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Choosing Respect

Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper

Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper (Photo credit: ManyLittleBlessings)

I remember a few years back, on the first Sunday of Lent, the minister at my church made a humorous observation, one that has stayed with me and that I repeat often. He said: “as good Protestants you’ve probably already given up on giving up.” I laughed then, and I laugh whenever I think of it. Up until last year I always gave something up for Lent. Usually it was chocolate, or ice cream, or some other guilty pleasure of which I was starting to feel a little ashamed.

The minister was encouraging us to see Lent as a time to broaden our understanding of spirituality, and to use the Lenten season for self improvement, if not for fasting. Last year, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything to give up, I decided that I would instead focus on adding something to my routine, and so I meditated. I meditated every night before bed, and enjoyed it so much that I shared my guided meditations with any friend who expressed an interest. Instead of giving up I decided to add in, to build up my spiritual health, rather than deny myself something I shouldn’t be eating anyhow. I added something to my life to make myself more spiritually aware, help ease my stress, and bring back a sense of calm. In fact, it was the best Lenten season I’d ever had—so good, that I swore I would never give up again.

This year, as we start Lenten anew I’ve changed my tune. I’ve decided to give up diet pop. Diet pop is more than just a guilty pleasure, it’s a daily indulgence that, I worry, is really problematic. So, for that reason, I’ve decided to give up diet pop.

We all have our Achilles heels, those foods that we know are bad for us, but that we can’t seem to pull ourselves away from. Mine is pop. A few years ago I switched to diet pop. I told myself that I needed the carbonation, but I couldn’t justify the sugar in regular pop. So I drank the diet pop, and didn’t give it another thought. But now I’ve reevaluated this indulgence, and I know that it has no place in my life. So I’m choosing to respect my belief that I deserve good health, and that good health is something I can achieve.

Over the summer I made the transition to a mostly plant-based diet. Since that time I’ve been really interested in food: how it’s made, what’s in it, and how it affects us. Then last week, when I was quite sick, I had no energy, so I found myself at home sleeping and watching movies. My second day home, I was flipping through Netflix when I found a documentary called Hungry for Change. I tried not to watch it; I was looking for a good laugh, but as nothing else really appealed to me, I decided to watch it.

Sure, there are lots of things that I took from this movie, but the one that really spoke to me was the information on diet pop. I won’t get into all of the arguments that Hungry for Change makes against diet pop, because frankly there are far too many of them, but there was one argument that really hit home with me. Aside from being full of chemicals, diet pop, the experts argued, is not calorie free. Manufacturers use artificial sweeteners, so that they can make the claim that it is calorie free. And in one sense this is true: no sugar means no calories. But these artificial sweeteners still have a lot of carbs in them, which when you ingest them are converted to sugar in the body. This is all stuff I know. I worked for many years in diabetes education, and so I have a pretty good idea about how this works. (By pretty good, I mean less than a dietician, but perhaps more than the average person.) Still, in spite of the fact that I know this, I continued to drink my stupid diet pop, and think nothing of it. But today it stops. I am giving up my diet pop, and replacing it with water, or other nutrient-rich drinks.

I struggled for a long time with this decision. I hate to “use” a time meant for spiritual reflection and personal betterment for something as base as kicking the pop habit, but I think that this is the right thing to do. I like to think that instead I’m using this time to bring myself back to a more natural diet, which will, hopefully, have other spiritual benefits.

English: Actors at the Anne of Green Gables mu...

I was watching Bomb Girls last night when I saw a clip of a news piece. I wasn’t paying attention, so I only heard a brief snippet of the anchorman saying something about a “controversial new Anne of Green Gables cover.” I haven’t been feeling well, and I could tell from the thumbnail that I was unlikely to like the new cover, so I turned off the TV and went to bed and continued reading another LM Montgomery book. I had every intention of ignoring the story, but I just couldn’t help myself from searching it out this morning, and now I can’t stop looking at it.

If you’ve ever read this blog before you know that I love Anne. I’ve loved Anne since I first read the book and saw the movie. I can’t bare to see her desecrated in this way. Turned into a sexpot, this blond, lounging creature with the confident, provocative smile can’t possibly be my friend Anne. It’s such a train wreck that I can’t take my eyes off it, much as I’d like to.

The publisher has shown complete disregard for the details presented in the novel, and the time period in which the novel was set. (Are we supposed to believe that Marilla would allow Anne to lounge like that in a small town in Edwardian PEI?) But this cover has done something worse than just disregard the content; it undermines the spirit of the story.

Anne of Green Gables is a coming of age story; it’s about growing up, learning how to behave, how to do things for yourself, how to fail, and how to succeed. The genius of the novel is that Anne is a hilariously imperfect main character who is relatable outside of her own community. She grows into her looks, learns to love and accept herself, learns to live in a family, to manage house work and school work, and to trust her peers, first Diana, then Gilbert.

This is story of a young woman finding herself and finding her way. However, this lurid cover  isn’t a cover about a young woman’s story, it’s the cover of a story about a young woman who is being used. It’s creepy, to say the least, to sexualize a 13-year-old girl in any medium, but all the more unsettling to do it in a novel geared to 13-year-old girls. The story is a classic because it speaks to the fundamental struggles about growing up, and it gives girls a space where they can figure themselves out, and where they can see themselves in someone else, and in the other girls in the story. This is a space where girls don’t need to be “on.” They don’t need to worry if they’re pretty enough, or attractive enough to boys, or (shudder) sexy enough. This cover undoes all of the things that the narrative sets out to accomplish. For that reason, I don’t thinks that this cover is controversial, it’s an epic fail!

What do you think? Do we, as a society, need to create space for young men and young women to think about and talk about the expectations they will face as adults? Can literature play this role or is it too prescriptive?

A Great Exercise Partner

My coach

My coach

We all know that having a great exercise partner can mean the difference between success and failure. But why not turn your BFF into a fool-proof exercise companion?

I am going to try to train Cadie to do this. I think she’d really like it, and it would be a great way to burn some extra energy on days when we can’t get out.

Who wouldn't want to wake up to this?

Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this?

I was browsing through instagram on the weekend when I found a slogan that really stuck with me. It was a meme, but the photo was of a countertop with 5 tupperware containers filled with fresh cut veggies. The slogan superimposed on top of the image said “Fail to plan. Plan to fail.” This has really stuck with me since you know how lazy I am, and how I’ve been working to make healthy eating as effortless as possible. The hardest meal of the day to plan for is breakfast, and it is the meal where I’m most likely to sabotage myself. There’s nothing more disheartening than waking up full of good intentions, and then instantly shooting yourself in the foot with a high-calorie muffin, or a carby bagel.

My usual solution is to fall back to hemp hearts and almond yogurt, but really, there is nothing in the world like a hot meal. Especially when you live in a cold climate, and you are forced to get out of your warm, cozy bed to go do things like work. But I recently found a solution.

Last year for Christmas Santa Claus brought me a crock pot. I’d wanted one for a long time, and I was delighted when I tore the paper off the package and found it sitting inside waiting for me. I used it constantly last winter, for meat loaf and roasts, but since cutting meat and animal products from my diet back in the fall I haven’t had much use for it. But still, it was the kind of thing that I was really unwilling to give up, and while I search for some killer vegan slow cooker recipes I will share one recipe that has made my mornings easier, tastier and much healthier. That recipe is for slow-cooked apple cinnamon oatmeal.

Ingredients

4 cups milk (I prefer non-dairy)

4 cups water

1½ cups steel cut oats

3-4 tablespoons of cinnamon

2-3 tablespoons of nutmeg

2 gala apples (or other of your choice)

½ cup raisins

½ cup frozen cranberries

2/3 cup brown sugar

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 8 hours.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

In the stoneware add milk, water, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, sliced apples, raisins, cranberries and 1/3 cup of brown sugar. Stir together so that all ingredients are mixed together uniformly. By this I mean that you don’t want to have “hot pockets” where all of the cinnamon is, but obviously you won’t be able to ensure that things are incorporated since it’s cooking so slowly.

Picture 179

Set your crock pot on the lowest setting, and leave it and go to bed. Wake up and stir in the remaining brown sugar, making sure that it is thoroughly incorporated in the now cooked mixture. Turn the crock pot off, and allow the oats to sit for 15 to 20 minutes while you make the bed, and get dressed, or do whatever you do in the morning.

Who wouldn't want to wake up to this?

Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this?

Stir the oatmeal a few times, breathe in the tempting aroma, and serve.

Be careful, it will still be quite hot. But it is so tasty; the cranberries will pop tartly in your mouth, while the rest of the oatmeal will sweetly coat your mouth, and stick to your ribs, making you ready to take on the day.

The beauty of this recipe is that I am easily getting 6 servings out of each pot, and what’s great about oats is that you can store them in the fridge for a couple of days, and in the freezer for up to a week. They reheat beautifully, and will ultimately give you 6 healthy, filling meals. Also, you can now roll out of a nice, warm bed and find a fantastic hot meal waiting for you, that will also make your home smell delicious.

Bon appétit!

Something that I’ve been thinking about myself a lot lately.

British Asian Woman

*Trigger warning* This post contains potentially disturbing material of rape

Picture the scene. A woman in a bar. Dressed up for a night out, drinking and having fun. A group of men at the other side spot her. She leaves her drink on the table with her friend and goes to the toilet. She comes back and finishes the drink. Gradually she becomes more and more giddy, as if going under an anaesthetic.

She wakes up in hospital with sharp stabbing pains in her groin and pelvic area. Her legs and arms are covered in bruises. Her left eye is so badly swollen she can barely see out of it. She has no recollection of the night before, what happened to her or how she ended up in hospital.

It transpires that her drink had been spiked. She was taken outside and gang raped by the group of men that…

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cooking up a storm

cooking up a storm

Cadie and I got home from Christmas on Boxing Day. She had been with my Mum since December 21, and I got there on December 23, so by the time Christmas night rolled around I was ready for my own bed. I was ready for my own schedule, and also, I was anxious to get home ahead of the snow storm that was due to hit around dinner on the 26. So we woke up bright and early, and we were home by noon.

Cadie, being an adventurer, was ready to head out, to go and sniff the news and leave some gossip of her own, and she danced happily in front of the door while I made my lunch and changed my clothes.

I wanted to do something nice for Cadie. She had been gone nearly a week, and before that I had been working like a Trojan. So I decided that instead of spending Boxing day at the sales, we would spend it on the trails. There’s nothing like clean, cold air filling your lungs to encourage you to walk faster, and the sun…we hadn’t seen the sun in almost a month. So we headed out, with plans to hike through the Brickworks trail and the valley, and then come home through the cemetery. It’s one of our favourite evening walks during the nicer, warmer, lighter months.

But it had been a while since we had really walked, and as I made my way up the gentle incline of the city streets I felt my calf muscles crack, like they had been encased in wax and were just now breaking free. The further I walked the more my calves cracked, until I felt that I was totally free of my doldrums, and I could feel my muscles breathing freely. They expanded and contracted with every step, and with every step I was reminded why I like a healthy, active lifestyle. It was while I was walking my exuberant dog that I decided that I needed a make over. Not a physical make over—I decided to make over my freezer.

December is the perfect time of year to fill our freezers with yummy things like cakes, cookies, and appetizers. After living on this food for most of December I started to feel poisoned, or toxic. So I set about to fix that. I dedicated the last bit of my Christmas holiday to starting the year off with a healthy bang.

Step 1: I emptied the freezer of all of those delicious freezer cookies. This was hard work, but luckily my estimates had been pretty close, and I didn’t have to “dispose” of too much. Then I settled on 3 meals: high-yield recipes that I could make, one day at a time, and fill my freezer with nutritious meals that I could grab and eat without too much fuss.

It looks and tastes so good I couldn't eat just one serving

It looks and tastes so good I couldn’t eat just one serving

First I made Chef Chloe’s macaroni and “cheese.” It took only 45 minutes to prepare and cook, and tasted spectacular. I love mac and cheese, and I was worried that making it without any real cheese the dish would be inedible. I was wrong. I’m new to the plant-based diet thing, but I am constantly amazed at the good that nutritional yeast flakes can do. They gave the meal its cheesy taste, without adding the cheesy texture that I don’t really like. I have since made this meal again, and fed it to carnivores, who also loved it. I was able to get 8 meals out of this.

On the second day I made another of Chef Chloe’s recipes (I’ll give you two guesses at what my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas). This time I made a gorgeous apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. It was the first picture I fell in love with as I sat flipping through the book Christmas morning, and I was so excited to try it out. Lentils are really good for us, being a good source of protein, as well as offering a host of other benefits including lowering cholesterol, and stabilizing blood glucose. It’s hard to ignore food that offers so much goodness, but I needed an appealing delivery system, and this stew fills the need perfectly. It was sweet, warm and filling with an unmistakable earthiness. My stew isn’t nearly as beautiful as the one in the book, but it was oh, so tasty, and I got 7 additional meals.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Finally I made a chilli. I love chilli, and I make it all the time, so when I was buying my cooking supplies I made sure to pick up the chilli supplies. There was nothing special about it: onion, veggie round, tomatoes and beans, all simmered together until they become one. Chilli is just the most satisfying winter meal, and I got 6 meals out of it. All of this means that my freezer is just packed to the gills with tasty, vegany goodness, so now I don’t have any excuse not to eat healthy meals throughout January.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

I’m not really doing resolutions this year; I haven’t found them to be very successful in the past, so I decided not to push myself into the self-punishing exercise of self-improvement. Instead I’m going to focus on doing things that make me stronger and healthier and, most importantly, that make my life easier. So now that I have no excuse not to skip lunches in the caf, I’m hoping that a month of nothing but good, healthy food will leave me feeling like a clean, well-oiled machine.

Time for Joy

painting1

This week, as I was frantically working, I happened to come across a video on my newsfeed. A friend had shared a short video of Beaker singing Ode to Joy. I’m always up for a laugh, particularly at work when I’m mired in my professional problems and a little frustrated. The video was a short, and funny, and I was hooked.

In the end, I think I watched this video 20 times. I was so caught up in it that at one point I took off my headphones, only to discover that every one of my coworkers had left me. They had abandoned me to my own devices, and frankly my devices had me in complete abandon as I listened to Beaker and then various other groups play this song.

I know it sounds trite, but I love the Ode to Joy. It definitely marks me as someone who doesn’t really understand classical music that I would count this song among my favourite classical pieces. But I just can’t resist it. There is something so infectious about this music. The way it builds, and becomes lighter. The way the notes soar upwards. I can’t help but go along for the ride.

Listening to this song makes me wish I hadn’t given up on music; it makes me wish that I had stuck it out, found a new teacher, one who could actually teach me to read music, and then learned how to express my joy by joining in. I move my feet, my hips and my arms. No other piece of music can make me want to interact with it the way this one does.

And I do, and I don’t think I’m alone. In my travels through YouTube I found another video, this one of a flash mob in Spain. The music builds in a familiar way, getting ever lighter, faster and always more joyful. As the musicians gather in a public square, and the music becomes more powerful, and harder to ignore, people out for drinks, walking their dogs, or doing their shopping stopped to take a moment to enjoy the music. I was struck by how joyful the crowd became, and how so many people felt the urge to be part of that music too. They danced, they sang, they climbed poles and retaining walls, while pretending to conduct, or at least keeping time. When it’s all over, you realize that nearly everyone has participated in this performance in some way, and everyone is happier for it.

I won’t lie, I spent most of the next day listening to and watching parts of this video. I then went home and downloaded 10 different versions of Ode to Joy. I’m completely addicted!

While this has been a great year for me, I know that it has been a difficult year for many, including some of the people I love the most. We’ve all lost people close to us, we’ve had to deal with change and loss of different kinds and at different levels of intensity, but I hope that you can watch these videos and take the time to enjoy and celebrate the peace of the season, and the feeling of joy that this music can give us, if we open ourself up to it.