owned by the Rankin sisters (of the Rankin Family musical group) and they had, without a doubt, the best red beer I've ever enjoyed. We were joined mid-meal by an English-Canadian bloke who'd come in alone and been taken hostage by a gentleman that appeared to frequent the bar far too regularly. I was, once again, transported to the UK, where having a stranger sort of invite themselves to join your table was not unusual. Something I miss greatly here in Canada, where pubs are where you go with friends you know rather than to make new friends.

On our final full day, after a slight detour to visit the mechanic (sigh), we ended up in Baddeck. There was a mid-week Farmer's Market, which was really cute. We spent several minutes talking to an older gentleman who was selling unique spoons that had been worked from wood on his own property. Suzie ended up getting one made from Lilac wood. Then we wandered down to the dock to see if there would be room on the 2.00 pm sailing excursion. As we approached the captain said 'there's room for you, no worries, Kat called, it's all organized, come back around 1.45'. Oh, you have to love small towns and awesome hostel hostesses (Kat's the hostess at Bear on the Lake and had called ahead to make sure we got seats on the excursion). It was a perfect sailing day, with a sharp breeze and a rich blue sky dotted by fluffy, white clouds that held little threat of letting loose. We were in the heart of Alexander Graham Bell territory and several houses belonging to his descendants were pointed out to us as we rode the waves. The excursion was made even better by the presence of another Alexander...Mr. Alexander Keith, that is. Our last evening in Cape Breton found us around the hostel dining room table yet again, this time with a new crew of people, most from the Salty Bear tour that had cruised in a few hours prior. I had learned my lesson from Sunday night, and paced myself quite well, I like to think. My stomach was grateful, in any case.

Thursday, after returning to the mechanic's for some urgent repairs, we headed back to PEI, where a weekend of indulgence, sand, and sun awaited us. As noted above, the Acadien lobster dinner was a definite highlight. On Thursday night, we were treated to a lovely dinner at Mom and Jim's place in the countryside, then headed back into town for more boozing with the Salty Bear crew who had also come to PEI. I like to think that Suzie also enjoyed the local dinner I prepared for us on Saturday night - lamb burgers stuffed with bacon and a mass of vegetables that had been sauteed in...yep, you guessed it, bacon fat! Then we had to head over to a Tapas party...my contribution was a sangria, while Suzie prepared something with bread, aioli, and sausage that was quite divine. Sunday we rounded out our PEI culinary experience with a visit to The Dunes, which is simply a lovely venue to take an afternoon at, with its gorgeous galleries and gardens. Finally, Sunday night was Katie's birthday-wedding party, where most people were dressed up in either totally cute garb or totally tacky garb! Mikey C. had made a 3-tier chocolate cake, infused with strawberries and decorated with white icing and gorgeous pink and orange flowers. Wow, that man has skills!

So, yes, that's a rather abridged version of what life has brought me food-wise and otherwise since last I posted in May. Many other fantastic times have been had, but as tends to be the case, we remember the things that most recently happened and the rest fades into the back for awhile, until everything gets stored in that part of the memory called 'nostalgia', then it all just gets jumbled up and the timeline doesn't matter any more. Funny how that is, isn't it? Really gives one pause for thought about the relevance of time and memory, concepts that are both borne out of our minds. But I digress, it is becoming entirely too evident that I've been reading more Tolle and contemplating the simplicities and complexities of the human mind. I'll save that post for another day.

Stay tuned for more regular posting in the weeks and months to come. I have exciting news to share very soon... some are already privy to this, but I'll be making it official and blogging about it once September winds down and the last of my visitors has left.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cupcakes, Beer, and Surprises

As I write this, there's a chocolate cupcake with red icing sitting beside me. It's resting on an upside-down, homemade chocolate chip cookie. Yes, that's right, a double-whammy of chocolate goodness is within arm's reach of me. I have thusfar resisted temptation (it's been a few hours since I acquired these goodies). I figured it's about time for an update on my journey towards saying farewell to sugar in my diet and what better time than when I'm staring my nemesis in right in the face..or in the candy sprinkles I suppose.

So, in short, I've been doing alright. I wouldn't give myself an A +, but I wouldn't be so harsh as to dole out a C- either. I think, overall, I deserve a B for my efforts to eliminate sugar from my diet thusfar. Here's a rundown of what I've been doing well and what I need to improve on:

What I've Been Doing Well
  • Abstaining from sugar until after 8pm - Since I first committed to this plan, about 7 weeks ago, I can count on one hand the number of times I've broken my self-induced rule. One of those times was Easter day, another was this past weekend when Luke & I were at The Wooden Monkey in Halifax and eating an early dinner so we could get to the show we'd purchased tickets for. We both decided to indulge in dessert, but it was only 6.30. Despite these infrequent trespasses into sugar-laden lands, I am very happy with my commitment. There have been umpteen times that I have forgone sugar temptations at work, while at the conference in rural BC, at the Farmer's Market, etc. Abstaining has resulted in fewer (i.e. none) hunger pains throughout the day and, actually, less interest in eating candy at night (while my penchant for candy seems to have diminished,I still have a strong desire to eat chocolate).
  • Eating few grains - Eating grains is not all that different from eating sugar as far as your health is concerned. I won't get into the details of why in this post, if you want to go deeper check out http://missinghumanmanual.com/ or http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-grains-are-unhealthy/.
  • Eating more local meats - It's hard to find greens locally at this time of year, but I've been stocking up on meats and eggs at the farmer's market and Queen Street Meat market. Next step will be to source some grass-fed beef (just b/c it's local, doesn't mean it's been raised naturally, so asking questions of the farmers is your best bet)
What I Need to Improve On:
  • Portion Control - I am referring namely to portion of sweets I am eating after 8. In the first few weeks, I did well to limit my intake, but there've been a number of opportunities lately to indulge in more candy/chocolate than I really should. I was also using WW journal to roughly track how many 'points' i was consuming per day, but stopped doing that. I know there are some that will argue you should not limit the amount you are eating (if you are on a paleo diet), but since I am still consuming sugar, I really have to.
  • Number of Nights I Eat Sugar - I started myself off easy, with allowances every night but had planned to reduce number of 'sugar-nights' as time went on. There were a few weeks where I went sugar free one or two evenings, but I haven't really moved far on this plan. This coming week, my plan is to eliminate sugars on 5/7 days (with the exception of my homemade, lower-sugar raspberry jam which i'll have with yogurt for a wee treat in the evening).
Hmmmm. So that's all I really have for the Sugar Report. I'm moving forward, but have stalled a couple of times. That's OK, it's life and there's no point in looking back now, I know what I can do today and the day after today. It's all up to me!

As for my reference to Beer in the title, I was going to give a rundown of the trip that Luke (aka Steakman) and I took to Halifax last weekend. It was a fantastic time and a gastronomical delight (at least for me). I'm fading fast as I write this, so am going to use the ole' bullet point trick again here for Halifax Review
  • Friday - We drive to Halifax, the weather is gorgeous. I have mild freak attacks as we drive through NS, despite the impeccable driving skills of Luke. I can't help it, I blame my depth perception, I'm very uneasy on roads that have lots of twists/turns and hills/valleys. We made it to the city unscathed and just in time for dinner and drinks. Chosen drinking hole: Henry House. Luke had invited 7 friends, I had invited 1. It was a good time, althought i thought the food was only 'OK', I had a chance to catch up with Tarek and meet some of Luke's awesome friends and coworkers.
  • Saturday Morning/Afternoon - The new Halifax market is AMAZING. Please, if you live in Halifax area, go. What a treat, I was really, really, really impressed. I was also stuffed by the time we left, thanks to oodles of samples and a delicious savoury crepe. After the market we went to Garrison's brewery for samples, then to Propeller brewery for even more samples. Luke insisted on going to two comic bookstores. It was kind of interesting because it was Free Comic Book Day (all around the world?!) and at one of the stores, there were a bunch of staff dressed up like comic characters. Luke got pictures with them all, but only put his arm around Spiderwoman! Then it was off to Freak Lunchbox, which was packed with kids. Sometimes I feel like i should probably stop salivating at the thought of candy stores, now that I am 30. I remember someone once telling me I'd not want to eat candy when I grew up. Clearly that person was wrong.
  • Saturday Evening - We headed to The Wooden Monkey, a fantastic restaurant on Market Street (right beside our 4-star hotel - Prince George - that we got on Hotwire for an awesome rate!). The resto specializes in local and sustainably produced foods, and the menu is full of temptations. We each ended up with a three course meal and a beverage. It was totally worth it! Afterwards, we made our way to the WTCC to check out Beer & Beethoven, the impetus for our trip, it was a fundraiser for the NS Symphony. I don't know why Luke & I assumed it would be a theatre-like experience with a wide array of micro-beers and German imports available for order. In fact, it was more like a night of people boozing it up on Molson beers (cause they were the sponsors and therefore only beer on offer), while orchestra played in background with terrible acoustics. Saving grace was that at intermission I ran into a former co-worker who invited us to sit at her much better table, with decent acoustics. We ended the evening at the casino, where in one hand of blackjack, Luke lost the $10 he'd vowed was his limit. I ended up giving him $30 I won at the table to keep betting. He lost all of that, then I lost the $20 I had vowed was my limit. He then played the penny slots, got a ticket when he was down to $2 (from a fiver) and proceeded to shove it in a $1 machine, where he was immediately rewarded with $50. I insisted we cash out.
  • Sunday - We ate brunch at Your Father's Moustache and then drove home. Less panicked by driving on way home, because I had distraction of our third passenger, Thea, whom we'd randomly run into at the market and offered to drive her back to the Island. I made it home just in time for a lobster dinner with Mom and the rest of the family. Yum!!!

I love surprises, but it is very hard to surprise me because I have such fantastic detective skills (also known as being nosey and annoyingly persistent), so when I came home on Friday night and Luke, who was half in the bag, slurred instructions to me that I pack an overnight bag and my dancing shoes for Saturday evening I was perplexed. We already had plans to have dinner with Rob & Robin, and it was very out of character for Luke to make plans for us. Saturday afternoon rolled along, and I went about preparing a paleo appetizer of chocolate covered bacon and a sweet potato-bacon salad to bring for dinner. Luke picked me up and we headed over the bridge to Stratford, a wee bit behind schedule because I had taken so much time deciding what to wear for our dancing date! As we drove up the laneway, I saw a tonne of cars and thought 'something is going on'. Then I saw my mom, sister, brother-in-law, stepfather and a few friends coming out to greet us with a banner that said 'surprise'. I was mighty surprised alright, and totally confused. Why was there a surprise party for me, I inquired upon getting out of the car. Apparently mom had decided to go all out in celebration of my completion of my Masters degree. Wow, I didn't see that one coming, since I'd defended in December. My convocation is in a few weeks, but I knew I'd not be going to Kingston for the ceremony. The surprise party that Mom had planned and executed with amazing prowess was waaaay waaaay waaay better than any graduation ceremony could ever be! There were about 20 friends and family there to celebrate and Mom had gone all out with a cornucopia of food, almost all of which she'd sourced locally, including meatballs, ham, chicken, mussels, cheese, salad greens, tomatoes, cheese, and potatoes. About an hour into the festivities, I saw two well-dressed gentleman coming ot the door carrying what appeard to be instruments and an amp. Mom had actually hired musicians to play!! It was fantastic, they were amazing and played some great hits, as well as a very amusing operatic medley of pop songs. later in the evening, the piece d' resistance came out - two delicious cakes, one which was in the form of a food box (gingerbread to form the box, and fondant vegetables covering a chocolate cake). For some reason I felt very protective of this art piece and insisted on only cutting the coconut cake. The following morning I regretted that decision as I looked at how much cake I'd have to take home and consume in the next two days (before my 5/7 no-sugar days plan began). It was a wonderful evening, I can't put into words how lovely it was and I was so delighted to be presented with two bound copies of my thesis, one of which had been signed like a yearbook by all the guests!

The events noted above, along with some other things that life has brought me as of late have me really, really raring to start the Registered Holistic Nutritionist course. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that it's the perfect fit as far as careers go for me. I think, however, that is may be wise for me to visit a career counselor before I go full throttle.

In closing, yay to surprises and nay to sugar!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Paying Attention and Thinking Less

*Note - I intended to post this last weekend, but got distracted by chocolate Easter bunnies and the such, hence it is dated*

I'm in Vancouver and today is Easter. I flew out to the West coast last Sunday to attend a conference on rural tourism, which was taking place in the interior region of BC and planned to spend an extra few days in Van City to catch up with some old friends and enjoy the balmy weather. I didn't really have a lot of time to think about the trip before I boarded the plane and, to be honest, when I did turn my attention to it all I did was worry about plane crashes, tsunamis and bedbugs. Yes, I'd invited a wee bit of unnecessary paranoia (because that's the only kind of paranoia there is) into my life.

Luckily, in the weeks leading up to my trip, I also decided that I work on shifting the energies I was sending out into the world. January and February were especially tough months for me. After a spectacular second half of 2010, whereby I somehow managed to go from homeless, penniless, jobless, and manless by the time my 30th birthday hit in August to being gifted with everything I desired in the second half of the year, the first month of January felt like a punch in the stomach. A reality check that not everything is always wonderful. Or so I let myself think. And by letting my thoughts turn to what was wrong and what I didn't want I created negative emotions and energy, and invited more negative experiences into my life. What ultimately saved me was my own awareness that I was bringing about these negative experiences, that I was the creator of all the things I didn't want in my life. And, as the saying goes, recognition is the first step towards releasing yourself of self-harm. A few years ago, I wouldn't have realized my part in creating the experiences that I didn't want. In some ways, it's harder to know that YOU are responsible for all the emotions and experiences that you have, than to believe that these emotions are incited by other people or by events that are out of your control.

Taking responsibility for the life you have is so hard for most of us that we choose not to believe in our own power to create. We choose to ignore the power we have to shape our thoughts and the emotions and actions that result from those thoughts. Yes, taking responsibility for the life you are leading means acknowledging that you've invited many things into your life that you have feared - sickness, a broken heart, a job you don't like, family feuds, etc. But acknowledging your responsibility is also extremely liberating. For once you realise that you are the creator of your own life, you will move towards the realization that the ONLY limitation in your life is your thoughts. That fearing what life might bring is the path to inviting unwanted experiences into live, while believing in yourself and loving yourself is the path to making all your dreams come true.

Can you tell I've been reading personal development books lately? It's true, I confess to being an Eckhart Tolle convert and vehemently believe in the fundamental law of attraction - that which you resist will persist, that which you think, you will bring into existence. I was also inspired by the very simple advice of a TED speaker who was talking about compassion. He suggested that with each person you encounter in a day, that you think 'I want you to be happy'. If you think this, and then speak and act in accordance with this thought, it will serve you and everyone that encounters you very well.

Anyways, back to how this all relates to my trip out West. So I'm headed to this conference in the interior of BC, I'm not particularly excited about it, I'm more focused on what I'll do once it's over and I am in Vancouver for the weekend. The flight into Williams Lake is awesome. There are five of us on the plane (it's one of those lovely Dash 8s) and we can see the snow-covered mountains below us. It's breathtaking.

Once I arrive at the tiny Williams Lake airport, I wait for the 1 hour shuttle to the ranch where the conference is taking place (it's VERY rural!). I strike up a conversation with another woman from the plane who seems to be waiting for someone, and learn that she's attending the conference too. As we chat with our shuttle driver, I learn that she's staying at a different hotel, because the rooms and chalets at the ranch are all booked out. When I hear that her hotel is a half hour walk away, I pipe up with an offer that she can stay at my 3 bedroom chalet if she wants. When I went to book my accommodations for the conference,I was informed the hotel-style rooms were all taken and only the 3-bedroom chalets were left. They weren't expensive, so I booked one and was, understandably, under the impression I'd be staying there on my own. Right, so we go to Tara's other hotel first, she asks if she can cancel her reservation and gets a 'yes', so we head over to Hills Health Ranch and I check-in. This is when I find out that 'they' (not sure who actually did it) have booked two other people into my chalet! There's even a note on my invoice saying 'Shannon really wants to stay in the same chalet as Donna Dixson'. I have never heard this name before. Totally perplexed and slightly annoyed, I inform the front desk people that I had no clue I'd be rooming with others and that I've already promised a room to Tara. Oh, and I'd prefer not to share with a man (the other person they'd booked into my chalet). They get things sorted, and we settle into our chalet.

As the day turns to night, I take in my surroundings, and enjoy a lovely dinner in the company of new friends. I feel my heart getting lighter. The next morning I run on the treadmill and sweat more than I have in a very long time, then as I am getting dressed from my shower, Tara calls out to tell me that there's an opportunity to go horseback riding. I fly into my jeans and a top, run down to the front desk to sign my waiver (i.e. life) away and then head to the stables. Everyone is happy, the air is crisp, the horses are munching away on the hay that's been put out for them and a rather crazy-eyed dog is boundlessly running around trying to entice one of us humans to play with him. Eventually he finds playmates in the four miniature donkeys that have come over to check out the happenings. We walk leisurely through the muddy trails, there are still patches of snow but I don't think our horses even notice. It is the most relaxed I've been in a long time. When we trot, I am able to find my rhythm with the horse, so I'm not bouncing around haphazardly. Isn't that true of life too? We must all try to find the rhythm of the day, of the moment.

The conference begins and the talks are good. After the afternoon sessions are over, I head back to my chalet to get dressed for dinner. That's when I meet Donna Dixson, whom I apparently really wanted to share a chalet with. Sometimes the universe delivers what we have asked for in such a blatant way that it is truly perplexing. Such was the case with Donna. I sensed immediately that she was bursting with positive energy (and not that fake kind, but the really genuine, infectious kind. It didn't take much longer to realize that she was also a kindred spirit (cue Anne of Green Gables). It's hard to explain what a kindred spirit is, but you know them when you meet them. I have a tendency to meet them when I am traveling, which is probably one of the reasons I've always loved traveling so much.

The next evening, we are told that a special event has been arranged for the conference attendees -a Cowboy Cookout Rodeo! Amongst the offerings are a BBQ, haywagon rides, bonfires, First Nations drummers, a horse whispering show and smores.

I want to see the horse whisperer. We are told that many people shed tears when they watch this show. I cannot say that I shed any tears, but shivers did go down my spine as I watched this slight woman command a young horse using only the energy of her thoughts, which she communicated physically by glaring and holding her body tensely. The horse moved as close to the outer ring as possibly, running in one direction around the ring until she moved her body to tell it to turn and run in the other direction. Eventually, she relaxed her stare and her body and the horse came to her, it's own body relaxed and its head in a submissive position. Then it wouldn't stop following her around the ring, it was amazing. She told us that in order to communicate with the horse, she had to remain in the moment, she could not let her thoughts wander to the past or the future. She said that's the most powerful thing she has learned from the horses -that all we have is THIS moment. There is not such thing as the past or the future, they are only created by our thoughts. This really stuck with me, not because it's the first time I've heard such philosophy, but precisely because I have been inundated with this message as of late. I have learned from experience that when you keep hearing the same message over and over again or multiple people tell you to read a certain book or you keep running into the same stranger at various places, that you have to accept this message into your life. So I'm running with this message about the illusion of time. I want to enjoy the moments that I am breathing, rather than spend them contemplating the future or recalling the past.

Later on, as I stood by a warm campfire, I found myself mesmerized by the music and chants of the First Nations duo - a man and woman that were gifting us with traditional songs. There were no words, just the beating of drums and chanting. Words were not necessary to convey the stories and emotions they were sharing. It was an experience I will not soon forget and was deeply moving. Later I reflected on the authenticity of such an experience and compared it to experiences I've had while traveling. It occurred to me that we are constantly seeking expensive, complex thrills to incite short-lived 'rushes' of emotions when we have, at our disposal, opportunities to enjoy very real connections with fellow humans and with nature that are long-lasting, simplistic in design and enduring in the heart. Plus, you don't need to go to Orlando, Florida to find such emotional connections, they are all around you if you are open to letting them in.

And so you see, a short 3 days on a ranch in rural BC, amidst mountains and horses, kindred spirits and kind souls, I found a treasure of insights that I'd not been expecting, but that I had invited into my life by shifting my energies weeks prior. I am grateful for these experiences and for the chance to 'get away' from everyday life. I always find I have more 'space' to reflect, to emote and to evolve. I have come home with no souvenirs for myself, but with insights that I know will shift my future in positive ways.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

There's No Stopping Now!

This past week was definitely one of the highlights of 2011 for me. Finally, after weeks of organizing and a wee bit of stressing about getting things done, the big day was upon us. No, I didn't get hitched, but I did get to be part of a fantastic celebration of local food on PEI. Myself and a gang of other people here on PEI that are passionate about local food hosted an event called A Local MEAL. It was intended to be a celebratory event where 'food folk' shared stories, attendees mingled and everyone enjoyed a delicious, free sample of local foods. I blogged about it on our website, check it out here. It was such a success (we had standing room only and estimates of over 200 people in attendance!) and the energy was so positive, that I feel I can't stop now! The good news - there are endless opportunities to get involved in local food development here on PEI. The not-so-good news - I still have a day job!

Today marked Day 15 of my 'sugar reduction' plan. I've stayed true to my plan not to eat sugar before 8 pm and continue to find this quite easy to do. I've taken a couple of desserts 'to go' (both were apple crisps), but generally my after-eight treat is less indulgent. My second weigh-in was on Sunday and I was not that surprised to see my weight hadn't changed since the previous week. The week had been filled with events including A Local MEAL, a girls' night, and an afternoon pub meal that I'd not anticipated. I managed to avoid sugar until after 8 in all cases, but had other foods in excess that I shouldn't have. I paid for it on Saturday night after my pub meal - I shared a mediterranean chicken wrap with Luke and we shared the serving of sweet potato fries. I felt nauseous for the next 4 hours. In any case, I'm not going to worry about the lack of weight loss this past week, it was an adrenaline-filled, stressful and celebratory week.

I decided that this week I needed to up the ante on my road towards sugar elimination. This week I tasked myself with choosing one day on which I'd completely avoid refined sugars/chocolate. So the only sugars I could consume would be from fruit or other natural sources. I chose to conquer this challenge today. It's 11.12 pm and I've resisted sugar! Yay me!

In case you're wondering what I'm eating, here's a run down of what I had today:

Breakfast: 2 boiled eggs with spinach & tomato
Lunch: 4 oz of chicken breast and garden salad with no dressing or low-cal dressing
Snack: Green apple
Dinner: 3 egg omelete with 2 slices of bacon, sauteed veggies and a garden salad
Snack: Whole-wheat tortilla w/Tbps of natural PB and 1/2 a banana

Yesterday, this is what I had:

Breakfast 2 boiled eggs
Lunch: 4 oz chicken breast with salad
Snack:1.5 cups of grapes
Dinner: 1.5 sausage (low-fat Island Taylored) and salad
Snack: Hot chocolate with marshmallows + a peanut butter ball (unexpected, Luke put this under my nose!)

I'm feeling pretty fantastic about the way I've been eating lately. I know it's not 100%, but I'm ok with that for now. I've lost 20 lbs since I got home in June, the vast majority since September and I've been kicking up my strength training lately so am starting to feel like I'm getting back into shape. So, again, it seems there's no stopping me now!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Guiness, the Canada Food Guide, Making an Eggs-ample & the Lamb Man

To celebrate St Patrick's Day is to rejoice in two of life's greatest gifts: the Irish accent and Guiness beer. Jen and I left work a smidgen early yesterday, desperately hoping the fifteen minute cushion would mean being able to land a table for ourselves and the gang that would be joining. Jen, lover of all things sunny and warm, even went so far as to wonder if the Olde Triangle would have its outdoor deck open (for the record, the lower deck was looking pretty inviting, but the upper tier was still smothered in the s-word). Turns out that a lot of Islanders spend St. Pat's Day at the bar, drinking and listening to fiddle music. We squeezed our way through throngs of baby-boomers and cougars (PEI demographics still befuddle me by times) and went upstairs, where we beelined it to the bar. Confession #1 - I ordered a pint of Guiness. And I liked it a lot. More friends joined and Luke took it upon himself to land us a table. Eventually he snagged a two-seater and six of us huddled around it, while Luke gave the poor waitress an order of greasy greasiness with a side of grease. Confession #2 - I love sweet potato fries...even the ones at the OT, which are only moderately tasty. So I ate some. Confession #3 - I washed it down with a cider. To be fair, by this time I believe it was after 8.00 so the sugary content was OK. One more Guiness and then I called it a night. I rarely drink these days, so with three pints I was feeling quite Irish. In fact, I felt so Irish I started speaking with an Irish accent. It was a Dublin accent, but when some gents at the bar asked where I was from I told them Belfast.

So that was Day 4 of my sugar reduction. Yes, I did indulge in beer and some greasy food, but kept to my rule of only consuming sugar after 8. I didn't feel fabulous this morning, but I didn't feel terrible either. I can't say the same for Luke, who declared an all-time high hangover factor. Do I feel bad about indulging in alcohol and sweet potato fries. Not a bit. If these were things I regularly ate and I was struggling to eliminate because of an addiction/strong habit towards eating them, then I'd probably want to kick myself, but that's not the case. I simply don't eat greasy foods very often and alcohol has become a very occasional indulgence.

At lunch the following day I joined a co-worker who'd asked me if I'd attend a free nutrition class being held on campus. I agreed, even though I kind of figured I already knew most of what they'd be communicating. It turned out the workshop was being held by 5 nutrition students. I"d accidentally missed yesterdays' class, which was all about the Canada Food Guide. In retrospect I'm glad I missed it, as I'm quite certain I'd not have been able to keep my lips zipped. Today, the focus was on label reading and how to fit healthy eating into a busy life. Well, it turns out I should have skipped the classes, because, as anyone who knows me well knows, I am not good at biting my tongue. I'd rather flap it. The first part of the lesson was about how to fit healthy eating into a busy schedule. At each of the tables in the room, there was a different sample lunch in the middle. We were asked to discuss what was good and what could be better about our sample lunch, which was: a juice pack with 100% apple juice, a small can of mixed fruit (Danone), a tiny tub of yogurt with fake fruit, and a slice of pizza with pepperoni and hamburger. When the nutrition student asked us about the juice, I said that an apple would be better. But she wanted to point out that since it was 100% juice it was better than Sunny D, which has no natural juice. And then she pointed to the can of fruit and asked us what we thought of that. The lady beside me declared that it shouldn't be too bad, since it was Danone. She read the label and found 'sugar' in the ingredients list. The nutrition student tried to prod us to explain what was wrong with it by asking 'well, what is it in?' and I said 'A can. Fruit shouldn't come in a can." Apparently that was the wrong answer (it was in 'syrup'). And I did ask a few questions about labeling. Oh my, I am sorry nutrition students! I just couldn't help myself.

This past week there was a crackdown on free-range egg producers here in PEI. An older couple who own a B&B in Tyne Valley were told they had to stop using their own chicken's eggs when preparing food for their customers, since the eggs weren't federally inspected. There's been a lot of backlash on this issue. A Facebook page has been created, and tonnes of people have written letters to the PEI government. Thusfar, the government's response has been discouraging, but the fact that CBC called me up for an interview today was a shimmer of hope ( I ended up passing the interview baton on to my co-worker who, coincidentally, had created the Facebook page in support of free-range chickens). This issue seems to have increased interest in A Local MEAL, the event I've been helping to co-ordinate, which takes place this Thursday at the Farm Centre at 6.30.

The weekend was capped off wonderfully, with the Steak Man turning into the Lamb Man and making me a delicious dinner on Saturday that featured leg of lamb, a spinach bacon salad, and a sweet treat (after 8!!). Sunday morning he made me breakfast (bacon and eggs) and Sunday evening we made a lamb stew. I am such a lucky gal!!!!

I also did my first weekly weigh-in since eliminating sugar consumption before 8pm. I'm happy to report that I'm down 2.8 lbs! For some, this may not seem like much, but I've been stuck at the same weight since the beginning of December, so I'll take this and run with it!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dealing (or Not) with Stress

So it's Day 3 of my plan to reduce sugar consumption significantly by only eating sweets after 8pm and then only in moderation. So far, so good. Yesterday, I had a fantastic time playing hooky (with boss' permission) and attending the PEI ADAPT Council's annual conference. It was all about agriculture on PEI and for the most part, the presentations were inspiring and informative. The day was also filled with food - I arrived after having a breakfast of 1 boiled egg, some spinach and a bowl of yogurt to discover a large assortment of baked goods on offer, along with juices, coffee, etc. I avoided everything. At lunch there were lots of different sandwiches and wraps available, as well as plates of fruit and cheese and...yes...you guessed it...plates of cookies and squares tucked innocently in between the plates of more healthy food. On a separate, rather inconspicuous table, I found a huge pot of hearty beef stew. Again, I avoided temptations!

Oh, but did I mention I grabbed a napkin and wrapped a date square up in anticipation of 8pm? (let the record show that it's now the following night and I've only eaten a bite of the date sqaure). Yes, somehow I managed to not give in to temptation. To be honest, it was easier than I expected. I can't really explain it, except to theorize that I was really just happy to be at the conference and wasn't eating out of boredom or because I was nervous/anxious about anything. Also, storing away a treat for later in the evening made it bearable, because then I didn't have to wonder what I'd missed..I just had to be a little bit patient.

So yesterday was a good day and it wasn't really challenging to avoid sugar. Today, I stepped on the scale at the gym after my workout in the early evening and discovered I've lost 1.6 lbs since my weigh-in on Sunday at around noon. I say that's progress!

But the thing about today, was that I encountered my worst enemy and most persistent companion: Mr. Stress. This year has been slightly hectic and moderately stressful for me - getting robbed in January was a bit rough - yes, it's only stuff, but I miss having access to my laptop, which was filled with photos, music and my writing, and there have been a couple of additional stresses that I have felt unable to control in terms of the outcome of events. It doesn't help that I spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about the plight of humanity and the planet as a whole.

So, yeah, Mr. Stress has been hanging around a lot lately. I've let my mindset turn from positive and in the present moment, to negative and fearful of the future and that is simply not good. I strongly believe that what we think and feel is what we bring into existence. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's take a couple of steps back.... I am quite certain that in the past my weight struggles have ultimately been linked to the level of stress I am managing in my life. When I have been living far away, the lack of familiarity and a safety net (financially and emotionally) resulted in weight gain, regardless of my efforts to loss weight. THe only time I didn't gain weight while living away from PEI was for the first year I lived in Scotland, when I had two of my closest friends with me to lean on if need be. And, oh boy, how I leaned.

I've known, to a certain degree, the impact of stress on my weight for awhile now, but have been perplexed as to how to deal with it. I've tried yoga, I've tried tapping (look it up), journaling, counseling, exercising even more, just chilling out, setting goals, etc. Some of these things have helped, but I can't say that any one or combination of them have been entirely successful.
So today, Mr. Stress started knocking on my door in the afternoon. By the time I got home from the gym, he'd come in on his own and taken the liberty of plopping himself down on my cheerfulness. I went to the pantry. I wanted sugar. An 'a-ha' moment if there every was one. Sugar has become my coping mechanism for stress. Clearly it doesn't work though because given the amount of sugar I have eaten in the past, I should be in a constant Zen-like state. But I've created this thought-emotion-action link that has me unconsciously gravitating towards sweetness when things go a little sour in life.

As noted above, what one thinks/believes is translated into an emotion and then an action. So my thoughts about my current/future situation conjured up emotions of anxiety and stress. My programmed reaction to those emotions is to eat sweets. Ta-da.

Here's the good news. I didn't eat sugar when I opened the pantry. Instead I had a small handful of nuts, then hopped in the shower. By the time I got out, I felt so much better and wasn't craving sugar at all. Then I did my taxes and that resulted in an even better mood :)

So that's where I stand on Day 3. Having encountered my first A-Ha moment, which I kind of, sort of recognized before but had never actually 'caught myself in the act' before. I conquered my automatic response this time with a new behavior to replace the old habit.

I know I'll face this test again and again. I am confident that most times, I will kick butt at passing the test. In the long run, however, I still have much work to do on keeping my mindset positive and being in the present moment. I have to focus on good news, surround myself with happy people, and keep my passions alive. It was so easy to be positive when I lived in Vermont briefly, surrounded by people who were committed to bettering their communities and living a healthy, low-impact lifestyle. Now, back on PEI, I find myself fortunate enough to be in the company of people that are comparably positive, creative, energetic and hard-working.

I'm going to keep my on the ball. Then I won't have time to wallow in negativity or eat a bunch of sweets.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sugar, Sugar

How sweet it is.....


Am I an addict? For most of my adult life, I've told myself and others that I am a candyaholic. It's really my only major vice - I don't do drugs, drink alcohol in excess,gamble, eat fast or fatty food, or spend my nights glued to the TV. Surely one should be allowed a single vice in life right?

Sigh. Unfortunately the answer is no. At least not the vice of consuming sugar day in and day out. There are a litany of reasons I should not be eating sugar (most/all of these apply to everyone), here's just a sample:

  • Packing on the pounds - contrary to popular belief, it's not animal fat we should be watching our intake of, it's processed foods, grains and refined sugars. These are the foods that are making us fat. The conventional wisdom has been feeding us the wrong line for the past thirty or forty years.
  • Tooth decay - I had braces when I was younger and I reckon I have a nice enough smile now, but my dentist has made a pretty penny off me already and I'm not keen on paying him to pull my teeth and fit me for dentures at some point because my teeth have decayed from sugar.
  • Disease - OK, my father is a diabetic (Type 1). He has to take insulin shots twice a day. He has had diabetes since he was 35 years old and has never been overweight. So his lifetsyle didn't contribute to his getting diabetes (except that he was really stressed at that point in his life), but for the vast majority of diabetics, this is not their story. Type 2 diabetes is almost always a result of poor lifestyle choices. I do not want to have diabetes or any other chronic disease and I have to take responsibility by leading a healthy lifestyle.
  • Energy and Mood - One thing is easy to never notice is the difference in one's energy levels and mood when they are eating a diet that includes grains, sugars and/or fatty foods. One of the reasons I don't eat greasy food very often is because I always feel disgusting and exhausted afterwards. I'd say I have a greasy food binge about once every four months and that's enough to turn me off for a good while. Since I first went to visit an RHN back in 2006, I've been limiting my grain intake with a few transgressions along the way. I can notice the difference in my energy and my body (bloated vs not) when I'm on/off grains. Ah but sugar....because I have it on a daily basis, I often forget what an energy drain it can be. I have given up sugar before and can recall how when I finally gave into temptation I would feel sick from the sugar and low energy. We just never realise how much better we can feel if we're eating something (sugar, grains, fast food) on a regular basis because it becomes the normal. In this case, the normal is not good.
So, with all of this in mind and ready to lose the rest of the weight I've packed on over the years (I'm 30 lbs from my goal), I've decided I have to drastically reduce my sugar intake. At some point I believe I will have to give up refined sugar completely. But I have to be realistic, I have tried cold turkey before and it's not been especially successful. I'd either end up eating a tonne of fruit, replacing sugar with too much cheese, giving in and gorging, etc.

I've decided that my best bet is to go in stages. Stage 1 started today. I will limit my sugar intake to 8pm or later and, of course, be reasonable with my intake after that time - a hot chocolate or something of equivalent caloric count (around 150 cals). Why eat sugar at night? Well, first of all by not eating sugar (or grains) during the day, I'll maintain my blood sugar levels and eliminate cravings for sugar and reduce my overall hunger. By having a treat at the end of the day, I'll avoid being having cravings at times when candy is readily available, like when I am at work. I've never had problems sleeping because of sugar in the evening either, so this is not a worry. Also, since I'm using weight watchers pointing to track my eating, I'll be sure to keep enough points for the evening so I can have my treat. I still have 7 points left for today and it's 10 pm - that means I can have a hot chocolate and half a banana with a TBSP of natural peanut butter.

So, that's the beginning folks, stay tuned for Stage 2, where I'll move to sugar elimination on certain days of the week. I know that some will say this is not the way, that the only way is to go cold turkey. And maybe those people are right, but I'm going to give this a try first!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Come join in 'A Local M.E.A.L.'!

Over the past few months I've met a number of wonderful people who are passionate about food and brimming with enthusiasm. It has made the return to PEI that much sweeter to find a community of like-minded folks here. So, post-thesis, I determined I needed a new project and something to fill all the spare time I imagined I would now have. Well, as it turns out, time remains a hard-to-come by and precious resource, but it also turns out that many hands do, indeed, make light work (and make it fun!).

It took no effort at all to convince new and old friends to come together to plan a local food event. We determined the best way forward would be to host an informal evening gathering that would allow attendees to Meet, Eat And Learn (M.E.A.L). The event will include a Pecha Kucha style segment, with six to eight people speaking about some aspect of local food, as well as a chance to mingle and sample local foods after the presentations.

I'm really pumped about this first M.E.A.L. (we are already envisioning a series of these M.E.A.L.S.). We've got a great venue, an amazing planning team, and plans are underway to ensure those in attendance enjoy a delicious spread and inspiring/intriguing presentations!

Did I mention it's FREE?! What a great opportunity to come together as a community to learn and share stories about the very thing that sustains all of us from life's very beginnings until the end - food.

The event takes place March 24th at 6.30 pm at The Farm Centre, 420 University Avenue, Charlottetown, PEI.

For more information, check out our website at: http://alocalmeal.wordpress.com or our Facebook Event Page.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Freedom 35

It has recently come to my attention that I am at my best when armed with a 'plan'. There must always be a plan in motion or on the horizon, otherwise I find myself stressing at the lack of stress in my life. This, in turn, leads me to waste my free time eating copious amounts of chocolate and watching terrible t.v. shows like 'Dance Your Ass Off', which makes me wonder whether I should have pursued my childhood dream of being a dancer. Then I look soberly at my chocolate-enhanced thighs. No, I wouldn't 'fit' the requirements to be a contestant in 'Dance Your Ass Off', but I'm also not exactly lithe or graceful. And so, you see, disturbing things happen when I am without a plan.

In addition to these revelations regarding my need for a plan, I've been doing a lot of soul-searching and contemplation about life in general. As noted in my last post, these past few months have resulted in some rather monumental changes in my life. I've moved beyond plotting adventures that involve working holiday visas and trying to figure out what I'm passionate about. I have figured that part of the equation out. It's a big part of the puzzle and I am elated that my persistence and willingness to jump into the unknown paid off (and in spades).

But now I feel a bit adrift - I have figured out that I am passionate about food and writing, that I love helping people and sharing what I've learned with others, and that I need to see tangible results from my efforts (whether those results be someone giving me a smile of thanks or seeing an event I organized take place). And yet, I am in a job that does not fulfill these desires. Further, I am wholly enamoured with Steak Man whom is, without a doubt, a 'keeper' and, given my ripe old age, my thoughts have turned to things that I'd not given much consideration to before, like houses and dogs and children. Most days I cannot fathom how it is possible to 'have it all' and remain sane. Why, some days I don't even find the time to do my own dishes (rarely, but it does happen) and I've spent far less time writing for pleasure than I did pre-thesis. I keep asking myself - is it possible to have a family, have a career and still find time for yourself and your passions. I am far from having clarity, but some initial thoughts, observations and conversations have given me some valuable insights. Take, for example, a conversation I had with a father of two young children, who has a full-time job that he seems to love, blogs and tweets regularly, appears to have a loving relationship with his wife ( a woman who is a force unto herself as a writer, student, educator, and mother). One day, a few months ago, I asked him how he found the time to do it all. He replied that BF (before family) he taught English in an Asian country, spent most of his evenings drinking beer at the bars and hanging out with friends...now he doesn't booze it up and spends his days at a job he loves. Hmmm...me thinks I may be stumbling onto a quite obvious and simple answer to the question of how to have it all. Clearly, I need to cut back on the nights out at Asian bars.....

OK, joking aside, a lot of contemplation has led me to conclude that I must be bold and follow my passions. I have further concluded that in order to do this, I will have to take another leap of faith.... More to come on that front in posts to follow. But lest anyone (especially Steak Man) be concerned that I am going to take off, fear not, this is home now. I'd be doing my heart a disservice if I left, for everything I could want for is here. It is up to me now to carve out a fulfilling and meaningful life.