Friday, November 21, 2008

Giving, Needing and Wanting

As it does every Christmas season, the chattering begins about what to buy for Suzie and what to give to Auntie Lucie. The rush to buy, the stock to hide, the lists and more often than not, the stress. I understand the want to give, the excitement of receiving. But for so many the 'want' to give is replaced by the 'need' to give, to some or all of your circle of friends/family members.

I say Why? A dollar value should never be set for what a proper gift should be, a quantity should never be set on how many gifts to give to one person.

I don't want anyone to worry about what to give me. Nor do I want to worry about what to give someone else. When I sit down and think about the people on my list, I think of who they are and items come to mind. While walking by a shop window, something caught my eye and it strikes me as something perfect for that person on my list.

This year I want to help the environment with every gift I give. I want to help others take the step to help the environment. I am not thinking of what to give to Billy or Maggie. I am thinking about what I would like them to do for the environment this year. Small things I can present them with, with a card explaining a great idea for a New Years resolution. A compost bin with compostable liners! Why not, I know lots of people who might start composting if they were just given a little nudge in the right direction. A reusable coffee mug filled with info on how many paper coffee cups are thrown out every year.

We all have lots and lots of 'things' and yet we still want. This impulse is human nature, so it is up to us to discipline ourselves enough to know that we probably don't need all the things we want.

This is the first time I have worked in retail. Yesterday, like so many times before, I was blown away with how much selection and choice we have for practically every given item ever made. There will always be a newer, better, cooler thing. You already have a water bottle that works just fine, but ohhhhhhhh there is a new kind with a pop top that would be so much better.

Since taking a drastic pay cut to work for Mountain Equipment Co-opI have come into a new found strength against all the wants I find myself confronted with. I like this new power to tell myself. "No, you don't need that, you already have one" I like learning to appreciate what I already have, and learning to see all the things I have as what they really are.

They are what they are, and I only need what I need.

All water bottles, hold water and allow you to drink it, all back packs hold stuff, all toques keep your head warm... Until these things no longer do what they were designed to do, I don't need to get another one. These things will probably outlast me on this earth, and here I am thinking I need more. Its just more to store, and more to move around from place to place.

We shouldn't be burdened with our things, we should be enabled by them. They help us do the things we need to do, that's all. They do not define us, or make us happy.

And with all this lack of buying 'wants' that I am doing , there is still no shortage of pulling out my wallet. I need to buy train tickets, I need to buy food, I need to buy gas, and I need to buy water.

I have banished my credit card to the depths of hell and am carrying more cash. I want to feel the money go through my hands. I don't like spending 'cash' but I am not attached to the dollar amount I swipe on my debit card. So my debit card gets dusty while I strengthen my discipline to only buy what I 'need'.

Take that consumerism!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Versaware Pro Crock Pot

I busted it out... my crock pot, I mean.

My parents gave this wonderful invention to me for my Birthday in July. It is a genuine work of art. Oh I know, maybe just us kitchen gear heads gets all tingly at the sight of a new crock pot, but everyone has their thing they love, and I love cooking.

This is the first time I have used it, since the snow on the roofs and the caramel apple scented candle makes me long for a warm bowl of stew. I dug around in my bin of random recipes and found one that looked promising.

Chop-chop-chop Sizzle, saute, stir Chop-chop-chop Sizzle, saute, stir Chop-chop-chop

Then the best part is how I act like Ron in the Infomercial of the century and shout out loud...

"Just set it and Forget it"

It is cliche, but there is some serious merit to the function "Set it and Forget it", because it is just so amazing! The dial on the right sets the length of cooking, in hours. The dial on the left, sets the temperature, low, high or warm. Once the time set elapses the crock automatically shifts to the 'warm' mode. '

I believe it started off as a recipe from Canadian living for Slow Cooker Beef and Mushroom Stew but as always, I started with that recipe only as a base plan for the measurements, temperature, and time. That is why cooking is fun, you can use anything as a foundation and throw in your own ideas. I added almond milk to make a creamy broth, I added carrots and tofurky sausage because I don't eat meat.

The stew turned out great! Steve suggested more liquid, and I agree. I would add 2 more cups of veggie broth and another cup or almond milk for sure. I would also add some garlic!

I am working 7 days straight and home at 9:30pm every night, so I think my crock pot is going to have its work cut out for it!

p.s. I welcomed winter yesterday. I looked out the window at the snow falling and smiled. Winter doesn't need one more person to dread it. Winter makes me slow down, take my time. Mostly for safety sake, but it is refreshing to be forced to slow down.

Maybe a little winter, is what we all need, from time to time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Comfort and Joy!

The winter air is nipping at my neck and ankles, telling me it is no longer the season for low cut socks or thin overcoats. The season of warm blankets, frosty window panes and the smell of fresh baked cookies is here! Yes, I did use an exclamation mark, which means I am happy at the thought of all that snow and winter cheer.

I am looking at winter in a whole new light this year. With my new job, I am not relying on my car to get me anywhere, I will be using the Go Train. The whole scraping, brushing and shoveling routine really start to wear on me, so the idea of leaving it all (and my car) in the driveway and walking to the train station, brings me a sigh of relief, this winter.

My new job at Mountain Equipment Co-op also brings new outdoor activities closer to my finger tips. Among many other things, I am working with cross country skis and snowshoes! I am surrounded by people who are enthusiastic at the thought of the outdoors in winter and their enthusiasm is contagious.

After a long day of snowshoeing or hiking in the brisk winter air, nothing seems finer than coming in to a warm cup of cocoa and a chewy chocolate chip cookie! So here is my favourite cookie recipe for you.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
**Low Glycemic, Dairy Free

2 cups Whole, Spelt flour (or whole wheat)
2 tbsp Flax seed, ground
1 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Stevia (powder)
1/4 tsp Salt

1/2 cup Xylitol, granulated
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup Walnuts, broken
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips
1 ripe Banana, diced or mashed
1 egg
1/4 cup Almond Milk (or soy milk)


Sift all the dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Then in a smaller bowl mix all the wet ingredients together. Pour the wet into the dry and stir them all together. The batter will be wet and sticky.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using two spoons scoop and plop cookie dough onto the sheet any way you like. These cookies will not flatten and spread out very much, they will puff up on the spot, so don't worry about how close together they are.

Bake in a preheated oven set at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes. The cookies may not look done, but trust me and don't over bake them. When they cool down a bit they will be perfectly soft and delicious.

Makes about 17 average sized cookies.

For a festive touch, add you favourite chai tea to the mix. Simply rip open the tea bag and toss the lose tea into the wet ingredients as if it were a spice mix. Or try a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, or just cinnamon.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Becoming aware

Why do babies cry so much? Is it because they are fully aware of the needs of their body and cannot express it? Or are they bombarded with so much sensory overload that crying is a relief? This debate could go on for years, I'm sure.

What I am talking about is Body Awareness.

Our bodies and our minds are attached. Which means our organs and muscles are in direct communication with our brain, and our brain then translates that to something we can understand as hunger, strain, etc. I believe that over the years we can lose touch with what our bodies are telling us. I was a subject with this loss.

Everyone in the world knows the pangs our body's emits when we are hungry, the twinge in our side when we have a cramp, or the dull pain of a headache coming on. This awareness is simple and basic. You can't ignore those signs, they are innate to our physiology.

The awareness I am talking about is much more subtle and finite. The kind that I believe we start with as a child, but lose somewhere along the way. Eventually those signals turn into whispers and we don't hear them anymore, they are pushed aside by the never ending daily signals like stress, thirst, hunger and so on.

But I am listening, I have been listening more and more on my path to health and wellness. I am 25 and I feel like I have been missing these subtle finite signals for so much of my life, that I am only now truly aware of my inner workings.

One day I noticed a small tightness above my kidneys, on both sides. Nothing more than an oversight, not painfull, it didn't effect my daily movement or mood. Just a minor tightness that popped up in my thoughts as "hmmmm this is new". I did some research online and saw that my Adrenal glands were in that area, and they could become aggitated with too much caffeine and stress.... That made sense, since I was on a high-caffeine fat burner and quitting my job at that time. So I quit the fat burners and found a new job and soon enough the feeling in my lower back was gone. Maybe I wasn't right, it could have been a pulled muscle that just got better. What matters is that I noticed it.

Its cheesy but I am so proud of myself for learning to listen to my body all over again. I eat when I am hungry. If I feel like sleeping I do, when I feel like running, I do. I am doing everything I can for my body to keep it well oiled and energetic.

This Body awareness is a tool we can use to be our own doctors. Do the words "early detection" ring a bell? We are our own watchdogs. This body awareness also applies for skin and hair. We should never feel like we don't know whats going on in our bodies. If you wake up in the morning and you feel more tired than usual. Take a moment to think about why? Don't just brush it off to old age or a bad mattress. Take those things into account but with more detail.

We owe it to ourselves.